The American Queen Steamboat Company Acquires New Ship, Expands Westward and Partners with the National Trust


American Empress joins fleet, Pacific Northwest Voyages begin April 2014

The American Queen Steamboat Company, owner and operator of the U.S-flagged American Queen, has purchased the Empress of the North from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) for an undisclosed amount. To be renamed the American Empress, the vessel is scheduled to resume sailings on the great rivers of the Pacific Northwest April 2014, calling her homeport Portland, Ore. The American Empress will deliver riverboat opulence on a grand scale, following in the pedigree of the line’s namesake American Queen, and proudly serve as the largest overnight riverboat west of the Mississippi River.

american empress

The American Queen Steamboat Company has added a new boat, the American Empress, to the fleet.

“The American Queen has ushered in a rebirth of U.S. river cruising, welcoming thousands to discover the heartland of the United States and its iconic port cities,” shares Ted Sykes, president and COO of the American Queen Steamboat Company. “Now the American Empress will continue that tradition as an ambassador to the Pacific Northwest, a region equally rich in American and natural history.”

A U.S.-flagged riverboat, the American Empress measures 360 ft. with five towering decks and accommodates 223 guests in 112 staterooms in seven categories. The American Empress will sail the Columbia River and Snake River, offering seven-day voyages between Portland, Ore. and Clarkston, Wash. Ports of call include Astoria, Wash.; Stevenson, Wash.; The Dalles, Ore.; Umatilla, Ore.; and Richland, Wash.

In describing the American Empress, Sykes said: “The staterooms are very spacious and they are all outside. She is not a steamboat, but she is a paddlewheeler, so the look and feel is similar to the American Queen. They are both American icons. The Empress will be refurbished before she is put into operation next April.” He added that there has been huge interest in the new boat by current passengers, and expects that many of the 600,000 Americans who go overseas for river cruising will look to exploring the rivers of their own country.

In describing the all-inclusive nature of the American Empress cruise, Sykes added that there would be some premium shore experiences, such as jet boating on the Snake River, which would carry an extra cost. These would be fully commissionable to travel agents.

The company has also partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which helps preserve American heritage, culture and promote National Treasures. As a key feature to the partnership, the American Queen Steamboat Company will make a corporate donation of five dollars to the National Trust for every river cruise booking as well as give guests the opportunity to match the donation.

Beginning June 30, 2013, American Queen travelers will have the opportunity to learn more about the National Trust’s National Treasure sites, located along the Mississippi River as well as the Pacific Northwest, where the American Empress will launch in April 2014. Special attention to preservation concepts and techniques, as well as the work of architects, historians and other professionals in the field of historic preservation will be highlighted onboard and onshore.

“We are proud to partner with the American Queen Steamboat Company and help bring America’s National Treasures to life,” shares Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust. “These places along our great waterways present the diversity of our nation’s built history and remind all of us of the importance of preserving the irreplaceable places that tell America’s stories.”

Through the partnership with the National Trust, American Queen Steamboat Company will become a contributing sponsor for four of the National Trust’s National Treasures: Mississippi Delta Heritage Area, Manhattan Project Historic Sites in Washington State, Willamette Falls Navigation Canal and Locks in Oregon and a future site to be named at a later date.

“Thousands of guests onboard the American Queen have rediscovered the treasures the U.S. heartland has to offer over the past year,” said Ted Sykes. “We are honored to play a role in the preservation of these sites with the National Trust and add new treasures for our guest experience as the American Empress sets sail in April 2014 on the majestic Columbia and Snake Rivers.”

American Queen Steamboat Company
The American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) is the owner and operator of the U.S. flagged American Queen, the largest, most opulent riverboat in the world. Longer than a football field, towering six decks in height and laced with fanciful gingerbread trim, she is a marvel of modern engineering. Her journeys through the heartland offer a unique perspective on America’s history, culture and landscape with convenient departures from some of America’s most iconic river port cities including Memphis, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and St. Paul. In April 2014, the AQSC will begin serving the Pacific Northwest with the opulence and grandeur of the American Empress. For additional information and reservations, contact the American Queen Steamboat Company at 888-749-5280, visit online or call a professional travel agent.

The American Queen Steamboat Company Unveils Guest Loyalty Program


The American Queen Steamboat Company Unveils Guest Loyalty Program: “Steamboat Society of America”

Much of the American Queen Steamboat Company’s early success can be attributed to guests sharing stories of their memorable trips with friends, family and booking another voyage shortly after arriving home.

Valued return guests share a passion for U.S. river cruising and can now join the Steamboat Society of America, the company’s loyalty program, for special benefits and rewards on the American Queen and soon-to-be sailing American Empress (April 2014). Among the many benefits, guests receive their 10th cruise free.*

“As I visit with American Queen guests onboard I am always amazed how many have already sailed on multiple voyages with us and are now setting their sights to explore the Pacific Northwest on the American Empress,” shares the company’s President and COO Ted Sykes. “The Steamboat Society of America rewards our most loyal guests and encourages them to share their stories of why they are hooked on river cruising with the American Queen Steamboat Company.”

Among the benefits to the free Steamboat Society of America loyalty program are the following:

· A $100 per guest credit on each cruise and $200 per guest credit towards a future cruise fare when booked with deposit while onboard

· Priority check-in and early vessel pre-boarding

· Member access for breakfast or lunch when American Queen or American Empress are in port near home town and family or friend tours of the boat when sailing **

· Credits toward future cruise fares for members referring friends who book***

· Dedicated reservations line providing special service for members

· Private cocktail party for members-only hosted by the captain and executive officers onboard

*Up to $3,899 per person
**Subject to availability and reservations in advance
***$100 per referred guest booking and $100 per guest booking when providing member’s name at time of booking

To learn more about the Steamboat Society of America, request additional information and make reservations, contact the American Queen Steamboat Company at 888-749-5280, visit online or contact a professional travel agent.

