Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The addition of a new homeport for Disney Cruise Line is part of the overall expansion plan for The Walt Disney Company. Two new ships, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, will arrive in Florida’s Port Canaveral in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
“We are looking forward to returning to the Port of Los Angeles and offering our special brand of family cruises on the West Coast,” said Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo. “Having a Disney Cruise Line ship based in this region is something families on the West Coast have wanted for a long time, and we’re pleased to bring the Disney Wonder to Southern California in 2011.”
Disney Cruise Line has successfully tested the West Coast market with two summer seasons of Mexican Riviera itineraries from the Port of Los Angeles. Disney Magic first called on the West Coast during the summer of 2005 as part of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary and returned again during the summer of 2008. Disney Cruise Line has not yet announced the details of its itineraries for 2011.
Disney Cruise Line delivers a cruise experience that every member of the family feels was created for their own individual vacation wants and needs. Specifically designed areas and activities for each member of the family allows for both quality time together and wonderful individual experiences. The focus is to allow families to reconnect, adults to recharge their batteries and kids to immerse themselves in worlds of fantasy only Disney can create.
Take a first-hand look at Disney Cruise Line at CruiseDiva.com.
Monday, March 30, 2009
With 20 ships currently in service around the globe and two ships under construction, Royal Caribbean has always regarded the optimum enjoyment of all guests worldwide as a top priority. They consistently review guest feedback to ensure that they are able to continuously improve services while keeping the base price of a Royal Caribbean cruise essentially the same for nearly a decade. In that process, they constantly measure and evaluate guest satisfaction.
To enhance the onboard experience, Royal Caribbean has recently initiated a variety of programs including:
- MyTime Dining, which allows guests more flexibility to dine according to their own schedule, and My Family Time Dining, which provides young children an expedited 40 minute dinner experience and an escorted return to the Adventure Ocean youth programming facility so that parents can continue to enjoy dinner at a leisurely pace.
- Pre-cruise booking of shore excursions and beverage packages and advance reservations for specialty restaurants.
- Upgraded suite services and amenities including preferred seating and reservations, exclusive in-stateroom culinary treats, concierge lounge access, upgraded furniture and more.
- An enhanced departure process which provides a quicker and more seamless experience for guests at the conclusion of the cruise, while extending access to their staterooms on the morning of departure.
- New programming for kids and families, such as Crayola® Beginnings art, Sitters at Sea, Babies 2 Go!, Fisher Price® toy lending, Stroll & Roll, and more.
- Pool-side towel service which eliminates the need for a guest to remember to bring towels from their stateroom.
- A new Ultimate Value Booklet with coupons for various onboard amenities.
- An upgraded wine tasting event at a special price.
- A new special event, hosted by our ship officers, for Diamond and above members to meet and mingle with other fellow members, and featuring complimentary wine, champagne, and hors d'oeuvres.
The chart on CruiseDiva.com outlines the new Crown & Anchor Society benefits, starting July 1st.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
It never ceases to amaze me that people will set up a "roll call" on an active cruise travel message board and invite fellow passengers to join in... and then turn on newcomers. While I read some message boards to see what's on passengers' minds, I don't participate. For good reason. Some get downright ugly.
A post on a lesser trafficked message board caught my eye the other day. An active member of that smaller cruise travel community was distressed that, "For the first time in 20 years plus we find ourselves on a small 'Z' (name changed) cruise with the nastiest and most self important cruisers we have ever met." She went on to wonder how to avoid what could be unpleasant scenes on board once they embarked. How did she know before even sailing that this particular group of people might not be congenial? She had joined a Cruise Critic "roll call" for her sailing date. Out of curiosity, I looked it over. Indeed, she had posted there and her comments seemed to convey her excitement about the cruise—her first on that particular cruise line—as well as the anticipation she felt about meeting fellow passengers. Comments were aimed back at her from others on the roll call that did indeed sound demeaning. The culprits are a small number of 'Z' cruise line regulars who brag about their top-level past passenger status.
In essence, the past passengers appear to have opened the roll call topic with an agenda: to show off. I didn't get a warm and fuzzy let's meet for cocktails and get to know each other vibe. Quite the opposite. The top status past passenger members seem to pick and choose who was going to be good enough to hang out with them.
What a shame that some adults stoop to such juvenile behavior. The lady who was so upset by their snobbishness was actually considering cancelling her dream cruise with no hope of recovering her money. The next time she books a cruise, she will be returning to a different cruise line—one that she has sailed with before. She vows to not return to 'Z' cruise line because of her unpleasant experience with their top level past passengers.
The lesson here is to read an entire roll call topic and then follow it for a couple weeks before making the decision to reveal yourself. Also, never divulge your real name or your cabin number on message boards and be wary—very wary—of people who invite you to "meet" them online and then onboard. They might not be who you have been led to believe they are.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Active employees of local, state or federal law enforcement agencies or fire departments in the U.S. now can book a Celebrity, Azamara, or Royal Caribbean cruise vacation at fares up to 20 percent off the best prevailing rate on select sailings with each brand. Guests traveling in the same stateroom also are eligible to receive the special rate. Police officers and firefighters interested in booking a cruise vacation at the new special rates will be asked to provide valid proof of employment (badge or police officer/firefighter ID card) when booking and upon boarding the ship.
About Royal Caribbean Intl: Royal Caribbean Intl is a global cruise brand with 20 ships currently in service and two under construction. The line also offers unique cruisetour vacations in Alaska, Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, South America and New Zealand. For additional information or to make reservations, call your travel agent, visit www.royalcaribbean.com or call (800) ROYAL-CARIBBEAN.
About Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Cruises offers comfortably sophisticated, upscale cruise experiences with highly personalized service, exceptional dining, and extraordinary attention to detail. Celebrity sails in Alaska, California, Canada/New England, the Caribbean, Europe, Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, the Pacific Coast, Panama Canal and South America. The line also offers unique cruisetour vacations in Alaska, Australia, Canada, Europe and South America. Celebrity's current fleet - including the new Celebrity Solstice - will be joined by Celebrity Equinox this year, Celebrity Eclipse in 2010, a fourth Solstice-class ship in 2011, and a fifth in 2012. For more information, call your travel agent, dial 1-800-437-3111 or visit www.celebritycruises.com.
