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Cruise Columnist
Cruise Ship Roundup 2001

by Brent Betit

Members of the Cruise Lines International Association [CLIA] are expected to break eleven bottles of expensive champagne this year - on purpose. They will shatter them against the bows of the same number of new super-premium cruise ships, geared to deliver what CLIA refers to as "personalized cruising."

What is personalized cruising? It is cruising designed to provide enough diverse offerings of activities to meet the needs of an increasingly sophisticated and demanding cruise public. More and more, cruisers are looking at cruise ships as destinations - with ports of calls clearly secondary for many cruisers.

What does this mean for cruisers? Expect to see many more balconies on new ships. They are a big hit with cruisers, usually selling out early (along with the least expensive cabins). Expect to enjoy skating, rock climbing, basketball, volleyball, golf simulators, and augmented dining choices on these new ships. Expect larger cabins, glitter and glitz, soaring atriums, and bigger public spaces. Expect to stay connected to your virtual world of the Internet, and to continue sending and receiving email while aboard. (But then again, why would you want to?)

Which cruise lines are launching new ships? Nine CLIA lines are expected to float a total of roughly 868,000 gross register tons-worth of new ships, including the following:

 

First European Cruise's European Vision is expected to launch sometime around June 30. The 1,500-passenger ship will become the flagship of the line's fleet, and it will include numerous restaurants, 132 suites with balconies, golf simulator, rock climbing wall, volleyball/basketball court, a thalassotherapy health spa, gym and beauty salon, two outdoor pools, a full-service business center and conference facility, and an Internet café. Do you think you can find something to do while aboard the Vision?

Princess Cruises will grace the waters with the new Golden Princess, sister of the Grand Princess, sometime in May (or so). Carrying 2,600-passengers, the ship will contain an exercise (lap) pool, a wedding chapel and wedding-at-sea program, not one but two specialty restaurants, and not two but three show lounges! 710 of the cabins will have private balconies. The ship is expected to sail a Grand Mediterranean itinerary in the summer, and then it will join millions of tons of floating steel in the increasingly competitive Caribbean market during fall, winter and spring.

Carnival Cruise Lines will float the new, 86,000-ton, 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit on or about April 29. (Experienced cruisers have learned to mistrust projected launch dates, and booking an inaugural cruise can be a bit like playing Russian roulette these days. However, Carnival has been one of the best at delivering on time over the past decade.) The Spirit introduces a new series for the line and features a reservations-only supper club, wedding chapel, conference center, and a wrap-around outdoor promenade. Consistent with other lines, you will find on the Carnival Spirit many ocean view and balconied suites.

Royal Caribbean International continues its aggressive growth pattern by launching two new vessels, Radiance of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas, round about April and November. Adventure of the Seas is another monster-sized Voyager class vessel, and will feature a Royal Promenade, an ice-skating rink, a rock-climbing wall, a full sports court, and the Adventure Ocean children's program. Radiance of the Seas will venture into the Pacific Northwest, Southern Caribbean, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Panama Canal.

Celebrity Cruises is bullish on Millennium-class vessels! They will float two of them in 2001, the Infinity and Summit, at 91,000 tons each. Look for them in March and October, respectively. Infinity will become the first Celebrity ship in the Hawaii market, and will also be deployed to Mexico. The Summit will alternate 10- and 11-night "Ultimate Caribbean" sailings out of Fort Lauderdale. Fully eighty percent of the staterooms on these ships will offer at least a glimpse of the ocean.

Royal Olympic Cruises is floating a smaller ship, the 836-passenger Olympic Explorer, sister to the Olympic Voyager. Expect to step aboard in May with seven-day, round-trip sailings out of Athens or Venice. "Passenger enrichment" on this ship will include the "Mirrors in Time" lecture series, with art historians, artists and architectural experts. And you thought cruising wasn't serious!

September will see Norwegian Cruise Line launching its newest ship, the 77,000-ton Norwegian Sun. Carrying 1,936-passengers the Sun is a sister to the Norwegian Sky, and will contain nine restaurants (!), and something they are billing as a "lifestyle" and "passenger enrichment" area. This is surely not the casino, as it would need to be called a "passenger impoverishment" area - at least the way I play the slots. Norwegian is also flagging the 76,000-ton Norwegian Leo (formerly parent company Star Cruises SuperStar Leo) for the Hawaii market late in the year.

Luxury cruise line Radisson Seven Seas Cruises will launch an all balcony-suite ship, the 700-guest Seven Seas Mariner, late in March, inaugurating the ship with a voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Costa Rica. The ship will sail Panama Canal, Caribbean and Bermuda itineraries and also be deployed in the highly competitive Alaska market. On the Mariner, passengers will enjoy the first permanent Le Cordon Bleu restaurant-at-sea, the 110-seat, reservations-only "Signatures." Sign me up!

Finally, sometime in July, Silversea Cruises is breaking a very expensive bottle of bubbly against the side of its newest vessel, Silver Whisper. The inaugural voyage will take 382 privileged and lucky cruisers from Rome to London. Later sailings will include passages to Northern Europe and the Baltic, the Caribbean and Panama Canal, and South America and the Chilean Fjords. At 28,258-tons, the Whisper is Silver Shadow's sister vessel. Expect to experience quiet elegance on the Whisper. Speak softly, and carry a big wallet.

That's it for 2001. With all of these new ships gracing the waves, cruisers may expect to see the already super-competitive cruise market continuing on its familiar course, attracting ever more travelers to the romance and beauty of the sea. Last year, almost seven million cruisers enjoyed such a voyage - representing growth of nearly 16 percent as compared to the year before. The accent is clearly on "person" in the phrase personalized service - seven million persons, in fact. Count me in.

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Brent BetitBrent Betit is a freelance writer who lives in Vermont with his wife and two young children.

Brent is also the Executive Vice President of Landmark College in Putney Vermont, and we are proud to announce that Landmark College is the recipient of a U.S. Department of Education Title III (Strengthening Institutions) Grant. Landmark is one of only 32 institutions selected from among approximately 1,800 applicants for this highly competitive grant program this year and Brent and his staff worked with Senator James M. Jeffords and his staff at the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions who provided substantial support, advice, and guidance during Landmark's two-year quest to gain funding within the grant program. Congratulations, Brent!

Brent has written many SeaLetter columns on such subjects as sea-going language, cruising with kids and cruise etiquette. To find all of Brent's SeaLetter columns and cruise reviews, visit our SeaLetter COLUMNISTS Index.

Brent is always interested in your comments and suggestions and may be reached at: Brent@sealetter.com.


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