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Uniworld Christmas sailings

Black Friday Cruise Savings

By Anne Kalosh.

Hurry! Time is running out for Black Friday cruise sales that follow the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. There are just a few days left to save.

Seabourn Venture

Seabourn’s offer includes select voyages aboard its first purpose-built (and QuirkyCruise-sized) expedition ship, Seabourn Venture. The 264-passenger vessel is planned to debut in December 2021 on a new Norwegian winter program.

Travelers who book by Dec. 1, 2020, can receive $1,000 shipboard credit per suite for ocean-view and veranda suites, $2,000 per-suite credit for penthouse and premium suites, a veranda for ocean-view suite upgrade and a three-category veranda suite upgrade.

Reduced deposits, based on the market, are USD $250, CAD $250, GBP £200, EURO €200 and AUD $350.

Seabourn Cruise Line.

Seabourn Venture cruise deals

Seabourn’s offer applies to select voyages on new expedition ship Seabourn Venture. * Rendering: Seabourn

Riviera River Cruises

Riviera River Cruises’ North American office has deals for its three newest European itineraries on the Seine, Danube and the Dutch waterways and Rhine River. Departures are priced starting at $1,999 per person, double occupancy. Bookings must be made by Dec. 1.

“Amsterdam, Cologne and the Best of Holland & Flanders” and “Vienna, Bohemia & Treasures of the Danube” are priced starting at $1,999 for 2021 departures, while “The Seine, Paris & Normandy” cruise is available for $1,999, $2,499 or $2,999 depending on 2021 departure date.

Riviera River Cruises.

Emerald Waterways

Emerald Waterways’ offer applies to all 2021 and 2022 European and Southeast Asia river cruises. Bookings by Dec. 4 qualify for a $300 per couple savings on itineraries of eight to 14 days or $600 per couple on itineraries 15 days or longer.

Emerald Waterways.

Emerald Waterways black friday cruise deals

Book by Dec. 4 for Black Friday savings on Emerald Waterways. Here, Emerald Sky in Koblenz. * Photo: Emerald Waterways

Scenic $500 bonus savings

At Emerald sister company Scenic, North Americans booking any 2021 or 2022 European river cruise (except Portugal) by Dec. 6, 2020, will receive an additional $500 per suite/stateroom savings.

The discount may be combined with current offers including free premium economy flights for sailings of 11 or more days and free economy flights on eight- to 10-day itineraries and business class air for only $1,995 per person.

Scenic.

Wind In Sea Cloud’s Sails Come Spring

Sea Cloud Cruises announced March/April sailing dates for Sea Cloud II and Sea Cloud and will soon reveal the new Sea Cloud Spirit’s maiden voyage.

On March 17, Sea Cloud II is to sail from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, on seven-day trips around the Canary Islands. Two weeks later, Sea Cloud is to start Greek Islands voyages.

“Reliability and safety are our top priority,” Sea Cloud Cruises Managing Director Daniel Schäfer said. “On a tall ship, a significant part of the daily life takes place in the fresh air,” he noted. In addition, the cabins and the public areas are ventilated with fresh air from the outside, and occupancy is limited to 64 to 94 travelers.

Sea Cloud II’s weeklong Canary Islands cruise will combine the full-sail experience with exclusive shore excursions. These include new active options such as exploring Lanzarote in environmentally friendly electric vehicles, whale watching off La Gomera and catamaran tours off Fuerteventura.

Sea Cloud Spirit to debut in 2021

The new Sea Cloud Spirit, center, will join the Sea Cloud fleet in 2021. * Rendering: Sea Cloud Cruises

Sea Cloud’s Aegean

Flagship Sea Cloud — turning 90 in 2021 — will resume service April 2 in the Aegean Sea. Round-trips from Piraeus (Athens) include two different routes through the Cyclades.

A flexible cancellation policy will continue to apply to all 2021 bookings. As long as COVID-19 remains an issue, trips can be canceled up to six weeks prior to sailing for a processing fee of $25 per person.

Meanwhile, the 136-passenger Sea Cloud Spirit is nearing completion at Metalships & Docks SAU in Vigo, Spain. This tall ship combines the classic beauty and under-sail experience of the 90-year-old Sea Cloud with modern elements of a five-star cruise ship including a portion of balcony cabins and a spa/wellness center. An elevator will connect the five decks.

Sea Cloud Cruises.

Revamped Pandaw Member’s Club

Pandaw loyalists will be eligible for new tiered benefits as part of the line’s revamped Member’s Club, starting with bookings made in 2021. (Bookings before Jan. 1 will receive benefits according to the existing program.)

Registration for the club is free.

Pandaw River Cruises Restarts

Pandaw has a fleet of 17 colonial-style teakwood riverboats. * Photo: Pandaw

Associate Members

For associate members — those who’ve registered for the club but have yet to sail with Pandaw — benefits include a limited-time (through Dec. 31) $100 deposit offer.

Full Members

Travelers who’ve registered and sailed with Pandaw on one to four cruises are eligible for a limited-time (until Dec. 31, 2020) $100 deposit, exclusive member notifications and advance notice of new dates and sailings. They’ll also receive a gift bag of branded Pandaw items upon embarkation. A “Free Flow Drinks Package” is another perk (not available in India).

They’ll also be invited to new members-only departures and receive a 20 percent cruise discount for select departures, subject to availability.

Legacy Members

Travelers who’ve registered and sailed with Pandaw five or more times get all the perks of full members, plus a wine package (not available in India), a deluxe gift bag, priority for members-only departures and a 20 percent discount on all departures, subject to availability.

Pandaw.

Christmas In July

As COVID cases continue to rise and European borders remain closed, the holiday season will not be the same this year for many. To help spread some joy and positivity, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is giving those grounded at home the chance to have a holiday do-over next summer.

The luxury boutique river line’s “Christmas In July” sailings will be complete with replicated Christmas markets on board so travelers can shop for local products.

Uniworld Christmas markets

With Christmas markets cruises canceled, travelers are getting a summer re-do, courtesy of Uniworld. * Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

During these seven-night Danube itineraries, passengers can celebrate the belated holidays in style. They’ll be greeted with festive décor aboard their floating boutique hotel and can take part in activities like holiday cocktail mixology classes, gingerbread-house decorating and ornament-making.

Holiday movies will be playing in the on-board cinema, and travelers will have the opportunity to capture a 2021 holiday card photo with Santa in front of the tree. Uniworld’s chefs will even be serving winter holiday treats, while bartenders will put a summer spin on drinks such as frozen hot chocolate and chilled eggnog.

Two “Christmas In July” cruises will sail aboard the Maria Theresa on July 11 and July 18, with destinations including Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg and Passau.

Travelers who book by Jan. 8 will save $500 per person and get additional early booking discounts.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.

Uniworld Christmas sailings

Uniworld will deck the halls of its Maria Theresa for Christmas on two July sailings. * Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Eclipse-Viewing From One-Of-A-Kind Ship

Ponant’s Le Commandant-Charcot is the latest expedition vessel planning to highlight the Dec. 4, 2021 solar eclipse from Antarctica.

This new hybrid-electric ship, powered by liquefied natural gas, is one of a kind. It’s scheduled for delivery in 2021.

Le Commandant-Charcot cruise deals

The hybrid-electric, LNG-powered Le Commandant-Charcot. * Rendering: Ponant

Le Commandant-Charcot’s 15-day solar eclipse expedition embarks Nov. 30 in Ushuaia, Argentina. After crossing the Drake Passage to arrive at the Weddell Sea, on Dec. 4 passengers will step onto the pack ice to witness the moon passing between Earth and the sun. In a region where the sun never quite sets at that time of year, there will be a few minutes of complete darkness.

Under the supervision of naturalist guides and the on-board scientists, travelers will be able to participate in the research and analyses of this astronomical event. They also can help set up a station on an ice floe to take water samples in research to improve the knowledge of the Antarctic region.

Prices for the U.S. market start at $17,790 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip flights between Santiago, Chile, and Ushuaia. A 30 percent Ponant bonus offer is available for bookings made now.

Black Friday Cruise Savings for Ponant

The Dec. 4, 2021 solar eclipse will be visible in Antarctica. * Photo: Ponant

Ponant.

South Pacific And New Zealand Routes For Coral Geographer

Australia’s Coral Expeditions will deploy its new Coral Geographer in New Zealand and the South Pacific in 2021/22, Seatrade Cruise News reports.

The 120-passenger ship, the sister of 2019’s Coral Adventurer, is scheduled to enter service in March 2021.

Coral Geographer’s itineraries include a World War II-themed voyage through the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, a trip along New Zealand’s east coast through the Marlborough Sounds and Fiordland and a cruise to the south coast and Fiordland.

Coral Expeditions.

Coral Geographer black friday cruise deals

The new Coral Geographer will chart New Zealand and the South Pacific in 2021:22. * Rendering: Coral Expeditions

 

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Star Breeze's "Classic Suite"

Star Breeze Stretched And Transformed

by Anne Kalosh.

Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze has just emerged from what was heralded as the most challenging cruise ship lengthening ever undertaken.

Besides being cut in half to gain a new midsection, the vessel built in 1989 as Seabourn Spirit also got new engines, public rooms, suites and vastly expanded open deck space.

RELATED: Windstar is Stretching Three Ships.  by Anne Kalosh.

Star Breeze has been transformed.

Star Breeze Stretched

Voila! The “new” Star Breeze “stretched” from 134 meters (440 feet) to 160 meters (525 feet). * Photo: Fincantieri

That turned out to be even more challenging than expected. Thirteen months ago at Fincantieri’s dry dock in Palermo, Sicily, the final welding cut severed the ship in two so a new 25.6-meter/84-foot midsection could be inserted. Before all the wires, pipes and cabling could be connected and the interior outfitting completed, asbestos was detected in machinery spaces. Work halted for its removal by a specialized asbestos abatement contractor.

before the Star Breeze was Stretched

Star Breeze was cut in half so a new midsection could be inserted. Here the ship is in the dry dock at Fincantieri’s Palermo yard. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

Then came Italy’s shutdown for the COVID-19 pandemic. And, finally, Windstar decided to add new health safety features including HEPA filters and UV-C light to the ventilation system as part of its “Beyond Ordinary Care” program.

RELATED: Small-Ship Sector Still Active.  by Anne Kalosh.

At last, on Nov. 18, the ship was delivered to Windstar, and President Chris Prelog was all smiles as he raised a toast during a virtual tour and sail-away for media.

QuirkyCruise, which had been at the yard to witness the last welding cut and the midsection gliding into place, was thrilled to take part.

RELATED: Windstar & Other Updates.  by Anne Kalosh.

Sleek And Modern

“The lines of the ship have so improved. She looks so sleek now, so modern,” Prelog said as he proudly showed the first images.

Star Breeze was lengthened from 134 meters /440 feet to 160 meters/525 feet. Gross tonnage went from just under 10,000 to approximately 13,000, and passenger capacity from 212 to 312 with the addition of 50 suites.

This Star Plus Initiative added “amenities we know our guests want,” Prelog said, while the vessel is still “small enough to travel the narrow waterways and visit the small ports we’re known for.”

Thanks to the new engines, the ship is also faster, enabling more far-flung itineraries.

Star Breeze post stretch

With 50 suites added, Star Breeze can now carry 312 passengers, up from 212. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

“Dream Come True” For Grill Master Steven Raichlen

Two standout features are an alfresco barbecue spot by grilling guru Steven Raichlen and a Spanish small plates restaurant by Anthony Sasso, one of the youngest chefs to earn a Michelin star.

Both were on the Zoom hosted by Prelog and Raichlen called his 85-seat Star Grill “a dream come true,” while pointing out it’s a challenge to offer barbecue on a ship because “one has to be very careful about smoke and flame.”

He promised fare like brisket, Carolina pulled pork, Kansas City-style ribs, Thai chicken satay with peanut sauce, Mexican grilled corn and even double-smoked potato salad and smoked coleslaw.

“You name it, we grill it,” Raichlen said.

Windstar's Star Grill by Steven Raichlen

New outdoor dining at the Star Grill by Steven Raichlen. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

Tapas With Whimsy

Sasso’s Cuadro 44 will feature tapas with whimsical elements, like mussels seasoned with scallion ash, tortilla española with potato chip gremolata, pork belly with romesco sauce, and cauliflower with spicy harissa. Desserts include churros dusted with hibiscus.

The venue seats just 38 — “perfect for me. I like those small settings,” Sasso said, adding there’s an open kitchen.

Windstar's Caudro 44 by Anthony Sasso

A corner of Caudro 44, the intimate tapas restaurant by Anthony Sasso. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

Peter Tobler, director of hotel operations, said Windstar’s culinary offering is continually evolving, with a focus on global flavors that are bold and sophisticated.

Star Breeze’s main Amphora restaurant was relocated and enlarged and houses an impressive wine wall. It will serve authentic artisanal dishes from the destinations visited. The pool deck Veranda restaurant, for breakfast and lunch, has more outdoor and ocean-view seating and a live-action carving station.

Amphora restaurant on Star Breeze

Amphora, the main restaurant, has a wine wall — the glass area here waiting to be stocked with vintages from around the world. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

The space transforms at night into Candles, a by-reservation steak house under the stars with a new menu featuring a 40-ounce beef bone-in ribeye tomahawk steak and a 30-ounce bone-in porterhouse steak, both Linz Heritage Certified Black Angus.

Other ship changes include an enlarged spa and fitness center with sauna and steam rooms. The spa’s thermal lounge has heated ceramic chairs.

Star Breeze's new World Spa

The thermal lounge in Star Breeze’s new World Spa. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

The Great Outdoors

Steps from the spa is the expanded pool area with more room for sunbathing and relaxation. A larger pool with a waterfall feature and special lighting, along with a hot tub, form the centerpiece.

The new Star Grill is found on the deck above, shaded beneath a canvas roof opposite the Star Bar, making a “beautiful space to be outdoors,” in Prelog’s words.

The Windstar concept has always been “really outdoorsy,” he added, but now that’s enhanced by the additional outdoor dining.