American Queen Steamboat Company

The American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) is the owner and operator of the U.S. flagged American Queen, the largest, most opulent riverboat in the world. Longer than a football field, towering six decks in height and laced with fanciful gingerbread trim, she is a marvel of modern engineering. Her journeys through the heartland offer a unique perspective on America’s history, culture and landscape with convenient departures from some of America’s most iconic river port cities including Memphis, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and St. Paul. In April 2014, the AQSC will begin serving the Pacific Northwest with the opulence and grandeur of the American Empress. For additional information and reservations, contact the American Queen Steamboat Company at 888-749-5280, visit online

New loyalty program for American Queen guests

American Queen Steamboat Company unveils new loyalty program.

or call a professional travel agent.

MSC Roadshow for Agents


During the MSC Agent Roadshow, agents can discover the latest highlights about the soon-to-arrive MSC Divina.

In October 2013, MSC Cruises kicks off its North American travel agent road show with presentations in New York, NY, King of Prussia, PA, Miami, FL and Toronto and Montreal, Canada. MSC expects to reach more than 400 agents during the tour. (Dates for MSC’s 2014 road shows are to be announced.)

NOTE: Road show events below are by invitation only and on an RSVP basis as space is limited

Agents will have the opportunity to meet and mingle with the MSC sales team, discover the latest highlights about the soon-to-arrive MSC Divina, learn about the company’s overall commitment to the North American market as well as its policies, procedures and overall agency support. All events will include dinner presentations and special giveaways for agents.

“This upcoming road show is part of our ongoing commitment to working with agents and helping them grow their business,” said Ken Muskat, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing, MSC Cruises USA. “They are truly our number one resource. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with our loyal travel partners and strengthen our relationships, while giving them a taste of what’s to come in North America.”

For more information, contact sales.service@.

MSC North America Roadshow Dates:

New York, NY
October 9, 2013
Crowne Plaza
66 Hale Avenue
White Plains, NY 10601
Phone: (914) 682-0050

King of Prussia, PA
October 10, 2013
6:30-8:30 PM
Little Italy’s Maggianos
160 N. Gulph Road, Suite 205
King of Prussia, PA 19406
Phone: (610) 992-3333

Miami, FL
October 15, 2013
6:30-8:30 PM
Intercontinental Doral of Miami
2505 Northwest 87th Avenue
Doral, Florida 33172
Phone: (305) 468-1400

Toronto, Canada
October 29th
5:30-8:30 PM
Sapore by Zafferano
8000 Highway #27
located just north of Highway #407 on Highway #27
Phone: 905.851.3355

Montreal, Quebec
October 30th
Ristorante Bice
1504 Sherbrooke Street West
H3G 1L3
Phone: 514.937-6009

About MSC Divina
Christened by legendary actress and “diva” Sophia Loren, MSC Divina features 1,751 staterooms, 322,900 square feet of public space, a casino, seven restaurants, 18 bars and lounges, five swimming pools (including an infinity pool), a bowling alley, theater, gym, spa, internet café, conference center, kids and teen areas, and the lines signature ship within a ship, MSC Yacht Club.

American Queen Steamboat Company Celebrates River Traditions with 2013 Old Fashioned Holidays Voyages


Celebrate the holidays Cajun-style aboard the American Queen.

“ ‘Tis the season” and “deck the halls” aboard the largest, most opulent riverboat in the world on the mighty Mississippi River. The American Queen Steamboat Company is stuffing stockings and celebrating classic Cajun and Creole traditions of the antebellum south. Three Old Fashioned Holidays on the American Queen have limited availability remaining with sailings from New Orleans roundtrip or between New Orleans and Memphis, Tenn.

“This December guests on the American Queen will be immersed in Lower Mississippi holiday traditions celebrated by generations,” shares American Queen Steamboat Company President & COO Ted Sykes. “We look forward to sharing these many traditions in luxurious fashion and creating lasting memories all will enjoy.”

Holiday itineraries offer guests authentic experiences including the old Louisiana tradition of bonfires on the levees, special Christmas shows in the Grand Saloon, door-decorating contests, the reading of the Cajun Night Before Christmas and nationally renowned Mississippi woodcarver Jim Moore carving a Victorian Santa onboard. Seasonal culinary delights and decadent desserts including a Creole Réveillon Christmas Dinner, prepared by Culinary Director Regina Charboneau’s team, as well as a shore side Cajun deep fried turkey cooking demonstration will be among the tasty highlights.

Voyages in 2013 are the following:

· The nine-day Old Fashioned Holidays voyage begins in Memphis, Tenn. to New Orleans on Dec. 6 and an upriver voyage is available from New Orleans to Memphis, Tenn. beginning Dec. 20 with itineraries calling on favorites including Vicksburg, Miss.; Natchez, Miss.; and Helena, Ark.

· One special nine-night New Orleans roundtrip Old Fashioned Holidays voyage departs Dec. 13, featuring the ports of Oak Alley, La.; St. Francisville, La.; Houmas House, La; Natchez, Miss.; and Baton Rouge, La.

