The biggest breakthrough itinerary-wise is the announcement that its 4,500-ton, 114-passenger Spirit of Oceanus will sail two brand-new itineraries in Asia for 2007. The itineraries, "Grand Asia" and "Vietnam," introduce two new countries to Cruise West's menu: Vietnam and China. Three eight-night Vietnam cruises will sail between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, with pre- and post-cruise tours available in Cambodia; the 13-night Grand Asia voyage will explore Northern Japan, China and Vietnam, with a pre-trip package available in Tokyo and post-trip package in Cambodia.
Spirit of Oceanus will be renovated this winter (it launched in 2000), and outfitted with three new suites -- including an 550-square-ft. Owner's Suite above the bridge with a private verandah spanning the entire front of the ship. The Owner's Suite will also feature a limestone foyer and whirlpool, unusually luxurious amenities for a small, soft-adventure vessel.
Jeff Krida, the president of the family owned and operated company, said during a press conference that he was "glad Seatrade has put an emphasis on small-ship lines" this year, and that Cruise West is moving into an exciting new era having acquired two ships -- Yorktown Clipper and Nantucket Clipper -- which increased its fleet to 10 vessels. Both ships have expanded the company's reach, with Yorktown Clipper enhancing its presence on the West Coast and Nantucket Clipper introducing East Coast itineraries for the first time.
New developments involving Nantucket and Yorktown Clipper include:
In January of 2007, the ships will be renamed Nantucket Spirit and Yorktown Spirit; as previously reported on Cruise Critic, the ships will sail the 2006 itineraries already announced by Clipper, and keep their names so as not to confuse guests who were already booked and expecting a Clipper experience, including a new Cape Cod itinerary visiting Long Island, Boston, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.
All Nantucket and Yorktown Clipper crewmembers became Cruise West employees upon announcement of the acquisition, and are being trained to make the gradual transition from a Clipper experience to a Crusie West one.
A number of soft-goods upgrades (carpeting, upholstery, bedding) are planned for both vessels; Yorktown will get the treatment in April, and Nantucket sometime in the fall. Mechanical upgrades are also on the horizon.
Cruise West's signature exploration leaders will be added in late 2006 and early 2007, and both ships will be outfitted with DIBS (durable inflatable boats, similar to zodiacs), a big part of Cruise West's programming according to Krida: "As we say, we're 'up-close, casual and personal' -- kick it up a notch and get into a 12-passenger zodiac."
Krida also says the line is taking culinary cues from Clipper, and seeking chefs from reknowned schools such as the Culinary Institute of America to improve dining across the fleet.
Photo appears courtesy of JNTO.