Thursday, May 5, 2016

Princess Introduces Club Class Mini-Suite Category

Mini-suites have never been sweeter now that Princess Cruises is introducing  a new premium stateroom category featuring VIP amenities with the new Club Class Mini-Suite. This elevated mini-suite category features select perks including new Club Class Dining, a reserved dining area with expedited seating and expanded menu options; priority embarkation and disembarkation; and Club Class guests will be among the first to sleep on the new Princess Luxury Bed.

Debuting on select ships beginning in December 2016, Club Class Mini-Suites will roll out through the fall of 2017 in association with the cruise line’s “Come Back New Promise,” which delivers a premium cruise vacation featuring innovative and desirable product enhancements. Club Class Mini-Suite will debut on board Ruby Princess (Dec 10, 2016) and Emerald Princess (Dec 12, 2016), followed by Island Princess (Jan 4, 2017), Sapphire Princess (Jan 7, 2017), Regal Princess (Jan 8, 2017), Grand Princess (Jan 9, 2017), Royal Princess (Jan 29, 2017), Coral Princess (Feb 6, 2017), Majestic Princess (Mar 30, 2017), Sun Princess (Apr 5 2017), Crown Princess (Apr 8, 2017), Star Princess (Apr 11, 2017), Caribbean Princess (Apr 6, 2017), Diamond Princess (Apr 20, 2017), Pacific Princess (Jun 9, 2017), Sea Princess (Sep 2, 2017) and Golden Princess (Oct 2, 2017).

“Club Class Mini-Suites provide Princess guests yet another elevated product enhancement to enjoy during their cruise vacation,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. “The VIP perks, including the new Club Class Dining, offers a premium and memorable onboard experience so our guests can completely relax, unwind and immerse themselves in worldwide destinations and ultimately ‘come back new.’”

Club Class Dining
Offering guests more convenience and tempting fares, Club Class Dining includes:
• Dedicated area of the Main Dining Room with expedited seating
• Dedicated wait staff and uniquely-styled table décor
• Exclusive menu options with daily chef’s special and table-side preparations
• Open every evening for dinner and for breakfast and lunch on sea days
Upgraded Amenities & Services
Club Class Mini-Suite guests will also enjoy the following additional VIP perks:
• The Princess Luxury Bed: Club Class guests will be among the first to experience the “Ultimate Sleep at Sea,” in the new bed designed in collaboration with board certified sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus and HGTV Designer Candice Olson
• Priority check-in and boarding at the beginning of the cruise and priority disembarkation at the end of the cruise
• One-time complimentary wine set-up on embarkation day (1/2 bottle of red and white)
• Evening canapés (upon request)
• Luxurious terry shawl bathrobes
In addition to Club Class Dining and upgraded amenities and services, Club Class Mini-Suites include all of the standard mini-suite benefits featuring spacious staterooms, up to 323 square feet with balcony, separate seating area with sofa bed and coffee table, bathroom with combination tub and shower and a welcome glass of champagne, among others.

Full Suite guests will also enjoy all the benefits of Club Class Mini-Suites including Club Class Dining, and be among the first to experience the new Princess Luxury Bed, in addition to the many other amenities offered with a Full Suite.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

New Cruise Review: Norwegian Star

Keith Henderson takes us along on a Western Caribbean sailing aboard Norwegian Star with a comprehensive review of the onboard experience—from dining and entertainment to activities and spa features—along with what to see and do in ports of call.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Holland America Line Launches Seattle’s Alaska Cruise Season

Holland America Line’s ms Nieuw Amsterdam arrived at the Port of Seattle Friday, April 29, 2016, marking the start of the city’s summer Alaska homeport cruise season. The line increased its Seattle calls this year to 55, and three Holland America Line ships will sail roundtrip Seattle routes in 2016: ms Westerdam arrives Saturday, May 7; ms Amsterdam arrives Sunday, May 22; and ms Maasdam arrives Monday, May 23, to begin their Alaska sailings from Seattle. New to Alaska cruising, Nieuw Amsterdam’s arrival at Seattle is the start of a one-day cruise to Vancouver, British Columbia, to reposition to its summer homeport.