The culinary highlight of each sailing, the typical Réveillon menu served in homes along the Mississippi River or the fine restaurants of New Orleans’ French Quarter included Daube glace or veal grillades, egg dishes, breads, puddings and often included turtle soup and oysters. Naturally there was always an abundance of wines, cordials and fortified drinks. Eventually this tradition slowly began to disappear like many classic holiday traditions on the river. As the Réveillon is revived on the American Queen steamboat, Chef Charboneau’s menu will include Sazerac and Champagne Cocktails, Tomato Aspic with Fried Oysters, Deviled Eggs with Lump Crabmeat and Caviar, Pheasant Gumbo, Pork Grillades over Savory Grits, Almond Tarts and Bouche Noel. This festive dinner will be re-created in the J.M White Dining Room.

Offering the most inclusive river cruise experience in North America, nine-day Old Fashioned Holidays fares begin at $2,495 per person based on double occupancy. All journeys include a one-night pre-voyage hotel stay, shore tours in all ports, complimentary wine and beer with dinner and a host of other amenities. For additional information and reservations, kindly contact the American Queen Steamboat Company at 888-749-5280, visit online or call a professional travel agent.

Celebrity Cruises Announces Two New Ship Builds

Celebrity Cruises Orders Two New Iconic Ships

Celebrity Cruises has taken a bold step in ship design with the signing of a letter of intent for a new class of vessels, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and French shipbuilder STX France announced today. The two 2,900-guest, 117,000-gross-registered-ton ships, developed under the project name EDGE will build upon the modern luxury experience of the brand’s Millennium and Solstice class vessels.

At 984 feet long, 123 feet wide and 190 feet high, Project EDGE will deliver small ship itineraries with large ship amenities, a perfect vacation experience in step with today’s premium vacationer.

“The addition of two project EDGE vessels to our fleet delivers on our long-term strategic plan of moderate capacity growth, and continues the positive momentum the Celebrity brand has achieved in the premium segment of our industry,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

“Our new class of ship will set the standard for premium world travel and deliver the next generation of modern luxury experiences that our guests know and love,” said Michael Bayley, president and chief executive officer of Celebrity Cruises. “STX France designs and builds some of the most innovative and stylish cruise ships in the world, and project EDGE offers them the opportunity to again set a new standard for modern iconic architecture. On this stunning new ship we will bring our guests even closer to the must-see destinations of the world, while indulging them onboard in the most luxurious accommodations, the finest culinary experiences, and the best hospitality delivered by our dedicated staff.”

“We are excited to be collaborating with Celebrity on this dramatic step forward in premium cruise ship design,” said Laurent Castaing, managing director of STX France. “This class of ships will be designed to deliver the destination to vacationers who want to experience all the world has to offer.”

These vessels also represent a significant leap forward in environmentally friendly ship design, benefiting from new technologies to drive significant fuel efficiency and an ongoing process to ensure the extensive use of sustainable materials.

The company expects delivery of the first ship in Fall 2018, with the second vessel delivered in the early part of 2020. The order is contingent upon the completion of customary conditions, including financing.

Based upon current ship orders, projected capital expenditures for full year 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 are $1.4 billion, $1.5 billion, $2.3 billion, $0.4 billion and $2.2 billion, respectively.

Capacity increases for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 are expected to be 2.4%, 5.5%, 6.7%, 3.8% and 4.3%, respectively. These figures do not include potential ship sales or additions that the company may elect to make in the future.

Costa neoClassica Enters Service Following $28.1 Million Restyling

The ship joins the Costa neoCollection, offering slow cruises to unique destinations

Costa neoClassica

Following a major US$28.1 million restyling Costa Cruises‘ 53,000-ton Costa Classica will join the Costa neoCollection as Costa neoClassica Dec. 18, 2014. Together with Costa neoRomantica and Costa neoRiviera, the refurbished ship will offer itineraries in the “slow cruise” style, featuring cruises to unique destinations with natural and cultural attractions, including many UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Costa neoClassica’s renovation began at San Giorgio del Porto yards in Genoa, Italy, Nov. 8, and involved about 600 technicians and 400 crew members. Extensive work included the hull, engine section and hotel areas.

Public areas and the 654 cabins were totally renovated with new interiors in luminous colors by Partner Ship Design to match the mood and elegance of the more intimate Costa neoCollection ships. In their cabins, guests can taste authentic espresso thanks to a personal Illy brand coffee pod machine, and pampering Elemis beauty products and amenities are provided as well. Suite balconies received new furniture so guests can enjoy the view of the sea in total comfort.

Costa’s shipboard cuisine will, as always, feature “Italy’s finest.” The Restaurant Tivoli has tables for two and four guests to guarantee flexible dining options, including a brunch during sea days. A wide selection of food and wine will be available on Costa neoClassica. Whether on a special culinary tour ashore or onboard, guests can enjoy local gastronomic traditions based on wholesome ingredients available in various ports of call. The menus in the restaurants showcase regional recipes designed to foster local culinary and cultural traditions, thanks to the collaboration between the cruise line and the Università delle Scienze Gastronomiche in Pollenzo, Italy.

The Al Fresco café is a green retreat at sea with a partial roof decorated with trees that creates a peaceful, open-air space with an outdoor area like a balcony on the sea. The Foyer Bar, serving Ferrari sparkling wines, is the ideal location for an indoor aperitif, whereas at the Dolce Amore Bar guests can enjoy coffee specialties from around the world during the day and order pizza in the evening.

On sunny days guests will appreciate the renovated “lounge” style of the open deck by the pool, while on warm summer nights they are protected by a wooden roof.

