Sunday, August 31, 2008

Carnival Fantasy: A Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

With Hurricane Gustav taking aim at the Gulf states, Carnival Cruise Lines has announced that Carnival Fantasy will not be returning to Mobile on Monday, Sept 1 as planned. Instead, the ship will remain at sea until Wednesday, Sept 3.

Are they rockin' and rollin' out there? Most definitely! The current cruise is a full-ship charter--The Elvis Cruise, which departed Aug 28th. Will we hear a lot of complaints about even MORE Elvis at sea than they bargained for? Based on my experience last year on The Elvis Cruise, I doubt it.

As a result of the storm-related delay, the 5-day Carnival Fantasy cruise scheduled to depart on Monday, Sept 1, 2008 will be a 4-day cruise departing on Wednesday, Sept 3, 2008 and returning Sunday, Sept 7, 2008. The 4-day cruise will depart from Mobile at 4:00 PM on Wednesday and visit Cozumel on Friday.

Passengers booked to sail on the new 4-day cruise will receive a 25% refund of the cruise fare paid. In addition, they will receive a 25% discount for a future 3- to 5-day Carnival cruise departing prior to Dec 15, 2009. This discount applies to the cruise fare only. Please understand this offer is non-transferable. If passengers elect not to sail on the 4-day cruise, Carnival asks that they contact the cruise line right away to cancel the booking. Passengers who cancel will receive a full refund and refunds will be processed in less than two weeks.

For all the cruise ship itinerary updates, Cruiseblogger has the latest reports for sailings affected by Hurricane Gustav, as well as Tropical Storm Hanna.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gustav in the Caribbean

After damaging bridges and buildings and raising the fear of several deaths in Jamaica, reports in the wake of Hurricane Gustav are more encouraging from Grand Cayman, which suffered fallen trees and light poles and flooding, but otherwise appears to be in fair shape. It will be days before the damage assessment is complete, but clean-up has already begun as Gustav takes aim at the United States Gulf Coast.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas who are in harm's way. It feels almost unseemly that we are planning a pleasure trip while so many residents of New Orleans and coastal areas are evacuating ahead of the storm. And now we are watching the Bahamas and even Florida as Tropical Storm Hanna approaches.

To keep up with the tropical weather news, tune in your preferred television channel, check The National Hurricane Center for maps forecasting the storms' progress, and for cruise ship itinerary updates, Cruiseblogger has the latest reports for sailings affected by Hurricane Gustav, as well as Tropical Storm Hanna.

Exploring Prince Albert II

So, you might wonder what were they thinking when Silversea Cruises announced the addition of Prince Albert II, an exploration vessel to their fleet—a luxury passenger ship without a swimming pool! Truthfully, it didn't cross my mind as being unusual until a friend recently brought up the subject of bathing suits. You see, I'm not a sun-worshipper and seldom even pack a bathing suit for a cruise. While there's no pool aboard, there are two hot tubs that I'll probably be too busy to use. Instead, we will be exploring some pretty interesting places—including the barrier reef off the coast of Belize—on the eight Zodiacs Prince Albert II carries for that purpose. That sounds exciting and I just packed my bathing suit, water shoes, and 85 SPF sun screen so I can even snorkel when we go ashore in the San Blas Islands.

In addition to exploring, we'll also enjoy many amenities similar to those found on Silversea's larger ships, such as a single-seating main dining room, library with computers and Internet access, WiFi throughout the ship, a boutique, beauty salon, fitness center, and full-service spa. The ship also has lounges for enjoying drinks, music, and entertainment, including a cigar lounge like the Humidor on the line's other ships.

There will also be a complete enrichment program presented by experts in a variety of fields, including an in-residence photographer who will share techniques for photographing our trip. Watch the upcoming blogs to follow along and critique my photos. I hope you'll see an improvement as I share our daily adventures.

For more information about Prince Albert II, check out the preview of Exploring in Silversea Style on

Friday, August 29, 2008

Prince Albert II, Tropical Storm Tracking, and Cruise Diva

The laundry is done, suitcases are open, and packing has begun. I've been anticipating my upcoming cruise on Silversea Cruises' luxury expedition ship, Prince Albert II for weeks. As I do before every trip, I keep an eye on the weather and I've never been deterred by a hurricane or tropical storm, even at the height of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Will my good fortune continue as Gustav tracks through the Caribbean? It appears he will have passed, either as a tropical storm or hurricane, and won't effect the path of our trans-Panama Canal itinerary. However, there's a dark spot in the Atlantic named Hanna. While Prince Albert II will have sailed from Fort Lauderdale days ahead of her, she has the potential to cause problems, not only for cruise ships, but for residents along the east coast of the US.

I'm watching these storms and, if you are planning to sail soon, you should be too. As it often turns out, the best place to be when the Caribbean in unsettled is on a cruise ship. Your major concern before sailing should be your embarkation port. While a hurricane barrels down on your destination city, flights in and out are certain to be delayed or, worst case scenario, cancelled by an airport closing.

But, let's assume we made it to our ships and have sailed. What can we expect? In my case, Prince Albert II is all about expedition cruising and that means being highly flexible. As you'll discover in my article Cruising into Hurricane Season, the threat of imminent stormy weather doesn't have to spoil our cruises. We just have to go with the flow.

Photo: Prince Albert II, Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oasis of the Seas: Bringing the Beach to You

Proving that a ship can be a destination in itself, Royal Caribbean has revealed two more "neighborhoods" for the highly anticipated Oasis of the Seas, set to become the world’s largest cruise ship when she launches in Nov 2009. The Pool and Sports Zone and the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center are just the latest examples in a series of innovation and amenities for which Royal Caribbean has become known throughout its history.

"This latest unveiling of two more neighborhoods to be found on Oasis of the Seas continues to prove our legacy of revolutionary cruise ship design. We have developed the Pool and Sports Zone and the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center to give our guests even more choices on a unique and memorable Royal Caribbean cruise," said Adam Goldstein, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International.

For you, the passenger, that means you can have a great cruise and never set foot ashore. Think of it... one of the best islands in the Caribbean will float and move. No need to go to the beach—it will come to you!

Stretching the length of Oasis of the Seas, the Pool and Sports Zone is an ample playground for passengers of all ages, featuring private cabanas, four unique types of pools, and two FlowRider surf simulators—each larger than the single FlowRider found on the line’s Freedom-class ships. Families looking for fun in the sun will easily spot Royal Caribbean’s signature H2O Zone, marked by a giant octopus with its slides and water-spraying tentacles and surrounded by fellow water-spouting ocean creatures. Oasis of the Seas will surely make a splash where kids are concerned.

Building on Royal Caribbean’s Vitality wellness program, adults will be able to soothe mind, body, and soul in the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center and, when they're ready to refuel and rehydrate after their workout, they'll find healthy snacks, light meals, and refreshing juices in the conveniently located Vitality Café. Kids and teens haven't been overlooked in terms of "vitality" either. While they won't be welcome in the adults-only Solarium (yes, parents, I'm looking at you), they will find their own dedicated Spa in which to enjoy specially catered services.

There's more... a whole LOT more and has complete details and photos for you in A "Beach Resort" Afloat.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hurricane Gustav Alters Cruise Ship Itineraries

Gustav doesn't seem to know where he's going, or whether he's a tropical storm or a hurricane. However, he's out there in the Gulf of Mexico causing problems, so it's important to keep an eye on him if you're sailing next week.

For the latest updates on cruise ship itinerary changes as the result of Hurricane Gustav, follow the blog Cruise Diva depends on, Cruise News Daily's CruiseBlogger.

