Saturday, February 28, 2009

Get Ready California, You Have Some (Carnival) Splendor On The Horizon

The new 3,006-passenger Carnival Splendor has rounded Cape Horn in South America on its way to a permanent homeport in Long Beach, California, from where it will operate year-round 7-day Mexican Rivera cruises beginning April 5th. Too large to fit through the Panama Canal, the 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor is currently on a series of South America voyages that are serving to position the vessel for its new California-based program where it will earn bragging rights as the largest “Fun Ship” ever deployed on the West Coast.

Representing a new class of ship, Carnival Splendor offers a host of innovations, highlighted by a 21,000-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa–the line’s largest–featuring a thalassotherapy pool, elaborate thermal suite and 17 VIP treatment rooms. Adjacent to the facility are 68 spa staterooms and suites–a first for Carnival. Other features include a 5,500-square-foot children’s play area–the largest in the “Fun Ship” fleet–a water spray park and a sliding sky dome over the mid-ship pool which also houses a massive LED screen displaying movies, concerts and other programming.

Cruise Diva's new ship preview offers a first-hand look at Carnival Splendor during her inaugural season.

Photo: Carnival Splendor rounding Cape Horn, courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bad Economy or Not, Fort Lauderdale Says 'No Thanks' to Spring Break

As Fort Lauderdale's cruise business continues to grow, with Port Everglades anticipating 2.14 million cruisers this year and Royal Caribbean's 5,400-passenger Oasis, MSC Cruises' Orchestra, Carnival's Carnival Freedom and Princess Cruises' Tahitian Princess all making first-time sailings from the port, Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, anticipates questions of welcoming spring breakers back to the destination whenever she meets with local hospitality industry colleagues. To her pleasure, the collective answer continues to be a steadfast "no."

For more than 20 years, this former South Florida student getaway has hung a philosophical "No Vacancy" sign for the wild and rowdy college crowd and a welcome mat for couples, families, friends on a getaway, international visitors and convention delegates.

"Returning to spring break as a quick tourism fix in a tough economy," said Grossman, who has been at the helm of Broward County's tourism marketing organization since 1995, "is clearly not the answer. Our decision to end spring break in 1986 has driven visitor growth from one half million annually to 10.8 million visitors in 2008. It has allowed us to attract a significant investment in hotel, retail, and restaurant development and build a first-class airport and convention center. And, a very small part of the visitor mix is about 15,000 students who visit each year in the springtime to enjoy our beaches."

That's good news for cruise passengers planning pre- and post-cruise stays in the Fort Lauderdale area who won't have to compete with rowdy college students for hotel rooms or put up with their antics.

What about spring breakers who want to take a cruise? Young adults need to know that For Cruise Travel, Age Matters.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Pre- and Post-Cruise Options for Port Canaveral Cruisers

Planning to extend a cruise out of Port Canaveral, Florida with a pre- or post-cruise land stay?

Georgina Cruz introduces two New, Fantasy-filled Lodging Options that will be available this year at Walt Disney World in Orlando. One is rustic; the other ultra-modern, and both Disney Vacation Club time-share properties are available for rental to non-member vacationers.

Check out the Saratoga Springs Treehouse Villas, which accommodate up to nine persons each (pictured here), and feel like a kid again!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Featured Cruise Review: Ruby Princess

What could be more fitting than celebrating your 40th (ruby) wedding anniversary during a cruise aboard Princess Cruises' sparkling new Ruby Princess?

That's just what veteran cruisers Vincent and Mary Finelli did last month. Happily, they've shared their special Ruby Princess Cruise Review with readers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Casa de Campo Welcomes Cruisers

As part of his stand-up routine during a cruise that included a port call in La Romana, Dominican Republic, a comedian once quipped that Casa de Campo is Spanish for “stay on the ship.” It might have seemed funny, or even ironic, to passengers unfamiliar with the destination, but his joke could be the worst “advice” ever offered.

While La Romana isn’t a typical cruise ship port in the sense that San Juan or Nassau are, it’s well worth including on your bucket list of places to see.

For as long as cruise ships have called at La Romana, shore excursions have included outings that allow passengers to get an inside glimpse of the exclusive Casa de Campo resort—horseback riding in the Casa de Campo equestrian center and Chavon River kayaking with a brief tour of the grounds are typical excursions, although your ship might also offer the opportunity to play golf at the famous “Teeth of the Dog” course in the resort.

Security at Casa de Campo is the tightest I’ve ever seen and, in fact, I was turned away at the gate a few years ago. However, I was invited to tour the resort a couple weeks ago while on a cruise aboard Costa Fortuna, including visits to the marina and yacht club, the Altos de Chavon 16th century replica of a Mediterranean village, and lunch at Minitas Beach. My host mentioned an option for cruise ship passengers that isn’t well know and that I’d like to share.

For $75 per person, you can purchase a 9am to 6pm day pass to the beach that includes lunch, beach towels, and a bottled water or coke. You must make a reservation ahead of time, take a taxi from the pier, and purchase your ticket from the hotel concierge when you arrive. You will also have access to Altos de Chavon during the day.

For more information and to contact the resort, enter paradise at the Casa de Campo website.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Costa Cruises Introduces “Buon Appetito” Culinary Contest

Have you sailed on a Costa cruise? Then you realize that, from a delicious pasta dish with flavors reminiscent of a visit to a Roman trattoria, to fresh seafood that brings to mind a leisurely lunch in Portofino, dining onboard a Costa cruise transports the taste of Italy to sea wherever they sail. To celebrate Costa’s grand tradition of Italian cuisine, along with the high praise bestowed on it from numerous past guests, Europe’s Number One Cruise Line is unrolling a new “Buon Appetito” culinary contest for past guests to submit their favorite Costa dining experience.

Between Feb 17 and April 17, 2009, guests who have sailed with Costa may enter the “Buon Appetito” culinary contest by visiting and submitting an entry detailing their favorite Costa dining experience or dish in 300 words or less. One winner will be selected by a Costa panel based on creativity and style. The winning entry will win a cruise aboard the new Costa Pacifica, complete with a complimentary dinner for two in the ship’s specialty restaurant, the Club Blue Moon. The restaurant features menus prepared by award-winning Italian chef Ettore Bocchia, heralded for his Michelin-starred cuisine at the Grand Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, Italy.

“With so many of our guests telling us how much they enjoy the Italian cuisine aboard our ships, we decided to celebrate their enthusiasm with this special “Buon Appetito” culinary contest,” said Maurice Zarmati, president and ceo of Costa Cruise Lines—North America. “While we offer other types of dishes onboard as well, it’s the special brand of magic in our Italian dishes that really moves guests to rave about our cuisine.”

With more than 50 different recipes created each day using 3,500 ingredients, it’s no wonder guests love dining Italian-style aboard Costa’s fleet of 12 ships—soon to be 14 when the Costa Luminosa and Costa Pacifica come into service in May and June respectively. From homemade pastas and sauces to freshly made pizzas and other specialty dishes, Costa brings its Italian heritage for mangia bene to its guests around the world.

Entries for the “Buon Appetito” culinary contest must be submitted via by April 17, 2009. A winner will be selected on or around May 17, 2009 and be notified via mail. The prize is cruise only and the winner is responsible for air, non-commissionable fees and government taxes. Certain restrictions apply.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

MSC Cruises & Nintendo Embark on New Era in Onboard Entertainment

MSC Cruises, the fastest-growing cruise company with the most modern fleet on the seas, has teamed up with gaming leader Nintendo to bring cutting-edge interactive play to its world-class entertainment programs and facilities. The new partnership can already be seen in the line's flagship MSC Fantasia, christened by Sophia Loren on Dec. 19, 2008. The largest ship to be commissioned by a European ship owner, MSC Fantasia is equipped with 114 Wii consoles, including 9 Wii Sport consoles in the Sport Bar, 4 Wii fit stations with balance board in the Fitness Center, a competition console on the Sport Deck, and a further console in the main pool area that’s connected to a massive 23 ft x 9 ft screen for public competitions and activities. Other consoles form part of the sumptuous fittings in the elegant suites of MSC Fantasia’s exclusive MSC Yacht Club complex. And, of course, guests can buy their own Wii console and accessories in the Tax & Duty Free shops.

