Monday, September 22, 2014

10 HIGH FASHION HOTELS

The Schlosshotel Im Grunewald in Berlin
Design by Karl Lagerfeld (Credit: TripAdvisor)
There is some element of danger in posting this list of "10 high fashion hotels" from TripAdvisor. Like keeping the post on the downlow so Pam doesn't get busy making us reservations! With designer names like Versace, Armani and Lagerfeld, I'm too timid to hit the "Check Prices" button. But I admit it's fun to imagine a stay at one of these. Enjoy -- but mum's the word, OK? -- Gerry

Friday, September 19, 2014

CUNARD HISTORY: THE BOSTON CUP

Note: We are pleased to continue the History of Cunard series with this latest installment from Cunard historian Michael Gallagher.

By Michael Gallagher
Cunard Historian

Photos/Graphics: Credit Cunard


Former flagship QE2 (left) sails past new
 flagship Queen Mary 2 (right) in Boston in 2004
On 1 May 2004, Cunard flagship status passed from Queen Elizabeth 2 to Queen Mary 2 and the company sought a physical symbol to represent flagship status. Enter the Boston Cup! In a moving ceremony, QE2's Captain Ian McNaught handed the Cup to Queen Mary 2's Commodore Ron Warwick, and later that day attending guests, including Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, transferred by boat to the new flagship for lunch. After lunch they gathered at the stern of Queen Mary 2 and enjoyed the traditional British hymns and anthems waiting for QE2 to sail past.

When she emerged from the mist, the music was dramatically replaced with “Isn't She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder. Nothing more appropriate could have been played and there was not a dry eye on those aft decks – even those of the Deputy Prime Minister. Later that night, with the Boston Cup on board, Queen Mary 2 sailed for the first time as Cunard flagship.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

'QUANTUM' AND THE SOUND OF MUSIC

"Unique" is a word frequently applied to Royal Caribbean's soon-to-debut megaship, Quantum of the Seas. This week's video showcases yet another new aspect of the ship's entertainment options -- "Sonic Odyssey." It's a show about sound, literally.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

CARNIVAL RENEWS ITS VACATION GUARANTEE

Carnival has announced they are renewing its Great Vacation Guarantee which provides consumers an opportunity to receive a 110 percent refund, complimentary transportation home and a $100 shipboard credit on a future cruise if they are dissatisfied with their vacation for any reason. They note "in the year since Carnival originally introduced the guarantee, the line’s 24 ships have carried 4.5 million guests and the guarantee has been invoked only 47 times."

The Great Vacation Guarantee is valid on all three- to eight-day voyages to The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Bermuda, Canada and New England through December 31, 2015, including holiday sailings. The program applies to U.S. and Canadian residents only and guests must possess a valid passport to return to the U.S. by air. Additional information on the Great Vacation Guarantee can be obtained via any travel agent or by visiting carnival.com/vacationguarantee.

CRUISE SHIP ON A CLIFF

Credit: TripAdvisor
A cruise ship on top of a cliff? No, it's not because a big wave left it high and dry. It's really a land-based resort built to look like a cruise ship. It's called the Sun Cruise Resort, located in South Korea. If you are a landlubber who wants the cruise experience on dry land, it may be just your ticket. Read about it here and here. -- Gerry

Monday, September 15, 2014

CRUISING IS BIG BUSINESS

We all know cruising is big business, but do you know how big? Check out these figures from Travel Weekly:

"The global cruise industry generates $117 billion in total economic contributions, supporting 891,009 full-time jobs with total wages of $38.47 billion, according to new data. This comes as demand for cruising across the globe has increased 77 percent, from 12 million to 21.3 million passengers in the last decade, the research by the Cruise Lines International Association shows. The report found that 55% of global passengers are sourced from North America (11.82 million), including 10.92 million from the US."

No wonder the cruise lines are scrambling to launch bigger and better ships. -- Gerry

PRINCESS DEBUTING NEW CRAFT BEER

Credit: Princess
Craft beer is the new trend in cruising, and Princess Cruises is joining in by introducing a new craft beer to toast its upcoming 50th anniversary. The “Seawitch” was developed exclusively for Princess Cruises, in partnership with San Francisco's Strike Brewing Company, and is the first in the line’s new series of craft beers. It will be introduced aboard Regal Princess when the cruise ship debuts in Florida for a season of Caribbean cruises this November.

More details from Princess:

"The Seawitch West Coast IPA will retail for $6.25 and be available in bars and lounges throughout Regal Princess. It is expected to be available fleetwide by early 2015.

"The cruise line will roll out additional Seawitch craft beers in partnerships with regional breweries that specialize in local flavors and represent some of the cruise destinations Princess ships visit.

