Friday, July 25, 2014

Carnival Announces Longer & Shorter Cruise Itineraries

Consumer response to the announcement earlier this year of Carnival Triumph’s first-ever longer length voyages from Galveston and San Juan was so positive that the cruise line has added three new 10- to 12-day voyages. Set to depart in winter 2015, the longer sailings feature port calls on beautiful and exotic destinations throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America.

In addition, Carnival Magic will offer a series of 4- to 6-day voyages from Galveston in winter 2015, marking the first time that the 130,000-ton ship has offered a short cruise program from Texas.

“Based on feedback we’ve received from our guests and valued travel agent partners, we are pleased to be able to provide even more itinerary choices from Galveston,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO. “These new longer cruises on Carnival Triumph visit a variety of beautiful destinations while offering more time to enjoy the ship’s many fantastic and exciting features. At the same time, the 4- to 6-day sailings on Carnival Magic are the perfect choice for those looking for a shorter cruise featuring all the wonderful innovations aboard our newest class of ships,” he added.

The newly scheduled voyages on Carnival Triumph include three options, which can be combined to create a 33-day seagoing adventure visiting 15 ports across two continents:
• An 11-day southern Caribbean voyage from Galveston to San Juan: Feb. 9-20, 2015, calling at Grand Cayman, Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada, Dominica and St. Maarten.
• A 10-day exotic eastern Caribbean voyage from San Juan to Galveston: Feb. 20-March 2, 2015, with visits to St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Croix and Falmouth (Jamaica).
• A 12-day Journey of Discovery cruise round-trip from Galveston: March 2-14, 2015, featuring Grand Cayman, Limon (Costa Rica), Colon (Panama), and Cartagena and Santa Marta (Colombia). From Colon, guests will have the opportunity to take an optional excursion for an up-close view of the wonders of the Panama Canal. The call at Santa Marta will mark Carnival’s first-ever visit to this beautiful seaside city.
During these voyages, guests can relax on beautiful beaches, visit centuries-old historical landmarks and attractions, and enjoy a variety of shopping, dining and sightseeing opportunities, all while experiencing Carnival Triumph’s impressive array of Fun Ship 2.0 dining, bar, and entertainment options.

The three new voyages complement Carnival Triumph’s previously announced series of 10- and 11-day cruises from Galveston and San Juan in 2015 and 2016. Two 11-day cruises sail from Galveston to San Juan Oct. 24, 2015 and Jan. 16, 2016, and two 10-day cruises will operate from San Juan to Galveston Nov. 4, 2015 and Jan. 27, 2016.

While Carnival Triumph is sailing these longer length cruises, Carnival Magic will, for the first time, offer a series of 4- to 6-day voyages from Galveston in February and March 2015, providing consumers an opportunity to experience the ship’s many unique features on a short cruise program.

Carnival Magic’s short cruise program will encompass two 4-day cruises to Cozumel departing Feb. 19 and March 5, 2015; two 5-day cruises to Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico, departing Feb. 14 & 23, 2015; and two unique 6-day cruises to Cozumel, Progreso and Costa Maya departing Feb. 8 and March 9, 2015.

Reservations are currently being accepted for the new departures aboard both Carnival Triumph and Carnival Magic. For additional information, visit Carnival.com.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Everything You Want to Know About European River Cruising in One Place

We were novices when we embarked on our first river cruise last year to sail from Antwerp to Amsterdam. Sure, we’ve lost count on how many ocean cruises we have taken over the past two decades and we have sailed on Baltic and Mediterranean voyages, but we didn’t really know what to expect on European waterways inland. As it turned out we enjoyed river cruising and returned to Europe this year to sail again from Paris along the River Seine.

What we needed to know before that first trip has been compiled by my friend and colleague, the connoisseur of cruising himself—the Berliz guide to River Cruising in Europe by Douglas Ward is now available to help navigate the fastest growing segment of the worldwide cruise industry. With riverboats being launched at an astonishing rate, Ward takes an in-depth look at what they have to offer and what travelers can expect from each company and vessel, which he advises should be called “riverships.”

