Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Ships for the New Year: Coming in 2009

Is your list of New Year's Resolutions complete yet? If you haven't finished it, you might want to add "take a cruise" to your must-do list for 2009.

Cruise fares today are already low, low, low and may have even bottomed out. Should the economy take an upswing in mid-year, you'll surely see prices begin to rise. Now is a good time to lock in the best fare.

Not only are fares currently a bargain, it's almost the beginning of "Wave Season"—the time of year when winter doldrums set in and it's time to think of warm sea breezes and booking a cruise. The busiest cruise booking time of the year begins in a few days and will last through March. You might even see some better deals coming shortly as cruise lines and travel agents prepare to entice you to plan for your 2009 vacation.

Have you decided on a ship yet? Or are you waiting to see what the new ships for 2009 will have to offer? The new year will see the introduction of new ships that are first in their "classes" as well as some that follow a familiar profile.

Cruise Diva is happy to preview New Ships For 2009. Don't miss the boat!

Photo above: Carnival Dream set to launch September 2009

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Search For Missing Norwegian Pearl Passenger Cancelled

"The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its search for a Florida woman who reportedly fell from a cruise ship balcony off the coast of Mexico," according to a story by WPTV.com,

Additionally, a report sourced by the Associated Press indicates that the family of the missing woman, Jennifer Seitz, has issued a statement in which they "suspect the woman 'chose an unfortunate ending to her life' and jumped from a cruise ship balcony into the waters off Mexico's coast on Christmas night."

Seitz was accompanied on the cruise by her mother and her husband of one year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

FBI Investigates Norwegian Pearl Passenger's Disappearance

Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Pearl returned to the Port of Miami yesterday with one less passenger than it left with a week earlier and agents from the FBI awaited its arrival. As reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, they immediately launched an investigation into the mysterious disappearance of Jennifer Seitz, 36, who was a passenger aboard the ship. "We're looking to see if a crime was committed on the high seas," FBI Special Agent Michael Leverock told the Sun-Sentinel. Additionally, he revealed that agents interviewed numerous passengers and crew members after the ship docked in Miami Sunday morning, as well as searched the cabin Seitz shared with her husband for any clues pointing to what may have happened to her.

It has come to light that surveillance footage from a camera aboard Norwegian Pearl, a portrayal of which has subsequently aired on ABC's Good Morning America, showing what appears to be the eerie image of a woman in white going over the railing and into the water. While video footage from the ship reportedly indicates the woman went overboard at about 8 pm on Thursday evening, Seitz's husband didn't report her missing until nearly eight hours later on Friday morning as the vessel sailed east of Cancun, Mexico. Despite an exhaustive air-and-sea search by the US Coast Guard and Mexican Navy, there has been no trace of Seitz in the choppy water. Survival for days in the warm waters of the Caribbean is possible; however, Seitz was more than likely not wearing a life jacket.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Coast Guard Searches For Missing Norwegian Pearl Passenger

The Coast Guard News reported that the search continued Saturday for a missing passenger from Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Pearl about 15 miles east of Cancun, Mexico. Initially, reports incorrectly identified the passenger as Jennifer Feitz, age 33. Her correct name is Jennifer Seitz, age 36, and her hometown remains unknown at this time.

After Seitz’s husband reported her missing to cruise ship security personnel around 3:50 am Friday, ship personnel conducted a thorough search of the vessel and contacted the Coast Guard for assistance when she was not found on board.

Coordinating the search and rescue mission with the Mexican navy, Coast Guard aircrews from Air Station Miami and Air Station Clearwater (Florida) have searched more than 2,500 square miles for Seitz.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Norwegian Pearl Passenger Reported Missing

According to a report on CNN, search crews from the US Coast Guard and Mexico are looking for a woman believed to have fallen from Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Pearl off the Yucatan coast of Mexico. The CNN report includes a statement from NCL spokewoman AnneMarie Mathews that, "Initial reports indicate the guest may have gone overboard while the ship was at sea, east of Cancun."

The husband of Jennifer Feitz, age 33, apparently reported her missing at about 3:40am on Friday and Norwegian Pearl notified the Coast Guard when she was not located on board. The sea search was centered about 15 miles east of Cancun, Mexico and crews from the US and Mexico were expected to work into the night Friday in an attempt to find Feitz.

Norwegian Pearl is on a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise that departed Miami last Sunday and is expected to call at NCL's private island Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas today before returning to Miami tomorrow. The ship's itinerary included an 8am to 5pm port call in Cozumel Thursday, Christmas Day.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Carnival Has “Fun For All. All For Fun.”

Carnival Cruise Lines’ new network TV advertising campaign kicked off on Christmas with two 30-second spots designed to evoke the kind of spontaneous and spirited fun that underlies the Carnival vacation experience. The two spots were shot during events held recently in Dallas and Philadelphia in which Carnival set Guinness World Records for the world’s largest inflatable beach ball and the world’s largest piñata. The new commercials are part of the line’s new “Fun For All. All For Fun.” branding campaign intended to capture the unique essence of the Carnival vacation experience. The campaign was created by Boston-based advertising agency Arnold Worldwide. To develop the campaign’s creative concept, Arnold conducted an intensive study involving thousands of consumers, many of whom are Carnival customers, along with a number of health and lifestyle experts, to gain insight into the importance of fun in people’s lives.

“There is a difference between telling consumers you’re fun and actually being fun,” said Pete Favat, Arnold’s chief creative officer. “These commercials truly capture the essence of fun and you can’t help but have a good time watching them. We hope that this will create even more passion for the Carnival Cruise Lines brand among consumers.”

The new commercials are airing nationally on ABC, CBS and NBC, as well in select local markets on FOX, during primetime programming. You’ll also see them on several cable networks as well as in movie theaters nationwide and in various online channels. In the “Beach Balls” spot, members of the Carnival Fun Team inflate three gigantic beach balls, each measuring a world record-breaking 35 feet in diameter. They then roll the balls off the tops of buildings in downtown Dallas as thousands of people below come together to help bounce the enormous balls up and down the city streets. In the “Piñata” spot, the Carnival Fun Team assembles the world’s largest piñata in Philadelphia. Members of the community wake up in the morning to discover the gigantic, colorful donkey measuring over six stories tall, standing near a busy street corner. Thousands of people begin gathering to help break open the piñata, and celebrate in the 8,000 pounds of candy that showers down from the massive burro.

Carnival's “Fun Ship” marketing theme has been a success for several decades now. In Carnival's first-ever television ads that began airing in 1984, Kathie Lee Gifford showed what fun passengers have on a Carnival cruise while strolling around the ships and singing an upbeat in the morning, in the evening Carnival's got the Fun. Carnival ships even unfurled massive banners when they were in their homeports proclaiming “Carnival's Got The Fun!” (much to the annoyance of competing cruise line execs whose ships were berthed nearby). One of my favorite Carnival television ads in the past portrayed women on a cruise and featured the song “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”—that ad combined a catchy tune with action that was appropriate to the fun being portrayed and, to me, was highly successful. It captured my attention instantly and there was no question that it was a Carnival Cruise Lines ad. However, a giant piñata and a huge inflatable beach ball? For this diva, not so much.

So, if you saw the ads, what did you think? I saw the piñata ad three times during programs on ABC. Until the “Fun For All. All For Fun.” tagline and the familar winged funnel rolled into view, I wouldn't have recognized it as a Carnival commercial. And, as the head of another cruise line recently pointed, there's no need for “forced fun.”

The first rule of any writing, and especially travel writing, is “show, don't tell” and that’s what the ad I saw lacked. Sadly, I didn’t see what fun there is on a Carnival ship. Carnival IS fun, but the recent shoreside events and resulting commercials don't really have anything common with the onboard fun of a cruise vacation.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Cruise-mas!

Brrr... the weather outside is chilly. So, let's think warm weather thoughts and dream of blue skies, Caribbean waters, and a cruise for 2009.

It's been a great year for travel at sea and we wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas!

