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Sandals has got some Wow to report, and the Caribbean has just gotten a lot better.Sandals over the waterCheck out the new Over The Water Suites that are going to change everything. From luxurious accommodations such as the Caribbean’s first Over-the-water Suites to unique dining concepts that bring you a taste of the world – Sandals is constantly innovating the Luxury Included® experience. Discover the latest amenities and accommodations at Sandals and learn why we are continuously voted the World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company.

Link to the New Sandals Experience

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uss united states

NEW YORK – The deal announced here on Thursday was the one nobody expected – an attempt to restore the aged, rusting SS United States to a glamorous ocean liner and sail it across the world.

Luxury operator Crystal Cruises has signed an option agreement with the ship’s owner, the SS United States Conservancy, that its chief executive said could see the iconic vessel ferrying passengers to faraway ports as early as 2018, thus ending the liner’s two-decade docking in South Philadelphia.

The Washington-based conservancy had long sought to make the ship a floating hotel, museum and retail venue, a destination for tourists and ship lovers. But a new vision emerged after the conservancy issued a save-it-or-scrap-it deadline last fall, and a strong response came from Los-Angeles-based Crystal Cruises.

“It is our aspiration that the ship returns to the seas as America’s flagship one again,” Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez told about a hundred people at a news conference here.

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The project’s cost, if successful, was estimated at more than $700 million.

The option agreement runs nine months when the cruise line will conduct a feasibility study, including extensive checks and surveys of the vessel. There’s no certainty of restoration. If any one factor might sink the deal, Rodriguez said, it would be environmental issues.

The ship is contaminated with cancer-causing PCBs, often found in old paint and insulation. Also challenging, she said, is making a 1952 liner both mechanically modern and compliant with current safety regulations.

Rodriguez noted the undertaking was huge, difficult, and perhaps unprecedented, but pledged, “Failure is not an option. . . . We’re ever the optimists.”

The announcement – on a stage flanked by flags and flowers – was made here at an appropriately seafaring setting: Pier 88, on the Hudson River, with the aircraft carrier Intrepid standing just across the way. Conservancy members, ship enthusiasts, and other supporters greeted the news with applause.

“The SS United States is ready to make history again,” said Susan Gibbs, the conservancy’s executive director and the granddaughter of naval architect William Francis Gibbs, who designed the ship. “Full speed ahead!”

Crystal Cruises will pay the $60,000-a-month cost of docking and maintaining the ship during the feasibility study – a big benefit to the conservancy, which operates in a constant search for money. The cruise company will pay no additional fees for now. At the end of nine months, if the decision is to go forward, further negotiations over money would take place.

“Together, we beat the odds,” Gibbs told those gathered at the pier. “Together we refused to give up.”

The announcement marked the first time a developer has formally, publicly signed on to the project. For years, plans and hopes for the ship have risen and fallen like the tides. Even under favorable circumstances, restoration remains an extremely complicated and costly endeavor, composed of business plans overlaid with historic preservation.

The conservancy announced in November that it had raised $600,000 to prevent the vessel from being junked. That money would have bought the group about 10 more months to reach a deal.

Its leaders have suggested New York as the best location for the ship. Plans to potentially place the liner in Philadelphia or Chester never materialized.

In its day, the S.S. United States was an ocean queen, longer than the Titanic, serving as a trans-Atlantic liner making its way from New York to ports in Europe. It was built in Newport News, Va., with steel from the Lukens company in Coatesville.

It was both liner and secret weapon: If needed, the United States could quickly be turned into a troop ship able to transport 15,000 soldiers up to 10,000 miles without refueling. The ship’s 1952 maiden voyage shattered the trans-Atlantic speed record, which it still holds. But in the 1960s, plane travel made liners outmoded.

When the United States docked in Newport News for an annual overhaul in 1969, it was taken from service. The ship was moved to Norfolk, sold, resold, put up for auction, towed to Turkey and to Ukraine, and finally to South Philadelphia in 1996. Its furniture and interior were long since stripped.

It seemed destined for scrap when its owner, Norwegian Cruise Line, offered it for sale in 2009. The conservancy was offered the first chance to buy but lacked the money. The next year, Philadelphia philanthropist H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, until recently the owner of The Inquirer, said he would donate up to $5.8 million.

