Miscellaneous Cruise News

Historic S/S Catalina Wins Reprieve
But "Great White Steamer" May Have Only Months to Live


The Mexican government has ceded ownership of the S/S Catalina, built in 1924 by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, to the SS Catalina Preservation Association, but the historic one-of-a-kind vessel must be moved by early September to make way for a new cruise ship dock.

Details of the ship's history and the current efforts to save and restore her can be found at the Association's website: SS Catalina Preservation Association


Largest Uncut Alexandrite To Be Displayed
At Amsterdam Sauer Jewelers, St, Thomas, USVI

The largest cut alexandrite in existence weighs 66 carats and is kept at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The largest uncut alexandrite in existence, the SAUER ALEXANDRITE, weighs 122,400 carats (55 pounds) and will go on display at Amsterdam Sauer in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands on October 18, 2000.

Alexandrite, one of the costliest gemstones known to man, was first discovered near Ekaterinburg in Russia's Ural Mountains in 1830 during the reign of Emperor Nicholas I. It was to commemorate the Emperor's oldest son's (the future Alexander II) coming of age that this remarkable stone was named alexandrite.

This rare and valuable gemstone variety of chrysoberyl possesses a special optical feature that distinguishes it from all other precious gemstones -- it actually changes color from green when exposed to daylight, to red in incandescent light.

The Sauer Alexandrite was discovered in August, 1967 by Jules Roger Sauer, founder and chairman of Amsterdam Sauer Jewelers, in the Jaqueto district in the state of Bahia, Brazil.

Recognizing the significance of his discovery, Mr. Sauer decided to keep this unique gemstone as an addition to his own private collection. This private collection, which began in 1940, includes many rare and valuable gemstones, but none that would prove to be as rare or valuable as the Sauer Alexandrite.

The sauer Alexandrite, with an excess of 122,400 carats as a rough gemstone, can yield over 30,000 carats of cut alexandrite gemstones of various shapes and sizes. Over the past 33 years, Mr. Sauer has been approached many times to allow the Sauer Alexandrite to be cut for commercial use, but he had denied these requests. As an avid conservationist, Mr. Sauer firmly believes that the preservation of the Sauer Alexandrite is imperative for the safekeeping of nature's wonders recovered from the earth's crust. By keeping this extremely rare and remarkable find in its natural state, both present and future generations will be able to enjoy and share its beauty.

The Sauer Alexandrite's features:

Weight: 122,400 carats (approx. 55 pounds)
Dimensions: 28.5cm x 28cm x 12cm
Mineral Specie: Chrysoberyl
Gemstone Variety: Alexandrite
Crystallographic Habit: Orthorhombic (germinated crystal)
Hardness: 8.5 Mohs Scale
Chemical Composition: Al2BeO4
Phenomena: Change of color and a cat's eye with a change of color

Amsterdam Sauer is the leader-specialist in loose gemstones and in gemstone jewelry, serving an international clientele for over six decades. Amsterdam Sauer in St. Thomas offers rare alexandrite, both loose and set, along with the largest selection of fine colored gemstones in the Caribbean. Website: www.amsterdamsauer.com

Port of Seattle's Pier 66 Is New Home to Luxury Cruise Ships
First Full Season Means Millions in New Revenue to Seattle Region

Seattle is ready to take center stage of the cruise ship world, as two luxury cruise ships homeport this year at the Port of Seattle's new Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal at Pier 66.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sky, one of the world's largest and newest luxury cruise ships, offers 21 seven-day cruises from Seattle to the glacier-studded beauty of Southeast Alaska. She is capable of carrying more than 2,000 guests and a crew of 750. The Norwegian Sky features a glass-domed atrium, casino, spa and exercise gym, two swimming pools, the cruise industry's first floating Internet cafe, and an array of restaurants, bars and lounges.

Royal Caribbean International's Vision of the Seas sails six times through the majestic scenery of the Pacific Northwest on three and four-day cruises from Seattle.

The two homeport ships are joined by several other cruise ships calling at Pier 66 throughout the season, bringing to 35 the total number of sailings from Seattle. The visits mean an estimated 120,000 passenger movements through Seattle, bringing millions of dollars in both local spending and tax revenue.

Mic Dinsmore, Port of Seattle's executive director, said the Port's new cruise terminal can be the pride of Seattle and King County: "Thanks to the tremendous community support that's been evident over the past several years, we now are ready to be a homeport for these two outstanding cruise lines. Also, the extraordinary efforts of the Marine Division, under the leadership of Steve Sewell, were critical to attracting these two new cruise lines."

