Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Harmony of the Seas: Why I Like It & Why I Don’t

Francesca Bandini of Ocean World Travel, a cruise specialist in the UK, has just returned from a short cruise aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas, which recently arrived in Southampton. Francesca has graciously shared her impressions of the largest ship in the world with us:

“Throughout the year news has been reported about the wonders of this incredibly exciting cruise ship, the only one of this kind: the attractions on board are endless and there is no time for boredom.

I was one of the lucky guests who got the chance to embark on the pre-inaugural sailing of Harmony on May 18, 2016. Other cruise specialists like us were on board, as well as travel agents and a very limited number of VIP guests. Needless to say, that I enjoyed the whole experience very much—the sumptuousness of the ship cannot be described in words, it is something that needs to be experienced in first person. However, I am more than happy to share with you all what I like and dislike about the biggest ship of the world.

What do I like most about Harmony of the Seas? The first word which comes into my mind when replying to this question is “Everything.” I loved literally every single spot. A lot of thought have been put in the smallest details. Yet I decided to write a list of my favourite impressive things
• Décor: all the furnishing is of the highest quality both in the staterooms and in the various restaurants and bars.
• Food: I tested various venues, I must say that I enjoyed everything. Particularly, the choice at the buffet for breakfast is incredible, there is everything for any liking: cooked English breakfast, fresh pastries, freshly sliced meat and cheese, various compotes and sauces, muesli, yogurt, pancakes, omelettes, homemade biscuits, a lot of fruits, dried fruits, nuts, delicious sweet toppings… I don’t think I could wish for more.
• Entertainments: a theatre, an ice skating ring, a jazz club, live music in various venues, cabaret, there is a great deal of choice when it comes to spending your evenings on board. Harmony of the Seas is hosting the biggest cast of performers at sea.
• Cabins’ balconies: very spacious and fully equipped to enjoy the sunshine.
• “Escape the room” by Puzzle Break: this is the first time that a ship is hosting a puzzle game. I was one of the first to try out the whole game: we had to escape from a shuttle and we had only one hour to get all the clues.
What do I dislike of Harmony of the Seas?
• No covered pool: there is not a covered pool where you can relax in case the weather is bad. In fact, I could not try out any of the on board pools. We must say there are two small roofed hot tubs.
• Outdoor activities restrained by weather conditions: if it rains, all the magnificent outdoor activities are not functioning, such as the Ultimate Abyss slide or the Flowrider etc. This is a pity because people who have the bad luck of rain should have more activities inside.
However, we understand that Harmony of the Seas is a ship built to face only sunny cruising. I can recommend Harmony of the Seas to everyone who desire a high quality cruise with a bit of excitement.”

Thank you for your impressions, Francesca!

Image: Harmony of the Seas arrives in Southampton,
Courtesy of Royal Caribbean

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Racing Aboard Norwegian Joy

When Norwegian Cruise Line's next vessel Norwegian Joy reaches its home ports in Shanghai & Tianjin (Beijing), passengers can look forward to a unique attraction on board. A first at sea, Norwegian Joy will feature a fully equipped premium Go-Kart track.

The 230 meters long racetrack will be located on the ship's upper decks, 18 and 19, and will be equipped with 20 karts, a viewing platform, covered pit lane, workshop, storage room, timing system, and floodlights. Currently under construction at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, Norwegian Joy will accommodate 3,900 guests.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Koningsdam is Christened & Next New Ship Gets a Name

If you’ve been following Cruise Diva’s tweets, you know we were on board when Holland America Line held a Dedication Ceremony for ms Koningsdam last Friday in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands officially blessed the bell and named Koningsdam on board the ship in front of invited dignitaries, cruise guests, travel partners, and media.

The celebration began with Her Majesty Queen Máxima performing the ceremonial honors of blessing the ship’s bell in the Lido pool area by pouring a glass of champagne over the bell. The blessing of the bell is a hallowed Holland America Line tradition when welcoming a new ship to the fleet. Her Majesty also was the first to sign Koningsdam’s commemorative wall that will become a permanent installation on the ship. Next, the ship was officially christened during a ceremony in the World Stage theater when Her Majesty Queen Máxima pulled a rope to trigger the traditional champagne bottle break on Koningsdam’s hull.

