Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Develop Your Personal Fashion Style On A Crystal Cruise

If you've ever felt frustrated when packing your maybe-not-so-chic wardrobe for a cruise, help is on the way. To channel your inner fashionista, veteran wardrobe stylists and designers will host a complimentary "Style Desk" aboard Crystal Cruises' new "Sun, Sea and Euro-Style" sailing this fall. Setting the stage for Crystal's new Fashion & Style cruise is Crystal Serenity's 12-day Mediterranean itinerary from Venice to Barcelona on October 20.

Crystal's Experiences of Discovery program promises an experience to remember as fashion experts offer one-on-one consultations, answer fashion dilemmas, and help travelers enhance their own personal sense of style. Stylist/costume designer Anna Wycoff, a Los Angeles-based costume designer and personal wardrobe stylist who has styled runway shows on both coasts, and designer Gayle Davis, the co-owner of the M Stevens dancewear company who also custom designs and styles under her own label, will also provide an insider's look at the fashion world, with a strong emphasis on European style. The team will present a colorful look at the evolution of European fashion and cinema costuming, culminating in a fanciful afternoon tea themed with a 1950's vintage fashion show.

Fashionable highlights of the voyage include:
-- Fashion & Style Desk: Stylists offer personal consultations to perfect your look.
-- Personal Style: Embracing Authenticity as a Virtue, From Bardot to Bogart—A discussion of signature styles.
-- European Cinema Costuming: Learn how costumes enhance a film's story, and examine iconic characters from films like La Dolce Vita and Roman Holiday set in the ship's destinations.
-- A European Fashion Evolution: Explore the 1950's to 60's, when a radical ready-to-wear European revolution replaced manicured couture.
-- Fashion Show Tea : "Riviera Rendezvous," a vintage fashion show created exclusively for Crystal guests.

"The Mediterranean provides a chic backdrop to an insightful look at memorable European fashion," says Christopher Escamilla, Crystal's entertainment coordinator. "Always open and accessible, with infectious enthusiasm, Anna and Gayle are fashion cheerleaders for men and women."

The 12-day Crystal Serenity cruise visits Venice, Dubrovnik, Catania, Civitavecchia/Rome, Livorno/Florence, Monte Carlo and Barcelona. For more information, visit the line's website at CrystalCruises.com.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cruise Vacation Shopping

It's your duty to shop, but it won't be free!

Before you board your ship, get Cruise Diva's strategies for smart Shopping on Your Cruise Vacation.

Also learn how to snag some No-Cost Souvenirs during your cruise.

About these grass-soled flip flops... you'll have to sail on Celebrity Cruises' Solstice to sink your toes into them.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Oceania Cruises & Canyon Ranch Spa Join Forces at Sea

Cruise Diva predicts that spa connoisseurs will soon be lining up to go to sea on an Oceania Cruises vessel. The world famous Canyon Ranch®, leading operator of destination health resorts, will design and operate the spa, beauty salon, wellness and fitness facilities on board Marina, which is set to debut in late 2010. In Addition, Canyon Ranch SpaClub will debut fleet-wide on Marina's sister ships Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica by Sept 1st of this year. "We wanted to bring this world-renowned experience to the guests on our existing ships as soon as possible as it presented us with the perfect opportunity to enhance our acclaimed product and further the evolution of our brand," announced Bob Binder, President of Oceania Cruises. Binder added that the facility will be a Canyon Ranch SpaClub®, from the Canyon Ranch at Sea division.

Canyon Ranch SpaClub aboard Marina will feature a visually stunning state-of-the-art spa, wellness and fitness facility, plus a luxurious full-service beauty salon. SpaClub will offer the most desirable spa amenities available: there will be 16 massage, body and skin-care treatment rooms, a gym and weight room with more than 50 pieces of cardio and weight training equipment, a juice bar, men's and women's locker rooms, and two whirlpools. Canyon Ranch SpaClub aboard Marina will also incorporate unique water features throughout, emphasizing the healing and therapeutic benefits of water and heat. A thalassotherapy pool will feature airbed recliner lounges, neck fountains, deluge waterfall, air tub and body massage jet benches. The pool area also will have a whirlpool. Adjacent to the pool will be an extensive co-ed Thermal Suite featuring an herbal sauna, Finnish sauna, reflexology basins and an aromatic steam room. Also on board will be the exotic Rasul Ceremony, a Canyon Ranch SpaClub signature treatment. This medicinal mud and steam treatment, which takes place in an ornately tiled steam chamber, is derived from an ancient cleansing ritual.

Canyon Ranch certified fitness instructors will conduct daily group and private fitness, yoga and tai chi classes for guests. In addition, on select voyages Canyon Ranch healthy living experts will offer on-board presentations and workshops addressing lifestyle change, healthy living, stress management and a variety of other topics. The Canyon Ranch SpaClub beauty salon will offer complete beauty services for women and men. The extensive Salon menu will feature hair design and nail care treatments, including luxurious spa manicures and pedicures, makeup consultations and makeovers. SpaClub's array of rejuvenating spa treatments also will include massages and therapeutic bodywork, mud, aromatherapy, ayuvedic and seaweed treatments, facials and masks, conditioning body scrubs and therapeutic body cocoons.

In addition, Oceania Cruises will feature a full range of culinary offerings from Canyon Ranch's incomparable Spa Cuisine which is both nutritious and created with the highest gourmet standards. This array of healthy cuisine will be available at breakfast, lunch and dinner in both the Grand Dining Room and Terrace Café. Canyon Ranch Spa Cuisine will debut aboard Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica in April and May, 2010 and aboard Marina in late 2010. "Canyon Ranch shares our passion for fine cuisine and our Executive Chefs will be working with their culinary team to create a unique and diverse array of healthy, gourmet meals," Binder said.

Cruise Diva has experienced a Canyon Ranch SpaClub first-hand and can vouch for their facilities and the quality of their services. This is big news indeed for those of us who enjoy spa-going without pressure.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

How Popular Are Carnival’s West Coast Shorter Cruises?

They are very popular with Isaac Levy, who certainly knows a good thing when he sees it.

If you think you’ve accumulated an impressive past passenger record with Carnival Cruise Lines, think again. Isaac Levy, a 90-year-old resident of Redondo Beach, California, has been sailing on Carnival Cruise Lines’ 4-day Baja Mexico itinerary once a month for the past 14 years, dating back to when the cruise ship Holiday first began the program from Southern California in 1995.

Aside from taking an annual break from Carnival cruising during the summer, Levy has sailed on nearly one hundred 4-day “Fun Ship” Baja cruises, most recently on the 2,052-passenger Carnival Paradise which currently operates the program.

Levy (third from left) is pictured here with several members of the Carnival Paradise’s management team. Obviously they don't need to see his Platinum Sign and Sail card to know who he is! Carnival Paradise sails year-round from Long Beach, CA, offering 4-day cruises departing Mondays to Ensenada and Catalina Island and 3-day cruises departing Fridays to Ensenada.

