Friday, January 30, 2015

Seabourn Names Newest Sister-Ships

Luxury, small ship cruise line Seabourn has unveiled the names of its two new ships, both inspired by its current fleet. Launching as Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation, the first will join the fleet in late 2016 and the second in spring 2018.

Expanding on the line's popular Odyssey-class ships, Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation will build on the success of the Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn, and Seabourn Quest. That trio of ships entered ultra-luxury cruising with enhanced accommodations and innovative amenities when they were introduced between 2009 and 2011. Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation will maintain the line's high ratio of space per guest, enabling highly personalized service by close to one staff member for each guest on board. With the addition of the two new ships, Seabourn will have the youngest and most modern ultra-luxury fleet in the industry.

"Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation will applaud the current fleet in both vessel design and guest experience," said Seabourn President Richard Meadows. "Both words, Encore and Ovation, pay tribute to the tremendous success and outstanding accomplishments our current ships have achieved. They are perfect names to celebrate Seabourn's expanding fleet."

Configured with one additional deck, Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation will feature newly expanded public areas and modern design elements and innovations consistent with Seabourn's reputation for understated elegance. The new 40,350-GRT vessels are expected to carry 604 guests each, based on double occupancy, and every suite will feature a private veranda. Hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany has signed on to design both ships in their entirety, drawing inspiration from the line's rich history and yachting heritage. He will design all indoor and outdoor guest areas, including the multiple dining venues, The Spa at Seabourn, showrooms, casino and lounges, outdoor deck areas, and the popular Seabourn Square, the social hub of the ship with a club-like ambiance.

Seabourn offers key elements that set the cruise line apart: thoughtfully appointed all-suite accommodations, most with verandas; superb dining in a choice of venues; complimentary open bars throughout the ship; complimentary fine wines poured at lunch and dinner; award-winning service and a relaxed, sociable atmosphere that makes guests feel right at home on board. The ships travel the globe throughout the year, sailing to many of the world's most desirable destinations, including marquee cities, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and lesser-known ports and hideaways.

The line has launched a new dedicated microsite with updates about Seabourn Encore at encore.seabourn.com. Additional details, news and images will be revealed on the site on an ongoing basis.

Seabourn Encore Pool Deck Image Courtesy Seabourn

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Seven Seas Explorer Keel Laid in Style

The first building block for Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer was placed last week during a special keel laying ceremony at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy. The keel laying signals a significant milestone in the construction and brings the vessel one step closer to its July 20, 2016 maiden voyage.

In a ceremony befitting of the world’s most luxurious ship, a sleek black Rolls Royce Phantom transported the three symbolic coins to the keel laying event. Upon arrival, a dapper butler emerged with a red velvet pillow carrying the coins to be welded into the keel, including a rare 1921 U.S. silver coin known as the Peace Dollar symbolizing the safe passage of Seven Seas Explorer; a 1959 silver Italian Lire representing the year the Fincantieri shipyard was established; and a commemorative coin specially minted for this occasion.

Jason Montague, president and chief operating officer for Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Robin Lindsay, executive vice president of vessel operations, and Franco Semeraro, senior vice president of hotel operations welded the coins into the ship’s keel before the building block was lowered into place in the dry dock.

“With construction beginning in earnest today, we took a major step closer to realizing our vision, to provide our guests with a vessel that will be hailed as the most luxurious ship ever built,” said Montague. “Every inch of the Seven Seas Explorer will exude elegance and grandeur, and that extends to all aspects of the ship from the lavish suites to the gourmet restaurants and stylish public spaces. We even ensured that the keel coins convey a sense of luxury.”

At 56,000 gross-registered tons and carrying only 750 guests, Seven Seas Explorer will boast one of the highest space ratios in the cruise industry and among the highest staff-to-guest ratio, further strengthening Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ widely recognized position as a leader in the luxury cruise segment. World-renowned architectural interior design firms Tillberg Design AB, RTKL Associates and ICRAVE are designing the vessel. Seven Seas Explorer will join the award-winning Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet in the summer of 2016. Reservations for her maiden voyage and inaugural season opened Jan. 19, 2015 exclusively for Seven Seas Society members and will become widely available starting Feb. 4, 2015.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Land of “Frozen” Coming to Disney Cruise Line

This summer Disney Cruise Line and movie fans can immerse themselves in the animated hit “Frozen” with brand-new experiences inspired by the film, including a deck party, a three-song stage show production number, new character meet and greets, storybook adventures ashore, and more.

