Friday, February 5, 2016

Every Day is Valentine's Day For Chocolate Lovers At Sea

I love chocolate and I'm not alone. As a rule, cruise passengers love chocolate too. The proof is in the pudding—and the chocolate cake, and the chocolate soufflés, and the chocolate truffles. While you're shopping for that perfect box of chocolate for your Valentine, consider that Carnival Cruise Line alone buys more than 1.3 million pounds of chocolate each year. A half million of those pounds go into making the passenger-favorite Warm Chocolate Melting Cake—some 4 million of the cakes consumed annually in the main dining rooms of the line's two dozen ships. For Valentine's Day, Carnival Cruise Line chefs will make some 60,000 chocolate-covered strawberries, along with love-themed desserts.

While no exact statistic is available, it is fair to say that millions of pounds of chocolate are consumed at sea each year on cruise ships. So why do cruising and chocolate go together?

"Chocolate and a lot of things go together," said French-trained Master Chocolatier Norman Love, who consults on all things chocolate with Princess Cruises. "On a cruise, people are on vacation and enjoying themselves. There's also a romantic side to cruising and a romantic side to chocolate as well. Cruising and chocolate are made for each other."

The chocolate on Princess' 18 ships, whose passengers consume more than a million pounds annually, comes from cacao-bean growing countries around the world. As with wine, great fruit produces great product, with sunlight, soil and elevation factors in creating distinct chocolate flavors, Love said.

The chocolate goes into creations including those highlighted in Princess Cruises' 24-hour "Chocolate Journeys" program with Love. You can sample his 15 extravagant desserts at dinner, bites with afternoon tea, chocolate pastries at breakfast, and chocolate cookies while watching Movies Under the Stars. Or get more adventurous and have anti-oxidant chocolate smeared on your body as part of a hydrating treatment at the Lotus Spa. You can even sip loaded chocolate creations in ship bars.

"Chocolate makes people happy," Love said. "It's a wonderful, universal thing that Mother Nature creates." Americans are consuming more chocolate than ever before, Love added, whether for health benefits, with an aphrodisiac purpose in mind or just because it's so good. "It's chocolate's time right now. Chocolate is really hot," Love said.

A recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research for Princess Cruises showed more than half of U.S. adults admit to being a chocolate addict. The survey also showed 70 percent of women would choose chocolate over sex.

Holland America Line showcases high-end Belgian chocolate in cakes, muffins, custards, sauces, and cookies—and more extravagant creations by world-renowned chocolatier Jacques Torres, such as his Chocolate Coconut Napoleon and Baked Chocolate Soup. A passenger favorite is the Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake at the Pinnacle Grill. You'll also find Dutch hot chocolate served on Holland America Line ships on cool days, for instance when you're warming up after seeing the stunning sight of a glacier thunderously calving into the sea in Alaska.

Images Courtesy of Carnival Corporation

Thursday, February 4, 2016

‘Countdown to Koningsdam’ Video Showcases Stateroom & Suite Accommodations

Holland America Line has debuted the fourth “Countdown to Koningsdam” video in the series that details the ship’s staterooms and suites. The short videos were created to provide updates and share the excitement as ms Koningsdam nears delivery in April 2016.

Hosted by Johnathan Rogers, Koningsdam’s inaugural cruise director, the video, “Countdown to Koningsdam Episode 4,” features Holland America Line’s Deputy Director of Interior Design My Nguyen, who takes guests inside the ship’s accommodations, including the new family and single staterooms debuting on board.

“We spent years developing and fine-tuning the design of the ship’s accommodations to ensure that our guests feel like they’re walking into a pampering and relaxing environment while they’re cruising on Koningsdam,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “We gathered feedback from guests and travel partners about upgrades and changes they’d like to see in our staterooms, and My and her team did a fantastic job implementing many of those ideas. From the color schemes to the functionality of the layout, Koningsdam’s accommodations are the perfect home away from home.”

Koningsdam will boast more than 1,300 guest accommodations that received upgrades in both aesthetics and function. Four distinct color schemes that evoke feelings of rejuvenation identify the suite, spa, verandah, ocean-view and inside categories. Guests will enjoy redesigned headboards with USB and electrical outlets on both sides of the bed, stone tops on desks and nightstands, more storage, and improved lighting.

