Monday, August 4, 2008

The Jazz Cruise: All That Jazz, All the Time

Jazz fans, get ready to groove to the sounds during the 8th annual Jazz Cruise this November aboard Holland America's Westerdam, which sails from Fort Lauderdale to the Western Caribbean.

The cruise bills itself as the "first and only full-ship charter in the world dedicated solely to straight ahead jazz."

Organizer Anita Berry promises that except when the ship is in port -- in Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Belize -- music or related activities will fill the sea air. In the evenings, you're likely to hear jazz played in as many as four or five venues at a time, ideal for music "grazing," as Berry puts it.

Among the jazz all-stars aboard will be Greg Fishman (pictured above, right), Pete Barbutti, Wycliffe Gordon, Laura MacDonald, Jay Leonhart, Judy Roberts, and Mike Wofford, among others. Besides hearing them play, you can meet them during the cruise's "Conversation with the Stars" panel discussions as well as at CD signing sessions.

The Jazz Cruise departs Fort Lauderdale November 9 and returns November 16. Besides the four ports of call, you can enjoy two full days at sea during the week.

Pricing ranges from $1,600 per passenger in double occupancy for an inside cabin to $7,500 per person for a penthouse suite. Outside staterooms are available in the $1,700-$1,875 range per person. Single cabins start at $2,200. Another $285 per person in taxes and fees is additional.

Full payment is due no later than Otcober 1, 2008. Keep in mind that the 2007 Jazz Cruise sold out, so put down a deposit as soon as possible if you want to join up.

To book, call Jazz Cruises at 800/762-6737 or 314/862-7777. For The Jazz Cruise website, click here.

Photo from Jazz Cruises, LLC.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bird (watchers) of a feather cruise together on Hurtigruten

Pack your binoculars and bird books: Hurtigruten is featuring two Arctic Birding Safaris along the gorgeous Norwegian coast in the spring of 2009, when bird-watchers can set their sights on flocks of birds native to Norway, such as kittiwakes and Razor-billed auks. You might also spot Sea eagles and a variety of seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, and birds of prey.

If you're really lucky, you might spot the rare Norwegian worm tern. (OK, I made that up, but you never know...)

Far more knowledgeable birding experts than I will accompany the cruises, a 12-day voyage departing Bergen for Kirkenes March 28, 2009, and a six-day voyage departing Kirkenes -- near the Russian border wa-a-a-ay up north and east -- for Bergen April 3, 2009. (For those who haven't figured it out yet, the six-day cruise is actually the return portion of the first cruise.)

In either or both directions, you'll cruise fjords, stop in remote fishing settlements, and sail past the Top of Europe, with snow-capped peaks -- and, one hopes, lots of birds -- in the background.

Besides expert naturalists aboard, the cruise will be accompanied by art and photography instructors, who will teach you how to draw, paint, or photograph your own wildlife scenes.

Double occupancy fares start at $1,099 for the six-day cruise and $1,899 for the 12-day cruise. Fuel surcharges ranging from $36 to $72 per person are not included. These fares apply to North American residents only.

For more information or bookings, go to the Hurtigruten website or call 800/323-7436 or a travel agent.

Photo courtesy of Hurtigruten.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ladies who launch: cruise Alaska with Red Hat Society

The Red Hat Society, which boasts 1.5 million 50-and-older female members worldwide -- and whose red hats and purple dresses cry out "We're going to have fun!" -- is cruising Alaska's Inside Passage this August on Holland America's ms Amsterdam.

I'm just taking a wild guess at this, but I imagine the Red Hat ladies will be decked out in their finest red and purple plumage in the dining rooms, and, when in port, they'll catch the eye of everyone in Ketchikan and cause everyone in Sitka to sit up and take notice as well. On board, they'll compete for attention with the whales, bears, and bald eagles on view in the Alaskan waters, land, and air.

The fun starts in Seattle on August 1 and proceeds through the Inside Passage to Juneau, Tracy Arm (glacier), Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria, B.C., before returning to Seattle.

Advertised rates start at $1,149, double occupancy, including port charges but not including government taxes. However, a limited number of inside cabins were recently made available for $949 per Red Hatter. For more information on booking yourself onto this cruise, click here.

And what if you're female and over 50 but not a Red Hatter? No problem! Click here to join now. Just don't forget to pack your red hat.

Photo of Red Hat ladies by Kevin Farrington, courtesy of Red Hat Society.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Smooth Music Cruise slated for early 2009

If you sign up for the Smooth Music Cruise scheduled to set sail from Miami to the Bahamas January 31 to February 5, 2009, you can be pretty certain all your fellow shipmates will be smooth music fans as well. The entire Celebrity Century ship has been chartered for this five-day theme cruise.

Orchestrated by music industry executive Bob Jamieson, the cruise will feature performers (including Grammy, Tony, and Emmy Award winners) such as Nick Colionne, Norman Brown, Boney James, Mindi Abair, and Althea Rene. Day and night shows, autograph signings, interview sessions and late-night jam sessions are all on the bill.

When you aren't grooving to the sounds, you can enjoy port stops at Key West, Coco Cay (Celebrity Cruises' private island), and Nassau, Bahamas. The Celebrity Century has been refurbished to include 314 new private verandahs, 14 new Sky Suites and 174 new Concierge Class staterooms. Rates start at $999 for inside cabins.

