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American Cruise Lines’ new Mississippi River paddler wheeler (set to operate our pick for the Best New Domestic Itinerary in 2012), the 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi will offer single-occupancy staterooms, slated to comprise about 15 percent of the guestrooms available onboard the new vessel. The dozen units, many of which will feature private balconies and sliding-glass doors, will be unusually spacious for the single-cabin industry standard, at 211 square feet (that’s about twice the size of Norwegian Epic’s 100 square-foot single cabins), and are an altogether rarity for the cruise industry, which works largely on a double-occupancy model. The single cabins will start at $4,685/passenger (or pay $400 more for a balcony upgrade) for a 7-night itinerary; normal double occupancy rates start from $3,995/person, so this represents a digestible rate bump for solo travelers.
For those familiar with NCL’s fleet, the staterooms on Breakaway and Getaway will essentially have the layout of those on Jewel class ships with design and décor motifs like those on Epic. Another similarity to Epic is the presence of 59 studios for single travelers on each ship – though that’s less than half the number found on Epic.
Notoriously reclusive and largely isolated from the world tourism circuit, North Korea has registered a surprising bleep here on Cruise News with the launch of its first-ever cruise ship last week. Reports on the inaugural sailing, which counted some 130 passengers (mostly foreign journalists or Chinese tour operators), cited less-than-luxurious conditions, with a rusting exterior, bathrooms lacking water, and several bare bones cabins offering little more than a mattress thrown on the floor. Still, there were some welcomed and familiar cruise ship diversions aboard the aging refurbished former cargo ship, the Man Gyong Bong, including a cafeteria-style buffet and staff-led karaoke.
Leading river cruise line Viking River Cruises – known for its riverboat itineraries in Europe, Russia, China, Southeast Asia, and Egypt – has announced two more new-builds for 2012, adding to the four newbies already scheduled to debut in its fast-expanding fleet. The six new vessels total – part of the line’s Viking Longship class – illustrate an ambitious response to overwhelming customer demand, marking an unprecedented number of ships launched in a single season for the company (last time they came close was in 2001 when they brought four new additions into the fleet). The two new ships – the Viking Embla and Viking Aegir – will roll out in July and August 2012, respectively, and join their sister ships (Viking Freya, Viking Idun, Viking Njord, and Viking Odin), slated for debut in March 2012 (the funny-sounding ship names are borrowed from individuals in Norse mythology). Read more
A fitting complement to this year’s 150th Civil War anniversary, American Cruise Lines will feature Civil War era-themed cruises come 2012, aboard the Queen of the Mississippi sternwheeler (which is currently under construction). Visits to Vicksburg’s National Military Park in Mississippi and New Orleans’ Civil War Museum, along with stops at Civil War battlefields mark some of the highlights on this 7-night itinerary between a variety of southern cities, while onboard offerings like authentic regional cuisine (think jumbo shrimp cocktails and lobster thermidor with fingerling potatoes) and lectures given by Civil War historians let passengers experience the South’s unique past. Emulating the architecture of traditional riverboats, the Queen’s oversized staterooms, private balconies, and elegant dining salon is due to provide a luxurious journey along the entire Mississippi River System. “Cruising aboard Queen of the Mississippi is a historic experience on its own – only to be heightened by our Civil War theme cruises. Passengers are in for quite a treat,” said Timothy Beebe, Vice President of American Cruise Lines. Dates and details about the Civil War and other theme cruises on the Queen will be available later this summer – be sure to check back in on Savvy Flyer for the latest developments.
When the Disney Dream was welcomed into its new home in Port Canaveral, the cruise line made sure it had that “Disney magic,” by showcasing an elaborate christening ceremony with character appearances, fireworks, and a performance from Jennifer Hudson, the ship’s godmother who started her musical career on a Disney ship. The party didn’t end there – the official maiden voyage kicked off yesterday, January 26, following Port Canaveral’s traditional “Sail-A-Bration” (which it hosts for every home port vessel) with family entertainment, prizes, and music in which the community was welcome to attend.
The Dream is Disney’s first new ship in over a decade (with a sister ship due out in April of next year), and as the reports come in about the out-of-the box amenities and whimsical amusement, it seems the inventors were locked in a Disney think tank during the 11-year hiatus.