In addition to the 48 roundtrip Seattle cruises to Alaska this season, three cruises to Australia/New Zealand or Hawaii/South Pacific will begin or end at Seattle, including Amsterdam’s 53-day Tales of the South Pacific voyage and Maasdam’s 23-day South Pacific Crossing. All of the options combined make a total of 55 calls by five ships—ms Zaandam makes one Seattle call—that will welcome more than 86,000 guests to Seattle.

“As Seattle’s hometown cruise line it’s fitting that one of our ships is kicking off the city’s Alaska season, a time we eagerly anticipate each year,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “Holland America Line is headquartered in Seattle, and we take great pride in being a significant contributor to the local economy and in actively giving back to our community.”

In the coming year, Holland America Line expects to contribute $389 million to the Seattle economy and $547 million across Washington State. The cruise line employs 1,170 people at its Elliott Avenue headquarters in Seattle. Provisioning costs each time a ship calls at Seattle average about $300,000 per visit. Holland America Line works with more than 600 Washington vendors, from food and beverage suppliers to piano tuners, office supply stores and marine suppliers, among many more. For example, Westerdam requires over 23,000 eggs and 1,375 gallons of milk each week—all of which come from local farmers. In addition, local growers supply 147,550 pounds of fresh produce a week.

Also contributing to Holland America Line’s economic impact is spending by passengers and crew in local shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, museums, attractions and taxis. Other expenditures include ship maintenance and port fees, charges and taxes. Holland America Line ships have been sailing from the Port of Seattle since the 1970s. In May 2002, Holland America Line began using Seattle as a home port for Alaska cruises.

Image © Cruise Diva

Monday, May 2, 2016

Carnival Cruise Line Takes Delivery of Carnival Vista

At a traditional maritime handover ceremony held last Thursday at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy, Carnival Cruise Line took delivery of its newest, largest and most innovative ship, the 133,500-ton Carnival Vista. The 3,954-passenger ship departed on its maiden voyage yesterday, kicking off a summer schedule in Europe that runs through October 2016. Following a 13-day trans-Atlantic crossing, Carnival Vista will operate a pair of 11-day cruises from New York in November 2016 then launch year-round Caribbean service from Miami later that month.

Carnival Vista offers a number of unique features, including a suspended cycling experience called SkyRide, the first IMAX Theatre at sea and the RedFrog Pub & Brewery offering three different kinds of beer brewed on board. Also new is Family Harbor with special family accommodations and a family concierge, along with the tropics-inspired Havana staterooms and suites featuring a dedicated pool area. The ship’s outdoor spaces include a massive WaterWorks aqua park, highlighted by the 455-foot-long Kaleid-o-slide, the longest slide in the fleet.

Carnival Vista is a spectacular addition to our fleet and we can’t wait for our guests to experience all of the ship’s exciting new features,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “Carnival Vista will provide our guests an opportunity to create a lifetime of wonderful vacation memories while offering our valued travel agent partners another exciting vacation option to market to their clients,” she added.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Friday, April 29, 2016

Oceania Cruises Celebrates Christening of Sirena

Oceania Cruises officially welcomed its newest ship, Sirena, into the fleet this week on Wednesday evening with a majestic christening ceremony at the Port of Barcelona. After the ship’s godmother, Claudine Pépin, delivered the traditional blessing, a bottle of Moët & Chandon’s finest champagne shattered against ship’s hull and a flurry of confetti filled the sky in celebration of Sirena’s inaugural voyage.

Joining Pépin for the signature bottle-breaking moment were Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO, Frank Del Rio; President and COO for Oceania Cruises, Jason Montague; and Claudine’s father, legendary master chef Jacques Pépin. The Pépin family and Oceania Cruises have enjoyed a long and treasured relationship, with Jacques Pépin serving as the line’s Executive Culinary Director since its inception.

