December 1, 2022

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About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.

Windstar Cruises offers “Sail, Sip and Savor” cruises

Windstar Breeze was lengthened in 2019 to accommodate over 300 passengers.

Windstar Cruises has presented more theme varied cruises for the summer and fall with their “Sail, Sip, and Savor” itineraries.  The cruises to savor new world wines in Australia, Europe and New Zealand are proving especially popular as the cruise line promotes access to unique ports and smaller towns were larger ships often can’t go.

The line says guests will have the freedom to explore wine country like a local by meeting growers and vintners and walk through the vineyard grounds to learn more about the various grapes and wine produced. Windstar, with ships ranging in size from 148 to 342 guests are known as a luxury brand with cruise destinations around the world.

The line produces an excellent guide for cruises to the end of 2023 with information on their ships and cruise destinations available to download as a PDF on their site at: Windstar.

The “Voyage Collection” is filled with pages that will transport you to tropical paradises and uncrowded ports combining the best cruises with land tours across the globe as well as details on the completely transformed Star Plus Class ships.

HAL restarts Zaandam from Fort Lauderdale

Holland American Line has reentered Zaandam into service.

Holland America Line’s Zaandam returned to service Thursday, May 12, 2022, at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, leaving just one more ship until the cruise line’s full fleet is operational again. Zaandam embarked guests for a nine-day Atlantic Coast cruise to Montreal, Canada, that will position it in Canada/New England through October. Not only is this a return to service for Zaandam, but it also marks a return to cruising in the Canada/New England region after a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To commemorate the occasion, Holland America Line held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the terminal to open embarkation, attended by the ship’s captain and senior officers, with flag-waving fanfare from team members lined up to greet guests as they boarded the ship.

“With Zaandam’s reentry into service, we are thrilled to not only have nearly our full fleet back, but also to return Canada and New England after two years away from this beautiful cruising destination,” said Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line. “Zaandam has some special cruises coming up, and we’re glad to have her back in service with an amazing team ready to give our guests an exceptional cruise experience.”

Following the repositioning cruise along the east coast of North America, Zaandam will spend the summer and early fall offering Canada and New England cruises between Boston, Massachusetts, and Montreal.

On July 9, Zaandam sets sail on the popular 35-day Voyage of the Vikings itinerary roundtrip from Boston that retraces the routes of past explorers with ports in Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway and the Netherlands. Following fall foliage cruises between Boston and Montreal, Zaandam embarks guests Oct. 10 for the 71-day Grand Africa Voyage that sails roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale and includes 25 ports of call, four overnights and countless safari opportunities to throughout the African continent.

After the Grand Africa Voyage, Zaandam will spend the holidays in the Caribbean and then offer a series of Panama Canal transits between San Diego, California, and Fort Lauderdale, with two Mexico options roundtrip from San Diego in March. The ship will return to Canada/New England next spring.

Since Holland America Line restarted cruising in July 2021, Eurodam, Koningsdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Nieuw Statendam, Noordam, Oosterdam, Rotterdam and Zuiderdam have returned to service with cruises in Alaska, the Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, California Coast and South Pacific. Volendam currently is under charter by the government of the Netherlands, positioned alongside in Rotterdam accommodating Ukrainian families.

Seabourn Adds New Scandinavia Cruises

The 46,000 ton Seabourn Ovation is one of the newest ships cruising Europe.

Seabourn has added several excellent 7-day northern European itineraries this summer with their 600-passenger Seabourn Ovation. Departing from Copenhagen, Denmark, “Gems of Scandinavia” takes in Gothenburg, Sweden, before steaming up the western Norway coast to visit Ulvik, Sandness (Stavanger) and Farsund. The ship returns to Denmark with a stop at Aalborg before returning to Copenhagen.

Another itinerary from Copenhagen takes in the Norwegian ports of Arendal and Oslo before stopping at Helsingborg, Sweden and Wismar, Germany, then back to Denmark. A short ferry ride from Helsingborg is Helsingor, home of the Danish castle famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. There are several fascinating castles and forts in the Helsingborg area to visit.

Seabourn also offers another new 7-day cruise that terminates in Dover, UK. The “Gems of the Low Countries” departs from Copenhagen, visits Wismar, Germany and the next day enters the Kiel Canal for a day-long transit.  It stops at Amsterdam and then Zeebrugge for those wanting to visit Bruges or Brussels. The next day the ship visits the French port of Cherbourg and the following day arrives at Dover.