In the guidebook Ward reviews the major river cruise lines and offers reviews and ratings of each rivership in their fleets. The reviews don’t cover every feature, but do hit the important ones—for instance, what the accommodations and public rooms are like and whether there is an elevator on board.

In addition, there is information about the overall experience and what you can expect to see and do along Europe’s major rivers. Ward also anticipates the questions most frequently asked about river cruises and answers them in detail.

If you’re new to river cruises, this is your guide to making the best decisions before booking. Even if you have already reserved your sailing, take my word for it that the chapter on Europe’s Rivers and Waterways is worth the cost of the book. I wish I’d had it before my river cruises for that chapter alone.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Costa Concordia On The Move to Genoa

Assisted by two tugs, Costa Concordia left her anchored position near Giglio Island this morning at around 11 am. At an average speed of 2 knots, her arrival in Genoa is estimated to be between Saturday, July 26th and Sunday, July 27th.

For an in-depth, illustrated look at the day-by-day process to accomplish the removal of the Costa Concordia wreck, visit CND's CruiseBlogger, brought to you by Cruise News Daily.

Here's video of her on her way...



Grow Up A Bit, Baby Sailors

Since 1998, when Disney Cruise Line entered the vacation market at sea, it has been the cruising choice for many families, especially those with infants under six months of age. Until now, Disney was the only line that allowed babies as young as twelve weeks old to sail.

In an update to their minimum age policy that Disney stated was made to bring them in line with industry standards, Disney Cruise Line is increasing the minimum age to sail from twelve weeks to six months of age for most itineraries. The minimum age for the longer voyages, such as Transatlantic Crossings, Hawaii, and Panama Canal itineraries, will increase to one year of age. The new minimum age restrictions went into effect on July 18, 2014 for all new reservations being made for sailings after January 1, 2015.

The new policy does not apply to previously booked cruises that depart in 2015. Infants between twelve weeks and one year of age will be allowed to sail on those bookings.

This is the information Disney Cruise Line is providing to booked passengers with infants whose age is under the new minimum:
Thank you for selecting a Disney Cruise Line vacation for your family. We are glad that you will be joining us in 2015, and want to share with you some information about a change in the minimum age to sail. As a Guest currently scheduled to sail with an infant in 2015, we want to assure you that this change will not apply to your current reservation.

Effective July 18, 2014, for all new bookings on sailings commencing after January 1, 2015, the minimum age to sail aboard Disney Cruise Line ships will be 6 months of age on most itineraries. The minimum age for Transatlantic, Hawaii, and Panama Canal itineraries will increase to 1 year of age.

While this change will not apply to your current 2015 reservation, we wanted to advise you of the change and the exception that is being made for your existing reservation. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-939-2784.

It is also important to mention that the restrictions on the length of pregnancy have not changed. Women who have entered their 24th week of pregnancy as of their embarkation date or who will enter their 24th week of pregnancy during their cruise are not allowed to sail.
The new policy is outlined in the Planning Center of the Disney Cruise Line website under Frequently Asked Questions.

Image Courtesy Disney Cruise Line

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New Cruise Review: Caribbean Princess

Regular contributors Mary & Vincent Finelli recently sailed on Caribbean Princess once again to enjoy the remarkable cuisine of Executive Chef Antonio Cereda.

Welcome aboard Caribbean Princess for a culinary journey on the Finelli's 106th cruise—and their 21st cruise on Princess ships.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Monday, July 21, 2014

Crystal Cruises To Sail Elusive Northwest Passage In 2016

Crystal Cruises is introducing a new itinerary that is sure to draw the interest of their exploration minded past passengers. Expect this expedition-style voyage to sell out quickly. The route traverses the Arctic Ocean via the legendary Northwest Passage—one so mysterious and remote (500 miles north of the Arctic Circle), that explorers spent centuries seeking the passage, until it was first completed successfully by Roald Amundsen just over 100 years ago.

Crystal will be the first luxury cruise line to ever navigate the route, maneuvering through 900 miles of majestic waterways lined with spectacular glaciers, towering fjords, and vast unspoiled landscapes away from mainstream civilization and tourism, north of mainland Canada. Beginning August 16, 2016 in Anchorage/Seward, Alaska, the award-winning Crystal Serenity will sail for 32 days from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean/New York City.

