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Bring out the bubbly: five new launches

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The cruise industry is going to be busy over the next few weeks, with not one, but five launches scheduled.

First to break champagne across the bow will be the Scenic Crystal next week. Crystal is offering three dining choices, a new quieter propulsion system and those "first-on-the-river" balconies can now be enclosed in inclement weather by the push of a button.

Avalon will launch two new river cruisers in early May. The Avalon Vista is a sister ship to the 166-passenger Panorama -- the ship that features staterooms measuring more than 200 square feet. The Avalon Visionary is a smaller version of that ship, with 128 passengers. It's designed to cruise the Rhine River.

The fourth ship to be christened before the end of May is Oceania's Riviera, a sibling of the popular Marina. She will be christened in Barcelona before starting her summer season in Europe.

And No. 5 is Carnival's Breeze, sister to the Dream and due to be christened in Venice early in June.

A lot of fine champagne will ensure these ships are off to an appropriate ceremonial start.


Pick a theme and you will find it on at least one cruise ship. Here are three that might be of interest:

* Garrison Keeler's Prairie Home Companion radio show, which has been on the air on public radio in the U.S. for more than 30 years, is taking to the water with many of the regular Saturday cast. The show is so popular that a movie of the same title starring Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson and Lily Tomlin was a hit.

Garrison is taking the gang on an 11-day cruise on Holland America's Ryndam, leaving Amsterdam on Aug. 18. You will find the details at

-- Is that too laid back for you? How about some good, old-fashioned rock 'n' roll? This one is down the road, in 2013, and it's called the Rock Legends Cruise, on board Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas and departing Fort Lauderdale.

It leaves Jan. 10 and you're back four days later. The newly announced rock 'n' roll lineup includes: 38 Special, the Marshall Tucker Band, Blue Oyster Cult, Foreigner and Credence Clearwater Revisited. All those details are at

-- The third one has nothing to do with a cruise, but does have to do with a shore excursion. If the home ports of England (Southampton, Harwich and Dover) are your embarkation and disembarkation ports, you might want to consider a visit to where they shoot the very popular -- not only in England, but around the world -- Downton Abbey.

The Earl and Countess of Caernarvon live at Highclere Castle, where the series is shot. The castle is open to the public, located in the area of Newbury, Berkshire, about an hour from Southampton and 90 minutes from London. The public is welcome, but, because of its popularity, it's a good idea to book online at (Sundays through Thursdays).


Carnival Cruise Lines continues to surround the U.S. with year-round departure ports.

The Carnival Miracle began operating its first year-round schedule from New York this month. The ship is sailing three itineraries to the Caribbean, Florida and the Bahamas before heading west later in 2013.

The eastern Caribbean departures call at San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk.

The Bahamas sailings feature port calls at the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk and Nassau.

The Bahamas/Florida cruises call at Port Canaveral (for Orlando), Nassau and Freeport.

-- Postmedia News

Visit for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an email newsletter on the site for even more cruise information. Phil can be contacted directly at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 21, 2012 D2

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