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Thursday 28 February 2013

Carnival Cruise Lines offers 24/7 customer service

Carnival Spirit in Sydney (Flickr user: bluehorizon99)

In an Australian first, Carnival Cruise Lines has announced their call centre for Carnival Spirit will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, a move that provides guests and agents with constant access to the dedicated call centre team.

The change highlights Carnival Cruise Lines' commitment to providing superior guest service at a time that best suits Australians' busy lifestyles.

The change also strengthens Carnival Cruise Lines' commitment to support their loyal agent partners; many agents work long hours and throughout the weekend, and will appreciate continual call centre support.

Jennifer Vandekreeke, Director Carnival Cruise Lines Australia and New Zealand is confident the change will be a major help. "We know Aussies lead busy lives and we also know holiday inspiration can strike at any time.  For these reasons, and as part of our ongoing commitment to quality customer service, we will now be available for guests and agents whenever they need us."

Carnival Spirit currently sails from Sydney offering eight to 12-day cruises to the Pacific Islands with limited sailings to New Zealand and select cruises from Melbourne.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Titanic II Coming to New York

Titanic II And Statue Of Liberty

More than a 100 years since RMS Titanic was due to berth in the United States on its grand maiden voyage, a 21st century version of the legendary passenger ship, Titanic II, is coming to New York.

Blue Star Line chairman Professor Clive Palmer's dream for Titanic II is being unveiled at a Global Launch aboard the retired aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, a national historic landmark moored in New York Harbour and now home to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

The Australian billionaire will display the design plans for Titanic II at a gala black-tie dinner on USS Intrepid attended by more than 500 guests.

"While the focus of this Global Launch is to release never before seen blueprints of Titanic II, the event will also pay tribute to Titanic, her passengers and crew as well as look to the future and celebrate Titanic II," Professor Palmer said.

"Titanic was a ship of dreams and Titanic II will be the ship where the dreams come true."

He said his plan to build Titanic II and sail her from Southampton to New York on her maiden passenger voyage in late 2016 had generated worldwide interest.

"We have had more than 40,000 enquiries from around the world from people expressing an interest in securing a booking for the maiden voyage," he said.

A who's who of world leaders, senior diplomats and major American political figures will be treated to performances by Australian entertainer Glenn Shorrock, an Irish band from Australia, McGuinness & Co, as well as South Korean acoustic guitarist Sungha Jung and US classical violinist Taylor Davis.

Professor Palmer said his aim when it came to sourcing entertainment for the Global Launch was to make sure it reflected the entertainment aboard the original RMS Titanic in 1912.

"We have managed to source an array of established and up and coming artists," he said.

Professor Palmer said guests at the gala dinner would enjoy a 11-course 'Captain's Atlantic Dinner' featuring dishes from the original Titanic menus.

"I am flying in 60 top chefs from around the world to prepare this feast for our distinguished guests," he said.

Members of Club de Madrid, the world's largest forum of former democratic presidents and prime ministers, will be well represented at the launch.

The evening will be attended by former Canadian Prime Minister and Club de Madrid founder Kim Campbell as well as the Club's Executive Director and Vice President of The Gorbachev Foundation Anthony Jones and former President of Colombia Andrés Pastrana.

Other dignitaries include New York Senators Patrick M. Gallivan, Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Kevin S. Parker, Australia's Senior Trade Commissioner to the United States Richard Leather and United Kingdom's Consul General to New York Danny Lopez.

Directors Ding Jian Liang and Zhang Qi Ying from China's state-owned CSC Jinling Shipyard, who have been commissioned by Blue Star Line to build and coordinate the construction of Titanic II in China, will attend the New York dinner.

Professor Palmer said also joining him will be Markku Kanerva, Director of Sales of Finland-based marine design company Deltamarin, which has been commissioned to design Titanic II.

Other guests include Helen Benziger, a descendant of famous American socialite and Titanic survivor, Margaret 'Molly' Brown, who has agreed to join the advisory board for the Titanic II project.

Charity auctions will be held at the dinner in New York with proceeds going to (The New York Police and Fire Widow's Children's Benefit Fund).

