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March 02/2016

LOS ANGELES, CA - Continuing its trend of groundbreaking news, the world's most awarded luxury cruise line will return to the famed Northwest Passage in August 2017. Beginning August 15, 2017, Crystal Cruises' award-winning ocean ship, Crystal Serenity, will sail a 32-day expedition-style voyage traversing the Arctic Ocean from Anchorage/Seward, Alaska to New York City via the legendary route (500 miles north of the Arctic Circle), first completed successfully by Roald Amundsen more than 100 years ago. The announcement comes shortly after the luxury cruise line's plans to reposition Crystal Serenity's 2017 voyages during the spring and summer to Alaska and coastal itineraries.

"We are thrilled to offer intrepid luxury travelers a second opportunity to explore this historical sea passage," said Crystal's CEO and President Edie Rodriguez. "Given the tremendous response to our inaugural Northwest Passage sailing in 2016, it's clear that discerning travelers continue to value rare and memorable experiences as much as they prize unmatched luxury."

Beginning August 16, 2016 Crystal will be the largest luxury cruise line to ever navigate the route, maneuvering through 900 miles of majestic waterways lined with spectacular glaciers, towering fjords, and vast unspoiled landscapes away from mainstream civilization and tourism, north of mainland Canada. 

In 2017, Crystal will again partner with Expedition Voyage Consulting by EYOS Expeditions, providers of bespoke expeditions to the most remote regions on Earth in safety and luxury, for the planning of the itinerary's shore-side adventures. Additionally, the line has diligently gathered information and resources from field experts, going so far as meeting with the Inuit elders of the Arctic, to create an expedition voyage that is rewarding and thrilling for guests while also remaining respectful to the local lands and cultures. 

Following in the footsteps of intrepid explorers, the journey through once-unpassable waterways employs new or enhanced approaches to itinerary scheduling, destination visits, onboard offerings, and safety standards. The first call in the Canadian Arctic is planned for the Hamlet of Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, a settlement of just a few hundred people on the shores of the Amundsen Gulf, just 1,400 miles from the North Pole. 

Ports-of-Call: Anchorage/Seward, Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, and Nome, Alaska; Ulukhaktok, NW Territories; Cambridge Bay and Pond Inlet, Nunavut; Ilulissat, Sisimiut, and Nuuk, Greenland; Bar Harbor, Maine; Boston, Massachusetts; Newport, Rhode Island, and New York, New York.
Waterways: North Pacific Ocean; Bering Sea & Bering Strait; Chukchi & Beaufort Seas; Amundsen Gulf; Dolphin & Union Strait; Coronation Gulf; Dease Strait; Queen Maud Gulf; Victoria Strait; Larsen Sound; Franklin & Bellot Straits; Peel Sound; Parry Channel; Barrow Strait; Prince Regent Inlet; Lancaster Sound; Croker Bay; Navy Board Inlet; Eclipse Sound; Baffin Bay; Davis Strait; Labrador Sea; North Atlantic Ocean.

Crystal Cruises is the world's most awarded luxury cruise line, having earned more "World's Best" accolades than any other cruise line, hotel, or resort in history.  Crystal Cruises has won "World's Best Cruise Ship" in Condé Nast Traveler's Reader Choice Awards for 22 years; been voted "World's Best Large Ship Cruise Line" by Travel + Leisure readers for 20 consecutive years; and the "Best Luxury Cruise Line" by Virtuoso for two-consecutive years (2014 & 2015). In summer 2015, Crystal embarked on the most significant brand expansion in the history of luxury travel and hospitality, introducing three new classes of cruising – the recently launched Crystal Yacht Cruises (December 2015), Crystal River Cruises (July 2016), Crystal Exclusive Class Ocean Cruises (late 2018) – and Crystal Luxury Air (March 2016).



OCTOBER 07, 2014

Photo: The new American Eagle riverboat is scheduled to depart on its inaugural cruise March 28. (Rendering courtesy of American Cruise Lines)

American Cruise Lines has named its new 150-passenger riverboat American Eagle. It is scheduled to depart on its first cruise on March 28.