“We launched Oceania Cruises with a visionary belief that we could create something special. With an unwavering commitment to serve our guests the finest cuisine at sea, we established a culinary reputation that to this day defines the Oceania Cruises brand,” said Del Rio. “That culinary tradition continues, as we welcome Sirena to the family. Sirena builds upon our epicurean heritage with new gourmet dining experiences, and in godmother Claudine Pépin who is a noted chef and member of the culinary world’s royal family.”

The 684-passenger Sirena follows the award-winning design blueprint of its sister ships Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica, with amenities such as four gourmet restaurants, six elegant lounges and bars, the renowned Canyon Ranch SpaClub, and 342 lavish suites and luxurious staterooms. Before entering service, the ship underwent a 35-day, nearly $50 million refurbishment that renovated all public spaces and accommodations to Oceania Cruises’ standard of elegance, and added several new amenities for guests to enjoy.

The ship debuts with two new specialty restaurants, providing guests with new culinary indulgences to explore. Tuscan Steak, a completely new restaurant concept, is inspired by both Oceania Cruises’ traditional steak house, Polo Grill, and the line’s authentic Italian restaurant, Toscana. Red Ginger, the beloved contemporary Asian-inspired restaurant currently available on Marina and Riviera, will offer culinary delights such as Miso Glazed Sea Bass and Lobster Pad Thai. Another new dining option awaits Sirena guests at the Grand Dining Room. During lunch the restaurant will transform into Jacques Bistro, offering an exclusive menu featuring some of legendary chef Jacques Pépin’s signature dishes.

“The expansion of our culinary offerings on Sirena with Tuscan Steak, Red Ginger and Jacques Bistro further exemplifies our commitment to epicurean excellence,” shared Montague. “We’ve given our guests three new gourmet dining options, and more opportunities to enjoy the finest cuisine at sea.”

In addition to the new dining options, Sirena’s most prestigious accommodations—the Owner’s and Vista Suites—debut with an elegant new design that features a crisp and modern motif. Sirena is also the first ship in the Oceania Cruises’ fleet to showcase the enhanced entertainment offerings being developed for the line. Guests will be treated to a full range of world-class musical, theatrical, and comedic productions in the Sirena Lounge.

Images Courtesy Mark Ashman, Oceania Cruises

Thursday, April 28, 2016

New Cruise Review: Top Tens Of The 2016 Amsterdam World Cruise Voyage

An amazing voyage circumnavigating the planet during 115 days on board the 62,735-ton, 1,380-guest Amsterdam from Holland America Line, the 2016 Amsterdam World Cruise transited two legendary canals (Panama and Suez) and stopped at more than 40 ports (including a three-day stay in Hong Kong and several overnights). It was filled with adventures. World traveler Georgina Cruz shares the top 10 experiences that she and her husband Humberto were privileged to enjoy, and the top 10 things they learned.

Image: Amsterdam in Sydney, Australia

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Carnival Extends Time In Port in Cozumel

With all there is see and do in Cozumel, Mexico, Carnival Cruise Line has extended the length of time its ships spend in port there on more than 750 voyages, providing guests with even more opportunities to experience and explore one of the Caribbean’s most diverse vacation destinations.

On “Cozumel Plus” itineraries, guests now have access to a variety of new excursions, many taking place on Mexico’s mainland—with tours like swimming with whale sharks, visiting centuries-old ruins, and swimming in hidden caverns, just to name a few, complementing nearly 50 existing tours already available. Designated by a special notation on Carnival’s web site, Cozumel Plus itineraries are operated by 17 different Carnival ships offering more than 750 four- to 8-day cruises from six U.S. homeports along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. Carnival Cruise Line offers the greatest variety of cruises to Cozumel than any other cruise operator, providing guests with unparalleled choice and convenience in their shore excursion options. The additional time in port has enabled Carnival’s shore excursion experts to partner with local tour operators to create one-of-a-kind excursion offerings that allow guests to fully immerse themselves in Mexican culture and participate in truly unique landside experiences.