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 amenities guests associate with Holland America Line. Guests will enjoy fine dining in several alternative restaurants and the ship also will feature Holland America Line’s first purpose-built staterooms for families and single staterooms among its 1,331 guest accommodations. See for yourself how beautiful and functional they will be:



Onboard entertainment will be taken to a new level with the energetic Music Walk area featuring all genres of music showcased in venues including Lincoln Center Stage, offering chamber music nightly; Billboard Onboard, where live musicians rock the crowd with chart-topping hits; and the popular B.B. King’s Blues Club in the Queen’s Lounge, bringing the best of Memphis music to sea. With the 270-degree LED projection at World Stage, new concepts for show-time performances will immerse the audience in panoramic visual and sound effects.

Image & Video Courtesy Holland America Line

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Azamara Journey Gets An Upgrade

Grand  Staircase
Azamara Journey is the first of Azamara Club Cruises' two ships to undergo a "major upgrade." During a recent dry dock, the vessel was outfitted with new venues, public spaces and technologies to bring fresh services and amenities to guests.

"There is no area on the ship that has been untouched," says Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises. "Cruise ships are like fine hotels, after wear and tear, upgrades need to be made. We can't wait to have our new and loyal guests onboard to see what we have done. It's gorgeous and provides all the modern services and amenities that today's traveler needs and demands. I think we have exceeded expectations."

As Azamara Journey emerged from dry dock, all stateroom and suites have had an overall creating an ambiance that is comfortable as well as timeless and elegant. Authentic materials were used, with beautiful stone and porcelain throughout and custom design. Two new Spa Suites have been built adjacent to the Sanctum Spa featuring an elegant look with organic and muted colors providing exclusive access to unique spa amenities that will be included in the price of these staterooms. And, the Club World Ocean and Owner's Suites have also been fully redesigned. Additionally, Azamara Journey's new dining and entertainment enhancements throughout the entire ship are revealed including makeovers to The Patio, Windows Café, Discoveries Restaurant and Discoveries Bar, the Living Room and Cabaret Lounge:

The Patio
Formerly known as the Pool Grill, The Patio is completely transformed into a sit-down al fresco dining experience. The area features tablecloths and candles in the evening creating a fresh ambiance. New lighting, ceilings and fans add modern elements to the renovated look. The décor won't be the only refresh as The Patio will also serve up a new evening menu to be enjoyed amidst oceanside backdrops in locales around the world. In the evening, interested dinner guests can occasionally enjoy a movie on the projection screen or live music alongside their meal. After dinner and a movie, travelers looking to satisfy their sweet tooth can stop by the new Swirl & Top self-serve frozen yogurt station to indulge in a variety of flavors and choice of toppings.

Windows Café
Dining offerings indoors are not overlooked as Windows Café is be reinvigorated with contemporary furniture and place settings. Tables for two will be added, allowing more options for couples or the ability to combine tables to accommodate larger parties, or to join a group of friends for a meal. For those looking to dine while watching the sunset, Windows' outdoor dining area and Sunset Bar are right out the back door, with a rejuvenated look and the same stunning views.

Discoveries Restaurant & Discoveries Bar
Discoveries Restaurant is continuing the reimagination trend. The refreshed restaurant features a warm and inviting atmosphere with new décor, lamps, seating, and sheers. A variety of different sized tables will be offered to accommodate groups of all sizes with ease.

Discoveries Bar will be receiving a modern makeover as well with new bar stools, sofas, chairs and tables, sheers, painting and wood trim. The bar will provide a tranquil and friendly atmosphere with a rich blend of tailored and refined elements for guests.