Just in case you’d like to challenge Mr. Levy’s Carnival record, the cruise line is currently offering some exceptionally attractive rates on its shorter itineraries departing from Long Beach and San Diego. Carnival’s West Coast shorter cruise options, which start at an eye-popping low fare of $43 a day, include:
  • 3- and 4-day Baja cruises aboard the Carnival Paradise year-round from Long Beach. 3-day cruises departing Fridays call at Ensenada, while 4-day voyages departing Mondays visit Ensenada and Catalina Island. Early Saver rates start at $219 per person for 3-day cruises and $169 per person for 4-day cruises.
  • 3-, 4-, and 5-day Baja or Cabo sailings on the Carnival Elation year-round from San Diego. The 4-day cruises depart Fridays and visit Ensenada. 4-day cruises departing Mondays call at Ensenada and Catalina Island, while 4-day weekend cruises depart Thursdays and feature Cabo San Lucas. 5-day cruises departing Saturdays offer two full days in Cabo San Lucas, while 5-day cruises departing Mondays stop at Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada. Early Saver rates start at $169 per person for 4-day and 4-day mid-week cruises; $259 per person for 4-day weekend cruises; and $299 per person for 5-day cruises.
Rates are based on double occupancy, reflect category 4 (interior) accommodations for select fall sailings, and are subject to change without notice. If you live in southern California, can you really afford to stay home?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Silversea's "Silver Shore Concierge" Service Customizes Shore Experiences

Part of the allure of a cruise vacation is the ability to travel effortlessly from destination to destination and luxury line Silversea is making it even easier when you arrive. Guests may now design their own unique experiences ashore with the introduction of its new "Silver Shore Concierge" service. With the launch of this innovative program, guests or their travel agent need only to call the dedicated toll-free phone line, 1-800-968-9518, or email concierge@silversea.com, to request assistance in making personalized, private onshore arrangements. The Silver Shore Concierge desk can be reached from 8:00am to 6:00pm (East Coast time, U.S.), Monday through Friday.

"The new Silver Shore Concierge desk has been created to provide our guests with one-to-one consultations and creative assistance," said Darius Mehta, Silversea's director of land programs. "Our team of destination experts are happy to set up arrangements to meet a guest's specific requirements, tailored to their personal interests, or help guests design their own one-of-a-kind onshore experience."

The Silver Shore Concierge arrangements could include not only sightseeing but also sporting activities and securing behind-the-scenes or after-hours access to exclusive designer shops, museums, cathedrals, and more. Other possibilities might include a champagne picnic and hot air balloon ride over Tuscany, access to a designer's atelier in Venice, or a journey through Juneau's glacier-carved fjords by private catamaran. Additionally, guests can call upon the Silver Shore Concierge to plan pre- and post-cruise land adventures that include accommodations at some of the world's best hotels, flights, ground transportation, and guided tours of historical sites and other attractions.

To take advantage of the new service, Silversea guests will need to have a deposited or fully-paid booking. Payment for confirmed arrangements is made in advance of sailing and includes a service fee. The Silver Shore Concierge is also offered aboard ship, where the shore concierge manager and team, together with the destination specialist, are available to assist guests with suggestions, planning and coordination of all their independent touring needs. The Concierge service is the centerpiece of an array of new Silver Shore tour and hotel offerings designed to make the destination experience more personal and authentic.

All Silver Shore tours are available for guests to pre-book online as early as 120 days prior to sailing. Silver Shore Land Adventures and hotel options can be booked as add-ons to the cruise vacation through Silversea reservations. Silversea Cruises is recognized as an innovator in the luxury segment, offering guests large-ship amenities aboard its intimate, all-suite vessels: Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper, and—launching in Dec 2009, Silver Spirit—all designed to offer an atmosphere of conviviality and casual elegance. With the addition of the regal expedition ship Prince Albert II, the company's itineraries encompass all seven continents. For more information on Silversea Cruises and Silver Shore tour details, visit Silversea.com.

Photo above: Silver Wind in Cape Town, South Africa

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Seabourn Odyssey Makes A Debut

The Yachts of Seabourn has embarked upon an expansive future as Seabourn Odyssey was launched yesterday from Venice as the first ultra-luxe vessel to debut in six years. The 32,000-ton vessel accommodates 450 guests in 225 luxury suites (ninety percent with verandas), offering one of the highest space-per-guest ratios in the industry with highly personalized service. Odyssey features the largest spa on any luxury yacht, four restaurants, and a host of top drawer amenities. Guests aboard for the maiden voyage have also shared the unprecedented honor of acting as godparents. Odyssey is the first of three new vessels Seabourn is building, a 216% increase in capacity for the line, with Seabourn Sojourn launching in June 2010 and a third new-build in 2011.

"It is with great pleasure that I welcome Seabourn Odyssey to our distinguished fleet of yachts," said Pamela Conover, President and CEO of The Yachts of Seabourn. "The launch of Odyssey allows us to serve more travelers but still offer the intimate and exclusive experience which has made us a leader in the luxury cruising market."

Enticements are everywhere aboard Odyssey. The Spa at Seabourn is the largest spa on any luxury vessel at 11,400 square feet and is the only cruise vessel to offer SkinCeuticals, the award-winning skincare line, products and treatments at sea. Passengers can enjoy a hydropool, Kinesis wall, two herbal steam rooms, as well as two Spa Villas complete with a whirlpool big enough for two, a private balcony for sunbathing, a double daybed, and a full living room. All guests on Odyssey receive exceptional personalized service with nearly one staff member per guest and top-of-the-line suite amenities, which include the new Molton Brown Therapies skincare line, available for the first time at sea.

Passengers on Odyssey will savor dining in four restaurants from the fine-dining Restaurant with menus crafted by Charlie Palmer to the casual, open-air Patio Grill, or choose course-by-course dining from the comfort of their suite. With an intimate yacht-like atmosphere, passengers can choose from other highlights including 11 decks featuring two outdoor swimming pools, six outdoor whirlpools, water sports from the unique marina, and a private diamond showroom. The Retreat features a contoured nine-hole mini golf course, a giant chess board, shuffleboard, and stargazing in the evening. Additional amenities include Seabourn-branded netbooks and iPods for loan as well as complimentary pool-side massages and signature 'Caviar in the Surf' service.

A new feature of Odyssey, Seabourn Square, is an innovative "concierge lounge" with a library, upscale shops, outdoor terrace and coffee bar, as well as concierges in a relaxed, club-like atmosphere. Odyssey will spend her maiden year exploring the Mediterranean throughout the summer and early fall, then sailing the Caribbean before embarking on Seabourn's first world cruise, a 108-day voyage departing Jan 5, 2010, visiting 42 ports in 26 countries on six continents from Ft. Lauderdale to Athens. For more information, visit Seabourn.com.

Enjoy the Seabourn Odyssey Christening in Venice:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Around The World With Cunard's Queens

Cunard Line has proudly announced the latest chapter in its storied history: the 2011 World Voyages. In January 2011, the youngest luxury fleet at sea will see two of its regal ocean liners embark on global odysseys that together will visit 57 ports of call across 34 countries including a maiden World Voyage for the new Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Mary 2 traveling the globe via the intriguing east-west route of passage. Each itinerary will offer a unique adventure—featuring overnights in Sydney, Hong Kong and Dubai on Queen Elizabeth, and Cape Town, Sydney and Hong Kong on Queen Mary 2—combined with the line’s hallmarks of gourmet fine dining, impeccable White Star Service™ and a wide variety of elegant stateroom accommodation including the renowned and award-winning Queens Grill and Princess Grill suites.

