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Archive for February, 2008

Silversea’s “Silver Collection” shore excursion

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On February - 29 - 2008

Ships in Castries, St. Lucia (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)Today I was lucky enough to experience one of Silversea’s “Silver Collection” shore excursions in St. Lucia. The Silver Collection tours are exclusive and unique and are only available to a handful of guests. For example, my “Best of St. Lucia” tour was only open to just 20 guests that allowed for a truly enjoyable experience.

View of Pitons from Ladera resort (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter) From the pier in Castries we boarded a small bus for the hour and half drive up St. Lucia’s scenic coast. Our destination was the Dasheene Restaurant at the Ladera resort that was voted the “Best Hotel in the Caribbean” by Condé Nast Traveler readers. With a birds-eye view of the famous Pitons the resort and the Dasheene Restaurant is the ultimate feast for the eyes and palate. An exotic lunch was prepared by renowned chef Orlando Satchell and consisted of canapés, green mango and heart of palm salad, white carrot soup, plantain crusted mahi-mahi, roasted roulette with allspice jus, capped off with a slice of pumpkin and coconut cream pie.

Ladera Villa pool (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)After lunch a tour of one of the resort’s villas showcased the good life by guests fortunate enough to stay at Ladera. Then it was off to Soufrière to board a catamaran back to the ship. What a relaxing way to enjoy the scenery – sun shining, wind blowing it was paradise. The crew served drinks and snacks and even anchored at gorgeous Marigot Bay to allow everyone to take a quick dip in the water. This seven hour tour was only $130 – a bargain considering all that was included. St. Lucia’s famous Pitons (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)

Next blog — dining at Silver Wind’s Relais & Chateaux inspired Saletta wine restaurant.

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Meet the ultra-luxury Silver Wind

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On February - 29 - 2008

Silver Wind docked in Castries, St. Lucia (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)What is ultra-luxury? Simply defined it is the exceptional service and exquisite surroundings. If you seek a small ship setting that is elegant and luxurious, with gourmet food, and fine European-style service Silversea Cruises is for you.

Silver Wind hallways (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)Italian-built and -decorated, the Silver Wind has 7 passenger decks and is designed so that all public rooms lie aft and all cabins are forward to ensure a very peaceful setting. The only sound may come from the anchor being lowered or raised in tender ports. Public rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated in soft pastels with some colorful Murano glass fixtures. The show lounge is a multi-tiered show room for party gatherings, films, special-interest and enrichment programs, and low-key cabaret entertainment.

Silver Wind spa (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)The casino has blackjack and roulette tables and half-dozen slot machines. The Bar, one deck above the dining room, is the primary rendezvous at any time of day, and side passages lead forward directly to the show lounge’s lowest level. Live music is available before and after dinner. The Panorama Lounge serves drinks from 11 am on, hosting tea accompanied by unobtrusive music in the afternoon. A card and conference room, a smart boutique and jewelry shop, a library with books, DVDs and videos, and a separate six-position computer center are onboard. Internet access rates are moderate if hours are bought in bulk.

The Lido Deck has a fairly spacious heated swimming pool and sunbathing deck, with teak/aluminum deck furniture (little “Silversea” touches such as cold towels, water sprays and fresh fruit provide poolside pampering on hot days). There is a Fitness Centre on Deck 9 that has great views and is of course equipped with the latest state-of-the-art workout equipment. The Spa at Silversea on Deck 7 offers a soothing white-themed ambiance and is also the area where the men’s and women’s steam and sauna rooms remain. There’s also a great little outdoor deck area and Tranquility Room adjacent to the — a great place to relax after a spa treatment.

Silver Wind Saletta restaurant (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)The main dining area is The Restaurant, which can accommodate all passengers at once for three meals a day with open seating. The menus are creative and poured wines are complimentary. The 40-seat Saletta Wine Restaurant by Relais & Chateaux is located in a separate space next to the main dining room. It is open for dinner only with reservations required. La Terrazza is a sophisticated buffet alternative for breakfast and lunch, with ample seating indoors and out under an awning with views over the wake. At night, the venue transforms into a candle-lit trattoria offering spectacular regional Italian fare.

