Friday, September 23, 2016

Celebrity Solstice to Receive 8.5 Million-Dollar Makeover

Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice will soon offer guests numerous new features as the ship undergoes a bold refresh scheduled for next month. The makeover includes Celebrity Cruises’ “A Taste of Film” experience under the stars, authentic Japanese cuisine at Sushi on Five, a reimagined Photo Gallery, among other exciting new additions. The enhancements will further enhance Celebrity Solstice and exemplify the Celebrity Distinction.

Celebrity Solstice already turns heads with her beautiful design, so these lavish enhancements will ensure our guests never want to leave,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO, Celebrity Cruises. “When discussions began about what we could do to further enhance the already stunning Solsticized ship, we couldn’t think of a better way to further delight guests than to offer the multi-sensory A Taste of Film experience, Sushi on Five, the savvy new Art Gallery, and all of the other glimmering finishes. We are offering a truly distinct experience.”

The revitalization, which is scheduled for late October 2016, will see various enhancements and additions implemented across the ship, including:
• A Taste of Film: Celebrity Solstice will be the first of the Solstice Class ships to offer the iconic gastronomic adventure, which pairs films that evoke a specific cultural, culinary or destination experience, with cuisine that brings the scenes on the screen to life through guests’ taste buds
o A large movie screen will be added to The Lawn Club where the unique culinary experience will be hosted
o Transformative alcove-style cabanas will line the real grass lawn for additional seating and relaxation space. Guests will be able to adjust the cabanas to their preferred view as the spaces evolve throughout the day
• Sushi on Five: Celebrity’s newest dining endeavor will be reimaged from what was once Bistro on Five and feature an expertly crafted à la carte menu. The new menu, curated by sushi chef Yoshikazu "Yoshi" Okada, offers hand-rolled sushi, fresh tableside grated wasabi, house-made soy sauce, Asian-inspired cocktails, Japanese beers and premium sakes, plus an array of starters and entrees
The revitalization of Celebrity Solstice will also see the following new distinct additions:
• Suites onboard will have various enhancements, including lavish new patio furniture being added to suite balconies
Celebrity Solstice’s Photo Gallery will receive a full makeover, removing the traditional panel display of printed photos:
o The new Photo Gallery will include 25 state-of-the-art touch screen kiosks where guests will be able to view their professional photos taken throughout their cruise vacation and purchase a variety of photo formats. This new service allows guests to download their purchased photos direct to their mobile device at any time during their cruise, and instantly share their cruise memories with friends and family back home via social networking, email or messaging.
o In addition, an expansive Art Gallery will emerge from the current Photo Gallery, featuring a dedicated auction location with contemporary art lining the freshly renovated space
Celebrity Solstice is scheduled to enter dry dock in Singapore on Oct 22 and will emerge on Oct 31, 2016. The revitalized ship will arrive just in time for the hotly anticipated transition into Australia’s summer season, featuring a series of impressive itineraries, including stops to the gorgeous green expanses of New Zealand, the exotic escape of Indonesia, and to sought-after ports of call across the continent of Australia.
Photo © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Holland America Line Launches Partnership with America’s Test Kitchen

Already noted for their Culinary Arts Centers fleetwide, Holland America Line is turning its foodie programming up a notch with the introduction of dynamic shipboard cooking shows produced in partnership with the long-running public television show America’s Test Kitchen, the most popular how-to-cook show on TV. Holland America Line is a sponsor of America’s Test Kitchen on public television, and is proud to make this experience possible at sea.

Holland America Line’s shipboard Culinary Arts Center will be transformed to replicate the television set where the prominent America’s Test Kitchen TV shows are recorded for broadcast by more than 350 public television stations nationwide. Designed specifically for Holland America Line, the shipboard shows will be hosted by Holland America Line chefs trained by America’s Test Kitchen culinary experts. Shipboard cooking demonstrations and hands-on workshops—with topics ranging from shaping Asian dumplings to making the perfect pie crust—will combine foolproof, accessible recipes and cooking techniques that are rooted in the rigorous testing and science-based approach of America’s Test Kitchen. In addition, Holland America Line guests will experience 24-hour access to episodes of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country television programs in their staterooms.

