Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Princess Cruises to Add The Line's Latest Signature Features To Two Ships

In an action sure to please repeat passengers, Princess Cruises will revamp two ships to incorporate a number of the most popular amenities that have become favorites on the line's newer ships. The upcoming makeovers of Star Princess and Caribbean Princess will include a transformation of the Deck 5 atrium into the inviting piazza-style street café currently found on Crown Princess and Emerald Princess; plus will add the company's signature adults-only Sanctuary and showplace Crown Grill steak and seafood restaurant, along with a more centrally located casino and seven new suites.

Star Princess will receive these new features during her September drydock in San Francisco and Caribbean Princess will follow in January 2009.The ships' updated atriums will not only feature the specialty coffees, freshly baked goods, paninis and tapas of the International Café, but will also introduce an expanded Vines wine bar concept, which will now include rare vintage wines, a selection of artisan meats and cheeses, plus a wine shop where passengers can purchase their favorite bottle. In addition, passengers will be able to relax in the tranquility of The Sanctuary, Princess' signature adults-only retreat, featuring plush padded lounge chairs and the services of dedicated Serenity Stewards. The ships will also replace their current steakhouse with the Crown Grill restaurant featuring an open show kitchen where passengers can enjoy watching as chefs prepare chops, steaks and seafood, including live lobsters. As part of the renovation, each vessel will also receive seven new suites with ocean-view picture windows, and the casino will be relocated one deck higher to deck 7, bringing it into the ship's central entertainment area.

"After Crown Princess and Emerald Princess debuted, we knew we had struck a chord with our passengers who loved the piazza-style atriums, new dining experiences and the peaceful environment of The Sanctuary," said Jan Swartz, Princess senior vice president. "And so we're delighted to bring these hallmark features to two of the other vessels."

To make room for the new features, passengers may find that some of their favorite areas have been moved. In addition to the casino, the sports court, Internet Café and wedding chapel are also among the spaces that will change location in the renovation process.

A complete description of the new features you will find aboard Star Princess and Caribbean Princess following their make-overs can be found in's Cruise News.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Holland America Assists Charities

Like many frequent travelers, I have a stash of miniature toiletries at home. Despite my husband's eye-rolling and admonitions that "you don't need that," those little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion have a way of ending up in my tote bag. I really don't need the products, but have rationalized that they come in handy now that only 3-ounce bottles of liquids and gels are allowed on airplanes. After reading about a Holland America initiative today, I'm going to do something else with my stash...

Holland America Line and the Port of Seattle announced the formation of "Ship to Shelter"--an innovative new community-giving program that is the first of its kind in the nation. Holland America will collect valuable and reusable goods from their ships sailing from Seattle this summer, and donate them to Seattle area charities serving people in need. The Port of Seattle, partnering with United States Customs and Border Protection, Cruise Terminals of America, and Northwest Harvest, will work with Seattle-based Holland America to donate items from the ships weekly and the goods will be distributed to shelters and homeless programs throughout Washington State. In addition to the weekly donations of individual-sized toiletries, Holland America Line will periodically provide items such as towels, linens, dishes, cookware, silverware, televisions and mattresses.

I'm going to do the same and urge all my readers to do so as well. My local community outreach program is Golden Harvest. What's yours?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Disney Cruise Line to Implement Fuel Supplement

It should come as no surprise that Disney Cruise Lines has finally announced the unavoidable. Due to increasingly high fuel prices, the line will begin charging a fuel supplement on new bookings made on or after May 28th.

The charge will be $8 per passenger, per day for the first and second passengers in a cabin (up to a maximum of $112 per passenger per cruise) and additional passengers in the same cabin will be assessed $3 per passenger, per day (with a maximum of $42 per passenger for the cruise).

Take heart, though. Soft drinks are still complimentary at the beverage stations.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Two NCL Ships To Be Purchased By Louis Cruise Lines

Louis Cruise Lines reached an agreement last week to purchase two of Star Cruises' NCL ships, Norwegian Dream and Norwegian Majesty for a total of $380 million USD. You may not think you've ever heard of Louis, but if you remember Sea Diamond, the ship that sunk off the coast of Santorini last April, that was a Louis ship. The line, more widely recognized by Europeans than Americans, sails a diverse fleet of 13 cruise ships that operate from the ports of Genoa, Italy and Marseilles, France on Western Mediterranean, North Africa, and Eastern Mediterranean itineraries, and from Piraeus, Greece to the Greek Islands and Eastern and Western Mediterranean.

