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Carnival enhances shore excursion offerings

Carnival Cruise Line has expanded its shore excursion offerings, adding exclusive new landside experiences and customized private tours, as well as new family-friendly enhancements, including fun complimentary beachside activities, value pricing and free tours in select ports for children under age five.

The new options build upon Carnival’s leadership position in the shore excursion arena, with nearly 1,200 unique landside experiences offered by the line in more than 50 ports of call throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, Bahamas, Canada, New England, and Central and South America.

“Shore excursions are an important part of the Carnival vacation experience and we’ve gone to great lengths to provide our guests with even more choices and offer families unique value-added services and pricing options that are exclusive to Carnival,” said Erika Tache, Carnival’s director of product development.

Exclusive ‘Only-On-Carnival’ tour options in select Caribbean ports

For those who want to create unforgettable vacation memories in their own tropical paradise, Carnival now offers exclusive tours that not only include amenities like access to luxurious private villas but also unique enrichment activities that allow guests to fully immerse themselves in local culture and cuisine.  The new tours include:

– La Casa en la Playa (Cozumel) – Recently named Carnival’s “Tour of the Year,” this five-hour-long tour offers an exclusive luxury experience limited to 30 participants with access to a beach house with five-star service for the day, complete with a personal chef and wait staff. Participants can also learn how to cook authentic Mexican cuisine, make refreshing Margaritas and mojitos, or simply relax on a white-sand beach while enjoying pampering and attentive service.

– Eat, Drink & Dance (Ocho Rios) – This tour is definitely on “island time,” designed to please guests’ palates and awaken their senses through Jamaica’s unique food, music and culture.  After savoring spicy samples at a traditional jerk hut, guests enjoy a delicious meal at Miss T’s Kitchen which was featured on Guy Fieri’s Family Vacation on Food Network. The day continues with a visit to a beachside bar where mixologists create hand-crafted Jamaican rum cocktails and concludes with a spirited reggae dance lesson.

– Jamaican Home for the Day (Ocho Rios) – Just like the name implies, this day-long tour offers guests their own Jamaican home for a day where they can relax, kick off their shoes, and enjoy a fantastic home-cooked island lunch in their own private paradise.  The tour also includes full use of the expansive property which features a beautiful secluded beach where guests can enjoy refreshing frozen daiquiris and other rum-infused cocktails.

– Photo Safari & Beach Expedition (Cozumel) -- Taking place over the course of two days, the tour begins with a one-hour photo seminar on board led by the ships’ photographers who offer tips on camera equipment, lighting, photo composition and more. The tour continues the following day with a visit to gorgeous Mexican beaches and a national park where participants are offered an informative hands-on demonstration to “Capture the Moments that Matter.”

– Eat, Drink & Walk (St. Thomas) – This self-described “walking culinary/culture tour” begins with a drive through the lush countryside to St. Peter Mountain Great House & Botanical Gardens, home to diverse plant and animal life and an observation level where guests can see the 15 islands that comprise the Virgin Islands chain. Participants can sample 24 different island rums as they learn how to make banana daiquiris and nosh on island-inspired food like saltfish, plantains, jonny cakes and West Indian pumpkin soup.

New family-friendly services and tours

Carnival is offering new “family friendly” shore excursion options in ports throughout the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico, with tours offered at multiple price points to provide parents the ultimate in flexibility, value and convenience.  Children age five and under receive complimentary beach excursions with their parents’ paid tour.  Sample excursions include:

– Family Beach Escape (Freeport) – Designed with all-ages appeal, this tour begins with an air-conditioned ride to a breathtaking beachside resort.  Here, under the watchful eye of trained youth specialists, kids can enjoy such activities as sandcastle-making competitions, treasure hunts and face-painting while parents can relax under oversized umbrellas and sip a cool tropical drink.  Lunch is included and water toys, paddle boats, kayaks and other watercraft are available for rent.

– Island Beach Escape for Families by Power Catamaran (Cozumel) – After an exhilarating power catamaran ride, families arrive at Passion Island, which boasts white-sand beaches and clear turquoise waters along with full resort facilities with plentiful beach chairs and hammocks. Guests of all ages can enjoy volleyball, water trampolines and pedal boats, while kids get their own special beachside play area.  A Mexican-style buffet with guacamole, grilled mahi-mahi and a kids’ menu is included in the price.

