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10 of the Coolest Cruise Ship Excursions

Cruise ship excursions go far beyond the typical walking tours of the port city, as a number of cruise lines are offering exclusive adventures, special educational side-trips, and thrilling once-in-lifetime activities. From elephant riding to extreme snorkeling, here are 10 incredible shore excursions:

Riding Icelandic Horses Under the Midnight Sun
Hurtigruten offers an opportunity to saddle up on an Icelandic horse in the Lofoten Islands, one of Norway’s most scenic archipelagos. The trot brings passengers through powdery white sand, over hillsides, and past curious relics from the Viking age.

Experience the Art of Falconry

First created around A.D. 800, falconry is an ancient activity used by nobility and involves training hawks to hunt and return when they’re called. On Crystal Cruises’ itineraries to Scotland, passengers have the opportunity to try this unique sport firsthand.

Ride Elephants in Thailand
On cruises in Thailand, Oceania has an option to tour the historic center of Ayutthaya (near Bangkok) on the back of an elephant. The excursion also includes a visit to the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, and exploration of the historic ruins of Ayutthaya.

Go Snorkeling in Antarctica
Expert diving guides lead passengers through the waters of Antarctica on snorkeling excursions with Aurora Expeditions. Gear up with waterproof dry suits and experience the icebergs from a different perspective. The crystal-clear waters make it easy to spot shipwrecks, penguins, crustaceans, isopods, starfish, and nudibranchs.

Spent the Night in a Gorilla Forest Camp
Silversea passengers can explore deep into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and spend the night in a gorilla sanctuary. Guided safaris through this area in Uganda – which is home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas – embark the following morning.

Snowmobile to a Glacier
On voyages to Iceland, Crystal Cruises passengers can travel by snowmobile over the Langjökull Glacier, the island’s largest glacier. The excursion also includes a visit to Hraunfossar falls and Deildartunguhver hot springs.

Take an After-Hours Palace Tour
Azamara Club Cruises often overnights in ports, allowing the company to offer special evening excursions like the “Doge's Palace After-Hours Tour” in Venice. A private evening tour explores the gothic architecture, courtyard, and Bridge of Sighs that connects the palace to a former prison. After, visitors can explore the Piazza San Marco, a popular historic square before being transported by pontoon back to the ship.

Visit a Black Pearl Farm
On Paul Gauguin’s French Polynesia cruises, guests can tour a black pearl farm in Raiatea and Taha’a and learn about the island’s precious jewel. Tours also include snorkeling in a coral reef outside of a motu (tiny island), followed by a beach barbecue lunch on a private island.

Get Grandstand Seats in Monaco
Crystal Cruises offers prime seats to the Formula One qualifying sessions for the 73rd Grand Prix of Monaco near the start/finish line. This excursion is exclusively available on the May 17 cruise on Crystal Serenity.

A Concert in a Cave
Azamara’s “AzAmazing Evenings” include unusual musical performances such as the Royal Gibraltar Regiment Band, which plays a set inside a massive limestone cave that serves as an all-natural auditorium. Passengers also have a chance to spot Barbary macaque, an ape colony that is unique to Europe and Gibraltar.

Source: TravelPulse

How to find the right Cruise Travel Agent

So, you've decided to go on a cruise -- perhaps your first venture on a vacation at sea -- and you're a little overwhelmed. You have to consider how much you're willing to pay, whether to book an inexpensive inside cabin or splurge on a suite, and which cruise line and ship are right for you. Add dinner seatings, shore excursions and cabin location to the list, and planning a relaxing getaway suddenly seems like a second job.

In the age of the Internet, many people assume that online is the only way to book travel. But, as booking online can often be confusing, a travel agent may be just what you need. In fact, according to the Cruise Lines International Association's (CLIA) 2008 Cruise Market Profile Study, nearly 75 percent of cruise travelers book their cruises through travel agents.

One of the most important things to know is that agents -- in particular, cruise specialists -- have been onboard the ships and can really give you first-hand advice about different cruise options. They have done a great deal of research through familiarization trips and cruise-line seminars, so you don't have to do the work yourself. Even better, agents often have access to special discounts or perks -- or know best where to find them -- and as the cruise lines pay their commissions, you don't pay more for their services and expertise.

Still undecided, or unsure where to find an agent to help you? Here are a few tips to get you started.
Reasons To Consider a Travel Agent

If you're used to booking travel independently, consider these reasons why you might want to make use of a travel agent to book your next holiday at sea.