Don't panic if you have a cruise booked on one of those NCL ships--they won't be leaving the fleet just yet. Under terms of the purchase agreement, the ships will be chartered back to Star Cruises. Norwegian Dream will remain in the NCL fleet until Nov 2008 and Norwegian Majesty will remain until Dec 2009.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Throwing Cruisers a Curve, NCL Introduces NEW WAVE STATEROOMS

NCL has come up with what is arguably the cruise industry’s most innovative living space at sea. Dubbed New Wave Staterooms, they are designed for NCL's next generation of Freestyle Cruising ships, F3. The New Wave standard, New Wave balcony and New Wave deluxe staterooms, described and illustrated in artists' renderings at, represent a giant leap forward in cruise ship accommodations with a completely fresh take on bathroom design, contemporary curved architecture, and open living space.

The most distinctive design element in New Wave staterooms is the curved walls and lines that create a chic and modern look. NCL has maximized the living space with a totally unique "pod" bathroom that features a separate shower stall, separate water closet, and a modern vanity top sink. While we like the idea of not playing dueling doors in most old-style cabin entry areas where both closet and bathroom are located, we're not entirely sure we want to step out of the shower to dry off right in front of the cabin's door to the hallway. You never know when your cabinmate (or steward) might open the door and... oops... there you are! Could be quite interesting.

We like the stateroom furnishings, which feature a sophisticated earth-tone palette accented with splashes of color and rich, dark wood. Concealed contour LED lighting and back-lit domed ceilings set a relaxing vibe. All the amenities and comforts of NCL’s Freestyle 2.0 enhancements are included with upgraded bedding, linens and towels, Euro pillows, Elemis bathroom products, and MP3 connectivity upon request. Balcony and deluxe staterooms have bathrobes, a customized fruit menu, a fresh-baked cookie at turn down on the last night of cruise, an escort to the stateroom on embarkation day, priority restaurant reservation and reception hotlines and special color keycard for ship-wide recognition. We'd like to point out that cookies would be most appreciated every night, though.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cruise Ship Passenger Missing

The U.S. Coast Guard is searching more than 1,100 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico by air and at sea for a missing cruise ship passenger. The as-yet unidentified man might have gone overboard from Carnival Victory when the ship was approximately 38 miles off the Mexican coast while approaching Cozumel. As reported by First Coast News, the man's wife reported him missing Tuesday evening. Oddly, no one had apparently seen the man since the wee hours of Tuesday morning before arriving in Cozumel, yet no one seemed to miss him until the ship was heading back to sea after having been berthed from 8am to 6pm in the Mexican port.

Carnival Victory is presently on a 7-day Western Caribbean cruise that departed Miami last Sunday.

UPDATE: Sadly the missing passenger had not been found when the Coast Guard suspended the search, which ultimately covered over 1,500 square miles.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oceania Cruises to Adjust Fuel Surcharge

In response to the continually escalating price of fuel, Oceania Cruises is increasing its fuel surcharge to $10 per guest per day for all new reservations effective May 1, 2008. The surcharge applies to all currently published sailings.

"The price of fuel continues to rise in price to levels that were previously unimaginable. We appreciate the continued understanding of our guests and travel agent partners as we make this necessary adjustment,” stated Bob Binder, President of Oceania Cruises.

The fuel surcharge of $10 per guest per day, regardless of voyage length, is effective for all new reservations as of May 1, 2008. The fuel surcharge applies only to the first two guests in the stateroom or suite and does not apply to third or fourth guests.

Cunard Queens Rendezvous in Southampton

In yet another historic Cunard occasion, the Line's three Queens - Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth 2, and Queen Victoria - met yesterday in their homeport of Southampton for the first and last time.

QE2 and Queen Victoria arrived after completing milestone World Cruises: the final such voyage for the iconic "grande dame" QE2, set to leave Cunard's service in November, and the first World Cruise for Queen Victoria.

Queen Mary 2 arrived after concluding her first Transatlantic Crossing of the season and will transport the remaining World Cruisers from both QE2 and Queen Victoria back to New York, arriving April 28.

The three ships are the world's only passenger vessels that proudly display Southampton on their sterns.

The Cruise of a Lifetime: Antarctica Aboard Star Princess

"It has been the cruise of our lifetime!"

When I read that in an email from veteran cruisers Vincent and Mary Finelli, I knew this would be a very special cruise review of Star Princess in Antarctica.

The Finelli's reviews are always full of useful information about the ships they sail on and they are particularly respectful of the crewmembers and officers. I have to give them additional kudos for all they do because they do it with flair, despite having mobility challenges. Their observations are invaluable to anyone who faces similar obstacles. Vincent and Mary are, quite simply, an inspiration.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Revises Fuel Supplement

MIAMI -- In its ongoing efforts to deal with record fuel prices, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. today announced an increase in the fuel supplement it charges guests. The revised fuel supplement will apply to bookings made throughout the world on or after May 1, 2008, onboard three Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. brands: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Cruises.