Costa neoClassica also offers the “Stargazer” experience, an original Costa neoCollection entertainment activity that allows guests to admire the skies through high-quality telescopes with the assistance of Costa astronomy experts.

The wellness facility was refurbished with a new TRX area for Total Body Resistance Exercises and training classes.

Just like the other Costa neoCollection ships, Costa neoClassica has a professional concierge onboard who advises guests on the best services and activities shipboard and ashore. Guests also can get information about and book all available shore excursions through the new kiosks onboard, which are the same as those installed on the new flagship, Costa Diadema.

Norwegian Introduces Best Wave Season Offer

Guests can choose one, two or three perks, valued up to $2,000

Norwegian Cruise Line is kicking off Wave Season with its best offer yet. With Norwegian’s Freestyle Choice, guests have more choices and onboard perks than ever before. Those who book a new five-day or longer cruise vacation in an oceanview stateroom or higher* now through January 31, 2015 can select one, two or three offers: a Free Ultimate Dining Package, a Free Ultimate Beverage Package and up to $300 to spend on board.

During Norwegian’s Freestyle Choice, guests who book any destination in an oceanview Stateroom or higher can select one offer. Guests who book a cruise vacation in Europe or Hawai’i** in an oceanview stateroom or higher can choose any two offers. Norwegian guests who book a suite or The Haven by Norwegian™ will receive all three offers, valued at up to $2,000.

This Wave Season, Norwegian’s Freestyle Choice gives foodies the incredible opportunity to indulge in a different specialty restaurant every night of their cruise with the Ultimate Dining Package. Norwegian’s passport to the finest cuisines throughout its fleet, the Ultimate Dining Package provides guests with the option to dine at any of the brand’s signature specialty restaurants, whether they wish to indulge in certified Angus beef and truffle fries at Cagney’s steakhouse or savor the finest crème brûlée at Le Bistro and beyond. Guests who select the Ultimate Beverage Package** during Norwegian’s Freestyle Choice can enjoy their favorite wine, beer and cocktails throughout their entire cruise. Norwegian’s Freestyle Choice will provide those who prefer to indulge in spa treatments, high-end shopping, high-stakes casino gaming, adventure-packed shore excursions and more with up to $300 to spend on board.

Whether it’s soaking up the sun in the Caribbean, being captivated by cultural treasures in the Mediterranean, or embracing serenity at sea in the Hawaiian islands, Norwegian Cruise Line guests can do as much or as little as they’d like with the freedom and flexibility of Freestyle Cruising.

Guests can cruise aboard Miami’s Ultimate Ship, Norwegian Getaway, as she sails seven-day cruises to the Eastern Caribbean from her year-round homeport of Miami, Florida. The line’s newest ship visits tropical ports of call including Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas. Guests will be dazzled by the ship’s Miami flair, exceptional dining and entertainment as well as the excitement of 678 Ocean Place and The Waterfront, a variety of interconnected indoor and outdoor venues on three dynamic decks that creates a multiplex of dining, activities and more that enhance guests’ connection with the ocean. Fares start at $689***.

Vacationers looking to cruise around the majestic state of Hawai’i can do so aboard the recently-refurbished Pride of America. This port-packed itinerary gives guests the opportunity to explore the islands of Hawai’i on seven-day inter-island cruises, year-round from Honolulu. Offering nearly 100 hours of port time, Pride of America visits Hawai’i’s four main islands, including an overnight in Kahului, Maui; an overnight in Nãwiliwili, Kauai; stops in Hilo, Hawai’i and Kona, Hawai’i; as well as an afternoon cruise by the spectacular Nãpali Coast. Fares start at $1,729***.

The newly-refurbished Norwegian Jewel features fresh enhancements and additions such as Norwegian’s popular signature Sugarcane Mojito Bar, treats by TLC’s Cake Boss and Next Great Baker at Carlo’s Bake Shop and O’Sheehan’s, Norwegian’s classic Irish pub casual restaurant. Guests can enjoy all of Norwegian Jewel’s new features sailing from Houston, between now and April 18, 2015, to tropical Western Caribbean destinations including Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; and Banana Coast, Honduras. Fares start at $599***.

To book a cruise during Norwegian’s Freestyle Choice, contact a travel professional, call Norwegian at 866-NCL-CRUISE (625-2784), or visit the website.

* Inside and Studio cabins are excluded from this offer.

**Ultimate Beverage Package will be substituted for an Air Credit on Hawai’i sailings.

***Fare based on double occupancy

New Pier at Icy Strait Point to Improve Accessibility for Cruise Lines

Rendering of the new pier at Icy Strait Point

New cruise ship pier project progresses at Icy Strait Point in Hoonah, Alaska

Construction of a new pier at Icy Strait Point, in Hoonah, Alaska, is set to begin in the first quarter of 2015. Turnagain Marine Construction, an Alaska-based heavy marine construction firm, was awarded the $23.7-million design and building contract today and the permitting process is underway.

Hoonah Cruise Ship Dock Company LLC, a public-private partnership between the City of Hoonah, Huna Totem Corporation (the owners of Icy Strait Point) and the State of Alaska, awarded the construction contract.

“We’ve taken a huge step forward by signing this contract. I can’t wait to see dirt moving and people working here this winter,” Hoonah Mayor Kenneth Karl Skaflestad said. “This is an exciting project that benefits everyone: visitors to Hoonah, local business and the city.”

