Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When is a cruise not a cruise?

Why, when it's a "repositioning cruise" or a transatlantic crossing! It's that time of year when major North American cruise lines are repositioning their ships from Europe to the Caribbean.

There was a time when repositioning cruises weren't widely advertised and were heavily discounted. No more. While they can still be a relative bargain, if you don't count airfare, they've become very popular and are now proudly listed in cruise lines' brochures along with all the usual sailings. Some unique ports of call are often added to the mix when departing Europe in the fall and possibly a port call or two might be made before reaching Florida (or vice versa in the spring). But for die-hard cruisers the allure is five, six, or even seven or more glorious sea days with nothing to do but enjoy the ship.

Crossing the Atlantic by ship is so popular that Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 offers a regularly-scheduled series of crossings that are chock full of things to do. What's a crossing like? Take a look at Cruise Diva's Crossing on the Queen Mary 2.

If you love to spend your time at sea, consider a repositioning cruise or a crossing. Find out more in "Cruising or "Crossing"?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tropical Storm Noel: Caribbean & Bahamas Cruise Ship Itinerary Alterations

Update 3:45 pm: Tropical storm warnings remains in effect for the central and northwestern Bahamas. A tropical storm watch may be required for southeast Florida later today or tonight. To follow Tropical Storm Noel's path, the National Hurricane Center has maps and coordinates.

Due to the effects of Tropical Storm Noel, Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Lines have announced itinerary changes for cruise ships presently sailing on Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries. For details and the latest schedule updates, see the listing at CruiseBlogger.com.

There are no changes at present in upcoming cruise ship embarkations or debarkations from Florida ports.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tropical Storm Noel: A Rainmaker

Tropical Storm Noel's top winds weakened this morning, but the heavy rain it dumped on Haiti and the Dominican Republic caused flooding as the storm moved westward across the Caribbean. Noel is tracking slowly toward the north-northwest and is expected to move in a general northwesterly sweep for the next 24 hours. Top winds, which were up to 60 mph, dropped to 50 mph in the latest advisory from the Natl Hurricane Center in Miami. Tropical storm-force winds extend up to 115 miles from the eye. Heavy rain will hit Puerto Rico through Tuesday and intense downpours are expected for Jamaica and southeast Cuba.

Forecasters project Noel will cross the eastern end of Cuba before turning northward toward the Bahamas. The government of the Bahamas has issued tropical storm watches for the southeastern Bahamas, including the Turks and Caicos Islands. Noel is presently not expected to become a hurricane, or become a threat to the United States.

At this point, Noel has not seriously impacted cruise travel in the Caribbean.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Captain Stubing Speaks

It's been 30 years since The Love Boat sailed onto our televisions and actor Gavin McLeod, who we know as Capt Stubing, remains Princess Cruises' most recognizable spokesman. Did you know there were two failed pilots for the show before McLeod took the helm of the smash hit?

I have to wonder if cruise vacations would have such broad appeal if The Love Boat had never aired. Take a walk down memory lane as Capt Stubing, oops--make that Gavin McLeod--reflects on his career and his favorite travel destinations, and the changes he's seen in cruising over the past three decades. Read the interview, "Love Boat Captain Gavin MacLeod: The Past, The Future and His Favorite Cruise Destinations" in the American Chronicle.

(Photo: Capt Stubing poses with Cruise Diva on board Crown Princess)

Friday, October 26, 2007

CruiseDiva.com on Good Morning America

Just in case you overslept or were driving to work and missed it, the Good Morning America segment featuring Linda Coffman is now online.

This link will take you to the Video.

Azamara Quest Photo Tour

Not so long ago it seemed that the former-Renaissance Cruises introduced new "R" ships every few months. And they did. When Renaissance was hard hit by financial difficulties in 2001, R7 eventually landed in the Pullmantur Cruises fleet and sailed as Blue Moon. You may know that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, parent company of Royal Caribbean Intl, Celebrity Cruises, Pullmantur, and the newly-founded Azamara Cruises has done some ship-swapping this year and R7/Blue Moon has been formally launched as Azamara Quest.

As a former Renaissance passenger, I can only say WOW! Gone are the rock-hard mattresses, Laura Ashley style fabrics, and bland hunting lodge prints. After a 20-million dollar rejuvenation, in their place are elegant furniture coverings and carpets in soft jewel tones, contemporary artwork, simulated teak decking, and the cushiest outdoor areas to relax at sea. Added are Mosaic Cafe in the upper lobby where specialty coffee drinks, pastries, and light snacks are available during the day and an assortment of tapas are served at night and Breeza, an aft-facing bar and dining area aft of the Windows Cafe casual dining buffet restaurant. With the conversion of 48 staterooms to 32 suites, the passenger count is a cozy 694.

