More Cruise Ships, Ports Available in 2007

Posted February 13, 2007

Like a restless world traveler that can’t wait to go someplace they haven’t been, the burgeoning cruise industry continues to search for new ports to dock new and refurbished ships equipped with the latest services and amenities.

Consider these 2007 ports: Yasawa (Fiji), Kotor (Montenegro), Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Jupivogur (Iceland), Dubai and Myanmar (formerly Burma).

Once serving only the Caribbean on a few ill-suited ships, cruising now spans the globe on innovative ships that impress even the most jaded travelers.

Spin your globe and jab your finger on any body of blue water, and you’re likely to land on an area ships are visiting or charted to visit.

China and Japan

Seattle-based Cruise West, for example, has charted new sailings to Vietnam, calling on Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, where guests will experience French colonial influences on architecture and cuisine. These 11-night journeys complement Cruise West’s China and Japan cruises (a category that typically sells out a year in advance, so book early).

Luxury-line Crystal Cruises returns to Asia for the first time in two years to offer a collection of four destination-intensive itineraries, as well as its first-ever cruise from Singapore to Dubai, one of the world’s hottest vacation destinations. The 16-day cruise even features three days in Myanmar (formerly Burma).

Royal Caribbean International returns to Asia in late 2007 with Rhapsody of the Seas, and Holland America Line and Princess Cruises operate Asia itineraries as well.

Crossing the Big Pond

This year a lot of emphasis is on European cruises, with more Europeans boarding ships set to sail in their own back yard and abroad. For Americans, the cruise lines’ interest in Europe bodes well.

Old ports are being improved and new ones charted. Plus, cruise lines are seasonally moving their best ships to Europe.

Princess Cruises touts its “most dramatic deployment in Europe to date,” with five ships offering itineraries ranging from seven to 24 days and destinations as varied as Iceland and Egypt.

Princess will launch the new 3,110-passenger Emerald Princess, and the newly reconfigured 680-passenger Royal Princess (it was Swan Hellenic’s Minerva II) in Europe. Emerald Princess spends spring, summer and early fall on alternating 12-night Mediterranean and Greek Isles cruises.

Like the popular new Crown Princess, Emerald Princess will feature a big-screen LED on the top deck and down below in the atrium, the Piazza, a popular gathering spot that has the feel of an Italian “Piazza.” Royal Princess will emerge from renovations and add Sabatini’s, the wonderful Italian grill reservations-only restaurant, and a 24-hour Lido Deck cafe as well as a 4,000-title library.

Old and New

Holland America Line will introduce 13 maiden ports of call during its five-ship European season, including Jupivogur, Iceland; Sochi, Russia; and Koper, Slovenia. Forty-six itineraries feature 136 ports of call from the Black Sea to the Baltic.

Disney Cruise Line will operate in Europe for the first time, repositioning the Disney Magic for the summer of 2007 to the Port of Barcelona in Spain, where the ship will offer alternating 10-night and 11-night Mediterranean cruises to European ports of call, providing gateways to familiar cities such as Florence, Rome, Pisa and Cannes.

Be sure to ask about discounted air upgrades to make the long-haul as comfortable as possible. To entice travelers across the Atlantic, for example, Crystal Cruises is offering reduced business class air for 2007 European cruises booked by March 31.

Significant Refurbishments

Windstar Cruises’ Wind Surf will be the first ship to emerge from a comprehensive upgrade of the fleet’s three ships and include the Yacht Club, a new gathering spot for guests on the main deck.

Regent Seven Seas will offer worldwide cruises again in 2007 ranging from seven to 111 nights in length and reaching 21 new ports of call from Kotor (Montenegro) to Yasawa (Fiji).

The luxury line announced in 2007 it will offer select complimentary wine and spirits at all bars and restaurants fleetwide on every sailing.

As the breadth and scope of itineraries expands, the quality of ships keeps pace. Cast your eye across the fleet of ships operated by North American-based cruise lines, and you will find some impressive hardware

Nine bottles of bubbly will be smashed against the hull of nine new ships this year, counting the reconfigured Royal Princess.

The first is Carnival Freedom. The 2,974-passenger ship launches in March to offer Carnival’s first Mediterranean/Greek Isles/Turkey itineraries. The last launch of the year will be Cunard Line’s Queen Victoria in December 2007.

Final Frontiers

While Europe beckons with Continental flair and sophistication, Alaska lures travelers with its call of the wild.

Next year sees Holland America Line’s largest Alaska deployment, with 156 cruises on eight ships, including 58 cruises roundtrip from Seattle. HAL also will offer 29 cruisetours, a combination of a cruise and a land tour. Also new: Cruisetour guests will travel in new or recently enhanced Explorer Coaches that provide leather seats with the equivalent legroom of a domestic first-class airline flight.

Celebrity Cruises has three ships sailing from Vancouver for the 2007 Alaska season. The big news for Celebrity, however, is new Australia/New Zealand cruises. Celebrity Mercury will offer six 14-night sailings between Auckland, New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia, from December 2007 through March 2008.

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