It’s a “Suite Life” Aboard Disney Wonder

Disney Cruise Line will host a red-carpet, world-premiere event for the new Disney Channel original series “The Suite Life on Deck,” a spin-off of the Emmy-nominated “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” aboard Disney Wonder on Aug. 28-31. During this special premiere at sea, passengers will experience a Hollywood-style, red-carpet arrival of some of Disney Channel’s hottest stars, an exclusive sneak-peek of the first episode of “The Suite Life on Deck” and an opportunity to participate in a Q&A session with the show's stars. Cast members from “The Suite Life on Deck” scheduled to appear include Cole Sprouse (Cody Martin), Dylan Sprouse (Zack Martin), Brenda Song (London Tipton), Phill Lewis (Mr. Moseby), and Debby Ryan (Bailey Pickett). All events will take place on decks 9 & 10 of Disney Wonder on Friday, Aug. 29, at the family-friendly Goofy Pool.

"The Suite Life on Deck" premieres on Disney Channel on Friday, Sept 26 at 8 pm ET/PT. In this new live-action comedy series, "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," teenage twins Zack and Cody Martin, and spoiled hotel heiress London Tipton, go aboard a luxury passenger cruise liner, the SS Tipton, owned by London's father, as it cruises the world with tourists and students who attend classes at its Seven Seas High. To his delight, the dutiful Mr. Moseby is reassigned from the Tipton Hotel to be the cruise ship's hotel manager, but is quickly deflated when he finds out that Zack, Cody, and London are onboard too. Joining in the hijinks is London's new roommate Bailey, a sweet, southern girl who has just left her small town roots to experience a whole new world.

A day after the world-premiere, and following a day of fun-and-sun on Disney’s private island Castaway Cay, another Disney Channel star will take the stage. Mitchel Musso, star of Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana” and “Phineas and Ferb” will perform a mini-concert at the Goofy Pool. At the concert’s end, Musso will spend a few minutes answering questions from the audience. This marks the first time Disney Cruise Line and Disney Channel have partnered together to develop a multi-day event. It should prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for fans of the Disney Channel sailing on the sold-out voyage.

“The popularity of Disney Channel shows and stars are at an all-time high,” said Disney Cruise Line President Tom McAlpin. “We’re pleased to partner with Disney Channel for this world-premiere event and share some of the red-carpet excitement with our guests, showcasing that Disney difference only Disney Cruise Line can offer.”

To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a vacation, contact your travel agent, visit or call Disney Cruise Line at 888/DCL-2500. You can also cruise along "virtually" with on a Disney Magic Voyage.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hurricane Gustav Alters RCI Itineraries

Aug 26, 2008, 6:30 p.m. Royal Caribbean Intl continues to closely monitor the path and progress of Hurricane Gustav to ensure that passengers aboard their vessels enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain their ships steer clear of the storm. The safety of passengers and crew members is always RCI's foremost concern.

Given Hurricane Gustav's location and projected path, RCI is altering the itinerary of two ships:
  • Mariner of the Seas, which departed Port Canaveral, Sunday, Aug 24, will sail a revised itinerary. The ship will not be visiting Labadee, Haiti, on Tuesday; Ocho Rios, Jamaica, on Wednesday; George Town, Cayman Islands, on Thursday; or Cozumel, Mexico, on Friday. Instead, the ship will spend Tuesday at sea; visit St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, on Wednesday; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten, on Thursday. The ship will be at sea Friday and Saturday as it returns to Port Canaveral, Sunday, August 31, as scheduled.
  • Grandeur of the Seas, which departed Norfolk, Virginia, Thursday, Aug 21, will not be visit Labadee, Haiti, Wednesday. Instead, the ship will spend Wednesday at sea and visit Coco Cay, Bahamas, Thursday. The ship will be at sea Friday as it returns to Norfolk, Saturday, August 30, as scheduled.
At this time, no other Royal Caribbean ships are being adversely impacted by tropical weather.

Princess Rewards Loyal Past Passengers with Additional Benefits

Recognized as one of the top passenger loyalty programs in the cruise industry, the Princess Captain’s Circle is adding even more benefits for Platinum and Elite members. Frequent cruisers can now use their free Internet packages to access the ships’ wireless Internet networks, they’ll receive a complimentary upgrade to Platinum-level coverage when purchasing the new Princess Vacation Protection plan, and they have an exclusive new phone number to reach the “Circle Desk.”

New Platinum- and Elite-level benefits, for passengers having taken at least six and 16 cruises, respectively, include:

  • Wireless Internet Access – Members can now choose to use their free Internet package minutes on their personal laptops in wireless hot spots, or in the Internet Cafés. This generous benefit rewards guests with a credit of $75 to $400 per person towards Internet use, depending on cruise length. Wireless connections are currently available on all ships in various locations, and this new member benefit will be available fleetwide by winter 2008.
  • Exclusive Phone Number – Members will have their calls directly routed to the Circle Desk through an exclusive phone number expressly for the line’s most loyal cruisers. Calls to the new number will be quickly referred to a membership representative so passengers can easily check on their cruise history, member status and benefits.
  • Princess Vacation Protection Upgrade – Beginning with summer 2009 voyages, the line is introducing a new Princess Vacation Protection program that replaces Princess Travel Care and features additional benefits. For North American Platinum and Elite Circle members, Princess will provide a complimentary upgrade to the higher level Princess Platinum Vacation Protection, offering members more coverage than ever before including a 100 percent “cancel for any reason” benefit.
The Princess Captain’s Circle offers an extensive array of loyalty benefits. Among the many other perks available to repeat cruisers are exclusive Launch Savings discounts for early booking, a free mini-bar set up, free laundry services, priority tender embarkation, complimentary wine tasting, a boutiques discount, preferred embarkation and disembarkation, a Referral Rewards program and last-minute sailing opportunities.

For additional information about Captain's Circle Benefits and other cruise line loyalty programs, visit's guide to Cruise Line Past Passenger Clubs.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mayport to Jacksonville, "Take Your Port and Shove It"

Residents of Mayport, Florida have looked at plans proposed by the Jacksonville Port Authority, illustrated left, and taken a cue from Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, who famously opposed energy-producing wind farms off the coast of Massachusetts (and their vacation homes). When JPA port officials met last week with the Mayport Waterfront Partnership to reveal plans about the $60 million terminal—to include a parking garage for 1,400 vehicles, a drop-off area for cruisers, and a 2-story terminal building that can handle up to four cruise ships—locals reacted in senatorial fashion... Not In My Back Yard.

As reported by The Florida Times-Union, about 60 citizens showed up at the meeting and most voiced opposition to the cruise port being moved from its present location at Dames Point to the proposed site near Mayport, where JPA owns 8 acres. Claims range from the cruise terminal on the waterfront ruining the character of the village, established a mile west of the mouth of the St. Johns River in 1562 and home to shrimp boats and about 70 houses on 80 acres, to concerns about air and water pollution.

Officials argue that the Dames Point Bridge currently prevents most cruise lines from considering Jacksonville as a homeport because the majority of their ships are taller than the bridge's 175-foot clearance and that's why the JPA wants to move the cruise operation to Mayport. The present terminal has been considered "temporary" since it opened in 2003. The JPA also argues that the economic impact of moving the cruise ship terminal to Mayport should be considered before dismissing it because, "The direct payroll and the direct money spent for one ship amounts to about $15 million a year for the local economy."