MSC Cruises’ uncompromising dedication to its guests is nowhere more evident than the unrivalled entertainment programs and facilities offered on board MSC Fantasia, with its interactive 4D cinema, state-of-the-art 1,603-seat theater, 18 themed bars, futuristic Liquid Disco and Casino delle Palme with more than 1,000 square feet of casino gaming. The sports amenities are equally extensive, with tennis, squash and basketball courts, shuffleboard, a jogging track and four swimming pools, including the amazing Acqua Park with its 150 fountains which provide endless fun during the day and an astonishing spectacle when lit up to music at night. The MSC Aurea Spa wellness and spa center with solarium completes the picture, for total relaxation after every exertion.

It was only natural for a leading innovator like MSC Cruises to partner with Nintendo, the leader in interactive gaming innovation. Whereas others have responded to videogame demand with increasing and some would say excessive complexity, Nintendo has totally re-thought the experience, adding a physical dimension that takes player involvement to completely new levels. But MSC Cruises was also attracted to Nintendo and the Wii because it provides so much in addition to gaming, offering passengers full access to Wii Channels for surfing the net, editing photos, catching up on the news or weather forecasts, and much, much more.

MSC Cruises, the world’s leading private cruise company with offices in 36 countries, and Nintendo, which has sold 2.4 billion video games and over 420 million consoles, plan to consolidate their partnership by organizing special events, games and tournaments for video game fans worldwide. For more information, visit the MSC Cruises website.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Costa Fortuna: That’s Amore

If there’s a translation from Italian to English for Costa Fortuna, surely it’s “happy ship.” From the top down, Costa Fortuna is surely one of the happiest ships I’ve had the pleasure to cruise aboard.

What exactly makes a ship happy? That’s hard to pin down, but it has a lot to do with attitude. Captain Claudio De Fenza runs a tight ship, yet is a visible and—more importantly—hospitable master. When our paths crossed, he often appeared to be in a hurry, but not so much of a hurry that he couldn’t stop and exchange a few words and a handshake with passengers.

That courteous attitude is infectious and we could see it in the service provided throughout Costa Fortuna. Tables were cleared promptly in the lido area, both inside and out. Bar servers always were at hand when we were thirsty. Pursers behind the Reception Desk remained undaunted when faced with requests in a variety of languages. We wondered if our room steward ever slept as he cheerfully provided extra towels and ice upon request. And we can’t overlook the efforts of the dining room waiters and their assistants. Not only could they efficiently take care of meal service, but their singing and dancing on the night of Festa Italiana drew thunderous applause.

Some of the hardest working people onboard were the social staff—their energy drew us into activities we’d never considered taking part in before.

Then there are those behind-the-scenes crewmembers and officers whose efforts are seldom visible, but who make all the difference. We salute them all for the Love, Laughter, and La Dolce Vita we found aboard Costa Fortuna.

For a closer look at Costa Fortuna, including a link to the photo tour, visit

Friday, February 20, 2009

Costa Fortuna: Entertaining In So Many Ways

Italian-style cruising on Costa Fortuna began with a buon viaggio celebration was and topped off by Costa Cruise Line's signature Caribbean activity, the Roman Bacchanal. Costa Fortuna's supercharged social staff worked overtime to get everyone in the mood and encouraged everyone to be a part of the action. Just watching them begin their sentences in Italian and end them in English (or Spanish, French, or German) could be exhausting. I wish I could keep up their lively pace.

Activities aboard Costa Fortuna included some of Italy's favorite pastimes, such as playing games of bocce, dancing the Tarantella, tossing pizza dough, and making Venetian-style masks during the Festa Italiana, an Italian street festival at sea. Other nights were filled with festivities as well. A welcome-aboard celebration, hosted by Captain Claudio De Fenza on the first formal night culminated with a huge birthday cake to commemorate Costa’s 50 years of sailing in the Caribbean. Notte Tropical, a tropical deck party with a Mediterranean twist concluded with the presentation of an alfresco midnight buffet. Unfortunately, tropical rain moved our deck party from the main lido to the smaller, covered pool, but didn’t dampen passenger spirits. And during the Roman Bacchanal about half of our fellow passengers donned bed sheets for a rollicking toga party featuring Julius Caesar and gladiator games.

There was also a nod to the traditional cruise ship entertainment. Pool games, trivia, bingo, and sophisticated production shows blended nicely with classical concerts in lounges where a wide range of musical styles invited dancing or listening. My favorite show by far was headlined by John Ciotta (pictured above) performing beloved Italian songs and those made popular by Italian-American artists such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

Dancing certainly wasn’t confined to the pros on the main stage. It was a delight to see passengers take to one of the largest dance floors at sea in the Conte di Savoia Grand Bar and move to the beat of Latin, rock and roll, and Italian favorites. Ballroom dancing pairs were as charming to watch on Costa Fortuna as they are on television. The number of passengers dancing poolside—every day—was truly remarkable, particularly when the music was Italian or Greek favorites. Thunderous applause greeted the musicians at the end of nearly every number.

Italian language, arts and crafts, dance lessons, and cooking classes were extremely popular and well attended during our cruise. On Valentine’s Day, the arts and crafts project was painting special picture frames for their loved ones.

So, you want to know if Cruise Diva wore a toga to the Roman Bacchanal? You had to be there to know.

For a look at Costa Fortuna, including a link to the photo tour, visit Tomorrow I’ll share another installment from our Feb 8th cruise here on the blog.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Costa, Rhymes With Pasta

There’s nothing I love better than Italian food and a plate of pasta from Costa Fortuna’s Cristoforo Colombo buffet restaurant at lunch satisfied my hunger pains for hours … that is, until dinner when I seldom passed up the pasta course in the formal Restaurant Raffaello. I’ll even admit that one evening we decided to forgo the more formal atmosphere of the Restaurant Raffaello and dined casually in the buffet. Being a buffet, naturally there were other items to choose from, including a carving station, but I headed straight for the just-cooked pasta station.

Seriously, there was (pardon the pun) a buffet of pastas offered during our Costa Fortuna cruise last week and I attempted to try them all. Of course there was spaghetti, but also penne, fusilli, ravioli, and gnocchi. Sauces ranged from familiar tomato-based, either plain or with meat, eggplant, and even swordfish added, to creamy Alfredo and even a tasty Genovese pesto that any Italian cook would be proud to serve. Sadly, I had to pass on the manicotti because it was stuffed with a cheese mixture including spinach. Darn my allergy to spinach!

To make up for that disappointment, I had an extra slice of pizza. As a former-Chicagoan, I like my pizza prepared in a cast iron pan with a nice thick crust and lots and lots of cheese. While Costa Fortuna’s pizza chefs prepared theirs with a thin crust, it was heaped with cheese and the crust was flaky with a flavor all its own.

I don’t mean to give the impression that you’ll have to subside on a diet of pasta and pizza on a Costa cruise. Indeed, one evening I ordered Osso Buco in the Restaurant Raffaello and, layered atop risotto, the fork-tender veal was heaven. On other nights, prime rib was served perfectly cooked and a lobster bisque had me swooning. Baked onboard, the breads were crusty and delizioso. Don’t even get me started on the tiramisu! I wanted seconds, but restrained myself.

