Friday, August 22, 2014

Carnival Pride To Offer Special Caribbean & Bermuda Cruises From Baltimore & San Juan In 2015-16

Baltimore is a homeport that most travelers planning a cruise don’t immediately think of as an embarkation city. However, it’s been popular with Northeasterners for many years. Over those years the passengers who’ve sailed from there numerous times are bound to be looking for different itinerary options and Carnival Cruise Lines is now offering something brand new to entice them to sail again. Beginning in October 2015, Carnival Pride will operate a series of 10- to 14-day Caribbean cruises round-trip from Baltimore and one-way between Baltimore and San Juan that feature some of the region’s most desirable destinations, as well as new 5-day Bermuda cruises and unique 6- and 8-day Caribbean/Bahamas voyages.

One-of-a-Kind 10- to 14-Day Caribbean Cruises
Carnival Pride will operate a series of 10-, 11- and 14-day cruises either round-trip from Baltimore or one-way between Baltimore and San Juan in 2015 and 2016. The voyages include an 11-day exotic southern Caribbean cruise from Baltimore to San Juan departing Jan. 17, 2016, with stops at Grand Turk, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, and St. Croix; a 10-day exotic eastern Caribbean cruise from San Juan to Baltimore departing Jan. 28, 2016, calling at St. Thomas, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia; St. Kitts and St. Maarten; and a 14-day eastern Caribbean cruise round-trip from Baltimore March 13, 2016, featuring eight different island destinations: Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, Dominica, St. Lucia, Martinique, Antigua and St. Maarten.

New Five-Day Bermuda Cruises, Six- and Eight-Day Sailings
Carnival Pride will also sail two 5-day Bermuda cruises in 2015-16: one departing Oct. 26, 2015, and another April 10, 2016. These cruises spend two full days at Heritage Wharf, where guests can enjoy the island’s legendary pink sand beaches, enjoy a variety of watersports and visit historic sites such as the Royal Naval Dockyard and Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse, the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere.

Additionally, three 6-day Bahamas cruises operating round-trip from Baltimore and featuring visits to Freeport and Nassau will be offered. These cruises, which depart Nov. 30 and Dec. 20, 2015, and Feb. 14, 2016, provide consumers with a new short duration cruise option from Baltimore at an incredible value.

Carnival Pride will also offer a new series of 8-day exotic eastern Caribbean voyages departing from Baltimore and featuring Grand Turk, the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, and Nassau, each featuring beautiful beaches and excellent watersports. Departure dates for these voyages include Oct. 18 & 31, Dec. 26, 2015, Feb. 20, and April 15 & 23, 2016.

A special 6-day East Coast U.S. and Bahamas cruise from Baltimore featuring the line’s first-ever scheduled in-transit call to Charleston, SC, as well as Port Canaveral, FL, Nassau, and Freeport, will be offered Nov. 22, 2015.

Fun Ship 2.0 Innovations Coming Soon to Carnival Pride
This fall, Carnival Pride will undergo a multi-million-dollar makeover that will add a variety of dining, bar, and entertainment innovations that are part of the line’s Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement initiative. New features will include Guy’s Burger Joint, developed in tandem with Food Network’s Guy Fieri; the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar; BlueIguana Cantina serving authentic Mexican fare; EA SPORTS Bar with a 16-monitor video wall and 24/7 sports ticker; and two poolside watering holes–RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar.

Sure to be a hit with guests of all ages will be WaterWorks featuring Green Thunder, the fastest and steepest slide at sea, as well as the line’s signature Twister slide and a water spray park. Also added will be Bonsai Sushi, serving authentic Asian specialties; RedFrog Pub, serving Carnival’s own private label draft beer, ThirstyFrog Red; Library Bar with self-service wine dispensers; and Cherry On Top, offering bulk candy, apparel and other items. New entertainment options such as Hasbro, The Game Show, with larger-than-life adaptations of the company’s iconic games, and Playlist Productions, where talented performers interact with spectacular staging and special effects, will be added, as well.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Regional Menus Showcase Destination Specialties on Princess Cruises

One of the things most travelers look forward to on a cruise is the food, not only on their ship, but also in the ports of call. However, it isn’t always possible to get a taste of a destination with so much to do and see in port and with a limited amount of time ashore. To make up for that, when the new Regal Princess arrives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this November to begin her maiden Caribbean cruise season, she will debut a new Princess Cruises dining program showcasing regional culinary specialties.