Living Room
Guests will feel right at home in the new and improved Living Room, formerly the Looking Glass Lounge. The relaxing area offers the comfort of a well-furnished space, featuring cozy chairs and sofas and a handcrafted wooden wine table. Passengers can sample tastes and entertainment from morning until night with the following options:
• Daytime Fare: From 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. enjoy a selection of fine teas and coffees along with delicious breakfast pastries, finger sandwiches, and sweets.
• Afternoon Delight: From 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. each day guests may choose from a variety of tasty hot and cold tapas with a mix of Spain's eclectic and sophisticated flavors. The onboard sommelier will be happy to suggest the perfect red, white, or rosé wine or champagne to pair accordingly.
A new card area with modern-inspired furniture and décor will be open for entertainment. In the evenings the Living Room will liven up into a space for dancing, karaoke or live music from one of the ship's onboard musicians followed by a house DJ, playing music to keep the party going well into the night. On occasion, specialty performances will entertain guests while other nights the Chef may surprise Living Room dwellers with delectable featured desserts. Whether stopping by for a light bite or staying for the entire evening, The Living Room serves up entertainment and culinary offerings for guests day and night.

Cabaret Lounge, Casino & Spirits
This entertainment venue is being revitalized with new carpeting, updated lighting, and a refinished dance floor. The Casino will be outfitted with new slot machines, sleek carpets, and reupholstered seating with custom-designed fabrics. Of course the Cabaret Lounge wouldn't be complete without a proper location in close proximity for a cocktail, the transformed Spirits bar will available for guests just a stone's throw away.

The Azamara Quest will enter dry dock in April 2016 in Singapore.

Image Courtesy Azamara Club Cruises

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

ESPN is Afloat in the Caribbean

It's football, basketball, or the season for another sport and you don't want to miss your favorite team or player in a big match-up, but you want to go on a Caribbean cruise. What are you going to do, stay home and watch on television or go on a cruise? Happily, you don't have to choose.

Beginning now through August of 2016, ESPN will provide extensive, live coverage on all major Caribbean cruise lines of the most anticipated sports events of the next year, including the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games (August 5 - 21) and the 2016 UEFA European Championship (June 10 - July 10).

While sailing the Caribbean Sea, cruisers will enjoy more than 700 live events from the most popular sports in the world, including the most followed leagues and tournaments. The network’s onboard sports programming is in full swing now.

Other upcoming events and programming highlights available across Caribbean cruise lines include:
NFL: 41 NFL Monday Night Football games and post-season playoffs
NBA: 45 regular season games, All-Star Weekend, the Eastern Conference Finals and the 2016 NBA Finals
Tennis: The Grand Slam of Asia Pacific, the Australian Open 2016 Tennis Championship Tour, Jan. 18-31, from Melbourne Park, and all along the year other major events including Wimbledon, the French Open and the U.S. Open
Rio 2016: over 200 hours of live competition plus opening and closing ceremonies, along with original programming, including the weekly Countdown to Rio
Golf: the Masters, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship
• NCAA Men’s & Women’s Basketball
• The ICC World T20
In addition to the live events, cruisers will also see all their favorite ESPN studio shows, including SportsCenter; Mike & Mike, Around the Horn, ESPN FC and Pardon the Interruption.

Go ahead and make your cruise reservations and start packing!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Carnival Cruise Line, Operation Homefront & Superstar Carrie Underwood Launch Honor.Family.Fun. Initiative To Support Military Families

Every time some politician or his spouse comes out in support of military families, I cringe at how shallow their efforts seem. With the exception of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent 6 million dollar fund raiser for vets, what do they really accomplish other than a feel-good photo op? (I’m looking at you Michelle and Dr. Jill.)

For a long time family oriented cruise lines have helped military families get away from it all with special fares to show appreciation for their sacrifice and now Carnival Cruise Line is going a step further with a new Honor.Family.Fun. initiative designed to support U.S. military families alongside GRAMMY-award winning superstar Carrie Underwood and representatives of Operation Homefront, the national nonprofit that builds strong, stable, and secure military families.

“Military families represent a cornerstone of our country and we are honored by the opportunity to partner with Carrie and Operation Homefront to bring much needed awareness and aid to our troops and their loved ones,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “The partnership will bring to life many of the heartwarming stories our troops have to share while in turn bringing them some fun along the way.”

In 10 cities along the course of Carrie Underwood’s The Storyteller Tour, which kicked off in Jacksonville, Florida on Jan 30th, military families chosen in partnership with Operation Homefront will be treated to a personal meet-and-greet with Underwood before her concerts. A video series highlighting the meet and greets and the families’ individual stories will be featured on Carnival.com. The year-long Honor.Family.Fun. program will help raise funds for Operation Homefront and culminate in a special private pierside concert for hundreds of service men and women and their families starring Underwood aboard Carnival’s newest and most family-friendly ship, the Carnival Vista, when the vessel makes its U.S. debut in New York City on Nov 4, 2016.