“America's Test Kitchen will bring a new take on cooking classes at sea that spans not only recipes but also the science of the cooking process. Its mission is to determine the best methods, ingredients and cooking tools—and now these discoveries will be shared with our guests,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “We provide our guests with tremendously immersive and authentic experiences to enrich their travel, and America’s Test Kitchen’s commitment to delivering a quality culinary experience with a focus on learning is a perfect match.”

The planned 45-minute demo courses will feature a mix of video content, live instruction, taste tests and recipe samples. Some of the courses in development include Asian Dumplings, Salad for Two, We Love Chocolate, Everything Salmon, Getting to Know Chiles, Flavors of the Mediterranean, Meatless Monday Meals and New Italian Favorites. Also planned are 90-minute workshops that focus on teaching a specific skill set. Proposed workshops include Perfect Pies and Handmade Pasta.

America’s Test Kitchen demo courses and workshops will begin aboard ms Westerdam October 18 for the ship’s Mexico season and on ms Nieuw Amsterdam November 13 for the Caribbean season. The program is expected to roll out fleetwide by June 2017.

Culinary Excellence Shines in Partnerships
America's Test Kitchen joins Holland America Line’s elite list of food and beverage collaborators who are the leading authorities in their fields. The esteemed Culinary Council is led by Holland America Line’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, who is joined by renowned international chefs Jonnie Boer, David Burke, Elizabeth Falkner and Jacques Torres. The line also has exclusive partnerships with Sushi Chef Andy Matsuda and Master Mixologist Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Cruise Travel: "Timing is Everything"

You've planned, prepared, and packed. All that's left to do is get to the pier—either from the airport or your pre-cruise hotel—and you're anxious to get your cruise vacation underway.

Timing
No one wants to "miss the boat" and, due to U.S. federal security regulations, cruise lines are required to submit certain passenger information to authorities at least one hour prior to every ship's departure. That means you must be at the pier and complete the check-in process well in advance of the scheduled sailing time. Holland America Line advises, "To meet this requirement, we must have the necessary information in our records at least 90 minutes before departure. If we do not have your information by this deadline, you will be unable to sail."

Happily, you can provide the required information by completing pre-boarding "paperwork" online for most cruise lines. However, that doesn't mean you should arrive at the pier hours in advance of the earliest published check-in time listed on your cruise documents. If you do, you may simply have to wait.

Many veteran cruisers will advise you to get to the port as early as you can. That might work, or maybe not. You could find yourself standing outside until the terminal is ready. Carnival Cruise Lines' documents state, "For your comfort and convenience, we strongly encourage you NOT to arrive at the cruise terminal more than 30 minutes prior to the scheduled check-in start time for your cruise. Due to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, early arriving guests may not be permitted to enter the cruise terminal upon arrival. Early arrivals may have a prolonged wait time in potentially warm or inclement weather conditions."

Arrival
When you fly to your embarkation port city on sailing day, your options are fairly limited by your flight arrival time—and I do suggest you book the earliest flight possible. Bear in mind, though, that when your flight touches down mid-morning and your cruise check-in time is noon or later, there may be no alternative other than to head for the pier. In reality, with a cruise line transfer you might have to wait at the airport for the bus to fill and, when arriving at the terminal, you may be held on the bus until porters are ready to unload the luggage compartment. Whether you take a bus transfer or taxi, you may get there before the cruise line is ready to begin processing arrivals. In some cases, porters may still be busy with departing passengers' luggage. It's no fun to mill around outside with other early arrivals, or get in a long line to enter the building, but sometimes it's unavoidable.

A better option is to arrive a day early and spend the night in a nearby hotel. Awaken refreshed and ready to go. But hold on a second! Don't get overly anxious or you'll end up in line with those early arrivals from the airport. Most hotels don't require you to check out before 11:00am and some don't pressure you to leave before noon. Better yet, ask for a late check-out and relax at the pool until later. Leave yourself enough time, but take a taxi or shuttle at your leisure and arrive at the port when things are less hectic. Depending on your ship's departure time, you'll find few lines in mid-afternoon and check-in will be a breeze. Plus, you'll be able to go straight to your stateroom once you're on board.