Coffee lovers like me were pleased to find Lavazza coffees served not only in a specialty coffee bar as on many ships, but in all the bars on Costa Fortuna where espresso, cappuccino, “American” coffee, and chilled coffee drinks were available. While the complimentary coffee throughout the ship was above-average, the specialty coffee drinks were a squisito way to start the day. No wonder Costa Fortuna is a happy ship.

For a look at Costa Fortuna, including a link to the photo tour, visit Tomorrow I’ll share another installment from our Feb 8th cruise here on the blog.

Photo: Demostrating the art of Italian cooking aboard Costa Fortuna

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Costa Fortuna: Settling In At Sea

We felt right at home as soon as we boarded Costa Fortuna, and small wonder—at 105,000 tons, the ship is basically a slightly smaller Euro-clone of parent company Carnival Cruise Lines' Conquest-class vessels and we've sailed on a number of them in the past. That made it a bit easier to navigate Costa Fortuna’s public rooms, although the size and mix of Costa Fortuna’s is slightly different. For instance, in the style favored by Europeans, the casino was made smaller to add room for the Conte Di Savoia Grand Bar that houses a suitably large dance floor.

More than 60% of Costa Fortuna's accommodations have an ocean view, and 60% of those also feature a private veranda, as did ours (pictured here). With a double-occupancy capacity of 2,720 passengers—maximum capacity 3,470—accommodations include Grand Suites, Suites, Mini-suites, Oceanview Staterooms with Veranda, Oceanview Staterooms with Windows or Portholes, and Inside Staterooms. Twenty-seven staterooms are equipped to meet the needs of handicapped travelers; numerous connecting Oceanview Staterooms are suitable for families.

At 185 square feet, our Oceanview Stateroom with Veranda on Deck 8 wasn’t the grandest on Costa Fortuna, but the location was primo. From our balcony we had a birds-eye view of the starboard bridge wing and could watch as Captain Claudio De Fenza directed docking maneuvers. We also overlooked the scene as one couple barely made it back to the ship in time. While no one wants to be left behind, they cut it very close.

But back to our stateroom interior—even though it was a 7-night cruise, we really appreciated all the storage space. The closets, drawers, and bathroom shelves could have held far more than we packed. We also appreciated a mini-bar fridge that really kept our beverages cold and a high-powered hair dryer at the dressing table/desk. While the layout was familiar to us, the décor is slightly bolder than on Costa’s Carnival cousins and the colors made the cabin cheerier. All-in-all, we found our quarters comfortable and homey.

When Costa Fortuna arrived in Port Everglades to begin her first Caribbean season in Nov 2007, we were on board to tour the ship and were assigned a suite for an overnight “slumber party” (sadly, we were docked all night). For a look at our plush digs, including the Costa Fortuna photo tour, visit Tomorrow I’ll share another installment from our Feb 8th cruise here on the blog.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Costa Fortuna: Embarkation Day in Port Everglades

Veteran cruisers know that embarkation day can be fraught with mini-perils. Long lines at security and check-in aren't uncommon during high-traffic arrival periods. It's always a challenge, especially at busy ports such as Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. That's where we boarded Costa Fortuna a week ago Sunday.

After dropping off our luggage at Terminal 21, I waited for my husband to return from parking the car and watched as the line to enter the building moved swiftly. By the time Mel joined me there was no line at all and the security process was painless. What would we find at the check-in counters, though? Were all the early arrivals lined up there?

What a surprise when we entered the vast—and nearly empty—main terminal area! Costa Cruise Lines has installed self-service kiosks for passenger check-in. Similar to those we are accustomed to in airports, agents were on hand to help us scan passports and credit cards into the machines. Upon completion of the process, paper boarding passes were automatically dispensed. Passengers who had a problem (for instance, those US citizens without passports) were directed to an adjacent area where they would be checked in manually.

With our paper passes and passports in hand, we were on the gangway in short order. From security to boarding took no more than fifteen minutes. And that was at 11:30am, usually a peak arrival time. We were impressed and understand that Costa plans to install similar kiosks in European embarkation ports as well.

Once aboard we settled in—luggage arrived in record time as well—and mentally prepared ourselves for the boat drill. Always a tedious process, we didn't look forward to it on a ship with an international passenger manifest that included people speaking English, Italian, French, German, and Spanish. That meant the instructions would be given in five languages and we expected it, not to mention the roll call, to take an interminable amount of time.

We couldn't have been more pleased to discover the boat drill was actually entertaining. Attendance was taken by crewmembers scanning our Costa keycard with a hand-held scanner and the young man demonstrating the proper way to wear a life jacket (five times!) was an engaging comic. Sure, the drill is serious stuff, but his pantomime was done with such a light touch that we were amused instead of bored as is often the case. His performance drew applause, something we'd never experienced during a boat drill. We were back in our cabin and ready for sailaway in what seemed like no time at all.

While I was unable to post entries from Costa Fortuna last week, this week's blog will be devoted to cruising Italian-style. For the Costa Fortuna preview from our visit onboard during her first Caribbean season, including a photo tour, visit and watch the blog for more installments from our Feb 8th cruise.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Product Alert: Cruising Caddy

So, you're hanging out at the pool or going ashore and want to have a bottle of water, your cruise ship key card, daily program, port map, iPod, and a cell phone or small camera with you. What do you put them in? A tote bag would work, but then you'd be searching through it when you need that key card to re-board the ship or buy a drink at the pool bar when the water bottle is empty.

Cruise Diva has found an ideal mini-tote with compartments to keep everything organized and handy. It's the Cruising Caddy and it holds up to a 1.5 liter bottle of water and all your essentials. The pleated outside pocket with Velcro closure has a hidden pocket for added security and a second pocket with elastic is large enough for a small digital camera. As a bonus, there's a bottle "sleeve" to keep your water chilled and absorb condensation. The 54" strap is adjustable and a D-ring is handy for hanging it on your belt loop.

My Cruise Caddy is black, but you can get it in khaki and red as well. Available from the Cruising Caddy website, fine luggage and many AAA stores, the black bag is $24.99 and the red and khaki bags are on sale for $19.99.

This really is a nifty little bag as I found out during my Costa Fortuna cruise last week. With its rubberized lining, even the condensation from my ice-cold bottle of water didn't leak through and get my port shopping map wet!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Grand Turk Cruise Center Expects Record 500,000 Passengers in 2009

With 229 cruise ship calls scheduled for 2009, including nearly 89 from Carnival Cruise Lines’ vessels, the Grand Turk Cruise Center (GTCC) is on track for hosting a record 500,000 passengers in the coming year. The unprecedented half-million passenger mark is a 25 percent increase over 2008, during which the GTCC was closed for 30 days following Hurricane Ike.

A key reason for Grand Turk’s continued popularity is the wide array of organized excursion opportunities for visitors, from horseback riding and kayaking to world-class diving, snorkeling and fishing. For those guests who want to explore the island on their own, the new Grand Turk Grace Bay Car Rentals recently opened at the Grand Turk Cruise Center. With this new service, guests visiting Grand Turk will be able to discover the island’s numerous historical sites, gorgeous white-sand beaches, quaint Bermudian-influenced architecture and friendly locals at their own pace.