The Port's 56,000-square-foot cruise terminal offers travelers conveniences that most other terminals don't have. These include a concierge service, direct baggage transfer from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which also is owned by the Port of Seattle, and an innovative $2 million mobile gangway connecting the vessel with the second floor check-in area.

The second phase of construction at the cruise terminal will take place after this first full cruise season and will include a grand entrance with two more access points to the facility, plus an all-weather canopy to cover the ground transportation area for added passenger comfort. "Our goal is to provide passengers with a convenient, comfortable cruise ship terminal that is also efficient," Dinsmore said. "We want cruise passengers to see their visit to our premiere-class cruise terminal as a positive experience."

Port Commission President Jack Block said the cruise ships have had a tremendous immediate economic impact to the region, in both jobs and dollars. "We are bringing a new industry to town that will have long-term economic benefits throughout the community," Block said, adding that more than 550 new jobs have been created by the ships' visits, as well as more than $23 million in new annual business revenue.

"From piano tuners to bus drivers, these cruise ships bring our region nothing but good economic news," he said. Block noted that the ships also are provisioned and supplied here, and that some visitors spend time in the region before or after their cruise. This adds up to an additional $2.7 million in state and local taxes, and a direct boost of more than $16.7 million in personal income.

American and Chinese Cruise Directors Enhance
Overall Experience Onboard Regal China Cruises

Regal China Cruises, the premier five-star cruise line sailing on China's magnificent Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world, has enhanced passenger's overall experience by appointing five American college students, fluent in Mandarin and experts in Chinese culture, as cruise directors. In this capacity, the American cruise directors act as a liaison between the passengers and crew and provide attentive service, answer questions, assist with translations and help impart information about the points of interest. To immerse passengers in the rich traditions and culture of the area, every Regal China Cruises ship is also staffed with an English-speaking Chinese cruise director offering friendly and professional service.

Regal Cruises Introduces Two Sailings
from Charleston in Fall of 2000

Regal Cruises is introducing two sailings from the historic port of Charleston, South Carolina, this fall. The cruises -- seven nights to Bermuda and 12 nights to the Panama Canal and western Caribbean -- are aboard the 900-passenger Regal Empress with early-booking fares, per person double, starting at $799 and $1,099, respectively.

The Bermuda cruise, departing October 4, arrives in Bermuda after three nights at sea. Passengers have two full days to explore, shop, golf, dine, or relax on white-sand beaches before the return to Charleston.

Key West, Florida, is the first port of call on the Panama Canal/western Caribbean cruise, departing Charleston on October 11. The laid-back charm of Key West is seen in its unique shops and bustling waterfront. Passengers have the day there before heading to Puerto Limón, Costa Rica, a partial transit of the Panama Canal, Grand Cayman, and before returning to Charleston, Freeport on Grand Bahama Island.

The 22,000-ton, 900-passenger Regal Empress was built in Scotland with the lavish wood paneling and other classic features of the grand days of transatlantic crossings and has maintained its original character despite subsequent rebuilding and refurbishing. A recent $6-million restoration added a new international restaurant, La Trattoria, a sports bar, television and safe in every cabin and private verandahs on eight.

Great Lakes Cruise Company:
Cruising the Great Lakes Back in Fashion

There was a time back at the start of this century when it was common to see cruise ships sailing lakes Michigan, Ontario, Huron, Superior and Erie. By the time the '60s ended, the luxury cruising customer had switched allegiance to tropical, international waters, and the aging Great Lakes ships ceased offering vacation cruises.

But everything old becomes new again thanks to the Great Lakes Cruise Company headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For many luxury cruisers who have already visited popular ports or even adventuresome ones who have cruised Alaska, the Great Lakes offer new and unexplored waters.

The Great Lakes Cruise Company began offering cruises on the Great Lakes in 1999 and have several cruises for 2000 and 2001 already planned. Ports of call on these inland seas take in the civilized pleasures of Chicago, Windsor, and Traverse City as well as dramatic cliffs, canyons and waterfalls just beyond the shore. Passengers enjoy stops at historic Mackinac Island and quaint port cities while savoring the northern wilderness and the lakes themselves -- where 20% of the world's fresh water is found.

Two shipbuilders have built cruise ships specifically designed for Great Lakes travel with its narrow connecting canals and locks. German shipbuilder Hapag-Lloyd completed the 420-passenger M/V Columbus in 1997, and French shipbuilder Compagnie des Îles du Ponant launched the 90 passenger Le Levant in 1998.