A Day of Frozen Fun
Debuting this summer, on select Disney Magic and Disney Wonder sailings to Europe and Alaska, Disney Cruise Line guests are transported to the land of “Frozen” when the ship is transformed into a winter wonderland and a day of frozen fun culminates in a celebration with friends from the Kingdom of Arendelle. On one morning, guests will awake to discover a magical freeze has overtaken the atrium lobby with sparkling icicles adorning the grand staircase, resembling the majestic mountain-top ice palace of Queen Elsa.

Icy adventures and fun for the entire family throughout the day include all-new meet and greets and themed experiences:
• Memorable moments with Anna, Elsa, and for the first time in forever, Kristoff and Olaf
• “Anna’s Chase for the Chocolate” scavenger hunt for those who share Anna’s sense of adventure, with a special surprise for finishing the game
• “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” activity where kids take on Elsa’s magical powers to make snow and ice
• “The Maypole Swirl and Twirl” for families to learn a traditional Scandinavian dance spinning and braiding giant ribbons
• “Frozen” themed dining experience, including a menu inspired by traditional Nordic fare and special dishes inspired by the film
Evening fun kicks off with “Freezing the Night Away with Anna, Elsa, and Friends,” a family-friendly interactive deck party featuring the famous royal sisters of Arendelle and their Nordic companions. By nightfall, the freeze has spread to the upper decks of the ship, with giant snowflakes, icicles, and snow-covered rocks. The celebration begins with a high-energy line dance, set to the movie’s ice cutting scene. Sven, the trolls, and Olaf, make virtual appearances at the party. Sven engages the crowd in reindeer games and Olaf leads a sing along to his signature song, “In Summer.” Elsa arrives with a snowy gust of wind, calling on guests to sing “Let it Go” with her as she conjures up a wintry spectacle to cool things down for Olaf. The evening concludes with more family dancing on the pool deck, followed by fun just for adults in the nightclub featuring dance performances and frozen specialty drinks.

New Production Number in “Disney Dreams”
Friends from “Frozen” are also making their stage show debut at sea in the Walt Disney Theatre aboard the Disney Magic. In the Disney Cruise Line production, “Disney Dreams … An Enchanted Classic,” Anna, Elsa, and Olaf join the line up of Disney characters who together teach a young girl the power of her dreams. Brand-new scenes featuring “Frozen” characters include renditions of three popular songs: “Let it Go,” “For the First Time in Forever” and “In Summer.” Special effects include a snowfall throughout the theatre and a transformation of the young girl’s room into her own ice palace.

Magical Meet & Greets
Olaf will be giving warm hugs when he joins Anna and Elsa on their royal tour of the Disney Cruise Line ships. Children and families will have the opportunity to meet and take photographs with their favorite “Frozen” friends on the Disney Fantasy, Disney Dream, Disney Wonder, and Disney Magic.

Adventures Ashore in Norway
Disney Cruise Line guests who travel aboard the Disney Magic to Norway, the land that inspired Arendelle from “Frozen,” can join new Port Adventures that bring this fairytale setting to life. One signature adventure ashore in Ålesund, Norway will immerse guests in the splendor and charm of Norway, with the help of Anna and Elsa, in a storybook village. On other shore excursions guests will discover the natural wonders, architecture, and rich Scandinavian culture depicted in the film. Seven- and nine-night voyages begin June 6, 2015, sailing through Norwegian fjords and calling on ports including Stavanger, Ålesund, Geiranger, Molde, Olden and Bergen, Norway.

Olaf’s Summertime Freeze on Castaway Cay
With the help of everyone’s favorite snowman, Disney Cruise Line is cooling down Castaway Cay with the addition of Olaf’s Summertime Freeze bar. Serving non-alcoholic specialty frozen drinks in souvenir cups, the creative menu features refreshing beverages such as “Olaf’s Flurry Freeze,” “Sven’s Carrot Delight” and “Warm Hugs.” Olaf’s Summertime Freeze opens summer 2015 near the Pelican Point tram stop by Castaway Cay Family Beach.

