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June 11, 2007

Celebrity launches new deluxe line: Azamara Cruises

Celebrity Cruises introduced its new deluxe cruise brand, Azamara Cruises, promising to offer unique exotic, destination-driven travel experiences. (Azamara is a coined term, rooted in Romance language references to blue, "aza", and the sea, "mar", plus another, lesser-known word, "acamar" which, in Classical times, was the southernmost bright star visible from Greece.)

The 710-guest Azamara Journey and its sister ship, the Azamara Quest (which enters service in October) present a more intimate onboard experience with access to less-traveled ports that travelers want to visit. Celebrity has positioned these deluxe-category ships between premium and luxury vessels. Exotic Caribbean and Europe itineraries previously part of the Celebrity Expeditions program are now being complemented by new Azamara voyages to Asia and other ports around the world. While details of the Asia and word cruises are not finalized, the cruise line says these additions will build its list of destination ports to 200 in over 70 countries worldwide. Onboard excursion experts help guests select shore excursions based on their personal interests and act as destination guides, offering information about the culture and history of each port.

The Azamara Journey and Quest both offer butler service in every stateroom and suite, as well as concierge-style amenities, including fresh-cut flowers, fresh fruit, upscale toiletries, complimentary use of Frette cotton robes, plasma televisions and plush European bedding. Each ship also offers two specialty restaurants. Guests staying in suites receive two nights of complimentary dinging in one of the two specialty restaurants, while guests in staterooms receive one complimentary meal. Neither ship requires formal attire for dining, with open seating in the main dining room. Azamara Cruises also offer a wine bar with a spectacular wine cellar offering wine and champagne tasting, seminars and pairings with food and wine, in addition to its standard selection of fine wines by glass or bottle.

In addition, the ships offer enhanced spa and relaxation experiences. Guests in suites can enjoy certain spa services in the privacy of their own rooms. The ships also offer an outdoor spa relaxation lounge and an aesthetics suite with acupuncture, laser hair removal and microdermabrasion. This is surely a line to try.

Princess adds new Alaskan inside passage routes for next year

Next year, the Star Princess returns to the cruise line's Alaska fleet, adding extra capacity to the Princess' popular Inside Passage sailings. The ship will join its sister cruise liner, the Golden Princess, for seven-day trips from Seattle, while the Sun Princess rounds out the Alaska cruise schedule with ten-day voyages from San Francisco. Together, the three Princess ships will offer 54 departures on a selection of round-trip itineraries that feature a number of Alaskan ports and dramatic glacier viewing. The Star Princess will offer 20 Sunday departures beginning May 4, 2008 through September 14. The Golden Princess will sail on 20 voyages departing on Saturdays between May 10 and Sept. 20 2008. The Sun Princess will make 14 voyages next year to Alaska, with varying itineraries leaving from the City by the Bay.

Carnival giving facelift to its entire fantasy class of ships

All of Carnival's original Fantasy-class ships are undergoing a $250 million refurbishment and being re-branded under the cruise line's "Evolutions of Fun" initiative. Among the planned enhancements to eight ships are expansive new children's water parks, a new design style and features for the pool areas, and the creation of the Serenity adults-only deck area. In addition, during drydock, each ship will be outfitted with new signage on the ship's bow, stern and upper deck areas.

Regent seven seas' ship enters record book servicing Tahiti

The Paul Gauguin, Regent Seven Seas Cruises' 330-guest luxury vehicle, has earned a spot in cruise industry history books for the longest continuous deployment of any luxury cruise ship in one region. It recently celebrated its 11th year of uninterrupted service in Tahiti, now having carried more than 100,000 guests to the island and its sisters during this time. The Paul Gauguin's 2008 cruise prices per person start from $2,195 for seven-night roundtrip cruises of the Society Islands from Papeete, Tahiti. Cruise fares include all shipboard gratuities; complimentary beverages, including select wines and spirits served throughout the ship; complimentary 24-hour room service; refrigerator stocked with soft drinks, beer and bottled water replenished daily; and an in-suite bar setup in butler suites. Many sailings also offer a 'third guest sails free' option, available in select staterooms.

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