The new 400-foot floating pier will improve accessibility for cruise ships and their passengers at Icy Strait Point, a seasonal Alaska Native tourist destination along Alaska’s Inside Passage. The pier has been designed with input from the cruise industry and allows for today’s largest cruise ships to call on Icy Strait Point. The pier is designed for year-round operation, maximizing its use by the coastal community.

Duck Point Development LLC is overseeing the construction process and recently hired Project Manager Mark Keller. With experience at global construction consulting firms CH2M Hill and Hill International, Keller has more than 43 years of experience in the operation, design and construction management of industrial and public facilities.

“Turnagain Marine Construction brought substantial creativity and excitement to this project, as well as experience working in Southeast Alaska,” Keller said. “We believe their team will serve us well.”

Construction of the new pier is set to be completed by Aug. 31, 2015, allowing several cruise ships and their passengers to use the pier in September. By May 2016, an enhanced wilderness arrival experience will be awaiting all Icy Strait Point guests. Set between the coastal beach and the temperate rain forest, a new Tlingit-style, wood-beamed welcome center and excursion departure lounge will be in place for the beginning of the 2016 season. A new transportation center will also streamline excursion departures for guests.

Since Icy Strait Point opened in 2004, cruise lines have tendered guests ashore to the century-old salmon cannery at Icy Strait Point. A beloved fixture in Hoonah, the cannery building, housing Icy Strait Point’s locally owned gift shops and a museum, will remain a central part of the destination.

“We’re working hard to preserve the look and feel that travelers already love,” said Lawrence Gaffaney, Huna Totem Corporation president and chief executive officer. “Our wilderness setting, cultural authenticity and local history remain at the forefront of the Icy Strait Point experience. It’s all about fostering the personal connections visitors make with our staff, the residents of Hoonah.”

Once the pier is complete, Icy Strait Point will manage its operation and provide long-term maintenance.

“The new pier is a win-win for everyone in Hoonah,” said Tyler Hickman, Icy Strait Point’s vice president of operations. “We’ve seen really positive responses from the cruise industry on this and the growth of Icy Strait Point directly benefits the Hoonah community and our shareholders.”

Turnagain Marine Construction is committed to recruiting and hiring qualified workers from Hoonah, following the mission of Huna Totem Corporation to advance the economic aspirations of the Xúna Kaawu (the people of Hoonah).

Icy Strait Point is a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Huna Totem Corporation, the village corporation owned by approximately 1,350 Alaska Natives with aboriginal ties to Hoonah and the Glacier Bay area. Located 50 miles west of Juneau and 22 miles south of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Icy Strait Point is an independent, Alaska Native cruise ship destination offering cultural and adventure experiences. It’s the only private large-ship destination, featuring excursions, shopping and dining, in the US and Canada not owned by a cruise line.
For more information, please visit the website.

Victoria Cruises Announces 2015 Schedule

Adds Shibaozhai Shore Excursion, Touts Executive Amenities

Victoria Cruises has launched its 2015 sailings along China’s mist-shrouded Yangtze River and reintroduces Shibaozhai, a 12-story wooden pagoda in Zhong County that is often referred to as “The Pearl of the Yangtze,” as a regular shore excursion. Prices will remain the same for 2015 with rates starting at $880 per person, while the five-star cruise line emphasizes its Executive Amenities upgrade, which provides access to exclusive ship areas and other VIP perks from an additional $200 per person.

Rates for 2015 departures of Victoria Cruises’ Three Gorges Highlights program in a private balcony Superior Stateroom begin at $880 per person, based on double occupancy. Four-night upstream departures out of Yichang will operate daily excluding Tuesdays, while three-night downstream cruises will depart out of Chongqing six days per week from Sunday through Friday. Victoria Cruises will offer daily departures for the Three Gorges Highlights program during the summer.

A shore excursion package inclusive of all standard excursions costs an additional $90 per person and includes tours of Shibaozhai and the Three Gorges Dam as well as a scenic journey on a traditional sampan through Goddess Stream, surrounded by beautiful peaks and teeming with local wildlife from monkeys to mountain goats. Once just a brook, the Three Gorges Dam raised the water level of Goddess Stream and it now flows from the southern bank of the Yangtze, opposite Goddess Peak. (may be substituted with Shennong Stream, based on river conditions).

Passengers can also opt to sail the full navigable length of the river between Chongqing and Shanghai with Victoria Cruises’ eight-night upstream or six-night downstream Grand Yangtze Discovery program. The expanded sailing encompasses all the highlights of the three- and four-night cruises with additional sightseeing east of Yichang, including cultural Wuhan, scenic Jiuhuashan (Mountain of Nine Lotuses) and bustling Nanjing, where passengers will visit the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum.

Rates for the Grand Yangtze Discovery program in a private balcony Superior Stateroom start at $1,610 per person, based on double occupancy, while the excursion package costs $240 per person. Upstream sailings will depart every other Friday, while downstream departures will operate every other Saturday. The Grand Yangtze Discovery program will not operate in July and August.

Travelers sailing on upstream departures can gain an introspective glimpse into the local life of the Xiling Gorge region, with opportunities to see Toad Spring, statues of the ancient Ba nationality, scenic Dragon Stream, Monkey Hill, Lover Bridge and Huanglong Waterfall on the Tribe of the Three Gorges optional excursion, available for an additional $45 per person (weather permitting).

Guests sailing on cruises in either direction have the chance to participate in an optional excursion to White Emperor City (weather permitting), which overlooks the Western end of the Qutang Gorge. A refuge for would-be kings and poets seeking inspirational views, legend has it that in 25 A.D. white vapor in the shape of a dragon rose from a well and Gong Sunshu, a soldier who had been headquartered there, declared himself the “White Emperor.” A temple built to commemorate Gong’s reign dates back more than 1,950 years. The optional excursion to White Emperor City is priced at $42 per person.