“It’s an honor to have Her Majesty Queen Máxima as the godmother to Koningsdam, and May 20 was a truly special day with Her Majesty delivering the ceremonial traditions of welcoming our newest ship to the fleet,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “As our company was founded in Rotterdam more than 143 years ago, it was fitting to return to our roots for Koningsdam’s royal dedication.”

In the evening the ship set sail for Amsterdam and a stunning fireworks display lit up the sky as Koningsdam passed Hoek van Holland.

Additionally, during the Dedication Ceremony Orlando Ashford announced that the name of the next Pinnacle Class ship set for delivery in fall 2018 will be ms Nieuw Statendam. Honoring the company’s past while keeping its eyes on the future, Nieuw Statendam will be the sixth ship in Holland America Line’s history to bear the name Statendam. It will be built at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy, and construction will begin this summer.

Like sister-ship ms Koningsdam, Nieuw Statendam represents a new class of ship for the cruise line. Carrying 2,650 guests, the 99,500-gross-ton ship will feature several of the innovative venues that were introduced on Koningsdam as well as new concepts that will debut on the newbuild.

Renowned hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany’s designs will be featured on Nieuw Statendam, bringing his unique vision to this latest vessel as he did with Koningsdam. Also, several public areas will be designed by Bjorn Storbraaten, who successfully worked with Holland America Line on Koningsdam, ms Eurodam, and ms Nieuw Amsterdam in designing the ship’s public rooms.

It was quite an honor to be on board for the christening and to be invited to bless the bell and sign the commemorative wall. I look forward to sailing again on Koningsdam in November and looking for my signature.

Images Courtesy of Holland America Line
© Linda Coffman

Friday, May 20, 2016

At Home Aboard Koningsdam

As expected of a Holland America Line ship, our stateroom is well laid out and very comfortable with plenty of storage. A new feature that's very handy and much appreciated is the USB charging ports found at the desk alongside three electrical outlets. In addition, there's an electrical outlet and USB charging port above each nightstand. Someone has been listening to passenger wants and needs.

Well done, Holland America!

Image (c) Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Taste of De Librije

In addition to being offered on certain nights in the Pinnacle Grill aboard Holland America Line's ms Rotterdam and ms Eurodam, A Taste of De Librije will be available on ms Koningsdam.

Our dinner aboard Koningsdam tonight was a delight. Pictured here is Deconstructed Apple Pie with vanilla gelato and Chantilly-style cream. Accompanied by coffee and 2013 Errazuriz Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, it was an absolutely delicious end to the meal.

Watch for more details here and at CruiseDiva.com.

Holland America Line Presents A Taste of De Librije

Chef Jonnie Boer & ms Konigsdam, a delicious combination
While Holland America Line’s culinary offerings expanded with the debut of an alternative dining option called “Taste of De Librije,” it has thus far been featured exclusively aboard ms Rotterdam and ms Eurodam. Featuring the cuisine of Holland America’s Culinary Council member and Michelin Star Chef Jonnie Boer—and named after Boer’s restaurant in Zwolle, Netherlands—the menu showcases a selection of starters, soups, entrees and desserts from De Librije.

Once per cruise on ms Rotterdam and ms Eurodam, the Pinnacle Grill is transformed into De Librije. The service staff wear the livery uniforms, tables replicate that of the land-based restaurant, and he wine list highlights a selection of labels from the Lady De Librije collection. As a treat for those of us attending the ms Koningsdam naming event tomorrow, Chef Boer will be on hand to host a special “Taste of De Librije” dinner tonight, of which I will be able to share highlights later.

The five-course menu starts with North Sea Scallops served to all diners. From there, they can select among three appetizers, two soups, four entrees, and three desserts.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fathom Adds Voyages Through December 2017

Fathom, the social impact travel cruise brand that sails under Carnival Corporation's umbrella, has announced additional sailing dates that extend Fathom MV Adonia's stay in the Caribbean region through December 2017. The move comes as demand continues to grow for Fathom's unique style—a different kind of cruise that combines travel with the desire to make a difference in the world.

Tara Russell, president of Fathom and global impact lead for Carnival Corporation, said, "Fathom resonates with travelers as the best way to travel with intention, to culturally immerse, to experience and to see more. For example, Fathom visits three incredible, diverse locations in Cuba during its itinerary while having the convenience of unpacking once and savoring the comforts of premium accommodations aboard the intimate, small-ship, MV Adonia—not to mention its excellent and diverse dining, service, and onboard amenities."