Queen Elizabeth Maiden World Voyage: For her maiden World Voyage, Queen Elizabeth will offer a complete circumnavigation of the globe from her home port of Southampton, crossing the Atlantic en route to New York. Especially compelling for US and Canadian guests is the option of embarking on their World Voyage experience from New York, Fort Lauderdale, or—after the ship transits the Panama Canal—Los Angeles. From the west coast, Queen Elizabeth will continue her westward journey to the city of Sydney (where she will stay overnight) via the South Pacific and New Zealand before heading to the exotic ports of Asia including Singapore, Bali, Vietnam and Thailand as well as another overnight stay in Hong Kong. Then the ship sails on to Malaysia and India before calling on Dubai (also an overnight stay), followed by a visit to Oman before transiting the Suez Canal and taking in some of the sites of Egypt, Greece, Italy, and Portugal en-route back to Southampton where North American guests can rendezvous with the Queen Mary 2 and take in a legendary Transatlantic crossing to complete their 103-day circumnavigation of the globe.

Segment voyages capture the essence of the World Voyage and aboard Queen Elizabeth range from 12 to 25-days, including New York to Los Angeles (16 days), Los Angeles to Sydney (23 days), Sydney to Singapore (25 days), Singapore to Dubai (12 days) and Dubai to Southampton (19 days). Guests can enjoy great value by combining two or more consecutive segments to create adventurous Liner Voyages.

Queen Mary 2 World Voyage: Queen Mary 2 will begin her fourth World Voyage in New York and her second passage sailing on an east-west route around the globe. After a call in Fort Lauderdale, the ship will head to the Caribbean and South America, calling on Barbados, Brazil, and Uruguay before arriving for an overnight stay in Cape Town in South Africa, the ship’s second visit to this metropolis. From there she will sail to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean before an exploration of Australia that culminates with an overnight stay in Sydney. The ship continues on to New Zealand and Guam before sampling some highlights of China and Japan en-route to an overnight stay in Hong Kong, followed by visits to Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and India en-route to Dubai. From here, Queen Mary 2 will call in Egypt before making a transit of the Suez Canal that will take her to European calls in Italy, Monaco, Spain and the United Kingdom, her last call before ending her 103-day odyssey in New York.

Segment voyages aboard Queen Mary 2 range from 15 to 25-days and include New York to Cape Town (23 days), Cape Town to Sydney (17 days), Sydney to Hong Kong (25 days), Hong Kong to Dubai (15 days) and Dubai to New York (23 days). Consecutive segments can be combined to experience adventurous Liner Voyages.

Cunard is also pleased to offer guests the chance to enjoy the World Voyage experience using a combination of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2. Embarking in New York, guests will be able to complete the first half of their World Voyage on Queen Elizabeth before transferring ships in Sydney and sailing back to New York on Queen Mary 2.

“Cunard’s World Voyages have been a highlight of our programs since we introduced this travel adventure in 1922 and our two global journeys offer surprising value that is truly beyond expectation,” said Carol Marlow, president and managing director of Cunard Line.

Cunard Royal Rendenzvous: Exactly three years to the day after Cunard welcomed its trio of Queens in New York, this rare event is poised to take place again on Jan 13, 2011 when Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth call on New York for another spectacular Cunard Royal Rendezvous. Be among the few to experience this history-making day as you depart New York Harbor on one of the most famous ocean liners in the world.

An invitation will be extended to all Full World Voyage guests to join Carol Marlow ashore at one of the ports of call during their time on board for the traditional World Voyage Dinner, an evening of world-class dining and entertainment. For more information and to book a 2011 Cunard World Voyage aboard Queen Mary 2 or Queen Elizabeth, consult your travel professional, call toll-free 1-800-7-CUNARD or go to Cunard.com.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Celebrity Equinox Navigates Narrow River Ems En Route to Official Launch

With less than 20 feet “breathing room” on either side, the 2,850-guest Celebrity Equinox—the eagerly anticipated sister ship to the widely heralded Celebrity Solstice—left shipbuilder Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany on Saturday, June 20, to make the over-26-mile transit—an event known as the “conveyance”—down the River Ems … backwards. At its tightest point along the course, there are as few as 13 feet between each side ofthe 1,040-ft-long, 121-ft-wide ship and the riverbank.

During Celebrity Equinox’s transit from Papenburg to Eemshaven, Netherlands, the ship navigated the passing of a railway bridge in Weener, a highway bridge in Leer, and a narrow passage in Gandersum. The journey takes between 12 and 15 hours to complete, and is likely the most complicated ride the ship will encounter in its life. Due to the size and scale of the ship, the transit can take place only during absolutely ideal weather conditions: when the river is at high tide, when winds are extremely calm, and when tidal barriers are closed, in order to ensure there is enough water to accommodate the draft of the ship. Tens of thousands of spectators are estimated to have lined the banks of the River Ems to watch Celebrity Equinox make its challenging and historic transit. Together with sister ship Celebrity Solstice, the two are the largest ships ever to have sailed on the River Ems.

“The conveyance is an interesting challenge for any Captain,” said Celebrity Equinox’s Captain Apostolos Bouzakis. “The limited space available for navigation, the nature of sailing in reverse, and the number of narrow passages and bridges to traverse are all factors that cruise ship captains normally do not have to contend with. But, a real benefit of this event is the opportunity to test the maneuverability of the ship at reduced speeds. With an average channel breadth of 364 feet, it is a bit like taking a brand-new sportscar down winding country lanes: It’s exhilarating, but not without its share of trepidation.”

After provisioning and loading activities in Eemshaven, followed by sea trials, Celebrity Equinox will be officially delivered from Meyer Werft to Celebrity Cruises July 16. The ship then will sail to Southampton, England and complete a series of inspections, followed by eight days of launch celebrations, including the maritime tradition of a naming ceremony over which the ship’s Godmother will preside. Cruise Diva will be on board for the festivities, so watch here for blogs from the ship!

The 122,000-gross-registered-tons Celebrity Equinox is scheduled to enter service July 31 from Southampton, England, on an 8-night cruise through the majestic Norwegian Fjords, followed by a series of romantic Mediterranean sailings from Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, beginning August 8. Celebrity’s fleet, including the new Celebrity Solstice, is 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, visit Celebrity.com.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cruise Review: Diary Of Days In The Arctic Aboard Prince Albert II

Few regions of the world have the richness of legend and lore as the Arctic—from stories about its spectacular fauna like National Geographic’s film and book, Arctic Tale, to work by poets like Emily Dickinson who once wrote about an Arctic flower, to beloved fantasies about Santa Claus, his elves, and flying reindeer.

In Diary Of Days In The Arctic, Georgina Cruz shares the wonders of a 16-day expedition to the Arctic aboard Silversea Cruises’ Prince Albert II with CruiseDiva.com readers.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Seabourn Completes An Odyssey

After successful sea trials (pictured here), The Yachts of Seabourn has taken delivery of the cruise industry’s first ultra-luxury vessel to launch in six years. Built at T.Mariotti shipyard in Genoa and with a gross tonnage of 32,000, Seabourn Odyssey is set for her launch and naming ceremony in Venice this coming Wednesday, June 24, before embarking on her maiden voyage.

