Thursday, July 31, 2008

Port of Mobile Has Another Fantasy

The Mississippi River has once again closed to all ship traffic and there is uncertainty about when it will re-open. As a result, Carnival Fantasy was diverted to Mobile, Alabama when it returned from the cruise that departed from there on July 26, 2008. Passengers debarking the ship on July 31 were provided motorcoach transportation from Mobile to the New Orleans cruise terminal.

Passengers scheduled to embark on July 31 were advised to proceed to the cruise terminal in New Orleans as planned. Motorcoach transportation was provided from the New Orleans cruise terminal to the cruise terminal in Mobile. Unless being dropped off, it was important that guests not drive to Mobile to join the ship because it is expected to return to New Orleans at the end of the cruise.

Although it is far from at fault, Carnival Cruise Lines sincerely apologizes to their guests who are impacted by this situation. The entire Carnival team will do everything possible to minimize this inconvenience.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Your (Carnival) Dream Is Closer Than You Think

Imagine what it would be like to be one of the first to sail on Carnival Dream, even before her debut. Now you can. An online video highlighting the sleek exterior and expansive outside deck areas that are a main feature of the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream is now available to view on the cruise line’s web site at www.carnival.com/dream.

The virtual tour offers a closer look at some of the Carnival Dream’s new and innovative features, including the “scenic whirlpools” that extend over the ship’s beam. Additionally, there are also some pretty good birds-eye views of the expansive Carnival Waterworks (pictured here).

The first of a new class of “Fun Ship,” the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream is set to launch in Europe with an inaugural 12-day Grand Mediterranean cruise from Rome (Civitavecchia), featuring seven ports. After two more 12-day Grand Mediterranean cruises, she will set sail on a 16-day transatlantic crossing to New York, where she will be in position for two 8-day Port Canaveral (Orlando) and Bahamas cruises. Following her New York departures, Carnival Dream will reposition to her homeport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she will operate year-round 7-day Caribbean cruises starting Dec 5, 2009. She will depart every Saturday from Port Canaveral on alternating weeklong cruises to the Eastern and Western Caribbean.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Take Control of Your Cruise Travel with 'Cancel for Any Reason' Insurance Protection

What will you do if a hurricane is heading for your cruise homeport? Or if your family pet gets sick only days before you're set to leave for your cruise? As the complexities of travel today continue to challenge and frustrate travelers, many are turning to travel insurance as a means of protection. InsureMyTrip.com, the leading online travel insurance comparison site, reports growing interest in "Cancel For Any Reason" coverage.

"'Cancel For Any Reason' puts you in control if your summer vacation, business trip, or family cruise is compromised," explains Jim Grace, President and CEO of InsureMyTrip.com. "Simply put, with 'Cancel For Any Reason' you decide whether or not to cancel your trip."

The combination of a struggling economy, skyrocketing fuel costs, and multiplying airline woes, has created a powerful triumvirate of problems that are impacting consumers in many different ways. Available from several insurance providers "Cancel For Any Reason" is an optional benefit that empowers travelers to cancel trips for any reason of their choosing including sudden unemployment, schedule conflicts, even bad weather, up to two days prior to departure. "Cancel For Any Reason" policies vary by company and must be purchased within 15 days of your initial trip deposit.

To learn more about "Cancel For Any Reason" and other travel insurance plans that put you in control of your travels, visit Insure My Trip online or call (800) 487-4722 to speak with a licensed travel insurance expert. Whether you simply need a question answered or want step-by-step help in selecting a travel insurance policy, InsureMyTrip's Customer Care reps can help.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Join "Soap" Stars On A Celebrity Century Cruise

Cruise enthusiasts who enjoy the intrigue, drama and romance of daytime TV's most popular soap operas, and the actors who star in them, are likely to find the vacation of their dreams in "Soap Cruise," which will be held on Celebrity Century in 2009. Soap Cruise, the second voyage of its kind - will pair Celebrity's Star Treatment with exclusive activities allowing guests who have purchased the Soap Cruise package the opportunity to directly interact with 16 of the hottest actors on all eight of daytime TV's top shows. The activities will include autograph and photo sessions, soap opera trivia games, an elite cocktail party with the stars, and other special events, including the opportunity to write a script and act it out with one of the stars.

Hosting Soap Cruise will be Cameron Mathison, who plays "Ryan" on All My Children, and has appeared on Dancing with the Stars. Mathison will be joined on Celebrity Century by fellow All My Children actors Alicia Minshew ("Kendall") and Jacob Young ("J.R."); Austin Peck ("Brad") from As the World Turns; Brandon Beemer ("Owen") of The Bold and the Beautiful and formerly "Shawn" on Days of Our Lives; Winsor Harmon ("Thorne") and Lesli Kay ("Felicia") of The Bold and the Beautiful; Nadia Bjorlin ("Chloe") and Jay Johnson ("Philip") of Days of Our Lives; Bradford Anderson ("Spinelli") and Greg Vaughn ("Lucky") from General Hospital; Murray Bartlett ("Cyrus") and Ricky Paull Goldin ("Jake") of All My Children, formerly ("Gus") on Guiding Light; Kamar de los Reyes ("Antonio") on One Life to Live; and Don Diamont ("Brad") and Christian LeBlanc ("Michael") of The Young and the Restless.

The soap stars will mix it up exclusively with guests who have booked the Soap Cruise package on Celebrity Century's January 22 itinerary departing round trip from Miami, with visits to Key West, Fla., and Cozumel, Mexico. A limited number of staterooms have been reserved for guests interested in experiencing Soap Cruise. For reservations and to view images and video from last year's Soap Cruise, visit www.soapcruise.com or call (248) 855-7918. Bookings on Celebrity Century's January 22, 2009 itinerary through other avenues will not include access to Soap Cruise activities.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Holland America Line's ms Eurodam Review

To board a Holland America Line ship is to enter a floating bit of maritime history with a modern twist. For over 135 years, HAL has remained true to its mission, “Through excellence, we create once-in-a-lifetime experiences every time.” Quite simply, Holland America Line offers premium cruising at its classic best.