“I’m honored to be able to join Carnival Cruise Line and Operation Homefront to lift up these soldiers and their families,” said Underwood. “I am really looking forward to meeting them on my tour and for the opportunity to personally thank them for all they do for our freedom.”

Driving the effort to raise funds for the cause, fans of Underwood, and of the program, will have the opportunity to donate by clicking on the “Donate Now” button on Carnival.com/HonorFamilyFun. Commemorative dog tags will also be available for purchase at merchandise stands at all Storyteller Tour stops as well as on board the fleet of Carnival ships with all proceeds going to Operation Homefront.

“Carnival Cruise Line really knows what it means to support our men and women in uniform and their families,” said retired Brigadier General John I. Pray, Jr., president and CEO of Operation Homefront. “We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with the Carnival team and Carrie Underwood to focus on the challenges our military families face as they work tirelessly to protect the freedoms we enjoy daily.”

In the coming weeks, Carnival will launch a new shipboard military appreciation program. Each ship will host a special event on board to recognize active and retired military personnel and their families.

We’re certain the Honor.Family.Fun. initiative will be a success and, with the support of Carnival Cruise Line and Carrie Underwood fans, perhaps they will be able to raise even more money than Donald Trump.

Carrie Underwood Photo Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

Friday, January 29, 2016

Harmony of the Seas Offers More Fun For Families

No parent wants bored children on vacation. Thankfully, Royal Caribbean International understnds and is expanding family fun onboard its newest ship Harmony of the Seas. Guests setting sail aboard Harmony will be able to enjoy more family-friendly offerings than ever before, such as Royal Caribbean’s signature DreamWorks Experience, enhanced entertainment in the award-winning Adventure Ocean youth program, and a new collection of family amenities—two thoughtful collections of experiences that highlight what travelers tend to enjoy most on vacation: eat, play, drink—in balcony staterooms with views of the Central Park and Boardwalk neighborhoods. Combined with The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea, The Perfect Storm trio of water slides, and Splashaway Bay interactive aqua park for kids, Harmony of the Seas will offer adventure for the entire family aboard the world’s largest cruise ship when she arrives in May 2016.

DreamWorks Animation Characters Set Sail
When Harmony of the Seas debuts in just over 100 days, she will bring with her a familiar cast of DreamWorks Animation characters including Po of Kung Fu Panda; Shrek, Fiona and Puss in Boots of Shrek; and from Madagascar, Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, King Julien and the Penguins. Guests will enjoy events and activities based on DreamWorks Animation's popular feature-film characters, including a DreamWorks Character breakfast in the main dining room, ‘meet and greet’ experiences throughout the day, as well as photo opportunities that can be shared with family and friends back home thanks to VOOM, the fastest internet at sea.

Royal Caribbean's younger guests can enjoy a line-up of activities, from story time to dance parties, games and adventures rooted in the popular DreamWorks Animation films at the complimentary Adventure Ocean youth program. Only on Royal Caribbean, parents and kids alike can enjoy peace of mind knowing that they have guaranteed seats on “opening weekend” of highly anticipated feature films such as "Kung Fu Panda 3,” which premieres onboard the same day it does in theaters on land. Year-round, guests can watch the latest and long-term favorite DreamWorks Animation films in the ship’s 3D movie theater and on a dedicated DreamWorks TV channel in their stateroom.

Enhanced Adventure Ocean Programming
Royal Caribbean’s complimentary Adventure Ocean youth program will continue to offer young guests, ages three to eleven, an entertaining line-up of activities and games rooted in fun. New to be offered in Harmony’s Adventure Ocean Theater is Away We Go!, a black light puppet show. Additionally, programming by “Muffalo Potato”—the popular YouTube show, which teaches kids to draw anything in minutes using only letters and numbers—will round out Harmony’s lineup. Muffalo Potato originally debuted aboard Anthem of the Seas and will expand fleetwide just in time for summer vacations, starting with Harmony of the Seas.