According to Russell, Fathom also appeals to travelers as a meaningful way to experience personal growth while making purposeful and engaging contributions to the world, starting in the Dominican Republic. "There is genuine excitement about Fathom's ability to empower travelers to serve and immerse alongside locals in the Dominican Republic to create scalable and sustainable, transformative impact that will play an important role in helping the Caribbean region flourish," she said.

Fathom will depart on weekly 7-day voyages from PortMiami aboard the MV Adonia, a 704-passenger vessel redeployed from Carnival Corporation's P&O Cruises (UK) brand and ideal for delivering an intimate onboard experience. Dates for 7-day voyages departing on Sundays roundtrip from Miami during late-2016 and 2017 include the dates below. Fathom's reservations systems will be ready to take 2017 bookings by June 1, 2016.
-- Dominican Republic: Dec. 4, Dec. 18, Jan. 1, Jan. 15, Jan. 29, Feb. 12, Feb. 26, March 12, March 26, April 9, April 23, May 7, May 21, June 4, June 18, July 2, July 16, July 30, Aug. 13, Aug. 27, Sept. 10, Sept. 24, Oct. 8, Oct. 22, Nov. 5, Nov. 19, Dec. 3, Dec. 17, Dec. 31

-- Cuba: Nov. 27, Dec. 11, Dec. 25, Jan. 8, Jan. 22, Feb. 5, Feb. 19, March 5, March 19, April 2, April 16, April 30, May 14, May 28, June 11, June 25, July 9, July 23, Aug. 6, Aug. 20, Sept. 3, Sept. 17, Oct. 1, Oct. 15, Oct. 29, Nov. 12, Nov. 26, Dec. 10, Dec. 24
"The decision to add 2017 Fathom sailing dates underscores our enthusiasm for Fathom and our experience to date with the impact it is having," said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. "The feedback from travelers, travel professionals, community leaders, and our own employees has been extremely positive. Our travelers and trade partners are asking for additional sailing dates—and we are happy to oblige."

This announcement implies that Fathom was something of an experiment, initially launched for a limited time. With sailing dates extending through 2017, it appears that the experiment is a success.

Image Courtesy of Fathom

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Celebrity Cruises’ Millenium Completes Makeover

Movies viewed under the stars and paired with a specially curated menu of delectable food; freshly redecorated suites; a modernized, fully realized Italian steakhouse—these are just some of the features now found aboard Celebrity Millennium. This month, the 2,138-guest vessel emerged from a drydock refresh with the same lineup of enhancements that Celebrity Summit and Celebrity Infinity have received in recent months.

The new Rooftop Terrace, on the ship’s 12th deck—complete with its large screen, chaise lounges, cabanas, soundscape, and decorative lighting—is a modern relaxing backdrop for Celebrity’s new multisensory experience, “A Taste of Film,” which presents films that evoke a specific cultural, culinary or destination experience, paired with cuisine that brings the scenes on the screen to life through guests’ taste buds. The cruise brand’s culinary team, led by Michelin-starred chef Cornelius Gallagher, has specially crafted a multi-course tasting menu for each “A Taste of Film” selection. The Rooftop Terrace is .

Additional drydock enhancements included significant renovations of the ship’s Penthouse and Royal Suites. As part of the $8 million refresh plan, Celebrity is investing heavily in its Suite Class experience on Celebrity Millennium, as every Penthouse and Royal Suite received new glimmering fixtures, marble surfaces, and comfortable seats in the bathrooms. The rest of the suite got refreshing touches like new carpeting, drapes, and bed linens.

Conversion of Celebrity Millennium’s Olympic restaurant to Tuscan Grille, Celebrity’s popular, Italian-inspired steakhouse that debuted on its Solstice Class ships, includes complete refinishing of the space and the introduction of a refreshed menu, including fresh pasta made in-house; an Italian cocktail menu, a first for Tuscan Grille; a wine list focused on the wine-growing regions of Italy; and new foods like artisanal salami and cheeses; crispy crab arancini with lemon pepper aioli; grilled branzino with spinach and olive oil; swordfish with Castelvetrano olives, fennel and white wine; and oven-roasted USDA Prime dry-aged steak.