For more information or to register interest in the maiden voyage, visit

Follow @clivefpalmer @titanic_ii and @blue_star_line on Twitter

Friday 15 February 2013

Azamara in fine trim for welterweight stoush

Azamara Quest in new blue livery

by Roderick Eime

Cruise ships, like elite boxers, come in all shapes and sizes. From nimble flyweight cruisers with a dozen or so berths, to the new super heavyweights carrying passengers in their thousands, there are vessels to cater to every taste and budget.

While mass market luxury may seem an oxymoron, there is a category of ship designed to deliver the comforts and onboard accoutrements of the familiar, ocean-going vessels, but retaining the low volume, crowd-free comforts of the more exclusive, boutique ships.

This ‘small ship’ category is certainly larger than those normally seen on these pages, but warrant mention based on their ability to provide a more personal, intimate experience while still retaining the range of enriching worldwide itineraries otherwise reserved for the great liners.

Azamara Club Cruises featured in Gourmet Travellers’ “Top 10 luxury cruise companies”, rubbing gunwales with the likes of Seabourn, Silversea, SeaDream and Hapag-Lloyd. Lofty company indeed, although you could easily expand that list to include Ponant and possibly Paul Gaugin.

Azamara’s two 700-passenger ships, Journey and Quest, both recently underwent drydock refurbishments and emerged with a distinctive new blue livery applied to their superstructure. But the upgrades were not limited to simply a coat of paint and new drapes.

Shipwide renovations included new carpets, upholstery, and a new colour palette in public spaces reflecting the cruise line’s inviting atmosphere; new mattresses and upgraded veranda furniture for suites and staterooms; and a resurfaced pool, and new sun lounges and pool towels on the outer decks. The Casino Bar also was expanded and enhanced with new furniture, while the Spa and fitness centre was refreshed with a new steam room, showers, and state-of-the-art Life Fitness cardio equipment. Crew areas were also upgraded.

On the culinary front, guests can now enjoy a new caviar and champagne bar within Aqualina, one of the ships' two speciality dining venues, as well as a new Chef’s Table concept featuring three wine degustation menus – Italian, French and Californian. At Mosaic Café, the ships' central gathering spot, guests can purchase a freshly brewed cup of bespoke coffee.

To further emphasis the line’s point-of-difference, the forthcoming 2013 and 2014 itineraries were overhauled to provide a more destination rich and location immersive experience for Azamara’s discerning guests with special attention afforded iconic cruise ports in eight of the world’s most exciting destinations, including Rome, Athens, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Istanbul, Jordan and Israel, India, and China.

ACM travelled aboard Azamara Journey almost straight from dry dock in Singapore, through Vietnam to Hong Kong, with extended stops in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ha Long Bay, allowing us to venture as far afield as Hanoi or enjoy a relaxing cruise among the signature limestone formations.

"Azamara Club Cruises' guests have an unquenchable desire to immerse themselves in the history, culture and night life of the destinations we visit, which is why we offer them longer stays, more overnights and night touring," said Claudius Docekal, the Deployment and Destinations specialist to the assembled media guests.

With these revamped itineraries and yet more guest inclusions planned, Azamara is making its presence felt in this exclusive small ship club.

For more information, contact your ICCA travel agent, visit or call 1800 754 500.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Premium Cruise Ship ASTOR to Call Fremantle Home

CMV expands into Australian market in 2013

Established UK-based cruise company Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) announced in Europe last night its scheduled expansion into the Australasian market.

From December 2013, the 620 passenger, premium cruise ship the ASTOR will operate itineraries throughout the Australian summer, from the Port of Fremantle, in Western Australia. CMV also announced its plans to open a dedicated sales office in Sydney.

The ASTOR has seven passenger decks and four restaurants, the highlights being the Waldorf Restaurant and the Ubersee Club Bistro. It also boasts five lounges, an extensive Sports Deck, including a golf driving range, two swimming pools and other modern facilities that the growing numbers of cruise passengers around the world have become accustomed to. She underwent an AUD$18.6 million refurbishment in 2010.