On Board
Does that mean you might not be able to go straight to your stateroom? And why not? Many cruise lines have adopted the policy that embarking passengers are not allowed into accommodations until a specific time, which allows stewards adequate time to complete their duties and insures your privacy as well as the security of your belongings. That means you may not be able to drop off carry-on bags in your cabin before proceeding to lunch. In the case of Holland America Line, cabins were accessible at 1:00pm on a recent sailing. By arriving early, you may be among the first to board the ship, but that might mean you have to tote your stuff around until the passageway doors are open to the accommodations decks. No matter how far you've schlepped them, by the time you embark, the items you carry on will begin feeling heavy and cumbersome. Thankfully, Holland America has a "bag check" area where you can leave your carry-ons until accommodations are ready for you, but many cruise lines do not offer this convenience.

By arriving at the published check-in time, or a bit later, staterooms are more likely to be available for immediate occupancy. Plus, stewards often line up to assist with carry-on luggage and show you the way to your cabin on certain premium and luxury cruise lines. It's a lot simpler to navigate the welcome aboard buffet unencumbered by a massive tote bag or rollaboard ... and the food won't run out, so there's no rush. Inquire beforehand and you may be pleased to discover that your ship offers a relaxed luncheon in the dining room.

Avoid any unpleasant surprises both at the cruise terminal and aboard the ship by reading your cruise documents carefully and completing your paperwork before leaving home. To smooth the way even further, use a passport.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Carnival Imagination Undergoes Multi-Million-Dollar Renovation

Carnival Cruise Line is known for adding popular features found on their newer vessels to other ships in the fleet and Carnival Imagination is the next one slated to undergo an extensive multi-million-dollar renovation that will add a variety of new food and beverage concepts popularized by fleetmates.

The new spaces will be added during a three-week dry dock taking place Sept. 4-25, 2016. Following the makeover, Carnival Imagination will resume its year-round schedule of 3- and 4-day Baja cruises from Long Beach, California. The new additions will include:
• Guy’s Burger Joint, a free-of-charge poolside venue serving hand-crafted burgers and fresh-cut fries served amidst a décor that celebrates the California roots and love of car culture of Carnival’s partner-chef Guy Fieri
• BlueIguana Cantina, a complimentary poolside Mexican eatery where guests can enjoy freshly made burritos and tacos on homemade tortillas, as well as an elaborate toppings and salsa bar
• RedFrog Rum Bar, a poolside watering hole offering the quintessential Caribbean vacation vibe with refreshing Caribbean rum-based frozen drinks and beers, including Carnival’s own private label draught brew, ThirstyFrog Red
• Alchemy Bar, a “cocktail pharmacy”-themed lounge where mixologists “prescribe” concoctions from different elixirs and ingredients with creative monikers like Forty is the New Twenty and The Restorative Basil Drop
• BlueIguana Tequila Bar, a fun and festive outdoor bar offering a laid-back Mexican-themed atmosphere and tequila-based frozen drinks and beers, perfect for chillin’ by the pool
• Cherry On Top, the “sweetest spot on board” which celebrates the joys of simple indulgences with bins of bulk candy, fun fanciful gifts and novelties, custom apparel, and more.
These new venues complement the ship’s popular array of on-board features that live up to the line’s motto of “Fun for All, All for Fun,” including a WaterWorks aqua park with a 300-foot-long Twister slide (pictured above), the Serenity adults-only retreat with oversized umbrellas and comfortable chaise lounges, and the exclusive Seuss at Sea program in partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

Carnival Imagination provides a convenient, value-packed West Coast cruise option and with these new enhancements we’re making this fantastic ship even better,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “With three year-round cruise ships sailing from Long Beach, Carnival is the number one cruise line in Southern California and the investment we’re making to enhance the Carnival Imagination further bolsters our leadership position in this important market,” she added.

Carnival Imagination operates year-round 3- and 4-day Baja cruises from Long Beach. On this route, 3-day cruises depart Thursdays and visit Ensenada while 4-day voyages depart Sundays and call at Ensenada and Catalina Island. Carnival is the only cruise line to operate three ships year-round from the West Coast. In addition to Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration operates 3- and 4-day Baja cruises and Carnival Miracle offers week-long Mexican Riviera voyages. Together these three ships carry more than 550,000 guests from Long Beach, the most of any cruise operator.

