Friday, July 31, 2015

Guy Harvey Brings Norwegian Escape’s Signature Hull Art to Life

One of my favorite tee-shirts features a painting by famed marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey and I can hardly wait to see his largest canvas to date when Norwegian Escape debuts this November in Miami. Currently under construction in Meyer Werft in Germany, Norwegian Escape is Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, the largest in the company’s history. Norwegian Escape represents an evolution of the line’s innovative history of providing guests with the freedom and flexibility to enjoy their ideal cruise vacation. The famed artist made a ship yard visit as his artwork is now beginning to take shape, bringing to life his perspective of the spectacular Caribbean marine life on the expansive canvas of Norwegian Escape’s hull.

Spanning more than 1,000 feet in length from bow to stern, the custom-designed artwork features a scene of marine wildlife which blends two underwater seas seamlessly together. Featuring Harvey’s signature sailfish, the design also showcases key Caribbean sea life including sting rays, sea turtles, whale sharks, and a variety of tropical fish.

“I’m so proud to showcase the incredible marine life of the Caribbean on the largest canvas a human could possibly paint,” said Dr. Guy Harvey. “After weeks of work, the artisans at Meyer Werft have done an incredible job of recreating my art on such a vast format. I’m overjoyed at the level of detail that has been achieved and I can't wait to see Norwegian Escape in her element out on the ocean.”

The process of creating the artwork is a lengthy one, beginning with a laser that projects the design onto the hull. A team then outlines the art onto the curved hull, penciling in the lines and then taping the edges in preparation for applying the paint by hand.

“We had great expectations for this artwork, which reflects the marine life of the spectacular waters on which this ship will sail,” said Andy Stuart, president and chief operating officer of Norwegian Cruise Line. “Guy’s vision for Norwegian Escape’s signature artwork is the perfect complement to everything this ship stands for.

Guy Harvey, widely recognized as one of the world’s finest marine wildlife artists and champion of ocean conservation, combines his unique artistic talents with his background as a marine biologist, diver, photographer, and angler to create visually appealing and truly authentic art. Alongside his artistic talent, Harvey is focused on ocean conservation. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation funds inspired scientific research and innovative educational programs to encourage conservation and best practices for sustainable marine environments. Hand in hand with Norwegian Cruise Line’s commitment to the environment, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation-produced documentaries will be shown on board Norwegian Escape in staterooms to educate guests on how they too can help with marine conservation.

Images Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Kathie Lee Gifford Debuts Her New 'GIFFT' Pinot Noir Rose Aboard Carnival Splendor

Wine and cruises go together just like Kathie Lee Gifford and Carnival Cruise Line, so it was only natural that Gifford—"Today" show host, original Carnival Cruise Line spokesperson, and current brand partner with her GIFFT wine collection—boarded Carnival Splendor in Manhattan earlier this week to officially launch her GIFFT wine Pinot Noir Rosé. The new blend joins the GIFFT Red Blend and Chardonnay that were introduced fleetwide aboard Carnival's ships earlier this year. Created in consultation with California-based Scheid Family Wines—one of the largest vineyard owners in Monterey County and known for having the longest growing season in California—the limited-edition Pinot Noir Rosé is 100 percent estate-grown and features ripe strawberry, raspberry and red apple aromas to exhibit bright fruit flavors framed by a crisp, juicy acidity.

"I love that I'm launching our Pinot Noir Rosé aboard Carnival, with whom I've had such a fantastic partnership for so many years now," Gifford said. "The fact that we can expand on that relationship through a love of wine is just all the better! I can't imagine a better spot for folks to enjoy a glass of GIFFT wine than while relaxing out on the ocean aboard a Carnival ship!"

Gifford originally became associated with the "Fun Ship" brand in the 1980s when Carnival launched the cruise industry's first national television campaign, and she appeared in the "If You Could See Me Now" and "Ain't We Got Fun?" ads. Today, Carnival is the only cruise line featuring GIFFT wines, with all three varietals available in the main dining rooms and at a wide array of bars on all Carnival ships. In its tasting ratings, Wine Enthusiast magazine has rated the GIFFT red with 91 of a possible 100 points, while giving the Chardonnay 88 points.