Don't take my word for it that Azamara Quest is stunning. Browse through Cruise Diva's Photo Tour with more than 50 images and see for yourself what a deluxe cruise line looks like.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

CruiseDiva.com on GOOD MORNING AMERICA

Linda demonstrates how to navigate CruiseDiva.com for ABC's GOOD MORNING AMERICA

Tune in to ABC television on FRIDAY, OCT 26, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Azamara Quest Blasts Off on Maiden Cruise

You may not be familiar with Azamara Cruises--the recently-launched cruise line's name is a coined term. Rooted in Romance language, "aza" references blue and "mar" the sea. Additionally, a lesser-known term, "acamar," in Classical times, was the southernmost bright star that could be seen from the latitude of Greece.

On a quest to conquer the deluxe cruise market, Azamara Cruises introduced their second 694-passenger ship, Azamara Quest to the fleet on October 22nd. As we sailed north from Miami on the first of two introductory 2-night cruises, we knew we were in for a treat, but we didn't know just how special.

Tuesday morning, Capt Bouzakis announced that Cape Canaveral was within view from Azamara Quest's port side and we were in count-down mode for the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. While the company views the new cruise brand as "a bright star on the deep blue sea," passengers on Azamara Quest's maiden cruise were thrilled with another once-in-a-lifetime experience--to see a brilliant shuttle launch from a cruise ship at sea.

While upon the "blue sea" we had the best view of an extraordinary man-made "bright star." It was certainly quite a show!

For more information, see Azmara Cruises web site.

Photo Courtesy of Azmara Cruises

Monday, October 22, 2007

Where's Cruise Diva?

Here's a hint--I'm even further south than my home in Georgia, the weather is warm, and the city is known as the World's Cruise Capital. Have you located me yet?

Yes! I'm in Miami and settling into my stateroom on Azamara Quest. It's time for an exciting preview sailing! We won't be calling on any ports, which means I hope to get to know the ship quite well.

Watch for my reports. To learn more, visit the Azamara Cruises web site.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It's Going to be Snowing on Princess Ships this Holiday Season

What does a white Christmas mean to you? To me, it evokes the memory of Currier & Ives prints and sleigh rides. You won't have to pass up that nostalgia if you are cruising on a Princess ship in the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, or even Brazil this year. As unlikely as it seems, holiday season passengers on most Princess ships will find themselves in a winter wonderland as snow magically falls in the ships' atriums during December cruises. The falling flakes will vanish on contact, offering wintery bliss without the need to shovel. The snowfall will occur on all Princess ships except for the line' three small vessels: Pacific Princess, Tahitian Princess, and Royal Princess, which do not have large, multi-story atriums.

The daily snow flurry is one of several new onboard activities added to celebrate the spirit of the season. Also new are a gingerbread housebuilding competition, sessions to create personalized photo ornaments, and a crackling "Yule log" on stateroom televisions (the perfect setting for snuggling). For those who yearn to release their untapped American Idol, the ships' Princess Pop Star talent show will feature a holiday edition where competitors can croon their favorite seasonal songs.

Even when the snow isn't coming down, Princess ships will feature a festive atmosphere. Trimmed from stem to stern in holiday d├ęcor, even the masts will sport a Christmas tree. Special events will include a reading of "The Night Before Christmas" by either the captain or cruise director, and strolling carolers. Passengers will receive a holiday card from the captain, a stocking turndown gift, and watch classic holiday films. A spectacular display from the ship's culinary team is sure to please palates, and a holiday variety show adds a seasonal element to the ship's entertainment offerings. Passengers can also attend midnight mass or an inter-denominational church service performed by onboard clergy.

Assure your junior cruisers that Santa Claus will find them onboard with his sack full of toys. Youngsters can try their hand at Christmas cookie decorating, balloon making, face painting, games, and other contests during a holiday fair. Each age group will have holiday parties in the Youth Centers where the kids can make decorations to display on the center's Christmas tree. Children can get creative with other holiday-themed arts and crafts projects throughout the cruise and they will hold their own show to perform Christmas carols for passengers. For parents who want to stay up later to celebrate the holidays, free late-night group kid sitting sessions will be available on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

You'll know whether you've been naughty or nice when Santa makes an early delivery of cruise documents. To get in on the action, see a professional travel agent, call 1-800-PRINCESS, or visit the Princess Cruises web site.