– Family Treasure Hunt with Lunch at Blue Lagoon (Nassau) – Families are sure to have a blast during this fun-filled adventure where participants must discover hidden treasures, collect clues and answer trivia questions on their journey to win the Pirate’s Bounty!  After their plunder, families can soak up the sun on a stunning powdery beach as they enjoy a grilled lunch and icy beverages at Blue Lagoon Island, one of the top destinations in The Bahamas.

– All Inclusive Family Beach Resort Getaway (Montego Bay) – Hosted at the Mediterranean-inspired Seawinds Beach Club, one of Jamaica’s premier oceanfront properties that is home to magnificent beaches and world-class amenities, this tour includes lively island entertainment, along with a complimentary buffet lunch and drinks. When it’s time to cool off, families can take a dip in the ocean or one of the many on-property pools and enjoy fun water sports like sailing, snorkeling and kayaking.

Well-staffed beachside excursions provide families with extra assistance with services such as stroller storage as well as hosted fun activities like beachside games, and arts and crafts, along with play areas and water slides and toys, all available on a complimentary basis. Offered in all of Carnival’s Caribbean ports, the new activities are designed to keep kids entertained while offering parents some much-needed “we” time.

Unique valued-added options

For guests seeking a more authentic landside experience, there are exclusive private tours – operated via custom motor coaches, sailboats, yachts, and even helicopters – that take guests on off-the-beaten-path excursions tailored to the guests’ specific preferences.  These excursions showcase non-traditional sightseeing sites typically not available to other guests, all under the guidance of an experienced local who provides an “up close and personal” view of the destination.

And with Carnival’s new on-board lounge tour dispatch system, tour operators come on board to meet shore excursion participants and tours depart from a shipboard venue versus the previous method of tour operators assembling large groups of guests on the pier, thus providing a more streamlined, organized and expedited departure.  Carnival is the only cruise operator in the Caribbean to have local tour operators involved with this enhanced service option.

Industry-leading programs and offerings

All of these new offerings complement Carnival’s industry-leading programs such as the Shore Excursion Best Price Guarantee.  The only one of its kind in the cruise industry, the program provides a 110 percent refund in the form of a shipboard credit should consumers find a better price on a similar tour, providing much-needed peace of mind knowing that they’re getting the best price.

Each of Carnival’s 24 ships also offers a dedicated shore excursion desk with highly trained and experienced staff members who can recommend particular tours and answer any questions guests may have. Shore excursion personnel also personally experience the wide array of landside options in every port and obtain feedback from guests to strive for continuous improvement in the line’s shore excursion choices.

Carnival has also revamped the shore excursion section of its web site to include a greater variety of photos and videos, enhanced navigation and on-line reservations for both desktop and mobile devices, as well as guest-written reviews of the various options ashore.

Carnival group granted US licenses to direct US-Cuba cruises, fathom brand to spearhead move

Carnival Corporation & plc, the world’s largest cruise shipping group, says it has been granted US licenses to operate direct U.S.-to-Cuba travel for the purpose of providing cultural exchange

The company intends intends to take travelers to Cuba beginning in May 2016 via its newly launched fathom brand – a new social impact travel brand providing purpose-oriented, social impact experiences, initially in the Dominican Republic.

Carnival group n intends to operate fathom travel itineraries directly to Cuba for the purpose of providing cultural, artistic, faith-based and humanitarian exchanges between American and Cuban citizens.

“Authorized under current US-to-Cuba travel guidelines, the new Cuban itineraries on fathom will strictly comply with US Department of Treasury rules that allow licensed travel companies to transport approved travelers to Cuba to engage in activities that support the Cuban people,” Carnival saod in a statement.

Carnival is in active discussions and plans to work with the appropriate authorities in Cuba so that Cuban approval is granted.

Launched 4 June as the group’s 10th global brand, fathom is designed as a purpose-driven brand to enrich the lives of its travelers and in the case of the Dominican Republic, drive sustainable social impact on a significant scale.

“The brand expects to attract 37,000 annual travelers who collectively could spend a total of more than 100,000 days a year either volunteering or immersing in educational and cultural exchanges in local communities.”

Beginning in April 2016, fathom will embark on weekly seven-day voyages from Port Miami aboard the Adonia, a 710-passenger vessel redeployed from Carnival Corporation & plc’s P&O Cruises brand in the UK. fathom's first impact destination will be the northern region of the Dominican Republic, where Carnival Corporation's new port of call, Amber Cove, will serve as home base.