While we're dreaming, there are a wave of new ships and new-ship classes under construction in European shipyards that will soon be on the way to ports near and far. Get the scoop on New Ships for 2009 from CruiseDiva.com.

Plus, here's a little holiday bonus from the Eurodam News Blog—take a look at the festive Christmas party the captain and crew of Holland America Line's Eurodam held for kindergarten children during their call in Grank Turk this week!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

HAL's Veendam is Just the Right Size for Bermuda Cruises

Holland America Line has announced it will more than double its previously announced Bermuda cruises in 2010 from 11 to 24 beginning on April 25, 2010. Sailing roundtrip from New York aboard ms Veendam, the cruises will visit both Hamilton and St. George’s, Bermuda’s cultural and shopping hubs.

“This is a wonderful development for Holland America Line and Bermuda,” said Richard D. Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. “We are thrilled to homeport a ship in New York City to sail to Bermuda and our extended season to the islands will be very exciting to our guests. Veendam is ideal for this itinerary. “She is a premium mid-size ship, the perfect size to navigate the narrow entrances to the harbors in Hamilton and St. George’s. Veendam’s guests are able to step off the ship right in the center of each town. Ships larger than Veendam must tie up at the Dockyard facility a considerable distance from both towns.”

When the 1,350-guest ms Veendam sails in April on the first of 24 seven-day roundtrips to the island, it will mark Holland America Line’s return to New York City as a home port and to Bermuda as a destination. Additionally, guests of Holland America Line will have an opportunity to fully experience Bermuda’s British charm and its unique island culture by day and by night with multi-day stays in Hamilton and St. George’s. The itinerary calls for approximately two and half days in each port. The season lasts until Oct 10, 2010. Holland America Line worked closely with the Bermudian government to form the partnership that takes Holland America Line back to the island that it first visited more than 70 years ago. In 1926, Veendam II, with a guest capacity of approximately 500, left New York on the company’s first Caribbean cruise. During the summers of 1930 and 1931, Veendam II sailed on five-day roundtrip cruises between New York and Bermuda.

Founded in 1609, the town of St. George’s in the northeast area of Bermuda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second oldest settlement in North America. Only Jamestown in the United States is older. Narrow, twisting streets and pastel-painted houses create a European feel. The oldest Anglican Church in North America is in St. George’s and many other historic buildings, most made of stone, have been preserved. More than a dozen forts dating to the 17th century are scattered in the hills surrounding the town.

Hamilton, the major commercial hub and seat of government, is in the geographic center of the island and is close to south shore beaches. Veendam will dock at the town’s front door just steps from Front Street and its colorful array of shops and restaurants. Hamilton is home to a massive 19th-century, neo-Gothic cathedral and the Georgian-style Sessions House dating to 1815.

In addition, Bermuda offers many activities for the entire family, from historic discoveries, active pursuits such as horseback riding, kayaking, and wonderful beaches with swimming and snorkeling. The island is also known for its world-renowned golf courses. Get even more information about What to See & Do in Bermuda, from CruiseDiva.com.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Stepping Ashore At Labadee Is About To Get Even Better

When describing the “best” Caribbean port they visited, many cruise passengers might mention a destination you’ve never heard of. For instance, Labadee. Located on a 260-acre peninsula on the secluded north coast of Hispaniola (more familiarly known as Haiti) and surrounded by mountain slopes and exotic foliage, it's Royal Caribbean's private beach enclave. In addition to swimming, water sports, an Aqua Park, and nature trails to explore, there's a market, where you might find an interesting painting or unique wood carving created by local artists and crafters. Naturally there are bars for refreshments and a huge beach barbeque is served by the ship’s crew.

And there's more coming! Royal Caribbean will unveil new facilities and a spectacular array of activities and excursion options at the private beach destination when Oasis of the Seas makes her maiden port of call at Labadee on Dec 3, 2009. Oasis of the Seas will dock at Labadee's new pier (currently under construction), which leads guests through a grand entry to the welcome plaza.

Water taxis and five different walking paths, trails and avenues will take guests from the welcome plaza to many areas throughout the peninsula, including the new Dragon's Plaza, Labadee Town Square, and Columbus Family Beach, all currently under development. Sea-based excursions, including a new exhilarating fast boat tour, also will depart from the welcome plaza. At the north end of the peninsula, Dragon's Plaza will be the heart of Labadee and feature the Dragon´s Breath Café and Pub, a welcome center, and central tram station, which will ferry guests to other areas of the peninsula. Guests booked on the extremely popular Dragon's Breath Flight Line, the world's longest zip-line over water, also will begin their excursion here.

At the base of the peninsula, Labadee Town Square will offer guests cultural experiences, shopping, dining and entertainment, featuring the Haitian Cultural Museum, Café Labadee and Bar, and the Straw and Artisan Market. From the Town Square, guests will board the new Alpine Coaster, a thrilling new roller coaster experience on Labadee. With convenient transportation from the pier via water taxis, the new Columbus Family Beach will appeal to adults and children of all ages, where guests can enjoy lunch and refreshments at the Columbus Café and Bar. Guests also can rent one of many private family cabanas, which dot Columbus Family Beach.

How would Cruise Diva spend the day at Labadee... Shopping?... Zipping through the treetops? No. She'd find a shady hammock and capture the true spirit of Labadee with a “Labaduzee”—Royal Caribbean's signature frozen drink that they say is out of this world.

CruiseDiva.com has more information about Cruise Lines' Private Islands, your personal Caribbean places in the sun.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Oasis of the Seas Inaugural Season Bumped Up

"Inaugural" cruise. "Maiden" voyage. Call it what you want, but many veteran cruisers look forward to the bragging rights that come with sailing on the first cruise of a new ship, especially when it's one that's as unique and BIG as Royal Caribbean Intl's latest. In the past, booking a ship's first cruise could be problematic as shipyard construction delays wreaked havoc with sailing schedules and often the first cruise, or several, were cancelled. After giving away free cruises and other incentives to make up for the disappointment bumped passengers experienced, cruise lines began adding some cushioning to their building schedules and sometimes are able to take delivery of their new ships ahead of time.

And so it is that cruise passengers will now be able to experience the world's largest-ever cruise ship even sooner. Royal Caribbean Intl has announced two additional sailings to Oasis of the Seas' inaugural season: a 7-night inaugural Eastern Caribbean itinerary, sailing on Dec 5, 2009; and a special 4-night voyage departing Dec 1, 2009. On the Dec 5, 2009 inaugural voyage, guests will receive a special commemorative certificate to mark the occasion, and be among the first to enjoy Oasis of the Seas, with all of her venues and amenities, and premiers of the full array of breathtaking AquaTheater light and water shows, and new productions in the Opal Theater, and Studio B ice-skating rink. The 7-night itinerary will call at St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Nassau in the Bahamas. Throughout, guests will enjoy Gold Anchor Service from Oasis of the Seas' staff and crew, representing more than 70 nations around the world.

Guests booked on the original inaugural sail date of Dec 12, 2009 will be contacted by their travel agent or a Royal Caribbean representative, and given the opportunity to move their cruise vacation to the new inaugural sailing of Dec 5 before the sailing opens to the public for booking on Jan 12, 2009. During the re-accommodation period, which ends on Jan 11, 2009, the following special benefits will apply. Guests choosing to sail consecutively on both the Dec 1 and 5, 2009 voyages also will receive a $200 onboard credit per stateroom ($300 onboard credit per suite) for an extraordinary 11-night Oasis of the Seas cruise. Booked guests who wish to take either the Dec 1 or 5 sailing will be re-accommodated in the same stateroom and category. The cruise fare for the Dec 5 sailing will remain unchanged. Guests wishing to sail on the 4-night voyage, which will make a call at Labadee and spend two days at sea, will receive a prorated fare.

CruiseDiva.com has more Oasis of the Seas information:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cruise Ships Plug 'Em In

There is an old cruise director’s joke about a passenger who asked if the ship produced its own electrical power. Naturally the punch line involved a cord—a very long cord—but that power question is no longer a laughing matter. Of course ships at sea create their own electricity, but now they are able to do their part to curb air emissions by hooking up to shoreside power while in port.