Ladies, reassure the family football fans that they won't miss the New Years Day's college bowl games while at sea. The telecasts will be shown (as available by satellite) in a shipboard lounge or on some vessels' giant Movies Under the Stars screen.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Carnival Cruise Lines Provides Discounted Cruise Fares to Military Members & Families

To honor those who serve us in the military and their families, Carnival Cruise Lines is offering a Veteran's Day promotion throughout the month of Nov. Active and retired military personnel are able to book up to three "Fun Ship" staterooms for themselves and their friends and family members at special discounted rates.

Reservations must be made between Nov 1-30, 2007, to qualify for this promotion, which is available in conjunction with a wide range of 3- to 12-day departures through Dec 31, 2008. Per person rates start at $189 for 3-day cruises from Miami, FL, and 4-day cruises from Long Beach, CA; $249 for 5-day cruises from Mobile, AL, and Jacksonville, FL; $279 for 4- and 5-day cruises from San Diego, CA; and $399 for 7-day cruises from Miami.

"Veteran's Day is a time that our country honors the sacrifice and service of our military personnel and Carnival is doing its part by providing exceptionally attractive rates to our men and women in uniform," said Vicki Freed, senior vice president sales and guest services.

The promotion is valid for individual bookings only, is capacity controlled, and not applicable with any other discount offer. Fare code CPM1 must be requested during the reservations process and military personnel must provide proof of service. Certain other restrictions apply. For additional information and reservations, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit www.carnival.com.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hopes Dashed for Windjammer Barefoot Cruise Passengers

While their web site is once again operational, is anything else afloat at Windjammer Barefoot Cruises?

Unfortunately, booked passengers have received more bad news in their email boxes:


Dear Shipmates,

We are contacting you about an important change to your upcoming cruise. We are sorry to inform you that S/V “Legacy”, S/V “Yankee Clipper” and S/V “Mandalay” will not sail the week of October 27th/28th, 2007 due to matters that cannot be ignored. Unfortunately we will be unable to correct the situation with enough time for the cruise to sail. We truly apologize for the extreme short notice and for the inconvenience.

We will gladly re-accommodate you on a future sail date if you choose to reschedule your cruise. If you are unable to re-schedule your cruise for a later date and decide to request a refund, please know we will issue you a complete refund of your paid cruisefare. If you choose to reschedule your cruise, please call our reservation message line at 1 (800) 327-2600. Regrettably, Windjammer Barefoot Cruises will not be able to cover any air costs incurred and associated with another sail date or ship. We are also unable to cover any air costs if you request a cruise refund.

Once again we are truly sorry for any inconvenience this matter has caused you. We hope you will be able to re-schedule your cruise.

Respectfully,
Windjammer Barefoot Cruises
"Inconvenenience" barely covers it...

Photo: SV Mandalay, Windjammer Barefoot Cruise

Find Holiday ‘Magic’ and ‘Wonder’ at Sea on Disney Cruise Line Ships

Is that snow or pixie dust? Aboard Disney Cruise Line ships, the holiday celebrations start with Halloween and last through the final toast of the new year. From traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts to "snowflake" sightings and caroling, the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder will sparkle with the joy of the holiday season.

Set to begin with the Oct 27th and 28th sailings, guests can participate in some Halloween fun with a trail of candy stations for kids that culminates in a dance party on the top deck and special costume parties in each of the youth activity areas. Adults aren't overlooked--bring your costume because there's a dance party and costume contest with prizes. We wonder if the Mickeys will outnumber the Minnies.

Disney characters decked out in their finest holiday attire will welcome passengers to the lavishly decorated private at Port Canaveral, FL cruise terminal beginning in late-Nov. Once aboard, you'll find special themed activities, decorations, and even a transformed winter wonderland on Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. On Thanksgiving Day, you'll enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving feast complete with all the trimmings.