Will the Jacksonville Port Authority prevail? Without more and larger ships, it could be a moot point, although in their web site Q&A section regarding a new terminal location they answer the question, "How likely is it that Jacksonville will be able to attract the industry's newer and larger ships?" by stating, "JAXPORT is optimistic that the cruise lines eventually will bring their newer ships here if a facility capable of handling them is provided. The major cruise lines have encouraged Jacksonville to build a terminal without height restrictions. If Jacksonville does not build a terminal east of the Dames Point Bridge, the newer ships cannot come."

However, just because you build it, that doesn't mean they will come. For proof, look at Houston's Bayport Cruise Complex, a new state-of-the-art port facility without a single ship committed to homeport there. Cruisers currently bypass it on their way to embark in Galveston, much as many pass through Jacksonville bound for Florida ports further south.

Learn more about cruising from Jacksonville from

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ten Ships to Cruise the World, One from Top to Bottom

More and more people want to sail around the world, or at least a sizable portion of it. That’s the message from seven cruise lines that have responded to the demand by offering ten different voyages, the first–a highly unusual “longitudinal” itinerary from the top of the world to the bottom–beginning in late September. The others, departing in early 2009 from ports on the East Coast and West Coast, will follow the sun from west to east, keeping their pampered guests basking in perfect weather throughout the Caribbean, South Pacific, Asia, Africa, and Europe.

All the world cruises are available for the entire voyage–some lines report that almost half their guests stay onboard from start to finish–or in segments ranging from less than two weeks to more than two months. Typically, the voyage averages about 90 to 100 days. Here are some world cruises offered in the coming months:

CRYSTAL CRUISES: Crystal’s 14th annual world cruise, on board Crystal Serenity, departs Los Angeles Jan 21, 2009. The 106-day voyage will visit 45 cities in Mexico, the South Pacific, New Zealand, eastern and western Australia, Indonesia and Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Russia, Alaska, British Columbia as well as San Francisco and back to Los Angeles. Segments are available in lengths of 12 to 22 days. Special guests onboard will include Deborah Norville, Ed McMahon, Richard Dreyfuss, Jack Hanna and more than two dozen experts on world affairs and other topics. The trip will also feature 125 new shore excursions, including several on a complimentary basis.

CUNARD LINE: Cunard Line continues to honor its tradition of world cruising that began in 1922 as both Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria embark on their second World Cruises. Queen Victoria makes a 99-day Exploration of Distant Horizons world cruise departing from New York Jan 10, 2009 and calling on the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Mexico, the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It is also available in four segments including the 17-day New York to Los Angeles segment and the 27-day Sydney to Singapore segment. Queen Mary 2's 90-day Epic Expedition departs Ft. Lauderdale Jan 13, 2009 and circumnavigates South America before sailing "down under" and then through Asia and Europe. Space is still available on some of the most popular segments including the 28-day Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles segment and 31-day Singapore to New York segment.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE: Ms Rotterdam returns to world cruising in 2009 with a 114/117-day Grand World Voyage departing Jan 19, 2009 from Los Angeles. The westbound route sails the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii, the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, and on through Asia and Africa before visiting the Caribbean and home to Ft. Lauderdale. Additionally, guests will have plenty of time to explore several ports of call with overnights in Sydney, Australia; Hong Kong and Shanghai, China; Mumbai, India; Mombasa, Kenya, and Cape Town, South Africa. Segments of 22 to 69 days are available as well. In a departure from many other world cruise itineraries, the trip will feature the east coast of Africa to South Africa and a rare "Midnight Golden Line Crossing” when ms Rotterdam crosses the equator and the international date line simultaneously.

HURTIGRUTEN: MS Fram embarks on its second annual Longitudinal World Cruise on Sept 23, 2008 from Reykjavik, Iceland. The only itinerary of its kind, the 67-day voyage begins above the Arctic Circle and features Antarctica. Along the way, the ship visits the U.K. and Ireland, crosses the Atlantic, and visits Canada, the East Coast, and Central America before transiting the Panama Canal and sailing down the west coast of South America. As the ship nears Antarctica, expert guides join the cruise to provide lectures about the destination. The Drake Passage, Cape Horn, the South Shetland Islands and other stops around the “White Continent” are featured.

PRINCESS CRUISES: Based on the enthusiastic response to its return to world cruising, Princess will offer two global itineraries in 2009. The 670-passenger Tahitian Princess and 710-passenger Royal Princess will offer similar 107-day itineraries from Ft. Lauderdale, the former departing Jan 12 and finishing up in Dover, England and the latter sailing Jan 20, concluding in Rome. The itinerary features South America, the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, India and Egypt as well as a variety of European destinations. Both will feature a new port for Princess – Port Blair in the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. Other exotic destinations include Vietnam, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and the Great Barrier Reef.

REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES: Regent Seven Seas is the only cruise line in the luxury category to offer two simultaneous world cruises in 2009. The 700-passenger all-suite, all-balcony Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner will visit a total of 110 ports of call in 50 countries on six continents. Segments ranging in length from 12 to 24 nights highlight destinations in the Caribbean, South America, the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia, Southeast Asia, Japan, India, the Middle East, North African and the Mediterranean. Celebrity guests onboard will include former Florida Governor Bob Graham, football coach Don Shula, Apollo astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Al Worden, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and many others.

SILVERSEA CRUISES: Silversea Cruises is offering the company’s first ever Grand Pacific Voyage in 2009, a 92-day extended odyssey timed to coincide with prime regional seasons of the Pacific Ocean. The voyage will depart Los Angeles on March 7 on Silver Shadow. On this epic journey, composed of six themed segments, guests will visit 45 ports, 15 countries and two hemispheres, enjoying overnight stays in Bora Bora, Sydney, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Guests sailing the full voyage will receive complimentary hotel accommodations in Los Angeles on the eve of departure, plus transfer and baggage handling between airport, hotel and ship. Enrichment speakers scheduled on board include Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space, and acclaimed author and Pulitzer Prize winner, Frank McCourt.

Courtesy of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Norwegian Majesty Crew Cleans Up in Bermuda

On Wednesday, Aug 13, 2008, 17 officers and crew members from Norwegian Majesty took to the streets and beaches of St. George’s, Bermuda for a clean-up walk in an effort to give back to the port where the ship has docked during the summer.

Norwegian Majesty’s Captain Goran Blomqvist participated in the clean up, along with the ship’s doctor and environmental officer. The volunteers collected more than 25 bags of trash over three miles.

Norwegian Majesty is sailing seven-day cruises to Bermuda from Baltimore and Philadelphia through Oct 4, 2008.

Photo Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Friday, August 22, 2008 Goes mobile

What's the point of having a cool cell phone with a web browser if you can't use it efficiently? For instance, most web sites look odd on my BlackBerry. Holland America Line noticed their Internet site was less that mobile-user friendly and solved the problem with a highly functional version of its website,, for all devices able to connect to the Internet.

“More and more people are using mobile devices to get things done when traveling, while waiting in line, and at other so-called down times,” said Richard D. Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. “So, our new accessibility will allow them to check details and plan a cruise wherever they are.”

Web surfers will be automatically redirected to the new mobile site if a user accesses the site from a mobile device. To mobilize the site, images were removed and layouts simplified for use on a mobile device.

The most popular areas of have been adapted for mobile use. These include the research tools Cruise and CruiseTour Finder to find travel options and pricing, ports information to look up such things as departure port details and directions while in a cab, a complete For Booked Guests section for current cruisers, and the ability for past guests to look up their Mariner Society number on-line. A special phone number is listed for those who want to call in and book from their mobile device, too, since bookings cannot be made through the mobile website.