Expanding its commitment to reduce air emissions and pollution, Princess Cruises will turn off its ships’ engines and instead use clean hydroelectric power supplied from ashore when calling at the Port of Vancouver during the upcoming 2009 summer cruise season. The innovative technology is being made possible through a partnership with several Canadian partners and sister company Holland America Line. Princess will use hydroelectric power from Vancouver’s grid instead of the ships’ diesel-powered engines to run all onboard services for its four ships docking at the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal during day-long turnaround calls. The new shore power installation is the very first use of this technology in Canada.

In addition, Holland America Line's ms Zuiderdam will become the fifth ship in Holland America Line’s fleet to use shore power when it homeports in Vancouver for its series of 7-day Alaska cruises during the 2009 season. Zuiderdam will join Oosterdam, Westerdam, Noordam, and Amsterdam, which have employed shore power in Seattle for Alaska cruise seasons since 2006.

Plug-in power isn’t new, but it’s relatively unheralded. Princess’ shore power program made history when it first began operations in Juneau, Alaska in the summer of 2001. It expanded to Seattle in summer 2005 and is planned to roll out in other ports that have made commitments to the technology. Currently nine of the line’s ships are outfitted with the capability to "plug in" to a shoreside power source, including Coral Princess, Dawn Princess, Diamond Princess, Golden Princess, Island Princess, Sapphire Princess, Sea Princess, Star Princess, and Sun Princess.

Other ports, such as San Diego, Los Angeles, and Civitavecchia, Italy (gateway to Rome), have or are working towards implementing shore power systems. In fact, the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners agreed last week to purchase a mobile unit that will allow cruise ships to plug into electrical generators at Berth 91 and a similar unit was purchased earlier this year for cruise ships docked at Berth 93. As ports come on line, Holland America Line plans to engineer additional ships in its fleet with the capability to use and purchase this power. Holland America’s newest ship, the Signature-class ms Eurodam, is partly outfitted for shore power and can have the final plug-in additions made quickly.

How does it work? Quite simply, after docking under their own power, cruise ships are hooked up to shore power and power generation is transferred back to the ship shortly before departure. Also known as "cold ironing," shore power uses electrical power transmitted from a landside transformer to the vessel via flexible electrical cables. The actual cable connection on a vessel is a traditional, though quite large, male/female plug and socket. The length of time needed to connect a ship to shore power and shut down the vessel’s diesel generator is approximately 40 minutes or less. Once connected, the ship’s engines are powered down and, simultaneously, the necessary amount of power, provided from shore is used to run the ship’s services while in port.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

NCL Goes Forward With Single "F3" Ship

Rumor and speculation have floated across the Atlantic recently about a spat between Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and shipbuilder STX France Cruise SA, STX Europe’s French shipyard (formerly known as Aker Yards ASA). Earlier this year it was speculated that work on NCL's F3 new ship project had ground to a halt. Then it was said to be cancelled and that the hull under construction was being shopped to other cruise lines. It looks like smooth sailing once again, though, as both companies issued a joint statement indicating they have reached an agreement and are moving forward with the construction of the F3 cruise ship project—but it won't be quite the same.

NCL and STX Europe have agreed to revise the original F3 order. STX France Cruise is now building only one F3 ship at 150,000-tons with a total of 4,200 passenger berths, representing the largest ship in NCL’s fleet. This will mean a continuation of the original hull which is currently in the early phases of construction, with delivery set for late May 2010, as originally scheduled. The planned second vessel, currently only in the preparatory stages, will not be built. Further terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“With this agreement, we can all focus on completing the new vessel successfully,” said Kevin Sheehan, NCL’s president and CEO. “We are looking forward to the arrival of our much-anticipated F3 ship as it represents a major step forward for NCL in terms of ship size, design and innovation.”

To date, information has only been revealed regarding F3’s unique staterooms and nightlife. While NCL plans to unveil the full F3 story in the near future, CruiseDiva.com has those topics covered:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cruise Travel: Did You Know?

Even when you're on vacation, the U.S. government is hard at work to safeguard the health of cruise travelers. By dispatching teams of Centers for Disease Control (CDC) inspectors to conduct regular operational sanitation inspections, the agency determines how well ships are operating and maintaining sanitation standards in accordance with the Vessel Sanitation Program. Inspectors provide public health guidance to cruise ship staff when standards are out of compliance and at the end of the inspection, write a report describing inspection findings and recommendations.

Conducted twice a year and required for any cruise ship with an international itinerary calling at a U.S. port, the unannounced inspections evaluate vessels in a variety of areas. Cruise ships are scored on a 100-point scale; when the criteria are not met, inspection points are deducted from the score based on their significance. An 85 or below is considered a failing score.

Depending on the size of the vessel, one to four inspectors will examine a ship to determine if it complies with the public health standards in major areas on board, including the following parts of the ship:
  • medical facilities: for gastrointestinal illness surveillance documentation and medical logs
  • potable water systems: for source to storage, distribution, protection and any cross-connection, and the disinfection process
  • swimming pools and whirlpool spas: for filtration, disinfection, general maintenance, and safety
  • galleys and dining rooms: for food protection during sourcing, provisioning, storage, preparation, and service
  • employee health and personal hygiene are evaluated as well as facility equipment maintenance and dishwashing
  • child activity centers: for properly equipped diaper changing stations, toilets, and handwashing stations
  • facility disinfection; infection control for ill children
  • hotel accommodations: for routine cleaning sequences and infection control procedures during outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness, including the use of appropriate disinfectants and outbreak policies
  • ventilation systems: for maintenance and cleaning of air handling systems; and
    common areas of the ship: for integrated pest management strategies, general cleanliness, and maintenance
At the conclusion of each inspection, CDC inspectors meet with ship management to discuss inspection violations and provide them with a draft report. Within 2 weeks of the inspection, CDC sends a final copy of the inspection report to the corresponding cruise line.

It isn't easy to be perfect, but Carnival Cruise Lines’ new 3,006-passenger Carnival Splendor received a 100 score during its most recent inspection in Fort Lauderdale, FL on Dec. 6th. In addition, four other Carnival ships earned scores of 99 during their respective inspections over the past few weeks. Carnival Splendor, the line’s newest ship, arrived in the U.S. Nov. 22nd and received perfect marks on all 42 items that comprise the comprehensive Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) checklist.

Cruise Diva keeps a close eye on the scores and publishes a table of them monthly. To see how your favorite ships scored, visit our CDC Inspection Scores for all ships inspected.

And don't forget, it's getting close to the dreaded annual "Norovirus Season" so remember to brush up on your handwashing skills before you board your next cruise ship. Not familiar with Noro? It's what some in the media call the "cruise ship disease." Here's what you need to know, Is Your Cruise Ship Sick?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

NCL to Port of Miami: Let's Stay Together

The year was 1966. A future Cruise Diva was graduating from high school and Norwegian Caribbean Line began offering a new vacation concept—one week Caribbean cruises from the then-obscure Port of Miami. How things have changed. Today, Norwegian Caribbean Line is known as Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and the Port of Miami is among America’s busiest sea ports and recognized throughout the world as the Cruise Capital of the World.

With all that history between them, it came as a surprise to learn there has never been a long-term agreement between the Port of Miami and NCL since the company began operating from the Port as the first Caribbean cruise line 42 years ago. That changed this week as the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners approved a 10-year berthing agreement with Norwegian Cruise Line. The agreement gives NCL priority access to two large-ship berths at Terminals B and C. In return, NCL will guarantee a minimum of $98 million in port fees over the term of the agreement. In addition, the Port is making a $10 million investment in upgrades to the terminals, including a new gangway and general improvements to make the guest experience more enjoyable and efficient. The agreement takes effect immediately and renovations to Terminals B and C are expected to continue throughout the next 12-18 months.

“With berthing space becoming increasingly scarce and our recent extension of Norwegian Sky’s deployment in Miami year-round, we are pleased to have reached this agreement with the Port of Miami to guarantee NCL access to some of the last remaining large ship berths,” said Kevin Sheehan, NCL’s president and CEO. “The Port of Miami has been a long-term partner of ours and we see the Port as a vital part of our future.”