Image Courtesy Disney Cruise Line

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Refreshed Queen Victoria Sets Out To Conquer The World

When Queen Victoria set out on her 2015 World Voyage last week she revealed a stunning new look as she sailed past a fusillade of fireworks. The ship left Southampton in top drawer form having just returned from an intensive 20 day refurbishment at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg.

Nine brand new single staterooms were installed as part of the refurbishment. In addition to refreshing existing furnishings, enhancements were made to the outdoor spaces, beverage provision in the ship’s informal Lido restaurant, and eight brand new internet stations have been installed on the upper floor of the library.

“The results of Queen Victoria’s refit are a true testament to Cunard’s ability to respond to passenger input. We are delighted to incorporate their wish for more outdoor space with enhancements to the Upper Grill Terrace and additional areas for sunbathing. We also provided more single staterooms for our single travelers. It’s this commitment to our passengers that keeps Cunard’s 175 year heritage going strong,” commented Rick Meadows, President of Cunard, North America.

For such a large undertaking, 2,000 contractors representing thirty different nationalities worked a total of 600,000 man hours around the clock to replace all 215,278 square feet of carpet in the passenger areas. They also renewed all 3,167 mattresses on board and replaced over 19,685 square feet—3.75 miles—of pipe work insulation. 2,695 gallons of paint were used inside and out, enough to paint 54 Boeing 737's.

Such a successful refit depended on a great working partnership between the ship and the shipyard and throughout the refit, Cunard’s shipboard White Star service standards were observed. To sustain the workforce over its tea-breaks for example, over 317 gallons of soup—served in true Cunard style, with croutons—and 2,000 cookies were consumed daily. 80,000 teas and coffees were consumed over the 20 days.

In honor of the company’s anniversary, Queen Victoria welcomed her World Voyage passengers aboard with a commemorative flag-raising ceremony which took place at the ship’s mast. This was to hoist the signature flag for the first time on board and as is traditional, was performed by the youngest crew member, 20 year-old deck cadet Fraser Browne. The flag will be flown at iconic landmarks across the world during all three of the fleet’s World Voyages and will be auctioned at their conclusion with all proceeds going to The Prince’s Trust, Cunard’s official charity.

Queen Victoria’s first call was Ponta Delgada in the Azores and she is now sailing to the Caribbean, will transit the Panama Canal, and then make her way to Hawaii and Australia.

Images Courtesy Cunard Line

Monday, January 26, 2015

New Cruise Review: Oceania Cruises’ Riviera

Georgina Cruz shares a “Goldilocks” style voyage: neither too short that it ended too quickly and called at few ports, nor too long that it required two weeks or more of vacation time.

Set sail with Georgina on Oceania Cruises’ Riviera for a 10-day “Mayan Mystique” voyage roundtrip from Miami.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Carnival Cruise Line Reveals New Carnival Vista Features with Connections to the Sea

Carnival Vista Atrium
In a splashy New York-style reveal, yesterday Carnival Cruise Line announced the details of its most innovative ship ever, Carnival Vista, set to launch in spring 2016. Designed to connect guests to the ocean with sweeping ocean views and plenty to do both outdoors and inside, Carnival Vista will introduce an array of new features including: SkyRide, a breakthrough suspended open-air cycling experience; the world’s first IMAX® Theatre on a ship; an expanded water park featuring the colorful Kaleid-O-Slide, the line’s first raft-riding water tube slide; Seafood Shack, a New England-inspired eatery; RedFrog Pub, including the line’s first onboard brewery, and other enhanced dining, bar, and entertainment options; as well as new scenic and family-friendly accommodation types. The ship’s inaugural Mediterranean itineraries will mark the line’s return to Europe.

High-Powered Outdoor Fun
Carnival Vista SportSquare
With SkyRide, the cruise industry’s first pedal-powered open-air aerial attraction, Carnival is creating some of the highest outdoor vistas at sea. Adventurous riders can climb aboard hanging recumbent-like bikes to cycle their way around the 800-foot suspended track with views from 150 feet above the sea. Nearby will be SkyCourse, a suspended ropes course. Both are part of the expanded outdoor activity park that also includes a new indoor sports hangout, The Clubhouse at SportSquare¸ featuring mini-bowling, ping-pong, arcade basketball, sports video gaming and more.

In the largest WaterWorks water park in the fleet, kids and kids at heart will find an array of splash-tastic fun including Kaleid-O-Slide, the line’s first-ever water tube attraction. Riders will hop on inflatable one or two-person rafts taking them on a fun-filled 455-foot adventure of exhilarating twists and turns with stunning kaleidoscopic visual effects.