"Our guests have really embraced GIFFT wines to make them among the most popular offerings on our wine list," said Carnival's Vice President of Beverage Operations Eddie Allen, who joined Gifford onboard to conduct a mixology demonstration of summer-inspired wine cocktails incorporating GIFFT Pinot Noir Rosé. "The aromas and flavors of this Rosé are very 'food friendly,' and complement so much of Carnival's vast shipboard culinary offerings."

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Windstar Cruises Welcomes Solo Travelers

One of the disadvantages for solo cruisers is the dreaded Single Supplement, which often doubles their fare unless they can find a travel companion. Now, for the first time, Windstar Cruises offers them some budget relief and the chance to experience the trip of a lifetime with waived or reduced rates on select voyages booked by Sept 18, 2015.

Windstar extends this more affordable style of single cruising on more than 130 voyages including itineraries in Panama, Costa Rica, Tahiti, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean. The Single Supplement is completely waived on 43 itineraries, with a 10-25% discount on 94 voyages. For example,
• Waived Single Supplement – Dreams of Tahiti, Glitter and Glam of the Rivieras, Caribbean Delights and Panama Passages, Morocco and the Canary Islands, and more.
• 10% Single Supplement – Black Sea Tapestry, Classic Italy and the Dalmatian Coast, Naturally Costa Rica, and more
• 15% Single Supplement – Classic Caribbean, Jewels of the Windward Isles, Spanish Serenade, transatlantic crossings, and more
• 20% Single Supplement – Best of the ABC Isles, Culinary and Wine Delights of Spain and France, Tahiti and the Tuamotu Islands 10 day, and more
• 25% Single Supplement – San Juan and the Virgin Islands, Secrets of the Southern Caribbean, Treasures of Southern Spain and Morocco, and more
All fares include an ocean view stateroom or suite, fine dining, and a complimentary Private Event—an exclusive onshore cultural experience offered only on Windstar. The waived or reduced single supplement is combinable with Windstar’s Three Free Shore Excursions and All Inclusive offers.

“This new promotion is an excellent way to offer a great value to our solo guests, so if you’re debating a little ‘alone time’ for your next trip, now is the time to book,” says Hans Birkholz, CEO of Windstar Cruises.

Image Courtesy Windstar Cruises

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Silversea Cruises Cuts Steel on New Silver Muse

Ultra-luxury cruise line Silversea Cruises celebrated the start of construction of their newest ship Silver Muse on July 24 with the cutting of first steel at Fincantieri's Sestri Ponente shipyard in Genoa, Italy.

Pictured here, Silversea's chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio co-hosted the event with Giuseppe Bono, CEO of Fincantieri. Set to debut in the spring of 2017, Silversea's new flagship will maintain the line's commitment to operating the highest quality ships in the ultra-luxury segment. The steel cutting for Silver Muse follows extensive planning and development of new concepts to enhance the onboard experience.

"We're very pleased to once again partner with Silversea," commented Bono. "Silversea has shown remarkable dynamism and ability to achieve important results in this market. This project offers us the opportunity to develop creative solutions and set new standards for shipbuilding in the ultra-luxury segment."

"The start of construction of Silver Muse is a very proud occasion for us and I am delighted to be back at Fincantieri to celebrate this milestone," said Lefebvre d'Ovidio. "The concept of this ship descends from our vision of luxury, that is a very personal element for a guest, and that's why Silversea has always offered a tailored cruise experience, shaped around the preferences of each different person. Silver Muse will make a further step ahead in this direction, offering our guests a simply-divine experience."

He added, "Silver Muse will be an intimate ship, with just the right proportions: the only one with 40,700 grt and less than 300 suites to be launched in the ultra-luxury segment in the coming years. It will provide our guests with an outstanding dining experience, offering the highest number of restaurants than any other vessel in the category, while ensuring the same, unparalleled level of service we are famous for. And, of course, Silver Muse will bring the world to our guests, featuring new, carefully curated itineraries that will allow them to visit the most exceptional destinations in the utmost elegance at sea."