From 1966 to today... Oh yes, I've given away my age. Cruise Diva's not a young chick anymore. However, NCL has one of the youngest fleets of cruise ships at sea. For a profile of Norwegian Cruise Line, visit CruiseDiva.com.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cruises Go Global

You're probably thinking the "headline" above is pretty obvious—cruise ships have been circling the globe for decades. There are more World Cruises to choose from today than ever before. However, that's not what I mean. In terms of cruise vacations, Americans often think of themselves as the center of the universe. No offense, but we're not the only ones cruising the oceans. The greatest explorers in history were Europeans and, once again, Europeans are going to sea in growing numbers. No longer do the European fleets consist of aging liners and cruise ships past their prime—their ships are now every bit as fabulous as those Americans are accustomed to. Some are even more so!

While European fleets are growing as citizens there discover the pleasures of cruise travel, the announcement by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines that they are opening not one, but two, offices in China highlights the growing importance of the China marketplace and its role in the company's international growth strategy.

Don't overlook the Middle East, either. It's not a long flight from most of Europe and the destinations are appealing and warm. With Royal Caribbean Intl’s Brilliance of the Seas homeporting in Dubai from Jan 2010, there will be at least four ships offering Arabian Gulf itineraries during next winter’s season with more on the way. In fact, Costa Cruises, Italy and Europe's number one cruise line, just announced yesterday that it will position the new 92,700-ton Costa Luminosa (2,260 double occupancy capacity) in Dubai for the 2009-2010 winter cruise season in addition to fleetmates, Costa Classica and Costa Victoria. German cruise line AIDA Cruises will almost double its cruise capacity there with the deployment of the AIDAdiva, the largest ship in the AIDA fleet.

With the Caribbean on our doorstep, we Americans don't have to worry about the cruise lines sailing off and deserting us for calmer seas. Yet, we might want to consider looking to the horizon and some unique opportunities in the future. Although not all worldwide cruises are marketed here at home, some itineraries are available to book that offer the chance to meet fellow international travelers if we are willing to get out of our comfort zone. The on board vibe will be different—even the food, currency, and language might be foreign to us—but such a cruise could be the experience of a lifetime.

For details on the items referenced above, as well as other up-to-date cruise industry news releases, check CruiseDiva.com's daily Cruise News.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Belated Birthday, Queen Victoria


It's been a little over a year, yet it seems like just yesterday when I arrived in the UK to meet a Queen.

December 11th marked the completion of Queen Victoria’s first year in service since Cunard’s newest Queen embarked on her Maiden Voyage last year—a day after being named by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall with HRH The Prince of Wales in attendance. Since then Queen Victoria has sailed 111,828 miles, made 222 port calls and carried 54,827 guests, many of whom enjoyed the experience so much that they have travelled several times with the ship already. She spent her first birthday in her home port of Southampton before heading to the Caribbean for Christmas.

Queen Victoria has also become one of the most celebrated ships to be introduced in recent years and has quickly established herself in the Cunard fleet continuing the line’s traditions established nearly 170 years ago. In 2009 Queen Victoria will sail her second World Cruise and then be based in her home port of Southampton with voyages to the Mediterranean, the Baltic and an inaugural 24-night voyage to Canada and New England.

While she is the second largest Cunarder ever built (after the line’s flagship Queen Mary 2), Queen Victoria is not about size superlatives—she is about style. Take a look back at the splendid "berth" of Queen Victoria when Cruise Diva traveled to Southampton to meet Cunard Line's Newest Royal.

More Related Articles:
From Cruise Diva's Blog Archive:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cunard Line: Then & Now

While enjoying a recent transatlantic crossing aboard Queen Mary 2, author and travel writer Robert Bone remembered that he and Cunard Line go way back—in fact, more than 50 years.

In the days before stabilizers, Bone reminisces, "I sailed from New York City to England aboard a smoky, coal-burning 35-year-old Cunard ship named the RMS Scythia. Comfort was minimal, and though it took nine days to sail to Liverpool, I loved every minute of it. Truly, I wished it had taken longer."

Take a look at how Cunard played a crucial role in shaping a young American's life and what's changed at sea aboard Cunard liners since 1957. Illustrated by his personal photos, CruiseDiva.com is proud to share the story of Bone's observations in Cunard Line: Then and Now.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Get Your "Cruise Stimulus" from Holland America Line


With the economy in the doldrums and the federal government looking for ways to bail out industries, Holland America Line is offering a novel way to encourage a commitment to cruising during the coming year by unveiling its Vacation Stimulus Plan. Just in time for "Wave Season," not only will you as a passenger get a good deal, your travel agent will be rewarded as well.

“There’s never been a better time to get more, pay less and sail away from it all,” says Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. “And the return on investment is guaranteed. Plus, travel sellers have great opportunities to earn commissions, win cruise prizes and enhance groups with increased tour conductor credits.”

To boost cruise sales, the six-point agent plan encompasses (1) unprecedented low fares, (2) deposits reduced by 50% on cruises and cruisetours departing on or after May 1, 2009, (3) a 25% savings on standard Cancellation Protection Plan on cruises and cruisetours departing on or after May 1, 2009, (4) suspended fuel supplements for cruises departing on or after Dec. 17, 2008, (5) exclusive cruise prizes for booking by Feb. 28, 2009, and (6) increased tour conductor credits on select sailings in 2009.

“Our message is to buy low and live high. With great fares, reduced deposits and a lower fee to protect the cost of a vacation, there really has never been a better time to cruise with Holland America Line,” added Meadows. “Vacationers are increasingly looking for best values, and Holland America Line’s Vacation Stimulus Plan provides a number of extra features and benefits.”

Vacation Stimulus Plan Elements

  • Unprecedented Low Fares: Tremendous values are available on most itineraries worldwide, including the current View and Verandah Cruise sale Promotion that offers outside and verandah staterooms at terrific values. Guests can enjoy an upgrade from an inside stateroom to an outside stateroom for as little as $50 or upgrade from an outside stateroom to verandah accommodations from just $100. Lead fares for the View & Verandah promotion start at $499 for 7-day Alaska cruises, $549 for 7-day Caribbean sailing, and $999 for 12-day Europe and Panama Canal voyages. There are savings to exotic destinations, like $999 for 16-day South America cruises, $899 for 14-day Australia/New Zealand cruises, and $1,299 for 16-day Southeast Asia sailings. On select sailings, third and fourths in staterooms are as little as $99 per person. Taxes are additional on all per person cruise fares.

  • Reduced Deposit: For a limited time, Holland America Line has reduced the deposit requirements by 50% on all cruises and Alaska cruisetours departing on or after May 1, 2009. For example a $350 per-person deposit required on most seven-day cruises is reduced to $175. Reduced deposits apply to group bookings as well.

  • Cancellation Protection Savings: The Vacation Stimulus Plan also offers a 25% savings on the popular standard Cancellation Protection Plan when purchased with a new booking for departures on or after May 1, 2009. Cancellation Protection Plan covers a portion of the cost of a cruise fare in the event of cancellation by the guest for any reason.

  • Fuel Supplement Suspended: In addition, Holland America Line has suspended the $9 per guest per day fuel supplement for departures on or after Dec. 17, 2008.

  • Increased Tour Conductor Credits on Select Cruises: Several sailings in 2009 will also offer tour conductor credits at one for 10 guests booked or one for 12 instead of the standard 1 for 15 policy. Almost every cruise destination is represented in these selected departures.

