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Variety Cruises: Chic Mediterranean on New Ship

Variety Cruises launches its elegant 36-cabin mega yacht Variety Voyager in spring 2012 with two new, equally chic itineraries to the Mediterranean. "Romantic Rivieras" will sail the French and Italian Rivieras from June to September, while "Treasures of South Italy and Malta" cruises September to October. Each cruise is seven nights with fares from $2,990 per person, per week.

Romantic Rivieras
Embarkation: Nice, France

Glamorous playgrounds of the French and Italian Rivieras let cruisers travel with A-list panache. The first stop is St. Tropez, a must for any jetsetter, and continues to sparkling islands Corsica (France) and Elba (Italy). Stops in Italy's main land to treasured villages Portovenere and Portofino are followed by a respite in cosmopolitan Monte Carlo.

Treasures of South Italy and Malta

Embarkation: Salerno, Italy

Sicily, celebrated for beautiful beaches, legendary cuisine, and fascinating history, comes to life with visits to Taormina, Syracuse, Agrigento and Cefalu. Islands of Capri, Malta and Lipari summon leisurely strolls in flowing summer clothes backed by stirring architecture and seascapes.

M/Y Variety Voyager: Coming in 2012

Private yachting meets conventional cruising on the 223-foot state-of-the-art Variety Voyager mega yacht. With room for only 72 passengers in 36 cabins, the ship creates an intimate atmosphere for commiserating, almost as if the cruise were itself a private group event. The Variety Voyager design features sleek lines and ample deck space. Inside, cabins and public areas are finished with warm fabrics, rich marbles, Axminster carpeting and soft-toned wood paneling. Unobstructed views of the ocean and ports envelop every area of the ship. An attentive 28-member service crew provides impeccable service, as if each guest were the ship's captain.

Fares for "Romantic Rivieras" and "Treasures of South Italy and Malta" include accommodations in double or twin cabins with private bathrooms and air conditioning; American buffet breakfast and two main meals daily; use of fishing equipment (subject to availability); coffee, water or tea; and an English speaking cruise escort. Port charges are an additional $350 per person.


The Undiscovered Black Sea

Special voyages to the crossroads of culture

The magnificent Black Sea region is still new territory for many visitors—an exciting irony, since so many pivotal events of world history have played out here, from the fall of Constantinople to the fall of the Soviet Union.

The great salt-water Black Sea has seen settlements on its shores for nearly 3000 years which along with the wars of the 19th and 20th centuries have all greatly influenced the surrounding lands, making the Black Sea one of the most fascinating and historically rich regions in the world.

Whether your interest lies in ancient or military history, architecture, literature, contemporary politics or just in visiting some of the most atmospheric and fascinating places on earth, the Black Sea has much to offer. Wild Earth Travel is offering a range of expeditions in 2012 that explore this intriguing destination.

An 11-day 'Black Sea: Crossroads of Culture' voyage on board the Corinthian II starts in Athens, Greece and finishes in Istanbul, Turkey. Highlights include touring the historic monuments of Athens, the birthplace of Western culture; exploring the ruins, archaeological sites and churches of Romania; visiting the landmark cities of Odessa in the Ukraine and Sevastopol, the former base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet from the days of Catherine II until the fall of the Soviet Union; and Yalta, famed site of the 1945 conference between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.

The deluxe Corinthian II is an all-suite luxury ship accommodating up to 114 guests, appointed with first class facilities including a sun deck with Jacuzzi; beauty salon; and an elevator serving all passenger decks. The Penthouse Suites and Veranda Suites feature private balconies with sliding-glass doors, as well as white glove butler service. This voyage departs on 17 July 2012. Prices start from US$7895 per person.

Two 11-day 'Black Sea Odyssey' voyages on board the 100-passenger MS Island Sky depart from Istanbul on 9 and 19 October 2012 with prices starting from $7549NZD/$5849AUD per person. Highlights include an in-depth exploration of Turkey including the ancient cities of Paphlagonia and Amasya, which according to legend was founded by the Amazon queen Amasis; Yalta, Sevastopol and Odessa in Russia; and Nessebur in Bulgaria, home of the 5th century Bishopric and 12th century St Stephen's church.

The MS Island Sky underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment in 2010 to make her one of the finest small ships in the world, where high quality service and attention to detail are the order of the day. The ship has 57 unusually large suites, luxuriously appointed public areas and spacious outside decks. The atmosphere onboard is akin to a private yacht or country hotel.

Two 'Black Sea Treasures' voyages from Istanbul to Odessa on board the 50-pasenger M/Y Pegasus depart in June 2012 with prices starting from $2795NZD/$2199AUD per person. Highlights include the ancient city of Nessebar, a unique exploration upstream of the Danube River and the Crimean historical cities of Yalta and Sevastopol. The newly refurbished Pegasus has 23 luxuriously appointed cabins as well as an outdoor al fresco dining area and platform stern enabling guests to swim when conditions permit.


Celebrity Cruises Recruits Top Chef to Join Culinary Team

Celebrity Cruises has expanded its culinary talent by naming award-nominated John Suley as its director of Culinary Operations.

Recruited by Celebrity Cruises’ Vice President of Culinary Operations Jacques Van Staden, Suley is widely regarded as one of America’s top “up and coming” chefs. Prior to joining Celebrity, he worked in the star-studded, international dining scene as executive chef at the famed “Gotham Bar & Grill” (New York) and “Gotham Steak” at the chic Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. Suley’s wealth of experience also includes working with many of the world’s most accomplished chefs, including Daniel Boulud and at some of the finest restaurants including the Ritz Carlton-South Beach and the Waldorf Astoria.