At sail-away, when travelers line the rails after a day in port, Star Breeze will pipe out a new version of “Conquest of Paradise” by Vangelis, recorded by the Seattle Symphony.

New Suites

The 50 added suites include categories like the classic suite with bed near the window, a new configuration that Prelog said gives a greater sense of space.

Star Breeze's "Classic Suite"

The new “classic” suite positions the bed alongside the window. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

The new pair of two-bedroom owner’s suites can each expand into a three-bedroom, two-balcony suite thanks to connecting rooms.

owner's suite aboard new Star Breeze

There are two new owners suites. Each can be expanded from two bedrooms into a three-bedroom two-balcony suite thanks to connecting rooms. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

Every suite on board has an all-new bathroom including dual vanities. Only a few have tubs; Prelog said Windstar travelers prefer a roomier shower stall.

Star Breeze Owner's suite bathroom

Owner’s suite bathroom aboard Star Breeze. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

Faster, Cleaner, Smoother

The lengthening improved the hull efficiency and, with the new diesel engines that meet the highest nitrogen oxide emission standards, Star Breeze is faster, cleaner and quieter, with less vibration.

There’s a new elevator mid-ship, accessing all decks, and a comfortable tender loading area mid-ship and two new 90-passenger tenders. Staff and crew areas and accommodations were expanded and upgraded, as well.

Star Breeze gift shop

Here, Windstar’s gift shop aboard Star Breeze. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

First Cruises

The first sailing for the “stretched” Star Breeze is planned for March 27 in the Caribbean. The ship should then transit the Panama Canal and explore Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, followed by 10- and 11-day Alaska cruises.

However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s framework for returning to passenger service states itineraries shouldn’t be longer than seven days. Prelog cautioned this means deployment may change.

The $250 million Star Plus Initiative spans three ships.

Next up, Star Legend (built in 1992 as Seabourn Legend) has already got its new midsection and has been floated out of the dry dock, while Star Pride (1988’s Seabourn Pride) is standing by to enter the dock in January.

RELATED:  The Star Legend in the Sea Cortez before her Stretch. by Elysa Leonard.

quirkycruise bird

 

 

Don’t miss great articles, reviews, news & tips about small-ship cruising, SUBSCRIBE to QuirkyCruise.com for updates and special offers!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Gene Sloan TPG article about his Caribbean cruise aboard SeaDream I

COVID Cuts Short First Caribbean Cruise Since Shutdown.

by Anne Kalosh.

NOV 17 UPDATE: SeaDream Yacht Club ended up canceling sailings for the remainder of 2020 after COVID-19 cases climbed to nine, including two crew. 

The first Caribbean cruise since the pandemic shutdown in March ended abruptly with COVID-19 cases.

Seven passengers among the 53 aboard SeaDream I’s Nov. 7 voyage from Barbados had tested positive as of Nov. 13. Everyone else, including the 66 crew, was negative.

After a traveler who didn’t feel well a few days into the voyage tested positive, everyone was confined to their rooms and the yacht turned back to Bridgetown. Subsequent testing found four other people in that traveler’s family group as well as a married couple had also contracted the virus.

SeaDream I in Barbados for a Caribbean Cruise

SeaDream I alongside at Bridgetown, Barbados. * Photo: @SeaDreamYC

So Much For Small-Ship Hopes

It was sad news all around, including for SeaDream Yacht Club and small-ship fans who had hoped COVID would be less of a risk in a vessel carrying fewer people.

The 112-passenger SeaDream I went out at less than half capacity. And SeaDream — which was the first line to restart international cruises last June and had sailed its twin yachts between Norway and Denmark all summer without incident — had taken even more precautions for the Caribbean.

RELATED: SeaDream Embarks on 21 Norway-Denmark voyages June 20 as Planned.  by Anne Kalosh.

Sea Dream 1 embarked on a Caribbean cruise last week

Sad news for SeaDream and travelers who hoped COVID would be less of a threat on a small ship. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

The company scrapped its original U.S. Virgin Islands program in favor of a new round-trip Barbados itinerary featuring less-visited places in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Shore tours were designed to operate in a “bubble,” not visiting populated places or interacting with locals.

In line with Barbados regulations, SeaDream had required a negative PCR laboratory-processed test within three days of travel and retested everyone at the pier with an Abbot “ID Now” fast PCR test prior to embarkation. Passengers were to be tested again four days into the cruise. Luggage, hand-carry items and shoes were sanitized before boarding. There were daily temperature checks, and reminders about social distancing.

Also, SeaDream I is the first cruise ship to employ a $100,000 Altapure AP-4 device for hospital-grade disinfection of air and surfaces. (This works one room at a time and supplements daily sanitization.)

Altapure's AP-4

The AP-4. * Photo: Altapure

Mask Fuss

Masks, though, were not initially mandated. SeaDream hadn’t required masks in Europe, either.

In September, when the line held a webinar to discuss its Caribbean plans, Sudesh Kishore, senior vice president of hotel operations, said:

“We do not want people to be wearing masks. That’s why you get tested before. We want you to enjoy the SeaDream experience.”

When a passenger on the webinar questioned that, Executive Vice President Andreas Brynestad said SeaDream would listen to guest feedback so the mask policy may be subject to change. The yacht would have masks available, he added.

QuirkyCruise contributor Gene Sloan of The Points Guy, who was traveling on the aborted SeaDream I cruise, reported that crew weren’t wearing masks when he embarked, nor had a single one of the 53 passengers chosen to do so. But two nights in, things changed. Travelers were told to mask up while moving around the ship, with crew wearing them at all times.

According to Sloan, that made many passengers angry, and one person even blew up at him, suggesting the line had changed its policy due to his presence on board. “A SeaDream representative told me that was not the case,” Sloan wrote.

He went on:

“Quite a few passengers … said they wouldn’t have taken the trip if they had known a mask-wearing requirement was coming.”

Related: QC Contributor Gene Sloan was aboard the cruise and wrote about it for ThePointsGuy, where he is a senior reporter.

Gene Sloan TPG article about his Caribbean cruise aboard SeaDream I

A screen grab from Gene’s first SeaDream report for TPG, before the COVID cases were disclosed.

Outcomes

Subsequently, Sloan reported that one of the people with coronavirus was taken to a shoreside medical facility for “observation;” the others were showing only “light symptoms.”

On Nov. 13, he said the captain had informed them that Barbados authorities would allow passengers who’d repeatedly tested negative in recent days to fly home.

Related: Gene Sloan’s TPG story on passengers being allowed to leave the quarantined ship soon.

Earlier, SeaDream I’s Nov. 14 cruise had been canceled. SeaDream Yacht Club has not responded to several sets of emailed questions.

The incident played out in national media, with Sloan appearing as a guest on several news shows.

Gene's interview with Shepard Smith of @CNBC.

A Twitter screen grab of Gene’s interview with Shepard Smith of @CNBC.

As with the mask discussion, people are taking sides in social media, some blaming SeaDream for “hurting the entire industry” and causing a setback just as U.S.-based lines are working toward complying with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s complex framework for the conditional resumption of cruising.

Others argue there’s a distinction between a yacht and a cruise ship.

“Opportunity To Learn”

When asked about the matter during a webinar for Signature Travel Network, Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, did not pile on SeaDream. Instead, he made the point that COVID can’t be eliminated in society; the objective is to reduce the risk of getting it on a ship to less than the risk of being on main street at home.

Fain said the experience from months of cruises in Europe by SeaDream and other lines shows it is possible to contain coronavirus at sea.

“So I would look at the few instances we’ve had of cases as success stories. We are able to deal with these things, isolated cases, in an isolated way. That’s the objective.”

He went on to call the SeaDream situation an opportunity to learn “and make us so much better as an industry.

” … The coincidence of it being the first Caribbean cruise and the coincidence of having press on board notwithstanding, isolated incidences which are handled well are proof that the system works — not that there’s a problem,” Fain concluded.

A Fading Story?

Writing in Cruise Week, a publication for travel advisors, Mike Driscoll said: “Already the news of SeaDream I is fading in the media spotlight. While never the top story, it did make a solid appearance across all news media when the first positive test came out.”

He noted that coronavirus is so ever-present right now that “COVID problems among a handful of people on a cruise out of Barbados is likely to be just a flicker in the minds of media-saturated Americans … Its presence is muted by other developments. This is not March.”

That said, Driscoll added: “A sailing carrying American passengers out of Barbados in November, given the high number of coronavirus cases currently in the U.S., is simply not the same as a sailing in August on board a ship out of Norway carrying mainly Norwegian and Danish passengers. Those countries at that time had next-to-zero coronavirus cases, and there was never an issue of flying passengers to and from other countries.”

Not requiring masks is different from what the mainstream cruise industry has been doing and plans to do when ships resume sailing from the U.S.

Driscoll said that SeaDream not following science and bowing to the wishes of its customers to shun masks has “perhaps affected the industry and perhaps infected passengers.”

Congressional Notice

U.S. lawmakers are paying attention.

Two members of Congress asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reinstate the no-sail order for cruise ships and reverse course on efforts to resume cruise operations.

Rep. Doris Matsui of California and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, both Democrats, cited the SeaDream I matter in a letter to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

US Congress

Citing the SeaDream incident, two members of Congress are now calling for the U.S. to reverse course on restarting cruises. * Photo: Anne Kalosh

“We feel strongly that you should reverse course on the recent decision … to take a phased approach to restarting cruise line operations in the United States,” Matsui and Blumenthal wrote. “Instead, we implore you to extend the prior no-sail order until a time when the health and safety of passengers and crew can be assured.”

The letter noted SeaDream passengers and staff underwent “rigorous testing” prior to embarking and the company “took additional steps to increase safety such as social distancing, mask requirements and strict hygiene protocols.

“Despite these efforts and good intentions, the virus was still able to infect multiple people … Unfortunately, this troubling development is not surprising and reaffirms the need to exercise extreme caution before sending passengers and crew back out to sea on cruises.”

Skyrocketing Cases Heighten Risk

Matsui and Blumenthal emphasized the risks are especially high given current skyrocketing COVID-19 cases, writing: “[I]t is unconscionable for the CDC to move forward on a plan to resume operations given the ongoing risks. While we appreciate the difficult economic situation cruise line operators face and the desire of many cruising enthusiasts to restore a sense of normalcy, the CDC must always put health and safety first to prevent further spread of this deadly virus and save lives.”

SeaDream I at sea

SeaDream I’s first Caribbean cruise racked up seven COVID cases among 53 passengers. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

Don’t miss great articles, reviews, news & tips about small-ship cruising, SUBSCRIBE to QuirkyCruise.com for updates and special offers!  

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

Lindblad Antarctic cruise last year

Antarctica Cruises Are On Ice

By Anne Kalosh.

One of the last Antarctica hopefuls, Lindblad Expeditions, has just canceled the season — making travel to the White Continent another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Antarctica cruises typically get under way in October/November and stretch into March.

Ponant may be the sole holdout, and the company’s website still lists early 2021 departures.

But it will be challenging to make these happen.

Most other Antarctica operators bowed out earlier — Hurtigruten, Poseidon Expeditions, Quark, Aurora Expeditions, Silversea Cruises, to name a few.

Lindblad Antarctic cruise last year

Would be White Continent explorers will likely have to wait a year. Here Lindblad Expeditions in a past season. * Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

Borders Closed

Nearly all Antarctica expeditions operate from Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina, with a smaller number from Punta Arenas, Chile. A few sail from Argentina’s Puerto Madryn or Buenos Aires, and a handful of special, longer adventures use New Zealand as a turnaround point.

Most Antarctica travelers are sourced from remote markets like the United States, China, Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Currently, Argentina only allows visitors from nearby Brazil, Uruguay and Chile, while Chile and New Zealand are closed to non-residents.

Lindblad had crafted a “bubble” program with charter air and planned to send its newest ship, National Geographic Endurance, delivered in March but yet to operate because of the pandemic.

Lindblad Expeditions.

Antarctica cruises canceled including Nat Geo Endurances

National Geographic Endurance is charting Antarctica in 2021-22 after having to miss the current season. * Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

‘Major Hurdles’

However, the obstacles were too great, CEO Sven Lindblad said.

Until recently, his company had been working on a “special dispensation” with South American authorities, based on the strength of Lindblad’s health protocols. Then COVID cases spiked in the U.S., the line’s main market.

It didn’t make economic sense for Lindblad to forge ahead with the possibility of the virus getting further out of hand in the coming months.

Not long before, Hurtigruten had thrown in the towel.

“International travel restrictions and port closures are changing rapidly, often from day to day. There is currently a ban of cruise ship operations in many waters, and most flights to our departure ports in Argentina and Chile are canceled,” Hurtigruten Group CEO Daniel Skjeldam explained.

“The situation is still fluid, and developments are unpredictable,” he continued. “There are still major hurdles to overcome. As of now, they do not show much promise to be resolved in time to explore Antarctica under our strict health and safety standards in the coming months.”

Looking to the 2021/22 Season

Many lines are now offering incentives for travelers to book the 2021/22 season.

Poseidon Expeditions‘ first voyage, “Antarctic Awakening,” begins Oct. 20, 2021, with a hotel overnight in Buenos Aires before the 114-passenger Sea Spirit sails the following day. Early-booking savings are currently available for this 22-night program, which visits the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Island, the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands before ending at Ushuaia.

With the savings, rates for the U.S. market start at $11,696 per person, instead of $12,995.

Poseidon Expeditions.

Sea Spirit

Early-booking savings are available for Sea Spirit’s Antarctic Awakening trip in October 2021. * Photo: Poseidon Expeditions

New Ships & Solar Eclipse

Newcomer Atlas Ocean Voyages plots 14 journeys for World Navigator’s inaugural 2021/22 Antarctica season. Most span nine nights while two are 12-nighters, all round-trip Ushuaia. The Nov. 28, 2021, expedition will feature solar eclipse viewing on Dec. 4. Fares for that special voyage start at $15,299, including airfare.

Current Atlas promotions include a 50 percent reduced booking deposit, a $200 “use as you choose” credit and airfare upgrades to business class for booking a suite. (Atlas bundles flights into its pricing.)