  • View & Verandah Cruise Prize Drawing for Agents: Once agents register at the View and Verandah promotional webpage, every booking made through Feb. 28, 2009, enters them to win one of three Holland America Line cruises.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Silversea's Silver Wind Completes Multi-Million Dollar Transformation

Silversea Cruises has just put the finishing touches on a multi-million dollar renovation of Silver Wind, involving virtually every aspect of the ultra-luxury ship. Undertaken over the past month during a dry dock at the San Giorgio shipyard in Genoa, Italy, the comprehensive refurbishment of Silver Wind sets a visionary course for the future with a refreshed décor embodying a sophisticated contemporary style that is warm and inviting with touches of natural cherry wood, russet and golden tones. A centerpiece of the project was the addition of an Observation Lounge (seating 60 guests), Spa, Beauty Salon and Fitness Center on the forward section of Deck 9, altering the ship's exterior appearance with floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the new space. A new two-floor, glass-enclosed elevator was also installed connecting Decks 8 and 9.

"We're delighted with the results of this major renovation," said Amerigo Perasso, Silversea's president and CEO. "Silver Wind has a refreshed look and feel, yet the ship retains her elegance and charm throughout. The company has made an important investment to bring this vessel in line with the style and design themes that are planned for our new ship, Silver Spirit, currently under construction. With these enhancements, our guests are sure to enjoy a renewed sense of luxury and comfort aboard Silver Wind." Perasso added, "Despite the challenging economic environment, our company is showing a strong commitment with this important investment. This is clearly a difficult and unpredictable time and while our business is not immune, we have the strength of our assets, brand and management team that position us well in the long term."

SUITE ENHANCEMENTS: Accommodating 298 guests, Silver Wind's 149 ocean-view suites range in size from 240 to 1,314 square feet, with 80% now featuring a private veranda. Suite modifications include:
* Four of the always-in-demand Silver Suites added on Deck 8.
* One Owner's Suite with a connecting second-bedroom suite added on Deck 7.
* One Medallion Suite added on Deck 7.
* One Vista Suite added on Deck 7.
* Fixed queen beds in larger suites have been replaced with convertible twin-to-queen beds.
* Custom-built TV cabinets added to all Vista and Veranda Suites.
* New flat screen TVs.
* New sofa, armchair, desk, vanity, night tables and headboard.
* New carpets, drapes and bed coverings.
* Updated bathroom fixtures and bathtubs, including new marble countertops, walls and flooring.

THE SPA: The new Spa, which encompasses the Beauty Salon and Fitness Center, occupies over 650 additional square feet (60 square meters) following the renovation. The expanded Spa features an inviting reception area, four massage rooms, one body treatment room, one dry sauna and one steam sauna. The new Fitness Center includes a body-building room and separate aerobics room, both offering spectacular panoramic ocean views.

Other ship enhancements include new upholstery, curtains, wall treatments, carpets and/or flooring in the restaurants, public lounges, lobbies, stairs and corridors.

The first guests to experience the Silver Wind enhancements are sailing on a Dec 2, Las Palmas-to-Cape Town cruise, an exotic 18-day voyage calling in the Cape Verde Islands, Dakar, Banjul, Bom Bom Island and Walvis Bay. And Cruise Diva won't be far behind... we'll join Silver Wind on Jan 13, 2009 in Cape Town to call on Port Elizabeth, Durban, and Richards Bay, and will debark a week later in Maputo, Mozambique. We hope you'll join us here on the Cruise Diva blog for our daily adventures.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Global Explorer Lets Crystal Guests Fine-Tune Online Tour Searches

Crystal Cruises is introducing a dynamic new online feature to help travelers select the Crystal Adventure that suits them best. Via a user-friendly search window and dozens of icons to assist in customizing searches, the Crystal Global Explorer classifies each Crystal Adventures shore excursion by Activity Type (from archaeology to zip-lining), Activity Level (from soft to extreme adventure) and Age Appropriateness (beginning at age 3 & above). The Crystal Global Explorer will be available for booking Crystal Adventures on 2009 itineraries under the Shore Excursions Pre-Reservation section of Crystal Cruises' website.

"The Global Explorer provides guests with the freedom to easily locate the Crystal Adventure that best meets their specific needs and desires," said John Stoll, director, land programs. "The excursions are categorized in a way that allows guests to efficiently 'explore' by voyage, destination or activity in any port. It's an invaluable tool for families with children, multiple generations, or travelers seeking active and more daring excursions."

How it works:
-- Guests click on the Crystal Adventures logo on the Crystal website, which guides them to the Shore Excursions Pre-Reservations section.
-- They then choose a specific category to narrow their search results for the excursions of their choice. Excursions with that category's icon are listed by port.
-- When the guest clicks the mouse over "Walking Level," "Activity Type," "Activity Level" or "Age Appropriateness" excursion categories, the description appears in a pop-up window.

The line's Crystal Adventures, of which there are more than 1,500, feature more than three dozen categories, including hot-air ballooning, historical sites/UNESCO, river rafting, horseback riding, wine and spirits tastings, golf, 4x4 off-road, art and architecture, and more. In 2009, the Crystal Global Explorer will be available with Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity excursions in the Mediterranean, Baltic, Middle East, Panama Canal, New England/Canada, North Cape and South America.

Guests who wish to further customize their experiences ashore can take advantage of Crystal Private Adventures, allowing them to create specially tailored excursions that suit their needs. For more information, visit the line's website, www.crystalcruises.com.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Princess Passengers Pick Favorite Caribbean Excursions

When your cruise ship docks in ports of call you have a limited time ashore and want to make the most of it. What's the best way to do that? Princess Cruises is once again recognizing the important role local tour operators play in the overall cruise experience by announcing the winners of its 2007-08 C.R.U.I.S.E. service awards for the Caribbean. The 10th annual awards honor passenger choices for best tours of the season plus favorite tour guides in many of the ports where Princess ships call.

A number of tours have topped the list for several years, and one--the Americas Cup 12-Metre Yacht Regatta tour in St. Maarten--has now been voted 'Shore Excursion of the Season' for the 10th year in a row.

C.R.U.I.S.E. service award winners are determined primarily through positive feedback on passenger surveys, and the awards are presented to both tour companies and individual guides from Princess' extensive line-up of more than 800 shore excursion options throughout the Caribbean.

"Because we place such a great emphasis on high service levels, we feel it's important to recognize those local tour operators who do a great job of continuing Princess' commitment to service when our passengers are in port," said Steve Nielsen, Princess' vice president of Caribbean and Atlantic shore operations. "These local guides and companies are ambassadors for both Princess and their respective destinations."

Begun in 1999 as part of Princess' C.R.U.I.S.E. (Courtesy, Respect, Unfailing In Service Excellence) customer service program, these tour operator awards cap off a season-long effort to recognize the role that local tour partners play in passengers' cruise experiences. Tour Guide of the Season award winners receive $100, a letter of commendation, a ship tour and lunch onboard with their family, a specially designed C.R.U.I.S.E. pin. Operators of the Shore Excursion of the Season receive a plaque and a letter of commendation, a tour of the ship, and lunch onboard for company officials. Winning tours will also be highlighted in next year's shore excursion booklet. A full list of winners is below:

ANTIGUA, Antigua and Barbuda
High Volume Tour of the Season: Pirates of Antigua: The Black Swan, Coral Island
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Circle Antigua by Sea, Tropical Adventures

ARUBA
High Volume Tour of the Season: Atlantis Submarine Expedition, Atlantis Adventures
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Aruba Countryside Horseback Ride, DePalm Tours

BARBADOS
High Volume Tour of the Season: Tiami Five-Star Catamaran & Turtle Encounter, Tiami Cruises, Ltd
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Barbados In-Focus Photography Tour, Foster & Ince
Tour Guide of the Season: Ronnie Carrington, Foster & Ince

BEQUIA, Grenadines
Tour of the Season: Bequia Sail, Snorkel & Beach, Corea & Co.