About Azamara Cruises: Azamara Cruises unlocks the hidden corners of the world for those who desire to immerse themselves in the rich details of every voyage. The deluxe ships - Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest - offer an intimate experience, while allowing access to exotic destinations experienced travelers long to reach. For the 694 guests on each Azamara Cruises ship, every moment at sea embodies the pinnacle of luxury, and each footstep on shore accentuates the difference between visiting a place and getting a true sense of place. This year, Azamara Cruises presents the best of enchanting Europe, elite Asia, and the most captivating Caribbean and the Panama Canal. The line also offers unique cruisetours in Asia and Europe. For more information, you are invited to call 1-877-999-9553 or visit www.azamaracruises.com.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Enchantment of the Seas’ debut in the Northeast will mark the cruise line’s first year-round deployment in the Maryland port. The 2,252-guest Enchantment of Seas will replace the 1,950-guest Grandeur of the Seas and increase Royal Caribbean’s capacity in the region by 302 berths, comprising an additional 36 balcony and 87 oceanview staterooms. The ship also will offer more family-friendly onboard amenities, including expanded youth programming spaces, and Royal Caribbean’s signature steakhouse, Chops Grille. Enchantment of the Seas’ initial Baltimore deployment will include 5-night Bermuda and 9-night Eastern Caribbean roundtrip itineraries in the summer and autumn seasons. The ship will first sail the same itineraries in May and June from the Port of Norfolk, exclusively offering Bermuda cruises from the Virginian port. Watch for winter and spring season itineraries that will be announced at a later date.
Explorer of the Seas will continue its year-round service from Cape Liberty in April 2010. The ship’s fourth consecutive year of service in the New York metropolitan area will feature a 5-night Bermuda cruise and two alternating 9-night “Bermuda and Caribbean” and “Bermuda and Bahamas” itineraries.In addition, Explorer of the Seas’ season will kick off with a special 13-night Southern Caribbean sailing departing March 28.
Both Explorer of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas’ short Bermuda cruises will feature a two-day call at Kings Wharf, from where you can explore the island’s pink beaches, quaint shops and night life at their leisure. Guests on Explorer of the Seas’ Bermuda and Bahamas itineraries will enjoy a day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island paradise in the Bahamas, while guests on Enchantment of the Seas’ Eastern Caribbean itinerary will call at Labadee, the cruise line’s private beach destination on the northern coast of Haiti.
Royal Caribbean also will return to Canada and New England in autumn 2010 with convenient sailings from Baltimore, Boston, and Cape Liberty, offering 14 itineraries ranging from 7- to 9-nights, including ports of call at Portland and Bar Harbor, Maine; and Canada’s Saint John, New Brunswick, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Jewel of the Seas will sail 7-night roundtrip voyages from Boston, while Explorer of the Seas and Enchantment of the Seas will each offer four 9-night cruises from Cape Liberty and Baltimore, respectively. Enchantment of the Seas also will offer a special 8-night roundtrip itinerary on June 18, which will add extended port time in Halifax and Bar Harbor.
Passengers will have a multitude of shore excursion options designed to provide one-of-kind experiences. For instance, they can test the trade winds on Labadee’s Dragon’s Breath Flight Line, the longest flight line in the world over water, zipping over the bay at speeds of up to 50 miles an hour. In Bermuda, travelers can snorkel at night, viewing sea creatures rarely seen during the day. During a call in Bar Harbor, guests can embark on a bike tour that crisscrosses some of the most scenic areas of Acadia National Park.
Find out more about Royal Caribbean in CruiseDiva.com's Cruise Line Profiles.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
4- and 5-Day Cruises to Cabo San Lucas
Beginning July 2, 2009, Carnival Elation’s four-day “long weekend” cruises will depart Thursdays and visit Cabo San Lucas. Two different 5-day itineraries will also be offered. Five-day cruises departing Saturdays will feature the industry’s only itinerary that includes two full days in Cabo San Lucas, providing guests with a unique opportunity to enjoy one of Mexico’s most spectacular destinations. Five-day cruises departing Mondays will feature both Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada.
New Departure Days for 3- and 4-Day Cruises
The Carnival Elation’s 3- and 4-day cruises which currently depart on Thursdays and Sundays, respectively, will be changed to Fridays (3-day cruises) and Mondays (4-day cruises) starting with the July 20, 2009, 4-day departure. These new departure dates offer guests an even more convenient option on these popular short cruise itineraries from San Diego.
Find out more about Carnival Cruise Lines in CruiseDiva.com's Cruise Line Profiles.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Help is on the way from Crystal Cruises. The cruise line that introduced classes to de-mystify the personal computer is giving even more technologies a big dose of individual attention. Crystal is rolling out a groundbreaking service —Technology Concierges on each of their ships to train and educate guests on their latest gadgets. From iPods® to iPhones™, from Blackberrys® to GPS devices, Technology Concierges can help guests fully understand the sometimes daunting features of popular devices they own or are considering for purchase. The complimentary service—a first in the cruise industry—begins through Crystal's educational, user-friendly ComputerUniversity@Sea aboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity in April and May, respectively.
The fully-trained Technology Concierges will enlighten guests on the newest trends and teach them finer nuances of today's most popular devices, such as:
-- Apple iPod nano®
-- Apple iPhone™
-- BlackBerry® Bold™
-- Kindle™ 2 wireless reading device
-- Palm Treo Pro™
-- Garmin® Colorado 400c (GPS) navigational device
To further enhance the service, Crystal's Bistros, the popular centrally-located cafes for complimentary cappuccinos and tasty bites, will carry the latest technology magazines for guests to peruse. Crystal's "Gadget Committee" plans to continually add new technology and update their in-house education to ensure the Technology Concierges remain current.
