Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Carnival’s New ‘Chef’s Table’ Offers Exquisite Culinary Experience

Carnival Cruise Lines is introducing an exciting new fine dining option for its guests–The Chef’s Table. Launched as a pilot program aboard the Carnival Dream and Carnival Ecstasy last year and currently being rolled out to six other ships, this one-of-a-kind culinary experience includes an exquisite multi-course dinner hosted by one of the line’s master chefs along with a private cocktail reception and a personalized tour of the galley.

With The Chef’s Table, a select group of 12 guests enjoy cocktails and hors d’ouevres hosted by the ship’s chef de cuisine. The chef then takes the group on a personalized tour to see the galley in operation, providing participants with a unique perspective on Carnival’s extensive food and beverage operations. The evening concludes with a sumptuous full-service dinner with delicious appetizers, entrees, and desserts created by the line’s master chefs. Depending on the vessel, the meal takes place in non-traditional dining venues throughout the ship–the galley (as pictured above), library, conference center, etc.

The Chef’s Table program is being rolled out to the following six ships over the next several weeks: Carnival Liberty, Carnival Sensation, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Pride, and Carnival Fascination. The program can be booked on board through the ships’ guest information desk. The cost is $75 per person.

Carnival Sensation: NO Bomb On Board

Common sense dictates that you don't yell fire in a crowded theater, nor do you argue about the speed of your vehicle when stopped by a traffic cop. You also want to avoid making jokes about bombs in front of TSA officials at airport security and, now, you don't want to similarly threaten a cruise ship with a hidden bomb.

Ibrahim Khalil Zarou, of Leesburg, Virginia., posted a $10,000 bond last Sunday after being charged with making a false report about planting a bomb aboard Carnival Sensation. It turned out to be a hoax, possibly fueled by excess alcohol consumption, but it did reveal that authorities have a plan to set in motion in case of such incidents.

After the threat was reported at about 4am on Sunday morning, the ship's crew conducted a search. When US Coast Guard, FBI agents, and other law enforcement officials arrived on the scene later, a second search turned up nothing. When it was deemed safe, the ship was allowed to dock in Port Canaveral, about five hours after its scheduled arrival time.

No doubt there were many among the 3,470 passengers on board who missed their flights home as a result. Perhaps instead of arresting the perp, the police should have turned him over to the angry passengers for punishment. In any event, we hope he's learned not to even joke about bombs under such circumstances. We'd also like to see him have to reimburse all the passengers for the fees they incurred due to the necessity of rebooking their flights.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sixthman Sails With A Beat & Announces Lynyrd Skynyrd Simple Man Cruise 2011

Affinity travel group Sixthman connects passionate music lovers with the artists and bands they love as well as the ones they have yet to discover. With the goal of breaking down walls between their artists, fans, and partners, they invent unique cruise experiences. And they are preparing for a very busy year by adding some awesome performers and activities.

VH1 Best Cruise Ever (April 15-19, 2010): The Trailer Park Ninjas have been added - they'll be partying on the promenade with the guests! 3 Doors Down have donated two Gibson guitars for raffle and auction on the ship, proceeds from which will go to charity.

Kid Rock Chillin' the Most Cruise (April 29-May 3, 2010): Infamous debaucher Mickey Avalon will join Kid Rock at sea, along with Pop Evil, Leroy Powell, Detroit rapper and Kid Rock's protégé Paradime, Ty Stone, G'n'R tribute Appetite for Destruction, Yacht Rock Revue, and Scott Munns.

Sailing Southern Ground (Sept 2-6, 2010): If Zac Brown Band's guests haven't heard The Wood Brothers (Chris Wood from MMW and his brother) yet, they'll be in for a treat when this band takes the stage on the cruise. Also joining ZBB and friends are Atlanta's Yacht Rock Revue and songsmith Darrell Scott.

The Elvis Cruise (Nov 4-8, 2010): We'll soon be announcing the addition of one of Elvis' movie co-stars, and we'll have performers from the new Vegas-based Elvis Presley Cirque de Soleil show with us on board!

The Rock Boat XI (Jan 6-10, 2011): Pete Francis and Needtobreathe have been added to the lineup for the eleventh Rock Boat!

Lynyrd Skynyrd Simple Man Cruise 2011: On January 20, 2011, Sixthman and Lynyrd Skynyrd will host Simple Man Cruise 2011; this is the fifth voyage of this nautical Southern rock festival. The Carnival Inspiration will take Skynyrd and friends on a 4-day Caribbean cruise from Tampa to Grand Cayman, returning on Jan 24, 2011.

On Simple Man 2010, guests enjoyed unforgettable performances by Skynyrd, .38 Special, Molly Hatchet, Blackberry Smoke, and more. There were also fun events like a men's wet t-shirt contest and a belly flop competition. 2011 promises to deliver that much fun and more. Sixthman owner Andy Levine says, "We're proud to work with Lynyrd Skynyrd one more time, bringing the ultimate southern rock party to the high seas, for the fifth year in a row." Sixthman's first Simple Man cruise in 2007 was such a hit that fans have been returning year after year, and the artists love coming back to play for the most loyal audiences in the country. Lynyrd Skynyrd will take a break from cruising for a while after Simple Man 2011, so visit and book your cabins now for this rare opportunity.

Cruise Travel: The ABCs

One of the first things we all learn in school is the alphabet, the foundation for all learning that is to follow. In cruise travel, it's much the same. However, many cruise passengers start out with "C" for Caribbean and advance to "A" for Alaska and "B" for Bermuda.

The Caribbean is a frequent choice of first-time cruisers, accessible year-round and with a wide variety of ships and itineraries available. On the other hand, Alaska and Bermuda are seasonal, with fewer ships and homeports to choose from and are often looked upon as a "move up" cruise. They take just a bit more planning, but are worth it for the diversity of experiences available in both regions. In Alaska, you'll encounter magnificent scenery and the thrill of spotting wildlife; Bermuda is notable for pink-sand beaches and warm hospitality.