For first and second guests in a stateroom, the revised fuel supplement will be $8 (U.S.D.) per-person, per-day, and no more than $112 (U.S.D.) per person, per cruise. Additional guests in a stateroom will be charged $3 (U.S.D.) per person, per day, and no more than $42 (U.S.D.) per person, per cruise.

Costa Maya Rebounds

It was July 2007, less than a year ago when Hurricane Dean decimated Costa Maya, the made-for-cruisers stop on Mexico's Yucatan coast, and left the nearby fishing village of Majahual in ruins. Initial reports estimated it would take until early-2009 before repairs could be made.

The word at Seatrade last month was that reconstruction was ahead of schedule and it appeared that Costa Maya would beat its ambitious Sept 2008 target date for reopening. A press release this week confirmed that the port will be ready to welcome cruise ships in July. That's a display of ambition in a good way. Work on the pier will be complete enough in July to berth two ships and the third berthing spot will be ready in late-2008. The new piers will accommodate even the largest cruise ships--Royal Caribbean's Genesis-class and NCL's F-3 ships.

Reports are that all the major cruise lines are returning, so watch for Western Caribbean itineraries to begin including Costa Maya again soon. In the meantime, Cruise Diva's Carnival Glory, Grand Princess and Carnival Fantasy reviews offer looks at different ways to spend your day in Costa Maya.

Monday, April 21, 2008

'Bye 'Bye, Celebration

When bright and spiffy brand-new ships are launched, they get a lot of attention. That was the case when Celebration joined the Carnival fleet more than 20 years ago. Known then as a "superliner," the 47,000-ton Celebration--largely ignored in the recent past--has now quietly sailed on her last cruise to the Bahamas from Jacksonville, Florida. She's still relatively "young" in cruise ship years, though, and will join Iberocruceros in Spain this summer after being buffed up and rejuvenated.

Those of us in the Southeast will miss the familiar Carnival funnel in Jacksonville for a few months until Carnival Fascination--a newer (launched in 1994) and larger (70,000-ton) Fantasy-class ship--will pick up where Celebration left off. Carnival Fascination will begin sailing year-round 4- and 5-night Bahamas cruises from Jacksonville in Sept 2008.

For a nostalgic look back on a Celebration "Fun Ship" sailing, these are Cruise Diva's Memories of The Elvis Cruise last fall. It was a whole lot of fun!

Friday, April 18, 2008

On the Dock at Labadee

So, you're wondering... has Cruise Diva lost her mind? There's no dock at Royal Caribbean's private island Labadee! Stick with me. This story is satisfying, but not long.

Most passengers don’t select an itinerary based solely upon whether their chosen ship calls at a private island, established to provide a beach break on an island (or part of one) reserved for their exclusive use, but usually consider the stop a highlight of their cruise vacation. With the exception of Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay, where a dock was built to greet passengers from day one, all other private island destinations are reached by shore tender.

While researching updates for the 2009 edition of Fodor's Caribbean Ports of Call, I came across an article on on the Haiti Innovation web site that discusses a deal between Royal Caribbean and the Haitian Government to significantly expand the cruise line's operations in Haiti--including the building of docking facilities. What's Haiti Innovation? They describe their organization as "a non profit and non-political consultancy committed to Haiti. Created by former Peace Corps Volunteers, the Haiti Innovation team offers both technical expertise and in depth knowledge of the developmental and humanitarian challenges facing Haiti."

After making inquiries at Royal Caribbean, I was told, "We are indeed building a dock at Labadee. It is estimated to be completed in September 2009."

That's great news for passengers, especially those with mobility issues and the thousands of passengers arriving on large ships where the waiting period to tender ashore can be drawn out. And, remember--you heard it confirmed here first.

For more private island information, see Your Caribbean Place In The Sun at

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's A Dog's Life At Sea

From online message board posts, it's a given that cruisers love their "furbabies" and are concerned with their welfare when they leave home for a cruise vacation. Cruisers on private vessels feel the same, but can usually take their pets with them. However, in Dec 2007, the Darla Jean, a private 48 ft. motor sailor washed up on Fanning Island after spending 95 days drifting across the Pacific. On board were the boat owners and their pet dog, an eight-month old cocker spaniel named Snickers. After spending two weeks on Fanning Island, the owners returned to their home in California on an interisland supply ship, but Snickers wasn’t able to accompany them and he was left behind. The forlorn pooch spent the last four months on the island.

After hearing Snickers’ story, Las Vegas, Nevada resident (and all-around nice guy) Jack Joslin called the Hawaiian Humane Society for help in getting the dog off Fanning Island. The Humane Society contacted NCL America and asked for assistance in rescuing Snickers.

The best part of this story is that NCL America’s Pride of Aloha returned to Honolulu yesterday from a 12-day Hawaii cruise with one extra guest: the adorable Snickers. Working with the Hawaiian Humane Society, NCL America officials made arrangements for the abandoned puppy to be picked up by the ship during its planned stop in Fanning Island on April 9, 2008.