Seabourn is offering shipboard credits up to $2,000 for suites booked by May 31st, 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HAL returns to Vancouver with Koningsdam arrival

Holland America Line’s Pinnacle class Koningsdam returns to Vancouver.

Holland America Line was the first cruise line to return to Canadian cruising following a more than two year industrywide pause due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Koningsdam arrived at Victoria, British Columbia April 9, restarting the cruise industry in Canada. The ship will end its current seven-day cruise at Port of Vancouver, its homeport for the summer Alaska season.

“We are thrilled to be the first cruise line back into Canada after such a long absence, and we look forward to celebrating a great moment for everyone who loves to travel and for those in Canada and Alaska whose livelihoods depend on tourism,” said Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line. “Holland America Line has a robust schedule of cruises that explore Canadian ports on both coasts with Alaska, Hawaii, transatlantic and Canada and New England itineraries.”

Koningsdam’s call at Victoria marks 905 days since a cruise ship has visited the port, and it also will be a maiden call for the ship. To mark the milestones, Antorcha and local government officials will be on hand in both Victoria and Vancouver to celebrate the return to Canadian cruising and address the importance Canada and Alaska to Holland America Line.

In 2022, six Holland America Line ships will call at Victoria and Vancouver for the Alaska cruise season. In total, the six ships will make 45 calls at Victoria and bring nearly 75,000 guests to the port, and 76 cruises begin or end at Vancouver, welcoming approximately 140,000 guests.

For Canada and New England cruising on the East Coast, two ships return in May and cruise between Boston, Massachusetts, and Quebec City or Montreal, Quebec. Nieuw Statendam and Zaandam offer itineraries ranging from seven to 24 days to more than 12 Canadian ports.

In total for 2022, Holland America Line operates 141 cruises on eight ships in Canada with more than 250,000 guests visiting both coasts.

NCL Pride of America returns to Hawaii

NCL Pride of Hawaii returns to America’s paradise destination.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), the innovator in global cruise travel, today announced the return to service of Pride of America, the only cruise ship to sail Hawai’i year-round.

NCL’s Pride of America, which is the fifteenth ship in its fleet to return to service, sails weekly seven-day, roundtrip voyages from Honolulu, providing guests nearly 100 hours of port time and the ability to explore four islands in a week’s span. The itinerary includes overnights in Maui and Kauai, allowing for more immersive experiences on land, and unforgettable sights of the Nāpali Coast. NCL has two remaining ships that will be returning to service, both in early May, which will complete the Company’s Great Cruise Comeback.

“Being the only cruise line to sail year-round from Hawai’i, we’re thrilled to be back at last,” said Norwegian Cruise Line President and Chief Executive Officer Harry Sommer. “Pride of America will once again offer thoroughly immersive itineraries and deeply authentic experiences that support business and tourism in Hawai’i, while providing travelers with everything they seek from a vacation in paradise.”

Pride of America set sail on April 9, 2022 and is available to book through December 2025. Weekly voyages depart Honolulu every Saturday.

NCL’s fleetwide redeployment continues in partnership with local governments and is guided by the robust protocols of the Company’s Sail Safe Health and Safety program, which at its cornerstone requires that all guests ages twelve and over, as well as all crew, must be fully vaccinated to embark on all NCL voyages for the foreseeable future.

NCL elevates Epicurean experiences

 

Norwegian Prima is 142,00 ton scheduled to begin cruises in August.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), the innovator in global cruise travel, today revealed additional details regarding its elevated culinary and beverage offerings for its highly-anticipated new Prima Class vessels, Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva.

The first two of six vessels within this cutting-edge class will push the boundaries of traditional cruise cuisine with the debut of nine new dining and beverage venues including Metropolitan Bar, the Brand’s first sustainably-focused bar. The Cruise Line also announced its first three-level atrium, the Penrose Atrium, in addition to major F&B updates including the launch of its revamped main dining menu set to rollout on Norwegian Prima as well as the enhancement to Norwegian’s guest-favorite culinary staples Le Bistro, Cagney’s Steakhouse and Food Republic as well as NCL’s coveted Observation Lounge.