After Thanksgiving, guests will partake in holiday cheer, including:
  • A nearly three-deck-tall tree festooned with decorations in the atrium lobby, where "snow" flurries fall and a tree-lighting ceremony occurs
  • A Christmas Day visit from Santa Goofy, with surprises for all the kids
  • International holiday caroling by crew members from around the globe (exclusively on the Christmas cruises)
  • Special family time for designing and decorating gingerbread houses
  • Mrs. Claus will read "The Night Before Christmas"
  • Traditional holiday feasts in Disney's three themed dining rooms (Christmas cruises only)
  • Multiple faith and interdenominational holiday services (Christmas and Hanukkah cruises only)
  • A ship-wide party to ring in 2008 and a New Year's Day tailgate party
The fun even extends to Disney's private hideaway on Castaway Cay. When Disney Magic and Disney Wonder arrive just after Thanksgiving, you'll find the island transformed into a "snowy" holiday paradise. "Snow" flurries will fall like magic and Mr. and Mrs. Snowman, in their finest tropical attire will greet you with a sleigh full of presents. Even the tram that transports you across the island will be transformed into a reindeer-drawn "sleigh," complete with antlers and tail.

To learn more about these and other fabulous Disney Cruise Line voyages, visit www.disneycruise.com and read the reviews on CruiseDiva.com.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sweet SeaDreams

I have good news and bad news. First, the good stuff. SeaDream Yacht Club just might make you so comfy at night on their new Sweet Dreams Signature Beds that (here comes the bad news) you just might oversleep.

The new Sweet Dreams Signature Bedding Collection may be set up to your preference as either a queen-size or single bed. The snooze-inducing mattresses and pillow tops are fitted with silky Belgian linens, as well as your choice of woolen blankets or duvets and foam or down pillows. All SeaDream guests receive personally monogrammed blue and white, two-piece cotton pajamas to perfectly complement sweet dreams.

Interviewed for this announcement while reclining on one of the new beds--just before he nodded off--Larry Pimentel, SeaDream’s President & CEO, said “The addition of our new Sweet Dreams Signature Bedding collection is an example of how SeaDream’s attention to detail benefits our guests."

By the way, don't confuse the new in-stateroom beds with SeaDream’s Balinese SunBeds--the double beds up on deck where you can lounge by day in the sun or shade, and even spend the night sleeping under the stars if you wish. Don't forget your jammies!

For more info, take a photo tour and catch a video introduction to SeaDream Yacht Club. Or, read all about it in first-hand reviews of SeaDream cruises on CruiseDiva.com.

You'll have to excuse me, though. Zzzzz...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Take Something Home From Your Cruise That You DIDN'T Pay For

Some passengers gloat over winning big in the ship's casino. That’s only money.

I’d rather have something that cash can’t buy. You know, the cool logo stuff you see other passengers have, but it's not available in the gift shop.

Where did they get it, and--more importantly--HOW? It's likely to be what I call loot. You know, the prizes that are awarded for being clever at Quest or a member of the smartest team during Trivia. Or, possibly, it was awarded after one of the other games where you might feel like you're making a fool of yourself until you get the prize.

What kind of treasures can you look forward to winning? Take a peek at Cruise Diva's Stash. It's full of souvenirs that no amount of money can buy.

Norwegian Gem's Got "IT"

Norwegian Cruise Line has launched a search for the ideal godmother of its new ship, Norwegian Gem. If you're a Latitudes member (the club for NCL past passengers), you're invited to reveal your “It” Girl attributes and submit a video at gemitgirl.com explaining why you should receive the honor of christening Norwegian Gem.

NCL suggests the Latitudes “It” Girl should embody the spirit of their hot, hip new ship, Norwegian Gem, as well as the free spirit of NCL’s Freestyle Cruising. The "It" Girl should be sophisticated, independent and confident, with an eagerness to explore new destinations and learn new things. She should be glamorous, stylish and cultured, and possess a youthful and adventurous spirit regardless of age. Entrants are invited to include their own unique talent (if they have one) that exemplifies the freestyle spirit of NCL cruising. Entries will be judged on creativity and originality. Cruise Diva has previewed the submissions to date and hasn't seen any unique talent on display, but at least no one has tried to do a Rosie O'Donnell impersonation.

In case you need a little help in bringing out your inner actress, NCL has enlisted the help of Second City, the famed improv group featured on NCL ships, to provide some tips. Several Second City cast members have created videos that are posted on gemitgirl.com showing what’s “it” and what isn’t “it.”

Video entries should be submitted by Nov 12, 2007. Five finalists will be revealed on Nov 15the and the Norwegian Gem's godmother will be introduced during ship's christening ceremony on Dec 18th in New York City. You've never sailed on NCL and aren't a Latitudes Member? Don't worry, you can still enter your video for a chance to become the Latitudes "It" Girl's BFF and win a 7-day cruise for two.