Atlas Ocean Voyages.

Atlas Ocean Voyages World Navigator

World Navigator will be among the ships on hand for the Dec. 4 solar eclipse. * Photo: Atlas Ocean Voyages

Polar specialist Quark is scheduled to send its new ship, Ultramarine, next season, among several other vessels. The 199-passenger Ultramarine will debut in the White Continent with an “Antarctic Explorer” itinerary of 10 nights, embarking at Buenos Aires. A current offer gives savings of up to 28 percent, with fares starting at $10,795 per person.

Among its other ships, Quark’s Ocean Diamond will sail a solar eclipse cruise, part of a 20-day program round-trip Ushuaia that begins with a hotel overnight on Nov. 25, 2021. With a current offer of up to 10 percent savings, fares for this start at $15,295.

Sixteen years ago, a group of Quark passengers witnessed a solar eclipse in Antarctica and the company is bringing back its special guest expert from the 2003 voyage, retired NASA scientist Fred Espenak.

Quark Expeditions.

Quark Expeditions' Ultramarine will be new for Antarctica next year

Quark Expeditions’ Ultramarine will be among the new ships in Antarctica. * Rendering: Quark Expeditions

Oceanwide Expeditions‘ new ship Janssonius is scheduled to debut with a 20-night voyage to South Georgia and the Falkland/Malvinas islands, sailing from Puerto Madryn on Nov. 5, 2021, and ending at Ushuaia. The 174-passenger vessel is the sister of 2019’s Hondius. The trip is priced starting at $12,600 per person.

The 19-night Antarctica cruise on Janssonius that follows, Nov. 25, will feature the solar eclipse. Fares for this round-trip Ushuaia expedition start at $16,400.

Oceanwide Expeditions.

Oceanwide Expeditions' Janssonius

Yet another new ship for Antarctica — Oceanwide Expeditions’ Janssonius. * Photo: Oceanwide Expeditions

Crystal Expedition Cruises‘ new 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor is set to begin its Antarctica season on Nov. 18, 2021, starting with a hotel overnight in Buenos Aires before travelers fly to Ushuaia to embark. The 11-night trip is priced starting at $13,449 per person, including the hotel and round-trip Buenos Aires-Ushuaia air.

Crystal Expedition Cruises.

Crystal Endeavor will launch next year

Crystal Endeavor is scheduled for its first Antarctica odyssey in November 2021. * Rendering: Crystal Expedition Cruises

German Spirit

Among the Hapag-Lloyd Cruises vessels down south will be the new Hanseatic Spirit, designated for German-speakers. With capacity for 230 passengers, the ship will carry no more than 199 in Antarctica. Hanseatic Spirit’s 20-night 2021 Christmas cruise departs Punta Arenas on Dec. 16 and ends at Ushuaia. Fares start at €16,141 per person, including a charter flight from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires.

Don’t speak German? Hanseatic Spirit’s sisters Hanseatic Nature and Hanseatic Inspiration will also be in Antarctica with on-board programming in both English and German.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

Enjoy a raft of videos from Ernst Galutschek’s www.Shipvideos.net that highlight an expedition cruise he took in Dec 2019 aboard the new Hanseatic Nature to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica.

Hanseatic Spirit glass balcony

A spine-tingling view from Hanseatic Spirit’s glass balcony. * Photo: Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Seabourn‘s first purpose-built expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, had been planned to sail the Antarctic but instead will debut with a new winter Norway program, as Quirky Cruise reported earlier. So Seabourn Quest, which has operated past Antarctica seasons, will take on the 2021/22 program.

Seabourn Expeditions.

These are just some of the ships charting the White Continent a year from now.

And Lindblad’s National Geographic Endurance? It’s among them, along with new 126-passenger sister, National Geographic Resolution, and the 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer.

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Sea Spirit returns to Greeland

Swan Hellenic New Build & Other Updates

By Anne Kalosh.

The Swan Hellenic brand is going to get a bit bigger with its third expedition cruise new build just ordered at Helsinki Shipyard.

“We see the increase in demand for experiences that are truly out of the ordinary and are confident in the bounce back of our industry,” Swan Hellenic CEO Andrea Zito said.

The third Vega-class ship will measure 12,000 gross tons, slightly larger than the first two 10,500-gross-ton vessels, with a length of 125 meters/410 feet, up from 115 meters/377 feet. It will carry 192 passengers in 96 cabins and suites, most with large balconies, compared to the 152-passenger occupancy of the first two ships. The crew number of 140 is up from 120.

Delivery is scheduled for late 2022.

third Swan Hellenic New Build

Swan Hellenic’s third ship will be slightly larger than its SH Minerva. * Rendering: Swan Hellenic

Hybrid Propulsion

The five-star vessel will be built to Polar Class 6 standard. Vega 3 will have a 4.6-megawatt diesel-electric hybrid propulsion system with selective catalytic reduction and a 3-megawatt battery package.

Battery packs on cruise ships are unusual but increasing as the technology improves and lines look to cut harmful exhaust emissions. For expedition operators, the ability to sail for small stints on silent battery power presents a clear advantage when exploring sensitive ecosystems without disturbing wildlife.

The keel-laying ceremony for the first Swan Hellenic ship — to be named SH Minerva — took place on schedule in September despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SH Minerva is on track for delivery in November 2021, when it will debut in Antarctica, with Vega 2 to come in April 2022.

National Geographic Resolution Advances

Lindblad Expeditions’ second polar new build, National Geographic Resolution, marked a construction milestone as the hull arrived at Ulstein Shipyard in Ulsteinvik, Norway.

It came under tow from CRIST in Gydnia, Poland, where the structural steelwork and machinery installation were completed. The ship has its main engines, bow thrusters, stabilizers and major heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment. At Ulstein the electrical and hotel outfitting will be undertaken.

National Geographic Resolution arrives under tow

National Geographic Resolution arrives under tow from Poland to Norway’s Ulstein shipyard. * Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

National Geographic Resolution is the sister of the 126-passenger National Geographic Endurance, completed by Ulstein in March but yet to enter service due to the pandemic. The two vessels are now side by side at the shipyard.

National Geographic Resolution is positioned just behind National Geographic Endurance

National Geographic Resolution is positioned just behind National Geographic Endurance, which was delivered earlier this year. * Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

National Geographic Resolution is also being built to Polar Class 5 standard and it features Ustein’s patented X-BOW, a design that promises better seakeeping for reduced air emissions and a smoother ride.

A 2021 delivery is planned.

R.I.P. Capt. Alexey Nazarov

One of Oceanwide Expeditions’ longest serving captains, Alexey Nazarov, died unexpectedly near his home in Russia. He was 42.

“Through his impeccable sense of cooperation and teamwork, he helped deliver the best possible voyages for our passengers,” Oceanwide Expeditions said in a tribute. His knowledge of the polar regions, experience with ice navigation and ship handling set a high example for everyone around him.

Nazarov was a member of the Oceanwide family for more than 20 years. He was a third officer aboard the Russian vessels the Netherlands-based company first chartered before welcoming Plancius into the fleet. In 2010 he became chief officer of that ship, promoted to captain in 2012, and in 2019 he commanded Hondius on its first Arctic voyage.

Oceanwide Expeditions captain Alexey Nazarovs dies

Oceanwide Expeditions saluted Capt. Alexey Nazarov’s passion for polar navigation. * Photo: Oceanwide Expeditions

Oceanwide Expeditions’ tribute continued: “Alexey was most in his element in the polar regions, and he was most at home in cold climates. He was not one for hot weather or fanfare. Rather than partake in ship launch ceremonies, he preferred to sail through the ice. Rather than appear in photographs, he preferred to stand on the bridge. Luckily for us, the ice and the bridge were where he shined.”

A modern explorer, Nazarov enjoyed surveying new areas to create further possibilities for the Oceanwide fleet. His continuous input was invaluable to itinerary development. He also was active on shore, helping improve safety management systems and procedures thanks to his vast operational expertise.

“Alexey’s passing is a shocking blow, especially during these difficult times, and it will forever leave an empty spot in our family,” Oceanwide said. “Though our voyages will continue, our fleet will always feel his absence. He will be missed not only by our guides, crews and office staff but also by the global community of polar explorers among whom he was so well known and respected.”

Poseidon’s Return to West Greenland, 2022/23 Antarctica Program

Poseidon Expeditions announced its 2022 Arctic and 2022/23 Antarctica cruise seasons three months earlier than usual.

One highlight is the company’s return to West Greenland for the first time in four years with the 114-passenger Sea Spirit.

“Our travel partners and customers are comfortable looking ahead, well beyond the COVID-related interruption that’s been a blow to the cruise industry and to the travelers that support it. And this is why we are opening reservations for a new season much earlier than we have in the past. People are ready to solidify their plans for 2022 and beyond,” according to Nikolay Saveliev, president of Poseidon.

Poseidon last visited West Greenland in early summer 2018.

Sea Spirit returns to Greeland

Sea Spirit will return to West Greenland for the first time in four years. * Photo: Poseidon Expeditions

The region combines Viking history, Inuit culture and community life, fjordland scenery and massive icebergs. Voyages include a “Land of the Vikings” itinerary, 12 days from Reykjavik, Iceland, to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and an “Icebergs, Whales & Inuit Culture” adventure, eight days, round-trip from Kangerlussuaq.

In midsummer, Sea Spirit will explore Svalbard and the Franz Josef Land Archipelago before returning to East Greenland in September for a pair of 11-day “Arctic Sights and Northern Lights” cruises that focus on the aurora borealis.

“For the eighth season in a row, the Sea Spirit will visit Franz Josef Land with three expeditions at the height of the Arctic summer, directly from Svalbard,” Saveliev said. “Poseidon remains the only polar cruise operator able to do this, which eliminates several days at sea and provides for eight full days exploring this archipelago of 191 unique islands in the Russian High Arctic. It’s a region rich in wildlife, unique geology and glaciers, and legendary tales from the heroic era of polar exploration. There’s no place in the Arctic quite like it.”

Antarctica

Sea Spirit follows the sun south in October to begin its 2022/23 Antarctica season. This includes four Antarctic Peninsula voyages of 11 to 12 days, three longer (21 to 23 days) itineraries that include South Georgia and the Falkland Islands and the 15-day “Crossing 66 Degrees South Latitude” expedition.

Reservations made for any 2022 Arctic and 2022/23 Antarctica cruise by June 30, 2021, will get early booking savings of 10 percent to 15 percent, while reservations before the end of 2020 add a bonus $250 per person on-board credit.

Sea Spirit in Antarctica in 2022:23

Poseidon Expeditions’ Sea Spirit will operate a varied Antarctica program in 2022:23. * Photo: Poseidon Expeditions

Raising Polar Field Staff Standards

The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) and the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) teamed to develop standards for field staff in polar regions.

Expedition cruising gives the opportunity to get close to nature, observe wildlife and gain cultural insight by visiting local communities.

In order to carry out these activities in a responsible and sustainable manner, guides and expedition leaders are trained in safety, environmental considerations, cultural sensitivity and community engagement.

Expedition field staff

Expedition field staff are on the frontline where important decisions are made in a wide range of areas. * Photo: Ole Magnus Rapp

According to Frigg Jørgensen, executive director of AECO, the new standards will help ensure a high level of competency among polar field staff.

“Field staff are some of the most important decision-makers in our industry. They are on the frontline of operations where important decisions are made in a wide range of areas, and they deal directly with guests,” she said. They are prepared to deal with both day-to-day tasks and unplanned situations that may occur on an expedition.

Windstar Cruises Beefs Up Loyalty Program

Windstar Cruises introduced a new point and tier system to its Yacht Club loyalty program.

The new program features larger discounts on select cruises and a new system that rewards travelers commensurate with the points they earn, progressing from a One Star to a Four Star tier of benefits.

The Yacht Club has always provided special benefits and access including a 5 percent discount on all voyages and an extra 5 percent welcome home discount on cruises booked within 60 days of disembarking from a qualifying cruise. Members also get a $100 shipboard credit referral gift for themselves and each referred “first to brand” friend.

Further perks include early notification about new ports and itineraries, advance notice of sales, exclusive Yacht Club member sales, select Yacht Club member voyages and additional discounts at sister Xanterra Travel Collection brands (such as a $200 resort credit at The Lodge at Sea Island), and insider experiences with shipboard officers.

Windstar's Yacht Club loyalty program

Windstar Cruises added more perks to its Yacht Club loyalty program.

A Point For Every Day Cruised

Going forward, Yacht Club members will earn a point per cruise day (more for higher category suites). They will also get 20 percent savings on select Yacht Club member voyages (not combinable with other offers).

Rewards include on-board credits to use for most everything, from spa services to shore excursions; discounts on shore excursions, Wi-Fi, laundry service, logo merchandise and two beverage packages; and interactions with the officers.

Windstar is introducing the new program with a Yacht Club member appreciation week and sale the week of Oct. 26, including attractive pricing plus double alumni savings on all 2021 and 2022 sailings. Club members can save on the line’s Top 10 cruises, which usually sell out, and get early access to new itineraries.

Windstar's loyalty program

The more days they sail, the more loyalty points Windstar cruisers earn. Here, Wind Surf. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

Free Pre-Cruise Tour In First Atlas Summer

New brand Atlas Ocean Voyages rolled out a limited-time offer for a free pre-cruise tour with every new booking for World Navigator’s summer 2021 inaugural-season voyages.

The one- to four-night immersive land tours go with Holy Land, Black and Mediterranean seas and South America cruises. Examples include the vibrant Ukrainian capital city of Kiev, antiquities in the Jordanian desert, Greece’s rugged Peloponnese region, some of Tuscany’s best vineyards, Lisbon’s thriving urban culture and Manaus in the middle of the Amazon rain forest.

World Navigator

For a limited time, travelers can get a free pre-cruise tour for booking a summer 2021 voyage aboard the new World Navigator. * Photo: Atlas Ocean Voyages

Additionally, travelers who book an Atlas Max Shore sailing will get both the free pre-cruise tour and the included Max Shore overland adventure. Max Shore voyages are select, consecutive itineraries that include a complimentary two- to five-night, mid-voyage overland tour.