Image Courtesy Silversea Cruises

Monday, July 27, 2015

Carnival Vista Below the Water Line

What lies beneath the water line of a cruise ship? Host Peter Gonzalez dives in to learn more. The team is going under the hull of the Carnival Vista to see something that viewers may never get to see until now.

The new “Behind the Scenes: Carnival Vista” video series continues with the second episode venturing below deck to showcase the line’s largest and most innovative ship, which is set to debut from Europe May 1, 2016.

In the video that follows, entitled “Below the Waterline,” host Peter Gonzalez heads to the Fincantieri shipyard to interview Carnival Vista’s Chief Engineer Cesare Boldrini who talks about the groundbreaking technology incorporated into the 133,500-ton vessel—85 percent of which has never been employed before on a Carnival ship. Gonzalez also explores the ship’s Azipod propulsion system that includes twin 170-ton propellers that can rotate a full 360 degrees. He also examines the hundreds of massive 2,000-pound support blocks that must be expertly positioned to ensure maximum stability during the construction process.


Video Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Friday, July 24, 2015

Staying Connected At Sea: Cruise Lines Enhance Wi-Fi Capabilities on Cruise Ships


Remember when the only way to connect with friends and family at home was by using your very expensive cabin phone while on a cruise? Some of us remember not even having a phone (or television!) in our cabins. That was ancient history in today's high tech vernacular. It's not uncommon these days to see many, if not the majority, of passengers using electronic devices—including laptops, cell phones, and tablets—to connect over the Internet on modern cruise ships today. However, using those devices on ships could be frustrating, not to mention expensive. That is, until recently.

From emails and texts to tweets and Instagram posts, travelers increasingly want to digitally share and stay connected while on vacation. While the perception may be that a cruise vacation does not offer a chance to be accessible, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reveals that cruise lines have introduced a host of Wi-Fi capabilities and offerings on cruise ships making it easier than ever before to stay connected at sea.

“In our increasingly connected world, it has become incredibly important for travelers to stay connected,” said Thomas P. Ostebo, President and CEO, CLIA. “Cruise lines globally have made major technological strides to offer our travelers the chance to stay connected while enjoying a cruise vacation.”

These are some of the latest examples of Internet accessibility on cruise ships:
Minutes vs. Data: Wi-Fi is more available on cruise lines than ever and the costs to travelers are steadily declining. More cruise lines are offering Internet services at reasonable prices. Disney Cruise Line, for example, offers guests Connect@Sea a service that charges based on data use instead of by the minute.
Social Media Packages: Travelers looking to text and tweet while at sea have never had so many options for connectivity. In addition to Internet packages, many cruise ships are offering social media specialty packages. Half the Carnival Cruise Line fleet now offers a social media package that allows guests to access popular sites like Facebook and Twitter for a flat fee of five dollars per day.
Internet Café: Almost all cruise lines offer an Internet Café complete with pay-as-you-use options for guests to stay connected. These Wi-Fi hubs are available on major lines, including Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, that offer a variety of other packages as well.
Loyalty Member Services: Some cruise lines also offer Internet access for loyalty program members. Members of Royal Caribbean International’s Crown and Anchor Society loyalty program get discounts on internet packages while cruising. Silversea guests sailing in select suites enjoy unlimited free Wi-Fi and every guest receives at least one free hour of Wi-Fi per day.
“There are common misconceptions that Wi-Fi capabilities on cruise ships are expensive, unreliable, or nonexistent,” Ostebo continued. “We are happy to dispel this myth and prove that connectivity and cruising are not mutually exclusive.”

That connectivity has allowed the Cruise Diva crew to receive emails, conduct business, and share daily blogs from sea—which was unheard of not that long ago.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Holland America Line Launches ‘Incentive Choice’ Program for Groups

For our first cruise on a Holland America Line ship, our group of friends chose Veendam, then the premium line’s brand-new vessel. Our group enjoyed the gracious atmosphere and personal service so much that we’ve returned to Holland America ships numerous times in the following two decades.