Photo © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Monday, September 19, 2016

For 2017, Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships

We've had a first look at author and cruise expert Douglas Ward's latest annual cruise travel guide, Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 and we're happy to say we aren't disappointed.

Ward has spent over 6,070 days at sea, beginning when he worked for Cunard Line in 1965 aboard Queen Elizabeth 2, and has taken over 1,070 cruises and completed 158 transatlantic crossings. However, his sailings aren't the usual cruiser's experience. Cruise Diva has traveled on several voyages where Ward was busy at work and he seldom relaxes. His sharp eye catches nearly every detail, like accessibility for the disabled, the softness of towels and linens, the temperature of the buffet food, and even the proper height of toilets for comfort.

The Berlitz guidebook is divided into two main sections. The first combines Ward's authoritative text with some never before seen color photographs to illustrate the cruise experience and help readers make their decisions about what style of cruise, cruise line, and ship size is most appealing for them. Included is practical information from subjects such as booking and what things cost to safety and environmental concerns. The second section contains reviews of every major cruise ship, from the smallest yacht-like vessels to the world's largest, from ships for budget minded travelers to the most luxurious and expensive. Details include specifications on size, number of cabins, passengers, and crewmembers, as well as an overview of what features to expect on board. Finally, a Ship Ratings Index puts Ward's ratings at your fingertips for quick comparison. New in this edition are full-color images for each of the 295 ships reviewed.

In addition to revealing his favorite cruise experiences of the past 32 years, Ward shares impartial information that you just don't get anywhere else and compares the strengths and weaknesses of the minor cruise lines. There is also an expanded frequently-asked-questions section, information about themed sailings, a look at the industry's star performers and Ward's selection of the top five ships in eleven "Best in Class" categories, as well as a preview at new ships set to debut in 2017. Also included is an updated chart of World Cruises departing in 2017.

Widely known as "the cruise industry Bible" for its candid description of every ocean-going cruise vessel at sea, Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2016 is available to order on Amazon.com (at that link) and there is even a Kindle edition.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Holland America Line Adds Seventh Ship to 2017 Alaska Season

Cruise demand in Europe is shrinking along with an increasing demand for Alaska summer cruises, so Holland America Line is redeploying ms Oosterdam from Europe to The Last Frontier for the 2017 summer season. The addition brings the number of Holland America Line ships to seven in the region, with Oosterdam joining ms Amsterdam, ms Eurodam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Noordam, ms Volendam, and ms Zaandam for a total of 135 Alaska departures, more than any other cruise line.

Seven is the lucky number in 2017, as the company will celebrate its 70th year exploring Alaska. New in 2017, Eurodam will replace ms Westerdam sailing from Seattle. The addition of another Signature Class ship means more new restaurants and venues will be available for guests to enjoy on Alaska sailings.

“Our award-winning Alaska cruises are at the heart of our global itineraries, and adding Oosterdam to the region in 2017 will allow even more guests to join in celebrating the exciting milestone of our 70th year in Alaska,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “As Seattle’s hometown cruise line, we’re thrilled to be sailing three ships from our local home port for the next Alaska season.”

Holland America Line will now offer 126 seven-day cruises and nine 14-day “Great Alaskan Explorer” sailings that begin in late April and run through late September. Highlights include 46 seven-day cruises roundtrip from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Nieuw Amsterdam, Volendam, Noordam and Zaandam. In addition, Noordam and Zaandam each will sail 18 one-way alternating north-south 7-day cruises between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska.

Oosterdam is slated to sail 21 seven-day cruises roundtrip from Seattle, Washington, from April through September. Eurodam will depart Seattle on 22 roundtrip 7-day cruises, while Amsterdam is scheduled to sail one 7-day itinerary from Seattle followed by nine 14-day Great Alaskan Explorer voyages. Oosterdam’s 7-day roundtrip Seattle itineraries will call at Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan, Alaska; and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Guests on board will enjoy scenic cruising in Puget Sound upon departing Seattle, as well as in Stephens Passage and Hubbard Glacier in Alaska. Every itinerary is highlighted by scenic cruising of Alaska’s Inside Passage and one or more of Alaska’s famous glaciers and fjords. Whether it’s from a private verandah or out on deck, guests are in for a memorable view of Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier, Tracy Arm and/or the twin Sawyer Glaciers.