Surfers can choose to view the complete site with full images and options from their mobile device, too. For more information, consult a travel agent, call 1-877-SAIL-HAL (877-724-5425) or visit

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Orient Lines Reborn: Marco Polo II

Orient Lines, the destination cruise specialist founded by British cruise and tour entrepreneur Gerry Herrod in 1992, and which was recently acquired by another cruise industry visionary, Wayne Heller, is preparing to set sail in 2009.

The “new” Orient Lines earlier announced plans to acquire vessels rich in history and character and that can carry 600 to 800 passengers in comfort and safety to all seven continents, much like the former company’s beloved Marco Polo. Additionally, the new owner’s plans include preserving Orient Lines’ hallmark cruise-tour product, which seamlessly incorporated pre- and/or post-cruise hotel stays and orientation sightseeing tours, as well as distinguished guest lecturers and local cultural highlights, where possible.

Moving forward, Orient Lines has now announced that its new flagship, to be christened Marco Polo II, will carry 650 guests in 325 staterooms, two thirds of which are outside. The cruise liner, which most recently sailed as Maxim Gorkiy, will make her maiden voyage for Orient Lines in April 2009. Rich in character and history, Marco Polo II promises proven ocean-going capabilities, including an ice-strengthened hull, deep draft, Denny Brown fin stabilizers, bow thrusters and ample provisional stores, essential for cruising to all seven continents. The vessel has a classic interior décor and handsome exterior profile with a raked bow and traditional cruiser stern.

At nearly 25,000 tons Orient Lines’ new flagship is larger in size than her Marco Polo predecessor, yet carries nearly 200 fewer guests. The added space translates to a greater number of public areas and amenities including an indoor spa pool and four separate dining venues, six bars, a show lounge, cinema, casino, library, Internet center, card room, state-of-the-art fitness center and outdoor pool. Marco Polo II will maintain the line’s proven service formula with European officers, American and British social staff, and a friendly and gracious Filipino crew.

“We’re delighted to introduce Marco Polo II to Orient Lines’ large and loyal family of past guests,” said Wayne Heller, Orient Lines’ president and CEO.

After roaming the Med throughout summer 2009, Marco Polo II will set sail on a 33-day Grand Transatlantic crossing on Oct. 25, 2009 from Venice to Rio de Janeiro and begin a series of South America voyages. To receive additional ship and itinerary news electronically or by mail, you may register at or call toll-free 800-333-7300.

Some history: Marco Polo II was originally built in 1969 for the German Atlantic Line. She underwent multi-million-dollar refurbishments in 1988 and 1995 and will receive additional enhancements to be fully compliant with Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 2010 requirements.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More Room to Cool Off in Stockholm

Located at the Nordic Sea Hotel in Stockholm, the world's first permanent Absolut Ice Bar has doubled in size and now accommodates up to 60 guests. It's ideal for a brief, but cool, party ashore with your cruise mates should your ship happen to be making an overnight call, or if you choose to add a pre- or post-cruise night to your vacation as Mel and I did last year. We chose accommodations at the Radisson SAS Royal Viking Hotel during our visit--located only a block away and an easy walk to the Nordic Sea Hotel.

It was an easy task to pre-reserve a spot in the Ice Bar over the Internet before our trip and it turned out to be a fun way to kick off our time in Sweden. Even with its expansion, to avoid disappointment I highly recommend making an advance reservation; admission includes one Absolut cocktail of your choice. While I'd been to the Ice Bar on a previous trip, Mel hadn't, and I don't think he quite expected the surreal atmosphere. Everything, from the tables and chairs to the glasses and the bar itself is made of sparkling clear ice from the Torne River in Swedish Lapland, and the 'seating' is covered with furry hides. After donning the parkas provided for our 40-minute session in the -5 degrees Celsius environment, we had a great time mingling and meeting other "cool" patrons--an international lot--in the exhilarating and festive setting.

If you go... don't forget your camera!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bigger & Better: Carnival Triumph To Make New Orleans Home

In case you were wondering what was going to become of cruising from New Orleans after yesterday’s announcement that Carnival Fantasy will redeploy to homeport in Mobile next year, you can set your concerns aside. Carnival Cruise Lines still has you covered. Mobile’s “Fantasy” is New Orleans’ “Triumph.”

Carnival, which presently operates the only year-round cruise program from New Orleans, will increase capacity by 34 percent when the 2,758-passenger Carnival Triumph replaces the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy from the Big Easy in November 2009. In addition to providing an exciting new “Fun Ship” cruise option from New Orleans, Carnival Triumph will introduce new 7-day eastern and exotic western Caribbean schedules to complement the line’s popular 4- and 5-day cruises to Mexico.

Carnival Triumph’s 7-day cruises will depart on Saturdays, with exotic western Caribbean voyages visiting Belize City; Isla Roatan, Honduras; and Cozumel; and eastern Caribbean cruises calling at Key West, Freeport and Nassau. Four-day cruises will depart Thursdays to Cozumel, while five-day cruises will depart Mondays and Saturdays to Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico.

The Carnival Triumph will operate 65 departures annually from New Orleans, carrying approximately 200,000 passengers–the most of any cruise line. Carnival Fantasy, which currently sails from New Orleans, will be deployed to Mobile, Ala., to operate 4- and 5-day cruises beginning in November 2009.

“We’re very pleased to bring a newer, larger ship to New Orleans as well as expand our operations with new 7-day western Caribbean itineraries that will provide exciting new ‘Fun Ship’ vacation options,” said Terry Thornton, Carnival’s senior vice president of marketing planning. “In addition to serving as an excellent homeport for Carnival for nearly 15 years, New Orleans is a one-of-a-kind vacation destination and we’re delighted to continue our relationship with this wonderful city,” he added.

Carnival Triumph will make its New Orleans debut with a special 4-day cruise departing Tuesday, Nov. 10, then launch its new year-round 4-, 5- and 7-day schedule beginning with a week-long voyage departing Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009.

Reservations are currently being accepted for the Carnival Triumph’s new 4- to 7-day cruises from New Orleans. Special rates for third and fourth guests sailing in the same stateroom, along with round-trip air supplements from a variety of North American gateways and pre- and post-cruise land packages, are also available. For additional information and reservations, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit

For more details and other industry new, visit's Cruise News.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Carnival Cruises Are Getting Bigger in Mobile

Carnival Cruise Lines, which operates Mobile, Alabama’s only year-round cruise program, will increase capacity at the port by 42 percent when the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy replaces the 1,452-passenger Holiday on year-round 4- and 5-day cruises beginning in November 2009. With the Carnival Fantasy’s deployment to Mobile, the company expects to carry approximately 170,000 passengers annually from that port.

Carnival Fantasy will offer a new “Fun Ship” cruise experience with a larger vessel that will include a number of exciting new features. This fall, the ship will undergo the next phase of the line’s “Evolutions of Fun” enhancement program. During an extended dry dock period, the open decks will be completely transformed to include the Carnival WaterWorks aqua park (pictured above), Serenity adults-only retreat, and a new resort-style pool area.

“Mobile has been a terrific homeport for us since we began service there in 2004 and we’re absolutely thrilled to be able to expand capacity from this port with the deployment of the Carnival Fantasy,” said Terry Thornton, Carnival’s senior vice president of marketing planning.

Year-Round Four- and Five-Day Mexico Cruises

Carnival Fantasy will launch year-round 4- and 5-day service from Mobile Monday, Nov. 16, 2009. On this route, 4-day cruises departing Thursdays visit Cozumel, one of the cruise industry’s most popular destinations known for its beautiful white-sand beaches, excellent shopping and variety of shore excursion opportunities.

