In 2007, Carnival Corp. announced the creation of Iberocruceros, a joint venture in conjunction with major Spanish travel company Orizonia Corporacion consisting of three ships. Two -- the 1,244 passenger Grand Mistral and the 834-passenger Grand Voyager -- came from Orizonia's own fleet.
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While the original deal had Carnival owning 75 percent of the joint venture and Orizonia owning the remaining 25 percent, Carnival Corp. signed an agreement in May 2009 to pick up the remaining 25 percent. The company is based in Madrid, and Carnival Corporation's Pier Luigi Foschi, who already oversees Costa Cruises and AIDA, heads the venture.
Spain is one of the fastest growing cruise markets. In 2006, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., owner of Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, acquired Pullmantur, Spain's largest cruise line. It's got a fleet of six ships, including the former Celebrity Zenith and Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas, which have since been transferred there.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief
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Catering to Spanish-speaking passengers, Iberocruceros' Castilian crews speak Spanish on Mediterranean, Baltic and Atlantic itineraries, but can accommodate passengers who speak English and Portuguese. On South America sailing, the Portuguese-speaking Brazilian crew can accommodate passengers who speak Spanish and English.
Iberocruiceros cruises are popular with families as children up to 2 years old always sail free and, depending upon the sailing, children 2-17 pay either reduced rates or no fare – except boarding fees and half the service fees – when sharing a cabin with two paying adults. Shore excursions are discounted 50 percent for children 3-12 years old.
Club Popi, with its mascot “Popi,” entertains children in three age groups, 3-5 years, 6-8 and 9-12 during the day with crafts, educational workshops, video games and storytelling. Kids can also present their own show on the ship's stage. Special programming for teenagers includes Wii competitions, theme parties and dance classes.
A special children's menu caters to youngsters. Even the humor at Comedy Club is family-friendly. Other entertainment families can enjoy includes magicians, singers, ballet dancers, ventriloquists, jugglers, contortionists and acrobats.
Iberocruceros cruises also provides ample nightlife for adults, with multiple lounges. Note that all the lounges have areas where smoking is permitted. Smoking is also allowed on decks.
Pack a cocktail dress or suit and tie for Gala Evening with the captain on all seven-night and longer cruises. Each cruise will also host a White Night, when all passengers are expected to wear only white. On costume night, a costume is de rigueur.
Dinners are served buffet, and room service, while available, is a la carte. Spanish cuisine has fusion concepts, but seafood paella is popular. Specialty vegetarian and gluten-free menus are available, as are beverage packages. Gratuities are mandatory for service staff.
Santai Spa offers Balinese massage, sauna, Turkish baths, eye contour and facials. There is a hair salon for men and women.
For-fee Wi-Fi is throughout the ship.