Big-Time Entertainment at the Multiplex
Carnival Vista’s inside views are truly spectacular as well. Carnival is partnering with entertainment innovator IMAX® to bring the world’s most immersive cinematic experience to sea with the first-ever IMAX® Theatre on a ship. Guests will take in the latest Hollywood blockbusters, IMAX classics, and IMAX documentary content on a screen that’s three decks high. Next door at the Thrill Theater, moviegoers can enjoy a multi-dimensional special effects experience. Both are part of the Carnival Multiplex, a first at sea for film fans, complete with concession stand offering popcorn and movie snacks. No word yet on whether there is a charge. The Warehouse, featuring a variety of video and arcade games, is located adjacent to the Carnival Multiplex.

Fresh New Dining & Bar Options
Featured on Carnival Vista and a first for the fleet will be a New England-inspired Seafood Shack, a casual indoor/outdoor dining venue near the Lido Marketplace eateries. The seafood-lovers’ spot will feature a menu full of fresh favorites available for purchase, including lobster rolls, steamed lobster, fried shrimp, crab cakes, fried clams, and more.

RedFrog Pub
At the RedFrog Pub, Carnival will brew up great beer for good times in its first ever brewery. During each sailing two giant copper-topped glass kettles will create ales and lagers that can be enjoyed on tap from the bar and through unique tabletop taps that allow guests to pour their own beer. The full bar will also offer an array of Caribbean-inspired cocktails, beers, and rums. Indoor/outdoor seating, live music, and brewing tours and tastings will also be offered in this fun venue.

Carnival is expanding the line’s popular Latin-infused Havana experience inside and out on Carnival Vista. Celebrating Cuba’s gloried past, Havana Bar serves traditional cocktails and bites during the day and transforms into a sizzling Latin dance club at night. The fun also extends outdoors with a new Havana Pool located aft offering views of the ocean, whirlpools, and a relaxation area, complete with colorful umbrellas, faux palm trees, thatched patio huts, and comfy seating, perfect for soaking up the sun while enjoying a mojito.

Carnival Vista Havana Cabana Patio
More Accommodation Options
Carnival Vista will offer a wide variety of well-appointed staterooms and suites including two new accommodation classes. Tropics-inspired Havana Cabanas feature accommodations with private outdoor patios, complete with lounge chairs and hammock, that face the expanded Lanai ocean-air outdoor promenade and offer expansive sea views in addition to easy access to the Havana Bar and Pool.

Located within a new dedicated family zone on Deck 2, the new Family Harbor accommodations offer an array of ocean-view, balcony, and interior staterooms that accommodate up to five family members. Parents and kids will have even more room to relax at the new, exclusive Family Harbor Lounge, a secluded space designed as a family hang out with large-screen TVs, games, and complimentary breakfast and snacks. A family concierge desk will be available to assist families in making this their best vacation ever.

Carnival Vista Family Harbor Suite
Carnival Vista celebrates the connection to the oceans on which we sail and gives our guests amazing seascapes around every corner and more ways to enjoy every moment of sun and fun during their cruise vacation,” said Mark Tamis, Carnival’s senior vice president of guest operations. “From our exhilarating new high-altitude SkyRide to the Kaleid-O-Slide water tube slide to our IMAX anchored Carnival Multiplex to the multitude of dining and bar options, we are thrilled to share the details about our largest and most innovative ship with our guests.”

Fahrenheit 555
New Meaning to Dining Out
Thanks to an expanded Lanai on Deck 5 guests can stroll or sit and enjoy a beverage at one of the many dining and bar venues that will now feature outdoor areas.
• The line will offer its first-ever outdoor seating options at specialty eateries including Fahrenheit 555, a classic American steakhouse, and Japanese-style Bonsai Sushi restaurant where diners will enjoy sea views as delicious as their meals. Cherry on Top will be the sweetest spot at sea, with a new premium mixed-to-order custom ice cream creation bar, outdoor seating and more than 80 bulk candy options.
• The intimate Library Bar will also offer guests indoor/outdoor options, in addition to the hoppin’ RedFrog Pub and stylish Havana Bar.
Vacationers will find Fun Ship 2.0 favorite poolside eateries and bars including Guy’s Burger Joint, serving burgers and fries created by chef and author Guy Fieri, and BlueIguana Cantina, featuring made-to-order tacos and burritos. Poolside bars BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar will also provide cocktail options, as will the mixologists at the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar.