“We’ve been innovators in the food and beverage space for more than three decades, becoming the first cruise line to offer specialty dining and the first to introduce our ‘Freestyle Cruising’ concept that allows our guests to vacation their way by giving them the choice to decide when and where they dine,” said Harry Sommer, Norwegian Cruise Line president and chief executive officer. “Our latest food and beverage offerings take our Norwegian Prima Food and Beverage experience to another level, one that travels well beyond the guest expectation to provide elevated gastronomical experiences featuring sophisticated design, masterful mixology and cuisine that delivers full-throttle flavor.”

Elevated Eateries

Meant to take guests on a global culinary journey, the seven new dining venues onboard Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva will take first-time and returning travelers on an epicurean adventure featuring tantalizing fare matched with thoughtfully curated design. Making its debut on Norwegian Prima, the all-new Mediterranean seafood specialty restaurant Palomar, set in a relaxing atmosphere, features high-end Mediterranean cuisine made with simple yet sophisticated ingredients. Hasuki the Brand’s new elevated take on the traditional “hibachi-style”, will boast an intimate space featuring design elements that invite guests into the artisanship of Japanese influence through minimalist decor, handcrafted pottery and featured Japanese artwork. NCL’s new contemporary sushi house Nama will offer guests elevated sushi dishes prepared by master chefs who will create upscale sushi and sashimi masterpieces. The venue is set among a whimsical Japanese backdrop inspired by the restaurant’s menu items, including a marble sushi bar reflective of the marbling in the high-quality sashimi and subtle orange ambient lighting representing the color of masago (fish roe).

CARNIVAL SEES ITS HIGHEST BOOKING WEEK EVER

Carnival ships are sailing full again with record bookings.

Carnival Cruise Line said today that the one-week period of March 28-April 3 was its busiest booking week in the company’s history, showing a double-digit increase from the previous record seven-day booking total.

With 22 of its 23 ships back in guest operations across all its year-round U.S. homeports, Carnival has led the industry in terms of restart and customer demand. Its final ship, Carnival Splendor, will return to service from Seattle on May 2, and then Carnival will welcome its newest ship, Carnival Celebration, to PortMiami in November. By year-end 2022, Carnival will have more capacity sailing (as measured by ALBDs – available lower berth days) than it was sailing in 2019. And then in 2023, Carnival will put into service another new Excel-class ship, Carnival Jubilee from Galveston.

“The excitement of the industry’s restart, our successful return of our entire fleet, the guest reaction to Mardi Gras, our loyal guest response to our 50th birthday this year, the support of our travel advisor partners — and of course, the amazing work of our Carnival team — have all contributed to the strong demand we are seeing, and this record-breaking booking week,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line.
Duffy added that all sales channels, including Carnival.com, travel advisors, the Carnival guest contact center and personal vacation planners all contributed to the record-breaking results. With the restart of cruising in Australia now set, Carnival is finalizing plans for its return in Australia and will be announcing those details soon.

The Good Deeds of Cruise Lines

The captain on the bridge of a cruise ship scans the horizon with hi-powered binoculars.

Bad news sells, but the good deeds performed by cruise ships are just as newsworthy. Top of this list are rescues at sea.

It’s an age-old tradition to help fellow mariners in distress. Hence, whenever officers on the bridge of a cruise ship receive a distress call, they promptly respond. In one month alone three Holland America Line ships performed rescue operations.

The first was conducted by the ms Zuiderdam after departing from Fort Lauderdale on a round-trip Panama Canal cruise. In the middle of its first night at sea, the ship answered a distress call from a Bahamian inter-island vessel with eight crewmembers aboard. The vessel was sinking and ms Zuiderdam, about 15 miles away, promptly altered course. Less than an hour later the stranded mariners were safely aboard the cruise ship and disembarked a day later when the ship pulled into Oranjestad, Aruba.

Meanwhile, a sailing yacht ran aground in Antarctica and its stranded crewmembers, from the Arctowski Polish research station on King George Island, radioed for help. Holland America’s ms Zaandam came to their aid and took them to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The bridge of a modern cruise ship contains high-tech equipment, but the act of aiding fellow mariners is as ancient as seafaring itself.

The third rescue took place approximately 250 miles off the coast of Maui when the pilot of a single-engine Cirrus SR22 ditched his disabled aircraft into the ocean. He was at the midway point of a solo flight from California to Maui when he realized a malfunctioning fuel system was preventing the transfer of fuel into his aircraft’s main tanks. This meant he would lose engine power before reaching Kahului Airport on Maui and out of range of Coast Guard rescue helicopters. Fortunately ms Veendam was in the area. So, with 20 minutes of fuel left, the pilot headed toward the cruise ship’s position.