“This moment marks a milestone occasion in Seabourn’s history; Seabourn Odyssey is the first of three new sisters to be introduced over the next two years and sets a new standard for the ultra-luxury cruise industry. We hope our guests will be as delighted as we are and we look forward to welcoming them aboard to enjoy a new era in Seabourn’s yachting life,” said Pamela Conover, president and CEO of Seabourn.

The $250 million Seabourn Odyssey will be launched in an intimate ceremony with the unmistakable skyline of Venice as the backdrop. In a twist from traditional naming ceremonies, all guests sailing on the Maiden Voyage will be named ‘godparents’ with the breaking of a bottle of Italian Prosecco to mark the occasion. An ingenious bottle breaking mechanism has been designed especially for the event. Following the on-deck event, all ‘godparents’ will receive a commemorative certificate and their names will be affixed to a plaque displayed on board. Follow the events in Venice on the Seabourn Odyssey Blog.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Norwegian Majesty Returns to Philadelphia for Final CruisePhilly Season

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) will return to the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal for the seventh straight year with Norwegian Majesty. While the ship will be leaving the fleet later this year, CruisePhilly is turning the cruising season upside down in 2009, offering expanded cruises to Canada throughout September and closing with fall trips to Bermuda.

NCL will make eight sailings from the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal in 2009. The season will kick off on Aug 29th when the Norwegian Majesty makes a 5-day sail to Canada and New England. That trip will be followed by three consecutive 10-day sailings to Canada and New England, the longest Canadian cruises from Philadelphia to date. These 10-day cruises will call on Bay of Fundy/St. John, Sydney, Charlotte, Halifax and Portland, Maine. Beginning Oct 3, the Norwegian Majesty makes four consecutive 7-day sailings to the sunny pink beaches of St. George's, Bermuda. Norwegian Majesty's final sail to Bermuda, ending CruisePhilly's 2009 season, leaves Philadelphia on Oct 24th.

"CruisePhilly had a very successful 2008 season thanks in large part to the Norwegian Majesty calling Philadelphia its home for the first time," said John J. Matheussen, CEO of the DRPA, the parent agency of the Port of Philadelphia and Camden. "We are very pleased that the Majesty has returned once again to be a part of our convenient cruise offerings out of the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal at the Navy Yard." (That's the view overlooking the stately Navy Yard pictured above.)

NCL's Norwegian Majesty accommodates 1,462 passengers and offers a broad array of amenities, including NCL's popular Freestyle dining program and a multitude of entertainment, spa, and fitness options. The Majesty also offers great nightlife from The Palace Theatre and Frame 52 Disco to the Monte Carlo Casino.

For information on cruising from Philadelphia or special pre- and post-cruise package, visit CruisePhilly.com or call 856-968-2052.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Royal Princess Fire Update

Royal Princess Update (latest 12:00 pm PDT)

Following the engine room fire that occurred yesterday, June 18, we have spent the day thoroughly reviewing the condition of the engines and assessing the damage. Unfortunately, the impact is more extensive than originally thought and the ship must be moved to a shipyard to complete the necessary repairs.

We regret that the remainder of the current cruise, and the following cruise departing June 25, must be cancelled. We understand that this is a disappointing development, and we sincerely apologize to our passengers for the disruption to their vacation.

We will be providing the affected passengers on both voyages a full refund of their fare, plus a future cruise credit equal to 25% of the cruise fare paid for these sailings. We are currently securing flights home for all passengers currently on board Royal Princess, and they will be returning home over the weekend. Passengers' homeward flights, transfers, and associated hotel accommodations will be at Princess' expense.

We deeply appreciate our passengers' patience and understanding during what is an unfortunate development.

Royal Princess Fire Status Updated

In order to fully assess the impact of the engine fire that occurred yesterday, we plan to bring Royal Princess back into Port Said, Egypt today. The assessment process includes flying various technical experts and regulatory authorities to the ship for a complete inspection, and they should be arriving onboard by this evening. So while our own assessment will occur throughout the day today, we expect the full assessment to be complete on Saturday. This means Royal Princess will be spending Friday and Saturday in Port Said.

Our ship's crew, local representatives ashore and the Princess Care Team, who are currently en route to the ship, will be doing their best to make passengers comfortable during this time, and it is also our intention to make tours available for passengers.

Once the assessment is complete we will have an understanding of how the remainder of the cruise, or any future sailing, will be affected, and also what compensation we will be offering to passengers. We understand this is a disappointing development, and we apologize for the disruption to our passengers' cruise. We will be keeping our passengers fully informed throughout this process and we deeply appreciate their patience and understanding.

Princess Cruises will continue to provide regular updates.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Royal Princess Engine Room Fire

June 18: At approximately 8:10 pm local time, an engine room fire broke out aboard Royal Princess, as the ship was departing Port Said, Egypt. The fire is now extinguished, and the ship is currently anchored approximately five miles off the coast of Port Said. Royal Princess is carrying 733 passengers and 393 crew. The ship is on the fifth day of a 12-day Holy Land sailing between Civitavecchia and Athens.

All passengers and crew have been accounted for, and passengers remain at their emergency stations as a precautionary measure until further notice. The ship is operating on emergency power and lighting. Assessments of any damage will be made over the next several hours, at which time we will be able to provide further information about how the remainder of the cruise may be impacted.

Princess will continue to provide updates on a regular basis. Phone numbers have been established for inquiries from family of passengers and crew (only please) currently onboard Royal Princess:

For inquiries about family: 800-693-7222
For inquiries about crew members: 661-753-2804

Final Building Block Crowns Norwegian Epic

There comes a time during the building of every ship when she really begins to take shape. It's that time for Norwegian Epic as her true profile is finally formed. Norwegian Cruise Line announced that the last block, number 0898, in the construction of Norwegian Epic was lowered onto the vessel on Friday, June 5 at STX Europe in Saint-Nazaire, France. The block, which weighed 563 tons, equivalent to the weight of approximately 64 elephants, and measured 133 feet wide, 113 feet long and 63 feet high, was placed above the bridge and took one hour to move onto the ship.

Above: Norwegian Epic’s last block, number 0898, is lowered into place above the bridge on Friday, June 5 at STX Europe in Saint-Nazaire, France

One of largest on the vessel, this block will house portions of The Villas, a private enclave of 60 exclusive suites located on Decks 16, 17, and 18. The radar mast will be added next which will complete Norwegian Epic's structure before her float out and transfer to the outfitting dock on July 11, 2009.

Above: With the final block in place, Norwegian Epic is ready for her July 11 float out.

The 153,000-gross ton, 4,200-passenger ship is scheduled for delivery at the end of May 2010. For more information and renderings, visit epic.ncl.com.

Photos courtesy of B. Biger / STX France Cruise SA

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cruise Travel: Shore Excursions

When you book a shore excursions, what are you getting? Or, more importantly, what are you getting yourself into?