Cozumel Plus tours are up to eight hours in duration and include everything from extended, day-long tours visiting ancient Mayan ruins, including Chichen Itza—one of the Seven Wonders of the World dating back to 750 AD—to snorkeling the exquisite turquoise waters of Xel-Ha, a magnificent group of lagoons connected by a series of bridges. On other excursions, guests can explore Mexico’s famed “secret river,” subterranean caverns connected by underground waterways with stunning natural rock formations that are millions of years old or participate in a seasonal excursion of swimming in open waters with whale sharks—gentle sea creatures measuring up to 40 feet in length and weighing up to 47,000 pounds.

Of course, the additional time in port provides guests with more time to check out Cozumel’s legendary white-sand beaches, excellent fishing, snorkeling, and water sports, and unique shopping and dining opportunities. Cruises visiting Cozumel dock at Puerta Maya—pictured above—Carnival’s modern three-berth facility in Cozumel which, in addition to offering easy access to the various tours via an on-site transportation center, includes a variety of retail shops, boutiques, and restaurants.

“With magnificent beaches and interesting landmarks and historical sites, Cozumel is the Caribbean’s premier cruising region and our ‘Cozumel Plus’ itineraries provide our guests with a seemingly endless variety of new ways to explore this fascinating destination,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “These new itineraries provide our guests with the opportunity to create wonderful vacation memories and our travel agent partners an exciting cruise option to market to their clients.”

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Monday, April 25, 2016

Carnival Corp & Cuba Reach Detente

Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest leisure travel company, announced last week that the company's Fathom cruise brand will sail as planned from the U.S. to Cuba with all travelers, including naturalized American citizens born in Cuba, for the company’s week-long voyages to the island nation. Carnival Corporation worked closely with Cuba to allow its cruise ships to operate in a similar manner as current air charter operations to Cuba, starting with its historic inaugural voyage on May 1, 2016. In anticipation of this positive outcome, Carnival Corporation previously announced that Fathom was accepting bookings to Cuba from all travelers, including individuals born in Cuba. Fathom’s 704-passenger Adonia cruise ship will begin sailing to Cuba every other week, marking the first time in over 50 years that a cruise ship has been able to sail from the U.S. to Cuba, as well as the first time in decades that Cuban-born individuals will be able to sail to and from Cuba.

"We made history in March, and we are a part of making history again today," said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. "More importantly, we are contributing to a positive future. This is a positive outcome and we are extremely pleased. We want to extend our sincere appreciation to Cuba and to our team who worked so hard to help make this happen."

"We have already seen tremendous interest in the incredible Cuba journey we have put together, and we are ecstatic that this historic opportunity is open to everyone who wants to travel to Cuba," said Tara Russell, president of Fathom and global impact lead for Carnival Corporation. Russell added: “Our guests will visit three beautiful and unique destinations on the island all in one week, with the convenience of only having to unpack once while we sail on the Fathom Adonia, our premium small ship with its excellent and diverse dining, service and accommodations. We are looking forward to treating Fathom travelers to an unforgettable experience.”

Image Courtesy of Fathom

Friday, April 22, 2016

Only A Year to Go for Silver Muse

The christening of the ultimate boutique ship at sea—Silversea's new flagship Silver Muse—is just a year away. To mark this milestone, commemorative events took place on board all eight of Silversea's ships around the world. Guests were invited to a special dinner showcasing culinary specialties that will be featured on board Silver Muse, including specially created dishes from all regions of the world.

Due for completion in April 2017, Silver Muse will showcase world-class locations to those who sail during her inaugural season. A remarkable 52 UNESCO World Heritage Sites feature in Silver Muse's 2017 itinerary, from ancient Greek temples through to historic Caribbean fortresses. Launching from Monte Carlo, Silver Muse will spend the sublime European spring and summer months in and around the Mediterranean. Thirteen of her European ports of call boast UNESCO sites, including the Cinque Terre in Liguria, the Historic Center of Rome, the Archaeological Site of Olympia, and the Tower of Belém in Lisbon. Following her Mediterranean tour, Silver Muse will make her very first transatlantic crossing, with North American UNESCO highlights including the historic district of Old Québec in Canada and the iconic Statue of Liberty in New York City.