BONAIRE, Netherlands Antilles
High Volume Tour of the Season: Samur Sail & Snorkel, Bonaire Destination Service
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Bonaire Land Sailing, Bonaire Tours

CARTAGENA, Columbia
Tour of the Season: Panoramic Cartagena, Folkloric Show & Shopping, Seico
Tour Guide of the Season: Pedro Bossio, Aviatur

COZUMEL, Mexico
High Volume Tour of the Season: Coba Mayan Ruins, Turismo Aviomar
Low Volume Tours of the Season: Cozumel Segway Adventure, Sunshine Tours; Dolphin Swim, Dolphin Discovery
Tour Guide of the Season: Alan Ceballos, Sunshine Tours

CURACAO, Netherlands Antilles
High Volume Tour of the Season: Curacao See & Sea Tour, Atlantis Adventures
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Culinary Delights of Curacao, Funbini

DOMINICA
High Volume Tour of the Season: Rainforest Aerial Tram & Trafalger Falls with Lunch, Rainforest Aerial Tram
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Dominica River Tubing Excursion, Fun Sun Inc.
Tour Guide of the Season: Jemimah Fevrier, Wrave LTD

GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands
High Volume Tour of the Season: Allura Catamaran Sail to Stingray Sandbar, Nautilus
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Sea Trek Coral Canyon Helmet Dive, Sea Trek Cayman
Tour Guide of the Season: Phillip Cassingham, Sea Trek Cayman

GRAND TURK, Turks & Caicos Islands
High Volume Tour of the Season: Chukka Beach Horseback Ride & Swim, Chukka Caribbean Adventures
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Gibb's Cay Beach & Stingray Encounter, Oasis Divers

GRENADA
High Volume Tour of the Season: Grenada River Tubing, G.F. Huggins
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Five-Star Sail, Snorkel & Beach, Best of Grenada

HUATULCO, Mexico
Tour of the Season: Rural Communities & Traditions, Turismo Nautico

ISLA MARGARITA, Venezuela
High Volume Tour of the Season: Fiesta Party Bus Across the Island, Novel Tours S.A.
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Dolphin Encounter & Sea Lion Swim, Skylimit Travel

LIMON, Costa Rica
High Volume Tour of the Season: Original Canopy Tour Limon, Original Canopy Tour
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Golden Bean Coffee Tour, TAM Travel
Tour Guide of the Season: Eric Picado, Swiss Travel

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica
High Volume Tour of the Season: Croydon Plantation, World Tours
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Chukka Horseback Ride 'n' Swim, Chukka Caribbean Adventures

OCHO RIOS, Jamaica
High Volume Tour of the Season: Ocho Rios Highlights & Dunn's River Falls, World Tours
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Chukka 4WD Safari, Chukka Caribbean Adventures
Tour Guide of the Season: Gary Dalling, Chukka Caribbean Adventures

PANAMA CANAL
High Volume Tour of the Season: The Panama Canal Experience by Boat, Aventuras 2000
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Authentic Embera Indian Village, Shorex Panama
Tour Guide of the Season: Jeronimo Welch, Aventuras 2000

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago
Tour of the Season: Port of Spain Highlights & Angostura Distillery, Trinidad and Tobago Sightseeing

PUERTO QUETZAL, Guatemala
High Volume Tour of the Season: Colonial Antigua, Kim' Arrin
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Filadelfia Coffee Estate & Colonial Antigua with Lunch, GreyLine Tours

PUNTARENAS, Costa Rica
High Volume Tour of the Season: Costa Rica's Favorites, Elite Eco Tours
Low Volume Tours of the Season: The Original Canopy Tour at Mahogany Park, Original Canopy Tour; Scarlet Macaw Sanctuary & Mangrove Boat Tour, TAM Travel
Tour Guide of the Season: Porfirio Hidalgo, Swiss Travel

ST. KITTS, St. Kitts & Nevis
High Volume Tour of the Season: St. Kitts Scenic Railway, St. Kitts Railway,LTD.
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Nevis Sail Away, Kantours

ST. LUCIA
High Volume Tour of the Season: St. Lucia Tranopy Adventure, Rain Forest Sky Rides
Low Volume Tour of the Season: 4X4 Safari & Waterfall Adventure, J.A.G. Inc.
Tour Guide of the Season: Showane Williams, J.A.G. INC

ST. MAARTEN, Netherlands Antilles
High Volume Tour of the Season: St. Maarten "America's Cup 12-Metre Yacht" Regatta, 12-Metre Enterprises N.V.
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Explorer Cruise to Marigot & Island Drive, Eagle Tours
Tour Guide of the Season: Hopeton Morgan, 12 Metre Ent, N.V.

ST. THOMAS, US Virgin Islands
High Volume Tour of the Season: Turtle Cove Sail & Snorkel Adventure, Fun Water Tours
Low Volume Tour of the Season: BOSS Underwater Adventure, Aqua Adventures
Tour Guide of the Season: Becca Lee, Fun Water Tours

TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands
High Volume Tour of the Season: The "Baths" at Virgin Gorda, Romney Associates
Low Volume Tour of the Season: Dolphin Swim, Romney Associates

VIRGIN GORDA, British Virgin Islands
High Volume Tour of the Season: Virgin Gorda Sail & Snorkel, Romney Associates


Photo: Princess Cays

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New: Noordam Cruise Review

Yesterday we pointed you to a trio of cruise reviews and today we have another. This one deserves its own blog entry... veteran cruiser Ed Schlenk shares a comprehensive look at Holland America Line's Noordam and a Southern Caribbean itinerary with a link to some of the best cruise photos we've seen in a long time.

Remember, there are hundreds of reviews on CruiseDiva.com. Find the ship you're interested in by cruise line, or in the alphabetic indexes. If you'd like to submit a review of your next cruise, drop me an email at linda@cruisediva.com. Include the text of your review in the body of the email and watch for it online in a few days.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New Cruise Reviews!

Where would you like to go on your next cruise? It helps to know what other cruisers think of the ship and itinerary you may be considering. In the trio of new readers' cruise reviews featured on CruiseDiva.com, our contributors explore the east and west coasts of sunny Mexico and take us to Alaska for one of the final voyages of the season.

Join Tara Jacobs aboard a Mexican Riviera cruise on Sapphire Princess, Michael Cornett on Carnival Sensation from Mobile to Cozumel, and hop on a late season Ryndam Alaska Inside Passage cruise with Patrick and Harriette Regan.

There are hundreds of reviews on CruiseDiva.com. Find the ship you're interested in by cruise line, or in the alphabetic indexes. If you'd like to submit a review of your next cruise, drop me an email at linda@cruisediva.com. Include the text of your review in the body of the email and watch for it online in a few days.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fuel Supplement Charges to be Removed From Oceania Cruises & Regent Seven Seas Cruises 2009 Voyages

Prestige Cruise Holdings, parent company of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, has announced that fuel supplement charges will be eliminated from all voyages departing in 2009. PCH had previously announced that fuel supplement charges for 2010 voyages would be eliminated effective November 10, 2008.

Frank Del Rio, chairman of Prestige Cruise Holdings, stated that the company was eliminating these charges due to the dramatic decrease in the price of crude oil. “As the price of oil has tumbled into the low $40 range, we can now eliminate the fuel surcharge on all 2009 voyages and as long as the price remains below $65 per barrel, we are confident that we will not require a surcharge in the future,” he added.The fuel supplement charge will be removed from reservations for all 2009 voyages at the time of final payment. Guests who have already paid in full for their 2009 voyage will be issued a shipboard credit equal to the fuel supplement charge they were assessed.

Prestige Cruise Holdings will continue to monitor the price of fuel and retains the right to reinstate the fuel supplement charge at any time should market conditions warrant.

Starting TODAY, Save on an Array of Summer 2009 Cruises Aboard Seabourn

The Yachts of Seabourn has announced a one-week sale of selected voyages in Europe. The promotion offers savings of 60 percent off the brochure fares for seven voyages of seven to 14 days aboard the intimate Seabourn Pride, Spirit, and Legend between April and August of 2009. To qualify, bookings must be made from Monday, Dec 8 until close of business on Monday Dec 15, 2008.

The offer, which is in lieu of any other promotional offer or savings, is valid for new bookings on voyages in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, and features lead-in fares from $2,840 per person, based on double occupancy of a 277-square foot ocean-view suite. The special sale savings are valid for all categories of suites.

