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MSC Brings New Dimension to its Yacht Club

MSC Cruises has hired the first women butlers for its MSC Yacht Club staff. Fully trained and impeccably attired in traditional livery, their introduction has delighted guests and proven a tremendous success, the cruise line said in a prepared statement.

One of the butlers is 35-year Larysa Fedoruk, described as a modern woman bringing a feminine touch to the job plus a multitude of skills. Fluent in English, German, Italian and Russian, she trained as a dancer.

Fedoruk first joined MSC ships as a member of entertainment staff performing on the ships. “Enchanted by the experience, she formed the ambition to become one of the company’s first woman butlers, and - with a dancer’s grit and determination - passed the rigorous selection procedure and training programme with flying colours.”


Norwegian Cruise Line Rolls Out New Sushi & Sashimi Menu

Norwegian Cruise Line announced it will now offer its popular sushi a la carte menu, currently available on Norwegian Epic, throughout most of its fleet starting today, September 16, 2011. The rollout does not include the Norwegian Sky.

The extensive menu, which features sushi, sashimi, light appetizers and desserts, will now also be offered as a lunch option on embarkation and sea days.

The new menu gives guests the freedom and flexibility to customize their dining experience by providing pricing per item with dishes averaging four dollars. Guests can select from a number of different appetizers such as edamame, miso soup or sesame seaweed salad. Sushi selections include such favorites as the Godzilla Roll, a tasty roll with sweet shrimp, mango, avocado, caramelized cashews and coconut; and the Dynamite Roll with yellowtail, salmon, green onion, and maki tempura style. Different variations of sushi and sashimi like yellow fin tuna, octopus and salmon are also offered. Guests can complete their meal with a dessert like green tea cake or fruit sashimi.

The sushi a la carte menu is rolling out to the fleet this weekend, starting with Norwegian Dawn today; Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Star and Pride of America on September 17; Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Pearl, and Norwegian Spirit on September 18 and Norwegian Sun on October 5.


Sector Snap: Weak cruise demand seen in Europe

 Cruise ship operators Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. continue to be crimped by weak demand for trips in Europe and the Caribbean, according to a survey of travel agents by Raymond James analysts.

Raymond James said in a note Monday that the European cruise region looks to be the weakest area. The region is likely to continue underperforming through year's end compared with other areas, the investment firm said. The dollar's recent weakness compared with the euro and higher air fares are among the factors considered to have reduced U.S. consumers' demand for European cruises, Raymond James analyst Joseph Hovorka said in a note. Cruise passengers frequently have to take planes to connect with ships and to return home. European cruises tend to be more expensive than those in other areas.

Recent social unrest and protests in Europe also were cited by some travel agents polled, Hovorka noted.

In light of the economic tension in Europe and continuing protests, Raymond James is skeptical about cruise demand rebounding in the Mediterranean region until the end of the year. And consumers' economic anxiety is holding down cruise demand, Hovorka wrote in a note.

The recession gave a hard hit to both Carnival and Royal Caribbean, depressing demand, and they cut prices in response. Carnival and Royal Caribbean, both based in Miami, are the world's largest and second-largest cruise ship operators, respectively.

THE STOCKS: Carnival shares fell $1.74, or 5.2 percent, to $31.78 in afternoon trading, while Royal Caribbean shares dropped $1.29, or 5.1 percent, to $23.93, amid a plunge in the broader market that pushed the Standard & Poor's 500 index down 1.6 percent to 1,196.


Compagnie du Ponant orders a new cruise ship

The world’s only French cruise line and “Five-star Expedition” specialist Compagnie du Ponant is to build another “latest generation” yacht (132 staterooms and suites) at the Italian Fincantieri shipyard in Ancona.

Sistership to Le Boreal and L'Austral, launched in May 2010 and April 2011 respectively and complying with the “Cleanship” label, the new vessel will join the fleet in June 2013. The fleet currently comprises five yachts of character all flying the French flag: Le Ponant (32 staterooms), Le Levant (45 staterooms), Le Diamant (113 staterooms and suites), Le Boreal and L'Austral (132 staterooms and suites).