To help make your choices, Cruise Diva goes ashore to profile the things to do in ports of call in:

Alaska -- Today’s Alaska cruises offer a little something for every lifestyle, from small excursion vessels offering casual informality and soft adventure to megaships with a dazzling array of activities and options.

Bermuda -- Probably the most popular misconception about Bermuda is that it’s a Caribbean island. It isn’t.

Caribbean -- Sparkling turquoise water, stretches of sandy beach, and the beat of a steel drum band are just the main ingredients of a Caribbean cruise.

To delve even deeper into the ABCs of cruise travel, Cruise Diva suggests the following reading assignments:

Fodor's Alaska Ports of Call
Fodor's Bermuda
Fodor's Caribbean Ports of Call
The Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises

Monday, March 29, 2010

NCL Offers a "Power Hour" of Savings Before Fares Increase on April 2

Norwegian Cruise Line is giving travel partners and customers an extra hour to book a cruise vacation before the line implements its largest rate increase in company history with prices going up by as much as seven percent fleet-wide on Friday, April 2, 2010. The company’s call center will stay open until 1:00am the morning of the increase giving everyone a last chance to book current pricing on the line’s 10 Freestyle Cruising ships along with its newest and largest ship, Norwegian Epic.

Price increases will take effect on more than 125,000 rates across the fleet on every ship and every sail date through 2012. For instance, a 7-day Hawaii cruise on Pride of America will go up from $1,389 to $1,489; a 12-day cruise on Norwegian Sun through the Baltic will rise from $3,099 to $3,319; and a 7-day Alaskan vacation on Norwegian Pearl will change from $1,699 to $1,819. Prices are based on double occupancy in a balcony stateroom.

For more information on Norwegian or to book a cruise now, call 866-234-7350, visit, or phone a travel professional.

Exploring South America’s “Other” Coast, A Silver Spirit Voyage

Of South America’s two spectacularly long coasts, the east, Atlantic Ocean coast, generally gets the lion’s share of attention from travelers. After all, it has such fabulous cities as Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, opportunities to visit its Caribbean ports like Cartagena and to seek adventure on the Amazon—to name just a few of its golden attributes.

But the west coast of South America offers treasure as well. Join Georgina Cruz as she Explores South America’s “Other” Coast aboard Silversea Cruises' new Silver Spirit.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

“Deadliest Catch” Captain Keith Colburn to Sail on Holland America Line's Zaandam

One of the most appealing aspects of any cruise is the food. Another is learning about food, as I did last year on my Holland America cruise aboard Westerdam when guest chef Chris Salans introduced us to “The Flavors of Bali.” The Culinary Arts Center on each Holland America Line ship provides guests on select cruises the opportunity to experience demonstrations and hands-on classes conducted by top chefs, wine experts, and leading cookbook authors.

This summer, Captain Keith Colburn of Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” series (pictured above) is scheduled to sail as part of the guest-enrichment program on the June 18, 2010, Alaskan Explorer Voyage aboard Holland America Line’s ms Zaandam. The 7-day cruise sails round-trip from Seattle, and calls at Glacier Bay, Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, Alaska, and Victoria, BC, Canada. During his cruise, Colburn will share his expertise on how to select, crack, and clean fresh crab, while Holland America Line’s executive chef demonstrates different ways to prepare and serve this delectable Alaska seafood favorite. Colburn is one of more than 65 celebrated chefs and wine experts scheduled to sail in 2010 and share their expertise in the line's Culinary Arts Center, presented by Food & Wine magazine.

Colburn started as a true greenhorn on an Alaskan crabber in 1985. The fishing lifestyle, along with working in and against the elements, captured him immediately. While initially looking only for adventure in Alaska’s unknown waters, Colburn found something unexpected: a career. In 1988, he became a full-share deck hand on the Wizard, and in 1992 he received his master’s license and has since remained as captain of the vessel that he eventually purchased. Viewers of“Deadliest Catch” follow the captains and crew of crab-fishing vessels in the Bering Sea as they struggle against treacherous weather conditions to perform one of the deadliest—and most lucrative—jobs in the world.

Holland America Line’s Culinary Arts Center is featured on each of the line’s 14 ships. A first-class “show kitchen at sea,” the Culinary Arts Centers presented by Food & Wine magazine resemble the elaborate show kitchens used by celebrity chefs on television cooking programs. The facilities offer demonstrations, tastings and hands-on cooking classes aboard every Holland America Line sailing. Each facility features a theater-style venue, with two large plasma video screens and a large cooking display counter where guests can learn from and interact with the masters. On cruises that do not have a celebrity chef on board, hands-on classes and demonstrations in the show kitchen are scheduled with Holland America Line’s own expert chefs. For a full schedule of Holland America Line’s culinary guest program, visit and click on the Culinary Arts Center tab.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Today's Passport Day Can Help US Citizens Save Before Fee Increases

All 23 regional passport offices will be open to the public today in honor of "Passport Day in the USA." Any citizen in need of a passport can walk into any of these 23 offices without an appointment between 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

The timing of this event is particularly beneficial to American citizens as it occurs before passport fees are likely to increase later this spring. The U.S. State Department formally announced on Feb 9, 2010 its proposal to increase U.S. passport fees in order to fully recover its costs for producing these travel documents. The State Department said it intends to implement its proposed new fees as soon as practicable after it reviews public comments, but certainly not before April.

A summary of some of the proposed fee increases for both the passport book and card are as follows:

-- First-time Passport Book for Adult - Increasing from $100 to $135
-- Renewal Passport Book for Adult - Increasing from $75 to $110
-- Passport Book for Minors - Increases from $60 to $105
-- Passport Card for Adult - From $20 to $30
-- Passport Card for Minors - From $10 to $15

A list of passport office locations can be found at

Friday, March 26, 2010

Carnival Cruise Lines Fun Is Coming To Charleston

Carnival Cruise Lines, which will launch Charleston, South Carolina’s first year-round cruise program this spring is coming to town on Saturday, March 27th to offer the largest outdoor attraction at the Cooper River Bridge Run Festival—a gigantic 40-foot-high inflatable slide.