"Crystal's inaugural Northwest Passage offers guests the opportunity to begin a new story of thrilling adventure, all the while indulging in the world's very best luxury vacation experience," said Crystal President Edie Rodriguez. "The voyage combines intrepid adventure, the great outdoors, and immersive cultural experiences with Six-Star service as only Crystal can deliver."

Following in the footsteps of intrepid explorers, the once-in-a-lifetime journey through once-unpassable waterways marks Crystal's maiden expedition-style itinerary and a break from many cruising traditions. Approaches to itinerary scheduling, destination visits, onboard offerings, and safety standards are all new or enhanced, with major changes including:
A flexible itinerary: Extra "surprise" days are built into the schedule to allow unplanned "calls of the wild" for polar bear-viewing, whale-watching, glacier-cruising, scenic helicopter flights, and/or seeking out the best wildlife and weather on the advice of local specialist guides.
New adventures ashore: Crystal will introduce "Wilderness Adventures" that take guests across polar tundra, up ice-strewn fjords, and into scenic coves to explore areas in and near maiden ports-of-call. Travelers will also be able to respectfully visit the small, remote communities and uninhabited, unscheduled spaces/lands/waterways en route, often with champagne waiting at the other end. Although some excursions will only be determined "in the moment" based on circumstances and environment, Crystal will spend the next two years planning a plethora of excursions and "Arctic safaris" involving kayaks, Zodiacs, a helicopter, ATVs, fishing, hiking, climbing, golfing at the world's northernmost nine-hole course, and even possible camping and/or overnighting away from the ship. Voluntourism opportunities to help local lands and communities will also be offered complimentarily to guests and crew via the line's "You Care. We Care." program.
New enrichment: A 14-person expedition team of experts in a variety of subjects—including a native Arctic guide, scientists, and accomplished wildlife and landscape photographers—will not only provide lectures on subjects such as the science and history of the area, but also offer hands-on seminars and workshops, host dinners with guests, guide wildlife watching from the ship, and accompany excursions, where appropriate.
Respect & understanding of the local culture: Guests will be given a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in the lifestyles of these small and remote communities during port visits, with activities created in partnership with the communities. Designed to show modern life today in the Arctic, as well as the rich cultural heritage of the region, visits will include demonstrations of local arts and crafts, Arctic sports, traditional drum dancing and throat singing, and tastings of local foods, such as Arctic char and bannock bread.
Onboard experience, expedition-style: Embracing the spirit of expedition, Crystal's usual onboard atmosphere of rest and relaxation will be relaxed even further with wardrobe (complimentary parkas, boot rentals, outfitter recommendations, and no "black tie optional" nights) and cuisine that, although still gourmet, is modified to reflect the locale and limited ability to re-supply goods and store waste during the month-long voyage.
Ports-of-Call: Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, and Nome*, Alaska; Ulukhaktok*, NW Territories; Cambridge Bay* and Pond Inlet, Nunavut; Ilulissat*, Sisimiut*, and Nuuk, Greenland; Bar Harbor, Maine; Boston, Massachusetts; Newport, Rhode Island, and New York, New York. (*=maiden call)
Waterways: North Pacific Ocean; Bering Sea & Bering Strait; Chukchi & Beaufort Seas; Amundsen Gulf; Dolphin & Union Strait; Coronation Gulf; Dease Strait; Queen Maud Gulf; Victoria Strait; Larsen Sound; Franklin & Bellot Straits; Peel Sound; Parry Channel; Barrow Strait; Prince Regent Inlet; Lancaster Sound; Croker Bay; Navy Board Inlet; Eclipse Sound; Baffin Bay; Davis Strait; Labrador Sea; North Atlantic Ocean.
Enhanced safety & environmental standards: Crystal Serenity and its escort vessel will be using low-sulphur Marine Gas oil fuel, exceeding environmental regulations. The escort vessel will carry additional safety and environmental protection equipment, as well as personnel specifically trained in its use. In addition, it will serve as a platform for a helicopter and zodiacs, and be manned by a crew highly experienced in all aspects of operating safely in this unique area.
As you might expect, this unique opportunity comes with a hefty fare. All-inclusive "Book Now" fares start at $19,755 per person, double occupancy, with an additional Crystal Society savings starting from $495/person and $3,000 included in savings if booked by August 29, 2014. Additionally, this cruise comes a new booking process. A 20% initial deposit will be required to secure all bookings, with $500 of the deposit being non-refundable. The initial booking window, which opened on July 17th, is only be available to guests who have sailed with Crystal before (i.e., Crystal Society members). Non-members may add their name to a waitlist, and remaining space, if any, will open to the public on Sept 2. Crystal Adventures will open for pre-reservation 18 months in advance of the cruise. For more information, visit CrystalCruises.com.