She is no stranger to Australia having visited the east coast during a Round the World voyage in 20II.

In announcing the move into the Australian market and the basing of the ASTOR in Fremantle, Mr. Christian Verhounig, Chairman and CEO of CMV UK said, ``We are extremely pleased to be entering the Australian cruise market and to introduce a new era of luxury ocean cruises on a premium ship from Fremantle Port to the loyal WA Cruising market.

``We are shortly to release our summer 2013/14 itineraries and will be offering a total of 15 cruises during the Australian 2013/2014 summer. The vessel will depart Rome on November 5, 2013 on its Southbound Voyage and will end its Australian season with a northbound around-Africa cruise departing Fremantle on April 1, 2014, arriving in to London on May 11, 2014.''

``The success of the mid size traditional ship business model, since it was launched in 2004, demonstrates that this niche sector has a significant place in the Australian cruise industry; a market and philosophy that is a perfect match to our UK operation. Our combined worldwide teams are thrilled to be part of the exciting WA Cruise industry. Travel agents and locals will be enthralled with the product offering that the ASTOR, and the support that our teams, will provide.''

The ASTOR is scheduled to arrive in to Fremantle from Rome on Wednesday, December 11, 2013. She has been confirmed for an initial schedule of three Australian summer itineraries.

For a limited introductory period, CMV Australia is offering generous early booking deals for the inaugural 2013/14 summer cruising season. Saver Fares offer discounts of up to 25% on full published fares, applicable to a limited number of twin and single cabin bookings made prior to May 15, 2013. This discount is not applicable to the New Year's Eve celebration cruise.

``Our popular Voyager Fares offer further savings on selected cruises. With these limited availability 'cabin guarantees', passengers can choose either an inner or ocean view cabin type and their category of accommodation and cabin number are confirmed at the ticketing stage. Also look for our Combination Cruise offers including an additional saving, or book two consecutive cruises at the same time and save up to an extra 5%,'' Mr Verhounig said.

Passengers will be able to book with their travel agent or direct via from next week.


Length - 176.5m / Width - 22.61m / Draught - 6.1m

Gross tonnage - 20,606 tonne

Cabins / suites / premium suites - 247 / 39 / 3

278 international officers and crew

- The ASTOR was built in Germany in 1987 and underwent an AUD$18.6 million refurbishment in 2010 to the cabins and public areas. She has cruised in Europe for the demanding German market for the past 10 years.

- The ASTOR has seven passenger decks and is a premium, fully stabilised and air-conditioned cruise liner with a maximum capacity of 620 guests.

- The ASTOR boasts the impressive Waldorf Restaurant, which offers traditional cruise two sitting, fixed-time dining options. Alternatively, passengers can opt for the more informal experience of the sun-drenched Übersee Club Bistro.

- The ASTOR has five lounge areas - the theatre style ASTOR Lounge, for some truly sparkling entertainment from the highly acclaimed show-team; the elegant Captain's Club, a perfect venue for pre-dinner cocktails with the resident pianist; the intimate Hanse Bar which leads onto the stylish Sonnen (Sun) Terrace Bar, with wonderful panoramic ocean views; and the Poolside Bar.

- A popular feature of the ASTOR is the Sports Deck, with a volleyball court, half court tennis, jogging track, golf practice facility, big board chess and space for yoga.

- Other facilities include the ship's Library, the Card Room, an internet café, a shopping arcade featuring a boutique, jeweller, perfumery and the Wellness Centre, which offers hairdressing and beauty treatments, an indoor swimming pool, ocean view fitness and exercise equipment, and sauna and massage facilities.

- There is an outdoor, plus an indoor swimming pool, two whirlpools and, in keeping with her heritage, a traditional walk around promenade deck. There is a very good selection of comfortable modern cabin accommodation from Standard to De Luxe with 70% of cabins having an ocean view and with individually controlled air-conditioning.

ASTOR 2014 Australia highlights

35 nights Grand Round Australian Circumnavigation

Sails from Fremantle on Tuesday, January 28, 2014. Routing - Kangaroo Island, Adelaide, Hobart and Port Arthur, Melbourne, Eden for Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Lombok, Komodo Island, Broome, Fremantle.