Jumbo-sized slides are a signature element of Carnival’s “Fun Ships” and the cruise line is bringing its own version of this fun attraction to the Cooper River Bridge Run Finish Festival to commemorate the Carnival Fantasy’s new year-round service from Charleston beginning May 18th.

Carnival will be donating $1 to the MUSC Children’s Hospital for every rider who goes down the slide, with a total donation of up to $5,000. The fun begins directly after the Cooper River Bridge Run at the Finish Line in Marion Square Park, Charleston.

Carnival Fantasy will operate 5-, 6-, and 7-day Bahamas/Key West cruises from Charleston, carrying an estimated 140,000 passengers annually from the port.

For additional information on the Cooper River Bridge Run visit Additional information on Carnival’s Charleston-based cruises is available at

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Just A Week: Fare Increases For Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Time is running out on the opportunity to take advantage of Regent Seven Seas Cruises' savings offers of 2-for-1 fares plus additional bonus savings of up to $1,000 per guest. After March 31, 2010, prices will be increasing on many of their 2010 voyages and, while you will still be able to enjoy free unlimited shore excursions and free air, you'll have to book by next Wednesday to ensure the suite of your choice at 2-for-1 rates, as some suite categories are already full.

Visit now and find the perfect sailing to experience the most all-inclusive luxury cruise available. This is cruising as it was meant to be–everything is included, without exception and without compromise. Personal service soars into the sublime aboard the elegant Regent ships, liberating you to fulfill your wishes and explore exciting new places in complete and absolute comfort. Indulge in world-class cuisine. Trust that your voyage will be enlightening in ways you never imagined. Sail on a fully-refurbished fleet of ships in all-suite style. Be pampered in the new Canyon Ranch SpaClub®. Experience the award-winning service which has earned top honors for Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises promises an extraordinary experience with:

• Included Roundtrip Air
• Included Unlimited Shore Excursions
• Complimentary beverages including fine wines, beer, premium spirits, soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees, and tea served throughout the ship
• Complimentary in-suite mini-bar replenished daily with beer, soft drinks, and bottled water
• All staff gratuities included

Go ahead and enjoy... it's all included.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

For 2011, Royal Caribbean Will Be A BIG Presence in Europe

There's going to be a lot more Royal Caribbean to like in Europe next year. As their fleet goes even more international, the cruise line’s 2011 Europe cruise and cruisetour season promises to be its biggest ever European-wide deployment with 10 ships slated to sail Baltic and Mediterranean waters. The 2011 European fleet will see an increase from eight ships in 2010 and offer 109 unique itineraries, ranging from 3- to 15-nights and visiting 27 countries, and 78 ports. Two ships, Liberty of the Seas and Grandeur of the Seas,will sail their maiden Europe seasons from Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, Spain, respectively. Independence of the Seas will continue its year-round service from Southampton, U.K. and, with Liberty of the Seas, makes two Freedom-class ships to sail European waters as the largest and most innovative cruise ships in the region. Navigator of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, and Splendour of the Seas will sail a variety of Mediterranean itineraries, while Jewel of the Seas and Vision of the Seas will ply the Baltic and North seas. Most 2011 Royal Caribbean International Europe cruises and cruisetours are now open for booking.

“Vacationers will have the widest selection of Europe’s largest and most innovative cruise ships with Royal Caribbean in 2011,” said Betsy O’Rourke, senior vice president of Marketing, Royal Caribbean Intl. “With four classes of ships in the region, Royal Caribbean is offering a 2011 Europe cruise lineup that will appeal to a wide range of vacationers from couples seeking the romance of Europe to multi-generational family vacations. And all of our guests receive the Royal treatment from our friendly and engaging staff and crew.”

Vacationers also can choose a Royal Caribbean Europe cruisetour, providing a more comprehensive vacation experience. A cruisetour allows guests to choose from packages that combine a Europe cruise aboard one of seven Royal Caribbean ships with a 3-night Italian Lakes and Venice, 4-night Paris and London, 4-night Madrid and Barcelona, 5-night Venice, Florence and Rome, or a 4-night Istanbul and Cappadocia land tour itinerary. Each land tour is escorted by a Tour Director, and ground transfers, hotel reservations, city tours, and some meals are inclusive.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Norwegian Cruise Line to Enhance Its Private Island, Great Stirrup Cay

It was 1977 when Norwegian Cruise Line became the first cruise line to offer an uninhabited tropical island experience exclusively for its guests and much of Great Stirrup Cay looks just as it did when NCL acquired it. Only 120 miles east of Fort Lauderdale in the Berry Island chain of the Bahamas, the “grand-daddy” of private islands offers magnificent white sand beaches, majestic palms, and calm, pristine waters where an abundance of colorful marine life inhabits the surrounding coral reefs. While not much has changed over the years, Great Stirrup Cay is about to get a makeover. NCL has announced that it will make major enhancements to the 250-acre island in a two-phase renovation over the next 22 months. At a cost of in excess of $20 million, the work is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011.

“We have one of the best private islands, particularly for swimming and snorkeling. With these improvements, we can provide an even more enjoyable island experience for the more than 9,000 guests who visit Great Stirrup Cay weekly during the height of the season,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “Highlights of the enhancements include an expanded beach front, exciting island excursions, additional dining facilities, private beachside cabanas, and a new kid’s area.”

The first phase of improvements to Great Stirrup Cay is already underway. This includes the excavation and formation of a new entrance channel for tenders, marina basin, and arrival area with welcome pavilion that will be the site for new tender landings and docks. Once this is complete, the island’s current beach front will be expanded significantly to accommodate more guests.