The order is another positive sign confirming the relevance of Compagnie du Ponant’s investment strategy, its exclusive positioning, development on the international scene and the strength of its presence on the French market. In 2011, Compagnie du Ponant confidently expects to exceed the 20,000 passenger a year mark, with turnover estimated at €80 million. The excellent results are mainly down to a full year of operation for Le Boreal and L'Austral.

Both cruise yachts bear all the hallmarks of Compagnie du Ponant and have won over loyal clients as well as attracting many new ones. In fact, one in two passengers in 2011 is a new customer for Compagnie du Ponant, while one in four is trying out a cruise holiday for the first time. Customer satisfaction levels (4.5/5) and the high rate of recommendation to friends and family (97% of passengers) are also recognition of the hard work put in by the company’s personnel.

"For Compagnie du Ponant this order is another step towards the future that validates an effective business model, a good and successful bet," says Chief Executive Officer, Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée. It’s a business model that has also been welcomed by Compagnie du Ponant’s shareholders who have shown their confidence in the crews and land-based teams by investing in this new ship.

Having led the project to build the two previous yachts with such flair, the Fincantieri shipyard has again been entrusted with building the third sistership. French designer Jean-Philippe Nuel will be responsible for the sophisticated modern interior which has contributed so much to the success of Le Boreal and L’Austral.

“In keeping with our concept of cruising, we are again favouring the intimate, friendly environment of a human-size ship, ensuring our passengers receive individual attention and a personalised “tailor-made” service in an outstanding environment,” concludes Véronique Saadé, Deputy Executive Vice-President.


Fincantieri Reports Net Income, But Insufficient Orderbook

 Fincantieri has reported net income of 16 million euro, before non-recurring and extraordinary expenses, on revenues of 1.2 billion euro for the first six months of 2011, compared net income of 12 million euro on revenues of 13.5 billion euro for the same period last year.

The drop in revenue was due to lower production activity year-over-year, according to a prepared statement. Fincantieri said the shipbuilding industry is continuing to experience severe problems due to the world economic crisis and that there is significant price pressure on new orders. The latter has been further aggravated by what Fincantieri called “the highly aggressive market entry strategies recently displayed by the cruise market in the Far East.”

Thus, the market situation is in a mismatch, the yard stated, between production capacity and the order backlog. With surplus capacity, Fincantieri closed certain shipyards serving the merchant market during the first six months, and other yards are expected to experience problems on a similar or smaller scale in the near future.

Meanwhile, the company has been reducing its workforce, so far with temporarily lay-offs of workers. In addition, Fincantieri said it has to continue “down the road of cost reduction by reorganizing and making its processes more efficient and by improving productivity. ”The six-month result was attributed to adjusting the workforce to the order backlog, measures to make suppliers more efficient, and a lower tax burden. As of June 30, 2011, Fincantieri’s orderbook was worth 7.9 billion euro, but still insufficient to keep all of its yards working.


What’s the big deal about National Cruise Week?

If suddenly it seems that you can’t turn any which way without hearing about cruising, you’re not imagining things. From interviews about cruising on BBC radio to surveys proclaiming New York to be Brits’ favourite port of call or even a study on claiming — and this may be a stretch — that, “Britons think cruises are too ‘posh and pricey,” cruising has been a top topic in the media of late.

We’ve even gotten in on the act, when Carolyn Spencer Brown, Cruise Critic’s editor, did an interview this morning on BBC Guernsey which, unusually, began with the interviewer sharing her impression that cruises were, and we quote, “hell on earth.”

That’s a lot of sturm-und-drang about cruising for a late summer Monday.

