Exploring the Wonderful World of Cruise Ships


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Clelia II

Orion Expedition Cruises has announced that delivery of their new ship, the former Clelia II, has been delayed by about a month.  The need for “additional technical work” has been given for the delay.

You may recall the ship’s rather harrowing voyage through the Drake Passage this past December.  Buffeted by 30 foot seas which broke windows on the bridge and took out the communications equipment, the ship made its way to Ushuaia under diminished power against heavy winds.

The year before that, in December 2009, Clelia II ran aground in the Antarctic Peninsula, resulting in the shutdown of the starboard engine and loss of electrical power on board.  Another cruise ship, the Corinthian II, helped pull it off the rocks.

Clelia II just didn’t have an easy time of it in Antarctica.  Perhaps, after all the work is finished and Orion II emerges with her new livery, she will find her new life more to her liking.

Technorati Tags: Antarctic Peninsula, 330-432-7906, 347-931-4438, Orion Expedition Cruises, Orion II


Your Questions About River Boat Cruises In France And Italy

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Nancy asks…

river cruise between France and Italy for 3 couples?

would love to stay a few days in each place and then cruise.

John answers:

Nancy, I’m not entirely certain what you are asking for.  Are you looking to go from town to town, stopping for a day or two in one,  and then take another boat to the next town on your list, and so on?

If so, this may be possible on day-trip boats that work their way up and down some of Europe’s rivers, but you will not be able to do it on one of the high end 7 to 14 night river cruises that have become so popular in recent years.

If you are asking if you can arrange hotel stays at either end of a river cruise, then the answer is yes, of course you can.

Now, you cannot cruise fron France to Italy on the same river cruise.  You can take separate cruises in each country.  France will offer you more options and a more deluxe experience.

There is a cruise on the Po River in northern Italy, but the focus is really on Venice, and much of the time is spent in Venice using the boat as your floating hotel.

Finally, if you’re intent on combining Italy, France and a cruise, there are numerous Mediterranean cruises that visit ports in both countries.

Jenny asks…

Is anyone familiar with the river cruise dock(s) in Arles, France?

I am to leave Arles on a river cruise on October 6, and the cruise line told me the ship leaves from Quai Lamartine in Arles.  Because I must get to the ship on my own I have tried to find a map of that dock without success.  The only dock with that name is in Macon France, many miles away, which is even past our destination city of Lyon.  I am sure that the Macon dock is not the dock from which I am leaving.

Any help would be appreciated.
(I must travel from Marseilles to the cruise ship.)


John answers:

There is a quai Lamartine in Arles where all the cruise boats are docked!  It is situated 2.5 kilometers from the city center and you should not have any difficulty finding it when arriving in Arles.

Do not hesitate to ask your way and if you don’t speak French, show your cruise program and I am sure there will be a kind person there able to help you.

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Technorati Tags: Po River, river boat cruises, 6097303064, river boat cruises in Italy, river cruises

Celebrity Reflection

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Celebrity Silhouette

A steel cutting ceremony for the Celebrity Reflection was held at the Meyer-Werft Shipyard last week, when the first steel plate was cut for the new vessel.  The ship will be the fifth and last of Celebrity’s very popular Solstice class, scheduled for delivery in November 2012.

Celebrity Reflection represents the culmination of the Solstice class, incorporating and expanding on the features that have been so well received by passengers.  The ship, at 126,000 gross tons, will be the largest of the class.  She’ll have an additional deck and 72 additional cabins, accommodating 3030 passengers at double occupancy.  More than 90% of the cabins are outside, and approximately 90% of those will have balconies.

Among the highlights, the ship will feature 34 AquaClass Suites, measuring 251 square feet with a 57 square foot balcony.  Michael’s Pub will be enhanced with the addition of up to 50 international craft beers, and outdoor grilling will be offered in the new Lawn Club Grill.

Technorati Tags: (805) 589-0732, (506) 434-4807, Celebrity Reflection, 8552218858, 8473607019, Meyer Werft, Michael's Pub, 901-339-0213


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Susan asks…

What is the best river cruise in the US for 1-2 week trip? Cost not so much a factor as great…?

…scenery and overall exp.
I don’t mean a mega-cruise ship; thinking more about itinerary, quality of meals, etc. We have done several ocean cruises and want to try something smaller and closer to home.

John answers:

Susan, since you don’t say where home is, I’ll give you a few options throughout the country.  Please bear in mind that my answer is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive, only illustrative.