Five Carnival Cruise Lines’ “Fun Ships” currently call at Grand Turk – Carnival Destiny on 5-day cruises from Miami; Carnival Liberty on 7-day voyages from Miami; and Carnival Miracle on 8-day cruises from New York. Carnival Pride will also feature Grand Turk as part of its new 7-day schedule from Baltimore beginning April 27 – the first year-round program from that port. Grand Turk will also be featured on the Carnival Glory’s new 7-day program from Miami beginning Dec 3.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cruise Travel: Romance At Sea

Ask six couples what the most romantic aspect of a cruise is and you are likely to get a dozen different responses. To some, it could be the freedom to relax and enjoy one another's company. Or maybe it's the joy of getting away from home, work, and responsibility for a few cherished days.

One thing is certainly true—many couples consider a cruise the most romantic vacation imaginable. Which cruise ships are the most desirable for romantics? Cruise Diva shares her picks for the Most Romantic Ships.

We also offer hints to enhance Romance at Sea and enjoy Princess Cruises' sumptuous Ultimate Balcony Dinner.

Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Romantic Revelations From Princess Cruises

Are men more sentimental than we give them credit for? Surprisingly, men are more likely than women to value time together for Valentine's Day, according to a Valentine's Day survey conducted by Princess Cruises. And, contrary to conventional wisdom, men are actually more (not less) in touch with knowing which gifts their partners most want to receive.

The results of the national survey illustrate that at least one day each year men prove to be the more romantic of the sexes. Candy, time together/love or a card/note are men's most desired gifts, while time together/love ranked fifth on women's lists, and a card/note barely registered at all (coming in at a measly two percent). Women overwhelmingly preferred to receive jewelry or flowers.

Find out your partner's Valentine's Day Gift Desires at Pssst... hey guys, spend that time together wisely by taking us on a CRUISE!!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Seabourn Unveils Its Biggest Season Yet

Spin the globe and stop it with your finger—chances are The Yachts of Seabourn travel where it lands. The ultra-luxury cruise line has unveiled new itineraries and exotic ports of call for 2010-2011. With two new Seabourn yachts and a host of new destinations, the line’s well-traveled guests can look forward to its most extensive and diverse year yet. Cruises during the 15-month period are now featured on the line’s website at and are open for sale. A cruise catalogue will be published in April.

With its fleet of intimate, all-suite yachts, Seabourn is able to access less-traveled destinations that larger vessels can’t. With the addition of Seabourn Odyssey in June 2009 and Seabourn Sojourn in June 2010, the expanded fleet allows Seabourn to continue offering a full array of popular Mediterranean and Caribbean itineraries, but also explore newer, more exotic ports of call, such as Palopo on Sulawesi; Zanzibar, Tanzania; and Antseranana, Madagascar. Starting in 2010-2011, Seabourn will operate year-round in Asia—a first for the fleet. As interest in travel to Asia continues to grow, Seabourn is offering many new itineraries as well as its first return to Indonesia in years. New Asian ports of call include Dalian, China; Busan and Inchon, Korea; Nagasaki and Kagoshima, Japan; and numerous Indonesian destinations, including Bali, Borneo, Komodo Island and the Karimoenjawa archipelago.

“One of the many benefits of our newbuilding program is the ability to add exotic, new itineraries in 2010 and 2011,” said Pamela C. Conover, president and CEO of Seabourn. “We are very excited about them and we think our guests will be too. We have never before offered such a wide range of destinations – from small-ship exclusives in the Caribbean and Mediterranean to more remote ports in Asia and Africa.”

Learn more about The Yachts of Seabourn at

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cruise Deal Alert

It's still "Wave Season" and cruise deals continue to arrive in our email box at a fast and furious pace. Cruise Diva thinks the following offers from NCL and MSC Cruises are particularly attractive for families.

Now is the time to book a summer Freestyle Cruising vacation on board any of Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) 11 ships with its extended Freestyle Resolution promotion. Families who book a cruise from now through March 15, 2009 on many of NCL’s sailings* can take their kids for as low as $99 each, and also receive up to $250 in on-board credit** to be used on everything from shore excursions and specialty dinners to spa treatments, the casino and more.

“This summer, NCL offers families a vacation of a lifetime to fantastic destinations like Alaska, Bermuda, Hawai’i, and Europe all at an affordable price,” said Kevin Sheehan, NCL’s president and CEO. “Family cruises on NCL have great activities for kids of all ages, from our expanded Kid’s Crew program allowing parents to take the night off for a romantic dinner, to the two-story Nintendo Wii, four-lane bowling, rock climbing wall, teen disco, and arcade, not to mention all the exciting shore excursions in each port of call – there’s no doubt kids will have as much fun as adults.”

Popular summer sailings include, a 7-day Sawyer Glacier cruise round-trip from Vancouver, British Columbia on Norwegian Sun with ports of call including Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, Alaska, from $599 per person. Norwegian Spirit features a 7-day Bermuda cruise round-trip from Boston, from $599 per person; and Norwegian Gem features a 7-day Western Mediterranean sailing round-trip from Barcelona, Spain to Valletta, Malta; Naples, Rome and Florence, Italy; and Cannes, France; from $599 per person. Pride of America offers a 7-day inter-island Hawaii cruise departing from Honolulu and visiting Hilo and Kona, Hawaii; along with overnights in Kahului, Maui and Nawiliwili, Kaui from $999 per person.

Families sailing with NCL can also save while onboard with half price dinners for children three to 12 years old in its numerous specialty restaurants. In addition, families can purchase an unlimited soda package for kids 12 and under for $39.50 which includes a Kid’s Crew backpack, t-shirt, and baseball cap. For teens, the Teen Passport Program is just $34.50 and includes a booklet with 20 tickets for non-alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic smoothies; and admission to an afternoon dance party with DJ, pizza and unlimited soft drinks.

With NCL’s new Groups 2.0 program, families looking to host reunions onboard can save even more. When booking eight or more staterooms via a travel partner, amenities offered range from the ability to make advance Freestyle Dining reservations in any restaurant prior to sailing, to a group cocktail party, on-board credits which can be used throughout the ship, and Freestyle Bowling in the Bliss Ultra Lounge, amongst others.

To book a sailing, contact a travel professional or NCL at 866-234-0292. Further information can be found online at

* One and 2-day sailings are excluded from NCL’s Freestyle Resolution promotion.
** The amount of the on-board credit varies depending on the length of cruise* and category of stateroom booked. For example, on sailings of six days or longer, the on-board credit ranges from $25 for an inside stateroom; up to $75 for a balcony, $150 for a suite or villa and $250 for a garden villa. For three to five day sailings, the on-board credit ranges from $15 for an inside stateroom up to $75 for a suite/villa.
MSC Cruises is offering special bonus upgrades of up to seven stateroom categories on select 10-night Caribbean sailings on MSC Lirica. Cruise-only rates begin at $699 on MSC Lirica’s 10-night Deep Caribbean itineraries sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale on March 4 and March 24. Rates begin at $799 on the 10-night Caribbean Featuring Panama itinerary that departs Fort Lauderdale on March 14. All rates quoted are per person, double occupancy; government fees and taxes are additional.

Guests who book by Feb. 28 and pay at the time of booking are eligible for an up to seven-category upgrade (depending on availability), resulting in an upgrade from an inside to an outside stateroom. Also, guests who book a Category 8 balcony stateroom are eligible for an upgrade to a suite.

The Deep Caribbean itineraries take guests to San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Port Castries, St. Lucia; St. John’s, Antigua; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Cayo Levantado, Dominican Republic. Guests also have three days at sea to enjoy the Italian ambiance and many activities available onboard MSC Lirica. On the Caribbean Featuring Panama sailing, the ship calls at Costa Maya, Mexico; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; Cristobal, Panama; Cartagena, Colombia; and Cayo Levantado, and has two sea days. Both itineraries include calls at the line’s private paradise experience at Cayo Levantado. For more information about MSC Cruises, visit their website or a local travel professional.