Designed to reflect the worldwide destinations visited by Princess ships, the new program will enable guests to enjoy regional menu items created with local produce, spices, and seafood. In keeping with Regal Princess’ fall itineraries, the first special menus are inspired by the Caribbean. The regional cruise ship menus will eventually roll out across the fleet, and will include culinary specialties from an array of vacation destinations including the Mediterranean, Alaska, and Hawaii.

“One of the joys of travel is experiencing the culinary specialties for which a destination is known,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. “So now when our guests cruise with Princess around the world, they’ll be able to enjoy some of the most celebrated local dishes on board as well as ashore.”

Beginning with Regal Princess, regional cruise menus will introduce guests to the exotic fusion of flavors found in island cuisine, including such offerings as:
Arawak’s Caribbean-Style Pork Chop – Prepared with traditional Jamaican jerk spice and curry, and served with red beans, rice, and rum sauce, this extraordinary dish earned Princess Cruises Corporate Executive Chef Alfredo Marzi the top prize at the 8th Annual Bacardi Bartender and Chef Cruise Competition.

Red Snapper Mojito – Featuring ceviche accented with fresh mint, mango, and avocado, and finished with a splash of rum, this was the winning dish created by Princess Cruises Executive Chef Antonio Cortese at the 6th Annual Bacardi Bartender and Chef Cruise Competition

Island-Spiced Jerk Chicken – A marinade of rum, molasses, tangy lime juice and thyme, plus sweet-and-fiery Scotch Bonnet peppers, infuses this tender chicken dish with the spirit of the islands.

Caribbean Cocktails – The Caribbean Cooler is the perfect poolside cocktail, with coconut rum, melon liqueur, banana liqueur, citrus mix, and pineapple juice. The West Indies Yellow Bird offers a classic taste of the region, featuring a shaken melody of rum, galliano, and banana liqueur with orange and pineapple juice. The Cool Runnings cocktail, a favorite of the Caribbean Islands, features a delicious combination of rum, banana liqueur, blackberry brandy, and grenadine, blended with coconut and pineapple.
Regal Princess begins her Caribbean cruise season on Nov 6 with a short preview sailing, followed by a schedule of 7-day cruises to ports in the Eastern Caribbean including St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Princess Cays in the Bahamas.

Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Norovirus, Not Just For Cruise Passengers

After seeing news reports of Norovirus sickening hundreds of passengers and even cutting cruises short so that ships could be deep cleaned to avoid spreading the virus to passengers on subsequent sailings, back in February we looked at the question, Is Your Cruise Ship Sick?

From personal experience I can relate that having Norovirus is no fun. I've come down with it twice, but wasn't near a cruise ship either time. In both instances, I had been shopping and probably touched a surface, such as a counter or the handle on a grocery cart, that had been touched by someone who was infected. For more information on Norovirus—what it is and how to avoid it—follow the link above.

Christine Duffy, President and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), explains it even further in the following statement that puts Nororvirus in perspective relative to it being called "the cruise ship disease":
"The recent release of a report on norovirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores what the cruise industry has known and communicated for a long time: The occurrence of norovirus on cruise ships is rare and it is dramatically lower than the number of incidents of this common illness on land.

Norovirus is often referred to as a "stomach bug" and the symptoms typically last between 24 and 48 hours. It is second only to the common cold in terms of its prevalence and is generally not considered a serious illness. According to the CDC, there are about 20 million cases of norovirus annually on land in the U.S. Americans have about a 1 in 15 chance of getting norovirus even if they never step foot on a cruise ship.