With eighty passenger vessels in its past, and fourteen ships comprising its current fleet, ms Eurodam represents the next step in the evolution of HAL's ongoing "Signature of Excellence" program. With an emphasis on fine craftsmanship and innovative features, Eurodam introduces the brand new Signature-class of Holland America Line ships—the largest passenger ships to fly the Dutch flag.

CruiseDiva.com is pleased to review the newest ship in one of passenger shipping's most distinguished fleets, Eurodam: Signature-class Excellence.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Carnival Fantasy to End Current Voyage in Mobile

Carnival Fantasy to End Current Voyage in Mobile on Saturday, July 26 Instead of New Orleans; Next Voyage to Depart From Mobile

Due to the closure of the Mississippi River, the current voyage of the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy will end in Mobile, Ala., on Saturday, July 26, instead of its regular homeport of New Orleans. Disembarking guests will be provided complimentary motorcoach transportation back to the Port of New Orleans or the New Orleans airport.

Carnival Fantasy’s next voyage, set to depart on Saturday, July 26, will also depart from Mobile. Carnival will provide complimentary motorcoach transportation from New Orleans’ Erato Street cruise terminal to Mobile.

All guests for the next voyage are instructed to proceed to the Port of New Orleans to board a motorcoach to Mobile, because at the end of the cruise, the Fantasy is expected to return to New Orleans. The only exception would be individuals who are being dropped off and not leaving a car and prefer to proceed on their own to Mobile.

Both the voyage ending Saturday and the new one departing Saturday are five-day cruises to Progreso and Cozumel, Mexico.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fort Lauderdale Airfares Among Nation's Cheapest

The good news for cruise passengers planning to sail from Port Everglades is that a U.S. Department of Transportation report ranks the nearby Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as the fourth cheapest in the nation.

Released yesterday, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics' study considered affordability and declines in airfares when ranking the top 100 airports based on originating passengers. While airfares rose 4.4 percent nationwide in the first quarter of the year, average fares at Fort Lauderdale fell 7.7 percent to $238.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The 21 Most Interesting Theme Cruises

Vacationers travel far and wide to indulge in their special interests, so why not take it to sea? ThemeCruiseFinder.com provides a comprehensive search portal for travelers interested in taking part in one of the many theme cruises currently available. These cruises and more can be found at ThemeCruiseFinder.com:
  1. Motorcycle Cruises - bring your Harley and motor around each of the islands on your cruise! (Multiple departures; Royal Caribbean)
  2. The Elvis Cruise - Under the watchful eye of producer and host Jerry Schilling and musical director Joe Guercio, every detail of each show was crafted to elicit the memory Elvis and pay tribute to his legacy. (Aug 28, 2008; Carnival Cruise Line)
  3. Ireland & Great Britain Hiking Cruise - Combine hiking with a wonderful ocean or European river cruise vacation. Hike on some of the world's most beautiful and scenic paths. (Sept 5, 2008; Peter Deilmann Cruises)
  4. Golf Cruise with Billy Casper - Play some of Europe's finest golf courses with Golf pro and legend, Billy Casper. (Oct 30, 2008; Crystal Cruises)
  5. Spotlight on Chocolate - The chocoholics are at it again with another great chocolate cruise that traces a route through several chocolate producing countries. (Dec 1 & Dec 4, 2008; Regent Seven Seas Cruises)
  6. Men's Club at Sea - Feature lovely social hostesses. These hostesses are young -- about 25 to 45 years of age. They're beautiful -- carefully selected for their charm and social abilities. And they'll help you have the time of your life! (Aug 10, 2008, Holland America Line; Oct 4, 2008, Princess Cruises)
  7. Spy Cruise - Join Intelligence Professionals from CIA, the RCMP Security Service, and the KGB. (July 8, 2009; Seabourn Cruise Line)
  8. Equestrian Cruises - Combine your love of horses with a wonderful cruise vacation. (Multiple Departures; Peter Deilmann Cruises)
  9. Shakespeare at Sea - Travel through time with Shakespeare's women. Take a look at these creatures through the unique filter of the monarchs for whom Shakespeare was writing. (Nov 7, 2008; Holland America Line)
  10. K9 College Cruise -The K9 College Cruise offers seminars-at-sea on a variety of K9 topics. (Feb 17, 2009; Carnival Cruise Line)
  11. Betty Boop Fan Club Cruise - What could be better than vacationing with Betty Boop? (Oct 9, 2008; Carnival Cruise Line)
  12. Playboy Jazz Cruise - An amazing lineup of today's best jazz talent. (Jan 25, 2009; Holland America Line)
  13. Swingers Cruise - The name says it all! (Oct 25, 2008; Norwegian Cruise Line)
  14. Nudist Cruise - (Charter) Bare Necessities, America's Premiere Clothing Optional Tour Production Company (Multiple departures; Multiple Cruise Line)
  15. Living Large Cruise - An experience in total Freedom of Size, Life & Travel as we take on the High Seas on a size acceptance adventure. (Sept 13, 2008; Carnival Cruise Line)
  16. Clown Cruise: Continuing Education for Clowns - Revitalize your clowning with hands-on workshops taught by the industry's best. (Jan 10, 2009; Princess Cruises)
  17. Autism on the Seas - A series of cruises for families with Autistic children. (Multiple departures; Royal Caribbean)
  18. Iditarod Racer & Dog Sled Champion Cruise - Join Dee Dee Jonrowe (Aug 27, 2008; Silversea Cruises)
  19. Baseball Greats Cruise - Rub elbows with the likes of Bob Feller, Vida Blue, Earl Weaver, Jeff Torborg & Cito Gaston (Multiple departures; MSC Cruises)
  20. Join Jane Powell, Dickie Moore, Lynn Redgrave, Gena Rowlands, Lucie Arnaz, Florence Henderson and Patricia Neal - Cruise with the celebrities of yesterday! (Sept 12, 2008; Crystal Cruises)
  21. Dr. Laura - There will be private parties and events with Dr. Laura; such as wine tastings, a karaoke night (with Dr. Laura judging the competition!), and the opportunity to see her one woman show "In My Never To Be Humble Opinion." (Sept 30, 2008; Holland America Line)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cruise Ships: Stay, Just a Little Bit Longer