“We are pleased that we could help bring Snickers back to the United States,” said Alan Yamamoto, NCL America’s vice president of Hawaii operations. Following a stop in Honolulu, Snickers will be flown to his new owner in Las Vegas. We love happy endings.
Photo of Snickers, Courtesy of NCL America

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Take a Look at Royal Caribbean's "Project Genesis"

She'll be the largest cruise ship at sea when she launches late next year. As yet unnamed, Royal Caribbean's Project Genesis weighs in at 220,000 tons and will accommodate 5,400 passengers (double occupancy) in 2,700 staterooms.

While Royal Caribbean has been mum regarding her features, they broke the ice today by revealing that "Central Park" will be the focal point of the ship.

"Building such a large vessel allowed us to add even more of the choices and amenities that our guests value and Central Park is a dramatic addition to our already extensive array of exciting features," said Richard D. Fain, Chairman & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "Central Park is the first of many dynamic neighborhoods on Project Genesis which will enable each guest to find his or her own space and activity."

Get a look at the neighborhoods, including artists' renderings of the restaurants, interior-facing balconies, and other public spaces at We're particularly excited about the Rising Tide bar, a movable lounge that should excite even the most jaded cruisers. Rising Tide will span three decks and allow passengers to enjoy a cocktail as they slowly ascend into Central Park and then descend back into the public spaces below.

Photo Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Carnival Introduces More Splendor

The 113,000-ton Carnival Splendor, set to debut in Europe this summer, is looking... well, we think she's just splendid.

Here at we love new ships, especially when they represent an all-new class. The artist’s renderings below of Carnival Splendor’s atrium lobby, restaurant, and promenade (top to bottom) illustrate just a few of the ship’s main public areas. Created by ship architect Joe Farcus, the ship promises to be one of a kind: a larger, more fun-filled addition to the fleet with a dramtic vibe.

After a maiden sailing from Genoa on July 2nd, Carnival Splendor will reposition to London (Dover) July 10 for Carnival’s first-ever 12-day Northern Europe program, part of a diverse inaugural schedule that also includes Mediterranean, Caribbean, South American and Mexican Rivera voyages.

Photos Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Warning to Men: What Not To Pack For Your Cruise

In a recent email, Frank DeVault related an unfortunate packing experience:
I packed a Swiss Army knife on my last cruise.

My bags were held up in ships security for 4 hours, all the while I was frantically running around wondering where my bag was. Of course, the crew kept saying that it was not unusual for a bag not arrive with the other bags.

Finally the purser located it in security and asked me to go down into the bowels of the ship where the X-Ray machine was located. I arrived to find the bag with a large pieces of masking tape across it with the words KNIFE written on it. I was asked to open the bag and show them the knife. Well, when I pulled out the extremely dangerous Swiss Army knife (carried mainly for its corkscrew) everyone looked away in embarrassment and sputtered apologies. I was told not to carry it around on board, which I hadn't planned on doing anyway.

Of course, it was a great story at the dinner table to break the ice. Criminally, I carried it to the table to show off the offending KNIFE.
I've heard of cruise lines setting aside luggage that contained the ever-popular "smuggled" liquor, but never a simple Swiss Army knife. While Frank was able to take it in stride, and even make lighthearted comments to his dinner companions, the experience was unpleasant.

It ruined my embarkation activities while I searched for my bag. The cruise line should have informed me that there was a problem with my bag via a telephone message, note in the stateroom mail slot, or something.
I agree. If there's a question about the contents of a passenger's suitcase, they should be contacted and informed immediately. One of the items on Cruise Diva's Packing List For Men was a Swiss Army knife. My husband has carried one for years, so it's something that I just naturally assumed many other men would want to have with them. I've removed it from the Packing List For Men. Sadly, that's another blow to personal freedom in these days of heightened security.

Thank you for sharing, Frank! It's tips like yours that make life (and travel) easier for everyone. I might add that you can still pack a corkscrew in checked luggage and even small scissors will pass muster in a carry-on.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Carnival Splendor: California, Here I Come

If you were in Sicily yesterday, you might have spotted Carnival Cruise Lines’ new 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor undergoing sea trials in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Sestri, Italy, the 3,006-passenger vessel–the largest “Fun Ship” ever constructed–is slated to debut July 2, 2008, with an eight-day voyage from Genoa to London (Dover) after which it will begin a series of 12-day Northern Europe cruises July 13.

Representing a new (and unique) class of vessel, Carnival Splendor will offer a host of innovations, including a luxurious 21,000-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa. Adjacent to the facility will be 68 spa staterooms and suites–a first for Carnival. Its numerous family-friendly features will include an expansive two-level, 5,500-square-foot children’s play area and a water spray park.