Now, let's look at the record of the cruise industry. In 2013, 10.1 million people embarked on a cruise from a U.S. port. There were four norovirus outbreaks involving about 834 total passengers. That amounts to approximately 1 in 12,000 passengers, compared to 1 in 15 people who get norovirus on land every year.

In my opinion, the CDC report confirms that the cruise industry's relentless focus on keeping ships clean and safe is working to keep passengers healthy. The process starts even before a ship leaves port with the screening of passengers for any illnesses they may have contracted on land. Passengers are also reminded to wash hands regularly, just as people should do on land, and hand sanitizers are located throughout a ship for convenience. If someone does become ill, cruise ships have physicians and nurses on hand to treat them.

Cruising is the only sector of the hospitality industry that works directly with the CDC to proactively monitor and report cases of norovirus, even though incidents are rare on cruise ships. The industry does this in order to collaborate with the CDC on how to continuously improve prevention and response.

Sensationalized news stories about norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships simply do not line up with the facts. The latest CDC report provides strong evidence that cruise lines are going to great lengths to protect the health of passengers—and succeeding."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Princess Releases Annual Relaxation Report

As it has done for the past four years, Princess Cruises released the results from its fifth annual Relaxation Report, conducted in celebration of National Relaxation Day, which was last Friday, August 15th.

Despite that an overwhelming 99% of Americans agree that relaxation is essential for their overall health and well-being, on average Americans spend only an hour a day dedicated to unwinding. In honor of National Relaxation Day, Princess Cruises encouraged all Americans to observe the day with dedicated time spent relaxing. If you were unable to do it on the 15th of this month, which was after all a weekday, try to take a day this coming weekend to relax and recharge. Sunday is a good choice as it is traditionally a day of rest and you’ll have the rest of this week to look forward to it. Then repeat it as often as possible in the coming weeks.

The national survey also revealed other insights including that 38% frequently feel guilty about relaxing, and that more than one-quarter (28%) of those polled feel stressed out by the mere thought of trying to relax. That figure increases to 39% for parents and 41% among Americans under 40.

“It’s not surprising that almost all Americans see relaxation as key to improving their health, however, our survey found that the demands of our daily lives have made only 60 minutes attainable,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. “In honor of National Relaxation Day, we’re asking Americans to make a concerted effort to take a break today to relax and decompress, which we all know is good for both our mind and body.” She added that for those who looking for the ultimate chance to unwind, Princess Cruises offers an array of options for any traveler looking for a relaxing vacation escape.

Princess Cruises, which helps more than 1.7 million travelers each year “come back new” aboard its worldwide fleet of ships, commissioned the annual report to uncover consumer attitudes towards vacation and relaxation habits.

Relax, Just Do It
An overwhelming 85% of those surveyed say sex is better when they’re relaxed and can just go with it. Interestingly enough, 16% report that sex is better when they’re stressed. For those looking for a relaxing couple’s getaway (wink, wink), consider a cruise vacation.

Going Off the Grid in 3, 2, 1
Two-thirds of Americans (67%) reported they would feel completely relaxed if they were entirely “off the grid” (without any electronics or Internet access). And on an average day, 42% of men and women feel completely or mostly relaxed. Additionally, over half (52%) of Americans say that having a smart phone makes it harder to relax. I can personally attest to that!

Let the Music Soothe You
More Americans would prefer to use sound over sight when trying to relax. Two in five Americans (40%) of Americans choose music to help decompress and, now in 2014, reading has been shelved with only 5% naming it the best relaxation tool.

Who has it Harder?
Of those with significant others, 52% share they’re more stressed than their partner. However, among men, 62% say their significant other is more stressed out.
The Princess Cruises Relaxation Report survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18+, between August 8th and August 12th, 2014, using an online omnibus survey. Quotas have been set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the U.S. adult population 18+. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 3.1 percent.
Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Monday, August 18, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines Takes the #IceBucketChallenge

Leave it to Carnival Cruise Lines to take the #IceBucketChallenge up a notch! Here's the way the #IceBucketChallenge works: participants are encouraged to pour a bucket of ice water over their head and then challenge others to do the same or make a donation to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease within 24 hours.