Image Courtesy Crystal Cruises

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lost Crewmembers

We've heard from several unofficial sources that three of the passengers who perished when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine were crewmembers from Celebrity Cruises who were on their way home to Indonesia. Please join us in a moment of silent reflection for them and their families.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Smooth Jazz Cruise: It's The Greatest Party at Sea

If a Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words, Then What Is a Video Worth? Those of us who have sailed on The Smooth Jazz Cruise know how difficult it is to describe to others. It is more than amazing wall-to-wall music. It is more than a luxurious cruise. It is The Greatest Party at Sea!

Capturing that spirit in photographs and words is very difficult, although we tried during The Smooth Jazz Cruise 2008. However, the real essence and excitement of the cruise can best be seen in the interaction between the Artists and the Guests, the staff and crew and the Guests, and the Guests with their fellow Guests. Depicting the interaction is very difficult, too, but video comes the closest to connecting the dots, which is why the hosts at Entertainment Cruise Productions have put together an amazing video of The Smooth Jazz Cruise ’14, together with a lot of information about The Smooth Jazz Cruise 15.1 and 15.2. Yes! For 2015, there are TWO sailings and special guest Natalie Cole will be unforgettable on both!

About 20 cabins have become available recently aboard Eurodam for The Smooth Jazz Cruise 15.1, which departs Fort Lauderdale on January 11, 2015, and just over 200 remain for The Smooth Jazz Cruise 15.2 that sails on March 1st. Both cruises will visit Nassau, Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Holland America Line’s private island Half Moon Cay. The second sailing is just under eight months away, but those cabins won’t be available for long, so now is the best time to secure a reservation. Book your cabin online with Entertainment Cruise Productions or call 888.852.9987.

There is only one cruise in this musical genre that has sailed 17 times and provided the smoothest entertainment for more than a decade! The Smooth Jazz Cruise ... the first, the best and the Greatest Party at Sea.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer is Officially Under Construction

With the crisp pop of a cork being freed from a Krug Grande Cuvée magnum, a laser cut the ceremonial first piece of steel this week to begin the construction of Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy. Incorporating a bottle of the world’s finest champagne to start the building process is symbolic of the high level of sophistication and design being developed for Seven Seas Explorer, which is scheduled to debut in summer 2016.

The ceremonial first piece of steel will serve as the foundation for an opulent, one-of-a-kind owner’s suite unlike any other at sea. The suite, with exquisite stonework and luscious fabrics, will serve as a hallmark for the superior level of elegance found throughout the ship. When it debuts, Seven Seas Explorer will establish a new benchmark for style and service and perfectly complement the all-inclusive luxury experience currently enjoyed by guests sailing with Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

During the ceremony, Kunal S. Kamlani, president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Gabriele Cocco, senior executive vice president of merchant ships for Fincantieri, began a countdown that culminated with Maison Krug Italy’s master sommelier, Michela Cimatoribus, releasing the cork from a magnum of Krug Grande Cuvée. As the cork soared and the champagne flowed, confetti cascaded down and the laser cut the first piece of steel for the 750-passenger ship.

“We’re one step closer to fulfilling our dream of building the most luxurious ship in the world and giving our guests another exciting option to explore inspired global destinations with our special brand of all-inclusive luxury,” noted Kamlani. “Seven Seas Explorer will surpass the current standard in luxury cruising, offering a new level of grandeur throughout the ship from its lavish suites to its elegant public spaces and gourmet restaurants.”