Former gold rush hub, Ketchikan, Alaska is lobbying for cruise ships to spend more time there. The city's Downtown Steering Committee points out that Ketchikan has the shortest stays on average of the three primary Alaska cruise port cities: 3,700 hours for Ketchikan, compared to 6,496 hours for Skagway and 6,843 for hours Juneau. This, merchants claim, reduces the amount of money cruise passengers spend in Ketchikan and negatively impacts the local economy. As a result, city officials have hatched a plan to invite cruise line representatives to Ketchikan to discuss lengthening their port calls.

In an interview for the Anchorage Daily News, Downtown Steering Committee member Todd Phillips said that many of this season's cruise ships will only be docked for about six hours in Ketchikan, giving most passengers only time enough for a tour and little else. He also said that average port stays worldwide last between eight and ten hours.

Not everyone shares his optimism, though. Ketchikan City Council member Chuck Freeman expressed skepticism that the city could convince cruise lines to extend port stays. Also speaking to the Anchorage Daily News, he pointed to the fact that cruise ships are running slower to conserve fuel costs and that they have only a certain amount of time to get from one end of the Inside Passage to the other. He predicted that cruise line representatives will, "pat us on the back," and then do what they want. "I think it's pretty much a forlorn hope," he said.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Experience the Adventurous Side of Caribbean Cruising

If your idea of fun is sunbathing, shopping, and sightseeing, then you might want to stop reading now. However, if you envision an ideal Caribbean cruise that's a bit more adventurous, you need look no further than an MSC Cruises sailing.

MSC Cruises offers the opportunity for some exciting—even adventurous—shore experiences on its 2008-09 Caribbean itineraries. Several excursion options enable you to explore the Caribbean over land (by motorcycle, bicycle, ATV, or horseback), under the sea (snorkeling, SCUBA diving, and glass-bottomed kayak) and through the air (attached to a cable between 100-foot-high trees). There is also the chance for unique ecological experiences and, of course, plenty of fun and sun. Among the shore excursion options are:

Cozumel
  • Glide over the coral reef in a clear kayak
  • Jeep tours — explore the exotic terrain in a Jeep caravan
  • Dune buggy tours — drive your dune buggy along coastal roads and through tropical jungles
  • Snorkeling — ideal for beginners of all ages
  • XCaret Natural Adventure Park — the largest "eco" park in Latin America, with bird sanctuary, restored Mayan ruins, botanical gardens and an underground river for swimming
  • Swim with the dolphins — swim with bottlenose dolphins in natural ocean coves
Grand Cayman
  • Stingray City — feed, interact and play with Southern Stingrays
  • Certified 2-tank Boat Dive — certified divers can explore reefs and wrecks
  • Introductory SCUBA lesson — after training in a pool, participants go on a shallow reef dive
St. Maarten
  • Horseback riding on the beach
  • ATV experience — explore the island on the way to a beautiful beach
  • Land & Sea — travel by both catamaran and Swiss Army Jeep
  • Harley Davidson experience — bring along your motorcycle license and select from legendary "Fat Boy" and classic "Heritage" motorcycles and embark on a tour of the island
  • America's Cup 12 Meter Regatta — compete in a thrilling race around an America's Cup-like course, with each participant having a role in helping to sail the yacht
Whether you want adventure, exploration, history, shopping, architecture, relaxation, or just some plain old fun in the sun, MSC Cruises' Caribbean itineraries offer a little something for everyone.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Aloha! Welcome Aboard Pride of America

CruiseDiva.com is pleased to share our latest cruise review submission, a Pride of America sailing though the Hawaiian Islands by Nathan L. Kimes, Sr.

Take a look at what worked—and what didn't—aboard Pride of America, and Nathan's picks for the best in sightseeing while ashore.

We particularly enjoy his advice to, "be flexible, adapt, relax..." Aloha!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cruise Ship Art Auctions

At one of the cruise ship art auctions I attended, the first item up for bid was... a spa treatment. You didn't read that wrong, it was a certificate for a massage or facial in the ship's spa. Hands were raised tentatively--the passengers seemed confused--and I was the ultimate winner with a bid of $35. The good news is that when I came forward to pay for my bargain, the certificate was given to me without charge (according to the auctioneer, the spa treatment was on the block to psych up participants and get them accustomed to bidding). The bad news is that I had to sit through the entire mind-numbing auction spiel in order to claim it.

A recent NY Times article had more criticism about floating art auctions than my simple boredom. As reported by the Times, some winning bidders are finding that appraisals done when back on land showed that the pieces they bought at sea didn't live up to their promised hype. Some unhappy customers in Florida and California have initiated class action lawsuits against Park West, which operates the art auction concession on such cruise lines as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, Carnival, Disney, Holland America, Regent, and Oceania, accusing the company of misrepresenting the value of its art work.

This subject comes up every now and then, and Cruise Diva even discussed it with USA Today reporter Kitty Bean Yancey as long ago as 2001. As I told her then, "art auctions are beaucoup big-time moneymakers" in terms of onboard revenue enhancement for cruise lines. Plus, they are very popular and auctioneers often face a full room of eager cruisers. Some passengers are willing to attend because of the free champagne being served and then get caught up in the action only to suffer buyer's remorse later. However, while Yancy turned up buyers who weren't happy with their purchases, she also found a number who were quite satisfied. Not everyone is looking for an art "investment" and if you like what you bought and feel you were treated fairly, no harm's done.