The paddlewheeler, which is similar to the Queen of the Mississippi, will operate on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. It primarily offers seven-night cruises round-trip from New Orleans and between New Orleans and Memphis, at fares from $4,320. From Aug. 22 through mid-September, the vessel will operate three seven-night cruises between St. Louis and St. Paul, Minn.  

Of particular note are two longer sailings that explore the entire length of the Mississippi River, between New Orleans and St. Paul. The northbound version departs Aug. 8 and takes 21 nights as it heads upriver to St. Paul. It is priced from $12,180. The southbound option departs Sept. 12 and only takes 14 nights; fares start at $8,420.

“It’s been evident that our guests enjoy cruising more than one portion of the Mississippi River at a time, often purchasing cruises back-to-back,” said Timothy Beebe, vice president of American Cruise Lines. “With this new offering, we provide a unique opportunity to travel the entire leg of the Mississippi River and experience the complete history of the western frontier.”

The 21-night “Complete Mississippi Cruise” will visit 16 ports from the Deep South to the Upper Midwest. Among the ports of call are Baton Rouge, La.; Natchez, Miss.; Memphis; St. Louis; Hannibal, Mo.; Davenport, Iowa; La Crosse, Wis.; and Red Wing, Minn. The downriver 14-night “Grand Heartland Cruise” itinerary includes 12 ports of call.

Although very similar to the Queen of the Mississippi, which entered service in August 2012, there are a few changes on the American Eagle. Both accommodate 150 passengers, but the American Eagle has nine balcony staterooms (including three singles) on the top deck, Deck 5. Another change on the newer vessel — all balcony rooms have floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. The American Eagle has 19 single staterooms and all but one have private balconies.

The oversized staterooms all have interior entrances, complimentary Wi-Fi, room service, satellite TV and DVD player, and coffee brewers.

The ship’s Grand Dining Room has open seating and can accommodate all passengers at the same time. The Top Deck Café offers beverages, snacks and pastries throughout the day. The American Eagle also has elevators that go to all decks, an exercise area and putting green and six lounges. It has an authentic paddlewheel as well as the latest navigation and safety equipment.



Best New Ship: Norwegian Breakaway / Image via

Oct 17, 2013

PENNINGTON, NJ - 2013 Editors' Picks Awards, naming the best cruise lines, ships and ports for 2013, was released today. Cruise lines are awarded in 18 categories, by Cruise Critic's international team of editors.

"Over the past year, our editors have covered every major ocean and river cruise line in the world -- around 75 cruise lines, representing more than 400 ships," explains Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. "Choosing the best out of that list is always a tough task; there are so many fantastic offerings available, and lines are constantly improving their products. Taking all of this into account, this list represents the ships and lines that we feel have gone above and beyond this year."

Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Cruise Line's New York-themed ship, was named Best New Ship, after debuting in April 2013. The ship was lauded for its state-of-the-art sports complex and variety of dining options -- including waterfront venues and celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian's new restaurant, Ocean Blue.

For the third year in a row, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line won Best Entertainment for its impressive entertainment options across its entire fleet – including Broadway performances like "Hairspray" and "Chicago," ice skating productions and aerial shows.

Disney Cruise Line won in two categories - Best for Families and Best Shore Excursions - for its creative programming for all ages, such as family archeological digs in Athens and cigar rolling in Nassau. Azamara Club Cruises won Best Value-for-Money for its inclusive offerings, and Oceania Cruises won Best Dining for the second consecutive year. Also winning in back-to-back years is Viking Cruises, which has been named Best River Cruise Line this year, and took Best New River Ship in 2012.