For example, some of the most frail appearing Senior Citizens can run circles around me, so when I see they are part of a tour group I generally think nothing of it. Except on a tour of Valletta and Mdina, Malta... a walking tour. When the bus delivered us to the city gates of Valletta, a spry little woman informed the guide that her husband couldn't possibly walk the distance to the Palace of the Grand Masters. At that point it was apparent he'd never be able to handle the cobblestone streets of Mdina either. Unfortunately, the couple had either misinterpreted the tour description—clearly indicated as a walking tour—or overestimated their abilities. They also hadn't researched the port either, or they would have realized the streets are too narrow to accommodate a "city tour" on a bus.

Before going ashore, learn How to Read an Excursion Description.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Carnival Tags You... You're IT!

If you're unfamiliar with laser tag, don't feel left out. Cruise Diva hasn't played it either, but it sounds like a lot of fun and it's coming to your favorite Carnival Cruise Lines ship. Following the tremendous success of a laser tag pilot program aboard Carnival Valor earlier this year, the line has expanded the attraction to two additional ships—Carnival Elation, which sails from San Diego, and Carnival Conquest, departing from Galveston. Another laser tag installation is scheduled for next week on Carnival Victory, which operates year-round from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

While it may sound like kid stuff, teens and adults enjoy the high tech challenge of "tag-you're-it" as well. The inflatable laser tag arena, which operates at various times throughout the day and evening in the ship’s main lounge, has been met with outstanding response from guests sailing on the Carnival Valor. Each session allows four players at time—either individually or in teams of two—to battle it out against each other in a fog-filled dome for an exciting five minute session. The cost is $5 per person.

Watch for laser tag fun to appear on other Carnival ships in the future.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Man Overboard: Carnival Inspiration

Tampa, FL area news sources are reporting an incident in which a man who fell from Carnival Inspiration in the early hours of Monday morning has been rescued. He was lucky enough to be found clinging to a buoy almost three hours after he went overboard.

According to reports, Larry Miller, 46, fell overboard from the cruise ship as it was returning to the Port of Tampa at 4 a.m. this morning. Fortunately for Miller, the crew of a pilot boat spotted him in the shipping channel near the Sunshine Skyway shortly before 7 a.m. Miller was delivered to an emergency vehicle at the Fort DeSoto boat ramp and taken to Bayfront Medical Center where he was treated for minor injuries.

A spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines told Bay News 9 that, "Miller fell overboard when he climbed on a railing to get a better view of a boat as it passed by. He slipped, then fell overboard."

The Coast Guard is investigating.

Royal Caribbean's "Destination Joy" Helps Make Wishes Come True

While we don't often hear about their efforts, cruise lines have historically supported local charities in their corporate homeports and ships’ ports of call. In addition, they commit their time and funds to a number of charitable organizations nationwide here in the United States. Royal Caribbean Intl, a national sponsor of the Make-A-Wish Foundation since 2000, will be participating in Destination Joy®—the Foundation’s annual summer program—and raising money during various events scheduled throughout the fleet during the month of June.

“We are proud to take part in Destination Joy to help the Make-A-Wish Foundation make every child’s wish come true,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “Our company is committed to supporting the communities in which we live and work, and this includes the amazing work the Make-A-Wish Foundation does for children facing life-threatening medical conditions to give them hope, strength and joy.”

Throughout June, Make-A-Wish® donation cards will be available on all of Royal Caribbean Intl’s 20 ships. Guests will be able to donate any amount they choose, and their donation will appear as an onboard charge. Along with the donation cards, guests will be able to participate in auctions where they can bid on unique onboard experiences, such as an opportunity to be on a ship’s bridge and blow the whistle while it departs a port, a behind-the-scenes galley tour and lunch with the ship’s executive chef, and many other priceless experiences. In addition, guests can also participate in the line’s Walk for Wishes® program, where guests make a donation, get an “I walked for Wishes” t-shirt and walk a mile with the ship’s staff and officers to raise funds. In 2008, Royal Caribbean raised more than $450,000 through the generosity of guests and crew.

Royal Caribbean’s Wishes at Sea program has helped make cruise wishes possible for more than 1,300 children. Royal Caribbean works with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to create the perfect wish for each child whose desire is to have an unforgettable, dream-come-true vacation with his or her family.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stay Safe and Prevent Mishaps on Your Summer Cruise Vacation

Everyone has an image of the perfect vacation and, for many of us, that is a cruise. However, perfection is difficult to achieve. CSA Travel Protection, a company dedicated to providing travel insurance and emergency assistance services, offers important travel safety reminders to ensure smooth sailing—or driving, flying, hiking, or scuba diving, for that matter—when taking the "Great American" summer vacation.

According to a recent survey by the U.S. Travel Association, more than half (54%) of American households plan to take at least one leisure trip this summer. While many experienced travelers know the ins and outs of safe travel, CSA offers the following tips for everyone to help keep them safe and protected from mishaps on their next trip.

1. Create a meeting schedule, and a Plan B. When traveling with family members or in a group, make sure everyone agrees on a meeting place at a designated time before and after outings. If, in the event, someone becomes separated, agree to always meet at a "base camp."
2. Your camera is your friend. In many ways. Your camera isn't just a tool for creating memories of your trip. It is also the perfect device for helping you if lost and to document conditions around you. Take a picture of your ship's landmarks to help you later if you run astray.
3. Back up everything, and make it accessible from anywhere. Copy, scan or take pictures of important documents—such as your driver's license, passport, credit cards, travel insurance policy and other travel documents—and email the images to your web-based email account. This way you can access them from anywhere in case of loss or theft.
4. How's the weather out there? Besides having to worry about what kind of clothes to pack, review the weather forecast for your destination often. Also, understand that area's propensity for hurricanes, wildfires, flooding or other natural disaster so you are prepared before leaving.
5. Use your travel insurance provider's assistance hotline, and keep the number with you at all times. Nearly all travel insurance plans include 24-hour, worldwide emergency assistance services. If something happens, you're not alone. These experts can help with just about any situation, from finding a dentist in Venice in the middle of the night, to helping replace a lost passport, to assisting with travel arrangements if you miss your flight or ship.
6. Avoid carrying excessive amounts of money and multiple credit cards. Also keep a back-up credit card in case you are a victim of theft or lose your card.
7. Put a vacation hold through the U.S. Postal Service. Your mail can be held at your local post office until you can pick it up or are home to receive it. Not only will you help thwart potential burglars, but you may also protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft.
8. Don't let your guard down when you are in your pre-cruise hotel or aboard your cruise ship. Take advantage of in-room or front-desk safes by locking up passports, credit cards, and other important documents.
9. Read your cruise ship's inspection report before booking. The Vessel Sanitation Program at the Centers for Disease Control and others regularly inspect ships for cleanliness, repair, food preparation and storage, water quality, hygiene, and pest management, for example. Read your ship's report ahead of time to make sure it has a healthy track record.
10. It's Hurricane Season; be prepared. Check with your pre-cruise hotel or cruise line before booking to determine what their policy is in the event of a storm. Also check the National Hurricane Center for the latest on approaching storms.