New infrastructure and landscaping to enhance the guest experience is planned in the second phase including new dining and bar facilities; several comfort stations; a band stand; cruise program activity area; private beachfront cabanas; a kid’s play area; straw market; and beach volleyball courts. Several new island activities and shore excursions will be added including wave runners, a floating Aqua Park with a variety of water toys, kayak tours through man-made rivers within the island, an eco-cruise, and a stingray encounter experience. These are in addition to the existing snorkeling; floats; inflatable hippo slide; and parasailing that are currently offered.

Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Sky, and Norwegian Pearl regularly call on Great Stirrup Cay throughout the year. For more information on NCL or to book a cruise, call 866-234-7350, visit, or phone a travel professional.

Cruise Diva will be sailing aboard Norwegian Pearl and going ashore at Great Stirrup Cay in a couple weeks, so watch for first-hand reports.

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Cruise Review: Liberty of the Seas

After a recent "encore" sailing aboard Liberty of the Seas, Mary & Vincent Finelli take a look at how life has changed aboard the RCI ships since the global economic downturn.

The Finelli family cruise started out a bit rocky, since the Loyalty Manager had them listed in the wrong cabin and their dining room seating was incorrect. To say the least, the first day on board was chilly until Hotel Director Helmut Leikauf soon came to their rescue.

There may not have been chocolates on their pillows at night, but at least Mary & Vincent won a bottle of champagne for having the most cruises on RCI during a past passengers' cocktail party and, despite changes and any glitches they encounter, they are truly happy cruisers. Join them as once again they review Liberty of the Seas.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How to tell if a cruise ship is "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, like norovirus, 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? has the information you need to know about cruise ships and illnesses in Is Your Cruise Ship Sick?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Discover The Best Cruise Vacation: World’s Leading Cruise Lines Launches New Web-Based Tool For Consumers

World’s Leading Cruise Lines, a marketing alliance between Carnival Corporation & plc’s six brands serving the North American market–Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Cunard Line, Costa Cruises, and The Yachts of Seabourn–has created an innovative, new web-based tool that engages consumers and helps them discover which brands’ unique style of cruising matches their ideal vacation experience.

Through a series of experiential questions, the Cruise Navigator tool asks users to choose from a range of desired vacation experiences, indicating priorities and interests. Their ideal vacation is then compared to a favorite car or a favorite film, for example, to self-select between brands spanning the contemporary, premium and luxury cruise categories. Links to handy travel agent locators are provided as well as brand overview videos and the opportunity to “send to a friend.” Prospective guests enjoy mixing up their answers to see which cruise lines Cruise Navigator suggests they explore further.

Cruise Navigator is the latest addition to the World’s Leading Cruise Lines comprehensive website, a helpful online resource featuring destination descriptions, profiles of the six member lines, and the Best Blogs at Sea.

“Vacation time is as precious as ever and each of our brands contributed to Cruise Navigator, enabling the vacation planning public and travel agents alike to select from the diverse experiences offered by these distinct cruise lines, each a leader in its own market segment,” notes Bill Harber, Carnival Corporation & plc’s senior director of marketing.

World’s Leading Cruise Lines capitalizes on an array of ships, destinations, durations, and cruising styles for excellent vacation options. Sharing a passion to please each guest and a commitment to quality and value, World’s Leading Cruise Lines inspires first time cruisers and repeat guests to discover their best vacation experience. Together, these brands offer a variety of exciting and enriching cruises to the world's most desirable destinations.

About Carnival Corporation & plc
Carnival Corporation & plc 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, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Cunard Line, Costa Cruises, The Yachts of Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Ibero Cruises, Ocean Village, P&O Cruises, and P&O Cruises Australia.

Together, these brands operate 95 ships totaling more than 185,000 lower berths with 11 new ships scheduled for delivery 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.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Norwegian Epic: Free Eats In Over Half The Restaurants

Count Mel and me among those passengers who appreciate dining choices while on a cruise vacation. Our at-home lifestyle is laid back and casual. We eat when we are hungry, whether that’s at 6pm or 8pm. While Mel might disagree, we’ve never minded “dressing” to dine, or paying a supplement for a special dinner, but there are times when we just don’t feel like it, so Norwegian Cruise Line's “Freestyle Cruising” suits our style just fine.

And now NCL has announced that its largest, most innovative Freestyle Cruising ship to date, Norwegian Epic, will feature an extensive number of complimentary Freestyle dining options–11 out of 21 total–that are included in the cruise fare. The additional 10 dining options will have a nominal cover charge. Guests on board Norwegian Epic can select from a variety of cuisines, dining styles and atmospheres on board with a total of 21 dining options. Those that will be free of charge are:

· Taste, the atrium restaurant serving traditional and contemporary cuisine;
· Manhattan Room, reminiscent of an elegant supper club complete with music, dancing and entertainment;
· O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill, serving American favorites and comfort food, 24 hours;
· Garden Café, Norwegian's signature action station casual restaurant;
· Great Outdoors, the pool-side grill;
· Spice H20, serving Latin and Asian-influenced cuisine in the adults-only complex;
· Atrium Cafe and Wine Bar;
· Studio Lounge, serving snacks and light fare;
· Epic Club, the elegant, exclusive eatery available to Norwegian Epic's Suite and Villa guests;
· Courtyard Grill, the more casual, outdoor area of the Epic Grill, open for breakfast and lunch; and
· 24-hour room service.

“It’s important for our guests to know that Freestyle Cruising on Norwegian Epic will offer the ultimate in freedom and flexibility, especially when it comes to dining,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “With that flexibility comes a wide-range of complimentary dining venues and options.”