New Family Amenities for Central Park & Boardwalk Staterooms
Families vacationing together on Harmony of the Seas, as well as Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, will have a new collection of added benefits to balcony staterooms overlooking the Central Park and Boardwalk outdoor neighborhoods. Starting in November 2016, the views will be enhanced with amenities that feature the best of what each neighborhood has to offer. Guests with views of Central Park—the design in which the center of the ship opens to the sky and features tropical grounds spanning the length of a football field—will enjoy lunch for two at Jamie’s Italian on Harmony of the Seas or Giovanni’s Table onboard Oasis and Allure of the Seas; a complimentary bottle of red wine upon arrival; and special perks in the Casino Royale. Guests with Boardwalk views—a neighborhood inspired by the boardwalks of yesteryear—will receive lunch or dinner for four at Johnny Rockets, a family favorite featuring old-fashioned burgers and fries; a soda beverage package for two; and private time on the cruise line’s 38-foot tall rock wall.

Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, will span 16 guest decks, encompass 227,000 gross registered tons, carry 5,497 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,747 staterooms. The Oasis-class features Royal Caribbean's exclusive seven neighborhood concept, including Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone.

Harmony of the Seas Image Courtesy Royal Caribbean International

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Princess Cruises Makes “The Come Back New Promise”

We vacation for a variety of reasons, but relaxation, rejuvenation, and new experiences are high on nearly every vacationers’ wish list. To help us achieve our cruise vacation goals, Princess Cruises has made “The Come Back New Promise”—a $450 million multi-year product innovation and cruise ship renovation campaign that will continue to enhance their guests’ onboard experience. These enhancements will result in more transformative moments, lifetime memories, and meaningful stories for guests to share from their cruise vacation.

“Our promise is to provide guests transformative moments designed to inspire them to discover the world and themselves, ultimately allowing us to declare that a cruise isn’t good enough unless you ‘come back new,’” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president.

The campaign demonstrates a commitment by Princess Cruises to exceed guest expectations while continuously improving upon and delivering a high value cruise vacation experience that inspires guests to return and introduce cruising to their family and friends. Recently, Princess introduced new initiatives inspired to deliver The Come Back New Promise which further elevate the line’s wellness, culinary/dining experiences and expands the partnership with Discovery Communications. They include:
Chef Curtis Stone: a partnership with award-winning chef, author, and restaurateur Curtis Stone brings guests new culinary creations. All Princess ships will feature “Crafted by Curtis” menu items in the main dining room, while on select ships guests will enjoy “SHARE” a new specialty restaurant that will include a new Chef’s Table experience designed by Stone.
The Princess Luxury Bed: featuring a new specially designed bed to deliver the ultimate night of sleep at sea, the Princess Luxury Bed was developed in collaboration with experts in both the science and beauty of sleep—Dr. Michael Breus, “The Sleep Doctor,” and highly acclaimed designer, Candice Olson, star of popular HGTV shows—Princess is installing more than 44,000 new beds, to every stateroom, across the fleet through 2018.
The Salty Dog Gastropub: a new dining option which highlights a variety of small bites inspired by pub favorites, adapted for an upscale culinary experience. Developed in collaboration with Ernesto Uchimura, a founding chef of the Umami Burger, guests will also enjoy a variety of beer, whiskey, and cocktail selections. Currently available on select ships.
Style at Sea with TLC: What to pack, what to wear and how to look stylish are just a few of the many questions guests ask when preparing for a cruise vacation. With the help of TLC’s fashion expert Stacy London, Style at Sea with TLC will provide tips and tricks to help guests feel and look their best while aboard a cruise.
Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Holland America Line Unveils Unique Libations

DeGroff prepares a Ritz Cocktail
My preference is a Vodka Martini shaken, but I'm always up for trying new cocktails—especially if they feature rum. Whether you like your drinks on the rocks, straight up, shaken, or stirred, Holland America Line's new partnership with 2015 James Beard Who's Who Inductee and Master Mixologist Dale DeGroff brings an innovative menu of creative cocktails to the premium cruise line. DeGroff's creations will debut aboard ms Eurodam this month and will expand fleetwide by springtime.

Continuing Holland America Line's commitment to offer an exceptional food and beverage experience, DeGroff—known as "King Cocktail," author of two best-selling cocktail books, and founding president of The Museum of the American Cocktail—has developed a drink menu to showcase artfully prepared signature classics as well as some unique originals.