All accommodations on Silver Wind (and all Silversea Cruises) are classified as suites and of the 148 total, 110 have private balconies with comfortable deck chairs and tables. Suites range from the smallest 240 square foot Vista Suites all the way up to the 1,314 square foot Owner’s Suites. All accommodations have sitting areas with full-size sofas, two comfortable chairs, and cocktail tables that can be raised for in-room service. All furnish desks, vanity tables, TVs with VCR or DVD players, personalized stationery, stocked minibars, fresh fruit, walk-in closets, and marble baths with hair dryers, robes and slippers. Why would anyone want to leave?

Next blog read about Silversea’s Silver Collection shore excursions.

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Sailing on the ultra-luxury Silver Wind

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On February - 28 - 2008

Silversea’s Silver Wind docked in Grenada (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter) I am aboard the lovely Silver Wind for a quick hop around the Caribbean. For the next three days I’ll be blogging from the ship. I boarded the vessel in St. George, Grenada and will sail to St. Lucia and Barbados.

Silversea Cruises is Italian-family owned and got its start with the Silver Cloud in 1994. The Silver Wind followed two years later and the larger Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper in 2000 and 2001. Larger tonnage is under construction and the line recently announced its new expedition ship, HSH Prince Albert.

Silversea’s Silver Wind docked in Grenada (Photo by Anita Dunham-Potter)The 16,800-ton Silver Wind is the epitome of boutique ambiance holding just 296 passengers and 210 crew members. This ultra-luxury vessel has the highest passenger-to-crew ratio of any ship making service personable and impeccable – clearly the best afloat!

The ship received a major update during the winter 2002-2003 season and was updated with all new soft furnishings and some added amenities to bring her in line with her newer and larger sisters. The Silver Wind will have its biggest ever refit sometime during the winter 2009 season with some exciting soon to be announced additions. Stay tuned for more…

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NCL changes course again – Jade deployed to Europe year round

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On February - 27 - 2008

Norwegian Pearl Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced today that they are assigning the Norwegian Jade (formerly the Pride of Hawaii) to be deployed in Europe year round until the spring of 2010. This is the second deployment change in two weeks for the line. NCL recently announced that the Pride of Aloha would be transferred to parent company Star Cruises.

The 2,400-passenger Jade will sail a variety of itineraries, extending its inaugural season in Europe that begins on March 30.

As part of the year-round schedule, NCL is introducing three new itineraries – a series of 12-day Eastern Mediterranean sailings and nine-day Canary Islands and Morocco sailings, along with a 14-day Eastern Mediterranean holiday cruise, all round-trip from Barcelona.

Unfortunately the deployment change will disrupt many passengers booked on voyages to and from New York City for the upcoming winter season. NCL is offering guests that were booked on Jade’s 12-day transatlantic sailing or seven-, 10- or 11-day sailings from New York from mid-December through April 2008, the opportunity to move their reservations to comparable sailings on Norwegian Gem. Guests who make the change will receive full price protection and a $100 on-board credit per person (maximum $200 per stateroom). Additionally, NCL will pay for air changes fees (up to $100 per person) or hotel cancellations fees (up to $50 per room) for guests who booked air or hotels on their own. Air and hotel booked through NCL will be protected at the original rate. Guests who choose to sail on a different NCL sailing (other than the one offered) will receive a $50 on-board credit per person (maximum $100 per stateroom) on another voyage. Guests who instead wish to cancel will receive a full refund.

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Silversea Cruises names its new explorer ship HSH Prince Albert II

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On February - 25 - 2008

HSH Prince Albert II (Courtesy of Silversea Cruises)Silversea Cruises announced today that its new expedition ship (originally acquired as World Discoverer II) will be renamed HSH Prince Albert II, in tribute to Prince Albert of Monaco.

The name is fitting for a ship that will be dedicated to the exploration and conservation of the planet’s oceans, wildlife and indigenous cultures. The Principality of Monaco, aside from being the world’s capital of wealth and luxury — and home to Silversea’s global headquarters — has long been recognized as a leader in marine environment research. Prince Albert I, a pioneer in oceanographic science and HSH Prince Albert II (Courtesy of Silversea Cruises)exploration, first explored the Arctic’s Svalbard archipelago in the early part of the last century, and founded the world renowned Oceanographic Institute. In 2006, Prince Albert II plotted a similar course on part of his journey to the North Pole, in an effort to add to the scientific body of work started by his ancestor — and to draw attention to the effects of global warming on the Arctic regions. As a result, the Prince is the first incumbent head of state to have reached the northern most point on Earth.