Great Alaskan Explorer Cruises Offer Unique Alaska Ports of Call
Departing on nine Great Alaskan Explorer-branded sailings, Amsterdam sails this route that includes highlights such as calls at Anchorage, Icy Strait Point, Homer, Kodiak, and Hubbard Glacier.

Guests Departing from Seattle Have a Choice of Glaciers
All Seattle departures include calls at Sitka; Ketchikan; Juneau; and Victoria, B.C., and guests choose between either Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier for their epic glacier experience. All Glacier Bay itineraries include park ranger and Huna native speaker presentations. This classic cruise maximizes the best of what Alaska has to offer and enables guests to enjoy some of the finest scenic cruising in the world. Voyages that include Glacier Bay are a Cruise Diva favorite.

Holland America Line Celebrates 70 Years as First in Alaska in 2017
In 2017 Holland America Line will celebrate 70 years of exploring Alaska. It all began in 1947 with a simple, spontaneous tour in Fairbanks and has grown into Holland America Line’s Alaska Land+Sea Journeys that the company features today. The anniversary will be marked with special celebrations throughout the year that will be announced at a later date.

Eurodam & Oosterdam Enhancements
Both Eurodam and Oosterdam recently have added Gallery Bar, a chic new venue that replaces Northern Lights; Lincoln Center Stage, in partnership with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Billboard Onboard, in partnership with Billboard; and extensive new suite enhancements featuring new furniture, soft goods and entertainment systems as well as a full makeover in the bathrooms.

Glacier Bay Image © CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, September 15, 2016

MSC Cruises Announces Grand Opening of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve Set For October 2018

One of the best-loved ports of call on many Caribbean cruises is a day spent at a cruise line’s private island. To satisfy their guests’ desire for that experience, MSC Cruises has previously unveiled ambitious plans to create an unprecedented exclusive marine reserve island in the Bahamas and has now announced that Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will open in October 2018.

“As we sat out to finalize construction plans for this one-of-a-kind destination, we realized that to ensure the level of quality and attention to details in both infrastructure and services that our guests have rightfully come to expect from MSC Cruises, it was only appropriate to allot a longer time frame,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises. “In fact, while working on the final project, it was hard not to further enrich this unique beach destination with new and additional unique services for our guests. This naturally called for more time than originally planned. At the same time, I am also pleased to announce that works on the island have already started in earnest, as originally planned.”

The official ground breaking ceremony for Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will take place on October 6, 2016 in the presence of the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, The Right Honourable Perry G. Christie, and other high dignitaries from the country’s government.

Working in collaboration with the Bahamian Government and ecologists, MSC Cruises is developing the cay from an industrial site into a flourishing marine reserve that will harmoniously co-exist with the local ecosystem. This is a complex project that will transform the local economy base from resource exploitation to resource conservation and provide a unique, authentic Bahamian experience exclusively for MSC Cruises guests. In connection with the expanded set of services that the island will now make available to its guests upon opening, additional works will include, amongst others, much-expanded quarters for the greater number of personnel that will work on the island to receive and serve MSC Cruises guests six days a week.

MSC Seaside and MSC Divina calls to Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve—formerly scheduled between December 2017 and the new date of its grand opening to guests—will be substituted by calls to Nassau. Further details on these and other related itineraries will be communicated separately and in due course.

Image Courtesy MSC Cruises

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

American Queen Steamboat Company to Expand Fleet

With sailings on America’s waterways gaining in popularity, the American Queen Steamboat Company, owner and operator of the American Queen and American Empress, has announced the new American Duchess will join the U.S.-flagged fleet in June 2017. Construction begins soon on a recently purchased American-made hull that will become the third vessel of the Memphis-based company. The all-suite American Duchess will be the first purpose-built boutique paddlewheeler offering the river cruiser an intimate experience through America’s heartland. She will feature the largest suites on the river in every category, which will be fitted to the American Queen Steamboat Company’s highest standards.

The 166-guest American Duchess follows in the pedigree of the line’s namesake American Queen, sailing the mighty Mississippi and her tributaries. New for the line, the American Duchess will offer overnight stays in port including the heart of Nashville as well as shorter roundtrip itineraries from the “Music City” and New Orleans. For added convenience, guests can also enjoy departures from Chicago (Ottawa, Illinois) for the first time.