Horizons Dining Room
The ship’s main dining rooms, Reflections and Horizons, offer an array of menu items for guests who want to enjoy a full-service breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The striking modern interiors created by award-winning designer BigTime Design Studios offer decidedly different décor than previous Carnival ships. The Horizons dining room will also feature a unique bar that’s the perfect spot for meeting friends and enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail or an after-meal aperitif.

The Vista Atrium will set a festive mood with its multi-deck-high centerpiece that will delight guests with its LED screens and changing visuals to create the right atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to welcome guests boarding the ship, meet friends at the bar or enjoy live entertainment and dancing.

Serenity Deck
Relax & Recharge
For those who wish to unwind and relax, Carnival Vista has a two-level Cloud 9 Spa featuring an array of amenities, including a thalassotherapy pool, four steam chambers, the line’s first infrared sauna and hamam, and special “experience showers” that provide a soothing fragrance element, along with a high-tech indoor cycling studio. Guests can get away from it all at the adults-only Serenity retreat, where there’s breathtaking views, tranquility, and even more lounging options to relax including the line’s first outdoor massage huts.

Family Fun for All
As the family cruise leader, carrying more than 700,000 children on board each year, the company designed Carnival Vista with even more fun for families day and night.
• The indoor/outdoor Camp Ocean for children under age 12 is a dedicated undersea-themed play space with more than 200 fun and educational ocean-inspired activities.
• Carnival Vista will be the second ship in the fleet to feature Dr. Seuss Bookville, a special reading and play space inspired by the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. Here kids and their families can read beloved Dr. Seuss books, make arts and crafts and stretch their imagination with toys and games. Also part of the line’s Seuss at Sea program, Carnival Vista guests can enjoy Green Eggs and Ham with The Cat in the Hat and Friends character breakfast, the Seuss-a-palooza Story Time and Parade and more.
• Carnival Vista will also introduce four new games at the family-centric HASBRO the Game Show, as well as special family-friendly comedy performances at Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez.
Carnival’s Return to Europe
The largest ship in the fleet, Carnival Vista will measure 133,500 tons, 1,055 feet long, and have a guest capacity of 3,936 (based on two per cabin). The new vessel will debut May 1, 2016, with a 13-day cruise departing from Trieste, Italy, the first European voyage for Carnival in three years. A variety of Mediterranean itineraries will be offered with port calls throughout Italy, France, Spain, Croatia and Turkey, as well as several new destinations for Carnival such as Crete (Heraklion), and Corfu, Greece; Valletta, Malta; Palermo, Sicily; Cagliari, Sardinia; and Gibraltar. On Oct 21, 2016, Carnival Vista will embark on a special 13-day transatlantic crossing and arrive in New York Nov 3, 2016, then operate a series of voyages from the Big Apple. Carnival Vista’s European cruises are currently available for reservations. Additional information on the New York departures will be available next month.

Images Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Princess Cruises Goes North to Alaska! with Local Experiences

Crabs, Lumberjacks, Wolves & More
Adding to its long-standing recognition as a leader in Alaska cruise vacations, Princess Cruises is launching North to Alaska!—a series of new onboard offerings that fully immerse guests in the Great Alaska experience. Created in partnership with local experts, North to Alaska! features a variety of authentic Alaska culinary, educational, and entertainment experiences designed to delve deeper into the fascinating frontier guests are exploring around them. The program includes expanded Alaska seafood offerings, with signature dishes from local chefs and restaurants; unique interactions with Alaskans; and onboard festivals to allow guests to eat like a local, learn from the locals, and celebrate like a local. North to Alaska! debuts in May 2015 on Princess cruises to Alaska.

"From world-famous Alaska seafood, to learning about life as a lumberjack, to Midnight Sun deck parties and more, we're bringing the last frontier onboard Princess ships to make the #1 vacation experience in Alaska even better," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. "The new program also demonstrates Princess' ongoing innovation in cruise vacations and our commitment to super-serving our guests with highly engaging and memorable experiences for the vacation of a lifetime."