Silversea’s new adventure ship sets sail on June 12, following a naming ceremony in Monte Carlo, it will herald the beginning of a new mode in exploration cruising. The Inaugural Season will offer voyages of 10 to 21 days focusing on polar adventures. Sailing first to the Arctic Circle, Svalbard, Iceland and Greenland for the summer, the ship will then reposition to South America and Antarctica for autumn and winter voyages. From mid-August to November 2008, HSH Prince Albert II will journey from the east coast of North America through the Panama Canal to Los Angeles before heading south to Ushuaia. Along this special repositioning route are opportunities to explore the Sea of Cortez (with an extension to Copper Canyon), Falklands and South Georgia Island. Pricing starts at $3,867, per person, double occupancy, and includes shore excursions as well as Silversea’s signature all-inclusive amenities.

The Lloyd’s Register A1A ice-rated vessel is purpose-built for expedition cruising and is currently undergoing an extensive multimillion-dollar renovation at the Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy. After the ship’s refit, the ice-class vessel will carry just 132 guests in 66 ocean-view accommodations, many featuring private verandas. With staterooms and suites ranging from 180 to over 600 square feet, it will provide some of the largest accommodations of any expedition ship. 18 suites will each feature more than 400 square feet of luxury.

Guests will also enjoy many amenities found on larger ships, such as an elegant single-seating main dining room, library (with computers and Internet access), boutique, beauty salon, fitness center, full-service spa and two Jacuzzi pools. The ship will also feature several lounges for enjoying drinks, music and entertainment, including a cigar lounge like the Humidor on the line’s other ships.

The HSH Prince Albert II will also be equipped with state-of-the-art satellite communication systems, providing bow-to-stern wireless Internet access, enabling guests with Wi-Fi-enabled laptops and PDAs to surf the Internet and check e-mails from the comfort of their suites as well as public areas. Cellular phone service will also allow guests to stay in touch using their own cell phones even when the ship is miles away from land. All suites and staterooms will feature flat screen monitors offering interactive TV and video options. In the ship’s lounges, the latest audio-visual equipment, complete with high-definition video screens, will display live lectures hosted by the ship’s world-class expedition and lecture staff as well as visiting destination experts. The ship is also being outfitted with a new fleet of eight, latest-model Zodiac boats with Yamaha four-stroke engines (for lowest possible emissions) that will allow guests to enjoy up-close exploration and access to some of the world’s most remote landscapes.

Guests aboard Silversea’s HSH Prince Albert II will be inspired by the varied and constantly adapted itineraries that will make the most of the natural opportunities created by the landscapes around them. There is so much to explore that they can sail for up to 48 days on back-to-back voyages without repeating a Zodiac landing site. This is not soft adventure; this is full scale exploring from an ultra-luxury base at sea, in true Silversea style.

“The interest in expedition cruising is definitely on the rise, among both affluent baby boomers and seasoned travelers wanting to further enrich their already wide knowledge of more traditional and established destinations. Silversea’s HSH Prince Albert II will be the perfect option for those adventure-seekers who prefer a genuine expedition ship experience enhanced with the comforts of a true luxury product,” said Amerigo Perasso, Silversea president. “Adventure travel is also about having experiences that are intellectually enriching, so every voyage will feature a carefully selected expedition team of lecturers and leading experts who will share their insights on the natural, cultural and historical highlights of some of the most pristine and secluded regions on Earth.”

Visit Silversea’s Website for more details.

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5 cruise miseries and how to avoid them

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On February - 25 - 2008

Plenty of things can go wrong on a cruise vacation. You could get seasick, or sleep through breakfast, or lose at blackjack, or puke over the rail. Then there are the troubles that come from too much of a good thing: too much sun, too much lobster thermidor, too much time in the duty-free shop. But there are five cruise miseries that drive me crazy – because they are often preventable. Here they are, in no special order, along with some hints for avoiding them.

Losing your luggage

There is nothing worse than being the last one standing at the luggage carousel, anxiety mounting and no bags in sight. This has happened to me on my last two cruises! You can’t keep the airlines from losing your bags, but you can keep yourself clothed – and sane – over the next couple of days if you follow these four simple rules.