Choosing a Cruise: For your first cruise, you may need help in matching your lifestyle and budget with a cruise line and destination. Choosing a cruise is not the same as picking a hotel or flight, as there are many more options to consider.

For example, do you want to cruise close to home from ports like New York, Miami, Galveston or Seattle, or are you willing to fly to Europe for Mediterranean and Baltic sailings? Would you be happier on a large ship -- such as Royal Caribbean's 154,407-ton, 3,634-passenger Freedom of the Seas -- or on a smaller, more intimate ship -- like Seabourn's's 10,000-ton, 208-passenger Seabourn Pride? Do you prefer a casual and lively vibe, as is found on Carnival Cruise Lines, or a more formal atmosphere, such as Silversea's?

Remember, you won't just be using the ship as a home base, like you do with a hotel; it will be your home, restaurant and entertainment venue for a week or more. The right ship and itinerary can make your vacation that much more enjoyable -- and an agent can help you determine the best selection for your tastes. In addition, an agent can answer any questions or assuage any apprehensions you might have about taking a cruise for the first time.

Shopping for Great Deals: Contrary to what you might expect, travel agents may actually be able to get you better deals than Internet retailers or even the cruise lines themselves. The best travel agents have access to discounted group rates and exclusive cruise pricing that's not found anywhere else. In addition, agents occasionally give you extra value on your booking -- such as prepaid gratuities, a free bottle of Champagne or onboard credit -- to sweeten the deal. And if the price of your cruise drops after you book, a good agent will notice and refund you the difference in fare. Finally, as cruise lines pay agent commissions, you don't have to worry about paying extra for their planning services.

Booking the Trip: Once you've chosen your cruise and, with the agent's help, matched your style with your vacation goals, you've got to book the trip. Again, it's a bit more complex than you might think, but a good agent will make the process go smoothly -- from securing the right cabin type and location to booking the dinner seating that will suit you and your party. Your agent will also be able to sort out travel insurance, if required, and will collect payment for the cruise (usually a deposit at the time of booking and the full amount 60 to 90 days before departure). In addition, the agent can help you with the rest of your travel plans, such as pre- or post-cruise stays, airfare and transfers.

Special Requirements: If you have special needs of any kind -- whether it's help in arranging a wedding ceremony onboard, ordering gluten-free or kosher meals, or dealing with accessibility issues -- a qualified agent should be able to make the proper arrangements for you or advise you on how to handle the issue yourself.

Establishing Relationships: Booking with a travel agent gives your transaction a personal touch -- you have a resource for asking questions and someone to contact if something goes wrong during your travels. But, your relationship with an agent doesn't tend to end after one trip. The agent will keep you in his or her database, alert you to deals or sales and can even suggest future trip ideas.

How To Select a Travel Agent
Training and Credentials: Many agents become accredited cruise counselors through CLIA's Cruise Academy or take courses through the different cruise lines to become more expert at selling their products. Inquire whether the agent has attended any of these training programs. In addition, you can look for affiliations with the National Association of Cruise Oriented Agencies (NACOA), Better Business Bureau (BBB), American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) or even the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Cruising Experience and Knowledge: Question the agents on cruising trends or up-and-coming destinations, and ask them to explain the differences between cruise lines. Find out how many cruises they've taken that year and with which lines they've personally cruised. The more knowledgeable an agent is, the better advice you'll get. If the agent has rarely cruised, you might want to take your business elsewhere. In addition, you might want to look for an agent who is a cruise specialist -- either at a cruise-dedicated agency or within a larger general agency -- to get the best service.

Inventory/Niche: If you're interested in a specific type of cruising (such as river cruising or luxury travel), look for agencies that specialize in the line or type of cruising you prefer. They'll often have more complete knowledge of your choices than a generalist. For example, if you want to cruise one of Europe's rivers in an intimate barge or riverboat, you may not want to book with an agent who specializes in selling holidays on 3,000-person mega-ships.

Interview: The best cruise agents will do a thorough job of interviewing potential clients to find out which ship, line and itinerary would be the best fit. In that initial interview, they should ask you what kind of vacation you normally take (beach, city, active, for example), who is going (family, couple, singles), your travel style (entertainment and activity preferences, dining habits) and your budget.