I'm already one of Norwegian Gem's BFFs. So, you go for it, girl!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Boston Bids Norwegian Majesty Adieu

A familiar summer sight since 1994, Norwegian Majesty has sailed into the sunset. The ship has departed on her final seasonal Bermuda cruise from Boston's Black Falcon Cruise Terminal. After a drydock session, she leaves for her winter homeport in Charleston, SC (pictured here).

While Norwegian Majesty won't be returning to Boston, a larger Norwegian Cruise Line fleetmate will replace her. Norwegian Dream is taking over the traditional Boston to Bermuda sailings in 2008.

You can still sail on Norwegian Majesty to Bermuda, although you'll have to embark either in Charleston, Baltimore, or Philadelphia. For more information, see the Norwegian Cruise Line web site.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Cruise Ports: Shop 'Til You Drop

Tomorrow is Sunday, a day when many Americans flock to the malls to get in a little shopping. Some of us in southern states remember when that wasn't possible--when "blue laws" dictated that merchants not do business on Sunday.

According to the Cape Breton Post, many stores in Sydney, Nova Scotia adhere to a similar day-of-rest tradition and don't normally open their doors on Sunday. However, the allure of 2,600 passengers and 1,100 crewmembers arriving at 8am tomorrow is just too seductive. Cruise ship passengers have a penchant for shopping and business people in Sydney are willing to forego a day off to satisfy their craving to spend. When Grand Princess docks for a full Sunday in port, cruisers and crew alike will find a hearty welcome in the open downtown shops.

Grand Princess will make another Sydney call on Oct 22nd and Norwegian Dawn, the season's final cruise ship full of leaf peepers (and shoppers), is expected on Oct 24th. It will be business as usual on those dates--both are weekdays.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Fond Farewell: Sovereign of the Seas

As if Americans needed another indication that they are no longer the prime passenger market for cruise travel, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced today that Royal Caribbean Intl's Sovereign of the Seas will be reassigned to the company's Pullmantur fleet. In changes scheduled to take place in October and November 2008, the Los Angeles-based Monarch of the Seas will assume Sovereign of the Seas' sailings out of Port Canaveral.

Sovereign of the Seas was once the largest cruise ship sailing from Miami. RCI's first really big ship, she introduced innovative wide-open, spacious atriums to ship interior design.

For complete details, particularly if your cruise is impacted by these changes, see Cruise Diva's Cruise News.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Crystal Cruises "Takes You Out To The Ball Game"

Well, not exactly, but you'll feel like it if you get on board when Hall of Fame baseball legend Hank Aaron kicks off Crystal Serenity's first cruise of 2008. On Crystal Cruises' January 4th Panama Canal cruise from Miami to Los Angeles, Mr. Aaron--one of Major League Baseball's greatest players--will share his inspiring achievements, professional milestones and life experiences. During the cruise, passengers will have the opportunity to participate in a question and answer session with the homerun champion of 33 years, as well as receive an autographed photo taken with him.

"The legend of Hank Aaron extends beyond the baseball field," says Bret Bullock, Crystal's vice president, entertainment. "Mr. Aaron is a gentleman who continues to be a role model for athletes and non-athletes of all ages. Crystal Cruises is honored to feature such an important figure in U.S. history."

For more information about the sailing and the luxury cruise line's Crystal Visions® Enrichment Program, see Cruise Diva's Cruise News.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A New "Queen Elizabeth" on Tap

Although the venerable Queen Elizabeth 2 is leaving the Cunard fleet in just a little over a year, the line won't be without a "Queen Elizabeth" for long. Cunard Line announced today that it has ordered a new 92,000-ton liner, to be named "Queen Elizabeth," scheduled to enter service in the autumn of 2010.

"Cunard already owns and operates the two most famous ocean liners in the world, Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2, and a third, Queen Victoria, is due to be named by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales, in December of this year," said Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Line. "The decision to order another ship for Cunard Line has been taken as a result of the strong booking response to the new Queen Victoria, and we are extremely pleased that Cunard will once again become a three-ship fleet so soon after the departure of the much-celebrated Queen Elizabeth 2 in November next year. Furthermore, we are delighted that Her Majesty The Queen has given her blessing to our calling this new Cunarder 'Queen Elizabeth', after our first vessel of that name."