Five-day cruises departing Mondays visit both Cozumel and Calica, which, in addition to aqua-blue waters that attract snorkelers, scuba divers and windsurfers the world over, is in close proximity to the magnificent Mayan ruins of Tulum, the ecological theme park Xcaret, and Playa del Carmen and its popular Avenida Cinco shopping district. Five-day cruises departing Saturdays call at Cozumel and Progreso, an emerging port with exciting excursion options to the beautiful colonial city of Merida and the spectacular Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza, recently named one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

On November 10, 2009, the ship will offer a one-time 6-day cruise visiting Progreso, Cozumel and Costa Maya. The Holiday will remain in Mobile through the departure of November 2, 2009 and will then be transferred to Iberocruceros, a Spain-based sister cruise brand under the Carnival Corporation umbrella.

Reservations are currently being accepted for the Carnival Fantasy’s new 4- and 5-day cruise program from Mobile. Round-trip air supplements from a variety of North American gateways and discounted rates for third and fourth guests sailing in the same stateroom are also available. For additional information and reservations, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit

Breaking Cruise News from Mobile, Alabama

WKRG News 5 in Mobile is reporting, "Carnival moving it's Fantasy Cruise Ship from New Orleans to Mobile starting in November 2009."

More details soon here on Cruise Diva's blog.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Carnival Cruise Lines To Recategorize Staterooms

When Carnival Cruise Lines launched the “Fun Ship” concept with an aging ocean liner they rechristened Mardi Gras, deck plans were a crazy quilt of irregularly-shaped, colored boxes. Cabin selection was something of a crap shoot, with very few cabins being identical, even if they were in the same category and commanded the same fare.

However, with prefabrication being the norm for modern cruise ship cabins, we’ve come to count on them being “standardized” within various configurations (inside, outside, balcony, suite). It’s been pretty simple to know what you're getting when you select a Carnival stateroom—nearly all outside cabins are alike (the exception being some cabins far forward that conform to the shape of the ship’s bow and have portholes instead of picture windows), as are balcony cabins, etc. And for the past two decades it’s also been pretty simple to read Carnival’s deck plans and know that all but a few cabins would be nearly indistinguishable and, depending on the deck, they would all be priced the same. That isn’t the case on some other cruise lines, where side-by-side cabins are assigned different fare categories, even if the cabin configurations are identical.

Take Princess Cruises, for example. On most decks, accommodations located mid-ship are priced higher than identical cabins located fore and aft. Generally, the fare category for their mid-ship cabins is the same as identical cabins located forward and aft on the next higher deck. The higher you go, the more you pay to see the sea (think of it as anti-steerage). Confusing? Yes, but there’s a reason. Just like in real estate, it’s all about location. Accommodations mid-ship are perceived as experiencing less motion than those located near the bow and stern. Also, cabins far forward can be noisy when bow thrusters are engaged or the anchor is lowered and aft cabins can suffer from engine vibration. An exception to the rule is aft-facing balcony cabins—due to the larger size of their balconies and the view overlooking the ship’s wake, they have always been considered premium and priced accordingly.

Stick with me, we’re getting to the part where picking a cabin on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship is going to be a bit more complex. That’s because Carnival has announced an extensive stateroom recategorization that will eventually encompass the entire “Fun Ship” fleet. Under the reclassification of stateroom categories, Carnival’s accommodations will now be categorized based on a variety of location factors such as mid-ship, aft, and forward, as well as proximity to key public areas and specific deck.

“The change more clearly defines our available stateroom categories based on location and features and will enable guests to easily identify the category that best suits their specific needs and preferences,” said Lynn C. Torrent, Carnival’s senior vice president of sales and guest services.

Carnival Valor is the first ship to feature the new accommodation categories, effective on Monday, Aug. 18. The balance of the fleet will be recategorized by the end of 2008. Cabin assignments and pricing on existing reservations will not be affected. For more information—and to see Carnival Valor's revised deck plan—visit Happily, the fare differentials to book mid-ship vs. fore or aft only amount to $10 for outside cabins and $20 for balcony cabins located on the same deck and “guaranteed” categories (you select the configuration and Carnival assigns your cabin based on availability) are still bargain priced.

To find the perfect accommodations for your needs, there’s even more to consider. For help, see Select Your Cruise Ship Cabin on

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cruise Excursions: The Unusual, The Elegant & The Adventurous

Walking the rooftops of Stockholm, catching lobsters in Maine, Maseratis in Monaco and bobsleds in Jamaica: anyone who thinks the shore excursions offered by cruise lines consist of only half-day city sightseeing tours, is in for a huge surprise. Today’s cruise industry is all about offering variety and choice. In addition to new ships of all sizes, innovative and diverse itineraries and new worldwide cruise destinations, cruise lines have also dramatically enhanced the scope and quality of cruise vacations by offering shore excursions that are dazzling in their ingenuity and often breathtaking in their sense of adventure. And many offer luxury in the extreme.

For starters, there are reserved seats for the Monaco Grand Prix and the chance to drive one of the world’s fastest sports cars through the French Riviera. There is icy champagne on the way to the Arctic Circle. There’s hunting the Red Elephant of Tsavo with a camera, and sampling rare wines from one of the world’s largest private collections. Cruise passengers can explore the Viking ruins of Greenland or the ancient Incan treasures of South America. They can ride Harleys in the Caribbean, climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, or go biking in Croatia. In short, virtually anything an adventurous or inspired traveler can imagine doing is probably offered on a cruise line shore excursion. Here are some examples of the most unusual, newest or most popular options:

AZAMARA CRUISES: One of Azamara’s most interesting shore excursions is Colors, Tastes and Smells of Turkey. Offered in Kusadasi, guests visit the town of Sirince, known for its fragrant and flavorful apricots and peaches; travel through the mountainous region of Kirazi Koy to visit a local primary school and perhaps nap under a tree before a special lunch of gozleme, keskek and manti and a cup of strong Turkish coffee. For those inclined, there is also the harvesting of fruit with the local residents.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: Offered for passengers in Ocho Rios and celebrating the improbable Jamaican bobsled teams of the 1980’s and 1990’s Winter Olympics, the Rainforest Bobsled Jamaica at Mystic Mountain is a new eco-friendly shore excursion just launched in July. It features a bobsled ride through the tropical forest, a chairlift journey over the countryside, a zip-line canopy adventure through the treetops, an island culture and heritage center, as well as dining and shopping.

CELEBRITY CRUISES: A visit to the famous Hermitage Museum is a staple of most shore excursions in St. Petersburg but Celebrity goes one step further: Hermitage Splendour – An Exclusive Evening at the Hermitage Museum features a private tour and ballet performance after hours, when the museum is closed to the public. In addition to the incomparable art collection, the evening is highlighted by performances of the Mariinsky Theatre dancers.

COSTA CRUISES: One of Kenya’s first and largest wildlife refuges, Tsavo National Park, is the focus of Costa’s “Safari” shore excursion for passengers in Mombasa. The “game drive” is conducted in closed-top minibuses for up-close photography of the reserve’s famous “Red Elephant,” zebra, giraffe, buffalo, lions and leopards and includes a stop in one of the park’s lodges, for more a relaxed viewing from the terrace.

CRYSTAL CRUISES: With Crystal’s “Extreme Luxury” excursions on most Mediterranean itineraries, guests can slip behind the wheel and race through Italy in a private Ferrari, following a guide through the Umbrian countryside or the winding roads of Livorno and Tuscany, lunching at a five-star restaurant along the way, or motor through the French Riviera and Monaco's dramatic hills in a Maserati, Lamborghini, or a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, one of the world's fastest grand touring cars.