Cruise Line Connections: Find out if the travel agent has preferred status with any cruise lines or whether he or she belongs to travel consortiums that would enable him or her to get you better deals, upgrades, etc. But watch out -- some agents will push a particular line too aggressively for your tastes. You don't want to get caught in an agent's agenda if the cruise line isn't right for you.

Special Offers: Look for agents offering discounts, free perks and other incentives. If you don't see a sign or advertisement, always ask -- the agent may have fabulous offers the cruise lines won't let him or her publicize. In addition, ask if the agent can meet or beat the best price you've seen elsewhere.

Size: You can book a cruise through a huge travel retailer with branches around the country, a local cruise agency or even a home-based agent who will talk cruising with you at your local coffee shop. You'll find pros and cons of working with the different types of agencies; for example, you might get more personal service from an independent agent but better deals from a large company with a high volume of bookings. Shop around and see what size fits your needs best.

How To Locate an Agent
If you'd like to book a cruise through a travel agent, you can pop into a downtown storefront or search for cruise sellers online. If you want to look for agents registered with travel organizations, here are some resources for finding agencies near you.

Cruise Lines International Association: You can search for a CLIA-certified travel agent on the organization's Web site. Use the search tool to locate agents in your area with a variety of levels of CLIA training.

American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA): Use ASTA's consumer Web site to locate a travel agent who has agreed to conduct their business activities in accordance with the organization's code of ethics. Select "cruises" or "cruise lines" under Specialties to find agents that focus on selling cruise travel.

When To Go It Alone
Using a travel agent isn't always necessary. Here's how to determine if it's okay to book on your own.

You're Experienced: If you have cruised before and know exactly what you want -- the cruise line, destination, duration and cabin -- booking on the Internet can be quite easy. Most online cruise retailers have comprehensive search functions, as well as pages that list their best or newest deals. Many also offer additional resources, such as deck plans, photos and reviews. A step-by-step process will guide you through the booking and payment procedures.
You're Independent: If you're a do-it-yourself type, and you have the time and inclination to thoroughly research your own trip using resources like Cruise Critic, then go right ahead. For many of us, planning is half the fun of taking a trip.

Source: Cruise Critic

Major International companies bid for the Larnaca Port and Marina redevelopment tender

Four international and local consortia and a Chinese state-owned company have submitted proposals for the redevelopment of Larnaca port and marina.

A decision on invitation to tender for the work will be made by the end of April, with a view to receiving proposals by autumn, according to the Ministry of Communications and Works. The privatisation of the port facilities is an obligation under the memorandum of understanding signed with international lenders in 2013.

The new Larnaca marina would be the largest in Cyprus, with capacity for as many as 1,000 boats – up from the current 350 – and a total area of 510,000 square metres, including the port, marina, and the undeveloped surrounding area.

US-UAE consortium IGY Marinas and Dubai Ports (DP) World submitted the first proposal. Florida-based IGY Marinas focuses on acquiring, managing and servicing luxury-yacht marinas and their surrounding real estate, while DP World, one of the winners of the competition for the commercialisation of Limassol port, has a portfolio of 77 operating marine and inland terminals supported by over 50 businesses in 40 countries across six continents

The second interested consortium is made up of four companies – UK-based international consultancy and construction group MACE, Cypriot MGE Mopany Ventures Ltd, Joint Venture VTS EMS and FRS, and Gibraltar-based Sea Alliance Ltd. Sea Alliance provides services world-wide for yacht owners, charter companies, marina owners and shipyards. It also manages the Karpaz Gate Marina in the north, the only marina in Cyprus to have a 5 Anchor rating.

China’s largest port construction and design company, state-owned China Communications Constructions Company (CCCC) Ltd, submitted the third proposal. The company is the world’s largest container crane manufacturer, and it also builds ports, terminals, roads, bridges, railways and tunnels.

Two Israeli companies, Ampa Ltd and Israel Shipyards Ltd, make up the consortium that submitted the fourth proposal. Israel Shipyards, a former state-owned corporation that was privatised in 1995, operates the only privately owned port in Israel and is one of the largest shipbuilding and repair facilities in the eastern Mediterranean. Ampa Ltd develops and manages shopping centres, office complexes and buildings through subsidiaries.

The fifth proposal came from Era Consortium, comprising Cyprus-based AVI Giant Corporation Ltd and affiliates. Avi Giant’s registered director is Antonis Vouros, whose company A Vouros Investments Ltd was part of the Zenon consortium that signed the 2012 agreement with the government for the same project that fell through in 2015 after the companies could not secure financial backing for the reportedly €700m project. Zenon consisted of the Paraskevaides Group, Iacovou Bros, Petrolina and Vouros.