In addition, Norwegian also announced the cover charges for Norwegian Epic’s specialty dining/entertainment venues (the good news is none of them will break the bank or our vacation budget):

· La Cucina, Tuscan-style eatery serving regional Italian specialties, $10 per person;
· Cirque Dreams & Dinner, two shows nightly including a three-course meal, $15 for general seating/$20 per person for preferred seating;
· Shanghai’s, Norwegian Epic’s new Chinese restaurant serving a delicious mix of Chinese dishes and noodle bar specialties, $15 per person;
· Shanghai’s Noodle Bar, a la carte pricing;
· Wasabi, expansive sushi and sake bar, a la carte pricing;
· Le Bistro, Norwegian’s elegant bistro serving classic French cuisine with an American flair, $20 per person;
· Moderno Churrascaria, expansive salad bar and choice of a variety of meats served by tableside passadors, $18 per person;
· Cagney’s Steakhouse, the line’s signature American steakhouse, $25 per person;
· Teppanyaki, the largest signature Japanese experiential restaurant at sea, $25 per person; and
· Pizza delivery, $5, available 24 hours around the ship.

"With our specialty restaurants, some guests may choose to dine in one of these venues just once or twice during their cruise to celebrate a special occasion," added Sheehan. "At the same time, others may want to sample a different specialty restaurant each evening to experience a new type of cuisine. That’s the great thing about Freestyle Cruising–the choice is up to our guests to decide how they want to customize their trip.”

We couldn’t agree more and Mel and I are really looking forward to exploring all the options on Norwegian Epic in July when she arrives in Miami.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Crystal Cruises to Offer Open Seating Dining Option, Starting With 2011 Sailings

I have always contended that the true mark of luxury cruise lines could be measured in the dining experience on their ships. While the food alone has been a good enough reason to sail on a Crystal cruise, passengers have traditionally been assigned to specific tables in either an early or late seating. Yes, there are fantastic specialty restaurants as alternatives at no charge (with the exception of the Vintage Room, which showcases reserve wines) , but that Crystal Dining Room assigned seating has been an annoyance. So, their announcement this week that they will offer Perfect Choice Dining™ with Open Dining By Reservation™ for 2011 is a welcome enhancement to the on board experience. From the inspired creations of Crystal's internationally acclaimed chefs, to the celebrity fare of Nobu and Piero Selvaggio, to the coveted pairings of the Vintage Room, to the casual simplicity of outdoor dining on deck, the evening dining venues aboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity offer the ultimate in personal choice to suit every palate.

Offered complimentary in the Crystal Dining Room, Perfect Choice Dining maintains Crystal's classic dining style, while adding greater flexibility and choices. Beginning with its January 2011 cruises, Crystal will complement its Crystal Dining Room choices of Classic Main Seating and Classic Late Seating with a brand new option, Open Dining by Reservation. An expansive online Priority Check-in and Planning Center (PCPC) launching in July will enable any fully paid guests who have opted for Open Dining by Reservation to make nightly reservations in the main dining room in advance of their cruise - in addition to their reservation in each of Crystal's specialty restaurants. More information on the new service is available at

"Crystal's Perfect Choice Dining retains the traditional dining experience of two seatings each evening where guests become friends with tablemates and have wait staff who know their preferences, as well as offers a new additional option to satisfy the demand for open dining," says Gregg Michel, president of Crystal Cruises. "No other cruise line in the luxury market is offering this choice of personalized luxury dining."

How does it work?

-- Effective immediately, guests can choose Classic Main dining seating, Classic Late dining seating or Open Dining by Reservation when they book their 2011 cruise. Guests already booked on 2011 World Cruise voyages will automatically retain their selection of Classic Main or Classic Late, or they can switch to Open Dining by Reservation by contacting their travel agent or Crystal's Onboard Guest Services at

-- Effective July 2010, the online Priority Check-in and Planning Center (PCPC) launches. Guests who are fully paid for 2011 cruises and who have opted for Open Dining by Reservation can make their individual Crystal Dining Room reservations using the comprehensive PCPC online service. While Crystal currently offers an online pre-reservation system, PCPC will expand pre-reservation services. Details on PCPC services and complete instructions for making reservations will be available at the end of June 2010.

Tables for two, four, six, or eight are available for dinner reservations and reservation times and table size can vary each night. If a specific time is unavailable, the Open Dining by Reservation system will suggest an alternative.

Michel reiterates, "For guests who prefer two dining seatings in the main dining room, nothing will change. We have many, many passionate repeat guests who look forward to having their same evening dining room table, who enjoy cultivating the bonds that develop amongst tablemates and who appreciate the attention that comes with having the same senior waiter and waiter. Perfect Choice Dining adds another flexible dimension, delivered with Crystal's penchant for unparalleled service and attention to detail."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Who's Afraid of Norovirus? Celebrity Mercury Delays Next Cruise

While waiting for my flight connection in Detroit last Saturday, I chatted with two nice ladies who were on their way to warm weather vacation destinations. Asked if they'd ever considered a cruise, they looked dubious. One said she'd love to cruise, but was afraid of getting sick. Of course she was referring to the recent news about the outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness on Celebrity Mercury. My assurances that you could get sick anywhere didn't seem to allay her concern. When I got home and was able to catch the news, I discovered why.

Celebrity Mercury has had an unusually bad run of gastrointestinal illness on board. So bad, in fact, that The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has made a no-sail recommendation for at least four full days for the ship to investigate recurring outbreaks.

The latest bout of illness is the third on the ship since the middle of last month. The source of the first two outbreaks was identified as norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea. Members of the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP), which works with the cruise industry to prevent and control illnesses on cruise ships, boarded Celebrity Mercury Monday to look for the source of the current outbreak. CNN reports that CDC spokesman Ricardo Beato stated, "The CDC and the cruise line corporate staff have not yet determined why the controls that they were following have not been effective."

After the first February outbreak, in which more than 20% of passengers became ill, a VSP team inspected the ship and made preventative recommendations. Celebrity Mercury's next sailing was delayed for a day while a full cleaning was undertaken. Nevertheless, about 10% of passengers on that subsequent cruise were felled by norovirus. On the latest sailing, approximately 19% of passengers became ill. As a cautionary measure, Celebrity Mercury has skipped a scheduled port call in Tortola this week, cutting the current cruise short by a day, and the ship will return to Charleston, SC, on Thursday morning.