CUNARD LINE: The Sticky Wicket Restaurant and Bar is only one feature of Cunard Line’s Cricketing Legends tour for guests visiting Antigua on Queen Victoria. The program includes a visit to the Antigua Recreation Ground, home to four cricket world records; a guided tour of the new Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, venue for the 2007 World Cup; and even lunch and a visit, with photo opportunities with Sir Vivian himself or numerous other famous Antiguan cricketers.

DISNEY CRUISE LINE: For those who thought Disney was all about Mickey and Donald, there is Disney Cruise Line’s Graycliff’s Wine & Cheese Pairings adventure in Nassau. For guests 21 and older, the program features some of the world’s finest wines and old-world cheeses at this five-star restaurant built in the 18th century. Exclusive to Disney, it is highlighted by eight tastings from one of the world’s largest private collections of rare wines.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE: Geared to those travelers who “have seen it all,” HAL’s “Machu Picchu, Chinchero, Maras & Moray” Encore Collection is a four-night, three-day overland adventure from the port of Arica in Chile. It includes travel by plane, motorcoach and vista-dome railcar to heights of 14,000 feet or more, with visits to some of South America’s most famous pre-Columbian landmarks as well as the Huaca Pucilana Archaeological Center and the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Lima.

MSC CRUISES: On MSC Cruises’ 2008-2009 Caribbean itineraries, the shore excursion emphasis is on adventure. Options include kayaking over coral reefs, dune buggy tours, snorkeling and diving and swimming with dolphins. In Grand Cayman, guests may learn how to Scuba dive. In St. Maarten there is horseback riding on the beach, adventures using catamarans and Swiss Army jeeps, and the Harley Davidson Experience featuring legendary models of motorcycles for island tours.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE: NCL recently launched a new class of private touring that offers more choices and convenience for guests wishing to explore ports of call however they want. The company’s “Ultimate Touring” offers such VIP tours for small groups of two to 18 people as the “Rooftop Walk in Stockholm” – a guided walk conducted along the roofs of this historic city, visiting locations such as the Old Parliament Building, the Gamla Stan quarter and the Royal Palace.

PRINCESS CRUISES: The “Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb” takes guest along the upper span of the famous bridge on catwalks and ladders, steadily all the way to the summit – over 400 feet above Sydney harbor. From the top of this Australian icon, visitors can see the equally famous Sydney Opera House and the entire city spread out below. The tour includes a comprehensive briefing, all necessary equipment, and a safety demonstration which includes an alcohol breath test.

REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES: “Augustus House and Ara Pacis” is a tour in Rome offered exclusively by Regent. Among the highlights are a guided walking tour through underground levels of the ancient St. Clemente Church, each representing different centuries of the Roman Empire; a visit to Augustus Palace that, according to mythology, was the site where Romulus and Remus were found by the She-Wolf; and a tour of the Altar of Peace, or Ara Pacis, constructed by decree of the Roman Senate following conquests by Caesar Augustus.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTL: Keeping up with the latest technology, Royal Caribbean offers a unique GPS Video Walking Tour of Key West. In addition to a complimentary drink at Pat Croce’s Rum Barrel, guests use the handheld GPS Ranger to trigger a video and audio tour that not only provides directions but facts, myths and legends. The device can be programmed to follow a set path exploring Key West’s most famous sites, or used to “roam alone.” Either way it is interactive, easy to use and fun.

SEABOURN CRUISE LINE: From Helsinki, Seabourn guests may board a private jet to visit the Lapp people of the Arctic Circle. After landing in Rovaniemi, travel is by wooden river boat northward, complete with icy champagne, for a visit to a family reindeer camp and an Arctic Circle crossing ceremony or reindeer lassoing. Featuring a traditional Lapp lunch and folk dancing, the tour also includes a visit to the Arktikum museum and science center before returning to Helsinki by jet.

SEADREAM YACHT CLUB: Cycling in Croatia is the theme of one of Seadream’s Land Adventures from Dubrovnik. After an air-conditioned drive along the Adriatic coast, guests are met in the village of Gruda by professional staff who provide bicycles, helmets and instruction. The almost three-hour ride winds through beautiful Croatian countryside past vineyards and along the Ljuta River where a rest stop features a choice of local fruits. For those even more adventurous, Seadream also offers rock climbing expeditions in Croatia.

SILVERSEA CRUISES: “The Perfect Dubai Experience” features limousine service to the Novotel Airport and a chartered helicopter tour of one of the Middle East’s most modern and fast growing cities. Setting down on the cantilevered helipad on the 28th floor of the Burj Al Arab hotel, the tour also includes a journey of culinary splendour that begins with a simulated submarine voyage to one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, The Oyster, or Al Mahara, that features a floor-to-ceiling seawater aquarium and seafood dishes from around the world.

WINDSTAR CRUISES: Windstar’s “Monaco Grand Prix Package” tour includes a private Welcome to Monaco cocktail reception and gala dinner onboard ship; an exclusive gift package of binoculars, an official Grand Prix program and souvenirs; reserved seating for the Formula One time trials; an exclusive Windstar reception at the H.S.H. Prince Rainier III Auto Collection Museum; and a private breakfast onboard ship before reserved seat viewing for the final Grand Prix race.

Source: Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Trista & Ryan Sutter to Christen Princess Cruises’ Ruby Princess

In celebration of National Romance Week,* Princess Cruises announced today that celebrity couple Trista and Ryan Sutter will christen the newest cruise ship in the Princess fleet, Ruby Princess, on Nov 6 in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The Sutters, who met on ABC’s hit reality series, The Bachelorette, the most romantic franchise on TV since the Love Boat, will celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary this fall, and will mark this milestone event during the Ruby Princess inaugural, which will be themed around “romantic moments and milestones.”

“Princess Cruises has long stood for romance and reconnection, and so we’re delighted to have Trista and Ryan christen Ruby Princess as they celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary,” said Jan Swartz, senior vice president for Princess Cruises.

The 3,070-passenger Ruby Princess includes a dramatic piazza-style atrium featuring small-bite eateries and an ever-changing array of performing street entertainers. Passengers will also enjoy Princess' other array of dining venues including the signature Sabatini's Italian trattoria and the Crown Grill steak and seafood restaurant, plus a relaxing oasis just for adults called The Sanctuary. The new cruise ship will also offer the many other innovations that define the Princess experience, including the popular Movies Under the Stars poolside movie screen, Personal Choice Dining featuring traditional or Anytime seating, multiple entertainment venues, a relaxing Asian-style Lotus Spa with fitness center, an extensive children and teen's center, a wedding chapel and nearly 900 staterooms with private balconies, perfect for enjoying a scenic Caribbean islands cruise.

During Ruby Princess’ inaugural season she will make seven-day weekly sailings from Fort Lauderdale, FL to the Western Caribbean. Calls include Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico and Princess Cays in the Bahamas. Next spring the ship will move to Europe for 12-day sailings in the Mediterranean and Greek Islands.

*National Romance Week takes place during the second week of August each year. In 2008, it is Aug 10-16.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Holland America Line Passengers Are "On Deck For The Cure"

Holland America Line and their passengers have put their money to good use while walking the world's oceans over the past two years. Indeed, the cruise line has surpassed the million-dollar mark in contributions raised for Susan G. Komen for the Cure® via its On Deck for the Cure program, earning it a place on Komen's prestigious Million Dollar Council. HAL will celebrate the milestone this week with special receptions and recognition on the ships in its fleet and at its corporate headquarters in Seattle.

