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Archive for January, 2010

Star Clippers gives Antigua the heave-ho

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 29 - 2010

Today Star Clippers announced that it will no longer make port calls in Antigua. The decision comes in the wake of the murder of a Star Clipper’s passenger on the island. On January 19, Nina Elisabeth Nilssen of San Francisco was stabbed to death after wandering from a barbecue picnic near Pigeon Point Beach. Authorities have a description of the alleged assailant, sadly no arrest has been made.

“Star Clippers has called at Antigua for many years without incident, and with its long sailing and yacht history, the island has always been a popular destination with our guests,” said Mikael Krafft, ceo of Star Clippers. “We are taking this decision after much deliberation, and we will continue to monitor the security situation in Antigua and evaluate our options for next winter season regarding returning to the island.” In place of the Antigua stop the line will call on Nevis for the five remaining Royal Clipper Windward Island sailings through April 10. On April 10th the Royal Clipper will transition to Spain for its Mediterranean season.

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Cruise director’s movie star past comes back to haunt him

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 29 - 2010

I bet you didn’t know Carnival’s senior cruise director John Heald is a movie star (sort of). In 1985, John fittingly starred as the cruise director in a movie with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen dubbed “The Case Of The Mystery Cruise”. Check out this movie clip on YouTube where a dark haired and svelte John introduces the Olsen twins to an on deck crowd for a talent show.

After this movie it was all smooth sailing for the Olsen twins as they became billionaires like Micky Arison. For John, sadly, the seas to riches and Aston Martins were not so smooth. Alas, twenty five years later he’s still plying the waters of the world on the “Fun Ships” with the likes of Wally and Anita Banger, Lewis Nixon, and Big Al Ernst. All teasing aside, Happy Birthday John!! This blog’s for you!

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Cruise passenger murdered in Antigua

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 24 - 2010

A Star Clippers passenger has been attacked and killed in Antigua. Antiguan police reported the body of a 30-year-old American woman was found on a trail near Pigeon Point beach on January 19. The passenger, who has been named as Nina Elisabeth Nilssen, was not on a cruise line shore excursion.

Mikael Krafft, Star Clippers chief executive, has expressed heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the members of the victim’s family. The cruise line is assisting the woman’s family with accommodation, flights home and arrangements to transport the body.

The authorities are yet to make an arrest but have a description of the alleged assailant. A statement from the Antigua and Barbuda ministry of tourism said: “The government recognises that the safety and security of our citizens and visitors is paramount. No effort will be spared in bringing the perpetrator or perpetrators to justice.”

Antigua has had a growing problem with tourism crime, including murder and rapes in the last few years. Last year, Australian yacht captain Andrew Gollan was shot and killed. In July 2008, British honeymooners Catherine and Ben Mullany were murdered in their hotel room. Carnival Cruise Lines pulled out of Antigua earlier this month after deciding the port stop was unsafe for its passengers.

Journalist Cynthia Boal Janssens was onboard the Royal Clipper when Nilssen went missing. She blogged of the incident and was critical of the Royal Clipper crew on her All Things Cruise blog, but later took the reference to Nilssen’s murder and criticism of the crew out. Maritime lawyer Jim Walker, who writes the Cruise Law News blog, had seen Janssens’ original blog post and has included the removed paragraph in a stinging post about its removal.

Update 1/28/10:
I was contacted by Cynthia Boal Janssens stating that she did not take the reference to the incident out of her blog, her publisher did. Janssens’ post is back up with even more insight and criticism of the cruise line. http://allthingscruise.com/we-spend-tranquil-days-in-antigua-and-st-kitts-but-tragedy-upsets-everyone/

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Highly polished Silver Spirit

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 22 - 2010


“Champagne?” the tuxedoed waiter asks, “Yes, that would wonderful,” I reply. I have just boarded the brand-new Silver Spirit in Monte Carlo for its first sailing with passengers. The moment is surreal and a far cry from my previous voyage a few months earlier during Silver Spirit’s sea trials when the vessel was still under construction and where instead of champagne I shared breakfast pizza and espressos with the shipyard workers onboard.

I look around and I smile, long gone are the unfinished walls, protective covers of plastic and plywood — the ship has truly morphed into the beautiful Art Deco masterpiece it was designed to be.

Luxury lure

The 540-passenger, all-suite vessel is the first newbuild for ultra-luxury line Silversea Cruises since 2001, and it brings the Silversea fleet to a total of six vessels. “Silver Spirit is an evolution of what Silversea is all about,” says Amerigo Perasso, Silversea’s president and CEO. Perasso said that the larger vessel enables the line to create longer itineraries and offer more dining and entertainment options.

The economic waters may be choppy, but for Silversea it’s smooth sailing. The line is reporting its highest bookings ever, which is due to the surprising global demand in luxury cruising. Loyal Silversea customers, who on any given voyage can total more than 40 percent of the passengers, have been the driving force in heavy bookings, particularly for Silver Spirit. The other big factor in the line’s success is its heavy international exposure. Perasso says the make-up of the guests is truly international. “No one nationality dominates, it’s a mixture,” he says.

European roots

As we sail off from Monaco into the stormy Mediterranean the ship cuts through the water like a knife and the stability is impressive given the gale force winds. While Spirit is the biggest ship in the Silversea fleet it is still small and has the familiar layout of the line’s other vessels. But, it’s the ship’s classic Art Deco grace of the 20s and 30s that stands out – this is a ship Greta Garbo would have loved to sail on.