While it's a bit early to expect design details and itineraries, the new 2092-passenger ocean liner will be the second largest Cunarder the company has ever built. It is known that Queen Elizabeth will fly the Red Ensign with Southampton as her homeport.

In the meantime, interiors are beginning to take their final shape on Cunard Line's soon-to-launch Queen Victoria. Get a glimpse of the progress made in the magnificent two-story, wood paneled Library, Queen's Room, and Grand Lobby on CruiseDiva.com.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Windjammer Barefoot Cruises: Sinking in a Sea of Red Ink?

In the wake of recent cruise cancellations, the Miami Herald reports that Windjammer Barefoot Cruises is cancelling its cruises for the weeks of Oct 14 and Oct 21.

The financially strapped cruise line has issued a statement that it anticipates restarting cruise operations in the Caribbean and Costa Rica "shortly.'' According to the Miami newspaper's Business Section, Windjammer Operations Manager Danny Walsh said he and the entities that control the company are working with ''several investor groups on a viable plan to continue the Windjammer tradition.''

A recent deal to keep the sinking cruise line afloat fell through and the ships, with their hapless crew members aboard, have been stranded for weeks at various ports.

On a positive note, loyal 'Jammers should be heartened that the cruise line's web site has reappeared, albeit with one page... an open letter from the Miami office titled, "Windjammer’s Heart is Still Beating–Better Sailing Ahead."

Monday, October 8, 2007

Cruise Travel: Take the LUG out of Luggage

Two cruise lines recently unveiled enhancements to luggage handling service that eliminate some of the stresses associated with travel.

This fall, select guests on Disney Cruise Line sailings will find a more hassle-free vacation experience with the availability of Onboard Airline Check-In. This service allows qualified passengers to check in for post-cruise flights while still on board the Disney vessels. Boarding passes are delivered to their staterooms the day prior to debarkation and when their Disney ships return to Port Canaveral, participating passengers can proceed directly to Customs and then to Orlando Intl Airport where they breeze by check-in lines and go straight to airport security and on to departure gates. Meanwhile, their checked luggage is transported directly from the ship to their flights. In order to take advantage of this service, passengers need to meet certain requirements and be booked on a domestic flight on one of seven participating airlines.

Even more convenient, upscale Crystal Cruises has entered into an exclusive alliance with Luggage Concierge. For easy door-to-door baggage service between their homes and Crystal's world-wide ports of call, Luggage Concierge has established a dedicated phone line for Crystal guests, available 24/7. Arrangements for luggage shipment can be made by calling 877-231-6408 or registering at luggageconcierge.com/crystal. An added bonus for Crystal's repeat passengers (Crystal Society members) is a 20% discount on luggage shipments to and from their Crystal cruise, as well as a 10% discount on luggage shipments for other non-cruise related travel if they book directly through Luggage Concierge. Included in the round-trip service is automatic insurance coverage of $1,500 for all luggage shipments within the U.S., and $2,000 coverage for international luggage shipments. In addition, Crystal guests utilizing the new Luggage Concierge service receive personalized tracking and delivery notification of their baggage through their choice of phone, fax or e-mail.

If you've suffered the long waits in airport lines this past summer, you can appreciate the convenience of having someone else take care of the heavy lifting. More details are available in Cruise Diva's Cruise News.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cruise Lines: Find One to Suit Your Lifestyle

A question I'm often asked is, “What is your favorite cruise line?” I've sailed on most of them and It's a question that I simply can't answer. You see, I like them all—for different reasons. Cruise lines, and even ships in the same fleet, have their plusses and minuses. What appeals to me might seem mildly quirky or even distasteful to you. That's why I've updated and revamped our Cruise Line Profiles on CruiseDiva.com.

No longer divided into the “classes” of old, modern cruise ships are more akin to sea-going democracies these days. Every passenger can expect the same amenities and choices. So, are all cruise lines alike? No, most certainly not. Some of the differences are subtle, but today’s cruise lines fall into three broad categories—Mainstream, Premium, and Luxury. Pick one to suit your Cruising Lifestyle.

When it comes time to decide on your next cruise, take a look at what the cruise lines have to offer and how their features vary. You may be surprised.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Windjammer Ships Becalmed

Set to cruise in a few days, disappointed Windjammer passengers forwarded Cruise Diva a copy of an email received today from the troubled cruise line.