“The American Queen Steamboat Company has led the way in a rebirth of U.S. river cruising as thousands discover our heartland and the Pacific Northwest, served by an award-winning, All-American crew,” shares Ted Sykes, company president and COO. “Demand for more capacity on the Mississippi River has been overwhelming the past two seasons and we look forward to delivering a new boutique, all-suite experience and the flexibility of two riverboats sailing between New Orleans and St. Paul.”

The American Duchess will feature a generous space ratio showcased by three 550 sq. ft. Owner’s Suites, four 550 sq. ft. Loft Suites, a U.S. riverboat first; and spacious Veranda Suites and Interior Suites. The new vessel will be incorporating the highest standards of service, entertainment and shore excursions customers have come to expect from the American Queen Steamboat Company. Featuring open seating with two dining venues, The Grand Dining Room and The Grill Room will offer regionally inspired cuisine similar to that of the American Queen.

“In five short years, the American Queen Steamboat Company has grown to over 500 employees and we look forward to hiring about 100 more, right here in the U.S., in anticipation of the American Duchess inaugural season,” shared John Waggoner, the line’s chairman as well as president and CEO of HMS Global Maritime, operator of over 85 U.S.-flagged vessels. “I am proud of the economic impact we continue to have in leading U.S. river cruising, which can be seen in our homeport of Memphis and the many cities we visit including New Orleans and St. Louis.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Celebrity Cruises Announces ‘Top Chef at Sea’ New Year’s Eve Sailing

Sharpen your knives and get your pots and pans ready—Celebrity Cruises and Bravo Media have extended their popular “Top Chef at Sea” program through 2017, and will offer “Top Chef” fans and foodies the unique opportunity to vacation with a lineup of cheftestants on the exclusive “Top Chef Signature Sailing” in 2016. Setting sail December 30th aboard Celebrity Silhouette, this is a one-of-a-kind, delectable 9-night Eastern Caribbean holiday getaway. Guests onboard will enjoy various up-close-and-personal culinary experiences with four former “Top Chef” competitors, including:
• Jeremy Ford: Top Chef California winner; Chef de Cuisine at the Matador Room in Miami, FL
• Doug Adams: Top Chef Boston finalist; Chef de Cuisine at Portland Penny Diner in Oregon
• Tiffany Derry: Top Chef D.C. and Top Chef All-Stars finalist; Owner of TD Concepts, Inc.
• Ash Fulk: Top Chef Las Vegas contestant; a chef in NYC
Along with meeting the four cheftestants onboard, this year’s “Top Chef Signature Sailing” will also feature a new unrivaled culinary experience. This exclusive event will bring all of the talented chefs together to host a one-of-a-kind pop-up restaurant. Guests will be given this one-night opportunity to explore the cheftestant’s best dishes, prepared by them, and a chance to mingle with culinary artists once they’re done in the kitchen.

Throughout the signature sailing, passengers can enjoy exclusive one-on-one experiences with the chefs by booking private cooking classes and chef-hosted shore excursions to polish their culinary techniques and get advice and tips from some of the best chefs at sea. The itinerary will also feature interactive cooking demonstrations. As the chefs turn up the heat and prepare their dishes, they will engage with audience members, answering questions and walking them through the preparation of their meal.

In addition to the “Top Chef Signature Sailing,” Celebrity will continue to offer interactive Quickfire Challenges and “Top Chef”-inspired menu evenings on its cruise vacations available fleetwide (excluding Celebrity Xpedition), for all sailings departing through June 2017. Quickfire Challenges will put guests in the spotlight to get a taste of the pressure the cheftestants experience on the popular series. Plus, guests can indulge in a selection of the dishes the judges raved about on the series at “Top Chef Night” in the main restaurant. Select exclusive events are subject to an additional fee.