Watch's Cruise News for even more offers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Regent Seven Seas Mariner: A New Look For An "Old" Favorite

While you could hardly consider a ship launched in 2001 "old," Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Seven Seas Mariner has recently undergone a makeover and Cruise Diva shares first-hand impressions from her recent cruise.

Welcome aboard as I explore accommodations, dining options, places to relax, places to play, and even take you to the galley and navigational bridge the world's first all-suite, all-balcony ship.

Deal Alert: Tahiti & the South Pacific Aboard Paul Gauguin

"I don't want to go to heaven when I die. I want to go to Tahiti!" That was my husband's wish over twenty-five years ago and it came true when we cruised through the clear, tranquil waters of Tahiti.

French Polynesia is made up of several series of islands, atolls, and archipelagoes, independently surrounded by lagoons and barrier reefs that create unique eco-systems and divine respites for the traveler weary of the usual getaway.

And now you can enjoy the heavenly delights of Tahiti at an unbeatable value. Book by April 30th, 2009 and experience it this summer aboard the award-winning Paul Gauguin at a savings of up to 71% off cruise-only fares. In addition, a third guest sails free on these voyages when booked by April 30th, 2009. Air add-ons are available from select gateways, including Los Angeles.

Space is limited, so call your Travel Professional or Regent Seven Seas Cruises at 866-325-3968.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Silver Wind's Extreme Makeover: A First-Hand Look

Silversea Cruises introduced their newly refreshed and refurbished Silver Wind several weeks ago and Cruise Diva was on board to see how even an ultra-luxury ship could be improved with innovative ideas and a fresh interior décor.

We noticed Silver Wind's external changes even before boarding. Instead of the line’s stylized “S” logo, the funnel now sports the Silversea name spelled out and her profile reveals the structural addition forward on the top deck that houses the spa, fitness center, and Observation Lounge.

Retaining the integrity of the ship was important to Silversea, but the 90s era pastel look of her interiors has vanished. In its place are warmer natural colors accented by jewel tones that lend the ship a stylish boutique hotel vibe. Interesting artwork graces passageways and public spaces.

Get a look at the "New" Silver Wind in's illustrated article.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Holland America Line Introduces Fleetwide Blogs

What started with a single blog, the Eurodam News Blog, has been such a success that Holland America Line launched an ambitious fleetwide weblog that highlights all 14 existing ships, the upcoming newbuild ms Nieuw Amsterdam, and a wide array of topics. The blog, which has been in development for several months, has officially gone live.

The new Holland America Blog is actually comprised of 16 blogs—one for each ship in the fleet and a shared main “landing page” that features the latest posts on all ships and serves as the portal to the rest of the blog. All of the individual ship blogs are cross-referenced through a series of categories listed on the main landing page.

“With Eurodam News Blog we created a community surrounding the building of our newest ship,” said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. “Now, with the Holland America Blog, we want to expand that community to engage Mariners, ship aficionados, potential guests and people interested in learning more about Holland America Line’s brand of premium cruising.”

Site navigation is both simple and self-evident. On the landing page, pull-down menus in the right column invite visitors to explore the blog by ship, category, destination, chronologically by date or through links in the site’s blogroll. Categories include “Captain’s Log,” “Crew News,” “Dining,” “Entertainment,” “Meet the Staff” and the popular “Postcards from …” feature, where guests and Holland America Line staff and crew submit photos from ports of call and interesting places.

The site also features podcasts and video content, as well as Captain Albert’s Blog, created by Albert Schoonderbeek, master of ms Veendam. Many of the line’s other captains, officers, staff and crew also contribute to the blog, giving each ship a voice while entertaining visitors with fun posts ranging from the captain’s own personal journal entries to photos from a crew celebration.
Another popular feature on the Holland America Blog is the ability for visitors to post comments or ask questions, making the blog truly interactive.

Cruise Diva has been a fan of Eurodam News Blog since the day it launched and we're pretty excited about the fleetwide Holland America Blog as well. It's beautifully written and presented and, in our view, everything a cruise line blog should be. Visit it at at

Saturday, February 7, 2009

NCL's New F3 Ship Will Be An "Epic"

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has announced the name for its new F3 ship: Norwegian Epic. As the name implies, the ship will be the largest and most innovative Freestyle Cruising ship to date. The 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic is scheduled to sail year-round to the Caribbean from Miami, beginning in summer 2010. Following a series of inaugural events in Europe and the U.S., the ship will homeport in Miami and will sail year-round to the Caribbean offering alternating 7-day Western and Eastern Caribbean voyages through April 2011. These cruises are scheduled to go on sale to the public later this spring.

“The F3 experience will take our already successful Freestyle Cruising to the next level, affording our guests the ultimate freedom and flexibility. Norwegian Epic, denoting a ship that is very impressive on a grand scale, is the most fitting name,” said Kevin Sheehan, NCL’s president and CEO. “The combination of the ship’s exciting new features, along with the tropical allure of these Caribbean destinations, will provide an extraordinary cruise vacation for our guests.”

The ship’s Western Caribbean itinerary will include stops in Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. Norwegian Epic’s Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes stops in Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas.

Norwegian Epic represents the next generation of Freestyle Cruising–a ship that incorporates a wide range of new features and amenities, including curved New Wave staterooms and unique nightlife options. To date, the company has revealed five unique nightlife venues that rival the experiences of Las Vegas, Ibiza, the Riviera and South Beach. The five venues include the industry's first true Ice Bar; POSH Beach Club (pictured above), a first of its kind beach club at sea that offers an exclusive, adults-only setting at the top of the ship; Halo, the Über Bar, a private bar and lounge in the ship-within-a-ship villa complex; Bliss Ultra Lounge, NCL's all-day entertainment and nightclub complex with four-lane bowling alley; and Spice H20, an adults-only aft pool deck experience.

In addition, the ship will feature the New Wave standard, New Wave balcony and New Wave deluxe staterooms that represent a giant leap forward in cruise ship accommodations with a completely fresh take on bathroom design, contemporary curved architecture, and open living space. The New Wave stateroom’s most distinctive design element is its curved walls and lines creating a modern and chic environment. NCL has maximized the living space with a unique bathroom that features a separate shower stall, separate water closet, and a modern vanity top sink. Staterooms feature a sophisticated earth-tone palette accented with a splash of color and rich, dark wood. Concealed contour LED lighting and back-lit domed ceilings set a relaxing vibe.

NCL plans to unveil additional details about Norwegian Epic in the near future. To view renderings and register for news, visit NCL will open Norwegian Epic’s sailings for group block bookings exclusively for travel partners in mid-March 2009.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Caribbean Princess Emerges From Drydock with Line’s Signature Features

With their new-ship building projects at an end (for now), Princess Cruises has embarked on another project: upgrading and standardizing the onboard facilities and amenities on their fleet's large ships. To that end, Caribbean Princess has just emerged from an extensive 3-week drydock to add many of Princess Cruises’ signature features that have proven extremely popular on its newest ships. Caribbean Princess now offers passengers the engaging street-café atmosphere of the piazza-style atrium with its International Café and Vines, the wine, seafood and cheese bar; the adults-only Sanctuary (pictured above), seven new suites, and a more centrally located casino. Work is also nearly complete on a new Crown Grill steak and seafood restaurant. These amenities became passenger favorites when they debuted aboard Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, and Ruby Princess over the last three years, and are being added to a number of ships, including Golden Princess in May. The company has already introduced many of these features on Star Princess and Grand Princess.

“We want to give passengers who sail aboard any of our large ships the opportunity to enjoy the innovative amenities that have become hallmarks of the Princess cruise experience,” said Jan Swartz, executive vice president of Princess Cruises.

