NEW YORK (AP) — CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTINGS
New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and other cities are preparing for their annual Christmas tree-lightings over the next few weeks.
A towering Norway spruce from New York's Hudson Valley has been installed at Rockefeller Center for the Christmas season. It will be illuminated Dec. 2 in an annual ceremony that attracts thousands of spectators in person and is watched by millions more on television. After the holidays, the tree will be milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity.
In Washington, D.C., this year's national Christmas tree lighting will take place Dec. 3 on the Ellipse at President's Park near the White House. Performers will include Fall Out Boy, Andra Day, Tori Kelly and Trombone Shorty. Traditionally, the president and his family take part in the tree-lighting, a custom that was started by President Calvin Coolidge in 1923.
In Los Angeles, the Grove's annual tree lighting takes place Nov. 14 at a ceremony hosted by Seth MacFarlane. Entertainment will also include a 70-piece orchestra and performances by Meghan Trainor. Fireworks will light up the finale.
The city of Chicago's official Christmas tree, a 63-foot blue spruce, will be lit Nov. 24 at Millennium Park. American opera singer Renee Fleming will be the headline performer for the event, with other performances including cast members from Emerald City Theatre's "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Millennium Park will be home to other holiday events this season, including visits with Santa Claus, caroling and ice skating. It's the first time the tree-lighting takes place at Millennium Park after decades at Daley Plaza.
In Kansas City, Missouri, the tree known as the Mayor's Christmas Tree will be lit Nov. 27 in Crown Center. The tree is one of the nation's tallest Christmas trees at 100 feet high. Each year after the holidays, the tree is recycled and made into ornaments sold to benefit the Mayor's Christmas Tree Fund, which donates gifts, food and clothing to those in need.
Boston's tree-lighting ceremony takes place Nov. 21 at Faneuil Hall. The event includes live music and a performance of the Boston Ballet's "The Nutcracker." Faneuil Hall will also be hosting a light-and-sound show called Blink! running Nov. 22 through Jan. 3, beginning at 4:30 p.m. each day.
Houston's tree-lighting takes place Dec. 4 at Hermann Square at City Hall. It's billed as the 96th annual mayor's holiday celebration. The public is invited to drop off a new, unwrapped toy to a Salvation Army booth at the event.
MSC CRUISES AND CIRQUE DU SOLEIL
MSC Cruises is launching an exclusive partnership with Cirque du Soleil. The circus arts entertainment company will bring new shows to MSC's forthcoming line of Meraviglia ships.
The first ship in this line, MSC Meraviglia, will sail its inaugural season in the Mediterranean beginning June 2017. The ship will carry 4,500 guests based on double occupancy and will have three major ports of embarkation: Genoa, Italy; Marseille, France, and Barcelona, Spain.
The Cirque du Soleil shows will take place in a customized dining and entertainment venue that is being designed jointly by MSC and Cirque. The shows will be offered six nights a week, two performances a night, in a 450-seat lounge with a 200-seat dining area.
Cruises for MSC Meraviglia's inaugural season are already on sale.
NEW NORWEGIAN SHIP CHRISTENED IN MIAMI
Norwegian Cruise Line's newest and largest ship, Norwegian Escape, was christened Monday in Miami by the rapper Pitbull, who was introduced as the ship's "godfather."
"I name this ship Norwegian Escape!" he shouted at the event.
Norwegian Escape is the first ship in the company's new Breakaway Plus Class. The vessel, which carries 4,200 passengers, launched last month in Europe, crossing from Southampton, England.
The ship includes Norwegian's The Haven luxury suite complex, family staterooms that accommodate up to five guests, and Studios, designed and priced for solo travelers. There's also a three-story ropes course and Aqua Park. In addition to the Splash Academy youth center, the ship has a nursery for children 2 years and under.
Specialty restaurants include chef Jose Garces' Bayamo, a Latin seafood venue, and Pincho Tapas Bar. The ship also offers a food hall, the Food Republic; the District Brew House, an urban craft beer hall in partnership with Miami's Wynwood Brewing Company; The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar, and the first-at-sea iterations of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville and 5 O'Clock Somewhere Bar.
The vessel's hull is decorated with sea creatures and water scenes, designed by Guy Harvey.