All Victoria Cruises sailings use new or newly-renovated five-star ships with luxurious amenities, exciting onboard activities and authentic cultural performances in the evenings.

Passengers can maximize their enjoyment by upgrading to Victoria Cruises’ Executive Amenities Program featuring enhanced ship placement and a host of VIP additions including “white glove” service, access to exclusive ship areas, complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access, enhanced dining privileges, shoe shine service and reserved seating for evening entertainment (must be reserved in advance).

The Executive Amenities Program starts at $1,080 per person, based on double occupancy, with accommodations in a private balcony Superior Stateroom on the Three Gorges Highlights itinerary, and $1,910 per person for the Grand Yangtze Discovery program. Lavish Executive, Deluxe and Shangri-La Suites are also available for an additional cost.

For more information or to book, contact Victoria Cruises toll-free at 800-348-8084 or visit the website.

Luxury Cruise Line PONANT Introduces New Alaska Itineraries for 2015

Le Boreal at dusk.

PONANT, French Luxury Yacht-Style Cruise Line Introduces 2015 Expedition Cruises to Alaska that Retrace Footsteps of American Gold Rush Pioneers & Voyage Into Arctic Adventures

PONANT, the only French-flagged cruise line, known for destination-focused itineraries to remote and exotic locales, is extending its 15-years of five-star polar expedition cruising expertise to the wild inlets, rugged Eastern coastline and Inland Passage of Alaska. New for the 2015 summer season, PONANT’s Alaska and Arctic Adventure itineraries let guests follow in the footsteps of the pioneering prospectors who settled this wild land during the Gold Rush days of the late 1800s, venturing into extreme environments in exceptional comfort aboard sleek vessels with the latest technology designed to navigate in frozen waters while preserving the pristine environments.

Discovered in the 18th century by Russian trappers, Alaska was first acquired by the U.S. in 1867 as the next frontier of opportunity. As Jack London said in his celebrated novel, The Call of the Wild, “It’s a crazy story about more than one hundred thousand men who settled into the far north in Alaska to pursue their dreams: to find gold and discover the mythical world of American pioneers.” The vast state was admitted to the Union as the 49th state in 1958.

With PONANT, guests will experience Alaska as a land of diversity, rich with indigenous culture and dramatic landscapes that range from glaciers to rainforests, fjords to tundra and lakes to snow-capped mountains. Choices from 7- to 14-night itineraries feature picturesque ports of call, such as Haines, gateway to the scenic Chilkoot Valley, habitat for bald eagles, and Ketchikan, Alaska’s “first city” on the southernmost tip of the Inside Passage sculpted by glaciers. Additional activities include daily shore visits and optional excursions aboard the ship’s fleet of Zodiac® dinghies in the company of expert guides and naturalists for close-hand looks at polar bear, caribou and puffins or witness the remarkable cultures of the Tlingit and Haïda tribes.

While cruising through Alaskan and Arctic waters, guests will find that life aboard L’Austral and Le Boréal features:

An accomplished captain and crew fluent in English and French

A choice of 132 luxurious staterooms or suites with refined contemporary interiors, sea views and private balconies, including the elite Deck 6 that is home to 13 spacious suites with 24-hour butler service

A welcoming main foyer with a boutique, reception desk and excursion desk

Two restaurants, offering dining from casual to fine, complete with wine pairings and a fine wine cellar, a bar and lounge, and 24-hour in-room dining

A full-service SOTHYSTM spa with signature treatments, hammam, hair salon and fitness center

An outdoor pool with bar, panoramic terrace adjoining the indoor bar and lounge, library with Internet stations, medical center, WiFi, in-room and on-board flat screen satellite TV with complimentary on-demand movies

A 250-seat theatre for live entertainment, film screenings and presentations

A fleet of expedition Zodiac® dinghies outfitted with satellite tracking

Spotlight on Alaska and Arctic Adventure cruises for the 2015 summer season include six different itineraries and nine departure dates sailing the Inside Passage or to Arctic Russia:

In the Wake of the Pioneers: 7-night cruise between Vancouver and Juneau
Departures on: June 13, June 20*, June 27*, July 4* 2015; from USD 3,700 per person; *free single supplement

Fjords of Alaska: 7-night cruise between Vancouver and Juneau
Departure on: July 11, 2015; from USD 4,290 per person; free single supplement

Aleutian Islands and Wrangel Island Reserve: 15-night cruise between Seward and Anadyr, Russia (Seattle/Seattle)
Departure on: August 6, 2015; from USD 10,910 per person, flight included; free single supplement

Pribilof Archipelago & Kodiak Peninsula: 9-night cruise between Anadyr, Russia and Seward (Seattle/Seattle)
Departure on: August 21, 2015; from USD 7,230 per person, flight included; free single supplement

Alaska & British Columbia: 10-night cruise between Seward and Vancouver
Departure on: August 30, 2015; from: USD 6,260 per person; fee single supplement

Alaska to British Columbia via the Bering Strait: 14-night cruise between Nome and Vancouver
Departure on: September 11, 2015; from USD 8,260 per person, flight included; free single supplement

American Queen Steamboat Company Reveals 2016 Season

American Queen

The American Queen Steamboat Company, owner and operator of America’s grandest riverboat fleet, has announced its 2016 sailing schedule. Featuring the most sailings in company history, the two-vessel fleet will explore the heartland of the United States and Pacific Northwest with a combined 82 sailings. For the first time, the American Queen will sail the length of the Mississippi River from St. Paul, Minn. to New Orleans on two epic itineraries available to book in their entirety or as individual segments. The American Empress season features 36 sailings between Vancouver, Wash. to Clarkston, Wash. showcasing the majestic landscapes along the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

“Guests cruising with us continue to plan their next sailing before departing their current cruise and 2016 is already on many minds,” shares American Queen Steamboat Company President & COO Ted Sykes. “From wine tasting in Oregon to more Lower Mississippi River voyages than ever before, our crew looks forward to providing another exciting year of American river cruising at its best.”

