Wednesday, February 20, 2013

CRUISE NEWS: Winstar buys half Seabourn's fleet

Windstar Cruises announced the purchase of three Seabourn ships yesterday (here's a link to the press release).

The original Seabourn fleet consisting of 208-passenger yachts Seabourn Pride (1988), Seabourn Spirit (1989), and Seabourn Legend (1988) will join Windstar's fleet of three tall-masted sailing ships Wind Spirit (1988), Wind Star (1986), and Wind Surf (1990).  The Seabourn Pride will be the first ship to enter Windstar's fleet in April of 2014.  After renovations, the re-branded and re-named Pride will set sail a month later in the Mediterranean in May 2014; voyages are expected to go on sale in May of this year. Windstar will take possession of Seabourn Legend in April 2015 and Seabourn Spirit in May 2015. The yachts will start sailing in May of 2015 following their dry-dock period.

This is a great move for Windstar Cruises, allowing them to expand to new destinations. They recently announced that the Wind Spirit will return to French Polynesia in May 2014 offering 7-night Tahiti cruises from Papeete. Plans to sail in Asia and South America are also in the works.

Gene Sloan of USA Today writes: "The deal is a new milestone in the comeback of Windstar, an upscale line that was in bankruptcy as recently as 2011 before being taken over by the deep-pocketed Xanterra. Controlled by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz' Anschutz Corp., the company already has poured millions of dollars into renovations for all three Windstar ships."

This leaves Seabourn with their three new 408-passenger ships: Seabourn Odyssey (2009), Seabourn Sojourn (2010) and Seabourn Quest (2011). While rumors are circulating that a new Seabourn ship order will soon be announced, this cruise specialist wonders if the financial troubles of the Carnival Corporation (which owns Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Cunard Line, Seabourn and Costa Cruises) had any influence in the timing of the sale.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day News: US Air and American are engaged!

Big news: US Airways and American Airlines are engaged! Here's the website created to update us on the progress of the new American Airlines.

Love is in the air!
Don't panic: it usually takes a couple years before the complete merger takes place. It will be business as usual at both airlines (which isn't saying that service has been great with either carrier).

Your miles are safe. The frequent flier programs will be merged so you won't lose your miles. However, US Airways will transition from the Star Alliance to the OneWorld program. You have a year or so to consider your options. If you have status with either airline, this is a good time to switch loyalty programs (United or Delta may match your status and miles to woo you).

Congratulations to them both on their impending union.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Celebrity Luncheon

Chef John Suley (left) in the open kitchen

Celebrity Cruises opened an exclusive pop-up restaurant at The Kitchen NYC and hosted dining events this week called “A Taste of Modern Luxury.” Celebrity’s own James Beard-featured chef, John Suley, served a three-course tasting menu that included several on-board favorites as well as dishes inspired by the culinary flavors of Manhattan.

The event began with a welcome cocktail called The Big Apple created by Master Mixologist Junior Merino, aka "The Liquid Chef." His concept, The Molecular Bar, is featured on Celebrity's Solstice Class ships (I cruised on the inaugural voyage of the Celebrity Silhouette in November 2011 and here's my review of the Celebrity Eclipse, which I toured in April 2011).

Luncheon menu for Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Six of us from Tzell were joined by Senior VP of Sales Dondra Ritzenthaler to enjoy a lovely lunch. I ordered the Jerusalem Artichoke Veloute to start, and a bowl arrived with crispy Iberian ham, roasted trumpet mushrooms, tiny sourdough croutons and a dollop of marscapone. Then the waiter poured the steaming soup in from a little teapot for a fun presentation. I enjoyed the Seared Halibut entree and the Pineapple Tart Tatin for dessert. 

As we sipped coffee, the waiter strolled by with a basket of green grass with brightly-decorated chocolate-covered strawberries on sticks poking up like Tim Burton/Willy Wonka flowers. "Strawberry Fields" is a popular dessert from Celebrity's unique specialty restaurant, Qsine. The charming lollipop was a delightful end to a delicious meal.