On the East Coast, there are small river boat cruises on the Erie Canal, steeped in history and blending beautiful scenery with  small town charm.  You might also consider the Fall foliage river cruises along the Hudson River in New York, offered by American Cruise Line.

If you are planning on taking the river boat cruise next year, American Cruise Line will be inaugurating new 7 night paddle-wheeler service on the Mississippi River.  These river cruises will be the first in about 4 years, and will sail routes similar to those offered by the defunct Delta Steamship Company.  You can channel your inner Mark Twain.

Finally, on the West Coast, both American Cruise Line and American Safari Cruises, among others, offer cruises on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.  Majestic scenery, Native American culture, and the association with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, all contribute to a very popular and highly regarded river boat experience.

I hope that gives you some ideas.

Michael asks…

I saw a sculpture while I was on a cruise of a river on the east coast of the US?

I believe it was either the Hudson or the Delaware. I was on my 8th grade DC trip. I remember being able to see what looked like a sculpture of a giant man who had fallen in something so you could not see all of him. What did I see? I cant find it anywhere?

John answers:

Check if it was this sculpture, called The Awakening:

It’s an impressive sight.  I can understand why the memory lasted.

Linda asks…

Overnight River Cruises in Thailand??


My boyfriend and I will be in Thailand from this Spring.  We’d like to do an overnight cruise to Aruthaya but all the ones we’ve seen are over $200 each! Are there any that are less expensive??

Also any suggestions for Hotels in Bangkok under $30 US would be appreciated.


John answers:

Ayutthaya is only 85 kilometers from Bangkok, so taking an overnight boat there devotes a lot of time to a rather short journey.  You probably won’t find many options lower than the prevailing rate.

There are two other options that you might consider.  There are boats available at the site that will take you around the area.  These can be chartered at several piers, and cost will depend on the length of the trip.

Alternatively, there are packages that combine a bus trip to Ayutthaya with a boat trip back to Bangkok.  Costs can be reasonable.  You’ll get the opportunity to view the sites and the boat trip you’re looking for, without the added cost and exaggerated time consumption.

Finally, there are dinner cruises on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, if that interests you.

As for hotels under $30 in Bangkok, sorry.  I don’t know any I could recommend.

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Technorati Tags: American Cruise Line, American Safari Cruises, Columbia and Snake Rivers, 343-238-1422, Erie Canal, Fall foliage, Hudson River, Lewis and Clark, Mark Twain, pricer, paddle wheeler, (937) 320-2223


(347) 510-7996

Azamara Journey

I answered a question the other day from a reader asking about a land/cruise combination vacation in the Caribbean.  I advised him that he should consider San Juan, the port that I think would give him the most options.

I’ve just received an email from Azamara Club Cruises that I think would be ideal for this sort of vacation.  The Azamara Journey will sail round trip out of San Juan on Novemnber 22, 2011 for a 5 day cruise, with stops in St. Martin, Virgin Gorda, St. Johns and, on Thanksgiving Day, St. Barts.

This strikes me as the ideal length for such a combination trip.  It also offers an opportunity to experience Azamara without having to commit to the more typical – and far more costly – 10 to 14 day cruises usually offered by Azamara.

As a bonus, the ship is at anchor in St. Barts until 1159PM on Thanksgiving Day.  For those who want a more intimate holiday dinner than that offered on board, any one of the absolutely wonderful restaurants on St. Barts would fit the bill.

I sailed on the Azamara Journey through the Baltic two summers ago and had a memorable time.  Many of my fellow passengers were repeat cruisers from much larger vessels.  Praise for the experience on board Journey was universal.

For those who can’t get away over the holiday, Journey will be sailing a 7 day itinerary from San Juan to Barbados the following week.

Technorati Tags: Azamara Club Cruises, Azamara Journey, (845) 684-3735, cruise ship, land/cruise vacation, San Juan, 639-923-5349, Thanksgiving

Flower Power

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I spent a very enjoyable Saturday in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago visiting the 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show.  This year’s theme was “Springtime in Paris”.  How could I resist?

Actually, I try to get there every year.  If you’ve never been and you’re even remotely interested in flowers and gardens, you should try to attend.  Each year I’m amazed by the displays and the sheer size of the exhibition space.  A significant portion of the space is set aside for vendors selling all manner of plant and garden related items.  I would guess there were about 100 vendors this year.  The picture accompanying this post is of an orchid I purchased from one of the vendors.