Travel insurance provides an added layer of protection against unforeseen events such as medical emergencies, natural disasters and theft. It also safeguards against trip cancellations such as job loss and health-related incidents of non-traveling family members. Even the best-planned vacations can be turned upside down by unforeseen circumstances. Vacationers ready to take that trip this summer can find out more about the benefits of travel insurance from their travel agent. You'll also find details about CSA Travel Protection at Insure My Trip.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Princess Cruises Details Short Getaway Sailings for 2010-11

Every year cruise ships move from one cruising region to another and next year Princess Cruises features some repositioning voyages that allow you to test your sea legs on a getaway cruise. The spring and fall cruise seasons in 2010-11 bring opportunities for Princess passengers to escape on the line’s short West Coast sailings. Ranging from an overnight cruise to a week-long journey, these “coastal” getaways offer passengers the chance to sample the Princess experience as they explore the Pacific coastline. Passengers can choose from among 18 sailings, including a special 7-day cruise to coastal wine regions with themed onboard presentations, 4- and 5-day samplers of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, plus shorter sailings of one to three nights. Princess’ seasonal getaways offer an opportunity to sail on ships that are traveling along the Pacific coast to begin or end a summer of Alaska cruises.

“People need to escape today more than ever and these short sailings are a great way to fit a cruise into the schedule–and budget,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president.

Princess coastal sailings for 2010-11 include:

Wine Country Coastal – A 7-day cruise geared towards wine lovers, this special sailing will offer the chance to explore the California wine regions of Santa Barbara and the San Francisco area – as well as visit the microbreweries of Astoria, Oregon. The cruise aboard Sapphire Princess will depart from Los Angeles on May 7, 2011, sailing to Vancouver with calls at Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Astoria, Seattle and Victoria.

California Coastal – Sailing on a 5-day journey down to California from Vancouver, Sapphire Princess will call at Victoria and San Francisco before arriving in “the city of angels,” Los Angeles. The sailing will depart on Sept 20, 2010.

Alaska Sampler – This quick roundtrip sailing from Vancouver will give travelers a taste of the 49th state, with visits to the Alaskan ports of Juneau and Ketchikan. The 5-day cruise on Coral Princess will set sail on May 10, 2010.

Northwest Sampler – Royal Princess will take visitors on a 4-day trip through the scenic Inside Passage with visits to Vancouver and Victoria. Sailing roundtrip from Seattle, the voyage will depart May 20, 2010.

Pacific Coastal: Los Angeles/Vancouver – Passengers can relax with two full days at sea as they cruise up the Pacific coast on these 3-day journeys between Los Angeles and Vancouver. Golden Princess will offer two departures on Sept 26, 2010 and May 11, 2011, and Coral Princess sails on Sept 18, 2010.

Pacific Coastal: San Francisco/Vancouver –Several cruises travel between San Francisco’s legendary Golden Gate and picturesque Vancouver. Coral Princess offers a 4-day sailing with calls in Astoria, Oregon and Victoria, BC on May 19, 2011. For a 2-day option, Island Princess offers sailings on Oct 4, 2010 and May 14, 2011, while Star Princess sails on May 11, 2011.

Pacific Coastal: Vancouver/Seattle – These convenient overnight sailings between Vancouver and Seattle offer the perfect opportunity for a first taste of Princess hospitality. Sapphire Princess will sail May 15, 2010 and Sept 19, 2010. Golden Princess will offer departures on Sept 25, 2010 and May 14, 2011. Royal Princess will cruise on Sept 13, 2010 and May 18, 2011. And Star Princess will depart on May 13, 2011.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company's website at Princess.com.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Oasis of the Seas: Sea Trials

It is a bird? Is it a plane? Just what is that object floating above the Oasis of the Seas' stern? It looks like a balloon and rumors have been circulating that it's some sort of dirigible-style ride for the ship's thousands of passengers to enjoy. Perhaps it's the ultimate in high tech parasailing?

Richard Fain, Chairman and and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., shared a hint about the object—an aerostat*—and how that, as well as other "trial balloons" are launched during the sea trials of new ships.

In his Chairman's Blog, Fain said, "Another aspect of this early sea trial is that it gives us an opportunity to experiment with new ideas. One of the nice things about working at Royal Caribbean is the imaginativeness and creativity of our people. The upside of this is they often come up with weird and wonderful ideas that thrill our guests. The downside is that they often come up with weird and wonderful ideas that don’t really work in practice. How do we distinguish? We try them out on sea trials where there are no guests and where we can experiment to our heart’s content. The trials take place far from land where there are no curious eyes except the passing fish. That way, when an idea fails the practicality test, we simply send it to the idea graveyard and no one hears about it again. Fortunately, or unfortunately, such privacy no longer exists, even out in the middle of the ocean. There will be about 350 people on board overseeing the testing and most will have camera phones. In addition, many of these people have not been involved in the ship’s design and will therefore make a lot of wild assumptions about things they see. Accordingly, we can reasonably assume that these people will swamp the Internet with rumors—accurate and inaccurate—about things they see on board."

"In advance of the likely deluge of rumors," Fain continued, "I would like to comment on two aspects. Firstly, we will not confirm or deny the accuracy of any such rumors and we will attempt to be evenhanded; we will be equally fuzzy about accurate rumors as we are about inaccurate ones. Nevertheless, I’d love to hear any rumors that arise and will comment to the extent I can, but don’t expect True Revelations here. Secondly, I will comment on one experiment we are performing which has already been the subject of some rumors. This idea is to put an aerostat on board tethered to the ship. The idea is interesting, but it has such a cornucopia of practical issues that I give it less than a 50% chance of being used on Oasis."

So, just what is the purpose of the aerostat flying high above Oasis of the Seas and was the experiment a success? Fain has promised to report on it in his blog, but asks for your patience. It may well take the folks at Royal Caribbean several weeks to review all the test results and reach a decision as to whether whatever its intended use is will float.

*An aerostat is a lighter than air object that usually remains tethered to its base by a long wire. Some people erroneously use words like blimp or dirigible, but, the latter normally transport people or cargo over long distances.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Grand Turk Welcomes "Conch World"

The Grand Turk Cruise Center, owned by Carnival Corp, has partnered with Cockburn Village & Farm, Ltd., to develop Conch World, a new eco-friendly attraction in Grand Turk, which welcomed its first visitors this week—guests from the cruise ship Carnival Pride.

Four years in the making, this unique million-dollar-plus tourism attraction offers informative guided tours, as well as provides visitors the opportunity to photograph highly entertaining trained conchs Sally and Jerry, who love to venture out of their shells for photo ops. Conch World is the only tourist facility devoted to the Queen conch located at a cruise destination and is only the second such facility in the world. Guests can also visit the Bare Naked Conch Café to savor delicious farmed conch prepared in a variety of ways and the Pink Pearl Gift Shop which sells a variety of conch-related merchandise.

Conch World CEO Chuck Hesse and Queen conch Jerry are pictured above at the new attraction. Official grand opening festivities are set for fall 2009.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Carnival Corp Statement on Reinstatement of Fuel Supplements

At the time we suspended fuel supplements for our six North American brands, we reserved the right to reinstate them if the price of light sweet crude oil, according to the NYMEX, should increase above $70 per barrel. While we have now exceeded that threshold, in light of the economic crisis and resulting consumer weakness, we presently have no plans to institute a fuel supplement. We will continue to monitor the situation in the markets and review our position as the situation warrants.