Unlike wider and less environmentally friendly ocean vessels, these freshwater cruise ships must adhere to stringent environmental regulations established by the U.S. and Canada. However, much like cruise ships sailing tropical waters, these Great Lakes cruises provide passengers international flavor with their foreign crews who speak impeccable English with a delightful accent. According to Chris Conlin, president of the Great Lakes Cruise Company, reasons for the heightened interest in Great Lakes cruising can be attributed to a perception that the Great Lakes are somehow safer than traveling the world's oceans. The Great Lakes are an easy destination to reach, and there is a sense of security that comes with traveling in sight of the U.S. political borders, especially for those new to cruising as well as to veteran cruisers who want nearby access to U.S. medical care when traveling.

"Guests on our Great Lakes cruises this past summer included both veteran cruisers as well as those new to cruising," states Conlin. "Comments we received were very positive with many people raving over the beauty of the North Channel and the overall vastness of the Great Lakes. Many had never viewed the Great Lakes from aboard a ship and were amazed at the majesty of the scenery."

The Great Lakes Cruise Company is a subsidiary of Conlin Travel, founded in 1958. For more information, call toll-free 888-891-0203 or at their website: www.greatlakescruising.com

Festival's New Flagship Unveiled In Proud Moment for France
Mistral Christened by French World Cup Star's Wife
in Ceremony Attended by Prime Minister Jospin

St. Nazaire, France - Mistral, Festival Cruises' brand-new 47,900 ton flagship was christened in an emotional ceremony at the Chantiers de l' Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire. France's prime minister Lionel Jospin headed the thousands of guests who attended the naming of the latest addition to the Festival Fleet, which was unveiled from beneath a giant French flag. It was a landmark day for cruising and French shipbuilding. Mistral is the largest cruise liner built for cruising under the French flag since 1962 when the legendary SS France entered service.

Godmother of the new vessel is Claude Deschamps, wife of football star Didier Deschamps, who captained the French national team to its triumph in the 1998 World Cup finals. At 8:00 pm, the specially-made Tricolor covering Mistral was removed to reveal Festival's new flagship. Mme Deschamps cut the ribbon to release the traditional magnum of champagne against Mistral's's bows, with husband Didier, France's most capped footballer, alongside her on the grandstand. The christening was followed by "La Marseillaise," sung by Sophia Nelson, and the European Anthem (Beethoven's "Hymn to Joy"), played by the St. Nazaire Harmony Orchestra.

Attending the ceremony were 750 invited guests from all over Europe, as well as more than 6,000 local people who answered the invitation extended by the local authorities and shipyards, the first time the christening of a vessel at Chantiers de L' Atlantique has been opened to the wider public.

In another first, 500 of France's leading travel agents and tour operators also participated in the ceremony, watching the events live via satellite on a large screen at Paris' Pavillon Gabriel as part of a dinner and entertainment programme arranged for them. The official speeches were made by the chairman of Chantiers de l' Atlantique Patrick Boissier, the chairman of Festival Cruises George F. Poulides, and by the president of Festival Croisieres France, Claude Dexidour.

Mistral, constructed at a cost of about $240 million, is a milestone in the history of French ship building and the popular cruise market. Highly European in design and on board services, the vessel is aimed at Festival's widespread European passenger market. She will be followed in 2001 and 2002 by two further Mistral-class ships, also to be built for Festival by Chantiers de l' Atlantique.

"We are a European company, operating all over Europe, and it is only fitting that Mistral is the product of great European designers and a great European shipyard," said Festival's chairman, George F. Poulides. "As shown here today, the French public has taken our new vessel to their hearts and I am confident that people throughout Europe will have the same warm reaction."

In January 1999, Festival Cruises signed a 3 billion French Francs contract with Chantiers de l' Atlantique, ordering two new state-of-the-art cruise liners with the same capacity as Mistral (1,250 pax each), which will take to the sea in early 2001 and 2002, respectively. With the resulting fleet of six cruise ships from 2002 onwards, Festival Cruises will have a total of 6,000 berths and capacity for 300,000 cruise guests annually. Festival disclosed that it is already negotiating the construction of further new units in addition to the company's current order book.

Festival Backs Euro As Mistral's Onboard Currency

Europe's new common currency - the euro - was chosen as the official onboard currency of Mistral, the newly-built 47,900-ton cruise liner which made her debut for Festival Cruises in July 1999.