Cruising with a group of friends or family is a great way to travel and it’s also a wonderful way to reward employees. To that end, Holland America Line is launching an new program exclusively for incentive groups called “Incentive Choice.” Featuring a comprehensive package of valuable amenities and preferential pricing, Incentive Choice makes corporate group travel the ultimate reward for organizations seeking to motivate their teams. In addition to special group pricing with attractive savings in suites, verandahs and staterooms, Incentive Choice offers a selection of rich amenities that will enhance the cruise experience for the entire group.

“In developing Incentive Choice, we responded to our trade partners who asked us for flexible policies and generous amenities for their incentive-focused groups,” said Eva Jenner, vice president of North America sales for Holland America Line. “We also employ a dedicated charter and incentive team that provides detailed attention to every group, resulting in a program packed with value that delivers a memorable experience.”

Incentive Choice amenities feature a beverage package that includes unlimited fountain drinks, Explorations Café nonalcoholic coffees, and a complimentary bottle of house wine with dinner each night. In addition, incentive groups can choose two of the following options: bon voyage sparkling wine, bon voyage canapés, bon voyage chocolate-dipped strawberries, or a complimentary photo. Also included in the incentive package is a choice of one of the following options: one dinner in the Pinnacle Grill per guest, a 100-minute Internet package, or a one-hour group cocktail party with hot hors d’oeuvres.

“Incentive Choice provides a high level of personalization, so we have the ability to customize special meetings, amenities, and shore excursions for each group,” said Jenner. "For example, we can arrange a private cooking demonstration in our unique Culinary Arts Center with our executive chef. It’s a fun way for the group to bond while learning about Holland America Line’s five-star cuisine.”

Whether rewarding a sales division for achieving its target or top clients for their loyalty, Holland America Line provides a unique setting and elegant ambiance to enable organizations to thank those who deserve the ultimate recognition. If you are a business owner, get more information by visiting HollandAmerica.com/CorporateIncentives.

Image: Courtesy of Holland America Line

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

MSC Cruises Launches New Guest Loyalty Program

MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line and, according to the just-published 2015-2016 Cruise Industry News Annual Report, the number one cruise line in Europe, has announced the launch of MSC Voyagers Club, the company’s new loyalty program, that provides increased benefits to members. MSC Voyagers Club replaces MSC’s former loyalty program, MSC Club, and is designed to reward MSC’s repeat customers and reinforce the company’s consistent commitment to offer guests an exceptional all-around experience before, during and after their cruise.

Joining the MSC Voyagers Club is free of charge, and guests are now able to join a “Welcome Level” before taking their first cruise—all that is needed is a confirmed booking. Other levels of the five-tiered membership program include Classic, Silver, Gold and Black. Personalized cruise cards will be provided to MSC Voyagers Club members directly on board at the beginning of each sailing with their membership level.

As part of the new program, MSC has revamped its points structure so that guests now earn points according to the inclusive experience booked (Bella, Fantastica, Aurea, or MSC Yacht Club) as well as length of stay. In addition, points are rewarded for onboard spend as well as pre-paid services, such as shore excursions, spa treatments and beverage packages.

Another major benefit of the new program is that all MSC Voyagers Club members will have exclusive access to significant discounts on future cruises. Starting July 20, 2015, members will receive a 5 percent discount on all cruise departures (with the exception of the Welcome level). In addition, MSC will make available a broad array of select cruises, called Voyages Selection, that offer an extra 15 percent off, meaning that all members could receive up to a total of 20 percent off future cruises. And to sweeten the deal for higher-tier members, when booking a cruise from the Voyages Selection, Silver, Gold and Black level members will receive $50 of onboard credit per person. A complete list of Voyages Selection cruises can be found here.

The range of other privileges extended to MSC Voyagers Club members includes, among others, an invite to a welcome back cocktail party, complimentary basket of fresh fruit in the stateroom, and exclusive onboard offers with discounts on items such as internet packages, spa treatments, logo shop items, in-stateroom movies, photos, and the minibar.