World Navigator will sail seven- to 24-night cruises in its inaugural summer. Twelve complimentary pre-cruise tours are spread across 10 departures in the Holy Land, Black and Mediterranean seas and South America. Some departures offer two pre-cruise tour options, while those from Piraeus (Athens), Civitavecchia (Rome) and Lisbon offer three options.

Uniworld Comes Clean

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises contracted with Danish company ACT.Global to use its CleanCoat solution across all owned vessels.

Uniworld said it is the first river cruise company to adopt the ACT CleanCoat solution to render surfaces self-disinfecting after one application. (In the ocean segment, Lindblad Expeditions already uses the product.)

Uniworld river cruise ACT CleanCoat

Uniworld will use the ACT CleanCoat solution to render surfaces self-disinfecting across its river fleet. Here, Beatrice. * Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

According to Uniworld CEO Ellen Bettridge, the vessels will be sprayed with the antimicrobial coating that is odorless and nontoxic to kill bacteria and viruses including corona viruses.

“This is another example of the way we are demonstrating tremendous care for our guests and our crew. Their wellbeing is our everything; nothing takes a higher priority,” Bettridge said. She called CleanCoat an “incredible product that is absolutely safe, meets our strict sustainability standards and is effective. For [travel] advisors who want to be certain that everything that can be done is being done to ensure the wellbeing of their clients, this is it.”

ACT CleanCoat is applied annually to render surfaces self-disinfecting while also purifying the air of microbes such as bacteria, viruses, mold spores and common pollutants like volatile organic compounds.

It works with ACT ECA Water, which replaces traditional daily cleaning detergents and provides the best conditions for ACT CleanCoat to maximize its disinfecting effect, while itself acting as a hospital grade disinfectant for regular use. ACT ECA (electro-chemically activated) Water is a salt-based, more sustainable alternative to conventional cleaning products, does not require protective equipment to use and leaves no toxic residues.

ACT CleanCoat builds on Uniworld’s enhanced health and safety protocols.

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Small-Ship Cruises Restart including Coral Discoverer

Small-Ship Cruises Restart Down Under

By Anne Kalosh.

Two small ships are venturing out in Australia and New Zealand.

Coral Expeditions resumed weeklong Great Barrier Reef cruises from Cairns, Australia. This first service since the COVID-19 lockdown came after months of preparations, including the development of SailSAFE protocols in conjunction with health emergency specialist Respond Global.

Coral Expeditions' SailSAFE protocols

Coral Expeditions’ SailSAFE protocols include these categories.

Coral Expeditions’ Australian-flag status, small Australian passenger count and an Australian crew were critical to getting the green light, Seatrade Cruise News reports.

“We hope that our successful return to operations gives confidence to travelers and authorities that small-ship expedition cruising with a local operator is a logical and prudent point of a restart for the marine expedition industry,” said Mark Fifield, group general manager, Coral Expeditions.

Small-Ship Cruises Restart including Coral Discoverer

Coral Discoverer on the Great Barrier Reef. * Photo: Coral Expeditions

Kiwi Cruising for Kiwis

Meanwhile, New Zealand cruises are getting going in a similar small-ship, domestic fashion. The family-run, New Zealand-owned Heritage Expeditions has been authorized to sail its 50-passenger Spirit of Enderby, carrying only Kiwis for now.

The first voyage is planned to embark at the port of Bluff in southern New Zealand on Nov. 24 and will visit Stewart Island and explore Fiordland, according to Seatrade Cruise News.

Small Ship cruising restarting down under includes Spirit of Enderby by Heritage Expeditions

The 50-passenger Spirit of Enderby. * Photo: Heritage Expeditions

AmaWaterways Suspends Balance of 2020 Cruises

AmaWaterways suspended its remaining 2020 river cruise season, including all regularly scheduled departures in Europe, Asia and Africa. This suspension does not apply to the Rhine charter program on AmaKristina that has been operating since July, carrying mostly Germans.

AmaKristina is still operating for Germans

AmaKristina was the only AmaWaterways vessel that operated through the summer, on the Rhine. Next year, it’s redeploying to the Rhône. * Photo: AmaWaterways

Impacted travelers will receive a 115 percent future cruise credit that can be used through 2022.

AmaWaterways President and Co-Founder Rudi Schreiner characterized the situation in Europe as “a little chaotic,” with COVID-19 cases “increasing heavily” and countries adopting a patchwork of travel regulations. Cases were up in Belgium, France and the Netherlands, and Hungary is closed — allowing river vessels to transit but not to disembark, Schreiner said. Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague all had new restrictions.

Strong 2021 bookings

In 2021, AmaWaterways will introduce two new vessels to the Rhine and five new itineraries and land programs throughout Europe. After an absence of some years, the line returns to Egypt with a new Nile boat, AmaDahlia.

France is in demand so AmaKristina will shift to the Rhône, joining AmaCello on the Saône as AmaDante moves to the Seine.

Booking trends are strong for 2021, starting in the summer, and Christmas markets cruises are especially popular, according to Schreiner. Also in demand: Portugal’s Douro River and Ama’s new Egypt program.

No Christmas markets cruises for AmaWaterways

No Christmas markets cruises for AmaWaterways this year, but bookings are strong for Christmas 2021. Here, Cologne, Germany. * Photo: AwaWaterways

Seabourn Venture’s Winter Norway Debut

Seabourn’s first purpose-built expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, is scheduled to debut in December 2021 on an unusual winter Norway program.

The ship will sail a series of 10- to 14-day voyages through April 2022, giving travelers the opportunity to explore the snow-draped landscape, learn about Viking history and culture and search for the northern lights.

Included and optional expedition activities include skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing and dog and reindeer sledding. There will be dedicated excursions in search of the northern lights, including overnight camping at optimal viewing locations.

All sailings will offer a complimentary Seabourn Signature Evening Event: a concert in the Northern Lights Cathedral at Alta.

Seabourn Venture delayed

The 264-pax Seabourn Venture is Seabourn’s first purpose-built expedition ship. * Rendering: Seabourn

The 264-passenger Seabourn Venture will carry two six-seat custom submarines, expedition kayaks and 24 Zodiacs. All travelers will receive custom-designed gear by Norwegian outdoor apparel company Helly Hansen and a waterproof WaterShield backpack.

The inaugural 12-day voyage from Greenwich, England, to Tromsø, Norway, on Dec. 11, 2021, is sold out.

Following that, on Dec. 23, is a 14-day holiday sailing from Tromsø to Copenhagen, Denmark.

A series of 12-day voyages between Tromsø and Copenhagen will call at destinations like the Art Nouveau town of Ålesund, the fishing village of Svolvær in the towering Lofoten Islands and Narvik, with its War Museum and Sami reindeer herder culture. Alta is a prime place to view the northern lights, and Honningsvåg serves as the gateway to the North Cape.

The season ends with a 10-day Norwegian spring cruise round-trip Tromsø on April 24.

Seabourn Venture in Norway

Seabourn Venture’s winter Norway program affords opportunities to see the northern lights, * Photo: Alex Conu:Visit Norway

Star Clipper to Leave Asia in 2022

Star Clippers’ namesake vessel, Star Clipper, will return to the Mediterranean for the 2022 season, joining Royal Clipper and Star Flyer. This will mark the first time since 2016 that all three tall ships sail together in the Mediterranean.

Star Clipper, currently based in Southeast Asia, will complete the 2021/22 season in Thailand before heading out.

James Bond Island Thailand

James Bond Island Thailand. * Photo: by Heidi Sarna

En route back to Europe, it will depart Safaga, Egypt, in April 2022, sailing though the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean.

Once there, Star Clipper will offer a variety of itineraries from May through October, including “Yachtman’s Paradise,” a seven-night sailing between Istanbul and Piraeus (Athens) along with round-trips from Civitavecchia (Rome) and Cannes, France.

Star Clippers tall ships

After its 2021:22 season in Thailand, Star Clipper will redeploy to the Mediterranean. * Photo: Star Clippers

RELATED: This Cruise Rocks, Star Clippers in Thailand.  by Heidi Sarna

Caribbean Sale

Before then, Star Clippers’ 2021/22 Caribbean season will consist of 32 weeklong sailings from Barbados and St. Maarten on Royal Clipper and Star Flyer.

Star Clippers in the Caribbean

Sailing the Caribbean with Star Clippers. * Photo: Star Clippers

Rates for the U.S. market start at $1,310 per person, single occupancy, and Americans who book by Oct. 31 this year will get a one-cabin upgrade and prepaid gratuities.

Star Clippers charts its routes to sail under wind power as much as possible — up to 80 percent of the time in the Caribbean.

Star Clippers tall ships

Star Clippers vessels provide an authentic sailing adventure. * Photo: Star Clippers

The 170-passenger Star Clipper and Star Flyer are traditional clipper ships with modern amenities, and the 227-passenger Royal Clipper holds the Guinness World Record as the largest and only five-masted, full-rigged sailing ship in service today.

Travelers interested in learning their way around a tall ship can assist the crew with hoisting and setting sail, bracing, folding and knot tying. They may also climb the mast to the crow’s nest, some 100 feet above the water, for a spine-tingling view.

All three vessels have expansive teak decks, swimming pools, informal dining, piano lounges and convivial open-deck tropical bars. Water sports activities abound.

star clippers water sports marina

Plenty of fun from Royal Clipper’s water sports platform. * Photo: Star Clippers

American Melody Emerges

American Melody, the fourth new vessel in American Cruise Lines’ modern riverboat series, is progressing at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland.

The forward section emerged from the hull fabrication building at the yard and was moved atop a heavy-lift system to the launch ways where it will be joined to the aft section and launched into the Wicomico River.

American Cruise Lines said American Melody is on schedule to start Mississippi River service next year.

Just two months ago, the company took delivery of modern riverboat American Jazz, also for the Mississippi. It’s positioned in New Orleans, ready to begin sailing when public health officials give the OK.

American Melody

American Melody noses out of the fabrication hall. * Photo: American Cruise Lines

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Uniworld's La Venezia suite interior

Uniworld’s La Venezia & More Small-Ship News

By Anne Kalosh.

Uniworld’s Venice-based River Countess has been fully transformed into the 126-passenger La Venezia with decor inspired by the celebrated Italian artist and textile designer Mariano Fortuny.

More than a century after its founding, the Fortuny design house continues to craft handmade fabrics on Giudecca island in the Venice Lagoon. Uniworld, known for vessels that mirror the destination, has crafted every space of La Venezia to celebrate Venice.

Uniworld's La Venezia

A chair with Fortuny fabric aboard La Venezia. * Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

“Whether guests stay in a classic stateroom, one of the four junior suites or two grand suites, they will experience the unmistakable essence of the city, beginning in the lobby which strikes a bold resemblance to 1930s Venice,” said Toni Tollman, Uniworld artistic director. “Guests will enjoy the artistic touches of the ship as they stroll the marble or brass-inlaid parquet floors. They will see echoes of the portico of the landmark bridges in the patterns of the fabrics or a reference to the local fish dishes, the basis of classic Venetian cuisine, and enjoy the unmistakable swirls and pops of color of Murano blown glass, another signature craft of Venice.”

Uniworld's La Venezia's Suite

La Venezia’s Suite 409 with its Fortuny fabrics. * Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Uniworld's La Venezia suite interior

Venetian-inspired interiors and views of Venice from La Venezia’s Suite 415. * Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Uniworld travelers will also have an exclusive opportunity to visit Fortuny’s private showroom and gardens to learn about the company’s legacy.

Uniworld's La Venezia

Uniworld’s La Venezia sails a signature eight-day itinerary from Venice plus three longer options. * Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Local Gastronomy & Market-Fresh Ingredients

La Venezia’s restaurants and bars will feature local gastronomy and ingredients sourced straight from the market. The main dining venue, Rialto’s, will offer traditional Venetian fare. Surrounded by intricately etched panels inspired by the interior of the Orient Express, the cozy booth seating immerses diners in a bygone era of luxury travel.

Uniworld's La Venezia interior

Cozy booth seating and etched panels inspired by the Orient Express in Rialto’s aboard La Venezia. * Photo: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

Hari’s Bar and Lounge is more relaxed, with live music, cocktails and an impressive Champagne list. Patrons can settle into the sumptuously upholstered love seats and choose from a selection of traditional panini.

With its hand-etched glass walls and polished ebonized wood, La Cantinetta is the most intimate of the vessel’s venues. It offers private dining with expert wine pairing. Diners are invited to start their La Cantinetta experience earlier in the day by accompanying their chef to source ingredients at the famous Rialto food market, where local producers sell their wares, from fresh Adriatic fish and fine Italian cheeses and salami to locally grown artichokes and asparagus. These ingredients are then prepared in La Cantinetta’s demonstration kitchen.

For Italian comfort food with great views, travelers can relax at Cielo’s Pizzeria on the Lido di Venezia Deck. This alfresco spot will serve wood-fired pizzas, hot from the oven along with fresh accompaniments from a salad bar.

Uniworld’s La Venezia will explore the Venetian Lagoon during its signature eight-day “Venice & the Gems of Northern Italy” itinerary, with travelers experiencing a private evening opening and lighting ceremony at St. Mark’s Basilica, the peaceful canals of Burano, Mazzorbo and Torcello and the famed cities of Bologna and Padua.

Three additional itineraries will be offered throughout 2021 and 2022, including  the 10-day “Milan, Venice & the Gems of Northern Italy” and recently launched 12-day “Cruise & Rail: Venice & the Swiss Alps” and the 14-day “Cruise & Rail: Milan, Venice & the Swiss Alps.”

At AmaWaterways, It’s Bye, Bye, Buffets

In a COVID-19 world, one of the universal changes at sea is the end to self-service buffets. On the rivers, one line, AmaWaterways, is moving away from buffets entirely.