Caribbean Princess’ new atrium now features the specialty coffees, fresh baked cookies and pastries, paninis and tapas of the International Café. Also new is the Vines wine bar offering a selection of more than 30 wines by the glass, plus a selection of seafood, artisan meats and cheeses, and a wine shop where passengers can purchase their favorite vintage.

Adult passengers who want to get away from it all will be able to relax in the tranquility of The Sanctuary, Princess’ signature retreat featuring plush padded lounge chairs and the services of dedicated Serenity Stewards. Visitors to this exclusive space can enjoy refreshing beverages and light snacks, or receive a massage in one of two private cabanas.

Caribbean Princess will soon debut a brand new Crown Grill restaurant featuring an open kitchen where passengers can enjoy watching as chefs prepare chops, steaks and seafood, including live lobsters. As part of the renovation, the 3,080-passenger ship–which debuted in 2004–also received seven new suites with ocean-view picture windows, and a relocated casino on deck 7, bringing it into the ship’s central entertainment area. Other changes include a new location for the sports court, a new Limelight boutique, new shore excursions and Captain’s Circle desks, new Internet café and library, and the addition of flat-screen televisions in all staterooms.

The dramatic makeover took place at the Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport, Bahamas, where more than 1,500 workers and contractors worked around the clock to complete the impressive project. Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through professional travel agents, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the Princess Cruises website.

For insight into cruising aboard Princess ships, visit's Princess Cruise Reviews.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Carnival Cruise Lines Rolls Out New On-Line Spa Pre-Purchase System

Carnival Cruise Lines, the world’s largest cruise operator, has introduced a new on-line pre-purchase system for guests interested in booking spa treatments prior to their “Fun Ship” cruise. With the advanced reservations system, available on all 22 “Fun Ships,” guests who have a fully deposited cruise can log onto Carnival’s web site ( and designate a specific spa treatment and appointment time and submit payment information. The site lists more than 30 different treatments which are available for purchase, everything from acupuncture services, soothing massages and Elemis advanced facials to invigorating detoxification wraps and slimming treatments, pricing and details of which can be viewed on the site. A full menu of nail, tooth whitening, and men’s services is also available for pre-purchase.

To access the new on-line spa treatment pre-purchase system, guests must be registered on and have a fully deposited cruise booking. After accessing their reservation through the “My Reservation” link, guests are prompted with the “Plan Activities” option and “Spa Appointments” link where they can search for spa services available on their particular voyage by treatment type, date, and preferred time. To purchase a spa treatment, guests simply select the treatment of their choice and enter credit card payment information via a secure encrypted reservations portal. Guests are provided with a printable spa treatment order confirmation with details on the specific treatment and appointment time included. On-line spa treatment reservations can be made prior to seven days before the cruise departure date. Guests are also welcome to visit the ships’ spa once on board to purchase spa treatments and obtain additional information.

Operated in conjunction with Steiner Transocean Limited, Carnival Cruise Lines offers some of the most elaborate spas at sea, ranging in size from 12,000 to 21,000 square feet. The new Carnival Dream, set to debut Sept. 21, 2009, will set a new standard for the line’s health and wellness centers, with a two-level 23,750-square-foot “Cloud 9 Spa”–the largest in the fleet.

In addition to a variety of treatments and salon services, Carnival’s fleetwide spa facilities offer expansive gymnasiums with sophisticated exercise equipment and aerobics rooms which serve as the venue for a host of organized exercise classes. Wellness counseling such as nutrition and fitness classes is also available.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sail Into The Sunset This Valentine's Day

Couples will fall in love all over again with NCL’s romantic touches, getaway deals, and packages and it's not too late to plan to sail away for Valentine's Day. For couples looking to embark on a romantic cruise, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is offering sunshine escapes with sweet deals to set hearts a flutter. Guests who book a cruise from now through March 15, 2009 on any of NCL’s sailings receive up to $250 in on-board credit* to be used on everything from romantic shore excursions and candlelit dinners to couples’ spa treatments and more.

Once onboard, love birds are greeted with a welcome aboard glass of bubbly. Throughout the cruise, guests can find many ways to spoil their special someone including the purchase of fresh long-stem roses and a flower turn-down in the evening. Romantic dinners in NCL’s signature French restaurant, Le Bistro, where a special six-course dinner features extraordinary culinary delights such as seared spiced-crusted sea scallops, grilled swordfish loin and chocolate fondue or cheesecake St. Valentine for dessert. After dinner, guests can whisk their loved ones away to a night of dancing in any of NCL’s many bars and lounges, where specialty cocktails such as a Valentine’s Kiss, made with white chocolate liqueur, crème de cacao white and vanilla vodka, will be available throughout the sailing. In addition, each Valentine’s Day cruise features decadent chocolate treats in NCL’s action station restaurants, intimate couples’ massages in its relaxing spas and dazzling keepsakes from diamond earrings to watches in the many shops on board.

Sweet Deals: These last-minute getaways are sure to make couples feel as if they have just been struck by cupid’s arrow.
-- Feb. 6: Norwegian Jewel, 9-day Southern Caribbean cruise roundtrip from Miami, calling in Samana, Tortola, St. John’s, Bridgetown and Castries; from $999 per person.
-- Feb. 6: Norwegian Jade, 0-day Canary Islands & Morocco cruise roundtrip from Barcelona, calling in Casablanca, Agadir, Las Palmas, Funchal and Granada; from $949 per person.
-- Feb. 8: Norwegian Pearl, 7-day Western Caribbean cruise roundtrip from Miami, calling in Roatan, Belize City, Cozumel and Great Stirrup Cay (NCL’s private island); from $599 per person.
-- Feb. 8: Norwegian Spirit, 7-day Exotic Western Caribbean cruise roundtrip from New Orleans, calling in Costa Maya, Santo Tomas, Belize City and Cozumel; from $549 per person.
-- Feb. 13: Norwegian Sky, 3-day Bahamas cruise roundtrip from Miami, calling in Grand Bahama Island, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay (NCL’s private island); from $229 per person.
-- Feb. 14: Pride of America, 7-day Hawaii Inter-Island cruise roundtrip from Honolulu, calling in Kahului, Hilo, Kona, and Nāwiliwili; from $1,299 per person.
-- Feb. 14: Norwegian Star, 7-day Mexican Riviera cruise roundtrip from Los Angeles, calling in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta; from $549 per person.
-- Feb. 14: Norwegian Dawn, 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise roundtrip from Miami, calling in Samaná, St.Thomas, Tortola, and Great Stirrup Cay (NCL’s private island); from $999 per person.
-- Feb. 14: Norwegian Gem, 7-day Bahamas & Florida cruise roundtrip from New York, calling in Orlando, Great Stirrup Cay (NCL’s private island); Nassau and Grand Bahama Island; from $699 per person.

Dream Dates: Taking the romance onto land, NCL offers a variety of romantic shore excursion options. Couples can explore mangroves by kayak and escape to the beautiful white-sand beaches of Cayo Levantado in the Dominican Republic; share a moment beneath one of Hawaii’s captivating waterfalls; or voyage to Stone Island on a catamaran off the coast of the Mexican Riviera. NCL also offers tailor-made shore excursions through its Ultimate Touring, where couples can create their own romantic dream date.