The list of included voyages is:

Seabourn Legend
June 20, 2009 Cote D’Azur & Spanish Isles Monte Carlo to Barcelona – 7 days
July 11, 2009 Sardinia, Corsica & Cote D’Azur Rome to Monte Carlo – 7 days

Seabourn Spirit
June 20, July 11, or August 1, 2009 Italian Idyll Venice to Rome - 7 days

Seabourn Pride
April 14, 2009 Mediterranean Panorama Athens to Lisbon – 14 days
August 20, 2009 Norwegian Fjords Round Trip Copenhagen – 9 days

For details, or to take advantage of this special one-week sale, contact your travel agent, call Seabourn at 1-800-929-9391 or visit their web site.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

CLIA Speaks Out About Pirates

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which is dedicated to the promotion and growth of the cruise industry, has issued the following statement regarding piracy and cruise ships:
While piracy involving cruise ships at sea is extraordinarily rare, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and its members take this issue very seriously and are in close consultation with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and others to ensure the safety of their passengers and crew. Fortunately, in the recent incident involving Oceania's Nautica due to crew alertness and security protocols executed by its trained and professional crew, the Oceania Nautica kept the incident involving two small boats from escalating into a more serious situation. As Oceania Cruises has stated, no one was hurt and the ship has maintained its voyage.

CLIA members that have ships scheduled to traverse the Gulf of Aden operate within the prescribed Maritime Safety Protection Area, which is patrolled by international anti-piracy task forces. They also follow international guidelines concerning regular contact with military forces patrolling the Gulf, speed, maneuvering, and enhanced lookouts. All CLIA members have thorough security protocols in place including anti-piracy measures that help to ensure the safety of their passengers and crew while they enjoy a cruise vacation.

Additionally, CLIA members maintain an extensive network of intelligence gathering among government and private sources. Based upon this monitoring, our industry is constantly assessing this information and any potential risks for member lines.

Working closely with the IMO and others, CLIA members will continue to evaluate measures that would be appropriate in regards to the Gulf of Aden. Piracy is an issue of global security that ultimately requires a coordinated approach not only of the IMO and the cruise line industry, but other international bodies, states, and
industries to address through enhanced coordination and effective actions.

CLIA is composed of 24 of the major cruise lines serving North America and is an organization that operates pursuant to an agreement filed with the Federal Maritime Commission under the Shipping Act of 1984 and serves as a non-governmental consultative organization to the International Maritime Organization, an agency of the United Nations.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Suspends Fuel Supplement

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has announced the suspension of its fuel supplement for Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises sailings that depart on or after Jan 1, 2009, anywhere in the world. The decision reflects the recently sustained lower price of fuel.

Effective Monday, Dec 8, guests making new bookings for sailings that depart on or after Jan 1, 2009, will not be charged the fuel supplement. Guests already booked on sailings that depart on or after Jan 1, 2009, will receive a refund of any fuel supplement paid, as follows:
  • Guests with existing bookings for sailings that depart on or after Jan 1, 2009, and who are now paid in full, will have the supplement automatically refunded to them in the form of an onboard credit during their sailing.
  • Guests with existing bookings for sailings that depart on or after Jan 1, 2009, and who are not yet paid in full, will have the supplement automatically removed from their outstanding balance.

The company reserves the right to reinstate fuel supplement charges if the price of West Texas Intermediate fuel exceeded $65 per barrel, on the quarterly milestone dates mentioned in the company's Oct 24, 2008, press release. The company announced on Oct 24, 2008, that no fuel supplement would be charged for new bookings made on or after Nov 10, 2008, for sailings that depart on or after Jan 1, 2010, unless there is an upturn in fuel prices. This announcement does not affect those previous terms.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is a global cruise vacation company that operates Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Pullmantur, Azamara Cruises and CDF Croisieres de France. The company has a combined total of 38 ships in service and six under construction.

NCL Extends Norwegian Sky's Deployment in Miami

Building on the successful launch of Norwegian Sky in the 3- and 4-day market, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) today announced it has extended the Freestyle Cruising ship’s deployment from Miami, sailing 3- and 4-day Bahamas cruises, through April 16, 2010. Norwegian Sky sailings from April 20, 2009 through April 16, 2010 go on sale today. To celebrate the ship’s continued deployment, NCL is offering a special promotional offer of $199 per person (double occupancy) and $49 per person for third and fourth guests in the same stateroom with up to a four category upgrade for reservations made today through December 31, 2008.

“The return of Norwegian Sky to the short cruise market has proved to be very successful for us,” said Kevin Sheehan, NCL’s president and CEO. “Norwegian Sky is attracting many first time cruisers and experienced cruisers alike who sample Freestyle Cruising and love it. She is the highest quality ship and best value for money in the market, providing guests with a quick and relaxing getaway without schedules or set dining times.”

The 2,002-passenger Norwegian Sky sails 4-day Bahamas cruises on Mondays with full-day stops in Grand Bahama Island, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island in the Bahamas. On Fridays, the ship sails a weekend getaway 3-day Bahamas itinerary, departing Miami at 5 p.m. with all-day stops in Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, returning to Miami at 7 a.m. on Monday mornings.

Norwegian Sky has more than 240 balcony staterooms, a choice of six different restaurants, 10 bars and lounges, multiple entertainment venues, two pools, extensive children's and teen facilities, a sports deck and a variety of spacious public rooms. Norwegian Sky also features NCL’s Freestyle 2.0 enhancements which include a major investment in the total dining experience such as all new menus and Lobster Galore; upgraded stateroom experiences including the Bliss Bed by NCL; new wide ranging on-board activities for all guests; and additional recognition, service and amenities for balcony and suite guests. For further information on NCL, visit NCL.com or contact NCL in the U.S. and Canada at (866) 234-0292.

Get insight into Norwegian Cruise Line voyages at CruiseDiva.com.

Friday, December 5, 2008

NCL Suspends Fuel Supplement

In response to the current continued decline of fuel prices, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) announced today that it is suspending the company’s fuel supplement effective immediately for all voyages departing in 2009. NCL will refund the fuel supplement in the form of an on-board credit for all 2009 bookings within the final payment period. All existing 2009 bookings outside of the final payment period will be adjusted to remove the fuel supplement and NCL will revise the final payment amount."

Global fuel prices have dropped to a level where we can now suspend the fuel supplement, making an NCL Freestyle Cruising vacation an even greater value,” said Andy Stuart, NCL’s executive vice president, global sales and passenger services.

NCL will continue to closely monitor global fuel prices to assess whether a reinstatement of the fuel supplement will be necessary in the future. The company reserves the right to re-instate the fuel supplement for all guests should the price of light sweet crude oil according to the NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange Index) increase above $65 per barrel. For further information on NCL, visit www.ncl.com or contact NCL in the U.S. and Canada at (866) 234-0292.

Carnival Corp Suspending Fuel Supplement for Its North American Brands Effective Dec. 17

As fuel prices continue to decline, Carnival Corporation has announced that it will suspend fuel supplements for its six North American brands effective for all voyages departing on or after Dec 17, 2008. The fuel supplement suspension applies to the following brands: Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and The Yachts of Seabourn.

A refund of the fuel supplement will be made in the form of a shipboard credit for all bookings within the final payment period for departures on or after Dec 17, 2008. All bookings outside of the final payment period for departures on or after Dec 17, 2008 will be adjusted to remove the fuel supplement and guests will be provided with a revised final payment amount.

"As the price of oil has dropped to $46 per barrel, it has now reached a level where we are able to suspend the fuel supplement," said Bill Harber, director of marketing for Carnival Corp. Harber cautioned that the fuel supplement could be re-instated if oil prices increase significantly.
The company reserves the right to re-instate the fuel supplement for all guests at up to $9 per person per day (except Seabourn, which would be up to $15 per person per day) should the price of light sweet crude oil according to the NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange Index) increase above $70 per barrel.

"It is our hope that fuel prices have stabilized and will remain at a more rational level. The complete suspension of the fuel supplement makes the inherent value of a cruise even greater and that is increasingly important in the selection of a vacation in the current economic climate," Harber added.