I wasn’t supposed to be there this year.  We had planned a cruise through the Panama Canal, which would have had us away during the week-long event.  One of our little group, however, developed a medical issue which forced us to cancel.

So the flower show became a bit of compensation for the lost cruise.  The gods of transportation almost made it impossible to get there, but I lucked out.  Coming home, the bus driver had to rendezvous with police to escort a drunken pot smoker off the bus.  Interesting times.

In between, however, the experience was wonderful.  Now, what does this have to do with cruises?  Well tangentially, of course, attending the flower show was possible only because I couldn’t go on our planned cruise.

There’s something else, however, something that grew out of a conversation with a trusted mentor.  I’m wondering if it might be possible to combine two loves and share it with a group of clients.  I’m considering coupling a cruise with specially designed shore excursions to public or private gardens.  This could be a cruise which either focuses on flowers, such as the Netherlands in Spring river boat cruise, or which provides ample opportunity for this type of themed shore excursion, such as a cruise in the British Isles perhaps.

I need to give this some thought.  If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Meanwhile,next year’s theme in Philadelphia is “Islands of Aloha”.  Love Hawaii!

Technorati Tags: cruise groups, 812-479-6943, 510-781-9533, Philadelphia Flower Show, river boat cruise, shore excursions, the Netherlands, 9054064697

Your Questions About Cruises From New Orleans

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Mark asks…

looking for river cruises from New Orleans to Louisville?

hello I’m interested in finding a riverboat cruise from New Orleans up to Louisville
i have check the websites that is no longer any Mississippi river cruises is this correct?
thank you
TM (travelmaster)

John answers:

Hi Mark,

That is correct at the moment.  Next year, however, American Cruise Lines is launching a brand new purpose-built paddle-wheeler on the Mississippi River system.  Visit their website.  You’ll see a host of options and itineraries.  New Orleans to Louisville, however, might not be one of them.  Perhaps you’ll find another itinerary that appeals to you.

Richard asks…

I need help finding a cheap cruise from New Orleans?

I’m looking for a 3-5 day cruise to anywhere.
My price range is from $300-$400 (yes very cheap) and must be from New Orleans!
I have a party of 5 by the way.
Oh yeah and I am available to leave in April or May.

John answers:

Richard, take a look at Carnival’s website.  They have some  5 day Western Caribbean cruises out of New Orleans that fall within your price range and time frame.

James asks…

Would it be safe to sail from New Orleans to the Western Caribbean in September?

We currently have plans to cruise from New Orleans to the Western Caribbean islands in September, but with the possibility of hurricanes at that time of year we are not sure if we should continue with our plan.

John answers:

Well, September is the middle of the hurricane season in the Caribbean and that could present a problem.  The cruise lines do a good job of steering away from hurricanes, however.

If a hurricane is bearing down on New Orleans on the day of your departure, your cruise might well be delayed a day.  Otherwise, once at sea, a hurricane might force the ship to alter its itinerary a bit, resulting in an alternate port or two.

There might be more clouds than you’d like, but the cruise will go on and you’ll probably have a great time.

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Your Questions About Cruise Deals And Cruise Vacations

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Sandra asks…

Do you get good deals for booking a vacation/ cruise last minute?

Is it possible to get a last minute deal?  I am looking to go in the end of June, but I want a good deal and I don’t mind taking a chance for the last minute.

John answers:

There’s always the possibility.  Is it likely?  No.  The more likely outcome is you’ll wind up paying more and settling for whatever is still available.  You’ll have a better chance of getting just the right cabin on the cruise you want by booking in advance.

Thomas asks…

What are the best deals or places for a cruise and stay vacation?

My girlfriend and I are looking to take a week vacation in the Bahamas or Caribbean and we want the experence of both a cruise and an island stay. We plan on going in a year from now but that may change based on when the best time to go is.  We will both be 23 at the time of our trip.  Any information or help is appreciated.

John answers:

Because of your age, don’t bother looking at Carnival as their rules state that one person must be 25 or older in your cabin.  The best weather, but the highest prices,  occur during the winter months.  Summer is less costly but very hot and humid.  Avoid mid-August through the end of October, if you can.

Now, combining a hotel stay with a cruise is certainly possible, but the options are limited.  Cruises to the Bahamas are roundtrip, beginning in the US.  You can’t just get off the ship and stay.  So if you have your heart set on the Bahamas, you should just do a land package and save the cruise for another time.