Since the program began in 2006, On Deck for the Cure has raised nearly $1.1 million in support of breast cancer research. Noting the success of the ship-based program, where ship guests make donations for walking laps around the deck, Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs, said the company has recently extended their contract with Susan G. Komen for the Cure to continue the On Deck for the Cure program in the years to come. "We're overwhelmed with the spirit and generosity of our guests," said Meadows. "On every cruise, our guests take time from their holiday to raise money to help fight this disease. Holland America Line is proud to be a vehicle for this most worthy cause."

Meadows noted that in 2007 one charter group on board the ms Maasdam turned out nearly 800 participants, smashing the previous Holland America Line single walk record of 349 walkers, and the 2008 Grand World Voyage on the ms Amsterdam raised more than $50,000 in its fund-raising walks.

Next time you sail aboard a Holland America Line ship, join in the fight against breast cancer and burn up some calories from dinner as well. For a pledge of $15 or more, put your sea legs to good use and walk around the ship's deck for a total of five kilometers. Depending on the ship, that could be up to 12 laps to reach 5K. Each participant receives an On Deck for the Cure T-shirt and pink wristband as well as an invitation to a pink lemonade party following the walk.

Trust me, you'll feel better at the end of your cruise after you've been On Deck for the Cure.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Philly Kicks Off Its Cruise Season With Bermuda Sailings

Travelers can now enjoy a second summer Labor Day weekend when CruisePhilly begins its 2008 season with sailings to the pink sandy beaches of Bermuda. Beginning Aug 30th, the luxurious Norwegian Majesty will make five 7-day trips to Bermuda, calling on the picturesque port of St. George. With the Norwegian Majesty making Philadelphia its home for the first time, vacationers can now spend even more time on the beautiful beaches of Bermuda.

Norwegian Cruise Line is the only cruise line offering three days in port in Bermuda. While in port, you can enjoy a number of shore excursions from an Adventure Cave Tour offering a hands-on experience of the caves of the Island's East End, to the Dolphin Dip allowing tourists to enjoy a rare opportunity to swim with dolphins.

"Sailings to Bermuda have always been a popular choice for regional residents looking to spend quiet, relaxing time on island beaches," said John J. Matheussen, CEO of the DRPA, the parent agency of the Port of Philadelphia and Camden. "We're pleased to offer these vacationers the opportunity to spend even more time in port in Bermuda aboard the Norwegian Majesty."

Bermuda is only the beginning of cruising options from the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal this season. The Norwegian Majesty will also be making 7-day sailings to Canada and New England departing four consecutive Saturdays beginning Oct 4th. Norwegian Majesty closes out its Philadelphia season Nov 1st with a grand 14-day repositioning cruise through the sunny heart of the Southern Caribbean.

For information on cruising from Philadelphia or special pre- and post-cruise packages, visit or call (856) 968-2052.

Photo: Philadelphia Naval Business Center in the Port of Philadelphia

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fine Living Network’s Ultimate Cruise Guide Focuses on Norwegian Gem

Norwegian Gem, NCL’s newest Freestyle Cruising ship, takes center stage in Fine Living Network’s new one-hour special: The Ultimate Cruise Guide. The special was filmed during a seven-day Western Mediterranean cruise aboard Norwegian Gem and will premiere on Sat, Aug 16, 2008 at 10 p.m. EST.

The show presents a complete guide to everything a viewer needs to know about cruising, featuring insider tips from Norwegian Gem’s officers and a first-hand look at cruising through the eyes of the Walkers, a family of four from New York with children ages six and 10, and Joey and Joy, a young, professional couple on a romantic getaway, as they explore the ship’s on-board amenities and NCL shore excursions.

“NCL’s Freestyle Cruising allows guests the freedom and flexibility to cruise on their own schedule,” said Colin Veitch, NCL’s president and CEO. “During this special cruise guide on Fine Living Network, viewers will experience Freestyle Cruising and all it has to offer on our newest ship, Norwegian Gem. We hope that after watching the special, they will want to take their own cruise vacation aboard one of our 12 Freestyle Cruising ships.”

Viewers will vacation alongside the Walkers and Joey and Joy as they set out on their European cruise. During the voyage, Joey and Joy use the time to unwind and relax from their busy lifestyle with a romantic brunch in the ship’s French restaurant Le Bistro; a private training session with a personal trainer in the fitness center; and total relaxation on the ship’s pool deck with Evian mists and cold towels from poolside attendants. The Walkers maximize their time to the fullest with a family bowling tournament; a relaxing couple’s spa treatment while the children are playing in the Kids Club; an entertaining family dinner in the Teppanyaki restaurant; and a performance by the famed Second City comedy troupe. While off the ship, they visit unforgettable European ports of call.

The Ultimate Cruise Guide is scheduled to air again on Fine Living Network (FLN) Aug 27 at 4 p.m.; Aug 30 at 11 p.m.; Sept 12 at 4 p.m.; Sept 14 at 11 p.m.; and Sept 24 at 10 p.m. To sample FLN programming, visit

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cruise Line Brochures: How To Read Them

Years ago, before the Internet became a savvy traveler's primary source of information, brochures were often the first glimpse of what potential passengers might expect on cruise vacations. In some cases, they still are.

Brochure styles vary from straightforward in approach to as dreamy and romantic as a romance novel. Some brochures are beautiful enough to qualify as coffee table books. But are they a slick marketing device or useful planning tool? Check in at to learn how to read Cruise Line Brochures to get the information you need for decision making.

Some armchair brochure browsers get caught up in "crystalline waters" and "historic wonders"... is there anything in between? Well, yes. We also share how to decipher the Brochure Buzz Words.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Tropical Taste of Puerto Rico, Chill Out With A Piña Colada

When your ship's horn signals it's departure time, it's also time for one of the highlights of every cruise—a festive sailaway deck party. Laden with trays of exotic bon voyage “umbrella” drinks, bar servers make their way through throngs of cheerful passengers anxious to toast the beginning of their cruise. Without a doubt, the most popular of those tempting bon voyage beverages is the Piña Colada.

Did you ever wonder who served up the very first Piña Colada? I did, so I went to the source—the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. According to Maria Elena Pérez, the Piña Colada was introduced there on August 15, 1954 by its creator Ramon “Monchito” Marrero.

Find out more about how the newly hired bartender, Monchito set out to make a drink with “a touch of zest” for Caribe Hilton guests, who sometimes suffered the after effects of too many strong cocktails. also shares his original Piña Colada recipe so you can enjoy the same drink Monchito created and personally served to Caribe Hilton guests, including such luminaries such as Gloria Swanson, Elizabeth Taylor, and John Wayne.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Your Cruise Ship Cabin: Port or Starboard?

Face forward (that would be the pointy end of the ship) and to your right is starboard, to your left is port. Now that we've established that, which side of the ship is "best" for your itinerary? Over the years that question has come up frequently. My answer generally isn't very useful in terms of cabin selection. You see, it's impossible to say which side of the ship is "better" in terms of cabin selection.

Ships don't always receive the same berthing assignment in ports of call and the side of the ship that faces land and/or the dock isn't always the port side of the ship. Even when a ship calls at the same port every week and there's only one berth, like Disney's private island Castaway Cay, even wind and wave conditions can change the berthing arrangement. I know of one cruiser who selected cabin locations on Disney Wonder based on past experience and then during the docking procedure at Castaway Cay was dismayed that the ship backed into its berth instead of nosing in as it had done on previous cruises.