"Princess Cruises will officially kick off its 50th anniversary year with the naming ceremony of Regal Princess on Nov. 5 in Ft. Lauderdale. The company is honoring the role the The Love Boat played in its five-decades-long history by having the original Love Boat cast members serve as godparents for its newest cruise ship." -- Gerry

HOLLAND AMERICA NAMES LARGEST SHIP

Holland America's largest ship has a name. The 99,500-ton cruise ship, slated for delivery in February 2016, will be ms Koningsdam. More details from the press release:

"While the name pays homage to the company’s rich heritage and deep roots in the Netherlands, it also reflects a new era with a bold name that is an original in Holland America Line’s 141-year history. The 2,650-passenger ship is an evolution in design for the line — a new Pinnacle Class — and is being built at Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard.

"Since 1883 every Holland America passenger vessel has borne the “dam” suffix, and ms Koningsdam carries on that tradition. The word koning means “king” in Dutch, and the name celebrates the majestic new ship. The name also pays honor to His Majesty King Willem-Alexander, the first king of the Netherlands in over a century."

Friday, September 12, 2014

CRUISE LINES BIG FANS OF THE NFL

With NFL football back in full swing (Pam says "Go FINS!"), here's an interesting read on how the cruise lines are partnering with NFL teams in a variety of promotional efforts. I say anything that combines cruising and football is a real win-win. -- Gerry

CUNARD HISTORY: SOUTHAMPTON

This article, written by Michael Gallagher, public relations executive and historian for Cunard Line, is part of an ongoing series of key moments in Cunard Line's history

By Michael Gallagher
Cunard Historian

Cunard's “Big Three:” Mauretania, Berengaria and Aquitania
Southampton has been a port since at least Roman times. During the Middle Ages, it was particularly important for wool and wine trade, which finally dwindled away almost completely by the early 18th Century. After a brief period as a spa resort, the port sprang into new life with the coming of the railway; and by 1840 – the year Cunard service from Liverpool to Boston began – it was obvious Southampton’s future prosperity as a passenger shipping port was assured.

During the 19th Century, the docks at Southampton gradually expanded, and many shipping companies came to use the port regularly. Liverpool remained the Cunard port, although an occasional call at Southampton by a Cunarder was not unknown.

White Star Line had been using Southampton since 1907 and had an office there. Cunard made occasional calls before World War One; but after that Cunard found it politic to operate its express liner service from Southampton and, in 1919, an office was established at Maritime Chambers. Soon Cunard's “Big Three,” Mauretania, Aquitania and Berengaria, were running from Southampton to New York via Cherbourg, with the first Cunarder to use the port being Aquitania. However, Mauretania inaugurated the new service on 18 November 1919.

The increased prosperity made the Southern Railway Company, who then owned the docks, consider plans for greatly enlarging them, and by the late 1920s the New Docks was under construction. News of the proposed new superliner, Queen Mary, prompted Southern Railway to include a giant dry dock in its plans – one large enough to accommodate Queen Mary. The New Docks was largely finished during the early 1930s, and on 26 July 1933, the dry dock was officially opened by King George V, whose name it bears.

South Western House, 1966 (Credit: Cunard)
The decision in 1965 to make Southampton the Head Office of Cunard meant that the premises at Maritime Chambers, used since 1919, were no longer adequate, so South Western House became the new home of Cunard. The former hotel building had been converted to provide office accommodation for the company. About 120 staff members and their families moved from Liverpool to Southampton, the existing staff of some 200 persons was retained and about 200 extra personnel were engaged, many locally.

On 4 July 1966 – 166 years to the day Britannia departed on the voyage that changed ocean travel forever – Cunard Managing Director Philip Bates with his fellow Directors watched the Cunard flag unfurl above South Western House.

When QE2 entered service in 1969, she was the first Cunard passenger ship to have Southampton on her stern.

Cunard remained at South Western House until 1996 before relocating to Mountbatten House at Grosvenor Square ,and then to Harbour Parade in 2009.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

'QUANTUM' RACING TOWARD COMPLETION

While the excitement and anticipation is growing for the debut of Royal Caribbean's  Quantum of the Seas, the work to get it ready is continuing at a breakneck pace at the shipyard. As this video reports, this new technological marvel is 90 percent complete. Take a look:

SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS, GUARANTEED

This month we have been awed by the spectacle of the giant full moons hanging over the Atlantic. But how cool would it be to observe another one of Nature's spectacular shows -- the Northern lights -- from a cruise ship? One cruise line, Hurtigruten, is promising you'll see the lights on one of their Norway voyages or you'll get a second voyage free. They should know, since they have been providing coastal tours for 120 years. Check it out in this video: