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April 16, 2007

According to the Cruise Lines International Association, this year's European cruising season could set records. More ships than ever will be deployed in the region, with an incredible diversity and breadth of itineraries and ports planned. Some cruise lines have extended the European sailing season to a full nine months, while a few are present in the region year-round. There also are more overnight port stays, enabling guests to spend more time to visit locales and enjoy shore excursions that have become increasingly diverse and full of adventure.

The following summarizes the European cruise plans for a number of the most popular cruise lines:

Carnival Cruise Lines' new Carnival Freedom sails an inaugural schedule of 12-day voyages featuring the line's first visits to the Greek Isles and Turkey, and extended calls at a variety of Mediterranean ports March through October. Featured ports include Livorno, Naples, Messina and Venice; Barcelona; Cannes; Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey; Athens, Rhodes and Katakolon, Greece; and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

From Casablanca to Cornwall, from the Bosporus Strait to the best of ancient Greece, Celebrity Cruises' European itineraries aboard four ships take guests to a broad array of romantic, historic and exotic locations. From Amsterdam, the line will make its first calls on the Norwegian towns of Molde and Tromso, considered the gateway to the Arctic.

Crystal Cruises' Crystal Symphony offers its guests voyages to Western Europe, the Baltic countries, Russia, the North Cape/Arctic and the British Isles. Crystal Serenity blankets Western Europe, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and Canary Islands. The line also launches its first-ever roundtrip cruise from France's Toulon with maiden calls at Sochi, Russia, and Eidfjord, Norway.

Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 visits destinations in England, Norway, France, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Italy. Queen Elizabeth 2 ports in Italy, Norway, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Turkey, Greece and Malta. In December, Queen Victoria is unveiled on a 10-day "Maiden Christmas Markets Voyage" from Southampton, followed by a 16-day Canary Islands sailing.

Disney Cruise Line adds European flair to its itinerary roster, repositioning a ship in Europe for the first time ever this summer. The sailings, operating roundtrip from Barcelona and including eight ports of call, offer families a hassle-free way to experience the beauty and culture of Europe combined with the fun of a Disney cruise.

This year marks Holland America Line's longest European season in recent history with sailings from March through November to Western and Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Black Sea. Itineraries range from 10- to 56-days with 136 ports of call, featuring 82 departure dates. Thirteen maiden ports include Jupivogur, Iceland; Sochi, Russia; and Koper, Slovenia.

The entire MSC Cruises fleet of eight ships will be positioned in Europe for the majority of the year, with departures available from Genoa, Livorno, Naples, Rome, Venice, Bari and Barcelona. Three are positioned in Northern Europe, up from two in 2006. MSC Orchestra debuts this spring from Venice on a series of seven-night itineraries.

Norwegian Cruise Line deploys Norwegian Dream and Norwegian Jewel on seven- and 12-day itineraries that explore the Baltic capitals roundtrip from London; Egypt and Greek Islands sailings between Istanbul and Athens; and Mediterranean voyages between Istanbul and Barcelona. In October, Norwegian Gem, the line's newest ship, will offer three exclusive Mediterranean itineraries from Dover and Barcelona.

In its most dramatic Europe deployment ever, Princess Cruises positions five ships ranging from 680 to 3,100 passengers on itineraries ranging from seven to 24 days - and to destinations as varied as Iceland and Egypt. The line's season runs from April 11 to December 3, featuring 81 departures on 31 itineraries, calling at 110 ports.

Regent Seven Seas' Seven Seas Voyager sails Southern, Western and Northern Europe, while Seven Seas Navigator makes the Mediterranean her home for more than six months, canvassing nearly the entire region, from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Greek Isles to the Aegean Sea. Maiden calls include ports in Croatia, England, Greece, Spain, Slovenia and Montenegro.

Six Royal Caribbean International vessels, including two that carry 3,100 passengers, ply a diverse array of European cruising grounds on itineraries that run the gamut - from three to 12 nights. Destinations include the Baltics, the British Isles, the Canary Islands and Spain, the Greek Isles, Italy, France, Malta, the Netherlands, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries.

In 2007, Seabourn Cruise Line's fleet of three ships again explore Europe, from the fjords of Norway to the Crimean coast of the Black Sea, arriving in the Mediterranean in spring, where Seabourn Legend and Seabourn Spirit remain through fall. Seabourn Pride departs the Mediterranean in May, heading northward to summer in Scandinavia, Russia and the Norwegian fjords.

Silversea Cruises' entire fleet of four ships sail on itineraries of seven to 17 days, visiting Mediterranean, Baltic and Northern Europe ports. Highlights include an itinerary that explores the northern regions of Sweden and Finland around the Gulf of Bothnia; and another that spends six nights in Valencia during the America's Cup race in June.

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