This change is not just for the duration of the pandemic but will be a permanent one, according to Co-founder and President Rudi Schreiner. His reasoning is that buffets are not really a luxurious experience, and AmaWaterways is upgrading every year, he said, to offer more luxury and more dining options.

no more buffets on Amawaterways

Dining at AmaWaterways will shift to fully a-la carte service — no buffet (here the AmaMagnas). * Photo: Amawaterways

The whole fleet will convert to a non-buffet main dining room with a show kitchen added where chefs will cook in view of the diners. All meals, including breakfast, will be served a la carte.

AmaBella (2010) and AmaVerde (2011) are currently being converted and besides the new dining format, they’re being completely refurbished, with new computer systems, carpets and more.

AmaWaterways AmaBella

AmaBella, shown here in Durnstein, is being fully refurbished, including the new no buffet dining service. * Photo: AmaWaterways

Victory’s New Yucatán Mayan Cruise-Tour

Victory Cruise Lines is introducing an in-depth land and sea tour exploring the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico’s Mayan culture and history. Available November through December 2021 on board Victory II, the 11-day program will operate round-trip from Cancún.

Excursion highlights include the awe-inspiring Mayan city of Chichén Itzá and the distinctive cultures of Campeche.

The journey begins with a hotel stay in the heart of Cancún. An excursion to Tulúm takes travelers to the ruins of this 13th-century Mayan city perched on the limestone cliffs overlooking the blue Caribbean. From there, travelers will be transferred to Cozumel where they’ll embark the 202-passenger Victory II.

The third day is spent at Costa Maya, with opportunities to relax on the beach, travel to the ruins of ancient civilizations in the jungle or learn how tequila and chocolate are made. Continuing to Progreso, travelers will take a day trip to colonial Mérida, including a visit to the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida to see a magnificent collection of textiles, engravings, ceramics and religious works.

Victory II will operate a new Yucatán Mayan

Victory II will operate a new Yucatán Mayan cruise-tour. * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines)

Two Days At Campeche

At Campeche, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the restored façades of historic buildings line the cobblestone streets of this colorful fortified city. After a day of exploring, evening entertainment will include an exclusive folkloric show at the Francisco de Paula Toro Theater.

The second day at Campeche presents an opportunity to delve into Spanish military architecture at Fort San Miguel. Following, travelers can take in the city’s famed fountain show and stroll the charming streets during a Tukulna shopping experience. An optional premium tour visits the Mayan site of Edzna.

See Campeche on Victory II

From Campeche, an optional premium tour visits Edzna. * Photo: Visit Mexico

On the eighth day, Victory II sails back through the Gulf of Mexico to Progreso, where passengers will disembark the following morning for a motor coach transfer to spend a night within walking distance of Chichén Itzá. The day features a city tour of Valladolid with its colorful buildings and cenotes (limestone sinkholes), some considered sacred by the Mayas. In the evening, travelers can relax at the Mayaland Hotel. An optional experience tells the story of Chichén Itzá in a sound and light show on the Pyramid of Kukulkán.

Chichen Itzá with Victory Cruise Lines

The awe-inspiring Chichen Itzá. * Photo: Anne Kalosh

The next morning, travelers will get the opportunity to see the sunrise over Chichén Itzá followed by breakfast at the Mayaland Hotel and time to explore the architectural wonders at Ek Balam. Lunch will be served at the Hacienda Selva Maya restaurant and the day ends with a transfer back to Cancún for an overnight hotel stay.

American’s New Boats, Routes, Tours & Hotel Packages

In the words of its marketing campaign, American Cruise Lines looks forward to “Cruising Close To Home” again in 2021. Next year, the country’s largest domestic cruise line will have 14 small ships exploring more than 30 U.S. states.

American will introduce new modern riverboats on the Mississippi, three new itineraries, over 50 new shore excursions and an array of pre- and post-cruise packages.

The new vessels are modern-style riverboat American Jazz, recently completed and ready to debut from New Orleans whenever service can resume; American Melody, coming in summer 2021; and an unnamed sister vessel. Each carries 190 passengers.

American Cruise Lines

American Cruise Lines will have 14 vessels sailing domestically in 2021. * Photo: American Cruise Lines

The new itineraries include the eight-day “Cape Codder,” round-trip from Boston, which visits a variety of small New England ports and features an exclusive partnership with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. An eight-day “Music Cities” cruise between Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, will draw on American musical influences and offers complimentary and extended pre- and post-cruise packages in both cities.

An 11-day “Alaskan Explorers” cruise, round-trip from Juneau, will visit more Alaskan ports than American ever has before, with two days in Glacier Bay plus an included pre-cruise package in Juneau.

The line’s 50 new shore excursions feature many active options, from kayaking and hiking to wildlife- and whale-watching adventures.

Pre-cruise hotel packages are complimentary with 2021 Mississippi and Columbia/Snake rivers cruises and select coastal cruises. American will also offer several longer premium pre- and post-cruise packages, including new Four Seasons hotel stays in cities like Boston, St. Louis, New Orleans and Baltimore.

In Memphis, the Line has a new VIP Graceland package with private tours and presentations of Elvis Presley’s home and artifacts, as well as two nights at the Guest House Hotel next door to Graceland.

Small-ship construction updates

With nine months until the introduction of its first ship, Atlas Ocean Voyages announced World Navigator was floated out at Portugal’s WestSea Viana Shipyard. As well, the keel was laid there for World Traveller.

Atlas Ocean Voyages' World Navigator

World Navigator was floated out at WestSea Viana shipyard in Portugal. * Photo: Atlas Ocean Voyages

World Navigator and World Traveller are scheduled to enter service in July 2021 and mid-2022, respectively.

Atlas promises a “luxe-adventure” experience, positioned between the “strong expedition, science focus” and the “top luxury” lines, according to President Aliberto Aliberti. The “All Inclusive All the Way” pricing bundles in airfare, drinks, emergency evacuation insurance and one excursion per trip.

Atlas will be known for its adventure excursions. Examples include a visit to the infamous Chernobyl nuclear power plant with a visit to the reactor (Russia), glamping under the stars at Petra (Jordan), white-water rafting to a wine tasting (Georgia), sand surfing beyond the pyramids (Egypt), hot-air ballooning (Turkey) and a mud-buggy adventure (Israel).

Vantage Travel ships advance

Meanwhile, across the globe, China Merchants Heavy Industry cut steel for Ocean Odyssey, the fifth in SunStone Ships’ Infinity series of vessels that will be chartered to a variety of expedition cruise operators. It’s traditional to hold a ceremony when the first steel is cut, marking the start of construction.

Vantage Travel's Ocean Odyssey

The first steel was cut for Ocean Odyssey, also for Vantage Travel. Here, executives push the button to commence the cutting. * Photo: SunStone Ships

Ocean Odyssey is scheduled for delivery in 2022 and will sail year-round for Boston-based Vantage Travel.

SunStone said the Infinity project marries European design and quality with Chinese shipbuilding efficiency for cutting-edge design, innovations like X-BOW technology and significant operating efficiencies.

Ocean Explorer for SunStone ships

Ocean Explorer, which will sail for Vantage Travel, was launched at China Merchant Heavy Industry shipyard. It has the patented X-BOW. * Photo: SunStone Ships

Infinity-class vessels measure 104 meters/341 feet, 18 meters/59 feet at the beam and with a draft of 5.1 meters/17 feet. They have capacity for 130 to 200 passengers with space for 85 to 115 crew.

The vessels are being built to Ice Class 1A/Polar Code 6 and feature the patented X-BOW by Ulstein Design & Solutions. This hull shape promises better seakeeping for a smoother ride and greater fuel efficiency.

The first Infinity ship, Greg Mortimer, which sails for Australia’s Aurora Expeditions, was handed over in 2019.

Ocean Explorer, fourth in the series and also planned for Vantage Travel, was floated out at the same Chinese shipyard on Aug. 14.

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Sea Cloud cancels winter Caribbean

Sea Cloud Cancels Winter Caribbean & More News

by Anne Kalosh.

Sea Cloud delays until spring

Sea Cloud Cruises canceled its winter Caribbean and Central America program and plans to resume sailing with all three ships, including the new Sea Cloud Spirit, in Europe in the spring.

The Hamburg, Germany-based company explained the past months have shown that immigration regulations can shift on very short notice due to changes in COVID-19 infection rates.

“Since infection rates are continuing to rise worldwide, almost all the islands in the Caribbean still do not allow ships to enter their territory,” Sea Cloud Managing Director Daniel Schäfer said.

Uncertainties also remain about airlift, along with the classification of most of the islands in the region as risk areas by Germany’s Robert Koch Institute. The United States has still not given cruising the green light.

Travelers may transfer their deposits to voyages in the coming year or in 2022 and will get an on-board beverage credit. Or they may request a refund.

Sea Cloud cancels winter Caribbean

The classic tall ship Sea Cloud will not be sailing in the Americas this winter because of the pandemic. * Photo: Sea Cloud Cruises

Mediterranean and Canary Islands

Sea Cloud Cruises is now concentrating on the Mediterranean and Canary Islands itineraries that are scheduled in the current 2021 brochure, starting in the spring. In case the situation hasn’t changed then, the company is also preparing an alternative program based on the current E.U. requirements for ocean voyages, for example, with departures and arrivals from the same port.

In addition, should COVID-19 still give cause for concern in 2021, new or rebooked voyages can be canceled up to six weeks prior to departure for a full refund, minus a small processing fee ($25 per person for U.S. customers, for example).

Sea Cloud cancels Caribbean and looks to Europe for 2021

New tall ship Sea Cloud Spirit is now scheduled to debut in Europe. * Rendering: Sea Cloud Cruises

Coronavirus on Aranui 5

Ten crew members aboard the South Pacific passenger freighter Aranui 5 tested positive for COVID-19, according to news reports.

The ship, which was en route to Moorea, immediately turned back to nearby Papeete, Tahiti.

None of the 79 passengers were reported infected. Residents returned home and tourists were being repatriated. The 10 crew were taken to a dedicated quarantine facility.

RELATED: Peter Knego Shares his Aranui 5 Adventure.

Lindblad’s first Japan voyages

Lindblad Expeditions will explore Japan for the first time on two adventurous itineraries in 2021. Travelers will roam shores brimming with temples, teahouses and ancient traditions and discover a seldom-seen wild side on subtropical islands where azure waters meet verdant forests.

The itineraries provide a taste of Taiwan and Korea, too.

“Coastal Japan: Imperial Dynasties and Modern Culture” will examine the country’s riveting history, from the historic castle towns of the Edo period to the elegant shrines and merchant districts of the Meiji era to poignant World War II sites. Travelers will trace the shores of Honshu and the islands of the Seto Inland Sea, venture into the homes of samurai and feudal lords and discover exquisite centuries-old gardens.

They may find inspiration on the art-filled island of Naoshima, and visit museums and studios dedicated to artists and traditional handicrafts in Matsue and on Shikoku. A day in South Korea will be spent exploring the rich cultural legacy of Korea’s Silla Dynasty among the incredible ancient ruins of Gyeongju.

This 14-night trip departs Sept. 15, 2021, with rates starting at $20,800 per person, double occupancy.

Lindblad to visit Japan

The “floating” torii gate in Miyajima, Hiroshima, Japan. * Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

Island hop from Japan to Taiwan

On “Sailing the East China Sea: Japan, Okinawa And Taiwan,” Lindblad travelers will island hop from Japan to Taiwan, experiencing a wide array of natural wonders, historic sites and cultural treasures. They’ll have the chance to visit some of Japan’s most cherished sites, from Himeji Castle and the historic merchant towns of Ozu and Uchiko to the “floating” torii gate at Miyajima. Art-filled Naoshima is on this itinerary, too.

Plus, travelers can visit culinary hub of Shodoshima, snorkel the coral reefs of Kerama Island and venture into the mangrove forests of the Yaeyama Islands by Zodiac or kayak. They’ll have the chance to hike among ancient cedar trees in Yakushima’s rain forest and marvel at the incredible hoodoo spires in Taiwan’s Yehliu Geopark.

This trip, 13 nights, departs Sept. 28, 2021. Rates begin at $19,320.

The 102-passenger National Geographic Orion will operate both itineraries.

The National Geographic Orion

The National Geographic Orion will operate Lindblad’s first Japan itineraries. * Photo: Lindblad Expeditions

Barging through Europe

Abercrombie & Kent said it has curated the best vessels for a private holiday with family and friends along Europe’s waterways, with up to 20 percent savings.

As travelers plan 2021 holidays, A&K said many are looking to combine privacy, freedom and flexibility. A chartered barge in Europe checks all the boxes.

“Barge cruising encompasses so much of what we’ve learned to appreciate over the last few months at home. It’s all about traveling at a slower pace to immerse yourself in one region, and spending time outside — biking along picturesque towpaths, strolling through uncrowded local villages or simply watching the passing scenery from a cozy deck chair,” said Liam Dunch, A&K product manager, Europe.

A highlight, he added, is “relaxing as a private chef prepares farm-to-table meals with the freshest ingredients from local markets, served alfresco on deck.”

By privately chartering a barge, family and friends have exclusive use of the vessel. A&K’s 2021 portfolio features what it said are more than 30 of the most coveted barges on the waterways of Burgundy, the Loire Valley, Alsace-Lorraine, the south of France, Champagne, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy, England, Scotland and Ireland.

Le Phenicien canal Barge

Le Phenicien barge travels on the Canal du Rhône à Sète and Rhône River. * Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Starting at $3,438 per person

Travelers can save up to 20 percent on select 2021 charters when booked by Oct. 31, 2020.

What’s the price? Seven-day/six-night charters begin at $3,438 per person and include gourmet meals, all beverages, guided sightseeing and entry fees. Each vessel’s cabins have en-suite facilities. Many offer spacious lounges and sun decks for alfresco dining.

Abercrombie & Kent barge breakfast

Alfresco breakfast on a barge in southern Burgundy. * Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Some examples: For Le Phénicien, traveling on the Canal du Rhône à Sète and Rhône River, a weeklong charter starts at $61,890 for up to 18 travelers, with 20 percent savings in 2021. A week on La Bella Vita in the Po Valley and Venetian Lagoon is priced from $75,500 per charter for up to 20 people, with 10 percent off charters from April to August.