After a season of Northern Europe cruises, Carnival Splendor will operate a schedule of 12-day cruises to the Mediterranean, Greece and Turkey before repositioning to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for 7-day Caribbean departures. Carnival Splendor will then sail a series of 14- to 18-day South America voyages before deploying to Long Beach, California, for year-round 7-day Mexican Riviera voyages beginning in March 2009.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Celebrity Cruises Revamps Smoking Policy

While Celebrity currently allows guests to smoke in staterooms, on stateroom verandas, and in a number of indoor and outdoor public spaces, that's about to change. The line has determined that cruise enthusiasts may praise the virtues of "sea air," but to many of them, what matters more is clean air. As more hotels and restaurants worldwide implement stricter smoking policies in order to promote healthier air, Celebrity Cruises also is taking action. Beginning October 1, 2008, guests on Celebrity's ships will enjoy fresher air as a result of a new policy that disallows smoking in Celebrity's staterooms or on stateroom verandas. The policy also will reduce the number of public areas in which guests can smoke on board.

"We are proud to be the first premium cruise line to set a new standard toward creating an environment of cleaner air on our ships," said Celebrity Cruises President & CEO Dan Hanrahan. "We pay careful attention to what our guests have to say, and approximately 90 percent of them have told us they are non-smokers. By increasing the number of smoke-free areas on board while still designating areas for those who smoke, our aim is to make the on board experience as pleasant as possible for all of our guests."

Created after Celebrity polled past guests, the new policy will result in a cleaner, fresher, and healthier environment on Celebrity's ships. Designated indoor areas where guests can smoke cigarettes include the port side of one lounge per ship and a designated slot machine area in each ship's casino. The new policy also designates outdoor areas where guests can smoke. These include the port side of the pool deck and sundecks on each ship, the port side of the Sunset Bar on Celebrity Century and on Celebrity's Millennium class of ships, and the port side aft outside of Winter Garden on Celebrity Galaxy and Celebrity Mercury. Celebrity's new Solstice class of ships, launching with Celebrity Solstice late this year, will follow the new policy beginning with the first sailing. Celebrity Solstice's Lawn Club and the Sunset Bar at the Lawn Club will not allow smoking.

The new restricted smoking policy will go into effect on the rest of Celebrity's fleet on the first day of each ship's first sailing following October 1. Check Cruise Diva's Cruise News for the exact dates and read Smoke On The Water for all cruise lines' smoking policies.

Violations to Celebrity's smoking policy may result in a $250 cleaning fee charged to the guest's on board account and may also be addressed through the line's guest conduct policy. It should be noted that Celebrity Xpedition, the 92-person mega-yacht sailing year-round in the Galapagos Islands, which operates under a stricter policy than the rest of the fleet, allows smoking only in designated areas of the ship's outer decks.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

NCL to Passengers: Tell Us What's On Your Mind

Cruise lines want to know what you liked, what you didn't, and how they can improve your cruise experience. That's why they ask each passenger to complete a Comment Card before the end of the cruise and they stress how important the comments are to them. However, as good as your intentions are to fill it in, you might be rushed with packing and other details before disembarkation and overlook the Comment Card. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has a solution for that--a new comprehensive passenger feedback process. The NCL Guest Experience & Loyalty Scorecard is the new online system to collect, analyze, and report guest feedback about the entire cruise experience.

“We are committed to exceeding our guests’ expectations while delivering a superior cruise experience, so having this new guest feedback tool in place is of the utmost importance to our success,” said Colin Veitch, NCL's president and CEO. “Guest feedback helped NCL shape the new Freestyle 2.0 cruise experience and we will continue to listen to our guests to measure the delivery and impact of those enhancements, as well as guide future product innovations within Freestyle Cruising.”

Once you return home from your NCL cruise, you'll receive an email invitation allowing you to conveniently provide feedback on your entire cruise experience via a post-cruise online survey. The web-based format, which takes the place of the on-board guest comment card, allows NCL to continuously listen to their passengers' voices and integrate that insight into further development of their product and customer strategy.

The scorecard, which will be in place fleet-wide by mid-April, will help measure the impact of the new Freestyle 2.0 enhancements which include a major investment in the total dining experience; upgrading the stateroom experience; new wide ranging on-board activities for guests of all ages; and additional recognition, service and amenities for balcony, suite and villa guests. Norwegian Jade is the first ship to feature Freestyle 2.0. Additional ships will launch Freestyle 2.0 within the following weeks, with fleet-wide roll out implemented by June 1, 2008.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Carnival Corp Announces Revised Fuel Supplement

Because of the continuing rapid escalation of fuel prices, the North American brands of Carnival Corporation, including Carnival, Costa, Cunard, Holland America, Princess, and Seabourn, have announced an increase to the current fuel supplement from $5.00 to $7.00 per passenger, per day. The lines will also implement a fuel supplement on third, fourth and fifth passengers of $2 per person per day. The new fuel supplements will apply to all new bookings effective April 21, 2008. The fuel supplements will not exceed $98 per person per voyage for the first and second guests and $28 per person per voyage for the third, fourth and fifth guests in a stateroom.

