A few weeks ago in my blog, I mentioned Azamara Club Cruises planned more overnights for its ships in 2013, along with some late-night departures. Now I know why.
On every cruise, starting with the European deployment next year, Azamara will include an evening excursion as part of the basic cruise price. But it also means eliminating the 50 per cent discount off port excursions.
The cruise line calls the night shore excursions one-of-a-kind events exclusive to Azamara and claims they can't be duplicated by private operators. There will be 52 night events, starting March 27 on the Azamara Quest and May 15 on the Journey. Passengers who are already booked on Azamara ships after those dates will get the benefit of the excursions.
"Guests sailing a Baltic voyage, for example, could enjoy a private ballet performance in St. Petersburg, Russia, while walking the red carpet and sipping champagne," said Azamara president Larry Pimentel. "Or those on a Mediterranean voyage may find themselves sampling Jerez - Spain's famous sherry wine - at Gonzalez Byass, and later enjoying a private equestrian ballet at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art."
Azamara has been quietly testing nighttime excursions during the past year, and is enhancing them with some goodies - complimentary spirits and beer at lunch and dinner along with the already included wines.
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This may be the start of a trend by river cruise lines that spend most of their time in Europe and want to offer more choice.
Avalon Waterways has formed a partnership with the American Queen Steamboat Company to become the first European line to offer cruises in North America.
American Queen will handle the cruise part of the trip, while Avalon will take care of the land tours, with up to 40 passengers per trip. Some Avalon staff members will work on the cruises, which start in 2013.
Avalon's main sales and marketing effort will go into a 12-day America's Heartland cruise that goes from Nashville to New Orleans. It starts on land with the first two days in Nashville and two more in Memphis before boarding American Queen for the seven-day cruise to New Orleans, where passengers will spend one extra day.
Starting price: $4,629 per person, based on double occupancy.
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The grapevine has it that Royal Caribbean is building a third Oasis Class ship - a third "largest cruise ship in the world." The rumour originated in a Finnish newspaper. However, spokesperson Cynthia Martinez has said, "It's a rumour. We don't comment on rumours."
Well, she didn't say no. However, this is not a rumour: Norwegian Cruise Line is to take delivery of its new ship, Getaway, ahead of schedule in 2014. Meyer Werft - Getaway's builder and one of the leading builders of luxury passenger ships - has advised Norwegian that the Getaway will be ready for customers by mid-January, four months earlier than anticipated.
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