North to Alaska! highlights include:

Eat Like A Local
Providing a culinary journey to savor, Princess has partnered with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to feature nightly a variety of authentic Alaska cuisine—including King Crab, King Salmon, and fresh Halibut, among others—prepared by Princess chefs who were trained by Alaska seafood chefs to capture a true taste of the North. Specialty restaurants will also offer a regional Alaska cuisine menu on select evenings.

In addition, Princess has partnered with some of the best Alaska area joints to provide local favorites and signature dishes onboard including crab cakes from Tracy's King Crab Shack in Juneau; fish tacos from Ketchikan's Alaska Fish House; and the Mermaid Burger from the Skagway Fish Company. The winning dish from the 2014 Great Alaska Seafood Cook-off, pan-seared Alaska salmon with root vegetable hash and mushroom tea, created by local chef Travis Haugen of Southside Bistro, will be featured in the main dining rooms.

Learn From the Locals
With Alaska cruises all about discovery and exploration, Princess is bringing the variety of Alaska cultures onboard to regale guests with stories of life in Alaska and "a day in the life" hands-on interactive activities:
-- From the popular Discovery Channel program, "The Deadliest Catch," Captain David Lethin and his shipmates from the Aleutian Ballad will relate their true-life adventures and experiences in the Bering Sea in pursuit of crab.
-- Guests will live like a "logger head," learning the history of logging from a local lumberjack and participating in an axe-throwing competition.
-- New York Times best-selling author and renowned storyteller Nick Jans will tell his compelling, emotional story of Romeo, the wolf, and the effect he had on the people of Juneau, as told in his book, "A Wolf Called Romeo."
-- Kids and teens will explore their adventurous side with activities including a Jr. Ranger program, panning for gold, "The Deadliest Catch" crab-sorting game, an interactive green screen game, and more.
Celebrate Like a Local
Guests will experience the thrill of the Klondike, harkening back to the glory days of gold rush fever. Fun for the whole family, the Klondike festival onboard activities will include Alaska icon and sled-racing presentations, penny whistle classes, traditional dance performances, an arts and crafts show, and more. The festival day will culminate with a celebration of the natural phenomenon of a visible sun at night during the Midnight Sun top-deck party, complete with entertainment, games and specialty drinks.

In total, seven Princess ships offer more than 120 Alaska cruise departures during the summer season, May-September, originating from San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver BC, and Whittier (Anchorage), Alaska.

For passengers interested in experiencing even more of the Great Land, Princess cruisetours offer a variety of itinerary options for a complete land and sea Alaska experience ranging from 10 to 15 nights. All cruisetours include a 7-day Voyage of the Glaciers sailing including a visit to Glacier Bay National Park, plus up to four nights in the Denali National Park area with stays at Princess' riverside wilderness lodges.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Carnival Cruise Line To Honor Military Families At The Carnival Freedom Arrival In Texas

When Carnival Freedom arrives in its new year-round homeport of Galveston, Texas, on Saturday, Feb 14, U.S. military families will get more than a simple Valentine card from Carnival Cruise Line. Through a partnership with Operation Homefront, a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial and other assistance to military families, Carnival will provide a day of onboard fun and activities for service members and their families.

As part of the festivities, 14-time GRAMMY® nominee Martina McBride will perform that afternoon outdoors on one of the ship’s top decks. The country singer has previously performed as part of the line’s breakthrough onboard concert series, Carnival LIVE, which offers guests the best live music at sea from some of the most popular and highly requested music acts.

“The arrival of Carnival Freedom to its new Galveston homeport is historic as it marks the first time a cruise line has based three year-round ships in Texas,” said Jim Berra, chief marketing officer for Carnival Cruise Line. “We’re thrilled to celebrate this occasion by giving back to the great state of Texas and welcoming aboard military families who make our freedom possible.”

Military families who have registered through Operation Homefront will enjoy a full day and evening of fun aboard the 110,000-ton Carnival Freedom while it is in port, including overnight accommodations, meals, entertainment, and activities, all compliments of Carnival Cruise Line. Prior to the concert, Carnival will conduct a special check presentation to Operation Homefront providing $100,000 to the organization.