Van Staden said: “John Suley is known for his edgy and innovative cooking style. Having known him for 12 years, and observing the amazing contributions he made during the recent debut of our newest Solstice Class ship, Celebrity Silhouette, I am confident he will be an inspirational and creative leader within Celebrity Cruises’ culinary team. He will make tremendous contributions as we continue to prove to guests around the world that we can treat them to a dining experience that is easily comparable to the best on land.”

Press information:
Celebrity Cruises: Louise James ( or Surinder Manku ( on 01932 834 200

Siren: Sarah Rathbone ( or Katie Wright ( on 0208 237 1210 / 07595 055 882

About Celebrity Cruises: 

Celebrity Cruises’ iconic “X” is the mark of the world’s top-rated premium cruise line, with spacious, stylish interiors; dining experiences elevated to an art form; personalized service, with a guest-to-staff ratio of nearly 2:1; unexpected, trendsetting onboard activities, all designed to provide an unmatchable experience for vacationers’ precious time. Celebrity sails to Alaska, Australia/New Zealand,Bermuda, California, Canada/New England, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, the Pacific Coast, Panama Canal, South America, and year-round in the Galapagos Islands. Celebrity also offers immersive cruisetour experiences in Alaska, Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Europe and South America. One of the fastest-growing major cruise lines, Celebrity’s fleet currently consists of 10 ships, with one additional Solstice Class ship scheduled to join the fleet: Celebrity Reflection in autumn 2012.

Coast Guard Working to Protect Ports from Natural Diasters

With the United States approaching the mid-point of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the U.S. Coast Guard has an informative piece on its official blog about its role in securing and protecting America's ports from the devastation hurricanes and severe weather can bring.

(U.S. Coast Guard) "In every one of America’s ports, the Coast Guard has plans in place to protect lives and property from the threats of a natural disaster."


White House Adds Belize and El Salvador to Drugs Blacklist

President Obama issued the White House's annual "Presidential Determination onMajor Illicit Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries."

This year's watchlist includes Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.

El Salvador and Belize are new additions for FY2012.


Malaysia: Pirate Attack Stopped in Malacca Straits

Indonesian pirates attempting to board a merchant vessel in the Straits of Malacca were arrested on Sunday. A Malaysian patrol spotted the pirates and intercepted them as they tried to flee. Reports say the suspects may be from the Indonesian island of Batam.


High drama around Hurtigruten ship

Emergency crews were still working feverishly on Friday to prevent the damaged Hurtigruten ship MS Nordlys from capsizing at the dock. The situation remained critical but a Dutch salvage team was reportedly making heroic efforts. With Hurtigruten part of the national heritage in Norway, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) kept following the drama live.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)'s coverage of the drama included live video Friday morning as crews tried to prevent the Hurtigruten ship "Nordlys" from capsizing at the dock. PHOTO: NRK/Views and News

It was just three months ago that NRK ran a wildly popular live broadcast from on board another Hurtigruten ship as it sailed along the Norwegian coast. Now the situation is entirely different, after jubilation in June turned to sorrow in September.

On Friday morning the Nordlys, badly damaged by fire in its engine room on Thursday, was listing nearly 22 degrees after taking on too much water. Police said the vessel had been taking on more water than could be pumped out, and fears rose that it would topple over and sink.

The vessel’s own pumping system was damaged along with its electrical system after fire, said to be explosive in nature, broke out in the engine room Thursday morning. The vessel managed to make it into port at Ålesund, on Norway’s west coast, but by Thursday afternoon it was already listing from seawater seeping in and water used to extinguish the blaze, which left two crew members dead and 16 injured.

The emergency workers set up improvised systems to pump water off the vessel using hoses and pumps on land but they were proving inadequate through the night. Accident inspectors were unable to go on board so the investigation into the cause of the fire was delayed.

Dutch to the rescue
The picture brightened Friday afternoon after a Dutch salvage team carried out what some observers called a dangerous effort to stabilize the ship with a crane while they went on board to install new pumps. By 1pm the effort seem to be working and the vessel was listing 18-19 degrees instead of 22, according to NRK.

Hurtigruten officials, many of whom flew in from company offices in other cities to deal with the accident, were in mourning but also worked to care for passengers and crew rescued off the vessel. They described the accident as “the worst thing that can happen to a company, when there’s loss of life,” and claimed the material damage to the ship was a lower priority. Still, it was important to try to keep the vessel from capsizing.

Praise from passengers
Meanwhile, the 207 passengers on board the MS Nordlys were praising what they called an “orderly” and “calm” evacuation of the vessel when the fire broke out as breakfast was being served. There was no panic, they said, and they quickly either got into lifeboats or were able to walk off the ship when it docked.

Both passengers and many of the vessel’s 55 crew members were accommodated at hotels in Ålesund and Hurtigruten staff were working to sort out practical problems on Friday. Those on board the ship were evacuated with only what they were wearing at the time, while many passports, mobile phones and other personal possessions were left on board. Some passengers from as far away as Australia and the US thus had neither money nor identification or tickets to get themselves home.

The shipping line was promising assistance and solutions while newspaper Aftenposten reported that one group of Americans aged 60 to 80 went ahead with an organized three-hour sightseeing tour of Ålesund. “The passengers are taking this very well,” said tour guide Karin Hansen. “They think the crew on the ship was very good and now they’re trying to make the best out of this situation.”

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