This fuel supplement adjustment is necessitated by significant rises in fuel prices which have dramatically increased Carnival Corporation's operating costs. The company relates, "We regret having to take this action, but fuel price increases have continued, and we now find it necessary to implement a modest increase in the supplement to partially offset a portion of soaring fuel costs. We hope that our guests will understand that this is a necessary step in today’s challenging economic environment."

For bookings made from Nov 7, 2007 to April, 20, 2008, the original fuel supplement of $5 per person per day will apply.

On a related note, Carnival Corporation previously announced a voluntary refund of the fuel supplement for bookings that were made prior to Nov 7, 2007, under an agreement with the Florida Attorney General's Office. For details, see Cruise Diva's March 31st blog entry.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cruise Travel: A Real Groaner

Every once in a while someone very seriously shares a cruise travel story with me. Unfortunately, often what they relate as honest to goodness this really happened, is...well, let's just say I've often heard it before. The latest anecdote making the rounds is one that was not only sent to me in email, but I've read it several other places online as well. It's becoming an urban legend of the seas. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Here you go...

A guy went to the dentist and while making conversation with the dental hygienist he mentioned the cruise he was going on soon.

The hygienist got very excited and said she and her husband had gone on a cruise and loved it.

“As a matter of fact,” she said, “one of the drinks we had on the ship was so fantastic that we asked what was in it, and we make it at home all the time.”

So he asked, “What's the name of the drink?”

“Drink of the Day! That’s what they called it,” she answered.

“That was the name of it?” he asked.

“Yes, Drink of the Day, and we love them.”

Substitute “blonde” for “dental hygienist” and imagine a cruise director telling that story. Like I said, groaner.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Princess Cruises Adding "The Sanctuary" to All Ships

Prompted by enthusiastic response from its passengers, Princess Cruises' ground-breaking "pocket of tranquility"--The Sanctuary--has become such a popular haven for passengers who want to escape to a serene hideaway, that it will be added to the entire fleet of Princess ships. Beginning this summer, the line's trademark retreat will be added to Island Princess, followed by Grand Princess and Star Princess by the end of the year. Additional ships will have The Sanctuary added through 2010. Depending on the ship, The Sanctuaries will be created in different areas onboard, such as the sports courts atop the "Grand-class" vessels, which will be relocated.

The Sanctuary, which debuted in 2006 aboard Crown Princess, was an instant success as it gave passengers the perfect place to take a break and indulge in a private getaway with a plush, outdoor spa-inspired setting, complete with massage cabanas, signature beverages, light meals, attentive service and relaxing personal entertainment. The exclusive adults-only retreat enjoyed continued popularity on sister ship Emerald Princess, and will also be available on Ruby Princess, debuting in November.

Sanctuary guests lounge amidst lush greenery, with the presence of gentle breezes, ocean waves, and softly piped-in spa music combining to further insulate the area with relaxation sounds. Guests can relax on plush outdoor furniture including double loungers for couples, as well as deluxe chaise lounges and chairs. Passengers also enjoy the personal attention of Serenity Stewards in The Sanctuary, who are on hand to provide everything from a chilled face towel and Evian water atomizers, to a menu of healthy beverages and fare. Serenity Stewards also have personal MP3 players with noise canceling headphones available loaded with themed playlists focused on relaxation for those who want to escape with music.

Guests can also refresh with a variety of special drinks and snacks created exclusively for The Sanctuary. Each day Serenity Stewards will be on hand to offer guests an array of drinks and snacks. Signature Sanctuary beverages include healthy smoothies, energy drinks, iced flavored waters and freshly made lemonade. A menu featuring a selection of light bites such as refreshing fruit skewers, lettuce wrapped spring rolls, and spicy tuna pâté with baked pita wedges will also be available through the Serenity Stewards.

In addition, The Sanctuary features two outdoor private cabanas where guests can also take advantage of the exclusive Lotus Spa Services at The Sanctuary, including sybaritic favorites such as a Deep Tissue Muscle Massage, a relaxing Swedish Massage or a Full Body Lotus Massage especially for couples. Half-day passes for The Sanctuary are available for $10 per person, for 8 am to 12:30 pm or 1 pm to 5 pm. Passengers choosing to indulge with an outdoor massage may also enjoy an hour's use of The Sanctuary area after their treatment.
For a first-hand look at the original Sanctuary, check out CruiseDiva's Crown Princess Review.
Photo: The Sanctuary aboard Crown Princess, copyright

Saturday, April 5, 2008

French Ship Seized by Pirates

Thankfully there were no passengers on board when pirates seized control of Le Ponant on Friday, April 4th. However, its 30 crew members were taken hostage when the 288-ft, French luxury sailing yacht was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia's coast. After completing a cruise of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, the ship was returning to the Mediterranean where it was scheduled to embark passengers for a cruise on April 19th.