Pan-European Festival, which has its own offices in 10 European countries and draws its passengers from all over the continent became the first cruise line to declare the Euro's single currency as the benchmark for all payments on board one of its vessels.

"As far as we know, we are the first company in the industry to embrace the euro, although we would be happy to learn if other cruise lines have done it," said Festival's managing director, Theodore Kontes. "Mistral, however, is virtually unique as a newbuild designed for the pan-European market without bias in favor of any particular nationality," he observed.

The French-flagged newbuild, has a cashless onboard payments system accessible to passengers through a single identification/credit card, but all bar prices, excursions, additional services and other purchasable items are quoted in euros.

Said Mr Kontes: "The step was a natural one for Festival which fits our reputation for catering to all European nationalities equally. The euro removes another little barrier between people from individual countries, but it offers advantages to us as a company as well as to our passengers. On the one hand, the introduction of the euro reduces exposure to exchange rate fluctuations, which for a multi-national cruise line such as Festival can be a major factor. At the same time, our vessels are often in demand for national charters and switching onboard currencies for some of these can be a headache which in the future will be unnecessary.

"For passengers, likewise, the common currency introduces greater stability in their holiday budgeting, so that they can relax and not have to keep one eye constantly on foreign exchange rates."

All passengers booking a holiday aboard Mistral receive together with their cruise tickets a special pocket euro-conversion calculator with Festival's compliments.

The vessel offers 598 cabins, including 80 suites with private balconies, and has a crew of 470. Public passenger facilities include everything expected of a five-star ship for the new Millennium, including two featured restaurants, bars, theatre, night club, a topside discotheque and observation lounge, promenades, shopping galleries, library and card rooms, child and youth facilities, a large high-tech health spa, swimming pools and an outdoors thalassotherapy unit.

30-Story Monument to Honor Christopher Columbus
in Puerto Rico, His First Landfall on U.S. Soil

'Birth of a New World,' By Russian Artist Zurab Tsereteli, is a Gift to the American People

Governor Pedro Rossello met with Zurab Tsereteli, distinguished sculptor and President of the Russian Academy of Arts, to accept a model of Tsereteli's original bronze sculpture, "Birth of a New World," which will be erected on a waterfront site in Catano, at the entrance to San Juan Bay. Rising 297 feet above its base, the monument will be almost as tall as the "Statue of Liberty" and will be a dramatic new landmark for visitors to the island. "I'm very proud that this monument is coming to Puerto Rico, the only place in the United States where Columbus actually came ashore," stated the Governor. "And on behalf of all Puerto Ricans I want to express our gratitude and appreciation to Zurab Tsereteli for presenting it to us."

"The Birth of the New World" is a gift from the Russian Federation to the people of the United States. It acknowledges America's support for democracy in Russia and celebrates a future of growing interdependence among the nations of the world. It is the second of a two-part composition by Tsereteli that straddles two continents. The first, "Birth of a New Man," was erected in Seville, Spain, in 1995. Completing the route of discovery of America, "Birth of a New World" depicts Columbus at the helm, sails unfurled behind him. At his feet, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, the three small ships which made the historic Atlantic crossing, sail across a relief map of the new world. More than 2700 individual pieces of cast bronze will be assembled to form the monument, making it the largest sculptural composition in the world. Construction began in late 1999.

"This will put Catano on the map," said Mayor Rivera Sierra. "It will also be the centerpiece of a new retail and entertainment complex that will bring much needed economic development to our city." Accessible by ferry from the hundreds of cruise ships which visit San Juan annually, the monument and its surrounding restaurants and shops are expected to attract more than half a million visitors each year.

Anibal Marrero, vice president of the Puerto Rico Senate, was an early and enthusiastic advocate for siting the monument in Puerto Rico. "We want Puerto Rico to be a bridge between the U.S. and Latin America in the new millenium, and we think this monument will become a symbol of that role."

Zurab Tsereteli, the monument's creator, is no stranger to large-scale public art. His 15-story "Peter the Great" monument is only one of several important works in Moscow. At the United Nations in New York, "Good Defeats Evil," a sculpture made from parts of American Pershing II and Soviet SS-20 missiles, depicts St. George slaying the dragon and symbolizes the agreement to dismantle intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Another monument now rising on a hilltop outside Tbilisi, in Tsereteli's native Georgia, will chronicle the history of that country, once a Soviet Republic and now reaffirming its national identity.

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Last Update: Saturday, September 23, 2000