Carnival Freedom recently underwent a $70 million makeover which added an array of Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancements. Event attendees will have access to the ship’s new family entertainment programming including Seuss at Sea, as well as the new Camp Ocean kids facilities. The latest updates also incorporated a number of bar, dining and entertainment innovations including complimentary eateries such as BlueIguana Cantina and Guy’s Burger Joint, developed in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, poolside bars serving up delicious frozen drinks and cocktails including BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar, as well as the pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar and the line’s Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub.

To kick off year-round sailings from Galveston, Carnival Freedom will depart on Feb. 15th for a special 6-day voyage to Mexico followed by the launch of 4- to 7-day cruises that visit ports throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Florida. Together with Carnival Triumph and Carnival Magic, the line will carry more than 600,000 passengers annually from Texas.

Image: Carnival Freedom in Key West © CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Escape At Sea With New Sights, Sounds & Tastes

Norwegian Cruise Line has revealed numerous new partnerships with leaders in the fields of dining, beverage, and entertainment to feature all-new branded experiences onboard Norwegian Escape. The line’s newest ship will feature several new culinary experiences, along with two Tony Award-winning musicals, and a unique Supper Club, when she begins sailing from her homeport of Miami in November 2015.

Norwegian Escape’s ultimate culinary experiences will be helmed by James Beard Award-winning Iron Chef Jose Garces and Miami restaurateurs Jose Mendin, Andreas Schreiner, and Sergio Navarro of The Pubbelly Restaurant Group; in addition to new beverage concepts The District Brewhouse, featuring craft beers from Wynwood Brewing Company, and The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar. Three new shows, including Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals After Midnight and Million Dollar Quartet, along with a new supper club concept will be exclusive to Norwegian Escape.

“With Norwegian Escape, we are transforming culinary experiences at sea and continuing our legacy of innovation that has revolutionized dining in the cruise industry,” said Drew Madsen, Norwegian Cruise Line’s President & COO. “We are building on our solid foundation of branded partnerships, including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and welcoming new ideas and flavors from award-winning chefs. Norwegian also continues to pave the way as a leader in entertainment, as we bring two Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals and a post-modern cabaret direct from Los Angeles to Norwegian Escape.”

New Concepts by Jose Garces
James Beard Award-winning Iron Chef Jose Garces will launch two specialty restaurants onboard Norwegian Escape, his first at sea. Known for his dining concepts, Chef Jose Garces brings Latin-inspired culinary expertise, ranging from classic Mexican dishes to Cuban specialties. On board Norwegian Escape, Bayamo by Jose Garces will highlight Latin dishes with a Cuban-influence in a chic dining room and al fresco on The Waterfront. Dishes will feature the flavors of Latin America with Spanish influences.

Pincho Tapas Bar by Jose Garces will offer traditional Spanish tapas à la carte in a lively, casual setting. Plates will be prepared on an authentic la plancha grill right at the bar in front of guests and feature Latin dishes.

Sugarcane Mojito Bar, a Norwegian signature favorite, will complete the space and serve as an entry to Bayamo. Guests who wish to have a cocktail before dinner can settle into the tropical setting, enjoy live Latin music, and select from more than 10 different mojitos and rum-based cocktails and can even select a “flight” of mojitos to sample.

Food Republic
A brand new concept for Norwegian, the Food Republic will be a modern, upscale food emporium from The Pubbelly Restaurant Group featuring global cuisine for sampling and sharing. Guests dining in the Food Republic will experience a culinary journey via small plates, with flavors ranging from Asia to Central Europe and the Mediterranean, all available à la carte.

Open for lunch through dinner, The Food Republic offers guests the freedom and flexibility to choose what they want, when they want it, with convenient iPad ordering. With a simple swipe of their key card, food is prepared to order and brought directly to the guest’s table.

The District Brew House
A concept never before done at sea, the District Brew House is a hip, urban craft beer hall featuring an exclusive partnership with Miami’s Wynwood Brewing Company. Complete with a keg room, 24 draft beers on tap and more than 50 different bottled beers, the District Brew House will also offer a menu of gastropub-style plates for snacking that will complement the beer and beverage offerings, including cocktails from Bar Lab’s James Beard Award-nominated mixologists Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi. Guests sampling the District’s many offerings will also be entertained, with interactive nightlife and sing-alongs of everyone’s favorite tunes, as well as a traditional photo booth, where guests can add their photo to the District’s pin board and leave their mark on this cool new space.