  • Pack smart. Before you zip up your checked luggage, print out your cruise itinerary and contact information, and put a copy inside each bag. This will help the airline get in touch with you quickly and get the bags to your ship.
  • Report the lost luggage to the airline immediately. If you flew on more than one carrier, the airline responsible for processing you claim is usually the one you flew last — even if another carrier lost the bag. When you file the claim, write down the tracking number and the airline’s phone number. If the airline has set up a Web site for tracking the status of lost luggage online (and most have), write that down too.
  • Carry some essentials with you. Pack a two-day supply of clothes in your carry-on luggage, along with your tickets, cruise documents, jewelry, medication, eyeglasses, makeup, camera, computer and anything else you can’t live without for a day or two. 
  • Notify the cruise line staff. They can help you keep in touch with the airline about the status of your luggage. Most cruise ships also have a small supply of clothing on board that guests can borrow, and some have formal attire for both men and women to rent.

Missing the ship

If you live far from the embarkation port, get there a day early. I’ve heard too many stories of people traveling on embarkation day, arriving late and literally standing at the pier, watching their ship sail off without them. Padding your travel time may cost a bit more, but it pays off in the assurance of a stress-free start to your vacation.

Catching a norovirus

Getting violently sick with an intestinal virus is a misery whether you’re on land or at sea. Seasoned travelers know all too well the importance of watching what they eat and washing their hands: It keeps the bugs at bay. Still, some of our fellow travelers aren’t so vigilant about hand washing, and they put us all at risk.

Poor hygiene spreads one of travelers’ worst enemies: noroviruses, also known as Norwalk virus and NLV, a group of viruses that can cause severe diarrhea, nausea and vomiting over a 48- to 60-hour period. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 23 million people, or 8 percent of the U.S. population, develop symptoms of norovirus each year. Less than 1 percent of cruise passengers are affected by norovirus, but you don’t want to be one of them, do you?

So, remember what your mother told you: Wash your hands. For best results, says the CDC, moisten your hands with warm water before applying soap, then rub your hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds. It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that loosens and removes the germs from your hands.

That’s all there is to it — 20 seconds of insurance that can literally save your health and your cruise.

Skipping the travel insurance

In the 18 years I’ve been cruising, I’ve seen many people fall ill and be taken off the ship in port or even evacuated by helicopter at sea. While always hoping for their speedy recovery, I have also wondered if they had purchased travel insurance. Most cruise lines offer travel insurance, as do several independent third-party insurers like Access America, Travel Guard and Travelex, to name a few.

Most travel insurance policies include coverage for five kinds of problems: trip cancellation (or interruption), trip delay, emergency medical expenses, emergency medical evacuation and lost or stolen luggage. It’s important to understand that ordinary medical insurance coverage doesn’t travel the same way aboard ship as it does within the United States. Sometimes coverage doesn’t extend to foreign travel at all. Medicare beneficiaries should always purchase travel insurance when they cruise, because they do not have Medicare coverage outside the country.

Another consideration: medical evacuation and transportation services, which are seldom covered by ordinary medical insurance policies. According to MedjetAssist, an Alabama-based evacuation operation, domestic air medical evacuation services average $10,000 to $20,000, while international transports can exceed $75,000. If you travel more than once a year, consider buying an annual policy; both MedjetAssist and Travel Guard offer this kind of policy, which can be purchased for as little as $185 a year. I don’t travel without it.

Getting robbed in port

Last year a group of 12 American tourists from the Carnival Liberty hired a van driver to explore Limon, Costa Rica. As they were climbing out of their van to visit a beach, they were ambushed by three masked men. Two wielded knives and one held a gun. One of the tourists, a retired U.S. military serviceman trained in self-defense, tackled and killed the gunman; the other attackers fled. This group of tourists was extremely lucky, for the encounter could just as easily have been deadly for one of the passengers.

To avoid this kind of danger, follow all the cruise line’s instructions before setting out on a shore excursion. Try to go out in groups and use only the recommended tour providers. And be sure to take all the usual precautions: Watch out for your wallet; carry only small amounts of cash; wear little jewelry; and don’t go flaunting expensive electronics such as iPods, cell phones and cameras.

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then a little research and preparation can go a long way toward keeping your cruise vacation hassle-free.

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