Passengers have been compensated for the abbreviated itinerary, according to Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez. "Guests currently on board Celebrity Mercury received an onboard credit in the amount of one day of the cruise fare paid for their sailing, as well as a future cruise certificate for 25 percent of the cruise fare paid," she said in an email to CNN.

According to a statement issued Monday, Celebrity Cruises has delayed the cruise scheduled to depart from Charleston on Friday, March 19, for two days so Celebrity Mercury can undergo enhanced cleaning and disinfecting:
Itinerary Change Celebrity Mercury: During Celebrity Mercury's last sailing, a number of guests on board experienced a gastrointestinal illness, thought to be a norovirus. In an abundance of caution, we are conducting extensive and thorough sanitizing on board the ship and within the cruise terminal, as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, to help prevent any illness from affecting the next sailing.

Regrettably, in order to conduct the extensive sanitizing, it is necessary to delay the departure of Celebrity Mercury March 19 sailing by two days. Boarding is now anticipated to take place on Sunday, March 21 between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Seating in the cruise terminal at the Port of Charleston is very limited. Therefore, we ask that guests scheduled to depart on this sailing not arrive at the pier on Sunday before 4:00 p.m. We apologize for this delay and any inconvenience it may cause our guests.

Due to the delayed departure, it was necessary to make some adjustments to the planned itinerary. Celebrity Mercury will now departed Charleston on Sunday, March 21, be at sea Monday; visit Key West, Florida, Tuesday; Cozumel, Mexico, Wednesday; Costa Maya, Mexico, Thursday; at sea Friday; Nassau, Bahamas, Saturday; and at sea Sunday.
It is our understanding that passengers who choose not to sail on March 21 will be issued a refund; those who do sail will receive a pro-rated refund for the shortened cruise in the form of an on board credit.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New York Themes Highlight Holland America Line's New Nieuw Amsterdam

An extensive array of upscale public areas aboard the new Holland America Line Signature-class ship ms Nieuw Amsterdam reflects the brand's enhanced premium-class facilities and amenities, highlighted by decor honoring the historic glamour of New York City, known as Nieuw Amsterdam by its Dutch founders. Art, craftwork, and historical artifacts documenting New York's Native American history and Dutch influences, along with the history and glamour of Holland America Line's 138-year association with the world's greatest city, are displayed throughout the ship's expertly finished public areas.

Located adjacent to the Crow's Nest, Explorations Cafe powered by The New York Times, is very NYC. The comfortable, seagoing coffee bistro features an extensive library, Internet terminals, international newspapers, plush chairs and sofas, and a comfortable, upscale environment for reading and conversation. The Crow's Nest lounge itself, which completes Observation Deck's public areas, overlooks Nieuw Amsterdam's bow and features a collection of Nieuw Amsterdam memorabilia dating back to the original ship's 1906 launch and the heyday of Nieuw Amsterdam II, which carried the cream of international society between New York and Rotterdam in the post World War II era. A plush and quiet vantage point by day, the room transforms into a stylish dance club in the evening.

Kids are in control on Panorama Deck (deck 10), which features Club HAL®, the dedicated youth facilities and activities center offering supervised, age-appropriate programming for kids 3 to 12. And, because teens desire their own space, Holland America created The Loft, a hip lounge where teen-age cruisers can meet, have fun and hang out. The Loft is equipped with comfortable chairs and sofas, games and a new video editing facility, and is decorated as a typical New York street design of large murals featuring creations by top New York City graffiti artists, crosswalk, street signs, a real New York yellow cab and old-fashioned hot dog stand.

Lower Promenade's Explorer's Lounge continues Nieuw Amsterdam's New York theme with a stunning wall-to-wall mixed media collage of the 17th Century New York City skyline by Dutch artist Harald Vlugt. The room also features sculpture and decorative accessories from New York's early Native American and European inhabitants. Lower Promenade also includes a fully equipped Casino, offering 116 slots, blackjack, roulette, craps and a variety of poker games. Located adjacent is the Casino Bar, highlighted by a display of large-format contemporary and classic photographs of New York City (NYC) street scenes, sports icons, and American and Dutch celebrities. The NYC-centric decor is continued in the nearby Piano Bar, which also features live keyboard music.

Nieuw Amsterdam's soaring Atrium (pictured above in an artist's rendering) is highlighted by a majestic telescoping chandelier designed to honor New York City's iconic skyline. The LED-equipped chandelier is lit in an ever-varying spectrum of rich colors.

Built at Fincantieri's Marghera yard near Venice, Italy, the 2,106-guest Nieuw Amsterdam will sail its maiden voyage July 4, 2010. After several 12-day Mediterranean sailings, Nieuw Amsterdam embarks on a fall crossing of the Atlantic for the warmth of the Caribbean with 7-day eastern and western island itineraries from Nov 2010 through March of the next year. For more information on Nieuw Amsterdam, visit

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cunard Line Announces 2011 Program

Combining 170 years of experience with the youngest, luxury fAdd Imageleet at sea—flagship Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and the soon-to-be-launched Queen Elizabeth—Cunard has announced its most extensive range of voyages to date, with a greater choice of itineraries, departure dates, and overnight stays. Guests will have more opportunities to experience the new golden age of ocean travel with the classic traditions and legendary White Star Service for which Cunard is renowned.

The line’s flagship, Queen Mary 2, will continue to offer extended Transatlantic Crossings between New York and Southampton, as well as to Hamburg; Queen Victoria will journey across the Atlantic for a second Americas season in early 2012; and new to the voyage schedule will be visits to the Holy Land aboard both Queen Victoria and the new Queen Elizabeth.