What's my advice? Caveat emptor, "let the buyer beware"... the bottom line is to research any art purchase you are considering, whether at sea or on land, and know the worth of a piece before you buy it. That's not too difficult these days as many of the works up for sale during cruises are displayed pre-auction, cruise ships have Internet centers, and Google is just a few clicks away. Or, you could do as I do, and buy colorful prints and watercolors by local artists in ports of call as meaningful mementos of my travels.

And if you were wondering, I really enjoyed my free massage.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cruise Ship Christenings

If you've been reading the Cruise Diva Blog for the past several weeks (and if you haven't, why not?), you know that the Diva has covered two new ship christenings that couldn't have been less similar. The celebration to name Holland America Line's Eurodam was very traditional, with Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands doing the honors. In an edgier, but no less authentic celebration, Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Splendor was blessed by British musician and celebrity Myleene Klaas with the assistance of Royal Navy diver Petty Officer Christian Rumming.

In both instances, those new ships were blessed by Godmothers. A distinction usually reserved for a female celebrity or otherwise noteworthy personality, being named Godmother is an honor that is recognized for the duration of every ship's seagoing life. In an interesting twist on tradition, for the highly anticipated launch of Seabourn Odyssey–the cruise industry’s first luxury vessel to be launched in six years and the newest member of the Yachts of Seabourn fleet–there will be 450 Godparents. Each passenger aboard Seabourn Odyssey’s maiden voyage, scheduled to depart Venice, Italy, will have his or her name engraved on a plaque to be displayed on board the sleek new vessel. The plan is that an early-evening ceremony to christen the new yacht on June 24, 2009 will coincide with the summer sunset over the domes and steeples of Venice’s skyline–with all Godparents taking part in the momentous event.

If you've always wanted a floating “godchild” to call your own, yet aren't royalty, a pop star, or even female, it isn't too late to get on board. Contact Seabourn at 1-800-929-9391 or visit www.seabourn.com to secure one of the few remaining suites.

Photo Courtesy of The Yachts of Seabourn

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Carnival Cruise Lines Tests Flexible Dining

Press briefings during new ship preview cruises offer an opportunity to ask cruise line executives about upcoming onboard product changes and the one Cruise Diva attended while aboard the new Carnival Splendor last week was no different. Gerry Cahill, President and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines was asked about the availability of "open seating" on Carnival cruises in the future. It seems that the future is now and he revealed that Carnival Cruise Lines recently began experimenting with an open seating dining program on the Carnival Legend. Carnival Liberty is slated to begin trials in November and if the program proves successful, it could be instituted fleetwide in the upcoming year.

The upper level of the main dining room on Carnival Legend has been set aside for passengers who want to dine whenever they please between 5:45 and 9:30 pm. While Cahill said that most Carnival guests are partial to having an assigned table with the same waitstaff team and dinner partners every night, the new option has been well received. Two traditional seatings are still available for those who prefer them, but non-conformists (like Cruise Diva) can be accommodated either by just showing up when they wish or making a reservation a day ahead of time.

We're glad to see Carnival joining the trend for dining choice, a concept introduced to mass-market cruising by Norwegian Cruise Line with Freestyle Dining (with no assigned dining at all) and followed by Anytime Dining on Princess Cruises' ships, which offers assigned tables or open seating. Last year Royal Caribbean began testing open seating dining in a program similar to Carnival's on Freedom of the Seas, with a section of the main dining room dedicated to flexible diners. Holland America Line has launched its As You Wish option, allowing guests to select traditional dining arrangements or open seating. After a successful trial period, it is in the process of being launched fleetwide.

Open seating fits our lifestyle... we like to eat when we're hungry and welcome the opportunity to do so while on vacation as we do at home. In fact, we enjoyed out-of-the-ordinary dining "our way" on Holland America Line's Westerdam earlier this year and look forward to the As You Wish option when we sail with them again on future cruises.

Photo Above: Carnival Freedom's Posh Restaurant

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Crystal Cruises' Wellness Options Now Include Acupuncture

Enriching its portfolio of wellness opportunities, Crystal Cruises is introducing onboard acupuncture, along with a menu of Chinese herbs revered for restoring and enhancing health, beauty and longevity. A menu of optional acupuncture treatments, launching this month on Crystal Serenity, focuses on weight loss, pain management, stress reduction, detoxification, smoking cessation, facial rejuvenation and even sea sickness.

"For many, a vacation offers the freedom to try something new," says Thomas Mazloum, senior vice president, hotel operations. "Whether one is just curious or one wants to pursue new treatments, acupuncture complements Crystal's myriad of onboard wellness activities, which have transformed guests into devotees of disciplines like yoga or reflexology or Spinning."

Acupuncture is a technique of inserting and manipulating fine needles into specific points on the body to ease pain and for other therapeutic purposes. According to the World Health Organization and other reputable entities, acupuncture helps relieve aches and pains; stimulate weight loss; alleviate stress; detoxify the body; smoking cessation; seasickness; and anti-aging.

The Crystal acupuncture program includes:
  • Onboard acupuncturist - Nancy Kerastas, Crystal Serenity's licensed acupuncture physician, has been practicing the art since 2002;
  • Menus of Chinese herbs - Includes remedies that reactivate the body's fat-burning process; stabilize blood sugar metabolism; and relieve swollen or immobile joints; and
  • Shipboard seminars - Three to five classes will be held per cruise,discussing acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and Feng Shui practices and benefits.

Guests receive pre-session consultations to discuss their conditions and medical histories. Cost is $150 for a 60-minute session and can be booked through Crystal's Feng Shui-designed spa.

Crystal also offers complimentary yoga, Pilates and newly introduced "Tour de Spin" cycling classes, and an exclusive Walk on Water program utilizing weighted vests to increase resistance. The line continues its partnership with the esteemed Cleveland Clinic to feature onboard lectures and seminars with leading medical experts.