"For many, portable tech devices have become essential travel accessories, yet most people aren't familiar with half of their functions and capabilities," said Thomas Mazloum, senior vice president, hotel operations. "Whether one is too busy or simply less tech savvy, the Technology Concierges offer great opportunities to master one's gadgets with one-on-one assistance from an expert. And a vacation is a great time to explore something new."
For more information about Crystal Cruises, visit the line's website.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Come aboard with Cruise Diva and discover Mediterranean warmth on a Western Caribbean itinerary. Find out what makes an MSC cruise unique and what to expect.
Monday, March 23, 2009
New ships cost big bucks and take a long time to build. That's why cruise lines are upgrading older vessels to remain competitive in today's market. Watch the preview clip below as CNBC reveals the secrets behind dry dock and check your local listings for air times of the shows.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Cruising is all about sunburns, overeating and hangovers, right?! Here's a list of things you can do on a cruise vacation that most people probably didn't realize.
- Play Soccer: The coaches of Milan (Italy) have gotten together an intense technical program for the young soccer player. A remarkable experience will be had by all in the discovery of new friends and in depth discussions about the great game of soccer. (June 27, 2009; MSC Cruises)
- Meet Karl Rove: Yes, THAT Karl Rove. Learn inside secrets of the Bush White House. (July 8, 2009; Holland America Line)
- A little wrastlin': Sail with Jerry "The King" Lawler and learn everything you always wanted to know about the sport. (July 30, 2009; Royal Caribbean Cruise Line)
- Attend two James Taylor Concerts: Set sail aboard the QM2 with this musical legend, and enjoy 2 concerts and a Q&A session. (June 19, 2009; Cunard Line)
- Hang out with Keith Coburn, Captain of the Wizard (Deadliest Catch): Hear about it live, from the man himself. (June 7, 2009; Holland America Line)
- Buy a Cruise Line: Who knows, play enough poker onboard and the sky's the limit! (Multiple departures; Multiple cruise lines)
- ZUMBA!: Indulge in music, dance, health & fitness through guidance from licensed Zumba® professionals, creating memories that will last a lifetime. (Oct 4, 2009; Club Med)
- Cook with Chef Nobu: Cooking with the man himself. (July 28, 2009; Crystal Cruises)
- The Fab Four - Ticket to Cruise: Beatles tribute cruise starring the world famous Fab Four. (July 20, 2009; Carnival Cruise Line)
- Learn from a broadcast legend: Sail with Frank Deford - writer at Sports Illustrated, NPR's Morning Edition and HBO's Real Sports. (Aug 12, 2009; Crystal Cruises)
- Hang out with baseball stars: Spend time with the likes of Ken Griffey, Sr., Amos Otis, Vida Blue, Earl Weaver and others. (Multiple departures 2009-10; MSC Cruises)
- Cruise around the islands on your Harley: Just drive your ride up to the pier, onto the ship and away you go...what could be better! (Multiple departures in 2009; Royal Caribbean)
- Take part in a Goth Festival: Goth fashion show, private parties and (of course) a fully interactive viewing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show (Oct 11, 2009; Carnival Cruise Lines)
- Cycle the Greek Isles by day, cruise aboard a private yacht by night: Greece's magical qualities are evident everywhere, but its true essence is found far beyond the tourist sites and usual stops. (Sept 30, 2009; Butterfield and Robinson)
Saturday, March 21, 2009
After a peek into the living room of a Deluxe Owners Suite pictured here, get the inside story on Courtyard, Spa, Family, Balcony, Inside, and Studio accommodations. Straight from the "reveal" Cruise Diva shares Freestyle Cruising Accommodations to suit every type of guest. Illustrated, of course.
Would you book a 100-square foot Studio that includes a shared "Living Room"? The Studios occupy two decks and have exclusive key-card access to the Living Room, a two-story shared private lounge, which features a concierge, bar, room service, two large TV screens, and comfy seating for hanging out, reading a book, or simply enjoying a cocktail before dinner. Leave a comment and let Cruise Diva readers know what you think.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Flight-seeing, whale watching, hiking, biking and zip-lining are just part of the exhilarating mix of options on Royal Caribbean Intl’s 2010 Alaska cruises. The cruise line has unveiled 37 sailings for the season, 7- to 14-night itineraries aboard Radiance of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas. You can choose sailings from San Diego; Seattle; Seward, Alaska; and Vancouver, British Columbia, which will call at total of thirteen ports–eight of which are Alaskan. You may also complement an Alaska cruise with a cruisetour extension and travel beyond the ports into the rugged interior of Alaska. Celebrating its 21st consecutive season in the Great Land, Royal Caribbean is opening bookings for its 2010 Alaska cruises and cruisetours immediately.
For Celebrity Cruises, the number seven holds a certain “lucky” mystique and their 2010 Alaska season places the number seven at its very core. From May through Sept of next year, 7-night itineraries will be offered across three Celebrity ships in Alaska. Paired with a fully escorted land tour, these cruises offer travelers an even greater opportunity to explore one of America’s most majestic landscapes. Celebrity opened its 2010 Alaska cruise and cruisetour bookings for sale today. Guests who purchase a 2010 Celebrity Alaska cruise within a booking window of March 17 and June 17, 2009, are eligible for an onboard credit of $100 per stateroom. Throughout the 2010 Alaska season, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Mercury, and Celebrity Millennium will offer a total of 58 Alaska sailings from six home ports: San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, California; Seattle, Washington; Seward, Alaska; and Vancouver, British Columbia.
For more details, see Cruise Diva's Cruise News and visit Alaska Ports of Call for things to see and do in the Great State.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
In announcing the first details of the new ship, Cunard President Carol Marlow said “Cunard holds the distinction of sailing the most famous ocean liners in the world and I’m delighted to announce this magnificent addition to our fleet, which marks the return to our operation of three Queens simultaneously. For more than 70 years there has been an ‘Elizabeth’ in the fleet and this beautiful modern-day celebration of our past ‘Elizabeths’ will ensure this proud tradition continues far into this century. Sir Samuel Cunard would be rightly proud.”