Although we are sad to lose the Olympic restaurant aboard Celebrity Millennium, the maritime artifacts in the Olympic will be featured in a special display area in the casino’s entry vestibule. Items include charts, maps, an original place setting, a ship model, and more.

Additional work on board included:
• The addition of an enclosed portrait studio similar to that found on Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships, Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Equinox
• The creation of a new future cruise sales office, where guests can take advantage of special offers
• A refresh of the Solarium, with new furniture, new floors, and refinished pool tops, and a refresh of finishes in the spa café
• The removal of the themed décor in the ship’s casino
Celebrity Millennium entered drydock on April 26, 2016 and emerged on May 12, 2016. Guests sailing on the ship in Alaska this summer will be among the first to enjoy her new spaces and experiences before she heads to Asia in September for her winter season there.

Image Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Monday, May 16, 2016

Royal Caribbean Honors Harmony Of The Seas' Crew

At a traditional delivery and flag changing ceremony last week in Saint Nazaire, France, Royal Caribbean International honored the crew and project team of the new Harmony of the Seas (pictured here). Following 32 months of construction at the STX France shipyard involving thousands of shipyard employees, sub-contractors and suppliers, the world's largest cruise ship is now home to 2,100 crew members from 77 different nationalities.

"Harmony is truly magnificent in every sense of the word, from her architecture and design to the level of care and attention to detail with which our incredible crew are taking to prepare for our first guests," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. "The ship is the 'best of the best' of what our guests love most about Royal Caribbean, combined with new and thrilling experiences never before found in one place but it is the passion and dedication of our crew that will make everlasting memories for our guests."

Costing more than a $1billion, Harmony of the Seas will be the 25th ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet and boasts highly anticipated first-at-sea experiences, including:
• A 100-foot drop with The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea, plunging courageous adrenaline seekers 10 stories down from deck 16 to the Boardwalk on deck 6
• 4,700,000 lbs. (2,150 tons) of water in 23 swimming pools, whirlpools, two FlowRider surf simulators and waterslides, including the Perfect Storm, a thrilling trio of waterslides, and the Splashaway Bay waterpark for young guests
• The first double-story Wonderland, the specialty restaurant concept first introduced onboard the global cruise line’s Quantum class of ships delivering an imaginative and whimsical feast for all the senses
• The debut of Broadway’s hit musical Grease in the Royal Theater and spectacular diving shows in the AquaTheater
• 11,252 works of art showcased throughout the ship and Central Park, a living park in the center of the ship which features a total of 10,587 plants, 48 vine plants and 52 trees, some over 20 feet (6.1 meters) high
• VOOM, the fastest internet at sea, available exclusively to Royal Caribbean guests, which allows travelers to seamlessly stay connected, stream their favorite entertainment, video chat and share their adventures with friends and family at home
Harmony of the Seas spans 16 guest decks, encompasses 227,000 gross registered tons, carries 5,479 guests at double occupancy, features 2,747 staterooms, and is the world's largest cruise ship with a bold lineup of experiences found nowhere else on land or sea. Additionally, Harmony of the Seas combines the distinct seven neighborhood concept that Royal Caribbean's Oasis class of ships are known for with some of the most modern and groundbreaking amenities. Innovative features include The Ultimate Abyss, a thrilling slide 10 stories high—the tallest at sea, robot bartenders, virtual balconies with real-time views of the destination for interior rooms, and VOOM—the fastest internet at sea—so that guests can stay connected, stream their favorite entertainment and share their adventures.

Entertainment in the air, in water, and on ice will keep guests dazzled with exciting high-diving, acrobatic and aquatic performances in the deepest pool at sea at the iconic AquaTheater; an ice show extravaganza and Broadway's hit musical Grease. Imaginative dining in the ship's 20 venues include the widest variety of cuisine from Wonderland, a whimsical culinary adventure for the senses, to the popular Jamie's Italian by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Harmony of the Seas will homeport in Barcelona, Spain and embark on the first of 34 seven-night sailings in the western Mediterranean on June 7, exploring some of Europe's most interesting locations. In November 2016, Harmony will arrive at her homeport of Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, FL, from where she will offer 7-night eastern and western Caribbean sailings. The newest member of the fleet will join sister-ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, sailing from Port Canaveral and Port Everglades respectively, on the east coast of Florida.