For more information, go to the Smooth Music Cruise website. For bookings, call Cruises Only at 877/529-9729 (if you're outside the U.S. or Canada, call 00-1-617-587-6200.

Photo of the Century from Celebrity Cruises.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Whodunit? You have eight Carnival murder-mystery cruises to find out

Typically, when milk has spilled or something has been knocked over in our home, and my wife asks me: "Whodunit?", I answer: "The cats." Of course, it's actually me, but the cats just look guilty so I usually get away with it. Even Poirot would be fooled.

That's why I'm particularly excited to tell you about an upcoming eight-part series of "Whodunit Cruises" on the 2,000-passenger Carnival Paradise running from late October 2008 (Halloween night!) until December 2009. The three-night cruises sail roundtrip to Ensenada, Mexico, out of Long Beach, California.

This is true passenger participation. Assuming you've registered for the festivities in advance, you'll be given your own role to play in a murder mystery as soon as you board your cruise. Professional actors will also be onboard to add atmosphere. Activities will take place in a variety of public rooms and areas of the ship, all with the objective of solving the mystery before the end of the voyage. Clues will be slipped under stateroom doors so you can put your crime-solving skills to the test.

The whole production is coordinated by the aptly named Whodunit Productions, the leading organizer of mystery cruises, so you know it won't be cheesy (or maybe it will, but that's part of the fun). And you'll have all the usual Carnival amenities and food to keep you happy as well, assuming you aren't the murder victim.

Prices start at $348 per person, double occupancy, which includes all mystery cruise activities.

Personally, I think it was done in the balcony suite (see above) by the masseuse with the hard-boiled eggs from the breakfast buffet -- but maybe it was just the cats all along.

For bookings, call the special reservations nunber at 866/857-7080 and ask for fare code CPMM/FPMM for individual bookings or CPMG/FPMG for group bookings.

Photo from Carnival Cruise Lines.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Calling all food and wine aficionados: Silversea has a Med cruise for you

This item sent me straight to the kitchen cupboard to gorge on chips.

Not that it has anything to do with so prosaic a food, but it made me hungry, and what are you gonna do?

Anyway, the cruise in question is called the Food & Wine Aficionado Mediterranean Cruise, aboard Silversea's ultra-luxury, 382-passenger Silver Whisper departing August 16, 2008, from Barcelona to Rome.

The week-long itinerary alone makes one salivate: port calls include Menton and Calvi, France; Poltu Quatu, Sardinia; Monaco; and Livorno and Portofino, Italy.

The cruise will be hosted by Sonoma, California, restaurateur Sondra Bernstein, owner of the restaurant "the girl & the fig," and chef John Toulze of the same Wine Country eatery.

Onboard food and wine pairings will feature the food of France, Spain and Italy (no surprise there); gourmet cooking demonstrations and special receptions and walking tours will be part of the mix.

This is not a budget cruise, but you knew that. Fares begin at $4,546 per person, but they do include oceanview suites, most with private verandah; complimentary wines and spirits; open seating dining; and all onboard gratuities.

For more information on this cruise, go to the Millennium Travel website or call 800/304-6838. For more information on Silversea, click here.

Photo of Silversea suite from Millennium Travel.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Step up to the plate and cruise the Caribbean with baseball greats on MSC Lirica

Ever wanted to hone your curveball techniques under the tutelage of Hall of Famer pitcher Bob Feller? Or to test your knowledge of baseball trivia -- with one-time outfield great Tommy Davis throwing out the questions? Or just listen in while former stars like Dave Campbell and Jeff Torborg swap insider tales of baseball hijinks and lowballs?

And cruise the western Caribbean at the same time? If that sounds like your idea of heaven on a stick, grab your mitt and swimsuit and prepare to strike out for the high seas version of the hot stove league.

MSC Cruises launches the opening pitch in its new series of baseball greats theme cruises on December 13, 2008 -- a seven-night voyage aboard the MSC Lirica that features all the above-named stars and more, on hand to sign free autographs, conduct clinics and pitching contests, tell some tales, and field questions from a rapt group of passenger-fans.

Between sessions, you can take a "seventh inning stretch" from baseball to explore ports of call like Key West, Florida; Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cayo Levantado, Dominican Republic, where the cruise line keeps a private beach retreat. The cruise runs roundtrip out of Fort Lauderdale.

Cruise-only prices start at $449 per person, double occupancy, for the lowest category interior cabin. And until April 30, you can receive a free upgrade to an oceanview stateroom by signing up for a higher-category interior cabin for $629 per person, double occupancy.

Kids under 17 sail free when sharing a stateroom with two full fare-paying adults. For all passengers, government fees and taxes are additional, as is a fuel surcharge for the first two passengers in a cabin.

The December 13 voyage is the first in a series of winter 2008-2009 baseball-themed cruises. The MSC Orchestra will host baseball greats on its January 24, February 28, March 28, and March 11, 2009, Caribbean itineraries.

For more information or bookings, click here for the MSC website or call 800/666-9333 or a travel agent.

MSC Lirica photo from MSC Cruises.