A Nod to Cunard’s History and Heritage: Queen Elizabeth is named after Cunard’s first Queen Elizabeth, the famed Cunard ship which was launched in 1938 as the world’s largest liner. The new ship will reference her predecessor in interior grandeur, décor and style, but with a modern twist. From the outside, her distinctive black and red livery will hint at the experience that differentiates a Cunard liner from a modern-day cruise ship. This will be most evident in the ship’s adherence to liner decor, with elegant double and triple height public rooms on a grand scale, intricately detailed interiors replete with rich wood panelling, mosaics, gleaming chandeliers, and cool marbles. Art Deco features will pay homage to the original Queen Elizabeth, and will allow the new ship to reflect a more civilized era of travel. And in addition to the extensive Cunard entertainment programmes onboard, Queen Elizabeth will offer some unique strands inspired by the era of the first Queen Elizabeth, including country house parties, lively piano evenings and a variety of dancing from that time–including the jitterbug and jive–all within the setting of this 21st century ship.
As a successor to Queen Elizabeth 2, the ship will also reflect this great liner via artwork and memorabilia and will have its very own ‘Yacht Club,’ named after the lively aft lounge on QE2. Offering guests 270 degree views and the perfect setting for activities and gatherings during the day, it will also double as a dramatic evening venue for cocktails and dancing.Similarly, through photography, memorabilia and exhibits, the ship will recognize the historic links Cunard has enjoyed with Royalty over the years.
The ship’s distinctive public spaces include:
-- Queens Room: a new take on the traditional Cunard ballroom, with artwork depicting views from royal palaces, and photography of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family, along with its 1000 square foot dance floor for Grand Balls and Tea Dances at sea.
-- Garden Lounge: with its magnificent vaulted glass ceiling creating a conservatory feel inspired by the glass houses of Kew Gardens, beneath where guests will enjoy Supper Clubs, and mix dining with dancing under the stars. (illustrated above)
-- Games Deck: Named after the same deck on the original Queen Elizabeth, the Games Deck will offer paddle tennis, croquet and traditional British bowls. (Interestingly, the ship’s home port of Southampton is home to the oldest surviving bowls green in the world, first used in 1299.)
-- Midships Bar: will pay homage to her namesake liner, the first Queen Elizabeth, with memorabilia displayed from that era.
The ship’s dining venues include:
-- Queens Grill & Princess Grill: The ship will also feature the line’s celebrated five-star Grills accommodation and dining, with its al fresco dining option on a private deck terrace - first introduced on Queen Victoria - beautiful restaurants, Grills Lounge and sunbathing deck.
-- The popular Britannia Club, having first debuted aboard Queen Mary 2, features a private dining room with single seating dining for those guests in the top Balcony staterooms.
-- Britannia Restaurant: Art Deco decorative flourishes create a dramatic backdrop for this two-tiered dining room featuring a sweeping staircase ideal for making a grand entrance.
Queen Elizabeth’s maiden 2010 season will consist of six voyages, calling on 32 distinct ports in 18 countries. Her Maiden Voyage will depart from Cunard’s homeport of Southampton on 12 October 2010, en route to the Atlantic Isles. The 13-night voyage will call at Vigo (for Santiago de Compostela), Lisbon, Seville (Cadiz), Gran Canaria (Las Palmas), Tenerife (Santa Cruz de Tenerife), La Palma (Santa Cruz de La Palma) and Madeira (Funchal). The ship will then embark on five celebratory inaugural voyages. For more information see Cruise Diva's Cruise News.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Similar to the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, the names were chosen to celebrate Disney’s unique heritage of creating enchanting places and stories where dreams really do come true.
“The names are very telling of our brand and are part of our history,” said Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line and New Vacation Operations. “Disney is known for making dreams come true, and for creating worlds of fantasy that go beyond the imagination. The names are a natural choice for our ships.”
Disney Cruise Line has begun construction on the new ships with a steel cutting ceremony at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. The first piece of steel cut was part of the art deco inspired scrollwork that will grace the bow of the ships. Similar to the scrollwork on the existing Disney Cruise Line ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, the intricate pattern is reminiscent of the classic ocean liners of the 1930s, with added touches of Disney whimsy.
Since finalizing the contract to build the two new ships, Disney Cruise Line and Walt Disney Imagineering have created a truly distinctive design. Over the next few years, construction will continue, bringing the design to reality, with the Disney Dream scheduled for delivery in 2011 and the Disney Fantasy in 2012. The new ships will be purpose built with families in mind, and specially designed areas and activities for each member of the family to allow for both quality time together and wonderful individual experiences. The focus is to provide a setting where families can reconnect, adults can recharge and kids can immerse themselves in worlds only Disney can create. The expansion will more than double the passenger capacity for Disney Cruise Line. Each ship will have 1,250 staterooms and will each be 128,000 tons.
Cruise Diva only wishes the Imagineers could have come up with more original names, although we do agree that they evoke the spirit of a Disney cruise. For a first-hand look at cruises aboard Disney's ships, check out CruiseDiva.com’s Disney Cruise Line reviews.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I like Italian food, especially authentic Italian food. Unfortunately, many Americans haven’t had the opportunity to visit Italy and their exposure to “Italian” cuisine has been limited to Pizza Hut and Olive Garden where pasta is drowned in heavy sauces and garlic is the only identifiable spice—usually on crusty bread. The Italian food on MSC Orchestra was much lighter—particularly the spaghetti and other pasta dishes. Some people loved it and some didn’t. Mel and I often ordered more than one pasta to share and we particularly enjoyed a seafood risotto and cheese-filled cannelloni.
We set out to dine in each of MSC Orchestra's restaurants and, as a result, only had dinner in the dining room four times. We tried the Shanghai Chinese restaurant, the 4 Seasons for steaks, and even the casual buffet option for pizza.