Top tier members also enjoy added benefits such as priority boarding, priority disembarkation in ports where a tender boat is required, late stateroom check out when the ship returns to port, an invite to a private Black Card member party, complimentary spumante with chocolate-dipped fruit in the stateroom, increased onboard discounts, free one-hour thermal area session in MSC Aurea Spa, and complimentary dining in a specialty restaurant. A full list of onboard privileges by level can be found at msccruisesusa.

Loyalty Match
Recognizing that many travelers have built up loyalty with other travel reward programs, MSC Cruises is also launching a unique loyalty match program in which frequent travelers who have a rewards card from another travel land or sea program can now receive instant status and perks with MSC. After signing up for MSC Cruises’ Voyages Club, guests who participate in other leisure travel programs will automatically acquire similar or higher status with MSC and be enrolled in the Classic, Silver, Gold, or Black level. In addition, these travelers will automatically receive the 5 percent discount on any booking given to MSC Voyagers Club members and can also take advantage of the discounts associated with Voyages Selection. Now, THAT is a real bonus!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Crystal Cruises To Cover All The Bases in Luxury Travel

Crystal Esprit
A quarter of a century after Crystal Cruises set its course at sea with the launch of its first ship, the luxury cruise line is charting a new, much more vast, route. Crystal's president and CEO, Edie Rodriguez and Chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay have announced Crystal's plans for the most significant brand expansion in the history of luxury travel and hospitality. Over the next three years, Crystal Cruises will introduce new ships—effectively establishing three brand new classes of Crystal-style cruising—as well as its own Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. In their announcement, Rodriguez and Tan Sri Lim made it clear that the line's new parent company, Genting Hong Kong, is investing in maintaining Crystal's reputation and writing a new chapter in the continuing story of Crystal Cruises. The Chairman stated, "Our intent is to make Crystal Cruises the core of what will become the world's premier luxury hospitality and lifestyle brand portfolio, not only for the immediate future but for years to come."

In her announcement, Rodriguez shared her enthusiasm about the expansion of Crystal Cruises, saying, "We continue to think bigger, aiming to create unparalleled luxury experiences and adventures for our loyal and new guests, who—like Crystal—continue to seek broader horizons and new perspectives on the world." She added, "We are ecstatic to continue pioneering new areas of luxury travel. Crystal's newly expanded fleet will truly be travelers' passport to virtually the entire world." The stunningly ambitious timeline of new Crystal products begins at the end of 2015.

Crystal Yacht Cruises—December 23, 2015
Late this year, Crystal Esprit, Star Cruises' former MegaStar Taurus, will embark on its maiden voyage as the first expansion of the Crystal Cruises fleet. The vessel is an extravagantly appointed yacht, delivered to Crystal Cruises by Genting Hong Kong (GHK), and extensively redesigned to reflect the stylish elegance for which Crystal is renowned. The 62-guest, 3,300-tonnage yacht will offer intimate, exclusive, and immersive experiences with a boutique ambiance. The all-suite yacht will feature high-end finishes and modern technology, and is outfitted with some decidedly extreme features, like a two-passenger submarine, four 10-passenger zodiacs for special excursions, and a 12-passenger Wider 32-foot super yacht tender for special boating adventures. Additional water toys include water skis, wake boards, kayaks, jet skis, fishing, scuba, and snorkel equipment

Set for delivery in November 2015, Crystal Esprit marks the debut of the new all-inclusive Crystal Yacht Cruises program, which will sail regional, warm-water itineraries of seven days and offer thrilling experiences on water and ashore. The first voyage sails Dec 23, 2015, exploring the Seychelles Islands, followed by an inclusive, post-cruise New Year's Eve celebration at the Taj Dubai Hotel. For 2016 and 2017, and early 2018, Crystal Esprit routes will explore the Seychelles Islands, the Dubai region, and the Adriatic Coast.