Scottish Highlander on the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness can carry up to eight passengers, and a weeklong charter starts at $35,500. And Magna Carta on the Thames River is priced starting at $36,000 for a week, for up to eight people. Both barges offer 10 percent off the charter price in April and May.

Travelers who book any A&K canal barge cruise by Dec. 31, 2020, have the flexibility to change plans up to 30 days prior to departure in the event of a COVID-19-related reason, at home or in the destination, and receive a credit toward future travel.

La Belle Epoque barge in France

The Burgundy Canal in France, with La Belle Epoque approaching a lock. * Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Crystal turnover at the top

Longtime cruise industry executive Jack Anderson stepped in as interim president and CEO at Crystal.

This came as Tom Wolber, at the helm since September 2017, completed his three-year contract with the company.

Crystal said Wolber plans to spend time with his family and pursue other interests.

His expertise in ship operations and construction have been a guiding force in the expansion of Crystal experiences that now include four new river vessels and the brand’s first expedition ship, Crystal Endeavor. (It had been due in 2020 but was delayed by the pandemic until 2021.)

Jack Anderson at Crystal

Jack Anderson has deep roots with Crystal and has been consulting for the company since 2017. * Photo: Crystal

Anderson’s Crystal history runs deep

Since 2017, Anderson has overseen Crystal’s commercial efforts, serving as adviser to Wolber. Previously he was vice chairman and, before that, senior vice president, marketing and sales.

Jack’s history with Crystal runs deep; with nearly a decade of senior leadership and executive consultant roles at the company — combined with his 30-plus years of cruise industry experience — he possesses a profound knowledge of the Crystal brand and the luxury cruise market,” according to Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, CEO and chairman of Crystal’s parent company, Genting Hong Kong. “He is uniquely suited to step into this role during this pivotal time in travel, ensuring a seamless transition.”

Earlier, Anderson held senior positions at Seabourn, Holland America Line and Windstar Cruises, and he was senior vice president of marketing for Carnival Corp. & plc.

“We are grateful to Tom for his dedicated leadership, the successful introduction of our river ships and expanding Crystal into the expedition market, while maintaining Crystal’s commitment to an award-winning luxury experience,” Lim added.

Atlas bundles in emergency evacuation insurance

New “luxe-adventure” brand Atlas Ocean Voyages is including emergency evacuation and return-to-home insurance for all travelers.

“Because safety and the health of our guests is our top priority, we are proud to be the first cruise brand to include emergency medical evacuation and return-to-home insurance as part of every booking,” said Alberto Aliberti, president of Atlas Ocean Voyages. He added this will give travelers peace of mind when exploring far-flung destinations.

The insurance covers emergency medical transportation from the ship to a local treatment center, as well as return transportation home or to a medical facility close to home, as required.

The first Atlas ship, World Navigator, is scheduled to debut in July 2021. Its inaugural program includes seven- to 24-night cruises in the Holy Land, Black Sea and Mediterranean in the summer, followed by nine- to 13-night cruises in the Caribbean, South America and Antarctica in late 2021/22.

World Navigator of Atlas Ocean Voyages

World Navigator is depicted in Antarctica, where the ship is scheduled to spend the 2021:22 austral summer season. * Photo: Atlas Ocean Voyages

 

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Seadream in the Caribbean

SeaDream Plans to Resume Caribbean Cruises

By Anne Kalosh.

SeaDream Yacht Club is poised to become the first cruise line to resume sailing in the Caribbean in early November.

Replacing its planned program from the U.S. Virgin Islands, SeaDream I is now gearing up for a winter season of Barbados round-trips, a new itinerary that includes yacht harbors in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

This means SeaDream, which was the first line to resume international cruises in Europe in June, could make history again with this first-out-of-the-gate Caribbean program.

(Go, Quirky-sized ships!)

SeaDream

One, and maybe both, SeaDream yachts will be in the Caribbean this winter. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

The 112-passenger SeaDream I, which alongside SeaDream II is wrapping up months of Norway-Denmark cruises, is to depart Oslo Oct. 15 on a 21-night trans-Atlantic voyage that arrives in Bridgetown, Barbados, Nov. 5.

From there, starting Nov. 7, the yacht will undertake 22 Barbados round-trips of mostly seven days. Destinations are St. George’s, Grenada, and, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Kingston, Port Elizabeth (Bequia), Canouan Island, Mayreau, Tobago Cays and Union Island.

Seadream in the Caribbean

SeaDream will be sailing a new itinerary from Barbados to Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

SeaDream’s signature Champagne & Caviar Splash will take place at Mayreau.

The line hopes there will be so much demand that SeaDream II will be put on this route, as well.

SeaDream caviar s

SeaDream’s beloved Champagne & Caviar Splash. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

Testing 1, 2, 3, testing …

Travelers must have a COVID-19 PCR test between 48 and 72 hours before arriving in Barbados, as mandated by the country. Local officials may require another test on arrival, depending on the visitor’s origin. (The United States is currently considered high risk so Americans would likely be tested, though things may change between now and November. And they’ll need to go from the airport directly to the yacht, not arrive ahead for a land stay, or they’d be subject to quarantine.)

At embarkation everyone will get a quick test using Abbot ID Now technology. A health questionnaire and thermal screening with facial recognition will follow, and passengers and crew will get a daily temperature check throughout the voyage. All of the yacht’s interiors will be cleaned with a hospital-grade Altapure AP-4 ultrasonic fogger and UV-C technology will be used in accommodations daily.

Social distancing will be practiced on board. As of now, masks won’t be required, though SeaDream said that’s subject to change. In any case, masks will be provided.

At least initially, it’s likely travelers will need to stick to SeaDream’s organized shore activities in destinations.

After the last departure, on April 3, SeaDream I will head to the Mediterranean to resume published itineraries with SeaDream II.

Keel-laying for SH Minerva

Helsinki Shipyard held keel-laying festivities for SH Minerva, the first of two ice-class expedition vessels planned for the revived Swan Hellenic brand.

This saw the ship’s first 347-ton block — newly arrived from Klaipeda, Lithuania, where it had been built and painted — being set on the keel over coins to bring good luck, in accordance with maritime tradition.

SH Minerva's keel

SH Minerva’s first 347-ton block is set atop the keel. * Photo: Swan Hellenic

Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, was also the name for a ship that sailed for Swan Hellenic, an iconic British brand that was known for cultural cruises. It went out of business in 2017 but is now being brought back by new owners.

The ceremony took place with Swan Hellenic CEO Andrea Zito participating via video link. “We’re excited and honored to take Swan Hellenic into this next chapter,” he said.

SH Minerva is due to arrive in November 2021 for an inaugural Antarctica season. The 10,500-gross-ton vessel will have accommodations for 152 passengers in 76 spacious cabins and suites, most with large balconies.

SH Minerva to launch

The new SH Minerva is named for a previous Swan Hellenic ship. * Rendering: Swan Hellenic

Ponant picks up momentum

Ponant, one of the first cruise lines to resume sailing over the summer, has carried more than 3,000 passengers aboard eight of its small ships on over 50 cruises, according to Seatrade Cruise News. Most cruises focused on the French coasts, Iceland and the Arctic.

In coming months, the line plans to branch out in the Mediterranean with sailings along the Dalmatian coast, to Greece, Malta and Turkey, and the Red Sea. Ponant officials still hope to operate Antarctica expeditions this year — but it’s getting close; the season usually begins in October. They’re also working to get approvals to sail in the Caribbean and the Seychelles.

Ponant's Le Bougainville

Le Bougainville was among the eight Ponant ships that resumed sailing over the summer in Europe. * Photo: ©Philippe Plisson:Ponant

Peek inside American Countess

American Queen Steamboat Co.‘s fourth vessel, American Countess, was completed earlier this year but inaugural festivities and cruises have repeatedly been postponed by the pandemic.

The 245-passenger paddle-wheeler is scheduled to join American Queen and American Duchess on the Mississippi, Tennessee, Ohio and Cumberland rivers. (American Empress operates in the Pacific Northwest.)

With four decks, including a sun deck, the new vessel sports a contemporary interior design with plenty of open space. The 120-foot-long portside bar provides floor to ceiling glass for panoramic river views. The accommodations are divided into four categories.

American Countess

One of the premium accommodations aboard American Countess. * Photo: AQSC

To give travelers a taste of what’s in store, AQSC just released pictures of American Countess interiors including the Grand Lobby with its monumental chandeliers, the elegant Grand Dining Room, the River Grill with its big windows and the wood-paneled library.

Grand Dining Room of American Countess

The elegant Grand Dining Room on American Countess. * Photo: AQSC

American Countess lobby

The Grand Lobby of American Queen Steamboat Co.’s new American Countess. * Photo: AQSC

American Countess library

The wood-paneled library on American Countess. * Photo: AQSC

Built using the hull of former gaming vessel Kanesville Queen, American Countess was lengthened by 60 feet and underwent a total renovation at Gulf Island Shipyard in Houma, Louisiana.

A sample 2021 American Countess itinerary themed on Abraham Lincoln begins with a pre-cruise hotel stay in Chicago before embarkation at nearby Ottawa, Illinois, and travels to St. Louis, Missouri (port of Alton, Illinois, across the river). Stops include Peoria and Havana, Illinois, and Hannibal, Missouri, the boyhood home of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).

In 1858, the Lincoln-Douglas debates started in Ottawa and ended at Alton. Alton is also where Lincoln and James Shields faced off with broad swords while preparing to duel in 1842. (Shields backed out.) Havana is located near Lincoln’s New Salem, a reconstruction of the village where he spent his early adulthood. In Peoria, Lincoln tried cases as a lawyer and gave speeches as a four-term state representative and a U.S. Congressman. There, in 1854, he delivered his first public argument against slavery.

Victory provides paid Cal Poly internships

AQSC sister brand Victory Cruise Lines formed a partnership with California Polytechnic State University to give Cal Poly students the opportunity to fulfill paid “Learn by Doing” internships aboard the new Ocean Victory in Alaska.

This internship program will invite a select few to join the ship starting in spring 2021 for four to six months. The students will live and work on board Ocean Victory as it cruises between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Sitka, Alaska

Students will gain hands-on experience as they research Alaska’s wilderness, environment and culture. Internship roles will range from creating educational presentations to guiding and participating in tours and passenger activities, including skiff tours, kayaking, hiking and Zodiac voyages.

Ocean Victory

Cal Poly students will get paid internships aboard the new Ocean Victory in Alaska. * Rendering: Victory Cruise Lines

The internship program is a passion project for AQSC Founder and CEO John Waggoner, a two-time Cal Poly graduate and one of its 2017 Honored Alumni from the College of Science and Mathematics. He majored in biology and earned his master’s degree in business administration.

Interns will undergo training prior to the start of the season. This includes a U.S. Coast Guard certification, practical Zodiac operational training and specific Alaska expedition leader training certifications, as well as first aid/CPR training.

A&K charts Northeast Passage in its 30th year of cruising

Abercrombie & Kent founder Geoffrey Kent will host a Northeast Passage trek in 2021, the company’s 30th year of luxury expedition cruising.

“In 1991 we set out to explore Antarctica, a place that speaks to my passion for discovery,” Kent said. “Thirty years later, I am excited to explore a new frontier, the Russian High Arctic, alongside A&K guests and my wife Otavia. In this rarely transited, vast wilderness, each day’s activities are determined by the captain and expedition leader based on ice, weather and sea conditions, as well as knowledge gained from years of experience. That’s the appeal of expedition cruising — the unpredictability, and thrill, of adventure.”

Geoffrey Kent of Abercrombie & Kent

Geoffrey Kent looks forward to exploring the Russian High Arctic. * Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Tromsø to Nome

The Aug. 27 – Sept 21 voyage will navigate from Tromsø, Norway, to Nome, Alaska, visiting remote settlements across the Russian High Arctic, seldom-seen Siberian islands, isolated wildlife habitats and Arctic nature reserves.

Travelers can discover Soviet-era Russia with visits to Murmansk, the biggest city north of the Arctic Circle, and Provideniya, a former military port. Wrangel Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its vast biodiversity, is known for walruses and bird life. The Great Arctic State Nature Reserve in the Kara Sea sprawls over 41,000 square kilometers and is home to polar bears, Arctic fox, reindeer and beluga whales.

Accompanying the Northeast Passage trek will be Kiliii Yuyan, a National Geographic photographer of Siberian descent who specializes in indigenous people, and expedition leader Steffen Graupner, a scientist who has explored Russia extensively.

Steffan Graupner photographer

Steffan Graupner will serve as the expedition leader for A&K’s Northeast Passage cruise. * Photo: Russ Tschukotka

The voyage will travel on a chartered Ponant ship and is limited to 199 passengers. The 26-day journey is priced starting at a cool $36,995 with an early booking discount. Any A&K luxury expedition cruise booked by the end of 2020 gives the flexibility to change travel plans for up to 30 days before departure in the event of a COVID-19-related reason.

New Windstar president

Chris Prelog, who began his seagoing career as a waiter, has been promoted to the Windstar Cruises presidency.

Austrian native Prelog has vast first-hand service experience from 18 years at Seabourn, where he started as a Seabourn Legend waiter and worked his way through roles including head waiter, restaurant manager and hotel director before becoming manager then director of hotel operations and vice president of hotel operations and purchasing.

Chris Prelog

Windstar Cruises has a new president, Chris Prelog. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

As Seabourn moved to larger vessels, Prelog decamped to Windstar where some of the smaller Seabourn ships had gone, first as vice president of fleet operations. He was promoted to chief operating officer early this year.

Prelog has been leading the company’s $250 million Star Plus initiative to lengthen and expand three yachts — including Star Legend (the former Seabourn Legend), managing operations through the pandemic and working with parent company Xanterra to develop the “Beyond Ordinary Care” health protocols in conjunction with the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Center.

RELATED: Windstar Cruising in the Sea of Cortez. by Elysa Leonard.

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SeaDream yacht club new itineraries

American Jazz Arrives & Other Small-Ship Updates

By Anne Kalosh.

A happy note amid the pandemic: American Jazz, the third in American Cruise Lines’ modern-style riverboats, has arrived.