“Three new ocean liners in just six years demonstrates the deep resonance of the Cunard brand to guests looking for the best in luxury cruising and the ability to experience a unique sense of heritage and tradition,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “With the addition of Queen Elizabeth, we can now offer guests even more legendary voyage options, featuring the signature Cunard ocean travel experience.”

Queen Mary 2: The grandest ocean liner at sea, Queen Mary 2 will continue to offer her legendary Transatlantic Crossings in 2011, sailing 21 in total, with most voyages now seven days between New York and Southampton. Eight- and nine-day extended Crossings between New York and Hamburg also will be available. In addition, “Grand” voyage options are available, roundtrip from New York, combining classic European itineraries with a Crossing on either side.

Guests on the elongated Crossings will enjoy additional time to explore the extensive onboard offerings, including lectures through the award-winning Cunard Insights programme; stargazing in the only planetarium at sea; afternoon tea served in the Queens Room or a spin around the dance floor during a Royal Nights themed ball; taking in a performance or workshop by members of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art; or perusing the 8,000 volumes in the largest library at sea.

Queen Mary 2 also will offer two voyages to the Atlantic Isles and Iberia, seven voyages in Northern Europe with trips to Norway from Southampton and Hamburg, and an 8-day Around the British Isles voyage. After her annual Getaway for the Fourth of July holiday, she returns to New York in the fall for an enhanced 10-day Canada & New England voyage, which now features an overnight stay in Quebec, and in December, a holiday-timed Caribbean Celebration.

Queen Victoria: Queen Victoria once again begins her 2011 season with a series of voyages to the Mediterranean and Canary Islands, roundtrip from Southampton. Additionally, she will offer five voyages to Northern Europe, including two 12-day St. Petersburg & Baltic Capitals itineraries which feature overnight stays in St. Petersburg, and a new Gallic Overture voyage, taking in Ireland, France and Spain. After repositioning to Venice at the end of the summer, she will once again be based in the Mediterranean for a series of 12-day sailings between Venice, Rome and Athens. These popular itineraries cover the very best of the region, including one voyage to the Black Sea, three voyages to Turkey and the Greek Isles, and two voyages to Egypt and the Greek Isles, with most featuring an overnight in either Istanbul or Venice.

New for 2011 is a Holy Land Explorer voyage, offering calls in Egypt and Israel. The 12-day voyage, roundtrip from Rome, provides the opportunity to visit historic Cairo, Jerusalem and Galilee. Queen Victoria then journeys across the Atlantic to start her second Americas season in 2012. In addition to a return of the 17-day voyage from Los Angeles to New York, she will offer three 15-day Panama Canal transits between Los Angeles and Ft. Lauderdale, two 14-day voyages to Hawaii, and an 11-day partial Canal voyage roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale. She will then head back across the Atlantic on an eight-day Transatlantic Crossing.

Queen Elizabeth: The eagerly anticipated 2011 maiden voyages for Queen Elizabeth will offer a wide-ranging series of itineraries in Europe and beyond from her home port of Southampton, with a total of 52 maiden calls in her first full season. Included in next year’s line-up are four sailings to the Mediterranean and one Voyage to the Holy Land, which includes calls in Jerusalem, Galilee and Cairo. Also available will be a series of 14-day Baltic voyages that include a full day and overnight call in St. Petersburg, two 7-day Fjord departures, an 11-day voyage to the North Cape, a maiden Around the British Isles voyage, plus a number of voyages to the Atlantic Isles and Canary Islands. Rounding out her 2011 season will be a series of 5-day Getaway voyages and two visits to the United States on roundtrip voyages from Southampton. Growing interest in overnight calls will see the newest Cunarder also stay overnight in Amsterdam, Venice, New York, and Quebec.

See Cunard’s 2011-2012 voyage schedule online for complete details. Reservations for Cunard’s 2011 and 2012 voyages will open for booking on Apri 26l for Cunard World Club Members and April 27 for non-members. For more information and to book a voyage, consult your Travel Professional, call toll-free 1-800-7-CUNARD, or visit

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Celebrity Silhouette Takes Shape

Before boarding Celebrity Eclipse on Wednesday evening, our group was invited in side Meyer Werft shipyard to witness the next all-important step in the progress of Celebrity Cruises' Solstice Class. As the first steel was cut for Celebrity Silhouette, building of the fourth vessel in the series has begun.

It may only look like a slab of steel right now, but it won't be long before Celebrity Silhouette takes the place of Celebrity Eclipse as the tallest building in Papenburg.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Celebrity Eclipse, The “Conveyance”

The village of Papenburg, Germany has one less “high rise” at the edge of town today.

Celebrity Eclipse sailed from the Meyer Werft shipyard on schedule Thursday morning at 9:00am for its “conveyance”—backwards—up the River Ems. The tugs were in place and, from our viewing area on the outside deck aft of the Oceanview Café on Deck 14, we could hear the sounds of “Time to Say Goodbye” as the Eclipse’s horn signaled our departure.

It was an exciting event and one that was actually moved forward a day due to the weather forecast. We boarded Celebrity Eclipse on Wednesday night and, while Thursday was a somewhat overcast morning, the crisp air was perfectly still, as it has to be for a successful conveyance. Ships the size of Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-class, of which the Celebrity Eclipse is the third, move at a sedate 4 knots up the river to dock in Eemshaven, The Netherlands to prepare for sea trials. Winds and tide levels are crucial to a successful 22 kilometer conveyance.

Asked how wide and how deep the river must be, Mr. Bernard Meyer, the managing partner of Meyer Werft smiles and responds, “Wide enough and deep enough.” He notes that the absence of wind is critical because a ship the size of Celebrity Eclipse acts like a giant sail in heavy winds on the river. When you see how truly narrow the locks and bridges are—with mere feet on either side of the ship’s hull—it’s easy to admire the skill of the tugboat captains and Celebrity Eclipse’s captain.

