Category Archives: Royal Caribbean

Travel News: Can Online Passport Renewal be on the Way?

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Can Online Passport Renewal Be On The Way?
Travel Market reports the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is considering online passport renewals, according to a story in Federal News Radio. Speaking on a panel at a symposium in Washington last week, community relations officer for passport services Carl Siegmund said State is looking to roll out a limited, online renewal option in mid-2018, “along with new push notifications to help applicants stay informed on the status of their applications,” including updates via email and SMS text. “We’re trying to move from paper to digital,” Siegmund said. Fifteen percent of passport applicants have issues, the top reason being passport photos. Currently, photos are submitted to the State Department’s passport services office through a third party or directly from the applicant, and they often are of “low quality or grainy,” and this can add three or four weeks to processing time. The passport services office being more directly involved in accepting a passport would greatly reduce the issue, Siegmund said. The State Department expects 21 million Americans to apply for passports in 2017 and 20.4 million in 2018, up from 14.5 million in 2015 and 16.8 million in 2016. Siegmund also said that in 2016, the passport services call center received 1.4 million phone calls for application status checks.

Viking Creates All-Suite Design For New Nile Riverboat

A recently acquired Nile River vessel is being stripped down to the steel in a complete renovation that reflects Viking River Cruises’ Scandinavian design. Viking Ra will carry just 48 passengers on a new Egypt cruise-tour, ‘Pharaohs & Pyramids,’ set to launch in March 2018. Rebuilt as an all-suite vessel, Viking Ra’s interiors will be designed by the same team responsible for the Viking Longships. The look will mingle Scandinavian design and local influences like traditional geometric Arabic patterns and terrazzo floors. The Restaurant will serve three full meals and a selection of regional and international fare. Other rooms include a clinker-built bar, The Lounge with floor-to-ceiling glass doors and The Spa for massages and other treatments. Three accommodations categories, each 291 square feet, include 20 Veranda Suites with a full-size veranda in the living room and a French balcony in the bedroom. All suites have premium amenities such as a hotel-style bed, luxury linens, sofa, bathroom with shower, air conditioning and flat-screen televisions. In addition to two Jacuzzis, Viking Ra features a pool at the back of the ship, while a sanctuary from the sun is provided by sculptural ‘sail-shades’ inspired by local dhows and intricate mashrabiya-influenced screens surrounding the Pool and Sun Deck.

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Royal Caribbean Announces Return To New Orleans

RCI has announced Vision of the Seas will return to New Orleans with a seasonal home-based cruise ship in late 2018. The Vision of the Seas will sail seven-night itineraries to the Bahamas and Yucatan Peninsula from the Port of New Orleans’ Julia Street Cruise Terminal. The ship will sail on Saturdays. Before repositioning to New Orleans on Dec. 15, 2018, Vision of the Seas will offer two 16-night sailings through the Panama Canal from Miami to Los Angeles and from Los Angeles to New Orleans, marking the first time in three years a Royal Caribbean cruise ship will traverse the Panama Canal.

Airport installs Departure Terminal Prayer Booth
In a bid to calm the nerves of fearful flyers, a prayer booth has landed at one airport in Germany. The bright red cubicle, installed at Stuttgart Airport’s Terminal 3, features 300 prayers from various religions in 65 different languages. For no fee, travelers can enter the converted photo booth and use a touch screen to select their prayer of choice, from a Tibetan monk chant to the soothing remarks from an American TV preacher. The prayer booth is an offer by the airport’s chaplains to provide a moment of contemplation. Designed by Berlin artist Oliver Sturm, the booth offers a vast variety of prayers, including the Christian Lord’s Prayer, the Jewish Shma Israel and the Islamic muezzin’s call to prayer. The Hindu Hare Krishna chant, Buddhist sutras and prayers of Shamans from New Guinea are also available to play. In addition to the big monotheistic faiths, polytheistic religions and animist beliefs are also included. The ‘Gebetomat’, which roughly translates as ‘Pray-o-Mat’, was first designed by Sturm in 2008. Its red cabin has a gray curtain and an adjustable swivel chair inside. The booth is free of charge and will be available for three months at Stuttgart Airport’s boarding area next to Gate 310. The artist writes on his home page that ‘all prayers are real prayers of believers, gathered in worship, prayer rooms, homes’. Sturm has designed several prayer booths in recent years that have been installed at schools, universities and museums.