The 190-passenger vessel is the latest to emerge from Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland. It will debut on the Mississippi whenever service can resume.

American Jazz follows sisters American Harmony (2019) and American Song (2018).

American Jazz Riverboat

American Jazz is the latest in American Cruise Lines’ modern riverboat series. * Photo: American Cruise Lines

New wellness/yoga studio

Rising six decks, American Jazz has vast expanses of glass for great views throughout and a multistory glass atrium in the center of the ship. Other hallmarks of the modern riverboat series include a patented opening bow with retractable gangway.

Travelers can spread out in several lounges and a grand dining room. There’s also a fitness center, a new wellness/yoga studio, a casual outdoor cafe and expansive top sun deck. All interior spaces and accommodations have independent heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, with no shared duct work.

Rooms for solo travelers

The roomy standard staterooms range from 300 square feet to 350 square feet, all with sliding glass doors and private furnished balconies. American Jazz also offers suites up to 650 square feet and single-occupancy staterooms of 250 square feet.

The vessel will showcase oil paintings and sculptures by New Orleans-based artist Greg Creason.

“The outlook for 2021 is tremendous and we look forward to American Jazz’s first full season on the Mississippi, as well as the introduction of American Melody, the next new ship to follow in our modern riverboat series,” American Cruise Lines President & CEO Charles B. Robertson said.

Windstar cancels through 2020

Windstar Cruises became the latest line to sit out the rest of 2020. It had planned to re-enter service in Tahiti in October.

“We had hoped that the number of cases of COVID and episodes of transmission would be in decline by now, and that the world recovery from the pandemic would be faster, but based on what we are seeing, we believe the most prudent way forward to keep our guests and crew safe is to postpone all Windstar sailings until next year,” a company spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, Windstar intends to continue reviewing and updating its “Beyond Ordinary Care” health protocols designed in partnership with the epidemiology department at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Center.

Wind Spirit in Tahiti

Windstar had planned to resume sailing in Tahiti in October but ended up canceling all itineraries through 2020. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

Seabourn’s expedition new build coming later

Seabourn has continued to push back the return dates of individual ships and announced expedition new build Seabourn Venture will be delivered later than planned.

Seabourn Venture delayed

Seabourn Venture is now scheduled to enter service with a Norwegian winter program in late 2021. * Rendering: Seabourn

Due to coronavirus-related shipyard closures earlier this year, Seabourn Venture is now scheduled for completion Dec. 1, 2021, instead of June. Venture had been set to debut in the Arctic, followed by a season in Antarctica.

Quest to assume Antarctica/Venture to Norway in winter

Instead, Seabourn Quest will now take on the 2021/22 Antarctica program, while Seabourn Venture will sail Norway in winter, giving travelers an opportunity to see the northern lights.

Details about the 264-passenger ship’s revised inaugural season are being finalized and will be announced in October.

The interiors and outdoor guest areas of Seabourn’s first purpose-built expedition ship are by hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany, who’s using tactile materials for a hint of rugged adventure in comfortable spaces like the Expedition Lounge.

Seabourn Venture's Expedition lounge

A rendering of Seabourn Venture’s rustic chic Expedition Lounge. * Rendering: Seabourn

Silver Origin’s Galápagos debut set back

Silver Origin’s inaugural Galápagos voyage is now planned for Nov. 7. Silversea Cruises had hoped to start service Aug. 22 but this was delayed by Ecuador’s coronavirus situation.

Built for the Galápagos, the 100-passenger Silver Origin was delivered in June following an extraordinary effort by the Netherlands’ De Hoop Shipyard, which voluntarily worked through the COVID-19 shutdown. Low water and high water conditions were also overcome.

Silver Origin is currently at the mainland Ecuadorian port of Manta, where crew training and familiarization processes are under way.

Silver Origin will take over year-round sailings from Silver Galapagos.

Silver Origin is delayed

Silver Origin’s start of service in the Galápagos has been postponed until November. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

A-Rosa’s E-motion coming later

European river line A-Rosa reports things have been going well since its restart in mid-June, but the inauguration of its new E-motion vessel will be delayed by a year, according to Seatrade Cruise News. 

The so-far unnamed E-motion-type vessel will be coming in spring 2022. Originally this hybrid-powered boat, designed to approach destinations on silent, emissions-free battery power, was to debut in May 2021.

The revised schedule has the first cruises along the northern part of the Rhine in April 2022.

A-Rosa's E-Motion is delayded

A-Rosa’s new style E-motion vessel has been delayed by a year. * Rendering: A-Rosa

Related: Cruising Restarts in Travel Bubbles.  by Anne Kalosh

No money down to book Crystal Esprit

Reservations opened for 2023 and early 2024 for the boutique yacht Crystal Esprit. This all-suite, 62-passenger gem will sail six-, seven- and eight-night voyages in the Seychelles, Greece, France, Italy, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Croatia.

Crystal Esprit

Bookings are open for Crystal Esprit’s wide-ranging itineraries in 2023 and 2024. * Photo: Crystal Yacht Cruises

What’s more, travelers can reserve their trip with no money down, as the Crystal Confidence 2.0 program offers a 90-day deposit window, extended final payment and relaxed cancellation schedules for all voyages through 2023. From January 2023 through March 2024, Crystal Yacht Cruises — named the 2019 Best Small-Ship Cruise Line by Condé Nast Traveler readers — will sail 58 active voyages.

During January to March 2023 and 2024, Crystal Esprit will be at home in the Seychelles. From

April to October 2023, destinations include the Greek Isles with a Corinth Canal transit, Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, the Italian Riviera and the French Riviera. In April, November and December 2023, the yacht will explore Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Cyprus.

Fares start at $2,699 per person.

RELATED: Crystal is Not Going Out of Business.  by Anne Kalosh.

SeaDreaming of Barbados

SeaDream Yacht Club is asking its loyal customers what they think about a possible new weeklong Barbados itinerary that would replace the planned Caribbean program this winter.

When looking at the upcoming Caribbean season, SeaDream — which successfully restarted cruises with a novel Norway-Denmark itinerary on June 20 with just four weeks’ notice — thought of again trying something different from its published schedule.

The new itinerary includes St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as Grenada. If it goes ahead, sailings would start Nov. 8.

Emilio Freeman, vice president, itineraries and destinations, said he chose places where SeaDream will be welcome, that are currently open for tourism and that are more secluded, in line with the brand’s yachting bent.

SeaDream yacht club new itineraries

SeaDream is considering a new itinerary from Barbados that would start in November. * Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

The proposed itinerary would see travelers embarking at Bridgetown, Barbados (Sunday), calling at Kingston, St. Vincent (Monday), Port Elizabeth, Bequia (Tuesday and overnight), Canouan Island (Wednesday), Mayreau (Thursday), Grenada’s St. George’s (Friday), Tobago Cays and Union Island (Saturday) and disembark in Barbados (Sunday).

Freeman said these destinations all offer friendly people; “smooth, silky sand beaches”; and are places where the rich go to escape. (Bloomberg described Canouan as “where the billionaires go to get away from the millionaires.”)

If this itinerary is approved, travelers most likely will be tested for coronavirus three times before embarking. Barbados requires a negative test taken within 72 hours before arriving at the airport and likely would retest travelers from high-risk countries like the United States on arrival, plus SeaDream would test everyone before they embark.

The line said it would use a “gold standard” PCR test with quick results, capable of processing 50 people an hour. The SeaDream yachts carry just 112 passengers each.

RELATED: Small Ship Cruising Restarts Fitfully. By Anne Kalosh

Lindblad raises $85 million

Cruise operators have been scrambling to shore up liquidity as the pandemic wages on. Lindblad Expeditions Holdings has just secured its future by entering into an agreement with a group of investors for the private placement of $85 million in convertible preferred stock.

This is part of Lindblad’s actions to ensure it is sufficiently capitalized to withstand the COVID-19 downturn and “emerge in a position of strength,” according to Sven-Olof Lindblad, president and CEO.

RELATED: Small Ships, Remote Operations, an Edge for Lindblad’s Return to Service.  by Anne Kalosh

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Blount's Mount HOpe

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows Out

By Theodore W. Scull.

Once “The World is Our Oyster” literally as well as figuratively contributed to the start of Blount Small Ships Adventures.

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows out

Grande Mariner & Grande Caribe share a berth at New Bedford. * Photo: Ted Scull

So, it is with great sadness that this pioneering U.S.-flag cruise line has called it a day 51 years after the company founder, Captain Luther H. Blount, set out with 40 paying passengers aboard the Blount-built Mount Hope in 1969 bound from the company’s HQ along the waterfront of Warren, Rhode Island, into Long Island Sound, around New York City’s Battery and northward up the Hudson and through the locks into Lake Champlain.

Blount's Mount HOpe

The cover of the August 1969 “Maritime Reporter Magazine” featured Mount Hope. * Source: https://magazines.marinelink.com/Magazines/MaritimeReporter/196908/page/1

Luther Blount’s Legacy

He pioneered modern-day overnight cruises along the length of the Erie Canal even though the railroads had built bridges in the 19th century to kill the lucrative freight and passenger traffic.

Not to be stopped dead in the water with too low bridges over the Erie Canal, Blount’s answer was to create a pilothouse that could be lowered into the vessel’s main body and the railings folded to the deck.

Captain Luther Blount

Captain Luther Blount on board. * Photo: Blount Small Ship Adventures Facebook page

I recall intensely watching from the bow of the Niagara Prince as the captain inched his way under a railroad bridge with his wife’s eagle eye on the narrowing gap, to within maybe two inches to spare until the vessel was clear. I think I may have stopped breathing for a few seconds.

On another occasion aboard the same ship heading from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi, we passed under a railroad bridge with slightly more clearance, and seconds later Amtrak’s Super Chief bound from Chicago to Los Angeles thundered across the same span. I did notice that one bit of deck railing had a dent in it, from an earlier encounter.

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows Out

Inches to spare. * Photo: Ted Scull

“Go where the big ships cannot” became the slogan.

However, the two most recently-built Blount vessels, the Grande Caribe and the Grande Mariner, actually had a problem. They were too high in clearance to pass along the western end of the Erie Canal. Hence cruises between the Hudson River and the Great Lakes would enter the canal just north of Albany then switched over to the Oswego Canal near Syracuse leading to Lake Ontario for onward passage through the Welland Canal and into Lakes Erie, Huron, Superior and Michigan.

RELATED: Ted’s Erie Canal Cruise with Blount Small Ship Adventures.

Luther’s Ingenuity

Now back to oysters. Luther Blount, born at Warren, Rhode Island, near the Head of Narragansett Bay, grew into adulthood and joined the family business – oystering – with its base of operations in the same waterfront location where the cruise line and shipyard exist all these many decades later.

Then came the legendary 1938 hurricane, the largest storm to hit the Northeast in modern times, and in a few short hours the oyster beds and the business were in shambles. Luther, a graduate of Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, then set out on a different course — briefly.

With his inventive nature and New England pluck, Luther developed a steaming process for his brother’s clam business that attracted Campbell Soup as big buyers for the firm’s clam chowder.

Luther’s association with oysters returned when he built a highly-successful new type of steel oyster boat and that led to large and more diverse vessels such as small tankers, launches for the Panama Canal Company, passenger vessels for the Circle Line, ferries for owners throughout the northeast, Spirit-class dinner boats, and as reported earlier, the company’s first cruise vessel, the 40-passenger Mount Hope in 1969.

Blount’s Shipyard

Then followed the New Shoreham, New Shoreham II, Mayan Prince and so on, each slightly larger than the previous new builds.

Blount's New Shoreham

New Shoreham. * Photo: Blount Small Ship Adventures Facebook page

Sometimes he would start constructing a hull and if he received an order for a dinner boat, he would complete it as such, and then start another that might end up in his own fleet.

Bllount Small Ship Adventures

Blount Boats – The yard in October 1999. * Photo: Ted Scull

The boats he built for the Circle Line in New York have carried over 75 million passengers.

Blount Marine Corporation eventually became Blount Boats, Inc. and the yard, built on top of a shell dump, has always had a reputation for quality and reliability.

The Blount 65 (a 65-foot passenger boat) was and still is found all over North America in multiple roles as excursion boats, dinner boats and ferries. One of the newest that I am fully aware of is the passenger and vehicle ferry for Governors Island, that separated piece of New York sitting just off the Battery in Lower Manhattan.

Three Daughters

Luther’s daughter Marcia is president and daughter Julie vice president, and Blount Boats has an enviable reputation in otherwise a largely man’s world. His third daughter, Nancy, joined the cruise side.

Blount Sisters

The Blount Sisters Three — Julie, Marcia & Nancy. * Photo: Blount Small Ship Adventures Facebook page

Their father died in 2006 at the age of 90. Nancy had started as a stewardess aboard the boats in 1966, then when she complained about being away from her friends during the summer months, she asked for a job closer to home. Luther made room for her as a welder in his shipyard.

By 1979, she was number two at the cruise line, back then known as American Canadian Line with Caribbean inserted later to form ACCL. The more recent change to Blount Small Ship Adventures came under her watch, to honor her father and more clearly define the cruise line’s mission — “Go where the big ships cannot.”

As Luther, a tried and true Yankee, did not believe in buying or building anything that he could not pay for, the company had no debt and that firm foundation put them in good stead during the last recession.

Blount's Grand Caribe

The Grand Caribe on a fall foliage cruise. * Photo: Blount Small Ship Adventures Facebook page

Go Where the Big Ships Cannot

Luther’s thrust was “go where the big ships cannot,” and the signature itinerary became the inland water cruise between home base at Warren, Rhode Island and Montreal and Quebec in Canada.

Blount Small Ship Cruises Bows out

The morning sun reflected in the Erie Canal. * Photo: Ted Scull

Leaving Narragansett Bay, the route passes through Long Island Sound, skirts by New York City via the East and Hudson Rivers, then above Albany turns west into the Erie Canal and Oswego Canal to enter Lake Ontario and continue on eastward along the St. Lawrence River and Seaway to French Canada. Passengers are never out of sight of scenery, and there is little chance of being seasick. No other line, not even competing coastal cruisers, can do this itinerary as we will see.