Romance Packages to Fall in Love With: NCL takes the stress of planning the perfect Valentine’s Day celebration away. To plan the perfect escape couples may choose from one of several romantic packages:

· Romance Package – Includes sparkling wine and strawberries in stateroom upon embarkation, a traditional spa pedicure and manicure for one, two 25-minute half-body Seven Seas Massages and tea service in stateroom one afternoon. $249 per stateroom.
· Deluxe Romance Package – Includes sparkling wine and strawberries in stateroom upon embarkation, choice of Exotic Frangipani Body Nourishing Wrap or Exotic Coconut and Milk Ritual Wrap for one, two 25-minute half-body Seven Seas Massages, tea service in stateroom one afternoon, breakfast in bed, a keepsake formal portrait, and a romantic dinner for two with a complimentary bottle of wine in NCL’s signature restaurant, Le Bistro. $329 per stateroom.

For more information or to book an NCL getaway or romance package, call your travel agent, NCL at (800) 327-7030, or visit

* The amount of the on-board credit varies depending on the length of cruise and category of stateroom booked. For example, on sailings of six days or longer, the on-board credit ranges from $25 for an inside stateroom; up to $75 for a balcony, $150 for a suite or villa and $250 for a garden villa. For 3- to 5-day sailings, the on-board credit ranges from $15 for an inside stateroom up to $75 for a suite/villa.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cruising with Little Ones is Child’s Play Onboard Disney Cruise Line

Traveling with infants and toddlers on Disney Cruise Line will soon be easier than ever thanks to a cruise industry-first service that delivers baby supplies directly to guest staterooms and a host of child-friendly offerings onboard the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder. Beginning March 15, families preparing to sail on Disney Cruise Line with little ones will have access to an online service that allows them to order baby supplies in advance of their cruise and have them delivered to their stateroom. The new service is exclusive for Disney Cruise Line guests and provided by Babies Travel Lite, an online retailer offering more than 1,000 brand-name baby products including diapers, baby food, infant formula and specialty travel items. By visiting, guests will be able to access a special section of the Babies Travel Lite Web site where they can create orders for familiar brands in quantities customized to the duration of their cruise.

“Disney Cruise Line prides itself on delivering a vacation experience that caters to every member of the family including our youngest cruisers,” said Tom Wolber, senior vice president of operations for Disney Cruise Line. “The new delivery service eliminates the challenges of packing for infant travel, while onboard conveniences simplify family travel for parents looking to relax during their cruise vacation.”

The new delivery service is just one of the many products and services available to families traveling with children under 3. Guests also have access to a host of onboard services to facilitate traveling with toddlers in tow:

  • Diaper Genie units, cribs and playpens are available complimentary upon request from the stateroom host/hostess for use during the cruise.
  • Bottle warmers, bottle sterilizers and strollers are available complimentary at Guest Services for use during the cruise.
  • At Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, wagons are available to facilitate navigating the island’s sandy beaches.
  • Baby supplies are available for purchase on the ships.

These amenities are the perfect complement to Disney’s infant-care center at sea, Flounder’s Reef Nursery. The nursery features an “under the sea” soft play area themed to Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” where children 12 weeks to 36 months can enjoy themselves under the watchful eyes of trained Disney caregivers. Even Mickey Mouse or another Disney pal might swing by for a surprise visit involving fun and games.

Also for infants and toddlers is Mickey’s Splash Zone, a water playground inspired by The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Disney’s “Fantasia.” This extension to the Mickey Pool features star- and moon-shaped interactive fountains, a soft play surface and whimsical splash zones, creating an inviting environment for children not yet toilet trained and in swim diapers. Guests sailing on 7-night cruises can enjoy some ‘together’ time with their little ones during Family Time Sessions at Flounder’s Reef Nursery. Families have the opportunity to explore the nursery and meet the team of counselors who supervise the children. Also on 7-night cruises, guests can enjoy Toddler Time at the Oceaneer Club and at Mickey’s Splash Zone. Families can join their little ones and explore the world together as they participate in musical games and fine motor skills exercises led by Disney’s youth activities counselors.

A leader in the family cruise segment, Disney Cruise Line delivers a cruise experience that every member of the family feels was created for their own individual vacation wants and needs. Departing from Port Canaveral, Fla., Disney Cruise Line offers 3-, 4- and 7-night itineraries to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Land/sea vacation packages that include a stay at Walt Disney World Resort are also available. 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.

For a peek at Cruise Diva's magical experience on a Disney cruise, visit the Disney Magic Blog.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The State of the Cruise Industry in 2009

With a track record of continued growth, the North American cruise industry is well-positioned to take on the global economic challenges of 2009. Sparked by new ships, ports, and destinations as well as innovative shipboard experiences, and a deep rooted popularity for cruising, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) members will continue to offer incredible value across the entire spectrum of cruise vacations, in all price categories.

“There is no doubt that 2009 represents an uncertain environment, not only for CLIA members but for all industries and consumers alike. However, CLIA members are confident that they will weather the challenges and emerge stronger than ever, as they have before. This is an industry that plans ahead and invests in the future, as evidenced by the impressive number of new ships on order through 2012, and one that will contribute positively to the country’s economic revival,” said Terry L. Dale, CLIA’s president and CEO. “The remarkable diversity and variety of cruises give consumers a unique opportunity to find a vacation that fits their budget even during these economic downturns and we expect that North Americans, Europeans and travelers from all over the world will respond positively.”

Industry Growth and Economic Impact: Since 1980 to the present, a period that encompasses a number of economic downturns as well as international crises, the average annualized growth of the North American cruise industry stands at 7.4 percent. An estimated 13.2 million travelers cruised in 2008, up from 12.56 million in 2007. As compared with the CLIA member line passenger volumes of 7.2 million in 2000, annual passenger volume has increased 79% in the past eight years. North Americans accounted for 10.15 million passengers in 2007 and the number of internationally sourced cruise guests is growing dramatically year over year. Through the third quarter of 2008, CLIA lines saw a 30 percent annual increase in international passengers, and year-end estimates are that 3.05 million internationally sourced guests will sail on a CLIA member cruise line representing 23% of CLIA’s global cruisers. CLIA further estimates that in 2009, 13.5 million people will cruise, an increase of 2.3 percent.

At the same time, the North American cruise industry continues to make a significant contribution to the American economy, posting more than a six percent economic impact growth rate (2007 over 2006). The cruise industry generated $38 billion in total U.S. economic output in 2007, the latest figures available. The industry is generating business development and investment, job creation and spending in all 50 states, creating more than 350,000 jobs nationwide in 2007 alone. Direct spending in the U.S. in 2007 on goods and services was more than 18 billion dollars, a 5.9 percent increase over 2006.

According to CLIA’s 2008 Cruise Market Profile, almost 34 million Americans intend to take a cruise within the next three years. More than 94 percent of all cruisers rate their cruise experience as satisfying with 44 percent claiming the highest “Extremely Satisfying” ranking making a cruise among the very best in meeting and exceeding guest expectations. Although the global economic crisis may have an impact on consumer intentions, these statistics give the cruise industry confidence that demand for cruising will continue to be strong, according to Dale.

New ships: In 2009, the CLIA fleet will welcome 14 new vessels, at a total cost of $4.8 billion USD ranging in size from 82 passengers to 5,400 passengers and offering a wide range of cruise experiences including coastal and river voyages, Caribbean and European itineraries and journeys to all parts of the world. The new ships include:

American Cruise Line: Independence, 104 passengers (August)
AMAWATERWAYS: ms Amadolce, 148 passengers (April) and ms Amalrya, 148 passengers (late 2009)
Carnival Cruise Line: Carnival Dream, 3,646 passengers (September)
Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Equinox, 2,850 passengers (summer)
Costa Cruises: Costa Luminosa, 2,260 passengers (June) and Costa Pacifica, 3,000 passengers (June)
MSC Cruises: MSC Splendida, 3,300 passengers (July)
Pearl Seas Cruises: Pearl Mist, 210 passengers (July)
Royal Caribbean International: Oasis of the Seas, 5,400 passengers (autumn)
Seabourn Cruise Line: Seabourn Odyssey, 450 passengers (June)
Silversea Cruises: Silver Spirit, 540 passengers (November)
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection: River Beatrice, 160 passengers (March) and River Tosca, 82 passengers (April)

As these vessels are added in 2009, three ships will leave the CLIA fleet (to be transferred to other companies) - the Celebrity Galaxy, MSC Rhapsody and NCL’s Norwegian Majesty. The net berth increase for the CLIA fleet in 2009 will total 18,031 beds, or 6.5 percent, by year end. Factoring in the ship delivery dates and actual operating days, annualized CLIA member line capacity increases by 4.8%.