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Filed under Europe, Royal Caribbean, Viking Cruises

Your Summer Guide to Cruising the Adriatic Sea

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Hunting a unique destination? Explore the Adriatic Sea, one of Europe’s most alluring waterways. Uncover ancient heritage and breathtaking bays. A variety of cruise options sail from Venice, Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast and into the emerald waters of Greece and Turkey. 

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sample itinerary, photo credit Star Clippers

There’s nothing quite like sailing out of Venice, traveling past the MOSE flood control gates one minute, and by fishermen in small boats the next. The MOSE project is a system of mobile gates installed at various inlets that temporarily isolate the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic during high tides. Check out more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOSE_Project

Interesting sidebar: The Italian government has recently been considering banning large cruise ships into the Venetian lagoon due to concern over environmental damage. The issue hasn’t been put into law yet, but for who knows how long? This year or the next might be the last time you can sail from Venice on a larger cruise vessel! (UPDATE: Italy overturned the ban but just for now!)

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Mediterranean Port, photo credit WIT Agent Nancy

Crystal Cruises: Crystal is offering 6-day sailings from Corfu to Venice. Explore the Dalmatian coast at leisure, from Dubrovnik and Korcula in Croatia to Koper in Slovenia. This Adriatic getaway sails on the Crystal Serenity and serves 1,070 guests.

Royal Caribbean: RCI’s 1,830-guest Splendour of the Seas sails a near-pure 7-night Greek itinerary out of Venice this year, as well as a roundtrip Venice that stops in the archaeological wonder of Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey. Go island-hopping in the emerald waters from the Ionians to the Cyclades.

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Windstar: Prefer a vessel more intimate? Windstar’s small ships 212-guest Star Pride and 310-guest Wind Surf sail July to October between Venice and Athens. In 8-9 days, they sail from magnificent ports such as Athens, Butrint, Hvar and Dubrovnik. The Wind Surf will take you to hidden gems of the Croatian Riviera: Brindisi, Gythion, and Rovinj, memorable days of breathtaking sunsets on teak decks below white sails. The Star Pride sails to secret Greek Isles: Hydra, Corinth Canal, Delphi, as well as the salmon-roofed Montenegrin port of Kotor.

Star Clippers: This summer and fall Star Clippers’ 170-passenger flagship will be embarking on a classic 12-day cruise through the Adriatic from Athens to Venice. The ship sails to familiar destinations such as Hvar, Corfu, Santorini and Mykonos, as well the irresistible beaches of Cikat Bay and Katakolon. The fleet of Star Clippers is all traditional tall-mast sailing ships, with 4 masts, 16 sails, traveling languidly at no more than 17 knots at its fastest. A perambulatory and nostalgic way to enjoy the seas. (Star Clipper’s June 28 sailing starts at $2,714 per person and includes a free upgrade.)

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Star Clippers, photo credit WIT Agent Nancy

Princess Cruises: If you’re looking for a longer itinerary on a larger vessel, Princess may be your best bet: the 12-day Grand Mediterranean sails eastward on the Dalmatian, through Athens and Istanbul, before curving westward to Rome, Livorno, Toulon in France and Barcelona in Spain. This sailing is on the brand-new and sparkling 3,560-guest Regal Princess, due out next month May 2014, and space is filling up quickly!

Interested in finding out more about what’s on offer? Call Willamette Intl Travel agents today. Our staff has sailed with all of these lines and would love to find the Adriatic itinerary that’s right for you and your family. Call now: both 2014 and 2015 Europe seasons are open to book. Ask us about Spring Sales; several cruise lines are offering perks such as reduced deposit, no single supplement and last minute discounts.

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Filed under Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Europe, Greece, Italy, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Star Clipper, Travel by Ship, Windstar Cruises