Cruise News: Princess Cruises into Christmas; Holland America dips into the pool

santa-c Ho ho ho, Princess Cruises decks the halls for the holidays–with snow flurries, gingerbread houses and turkey carving demos….   Princess ships are preparing for another festive season at sea, and weather conditions are again pointing to unusual snow flurries onboard. After an extremely popular debut last year, snow will again magically fall in the ship’s atriums, transforming the vessels into a winter wonderland throughout December. 

 Let is snow, let is snow says Princess senior VP–“What’s better than the romance of a white Christmas, especially when it’s an unexpected surprise?” said Jan Swartz, Princess senior vice president. “Our snowfalls were such a huge hit last year that this has now become a new tradition on Princess ships.”

 I’ve sailed at Christmas time and even brought my own decorations for my cabin, so your Savvy Seafarer is really happy about this lates innovation.  On some  Christmas cruises past there was a noticeable lack of seasonal decor. I love the idea of  a faux snow fall. (The innovative snow-making process creates falling flakes that vanish on contact, letting passengers enjoy the excitement of snow flurries without the need to bundle up. Princess’ daily snowfall will occur on all ships except for the lines’ three small vessels – Pacific Princess, Tahitian Princess and Royal Princess – which do not have large, multi-story atriums). 
Even when the snow isn’t coming down, Princess ships will feature a merry atmosphere. Vessels are decked out in holiday décor – even including a Christmas tree on the vessels’ masts – and strolling carolers fill the air with the sounds of the season.   
Passengers can once again participate in a “gingerbread challenge,” where teams test their holiday housebuilding skills in a fun-filled competition to construct the most creative gingerbread structure.  Or they can test their holiday craft skills by creating a personalized photo ornament.  And new this year is a turkey-carving demonstration from the onboard culinary experts to prepare passengers to do the honors at their next holiday feast.
Special events also include a reading of “The Night Before Christmas” by either the captain or cruise director, and a holiday variety show adds a seasonal element to the ship’s entertainment offerings. For those who can’t get enough of Christmas carols, the ships’ Princess Pop Star talent show will feature a holiday edition where competitors can croon their favorite seasonal songs. 
Religious services are held as well, and passengers can attend midnight mass or an inter-denominational church service performed by onboard clergy. Passengers will receive a stocking turndown gift and can enjoy classic holiday films or even relax in front of a traditional burning Yule log … on their stateroom television! 
Holiday Feasts – Each Princess ship’s culinary team will delight the senses with spectacular holiday displays and will serve up several delicious feasts. A sumptuous Christmas brunch includes complimentary eggnog. On Christmas Day, passengers will sit down to a dinner of traditional holiday fare including roast turkey and all the trimmings.  Freshly prepared stolen and Christmas cookies (even some for Santa) round out the seasonal treats. 
Christmas For Children – Junior cruisers can count down to the big day with special holiday activities. Santa Claus makes an appearance with his sack full of toys, and a fun-filled holiday fair in the atrium offers youngsters the opportunity to try their hand at Christmas cookie decorating, balloon making, face painting, games and other competitions. The youth centers will host holiday parties for each age group, and kids can make decorations to display on the center’s Christmas tree. Youngsters can get creative with other holiday-themed arts and crafts projects throughout the cruise, and they will have an opportunity to sing Christmas carols for passengers. For parents who want to stay up later to celebrate the holidays, free late-night group kid sitting sessions will be available on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Hanukkah – Ships will also offer festivities for passengers celebrating the Festival of Lights. A special area of the ship is reserved for those participating in Hanukkah events and ships will display menorahs and fresh flower arrangements decorated in blue, silver and white. Children will enjoy themed arts and crafts pertinent to the holiday.
Happy New Year – Passengers will ring in a fun-filled 2009 with festive New Year’s Eve parties, complete with music, confetti, noise-makers and a balloon drop to count down to the new year. Earlier in the evening, the dinner menu will feature special treats just for New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day, football fans will be pleased to know they won’t miss the holiday’s traditional college bowl games, as the telecasts will be shown (as available by satellite) in a shipboard lounge or on some vessels’ giant Movies Under the Stars top-deck screen. 
The 17-ship Princess fleet will cover the globe this holiday season, with sailings to the Caribbean, Mexico, the Panama Canal, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, South America, Hawaii and the South Pacific.
announces  that the gussied-up  Statendam, ms Maasdam, ms Ryndam, ms Veendam and ms Rotterdam now feature a new restort-style pool area called The Retreat, at aft of the Lido deck. Targeted to the well heeled traveler (translated: will cost you something), HAL claims, the indulgent retreat is an industry first. The highlight is a  shallow area with forty-four lounge chairs where guests can relax and dip their fingers and toes in the water. Built-in benches create another place for guests to relax and dangle their legs in the refreshing water.   “The Retreat is a totally new approach for us to this area of the ship,” said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs.  “We’re creating an area where guests can relax outside in a sophisticated environment, and we’re adding other fun and convenient features such as a whirlpool, a band and DJ stand and even a pizzeria.”

Sounds pretty cool with three main sections separated by low, curving walls running the length of the pool, a middle  16 inches deep with built-in benches right in the water, water falls, and a hot tub. .

 Other addition include: Slice, an upscale pizzeria, live music, an LED screen and a sound system.  

According to HAL the Retreat is part of a  $200-million phase in the Signature of Excellence commitment that brings the latest innovations at sea to Holland America Line’s Statendam, Maasdam, Ryndam, Veendam and Rotterdam.  The first of the extensive dry dock periods begins with the Veendam in spring 2009 and the last will be completed on the Maasdam in early 2011..  While in dry dock, ships will expand the aft deck to create The Retreat and a new bar concept called Mix that features separate areas—Martinis, Champagne and Spirits & Ales.  Enhancements will be made to all existing staterooms and additional staterooms will be added to the ships.  The ships also will introduce 38 innovative lanai staterooms (39 on Rotterdam) with direct access to the Lower Promenade Deck. New spa staterooms near the Greenhouse Spa and Salon will offer special in-room spa amenities.  Overall, Holland America Line has committed $525 million to its Signature of Excellence program that redefines premium cruising. Friends of my  just got did a family Thanksgiving cruise on the Ryndam and loved it. The savvyseafarer has done quite a few HAL cruises and ranks it in the top 10 of mass market cruises.

1-877-SAIL-HAL (877-724-5425),



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