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Cruise Report: New vessels, activities and accolades

Courtesy River Discovery Center

It’s been a big summer for American Cruise Lines. The company is celebrating the launch of Queen of the Mississippi, the first new paddle wheeler built for the Mississippi River in nearly 20 years. The 150-passenger vessel entered service August 4 with an eight-day round-trip voyage from New Orleans.

Gearing up for its launch on August 31, at press time, Sea Voyager Expeditions was readying its newly renovated 60-passenger Sea Voyager for exploring the waters, beaches, jungles and cities of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama.

The Silversea Group has purchased Canodros S.A., the Ecuadorian tourism company that operates in the Galapagos Islands, and its expedition ship, Galapagos Explorer II. Silversea plans to add the vessel to its fleet in September 2013 after the ship undergoes a major refurbishment.

Aboard Ship
Celebrity Cruises has expanded its “ConciergeClass” accommodations amenities to include hand-delivered, customized courtesy cards to ensure that guests can directly contact the concierge at any time during the cruise for assistance with special occasions or any requests they may have.

Princess Cruises, in partnership with the Alaska State Museum, has unveiled a special exhibit aboard its seven Alaska ships. The show, titled “Then and Now: 100 Years of Cruising Alaska’s Waters,” gives cruisers a glimpse of Alaska and the Inside Passage as it was a century ago, as experienced by early steamship “excursionists.” The exhibit, which will be displayed in the atrium of Princess ships during port calls in Juneau, features a selection of 30 early-20th-century photographs and accompanying artifacts largely from the collections of the museum and the Alaska State Library.

Holland America Line has unveiled a new Master Chef’s International Dinner in its main dining rooms; the dinners showcase signature dishes from around the world. The menu is offered once per cruise and features cuisine from six continents crafted by Holland America Line’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin and several of the line’s other chefs.

Cunard Line has announced the first shipboard screenings of the 3-D feature film “Madam Butterfly 3D” in RealD digital 3-D projection technology. Captured during live performances at London’s Royal Opera House, “Madam Butterfly 3D” is being shown aboard Cunard’s flagship, Queen Mary 2.

Noted curators, officials and doyens are now adding insiders’ perspectives in more than two dozen Crystal Cruises’ European ports of call. The program, called “Local Insights,” brings aboard native experts to share their knowledge about each destination’s art, politics, archaeology or history. And in another industry first, Crystal is teaming up with the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts to present “Digital Filmmaking: The iPad iMovie Video Course” through the line’s Creative Learning Institute.

Recent Accolades
For the ninth consecutive year, Royal Caribbean International has placed first among 28 cruise lines in the 2012 Canadian Travel Press Agents’ Choice Awards. Crystal Cruises has again been crowned as “World’s Best Large-Ship Cruise Line” in the annual Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards readers survey, the line’s 17th consecutive triumph. In the same poll, Seabourn collected a fourth consecutive title as “World’s Best Small-Ship Cruise Line.”

At a ceremony in late May, Holland America Line was presented a 2012 Alaska Governor’s North Star Award for International Excellence in Tourism, recognizing its initiatives, which include cultural-exchange programs and promoting the state as a top visitor destination. Finally, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has announced that its Super Ship Antoinette has won “Best New Ship (River Cruise)” in TravelAge West’s 2012 WAVE (Western Agents’ Votes of Excellence) Awards.