Shipboard innovations: Cruise vacationers can expect a continuing evolution of shipboard facilities and amenities in the coming year, including full-scale seagoing aquaparks; luxury spas with exclusive spa suites; increased choice and flexibility in dining; and facilities, including pools and recreation areas dedicated to adults, teens or children. Some lines have enhanced or expanded golf programs featuring courses in many parts of the world and most continue to create opportunities for guests to stay “connected” while at sea, with WiFi capabilities and other state of the art technology.

Cruise trends to watch for:

  • Fuel supplements—After instituting varying fuel supplement policies in 2008 in response to extreme jumps in oil prices, the majority of CLIA members lines have now dropped the supplements for cruises in 2009 and 2010 (specifics and restrictions vary with each line).
  • Booking patterns—While historically the majority of cruises are booked five to seven months ahead, the current economic climate has shortened that lead time. While still booking a cruise vacation, consumers are deferring the booking commitment closer to the sailing date.
  • Budget offers—Many CLIA member lines have responded to the economic crisis with hard-to-resist offers and special promotions. Depending on the company, these include: kids sail free plans, special prices on selected itineraries, enhanced shipboard credit offers, layaway and other flexible payment plans, free airfare and/or shore excursions, adjusted deposit requirements, special small group booking offers, and relaxed cancellation policies.
  • International sourcing of passengers—The number of internationally sourced cruise passengers on CLIA member lines increased by 30 percent year over year through the 3rd quarter of 2008. The percent of guests sourced from international markets in 2007 was 18.4% of the industry total. CLIA's estimate for 2008 is that a record 23.1% of guests will come from international markets. This is largely due to the fleet’s expanded presence in Europe, which represents a potentially large emerging market, and the overall trend toward globalized cruise operations. While this may vary by line, overall, the top international passenger source market is Europe, with the top European source countries being the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain.
  • Going green—As new ships are introduced, CLIA member lines are taking advantage of the latest technology to produce environmentally-friendly vessels. Even on older ships, every effort is made by many lines to conserve resources and recycle. Among the initiatives and technology being utilized: advanced wastewater purification, air emission reductions, LED lighting, solar power, high efficiency appliances, energy efficient windows, products made from recycled materials, “Eco-speed” and other environmentally-friendly hull coatings, low sulphur fuels, solid and liquid waste procession, water pollution education programs, fuel conservation, food byproduct management and other initiatives.
  • Increased focus on family and multi-generational travel—The CLIA fleet carried an estimated 1.6 million kids in 2008; many lines report that those numbers are increasing, in part due to the growth of multi-generational bookings. The increase in families cruising together is also evident in some luxury and specialty cruise lines, including coastal and river cruises. Families take many cruises and in fact, a recent CLIA survey found that almost half (46 percent) of families have taken two to four cruises with children under the age of 18; 15.2 percent have taken five to seven cruises, and 4.8 percent have taken more than ten. Families consistently cite outstanding value as their reason to take a cruise. Over 83 percent said cruise vacations are very good or extremely good value. And, the price is right. Among all family cruisers, 73.4 percent said that their last cruise was the same price or less than a resort vacation, with almost 50 percent saying that the cruise was slightly or much less costly.
  • Growing group travel market—While still a relatively small percentage of total cruising, many lines report increases in the group market, spurred by multi-generational travel, girls’getaways/“mancations,” civic and social groups and by enticing, added-value group policies offered by many cruise lines.
  • Use of travel agents—Despite, and in some ways because of, the Internet, cruise vacationers continue to use travel agents. Industry-wide, nearly 90 percent of all cruises are sold through travel agents, many of them CLIA members and CLIA-certified. Some lines report that agent bookings account for as much as 97 percent of total bookings.
Below are some observations based on the responses CLIA received from a survey of more than 900 travel agents conducted in early January.
  • Despite the current economic environment, 92 percent of travel agents are expressing optimism for cruise sales when looking ahead over the next three years.
  • More than half (52 percent) expect cruise sales in 2009 to be “good” or “very good” compared to 2008.
  • In terms of consumer interest and perceived value, cruises out-score all other types of vacations.
Among the destinations that travel agents believe will receive the most bookings this year are The Caribbean/The Bahamas, followed by Alaska, Europe/The Mediterranean, and Mexico. By a large margin, a primary motivator for consumers’ booking a cruise during the January “Wave Season” is good to extraordinary value offered by the cruise lines. In second place is consumers’ love for cruising.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Marriage, Cruise-Style

While there are countless ways to praise the virtues of the cruise experience, one that is often overlooked is the opportunity for matrimony on the high seas.

Generations ago, weddings performed by a ship’s captain on an ocean voyage were a common occurrence. Today, while most ships’ captains are no longer authorized to perform wedding ceremonies at sea (there are exceptions—Princess Cruises’ “Grand Class” ships have wedding chapels and their captains are authorized to marry you at sea), government-approved authorities can (and do) oversee on-board civil ceremonies. Some cruise lines allow the wedding couple to bring their own clergyman on board, as well. Few wedding ceremonies—or vow renewals—will “top” the experience of exchanging vows on board, en route to an exotic or tropical honeymoon locale.

CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) reports that the number of on-board weddings has increased exponentially in recent years, and that thousands will be performed during 2009. The ceremony itself is generally held in the ship’s library, chapel, or one of the ship’s lounges. Wedding or Vow Renewal receptions may be held in one of the ship’s specialty restaurants, either during regular hours or as a private function. Azamara Cruises offers, as a complimentary service, wedding parties that include up to ten (10) non-sailing guests in attendance at the wedding ceremony. Their wedding parties with a reception allow for one hundred and fifty (150) non-sailing guests aboard the ship for the celebration.

Further, the timing for this experience has never been better. Statistics show that 15% of all marriage engagements occur in December. And while the average engagement lasts 14 months, the initial marriage decisions are made within 1-2 months following the engagement. The most important of these decisions? Where to hold the wedding.

So, with holiday engagements just behind us, the newly betrothed are now planning their dream locale and wedding. Many of them will experience their first marriage and are looking for something different than the traditional experience. For those who have previously experienced marriage, the allure of ocean matrimony may represent a departure from a more traditional earlier marriage. In either case… what better time to remind the newly-engaged of a unique, often overlooked wedding alternative?

Enter, and the opportunity for soon-to-be newlyweds to finalize their matrimonial dreams with the cruise industry’s leading one-stop shopping source. Cruise specialists would love to help you plan your dream wedding. Simply visit the weddings request area at to ensure you have the best deal for your destination wedding at sea.

Bottom line—the newly-engaged get the cruise destination and dates they want, with the best available deal from cruise specialists bidding to serve them. With a typical wedding currently averaging $27,000, the opportunity to book that dream ceremony on a cruise venue—knowing they’ve received the best package deal available—will surely appeal to any couple considering a cruise wedding. Leave it to to find an optimal agent who will not only coordinate the cruise booking requirement, but the actual ocean-board ceremony as well. is the one-stop, go-to source for a wedding cruise that any newly-married couple will never forget.