24 nights Far East Delights

Sails from Fremantle on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Routing - Singapore, Port Klang for Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Straights of Malacca, Phuket, Phi Phi Island, Penang, Bali, Fremantle.

About CMV

CMV is Britain's premier privately-owned cruise line and 2013 is its fourth year of operating cruises from a variety of UK ports. Since its launch in 2009, over 120,000 mainly British guests have happily cruised with CMV with 95% of its guest's having rated the enjoyment of their cruise experience as either excellent or good. CMV is an established United Kingdom-based independent cruise line and part of CMV Holdings London Ltd with an associate North American sales office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

CMV operates the 800 passenger MARCO POLO and the 700 passenger DISCOVERY and in 2013 AND AGAIN IN 20I4 will offer 129 cruises from a variety of UK ports. CMV Australia will be structured as a sales office to support the new Australian cruise operation in conjunction with the Global Maritime Group, CMV's majority shareholders.

For more information, visit Cruise & Maritime Voyages at

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Port Review: Penang, Malaysia

Originally published in Cruise Weekly

“The Pearl of the Orient”



Known in British colonial times as “The Pearl of the Orient”, Penang was founded in 1786 by a an English sea captain and entrepreneur, Francis Light, who persuaded the local Sultan of Kedah to grant him the entire 285 sq km island of Pulau Pinang and create a trading port. Located on the Straits of Malacca, it later formed part of the so-called 'Straits Settlement' along with Malacca and Singapore, flourishing into a multicultural hub and centre for such commodities as tea, spices, porcelain and cloth. Indian, Malay, Chinese, British, Portuguese and Dutch inhabitants and traders all made their presence felt in the culture and religion with many architectural remnants left to explore. Within this multiracial melting pot a unique culture developed. The so-called Baba-Nyonya culture of “peranakan” grew from the many Chinese-Malay intermarriages, spawning its own food, costume and rituals. A dedicated display can be found in the Penang State Museum.

In 1957 the British Colonial rulers granted Malaysia independence and in 2008, the historic district of George Town was inscribed by UNESCO onto their World Heritage list.

Who Goes There?

Penang's deepwater, century-old Swettenham Pier is frequented by local cruise lines like Star Cruises who offer 3-night Phuket/Krabi trips, but also others who choose this colourful metropolis for its vibrant shore attractions. In the last 12 months, Penang has seen visits from RCCL, Cunard, Princess, Costa, Oceania, Ponant, AIDA, Silversea, Seabourn, Seven Seas and P&O (UK). Azamara joins this list from 2013 with the newly refurbished vessel, Journey. Peak arrivals are in January and December, with total cruise ship movements expected to be around 100 for 2013. 115,000 passengers arrived in Penang last year (3% up from 2011) with the vast majority from Singapore and India. Australian arrivals are declining, down to just 6500 last year from a peak of 12,400 in 2009, but expect that number to trend upward again as new and larger vessels find their way into the region.

Going Ashore

Offered excursions will almost certainly include tours of the many heritage buildings, places of worship and sites such as Fort Cornwallis, City Hall and State Museum, but Penang is also renown as a confluence of food cultures. On every street corner and down every tiny lane there seems to be a row of little food carts offering everything from coconut, rice noodle and bean desserts (cendol) to more spicy offerings such as nasi lemak, nyonya kuih, prawn noodle, apom balik and the famous asam laksa acclaimed by CNNGo as one of the world's 50 most delicious foods. If the timing is right, cruises may arrive during any one of the almost monthly festivals and celebrations such as Chinese New Year (January) and the bizarre Hindu event, Thaipusam (February).

Staying on

If you are fortunate (or clever) enough to arrange extra time in Penang by starting or ending your cruise there, the obvious accommodation option is the magnificent 1885-built Eastern & Oriental Hotel, [] located in the heart of the historic district and recently renovated to its full glory.

Flying there

Malaysia Airlines flies regularly from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Penang (PEN). ||