Norwegian Cruise Line Invites Passengers to Join the "Pepsi Generation"

Norwegian Cruise Line and Pepsi are celebrating summer by offering up to two complimentary soda packages per stateroom on any 7-night (or longer) NCL cruise. Guests who book a cruise on one of Norwegian Cruise Line’s 11 Freestyle Cruising ships from now through Oct 15, 2009 for sailings through 2010 can request the Pepsi Summer Cup promotion at the time of booking by referencing promotion code PGPOP. Once on board, guests are given a special NCL and Pepsi branded souvenir cup and have access to unlimited complimentary fountain soda refills at any bar, lounge or restaurant throughout the duration of the cruise and have the choice of selecting Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, or Sierra Mist.

Pepsi fans can also try their luck with the ‘Sip. Save. Refresh’ sweepstakes for a chance to win one of three Norwegian 7-day Alaska or European cruises for two in an oceanview stateroom with round-trip airfare. More information on the contest can be found at PepsiSipSaveRefresh.com. The sweepstakes ends on Aug 31, 2009. Pepsi ‘Sip. Save. Refresh’ codes are available on more than 20 million specially marked Pepsi fountain cups and scratch-off cards at participating restaurants in nearly all 50 states. For more information, or to book a Norwegian Cruise Line sailing with the Pepsi Summer Cup promotion, contact a travel professional, go to NCL.com or call Norwegian at 866-234-7350.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

“Here Comes The Sun” Celebrity Equinox Emerges From The Shipyard

Celebrity Equinox saw daylight for the first time on Saturday, June 6th, during her official “docking out” from Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. The 2,850-guest ship is the second in Celebrity's widely heralded Solstice Class fleet.

Celebrity Equinox will sail from Papenburg down the River Ems on June 19 or 20, depending on the winds and tides, and following various provisioning activities, sea trials, and inspections, will host a series of invitation-only special events for press, travel agents, and consumers from Southampton, England, from July 23 until entering service July 31.

Celebrity Equinox will present a series of “Ancient Empires” and other European itineraries from Southampton and Rome this summer, followed by 10- and 11-night “Ultimate Caribbean” cruises from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, beginning in November.

Celebrity’s fleet–including the new Celebrity Solstice (already sailing) and the newly-launched Celebrity Equinox–will be joined by 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 CelebrityCruises.com.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Holland America Line Expands Onboard Digital Workshops

Last year when I sailed on Eurodam's inaugural cruise, I had the opportunity to attend the first-ever complimentary Digital Workshop aboard a Holland America Line ship. While I consider myself computer-savvy, I learned how to put my computer to work in ways I didn't know existed.

Today there are even more opportunities to learn new skills during your next Holland America cruise. Holland America Line’s popular Digital Workshop powered by Windows is adding new workshop sessions to help guests learn social media and new digital skills. Twelve Holland America ships now offer 11 complimentary, hour-long classes ranging from photo and video editing to displaying pictures in digital frames.

“Guests have given the workshops rave reviews since we began offering them on four ships last summer,” said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. “We have worked closely with Microsoft to expand the scope of the program to include more ships and more workshops since our guests enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to learn new skills.”

Sessions are offered multiple times on each cruise so that guests may take the ones that interest them most, or the complete series, at their convenience. Session offerings include the following:

• Put Your Best Face Forward 1: Edit Your Cruise Photos
• Your Away-From-Home Movie: Turn Your Cruise Photos & Videos into a Movie
• Insert Photo Here: Getting Your Photos Out of the Camera & Into the Computer
• Your Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Learn to Blog About Your Cruise
• Put Your Best Face Forward 2: Advanced Editing of the Cruise Photos
• A Space to Call My Own: Signing Up for Your Own Personal Webpage
• Show and Tell: Sharing Your Cruise Photos via Email & the Internet
• Safe and Sound: PC Safety and Maintenance
• Say Cheese: Understanding the Basics of Your Digital Camera
• That’s a Print: Printing Your Cruise Photos at Home
• I’ve Been Framed: How to Set-up & Use a Digital Photo Frame

Digital Workshop powered by Windows will show even the most novice camera or computer user how to take better vacation photos, make movies, and edit pictures using a variety of Microsoft Windows and Windows Live services. Guests will learn how to share all their digital memories through email, blogging and social networking–so friends and family can see where they’ve been cruising even before they return home.

Taught by Microsoft-trained “techsperts,” the workshops are limited to 15 participants per session so that instructors can provide personalized assistance. In addition, instructors maintain “techspert time,” where guests can get their individual questions answered and work on personal program-related projects. Each ship has a dedicated space for the classes, complete with computers, printers and other necessary equipment.

New classes were added to the existing program by the first of June and plans are under development to extend the program to ms Rotterdam and ms Prinsendam.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Norwegian Epic’s Construction Tops Off With Monumental Funnels

The construction of Norwegian Cruise Line's largest and most innovative Freestyle Cruising ship, Norwegian Epic, reached a major milestone with the fitting of its two epic proportioned funnels at the STX Europe shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France.

Above: Before being added to Norwegian Epic, the funnel block was transported through the city of Saint-Nazaire to the shipyard on Thursday, May 28, 2009.

The massive block consisted of three parts: the two funnels separated by a HVAC station. It weighed 45 tons, and measured approximately 46 feet high, 65 feet long and 23 feet wide, roughly the size of a large yacht. The addition of the funnel is significant as it represents one of the final stages in the completion of the superstructure.

Above: The funnel block, forward view, after if was fitted on the ship.

At this stage, the funnel has not reached its final size as it is not yet equipped with the exhaust pipe system. In order to install the system, a crane will be installed on deck 15 to raise the exhaust pipe system over the blue funnel block, located on deck 17.The last block on the fore part of the vessel will be lowered at the end of the week. Then, the radar mast will be added which will complete Norwegian Epic's structure before her transfer to the outfitting dock. The ship’s float out and transfer to the outfitting dock is currently planned for July 11, 2009.

The 153,000-gross ton, 4,200-passenger ship is scheduled for delivery at the end of May 2010. For more information and renderings, visit epic.ncl.com.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Princess Cruises Celebrates 40 Years Of Sailing From San Francisco

To commemorate Princess Cruises’40th anniversary sailing from the “City by the Bay,” Rodney Fong (pictured left), president of the San Francisco Port Commission presented a proclamation from Mayor Gavin Newsom declaring June 3rd to be "Princess Cruises Day" in San Francisco. Receiving the proclamation is Steve Nielsen (right, in photo), vice president of shore operations for Princess Cruises who, fittingly, celebrates his 40th anniversary with Princess Cruises this year.

Princess Italia first sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge on June 3, 1969, for her maiden voyage to Alaska. Since that inaugural voyage, Princess has made approximately 1,000 port calls at the Port of San Francisco and carried well over 1 million passengers. Sea Princess is currently sailing on 10-day Alaska cruises from San Francisco through September.

Additional information about Princess is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the cruise line’s website at Princess.com.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Costa Dual Christening Live on the Web

Today at 4 pm (Eastern), join The World of Costa online to watch as their newest ships Costa Pacifica & Costa Luminosa are christened together in a gala ceremony taking place in the Port of Genoa, Italy.

While you wait, get real time updates from Costa Luminosa as Jonny, Costa Cruises' reporter, adds blog entries on the Live Broadcast section of The World of Costa.

NOTE: Unfortunately, due to heavy use, you might not be able to access the Costa site to view the festivities. The above link is correct, but you may not get the site to load in your browser. You may have more success with this one rai.tv/costacrociere.