The popular cruise line enlisted all twenty-four of its “Fun Ships,” as well as President and CEO Gerry Cahill, to participate in the #IceBucketChallenge, designed to raise much-needed awareness and funds for ALS. Carnival is also making a $100,000 donation to the ALS Association. Additionally, Carnival’s Chairman Micky Arison was challenged, accepted it—his video is on Instagram—and he will match the cruise line’s donation to the ALS Association with a $100,000 donation of his own.

Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Breeze, was the first ship to rise to the challenge with Cruise Director Matt Mitcham throwing down the gauntlet by dumping the entire contents of the 150-gallon PowerDrencher tipping bucket and then challenging the line’s other 23 ships to take up the cause.

Team members from the 23 ships, which are sailing in regions spanning the Caribbean, Alaska, the West Coast, and Australia, were up to the task, with shipboard personnel undergoing their own below-freezing drenching to support ALS research, treatment and education efforts. Finally, President and CEO Gerry Cahill, pictured above surrounded by dozens of the company’s employees, underwent his own frigid encounter at the company’s Miami headquarters.

And just to keep the momentum going, Cahill challenged popular comedian and TV personality George Lopez—the line’s “curator of comedy” who helped create the fleetwide Punchliner Comedy Clubs—along with Food Network star Guy Fieri whose namesake Guy’s Burger Joints are on several ships, and DJ IRIE, the line’s official DJ whose Spin’Iversity trains Carnival DJs fleetwide. All three gentlemen gladly accepted the challenge and I know Fieri completed it because I saw his video online.

Take a look below to see the chilling challenge aboard the Carnival fleet and in Miami—where I bet the water was more refreshing than in Alaska.


Image & Video Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quantum of the Seas Floats Out A Surprise

When locals line up on the banks of the River Ems to see Royal Caribbean International's newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, make her conveyance to the sea they will also witness something unexpected—a 30-foot-tall magenta polar bear situated prominently on the exterior deck of the ship.

The bear, a sculpture created by Denver-based artist Lawrence Argent, is the first glimpse of the 2,980 piece, multi-million art collection themed "What Makes Life Worth Living" that has been curated for Quantum of the Seas. As seen in the images below, the innovative ship left the enclosed building hall at the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, on August 13th to make way for the continuing construction of sister-ship Anthem of the Seas.

"Royal Caribbean has a long history of showcasing original art at sea; in fact, we boast one of the world's largest private art collections across our fleet, " said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Executive Vice President, Operations, Royal Caribbean International. "The pieces we have commissioned for Quantum of the Seas are stunning, engaging and in some cases completely unexpected, and we are so thrilled that our guests have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of exceptionally brilliant works from some of the world's most talented artists such as Lawrence Argent."

The bear titled "From Afar" is comprised of 1,340 stainless steel triangles, weighs approximately eight-tons and is intended to incite wonder among guests, encouraging them to admire the bear from afar, as well as interact with it on a more intimate, yet whimsical level. The piece helps guests explore the ship's art theme by showcasing intangible qualities of what makes life worth living, such as peace, love, joy, gratitude, and passion, which is what Quantum's art pieces are meant to evoke.

In addition to Lawrence Argent, an impressive portfolio of artists have created art works for Quantum of the Seas, including Paul Villinski, who created a monumental installation called "Crossing" which encompasses a wall of 210 butterflies representing 30 species, each made of aluminum, stainless steel, acrylic, and enamel; sculptor Soo Sunny Park, whose sprawling, undulating structure titled "Waves of Light," explores the light's potential as a structural element. Pieces by these artists and others span size, art forms, and mediums, and can be enjoyed both inside and outside the ship. The art planned for sister-ship, Anthem of the Seas, which is scheduled to debut April 2015, uncovers tangible aspects of Quantum of the Seas' theme such as adventure, entertainment, and nature.