Image Courtesy Royal Caribbean

Friday, May 13, 2016

Royal Caribbean Revitalizes Six Ships

Royal Caribbean will revitalize six ships in its fleet this year: Liberty of the Seas, Empress of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, and Radiance of the Seas. The massive project will introduce some of the many features the cruise line is known for. Take a look at how these ships are transformed bringing the best of Royal Caribbean onboard.



Thursday, May 12, 2016

SeaDream Yacht Club Plans 2017 Wine Voyages

Wine aficionados who also love small ship yachting can start to make plans for a special sailing experience next year. Continuing its commitment to and enhancing the superbly established level of award-winning culinary experiences, SeaDream Yacht Club announces seven new Wine Voyages for the 2017 season. Showcasing the most picturesque yachting ports of the Mediterranean on 7- to 11-day sailings, each itinerary pairs the ultimate wine experience with the most scenic backdrops in the world. Whether a seasoned wine connoisseur or new to learning about and liking wine, these voyages are a perfect occasion for developing skills and passions regarding wine and cooking.

Guests onboard these vino-centric sailings will enjoy select premium tastings from celebrated wineries such as Château Gassier, Tenuta San Guido, and Taittinger Champagne. As an exclusive to the Taittinger Voyage, Clovis Taittinger will be onboard followed by Maison Louis Jadot showcasing two of France’s best qualities, champagne and the famous Burgundy region. At the popular Winemaker’s Dinner, SeaDream’s Executive Chef will prepare a distinctive menu to complement and enhance the expressive wines of guest winemakers such as Philipp Wittman, Marilisa Allegrini, and Francesco Mazzei. The Winemaker’s Dinner offers a wine-by-the-glass package, for an additional cost.

Exclusive shore excursions take guests off the beaten path to explore the different foods, wines and cultures of the Mediterranean. At each port of call, guests can choose from a variety of activities to enhance their onboard wine experience. Guests can explore the stunning Sorrentino Winery at the base of the volcanic Mount Vesuvius, attend a wine tasting and truffle hunt at Castello delle Regine, or learn the art of making classic paella and how to pair it with local wines in Cartagena.

“The best way to truly know a place is to experience it through its people, food and wine,” explains SeaDream Yacht Club President Bob Lepisto. “Through our innovative itineraries, high attention to detail, and impeccable service, we are constantly striving to provide the ultimate guest experience both at sea and ashore.”

Additional highlights of the SeaDream 2017 Wine Voyages include a high crew to guest ratio, personalized onboard entertainment, a state of the art fitness center, and cuisine that competes with the ever-changing views. Smaller ports make for memorable shoreside experiences away from the crowd and allow even the most seasoned travelers the opportunity to discover new favorite destinations.

Below is a full listing of SeaDream’s 2017 Wine Voyage itineraries:
• Lisbon to Barcelona, departing April 27–May 6, 2017. Nine days including boutique ports of Portimao, Gibraltar, Puerto Banus, Malaga, Cartagena, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca, and Menorca.
• Civitavecchia (Rome) round trip,departing June 10-17, 2017. Seven days including ports of Bonifacio (Corsica) overnight, Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento, and Capri.
• Civitavecchia (Rome) round trip, departing June 17–24, 2017. Seven days including ports of Portoferraio, Portovenere, Marina di Carrara (Florence, Lucca), Portofino, Saint Florent, and Porto Vecchio.
• Civitavecchia (Rome) to Venice, departing Aug 19–30, 2017. Eleven days calling on ports of Capri, Amalfi overnight, Positano, Taormina (Sicily), Kotor (Montenegro), Dubrovnik, Korcula, Hvar, and Rovinj.
• Piraeus (Athens) to Civitavecchia (Rome), departing Sept 23–30, 2017. Seven days calling on Hydra, Corinth Canal (Transit), Itea (Delphi), Taormina (Sicily), Amalfi overnight, and Capri.
• Civitavecchia (Rome) to Nice, departing Sept 30–Oct 7, 2017. Seven days calling on Porto Ercole, Portoferraio (Elba), Livorno (for Florence), Portovenere, Portofino, and Monte Carlo.
• Nice to Malaga, departing Oct 7–16, 2017. Nine days calling on St. Tropez, Sanary-sur-Mer, Cassis, Sète, Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, and Cartagena.
SeaDream's inclusive fare includes ocean view accommodations, gourmet meals, gratuities, wine with lunch and dinner and so much more.

Image Courtesy SeaDream Yacht Club