Original Source: Cyprus Mail

Off Radar Comment
The Cruise Industry is slow at the moment in Cyprus as a whole and the attractive new Cruise Terminal of Limassol is pretty much under utilized, due to the fact that Cruise ships left Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Israel on security grounds. Without strong itinerary it's difficult for Larnaca or any Cyprus port to generate a high volume of Cruise calls. A strong regional strategy is required to make it happen, but there does not seem to be much appetite or sufficient know how to make that happen.

Therefore, the winner of the port project will not be able to count on Cruise too much, at least in the next 5 years. The Yachting market on the other is buoyant and there is a waiting list for the existing marina.

The project could however work if the Real estate element is attractive and well designed as well as costed. Hence Yachting and Real Estate in the surrounding area are the best hopes.

The residents of Larnaca however, will believe in this project only when they see it as 2 decades of promises have not yet amounted to anything.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company will diversify into the cruise market with a Yachting concept

The legendary name with the service to match "Ritz-Carlton" is planning to enter the cruise market with a new concept in the form of large 190M super-mega-yacht, catering for a capacity of 298 Guests, featuring 149 all balcony-suites.

In total, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. is planning 3 luxurious cruising yachts. The first vessel of which will enter service in Q4 - 2019.

The concept was developed by the Ritz-Carlton maritime experts, namely Douglas Prothero and Lars Clasen, in collaboration with funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management. The new Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection desires to bring to market a new level of excellence in hospitality service within the framework of a long-term arrangement. Moreover, we understand from media reports, that the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will bring its own fresh and distinctive style to the luxury market, with its yachts likely to stand out and capture attention at the most exclusive ports around the world. testament to this fact, the modern craftsmanship and interior finishes of each yacht will be co-designed by The Ritz-Carlton and Tillberg Design.

Certainly this is a refreshing move and the uniquely combined yachting and cruising concept will be defined as a new edition to luxury travel for guests seeking to discover the world in what is promised and best described to be "a relaxed, casually elegant and comfortable atmosphere, featuring the highest level of personalized service".

Itineraries are expected to focus on a more exclusive type of destination such as Capri, Portofino, St. Barths and Cartagena. The pace of the voyage will be relaxed, which includes overnight stays, within varying voyages ranging from 7 to 10 days. The first yacht will cruise a vast range of the world's waters including but not limited to:
  • Mediterranean
  • Northern Europe
  • Caribbean
  • Latin America
Apart from the balcony suites, each yacht will boast 2 x 138 sqM Duplex Penthouse Suites. Highlights also include
  • A restaurant by Sven Elverfeld of Aqua
  • A 3-star Michelin restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg
  • A signature Ritz-Carlton Spa
  • A Panorama Lounge and wine bar, offering a wide variety of entertainment
  • Curated experiences (destination linked) by collaborating with local chefs, musicians & artists
This new exciting luxury project distinguishes the Marriott International (parent company of Ritz-Carlton) to be the unique provider of luxury accommodation on both terra-firma and at sea. What's interesting, is that this is not the first venture into cruising for the Marriott International, as it once had an interest in Sun Line Cruises.

G Adventures expansion and developing alternative programs

The Expediton market is growing rapidly and we have seen that with the success of Silversea Expedition, Hapag Lloyd Expedition and the rapid development of the Hurtigruten Explorer fleet.

Now its the turn of G Adventures, who plan to expand into coastal Norway during 2017, as well as its programs in Antarctica and the Arctic.

Director of Marine Operations Rich Heller recently commented “We found demand with a smaller vessel in that area”.

It appears that for G Adventures, coastal voyages are in some way a kind of entry-level product, competitively priced at $2,500 per person, with the aim of giving new passengers a taste of the G Adventures product and expedition-style of cruising, with the hope that Guests migrate into more lucrative locations.

It's also newsworthy to state that Greenland has become extremely popular in recent times and there are a number of fresh destinations to explore once the ice melts in the Arctic, gicing rise to new areas of discovery that previously not even considered.

G Adventures, is essentially an adventure travel company which enjoys a strategic presence in the Galapagos Islands. Moreover the purchase of the iconic Swan Hellenic brand in January was a proactive move, as they build a portfolio of adventure/travel brands which includes Just You and Travelsphere.
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