"For many guests, there's nothing better than relaxing with a well-made, unique cocktail after a long day of sightseeing or before dinner, and adding a master mixologist to our team gives us the diversity we seek in creating the most robust food and beverage program at sea," said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line's president. "We're excited to welcome the talents of Dale DeGroff to our family, and we know our guests are going to enjoy his innovative creations."

DeGroff's signature cocktails will be served in the Gallery Bar, introduced on ms Eurodam following a December 2015 drydock, and in other shipboard bars and lounges, including Ocean Bar, Explorer's Lounge, Crow's Nest, and Tamarind Bar, as well as more casual outlets such as the Lido pool bar. His creations will be served fleetwide by spring 2016.

DeGroff's cocktail menu includes the Gallery Gimlet, Hemingway Daiquiri, Yuzu Margarita, The Ritz Cocktail, Whiskey and Joe, Another Shade of Greyhound, and a "Slightly Less Than Perfect" Perfect Manhattan. Many of these drinks have a storied past. The Hemingway Daiquiri is a unique spin off of Hemingway's favorite drink, the Papa Doble. The Ritz Cocktail is a dazzling champagne cocktail presented with a burst of flamed orange peel and was one of the most popular drinks at the legendary Rainbow Room where DeGroff created it as a tribute to the Ritz cocktails of Paris and Madrid. In addition to creating exclusive cocktails for all Holland America Line bars, DeGroff also will oversee staff training to ensure his signature cocktails will be crafted to perfection.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Norwegian Cruise Line Goes Over The Edge

Norwegian Cruise Line has revealed The Norwegian Edge™, an innovative program that promises to introduce a new standard of excellence that encompasses the entire guest experience, from ship hardware upgrades to culinary enhancements and exclusive private destination developments. The Norwegian Edge™ reflects a significant two-year $400 million investment by the company through 2017 and demonstrates the line’s commitment to exceptional quality and extraordinary experiences. The centerpiece of the program is an extensive ship refurbishment initiative that will elevate the experience on board the Norwegian fleet to this new standard.

“Norwegian has a long history of investing in its fleet to offer guests the latest and greatest innovations, but the investment to raise our ships to The Norwegian Edge™ standard of excellence takes it to new levels,” said Andy Stuart, Norwegian Cruise Line president and chief operating officer.

Fleet Enhancements
The extensive ship revitalization program at the heart of The Norwegian Edge will completely transform many spaces on board nine of the fleet’s ships to reflect the premium look and feel of the line’s newest ships. As the cruise line with the youngest fleet in North America, this extensive enhancement program will offer much more than the traditional soft goods décor updates and serve to make the line’s ships into essentially new vessels.

The refurbishment program began in October 2015 with a full refresh of Norwegian Epic that included the debut of brand new venues like The Cavern Club; complete restaurant makeovers in La Cucina and a new look for Cagney’s, Le Bistro, Moderno Churrascaria, The Manhattan Room and the Garden Café, now with a sleek and crisp white palette; and refreshed décor, furniture and flooring in many public spaces, including The Haven Courtyard, Lounge and Restaurant, for a more modern and clean design.

Norwegian Gem followed in November, debuting significant enhancements including a complete makeover of Bliss Lounge; extensive interior refurbishments; refreshing of décor including new furniture and new flooring in all specialty restaurants and several complimentary outlets, as well as bars and lounges, to reflect a more contemporary look; new pool deck furniture; interactive digital signage and wayfinding technology; new teak flooring throughout outdoor spaces and corridors of upper decks; and upgrades to The Haven Courtyard and Sundeck with a new look including more shaded areas, cabanas and lounge chairs.

Throughout the course of the refurbishment program, a total of seven additional ships will go into dry dock for both guest-facing and technical enhancements: Pride of America and Norwegian Sun in spring 2016; Norwegian Dawn in summer 2016; Norwegian Spirit, Norwegian Sky, and Norwegian Pearl in winter 2017; and Norwegian Jade in spring 2017.