The groundbreaking Quantum-class ships, Quantum of the Seas and sister-ship Anthem of the Seas will introduce a new set of first-at-sea onboard experiences, such as Ripcord by iFLY, a heart-pounding skydiving experience; North Star, a thrilling adventure that transports guests more than 300 feet in the air; cutting-edge venues including SeaPlex, the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with bumper cars, roller skating, and more; and the cruise line's largest and most advanced staterooms ever.

The Quantum Class spans 18 decks, encompasses 167,800 gross registered tons, carries 4,180 guests at double occupancy, and features 2,090 staterooms. Quantum of the Seas will sail out of New York Harbor from her homeport of Cape Liberty for her inaugural season before departing to her new homeport of Shanghai (Baoshan), China. Anthem of the Seas will debut in Southampton, U.K. in April 2015 sailing Mediterranean itineraries.

Images Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International & Meyer Werft

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Regal Princess Naming Ceremony Will Launch Princess Cruises’ 50th Anniversary Celebrations

The original Love Boat cast will serve as 
godparents for Regal Princess
Can you believe it’s been nearly forty years since the iconic television show The Love Boat went on the air and introduced viewers to modern day cruising and, in the process, made Princess Cruises and its ships synonymous with vacations at sea? As Princess prepares to celebrate its milestone 50th anniversary year in 2015, the company is honoring the role that The Love Boat played in its history by selecting the original Love Boat cast members to serve as godparents for its new cruise ship Regal Princess. All six Love Boat cast members-who played the roles of Captain Stubing, Gopher, Isaac, Doc, Julie and Vicki–will reunite to christen the new ship on Nov 5 in Fort Lauderdale.

The ceremony will officially launch the golden year anniversary celebrations for Princess Cruises, which will celebrate five decades of operation throughout 2015.

Pictured above, the actors include Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing) Fred Grandy (Gopher, the chief purser), Ted Lange (Isaac, the bartender), Bernie Kopell (Doc, the ship’s doctor), Lauren Tewes (cruise director Julie) and Jill Whelan (Vicki, the captain’s daughter).

“We can think of no more suitable godparents for our newest ship than the cast of the show that put Princess Cruises on the map,” said Jan Swartz, the line’s president. “The show has been such a visible part of our company’s history, it made sense to kick off our anniversary celebrations with this special tribute.”

The pilot episode of The Love Boat, shot aboard Princess’ 730-passenger original Sun Princess in 1977, began the relationship between Princess Cruises and the show, which for ten seasons eventually became one of the highest rated and longest-running shows on television. The Pacific Princess and Island Princess were the primary floating stars of the show, while later episodes and specials were filmed aboard many of Princess’ other cruise ships in destinations around the globe.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that my former cast mates and I will be part of Regal Princess’ U.S. debut,” said Gavin MacLeod, who has been Princess Cruises’ ambassador since the show ended in 1986. “The fact that The Love Boat continues to air in international syndication around the globe is a testament to the show’s longevity and the world’s fascination with romance on the high seas.”

The 3,560-guest Regal Princess, which entered service in May of this year, is arriving in Fort Lauderdale to begin her maiden season of Caribbean cruise vacations. Among the special features found on board is a dramatic multi-story atrium serving as the social hub of the ship, offering a host of dining and entertainment options; an over-water SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed walkway extending 28 feet beyond the edge of the ship; plush private poolside cabanas that appear to be floating on water; the Princess Live! television studio; the largest pastry shop at sea; a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds diners in a curtain of light; and balconies on all outside staterooms.

“The ship’s naming ceremony is just the beginning of the celebrations that will mark our company’s golden anniversary,” said Swartz. She added that beyond the Regal Princess festivities, guests sailing on any of the line’s fleet of 18 cruise ships during 2015 will enjoy a wide range of anniversary experiences.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Regent Seven Seas Cruises Expands Unlimited Free Internet Offerings

Already the most all-inclusive cruise lines afloat, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ luxury amenities are expanding to include unlimited internet access for upper level suites. For all the line’s voyages setting sail after Jan 1, 2015, guests booked in Master, Grand, Seven Seas, Horizon, Mariner, Navigator, and Voyager suites will receive unlimited complimentary internet access. The free internet access is available for the duration of the cruise and is accessible in all public spaces and suites via the ship-wide Wi-Fi system.

