Sunday, February 28, 2010

Paul Gauguin Cruises Offers Exclusive Sailing with Jean-Michel Cousteau

Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the highest rated and longest continually-sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific, the m/s Paul Gauguin, announces an exclusive voyage with explorer and environmentalist, Jean-Michel Costeau, departing May 22, 2010. Mr. Cousteau, pictured here in SCUBA gear, will join guests of the m/s Paul Gauguin as the ship sails for 16 days to Fiji, Tonga, and the Cook and Society Islands. As the ship’s special guest, Mr. Cousteau will offer a series of lectures with videos of his work in the oceans of the world, as well as accompany several dives from the ship.

The m/s Paul Gauguin’s revolutionary Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Program was created by Mr. Cousteau and his Ocean Futures Society. The unique, groundbreaking program introduces travelers to the extraordinary natural wonders of French Polynesia. The program aims to give young participants ages 9 to 17 direct, hands-on, interactive experience with knowledge of marine and island ecosystems. Young Ambassadors will explore coral reefs, hike rainforest trails and visit marae (ancient Polynesian temples). They’ll learn how black pearls and vanilla are cultivated, how volcanic islands become coral atolls, and how to paddle an outrigger canoe. Parents are encouraged to join children on eco-excursions and other activities aboard and ashore.

Founded in 1999 by Jean-Michel Cousteau, environmental advocate and son of the legendary Jacques Cousteau, the mission of the Ocean Futures Society is to explore our global oceans, inspiring and educating people throughout the world to act responsibly for their protection, documenting the critical connection between humanity and nature, and celebrating the ocean’s vital importance to the survival of all life on our planet. For more than 60 years, Jean-Michel Cousteau, his father, and family have been part of the greatest exploration of the ocean in all of history. This program is available on all cruises from June through August and on select holiday cruises for a nominal fee of $269 per child. Rates for the May 22, 2010 sailing begin at $6,545 per person. For a coveted reservation on this m/s Paul Gauguin cruise, contact your Professional Travel Agent, call 1-800-848-6172 or visit Paul Gauguin Cruises online.

About Paul Gauguin Cruises
Owned by Pacific Beachcomber S.C., the leader in French Polynesia luxury destination resorts, Paul Gauguin Cruises operates the award-winning luxury cruise ship m/s Paul Gauguin, providing a luxury cruise experience tailored to the unparalleled wonders of Tahiti, French Polynesia and the South Pacific. The m/s Paul Gauguin was built at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint Nazaire, France. The ship is 513 feet long, 71 feet wide and has a draft of 16.9 feet. The ship can accommodate 332 guests with a staff of 215. The m/s Paul Gauguin has undergone more than $25 million in enhancements since its inaugural sail in 1998. Since 1998, the m/s Paul Gauguin has completed more than 500 South Pacific cruises and served more than 140,000 guests, including more than 12,000 honeymooners.

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 exclusive voyage 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.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Holland America Line: Chilean Earthquake

Holland America Line Statement:

On Saturday, Feb 27th at 3:34 am local time, a magnitude-8.8 earthquake hit Chile, resulting in a tsunami warning issued over a wide area, including Hawaii, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Russia, and many Pacific islands.

The four Holland America Line ships that are operating in the Pacific Ocean at this time were not impacted. The ms Veendam was in protected waters in Chile when the earthquake occurred while the ms Zaandam and ms Maasdam are in open ocean and will remain there until the risk of the tsunami wave has passed. ms Rotterdam is safely docked in Puerto Caldera. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and make adjustments to itineraries if needed. At Holland America Line, the safety and security of our guests and crew is our top priority.

Princess Cruises: Earthquake in Chile & Tsunami Warnings

Statement From Princess Cruises:

Early Saturday morning, Feb 27th, a magnitude 8.8 earthquake occurred in Chile, resulting in a tsunami warning issued over a wide area of the Pacific Ocean rim. Princess Cruises currently has eight ships sailing in the region's waters, and none are adversely affected at this time. The safety and security of our passengers and crew is our foremost priority and we continue to monitor events and, if necessary, modify itineraries to avoid any unfavorable sea conditions.

Star Princess Sailings in South America
Star Princess is currently sailing in South America and is en route to Valparaiso, Chile, where the cruise is scheduled to conclude on Tuesday, March 2.

  • Voyage 9005: Arriving Valparaiso Tuesday, March 2: We have been in close communication with management onboard Star Princess and, where possible, our contacts in Chile. Based on the information we currently have obtained, we do not anticipate any changes to our arrival in Valparaiso on March 2. The ship's call to Puerto Montt tomorrow is scheduled to proceed as planned. The authorities in Puerto Montt have confirmed that the port is open and fully operational. Officials have also advised that the city and surrounding area has suffered minimal damage and virtually all tours will operate as planned. We are aware that the airport in Santiago is currently closed and appears to be closed through Monday, March 1. We are reviewing the impact of that closure and will provide updates as they become available.
  • Voyage 9006: Departing Valparaiso Tuesday, March 2: Star Princess is still scheduled to arrive on Tuesday in Valparaiso, Chile on Tuesday, March 2. Based on information that the Santiago airport will be closed for the next 72 hours, at this time we expect embarkation to commence as planned. However, this is a very fluid situation and could change at any time. We encourage passengers to make any necessary adjustments to plan their flight to arrive in Valparaiso on Tuesday, March 2.

Pacific Tsunami Warnings

The Princess ships cruising in areas of the Pacific Ocean rim that have received tsunami warnings, are not adversely affected. As necessary we are making itinerary adjustments to ensure the safety of our passengers and crew. The location of our ships and their status is as follows:

  • Coral Princess is at sea, en route to Costa Rica and is unaffected.
  • Dawn Princess is in Auckland, New Zealand today, and has had to make operational adjustments.
  • Diamond Princess is at sea in Australia waters and is unaffected.
  • Golden Princess is in Ensenada, Mexico today and is unaffected.
  • Island Princess arrived at Huatulco, Mexico today but had to depart because of the sea surge.
  • Pacific Princess was slightly delayed arriving into Suva, Fiji, but is otherwise unaffected.
  • Sapphire Princess is turning around in Los Angeles today, but because the Port is currently closed embarkation will be delayed.
  • Sun Princess is at sea in New Zealand waters and will visit Fiordland National Park tomorrow as scheduled, however the time will be reduced.

As we receive new information, we will continue to keep our passengers advised of any changes to their cruise itineraries. In the meantime, our thoughts are with those in Chile who are affected by the devastating earthquake.

Tsunami Warning & Info for Norwegian Sun & Pride of America Guests

Statement from Norwegian Cruise Line:

Pride of America Guests
Because of a tsunami warning, the Port of Honolulu has been closed. Pride of America, which was scheduled to dock in Honolulu this morning, will spend the day at sea until the port reopens. The safety of the ship's passengers and crew is of the utmost importance. While at sea, this situation does not in any way compromise the safety and security of our passengers and crew.

At this time, we anticipate that the port will re-open at 5 pm local time in Hawaii. Pride of America should be alongside shortly after that and we expect that the next cruise will depart later this evening. Guests traveling to Honolulu or already in Honolulu for the ship's next voyage should call Norwegian Cruise Line at 800-327-7030.

Norwegian Sun Guests
Norwegian Sun is in Montevideo, Uruguay today as scheduled. The ship will arrive in Buenos Aires, Brazil tomorrow as scheduled and embark guests on the Feb 28, 2010 cruise. We are closely monitoring the situation in Chile and will keep guests updated as to any changes to the current scheduled itinerary.

New Shore Excursion Finder Allows Crystal Guests to Find Their Perfect Adventure

How do you find the perfect excursion for the whole family? What if you want high adventure, or more exclusive experiences? How do you find excursions that include nature and wildlife, but aren't too physically challenging? No problem. Crystal Cruises has introduced its Shore Excursion Finder, a dynamic new online feature allowing travelers to search and sort more than 1,500 Crystal Adventures ashore by specific parameters they choose. Searching by Activity Types, foodies can find tours that take them to Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte for a four-course dinner and wine tasting, or a tapas cooking lesson in Barcelona. History buffs can search the "Cultural/Historical" options and find hundreds of choices suiting their interests, while water and nature lovers have categories specifically for them. In all, there are 12 Activity Types, including Culinary, Cultural/Historical, Eco-Adventure/Wildlife/National Park, Entertainment, Flightseeing, Sightseeing, Outdoor, Sports, Water, Overland, the line's Signature Collection and NEW Adventures.

Undecided guests can also search by Destination and Activity Level, with difficulty ranging from "Soft" to "Extreme" Adventure. To further hone one's search results, simply search by all categories simultaneously. Excursions can then be sorted by Age Appropriateness from age 3 to adults only, or Walking Level to specify preferred physicality. Crystal is expecting Shore Excursion Finder to be a great tool to help choose a cruise. Guests can select an itinerary based on their ideal shoreside experiences. Voyage suggestions are provided with each Crystal Adventure.

"Crystal is all about choices, and the Shore Excursion Finder provides guests the freedom to explore and easily locate numerous specific choices that best suit their needs and desires," says John Stoll, director of land programs. "It's an efficient, invaluable tool for planning and researching possibilities, as well as finding activities that satisfy an array of interests."

Located at the Crystal Cruises website under the top 'Destinations' tab, the Shore Excursion Finder is currently available with Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity excursions in Africa, the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Middle East, South America, Asia, Hawaii/South Pacific, Transocean, Australia/New Zealand, and the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. Excursions for New England/Canada, Panama Canal and Alaska voyages will be available six months in advance.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Carnival Has Good News & Bad News

First, the good news, which is particularly positive for Carnival Corp stockholders. Without releasing specific figures, Carnival Cruise Lines has reported record wave season bookings so far this year, with strong reservations activity for 2010 departures. Wave season typically runs from about mid-January through early spring and is traditionally the busiest, most important booking period in the cruise industry. For the period of Jan. 1 through Feb. 21, 2010, bookings were at unprecedented levels for the line’s 22 ships which operate 3- to 15-day voyages from a variety of convenient North American home ports.

Now for the bad news for consumers. As a result of the strong booking volumes, Carnival will implement a general price increase of up to 5 percent (varying by departure date) effective March 22nd for all summer sailings in June, July, and August.

In making the announcement, Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill said, “We’re seeing significantly increased volume as consumers are taking advantage of the incredible value that a Carnival cruise provides. And while pricing hasn’t fully recovered to 2008 levels, we are increasing prices and will implement an across-the-board increase effective March 22.” Cahill attributed the record booking activity to a wide range of factors, including strong travel agent partner support, targeted marketing initiatives, itinerary enhancements, and the wide variety of close-to-home departure points.

For additional information on the Carnival vacation experience and to book your cruise before the fare increases take place, visit Carnival.com or call 1-800-327-9501.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Sliders" Make A Menu Appearance When 'Uniquely Unordinary' Dining Venue Debuts On Celebrity Eclipse

Your mom probably told you not to play with your food and it's usually unacceptable to do so in public; however the hot new dining spot aboard Celebrity Cruises' soon-to-launch Celebrity Eclipse will encourage it. Beginning April 26, in-the-know food followers can experience a new venue whose cuisine is an engaging combination of art and design. But they won't find it through MapQuest, and their GPS will find it tough to track, too...since it's moving. That's because the new restaurant, "Qsine," can be found only on Celebrity Eclipse, the third of five ships in Celebrity Cruises' stylish, $3.7-billion Solstice Class fleet. The brainchild of Celebrity's Vice President of Culinary Operations, Chef Jacques Van Staden, Qsine presents guests with an unexpected, modern approach to familiar dishes from around the world.

"Our guests love new and different dining experiences, and we've designed Qsine to deliver that in a big way," said Van Staden. "Qsine is designed to offer a globally-influenced blend of nostalgic and contemporary favorites, artfully presented with elements of surprise." Van Staden says Qsine also will further validate Celebrity's leadership position in offering world-class dining experiences, as evidenced in the brand's stunningly designed, guest-inspired Solstice Class specialty restaurants including Tuscan Grille, Blu, Murano, and Silk Harvest, not to mention the series of intimate venues on Celebrity's Millennium Class foursome.

Qsine's menu design alone—a large, backlit square (think iPad) filled with words and phrases designed to engage guests in the experience—implies that Qsine is an unusual place. And the cuisine makes it abundantly clear, with most of the selections so unique that nearly all of the dishes and plating have been designed exclusively for Celebrity. Among the selections are:
  • Spring rolls nestled in vertical springs,
  • "Sushi Lollipops" (Nigiri sushi with soy center, wasabi mayonnaise and pickled ginger-radish salad),
  • "Meatball Trilogy" (Kobe beef with cheddar and marinara sauce; veal with mushrooms and marsala sauce; and turkey with cranberry and sage gravy),
  • "Chitinis" (Chinese selections served in martini glasses),
  • "Tresviche" (tiger shrimp and bay scallops with lemon juice, tequila, cilantro, tomatoes and jalapeno oil),
  • "Popcorn Fish & Chips" (Boddington's-battered codfish and chips served with malt vinegar or aioli),
  • "Slider Party" (mini-grilled Kobe beef patties with aged Wisconsin cheddar served on brioche buns with "Qsine's original slider sauce" and garnishes),
  • "Taco Royale" (Black Angus sirloin steak, homemade taco shells, caramelized onion-poblano, and do-it-yourself fresh guacamole, with a stone mortar and pestle), "
  • Lava Crab" (Alaskan King crab, sweet yellow corn and scallions with Hataifi and Old Bay sauce, served in glasses over heated red stones).
Libations to accompany the cuisine range from approximately 100 varieties of primarily organic, contemporary wines, to a vast array of creative cocktails. And, for the first time on a Celebrity ship—just one week after announcing the hip, new "Celebrity iLounge"—Celebrity has designed a means for guests to capitalize on technology to easily review and order wines via an iPod Touch wine menu. If you want a white wine and your dinner companion prefers a red, the wine list offers the option to order a half bottle of each.

Even the uniforms of the wait staff illustrate the venue's unique nature. Designed by Van Staden and custom-made exclusively for Celebrity, the jackets are decidedly asymmetrical and sport square buttons, and are intended to illustrate that the wait staff also are considered chefs, offering guests a highly interactive and personalized dining experience. Capping the Qsine experience is a series of desserts whose menu is as sweet and surprising as its selections: A hinged, twistable cube presents options ranging from candied apples to popcorn to individual cookie jars.

"Qsine is designed to surprise our guests with uniquely unordinary dishes, innovative presentations and engaging experiences," said Van Staden. "It's designed to allow them to share with each other, sample several different selections, and simply experience both new and favorite foods in an entirely fun and unexpected way."

Qsine will be open nightly on Celebrity Eclipse from 6 pm to 11 pm, for a cover charge of $30 per person. There are no age restrictions for dining in Qsine, and the dress code is smart casual and above. Guests booked to sail on Celebrity Eclipse can plan their unique evening in Qsine right now, by making dining reservations on the Celebrity Cruises web site. Designed for cruisers who appreciate online options, the Celebrity site offers Celebrity Select Dining, the industry's first pre-cruise, day-by-day flexible dining reservation system. The site also presents guests with the option to book pre-cruise AquaSpa reservations, specialty dining reservations, shore excursion bookings, and online documentation, or "e-docs."

I should have more details next month during the "conveyance" of Celebrity Eclipse on the River Ems from the shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Although the ship won't be totally complete at that time, hopefully the Internet service will be up and running for daily blog reports.

Seabourn Offers 2-for-1 Fares, Reduced Air to Asia, Europe

Whether you are a luxury cruise aficionado or aspire to become one, The Yachts of Seabourn has announced a compelling reason to book 2010 voyages aboard the company’s fleet of five award-winning, all-suite vessels before the end of April–2-for-1 cruise-only savings on over 80 voyages in Europe and Asia, plus substantially reduced round trip add-on airfares from only $499 for economy class and $1,999 for business class, from 40 North American gateways.

“These cruise savings alone represent a great value for a great experience,” noted Seabourn president and CEO Pamela Conover. “But when you add in these remarkably low fares for a round-trip, business-class flight to Europe or Asia, you will get an award-winning, ultra-luxury cruise package at a truly exceptional price.”

The cruises depart from May to November, 2010, and range from 7- to 15-days in length. In the Mediterranean, travelers can choose voyages aboard the intimate, 208-guest Seabourn Spirit in the Adriatic and Dalmatian Coasts, or Legend in the French and Italian Rivieras. Also in the Mediterranean, the acclaimed 450-guest Seabourn Odyssey, hailed as “a game-changer” in luxury cruising when it was launched last summer, will sail the Greek Isles, Turkey, and the Black Sea. In June, brand-new sister-yacht Seabourn Sojourn will begin its maiden season in Northern Europe, cruising Scandinavia, Russia, Scotland and Norway. In Asia, Seabourn Pride offers voyages visiting Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and China, including pre- and post-cruise extensions to Beijing on some departures.

Remarkably all-inclusive cruise-only fares start from $3,550 per person, based on double occupancy of an ocean view suite. To qualify for this promotion, cruises must be booked by April 30, 2010. Airfares include transfers between the piers and airports. For more information, contact a travel agent, call Seabourn at 1-800-929-9391 or visit Seabourn.com.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

MSC’s Three-Day Sale on Caribbean Cruises Starts Today

Beginning today (Feb 24, 2010), MSC is offering special rates on select 7-night Caribbean cruises for savings of more than 60 percent off through Friday, Feb 26.

Guests who book these Eastern or Western Caribbean cruises can experience destinations in Mexico, the Bahamas, Grand Cayman, and more, from just $619. MSC Poesia departs from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. during this “Three-Day Sale” with itineraries including:
  • “Eastern Caribbean Enchantment” (Baseball greats cruise) calling in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas. Departs March 6. Rates begin at $699 [plus $84.28 pp. government fees and taxes (GFTs)].
  • “Island Treasures and Ancient Temples” Western Caribbean cruise calling in Key West, Florida; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Nassau, Bahamas. Departs March 13 and 27 and April 10 (Festa Italiana cruise). Rates begin at $649, $749, and $669, respectively (plus $95.85 pp. GFTs).
  • “Eastern Caribbean Dream” cruise calling in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas. Departs March 20 (Oldies theme cruise featuring the Lettermen) and April 3 (Baseball greats cruise). Rates begin at $669 and $619, respectively (plus $84.28 pp. GFTs).
Cruise-only rates are per person, double occupancy for residents of the U.S. and Canada. Offer cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion and may be withdrawn without notice. Offer is capacity controlled, subject to availability and restrictions apply. This offer expires on Feb 26 at 6 p.m. For more information, visit the MSC Cruises USA website, call 877-665-4655, or contact a local travel professional.

Shore Excursion Accident in Tortola

Statement from Princess Cruises

We are deeply saddened to report that at approximately 9:35 am local time yesterday in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, a tour bus carrying a group of Caribbean Princess passengers left the road and rolled over, killing one passenger, and injuring several others. A total of 20 passengers were on the bus. The passenger who passed away was a 24-year-old man from Rochester, New York. He was traveling with his parents, who were with him on the tour bus. Our thoughts and prayers are with this family, and we are providing support to them during this difficult time.

The injured passengers were taken to a local hospital, where they were evaluated and released. The other passengers on the bus returned to Caribbean Princess. All of these passengers are being looked after by the ship's staff and Princess care team members who are en route to the ship.

We are still in the process of determining the details of the accident but it appears as though the bus left the road and turned over as it was taking passengers on a "Tropical Forest Hike and Beach" excursion.

Caribbean Princess is on a 7-day Southern Caribbean cruise from San Juan calling at St. Thomas, Tortola, Antigua, St. Lucia, and Barbados.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Costa Deliziosa: Attend the Inaugural Ceremony Online

Costa will once again show off its signature style of hosting some of the most celebrated inaugurals with the naming of the Costa Deliziosa today in Dubaia. This unique and innovative ceremony will be held by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) together with Costa, Europe’s Number One Cruise Line. The Costa Deliziosa, which was built in Italy by Fincantieri and delivered in Venice on Jan 30 of this year, recently set sail from Savona on Feb 5 for her Grand Inaugural Cruise. The voyage includes stops in the Mediterranean, Suez Canal, Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. The ship will stopover in Dubai from Feb 23 through the 26. This 15th member of the Costa fleet is the first cruise ship to be named in an Arabian city. Over 3,000 guests are expected to witness the event, including approximately 2,200 Costa guests traveling on the first sector of the maiden cruise.

En route to Dubai, the Costa Deliziosa, a floating ambassador of Italian-made excellence, celebrated with two first calls. The first of these was on Febr 20 in Muscat, the capital of Oman, where a new cruise terminal was inaugurated as well. The second, on Feb 22, was in Abu Dhabi. Tuesday, Feb 23 in Dubai marks the occasion for the grand inaugural event, involving not only the ship but also the new cruise terminal in Port Rashid. Part of the quay will feature a stage and grandstand with seating for 3,000 and will be set up specially to celebrate the Costa Deliziosa.

The inaugural show is set to be a memorable occasion and will highlight the links between Italian and Arab culture. The first part of the show will take guests on an artistic journey into the history and culture of Dubai and the Emirates with traditional dance and music. The second part will be dedicated to Italian culture, music and art. Khalid Ahmed Bin Sulayem, director general of the DTCM, and Pier Luigi Foschi, chairman and ceo of Costa Crociere S.p.A., will both make speeches. There will also be an exchange of greetings between local dignitaries and their counterparts from the Italian government. In keeping with tradition, the ceremony will climax with the arrival of the godmother, who will cut the ribbon that will send a bottle of Champagne to break against the bow of the ship. The event will end with a fireworks display and a gala dinner in traditional Arab style.

The naming ceremony of the Costa Deliziosa in Dubai will be broadcast live at CostaDeliziosa.com. While the site says the starting time is 9 (CET), we assume that's 9pm in Rome (Central European Time). So, if like me you are in the US Eastern Standard Time zone, that would be 3pm.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Discover Hidden Treasures on a Celebrity Equinox Cruise

With its swashbuckling pirate history, the Caribbean has always held the mystique of being a great place to stumble upon hidden treasure. Celebrity Cruises has designed a way to offer guests on an upcoming cruise the opportunity to discover “treasures” among their own possessions. One of the many ways that Celebrity designs its cruise vacations for discerning travelers is by providing enriching experiences. The cruise line is living up to that promise by bringing art historian, TV personality, and syndicated newspaper columnist known affectionately to fans and followers as “Dr. Lori” aboard Celebrity Equinox’s March 29, 2010 itinerary. During the cruise, guests will have the opportunity to have their antiques’ values approximated, at no charge.

Celebrity Life, Celebrity’s onboard programming line-up, exemplifies the cruise line’s focus on discerning travelers who enjoy enriching and inspiring experiences such as Dr. Lori’s engaging presentations. Overall, Celebrity Life offers guests the opportunity to explore their tastes and enhance their knowledge, through three areas of focus: “Savor,” with a culinary and wine emphasis, “Discover,” with an educational/entertainment/language-learning focus, and “Renew,” with a spa/wellness concentration. As another way of creating experiences designed to appeal to the specific tastes and interests of its guests, who have expressed an interest in antiques and insightful, engaging presentations, Celebrity is partnering with Dr. Lori as part of Discover’s “Beyond the Podium” series.

During the “Celebrity Equinox Presents Antiques Appraisals by Dr. Lori” cruise, Dr. Lori will offer guests her expert opinion on the likely origin and value of their personal items, using her signature presentation style: relaxed, interactive, intelligent, humor-focused engagement. Guests planning to sail on the March 29, 2010 voyage of Celebrity Equinox are encouraged to bring personal items onboard for the duration of the cruise. Once onboard, the daily in-stateroom newsletter will offer information about the times and locations of Dr. Lori’s presentations.

Space is available on the March 29 “Celebrity Equinox Presents Antiques Appraisals by Dr. Lori” sailing. The 11-night “Ultimate Caribbean” cruise will sail roundtrip out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with stops at George Town, Grand Cayman; Cartagena, Colombia; Colon, Panama; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; Roatan, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. For more information, interested travelers should visit www.celebritycruises.com/DrLori.

Dr. Lori is an award-winning TV personality and TV talk show host with a Ph.D. in art history. A certified fine art and antiques appraiser, Dr. Lori also is a nationally syndicated columnist with columns carried in 86 publications, an editor of several lifestyle magazines, and an author with 30 books to her credit. Dr. Lori does not appraise antique and collectible stamps, coins, currency, musical instruments (or guns or other weapons, which are prohibited from being brought onboard). Items that are extremely fragile, that may be difficult to carry, or that are particularly subject to damage from exposure to an ocean-going environment should not be brought onboard. Celebrity Cruises will not carry or otherwise handle these personal items for its guests. Each guest brings such items onboard at their own risk.

For more information about Celebrity Equinox, come aboard for Cruise Diva's maiden season ship preview.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Guiding Light Cruise to Set Sail on Carnival Glory

Springfield is heading out to sea...

If you’re under 50 you may not know that Springfield (no state, but probably Illinois since the show’s creator was a Chicagoan) was the setting for the longest running broadcast program in history—on radio for 15 years, and then on network television for an astounding 57 years. The soap opera GUIDING LIGHT began as a 15-minute radio drama in 1937 and moved to television in 1952.

While the final episode aired on Sept 18, 2009, loyal fans can sail away with 12 of GUIDING LIGHT’S most adored actors for 5 memorable days aboard the Carnival Glory, departing from New York City on July 31, 2010 for the “So Long Springfield at Sea” cruise. GUIDING LIGHT fans young and old will have day in and day out, up close-and-personal time with the actors. Not JUST getting the autographs, hugs and photos of each of the actors—but fans will be singing, dancing and getting to know them as well! This “dream-come-true” vacation will visit charming Saint John, New Brunswick and majestic Halifax, Nova Scotia, in addition to 2 relaxing days at sea. The perfect vacation for the whole family.

The scene-stealing celebrities that will be aboard So Long Springfield at Sea are KIM ZIMMER “Reva”; JORDAN CLARKE “Billy”; GRANT ALEKSANDER “Phillip”; JERRY VERDORN “Ross”; RON RAINES “Alan”; MICHAEL O’LEARY “Rick”; LIZ KIEFER “Blake”; JUSTIN DEAS “Buzz”; ROBERT NEWMAN “Josh”; TINA SLOAN “Lillian”; MARCY RYLAN “Lizzie”; BETH CHAMBERLAIN “Beth”

Make your plans fast as the first 200 registrants are invited to a VIP Breakfast with the actors while aboard!

Some of the unforgettable, fan-focused activities and events include:
• GUIDING LIGHT THEATER (a highlight of the Cruise…)
• Disco Dancing with the Stars
• Get autographs and pictures with all the actors
• Soap Star/Soap Fan Karaoke (the stars perform and cruisers will too!)
• Q & A and Trivia Sessions
• Act Out Actual Soap Scenes Onstage Opposite the Stars
• Workshops with a Soap Director (Behind-the-scenes secrets revealed!)
• Farewell Cocktail Party and much, much more!

In addition to all these fun activities, guests sailing on the “So Long Springfield at Sea” cruise can enjoy the Carnival Glory’s wide range of on-board amenities and facilities–four restaurants, including two formal dining rooms, a casual poolside eatery featuring a 24-hour pizzeria, and an elegant steakhouse–along with a 14,500-square-foot health club, full casino gambling, and a variety of entertainment options, including lavish production shows. Carnival Glory also offers organized programs for children age 2-17, four swimming pools, and a 270-square-foot outdoor LED screen displaying movies, concerts, and other programming.

Prices begin at $949.00 (based on double occupancy). For family members not participating in the Guiding Light events, prices begin at $549.00. Government taxes ($69.77) and gratuities not included. Proper documentation is necessary to travel. To register and for more details, visit Celebrity Events Group or call toll-free 1-866-364-0330.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cunard Line: Going To The Dogs

We all love our pets as valued members of our families and many of us would like to take them with us on vacation. Alas, other than service animals, that's not possible when we go to sea, with one exception—the incomparable Queen Mary 2.

Alastair Greener, Entertainment Director for Cunard Line, who blogs at We Are Cunard about life aboard Cunard liners Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, as well as sharing updates about the progress of the line's newest ship, Queen Elizabeth, highlights the most unique feature aboard Queen Mary 2—the ship's kennels. Aboard the luxurious liner, dogs—and even cats—can make transatlantic crossings in nearly as much style and comfort as their owners.

Alister recently shared a behind-the-scenes kennel tour, an interview with Kennel Master Dayle Mercado, and a delightful video created by passenger Nikki Moustaki, who sailed aboard Queen Mary 2 with her rescued Schnauzer Pepper.

Here's a look at Pepper having a great time...



Read about the kennel tour and interview on the We Are Cunard blog.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Celebrity Cruises Introduces The 'Celebrity iLounge'

First there was the iPod, then came the iPhone and iPad. Next in line? The "Celebrity iLounge." With the recent launch of its new brand platform, "Designed for you," Celebrity Cruises is reinforcing its commitment to delivering the ultimate combination of ship design, service, cuisine, and programs for cruise lovers. Yesterday the line announced plans for a new venue whose design, products, and programming are sure to appeal to today's cruisers. When Celebrity Eclipse, the third in Celebrity Cruises' stylish Solstice Class fleet of ships, launches in April, guests will find the first "Celebrity iLounge." Designed to not only offer a hip, modern lounge ambience, Celebrity also created the space to offer what its guests said they wanted most in an Internet cafe: easy access to the Internet, inspiring classes, and new products.

The Celebrity iLounge is composed of three main areas: a series of 26 contemporary workstations where guests can check their e-mail, retain their social media connections, or print boarding passes; a retail space offering cruisers the opportunity to see and try out the latest MacBooks®, iPods®, and accessories; and an enrichment center where certified staff will offer guests tips on Mac or iPod usage.

"Our new Celebrity iLounge is a direct outgrowth of our 'Designed for you' brand platform, and our commitment to listen to our guests and offer experiences and programs expressly designed for them," said Celebrity's President and CEO Dan Hanrahan. "Our surveys show that our guests rely heavily on the Internet for research, learning and staying in touch, so we think this new offering will be a big hit, as will the contemporary online classes offered through the 'Discover' series of our inspiring and enriching 'Celebrity Life' experiences."

Enhancing the "Discover" component of its "Celebrity Life" series of inspiring enrichment and entertainment experiences, Celebrity will offer in the Celebrity iLounge a series of engaging new courses designed to suit its guests' interests, including do-it-yourself photo books, movie editing, and web design, through programs including iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and iWeb. And whether guests are savvy or novice users of Mac or iPod products, Celebrity's certified staff will be well-equipped to assist, following more than 125 hours of training in operating systems, applications, and products. They also will be poised to illustrate to guests the differences between Macs and PCs. Guests eager to expand their collection of merchandise will find the Celebrity iLounge an enticing venue, too. As an Authorized Apple Reseller, Celebrity will have products available for guests to purchase, including iPods, MacBooks, and essential accessories.

Located on deck six of Celebrity Eclipse, the Celebrity iLounge will house the 26 MacBook Pro's, classroom and retail area, in addition to display pods, a 56-inch flat-screen TV for use during classes, and an accessible workstation. The Celebrity iLounge also will be presented on Celebrity Silhouette, which launches in 2011, and the fifth ship in the Solstice Class fleet, which sets sail in 2012. No word is available yet on whether the rest of the fleet will be retrofitted with a Celebrity iLounge.

Like many of you, I love my iPod and seldom leave home without it. I'll be checking out the Celebrity iLounge in person next month during the "conveyance" of Celebrity Eclipse on the River Ems from the shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Although the ship won't be totally complete at that time, hopefully the Internet service will be up and running. While I'm not a Mac user, I would welcome tips on how to get maximum use from my trusty iPod. Be sure to watch for info about the "conveyance"—it should be a fascinating experience to travel down the river backwards to the sea!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Princess Cruises to Get TWO New Ships

Carnival Corporation & plc has announced the signing of a memorandum of agreement with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri for the construction of two 3,600-passenger cruise ships for its Princess Cruises brand. The agreement is subject to execution of a definitive contract, financing, and other customary closing conditions.

The new ships, which will have an all-in cost of approximately €155,000 per lower berth, are scheduled to enter service in spring 2013 and spring 2014. At 139,000 tons each, the as-yet-unnamed ships will be the largest in the Princess Cruises fleet. Additional details will be announced at a later date.

Carnival Corporation is the largest cruise vacation group in the world, with a portfolio of cruise brands in North America, Europe and Australia, comprised of Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, The Yachts of Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Ibero Cruises, Ocean Village, P&O Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia.

Together, these brands operate 95 ships totaling more than 184,000 lower berths with 11 new ships scheduled to be delivered between March 2010 and May 2012. Carnival Corporation & plc also operates Holland America Princess Alaska Tours, the leading tour company in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon.

Watch for future announcements and details here and in Cruise Diva's Cruise News.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Carnival “Fun Ship” Even more “Glory-ous” After Refit

The 2,974-passenger Carnival Glory has resumed Caribbean service from Miami following a multi-million-dollar renovation that added a host of new facilities and features, including bow-to-stern Wi-Fi access and some of the bells-and-whistles passengers have come to enjoy on other “Fun Ships” throughout the fleet. Here’s a look at what's new and glory-ous aboard Carnival Glory.
  • New Seaside Theatre: Located poolside on Lido Deck is the Carnival Glory’s new “Seaside Theatre,” a massive 270-square-foot LED screen displaying movies, concerts, sporting events, and other programming, including the popular “Morning Show” hosted by the ship’s cruise director. Utilizing the same technology featured in large stadiums and New York’s Times Square, the state-of-the-art entertainment system includes a 70,000-watt sound system, providing concert quality sound, even outdoors.
  • New Balcony Accommodations: During dry dock, 18 new balconies were added to existing Spa Deck accommodations, creating spacious 220-square-foot verandah staterooms. They are conveniently located next to the ship’s 14,500-square-foot “Spa Carnival” facility offering sophisticated exercise equipment, expansive workout facilities and a variety of soothing European-style treatments. With the addition of these newly reconfigured staterooms, nearly 40 percent of the Carnival Glory’s 1,487 cabins now feature private balconies.
  • New Adults-Only Retreat: Another popular feature added during the dry dock is Serenity, a two-level adults-only retreat located forward on Sun Deck and Sky Deck. Designed as an oceangoing oasis for relaxation, with decorative latticework and teak-style decking, this area features different styles of seating, including shaded sun loungers and hammocks, a full bar, and two oversized whirlpools.
  • Circle “C” Facility for 12- to 14-Year-Olds: A new Circle “C” facility catering to 12- to 14-year-olds has been added as part of the line’s unique offerings for kids. The center features a high-tech sound and lighting system, plasma-screen TVs displaying movies and music videos, a touch-screen jukebox, and gaming pods with the latest video games and consoles.
  • Dining Enhancements: A new Mongolian wok option was added to the Carnival Glory’s Red Sail casual restaurant located poolside on Lido Deck. At the new venue, guests can select their favorite meat, sauce, vegetables and other ingredients and watch as a chef creates their custom-designed stir fry dish right before their eyes. Additionally, the Golden dining room, located forward, was reconfigured for Your Time Dining providing guests the option of open seating between 5:45 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. nightly.
  • Itineraries: From February to May, Carnival Glory operates seasonal 7-day cruises from Miami, alternating weekly to the eastern and western Caribbean. 7-day eastern Caribbean cruises visit Half Moon Cay, St. Thomas, San Juan and Grand Turk, while the western route features Grand Cayman, Isla Roatan, Belize and Cozumel. The ship will then be deployed to New York where it will offer a series of 4- and 5-day Atlantic Canada voyages from June 6–Sept 6, 2010, followed by a series of 7-day Canada/New England cruises, from Sept 11–Oct 9.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Norwegian's "Epic" Sea Trials

Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Cruise Line’s largest and most innovative ship to date, returned from her first successful sea trials on Sunday, Feb 14, 2010, after four days of sailing the Atlantic Ocean. During the sea trials, 300 technicians and engineers from STX FRANCE SA, along with 30 Norwegian Cruise Line representatives, checked more than 60 different aspects of the ship’s performance by running trials of the vessel’s speed, maneuverability, hydrodynamics, and propulsion, amongst others.

“During her first time ever at sea, Norwegian Epic performed above expectations with excellent marine behavior,” said Roberto Martinoli, Norwegian’s president and COO, who was on-board during the sea trials. “All tests were conducted with positive results. She is a beautiful ship with outstanding performance. Now that sea trials are completed, we can concentrate on finishing the ship and showing her to the world in June.”

A second round of sea trials is scheduled for mid-April in order to finalize all tests, including final speed measurement. The 153,000-gross ton, 4,200-passenger ship – the largest ship ever built in Saint-Nazaire – is scheduled for delivery on June 15, 2010.

Following her 7-day transatlantic crossing from Southhampton to New York on June 24, 2010 and inaugural activities in New York and Miami, Norwegian Epic will sail alternating 7-day Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Miami from July 10, 2010 through April 30, 2011. Ports of call on the Eastern Caribbean itinerary include Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas. The Western Caribbean cruises visit Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. The 2011 cruise season from May-October will have Norwegian Epic sailing a series of 7-day Western Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona. When she returns to Miami on November 5, 2011, she will sail a series of seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruises through April 7, 2012.

Norwegian Epic
World-class entertainment is Norwegian Epic’s hallmark. For the first time at sea, Blue Man Group will perform their exhilarating fusion of comedy, theatrics and paint, exclusively on Norwegian Epic. In the only “big top” at sea, Cirque Dreams and Dinner, created and directed by Neil Goldberg, will present a one-of-a-kind interactive theatrical dining experience with music, mayhem and acrobatic imagination. Legends in Concert, the original and world’s greatest live tribute show, will be featured for the first time at sea in more than a decade on Norwegian Epic, along with The Second City improvisational comedy and Howl at the Moon, the world’s greatest rock ‘n roll dueling piano show that encourages audience participation.

In addition to world-class entertainment, the 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic incorporates many innovations including several new types of accommodations–the curved New Wave staterooms; the largest Villas suite complex at sea, comprising 60 suites and villas on two private decks at the top of the ship; and spa and family-friendly accommodations. Kids will have a blast with Nickelodeon at Sea offering Nickelodeon-themed family entertainment and programming including: character meet and greets; interactive game shows; and more.

The ship also boasts unique nightlife options with the first Ice Bar at sea and Spice H20 with non-stop entertainment day and night; an expansive Aqua Park with the only tube slide and largest bowl slide at sea -- The Epic Plunge; seven decks of Freestyle Family Fun with highlights including a 33-foot high, 64-foot wide extreme rock climbing wall and the first ever rappelling wall at sea; the most bowling lanes at sea with six in two venues; a mixed-use sports deck with the ability for guests to engage in eight different athletic activities; as well as three separate kids’ and teen activity areas. In addition, Norwegian Epic will offer the next generation of Freestyle Dining with 20 dining choices and 20 bars and lounges.

Originally known by its project name “F3” Cruise Diva charts Norwegian Epic’s progress: For more information about Norwegian Epic, or to book a cruise, call Norwegian at 866-234-7350, visit Epic.NCL.com, or call a travel agent.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Castaway on Disney Magic

It must have come as quite a shock Disney Cruise Line vacationers arriving at Port Canaveral last Saturday morning to not see Disney Magic waiting for them at the pier. Instead, they were greeted by a large vacant space as, due to strong winds, Disney Magic was stuck at Disney's private Castaway Cay in the Bahamas for an extra day and didn't make it back to Port Canaveral on time for its normal turn-around.

News 13 in Orlando reported that Disney Magic made its final stop at Castaway Cay on Friday morning, but it did not leave as scheduled Friday afternoon, because 50 mph winds and high seas made it impossible to undock the ship. After departing the island, Disney Magic had to cruise into northwesterly winds while sailing to its Florida homeport, which was expected to take 13 hours.

According to News 13, “The delay impacts thousands of people, including those already on the ship, and the thousands more who were set to head out on the Disney Magic’s next 7-day cruise. An estimated 2,500 people arrived at Port Canaveral Saturday morning, planning to board at 10 a.m. Meanwhile, another 2,500 remain stuck on the ship, and will likely be scrambling to get off when it returns.”

If you have to be stuck anywhere, a cruise ship is as good a place as any, but that offers little consolation to those arriving to find no ship, especially with the dreadful weather conditions they may have braved to get to their embarkation port.

However, Disney Cruise Line, in an effort to make the situation more tenable, issued the following statement on Saturday morning:

Due to weather conditions, the Disney Magic cruise ship has been delayed in its scheduled return to Port Canaveral today from a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise. Guests on the ship will remain onboard tonight and will debark tomorrow.

The Disney Magic cruise ship was at Disney’s private island Castaway Cay in The Bahamas yesterday, where gale force winds at the end of the day and into the night created an unfavorable environment for departure. Because the safety of our guests is our top priority, we made a decision to delay the ship’s return until the weather improved.

As a result of the situation, the Disney Magic will depart for its next outbound Eastern Caribbean cruise on Sunday, a day late from its original itinerary.

Guests scheduled for today’s departure have the option of spending the day at Epcot, and we are working to find resort rooms to accommodate those guests tonight.

We regret that weather conditions prohibited our timely return to Port Canaveral and appreciate our guests patience and understanding.
The entire turn-around procedure in port is as carefully choreographed as the most intricate ballet. Cruise Diva shares What to Expect: Day One of A Cruise. Of course, that is provided that the weather cooperates.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

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

The results of the national survey illustrate that at least one day each year men prove to be the more romantic of the sexes. Princess Cruises' Romantic Revelations are somewhat surprising.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Amazing Photo Find

This is a tale with a happy ending that even Ripley might not have believed. While standing on the deck of Cunard's Queen Mary 2 in October 2008, Mr. and Mrs. Gregory from South Africa were enjoying the spectacle of sailing alongside QE2 and capturing the image on camera when disaster struck. Their camera was accidentally dropped overboard and disappeared into the Atlantic. At the time, both ships were off the south coast of Ireland over the Continental Shelf and the Gregorys understandably thought their holiday photos were lost forever.

That was until Benito Estevez, a Spanish fisherman who was trawling the ocean last month, discovered the lost camera in his net! While the camera itself was damaged beyond repair, the photo memory card was amazingly intact. Estevez contacted both Cunard and the BBC and the BBC managed to locate the couple in South Africa. The Gregorys have since been reunited with the camera and their photographs.

“In all my years in the travel industry I have never heard of such a heart-warming stroke of luck and we at Cunard are delighted that Mr. and Mrs. Gregory have been reunited with their photos,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “The images are even more poignant as they depict the last transatlantic crossing of the great QE2 and can never be taken again.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Princess Revives A Nostalgic Cruise Tradition: Bon Voyage Parties

Travel by sea is all about tradition—dressing up for formal dinners and the ship captain's noon announcement. While some traditions, such as skeet shooting and tossing streamers over the side at sailaway, will probably never be introduced again (too ecologically insensitive), Princess Cruises is reviving a signature tradition from the early days of cruising (you may rember it from “The Love Boat” on TV). The line is debuting a new program that allows passengers the opportunity to invite their friends and family aboard their ship on embarkation day to wish them “bon voyage” and get a taste of onboard life. Called the “Bon Voyage Experience(sm),” the program is a new twist on the departure celebration of bygone days, when friends and family would routinely come aboard to see off passengers. Because of increasingly tighter security procedures, this practice disappeared more than two decades ago, but it’s now back, complete with lunch in the dining room and a tour of the ship.

Unique in the cruise industry, the Bon Voyage Experience enables passengers to extend an invitation to their guests to join them onboard during sailing day for a four-course dining room lunch with wine, a ship tour and even a souvenir photo. Passengers and their guests can enjoy priority embarkation and will be able to spend approximately four hours together on the ship before it sets sail. The cost for the program is $39 per person, which can be applied toward a future Princess cruise. The program will debut in March in the ports of Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale, and then roll out to New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

“Long-time cruisers will recall the fun of the bon voyage send-off with their family and friends, and we’re excited to re-introduce a new, modern version of this experience,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president.

Cruise passengers will be notified about the program through the pre-cruise emails they receive from Princess as their cruise date approaches. In-port guests can be booked through a travel agent or by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, beginning 120 days before the cruise and up to six days before the sailing date. Once registered, guests will be able to input their required security information through the line’s Cruise Personalizer. The number of guests who will be able to participate in the Bon Voyage Experience on any given embarkation day will be approximately 50.

The roll-out schedule for the launch of the Bon Voyage Experience is:
Sapphire Princess – March 6 in Los Angeles
Crown Princess – March 6 in Fort Lauderdale
Coral Princess – March 7 in Los Angeles
Emerald Princess – March 7 in Fort Lauderdale
Island Princess – March 10 in Los Angeles
Ruby Princess – March 10 in Fort Lauderdale
Golden Princess – March 14 in Los Angeles
Royal Princess – March 27 in Fort Lauderdale
Star Princess – April 10 in Fort Lauderdale
Caribbean Princess – May 18 in New York
Sea Princess – June 1 in San Francisco

During the Alaska season, Sapphire Princess, Golden Princess, and Royal Princess will offer the program in Seattle, beginning in May. 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.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Good Sports: Crystal Cruises' Land Programs

For avid golf and tennis fans there's no greater thrill than attending matches at the epicenter of their respective universes, St. Andrew's and Wimbledon. For Crystal cruisers, that dream can become a reality.

VIP access to the most famous tennis tournament in the world, the Wimbledon Championships in London, is the latest in Crystal Cruises' roster of one-of-a-kind shoreside experiences. In keeping with its penchant for choices, this year the ultra-luxury line is offering a choice of two posh Extended Land Programs. A 1-night option is available following Crystal Symphony's June 14, 7-day British Isles cruise, with all of the opening day, Centre Court action. For guests wishing to see the dramatic ladies' and men's finals, a 3-night option is available following Crystal Symphony's June 21, 11-day Baltic itinerary. With both programs, participating guests will enjoy the highest level of service at Fairway Village, the luxury Wimbledon hospitality area near Centre Court, Champagne and canapes upon arrival, a four-course lunch, and traditional English tea. Additionally, the 3-night program includes business class air from Stockholm to London's Heathrow airport, stay at the famed Dorchester Hotel, and private car service.

For travel-savvy golf enthusiasts, this summer Crystal Cruises is introducing an ultra-exclusive opportunity to be a part of the ultimate competition in the birthplace of the game. During the new 3-night Extended Land Program from Edinburgh, Crystal guests will be treated to VIP access and the highest level of service at the 150th British Open Championship at famed St. Andrew's Golf Club, before joining Crystal Serenity's July 19 Black Sea voyage to Istanbul. Besides the action on the links during the final two days of the championship, participants will enjoy full access to a private hospitality area with refreshments and open bar throughout the day, three-course lunch, and traditional English afternoon tea. Arrangements include five-star hotel accommodations in Edinburgh, a private driver and air transportation from Edinburgh to Venice.

For more information and Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit Crystal Cruises online.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Whale of a Tail: Holland America Tour Operator Assists in Rescue

Cruise lines, like other travel providers and even travelers themselves, are often criticized for their environmental unawareness. Dispelling that viewpoint, Vallarta Adventures, an operator of shore tours for Holland America Line, recently participated along with the Mexican navy in the rescue of an entangled humpback whale. The whale was ensnarled in fishing nets and staff of the tour company came alongside to free the creature.

“Our tour operators regularly become involved in these sorts of wildlife rescues,” said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs, Holland America Line. “We applaud Vallarta Adventures dedication to wildlife and are proud to work with them. We share their commitment to the environment and nature.”

Based in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Vallarta Adventures provides safe learning experiences for those who like to explore nature and culture. For Holland America Line, they operate several tours in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, including interactive ecological dolphin encounters, eco safaris, horseback rides to secluded beaches, canopy adventures, and America’s Cup sailing regattas. Vallarta Adventures also works locally with ecological programs and regularly provides sea mammal rescue assistance.

CruiseDiva.com applauds them for their good work and we’re sure our readers do as well!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Royal Caribbean Expands Allure of the Seas Inaugural Season

If you want to be on the real maiden Maiden Voyage of Allure of the Seas, your plans have just changed. Royal Caribbean Intl has announced that the first revenue voyage for Allure of the Seas’ inaugural season will take place one week earlier than originally planned. The ship’s first revenue voyage will be a 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary, sailing on Dec 5, 2010. Allure of the Seas’ new cruise for the inaugural season is now open for booking. Guests booked on the original inaugural season sail date of Dec 12, 2010, will be contacted by their travel agent or a Royal Caribbean representative, and given the opportunity to move their cruise vacation to the new sailing of Dec 5. Booked guests who wish to take the Dec 5 sailing will be re-accommodated in the same stateroom and category, and the cruise fare will be the lower of either the fare paid or current prices. Guests booked on the Dec 12, 2010 sailing will have until the end of Feb 2010 to opt to change their cruise to the Dec 5 sailing and ensure they keep the same stateroom.

On the Dec 5, 2010, inaugural season voyage of Allure of the Seas, guests will be among the first to enjoy an exceptional vacation experience on the newest Oasis-class ship, featuring an array of exclusive, industry-revolutionizing onboard amenities, and premiering new, breathtaking high-diving, light, and fountain shows in the AquaTheater and dazzling entertainment productions in the Opal Theater and Studio B ice-skating rink. Throughout, guests will enjoy the cruise line’s world-renowned friendly and engaging Royal treatment from Allure of the Seas’ staff and crew.

Allure of the Seas shares the title of the world’s largest and most revolutionary cruise ship with sister-ship Oasis of the Seas. An architectural marvel at sea, she will span 16 decks, encompass 225,282 gross registered tons, carry 5,400 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,700 staterooms. Allure of the Seas will tout Royal Caribbean’s exclusive neighborhood concept of seven distinct themed areas, which will include Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone. The ship will alternate a Western Caribbean with an Eastern Caribbean 7-night itinerary from her home port of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Additional information is available at http://www.allureoftheseas.com/.

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Fun Times" Replaces "Caper"-ing on Carnival Ships

In tune with the "Evolutions of Fun" upgrades being introduced on their older vessels, Carnival Cruise Lines has revamped its daily shipboard newsletter to include a colorful new design and a more user-friendly layout.

Formerly known as Carnival Capers, the new Fun Times newsletter offers an at-a-glance overview of the day’s events, including activity and entertainment options, dining choices, children’s programming, and more. In addition to retaining popular features, the updated Fun Times includes a contemporary look and feel and a new Today’s Top Ten column listing activity highlights for the day.

The Fun Times was introduced on the Carnival Liberty, Carnival Ecstasy and Carnival Sensation this past weekend with a fleetwide roll out scheduled over the next few months.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

NEW Cruise Review: Celebrity Solstice

They had to postpone a planned Transatlantic crossing aboard Celebrity Solstice, but our contributors Vincent and Mary Finelli finally sail a Caribbean cruise aboard her and share their experiences.

Of particular interest is Vincent's description of an accessible balcony stateroom.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Carnival Fascination Returns to Service from Jacksonville Following ‘Evolutions of Fun’ Upgrades

The 2,052-passenger Carnival Fascination has resumed its year-round 4- and 5-day schedule from Jacksonville, Florida following a $34 million dry dock that included the addition of an expansive new water park, exclusive adults-only retreat, redesigned main pool area and 98 balconies to existing staterooms. These renovations are part of the line’s $350 million “Evolutions of Fun” refurbishment program for its eight 70,000-ton Fantasy-class vessels. The Carnival Fascination is the sixth ship in the series to receive the extensive upgrades.

Carnival Fascination operates Jacksonville’s only year-round cruise schedule, carrying approximately 170,000 passengers a year. On this program, 4-day cruises departing Thursdays visit Freeport and Nassau, The Bahamas; 5-day cruises departing Mondays call at Key West, Fla., and Nassau; and 5-day voyages departing Saturdays visit the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay and Nassau.

“Our Jacksonville-based cruises are a great option for those seeking a convenient, high quality vacation at a tremendous value and these new features will enhance the Carnival Fascination’s already strong appeal with consumers,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO.

Exciting Top Deck Features: Carnival Fascination’s multi-million dollar refurbishment included a total transformation of its open decks, which now feature a massive new WaterWorks aqua park on Verandah Deck. This sprawling, all-ages facility includes an enclosed 300-foot-long Twister water slide full of exhilarating twists and turns, two 82-foot-long racing slides, and a splash zone for kids. The ship’s Lido Deck pool was also renovated with a colorful tropical theme featuring oversized umbrellas, vibrant tile work, thatched roofing and huge stylized palm trees, creating a relaxing resort-style ambiance.

New Balcony Accommodations: Ninety-eight balconies were also added to existing accommodations during the dry dock, creating spacious 230-square-foot balcony staterooms that provide the ideal vantage point for viewing the tropical scenery. Sixty-two of the new balcony staterooms are located aft with several of these featuring extended balconies, while 24 are located mid-ship and 12 near the stern. Several suites were also retrofitted with larger, extended balconies.

New Adults-Only Retreat: Another popular “Evolutions of Fun” element added during the dry dock was an adults-only retreat called Serenity, which is located on Promenade Deck aft, providing magnificent ocean vistas. Designed as an oceangoing oasis for relaxation, this area features a tropical design with teak-style decking, colorful umbrellas, and thatched roofing, along with two oversized whirlpools. Guests can relax in comfortable chaise lounges and chairs while enjoying frozen drinks and other icy concoctions.

Dining Enhancements:Delicious new dining options were added to the ship’s casual poolside restaurant, Coconut Grove Bar & Grill. These include a Mongolian wok venue where guests can select their favorite meat, sauce, vegetables and other ingredients and watch as a chef creates their custom-designed stir fry dish, and a rotisserie featuring roasted chicken and traditional side dishes. Additionally, the Sensation and Imagination main dining rooms were refurbished with new carpeting, upholstery and other cosmetic enhancements. The Sensation dining room, located forward, was also reconfigured for Your Time Dining providing guests the option of open seating between 5:45 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. nightly.

Shot during the 28-day dry dock in Freeport, The Bahamas, a new “behind-the-scenes” video on Carnival.com includes footage of workers installing the new features and renovating existing facilities, along with interviews with Andrew Mace, hotel director of the Carnival Fascination, and Dennis Dearborn, the company’s senior hotel director. Take a look at what happened during the transformation.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cruise Diva Picks The Most Romantic Cruise Ships

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

One thing is certainly true, many couples consider a cruise the most romantic vacation imaginable. Which cruise ships are the most desirable for lovers? With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Cruise Diva shares her picks for the Most Romantic Ships.

With a little careful planning, a cruise can be anything you want it to be—a heavenly honeymoon, a renewal of your commitment to one another, or simply a quiet time together, far removed from your fast-paced everyday life. Cruise Diva shares her favorite hints to enhance Romance at Sea.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Princess Cruises to Host First-Ever Romance Summit During Valentine’s Week

In celebration of the most romantic holiday of the year, and to usher in the newest members of its Department of Romance, Princess Cruises is hosting the first-ever Romance Summit cruise. The Summit, which will be held on board Crown Princess during Valentine’s week, Feb 13-20, will feature a host of themed activities and presentations by the line’s Department of Romance members. Designed to celebrate the many aspects of cruising with Princess that can help couples reconnect, these special events will give passengers insight and inspiration on infusing romance into their everyday lives.

The entire Department of Romance will be aboard the special sailing. In addition to current members “Love Boat” captain Gavin MacLeod, “The Bachelorette’s” Trista and Ryan Sutter, and destination wedding expert Lisa Light, three new members will join the department. The new love experts are Anna Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post who will be discussing romance etiquette; “The Dating Diva” Dee Frazier of The University of Dating, an authority on finding love at any age; and Princess Cruises comedian Kevin Hughes, who keeps audiences laughing with his comedic and insightful take on relationships.

“Hosting the first-ever Romance Summit seems like the perfect way to celebrate Princess’ legacy of romance in a fun, unique way with something for everyone onboard,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises’ executive vice president. “It’s also the perfect way to introduce the newest members of our Department of Romance. We look forward to starting some lively conversations, as well as provide our passengers with great relationship tips, and a lot of fun.”

During the Romance Summit passengers will be treated to an abundance of romantic events, including an opportunity to meet all the Department of Romance members at a group panel discussion, plus attend individual presentations where each member will offer expertise on a particular aspect of love and relationships. Additionally, passengers will enjoy a variety of romance-themed activities, including a group renewal of vows for all couples on the ship and a Valentine’s Gala where passengers are invited to dress up in their best red attire for an evening of romantic dining and entertainment.

Throughout the sailing, passengers will enjoy themed food and beverage, entertainment, movies, and daytime activities. Crown Princess is sailing on a western Caribbean itinerary during the Romance Summit, with calls at Grand Cayman, Roatan, Cozumel, and Princess Cays. Further information about Princess is available through a professional travel agent, by visiting princess.com, or by calling 1-800-PRINCESS. Don't wait, though—there are still accommodations available on Crown Princess in several categories, but they may not last long. While you're sailing, enjoy Princess Cruises' sumptuous and romantic Ultimate Balcony Dinner.

Romantic Revelations - Who's the most attuned to romance, men or women? Get the "He said/She said" survey results from Princess Cruises.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Get a Romantic Valentine's Gift From Windstar Cruises

It's that time of year again, when Cupid strikes us with the urge to celebrate romance. If flowers and candy seem too passe for your significant other, Windstar Cruises, which operates a three-ship fleet of luxury yachts, wants to help you select a romantic gift by offering a Sweetheart Package to guests who book with a deposit between Feb 1 and Feb 14, 2010, for a 2010 cruise.

Windstar's Sweetheart Package includes in-room delivery of chocolate-dipped strawberries and a bottle of chilled Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label champagne. Guests also receive relaxing his and her 50-minute massages in WindSpa. Package value is $250.

Windstar's romance has been recognized by some of the most notable names in the travel world. In fact, CruiseDiva.com has selected Wind Surf as one of The Most Romantic Ships at Sea.

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 Cruises are known for their pampering without pretense and their ability to visit the hidden harbors and secluded coves of the world's most treasured destinations. Carrying just 148 to 312 guests, the luxurious ships of Windstar cruise to nearly 50 nations, calling at 100 ports throughout Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. For more information including rates and itineraries contact a professional travel agent or call Windstar at 1-800-258-7245. Visit Windstar Cruises online.

New 2010 bookings made and deposited between Feb 1 and Feb 14, 2010, are eligible for the Windstar Sweetheart Package. The Windstar Sweetheart Package offer is not combinable with other shipboard credits, package offers and select sale offers. Guests should refer to the Windstar Sweetheart Package offer when booking their cruise with their Travel Professional.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Send Your One-And-Only The Ultimate Valentine: A Cruise

Valentine's Day is getting close and love is in the air, so whether it's a last minute impulse or carefully planned ahead, there is no better time than now to choose a romantic cruise. Member companies of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) make it easy to find the perfect voyage for two - with breakfast in bed, dining under the stars and dancing til dawn - and incredible value at the same time.

"Whether you're young or just young at heart, single, married or otherwise committed, there is no vacation more romantic than a cruise. The very nature of the experience - total comfort, personalized, pampering service, fabulous dining and entertainment, exotic destinations, the pure pleasure of being at sea - points to romance. And, the incredible variety of cruises available, in every price category and every part of the world, means that there is a romantic cruise for every taste and budget," said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of CLIA.

CLIA member lines are doing everything they can to help vacationers find romance at sea by offering incentives to book early as well as generous shipboard credits and other savings, even, in some cases, free airfare to Europe. Here is a sampling of Valentine's Day-inspired offers, programs and activities on cruise voyages around the world:

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES : Romance is always in the air on Carnival. In addition to a huge number of balcony staterooms on its ships - perfect for couples to view the beautiful passing scenery - Carnival offers tables for two in the main dining rooms and, on some ships, elegant steakhouses that are the ideal setting for an unforgettable and romantic meal. Carnival ships also offer Formalities shops where couples can purchase flowers, chocolates and other traditional Valentine's Day items.

COSTA CRUISES: Costa Cruises offers travelers numerous ways to experience "so much more amore" when they cruise with Europe's Number One Cruise Line in the romantic Mediterranean. Best of all, the line makes it as affordable as $75 per day, or up to 60 percent off regular fares. A warm, authentic Italian style of service sets the perfect backdrop for beautiful new ships and stunning locales throughout the Med including Italy, France, Spain and the Greek Isles.

CRYSTAL CRUISES: From special dinner requests to "Crystal Private Adventures" shore excursions to renewal ceremonies, couples can arrange pretty much anything they can imagine for a romance package on Crystal. In penthouse accommodations, guests can request dinner for two to be served by their personal butler on the verandah. The "All Inclusive-As You Wish" $500 per person shipboard credit can be used for virtually all purchases, including couples massage, flowers and formal portraits.

CUNARD LINE: Where better to follow in the footsteps of such starry-eyed couples as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, than aboard a Cunard ocean liner? Romance awaits on a classic transatlantic crossing aboard Queen Mary 2, with savings up to $600 per person off early booking fares on select voyages. Or make plans now for Queen Victoria's 2011 Americas season, including her first Getaway voyage to Mexico over Valentine's Day next year. Luxurious couples massages, ballroom dancing and elegant dining add to the intimate appeal.

DISNEY CRUISE LINE: Disney Cruise Line offers romantic dining experiences specifically for adults - elegant and peaceful, they are designed to suit sophisticated tastes. High atop both ships, Palo, Disney's signature restaurant at sea, treats adults to sweeping ocean views and exquisite northern Italian specialties. The Vista Spa and Salon and Spa Villas, provide exclusive accommodations and a menu of spa treatments and services such as massages, body wraps, facials, manicures/pedicures and hair styling.

HOLLAND AMERICA LINE: A cruise on Holland America can be a romantic dream from dawn until well beyond dusk. Breakfast in bed, long-stemmed red roses, champagne and caviar package, cuddly stuffed bears proclaiming "I Love You," the Valentine's Red and White Ball in the Crow's Nest, moonlit nightcaps on a private verandah: these are only some of the features of a variety of special romance packages with such enticing names as "Totally Being in Love," "Would you marry me...again?" and "The Perfect Couple."

MSC CRUISES: Couples on MSC ships will find romance at every turn--from elegant Italian ambiance and white glove service, to evenings filled with dancing and live entertainment throughout the ship, seven-course gourmet cuisine and even breakfast served on the private veranda of their stateroom or suite. Relaxing couples massages and other sensual spa pleasures for love birds can be combined into spa packages, and, for the last minute romantic shopper, rates on February Caribbean cruises begin at $499.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE: Norwegian Cruise Line is offering suite deals to set romantic hearts aflutter. Guests who book a cruise in a Suite or Villa at least nine months prior to sailing from now through April 1, 2010 receive up to $300 in on-board spending credit per stateroom to be used on everything from romantic shore excursions and candlelit dinners to couples' spa treatments and more. Several "Romance" packages, intimate dinners for two, customized "dream dates" ashore and couples massages are other enticements.

PAUL GAUGUIN CRUISES: Escape to romantic Tahiti, French Polynesia and the South Pacific on Paul Gauguin Cruises, which has dramatically reduced prices on four popular itineraries for cruises booked by February 15, 2010, on top of already reduced cruise-only fares. Aboard the 5+-star Paul Gauguin, the most highly awarded small ship in the region, guests will enjoy a spacious suite or stateroom, attentive service, world-class amenities, and sumptuous cuisine-all against the backdrop of the most romantic setting on Earth.

PRINCESS CRUISES: This year, one upcoming Princess voyage will be particularly filled with love as the line holds its first ever Romance Summit aboard Crown Princess during the Valentine's week cruise, Feb 13-20. Celebrating Princess' legacy of romance in a unique way, Princess' Department of Romance members will be on board as special guests to offer their insight into all things romantic, and passengers will be treated to romance-themed events and activities, including a renewal of vows ceremony and a gala Valentine's Ball, with everyone invited to wear red.

SEABOURN CRUISE LINE: A romantic Seabourn yacht cruise is all about tailoring the experience to what each guest wants, with attentive service staff who have an uncanny ability to surprise and delight. A Seabourn suite, with expansive views, is a cozy, commodious vacation home-away-from-home, with a minibar stocked with the couple's requested beverages, including French champagne. Gourmet dining designed by Charlie Palmer, whether in the ship's elegant restaurant or at a private candlelit table on the suite balcony adds to the romance.

SILVERSEA CRUISES: Silversea's intimate ultra-luxury ships provide a uniquely appealing option for sophisticated couples seeking a truly indulgent, romantic getaway. With stopovers in some of the world's most romantic cities, Silversea offers award-winning cuisine, warm hospitality and unparalleled service wrapped in an ambiance of European style and elegance. Couples are welcomed onboard with a glass of champagne, and then escorted by a private attendant to their richly appointed suite. Silversea's signature private teak ocean view veranda is the perfect venue for an intimate sunrise breakfast, twilight champagne toast or midnight stargazing.

WINDSTAR CRUISES : With its glamorous and sophisticated Wind Surf, Wind Star, and Wind Spirit sailing ships, Windstar offers unique romantic adventures in the Caribbean this winter - seven day voyages from Barbados or St. Martin and seven-day explorations of Costa Rica. There are also voyages to the most romantic locales of the French and Italian Mediterranean and Greek Islands. A variety of romance, honeymoon and wedding vow renewal packages are also available.

Monday, February 1, 2010

LGBT Cruise Community Reaches Out To Haiti

Within days of the creation of the American Red Cross LGBT Haiti Relief Fund, a Red Cross representative stated the fund has already raised more money than many of the huge corporate donors. This was accomplished by significant outreach efforts to the LGBT community via donors and activists along with a massive email campaign to the members of three LGBT cruise companies, Olivia, Atlantis, and RSVP. Within a week, the community has raised over $150,000 for the fund.

Donations of cruises, an upgrade auction and matching funds all were contributed by the cruise companies as pledges came pouring in with record dollars in a matter of a few hours. "We are reaching out to all LGBT organizations and individuals to become part of this relief fund effort and get the word out everywhere," said Judy Dlugacz, President and founder of Olivia Companies, a lesbian-oriented vacation company. "If we all work together we can provide enormous support to the Haiti relief efforts."

"We are inspired to see so many groups coming together to help earthquake survivors in Haiti," says Nan Buzard, Sr. Director of International Response and Programs for the American Red Cross. "The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community has done an outstanding job of raising funds to support the American Red Cross's relief work in Haiti."

To contribute to the fund, visit http://american.redcross.org/LGBT-pub.