Live virtual cruise lectures to offer a variety of topics

When travelers choose a cruise vacation its often because they get to visit several different destinations bundled into an itinerary they find attractive. They may have traveled to those destinations on land before or simply dreamed of going there one day. Cruise line web sites do a good job of describing various ports of call as do online sources like Now, a major seller of cruise vacations is offering a live virtual cruise lecture series that gets up close and personal on a variety of topics.

“The cruise experience differs widely from cruise line to cruise line and from ship to ship. Our virtual presentation series will allow customers to learn about the different cruise opportunities from the comfort of their own home. Registration is free and a variety of topics are covered. We hope to give consumers a much better understanding of cruising and what the different options are to choose from,” said Jeanne Wyndrum, senior vice-president of, a major, reputable online seller of cruise vacations.

The program is designed to provide consumers with a unique venue to learn about the cruise experience from the comfort of their own home. A number of cruise destinations and topics will be covered. Virtual Cruise Lecture Series allows consumers, whether a first time cruiser or a seasoned sailor, to take a virtual tour of almost every aspect of the cruise experience.The a wide array of topics are being offered at the live presentations set up for 7:00 PM Eastern time starting August 2nd. Advance registration is required and allows viewers to ask questions and interact with program presenters.

Topics include specific destinations like cruising in South America or Asia as well as general topics like Winter cruising in the Caribbean, river cruising or information about themed culinary cruises.

Not able to attend at 7:00PM Eastern time? All cruise lectures will be available on the website for viewing later, just no asking questions. To take advantage of recorded sessions simply register for the presentation(s) of your choice. An e-mail will be sent after the presentation is completed with a link to view the recorded program.

Flickr photo by pmarkham

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Cruise news rodeo roundup

Sometimes there are little nuggets of information floating around out there that are not quite enough for a post but surely worthy of consideration if you are in to cruise vacations. Here are some from this last week, in-your-face rodeo style, just so we keep up to speed.

Norwegian Cruise Line entered into an agreement with Special Needs Group Inc. for them to be the exclusive mobility and oxygen equipment supplier for the line. Norwegian and pretty much all cruise lines do a good job of handling the needs of guests with disabilities. Locking in to one supplier will surely give them the consistency and reliability that one single company can offer. That’s also a score for ship security too. With one supplier delivering equipment to their ships, that could reduce the number of different vendors entering the security cloud that surrounds all ships in port.

Speaking of handicapped people, the battle rages on at (@CruiseCritic) over a passenger who booked a suite thinking “butler service” would be the same as “I brought my nurse with me” and was terribly disappointed when not only uncared for but put off the ship about as fast as the cruise line could.

This week we also brought you a series commemorating the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic which occurred April 15, 1912. Today’s cruise industry exists and operates in many ways as a result of the Titanic tragedy. This week we took a look at the legacy left behind that affects cruise passengers on every sailing of every ship.
Carnival Corporation ships from Princess Cruises and Cunard Line will be plugging in at the Red Hook pier in Brooklyn soon as all parties in the matter came to an agreement on how it would get paid for and have finalized plans. The bulk of the $15 million price tag for cleaner air because plugging in means turning off ships engines in port, will be paid for by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. One reader commented “Sure, just like the government, if they can’t fix it, throw money at it” but local residents, happy to not wear gas masks around the house, are thrilled.

“It’s deal time at Celebrity Cruises” says Gene Sloan (@CruiseLog) of USA Today’s Cruise Log. During the line’s Mediterranean Fly and Sail Event, running right now which “includes reduced rates on both cruises in the region and the airline flights needed to reach them” adds Sloan.

Over at Celebrity sister-line Royal Caribbean International (@RoyalCaribbean), things are heating up over their new all-you-can-drink program. Apparently, a good number of takers on the deal thought/interpreted/scammed that to meaning all-me-and-my-friends-can-drink. The cruise line was not amused. New rules for the plan call for everyone in the stateroom to pay the $29 per person, per day charge to get it.

The UK’s John Honeywell (@CaptainGreybeard) notes “Surely they must have anticipated only one half of a couple signing up and then attempting to buy drinks for his or her partner?” You would think so. The line has been offering all-you-can-drink packages for group cruises for quite some time but requires “all or nothing” compliance with all members of the group taking the package in order to get it.

Captain Greybeard was also onboard the new Carnival Magic which sets sail on May 1st for a first-hand look at how the ship is coming along. Gadling will be on board for that inaugural sailing bringing you information on the latest, greatest ship from Carnival Cruise Lines. We will also be bringing you port-of-call reports ala Gadling which will no doubt be something entirely different than you might have seen elsewhere. Here’s a preview

Cruise lines cancel Egypt through June

Royal Caribbean and Azamara Club Cruises announced late Wednesday that they will cancel Egypt ports of call through June. This latest blow to Egypt tourism is a good indicator of the situation at ground level but travelers seem undeterred.

