Friday, November 21, 2014

Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2014

If you followed our daily stories here on the blog, you know what a great time the Cruise Diva crew was having on the Malt Shop Memories Cruise this month.

We've wrapped up all the fun, music, parties, and entertainment, as well as added even more photos to the Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2014 article on our website and we invite you to sail along.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, November 20, 2014

‘Premiere Sailings’ in the Med to Mark Holland America Line’s ms Koningsdam Maiden Season

It was just a few days ago that Holland America Line revealed that their new ms Koningsdam would debut an innovative design aboard the premium line’s largest ship to date and we didn’t expect additional information quite so soon. However, we have just learned that when ms Koningsdam sets sail in February 2016 for her maiden sailings, she will head to the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea to explore some of the region’s most popular capitals, culturally rich cities, charming villages, and beautiful beaches.

“Since we announced ms Koningsdam, guests have been anxiously awaiting itinerary details, so we’re pleased to share the spring Mediterranean season,” said Richard Meadows, Holland America Line’s executive vice president, sales, marketing and guest relations. “We have a very loyal following and we anticipate these cruises will fill up quickly, so I recommend booking early.”

Reservations for the Premiere Voyage and Sailings open Dec. 1, 2014. The 2,650-guest ship is scheduled for delivery by Fincantieri’s Marghera, Italy, shipyard Feb. 15, 2016. After its repositioning to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, ms Koningsdam will sail a 7-day Premiere Voyage roundtrip from Civitavecchia departing Feb. 20 to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kérkira (Corfu) and Katakolon (Olympia), Greece; and Naples, Italy.

Following the Premiere Voyage, from the end of February through early May ms Koningsdam will cruise a series of six 12-day Premiere Sailings on two alternating itineraries roundtrip from Civitavecchia. The first itinerary calls at Katakolon, Piraeus (Athens), Rhodes and Crete, Greece; Istanbul (overnight) and Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey; and Naples, Italy. The other itinerary visits Naples, Italy; Palermo, Sicily; Cagliari, Sardinia; Gibraltar, British Territory; and Cádiz, Málaga, Cartagena and Barcelona (overnight), Spain. Holland America Line is working to finalize details on the ship’s summer and fall 2016 cruises and information will be released in the coming months.

As previously reported, ms Koningsdam represents a new Pinnacle Class of ship for Holland America Line. The vessel will debut several innovative concepts and new public spaces and venues, while still featuring popular features that guests associate with Holland America Line.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Quantum of the Seas Sails Into New York

Last week the Cruise Diva crew was sailing the sunny and warm Caribbean aboard Regal Princess and missed the excitement surrounding the arrival of Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas for its season of cruises from the New York area before repositioning to its home in China. While we couldn't be there in person, we enjoyed the following video and wanted to share it with you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cruise Line Gift Cards For Holiday Giving

Just in time to make the holidays a bit brighter for cruise travelers, Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Lines are offering the ideal gift to make their next voyage memorable.

Princess Cruises has announced a brand new gift card program making it easy to give the gift of cruising. Princess Cruises gift cards can be applied as payment towards the purchase of a Princess cruise, as well as onboard products and services including specialty dining, drinks, Lotus Spa treatments, shore excursions and more.

“Our new gift card offering is customizable, easy to purchase, ideal for any celebration and is the perfect gift for holidays, birthdays and anniversaries,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. “We hope our new gift cards will inspire new travelers to take a Princess cruise and introduce them to the many worldwide destinations and memorable onboard experiences only a Princess cruise vacation can offer.”

Additional features of the Princess Cruises gift card program allow buyers to choose from various designs, schedule a delivery date to the recipient, and even personalize the notification by allowing buyers to record an audio message and add a digital photo.

Cruise gift cards are available in $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000 and $2,000 increments and can be customized for a specific dollar amount up to $2,000. Buyers purchasing a gift card for $100 or more will also receive free shipping. Gift cards can be sent electronically or via mail. Princess Cruises gift cards are available at princess.com/giftcard. The program is available to all U.S. and Canadian residents.