In December 2008 and in 2009, both Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity host Mind, Body & Spirit theme cruises, focusing on general wellness through classes and discussions with guest instructors in Tai Chi, yoga, Pilates and general fitness. For additional information and Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit the Crystal Cruises' web site.

Monday, July 14, 2008

“Wrap” Up Your Holiday Cruise Planning

Avid cruisers who want to leave roasting the Thanksgiving turkey to someone else and escape the crush of December's holidays can rest easy. Instead of cooking, cleaning, and generally going overboard with holiday preparation, consider getting on board with Celebrity Cruises’ “Wrap Up Your Holidays” booking promotion. The promotion’s two-week booking window for select Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and President’s Day sailings from November 2008 through February 2009 began today.

Book one of the select sailings between July 14 and July 27, 2008 and receive onboard credit (per stateroom) based on the length of the cruise. Book a cruise of nine nights or more and receive $200 in onboard credit; book a six-to-eight-night cruise to receive $100 in onboard credit; and book a cruise of five nights or less and receive $50 in onboard credit.

The 16 different sailings included in the promotion range in length from five to 14 nights, and take place on Celebrity Century, Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Galaxy, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Mercury, Celebrity Millennium, and Celebrity Summit. Six eligible Thanksgiving sailings in the promotion include destinations in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and Australia/New Zealand. Four eligible Christmas sailing destinations are in the Caribbean and Australia/New Zealand. One New Year’s sailing is on offer, sailing for 11 nights in the Caribbean, and five Presidents’ Day sailings are included in the promotion, sailing in the Caribbean, Australia/New Zealand, and South America.

All aspects of Celebrity’s Wrap Up Your Holidays promotion are valid for new, individual bookings only. The promotion does not apply to group bookings, transatlantic sailings, or repositioning sailings, and cannot be combined with any other offer. The onboard credit received through the Wrap Up Your Holidays promotion is not transferable. If guests do not use the full amount of onboard credit during their sailing, they will not be refunded any remaining credit. For more information, call your travel agent, dial 1-800-437-3111 or visit Celebrity Cruises online.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Carnival Splendor: A Splendid Home Away From Home

While Carnival Splendor is about as different as my house as it could possibly be—think of magical surroundings in a fantasy world—there is one place on board that is as comfortable as home sweet home. Of course I mean the accommodations.

Carnival Cruise Lines has always prided themselves on spacious cabins and Carnival Splendor’s are no exception. One thing I noticed immediately upon arrival was how much larger my standard balcony cabin appeared than those I've occupied in the past. Although Carnival Splendor is a new ship class, the staterooms are very similar in layout and d├ęcor to Conquest-class vessels. After a few minutes it dawned on me that the desktop-to-ceiling storage unit has been eliminated on Carnival Splendor. Instead, the desk/vanity has been “stretched” in length to include additional under-counter storage and the television is a flat screen that’s mounted on the wall. On one hand, the wall location is ideal for watching from the bed or sofa, but not so much when seated at the vanity. On the other hand, who really watches television from that spot anyway? There’s a magnifying mirror in the bathroom for applying make-up (or shaving if you happen to be a guy), and that frees up vanity/desk space for other things… like using a laptop to type my blog.

Unlike the recent trend for cabins with few drawers, Carnival Splendor’s standard balcony cabins have three nice deep ones built into the vanity/desk, where you’ll also find a mini-bar-fridge, a personal safe and more storage behind cabinet doors, and open book shelves. An additional drawer contains a built-in hairdryer and small amount of space for things like hairbrushes and combs. In addition to a closet with shelves for storing more folded clothing, two more closets have generous hanging space. There are two huge drawers in the base of the sofa and even some additional small storage cubbies in the two nightstands.

Best of all, the lighting throughout isn’t merely adequate—it’s superb. Ceiling lighting across the front of the closet even enables me to find what I’m looking for without a flashlight. I loved my Carnival Splendor “home” and was sad to bid my Carnival Comfort Bed goodbye this morning. It’s been a lovely, albeit too short, cruise.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Carnival Splendor: A Splendid World For Kids

There’s no reason to leave the kids at Camp Grandma when you and your spouse head off to cruise aboard Carnival Splendor. With a 5,500 square foot play area—the largest on any Carnival “Fun Ship”—and activities geared for kids from age 2 to 11 in three groups (2-5, 6-8, and 9-11), plus Circle “C” for ’tweens (12-14) and Club O2 for teens (15-17), you never have to worry about keeping the entire family happy and entertained.

Babysitting in Camp Carnival is offered every night for kids 11 and under from 10pm until 3am for a nominal fee ($6 for the first child and $4 for additional children in the same family). Even children under age 2 are welcome on port day mornings until noon and during the nightly babysitting sessions. If baby is still in diapers you needn’t be concerned—Carnival is one of only two cruise lines whose staff will change them without the necessity of paging mom to do the deed. Just bring your own supplies. Should your little one need a stroller, you can rent one onboard for $6 per day. Rental baby swings and bouncers are also available. For a nominal fee you may also rent a hand held gaming console for a bit of extra entertainment during your cruise.

One deck above Camp Carnival is the children’s water park with spray apparatus and a wet tot lot for watery fun. Of course one of Carnival Splendor’s four pools includes Carnival’s signature 214-foot “twister” water slide.

Carnival Splendor has the first purpose-built Circle “C” facility in the fleet (pictured above) and it’s an appealing space with games and supervised activities. Today I watched a Wii sports challenge that looked like so much fun I wished I could join in.

The piece de resistance, though, is the 2,365-square foot Club O2 with its soda bar, dance floor, DJ, and chill zones for the ultimate in adult-free teenage hanging out. Adjacent to Club O2 is a too-cool-for-grown-ups video gaming center. Special shore excursions offer older kids the opportunity to tour ports of call in a group and the Y Spa teen program is also available.

Kids even get their own turn-down service with just-baked cookies at bedtime and, of course, there are the always popular towel animals to wish them sweet dreams. And that brings us to the nearly 200 interconnecting staterooms and more than 350 that accommodate up to three or four guests—all family- and budget-friendly.