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows Out

Passing West Point sailing south along the Hudson River. * Photo: Ted Scull

He established winter itineraries that cruised amongst the Bahamas, Caribbean islands and Belize and its impressive barrier reef. Then there were the Intracoastal Waterway cruises from Florida and the Deep South, an inland route bypassing Cape Hatteras into the Chesapeake Bay, thence through the Chesapeake and Delaware  Canal, along the New Jersey Coast, past New York and onto Long Island Sound and finally passing through the choppy waters off Point Judith and into Narragansett Bay to the Blount’s HQ.

So “go where the big ships cannot” morphed into landings directly on the subtropical beaches via Luther’s patented bow ramp allowing passengers to go ashore almost anywhere there was a few feet of water and without resorting to tenders.

In fact, his patents eventually numbered 20, a Yankee entrepreneur par excellence.

Luther Blount's bow ramp

Luther’s patented bow ramp. * Photo: Blount Small Ship Adventures Facebook page

Blount bow ramp

The bow ramp was super convenient for passengers. * Photo: Blount Small Ship Adventures Facebook page

Pint-A-Flush Toilets

One device that he was particularly proud of — though not all his passengers might agree — was the Pint-A-Flush toilet, the pint being the minuscule amount of water needed the complete the job. Simplicity reigned and that meant accordion type folding bathroom doors and hand-held showers in the same space as the toilet. Cabins were tiny, and still are by industry standards, but each cabin had its own separate air supply instead of the same stale air being circulated throughout the accommodations.

Most passengers soon got past the diminutive scale and appreciated the comparatively reasonable, but hardly cheap, fares and not being lured into dropping lots of extra money once aboard, other than for gratuities and shore excursions.

There were no casinos, spas, bars, extra tariff restaurants, shopping malls, inches of gold, or art auctions.

The line always had a BYOB policy as it did not sell alcohol. Passengers brought their own wine and spirits, and BSSA provided free storage, ice, set-ups and help about where they can top up ashore. On special evenings, the line offered fancy hors d’oeuvres and complimentary wine. Later wine at meals was included.

Meals were single sitting affairs where passengers freely join whomever they wish. Tables had places for six or eight, setting the scene for the fast-developing social atmosphere. Most came from the U.S. and Canada and occasionally, English-speaking foreigners found their way aboard. Generally, Blount’s clientele was retired or getting there, college educated and either refugees from the mega ships or never had a bit of interest in them in the first place.

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows Out

Large tables attract those who like meeting and mingle with fellow passengers. * Photo: A crew member

Young American Crews

The crew numbering 17-18 were all Americans, and most of college age or older. They received a wage, shared in the pool of tips, and got medical insurance and a 401K plan. The captains often started as deck hands and rose to mate and captain. Many stewardesses came for the travel experience and training in the hospitality industry. There was no question that they developed a work ethic as well as living in close proximity to one another over long periods of time.

Breakfast times catered to early or late risers, and the buffet set up included juices, cereals, fresh fruit and yoghurt. Once seated the stewardesses brought the hot entrée of the day that might be blueberry pancakes and bacon, omelets and sausages or French toast.

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows out

The table is set for lunch. * Photo: Ted Scull

Lunch and dinner were at set times, with at lunch, a tureen of soup set on the table and at dinner, a salad at one’s places as one sat down. The main entrée at lunch might be a quiche or make your own sandwich and at dinner, tender roast beef, pork loin, breast of chicken, grilled salmon, and thick lamb chops.

A serving window looked right into the galley, and what passes through the opening was very good American cooking, and the type of food that most North Americans eat at home. Of course, vegetarian, vegan and restricted diets were catered to with advance notice. Over the 35 years that I have known Blount, the food had in more recent times taken a noticeable step up in quality, preparation and presentation.

Since 1986, I have made Blount trips among the New England Islands, along the Intracoastal Waterway between Rhode Island and Georgia, and from Toronto via the canals and Hudson River to New York.

Toronto to New York

For the most recent cruise beginning on Toronto’s waterfront, my wife and I occupied a Grande Mariner twin-bedded cabin on the main deck aft with the new-style bathroom now dividing the toilet and sink compartment from the shower stall. The attractive bed fabrics were dark blue and red, with signal flags decorating the curtains. The picture window slid open to bring in the fresh summer air, and stowage was more than adequate for what is always a casual dress code.

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows out

A typical double cabin with a window that opens. * Photo: Ted Scull

The lounge had comfortable seating and became the social center where passengers got acquainted, form friendships and have a drink before dining together.

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows out

The forward lounge is a social and reading center. * Photo: Ted Scull

It’s hard to imagine a more relaxed venue to meet others from all parts of the U.S. and Canada and share what we were all about.

The Grande Mariner sailed across Lake Ontario to spend the day at Niagara Falls on both sides, including a ride on the Maid of the Mist, lunch in the flower-bedecked town of Niagara-on-the-Lake that hosted a summer-long Shaw Festival and ending with a Niagara Peninsula vineyard visit conducted by an excellent tour guide.

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows Out

A stately Victorian has many impressive neighbors in residential Kingston. * Photo: Ted Scull

Sailing nearly the full length of Lake Ontario, we called in at Kingston, once capital of Upper Canada, docking adjacent to the city center where a jazz festival was taking place and enjoying its lovely commercial and residential architecture on a walking tour. Cruising amongst the Thousand Islands, the captain gave a running commentary of the sights and famous people who frequented the resort region.

At Ogdensburg, we toured painter Frederick Remington’s house and art collection, then entered the Oswego Canal that led to the Erie Canal running nearly the full east-west length of New York State. Sections of the present canal use the Mohawk River, and bits of the earlier 1825 canal. The canal’s completion was a boon to New York City as its port became directly connected to the rest of the then known U.S.

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows Out

Early travel on the Erie Canal

Near Amsterdam, a member of the Oneida tribe came aboard to give us a talk about the traditional crafts her people are engaged in, and a local historian told stories of early canal travel and introduced us to some of the historic writings and songs of the era. A photographer accompanied the cruise and gave popular talks and private lessons on camera use.

We passed under lots of low bridges and descended through a series of locks to the Hudson River just above Albany. Docking at nearby Troy, the city’s local historian gave us a wonderful tour of this once rich manufacturing center with its important civic buildings, handsome residential architecture and preservation successes.

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows out

The crew prepare to lower the pilothouse to enter the Oswego Canal. * Photo: Ted Scull

 

Blount Small Ship Adventures

The pilothouse has disappeared into the cavity. * Photo: Ted Scull

There was much to see on the all-day trip down the Hudson, including a top deck barbecue, so we would miss nothing en route. We passed historic houses with glorious Hudson River views, fringing Catskill Mountains, numerous lighthouses in the river and ashore, while sliding by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and slipping under stately suspension bridges.

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows out

Buffet lunch while sailing the Hudson River. * Photo: Ted Scull

Then the grand finale, passing Manhattan skyline’s at dusk and docking at the West Side’s Chelsea Piers, with city life less than a block away.

Other Connections to Blount

My direct connections to Blount continued on in an additional manner. When the Grande Caribe and Grande Mariner docked at the Chelsea Recreation Piers, once serving the White Star Line, and latterly excursion and dinner boats, sailing vessels and visiting yachts, I would take the subway from my New York apartment, meet the newly embarked passengers at dinner, then give a Power Point talk about New York harbor and the adjacent neighborhood.

Blount Small Ship Adventures Bows out

Grande Caribe docked at the Chelsea Piers, embarkation and disembarkation port. * Photo: Ted Scull

After a night in one of the vessel’s cabins, I would lead an after-breakfast walk into the fast-changing Chelsea neighborhood and take a hike along the High Line, a former elevated freight rail line. Its new role caused a post-industrial district morph into more of a residential neighborhood and a destination for the art world, including the relocated Whitney Museum, and a bar and restaurant scene.

I have happy memories of all my associations over the years, but as the cruising world kept growing (until the COVID-19 pandemic), the new small- and medium-size cruise vessels being launched were more upscale than Luther Blount’s idea of New England simplicity and down-home atmosphere.

Today’s older generation seems to want larger accommodations, plusher atmosphere and more amenities and willing to pay for it. Those who cannot afford all that, and want to sail aboard smaller and less costly cruises, may now be out of luck. Much lower per-diem fares are readily available — on the big ships with their economies of scale — if that is any attraction.

Finished With Engines. R.I.P.

The current three-vessel fleet is for sale: 68-passenger Niagara Prince (1994), 96-passenger Grande Caribe (1997) and 96-passenger Grande Mariner (1998).

Note: This essay is partly adapted from a piece I wrote for Cruise Travel magazine centering on Blount’s boat building side, a thriving business.

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Crystal Endeavor is not sailing yet

Crystal Not Going Out Of Business

By Anne Kalosh.

With parent company Genting Hong Kong suspending payments to financial creditors and pursuing a restructuring, Crystal tried to calm fears about its own viability by issuing a statement.

Not going out of business

“It is important to understand that the company is not going out of business,” Crystal said. “Whatever option our parent company pursues, it will allow Crystal to operate its business. Additionally, we have always been committed to honoring our contractual obligations with guests and travel partners, including the processing of refunds.

“While we have extended our suspension of global voyages until the end of the year, we are working with government and health authorities in our key markets to resume sailing when it is safe to do so and we look forward to welcoming our guests back on board at that time.”

Crystal Endeavor is not sailing yet

Expedition ship Crystal Endeavor should have been sailing by now. * Rendering: Crystal

$3.4 billion debt

Genting Hong Kong’s cash crunch is due to COVID-19’s impact on its operations, which include Asia’s Star Cruises and Dream Cruises and Germany’s MV Werften shipyards. The company owed a total of $3.4 billion as of July 31.

It expects to report a U.S.$600 million net loss in the first half of 2020 and has delayed the deliveries of giant ship Global Dream and small expedition ship Crystal Endeavor by “about a year.”

Crystal is a highly regarded brand dripping in “world’s best” accolades that expanded from Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity to introduce a yacht, Crystal Esprit, and four identical new European river vessels, Crystal Bach, Crystal Debussy, Crystal Mahler and Crystal Ravel. Crystal Endeavor had been scheduled to enter service in August this year.

Yacht Crystal Esprit is not going out of business

Yacht Crystal Esprit is among Crystal’s small-ship offerings. * Photo: Crystal

Avalon’s river-cruise ‘bubble’

The “good story” for river cruising is that it can operate in a safe “bubble,” according to Scott Nisbet, president & CEO of Globus Family of Brands, which includes Avalon Waterways.

Avalon’s small vessels carry fewer travelers, who’ll stay with the same group and adhere to health checks throughout their trip while seeing Europe from one room (their cabin, with no recirculated air), Nisbet said. They’ll dine in controlled venues with health protocols, skip the lines at sights and will always be just feet from shore should an emergency develop.

Many European countries, he noted, categorize river cruising as a hotel rather than a cruise, making resumption easier.

Travel is back on Europe’s rivers, in a controlled way and only for designated nationalities — not Americans, so far.

Nisbet said Globus is closely watching the continent’s famed Christmas markets, popular destinations for Avalon in November and December.

He’s confident markets will operate, but who knows if Americans will be allowed?

Avalon river cruise bubble

On a river cruise bubble, passengers travel Europe while staying in one room, their cabin. Here, a panorama suite on Avalon Envision. * Photo: Avalon Waterways

Victory’s ‘Come Home to America in 2021’

Victory Cruise Lines‘ new flexible booking policy includes savings of up to $1,400 on 2021 sailings when travelers book and pay in full by Sept. 30, 2020.

The company’s “Come Home to America in 2021” offer gives travelers the option to change or cancel their voyage up to 121 days before departure and receive a full refund. The policy is valid for future and existing 2021 cruise reservations but not for rebookings from 2020 to 2021.

Victory, which isn’t sailing for the balance of 2020, recently detailed health protocols for its 2021 restart. Next year sees new ship Ocean Victory introducing “Discover Beyond” Alaska expedition cruises between Sitka and Vancouver, British Columbia. Other new Victory routes are in the Great Lakes, Canadian Maritimes, New England and the Southeastern United States, including 12-day round-trips from Amelia Island’s Fernandina Beach.

In the coming weeks, Victory will be announcing new winter 2021 itineraries for Victory I and Victory II.

new Ocean Victory

The new Ocean Victory is scheduled to operate Alaska expedition cruises for Victory Cruise Lines in 2021. * Rendering: Victory Cruise Lines

Scenic flights & dives

Luxury expedition ship Scenic Eclipse embarked on its maiden voyage a year ago. During its first eight months (before halting four months ago due to the pandemic), the 228-passenger vessel had journeyed to more than 20 countries across four continents.

scenic eclipse

Scenic Eclipse during its first Antarctica season. * Photo: Scenic

Travelers took to the skies on 290 helicopter flights from the ship’s helipad and experienced more than 200 dives in its submarine, Scenic Neptune, which is able to reach depths of more than 1,000 feet.

Scenic Eclipse submarine Scenic Neptune

The cool interior of Scenic Eclipse submarine Scenic Neptune. * Photo: Scenic

They also participated in more than 500 discovery explorations including kayaking and Zodiac trips around Antarctica’s icebergs. More than 270 daring (or crazy?) travelers took the polar plunge, diving into the freezing waters of the Arctic and Antarctica to earn their polar badges.

Scenic USA is currently offering U.S. customers free and reduced premium airfare for select Antarctica, trans-Atlantic and Arctic sailings in 2021 and 2022 aboard Scenic Eclipse. Free and reduced economy airfare applies to Arctic, Central America and Mediterranean voyages. If travelers pay in full within 14 days of booking, they’ll get an additional $500 in savings.

Scenic’s “Book With Confidence” program gives flexibility and includes a deposit protection plan valued at $250.

RELATED: The New Scenic Eclipse.  By Peter Knego.

scenic neptune

Scenic Neptune at the Trident Wall, Port Antonio. * Photo: f-Stop Movies

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