Carnival Cruise Lines’ popular gift card program, a prepaid card that can be used as payment toward a “Fun Ship” vacation or a variety of shipboard purchases, is now available in more than 9,000 retail outlets throughout the U.S. This marks the first time that a cruise line-specific gift card has been made available at retail establishments ashore. Carnival will offer its gift cards at such locations as Giant Eagle, Kroger, and Safeway beginning later this month.

“Based on feedback from consumers and our travel agent partners, we’re very pleased to enhance the availability of our gift card program and provide consumers with even greater convenience and flexibility,” said Gus Antorcha, senior vice president of guest commerce for Carnival Cruise Lines.

Also available online at carnivalgiftcards.com or sold on board Carnival’s ships, the gift cards are ideal for any occasion, from weddings and graduations to birthdays and anniversaries, and offer consumers flexibility and convenience in their vacation purchases. The cards can be pre-loaded with funds ranging from a minimum of $25 to a maximum of $1,000. The Carnival Gift Card is simple to use and may be applied online via the dedicated web site using the 16-digit card number, redeemed by calling 1-800-CARNIVAL, or used like cash on board as payment toward guests’ “Sail & Sign” shipboard account.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Holland America Line's new ms Koningsdam to Debut an Innovative Design

ms Koningsdam Atrium
When Holland America Line welcomes ms Koningsdam to the fleet in February 2016, the ship will debut a new era in design approach for the line. As the first ship in the Pinnacle class, the 2,650-guest ship will have an interior that blends fresh, contemporary styling in harmony with the line's renowned classic elegance. The story of the ship will unfold online over the coming months through vibrant renderings, engaging videos, ship facts and more details about the interiors created by Adam D. Tihany and Bjorn Storbraaten.

"When guests come aboard ms Koningsdam they'll know they're on a Holland America Line ship, but they'll see we're taking a forward-thinking approach to many of the design elements," said Stein Kruse, CEO of Holland America Group.

At the helm of the interior conceptualization is Tihany, regarded as one of the world's pre-eminent hospitality designers. Tihany has approached ms Koningsdam with an eye toward creating public spaces that reflect the tradition and signature elegance for which Holland America Line is known, while elevating the design to strike a more modern balance of past, present and future. Focusing on fluid curves and graceful lines, light-filled spaces and the natural flow of public areas, Tihany's metaphorical approach to the interiors of ms Koningsdam was inspired by the "architecture of music."

"The idea was to tell a story that guests can connect with throughout their voyage," said Tihany. "I was inspired by the thought of what you might see from the inside of a musical instrument, what the architecture of the surfaces and the geometry look like."

Key to his concept is utilizing visual interaction, where guests actively engage with the architecture rather than passively moving through it.

"The design isn't a literal translation of music, but a conceptual approach where we seek to evoke the feeling and beauty of an instrument with graceful lines, dramatic textures, lighting effects and use of materials," said Tihany. "My inspirations were not only instruments, but also majestic spaces and exaggerating the feeling of height, so guests feel the grandeur of every room."

For example, at the heart of the ship Tihany is creating visual drama with the central atrium, pictured above. Soaring three decks high, the space is graced by an airy stainless-steel sculpture that represents the synthesis of a string quartet. Like music, the experience changes as guests move around and through it, so no two perspectives are the same. The atrium is capped by a ceiling "skylight" that serves as a backdrop for subtly changing high-definition projections. Guests will look up by day and see wispy cirrus clouds floating in an azure sky or perhaps soothing images of light in water. By evening, the atrium takes on dramatic lighting hues or reflects the starlit constellations of the night sky.

Hallmark Venues Reimagined with A Fresh Approach
The main Dining Room aboard ms Koningsdam will span two floors and be framed by views of the sea. A bright interior will be inspired by a modern, global design and sets the stage for the exceptional culinary experience to come. Strong, curved architectural pillars will accentuate the soaring ceiling. Chic, custom furnishings and modern glass lighting are being fabricated especially for the ship. The centerpiece is a curved copper sheath surrounding a two-story wine tower showcasing an impressive selection.

The Queens Lounge
The iconic Queen's Lounge pictured here has been completely reimagined as an elegant theater and entertainment venue that spans two floors. Tihany once again drew inspiration for the space from music, nodding to the sensual curves of a violin and featuring extensive use of wood, fluid waveforms and light. With state-of-the-art technology, the Queen's Lounge will showcase world-class musicians and the largest dance floor on the ship.