Of course kids need souvenirs of their cruise, so for $10 you can bring home a Fun Ship Freddie tee-shirt, storybook, or doll; a bathrobe for $24; or a book and tee-shirt combo for $17.

Carnival Splendor makes me wish I were a kid again, or at least a grandmother to share all these cool things with grandchildren.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Carnival Splendor: A World of Splendid Things

Joe Farcus, Carnival’s ship architect would like to hear passengers say at the end of their cruise, “I didn’t notice that before. Isn’t that interesting?” Farcus admits it would be impossible to notice every detail on the ships he designs, but he’s happy when passengers are constantly discovering new things.

I hope I made him happy today—I’ve explored Carnival Splendor from the pirate-themed miniature golf course high atop Deck 14 to the Lobby Bar on Deck 3. There are a few spots where I found I “couldn’t get there from here”—for instance, the Black Pearl Restaurant mid-ship cuts off the flow from fore to aft—but overall I found the ship fairly easy to navigate. If you’ve sailed on a Conquest-class ship, you’ll find some changes, though.

There are no whirlpools adjacent to the Splendido Lido Pool on Deck 9. Instead they are sensibly located on either side of Deck 10, shaded by the overhead cover and right alongside the outside rail for uninterrupted sea views—those views are also a theme at the aft located Linear Lido Pool. With the retractable pool roof moved to the mid-ship pool, instead of cutting off the view from the aft pool, the ship’s wake is a splendid sight. Whirlpools at the aft pool and the Thunderball Pool (where the waterslide is located) are not covered for those who prefer full sun. Thoughtful planning such as that insures there are spaces to satisfy everyone’s preference.

One area that stands out in particular is the Cloud 9 Spa. With its vaguely Asian feel, I was particularly enchanted by the Chinese Foo Dogs that guard the Thallasotherapy pool (in the photo above). Day passes for the thermal sanctuary, which includes the therapy pool as well as the thermal suite and relaxation area are $35. If you aren’t into scented steam rooms and the spa’s other sensory delights, you don’t have to miss out on a sauna after your workout. There are complimentary saunas for men and women in changing rooms adjacent to the gym. Sadly, unlike the Conquest-class ships, Carnival Splendor’s don’t have floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking the sea.

Naturally this is just a taste of what’s to come in a complete illustrated ship review next week on CruiseDiva.com.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Carnival Splendor: On Board In Dover

What a difference a day makes. Although yesterday was damp and dreary, today turned out to be a glorious day to christen Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest and largest ship, Carnival Splendor.

Indeed, the weather wasn’t promising when we arrived at London’s Gatwick airport yesterday. It was raining. A constant drizzle continued through the day, but sometime during the night Mother Nature said stop. We were finally able to walk through the idyllic gardens of Chilston Park Hotel in glorious sunshine this morning before packing up to head from Maidstone, Kent to the cruise port in Dover.

Even the terminal was alive with the excitement of Carnival Splendor’s first call at Dover; however, on board the air was positively electric with anticipation. The stage was set poolside beneath the huge screen for wildly popular classical musician, singer, and television personality Myleene Klaas to perform her duties as Godmother in an unusual Naming Ceremony.

Myleene has a smile as lovely as the flowing peach chiffon dress she wore—one that caused her a bit of embarrassment when a gust of wind caught her hem. Without missing a beat, she charmed the guest with a mention of her childhood as a “Navy brat,” blessed the ship, and then took her place at the piano to begin playing.

Then, in an untraditional move, Myleene’s Royal Navy diver assistant Petty Officer Christian Rumming emerged from the water right on cue and began his dramtic ascent to the ship’s bow as she played. When he reached Carnival Splendor’s name, he smashed a bottle of Nyetimber 1994 Blanc de Blancs against the hull, cannons blasted confetti into the air, and the party was ready to begin. It was really quite an event and Carnival has made a video replay available on the Carnival Splendor web page at Carnival.com.

The mood on board is festive and I can hardly wait for sailaway past the famous White Cliffs of Dover. This promises to be a fun-filled three-night preview cruise and after I have a chance to look around some more I’ll have impressions of Carnival Splendor to share tomorrow. So far, I really like what I see.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Get Your Carnival Splendor While You Can

If you prefer cruising from Florida homeports, you might be anticipating the arrival of Carnival Cruise Line's newest ship, Carnival Splendor. Don't wait too long to make your booking if you want to sail on one of her Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale, though.

Carnival Splendor's deployment is pretty unique for a brand new “Fun Ship” and she'll only be in Florida through winter 2008-09. At the conclusion of her Northern Europe schedule this fall, Carnival Splendor will embark on a 12-day Western Europe cruise departing Sept 11th followed by “Grand Mediterranean” and “Mediterranean, Greece & Turkey” voyages through Oct 17th. A 16-day transatlantic crossing from Rome (Civitavecchia) on Oct. 29th will reposition her to Fort Lauderdale on Nov 14, 2008.

Carnival Splendor will then operate a winter schedule of 7-day Caribbean voyages from Fort Lauderdale followed by a series of 14- to 18-day South American voyages – Carnival’s first. Because Carnival Splendor is too wide to transit the Panama Canal, the South American sailings will position Carnival Splendor for year-round 7-day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach, California, beginning March 29, 2009, continuing Carnival Cruise Line’s West Coast expansion.

Carnival is currently accepting reservations for all of the Carnival Splendor’s European, Caribbean, South American, and Mexican Riviera cruises. Make your plans now or you may miss her altogether in Fort Lauderdale.

In the meantime, Cruise Diva is ready to board Carnival Splendor tomorrow and begin sharing the details from the Naming Ceremony and 3-day preview cruise from Dover, so check back here at the Cruise Diva Blog for updates.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Carnival Splendor: The Biggest Passenger Ship to Sail From Dover

There's going to be a hunka-hunka British hottie assisting Carnival Splendor's Godmother during her bottle-breaking assignment this coming Thursday. The first ever underwater-to-hull bottle break should go something like this...