Cruise Travel: Economic Realities

When America's economy began its slide in a downward spiral, someone in the media coined the dreadful term, "stay-cation" to describe how we'd be spending our vacation time and dollars in the coming months, if not years. In other words, we'd stay home. Even assuming that you have a swimming pool, hot tub, and sun deck in your back yard, is that how you want to spend your valuable time? No, I didn't think so.

If you're like many avid travelers, particularly those who choose a cruise as their preferred vacation style, you are looking forward to your next trip. It might not be as soon as usual, as long as you'd normally like, or to an exotic, far-flung destination, but you're planning to go somewhere. You may be watching the newspaper or the Internet for the best deals and planning accordingly, but the bottom line is that you're planning. And you're booking cruises at far lower fares than you'd normally expect.

Just this week Norwegian Cruise Line revealed that demand for its largest ever Freestyle Cruising vessel Norwegian Epic skyrocketed in the first week that the ship’s itineraries went on sale to the public, beginning May 21st. In fact, Norwegian Epic’s first week of bookings far exceeded opening week sales for the company’s last two new ships: Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Gem. All categories of staterooms were in demand, from the groundbreaking new Studios for the value-conscious traveler to the ultra luxurious villas, penthouses, and deluxe owner’s suites. While prices started from $699 per person, based on high demand, fare increases are already taking effect on some of the more popular sailings.

At the other end of the cruise line spectrum, luxury line Silversea Cruises achieved the highest call volume day in its 15-year history on May 26th. The single-day record occurred during a 3-week period when bookings surged nearly 150% compared to the same period last year. Additionally, the average call volume for May was up almost 40% in comparison with April 2009. While the line is currently offering 50% savings on all suite categories for over 50 worldwide voyages, has recently expanded its popular $1,000 Onboard Spending Credit offer to 70 sailings in 2009, and free or specially priced airfare is available on select voyages, the fares are far from cheap by most standards. Even with air and other perks included, you'll still pay $3,497 per person for a Greek Isles sailing between Istanbul and Athens this fall.

It's clear, though, that cruisers—from mainstream to luxury—are looking for bargains and finding them. Cruise travel, even at the high end, is one of the best bang-for-your-buck vacation options available.

When the going gets tough, the tough go cruising.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Carnival Cruise Line's First Two-Level Adults-Only Retreat Will Be A Dream-Come-True

The new 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, Carnival Cruise Lines' largest ship set to debut Sept. 21, will offer a host of innovations, including the largest adults-only retreat in the line's fleet. Created as an oceangoing oasis for relaxation, the Carnival Dream's 11,250-square-foot Serenity area will encompass two levels—a first for the line—and accommodate up to 200 guests who can select from seven different styles of seating, from plush chaise lounges and chairs to shaded sun loungers and even hammocks.

Spanning the forward section of Sun Deck 14 and Sky Deck 15, Serenity is accessible via a glass elevator within Carnival Dream's expansive 23,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa, as well as by two staircases. Carnival Dream's Serenity area will feature a full bar on the lower level in a shaded area, while the upper level will offer two whirlpools providing magnificent sea views. Design-wise, Serenity will offer a decidedly understated theme with decorative latticework, teak-style decking, and other contemporary features, creating an atmosphere of tranquility and comfort. The Serenity experience will be enhanced by a series of custom windscreens specially created for this area.

Carnival Dream is set to debut Sept. 21 with a series of 12-day Mediterranean cruises followed by a trans-Atlantic crossing and two 8-day voyages from New York. Carnival Dream will then reposition to Port Canaveral, FL, for a special 9-day cruise before launching year-round 7-day Caribbean service on Dec. 12, 2009.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Charleston Prepares For A Celebrity

With its only regularly scheduled seasonal cruise ship, NCL's Norwegian Majesty, sailing off to faraway waters, what's a city like Charleston, South Carolina to do? While considered a "secondary" port with only limited homeport status, Charleston has snagged a bigger fish (make that ship!) than the one that's leaving.

From February through April 2010, Celebrity Cruises will position the 1,898-passenger, 77,713-ton, Celebrity Mercury in Charleston to sail six 10- and 11-night cruises to the Eastern and Western Caribbean with her final sailing being a 16-night westbound Panama Canal Cruise to Los Angeles that departs on April 19. And, according to Charleston's The Post and Courier, Celebrity Cruises has added five more 10- and 11-night similar Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings from Charleston for the same period in 2011.

The cruise business had looked bleak before the Celebrity announcements, as the State Ports Authority (SPA) anticipated the loss of Norwegian Majesty, the only ship with a contract for seasonal sailings from Charleston, as well as being the one that accounted for 21 of the port's 33 scheduled calls this year. However, Celebrity Mercury, which carries 400 more passengers than the Norwegian Majesty, begins her appearances in Charleston this fall with a day-long port call as part of a 9-night cruise originating in Baltimore.

As reported in The Post and Courier, Interim SPA chief executive John Hassell, who lists cruise business as a top priority for the agency, calls the Celebrity experience "a natural fit for the Charleston visitor market," citing its premium onboard amenities. For the 2010 and 2011 sailings, Celebrity Mercury will dock downtown near the foot of Market Street and in close proximity to shopping and the city's myriad attractions. Good news for passengers, the SPA and the city of Charleston are taking steps toward revamping the area surrounding the passenger terminal.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

They're Having A Holiday As Cruisers Return To Cozumel, Mexico

It's time for a holiday in Cozumel—that would be Carnival Cruise Lines' 46,000-ton Holiday—the first vessel in the "Fun Ship Fleet" to resume port calls to Mexico when it visited Cozumel this past weekend as part of a 4-day voyage that departed Mobile, Alabama, last Thursday. Holiday was carrying more than 1,700 passengers who enjoyed the island’s legendary beaches, myriad shopping, dining and watersports opportunities, and interesting sites and attractions.

The Holiday is one of 16 Carnival ships that will resume their normal itineraries featuring port calls to Mexico later this month. The next Carnival ships to call in Mexico will be the Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Fantasy on their June 13 departures from Galveston and New Orleans, respectively.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sapphire Princess Cruise Review: The "Swine Flu" Itinerary

As veteran cruisers who sail two or three times per year, you might think that George and Linda Hall have seen more than their share of itinerary changes. Surprisingly enough, they have not.

The Halls already knew the May 2nd itinerary for their Sapphire Princess cruise departing from San Pedro had been altered due to the CDC warning about going to Mexico. They also knew that the cruise before theirs had been diverted and passengers aboard it probably had a worse time accepting the sudden change. George said, "We boarded knowing that we were sailing to San Diego, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco, with the required Passengers Services Act stop at Ensenada. We were also aware that Princess granted us a voucher for half our paid fare against a future cruise. We were not aware that California is darn chilly in May! Still can't fault Princess, they did excellent job and even set up some tours at these locations. The refund for a future cruise was also greatly appreciated and we will be sailing Emerald Princess in October partly on their dime and with a smile on our face to the WARM Caribbean."

For more details about their unusual cruise itinerary, and a more than satisfactory experience with "sick bay" (no, not for the flu!), read George and Linda's Sapphire Princess Cruise Review.