Architect and designer Bjorn Storbraaten joins Tihany in bringing the ship to life in a familiar yet innovative style. With his previous work on ms Eurodam and ms Nieuw Amsterdam, Storbraaten adds continuity of the brand to ms Koningsdam, while taking elegance to the next level.

"It's been fascinating to work on ms Koningsdam where we are introducing design elements never before seen on Holland America Line," said Storbraaten. "We were tasked with evolving the look and feel of the ship while keeping it true to the brand, making this an exciting and rewarding project."

Storbraaten's hand is clearly present in the design of the central pool area. The Magrodome, which typically is a single level on Holland America Line ships, has been expanded to two levels to create a vast glass-enclosed space. The lower level will have more traditional poolside elements, while the mezzanine level will be a new concept for the brand. In addition to other areas, Storbraaten is designing the exotic look of Tamarind, the line's Pan-Asian restaurant that emphasizes nature's basic elements: water, wood, fire and earth.

Across the ship, Tihany and Storbraaten are working together to make ms Koningsdam an evolution of the Holland America Line brand. Over the coming months, even more innovative features and detailed renderings of ms Koningsdam will be released on the company's website. Early season premier itineraries will be revealed in the coming weeks, in advance of these first ms Koningsdam sailings opening for booking on Dec. 1.

Images Courtesy Holland America Line

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Suite Life Aboard Regal Princess

While our balcony stateroom on Regal Princess isn’t a suite, I was afforded a peek into the Suite Life of those who are ensconced in the top accommodations on board. In addition to their posh suites with numerous upscale amenities, they have access to the Concierge Lounge, which is tucked away next to the Wedding Chapel on Deck 14.

Inside the private lounge accessed by keycard, the concierge can assist with arranging specialty dining reservations, spa appointments, and shore excursions, as well as answer any questions they might have.


Available around the clock, the lounge offers complimentary tea, coffee, juices, sweets, fruit and cheeses, and small sandwiches.


Images © CruiseDiva.com

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dining Aboard Regal Princess

International Café
At least once during every cruise I overhear a fellow passenger bemoan the expansion of their waistline and I’m experiencing the same situation aboard Regal Princess. Thank goodness for elastic waistbands—the food on board is just too good not to clean my plate at every meal and there seems to be food everywhere. One of the most popular spots for a quick bite is the International Café in the Piazza. There’s a variety of food available there around the clock—sandwiches, salads, desserts, and the ever popular cookies—most items are complimentary, but there is a charge for specialty coffees. Nearby, also in the Piazza is Gelato,* the source for Italian frozen treats. Also adjacent to the Piazza, while enjoying a glass of fine wine in Vines* you can sample a variety of tapas or head to the Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar* for sushi, sashimi, and caviar.

Other casual eateries in the Piazza area are Alfredo’s Pizza and the Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar*. Not far away, in the Crowne Grill, adjacent to the Wheelhouse Bar, a Pub Lunch is offered on select days at no additional charge. For quick snacks poolside, adjacent to the Fountain Pool are Prego Pizzeria and Trident Grill.

In the evening Crowne Grill* is Regal Princess’ upscale steak house serving premium seafood dishes and steaks and chops prepared to order. Another specialty dining option is Princess Cruises signature Sabatini’s* with menu choices inspired by the Tuscan region of Italy. Also found on Regal Princess on select evenings is the Crab Shack*—located in a quiet corner of the Horizon Court on select nights its menu features seafood favorites such as crab legs, shirimp, mussels, clams, and even the Louisiana “delicacy”—crawfish. On other select evenings, Fondues* features appetizers and a selection of sweet and savory fondue items.

Naturally there are traditional dining rooms on Regal Princess—one with two set seating times and the other two offering open seating. The Chef’s Table Lumiere* is a unique dining experience with an exquisite meal served at an intimate table surrounded by a curtain of light.

Horizon Court is Regal Princess’ buffet serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Adjacent, the Horizon Bistro also offers breakfast and lunch and at dinner offers carving stations and a hibachi grill. Next door is the Pastry Shop for yummy desserts and special treats throughout the day.