Classical musician, singer, and presenter Myleene Klass will have an unusual “assist” from Royal Navy divers when she performs her Godmother duties to officially name the 113,000-ton Carnival Splendor, the biggest passenger ship to sail from Dover Cruise Port. Petty Officer Christian Rumming, 39 (pictured here), assisted by a Royal Navy dive team led by Lt Ian Richardson, 43, will be underwater near the bow of the Carnival Splendor when he will hear a unique radio signal from Myleene Klass, playing live classical piano music on the ship’s top Lido deck. PO Rumming will let out some compressed air from his diving tanks and then, in wet suit, safety harness, and flippers, personally climb a 60-ft black marlin ascent rope to reach the Carnival Splendor’s name on the top of her bow.

Lt Richardson of the Royal Navy Fleet Diving Squadron said, “This has to be a rather unusual assignment for my men, who are trained in deep sea marine diving and underwater bomb and mine disposal to protect our fleet, but I am confident they can pull this off.”

While Myleene Klass may not be a household name here in America, nor is “presenter” a term we're familiar with (it apparently has something to do with television?), we love Carnival Cruise Lines and new cruise ships. Cruise Diva will be aboard for the Naming festivities and to blog from the ship during Carnival Splendor's 3-day preview cruise to Amsterdam.

Be sure to join me here on the Cruise Diva Blog from July 10-13 for all the news. And don't miss the video replay of the Carnival Splendor Naming Ceremony beginning on the 10th at the Carnival Splendor web page at Carnival.com. It should be quite a show!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Carnival Gifts You Missed Out On Onboard

Was there some Carnival gift item you forgot to buy during your cruise? Maybe you saw something onboard and meant to get back to the gift shop but it was closed when you returned to shop. Now you can purchase it from the comfort of your own home computer at Carnival Cruise Lines extensive Internet store, which offers a wide variety of “Fun Ship”-branded merchandise. The new site is designed to provide cruise enthusiasts with a one-stop-shop for purchasing items that were previously only available in the line’s shipboard gift shops.

Dozens of different items are available emblazoned with Carnival’s name and logo. There's everything from hats, polo and T-shirts, and other apparel to travel gear, tote bags, backpacks, and toys, including, of course, the ever-popular “Fun Ship” Freddy toy and an inflatable Carnival cruise ship. A special “Island Music” section offers CDs featuring steel drum and calypso bands that are so closely associated with the “Fun Ship” cruise experience. For gaming devotees, there are even a variety of items featuring the Carnival Players Club logo. Want to give a Carnival fanatic a gift, but don't know what to choose? Carnival Fun Shop Gift Certificates are available in $25, $50, and $100 denominations that are only redeemable online.

Warm up your credit card and get ready to shop 'til you drop... visit Carnival Fun Shop, the cruise industry's most extensive online store.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Norwegian Dawn Makes High Seas Double Rescue

When you're in trouble at sea, who ya gonna call?

While sailing off the coast of Massachusetts and New York on Monday, June 30, 2008 on its way to Bermuda, Norwegian Dawn answered two separate distress calls within twelve hours and rescued two injured sailors from different boats in rough seas.

The first rescue, 210 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, involved the sailboat Patriot on its way back from Bermuda where it competed in a race. One of Patriot's crew members, Andrew Paul Giglia, 42, of Wilton, Conn., was suffering from shock-like symptoms and needed to be evacuated immediately. Norwegian Dawn was contacted by the United States Coast Guard since it was the closest ship to the sailboat. Approximately 52 miles away, the NCL ship quickly diverted course and made radio contact with Patriot. The Coast Guard had already deployed an aircraft to provide additional support for the rescue operation.

Norwegian Dawn Captain Trygve Vorren skillfully maneuvered the 965-foot cruise ship along side the 40-foot sailboat and ordered a small rescue boat lowered. Despite winds up to 35 knots and waves up to fifteen feet, a three-person rescue team from Norwegian Dawn was able to embark the ill sailor without difficulty. He was treated for dehydration by the ship’s doctor.

Within twelve hours of rescuing the first sailor, Captain Vorren was notified of another, potentially more serious, injury on the sailboat Misty approximately 260 miles south of Montauk, NY. Hillary Bercovici, 55, of Greenwich, Conn., a male crew member aboard the Misty sustained a head injury and was loosing consciousness. Again, Norwegian Dawn was the closest ship, approximately 32 nautical miles away. Despite deteriorating weather conditions, reported as very rough with rain, wind gusting up to 33 knots and 20-foot swells, Norwegian Dawn located the vessel, lowered a rescue boat with the same three crew members manning it and took the injured sailor onto the ship where he received immediate medical attention, including five stitches to the forehead.

Norwegian Dawn’s doctor reported that both men were in stable condition and could disembark upon the ship's arrival in Bermuda on Wednesday, July 2 at 8 am. Video of Patriot in rough seas available from the US Coast Guard.

Photo: Norwegian Dawn’s rescue boat makes contact with the sailboat Patriot off the Massachusetts coast on Monday, June 30. Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Eurodam, The Inaugural: What A Greeting

Eurodam may be the pride of Holland, but the Germans also gave us a rousing welcome as we sailed into Hamburg yesterday. Off the ship and just inside the terminal, the Get Happy Brass Band of Rendsburg struck a lively chord as we disembarked the ship for a day ashore.