To cruise lines, safety of passengers and crew is a top priority. Fired by the US Department of State travel warning for the area, cruise lines were quick to pull ships out of the area, a distinct advantage cruise vacations have over other options. If weather or political conditions make going ashore a bad idea, they can move the ships elsewhere. That itineraries are being modified through June speaks volumes on what the travel industry expects in the foreseeable future of Egyptian tourism.

Top cruise industry information source follows the latest developments and keeps an up-to-date roster of which lines have changed itineraries. In a recent poll, CruiseCritic asked
members if they would consider a trip to Egypt at this point.

Of the 250 respondents, those who had already planned to visit mostly said that they’ll wait until the situation stabilizes. 55 percent said that the unrest hadn’t deterred their future travel plans, close to 19 percent said that as soon as the State Department drops the travel warning, they’ll be visiting the Pyramids, 14 percent said that Egypt remained on their travel wish list, but other destinations had now bumped Egypt down a few spots. 11 percent said a visit to the country was never on their list.

It’s not just Egyptian tourism suffering either.

Citing a “changing political environment” Disney Cruise Line as well as land tour operator Adventures by Disney dropped Tunisia from all land and sea tours last weekend. Yesterday, SeaDream Yacht Club added to the list of lines avoiding violence in Tunisia.

“We continually evaluate our itineraries, and the decision to modify this itinerary was made in part due to the changing political environment in Tunis and the recent Travel Alert issued by the U.S. Department of State for Tunisia,” Disney spokesperson Christi Erwin Donnan told USA TODAY.

Because these drops are a result of US State Department travel advisories, it’s possible that they will be extended past their scheduled changes as further developments occur in the troubled region.

Flickr photo by ayman_17

2 unique new cruise ships sailing in 2011

2010 was a good year for new cruise ships. Highlights included Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic that set the bar solidly higher for at-sea entertainment, highlighted by a Cirque Dreams and Dinner experience that was well received. Answering that call for improved entertainment, new largest-ship-in-the-world Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas followed nicely in the footsteps of older sister Oasis, clearly establishing herself as a unique ship of her own.

Looking forward to 2011, more new ships are on the horizon including Oceania Cruises new Marina, nearly double the size of the line’s existing three ships; Celebrity Silhouette, the fourth Solstice-class ship from Celebrity Cruises and another new yacht from Seabourn, the Seabourn Quest among others. Today we focus on two different ships by two different lines that will probably be the most talked-about of the bunch.

Disney Dream – at 128,000 tons, Disney Cruise Line’s new entry, the first of two with Disney Fantasy coming out next year, promises to steer Disney in a unique new at-sea direction. Sailing from Port Canaveral, the new ship will more than double the size of the Disney fleet carrying up to 4000 guests. Called “the most anticipated ship of 2011” by editor Carolyn Spencer Brown

Carnival Magic – the second of Carnival Cruise Line’s Dream-class ship and will offer 3,693 guests a 7 to 12 day Mediterranean sailing in the Summer followed by a unique first for Carnival; home-porting a new ship in Galveston Texas. 130,000 ton Carnival Magic will make a total of 23 ships in the fleet. Look for this one to be launched with some unique, social ways capitalizing on Carnival’s signature “fun” element.

Cruise line gets mixed reviews in aftermath of rocky ride

Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas encounter with nasty weather earlier this month initially got rave reviews from guests and critics alike. Initial reports indicated the line did everything by the book and when out of its way to accommodate all on board. As time went on though, the story got a bit ugly.

The line was quick to issue $200 onboard credit and a full refund for those on board even though the cruise was almost over when the incident occurred. Initial reports were highly in favor of the cruise line doing the right thing.

But it did not take long for critics to smell a bigger story in the water causing cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron CEO of to tweet “Did @RoyalCaribbean panic by refunding #cruise passengers on Brilliance of the Seas on 8th day of 12-night sailing? Must B more 2 story!” shortly after the event.

Indeed, it was a developing story and Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez told AOL Travel News. “As the cruise progressed, additional guests presented to the medical facility with symptoms and/or injuries” and the cruise line posted this video:

Adding to increasingly mixed reviews on how Royal Caribbean handled the situation, Maritime attorney Jim Walker had sharp criticism saying “RCCL has pulled this stunt time and time again, quickly issuing misleading statements in the hope that the media will quote its carefully crafted misinformation and then the story will quickly blow over”

Passengers who were actually onthe ship tell a bit different story though. Industry insider reports one typical passenger saying Royal Caribbean “went overboard” with the compensation.

Flickr photo by Rennett Stowe