It’s a brand-new year, and 2011 is bringing with it boatloads of opportunity for adventure on the high seas. Our editors cast a wide net across worldwide waters to find the buzzworthiest boats and most interesting new itineraries, poised to make massive waves in the cruise industry. From innovative mega-ships to dreamy yachts, and from sailing circuits debuting in our own backyard to those kicking off halfway around the globe, our picks for the top 10 cruises in 2011 cover all of the bases. We’ve selected winners in 10 unique categories including best new culinary cruise, best new expedition ship, best new port of call, and many more. Click here for the full listing.
With the introduction of the new Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has created a class of cruise ships that has passengers paying more to be entertained, instead of a focusing on a true seafaring experience. Of course, it is a cruise (not a fishing boat), but are the extra frills worth shelling out hundreds more than other cruise ships? After all, staterooms are packed like sardines and you’ll have to share the ship with 5,000 other passengers. Despite the close living quarters, the Allure of the Seas can impress even the most die-hard cynic, but the Allure’s true value depends on your own definition of “vacation,” and how well you take advantage of what’s included.
The 16-deck, 5,400-passenger Royal Caribbean colossus, Allure of the Seas, will finally part the oceans on December 1, rolling out equally aggrandized country music sensation, Taylor Swift, on its January 16 sailing. The baby-faced Grammy-award-winning starlet will perform on January 21, in the ship’s AquaTheater (a signature open-air arena with an ocean view), while the vessel idles in Cozumel, Mexico – the last port in the Western Caribbean itinerary.
Last year, Swift was catapulted to the pinnacle of celebrity by the microphone-stealing, speech-interrupting Kanye West during her Video Music Awards appearance on MTV (“Taylor, I’m happy for you, I’ll let you finish, but…”). This year, America’s sweetheart is riding on the heels of her new album release, Speak Now, wildly successful and adored for her talented pipes, self-written lyrics, and wholesome demeanor.
In order to get passes to the concert, passengers will be invited to participate in Taylor Swift-themed events during the cruise (trivia, karaoke, etc.). Others will have the chance to hear the show from the balconies and suites surrounding the AquaTheater. The seven-night, round-trip Western Caribbean-bound cruise will depart from Fort Lauderdale and visit Labadee, Haiti, in addition to Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. Rates start from $1,065 for interior cabins.
To book, visit www.royalcaribbean.com.
Several adventure cruise lines offer seasonal voyages to the otherwise inaccessible reaches of South America, but Cruceros Australis has specialized in sustainable scientific cruises to this region since 1980 (with a maritime history dating back nearly 100 years). To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the cruise line is launching a third vessel, the 210-passenger Stella Australis which will sail its maiden voyage through Patagonia on December 18. As the largest ship in the fleet, Stella Australis will boast three lounges, a game room, and ? for guests who can muster up enough discipline to work out on a cruise vacation ? a glass-paneled gym with sweeping views of the passing surroundings.
On four-night cruises, the Stella Australis will embark from Punta Arenas, Chile and will coast through the Beagle Channel and the Strait of Magellan. Each day, zodiac boats carry passengers to shore on guided excursions to penguin colonies, glaciers, and national parks. Guests will also visit Wulaia Bay, the area where Charles Darwin landed in 1833 during his famous world voyage aboard the HMS Beagle, prior to writing the “Origin of Species.” All excursions are included in the cost of the cruise, as well as onboard nature presentations from the ship’s expedition team (who report photographs and scientific findings to the Center of Quaternary Studies Fuego-Patagonia and Antarctica).
The Stella Australis travels as far south as Cape Horn before concluding in Ushuaia, Argentina ? the gateway to Antarctica. Unlike many cruise lines, I have to give Australis credit for keeping the Stella’s rates at the same level as the rest of its fleet – despite the vessel being fresh off the shipyard. (However, the sporadic promotional departures do not apply to the new ship.) During low season (December, late March, and April), you can snag a four-night cruise for $1,400/person. During the high-season (January through early March), rates jump to $1,770/person. Three-night cruises are also available. For more information, visit www.australis.com.
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