Mel and I aren’t accustomed to eating a lot of Chinese food, but the generous portions in Shanghai were quite tasty. For two of us, the a la carte dinner was $34 and well worth it. What we do like is a good steak and the 4 Seasons didn’t disappoint us a bit. The filets were perfectly prepared and the entire meal was enjoyable in the aft-facing section of the buffet restaurant seating area (cordoned off in the evening). With a view over MSC Orchestra’s wake, the setting is divine and, for $25 each, we really got our money’s worth.
Now, about that pizza. Richard Sasso, President and CEO of MSC Cruises, claims it’s the best at sea and we aren’t about to argue. Baked in special pizza ovens at a temperature of approximately 600°, we always found piping hot pies available in the afternoon and evening. Slices went so fast that they didn’t have time to cool down. That says a lot.
Beneath the hot Caribbean sun, MSC Orchestra’s two ice cream options were poolside favorites—soft serve cones ($2) at the Barracuda Bar and a dozen flavors of gelato at the El Sombrero Bar available in cups, cones, or sundaes ($1.50-$4). While several lounges are designated “coffee bars,” specialty coffee drinks can be ordered ship wide.
In addition to restaurant meals, evening snacks were served in the wine-and-piano bar and MSC Cruises continues the tradition of lavish midnight buffets. The poolside buffet on Gala Night was truly a sight, with the kind of elaborate ice and vegetable carvings I haven’t seen in a long time.
We all know that it’s impossible to please everyone and Mel and I were happy to meet a fellow Georgian, Ken from Columbus who confided that he’s an avowed “foodie” and shared our enthusiasm for dining aboard MSC Orchestra.
(Cruise Diva is presently in Miami Beach for the Cruise Shipping Miami convention—formerly known as Seatrade—and will wrap up her MSC Orchestra review at CruiseDiva.com later this week.)
Monday, March 16, 2009
Most daytime activities were scheduled poolside with early morning aerobics, mid-day trivia, dance lessons, and crafts classes, and late afternoon yoga. Mixed in were silly pool games, mini-golf, shuffleboard, and ping pong tournaments.
Bingo is, of course, a cruise staple, as are art auctions, and gaming in the casino. A lecture was scheduled on “Life Enhancement” and a “Technical Ship Presentation” offered an inside look at the workings of MSC Orchestra. Italian language lessons proved to be as popular as the midnight buffets.
As the sun began to set and everyone headed indoors, the activities and entertainment didn’t stop. The Savannah Bar was the nightly setting for dancing and themed parties where Mr. and Miss Orchestra were chosen on consecutive evenings and the 50s & 60s were celebrated with a “Grease” party. Other lounges featured a piano bar, dance and easy listening music, and karaoke. For passengers who’d rather go to a movie, they were shown under the stars on the big screen over the pool deck.
By far, the highlight of every evening was a show in MSC Orchestra’s Covent Garden Theater. Extremely talented dancers, singers, an acrobatic group, and an illusionist performed nightly in Vegas-style, operatic, circus, magic, and Broadway-themed production extravaganzas. When the entire cast took to the stage and sang “Time To Say Goodbye” on the last night of our cruise, they were rewarded with a standing ovation.
We really hated to say goodbye.
Tomorrow: dining on MSC Orchestra.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Although the bathroom wasn’t of suite proportion, it had a tub/shower combination and cabinets beneath the vanity augmented two wall mounted shelves for toiletries. For Mel, its most important component was good water pressure and consistent temperature—no blast of cold water when other passengers turned the water on in their showers.
While there are a dozen categories to choose from on MSC Orchestra, staterooms are laid out in five basic configurations: Suites described above; Superior Balcony and Balcony Staterooms at 191 and 16 sq ft respectively (with 48 sq ft balconies); and Oceanview and Interior Staterooms, both at 150 sq ft. There are also a dozen 226 sq ft wheelchair accessible staterooms in a variety of categories.
One of the suites on deck 15 is designated the “Sophia Loren Suite”—named for MSC Orchestra’s Godmother. In fact, each new ship in MSC Cruises’ fleet has such a suite as Ms. Loren has christened them all. She uses her suite to relax and entertain guests when she is on board and, in the event she wishes to sail, it’s all hers.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at how “entertaining” MSC Orchestra is.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Since that inauspicious beginning, MSC Cruises is on track with their usual schedule of handling 900 passengers an hour in Port Everglades. To see what would happen by arriving at a peak time, we entered the terminal at 11:30am and the entire check-in process took 20 minutes. We had crossed the MSC Orchestra gangway and made our way to the buffet for lunch before noon.
Our first impression is that MSC Orchestra is an Italian beauty with an abundance of gleaming marble and brass. In a way, you could say the décor is a bit retro, but Mel’s description—“upscale warmth”—sums it up.
This is spring break time in the United States and we were soon joined by many children, including college students. With MSC Cruises’ Kids Sail Free program (children 17 and under as the 3rd & 4th occupants in a stateroom), a cruise is a great value for families and MSC Orchestra carried 2,900 passengers during our week-long Western Caribbean sailing, with 98% of them from North America.
Tomorrow’s blog will focus on accommodations and the suite life on MSC Orchestra.
The DrainPipe–which is comprised of a giant funnel attached to an enclosed spiral water slide to providing riders with a thrilling conclusion to their journey–will be a central component to the ship’s sprawling WaterWorks aqua park. WaterWorks will also feature a four-deck-high, 303-foot-long enclosed corkscrew water slide–the longest in cruising–along with twin dual-lane 80-foot-long racing slides and water spray apparatus such as squirting fountains, splash zones, and dump buckets.
WaterWorks is just one of the many innovations featured on the 3,646-passenger vessel, which will also include a new concept in entertainment called Ocean Plaza, cantilevered whirlpools that extend out over the ship’s beam, and a 23,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa–the largest in the “Fun Ship” fleet. A wide range of accommodation categories, including new “cove balcony” staterooms located closer to the water line and deluxe ocean view staterooms with five berths and two bathrooms, will also be featured.