While in the Hamburg cruise terminal I had the pleasure to speak with Dale Gruber of Warner Robins, Georgia, who, with his wife Sue joined Eurodam for the three-night “prelude” cruise yesterday. They arrived in Rotterdam a couple days before sailing in order to attend the Eurodam dedication event—as part of their pre-cruise package they were able to obtain tickets for $100 apiece. They loved the naming ceremony and Dale said they “wouldn’t have missed it.” The Grubers felt it was laid out well and, “if there were any glitches, they missed them.” Aside from it being a wonderful occasion, they were pleased to have been offered the opportunity to be there. Only cruising since 2003, Dale and Sue already have eighteen Holland America cruises under their belts and plan to be back aboard Eurodam to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in the Caribbean. Like me, the crewmembers on Holland America ships treat them like family and they appreciate the gracious on board ambiance.

And, speaking of holidays, Happy 4th of July! Today’s schedule aboard Eurodam calls for an old-fashioned American picnic with 'burger, hot dogs, and apple pie. While our European hosts have been gracious and welcoming—the Port of Hamburg regaled us with fireworks before sailaway last night—it’s a special treat that Holland America Line made it possible for our fellow passengers from around the world to share a uniquely American holiday tradition that holds such significance to those of us far from home. A Dutch passenger asked me what the fuss was about and when I explained that July 4th is the United States' Independence Day, his face lit up with a congratulatory smile. Freedom has no boundaries and knows no language barrier.

With the festivities drawing to a close, it’s time to pack for home. Like the Grubers, I look forward to being back on a Eurodam cruise again some day and hope to see my cabin steward Yudhi Hermawan again (he’s the best). If you missed the live webcast of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix naming Eurodam earlier in the week, you can catch the ceremony at Holland America’s web site.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Eurodam, The Inaugural: Sailing From Rotterdam

The images of Eurodam’s departure from Rotterdam are so special that they are worth sharing here. First, there was the fireboat off Eurodam’s bow.



Next, a Port of Rotterdam tug and sightseeing boat.


Finally, local citizens lining the riverbank to watch as Eurodam passed by.



When we arrived earlier in the week, a small pleasure craft bearing a banner “Eurodam, Welcome Home” greeted us. During our departure, a similar boat with another banner pulled alongside bearing the message “Eurodam, Behouden Vaart” or “safe sailing” in English.

Once we reached the open sea Eurodam came to life—we were in cruise mode and the casino and duty-free shops opened. Being female, naturally I went shopping and, with the assistance of Robyn Du Plessis, found a cosmetic product I needed. Robyn saved me a trip to the mall at home next week as well as saving me money. As Markus Stenerys rang up my purchase he mentioned that I looked familiar. We pinned down the spot our paths had crossed on board Zaandam a few years ago. Sailing on a Holland America Line ship is like coming home—I always run across crewmembers from past voyages. That makes me feel like ‘family.’

We're arriving in Hamburg, Germany now and it's an overcast, yet warm day to go ashore and explore.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Eurodam, The Inaugural: Everything Is Relative

Yesterday’s dedication ceremony, which included a retrospective of Holland America Lines’ relationship with the Dutch Royal Family, reminded me of another aspect of relativity—cruise ship sizes.

In modern terms, cruise ships are loosely categorized as small, medium, and large. Over the years those terms have become even looser as “mega” ships have sailed into the scene. Here aboard Eurodam, Holland America Line executives have briefed us about the new ship and emphasized that their fleet consists of medium-sized vessels. Some of my colleagues have questioned that description because, after all, Eurodam is an 86,700 ton ship and that has generally been considered within the range of larger cruise ships. When compared to her other Holland American Line fleetmates—the S-class ships weigh in at 55,451 to 55,819 tons, R-class from 59,855 to 61,396, and Vista-class at 82,000 tons—Eurodam is larger. However, she’s far from huge. These days, it’s more relevant to compare all cruise ships afloat when thinking in terms of size. With “mega” ships at 160,000 tons and more, Eurodam is indeed a medium-size ship.

More significantly, Eurodam isn’t too large to provide the premium experience that is Holland America Line’s signature—one that includes thoughtful features like homey and comfortable accommodations, intimate spaces to share conversation and a cocktail, and sincere, natural service by an outstanding crew.

Holland America Line’s mission is “Through excellence, we create once-in-a-lifetime experiences every time.” Today was one such experience. Eurodam just sailed from Rotterdam accompanied—as when she arrived—by a fireboat, a flotilla of small water craft, and even sightseeing boats carrying hardy passengers who watched our departure beneath umbrellas. Despite a slight drizzle, the banks of the Nieuw Maas River were lined with people waving, cheering, and wishing Eurodam Godspeed.

It was a thrill to sail on the inaugural cruise and to remain onboard for the prelude cruise. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Eurodam, The Inaugural: Regal Naming Ceremony

In her short life Eurodam has already welcomed an astounding 35,000 visitors aboard for inaugural events. While there were only 350 guests on board when we sailed from Southampton on Saturday evening, there was a full complement of passengers for the dinner/dance cruise from Rotterdam on Sunday night. Among the 4,000 people on board yesterday for tours and lunch were twelve very special sailors who served aboard Holland America ships when they deployed for military service in World War II, plus Dutch travel agents and former Holland America Line employees. Freshly shucked oysters on the half shell and beer drew a standing room only crowd at the lido pool.

Holland America has a long tradition of royal godmothers; eight other members of the Dutch Royal Family have named Holland America ships and the Queen’s own mother, Her Majesty Queen Juliana, served as godmother for Rotterdam V in 1958. Only a year before that, a young Princess Beatrix began her association with Holland America Line when she blessed the bell of Statendam in 1957.

Altogether, about 2,400 people were on hand to witness today’s dedication ceremony when Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands (pictured above) arrived to “break the bottle” and officially name ms Eurodam, Holland America Line’s 80th passenger vessel. A concert featuring the London Quartet and Opera Babes kicked off the event, which ended with a smash as the bottle of bubbly broke against Eurodam’s bow right on cue. The weather gods smiled on us and it was a perfect summer day for Queen Beatrix to name the largest ship ever to sail the Dutch flag.

The grand finale—a spectacular fireworks show—is set to cap a very long, but exciting and festive day for those of us on board as well as the scores of Dutch people who are due to line the river banks.