The Restaurant, aka the main dining room, evokes an understated, but comfortable atmosphere. Aptly named, The Bar and adjacent lobby is a multi-use area and is the heart of the ship. Vintage nautical photos decorate the walls and plush chairs and sitting areas are everywhere inviting guests to linger. Indeed they do — Passengers gather at all hours to drink Bellinis or cappuccinos or just to relax to soothing musical entertainment. Deck space onboard is expansive with numerous comfortable lounge areas affording shade or sun allowing guests to choose their al fresco preferences.

The 36,009-ton vessel offers 270 suites that range in size from 312 to 1,668 square feet (95 percent with balconies). All suites offer nifty technological advances including two large flat-panel televisions hidden behind mirrors and iPod docking stations.

Guests lack for nothing in these suites. There is a menu of eight pillows to choose from, a selection of room scents from Laura Tonatto, a choice of Bvlgari or Ferragamo toiletries, and never ending bottles of Pommery Champagne and boxes of Pierre Marcolini chocolates. And, every suite comes with a butler who will not only unpack your suitcase but clean and freshen it as well. “It’s all about highly personalized service that’s what luxury is all about,” said Ken Watson, Silversea’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

The Spa at Silversea takes things to another level. At 8,300 square feet it is the largest in the fleet and features a beauty salon, fitness center, nine spa treatment rooms, two sauna rooms and two steam rooms. The spa also debuts a Thermal Suite, an exclusive spa area furnished with heated lounge chairs along with a private Hammam Chamber (Turkish bath), where guests can customize their scrub treatments. In addition, The Spa offers an outdoor relaxation area with expansive aft sea views and comes equipped with plush loungers and large whirlpool allowing spa lovers a place to relax pre- and post-treatment.

Among the new spa treatments and services is the medi-spa offering a selection of physician-administered facial treatments using such popular wrinkle-reducing agents as BOTOX Cosmetic and the dermal fillers Restylane and Perlane. Guests can consult with the medi-spa physician on board to determine a personalized treatment plan. There’s also a new Oriental Medicine Program, which offers acupuncture therapy and Chinese herbal supplements.

Epicurean delight

Perhaps the highlight onboard Silver Spirit is the culinary delights in the six restaurants. The line is celebrating its 10th anniversary partnership with Relais & Châteaux; the only cruise line afforded the honor. “This is a pillar of our culinary experience — to be precise and genuine,” says Rudi Scholdis, Silversea’s culinary director. He added that the line’s mix of guests and 423 ports visited is part of the culinary offerings.

The line’s staple restaurants are here including The Restaurant, which offers 21 menus from International classics to inventions made on the ship. La Terrazza is the heritage of Silversea and offers freshly made pasta with ingredients flown in from Italy. The Pool Grille offers spa and quick fare and in the evening is offering a new informal dinner concept where guests can grill their meal on heated lava rocks. Le Champagne is highlight of the line’s association with Relais & Châteaux where for $30 guests can indulge in a six-course menu and for an additional $200 sample the wine pairing offerings.

New dining venues include Stars Supper Club that is modeled after the Rainbow Room. The venue is more than dining, it’s “food-entertainment” said Scholdis. The ambiance is jazzy and offers a bite size tasting menu encompassing flavors from around the world. Indeed you could make a meal here if you order all 20 tastings. The live jazz singer who works the room makes this venue an unforgettable experience.

Seating just 24 guests, Japanese-inspired Seishin features a large, round chef’s table as its centerpiece. Guests at surrounding tables can watch the chef at work sculpting fresh sushi and sashimi. There is a cover charge of $40 for the 11-course digestion menu that includes Beluga caviar and Kobe beef. For an additional $40 guests can enjoy a Saki digestion flight or for $200 a special wine flight.

Ultimately, the real luxury of Spirit, though, is its focus on keeping the traditional cruise experience alive and highly refined. There are no rock climbing walls, gigantic water slides or ziplines like the new mega ships – it’s about surrounding oneself in luxury, fine dining, and like-minded travelers on a quest for new horizons.

If you go:
On January 21, Spirit begins its grand inaugural sailing with various itineraries in the Caribbean, South America, and Mexican Riviera. In May, the ship transitions to the Mediterranean where it will sail various 7-day voyages. In late October, Spirit transitions back to the Caribbean. Prices for 7-day voyages begin at $4,358. Visit Silversea Cruises Website for more details.

Filled Under Advice, gallery, Reviews, Tripblog

The numbers don’t lie cruising is booming

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 20 - 2010

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced today that it expects its 25 member lines to carry 14.3 million passengers in 2010, up from 13.4 million passengers in 2009. CLIA says the numbers break down with 10.7 million from North America and 3.6 million from other countries.

Rick Sasso, chairman of CLIA’s marketing committee, said between 1980 and 2008, the annual passenger increase has averaged 7.4%.

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Watch Silver Spirit’s christening LIVE Thursday

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 20 - 2010

Silver Spirit’s christening ceremony on Thursday morning at Port Everglades will be webcast live at www.silverspiritblog.com. The event is set to start at 10 a.m. EST.

Godmother Silvia Lefebvre D’Ovidio, the sister of Silversea chairman Manfredi Lefebvre D’Ovidio, will name the ship with a balthazar of Moët & Chandon.

Silversea says a smaller replica of the Champagne bottle will be auctioned as a memento during Silver Spirit’s ‘Grand Inaugural Voyage’ to benefit the Maruzza Lefebvre D’Ovidio Foundation, a non-profit organization spearheaded by Silvia Lefebvre D’Ovidio.

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