And here’s the reason: Each year around this time, the U.K.’s Passenger Shipping Association (PSA), the cruise industry’s chief cheerleader, dedicates a week to extolling the virtues of ocean-bound (and river-going) holidays. You may see, throughout the week, a lot of attention focused on “special” deals created by the cruise lines just for National Cruise Week (we’ve checked them out and they’re not really any more special – and sometimes aren’t even quite as good – as cruise specials we’re already featuring in our bargains section).

Still, if all the hullabaloo ’round these surveys and bargains gets you thinking about planning your first cruise (or your next one), or reminds you, after a busy summer, to re-connect with fellow travelers in our forums, or tempts you to consider a holiday trip, or a sun splashed winter getaway, or even, that greatest of all splurges — a world cruise! — then, by all means, we’re huge fans of National Cruise Week.


Combination-holidays take centre stage for 2012

Savvy consumers pack more into their holiday spend

UK consumers are getting around the financial reality of having to scale back on the number of holidays they take by choosing a break that combines many different elements, according to new research commissioned by Royal Caribbean International. For 2011, one sixth of people combined at least two different holiday types into their main break in an effort to save money with over half of these people pairing a city break with a beach escape. Looking forward to 2012 and 20 per cent of holidaymakers are looking to have ‘two holidays in one’.

The research, conducted by One Poll, revealed respondents opting for combination-holidays stated that the biggest reasons were to save money (55 per cent) or get the best value from their holiday spend (23 per cent). When looking at the differing opinions of various age groups, two thirds of those over 45 want a combination holiday to save them money, compared to just 18 per cent of those under 24. Holidaymakers in the age bracket 25-34 also place importance on a combination break to make better use of time. With three sports mad children, a culture-vulture husband and a love of the sunshine, sports star Sally Gunnell is a big advocate of ‘combination holidays’.

“As a busy mum not only do I have to meet everyone’s wish list with my family holiday choices, but I also need to juggle the reality of spending less and taking fewer holidays whilst still making sure everyone is happy” explained Sally Gunnell. “Royal Caribbean International recently challenged me that I could pack more into a holiday by taking a cruise. Not only did the whole family relax and have great fun, but we saw the sights of Rome, dozed on the beach in Nice and went running, rock climbing, surfing and ice skating and I got to spend some time with my husband! As a combination holiday that really takes some beating, it was truly the first time that the dream of having a city break, a beach holiday and some sports action all in one came true. We’ve already booked our next one for 2012.” Research findings also suggest that men and women are destined to argue over what makes the perfect break. Compared to women, double the amount of men want to add a sports or fitness element to their holiday, and the modern man’s metro-sexual lifestyle is also influencing holiday component factors. More men than women want to add an additional spa element to the nation’s favorite city and beach combination.

For 2012 holiday planning, combination holidays are most popular with women and Londoners, with 23 per cent of those in the capital looking for at least two different holiday types within their break. East Midlanders are looking to cram the most into their holiday – 60 per cent want one holiday to encompass a city, beach and sports or fitness element all within one break. Whilst the research shows the combination holiday habits of savvy consumers looking to save money, it also highlights that just over half the respondents have no more holiday plans for 2011, despite the up coming October school half term and Christmas break left. Of those who have scaled back their holiday plans, over half state that the decision is related to uncertainty over jobs and the economic climate, with men more concerned than women. Optimism is highest in the West Midlands with 11% of people expecting to have taken four or more holidays by the end of 2011. Plus, 28 per cent of young people under 24 are planning to enjoy more holidays in 2012 than managed in 2011.

The One Poll research into combination-holidays was commissioned by cruise line Royal Caribbean International as part of National Cruise Week (18-25 September 2011), and to support a drive to encourage holidaymakers to pack more into their annual leave and choose to cruise. Royal Caribbean International features some of the most innovative cruise ships at sea with facilities including FlowRider surf simulators, rock climbing walls, zip wires, ice skating rinks, children’s water parks and theaters showing West End hits such as Chicago, Hairspray and Saturday Night Fever. To celebrate National Cruise Week dedicated offers such as on board credit of at least $200 per stateroom is available for all bookings made until 25 September 2011 on selected sailings.

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.

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