The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar
Norwegian Escape will also be home to the line’s first wine bar in partnership with the Michael Mondavi Family—The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar. From the novice to the enthusiast, The Cellars features an array of immersive wine experiences, focusing on tasting, education, and the enjoyment of wine, all accompanied by small plates and tapas, available à la carte.

Carlo’s Bake Shop
Guests will also enjoy treats from Carlo’s Bake Shop by Buddy Valastro, star of TLC’s “Cake Boss” and “Next Great Baker.” The decadent confections that the original Carlo’s bakery is known for will all be available à la carte for guests who wish to indulge their sweet tooth.

New Entertainment Offerings
Continuing with Norwegian’s commitment to excellence in entertainment, Norwegian Escape will feature two Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals headlining in the Escape Theater. The smash-hit musical After Midnight, which recently completed its run on Broadway, combines the big-band songs of Duke Ellington, a roof-raising onstage jazz band, and the best dancing from Broadway. A cast of megawatt singers, dancers and tappers will bring Harlem's Cotton Club to life.

Also showing in the Escape Theater following a successful run on Broadway, Million Dollar Quartet is the smash-hit musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together rock 'n' roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. On December 4, 1956, these four young musicians gathered at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions ever. Million Dollar Quartet brings that legendary night to life, featuring a score of rock hits. This musical will bring guests inside the recording studio with four major talents who came together as a red-hot rock 'n' roll band for one unforgettable night.

In a new concept exclusive to Norwegian Escape, the Supper Club has been re-imagined for a unique dinner and show. For The Record is a critically acclaimed Hollywood night that celebrates classic soundtracks of motion picture masters in a one-of-a kind 360° post-modern cabaret. Guests will spend an evening with a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal in this mashed-up retrospective of the John Hughes' coming of age 1980's teen films. Audiences will relive the classic new wave sounds from Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty In Pink, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Expanding a successful run that began on Norwegian Getaway, Headliners Comedy Club will include top comedians through the line’s expanded partnership with Levity Entertainment Group, the world’s largest producer of live comedy.

Currently being built at Meyer Werft in Germany, Norwegian Escape will sail weekly 7-day cruises from her year-round homeport of Miami to the Eastern Caribbean beginning on Nov 14, 2015. The 164,600 gross ton ship will be the largest ever to home port year-round in Miami, carrying 4,200 guests to tropical Caribbean destinations including St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, January 19, 2015

Silversea: Always Exclusive & Now More Inclusive in the Med

Silversea Cruises has kick started 2015 with more bang for your buck. The luxury line has introduced a new program that includes shore excursions and WiFi for new bookings on any of the line's 52 Mediterranean cruises this year.

"We're delighted to enhance the value proposition for our guests with the launch of this new ultra-inclusive pricing initiative," said Kristian Anderson, Silversea's senior vice president and general manager for the Americas. "Our company is known for pioneering the concept of all-inclusive voyaging. By including shore excursions and WiFi in the cruise fare, we're making the Silversea vacation experience more indulgent and relevant for today's active luxury traveler."

Guests may enrich their travel experience with a choice of included Silver Shore Select excursions offered in every port of call. Whether it's exploring the ancient Acropolis of Athens, strolling back through time along the marbled lanes of Ephesus, or discovering the Renaissance treasures of Florence, these small-group excursions present a destination's art, history, and culture in an intimate, authentic way, utilizing comfortable transportation and expert local guides.

The special all-inclusive fares also include two hours of complimentary WiFi per guest, per day, and unlimited complimentary WiFi for the line's larger suites (Medallion and higher categories).

The new perks join an array of included amenities that already features: open-seating gourmet dining; butler service for all suites; select wines, champagnes, premium spirits, specialty coffees, bottled water, juices and soft drinks; in-suite bar stocked with guests' preferences; in-suite dining and 24-hour dining service (from a formal dinner ordered from The Restaurant menu and served in-suite, to lighter fare served in attended lounges); lecture and enrichment programs; roundtrip transportation into town (in most ports); and onboard gratuities (exclusive of spa treatments).

In addition to the included Silver Shore Select excursions, guests may purchase tours from a variety of land programs offering exceptional value, including the more-immersive Silver Shore Collection tours, as well as Silver Shore Privato, which provides a private car and driver for independent exploring.

For further details and a full list of the Mediterranean cruises, visit Silversea.com/exclusive-offers.