Violence-torn Somalia doesn't have its own navy and has been assisted in the area by international patrols in an effort to deter piracy. According the the Associated Press, "The International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy, said in its annual report earlier this year that global pirate attacks rose 10 percent in 2007, marking the first increase in three years." Pirates off the coast of Somalia are reported to have seized more than two dozen ships last year, most of them commercial vessels.

The three-masted Le Ponant, owned by Compagnie des Iles du Ponant, features four decks, two restaurants, indoor and outdoor lounges, and can carry up to 64 passengers.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Snorkeling in ALASKA? Yes, Alaska Cruises Are Full of Surprises

Whale watching and dog sledding in Alaska, yes; but rainforests and snorkeling? Aren't these activities for the tropics? Have the experts who plan innovative shore excursions in Alaska for member lines of Cruise Lines Intl Assn (CLIA) misread the map? It turns out that North America's most majestic northern wilderness is only one great reason to cruise to Alaska. For thousands of vacationers, the biggest surprise may be how many different ways there are to experience that magnificent landscape, including underwater in a wetsuit. If you're looking for a terrific guidebook, with cruising chapters by yours truly, I'd like to suggest Fodor's Alaska Ports of Call 2008.

In 2008, CLIA member lines will offer a wide variety of Alaska cruises, from small ships carrying nearly 200 passengers to the newest mega liners. There are 7-day roundtrips and 14-day one-way voyages with ports of embarkation all along the Pacific, from Los Angeles to Seward, with many from Vancouver, Seattle and Juneau. Each line offers its own distinctive character and all feature the immense natural treasures, such as Glacier Bay, that attract visitors from around the world. These sites are also highlighted through an amazing variety of shore excursions and land tours ranging from crab fishing and zip-lining to private whaling adventures and multi-day journeys throughout British Columbia.

Here is a sampling of 2008 Alaska cruises:

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: Carnival's 2008 Alaska offerings consist of 16 seven-day Glacier Route cruises aboard the 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit. The series of voyages, which begin on May 21, are one-way between Vancouver and Whittier/Anchorage and call on Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka and cruise the College Fjord, the Island Passage and Prince William Sound. Three departures will be roundtrip from Vancouver, visiting Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.
CELEBRITY CRUISES: Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Infinity will be in Alaska this summer and passengers will have the option of a "Frasier Discovery" tour featuring Calgary, Banff, Jasper, Quesnell, Whistler and Vancouver. Other Celebrity highlights in Alaska include an "Alpine Zipline and Rainforest Eco-tour and a "Golden Glassblowing Experience."
HOLLAND AMERICA LINE: Holland America will have eight ships in Alaska, offering more than 250 varied shore excursions. In Haines, a new tour called "Guides Choice Photo Discovery" focuses on photographing the wildlife and stunning scenery of the Chilkat Valley. And, in Sitka and Ketchikan guests will be able to don a wetsuit and explore the usually unseen underwater wilderness with snorkeling gear. Another new excursion is the "Exclusive Mountaintop Flightseeing and Crab Feast."
MAJESTIC AMERICA LINE: Majestic America Line, which offers coastal and river cruises in North America, features seven-night Juneau roundtrip sailings and 12-night one-way voyages between Seattle to Juneau. With just 112 staterooms and suites, most with private verandahs, Empress of the North's intimate, small ship experience provides unique access to the vast wilderness and waterways of Alaska's Inside Passage. Guests enjoy five-star comfort, luxurious amenities, enrichment programs, award-winning service and included shore excursions in selected ports.
PRINCESS CRUISES: Princess Cruises' 2008 Alaska season features eight ships, including five sailing the Gulf of Alaska. New for this year is the Tahitian Princess' 14-day Connoisseur itinerary featuring less visited ports such as Kodiak, Valdez and Seward. The line is also introducing 37 new tour options in its Adventures Ashore program, including private whale watching, zip-lining, a Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's tour, and an "Alaskan Chef's Table." Princess will carry more passengers to Glacier Bay than any other line this year.
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE: Three NCL Freestyle Cruising vessels will return to Alaska for the 2008 season. Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Star will sail seven-day roundtrip cruises from Seattle while Norwegian Sun departs from Vancouver. Itineraries include the Inside Passage and feature either Glacier Bay or Sawyer Glacier, with calls in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Victoria and Prince Rupert Island. NCL offers more than 130 adventurous shore excursions, including gold mining, river rafting and whale watching. And as of June 1, Freestyle 2.0, NCL's enhanced guest experience initiative-will be implemented fleet-wide. Enhancements include a major investment in the total dining experience; upgraded stateroom amenities; and new, wide-ranging on-board activities for guests of all ages.
REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES: Regent will feature numerous new tour programs on its Seven Seas Mariner cruises in Alaska this year. In Juneau, there is a "Wild Coast Exploration" by catamaran along glacier-carved fjords and rugged stretches of coast. Guests may also opt for salmon fishing by traditional 14-foot rowboat on the Campbell River in British Columbia, a Ketchikan biking and zip-line combo and, in Sitka, an "Advanced Volcano Hike" on the remote Kruzof Island. Along the way, whales, sea lions, sea otters and eagles provide outstanding photo opportunities.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTL: Royal Caribbean will have three ships in Alaska in 2008, including Rhapsody of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas. The 7- to 14-night voyages feature more than 140 tours in the five southeast Alaska ports of Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka and Icy Strait Point. The tours include dog sledding, crab feeds and salmon bakes, canoeing and kayaking, hiking, semi-submersibles and snorkeling, whale watching and more.
SILVERSEA CRUISES: Silversea's all-suite, 382-guest Silver Shadow will be the only ultra-luxury ship sailing Alaskan waters this year, offering ten itineraries ranging from nine to 12 days. Several sailings feature convenient roundtrip departures from Vancouver, with open-jaw voyages also available from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seward. The Alaska voyages feature a diverse enrichment program, with such noted authorities as marine biologist John Palmisano, chef Anne Desjardins, wine expert John Shafer and author Sabin Robbins.

