Travel Weekly's Cruise E-letter: May 8, 2007

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES unveiled a new cruise line member of its family on Friday when RCCL Chairman Richard Fain introduced Azamara Cruises, a "deluxe" brand positioned between the premium and luxury segments. The new line will comprise ships that were bound for the Celebrity Expeditions brand, the Celebrity Journey -- now the Azamara Journey -- and the Celebrity Quest, which will be renamed the Azamara Quest this fall. The new line and the 710-person Journey, which just completed a $19 million refurbishment, were introduced to the public on May 4. The ships will sail the itineraries that have been marketed under the Expeditions banner, the line said, and will offer Asia and world cruise itineraries.

AZAMARA CRUISES is introducing a new, "deluxe" category name to mainstream cruising, and RCCL said Azamara will distinguish itself from premium line Celebrity by offering destination-oriented itineraries in remote places where Celebrity's larger ships can't go, with butler service in every cabin category, no formal nights and a more immersive shore excursion programs. "Because this is a different product, and so distinct, it deserves a category name of its own to represent the fact that we're offering something different," said Fain. Azamara cruises will be priced above Celebrity's but below luxury lines, said Azamara President Dan Hanrahan, who also is president of the Celebrity brand.

THE AZAMARA JOURNEY'S first passengers, who had been booked on the ship when it was called the Celebrity Journey, got to take their cruise for free: The vessel departed from Bayonne, N.J., on its first sailing on May 6, a day late, because refurb work was still being completed onboard. The line gave passengers a full refund.

MAY IS A BUSY MONTH for ship naming. The festivities begin May 13 when the Emerald Princess is named in Athens. (The Emerald was to be named in a dual ceremony in Santorini, Greece, with the Royal Princess, but now the Royal Princes will be christened on June 14 in Portofino, Italy.) MSC Cruises appointed film icon Sophia Loren godmother of a fourth MSC Cruises' ship, the MSC Orchestra, which she will christen in Civitavecchia, Italy, on May 14. Royal Caribbean International will name the Liberty of the Seas in Miami on May 18. Costa Cruises christens its 12th ship, the Costa Serena, on May 19 in Marseille.

CARNIVAL CRUISE DIRECTOR John Heald's blog is so popular that the cruise line will host a "Bloggers Cruise" aboard the Carnival Freedom in January. The event is geared towards readers of the blog, which has attracted nearly 200,000 visitors since its launch last month at www.carnival.com/freedom. The seven-day western Caribbean cruise will sail from Miami Jan. 19 and visit three of Heald's favorite ports: Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico. "I hope this cruise will be the first of many," Heald told his readers. During the cruise Heald will host events like a "Welcome Aboard" reception, trivia contests and question-and-answer sessions.

Cruise E-Letter Editor: Johanna Jainchill

Phone: (201) 902-2065

[email protected]

For promotional opportunities in the E-letters, contact [email protected].

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