Weekly Cruise News – May 9, 2014

Weekly Cruise News – May 9, 2014

A Regal Birthday in Southampton

Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 was welcomed by her sisters to a 10th-birthday celebration in Southampton. Festivities kicked off at sunrise today with the song “Happy Birthday” played on the whistles of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, positioned bow to bow. The celebration is also scheduled to include a visit from His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, followed this evening by a formation sail away lit by fireworks. More birthday revels are in store in New York, when Queen Mary 2 completes a 10th-anniversary 7-night trans-Atlantic crossing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Queen Mary 2, Porthole is giving away a signed copy of the book, QM2, A Photographic Journey by Chris Frame and Rachelle Cross. Just comment with your favorite #QM2 moment on our Facebook post. The winner will be chosen Monday.


A Fourth Oasis

It’s official: Royal Caribbean International will build a fourth ship in the world’s largest cruise ship category, a 5,400-passenger Oasis-class ship to debut in 2018. Officials made the announcement at the STX France shipyard during a keel-laying ceremony, which marked a construction milestone for the third Oasis-class ship. That as-yet-unnamed vessel is due in spring 2016. Sister ships are Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

Star Pride

Windstar’s New Pride

At a pier-side ceremony in sunny Barcelona on Monday, Windstar Cruises launched its first fleet addition since 1998 – the 212-passenger Star Pride. Cutting a blue ribbon to send a Champagne bottle flying against the ship’s hull was godmother Nancy Anschutz, wife of Windstar’s billionaire owner Philip Anschutz, who was also in attendance.

Star Pride is the first of three ships purchased from luxury line Seabourn, and unlike the other ships in the Windstar fleet does not have sails. But it fits well into Windstar’s playbook of operating intimate, small ships with exceptional service, said CEO Hans Birkholz.

“In a world that is increasingly impersonal, we intend to do the opposite,” Birkholz said.

Star Pride just underwent the first phase of a redo and the result is a pleasing, casually elegant, yacht-like ambience. The best example: the new Yacht Club, a hip approach to a windowed, top-of-ship observation lounge, with an open layout, nautical décor, and corner espresso bar. It’s an inviting place to hang out.

Windstar past passengers on the inaugural cruise, from Barcelona to Rome, applauded the addition to the fleet of sizable, all-suite cabins, some with French balconies, all with sitting area that can be curtained off, marble bathroom with tub, and walk-in closet.

Sister ships Star Legend and Star Breeze will join the Windstar fleet next year.

Adding fast ships without tall sailing masts allows Windstar to go to additional places including through the Corinth Canal and to Arabia, Singapore, and Northern Europe including Iceland, Birkholz said.



Oceania Cruises’ New Insignia

Insignia is back and better than ever, according to officials of Oceania Cruises. The 684-passenger ship was out of the fleet under a two-year charter, but is cruising again in Europe after an extensive dry dock. Sister ships Nautica and Regatta will also soon get makeovers as part of a $50 million rehab.

The updates are designed to bring the R-class ships more in line with Oceania’s newer (and gorgeous) 1,250-passenger Marina and Riviera.

Insignia came out of dry dock “essentially a new ship, reflecting an even higher level of elegance and design,” said Oceania’s President Kunal S. Kamlani.

In addition to sparkling new décor and furnishings throughout, enhancements include the addition of the popular Baristas espresso bar; a grill serving chops, steaks, and lobster cooked to order at the casual Terrace Café; and a mini-golf course.

Scheduled for two 180-day around-the-world cruises in 2015, Insignia also got an Artist Loft enrichment center.


Celebrity Equinox Gets Crafty with Beer

Craft beer – in more than 40 varieties – is the focus of a new bar debuting this month on the 2,850-passenger Celebrity Equinox. Also with wine, creative cocktails and “elevated” bar food, plus entertainment, the Gastrobar replaces the Cellar Masters wine bar.

Fresh from a dry dock in Spain, and cruising in the Med this summer, the Solstice-class Equinox is also debuting a new spot called Slush, featuring frozen drinks – loaded or not.


Silver(sea) Deal

Through June, get a $500 air credit, a $500 onboard credit, or a two-category suite upgrade when you book a cruise on ultra luxury line Silversea. The Silver Select sale applies to select voyages this year in Alaska and the Med.


–Fran Golden