Culinary Program
As the innovator of freedom at sea with no set dining times and up to 28 dining options per vessel, Norwegian understands that dining is central to guests’ vacation experience. Therefore, the line is continuing to expand investment in the onboard culinary program, to create exceptional experiences

New for 2016, all ships in Norwegian’s fleet now offer upgraded complimentary dining room menus and the addition of optional à la carte priced items in the main dining rooms, such as grilled lobster tails and surf and turf entrees, providing guests additional choices and tastes to create their ultimate dining experience. The new complimentary dining menus offer an increased variety—featuring appetizers, soups and salads, featured entrees, and desserts—and have been carefully developed by Norwegian’s culinary team with a focus on balancing popular traditional dishes like prime rib, chateaubriand, rack of lamb, and escargot with current dining trends and heightened guest expectations. New offerings include more seafood selections such as fresh grouper, along with contemporary dishes like shrimp ceviche, seared Atlantic scallops with fennel puree, and braised beef short ribs.

Beginning Jan 31st, Norwegian will also expand the new specialty dining menus that debuted on Norwegian Escape across the fleet. The introduction of these new enhanced menus at the line’s signature specialty restaurants—Cagney’s Steakhouse, Le Bistro, and La Cucina—along with new offerings at Moderno Churrascaria and Teppanyaki, will elevate guests dining experience with more options. The menus include traditional French favorites at Le Bistro such as Bouillabaisse, pan-seared jumbo bay scallops and veal medallions with sauce morrel, and a more robust menu at La Cucina featuring antipasti, risotto, and traditional secondi courses like Osso Buco alla Milanese or pan-seared sea bass filet. These new menus will be offered on Norwegian Breakaway as of Jan 31; Norwegian Getaway on Feb 14; Norwegian Epic on March 6; Pride of America after her dry dock on March 15; Norwegian Gem on April 1; and Norwegian Dawn after her dry dock in June.

In addition to the new menus, Norwegian is also further expanding training and certification for the fleet’s culinary and dining teams. All Executive Chefs, Executive Sous Chefs, and other culinary staff are certified by American Culinary Federation, the premier professional chefs’ organization in North America. In addition to excellence in the kitchen, the line is working toward a certified service training program and three new training and development centers have opened across the globe to help train crew members prior to boarding ships, so they are immediately able to provide excellent service as soon as they step onboard. Guests should also expect to see the expansion of popular existing partnerships with culinary experts for food and beverage outlets on board. More details and specific information will be shared closer to each ship’s dry dock date.

Destination Experiences
Norwegian has further expanded plans for the line’s privately-owned destinations including the development of the Caribbean’s premier resort-style experience at Harvest Caye, Belize. This resort-style port of call will feature an expansive pool, exclusive beach, shallow lagoon for watersports, private luxury cabanas and many more exciting features, all in the richest ecosystems in the region with a diversity of flora and fauna that is core to the Harvest Caye experience.

Considerable new features are also in store for the line’s private Bahamian island, Great Stirrup Cay. The island was recently enhanced in 2014 and will debut several new offerings and high quality amenities for guests by spring 2017. Specific details will be announced later this year, and guests should expect to find experiences on the island that complement those found on board Norwegian’s ships, including private spaces, luxury relaxation areas, multiple food and beverage outlets, and interactive activities.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, January 25, 2016

Cruise Lines to Bypass Turkish Ports

Cruise lines are altering their itineraries and dropping Turkish ports in their Eastern Mediterranean itineraries following the recent terrorist attack in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square and other unrest in Turkey. Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, and Azamara Club Cruises have all announced plans to call elsewhere—substituting Athens, Greece and Greek Isles seems to be the most popular alternative. Additionally, Celebrity Cruises has canceled overnight calls in Istanbul and will add other ports as replacements.

The most recent announcement comes from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings:
"At Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, our primary concern is to ensure the safety and security of our guests and crew. Due to recent events in Turkey, we are suspending all calls to the country through 2016 across all NCLH brands. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and make future itinerary adjustments as appropriate. We have begun the process of informing guests booked on the affected cruises of the itinerary changes and will update the respective brand websites with revised voyage information."
Other cruise lines are closely monitoring the events in Turkey and will make itinerary changes as necessary. Turkish ports are some of the most historically important in the world and, hopefully, the situation in the country will improve and ships will begin calling there again.

Photo © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com