The fuel supplement for five of the six Carnival Corp brands is currently $9 per person per day for the first and second guest (not to exceed $126 per person per voyage) and $4 per person per day for third, fourth and fifth guests (not to exceed $56 per person per voyage). Seabourn's fuel supplement is $15 per person per day for the first and second guest (not to exceed $210 per person per voyage) and $4 per person per day for third and fourth guests (not to exceed $56 per person per voyage).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pride of America Crew Shares Holiday Cheer Across The Sea

Pride of America crew members recently spread holiday cheer across the seas by donating more than 1,000 pounds of shoes, food, clothes, school supplies, and toys to impoverished children at an elementary school in the southern Philippines.

Crew members Georgelette Jimenez and Justin Legendre from the Philippines who regularly sent money to the children of Teodoro Dator Elementary School in Laguna, Philippines wanted to expand their generosity this holiday season and enlisted the support of their shipboard colleagues. A very kind donation came from the ship’s port and cruise consultant, Linda Scott, who not only gave money, but her time when she realized what an impact the entire crew could make on the school. Scott, along with Kyle Craig, the ship’s crew activities coordinator, moved into action and started to pull together a donation effort. A 24-hour donation box was set up in the crew mess and was filled every two days for the entire month of October. The outpouring of generosity was incredible and by early November, the crew from Pride of America had enough donations to fill an entire moving van.

“In the U.S. we tend to worry about how healthy our school lunches are or if the books are new enough, but in this area of the Philippines they worry about children having enough to eat, clothes on their backs or shoes on their feet,” said Georgelette Jimenez, Pride of America’s officer utility. “These donations were just one way we could assure these children had a special holiday.”

The shipment is expected to arrive at the elementary school just in time for the holidays.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Book Your Cruise Now

Even though the cruise industry's "Wave" season is still officially a few weeks away, judging by the bargain fare offers arriving in our email box lately, it's clear that cruise lines are looking for our business now.

With the economy in a slump, fares are dropping to levels we haven't seen since the period following 9/11. When you can get $1,500, $1,000, or $750 per person* off nearly all 11-day Baltic and 12-day Mediterranean cruises, and half that off most shorter European sailings on Crystal Cruises' Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity next summer, even a luxury cruise may fit into your vacation budget.

And, with that kind of savings on a luxury ship, you can count on mainstream cruise lines to be an even better bargain. Going on a cruise for the holidays could be cheaper than staying home and there are even bargains left for Christmas and New Year's sailings this month.

Get a fare quote from CruiseCompete.com and see what we mean.

* Savings apply to Penthouse accommodations, verandah staterooms, and deluxe staterooms, respectively.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Princess Ships Prepare for a Festive Holiday Season

As the air outside grows decidedly chilly and winter holidays draw near, Princess ships are preparing for another festive season at sea, and weather conditions are again pointing to unusual snow flurries on board. After an extremely popular debut last year, snow will again magically fall in the ship’s atriums, transforming the vessels into a winter wonderland throughout December. The innovative snow-making process creates falling flakes that vanish on contact, allowing passengers enjoy the excitement of snow flurries without the need to bundle up. Princess’ daily snowfall will occur on all ships except for the lines’ three small vessels – Pacific Princess, Tahitian Princess and Royal Princess – which do not have large, multi-story atriums.

Even when the snow isn’t coming down, Princess ships will feature a merry atmosphere. Vessels are decked out in holiday décor – even including a Christmas tree on the vessels’ masts – and strolling carolers fill the air with the sounds of the season.

Special events include:
  • A reading of “The Night Before Christmas” by either the captain or cruise director, and a holiday variety show adds a seasonal element to the ship’s entertainment offerings. For those who can’t get enough of Christmas carols, the ships’ Princess Pop Star talent show will feature a holiday edition where competitors can croon their favorite seasonal songs.
  • Passengers can once again participate in a “gingerbread challenge,” where teams test their holiday housebuilding skills in a fun-filled competition to construct the most creative gingerbread structure. Or they can test their holiday craft skills by creating a personalized photo ornament. And new this year is a turkey-carving demonstration from the onboard culinary experts to prepare passengers to do the honors at their next holiday feast.
  • Religious services are held as well, and passengers can attend midnight mass or an inter-denominational church service performed by onboard clergy. Passengers will receive a stocking turn down gift and can enjoy classic holiday films or even relax in front of a traditional burning Yule log … on their stateroom television!
  • Holiday Feasts – Each Princess ship’s culinary team will delight the senses with spectacular holiday displays and will serve up several delicious feasts. A sumptuous Christmas brunch includes complimentary eggnog. On Christmas Day, passengers will sit down to a dinner of traditional holiday fare including roast turkey and all the trimmings. Freshly prepared stolen and Christmas cookies (even some for Santa) round out the seasonal treats.
  • Christmas For Children – Junior cruisers can count down to the big day with special holiday activities. Santa Claus makes an appearance with his sack full of toys, and a fun-filled holiday fair in the atrium offers youngsters the opportunity to try their hand at Christmas cookie decorating, balloon making, face painting, games and other competitions. The youth centers will host holiday parties for each age group, and kids can make decorations to display on the center’s Christmas tree. Youngsters can get creative with other holiday-themed arts and crafts projects throughout the cruise, and they will have an opportunity to sing Christmas carols for passengers. For parents who want to stay up later to celebrate the holidays, free late-night group kid sitting sessions will be available on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
  • Hanukkah – Ships will also offer festivities for passengers celebrating the Festival of Lights. A special area of the ship is reserved for those participating in Hanukkah events and ships will display menorahs and fresh flower arrangements decorated in blue, silver and white. Children will enjoy themed arts and crafts pertinent to the holiday.
  • Happy New Year – Passengers will ring in a fun-filled 2009 with festive New Year's Eve parties, complete with music, confetti, noise-makers and a balloon drop to count down to the new year. Earlier in the evening, the dinner menu will feature special treats just for New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day, football fans will be pleased to know they won’t miss the holiday’s traditional college bowl games, as the telecasts will be shown (as available by satellite) in a shipboard lounge or on some vessels’ giant Movies Under the Stars top-deck screen.
The 17-ship Princess fleet will cover the globe this holiday season, with sailings to the Caribbean, Mexico, the Panama Canal, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, South America, Hawaii and the South Pacific. Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company's website at Princess.com.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Carnival Launches "Funville" On The Web

Carnival Cruise Lines has rolled out the new “Funville” Web experience designed to evoke the line’s unique brand of “fun,” with images and video from recent Guinness World Record achievements for the world’s largest beach ball and piñata, on-line games, and a series of videos featuring the line’s signature towel animals.

“Towel Animal Theatre” serves as the centerpiece to the interactive Web destination and features nine different vignettes depicting towel animals engaged in amusing conversations with each other while the stateroom’s occupants are away. In the whimsical videos, towel animals such as swans and monkeys interact using offbeat, light-hearted dialogue that conveys the spirit of fun on a Carnival cruise. The Funville site also includes instructions for you to make your own towel animals. The photo here is of a towel puppy I created at home.

Also featured within the site are photos and video footage from Carnival’s “Fun Crowd” events during which the line broke records for the world’s largest beach ball, a massive sphere dropped from a building in downtown Dallas, and the world’s largest piñata, which was filled with eight tons of candy in Philadelphia. Footage from the events is being used to create two television commercials that will soon begin airing nationally.

In addition, there is an online game tied to the beach ball theme, as well as a “hollerback” function that enables you to submit suggestions for Carnival’s next fun event. Over the next several weeks, watch for “Funville” to include more “Fun Crowd” event videos, Carnival’s new TV spots, additional on-line games, and other unscripted surprises for visitors to the site. Links to various features of a Carnival cruise vacation, including on-board activities, dining, and youth programs, also are included.

Visit Funville at Carnival.com to see how long you can keep the beach ball in the air and discover what your towel animals do while you're out having fun on board.

Have you ever wondered how towel animals were born aboard cruise ships? CruiseDiva.com shares the back story of our Ultimate Bed-time Pals.