Dear Shipmates,

We are contacting you about an important change to your upcoming cruise. We are sorry to inform you that S/V "Legacy" and S/V "Yankee Clipper" will not sail the week of October 6/7th, 2007 due to matters that cannot be ignored. Unfortunately we will be unable to correct the situation with enough time for the cruise to sail. We truly apologize for the extreme short notice and for the inconvenience.

We will gladly re-accommodate you on a future sail date if you choose to reschedule your cruise. Passengers who choose to be re-accommodated will be given a free 7-day Windjammer Barefoot Cruise to use within two years (Expiration date October 2009). The free cruise is valid for travel within the next two years in the same cabin type originally booked with immediate confirmation.

If you are unable to re-schedule your cruise for a later date and decide to request a refund, please know we will issue you a complete refund of your paid cruise fare. Regrettably, Windjammer Barefoot Cruises will not be able to cover any air costs incurred and associated with another sail date or ship. We are also unable to cover any air costs if you request a cruise refund.

Please contact our Reservations message line at 1 (800) 327-2600 to discuss options. Once again we are truly sorry for any inconvenience this matter has caused you. We hope you will be able to re-schedule your cruise.

Respectfully,
Windjammer Barefoot Cruises

Will the passengers receive a refund? Fortunately, it appears that their credit card company will dispute the fare charges for the couple who emailed Cruise Diva. What about the alternative of taking a future cruise credit... and the reality of whether Windjammer Barefoot Cruises could ever actually re-accommodate them in the future? We might mention that it would hardly be "free" since they've already paid for it.

No judgments being offered here. We report, you decide.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Cruise Lines: It's So EASY

easyCruise’s successful inaugural summer season in Greece has prompted the unorthodox cruise line to more than triple its capacity for summer 2008. The line’s new flagship, to be christened easyCruise Life after a multi-million dollar refit is scheduled to enter service in April 2008. With accommodattions for 540 passengers, and at 12,711 tons, easyCruise Life is three times the size of her yacht-sized, sister ship easyCruise One (4,011 tons).

Launched in 2005 by serial entrepreneur Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, easyCruise is noted for inexpensive cruises to chic resorts and islands off the beaten track. The ships sail for just a few hours each morning and arrive in port around lunchtime so guests can enjoy the rest of the day and evening (until the wee morning hours) ashore. easyCruise Life will offer a seven-night itinerary that includes Turkey, calling at Bodrum, one of the country’s most popular resorts with a nightlife known throughout the Aegean. New itineraries also showcase six different Greek Islands from laidback Syros and Samos to lively Kalymnos, Kos, Paros and Mykonos, the legendary jet-set mecca. Guests can choose to join the cruise in Piraeus (Athens) on Saturdays or in Bodrum on Mondays.

“Since easyCruise launched two years ago we have offered an affordable way to see intriguing places that are difficult to reach, except by sea,” said Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, chairman of easyCruise. “It is clear that staying in port until the early morning hours has broad appeal because many travelers also want to experience the local nightlife.”

Cruise fares, starting from as low as $143 per person (double occupancy) for seven nights aboard easyCruise Life, include port taxes. Cabins are equipped with ensuite bathrooms with shower. Fresh linens and towels are provided upon arrival, however, little else is included. Meals, drinks, spa treatments, sightseeing tours, and even housekeeping services are all reasonably priced extras that can be purchased in advance or on board. Facilities on the newly-acquired ship will include enhanced versions of the Aptiva Spa and fusionon6 combination restaurant/discotheque that are found on easyCruise One, plus broad teak sundecks, an outdoor swimming pool, and hot tub. Accommodations include 23 Panoramic Suites and 14 superior doubles, all with picture windows; 76 oceanview standard twin cabins, 45 oceanview standard quad cabins, and 112 interior standard twins.

This fall and next spring, the line’s easyCruise One will be deployed on a new seven-night itinerary that showcases Classical Greece, including Mycenae, Nemea, Olympia and Delphi. Timings have been planned so that guests can experience the Acropolis by night and witness a Sounion sunset. In summer 2008, the ship will again offer popular long-weekend cruises to Poros, Mykonos, Paros and Sifnos. A new 10-night itinerary will transit the Corinth Canal to the islands of the Ionian Sea, including Ithaki, Paxos, Corfu, Kefallonia, Zakynothos, Itea (for Delphi), Corinth, Preveza and Agioi Saranta, Albania, which serves as a gateway to Butrint, a UNEXCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately easyCruise One is not repeating its Caribbean cruises this winter.