American Queen

The American Queen will begin her 2016 season Feb. 21 with a New Orleans round-trip followed by the first of 28 voyages between her homeport of Memphis and the “Crescent City” throughout the year. In response to continued demand for Lower Mississippi River itineraries, the American Queen will sail 31 total voyages on this stretch between the two cities or New Orleans round-trip. The full-length Mississippi River voyage will begin in St. Paul on August 7 and conclude in New Orleans on Sept. 5 followed by the same itinerary up river. The American Queen will feature eight Upper Mississippi River voyage between St. Louis and St. Paul as well as a return to the Cumberland River with two cruises including Nashville, Tenn. The Ohio River and sailings including Cincinnati will put the Ohio River on center stage with itineraries between the Queen City and St. Louis with a stop in the favorite river city of Paducah, Ky.

American Empress

American Empress

The third season of the American Empress sails through stunning backdrops of the Columbia and Snake rivers, serving as a floating boutique hotel. Beginning March 19 through Nov. 27, the 223-guest riverboat features nine-day journeys immersing guests in the splendor of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The 223-guest American Empress sails between Vancouver and Clarkston. Featured stops include some of the region’s most celebrated ports including Astoria, Ore.; Stevenson, Wash.; The Dalles, Ore.; and Richland, Wash. Complimentary shore excursions will be available in every port and include the cultural and historical landmarks that signify the living legacy of the region’s first settlers. Travelers with specific interests are encouraged to enjoy the variety of premium experience excursions such as the Walla Walla Wine Trail or a journey to the volcanic crater of Mount St. Helens. Daily lectures are also provided by the Riverlorian, an onboard history and culture expert.

Offering the most inclusive river cruise experience in North America, fares on the American Queen begin at $2,799 per person based on double occupancy and $3,999 on the American Empress. All journeys include a one-night pre-voyage hotel stay, shore tours in all ports, complimentary wine and beer with dinner and a host of other amenities.

To order a brochure, request additional information and make reservations, contact the American Queen Steamboat Company at 888-749-5280, visit online or contact a professional travel agent.

Bookings are Open for Holland America Line’s New ms Koningsdam

Rendering of Family Ocean View Stateroom on ms Koningsdam.

Guests can now reserve the Premiere Voyage and Premiere Sailings

Guests can now make bookings for the highly anticipated Premiere Voyage and Premiere Sailings of Holland America’s Line’s ms Koningsdam, due for delivery in February 2016. Open for reservations on Dec. 1, the first sailings of the line’s new flagship will be one seven-day cruise followed by a six cruise series of 12-day itineraries throughout the Mediterranean.

“Since Holland America Line announced this beautiful new ship, guests have been asking when they can book the Premiere voyages, so we anticipate they will sell out quickly,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “It’s always an exciting day when the bookings open for the first time, and if guests want to be on one of the first voyages of Koningsdam we recommend they book early.”

The seven-day Premiere Voyage is roundtrip from Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy; departing Feb. 20 to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kérkira (Corfu) and Katakolon (Olympia), Greece; and Naples, Italy.

Following the Premiere Voyage, from the end of February through early May ms Koningsdam will cruise a series of six 12-day Premiere Sailings on two alternating itineraries roundtrip from Civitavecchia. The first itinerary calls at Katakolon, Piraeus (Athens), Rhodes and Crete, Greece; Istanbul (overnight) and Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey; and Naples, Italy. The other itinerary visits Naples, Italy; Palermo, Sicily; Cagliari, Sardinia; Gibraltar, British Territory; and Cádiz, Málaga, Cartagena and Barcelona (overnight), Spain.

About ms Koningsdam

Koningsdam represents a new Pinnacle Class of ship for Holland America Line. The vessel will debut several innovative concepts and new public spaces and venues, while still featuring popular amenities guests associate with Holland America Line.

To bring a fresh vision to ms Koningsdam, Holland America Line tapped Adam D. Tihany, one of the world’s pre-eminent hospitality designers. Tihany joins distinguished maritime designer and architect Bjørn Storbraaten who worked with Holland America Line on ms Eurodam and ms Nieuw Amsterdam. The two firms will create an interior that blends a fresh, contemporary styling in perfect harmony with the line’s renowned classic elegance.

The line recently unveiled the first series of interior renderings for ms Koningsdam on their website, and additional details will be revealed over the coming months, including plans for the ship’s official christening.

For more information about ms Koningsdam and Holland America Line, consult a travel professional, call 1-877-SAIL HAL (877-724-5425) or visit the website.

Regent Seven Seas Voyage to Feature PBS Talent and Award-Winning Filmmaker Rory Kennedy

Rory Kennedy.
Copyright Lyndie Benson

Regent Seven Seas Cruises will host Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Rory Kennedy for an exclusive preview of her latest project, Last Days In Vietnam, aboard Seven Seas Voyager during the 18-night Dynasties and Dragons sailing in Asia on Feb. 21, 2015. The filmmaker will engage with guests during a question-and-answer session at the end of the screening and provide compelling insight into the making and significance of the film.