Following the inaugural April month of voyages to the Dominican Republic, fathom intends to offer both Dominican and Cuban itineraries on a systematic and regular basis, giving travelers the opportunity to choose from two destinations and a range of activities from social impact in the Dominican Republic and educational and cultural exchanges in both countries designed to have a positive, transformative effect on the lives of the travelers.

"We are excited about receiving U.S. approval as the very important first step to ultimately take travelers to Cuba under the existing 12 criteria for authorized travel. We look forward to working with the Cuban authorities for their approval to help make the social, cultural and humanitarian exchanges between U.S. citizens and the people of Cuba a reality," said Arnold Donald, President and CEO of Carnival Corporation.

"We know there is strong demand from travelers who want to immerse themselves in Cuban culture, so this is a historic opportunity for us to enable more people to experience Cuban society. It is also an important opportunity for our new fathom brand to expand its positive influence in the world with this potential to add full-week immersion sailings to Cuba to its already planned full-week social-impact itineraries to the Dominican Republic beginning in the spring of 2016."

Tara Russell, president of fathom and global impact lead for Carnival group, added: "We're incredibly excited and humbled by this potential opportunity to help travelers experience the amazing beauty and culture of Cuba, while being able to provide educational and cultural exchange activities that will benefit both the traveler and the Cuban people. After establishing the Dominican Republic as our first partner destination, Cuba represents an important step for us to expand our ability to offer meaningful and enriching experiences to purpose-driven travelers.”

“Our goal remains the same for both destinations – to enable travelers to immerse, learn, serve and flourish while making enduring, sustainable contributions on a scalable and systematic basis. We are looking forward to building what we intend to be a beautiful and lasting friendship with the Cuban people."

Led by Russell's strong background in social entrepreneurship, fathom seeks to develop lasting social impact partnerships that allow for meaningful personal enrichment of the traveler, while providing systematic, long-term educational, environmental and economic development benefits in its partner countries.

"We're very interested in exploring the prospects of expanding our partnership with fathom to include Cuba, building new impact programs and lending our assistance to strengthen existing initiatives that will help educational, cultural and humanitarian efforts already going on in Cuba," said David Luther, founder and executive director of IDDI, a non-profit organization with the mission to help alleviate poverty in rural and urban areas in the Caribbean.

"IDDI has long-standing relationships in Cuba and more than a decade of experience working on the ground side-by-side with local officials to make a positive impact in Cuban communities. Nothing else like fathom exists to bring hundreds of like-minded travelers a week to communities of people who need ongoing support. With fathom and its travelers, the potential for making a lasting impact in people's lives is tremendous. We look forward to partnering closely with fathom to take our programs to the next level, and support growth and prosperity for the citizens of Cuba."

MSC Cruises to homeport MSC Opera in Cuba

MSC Cruises announced today that, starting in December 2015, its 2,120-guest MSC Opera will homeport in Havana for the winter 2015-16 season to offer guests 16 Caribbean cruises.

MSC Cruises will give cruise travellers from around the world a unique chance to get aboard the completely renovated 65,542 gross ton MSC Opera, part of the Company’s €200 million Renaissance programme, and cruise to Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Mexico with two nights and two and a half days in the Cuban capital.

Gianni Onorato, Chief Executive Officer of MSC Cruises, commented: “We are particularly proud to make this exciting new destination available to our guests. For this, I wish to personally thank all those who worked with us over these past several months to make it possible for MSC Cruises to launch Cuba as a destination to its guests. In particular, I wish to thank the Ministers of Transportation and Tourism of the Cuban Government and their representatives for their continued highly professional contribution.”

Onorato added: “The move to Cuba attests to our steadfast commitment to offer our experienced guests and holiday-makers the best and most sought-after destinations as they become accessible – thus further enhancing our global offering while providing travellers best-in-class experiences and service.”

“The inaugural cruise will take place in less than six months from now,” concluded Mr. Onorato, “but we can definitely attest of the strong demand for the product, due to the combination of the attractiveness of Cuba as a culture-rich destination, coupled with the fact that it is offered through our distinctive MSC Cruises experience.”

The 7-night cruises will be available to MSC Cruises travellers with a combination of packages. In particular, from Spain, Italy, France and Germany, as well as Canada, Brazil and Argentina these will include of fly and cruise combinations. The Company is also pleased to announce that the opening of the sales across all channels for cruises on MSC Opera will be on Thursday 9 July.