Today it floats at Pier 82, looming over Ikea and the big-box stores in the shopping center across the boulevard. It was unclear where remediation and renovation of the ship would occur, if undertaken. Eventually the ship would likely have New York as its home port, conservancy officials said.

Crystal Cruises takes customers to places all over the world. Rodriguez said the SS United States, if restored, would display the glamour it exhibited at the height of its run.

“This was the way to travel,” Rodriguez said. “We aim to make her that way again.”

jgammage@phillynews.com

215-854-4906

@JeffGammage
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20160205_Report__Cruise_ship_company_in_deal_to_buy_SS_United_States.html#myyuIMwKpsUoh7EV.99

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The Cruise Experts International, Inc. Earns Esteemed 2015 Angie’s List Super Service Award

Award reflects company’s consistently high level of customer service

The Cruise Experts has earned the service industry’s coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award, reflecting an exemplary year of service provided to members of the local services marketplace and consumer review site in 2015.

The Cruise Experts has strived to give the very best customer service to all of our valued clients since opening in 2004. We are proud to have earned this prestigious award from Angie’s List and look forward to providing World Class Service for many years to come! We are a full service agency that offers concierge service to our clients by booking resorts, tours, land packages, and we specialize in cruises.

“Only about 5 percent of the Travel Agents in The U.S. have performed so consistently well enough to earn our Super Service Award,” said Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “It’s a really high standard.”

Angie’s List Super Service Award 2015 winners have met strict eligibility requirements, which include an “A” rating in overall grade, recent grade, and review period grade; the company must be in good standing with Angie’s List, pass a background check and abide by Angie’s List operational guidelines.

Service company ratings are updated daily on Angie’s List. Companies are graded on an A through F scale in areas ranging from price to professionalism to punctuality.

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 Angie’s List helps facilitate happy transactions between more than three million consumers nationwide and its collection of highly rated service providers in more than 720 categories of service, ranging from home improvement to health care. Built on a foundation of more than 10 million verified reviews of local service, Angie’s List connects consumers directly to its online marketplace of services from member-reviewed providers, and offers unique tools and support designed to improve the local service experience for both consumers and service professionals.

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viking_River_logoTraveling with the Best
When you cruise with Viking you sail with the world’s leading river cruise company, and you enjoy the rewards of more than 175 years of heritage and a level of expertise second to none.

Inspiring destinations, beautifully crafted itineraries, expert tour guides, luxurious ships, fine cuisine, excellent service, remarkable value—our success is defined by all these things, and something else, too: personal attention to every detail. It’s the way the bartender has your drink ready for you, at just the right time. It’s the gentle guidance from your tai chi master in a lesson you take while sailing along the Yangtze. It’s the handwritten directions from your concierge to the best coffeehouse in Vienna.
At Viking, we never forget that looking after you is why we have become the world’s favorite river cruise line, and why our guests return to cruise with us again and again. Indeed, it is our guests who are our greatest ambassadors, making us the most honored river cruise line in the world.

viking river

If you have experienced the pleasure of traveling with us, then you will appreciate what makes a river cruise with Viking so special. And if that experience is still ahead of you, then it is one you are sure to enjoy.

The Most Award-Winning River Cruise Line
Viking River Cruises is the World’s Best River Cruise Line in the Travel + Leisure 2012 World’s Best Awards readers’ survey and has consistently placed high on competitive rankings like Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List, Reader’s Choice and Best Small Ships awards. We have also been honored by prestigious international organizations like the World Travel Awards. Meanwhile, travel agents have recognized us with awards including TravelAge West’s Best Line for River Cruising and Travel Weekly’s #1 River Cruise Line. And Viking is featured in National Geographic’s The 10 Best of Everything. Enriching Encounters – If you want to truly experience, explore and discover your destination, Viking takes you up close to meet the people, tour the places, learn about the customs and sample the cuisines.

Choice – A river cruise is unique in the extent to which you can make the experience your own; the choice in accommodations, excursions and dining styles cannot be matched in other ways of travel.

Celebrating Fine Food – In the company of friends, old and new, you will share one of the greatest joys of travel: the discovery of new and exciting dishes and the places they represent.