The addition of free unlimited internet access for upper suites coincides with the completion of a multimillion-dollar upgrade to internet systems on all Regent Seven Seas Cruises ships. The upgrades entail a doubling of available bandwidth to increase internet speed and reliability, and an expansion of the Wi-Fi system to provide connectivity throughout the entire ship, including all public spaces, outdoor decks and suites.

While top tier suites will enjoy unlimited internet access, guests booked in Penthouse and Concierge suites will continue to receive complimentary internet time based on cruise length. For example, guests sailing on a 7-night voyage receive 200-minutes free and the amount of gratis internet time extends to 500-minutes for voyages over 16-nights. Members of the Regent Seven Seas Cruises loyalty program, Seven Seas Society, who achieved gold status or higher will continue to receive unlimited complimentary internet access onboard, regardless of suite selection.

“By introducing the industry’s only unlimited complimentary internet program onboard our ships, we continue to fulfill our guest promise to deliver the most inclusive experience available, at sea or on land,” shared Kunal S. Kamlani, president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “The expansion of our free internet program, coupled with widespread enhancements made to the ships during recent dry docks, strengthens the luxury proposition found on Regent Seven Seas Cruises and better prepares us for the arrival of Seven Seas Explorer, which will be the most luxurious ship ever built.”

The expansion of the unlimited internet program adds to the most comprehensive list of included amenities in the vacation industry, including round-trip air, a pre-cruise hotel night stay, fine wine and spirits, unlimited shore excursions in every port, specialty dining, ground transfers, and gratuities. Fares for the world’s most inclusive luxury cruise line also include all-suite accommodations and highly personalized service. The three all-suite vessels in the fleet, Seven Seas Navigator, Seven Seas Mariner, and Seven Seas Voyager, are among the most spacious at sea and visit more than 250 destinations around the globe. The line is currently building the 750-guest Seven Seas Explorer, which will be delivered in summer of 2016.

Photo: Seven Seas Mariner © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

American Cruise Lines Plans Holiday Cruises With An Old Fashioned Twist

There’s nothing like an old fashioned holiday in America’s historic deep south. If you haven’t made your plans yet, American Cruise Lines has some tempting southern-style festivities planned for its 2014 holiday cruises that are worth your consideration. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve cruises will offer seasonal activities that showcase the beautiful regions cruised, as well as the spirit of the holidays.

Thanksgiving, Nov. 22 Sailings
Offered on the Mississippi River and Historic South & Golden Isles cruises which depart on Nov 22, American Cruise Lines has again partnered with Connecticut Food Bank to help feed the hungry by donating $50 per ticket sold on the designated Thanksgiving sailings. Last year, the line raised over $10,000 for Connecticut Food Bank through the program. The money raised will help put food on the tables of needy Connecticut residents and spread joy this holiday season. In addition to the rewarding feeling of knowing their bookings will help those in need this holiday season, guests will enjoy Thanksgiving in some of the most spectacular areas of the country. Onboard, a team of world class chefs will prepare a special feast with everything that could be expected at a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Guests will enjoy turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, apple pie and more. The day before, guests may even join the head chef to learn how he makes the cornucopia.

Christmas, Dec. 20 Sailings
Offered on Mississippi River and Historic South & Golden Isles cruises which depart on Dec 20, American Cruise Lines is offering two unique ways to celebrate the Christmas holiday.

New Orleans Roundtrip: This year’s special events include a tour of Oak Alley Plantation in its holiday splendor, along with a holiday concert in the music room of the beautifully preserved J.N. Stone House in the Historic Natchez. Onboard, guests will join a traditional Reveillon-style feast with mouth-watering regional favorites prepared by expert chefs. Gingerbread house and ornament making workshops will also be offered, as well as Christmas carol sing-alongs. This cruise also features a complimentary pre-night celebration on Dec 19, including dinner at Antoine's, one of New Orleans’ most historic and famous restaurants.