To offer local ground services and shore excursions MSC Cruises will partner with Cubanacan, the Cuba-based group created more than 20 years ago known for its experienced professionals and high quality of service.

The first cruise will start from Havana on 22 December 2015, following MSC Opera’s Grand Voyage to Cuba from Genoa, departing on 2 December 2015. To ensure that guests can enjoy and discover the capital city, the Grand Voyage will include a call in Havana on 18 December, and resume its itinerary in the region before heading back to Cuba for its final call of the journey on 22 December. On 12 April 2016, the ship will leave Havana for a Grand Voyage back to Europe, with Warnemünde (Germany) as its final destination, arriving on 7 May 2016.

In connection with the deployment to Cuba, MSC Opera’s original winter 2015-16 schedule in the Canary Islands, Madeira and Morocco has been cancelled.

Fincantieri confirms Silversea behind 2014 luxury ship order

Silver Muse 1000px

Fincantieri, the Italian shipbuilder, said that the order for a new ultra-luxury cruise ship acquired in the first half 2014 is for the  Silversea Cruises and that the ship would be called Silver Muse on completion in April 2017.

“At 40,700 gross tons and accommodating 596 guests, the new ship will represent an evolution of Silver Spirit that will redefine ultra-luxury ocean travel, always maintaining the small-ship intimacy and spacious all-suite accommodations that are the hallmarks of the Silversea experience,” Fincantieri said in a statement.

The addition of the newbuilding will expand Silversea's fleet to nine ships, and will once again significantly raise the bar in the ultra-luxury cruise market with a wealth of enhancements to the onboard experience, while satisfying the uncompromising requirements for comfort, service, and quality of the world's most discerning travellers.

“We always had a special relationship with Fincantieri, since my father ordered them the first cruise vessels for Sitmar in 1987,” said Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio, Chairman of Silversea. “Both companies have a clear understanding of what today's affluent traveller seeks, and each approaches the market with originality, creativity, and quality. The management team led by Giuseppe Bono has been exceptional in managing Silversea's project and we have also been well supported by Sace."

According to Enzo Visone, Silversea's CEO, "With enhanced design specifications and enriched content, the Silver Muse will continue to build on the sophistication, innovative style and ground-breaking concepts for which Silversea ships are renowned. This ship contributes to our ambitious growth plans that will ensure our continued leadership in ultra-luxury cruising."

"We're very pleased to once again partner with Silversea,” commented Giuseppe Bono, CEO of Fincantieri. “Silversea has shown remarkable dynamism and ability to achieve important results in this market. This project offers us the opportunity to develop creative solutions and set new standards for shipbuilding in the ultra-luxury segment, in which Fincantieri has won every new order on the market in the recent past."

Mein Schiff 1 and Mein Schiff 2 to Thomson after latest newbuildings delivered

Thomson Cruises, the UK based cruise brand in the TUI AG group, will receive Mein Schiff 1 and Mein Schiff 2 once the two 99,300 gross ton newbuildings ordered today will enter service, TUI Cruises said in a statement.

“The new builds planned for 2018 and 2019 will successively replace Mein Schiff 1 and Mein Schiff 2. The first two TUI Cruises ships will be passed on to Thomson Cruises within TUI Group,” the company said. It had indicated that this could happen earlier, but this is the first time it has confirmed the matter.

The two ships were built in the mid-1990s for Celebrity Cruises and both went through substantial refurbishment before joining the Hamburg based company that employs them at the moment.

Sebastian Ebel, responsible for the cruise activities on the Board of TUI Group said: “We regard the cruise market as a growth market for our Group. By expanding our activities in this segment we want to drive the planned revenue and earnings increases for the TUI Group and at the same time develop into one of Europe s leading cruise providers.”

Thomson Cruises will next year receive the 1995 built Splendour of the Seas from Royal Caribbean International to replace the 1982 built Island Escape.  To be renamed Thomson Discovery, it will be owned and managed by TUI Cruises, which is 50/50 owned by TUI AG and Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd (RCCL), the world’s second largest cruise shipping group that also owns Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises.

Thomson Cruises operates five ships, all of which are built between1982 and 1992. It owns one of them, the 1986 built Thomson Dream.

TUI AG plans to replace the existing Thomson Cruises’ fleet with larger, owned tonnage.