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#1 Ирина Архипова

Ирина Архипова

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Отправлено 18 Февраль 2009 - 12:01

Costa Cruises Signs Deal with Ryanair

Costa Cruises is increasing its visibility among Brits by teaming up with Ryanair.

The Italian cruise line has signed a deal with the low-cost airline, with cruises now available through the Ryanair's Web site.

From today, Monday, Ryanair will feature a tab on its U.K. Web site for passengers interested in cruising. Once a passenger clicks through they can search through Costa Cruises' cruise-only deals. Any customers who book through Ryanair's Web site by 16 March will receive Ј100 onboard credit per cabin.

Speaking about the three-year partnership at a press conference in London, Costa's U.K. managing director Marco Rosa said it was a new "and important channel" for the Italian cruise line as it continues to grow (by 2012, Costa is set to have 17 ships in its fleet). Costa's aim is to attract Ryanair's typically younger (25 to 45), Internet-savvy customers to cruising.

Ryanair will offer easy access to purchase flights to embarkation ports for Costa's Mediterranean departures including Venice, Barcelona and Rome.

Despite Ryanair's extra luggage fares, Rosa is confident that it will still be cheaper for passengers to book with the airline than with other European carriers. Ryanair currently offers 15kg in the hold and 10kg carry-on -- if you go over this -- which on a cruise you are likely to -- the excess baggage charge is Ј14 per kilo.

Another thing to note -- if you book a Ryanair flight to Barcelona however, beware that the flights actually arrive in Girona, which is around 100 kilometres from the Spanish city. Allow plenty of time to arrive.

The Costa Cruises tab will be available on Ryanair's European sites soon.

Oasis of the Seas' Mystery Pit Stop

Oasis of the Seas and Southampton There's something mysterious on Southampton's schedule -- is Oasis coming to town?

Eagle-eyed Cruise Critic member CRUISEAHOLIC48 spotted on the Port of Southampton's Web site that Royal Caribbean's 220,000-ton, 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas is slated to call on the U.K. port on November 8, 2009. Oasis of the Seas is the year's most anticipated cruise ship, and will surpass its Freedom-class siblings as the largest in the world.

The ship won't yet be sailing revenue cruises (the first voyage open to the public departs Ft. Lauderdale on December 1), so the stop would likely be during its repositioning from the shipyard in Finland across the Atlantic to the Florida homeport. Before Independence of the Seas launched last April, the line held a few days worth of festivities in Southampton, including events onboard for contest winners and a party in Mayflower Park (near to the cruise terminal) for residents who wanted to check it out from afar.

Southampton's online calendar shows Oasis docked from noon until 5 p.m. -- just enough time to get a glimpse of the mammoth ship! But don't make plans just yet to park yourself near the pier for a sneak peek. The Web site states that the schedule "is strictly provisional and may be subject to alteration without prior notice." A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean confirms that though a brief stop in Southampton is one of the options, the schedule for Oasis is yet to be finalized.

"Solstice was also on the schedule in 2008," CRUISEAHOLIC48 points out, "but she sailed right past to Ft. Lauderdale, so will see what happens with Oasis."

Royal Caribbean could not share any details at this point as to what would go on in port should Oasis make the call. We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, join the discussion and tell us what you think about Oasis' "mystery" call!

(P.S.: For those following all things Oasis, a Royal Caribbean spokesman tells Cruise Critic that the next scheduled "reveal" will take place during Seatrade, the massive annual cruise industry convention, in mid-March -- we'll be there!)

--by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor, and Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor http://www.cruisecritic.com/
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#2 Ирина Архипова

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Отправлено 18 Февраль 2009 - 12:21

Norwegian Cruise Line Names F3 Project Ship
Norwegian Epic A smattering of new details have diffused the mystery surrounding Norwegian Cruise Line's 150,000-ton, 4,200-passenger F3 project.

The largest, most innovative cruise ship ever built by NCL will be named Norwegian Epic. The line also revealed today the first season of itineraries -- alternating seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises from Miami -- during a online event for travel agents.

You may recall that F3 was originally the project name for a pair of ships that were supposed to introduce industry firsts, such as the futuristic curved-walled "New Wave" staterooms and for-fee, red carpet-style nighttime venues, including an ice bar. But all that was put on hold after a dispute erupted between the shipyard, STX Europe France, and the line, which ultimately resulted in the cancelation of the originally scheduled second F3 vessel.

Now, the ship is back on track for its May 2010 debut -- in the U.K. we're told -- and the staterooms and nighttime venues already revealed remain in place.

The ship will debut in May 2010 with a series of pre-inaugural cruises, open only to specially invited passengers (details on these early cruises, as well as the inaugural events, will be revealed at a later date). The first "official" sailing out of Miami will follow sometime in the summer of 2010, with alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises offered through April 2011. The Western Caribbean cruise includes stops in Costa Maya, Roatan and Cozumel. Norwegian Epic's Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes calls in St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau. Bookings will open to the public sometime in March; cabin prices have not yet been revealed.