And so, with thousands of spectators lining the riverbanks, and bicyclists actually “passing” us on the roadway, we reached our destination on time and with the paint on Celebrity Eclipse’s hull intact.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience as you can tell from the images below. Who’d have ever guessed my first river “cruise” would be on an ocean-going cruise ship?

On the river, with a tug guiding Celebrity Eclipse stern first:

Below: Celebrity Eclipse passes through Meyer Werft lock

Below: Passage of the bridge in Weener, where a section has been removed temporarily

Below: Passage of Jann Berghaus Bridge (drawbridge), Leer

Cruising in South America

The recent devasating earthquake in Chile has brought that country, and much of South America under closer scrutiny lately. To most North Americans, the continent is quite exotic and fairly unknown.

While most South America cruises tend to be lengthy—if you have trouble adjusting to travel due to the negative effects of jet lag, South America voyages are ideal—you often travel in the same time zone as your hometown when visiting countries there. Not having to overcome jet lag means you can hit the ground running and get the most out of your vacation from the moment your plane lands.

Research is high on my list of things to do when preparing for a cruise to foreign ports. Guidebooks are naturally a good place to start, as is the Internet. However, one of the best sources of information is someone who's already been there. In my case, I began my research for a cruise to South America in my own kitchen by interviewing my husband. Mel, who traveled extensively throughout South America for over a decade. To give me a start, Mel compiled some Tips for South America Cruise Travel.

Whether you choose to discover South America on a cruise along the Atlantic, Pacific, or both coasts, plan to spend some time before or after your cruise meeting the locals and sampling the beach, cuisine, and nightlife of South America's treasures. BrazilMax, an award-winning online travel guide to South America's largest country focuses on what they call roots tourism–eco, cultural, historical, rural, adventure, business, etc. Their aim is to help travelers plan their trips and better understand Brazilian society and culture.

Easily one of the world's most recognizable landmarks, Christo Redentor (pictured above) is an icon to the warmth of Brazil.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's Cruise Diva Doing In Germany?

For a change of pace, I’m not at sea. Not exactly, that is.

I’ve gone to Germany, Papenburg to be exact, to the Meyer Werft shipyard to board Celebrity Eclipse for the “Conveyance.” This milestone event marks the first time this sophisticated, new Solstice Class ship sets sail from Meyer Werft shipyard and cruises—backward!—down the River Ems, with tens of thousands of area residents lining the riverbanks to watch and cheer her on.

Not your typical “river cruise,” the conveyance promises to be quite an experience. While Celebrity Eclipse hasn't been completely fitted out, and still has sea trials ahead of her after reaching Emshaven, Netherlands, I'll be reporting my impressions.

Also on board will be the ten winners of Celebrity’s “Eclipse of a Lifetime” sweepstakes, which drew more than 200,000 entrants. Our Celebrity Cruises hosts scheduled to be on hand include President & CEO Dan Hanrahan and VP of Culinary Operations Jacques Van Staden, who is sure to talk about Qsine, the new dining venue on Celebrity Eclipse.

I have my camera in hand, so check back for updates. Depending on the weather, we'll either stay onboard Celebrity Eclipse tomorrow or disembark and head to Amsterdam.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Where's Cruise Diva?

Every year, about 300,000 tourists come to Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany to see first hand how state-of-the-art shipbuilding works and I'm about to join their ranks. Tourists are particularly captivated by the huge luxury cruise ships and the complex production line at the shipyard and so, in cooperation with the Papenburg Tourism Ltd, a Visitors Center is operated to provide a detailed insight into the production process at the yard by means of exhibits, videos, a mock-up cabin, etc. And every time a ship is conveyed down the river Ems, large crowds are attracted to witness this spectacular event.

Are you interested in visiting Meyer Werft? If the web cam on their Internet site has whetted your appetite, simply book your tour, check out the Visitors Center, and get a close look at the cruise ships under construction in the building docks of the yard.

From 1995 to the present, Meyer Werft has delivered five Century- and Solstice-class cruise ships to Celebrity Cruises. Until 1996 the Mercury and Galaxy were the biggest cruise ships built in Germany, which was a great success for Meyer Werft and the country's ship building industry. This weekend will see Celebrity Eclipse, the fourth of Celebrity's Solstice-class ships, leave Meyer Werft for a conveyance and Cruise Diva will be on board.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

10 New & Exciting Theme Cruises

An exciting slate of new theme cruises is awaiting just over the horizon. No matter where your interests lie, there is most likely a theme cruise out there just waiting for you. Sail with luminaries and other guests who share your passions.

These cruises, and many more, can be found at, which is designed to provide a comprehensive search portal for travelers interested in taking part in one of the many theme cruises currently available:
  1. Sail with Pat Conroy: Pat Conroy uses stories to explore the great themes of life. His honesty and his remarkable command of the language of the heart have won him devoted readers around the world. (April 17, 2010; Crystal Cruises)
  2. Michelin-Star Chefs: Tom Aikens - Youngest British chef ever awarded two Michelin Stars; owner of Tom Aikens Restaurant in the U.K., named eighth best restaurant in the world. (Sept 17, 2010; Crystal Cruises); Michael Mina - Founder of the Mina Group, with 11 concept restaurants including two-Michelin-Starred Michael Mina in San Francisco. (Sept 5, 2010; Crystal Cruises)
  3. Guiding Light Cruise: So Long Springfield: The "So Long Springfield at Sea" cruise will bid farewell to the soap opera "Guiding Light" (July 31, 2010; Carnival Cruise Line)
  4. Air Supply: Featuring Christopher Cross and John Waite, for fans of these '70's iconic performers, this is a can't miss event. (Oct 31, 2010; Royal Caribbean)
  5. Great Alaska Marathon Cruise: Run the world's only staged maritime marathon! Every day brings a new distance, new terrain and new racing experiences. By the end of the week you'll have run the marathon distance (26.2 miles) and have seen some of the world's most beautiful landscapes. