Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cruise Travel: “Just be. In Holland.”

Are you planning a cruise from Amsterdam? Anyone who has been to Holland knows it is the perfect place to just be amazed, just be relaxed and just be yourself! That’s why the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions (NBTC) is launching its newest marketing campaign on February 4th in North America, “Just be. In Holland.” to appeal to every type of traveler. Whether your style is classic or contemporary, Holland has something for everyone, from iconic Dutch canals and windmills to innovative design shops and cutting-edge fashion.

To mark the launch of this new year-long campaign, NBTC will test potential travelers’ knowledge of Holland through a series of contests on Holland.com. A new contest will be posted every Thursday in February. Each correct online entry will be entered into a weekly drawing for a chance to win an incredible prize that highlights a different aspect of Holland’s unique style. Each week’s prize (one winner per prize) is listed below.

· February 4 contest: Have a fresh bouquet of tulips delivered to your home each month for a year
· February 11 contest: Dazzle your darling (or yourself!) with an exclusive Gassan 121 diamond
· February 18 contest: Cycle through your hometown on a traditional Batavus Dutch bicycle
· February 25 contest: Lounge in style on the Carbon chair designed by Marcel Wanders and Bertjan Pot

In addition to the weekly prizes, one grand prize winner will be awarded the ultimate experience: a chance to just be in Holland! In order to qualify for the grand prize—two round-trip, business class tickets on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to Amsterdam and a 4-night stay at the Sofitel Amsterdam The Grand—potential travelers simply need to upload a photo showing how they would “Just be. In Holland.” between February 4 and March 4, 2010. The most creative entry will be selected.

In addition to the weekly contests running on throughout February, those who live in New York City will have a chance to be transported to Holland via themed subway cars on the S subway shuttle line, which runs between Grand Central and Times Square. Each car—wrapped inside and out—will represent Holland’s cultural, classic and contemporary aspects and include translations of fun Dutch phrases and words. In addition, street teams will be deployed at the Grand Central and Times Square stations each week to distribute Holland-themed giveaways.

Conrad van Tiggelen, Director, NBTC North America, looks forward to engaging with potential travelers for the launch of the new campaign. “The new ‘Just be. In Holland.’ campaign epitomizes what repeat visitors to Holland already know—that Holland is a place where you can truly be yourself and discover a world of authentic and modern experiences, whether you are interested in art, culture, design, fashion or architecture.”

The online promotion runs concurrent with the duration of the wrapped subway shuttle, from February 4th to March 4th, 2010. For more information, including terms and conditions, and for a chance to win, please visit Holland.com.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

MSC Cruises To Host Baseball Greats, Big Band Themes On 2010-2011 Caribbean Cruises

MSC Cruises reprises its popular popular Baseball Greats and Big Band theme cruises aboard MSC Poesia for the 2010-11 Caribbean cruise season.

Baseball Greats
Departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Baseball Greats theme cruise includes free interactive guest/player activities. Participate in a player-hosted trivia game where guests test their baseball knowledge, question-and-answer sessions with the players, and a guest pitching contest. Be entertained during lively story-telling sessions where they share some candid revelations about “characters” of the game. Players will also host pitching, hitting, fielding and base running clinics. The free autograph session at the end of the cruise is an extremely popular activity among the guests onboard. The player line-up on these itineraries will be announced at a later date. Caribbean cruises featuring the baseball theme include:

Nov 14, 2010: 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise calling at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and Nassau, Bahamas.
Dec 5, 2010: 7-night Western Caribbean Wonders calling at Key West, Florida; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico.
Jan 9, 2011: 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise
Jan 23, 2011: 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise
Feb 6, 2011: 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise

Big Band
The 16-piece Les DeMerle Big Band, with vocalist Bonnie Eisele, will be featured on two MSC Poesia sailings. Dynamic drummer Les DeMerle has toured and recorded with the Harry James Big Band and Wayne Newton; the band has also accompanied many performers such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., The Manhattan Transfer, Mel Torme and Al Jarreau. In addition to their performances, the band will present a Big Band Jazz Concert and Les will conduct a lecture on the Big Band Era.

Oct 23, 2010: 9-night Canada/New England repositioning cruise departing Quebec City, Quebec, Canada and calling at Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada; Boston, Massachusetts; Newport, Rhode Island; New York, New York; and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

For more information about MSC Cruises and its selection of theme cruises, visit MSC Cruises USA online and join CruiseDiva.com for some "Poetry at Sea" aboard MSC Poesia.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cruise Travel: Will You Fly to Europe to Sail in 2011?

After Carnival Cruise Lines announced last week that they will be "returning" to Europe in 2011 with the launch of Carnival Dream, a trend seemed to be set in motion. Holland America Line then unveiled their 2011 Europe season, which will feature the newest Signature-class ship, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, on Mediterranean sailings, plus more round-trip and 7-day itineraries than ever before. Seven ships—Nieuw Amsterdam, Eurodam, Noordam, Rotterdam, Prinsendam, Maasdam, and Ryndam—will be based in the region. Not to be outdone, Norwegian Cruise Line will send its largest ship to date, Norwegian Epic, debuting this July, to the Mediterranean as part of her 2011 deployment to join other NCL ships based in Europe for the summer, as well as those in the Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises fleets. I haven't even scratched the surface of ships heading across the Atlantic—Princess also sends a flotilla of their vessels every year and there are numerous smaller lines that roam the Med and Baltic seasonally.

As Rick Meadows, Holland America Lines' executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs says, “In 2011, we are catering to a broader range of interests as the appeal of cruising Europe continues to grow. By expanding our cruise opportunities—both in new ports and varied itineraries—we expect to entice both first-time and seasoned cruisers.”

But will the ships attract enough North Americans willing to fly to European homeports to fill them? Is there that much pent up demand? The jury's out, but if a "grand tour" of European ports is on your bucket list, it's a good time to make plans.

As for Caribbean cruises in summer 2011, sadly the choices will be more limited.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Only A Year Until Disney Dream Offers More Fun in the Sun

An elaborately themed interactive sports deck, whimsical water play area, and relaxing poolside oasis for adults join the first-ever shipboard water coaster – AquaDuck – to provide fun in the sun for guests sailing on the newest Disney Cruise Line ship, the Disney Dream. These additions, announced just one year from the maiden voyage of the Disney Dream, will offer new experiences for guests of all ages.

Goofy’s Sports Deck
On Goofy’s Sports Deck, the magic tees off on deck 13 with Goofy’s Golf – a miniature golf course where “lessons” featuring Goofy and his son, Max, lead guests through nine themed holes of wacky fun. Each hole offers special golf instructions – with a goofy twist. Lessons include:
• “Handling a dog leg” – Guests avoid a fire hydrant and use Pluto’s dog bone to guide them to the hole.
• “Stuck in the rough” – Goofy shows golfers how to avoid the tall turf and steer clear of a lawn mower.
• “Reading the green” – Stacks of books and a large magnifying glass are obstacles to circumvent on this undulating green.
• “Attacking the green” – Yo ho, yo ho! Golfers and landlubbers take a swashbuckling approach to sinking their putt on this pirate-themed hole.

Guests can choose to use the Goofy or Max tee on each hole, offering twice the fun. Family-friendly competitions and tournaments will keep the excitement on par while quirky golf clubs, some crooked and bent, will challenge golfers to stay on course. Goofy and Max may even swing by to interact with guests and offer some tips on club selection, stance or just goofing around.

Also on Goofy’s Sports Deck, two digital sports simulators provide a variety of virtual game experiences such as soccer, tennis, basketball, golf and more. With the simulators, guests can kick, swing and throw, participating in favorite high-action sports without the hassle of chasing the ball.

Max’s Courts are two mini-sized sports courts for little ones to enjoy soccer, basketball or group play. There’s full-court basketball that may also be transformed into a mini soccer pitch or volleyball court, plus table tennis and foosball tables. A walking track rings Goofy’s Sports Deck.

Nemo’s Reef
Little ones discover oceans of fun at this fanciful water-play area overflowing with pop jets, bubblers and lovable underwater friends like Nemo, Dory, Marlin and other favorites from the Disney Pixar film, “Finding Nemo.” Shaded for protection from the sun and featuring a soft wet-deck surface, the 1,500-square-foot Nemo’s Reef (pictured above) is a place for children to cool off and play among colorful, interactive figures that move and spray water. Children will delight as they splash alongside Nemo swimming in a sea anemone, glide down a pint-sized water slide shaped like Mr. Ray and frolic near Pearl the octopus who “inks” herself with a mist of water. Kids can even get soaked in a water curtain that undulates back and forth like the EAC (East Australian Current). Nemo’s Reef is surrounded by a glass enclosure, with a main guest entrance and a wheelchair-accessible entrance.

Quiet Cove Pool & Cove Bar
Reserved exclusively for guests 18 and older, the Quiet Cove Pool and Cove Bar is a retreat for adults to sunbathe and swim, indulge in a cool drink or enjoy a relaxing dip in a nearby hot tub overlooking the ocean. One of three fresh-water pools on the Disney Dream, Quiet Cove Pool features varying depths for taking a dip, sunbathing in comfort and enjoying a poolside cocktail. A series of connected circular pools includes a 4-foot-deep plunge pool and a 6-inch-deep sunbathing pool with built-in loungers and a mister. Guests also can splash up to Cove Bar, which is part of the pool, and sip a refreshing beverage. Nearby, on the sides of deck 11, guests can soak in a whirlpool hot tub while overlooking the ocean. Four “infinity” whirlpool hot tubs, two for families and two just for adults, provide spectacular views of the ocean beyond.

AquaDuck & More!
The Disney Dream will feature the world’s first shipboard water coaster – AquaDuck, which will sweep guests away on an exhilarating high-speed flume ride featuring twists, turns, drops, uphill acceleration and river rapids – all while traversing the upper decks of the ship.

Donald Pool is the place for families to gather and enjoy all of the activities up on deck. Overlooking Donald Pool is the giant Funnel Vision LED screen – more than 30 feet wide and 18 feet high – showing Disney films and other live broadcast events. A retractable floor extends over the pool, providing an ideal dance floor for deck parties.

Continuing a favorite feature of the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, the Disney Dream will also have a Mickey Pool for children. The shape of Mickey Pool resembles the beloved Disney character, and an oversized version of Mickey’s hand supports a yellow winding slide that splashes down near the pool.

As an added convenience for parents with children of different ages, Donald Pool, Mickey Pool, and Nemo’s Reef are all located within the same vicinity, on deck 11 between the forward and aft funnel.

To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a vacation, guests can visit DisneyCruise.com, call Disney Cruise Line at 888/DCL-2500 or contact their travel agent.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Holland America Line Launches A New Look for Mariner Magazine

Exclusive Benefit of Rewards Program for Past Guests

Holland America Line debuts a new look and format for its loyalty magazine directed at members of its Mariner Society, guests who have sailed one or more times with the premium cruise line. Titled Mariner, the newly redesigned 64-page magazine presents a sophisticated, eye-catching design and offers fascinating editorial features by celebrated writers, superb photography and informative regular sections.

“Holland America Line is proud to launch this exciting new lifestyle look for our magazine as one more benefit to our Mariner Society members,” said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. “We consistently strive to reward loyal guests with great benefits. As a result, Holland America has one of the highest repeat guest ratios in the cruise industry.”

The premiere issue features “Writing the Book on Venice” with short vignettes by Erica Jong, Anne Rice, Francine Prose, Kenneth Turan and John Berendt on favorite books and movies, restaurants and experiences from Venice. Other highlights include features on Jamaica and Hawaii, the courageous cliff divers in Mazatlan and a freewheeling conversation between a veteran Alaska guidebook writer and a top wildlife photographer.

Each four-color issue of Mariner also contains featured sections including “Onboard,” which highlights what’s new on Holland America ships; “Ports of Call,” which profiles select ports and shore excursions; “Mariner Values,” which details special cruise opportunities for past guests; and “Now Voyager,” a short destination article written by travel journalists and found on the last page.
The Mariner magazine is just one benefit of the new Mariner Society Rewards Program Holland America Line launched last fall. The program provides past guests with exciting rewards that range from generous onboard discounts while sailing and special rates on select cruises to reduced or free third and fourth rates when booking future cruises. All guests who sail with Holland America Line are automatically welcomed into the Mariner Society.

The Mariner Society Rewards Program offers a four-level progressive membership ranging from Star Mariner to Four-Star Mariner based on a guest’s cruise history. Guests automatically collect additional “cruise days” or cruise day credits based on their onboard spending or through the purchase of one of the premium line’s suite options.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Carnival Destiny to Undergo Dry Dock Next Month to Fix Propulsion Problem

Carnival Cruise Lines has announced that Carnival Destiny will undergo a 7-day dry dock next month to resolve a propulsion problem. The issue is only affecting the vessel’s sailing speed and all other systems are operating normally. The dry dock will take place Feb. 13-20. Carnival is cancelling two cruises that were scheduled to take place during the dry dock period – the 5-day departure of Feb. 13 & the 4-day departure of Feb. 18 (the Feb. 18 cruise will now operate as a modified 2-day cruise to Nassau Feb. 20-22). Effective with the Feb. 22, 2010 departure, the Carnival Destiny will be operating its regularly scheduled itineraries.

Guests scheduled to sail on the Feb. 13 or 18 voyages will have the option of receiving a future cruise credit or full refund of their cruise fare. A $100 shipboard credit will be provided to those guests who were scheduled on the Feb. 13 voyage, while those on the Feb. 18 departure will receive a $75 shipboard credit. The shipboard credit can be used on a future cruise departing prior to Dec. 15, 2011. For guests with independent air transportation, Carnival will reimburse up to $200 per person in the form of a shipboard credit for airline change fees when rebooking a future cruise. Travel agent commissions will be protected.

Additionally, three other cruises taking place prior to the dry dock will now operate modified itineraries. The 5-day cruise departing Jan. 30 will now visit Cozumel and Costa Maya instead of Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman. The 4-day cruise departing Feb. 4 will visit Cozumel and cancel the scheduled call in Key West; and the 5-day cruise departing Feb. 8 will now replace the scheduled call in Grand Turk with a stop at Freeport, along with visits to Nassau and Half Moon Cay. Although the itineraries for these voyages were modified because of the propulsion problem, all of the Carnival Destiny’s normal dining, activity and entertainment options will be available. Guests booked prior to Jan. 25 who sail on these three modified voyages will receive a $50 per person shipboard credit. If guests elect to cancel, they will have the option to receive a full refund or a future cruise credit equal to the amount of their cruise fare.

“We sincerely apologize for the impact of these changes on our guests' vacations plans and wish to thank them for their understanding,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO.

Is Your Cruise Ship Sick?

When hundreds of cruise passengers report to the infirmary with similar symptoms, does that necessarily mean their ship is SICK?

Hardly. But you'd never know that from news reports about nasty cruise ship diseases that attack unsuspecting vacationers who then claim that their sailing was the "cruise from hell."

What are the facts and how can you avoid getting ill on your next cruise? CruiseDiva.com has the information you need to know about cruise ships and illnesses in Is Your Cruise Ship Sick?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Top Ten Cruise Travel Tips: A Cruise Diva's Must-Haves

What are the secret little comforts that will make your cruise the best it can be? Cruise Diva shares her top-ten favorites.

1. Travel Alarm Clock. Most staterooms don't have them.
2. Business Card Case. A small wallet or bi-fold case will hold your boarding pass, onboard charge/key card and a picture ID for going ashore.
3. Post-It Notes. Handy for leaving messages for your cabin attendant, traveling companion, and shipboard friends.
4. Binoculars. Use them inside as well as outside--to examine artwork, sculptures, and architectural elements high up in museums and cathedrals.
5, Pre-Addressed Stick-On Labels. For postcards to the folks back home--you won't have to carry a bulky address book.
6. Nightlight. Especially useful for passengers in dark inside cabins.
7. Extension Cord. Most cabins only have one or two electrical outlets near the desk/vanity table. That may not be enough and they may not be where your need them.
8. Insulated Mug With Lid. Fill it at the beverage station in the buffet area--your drinks will stay hot or cold and you won't have to worry about spills.
9. Germicidal Hand Cleaner. A must for adventure excursions where soap and water might not be available.
10. Paperback Books. When you've finished reading them, leave them behind for the crew library.

Get more of the best Cruise Travel Tips from CruiseDiva.com.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Princess Cruises: More Than Pools & Pina Coladas


While you are relaxing in the Sanctuary or dining in Sabatini's during your next Princess cruise,throughout your vacation the ship's crew is also helping the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) track global weather patterns. In 2009, Princess ships made 20,139 weather observations–more than any other cruise line–earning the company the distinction of NOAA’s “Weather Cruise Ship Company of the Year.” Coral Princess (pictured above) led the fleet with 5,142 observations.

The voluntary reporting system helps NOAA track weather patterns in many areas of the world where the organization doesn’t have direct access to local information. The ships measure air temperature, humidity, wind direction and strength, sea waves and swells. Ships send information at a minimum of every six hours when at sea to a database which is forwarded to NOAA.

“As long-time participants in this important program, we’re happy that our fleet was able to provide so much data this year to help with worldwide weather forecasting,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “With Princess ships sailing around the globe to all seven continents, we’re in the unique position to be able to take weather readings in a multitude of destinations where NOAA might not otherwise be able to get information.”

This data, which is gathered not only from cruise ships, but from all types of ships worldwide, is used to help NOAA track and forecast weather patterns around the world.

One of the best-known names in cruising, Princess Cruises is a global cruise and tour company operating a fleet of 17 modern ships renowned for their innovative design and wide array of choices in dining, entertainment and amenities, all provided in an environment of exceptional customer service. A recognized leader in worldwide cruising, Princess offers its passengers the opportunity to escape to the top destinations around the globe, with sailings to all seven continents, ranging in length from seven to 107 days. 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.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How to Have “Fun” on Your100th Birthday

A 100th birthday is certainly a significant milestone for anyone, but Vera Cunningham’s “century celebration” is one she will never forget.Vera marked her 100th birthday with a memorable 7-day Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Legend, where she was feted with a huge birthday party in the ship’s main dining room, culminating with a giant birthday cake–more than a foot high and three feet wide–that was presented to her during the festive occasion.

Pictured here, the Carnival Legend’s team joins Vera alongside the colorful oversized confection. We’re almost certain they serenaded her with a spirited rendition of“ Hoppy Berssday to Joo!”!

Friday, January 22, 2010

CLIA & Its Member Cruise Lines Forecast 2010 Growth, Continued Success

After weathering perhaps the most challenging 18 months in its history, things are looking up for the cruise industry. The cruise industry, as represented by Cruise Lines International Association's (CLIA) member lines, is looking ahead with optimism and a sense of accomplishment. CLIA and its member lines have adapted quickly and effectively to the global economic downturn in order to keep ships sailing at full capacity throughout 2009 and expect continued growth in 2010.

In 2008/2009, the cruise industry was impacted by many of the same challenges facing all businesses, but unlike other segments of the travel market, cruising, with an impressive history of recession-resistance, had several advantages. These include vessel mobility and redeployment (arguably the most important advantage), the ability to quickly adapt to change, effective expense management, and, a product with the highest perceived value for money spent. Not surprisingly, CLIA member lines were able to drive consumer demand and operate at full capacity throughout the most challenging months.

Another indication that brighter days are on the horizon was this week's announcement by Carnival Corporation that its Board of Directors voted to resume its quarterly dividend, which was suspended in March 2009. The board declared a dividend of $0.10 per share and approved a record date of Feb 19, 2010, and a payment date of March 12, 2010. Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation chairman and CEO said, "Resuming the quarterly dividend demonstrates our confidence in the earnings power of our global cruise brands despite the current economic environment."

Growth
However, in spite of the economic turmoil of 2009, the cruise industry continued to grow. A total of 13.445 million passengers are forecast to have sailed last year (totals through the third quarter, 2009—9,999,068 passengers—indicate that forecast is on track), U.S. and Canadian residents accounted for 76.5 percent of guests, with 23.5 percent sourced internationally. Most notably, volume of international guests has been growing consistently. In 2000, less than 10% of the guests sailing on CLIA member cruise lines were sourced to international markets. The CLIA fleet (collectively among all 25 member cruise lines) in 2009 sailed at an average occupancy of 104.4 percent, with an average length of cruise of 7.2 days. In short, passenger volume continues to keep pace with capacity.

CLIA forecasts a total of 14.3 million passengers in 2010—10.7 million from North America and 3.6 million sourced internationally. This represents a total increase of passengers of 855,000 or 6.4 percent growth.

New Ships
After introducing 14 new ships representing a total investment of $4.7 billion in 2009, the CLIA fleet will invest an additional $6.5 billion and welcome 12 new vessels this year. Significantly, the new ships continue to reflect the diversity of ships and cruise experiences available to the traveling public, ranging in capacity from 101 passengers to 5,400 passengers and built for everything from roaming the globe in sheer luxury to sailing the waters of Europe's most famous rivers and the coastlines of North America.

CLIA was founded in 1975 to serve the needs of a small, new venture—the transformation of increasingly obsolete maritime transatlantic travel into trend-setting leisure vacationing. The industry's story is one of impressive growth—118 new ships since 2000, and, since 1980, average annual growth in passengers of 7.4 percent, despite numerous economic downturns and other obstacles. You can read the entire State of the Industry report on the CLIA web site.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Europe Will Be More “Fun” in 2011 When Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Dream Debuts

When Carnival Cruise Lines introduces their newest ship in May 2011, the 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic will debut with a schedule of 7-, 9- and 12-day Mediterranean cruises operating round-trip from Barcelona through October 2011. This marks Carnival’s first full season of Mediterranean cruises in three years, as well as the first time the line has homeported a ship in Barcelona. While the line offered a limited season of European cruises last year when it launched Carnival Dream—as it has done when introducing other new ships in recent years—it withdrew plans to homeport Carnival Liberty in Europe for 2009 due to economic reasons. Carnival has no ship in Europe for the traditional summer 2010 season and no plans have been announced at this time to deploy an additional ship from the North American-based fleet to either the Med or Baltic regions in the near future.

To commemorate the line’s Mediterranean season and satisfy past passenger demand, for the first time ever Carnival is offering an exclusive pre-sale for past guests from Jan 19 to Jan 25, including complimentary two-category upgrades, along with special pricing.* For consumers new to Carnival, the line’s full range of cruise fares, including highly attractive Early Saver rates will open on Tuesday, Jan 26.

The 130,000-ton Carnival Magic will offer a host of features popularized on its sister ship Carnival Dream (pictured above), including a WaterWorks aqua park, a stunning café/live entertainment venue called Ocean Plaza; Serenity adults-only retreat; spacious, modern facilities for children and teens; and a wide range of categories in 1,845 staterooms (her capacity is slightly larger than sister-ship Carnival Dream). Several innovations unique to the Carnival Magic will be announced in the coming months. In addition, itineraries for Carnival Magic beyond October 2011 will be announced at a later date.

“Our past guests and travel agent partners have provided a tremendous amount of feedback in terms of their desire for more Mediterranean cruises from Carnival,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO. “This extensive program in 2011 will offer an excellent variety of itinerary lengths and options for consumers to experience and explore one of the world’s most beautiful and fascinating regions aboard the new Carnival Magic. Making the decision to return to Europe is an indicator of our confidence in the increasing willingness of North Americans to travel internationally as we move toward 2011.”

* The past guest promotion is capacity controlled and available until midnight Monday, Jan 25. A valid past guest number is required at the time of booking. The promotion applies to new individual bookings for stateroom categories 4A & higher; certain restrictions apply. Upgrades are available within specific stateroom accommodation types (i.e., interior to interior, ocean view to ocean view, balcony to balcony, etc.). Ship highlights and itinerary details are available at Carnival.com.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Silversea's New Flagship, Silver Spirit, Arrives in Port Everglades

Silversea Cruises' brand new flagship, Silver Spirit, arrived yesterday morning at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, completing her maiden crossing of the Atlantic, a 16-day voyage which began in Lisbon on Jan 3. As the first new cruise ship to arrive in Port Everglades in 2010, Silver Spirit was greeted in grand style with escorting fireboats providing a glistening water salute, while a plane circled overhead towing a large banner that read "WELCOME SILVER SPIRIT."

Silver Spirit will host several days of inaugural activities while in Fort Lauderdale, including an exclusive evening event tonight featuring acclaimed singer and pianist Michael Feinstein. In a first for the cruise company, the invitation-only Christening Ceremony taking place tomorrow morning will be broadcast live on the Silver Spirit Blog on the company's Internet site, starting at 10:00 am EST. Following the event, during which Silver Spirit's Godmother Silvia Lefebvre D’Ovidio, the sister of Silversea Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre D’Ovidio, will christen the ship with a balthazar of Moët & Chandon champagne, a replay of the webcast will also be available on the line's website.

"It's a great honor for us to welcome our beautiful new Silver Spirit to the Americas," said Kenneth W. Watson, Silversea's chief operating officer. "This ship is the perfect expression of the graceful elegance and comfortable ambiance found aboard our ships fleetwide, plus her 1930s Art Deco-inspired features recall the glamour of ocean travel's grandest era."

Tomorrow evening, Silver Spirit will set sail on a 91-day Grand Inaugural Voyage aptly themed "The Spirit of South America." During this expansive journey, Silver Spirit is set to explore over 20 countries and 45 ports. The ship will follow a southward course to Rio , sail around Cape Horn and through the Chilean Fjords before heading to the Mexican Riviera. Guests have the option to personalize their voyage by disembarking in Los Angeles, or sailing through the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale, or continuing up America's colonial coast to New York City.

Following the Grand Inaugural Voyage, Silver Spirit will spend the summer in the Mediterranean and then reposition to the Caribbean for fall and winter cruises. At 36,000 tons, and accommodating just 540 guests, this intimate ship has the largest suites in the Silversea fleet, with 95% featuring a private veranda, and one of the highest space-to-guest ratios at sea today. The onboard decor lends a sophisticated 1930s Art Deco ambiance to the public spaces, highlights of which include an indoor/outdoor spa measuring over 8,300 square feet, a resort-style pool, four whirlpools, and a choice of six dining venues including Seishin, showcasing Asian-fusion cuisine, and Stars Supper Club, offering trendsetting menus and all-night entertainment.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Royal Caribbean Supports Haiti With Port Calls & Assistance

On at least two occasions in the past my Royal Caribbean cruise itineraries have included Labadee, yet the ships I sailed on didn't call there due to civil unrest. Haiti, now wracked by last week's devastating earthquake and aftershocks, has long been a troubled country. Among the world's poorest people, Haitians have suffered from slavery, corrupt governments, and crippling tropical storms for decades. Despite those adversities, there have been bright spots in the country. One is Labadee, where Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has provided employment and hope for a better life to hundreds of Haitians for nearly thirty years.

As we reported last week here in the Cruise Diva Blog, Royal Caribbean is not only providing monetary support to Haiti in response to the catastrophic earthquake in Port-Au-Prince, but they are also delivering much needed food and other supplies to the country via their cruise ships. Pictured above, relief supplies are being off loaded from Independence of the Seas. Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, said, "Royal Caribbean wants to do its part to help out not only the general response, but also our hundreds of Haitian employees and their families through this disaster. In addition to our financial contribution, Royal Caribbean will continue to provide economic support through the continuous business we bring to Labadee."

Sadly, there are critics in the media who label Royal Caribbean as heartless and uncaring for bringing their ships and passengers back to Labadee so soon. The UK's Guardian asserts that passengers have mixed feelings about going ashore and quotes one as saying, "I just can't see myself sunning on the beach, playing in the water, eating a barbecue, and enjoying a cocktail while [in Port-au-Prince] there are tens of thousands of dead people being piled up on the streets, with the survivors stunned and looking for food and water." The Guardian also reports other passenger reactions as ranging from afraid to leave the ship because "desperate people might breach the resort's 12-ft high fences to get food and drink" to "determined to enjoy their holiday."

There are two sides to every story and we feel Royal Caribbean is on the side of the angels in this one. After 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, travelers were urged to visit New York and New Orleans to bolster the tourism economy in each city. What's so different with Royal Caribbean returning to Haiti so quickly in order to do the same? Nothing? Far from it. Royal Caribbean is bringing supplies and hope and not abandoning its employees. Plus, they are delivering much-needed aid in an efficient manner. That's more than you can say for some governments and institutions. Yes, United Nations, we're looking at you.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Two-Step to the Bellamy Brothers on MSC’s Country Music Cruise

Dust off your ten gallon hat and cowboy boots for some two-stepping to The Bellamy Brothers on MSC Cruises’ Country Music cruise. As a bonus, you’ll leave Old Man Winter behind and enjoy the sunny skies and balmy breezes of Caribbean ports on MSC Poesia’s 7-night, Feb 20, 2010 sailing.

Howard and David Bellamy, The Bellamy Brothers, have been a constant in country music for more than 30 years with 21 singles and more than 50 hits on both the pop and country charts. One of their most famous songs, “Let Your Love Flow,” received the distinguished BMI Five Million Performance Award and was No. 68 on BMI’s Top 100 Songs of the Century. The Bellamy Brothers will have you dancing in the aisles during their one-night performance on board. In addition to line dancing lessons and country music karaoke, you can two-step to other country music performances featured during the cruise.

The “Eastern Caribbean Enchantment” itinerary for the Country Music theme cruise sails roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale and visits San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas. For more information about this and MSC Cruises’ other theme cruises, visit MSC Cruises online and then come aboard with Cruise Diva for a first-hand look at an MSC Poesia Caribbean Cruise.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Swan Hellenic Launches North American Cruise Atlas

A cruise line you may have never heard of, small ship cruising specialist Swan Hellenic, has published a North American cruise atlas with pricing in US dollars, air programs from 21 North American gateways, and exclusive promotions for the US and Canadian market. The venerable British cruise operator has also launched an updated website featuring complete details on the line’s worldwide ocean and river programs.

“We’re very excited to reintroduce Swan Hellenic to the US and Canadian market,” said Mark Flager, vice president, North America. “Swan Hellenic has been defining the art of discovery cruising for more than 50 years. Our new programs and promotions will make it easier for past guests and new clients to enjoy Swan’s cultural travel experiences and exceptional value.”

Swan Hellenic offers culturally enriching cruise programs aboard the 350-guest cruise ship Minerva and aboard the river vessels A-Rosa Stella, A-Rosa Riva, and A-Rosa Aqua. Fares include shipboard gratuities, all port charges and government taxes, and shore excursions in each port of call. Swan Hellenic’s Guest Speakers include noted academics, diplomats and writers, and onboard workshops often feature writing courses, art workshops and yoga classes. Each cruise itinerary is a unique cultural travel experience, blending world class sites with smaller, off the beaten track destinations. A program of tailor-made shore excursions is included in the cruise fare, with excursions accompanied by experienced Swan Hellenic staff. Swan’s vessels feature open-seating dining.

In 2010/11 the Minerva navigates the Mediterranean to Northern Europe, returning to the Mediterranean en route to Arabia and the Far East. Cruises range from 13 to 17 days, with Grand Voyage combination cruises available from 29 to 45 days. The new cruise atlas offers Early Booking Savings up to 30%, with an additional $250 per person launch discount available on selected summer cruises for bookings made and deposited by March 1st.

Round-trip air fare and transfers are available from 21 US and Canadian gateway cities and are detailed online. The North American website also features Swan’s River Cruises aboard A-Rosa Stella (Rhône), A-Rosa Riva (Danube) and A-Rosa Aqua (Rhine). Swan’s River program mirrors Minerva’s all inclusive features. To book or to request a brochure, contact your travel professional or Swan Hellenic at (866) 923 9182 or visit the Swan Hellenic web site.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

‘Cougars’ & ‘Cubs’ Not So Welcome on Carnival Cruises

While the first ever "Cougar Cruise" sailed aboard Carnival Elation last month, Carnival Cruise Lines has said no thanks to a singles travel group's request to book a second cougar-themed sailing.

If you aren't familiar with the trend, cougars—generally woman over 40, but not over the hill—sexually pursue younger men, or cubs—who are typically more than eight years their junior. Think Madonna and her penchant for "boy toys" and you'll get the idea. Although the origin of cougar terminology is debatable, it may have first appeared in print on a Canadian dating website and has been used in TV series, advertising, and film. You might have seen the relatively new television show, Cougar Town, which takes a humorous look at the difficulty and stigmatization of many so-called "Cougars."

The singles travel group that sponsored the cruise aboard Carnival Elation told the Associated Press that the ban by Carnival is unfounded. They point to their first cruise that drew about 300 cougars and cubs as a success. Even Carnival says there were no problems with last month's sailing and it's just a business decision. With their focus on families and fun, they have no room for groups with that "theme."

Cougar cruise planners haven't been lost at sea, though. It appears the travel group has had no trouble booking future love boats with Carnival's rivals, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Royal Caribbean Cruises Provides Humanitarian Relief to Haiti After Earthquake

Royal Caribbean Cruises, one of Haiti's largest foreign investors for almost 30 years, today announced its plans to provide at least $1 million in humanitarian relief to Haiti in response to the catastrophic earthquake in Port-Au-Prince. Royal Caribbean will be partnering with charitable organizations—such as Food for the Poor, Pan American Development Foundation, and the Solano Foundation, the company's foundation in Haiti—to provide additional assistance to the people of Haiti. Royal Caribbean will also be delivering much needed goods and supplies to Haiti via their cruise ships.

"The effect of the earthquake on Haiti has been catastrophic, leaving the country in need of not only immediate support, but assistance in their long-term recovery," said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "Royal Caribbean wants to do its part to help out not only the general response, but also our hundreds of Haitian employees and their families through this disaster. In addition to our financial contribution, Royal Caribbean will continue to provide economic support through the continuous business we bring to Labadee."

Leslie Voltaire, Special Envoy of the government of Haiti to the United Nations said, "Given the terrible economic and social challenges we now face in Haiti, we welcome the continuation of the positive economic benefits that the cruise ship calls to Labadee contribute to our country."

The benefits start with Royal Caribbean Intl's Independence of the Seas' call today to Labadee, Haiti, which includes much needed supplies for the country. The supplies were loaded on the ship during its call in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and include items such as rice, dried beans, powdered milk, water and canned goods. In addition, 100 percent of the company's net revenue from the destination will be contributed to the relief effort.

In the next two weeks, the following ships are scheduled to call on Labadee with additional supplies: Navigator of the Seas on Monday, Jan 18; Liberty of the Seas on Tuesday, Jan 19; and Celebrity Solstice on Friday, Jan 22. When the supplies arrive in Labadee, they will be transported to an offsite location to be distributed by Food for the Poor, a long time partner of Royal Caribbean in Haiti.

In addition to working with Food for the Poor to distribute relief supplies, guests sailing onboard Royal Caribbean Intl, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises will be able to make a donation to Food for the Poor's Haiti Relief Fund, via a charge to their onboard account. Guests who would like to contribute immediately can visit Food for the Poor/Royal Caribbean to make a donation. Royal Caribbean also plans to use a portion of the $1 million donation to augment the company's Crew Relief Fund, which can be drawn on by any of the company's more than 200 Haitian crew members for assistance, as well as to match employee contributions to the partner organizations. As the initial response effort gives way to the long-term recovery effort, Royal Caribbean will consider further support efforts.

Oceania Cruises Unveils Inaugural Itineraries For New Marina

Oceania Cruises has begun accepting reservations for its highly anticipated new flagship Marina, which sets sail Jan 22, 2011. Priority reservations opened this week for Oceania Club members, which is comprised of past guests. On Jan 18 reservations will open to the general public. The 1,258-guest Marina is destined to set new cruise industry standards for her elegant and spacious accommodations and 10 dining venues, which include six, gourmet restaurants. Rich woods, marble and granite, fine wool carpets and lustrous leathers adorn public rooms. Facilities also include sophisticated bars and lounges, a full-service Canyon Ranch® SpaClub and fitness center, Bon Appétit Culinary Center, swimming pool and hot tubs.

“We are delighted to unveil the alluring itineraries that have been crafted for Marina’s inaugural season,” said Bob Binder, the line’s president. “Travelers can visit intriguing ports in the Caribbean and Mexico along with San Francisco and New York City, both of which are maiden calls for Oceania Cruises.”

High Style Hits the High Seas
The maiden voyage of Marina is a 13-day transatlantic cruise from Barcelona to Miami, departing Jan 22, 2011. The itinerary calls at Malaga, Spain; Casablanca and the Canary Islands before crossing the Atlantic. Seven days at sea will give guests time to explore Marina from stem to stern. From Miami, Marina will transit the Panama Canal, departing Feb 8, and visiting Cartagena, Colombia, whose Old Town is a medieval wonderland of mansions, monasteries and cobblestone streets, and Puntarenas, Costa Rica. The ship includes two ports in Mexico: Puerto Chiapas, the gateway to Mayan ruins, and the popular resort Cabo San Lucas before calling at Los Angeles and San Francisco, a new port for Oceania Cruises.

The ship returns to Miami with a never-before-offered Panama Canal itinerary, departing Feb 26. The fascinating voyage departs San Francisco, cruising California’s Pacific coast before calling at San Diego, another maiden port for Oceania. Guests enjoy a Latin interlude in Puerto Chiapas before transiting the Canal and making landfall at Cartagena. A stop in George Town, Grand Cayman, will offer time to rest and relax before disembarkation in Miami. Next, Marina embarks on the definitive Caribbean cruise. The 12-day voyage departs Miami March 16 for the British Virgin Islands, before calling at St. Barts, Dominica, St. Lucia and Grand Turk.

Before Marina returns to Barcelona to begin her summer season she will sail along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, departing Miami March 28 and visiting Savannah and Charleston before making her curtain call in New York City, where an overnight stay allows guests to visit the Great White Way. From Manhattan the ship sails for Hamilton, Bermuda. Five uninterrupted days at sea provide sufficient time to savor Marina’s many dining options before visiting Funchal, Portugal and Barcelona. For reservations or to order a brochure, contact a travel agent, visit Oceania Cruises' web site, or call toll-free at 800-531-5658.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Ultimate Family Experience With Nickelodeon & Norwegian Cruise Line

Your family may have sailed on a Nickelodeon-theme cruise in the past and enjoyed it so much that you want to repeat the experience. However, you may have been frustrated to find Nickelodeon cruises few and far between. All that has changed.

Norwegian Cruise Line has announced a new partnership with Nickelodeon in which select NCL ships will feature Nickelodeon-themed family entertainment and programming all year long. Nickelodeon at Sea launches on Norwegian Jewel when the ship begins sailing from New York in late April, and on Norwegian’s latest addition to its fleet—Norwegian Epic—when she launches in July. Each cruise will feature live Nickelodeon-themed interactive shows, including: SlimeTime LIVE! with Nick’s signature slime; Nick Live! Poolside entertainment; character breakfasts and meet and greets; Nick-themed dance parties; and more. Nickelodeon-themed elements will also be incorporated into Norwegian’s Kids’ Crew program.

“Nickelodeon is an incredible family brand that is well-known to kids and parents of all ages,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer. “Combining its worldwide appeal with our signature Freestyle Cruising will create the ultimate experience at sea for families. For any family considering a cruise vacation, there is no better value and experience than Nickelodeon at Sea on Norwegian Cruise Line.”

In addition to the year-round programming on Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Epic, special Nickelodeon-themed cruises will be offered annually where families can immerse themselves in everything Nickelodeon all day, every day. These unique cruises will include: special appearances by the Network’s live talent; show premieres; more live game shows; even more opportunities to visit with kids’ favorite Nick characters; and much more. The first of the Nickelodeon-themed specialty cruises is scheduled on Norwegian Jewel later this year. More details and an on sale date will be released soon. To book a cruise on Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Epic, or any of Norwegian’s ships, visit the NCL web site, call 800-327-7030, or contact a travel professional.

Explorer of the Seas, Boarding Delay

Explorer of the Seas' departure from dry dock in Freeport, Bahamas has been delayed and due to this, the ship is expected to arrive in Bayonne, New Jersey on Thursday, January 14 later than originally scheduled.

Royal Caribbean asks that guests who are scheduled to sail on Explorer of the Seas on Thursday not arrive at the port before 3:00 p.m., but no later than 7:00 p.m.

The delayed departure is not expected to have an impact on the scheduled itinerary.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Norwegian Epic Studios Cater to Solo Cruisers

Continuing its history of innovation, Norwegian Cruise Line today announced a completely new concept to make cruising more attractive to solo travelers on the company’s largest and most exciting Freestyle Cruising ship to date, Norwegian Epic, launching this July. Norwegian Epic’s Studios are the first staterooms designed and priced for single occupancy, starting from $799 on the ship’s 7-day alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. These specially designed and priced Studio staterooms available on all of Norwegian Epic’s sailings, with no single supplement, go on sale Monday, Jan 18, 2010.

“Historically, the cruise industry has not embraced the large number of people who enjoy traveling solo,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “We are breaking the mold of traditional cruising once again by offering a stateroom designed and priced specifically for solo travelers, making cruising a more attractive travel option. We invite all solo travelers, whether they are first-time cruisers or cruising veterans, to sail on our incredible new Freestyle Cruising ship, Norwegian Epic.”

The Studios on Norwegian Epic are a private key-card access complex on two decks consisting of 128 staterooms and the Studio Lounge (pictured above). This unique and thoughtfully designed concept provides comfort and convenience for the solo traveler. Each Studio stateroom, at approximately 100 square feet of living space, features a contemporary design with a full-size bed and separate areas for the bathroom, sink, and shower. In addition, guests in the Studios have private access to the exclusive Studio Lounge where guests can grab a cup of coffee in the morning, meet up with fellow cruisers and plan their day, or relax with a drink in the evening. Since many of the Studio staterooms are connecting, there is also the opportunity for friends to travel together while giving each their own private space.

Cruise Diva shares additional information on Norwegian Epic's Freestyle Accommodations to suit every type of guest.

Haiti Struck by Devastating 7.0 Earthquake

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, was hit by a 7.0 earthquake shortly before 5pm on Tuesday afternoon.

The epicenter was reported by the U.S. Geological Survey to be only 10 miles west of the capital, Port-au-Prince. Buildings in the capital collapsed, burying occupants under the rubble. Joseph Guyler, a Reuters reporter in the city said, "Everything started shaking, people were screaming, houses started collapsing ... it's total chaos."

ABC reports the quake was felt by people in Jamaica; Quantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and was followed by two strong aftershocks of magnitudes 5.9 and 5.5. More aftershocks are likely.

A tsunami warning issued by the U.S. National Weather Service was cancelled, but with communications disrupted, reports of deaths and injuries are not complete.

The international relief agency Operation USA is preparing to send medical aid to the Haitian people. You can help with a donation of funds or supplies.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Streamlining Oasis of the Seas

Agilysys, Inc., a leading provider of innovative information technology and hospitality software solutions, has announced that Royal Caribbean International in Miami has selected the DataMagine(TM) document management solution from Agilysys to streamline operations on Oasis of the Seas, the cruise line's newest ship. Royal Caribbean will use the DataMagine solution to electronically capture guest signatures, digitize sales receipts and consolidate activity waivers.

"We were looking for an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional paper-based documents for Oasis of the Seas, and Agilysys offered the ideal solution," said Lisa Bauer, senior vice president, hotel operations, Royal Caribbean International. "The DataMagine solution's electronic waiver capability allows us to consolidate each passenger's activity waivers onto one form, helping reduce liability and increasing guest satisfaction. Digitized receipts enable easy search and retrieval, and we can decrease our dependence on paper with the solution's electronic signature capture feature."

Paul Gauguin, Cruises in Tahiti

“When I die, I don’t want to go to heaven. I want to go to Tahiti.” My husband uttered those memorable words during a vacation in Hawaii when he first saw a South Pacific show featuring Tahitian dancers. Several years later we did visit Tahiti and the experience lived up to everything we’d ever imagined about it.

This week, Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the highest rated and longest continually-sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific, the m/s Paul Gauguin, is sailing its inaugural voyage under the Pacific Beachcomber umbrella. From Jan 6 until Jan 16, 2010, the exclusive 10-day President’s Cruise, hosted by Richard Bailey, President of Pacific Beachcomber, SC, will visit the islands of Tahiti, Huahine, Raiatea, Rangiroa, Bora Bora, Taha’a, and Moorea.

The itinerary features a myriad of enriching travel experiences and excursions, including:

- Dolphin watching with marine biologist Dr. Michael Poole (or his assistant), following schools of spinner dolphins.
- Visiting the Motu Pearl Farm, where guests learn all about the magnificent black pearl, as well as snorkeling in the crystal clear lagoon of Taha’a.
- Exploring Tahiti “off the beaten path,” visiting areas of the island not commonly seen by visitors, traveling in an off-road vehicle during a scenic journey, passing by cascading waterfalls, luxuriant tropical vegetation, exotic flowers, and lush valleys offering wonderful views and photo opportunities.
- Discovering an ancient side of Tahiti via a journey through the Opunohu Valley with resident archaeologist Mark Eddowes, visiting an ancient temple at the edge of the native forest along with a guided walk along the ancient trails.

About acquiring the m/s Paul Gauguin, Bailey says, “We at Pacific Beachcomber were truly honored to recently welcome Paul Gauguin Cruises into our portfolio. Paul Gauguin Cruises’ leading cruise ship reputation in French Polynesia combined with our 25 years of luxury resort hotel experience in the Tahitian islands will ensure that all our guests enjoy a seamless island vacation experience of the highest caliber.”

The m/s Paul Gauguin will embark on 38 expeditions in 2010 to destinations including Tahiti, the Society Islands, the Tuamotus, the Cook Islands, the Marquesas, Tonga, Fiji, and New Zealand. Each of these exclusive voyages will highlight the beauty of French Polynesia from the luxurious and spacious accommodations on board the m/s Paul Gauguin, which underwent a multi-million dollar enhancement in 2009. The ship’s staterooms, public areas, and restaurants have been upgraded to reflect the luxurious standard that is characteristic of Paul Gauguin Cruises. For additional information, visit Paul Gauguin Cruises online.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Windstar Offers The Ultimate Cold Remedy

Windstar Cruises, which operates a three-ship fleet of luxury yachts that explore hidden harbors and secluded coves of the world's most treasured destinations, has launched a one-week sale on 2010 Winter Costa Rica and Caribbean sailings.
With most of the United States under a deep freeze, Windstar offers incredible savings on sunny and warm Costa Rica and Caribbean voyages. Cruise fares start from $1,199 per person, double occupancy on Jan 16 through March 20, 2010 sailings.
  • Wind Star's 7-day Costa Rica cruise departs and returns to Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, visiting picturesque San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua; Playas del Coco, Quepos, Bahia Drake, Curu (National Wildlife Refuge), and Tortuga Island, Costa Rica.
  • Wind Spirit's new 7-day St. Martin roundtrip itinerary features pristine beaches, lively island culture, and additional daytime sailing. Port of calls include St. Kitts, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda and St. Barts.
  • Wind Surf's 7-day roundtrip sailings from Bridgetown, Barbados call on a variety of vibrant ports on northbound and southbound itineraries. The northbound itinerary includes St. Kitts, St. Martin, St. Barts, Guadeloupe, Iles des Saintes and St. Lucia. The southbound itinerary includes Bequia, Dominica, St. Lucia, Mayreau, Grenada and Tobago.
Windstar recently announced the latest phase of its Degrees of Difference initiative featuring added amenities and enhancements to its luxurious ships in the areas of dining, accommodations, entertainment, spa, fitness and shore excursions. With this latest initiative, Windstar continues to raise the bar, delivering a vacation experience that is "180 Degrees from Ordinary."

Windstar's one-week sale is not combinable with any other promotions/programs. Taxes additional. Offer is capacity controlled and may be withdrawn or modified at the discretion of Windstar. Offer is valid on new bookings only and full payment required. Sale ends Jan 16, 2010. For more information including rates and itineraries contact a professional travel agent or call Windstar at 1-800-258-7245. Visit Windstar Cruises online.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Celebrity Cruises Revamps Millennium-Class Ships To Mark 20th Anniversary

Celebrity Cruises is celebrating the new year and two decades of cruising by announcing the launch of a new look on their popular Millennium-class ships. When revealing their new ‘Designed for You’ branding initiative this week, President & CEO Dan Hanrahan said, “What better time than our 20th anniversary to celebrate Celebrity’s history of award-winning service, cuisine, and our new, brand-defining Solstice Class?” Hanrahan added, “Everything we’ve offered over the course of 20 years, and everything we’ll offer in the future, is designed for discerning cruisers, from our contemporary, new Celebrity Life onboard experiences, to the world-class cuisine of Chef Jacques Van Staden, to our enhanced Captain’s Club loyalty program. So, we’ve summed up our longtime commitment to understanding them and delivering what they want within a new brand platform: ‘Designed for You’.”

The introduction of Designed for You marks the culmination of an extensive, 6-month exploration into more deeply understanding the needs of discerning cruisers. “We’ve always been committed to identifying and designing what our guests want, and the awards our brand continues to receive are welcome validation that it’s working,” said Hanrahan. “The greatest validation has been the response to our stunning Solstice Class.”

Celebrity’s Solstice-class building program represents an investment of $3.7-billion, the largest newbuild commitment for a single brand in industry history, offering modern cruising “firsts,” including The Lawn Club; The Hot Glass Show; AquaClass; the industry’s first application of solar technology, and stylish staterooms. To leverage the Solstice-class ships’appeal, Celebrity plans to incorporate its attributes across the fleet, most notably through a significant revitalization of all four Millennium-class ships. Celebrity Constellation will be the first to receive the new enhancements during scheduled drydock in April of this year.

Among the Solstice-class features to be introduced on Millennium-class ships:
· More opportunities to relish Celebrity’s world-class cuisine with the addition of Tuscan Grille, the Napa Valley-meets-Italian-steakhouse venue
· Bistro on Five, the vibrant, popular creperie
· An ice-topped Martini Bar paired with Crush, whose ice-filled table presents a selection of chilled, top-tier vodkas
· The cool Café al Bacio and Gelateria, replacing the former Cova Café
· An Enomatic wine bar, the state-of-the-art, Italian designed wine serving system allowing guests to select and serve, at the touch of a button, the wines of their choice by the glass
· More sumptuous suites, on a par with those in the most modern hotels in Europe, with all new furniture, flat-screen TVs, upholstery, bedding and carpeting
· Restyled staterooms, with entirely new carpeting, flat-screen TVs, upholstery, and bedding
· New color schemes, carpeting and upholstery in every public venue, from the Celebrity Theater to Seaside Grill, from the main dining room to Michael’s Club

To check out Celebrity’s new Designed for You branding and video, visit the Celebrity web site.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Seabourn Quest is a Winner

The Yachts of Seabourn has announced that Seabourn Quest will be the name given to its newest vessel. Poised to become the third of three new ultra-luxury yachts launched by the award-winning, small-ship cruise line in as many years, Seabourn Quest will debut in June 2011. Seabourn Quest will be the third iteration of the sleek and widely admired design that first appeared on Seabourn Odyssey in June 2009. Indeed, Odyssey has been hailed as a “game-changer for the luxury segment.”

The second sister ship, Seabourn Sojourn, will debut next June in Greenwich, England. Together, the three new vessels represent a capacity increase of over 200% for the line in a 3-year period, underlining the company’s confidence in a burgeoning demand for top-shelf cruising options. At 32,000 GRT and carrying just 450 guests each, the three new Seabourn yachts are the smallest cruising vessels being built by any major cruise company, in keeping with the line’s strategy of offering travelers highly personalized service in a relaxed, sociable and luxurious atmosphere.

“The selection of the name Seabourn Quest completes the triad of names we chose for these three new vessels,” noted Pamela C. Conover, Seabourn’s President and CEO.

Last September, the line launched a contest inviting people to guess the name of the newest addition to its fleet, with a cruise for two aboard the vessel as the prize. The contest drew more than 2,100 email responses by the time it closed on Dec 31, with some entrants offering as many as a hundred different possibilities. The contest winner is Kevin Staub of Newtown, PA, who submitted “Quest” along with 15 other suggestions. Staub wasn’t alone in guessing correctly, so his name was drawn at random from a pool of 120 contestants who submitted correct guesses. Staub and a guest will enjoy a complimentary 7-day cruise on Quest during the vessel’s maiden year of operation.

The three new Seabourn yachts join another trio of small, 208-guest ultra-luxury vessels already in the fleet: Seabourn Pride, Spirit, and Legend. All offer Seabourn’s combination of all-suite accommodations, personalized service, superb cuisine, and exceptional itineraries in the world’s most desirable destinations. Innovative onboard features on the new yachts include a delightfully unorthodox gathering spot called Seabourn Square, which replaces the traditional reception lobby with a comfortable, relaxed, club-like room that combines a library, internet café, and a discreet guest services center with a social lounge and konditerei-style coffee bar. The 11,400 square-foot, indoor/outdoor spa facility is the largest on any luxury vessel, even those that carry more than twice as many guests. Four dining venues, six bars and lounges, and a wide range of open decks and terraces provide venues to suit every mood, from sociable to secluded. For additional information, visit the Seabourn web site & blog.

Friday, January 8, 2010

When The Water Hits The Hull: Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth Floats Out

Special ceremonies at Fincantieri’s shipyard near Trieste, Italy, were held this week to mark the float out of Cunard Line’s newest liner, Queen Elizabeth.

Cunard’s President and Managing Director, Peter Shanks, was joined by 79-year-old Florence (Dennie) Farmer, who served as guest of honor at the event. Dennie’s husband, Willie Farmer, joined Cunard in Sept 1938 and served as Chief Engineer on both the first Queen Elizabeth and Queen Elizabeth 2 until retirement in Oct 1979. Since her husband’s passing, Dennie has sailed with Cunard many times and her link with the two previous Queen Elizabeth ships is unparalleled. In recognition of this, Cunard bestowed Dennie with the honor, in Italian tradition, of being “Madrina” to the third Queen Elizabeth.

The first ceremony involved the welding of significant coins beneath the mast of Queen Elizabeth for good luck. Three coins were chosen–a half crown dated 1938 (the year the first Queen Elizabeth was launched), a sovereign dated 1967 (the year Queen Elizabeth 2 was launched) and a sovereign dated 2010 (to acknowledge the new Queen Elizabeth being floated out in 2010). After the coin ceremony, the focus moved to the dockside, where the liner was blessed and a bottle of Italian prossecco was smashed against the hull by the Madrina. The valves of the dry dock were then opened and the liner met the water for the first time.

“It is only a little over six months since the keel for this great ship was laid. In that short time, a solitary block at the bottom of the dry dock has, as a result of the skill and discipline of the workforce here at Fincantieri, grown into this awe-inspiring vessel,” said Shanks. “Even in her present unfinished state, devoid of the carpets and curtains, furnishings and facilities, paintings and porcelain that we associate with a Cunard luxury liner, she is awesome. Of our 170 years of history, there has been an ‘Elizabeth’ in the fleet for more than 70 and this ship–the second largest Cunarder ever built–will take the name far into the 21st Century.”

Queen Elizabeth will feature many unique Cunard traditions linking her with her sisters, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, and their predecessors. It also will feature all the modern day luxuries Cunard’s guests have come to expect. Additionally, there will be features that will give the vessel her own style and personality.

The first Queen Elizabeth was one of Cunard’s greatest ships, and the new Queen Elizabeth will reflect 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 an experience that differentiates a Cunard liner from a modern-day cruise ship. This will be most evident in the ship’s adherence to liner traditions, with elegant double- and triple-height public rooms on a grand scale, luxuriously endowed with rich wood panelling, intricate mosaics, hand-woven carpets, 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. As successor to Queen Elizabeth 2, the ship will also reflect this great liner through artwork and memorabilia, and its very own “Yacht Club.” Queen Elizabeth will acknowledge the links that Cunard has enjoyed with royalty and the maritime world over the years with photography, memorabilia and exhibits.

Queen Elizabeth’s now sold-out Maiden Voyage will depart on Tuesday Oct 12, 2010. This 13-night celebration will leave from the company’s home port in Southampton (UK), and will call at Vigo, Lisbon, Cadiz, Las Palmas, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (overnight call) and Funchal.

Her Maiden Season will run from October 2010 to January 2011 and include voyages to the Western and Central Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Queen Elizabeth will depart Southampton on Jan 5, 2011 on her 103-night epic Maiden World Voyage, which has just opened for sale. This tour will feature 35 maiden calls, including Cunard’s first call ever at Port Denarau (Fiji). In total, Queen Elizabeth will call at 38 ports in 23 countries as she makes her way west around the globe, with maiden transits of both the Panama and Suez Canals and calls at Los Angeles, Auckland, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and Lisbon.

Queen Elizabeth will be in great company, as her sisters will be on hand for several Cunard Royal Rendezvous meetings during the voyage: she will sail in tandem en route to New York with Queen Victoria before all three Cunard Queens meet in New York on Jan 13; she will meet Queen Mary 2 in Sydney on Feb 22 and in Civitavecchia on April 13; and she will meet Queen Victoria again in Aruba on Jan 19.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mission Accomplished! Carnival Loyalist Sails on All 23 ‘Fun Ships’ in One Year

Have you ever dreamed of practically living on a cruise ship? Or, at the least, sailing on every ship in your favorite cruise line’s fleet?

One man has done it. When loyal Carnival passenger William Filomena boarded the Carnival Miracle in late December, he accomplished what no other guest has done in the company’s 38-year history–he sailed on all 23 “Fun Ships” in a year. Filomena’s unique achievement when he embarked on a 7-day cruise aboard the Carnival Spirit in fall 2008 and, over the course of the next year, he sailed on every “Fun Ship” in the fleet.

Although Filomena has already earned a place in the Carnival record book, he plans to continue cruising with the line and already has 12 cruises planned for 2010! We hope he received more than a ship-on-a-stick for his accomplishment.

Pictured above, Filomena (second from left) joins the Carnival Miracle’s top officers on the bridge, including Captain Rocco Lubrano (far left), Hotel Director Pierre B. Camilleri (second from right), and Guest Services Manager Phil Holmes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On Disney Cruise Line, Children Can Customize Their Cruise Experience

Always on the leading edge for family cruises, Disney Cruise Line recognizes that separating junior cruises into rigid age groups doesn’t work for everyone. Once again reinventing onboard children’s experiences, Disney is taking an entirely new approach to youth activities and allowing kids to let their imaginations set sail by customizing their cruise vacation. More youth activities than ever before are available and children can choose experiences based on interest, not age. Exciting new youth activities and dedicated children’s spaces are available now on Disney Magic and Disney Wonder and are coming to Disney Dream beginning with the ship’s maiden voyage in Jan 2011.

“The changes within Disney Cruise Line youth activities will allow children freedom to create a customized experience onboard our ships,” said Disney Cruise Line Vice President of Entertainment Jim Urry. “Children can select their own adventures and immersive experiences for a truly personalized, memorable cruise vacation.”

Customized Experiences: On Disney Cruise Line, children can personalize their cruise vacation by selecting activities and events, regardless of age. Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are open to children age 3 to 12 on the Disney Wonder and age 3 to 10 on the Disney Magic.

While Disney Cruise Line will continue to recommend activities that appeal to specific maturity levels and ages, the entire menu of offerings is open to every child. With this evolutionary approach to shipboard youth activities, children and parents may select programs based on the specific interests of each child to create a customized and very personalized experience. Unique to the cruise industry, children of different ages—siblings, extended family, and friends—can participate in youth activities together throughout their cruise.

The majority of children’s events and free-time activities occur within dedicated youth spaces on the ship and on Castaway Cay. As always, Disney Cruise Line youth activities are supervised by specially trained, experienced counselors. Specific program information is available on the day of check-in at the Youth Activities registration desk located in the Disney cruise ship terminal building prior to boarding, or onboard in the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab.

A World of Youth Activities: With more than 100 activities, events and programs, and with all youth activities open to all ages, children have more choices than ever before on Disney Cruise Line.

Many experiences draw inspiration from classic Disney stories and popular Disney characters:
• During Cinderella’s Royal Ball, Cinderella shows young cruisers how to be a prince or princess.
• So You Want to be a Pirate offers adventurous high seas tales, pirate training for young buccaneers, and a special appearance by Captain Hook.
• Children are immersed in the world of Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story” during Toy Story Boot Camp led by Corporal Green.

Hands-on activities appeal to children’s sense of creativity and invention:
• The next great celebrity chef could be discovered at Ratatouille Cooking School.
• During the new Animal Tracking Series, children discover that conservation can be fun.
• In Flubber, children join Professor Goo in creating magical green goo and other interesting concoctions.

Other onboard youth activities include playful programs such as Mouseketeer Training and Little Einsteins for preschoolers; challenge-and solution-games like Stitch’s Great Adventure and Detective School with Goofy; high-action group activities such as Kim Possible: Cruise Control, and The Challenge of Davy Jones; and unstructured free time to enjoy the youth areas, play on computers and spend time having fun with new friends.

The Most Family-Friendly Cruise: Along with this evolution in youth activities, Disney Cruise Line continues to provide the most family-friendly cruise experience available. While children are enjoying the most extensive youth activity areas at sea, parents can enjoy the ship “worry-free,” thanks to an onboard paging service that allows kids to contact their parents anytime and anywhere on the ship. Plus, Disney Cruise Line has the industry’s longest operating hours for children’s activities, providing greater flexibility for parents and even more fun for kids.

Recently introduced, Dine and Play allows families to enjoy dinner together, then gives kids more time to enjoy youth activities while parents relax at the end of the meal. With Dine and Play, parents may check their children (age 3 to 12) into evening youth activities during second seating in all of the main dining rooms. Families enjoy dinner together, then youth counselors whisk children away to play so the grown-ups can savor some time together in the adult-exclusive areas of the ship.

Disney stage productions, family activities, special events, first-run films in digital 3-D, poolside movies, deck parties, a family club and the Castaway Cay Family Beach provide even more opportunities for families to experience a memorable cruise vacation together.
Here's a Disney Cruise Line factoid that sets them apart from other cruise lines. If your infant or toddler needs a diaper changed while in the nursery or kiddie program, Disney's caregivers will change it. On most other cruise lines, diaper changing by counselors is a no-no and parents must be called.
To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a vacation, visit Disney Cruise Line's web site, call 888/DCL-2500, or contact a travel agent.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Carnival Cruise Lines Launches New TV Advertising Campaign

The beginning of a new year brings many new things to our lives, including the end of reruns of our favorite television shows. Along with the new episodes that have begun to appear on our television screens, we’ll begin seeing Carnival Cruise Lines’ new television advertising campaign as well. Debuting yesterday, the three new spots speak to the unique kind of genuine, participatory fun unleashed on a Carnival cruise. The new commercials retain the brand’s existing “Fun For All. All For Fun” tagline and each spot features the song “Bang the Drum” by Todd Rundgren.
  • The first TV spot showcases the fun of a Carnival cruise through the eyes of a teenager (pictured above) who watches as her father leaves his email, computer, and cell phone behind, getting lost in the joys of dancing, poolside shenanigans, and Carnival-style family fun. Take a look here to see why the bubble gum blowing teen is shocked, shocked by her parents.
  • Another spot, “Gangway,” captures the moment of transformation that happens to a Carnival guest when he/she crosses the bridge and goes from land to sea, leaving the everyday worries and routine of today back onshore.
  • “Everybody In” celebrates the one-armed photo--that photo everyone wants to be in, so someone ends up holding the camera with one arm while posing with the group--all with the goal of highlighting the feeling of fun that is true to the Carnival experience.
“The new work does a great job of portraying the social and participatory nature of the Carnival vacation experience, capturing those moments that make our cruises so uniquely memorable and enjoyable for our guests,” said Jim Berra, chief marketing officer for Carnival Cruise Lines.

Additionally, Carnival will be the exclusive cruise line advertiser during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games with the new spots running throughout 17 days of the Olympic broadcast period on the NBC, MSNBC, CNBC and USA networks. Carnival will also be the exclusive sponsor of the athletes’ section on NBCOlympics.com, featuring custom videos of the Olympic competitors.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hints For New Cruisers

No two cruise experiences are identical. But what exactly are realistic expectations?

Once the planning, packing, and anticipation are behind them, veteran cruise passengers sometimes view embarkation day as anticlimactic. However, for first-time cruise travelers, boarding their first ship can be more than exhilarating—it can be downright intimidating. What exactly can you expect?

Cruise Diva's four-part series explores What to Expect On Your Cruise from embarkation and days at sea and in port to disembarkation.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Important Notice to Passengers Embarking Star Princess Jan 5, 2010

Princess Cruises looks forward to welcoming you onboard Star Princess. Due to a weather delay, embarkation for your cruise will not begin until approximately 6:00pm on Tuesday, Jan 5th.

Please do not arrive at the pier before 6:00pm. For the most current information and to avoid any unnecessary waiting, we encourage you to call the local Princess ground handler, Destination Management Chile, at the below before you depart for the ship.

Calling from an international number:
56 2 3431 334 OR 56 9 7 897 27 85
Calling in Chile from a regular phone:
3431 334 OR 09 7 897 27 85
Calling in Chile from a Chilean mobile phone:
02 3431 334 OR 7 897 27 85

Princess Cruises apologize for any inconvenience this delay may cause, and looks forward to providing you a wonderful cruise holiday.

Royal Caribbean, Truly International

Adam Goldstein, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean Intl blogged last week that the cruise line is now in the midst of its full global portfolio of “winter” programs. Not surprising to cruise industry watchers, Goldstein said, “The word winter of course reflects a northern bias. We have Splendour of the Seas and Vision of the Seas in Brazil and Rhapsody of the Seas in Australia because it is very much summer in those regions. Plus Legend of the Seas is in sunny Singapore and Brilliance of the Seas is a few weeks away from its first voyage from Dubai. Still in the Caribbean, but very much part of our global expansion strategy, Enchantment of the Seas has begun our Panama/Colombia program.”

Goldstein further explained Royal Caribbean's international strategy, “The preparation for these programs is a year-round phenomenon. We are either delivering these programs or we are processing the lessons learned and developing the next season’s program. As we have grown our international offices’ capabilities, we look increasingly to our distant colleagues for feedback on product content, distribution and pricing. We’re very happy to have Americans and all nationalities cruise on these products, but I will note that the ships in Brazil have mostly Brazilians onboard, the ship in Australia has mostly Australians onboard and so forth. That’s no different than if you take a land vacation to such countries, but some of our guests are surprised to find this to be the case. In the 1990’s our worldwide cruises were primarily to take Americans on exotic itineraries. Now our worldwide cruises are for all nationalities with the usual case being that the nationalities nearest to the homeport are the largest % of the guest mix.”

That revelation might come as something of an eye-opener to many North Americans, who have traditionally felt themselves to be the center of US-based cruise line attention and marketing. While that’s still true in some regions, most notably the Caribbean and Alaska, cruise lines are now reaching out to attract passengers worldwide. More and more, ships are deployed on itineraries to appeal to locals in Europe, South America, Asia, and the South Pacific.

Even American-centric Caribbean cruises may soon be even more international in flavor as lines such as Royal Caribbean market more aggressively around the globe. As announced during its introduction, it is expected that Oasis of the Seas may host as many as 25% of its weekly passengers from other countries.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Whatever Happened to Carnival Cruise Lines' "Holiday"?

Most Americans remember her simply as Holiday, a Carnival "Fun Ship" and the source of memorable cruise vacations. She recently sailed off to Europe and will soon perform that same function under a new name—Grand Holiday—after a complete transformation inside and out. (We're happy to see she retains her distinctive winged funnel.)

Costa Group, the largest Italian tourism group and Europe’s number one cruise company is making a significant investment, worth approximately €55 million, on IberocrucerosGrand Holiday in the S. Giorgio shipyards in the port of Genoa from Dec 2009 through April 2010. These operations entail a radical restyling of the ship to prepare it to enter service with the Iberocruceros brand in May 2010. The objective is to adapt the ship to the quality standards of the Spanish clientele for which it will operate. In addition to completely restyling the cabins and public areas, four new suites with balconies as well as a new wellness center will be built. The hull will be painted with a special silicone-based ecological paint that reduces the formation of micro-organisms on the hull without releasing toxic substances into the sea. This increases the vessel’s hydrodynamic performance while reducing its environmental impact given reduced fuel consumption.

At the end of the refurbishment, the Grand Holiday will be the fourth ship of the Iberocruceros fleet. The first cruise will depart from Barcelona on May 18, 2010, with destinations including Villefranche-sur-Mer, Leghorn, Civitavecchia and Porto Torres. For the entire summer season, the ship will sail 7-day cruises in the western Mediterranean. Departing from Barcelona on Sundays, the ship will call on Villefranche-sur-Mer, Leghorn, Civitavecchia, Naples and La Goulette.