The winners of the 2013 Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards include:

Best New Ship: Norwegian Breakaway
Best Ship Refurbishment: Carnival Sunshine
Best for Luxury: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Best for Families: Disney Cruise Line
Best Itineraries: Princess Cruises
Best for Adventure: Lindblad Expeditions
Best Value-for-Money: Azamara Club Cruises
Best Dining: Oceania Cruises
Best Entertainment: Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Best Suites: Oceania Cruises
Best Inside Cabins: Norwegian Cruise Line
Best Standard Cabins: Celebrity Cruises
Best Shore Excursions: Disney Cruise Line
Best for Honeymoons: Windstar Cruises
Best Cruise Ship Bar: Martini Bar, Celebrity Cruises
Best North American Homeport: Vancouver
Best New River Ship: AmaPrima, AmaWaterways
Best River Cruise Line: Viking Cruises


Encore Cruises, Canada's largest cruise wholesaler, will exclusively represent MSC Cruises in Canada. Distribution of MSC's own brochure to travel professionals nationally has begun (a CDN$ Encore price guide has been inserted to brochures), and both MSC Opera and MSC Lirica will have full presentation in Encore's DreamBoats brochure, scheduled for distribution in late September.

Vanessa Lee, Managing Director of Encore Cruises, says, "I am extremely enthusiastic about this exciting new venture with MSC Cruises.  Not only is the product an ideal addition to our DreamBoats brand, I have the highest possible regard for the Sales and Marketing team managing the cruise line.  Rick Sasso, President and CEO of MSC Cruises, and a man well known and respected in Canadian cruise circles for years, has enjoyed a very successful history with Encore. Some years ago, Rick, Jim Henwood (now MSC's VP Sales and Marketing) and other senior executives worked closely with Encore to successfully develop one of Canada's major 5-star brands.  I know their ethics, their standards, their track record, their commitment to travel professionals, and their determination to succeed. And they know ours. We make a formidable team and MSC Cruises will soon become a force in the Canadian cruise industry."

MSC Cruises is a division of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the second largest container carrier company in the world.  Privately owned with a longstanding seafaring history, they entered the cruise business in 1988 and have emerged as a fast-rising star in the Italian-style premium cruise market.  MSC Cruises has made true Italian service and style the heart of its business and operates under the banner "Premium Class(tm) With a True Italian Signature."

Both 58,600 ton 'new builds', MSC Lirica entered service in April 2003, and was joined by MSC Opera in June 2004. Their godmother is another chic Italian, none other than Sophia Loren.

All sailings include airfare roundtrip Ft. Lauderdale from Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, many in conjunction with Air Canada (cruise only is also available). Exceptionally well priced air add-ons are available from 12 major Canadian gateways.  MSC Opera will sail 7 night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries beginning December 4, 2004 while MSC Lirica has 10 and 11 night cruises in the Deep Caribbean, and Panama Canal sailings from January 13, 2005.  Both ships have two 17 night Transatlantic sailings: MSC Lirica - December 27/04 and May 2/05; MSC Opera - November 15/04 and April 2/05.   Expansion is also on the horizon and the company has two new Panamax ships on order for delivery in 2006 and 2007.

Rick Sasso comments, "Canadian guests will love the ambience of premium cruising with "a True Italian Signature."  On board our sophisticated, elegant ships they will experience the luxury, opulence and comfort of the very best Italian hotel. We feature La Cucina Italiana - the finest in Mediterranean dining - with a focus on traditional family recipes, regional specialties and classic favourites. Quality service is ensured by our english-speaking Italian crew and our entertainment is designed for all tastes."

MSC Cruises and Encore offer a commission programme which is one of the most progressive and profitable in the industry as commission is paid on the total fare including port charges (excluding departure taxes and government fees) - a considerable premium over traditional compensation. A generous group amenities programme has been structured with up to 15% commission, unlimited tour conductors, upgrades and more, dependent upon group specs. 

"When travel professionals think of MSC Cruises and Encore Cruises we want them to know they have true, loyal partners - a 'True Blue' partnership so to speak", sums up Sasso.


For additional information, please contact:

Vanessa Lee at 416-960-2514 or Izabela Mackie at 416-960-2521