Room service is available twenty-four hours at no charge, with the exception of $3 for delivery of a hot, fresh pizza. However, there is a charge for the ultimate in room service—Ultimate Balcony Dining, which is available to most passengers on Regal Princess as all outside accommodations have a balcony. The Champagne Breakfast* at $32 per couple includes a half bottle of champagne along with pastries, smoked salmon, fresh fruit, and a specially prepared quiche. For a romantic evening meal for two, the Lobster Balcony Dinner* at $100 a couple features one cocktail per person, canapés, a flower bouquet, an 8x10 portrait, and half bottle of champagne. After starting with a crab cake appetizer and salas, main course selections are lobster, steak Diane, and surf ‘n turf. So divine.

* Extra charges apply

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Regal Princess: Art & Architecture

Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess—a beautiful vessel in her own right—has been filled with an extensive art collection and unique architectural elements, such as the Sea Walk (pictured at left), which extends beyond the hull and affords exceptional views of the water below.

Stateroom passageways are enlivened by enlargements of exceptional photographs taken by Princess Cruises’ past passengers on their voyages.

In order to fully appreciate the art on board, a QR code is located near each exhibit that can be scanned into a smart phone or tablet to learn interesting facts about the art, artist, or architectural design.

The twenty-nine stops on the art tour kept me busily occupied on a rainy sea day, but my favorite element wasn’t actually on the tour—I was fascinated by the columns in the Piazza that feature blown glass fish “swimming” the height of three decks (pictured right). I fell in love with their originality and sparkle.

Image © CruiseDiva.com

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Regal Princess: So Entertaining

Music and dancing are never far away aboard Regal Princess. Starting with a Welcome Aboard show, the Princess Theater has featured such entertainment as vocalist/instrumentalist Zach Winningham, Princess Cruises’ Entertainer of the Year and “Sweet Soul Music” with the Regal Princess Singers & Dancers who performed our favorite songs from artists such as Tina Turner, the Temptations, James Brown, and Lou Rawls. Accompanied by the Regal Showband, there isn’t a bad seat in the theater—there are no posts to spoil the sight lines.

Pianists entertain in Crooners (pictured here) and the Wheelhouse Bar and the Piazza features a variety of artists including concerts by a string quartet and a pianist as well as performances by adagio acrobats. The Piazza is also the site for music and dancing with party band Evolution.

DJ Nature hosts music from different eras in Club 6 and passengers are invited to show off their talents at Kareoke in Princess Live! Tickling our funny bones are comedy shows in the Vista Lounge. It goes without saying that films are even better when watched poolside on the Movies Under the Stars big screen.

A ballroom dance class was offered in the Piazza before the Kilburn Quartet began playing for us to show off our best moves. Well, maybe not our best moves—we won’t get an invitation to appear on Dancing With the Stars—but we gave it a try.

Image © CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Regal Princess Calls At Princess Cays

Regal Princess’ first port of call on our week-long cruise was Princess Cays, Princess Cruises’ own private sanctuary on the island of Eleuthera, for a day at the beach with activities for all ages and interests.

Only 110 miles long, a scenic driving tour of the island was offered that featured a taste of what the scenery and lifestyle is like with its lush vegetation, ponds, and quaint villages with tiny churches. Another excursion included a visit to the Leon Levy Plant Preserve for a nature trail walk followed by exploring Governor’s Harbor with its Victorian homes.

More active adventures included snorkeling and kayaking and a coastal cruise along the shoreline that featured not only the cruise, but also use of a locker, snorkel gear, and a float for the time we were ashore.

For those who preferred a laid back day, loungers lined the white sand beach—either in the sun or the shade of several pavilions or beneath a clamshell, which were available for rent. The ultimate in beach chic were air conditioned rental cabanas with reserved lounge chairs and over-the-top amenities.

Pelican’s Perch provided children with an ideal setting complete with a play area, plenty of sand for creating sand castles, and even a swimming pool.

A day at the beach wouldn’t be complete without a barbeque—complimentary—and a few frosty beverages—extra charge. All served by Regal Princess’ staff.

At this time of year it isn’t as hot as in summer months and, although the day was somewhat overcast, it was delightfully comfortable with cooling breezes.

Images © CruiseDiva.com