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