Dramatic video footage taken from a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 shows the small plane deploying its airframe parachute system upon reaching the cruise ship. The aircraft initially pitched nose-down toward the water before leveling off and landing on its belly. As ocean swells swamped the aircraft’s right wing, the uninjured pilot quickly scrambled out the other side into an inflatable life raft. He paddled away from the sinking aircraft as it flipped over in the waves. Within minutes he was picked up by a lifeboat launched from ms Veendam. The ship was on a round-trip Hawaiian Islands cruise from San Diego and it proceeded to Lahaina, where the grateful pilot disembarked.

In addition to rescues at sea, cruise ships perform other roles, such as collecting weather data. The weather reports of meteorologists, based on data from satellites and ground stations, are greatly enhanced by the first-hand weather observations provided by cruise ships as they travel the world’s oceans. These observations also contribute to climatological data collected by the World Weather Information Service.

There is much to keep guests entertained on a cruise ship, but the observant passenger will appreciate that the highly trained officers on the bridge are always keeping a close watch on the horizon.

Cunard has strongest bookings in decade with 2023 itineraries

Cunard sees bookings blossom for 2023 sailings such as for Queen Mary 2.

Cunard’s Summer 2023 itineraries, which unveiled over 150 new, international voyages, has seen a record-breaking first two days of trading, with demand especially strong for Grills Suites.

Cunard Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Angus Struthers said, “We are delighted by the overwhelming response to Summer 2023 itineraries going on sale, which has even surpassed Cunard’s record-breaking days in 2021 when Queen Elizabeth’s summer at sea sailings went on sale.

“Cunard’s two strongest booking periods in more than a decade have happened in the past 12 months and is testament to the global appeal of a holiday with Cunard – signifying guests’ desire to step back on board and travel in style and luxury.”

Cunard’s Summer 2023 schedule includes 150 voyages calling at 120 unique ports in 35 countries, with 23 late evening departures and 15 overnight stays with voyages between two nights and 37 nights in duration.

Travel’s Comeback Kid

Friendly and professional service is a welcome feature of shipboard dining.

Cruise ships have always been the gold standard for cleanliness, so it was ironic they should gain such negative prominence at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The cruise industry has faced public health challenges in the past, such as the SARS outbreak in 2003. However, past infectious outbreaks pale in comparison to the current global crisis.

The response from the cruise lines has been thorough and science driven as they strive to make their ships as safe as possible. Working closely with the Center for Disease Control, the major cruise companies have upgraded their ships’ ventilation and air filtration systems, and introduced an array of new health and safety measures. These include robust testing and tracking of cases, vaccinating all crewmembers, and the pre-boarding screening of all passengers.

Another welcome development, designed to lessen congestion and accommodate physical distancing at the cruise terminals, is the assigning of staggered boarding times. Once on board, guests are encouraged to practice frequent hand washing and make use of hand sanitizers installed throughout the public areas. All areas of the ship, including staterooms, are regularly cleaned with disinfectants proven to kill the coronavirus.

 

Ship waiters mug with young passenger.

The ship’s medical center, staffed with doctors and nurses, is equipped with COVID-19 tests and treatments. No other segment of the travel industry is required to conduct the same level of testing and tracking of cases as do the cruise lines. And because this detailed information is diligently reported to the CDC and other public health administrations, the cruise industry is an easy target for media covering the pandemic.

Negative publicity aside, shipboard life offers us the human contact that is so often missing in our land-locked lives. The level of personal service provided by your stateroom steward, whom you promptly know by name, is what makes guests feel very much at home – but a home that is free of chores.

The biggest decision to be made during a day at sea on a cruise ship is whether to have dinner in the main dining room or book a table at one of the specialty restaurants. It’s nice to have options, but I still like traditional seating. I enjoy being served by the same dining room stewards each evening. To be greeted by name and a warm smile, and to learn a bit about the personal lives of the people serving you dinner, is just one of cruising’s many pleasures.

I also enjoy the spontaneity of shipboard life, such as taking an after-dinner stroll around the ship, pausing at various lounges to enjoy some live music or perhaps heading to the show lounge to take in whatever extravaganza is being staged that night.

It’s the congenial atmosphere found on a cruise ship that’s hard to replicate on land and is what many people have missed. Fortunately, cruising is staging a comeback. And like many a comeback act, the post-pandemic experience of traveling by cruise ship may be even better than ever.