Historic South & Golden Isles: Guests will explore the holiday traditions of the Historic South as they celebrate Christmas on the Intracoastal Waterway aboard the beautiful Independence. Holiday-themed events include a tour of the Amelia Island Gingerbread house, Charleston's Holiday Festival of Lights and a private dockside Oyster Roast on the gorgeous Sapelo Island. This cruise also features a complimentary pre-night celebration on Dec 19, including dinner at the elegant Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.

New Year’s Eve, Dec. 28 Sailings
Offered on Historic South & Golden Isles and Mississippi River cruises departing on Dec 28, American Cruise Lines offers one of the best and most memorable ways to ring in the New Year, including a fireworks display over Savannah (Historic South) or lights tours at Oak Alley and Houmas House Plantations (New Orleans roundtrip). Onboard, Guests will enjoy a specially-themed New Year’s Eve cocktail hour, dinner and evening entertainment, as well as a midnight countdown and champagne toast. A festive and sumptuous New Year’s Day brunch will also be featured. New Year’s Eve cruises also feature a complimentary pre-night celebration on Dec 27, which includes welcome festivities and exclusive dinners at the renowned McCradey’s Restaurant in Charleston (Historic South) and Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans (New Orleans Roundtrip).

American Cruise Lines is the largest U.S. flagged cruise company and operates the newest fleet of riverboats and small cruise ships on more than 35 itineraries around the country. The line is known for working closely with guests and travel agents before, during, and after a cruise to create a highly personalized cruise experience. Long established and deeply experienced in cruise travel, American Cruise Lines has most recently received world-wide recognition as the first line to revive paddlewheel river cruising in America.

Houmas House Image Courtesy American Cruise Lines

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cruise Line Cancellation & Refund Policies

In the news industry there’s a saying, “If it bleeds, it leads.“ That’s been the case in some recent news stories about cruise lines and their cancellation policies. In one instance a little boy was diagnosed with a deadly disease and another situation involved the death of a family member just prior to sailing. In both cases, the families had not purchased travel insurance and had to cancel their cruises within the penalty period. They lost the money they’d paid for a cruise vacation because, in their opinion, the evil cruise line was only interested in profits and would not give them a refund or reschedule them on a later sailing.

In one case reported in the Washington Post, the traveler said, “the cruise line never informed him of its refund procedure.” While it’s unfortunate that bad things happen to nice people, that excuse doesn’t hold water. I checked the websites of a half dozen major cruise lines and all publish their cancellation policies online. Additionally, those policies are spelled out in cruise line brochures, usually under a section called “Terms & Conditions” or “Things to Know.”

Cancellation and refund policies vary depending on the cruise line and length of the cruise—some are even different for holiday sailings. As a rule, depending on your booking, if you cancel at least 60 to 90 days before departure, you will get a full refund. As an example, using Royal Caribbean’s policy of cancelling at least 75 days before departure for a full refund on a weeklong cruise, if you cancel in the period of 74-57 days before departure, you will forfeit your deposit amount; 56-29 days, you forfeit 50% of the total fare (excluding taxes & fees); 28-15 days, forfeit 75% of total fare (excluding taxes & fees); and if you cancel 14 days or less before departure you will receive no refund except for taxes and fees.

Interestingly, the same people who complain that they shouldn’t have to purchase insurance to cover their vacations, probably don’t think twice about purchasing insurance to cover the loss of their vehicle in an accident or their home in the case of a fire or natural disaster. Do they expect the auto maker to replace their car or the home builder to construct them a new house? No, but they expect the cruise line to absorb the loss if they are uninsured and can’t sail.

I’m not unsympathetic to the losses of others, but I recognize life’s full of unexpected tragedies. That’s why I purchase travel insurance. We all have to take responsibility for our personal decisions.