Carnival Dream is scheduled to debut with three 12-day Mediterranean cruises round-trip from Rome (Civitavecchia) Sept 21–Oct 15 followed by a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Rome (Civitavecchia) to New York Oct 27–Nov 12, 2009. Following two 8-day departures from New York, Carnival Dream will sail on a special 9-day voyage from Port Canaveral before launching year-round 7-day Caribbean service from that port Dec 5, 2009.
Video footage of Carnival employees testing the new DrainPipe attraction is available on Carnival’s news blog.
Friday, March 13, 2009
For single (divorced, widowed, or simply married, but solo) parents, grandparents, or family friends taking children on a cruise, there is an often overlooked planning step that can end a vacation before it begins—the permission letter.
Airlines, cruise lines, and immigration agents can deny minor children initial boarding or entry to foreign countries without proper proof of identification and citizenship and a permission letter from absent or non-custodial parents.
Cruise Diva explains what you need (and why you need it) and even shares a sample parental permission letter to insure smooth sailing in the Cruising With Kids article series.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
While Bermuda has dozens of resorts, small hotels, and cottages, a land vacation can be pricey. We consider the best way to enjoy a Bermuda holiday is by ship. Cruises depart weekly from Boston and New York City, and less frequently from other ports such as Philadelphia and Baltimore. After spending a day and a half at sea, smaller ship will berth either in Hamilton, St. George, or larger vessels in King's Wharf (the Royal Naval Dockyard, pictured above). The most desirable itineraries are those that include the former two city ports because the Dockyard's location is isolated, although new facilities offer a few shopping diversions and pubs and high speed ferries make getting around a snap.
There's more information about what to see and do in Bermuda in Cruise Diva Goes Ashore in Bermuda and Fodor's Bermuda 2009.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
“In this challenging economy, we thought it prudent to bring all three ships closer to where our guests reside and have them sail itineraries with proven success,” said Mikael Krafft, owner and president of Star Clippers. “While Star Flyer’s Tahiti itineraries have been popular, redeploying Flyer to the Mediterranean with the other two ships ultimately will make taking a Star Clippers vacation more affordable for our guests.”
Star Flyer will continue its Tahiti itineraries until Feb. 21, 2010, after which it will make a “Grand Pacific Crossing” from Papeete, Tahiti, to Panama City, Panama. The ship will then sail a Panama Canal cruise that ends in St. Maarten, followed by a trans-Atlantic crossing to Lisbon, Portugal. Specific ports of call on the Mediterranean itineraries as well as the cruise schedule for the remainder of 2010 will be available in March 2009. Reservations through spring 2010 are open to book, and sailings for the remainder of 2010 will open for booking by April 15, 2009. For more information, visit Star Clippers online.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Last week’s record reservations activity encompassed all of the line’s 22-vessel fleet, which depart from a variety of convenient, drive-to homeports throughout the U.S. Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO, attributed the increase in bookings to the line’s travel agent partners and consumers’ appreciation for the inherent value and affordability of a “Fun Ship” vacation, as well as aggressive marketing efforts.
“This record booking activity, while at lower pricing, is certainly encouraging. It tells us that despite the uncertain economic climate, consumers clearly need more fun in their lives and view their vacations as a valuable and necessary part of that,” Cahill said. “And Carnival’s unmatched combination of quality, affordability and fun along with multiple close-to-home departure points and the greatest choice of short cruise options in the industry, make a ‘Fun Ship’ cruise the ideal getaway for today’s consumers.”
At Princess Cruises, booking volume during the current wave season has surpassed the same period last year by nearly six percent. The line credits both lower prices and travel agents who have utilized the line's sales support tools to generate business in the current economic climate. Princess is congratulating agents who have been working diligently to sell the company's value proposition during this time period, and who have taken advantage of the line's key programs designed to support agents' business.
"Travel agents gave us a record-breaking reservations day in January, and this further result shows that they continued to sell Princess cruises at an extraordinary rate throughout the first two months of the year," said Jan Swartz, Princess' executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer service.
While those bookings are at lower prices than the cruise lines would like, they are filling cabins and making money. Just not so much as in the past.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Children sailing aboard Princess ships will have the opportunity to participate in up to seven Klutz activities during their cruise. Kids will be able to build their own storybooks; create lanyard bracelets; make “picture tags” for charm bracelets, luggage tags, or pet I.D.s; create fuzzy masterpieces with Velvet Art; craft paper flowers, weave friendship bracelets; or make Thumb Doodle thumbprint art. The new Klutz activities are offered for young passengers of all ages, and are scheduled during the youth center’s regular activities or during the ship’s family fun fair in the atrium, where all family members can join in the creative fun. Unique in the cruise industry, the new activities are available fleetwide.
In addition, Princess Youth and Teen Programs provide state-of-the-art facilities and an array of activities to keep kids and teens entertained. Young passengers enjoy a wide range of fun events for ages 3 to 17, supervised by a dedicated staff of youth activity professionals. The program offers three distinct, age-specific programs–Princess Pelicans (ages 3-7), Shockwaves (ages 8-12) and Remix (ages 13-17). Each group features an age-appropriate schedule, often with separate facilities. The program includes a number of special features, including Science on the Seas activities from the award-winning California Science Center, Yoga for Kids, and a Jr. CHEF@Sea program.Additional information about Princess Cruises is available on their website at http://www.princess.com/. For more information about Klutz, visit http://www.klutz.com/.
CruiseDiva.com also offers hints for Family Cruising. Will your family enjoy a cruise? Get the do's and don'ts & what to know Before You Go.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
The front cover of your personalized 21-page “Welcome Aboard” booklet features your name, ship, and sailing date, stateroom number, and the name of the travel agency that handled your booking. Inside is shore excursion information pertaining to the specific itinerary; personalized luggage tags with your name and stateroom number pre-printed; and deck plans for your ship, including the location of your stateroom. In addition, the booklet offers cruising advice; important information on what you need to know before the cruise; what to pack; the amenities on board, and bon voyage gifts and packages.
Your travel agent can opt to have NCL mail the booklet directly to you within 60 days of sailing; or if the agent prefers, the cruise line can mail the booklet to them to give to you personally.