Even while she is on the move, Silver Muse's UNESCO adventures don't stop as she passes through the Panama Canal on October 18. Central Panama stretches out from the canal across three provinces and into two oceans, comprising everything from the lush mountains of the Cordillera Central to the beautiful beaches of the Pearl Islands in the Bahía de Panamá. As Silver Muse reaches South America, World Heritage Sites in Valparaiso and Rio de Janeiro are certain to delight, with an intoxicating kaleidoscope of color thrilling the senses with man-made and natural wonders.

Calling at 34 countries and over 130 ports in 2017 alone, Silver Muse will redefine ocean travel, enhancing the small-ship intimacy with spacious all-suite accommodations that are the hallmarks of the Silversea experience. The addition of Silver Muse will expand Silversea's fleet to nine ships, once again significantly raising the bar in the ultra-luxury cruise market.

"We are incredibly proud to celebrate this wonderful milestone in the development of Silver Muse as we enter the final one-year-to-go countdown," said Massimo De Caro, Silversea global head of marketing. With eight restaurants, state-of-the-art technology, and bespoke open-air public areas, guests on board Silver Muse are set to enjoy world-class levels of luxury as they explore some of Earth's greatest treasures."

Image Courtesy Silversea Cruises

Thursday, April 21, 2016

MSC Cruises Introduces New High-Speed Internet Packages

Speed and competitive pricing is what cruise travelers want in order to stay connected when at sea. MSC Cruises—the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line—listened and has announced next-generation connectivity across its entire fleet and new internet packages designed to accommodate the various needs of today’s vacationers. The enhancements will provide MSC Cruises guests with fast, reliable access to the web and simple, easy to use packages.

Working with Marlink—a pioneer of business critical communication solutions for customers operating in remote environments—MSC Cruises will provide dynamic bandwidth to its 12 existing ships, as well as its next-generation ships currently under construction, including MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside. No matter where in the world MSC Cruises’ guests are sailing—MSC Cruises’ ships sail to more than 180 ports across five continents—they will receive continuous high-bandwidth global access.

“We are constantly seeking new ways to innovate and enhance guest experience aboard what is already the most modern fleet at sea,” said Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises CEO. “We know that staying connected while on vacation is increasingly more important to our guests, hence we are rolling out state-of-the-art technology to allow them to stay connected, whether they are looking to share experiences and memorable moments, stay in touch with friends and family, stay on top of work emails or simply catch up with daily news.”

MSC Cruises’ new offering allows guests to select from three different affordable internet packages based on their specific web and social media needs. All packages can be purchased either on a “per day” or “per cruise” basis, allowing guests maximum flexibility when selecting their internet needs.
• Option 1: The Social Package is aimed at guests that are interested in connecting to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, in order to post pictures and chat with friends while on vacation. Guests selecting this package will have 24/7 access to social networks on one device. Pricing is $4.50 per day or $16.50 for a 7-night cruise.
• Option 2: The Surfer Package is designed for moderate internet users who want to access social media platforms, be updated on what’s hot, surf the web for news or sports scores and catch up on emails during their cruise. Guests selecting this package will have access to internet on up to two devices. Pricing is $11 per day or $33 for a 7-night cruise.
• Option 3: The Streamer Package has been created for users who are interested in full internet access either for work or fun and want to be connected without any limitations at the fastest speed. This package gives guests full internet and social media access, including audio and video streaming, with access for up to four devices. Pricing is $22 per day or $66 for a 7-night cruise.
Internet packages can be booked prior to sailing or once on board. In addition, it will be easy for guests to upgrade or recharge their package while managing the consumption of each device. The new services are now live on board MSC Divina in the Caribbean and MSC Preziosa, currently deployed in the Western Mediterranean, and will roll-out across the entire fleet over the coming months.

By offering one of the most advanced guest connectivity services available at sea, MSC Cruises continues to position itself as an innovative and forward-thinking cruise line. With several hundred Mbit/s (megabits per second) available in the Marlink Sealink cloud, MSC Cruises will deliver a whole new web and social media accessibility experience for guests that are hungrier than ever for cost-effective, reliable internet access while enjoying their vacations at sea.