Kennedy’s documentary chronicles the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War as the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon and the South Vietnamese resistance crumbles. As the U.S. readies to withdraw, a number of heroic Americans take matters into their own hands, engaging in unsanctioned and often makeshift operations in a desperate effort to save as many South Vietnamese lives as possible.

Continuing a longtime relationship with PBS, Artful Travelers is partnering with Regent Seven Seas Cruises on this exclusive enrichment series showcasing exceptional PBS programming and beloved personalities. The sailing will offer enlightening travel experiences with rare opportunities to meet and interact with some of the nation’s most celebrated minds and admired media figures.

As the ship sails from the mystical city of Beijing to incredible ports in China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, guests will have the opportunity to join panel discussions, question-and-answer sessions and special presentations in the ship’s signature showplace, the Constellation Theater. Additionally, private dinners and cocktail receptions will take place during the voyage allowing guests to enjoy one-on-one conversations and personal interactions with the guest presenters.

Scheduled guests to appear on this voyage include:

· Rory Kennedy, Emmy Award-winning independent documentary filmmaker (Last Days In Vietnam and American Hollow).

· Steven Johnson, Noted author, technology expert and host of PBS’ How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson.

· Mark Bailey, Emmy Award-nominated screenwriter and best-selling author (Of All The Gin Joints: Stumbling Through Hollywood History and Last Days In Vietnam).

· Lauren Prestileo, Series Manager of the acclaimed PBS series American Experience.

These special activities are available to guests at no additional cost. At the time of booking, guests or their travel agents need to request the promotional code “ARTFUL” to be added to the guest’s reservation.

For more information on this exclusive sailing, guests can visit the Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ website, call 1-844-4REGENT (1-844-473-4368) or contact a professional travel agent. Guests can also visit the Artful Travelers website for additional information.

Christmas & New Year Holidays with Costa Cruises

Costa Diadema

Guests can experience special excursions to Naples and Rome with the possibility to attend to the Mass on Christmas Day during Costa Diadema, Costa Deliziosa and Costa Fascinosa cruises in the Mediterranean.

Costa Cruises will offer its guests unique and special Christmas and New Year holidays, thanks to dedicated activities organized onboard the fleet’s ships deployed in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Caribbean, in the United Arab Emirates, in South America and Asia.

Appreciation for Costa Christmas and New Year vacations is high, with bookings recording a positive trend.

During Christmas itineraries, children will be special guests, with a dedicated program of entertainment activities. Thanks to Costa animation staff, younger guests will sing the traditional Christmas carols and play treasure hunt as well as express their creativity at the organized workshops. In addition, children will write their personal “Wish letters” to Santa Claus, who will make a special appearance at every ship’s theater. Adult guests will be also involved in the activities during the gifts exchange, laid under the Christmas tree, in the peculiar atmosphere created by artificial snow.

As for the tradition, on every ship the menu of Christmas Day will include typical dishes of the Italian cuisine, like the “cappelletti in brodo“, roasted turkey and the “panettone” as well as exquisite courses like the foie gras, the crab salad and caviar accompanied by mashed potatoes.

Exclusively during Christmas time, the itineraries of Costa Deliziosa, Costa Fascinosa and Costa Diadema, the new flagship of the fleet, will offer excursions to find out how the most beautiful Mediterranean cities get ready for the festivities. Costa Diadema — which proposes 7-day cruises in the western Mediterranean, calling in Savona, Marseille, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Naples and La Spezia — will let her guests visit the historic center of Naples, with the famous San Gregorio street, where to admire the renowned Christmas cribs of the local master craftsmen.

During the 7-day “Christmas Cruises” in western Mediterranean of Costa Deliziosa and Costa Fascinosa, the calls in Civitavecchia will let guests visit Rome and live an unforgettable experience in the “eternal city”, exploring the characteristic Christmas markets. Among them, the one of Piazza Navona will surprise the guests, with its theme-decorated stands, hand-made items and the traditional Epiphany socks to fill with any kind of sweets. On December 25, Costa Fascinosa’s guests will be able to assist to the Christmas Mass, celebrated by the Pope himself in Saint Peter Square in Rome.

Guests choosing the “slow” cruises of Costa neoCollection, calling both at the shores of the Mediterranean and at exotic destinations like United Arab Emirates or Indian Ocean, will be cheered up by the theme decorations of every ship, creating a particular Christmas atmosphere.

After Christmas, the party mood of New Year’s Eve will be celebrated onboard every Costa ship, making guests live an extraordinary beginning of 2015. In particular, at the dinner on December 31 the menu will be made up of selected dishes from the Italian regional culinary tradition, such as “risotto” and stuffed “tortelloni”, but also the Tuscan “cured ham with crostini” and the renowned Ligurian “Cappon Magro” with Maine lobster. In addition, around midnight the “zampone” with lentils will be served at the buffet as they traditionally bring luck for the New Year! At the end, the classic “panettone” and chocolate mousse will delight guests from all over the world, accompanied by the bubbles of Ferrari Spumante.

As midnight approaches, the pool’s area of each ship will be the place where all guests will get ready for the countdown to 2015 and make party to celebrate the New Year.

The Christmas and New Year vacations offered by Costa include also itineraries in the islands of the Caribbean with 4 ships, voyages to the Arab Emirates and Oman, cruises in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay and itineraries to discover destinations in Asia.