Find out more about Norwegian Cruise Line in the cruise line profile at CruiseDiva.com.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Entertainment on board will include live shows from artists who performed with Elvis, along with some of the world's best Elvis tribute artists. Currently scheduled to perform are The TCB Band, The Imperials, The Sweet Inspirations, Joe Guercio, D.J. Fontana, Terry Mike Jeffrey & Band, Andy Childs, Ronnie McDowell, The Dempseys, and others. Additional entertainment will be provided by Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest Winners: Gino Monopoli, Victor Trevino, Ted Torres, Dwight Icenhower, Jay Zanier, Simon Patrick, Bryant Scott, Mark Anthony, Joseph Hall, and George Thomas. Also something new this year will be the opportunity to set sail with and hear from with Elvis movie costars Celeste Yarnall from Live a Little, Love a Little, Cynthia Pepper from Kissing Cousins, and Chris Noel from Girl Happy.
In addition to the music and presentations by those who knew and performed with Elvis, there will be Elvis-themed entertainment, parties and events. Everywhere you go on board this ship, we’re making certain you'll hear Elvis music. From the Grand Atrium, the gift shops and the dinning rooms, to the bars, Lido Deck and main stage, you’ll find the King of Rock 'n' Roll throughout the ship. Another exciting addition to the 2009 cruise is RESERVED SEATING in the main showroom. The earlier you book your cabin, the closer to the stage you sit! You can also rest assured that there will be no last minute deep discounting of cabins. As part of the low price guarantee, if a lower advertised rate becomes available, you will receive the difference in cabin fare as an onboard credit.
Sixthman, an affinity travel company based in Atlanta, will produce this year’s cruise. Sixthman currently delivers experiences on board cruise ships for thousands of fans of artists including John Mayer, Barenaked Ladies, Lyle Lovett, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sister Hazel and others. Fares start at $599 per person + taxes and fees and you can reserve your cabin with just a $99 per person deposit. For information, call 877-SIXTHMAN or visit Elvis.com/cruise.
What's an Elvis Cruise like? Take a look back at Cruise Diva's Memories of The Elvis Cruise.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Throughout Clues to the Cruise, players will learn more about Royal Caribbean’s legacy of innovation, some of the cruise line’s partners, and the Nation of Why Not--the world’s first floating nation consisting of 20 Royal Caribbean “states” (a.k.a. ships) and its citizens. Players who have never cruised before may even realize that they already have most of the qualifications to become a citizen of the Nation of Why Not – people who long to expand their horizons with unprecedented vacation choices and experiences they might never have considered on dry land.
To play, consumers should register at http://www.cluestothecruise.com/, an interactive online environment with an electronic game board consisting of 25 squares. The goal is to earn the squares by playing and winning various puzzles throughout a virtual cruise ship. When four adjacent squares are claimed, players have the opportunity to spin the Cruise Wheel to win exciting prizes, such as kayaks, boogie boards, digital cameras, and one of two Nickelodeon Family Cruises in the summer of 2009. For following the Clues to the Cruise, players also earn an entry for a chance to win one of 22 seven-night cruises to Alaska, the Mexican Riviera or the Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean is spreading the word about Clues to the Cruise through a variety of media in order to encourage consumers to explore the Nation of Why Not. A campaign of online banner ads, email invitations, and local market promotions will offer the first clues to help draw players to the online game.
Bringing the game to life, a not-to-be-missed Clues to the Cruise mobile tour--the centerpiece of which is a ball pit--will hit the road for a nationwide tour visiting popular family attractions, sporting events and festivals in select cities. At each stop, participants will have the opportunity to learn about and participate in Clues to the Cruise through a variety of activities, including the main attraction--a clue search challenge in the ball pit, where participants, either solo or with a teammate, attempt to collect as many lettered balls as possible in 45 seconds. Once the time is up, contestants will be tasked with unscrambling the letters to spell vacation-related words. Those that successfully match words to a master list will win prizes ranging from gear and products from a variety of partners, to coveted Royal Caribbean cruise vacations. Additionally, internet-ready laptops will be available for everyone who wishes to register instantly on http://www.cluestothecruise.com/ and play without delay.
The cross-country Clues to the Cruise tour will kick off in Los Angeles, CA on March 14 and end in New York, NY on May 9. Check CruiseDiva.com's Cruise News for a list of the tour stops.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
The sale also includes two seagoing summer adventures aboard the world's newest ultra-luxury yacht, Seabourn Odyssey, which sails her maiden voyage June 24th from Venice. The new yacht features four open-seating dining venues, a luxurious sun terrace, a resort style pool with cabanas and the largest spa in her class. All Seabourn yachts feature all-suite accommodations, complimentary water sports, champagne, caviar, open bars and fine wines.
To qualify, bookings must be made from Monday, March 9 until close of business on Monday March 16, 2009. The offer, which is in lieu of any other promotional offer or savings, is valid for new bookings on 14 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 on Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend and on Seabourn Odyssey. The list of included voyages is:
June 1 Scandinavia & Russia - Round Trip Copenhagen 12 days
June 13 Norwegian Fjords - Round Trip Copenhagen 9 days
June 22 Scandinavia & Russia - Round Trip Copenhagen 12 days
July 4 Norway & Midnight Sun - Round Trip Copenhagen 14 days
July 30 Norwegian Fjords - Round Trip Copenhagen 9 days
June 27 Corfu & Croatian Isles - Rome (Civitavecchia) to Venice 7 days
July 4 Dalmatian Gems - Round Trip Venice 7 days
July 11 Italian Idyll - Venice to Rome (Civitavecchia) 7 days
June 20 Cote d’ Azur & Spanish Isles - Monte Carlo to Barcelona 7 days
June 27 The Yachtsman’s Riviera - Barcelona to Monte Carlo 7 days
July 4 Florence & IItalian Yacht Havens - Monte Carlo to Rome (Civitavecchia) 7 days
July 11 Sardinia, Corsica & Cote d’Azur - Rome (Civitavecchia) to Monte Carlo 7 days
July 18 Aegean Odyssey - Istanbul to Athens (Piraeus) 7 days
July 25 Greece & Dalmatian Delights - Athens (Piraeus) to Venice 7 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 www.seabourn.com .