At 54,000 gross-registered tons and carrying only 750 guests, Seven Seas Explorer will boast the highest space ratios and staff-to-guest ratios in the cruise industry and further strengthen Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ widely recognized position as the most inclusive luxury cruise line. Seven Seas Explorer will join the rest of the award-winning Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet in the summer of 2016. Regent Seven Seas Cruises will begin taking reservations for the maiden voyage and inaugural season for Seven Seas Explorer in early 2015.

Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises: pictured above are Michela Cimatoribus (Master Sommelier Maison Krug Italy), Gabriele Cocco, (SEVP of Merchant Ships for Fincantieri), Kunal S. Kamlani, (President of Regent Seven Seas Cruises), and Raffele Davassi (SVP Ponente Shipyard)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Norwegian Cruise Line Revamps Their Smoking Policy

Travel agents were informed yesterday that Norwegian Cruise Line will ban smoking on private balconies effective for all cruise departures on or after Nov 1, 2014. The revised smoking policy is as follows:
As the health and well-being of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance, Norwegian Cruise Line will institute changes to its smoking policy for all sailings on or after Nov 1, 2014. The specific changes prohibit smoking on stateroom balconies and limit smoking in the casino to players. On Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Breakaway, smoking on The Waterfront will be permitted on the starboard side, except by the outdoor dining areas.

Public areas throughout all our ships are smoke-free. If you smoke regular or electronic cigarettes, you can do so in designated areas only. If you prefer pipes or cigars, you can smoke in the Cigar Bar or designated smoking lounge. Smoking cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars and pipes is permitted in outdoor public guest spaces and open decks where designated by the ship's management based on the ship's specific characteristics and arrangement. Smoking, including electronic cigarettes, is prohibited in or near venues serving food, the jogging track, outdoor sporting venues, The Haven outdoor areas and children's pool areas. On ships with The Waterfront, smoking is permitted on the starboard side excluding any food service areas. Active Casino players may smoke cigarettes in the Casino during gaming hours. Cigarette smoking is not permitted in any other indoor venue or location.

Guests are not permitted to smoke cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars or pipes in their staterooms or on their balconies. Cigar and pipe smoking in staterooms and on balconies is prohibited. Smoking inside your stateroom or on your balcony will result in a $250 cleaning charge added to your onboard account. If cigarette burns on furniture, linens, towels or carpeting are detected; guests will be advised and charged for the damages.

Electronic cigarettes cannot be used in public areas where there is a No Smoking policy in force; simply because these cigarettes look so realistic and therefore other guests' perception is that we are not enforcing the No Smoking rule.
With the recent balcony smoking ban announced by Carnival Cruise Lines, that leaves Holland America Line as the only major US-based cruise line that still allows smoking on private balconies. We wonder if they will make a similar policy change in the coming days.

Image (c) Cruisediva.com

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Norwegian Cruise Line Orders Two More Breakaway-Plus Class Cruise Ships

With two Breakaway-Plus Class ships already under construction, Norwegian Cruise Line announced this week that it has reached an agreement with MEYER WERFT GmbH of Germany to build two more of the 164,600 gross ton, 4,200 passenger berth ships. The contract price for both ships is approximately euro 1.6 billion.

Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway have proven themselves as industry game-changers and are extremely popular with our guests,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “It was only natural that we build on their success with this new ship order that further solidifies our long-term growth strategy.”

Norwegian Cruise Line pioneered the concept of Freestyle Cruising which offers guests the freedom and flexibility to enjoy their cruise vacation on their own terms, including multiple dining venues, relaxed attire, a variety of accommodations, and world-class entertainment. The line took Freestyle Cruising to the next level with the introduction of Norwegian Epic in June 2010 and subsequently launched two Breakaway Class vessels, Norwegian Breakaway based in New York in May 2013 and Norwegian Getaway homeported in Miami in February 2014. These ships incorporate groundbreaking design, including The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place, a wide range of indoor and outdoor venues on three dynamic decks that create a whole new complex at sea and connect guests with the ocean. The line currently has four vessels on order at MEYER WERFT for delivery in fall 2015 (Norwegian Escape), spring 2017 (Norwegian Bliss), and the two just-announced and as yet unnamed vessels due to launch in spring 2018 and fall 2019.

Image of Norwegian Escape & Norwegian Bliss Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line