Celebrity originally partnered with “Top Chef” in November 2014 to launch the “Top Chef at Sea” experience. The extension of “Top Chef at Sea” allows for guests to continually sail with Celebrity with endless culinary possibilities. For more details about “Top Chef at Sea,” visit celebritycruises.com/topchef. Bravo’s Emmy® and James Beard Award-winning “Top Chef” will return later this year for season 14.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fathom Adds Two Cuba Cruise Dates in Fall 2016

As the result of strong pent-up demand by travelers choosing to take a cruise vacation to explore Cuba with Fathom—the only U.S. cruise line sailing from the U.S. to one of the most desired destinations in the Caribbean—the line has added two Cuba sailing dates for fall 2016. The additional cruises will take place the weeks of Sunday, Oct. 9, and Sunday, Nov. 6. For both week-long cruises, Fathom’s Adonia will depart Port Miami on Oct. 9 and Nov. 6 for three destinations in Cuba, including two days in Havana. The Adonia will return to Miami on the following Sunday for each of the cruises. Bookings are now being accepted for both voyages.

“Carnival Corporation made history when Fathom arrived in Havana on May 2 of this year, and we continue to strengthen our relationships as the only U.S. cruise company sailing to Cuba from the U.S.—and we are very grateful to Cuban officials for granting us two new dates to accommodate more travelers wanting to sail with Fathom to visit their remarkable country,” said Tara Russell, president of Fathom, referring to the first time in more than 40 years a U.S. cruise line has sailed from the U.S. to Cuba. “Since our inaugural voyage in early May, we have experienced strong, continued demand from travelers wanting to travel to Cuba with the comfort, convenience and peace of mind that comes with cruising with Fathom. Our bookings for the fall are strong, and the word is spreading: Going on a cruise with Fathom to Cuba is the best, easiest and most enjoyable way to visit this unique country.”

Fathom’s 7-day cruises from Miami to Cuba visit the historic ports of Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba. In post-cruise surveys, Fathom guests are giving high marks for a great experience at all three destinations, which would otherwise be challenging to visit, and on the Adonia, which houses 700 travelers, providing a sense of intimacy that guests enjoy. The experience includes Fathom’s unique shore excursions—featuring several included in the overall price of the cruise—that provide travelers with fun and engaging options for enjoying the country. Some highlights include the island’s famously friendly people, Spanish and French colonial architecture, traditional Cuban music and dance, restaurants with genuine Cuban cuisine, museums, cathedrals, coastal fortresses, the cannons on San Juan Hill, the shores of Cojimar that were Ernest Hemingway’s favorite fishing village, and lively nightlife including the famous Tropicana Club, and much more. Fathom’s travelers self-certify and can enjoy the island with approved activities. 

Highlights of each destination include:
• Havana: Cuba’s colorful capital is best known for the Spanish-influenced architecture of Old Havana, the classic American cars that cruise the island and its thriving nightlife. But its historic castles, fortresses, cathedrals, mansions and public buildings vie for attention with the city’s lively music and entertainment scene, an eclectic and sophisticated mix of museums, art galleries, music, dance and open-air festivals that take full advantage of the island’s sunny Caribbean climate.
• Cienfuegos: This coastal city is the center of Cuba’s sugar, tobacco and coffee trades, and is known to Cubans as the Pearl of the South for its collection of French-influenced Neoclassical buildings and wide seaside boulevards, with a downtown that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Near the entrance to the city’s spectacular natural bay stands the great stone fortress of Castillo de Jagua, built in 1745 to protect the city against pirate attacks. The city offers a chance to enjoy musical performances, delicious food and charming settings.
• Santiago de Cuba: Capital of the Spanish colony of Cuba from 1522 to 1589, Santiago de Cuba is considered the birthplace of salsa dancing and the Cuban revolution. With its watchtowers and cannons used in the Spanish-American War still well-preserved, Cuba’s second largest city is home to the popular festivals of Carnaval and the Fiesta del Fuego, as well as to many of the country’s most famed musicians and artists and some of its most-visited historic sites.
A highly popular element of Fathom’s Cuban cruise vacation is enjoying the island while staying and sailing on the intimate and well-appointed Adonia, with guests appreciating the amenities of a modern hotel and convenience of unpacking their suitcases just once, with dining, entertainment and specially designed programs about Cuba part of the cruise. Another popular benefit: Fathom takes care of providing traveler visas and medical insurance in Cuba for its guests.

Seven-day itineraries on Carnival Corporation's Fathom brand generally depart from PortMiami on Sundays at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The ship arrives at its first destination, Havana, the following morning (Monday) at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. The Adonia returns to its homeport, PortMiami, at 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time the following Sunday.

Image Courtesy of Fathom