“When we launched our business in 1998, we recognized a need in the marketplace for a cruise experience created just for families,” said Karl L. Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line and New Vacation Operations. “With these new ships, we are continuing to build upon that vision of providing more families with an unforgettable cruise vacation and the chance to explore new destinations with Disney.”
The first piece of steel cut for the new ships was part of the art deco inspired scrollwork that will grace the bow of the ships. Similar to the scrollwork on the Disney Cruise Line ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, the intricate pattern is reminiscent of the classic ocean liners of the 1930s, designed to reflect the glamour of the golden age of cruising with added touches of Disney whimsy, such as the Mickey Mouse medallion in the center of the design. Since finalizing a contract with the Meyer Werft shipyard to build the two new ships, Disney Cruise Line and Walt Disney Imagineering have created a truly distinctive design for the new ships. Over the next few years, construction will continue, bringing the design to reality. The design details will be unveiled at a later date.
Holz noted that the fleet expansion will more than double the passenger capacity for Disney Cruise Line. Each ship will have 1,250 staterooms and will weigh 128,000 tons. Similar to the existing ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, the new ships will be purpose built with families in mind, with specially designed areas and activities for each member of the family to allow for both quality time together and wonderful individual experiences. The focus is to provide a setting where families can reconnect, adults can recharge and kids can immerse themselves in worlds of fantasy only Disney can create. Known for bringing family travel to the cruise market, Disney continues to be a leader in the industry.
The Disney Wonder sails 3- and 4-night cruises to the Bahamas and Disney Magic, which primarily sails seven-night cruises to the eastern and western Caribbean, will embark on a season of limited itineraries exploring Northern Europe and the Mediterranean beginning in the spring of 2010.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Norwegian Cruise Line has unveiled the first images of its new 153,000-gross ton, 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic, the company’s largest and most innovative Freestyle Cruising ship to date. Currently under construction at STX Europe in St. Nazaire, France, the contemporary, balcony-rich, 19-deck ship will be 1,068 feet long, 133 feet wide, with a draft of 28.5 feet when completed in May 2010.
Does her slightly top-heavy-appearing profile remind you of another "epic" NCL ship? Perhaps the legendary SS Norway, following the addition of upper decks in 1990?
While NCL hasn't announced any additional details—they plan to do that and unveil the signature hull artwork in the coming months—Cruise Diva is pleased to share the latest "reveals" of F3, now named Norwegian Epic ...
With Details About the F3 Ships, NCL throws us a curve. Catch the NEW WAVE in innovative ocean-going accommodations.
Norwegian Cruise Line Reveals F3 Nightlife Options — NCL sailed into a sea of dreams to share a peek into the future of nightlife afloat.
Cruises are scheduled to go on sale to the public this spring.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Now you can put your iPod® to even more practical use with programs from Living Language, the foremost name in the field of foreign language self-study. Living Language's iKnow series turns your video-compatible iPod® or your iPhone™ device into a pocket translator, allowing you to hear and see more than 1500 essential words, phrases, and conversations. You simply upload the iKnow files to a video-compatible iPod® device, and you can listen to and see foreign language expressions and English translations. A convenient navigation menu allows you to quickly find the phrases you need, and there’s plenty of repetition to perfect your pronunciation. Whether you want to order dinner in a restaurant or ask for directions, iKnow enables you to learn the basics and communicate easily without looking like a tourist with a dictionary in hand. Instead, you'll look techno-cool.
• You can see and hear all the essential words and phrases you need, including conversations
• Topics include greetings and polite expressions, asking directions, meeting people, ordering in a restaurant, and more
• Includes a pocket-sized user's guide and a complete online PDF transcript of all the content
iKnow works on any video-compatible iPod® nano, iPod® classic, iPod® touch, and iPhone™ device and is currently available in seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish, with more on the way.
I wish iKnow Italian had been loaded on my iPod® when sailing on Costa Fortuna last month and I've already ordered it for my upcoming MSC Orchestra cruise. The next time I sail from Miami, I'll have iKnow Spanish as well.
Monday, March 2, 2009
CHECK YOUR CALENDAR -- Sunday Fun Day is March 29, 2009. It's sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines and House Party ™, the party planning experts. Carnival will provide everything you need to bring the fun of a Carnival cruise to your living room and houseparty.com will help plan your event including sending your invitations, posting photos, and more.
START THINKING FUN -- Applicants selected as Fun Directors get the complete party treatment: decorations, karaoke, games, gifts, the works. It's all free and it's everything you need to recreate the fun of a Carnival cruise including drink and food recipes.
CLICK APPLY NOW -- Sadly, spaces are limited. So don't let this fun-filled event happen without you.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
When was the last time you depended on a wake-up call that didn't come and almost missed an early shore excursion or a breakfast meet-up with friends? And when was the last time you saw an alarm clock provided in your stateroom? I know that many of my fellow cruise passengers pack their own travel alarm clock. Yes, I have one and yet I often leave it home because it's nearly as confusing to set as the clock radios now found in most hotel rooms. (Note to hotel management: provide an instruction sheet for your guests!)
Happily, on two recent cruises aboard Silversea's Silver Wind and Regent's Seven Seas Mariner I found alarm clocks on my bedside nightstand. I must add that the first time I encountered a ship with clocks was when aboard Oceania Regatta. It wasn't there initially, but promptly appeared when I mentioned it would be nice to have an alarm clock.
Granted, most cruise ships don't provide an alarm clock and offer wake up calls instead. However, it's nice to have the assurance of a personal alarm for a back-up and I always set my BlackBerry for such instances as when the ringer on my cabin phone was set so low that it failed to awaken me. Most people have mobile phones these days and many phones have alarms. Check yours and see if it can function as an alarm clock. If so, that's one item you can check off your packing list.