The Best Service – Unparalleled service is one of Viking’s cornerstones, and over the years we have been recognized by esteemed magazines and travel industry organizations for service excellence.

Viking Value – All Viking itineraries offer great value because they are all-inclusive; your fare covers accommodations, meals, tours, cultural enrichment and more. So you get the most out of your vacation dollar.

Link to travel offer

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MSC Private Island

First posted by Cruise Radio;

MSC Cruises has signed a lease with the Bahamian prime minister Perry Christie to develop a private island for the cruise line.  The project will be developed in the next two years and will be called Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve. 

The cruise line will work closely with the Bahamian government and ecologists to develop the cay into a thriving marine reserve that will coexist flawlessly with the ecosystem.  The island will offer some of the best beaches in the world, and a variety of Caribbean-inspired experiences.

MSC will invest about $200 million into creating a lush, natural haven from the desert island it currently is.  At 95 acres in size with 11,400 feet of beach front across six beaches, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will be the biggest island development by any cruise company in the Caribbean.  It will feature a berth and pier, meaning that guests will not have to tender; they’ll be able to walk right off the ship onto the island.  All shipboard operations, including the casino, will stay open while docked there. 

The cruise line has an extensive landscaping plan for the island, and will be bringing more than 80 indigenous plants, such as Beach Morning Glory and Jamaica Dogwood, to be planted across the island.  There will be an architecturally accurate Bahamian village, full of shops, restaurants, and bars, all surrounding an island-themed music gazebo.  Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will also feature a family beach with a kids’ restaurant, a inland lagoon, a zip line crossing the island, and a pavilion for weddings and other celebrations.  For MSC Yacht Club guests, there will be an exclusive wellness sanctuary and spa with private bungalows and massage huts on the northwest corner of the island.

MSC plans to break ground in March 2016 and the island will open to guests in December 2017.  Guests aboard the upcoming ship MSC Seaside‘s maiden voyage will be the first to visit the cruise line’s island.

Island rendering and photo courtesy of MSC Cruises.

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NCL

Effective for Norwegian Sky sailings booked on or after 4/22/15 for sailings embarking on or after 1/1/16 – guests will receive Norwegian’s Ultimate Beverage Package which includes spirits, cocktails, bottled beer, draft beer, and wines by the glass, up to and including $15, and unlimited fountain soda and juices, at all bars, lounges, restaurants and Great Stirrup Cay. A 20% discount will be applied to all bottles of wine purchased on board. Does not include room service, package sales, ship specific promotions or beer buckets, designated Super Premium brands (subject to change), bottled wine, mini bar purchases, bottled water, fresh squeezed juices, select Lavazza coffee beverages, energy drinks, vending machines or wine stations. One (1) beverage per person per transaction. Beverages over $15 will receive up to an $15 discount; the difference will be charged to your account, including gratuity. Your check may reflect applicable VAT and/or taxes for certain ports or itineraries. You must be at least 21 years of age to purchase and consume alcohol. See the terms of our guest alcohol policy.

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Disney Cruise Lines has changed it’s policy about bringing alcohol on board their ships. It used to be that you could pretty much bring whatever you wanted on board and they didn’t seem to mind. Disney-Cruise-LineThe new policy takes effect on September 30th, 2015. Taken from the Disney website, this is the new policy that passengers need to be aware of:

ALCOHOL POLICY

Effective for cruises embarking on or after September 30, 2015, each Guest 21 years and older may bring two bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750ml) or six beers (no larger than 12oz) onboard in carry-on luggage at the beginning of the voyage and at each port-of-call. All wine/champagne and beer brought onboard must be packed in the Guest’s carry-on luggage. Any alcohol packed in checked luggage will be removed and stored until the completion of the cruise. Guests are not allowed to bring liquors or spirits (including powdered alcohol) onboard.

Almost all of the other cruise lines have similar policies in place now about bring alcohol on board, but these days you are able to purchase beverage packages to include unlimited beverages. Some cruise lines are currently offering pricing packages that includes unlimited beverages, gratuities, on board credit, and unlimited wi-fi.

Call The Cruise Experts at (469) CRUISES or (469) 278-4737 for details on all cruise lines, and remember “You Won’t Save a Dime If You Book Online”Blog signature post

Best of Orlando 2014 Award

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