For more information about Alaska, check out the sights to see and things to do when Cruise Diva Goes Ashore in ALASKA.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Princess Cruises Circle The Globe

Continuing its long tradition of bringing passengers to some of the world's most intriguing places, Princess Cruises has released its 2009-10 schedule of exotic itineraries which include long-time passenger favorites along with some new, emerging destinations.

Also announced today is that Tahitian Princess, one of the small ships in the Princess fleet, will be renamed in 2009, becoming Ocean Princess. The new name is intended to reflect the ship's new deployment on worldwide itineraries. The renaming will take place while the ship is out of service during a routine maintenance period in Singapore in Nov 2009. The 670-passenger Tahitian Princess joined the Princess fleet in 2002, and has been primarily deployed on sailings in the South Pacific, particularly French Polynesia and Hawaii. Beginning this summer, the ship sets off on new worldwide deployments, featuring a Connoisseur's cruise in Alaska, a world cruise in early 2009 and a season of unique Northern Europe sailings next summer. Following the 2009 renaming, Ocean Princess will sail on a series of Asia voyages to be announced separately.

"Tahitian Princess, along with our other two small ships, has developed a loyal following of passengers who enjoy a more intimate cruise experience, and also the opportunity to visit some off-the-beaten-path destinations. As this ship is now sailing on itineraries around the world, we felt its name should reflect a more global theme," said Jan Swartz, Princess' senior vice president of customer service and sales.

During next year's fall season, Pacific Princess, another of the line's small vessels, will provide cruises from Papeete, Tahiti, where the Tahitian Princess has been based. For full details on Princess Cruises' 2009 itineraries, see's Cruise News.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Grand Princess Non-Fire Story

Reports from Jamaica yesterday sounded dire. As Grand Princess sailed from Ochos Rios, residents reported seeing the ship engulfed in smoke and the local media ran with it. It should come as no surprise that Internet message boards were all a-buzz as well. In reality, what was reported as an unverified and mysterious fire, was an engine problem. Smoke was being vented through the funnel, which caused alarm ashore and online.

Grand Princess sailed to her next scheduled port of call at reduced speed. While they arrived the next day a bit late in Grand Cayman, neither the vessel nor passengers and crewmembers were in danger.

Full repairs will be completed between cruises when the ship returns to Fort Lauderdale.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ship of (April) Fools

Every cruise line tries very hard to fulfill their passengers' expectations, so when "oh ship" happens, there can be frustration all around. Bad weather, mechanical problems, political unrest, and a timing glitch can set the most well-made arrangements adrift. That timing thing appears to be what happened during a recent Silversea Panama Canal crossing. At least one passenger couple was so upset with the inability of the ship to transit the length of the Canal in daylight that they alerted Britain's Telegraph to share their displeasure.

While the cruise line expressed their regret and offered the couple a sincere apology and discount on a future cruise, it appears there were circumstances in play beyond their control. Ships cannot enter the Panama Canal without a pilot and there's nothing a ship's captain can do except wait until one arrives on board. The Canal is a marvel of engineering, but it's also operated by humans and sometimes even the most precise schedules can be thrown out of whack.

Take this advise from Cruise Diva to heart: when you decide to take a cruise, any cruise, remember... occasionally, Ship Happens.