Stay tuned for new information -- we expect to hear much more about this ship in the coming months.

--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor http://www.cruisecritic.com/
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#3 Ирина Архипова

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Отправлено 06 Март 2009 - 13:59

Fire Onboard Costa Romantica Impacts Cruise, Cancels Another

Costa Romantica An engine room fire that broke out onboard Costa Romantica near Punta del Este, Uruguay, Wednesday night delayed the disembarkation of passengers on its February 18 cruise and has prompted the cancelation of the February 26 voyage.

The fire, which occurred to one of four diesel generators in the engine room on Deck 1, was promptly extinguished and posed no danger to passengers or crew, according to a company statement. However, the fire did cause a general blackout onboard. Though an emergency generator switched on immediately, the ship did not have the required propulsion to carry onward to Buenos Aires, where the eight-night Brazil cruise was scheduled to end Thursday morning.

Costa Romantica remained anchored off the coast of Punta del Este until midday Thursday. During this time, crew worked to restore electricity, basic onboard services and the propulsion needed to get the ship and passengers to the nearest port, Punta del Este, to commence disembarkation Thursday evening. Costa then transferred passengers via bus to Buenos Aires to continue their journey home.

A Costa spokeswoman tells us that full assistance was given to all guests with transportation issues, such as missed flights, whether they booked their air arrangements independently or through the cruise line. Costa has also offered the passengers on this voyage a refund equivalent to two days of the cruise fare paid, and a credit of 20 percent of the paid price (for the cruise only), valid toward a future Costa cruise through December 31, 2010.

Because of the delay -- and the fact that Costa Romantica will be out of service for at least the next scheduled cruise for additional repairs -- passengers that were supposed to set sail yesterday on a 14-night cruise down to Cape Horn and back, roundtrip Buenos Aires, are also impacted. Costa put these guests up at local hotels overnight, and also covered transportation and meal expenses.

These passengers now have two options. Costa is in the process of arranging an alternate vacation at a land-based resort through March 12, when the cruise would have ended. Those who do not want to take the resort option will receive a full refund of the amount paid and assistance with their onward travels, whether they booked their original air arrangements on their own or with Costa.

Also, all guests on the canceled February 26 sailing -- no matter which option they choose -- will receive a credit equivalent to 50 percent of the fare paid (for the cruise only) valid toward a future Costa cruise through December 31, 2010.

At this point, Costa Romantica's next cruise, a three-night sailing roundtrip from Buenos Aires with a call at Punta del Este, is expected to depart as scheduled on March 12. We'll keep you posted.

--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor http://www.cruisecritic.com/
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#4 Ирина Архипова

Ирина Архипова

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Отправлено 06 Март 2009 - 14:10

No Job? No Worries with NCL's Travel Protection Plan

What happens if you really want to book a cruise -- but are afraid you may lose your job before the sail date? Norwegian Cruise Line today announced a new program, called BookSafe Travel Protection Plan, which will provide a full cash reimbursement to passengers who are forced to cancel their trip because they have been laid off.

BookSafe works like a travel insurance policy. The cost of the plan varies based on cruise fare, but starts at $29 per person. Under the plan, if you lose your job and need to cancel a cruise -- at any time, even the day before -- you will be reimbursed for the total amount paid (with no cancellation fees) for everyone in the cabin, as long as a protection plan was purchased for each traveler. BookSafe covers everything booked through NCL, even air/sea packages; the only thing you won't be reimbursed for is the cost of the plan itself. To be eligible for reimbursement, you must have been an active employee in your company for at least one year at the time of cancellation.

BookSafe can be purchased by anyone (including U.K.-based cruise travelers) any time prior to final payment. The program goes into effect on February 26 and is eligible for cruises departing on or after May 1.

The plan is certainly timely and relevant to the current economic climate, but it's not necessarily original. Airline JetBlue is already offering the JetBlue Promise Program, which will refund airfares and waive cancellation fees if you lose your job and need to cancel a flight (though unlike NCL's plan, this guarantee is offered at no extra cost to the consumer). Outside of travel, car manufacturer Hyundai is offering Hyundai Assurance Plus, also free of charge, which covers your car payments for three months if you lose your job -- and if you still can't afford the car, you can return it to the dealer.

Even though BookSafe is not free, there are advantages to choosing it over a "cancel for any reason" rider on your travel insurance policy. For example, we priced out a travel insurance policy from well-known insurance provider, Travel Guard, for a weeklong cruise to the Caribbean costing $499 per person. Though the cost to add "cancel for any reason" is less than taking NCL's plan ($19 per person versus $29), reimbursement is capped at 75 percent. Plus, you'd have to purchase that coverage within two weeks of your initial deposit.

NCL is the first line to offer a job loss program, paid or otherwise, to cruise travelers. We asked a handful of other cruise lines, such as Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Silversea and Seabourn, if they are planning similar programs. At this point, the consensus is no -- but we're waiting to see who'll follow NCL's lead.

Stay tuned.

--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor http://www.cruisecritic.com/
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