Crystal River Cruises—2017
The spring of 2017 brings more growth with Crystal River Cruises. Featuring expertly curated itineraries, Crystal River Cruises will offer the hallmarks of the all-inclusive Crystal experience—six-star service, world-class dining, and enriching shore-side adventures. Spacious suites with exquisitely designed interiors and elegant public rooms will punctuate Crystal's entry into worldwide river cruising.

Crystal Luxury Air—2017
Also in 2017, Crystal's brand of Six-Star luxury will soar to new heights with the launch of Crystal Luxury Air, becoming the first in the luxury travel industry to offer extravagant around-the-world trips on the world's most advanced twin-aisle Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The plush aircraft, which typically seats 300, will fly 60 guests in fully reclining business class seats to coveted destinations to which major airlines do not offer nonstop service. Each approximately 28-day itinerary will visit 10-12 remote and/or sought-after locales, with accommodations at some of the world's finest hotels and resorts; cuisine prepared by celebrity chefs inspired by the destination; and world-class cultural entertainment.

Ocean Vessels: "Crystal Exclusive Class"—Late 2018
Crystal Exclusive Class Cruise Vessel
Crystal Cruises also returns its focus to the seas, with three new "Crystal Exclusive Class," cruise ships, with the first expected for delivery in late 2018. Genting Hong Kong has signed a letter of intent with Lloyd Werft in Germany to build the polar ice class vessels.

With the introduction of these new vessels, Crystal will be the first-ever cruise line to deliver expedition-capable ships with all the signature features and amenities of a large luxury ship. The all-suite, all balcony ship will accommodate 1,000 guests, similar to the capacity on Crystal Symphony (922) and Crystal Serenity (1,070), and weigh more than 100,000 gross tons with an extremely high passenger-to-space ratio.

Additionally, for the first time ever, guests will have the opportunity to call a Crystal ship "home," with innovative Crystal Residences. Situated on the top deck of the new ships will be 48 unique homes, boasting their own private restaurant, reception and facilities, and much higher ceilings (9 feet) than residences on any other cruise ships or yachts; and equal to most land apartments. Residences will start at 600 square feet and go to more than 4,000 square feet of interior living area, which will be the largest on the high seas.

Other revolutionary features being introduced on Crystal's new vessels are: a whopping 400 square feet minimum for the guestroom suites—nearly doubling the size on other luxury vessels; increased ceiling heights by one f00t to 8 feet in all suites and decks; raising the bar on personal attention and service with 1,000 crew members on the ships to provide an unheard of one-to-one crew-to-guest ratio; an abundance of mouthwatering options centered on the art and expertise of Michelin-starred and celebrity chefs; and intrepid yacht-like amenities including submarines, helicopters and zodiacs.

Sounds like a very ambitious plan to capture the attention of the luxury market. We wish them well and look forward to seeing if they succeed on the seas, rivers, and land, as well as in the air.

Images Courtesy Crystal Cruises

Monday, July 20, 2015

Norwegian Increases Daily Service Charges

Prior to February of this year Norwegian Cruise Line hadn't increased its daily service charges since 2009. However, for the second time this year—and effective for all sailings that begin as of August 1, 2015, the new rates are:
• $13.50 per person per day for any category up to a mini-suite stateroom (up from $12.95)
• $15.50 per person per day for any suite category (up from $14.95)
Any guest that has made a booking by July 31, 2015 will have the option of prepaying their service charges at the current rate if done prior to the final payment due date. Guests with existing cruise reservations who have already pre-paid their service charges at the current rate will not be affected.

Norwegian's discretionary daily service charges provide gratuities to key onboard staff who provide guest service during the cruise, including their room steward, restaurant servers, and behind-the-scenes support staff. Guests who are sailing in Suite categories also receive the services of a concierge, butler, and dedicated wait staff.

While the service charge for standard accommodations and mini-suites are on the high end for a mainstream cruise line, the suite service charge is in line with other cruise lines in the mainstream and premium categories, considering that Norwegian's suites have a high level of service with the concierge and butler.

Photo (c) CruiseDiva.com