In the case of Castaway Cay, cabins on both sides of the Disney ships have a decent enough view because of the scenery. That isn't always the case, though. Some ports of call, particularly those in Europe, are fairly industrial and there isn't much to see. If your cabin has a balcony, being on the side of the ship facing the dock is fun when sailaway time draws near and fellow passengers are scurrying back to the ship—such as late afternoon in Cozumel. As amusing as your fellow passengers can be, if your ship overnights at the downtown Cozumel pier your balcony facing town has a view, but it can be a noisy one when the music cranks to high volume at the clubs near the end of the pier.

While it's difficult, if not impossible, for me to say that port or starboard is "best" for any particular itinerary, I can happily share my Tips for Selecting a Cruise Ship Cabin.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Carnival Fantasy Departures Change

Carnival Cruise Lines Announcement:

Unfortunately, the operational situation in the Mississippi River remains very volatile at this time and there is the possibility of additional river closures at any time. As a result, we will divert the Carnival Fantasy to Mobile, Alabama on August 9, 2008.

The following information will explain our operational plans for the Carnival Fantasy:

Carnival Fantasy Aug 4 & Aug 9 Departures
Guests debarking the ship on August 9 will be provided motorcoach transportation from Mobile to the New Orleans cruise terminal or the New Orleans airport.Guests scheduled to embark on August 9 should proceed to the cruise terminal in New Orleans as planned. Motorcoach transportation will be provided from the New Orleans cruise terminal to the Mobile cruise terminal. This cruise will return to Mobile on August 14 and motorcoach transportation will be provided to the New Orleans cruise terminal or the New Orleans airport.

Carnival Fantasy Aug 14, Aug 18, Aug 23 & Sept 1 Departures
We will now operate all of these cruises roundtrip from Mobile. If guests were driving to New Orleans, we request they proceed to the cruise terminal in Mobile.

Due to the airlift constraints into Mobile, guests that purchased air transportation from Carnival or independent air transportation should fly into New Orleans as scheduled. Carnival will provide roundtrip motorcoach transportation between the New Orleans airport and Mobile on the day of arrival and departure only.

We sincerely apologize to all of our guests that are impacted by this situation. The entire Carnival team will do everything possible to minimize this inconvenience.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ruby Princess Completes Sea Trials

Princess Cruises' Ruby Princess has passed another major milestone in preparation for her November 8 debut, with the completion of her sea trials. The new ship set out to sea from her construction dock at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, and was put through her paces with a series of maneuvers to test her propulsion, steering, and navigational equipment. After a successful four days of trials, the ship is now back in the shipyard for further exterior and interior finishing. Ruby Princess will be ready for her maiden voyage from Ft. Lauderdale, a 7-day Western Caribbean sailing taking passengers to Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Princess Cays.

Ruby Princess is a sister-ship to Emerald Princess and Crown Princess, and will feature the same dramatic piazza-style atrium that have become so popular on those ships. Other ship highlights include an Italian trattoria, a seafood and steak house, a "Movies Under the Stars" giant outdoor movie screen, 900 cabins with private balconies, and The Sanctuary—Princess' signature adults-only retreat.

For a "first look" at those features and more, shares a review of sister-ship Crown Princess.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

This "Fun Ship" Is A Many-Splendored Thing

From a distance, Carnival Splendor may not appear to be substantially different than her fleetmates. She may not even appear larger, although at 113,300 tons she is the largest "Fun Ship" constructed by Carnival Cruise Lines to date. However, while there is no doubt that she is Carnival ship, Carnival Splendor is truly an evolution in design and function.

The new 3,006-passenger Splendor-class ship offers a striking view of "Splendid Things"—the design theme created by Joe Farcus, Carnival's ship architect. "When I thought about the name of this ship, it brought to mind all the splendid things there are in the world," Farcus said. "The central idea that ties the rooms together is the concept of fine, luxurious, sumptuous elegance."

Just how did she measure up? checks out all the new features and reviews Carnival Splendor in All Things Splendid.

Monday, August 4, 2008

"Marina" to be 1st Oceania-class Ship

Some of Oceania Cruises’ most loyal past guests were on hand as the first piece of steel was ceremoniously cut to officially begin construction of Oceania Cruises’ first brand-new ship at the Fincantieri’s Sestre Ponente Shipyard in Genoa, Italy. During the ceremony, Frank Del Rio, Chairman of Prestige Cruise Holdings, Oceania Cruises’ parent company revealed the name of the first ship as Marina along with design details of the Veranda Staterooms and Penthouse Suites.

“Oceania Club members, our loyal repeat guests, are not only responsible for Oceania Cruises’ success, they have also played a great role in the design and development of these splendid new ships,” stated Del Rio.

After the ceremony, Oceania Club members were invited to tour their future homes at sea—the builder’s mock-ups of the Veranda Staterooms and Penthouse Suites. These accommodations, which are on average, 50% larger than those on the Regatta-class ships, will set new standards for spaciousness and comfort.

More details in today's Cruise News.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Carnival Fantasy To End Current Cruise in Mobile

Due to the ongoing issue on the Mississippi River, the current voyage of the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy will end in Mobile, Alabama, on Monday, August 4, instead of its regular homeport of New Orleans. Disembarking passengers will be provided complimentary motorcoach transportation back to the Port of New Orleans or the New Orleans airport.

Carnival Fantasy’s next 5-day cruise, set to depart on Monday, August 4, will also depart from Mobile. Carnival will provide complimentary motorcoach transportation from New Orleans’ Erato Street cruise terminal to Mobile.

All passengers 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.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Driving to Your Cruise Ship

For passengers–first timers or experienced sailors alike–a cruise vacation is all about choice, flexibility and value. While spectacular new ships tend to grab the headlines and symbolize the remarkable growth and diversity of the industry, a quieter and very timely trend is the growth of domestic ports of embarkation to more than 30, from Anchorage to Jacksonville, Boston to New Orleans. In fact, virtually the entire population of the United States is within driving distance of a cruising homeport. This not only adds significantly to the convenience factor of a cruise vacation–driving to the ship and leaving the car a short walking distance away–but can also represent significant savings during times of economic uncertainty, even allowing for the high price of gasoline.

When the modern cruise industry began in the 1960’s, the vast majority of voyages departed from a handful of big city ports, notably New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Today, cruisers can choose an itinerary from such East Coast embarkation points as Bangor, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, Charleston, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. Passengers embarking in the New York metropolitan area have three ports to choose from: Manhattan, Brooklyn and across the Hudson River in New Jersey. On the West Coast the choices include four ports in Alaska, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. On the Gulf Coast, cruisers can opt for such cities as Galveston, New Orleans, Mobile, and Tampa.

Equally significant, the cruises offered from these domestic ports represent the entire spectrum of the cruise experience: large ships and small; the newest vessels; itineraries in Alaska, Mexico, Canada/New England, Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, even transatlantic and world cruises and adventure voyages. In short, you can find a convenient domestic port of embarkation for virtually any kind of cruise you want.

“No other type of vacation offers the variety of experiences–worldwide destinations, diverse itineraries, varying cruise lengths, types of ships, different onboard experiences, and shore side activities–that the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) fleet provides,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO of CLIA. “The aim is to enable every vacationer to choose the cruise that is exactly right for individual tastes, interests and budget. A big part of that for millions of travelers is having a departure port close to home.”

Find out more about embarkation ports at

Port of Long Beach Image Courtesy of Andy Newman/CCL
Additional Information Courtesy of CLIA