If you opt for the Caribbean instead, look for cruises that either begin or end in San Juan, or offer San Juan roundtrip.  Princess Cruises offers regular sailings from San Juan, as do other lines.  You could then combine a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay with the cruise itself.  You could stay in Puerto Rico or the nearby Virgin Islands, or even go a bit further afield.

Depending on what you’re looking for in a cruise, you should also look into Windstar Cruises which offers roundtrip sailings out of Barbados and St Martin.

Donald asks…

When you’re thinking of going on a land vacation (not a cruise) how do you go about finding deals?

I want an all inclusive vacation.. do I have to go to a travel agent or can you actually get it online… help

John answers:

Well, Donald, although this column is focused on cruises, I’ll take a shot at the answer.  You can find packages on line, many people do it.  Try Travelocity or Orbitz.  You can also go to tour operators’ websites, such as GoGo or Travel Impressions.

You might find, however, that the abundance of information and choices is a bit overwhelming.  It’s always best, I think, to use a good travel agent.

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Uniworld Launches Its Best Ship Yet

(631) 506-4142

SS Antoinette

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises latest and best ship, SS Antoinette, was christened last Sunday by her godmother and namesake, Antoinette (Toni) Tollman in Amsterdam.  Ms. Tollman, daughter of parent company Travel Corp’s CEO, Stanley Tollman, was also the lead designer and guiding spirit for the ship’s interior decor.

The ship’s design was inspired by the Chateau de Versailles, and embodies an 18th century French style brought into the 21st century.  As she explains it: “The design of the ship began with the spectacular blue sapphire 10-foot Baccarat chandelier that adorns the Antoinette’s two-story lobby.  This very chandelier once hung in New York’s famous Tavern on the Green restaurant. My family and I had dined many times under that chandelier, and when the restaurant closed, we purchased it for sentimental reasons, planning to use it somewhere.”

Guests will see echoes of Versailles throughout the ship.  Of particular note, the Salon du Grand Trianon was inspired by the Hall of Mirrors, and the Restaurant de Versailles by the ornamental gardens there.

The Antoinette, sister ship to River Beatrice (launched in March 2009 and named for Ms. Tollman’s mother), is 443 feet long and 37.5 feet wide.  She has 73 staterooms, ranging from 167 square feet up to 391 square feet for the Owners Suite.  Suites and staterooms on Deck 4 have private, open air balconies which can be enclosed by a retractable glass wall in cooler weather.

Among other innovations, the Antoinette has the first heated indoor pool on a river boat, as well as a 20 seat movie theater.

The Antoinette will sail the Rhine River, offering the “Castles Along The Rhine” itinerary.  Service begins this Sunday, March 27th.

Technorati Tags: 8439797006, Rhine River, River Beatrice, river boat cruises, (226) 287-8431, river cruises, SS Antoinette, Tavern on the Green, unbowingness, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Versailles



Artist's Depiction of Viking Freya

As I first mentioned in a previous post, Viking River Cruises is in the midst of a $250 million fleet development program, solidifying even more strongly its place as the leading river cruise company in the world.

In a recent announcement, Viking has released details of four new vessels, designated longships, which will be introduced into European waters at the beginning of the 2012 river cruising season.  No other river cruise company has matched this milestone.  For Viking, however, this is the second time since 2001 that they have accomplished this feat.  I would imagine they are quite proud of this, and justifiably so.

Named after four gods in the Norse pantheon, the ships – Viking Freya, Viking Idun, Viking Njord and Viking Odin – will blend cutting edge technology with unrivaled amenities, including the largest real suites available on European rivers.

Each ship will have two Explorer Suites, measuring 445 square feet with wrap around veranda, and seven Veranda Suites of 270 square feet with a full veranda.  All of these suites will feature separate bedrooms and living rooms.  The ships will measure 443 feet in length and offer 95 staterooms.  In addition to the suites, 39 Veranda Staterooms will feature full verandas as well.

The four longships will sail some of Viking River Cruises’ most popular European river routes, including the 10-day Tulips & Windmills, 8-day Romantic Danube, 15-day Grand European Tour and 8-day Danube Waltz.

With the two new ships entering service this year, Viking Emerald and Viking Prestige, and the four ships just announced for next year, Viking is more than half way to their stated goal of ten new ships by 2013.  Add in several refurbishments of ships already in service, and the outlook for river cruising with Viking just keeps getting brighter.

Technorati Tags: 319-409-3415, Danube River, European river boat cruises, 6505518375, (956) 493-5686, river boat cruises, 6413453087, 4404610426, river cruises, riverboat cruises, Viking River Cruises