To learn more about the new easyCruise Life, easyCruise One, and the line’s Greece and Turkey itineraries visit www.easycruise.com or contact a professional travel agent. If you don't mind making your own bed, easyCruise is an easy way to island-hop.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Carnival Cruise Lines: It Pays to be Loyal

Once known for their lack of regard for past passengers, Carnival Cruise Lines now embraces them. The "Concierge Club," which was created exclusively for "Platinum" cardholders who have sailed with Carnival 10 or more times, recognizes longtime guests for their loyalty and support by providing them with a variety of amenities and privileges.

Carnival has moved to the next phase of past passenger appreciation by expanding its "Concierge Club" program to provide shipboard credits when members achieve a "milestone" cruise with them. "Concierge Club" members who sail on their 25th, 50th and 75th "Fun Ship" cruise will receive a shipboard credit representing 25, 50 or 75 percent of their cruise fare, respectively, for that particular voyage. When they sail on their 100th "Fun Ship" cruise, they earn a complimentary Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, or Alaska voyage of up to eight days in length. Wow! This new milestone cruise benefit is in addition to the wide range of amenities and privileges that "Platinum" cardholders already receive.

"The 'Concierge Club' has been met with incredible response since being launched last year and this new shipboard credit benefit is just another way of Carnival recognizing and thanking our loyal and valued guests," said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO.

Prior to their "milestone" cruise, guests will receive a personalized letter from Cahill informing them of the shipboard credit or free cruise they will earn in conjunction with their next milestone cruise. Carnival has also established a special toll-free line, 1-877-CCL-VIPS (1-877-225-8477) that is staffed on a 24/7 basis and designated specifically for questions regarding the new shipboard credit/free cruise benefit for "Concierge Club" members.

All Platinum cardholders are entitled to numerous shipboard benefits and features that are detailed in Cruise Diva's Cruise News. Additionally, an exclusive concierge desk for Platinum cardholders has been established at the pursers information desk aboard every Carnival ship. A dedicated phone line is available fleetwide, as well.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

NCL Cuts Steel for New Ships

NCL took delivery of its new “It” Girl, Norwegian Gem yesterday in Eemshaven, Netherlands, just one day before officials gathered in in Saint Nazaire, France to celebrate the steel cutting for the first of NCL’s third generation of new Freestyle Cruising ships, project name “F3.”

Norwegian Gem is the fourth and final ship in the company's Jewel-class series and solidifies NCL's status as the youngest, most modern fleet in the cruise industry. Cruise Diva is Norwegian Gem's latest BFF--check it out on Norwegian Gem’s “HerSpace” page at www.gemitgirl.com. I'm looking forward to our first face-2-face on Dec 12th when she makes her U.S. debut in Boston. Will we have tea together, or maybe bowl a few frames? Watch for it here!

But back to the latest... NCL has always been a forward-looking cruise line and the upcoming “F3” ships are the next phase in their unique Freestyle Cruising experience, which is characterized by no fixed dining times and no formal dress codes. Think of it as a less structured, more relaxed, more resort-style vacation-at-sea than traditional cruising. The 150,000-ton “F3” ships will each feature 4,200 passenger berths--the largest ships in NCL’s fleet. The ships’ cabin mix will be extra special, with 100 percent of outside staterooms featuring private balconies. Each ship will have 1,415 balcony staterooms!

NCL plans to build up to three new third generation Freestyle Cruising ships--the first is scheduled for delivery in January 2010, followed by the other two between 2010 and 2011.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Towel Animals: The Ultimate Bedtime Pals

You've never met a towel animal? Well, then you're in for a treat if you are planning your next cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines. While you may find a fanciful towel critter waiting in your cabin after dinner on other lines, only Carnival publishes books with step-by-step illustrated instructions for creating them at home.

Carnival's first instruction guidebook (Towel Creations) has a sequel--Carnival Towel Creations with Freddy, which features the line’s mascot “Fun Ship” Freddy. The new book offers easy-to-follow directions and diagrams for creating more than 80 different creatures, including new variations such as a snail, bat, cow, stingray and goat.

While towel animals are a relatively recent tradition, stewards have been surprising passengers with their creativity at turn-down for a long time. For a through-the-years peek at the evolution of Cabin Critters (including towel animals), read Ultimate Bedtime Pals at CruiseDiva.com.

There's no need to liberate towel animals from your ship in order to establish your own towel animal zoo at home. If you're not crafty enough to create your own, you can order miniature “towel pal” plush toys at Towel Pal.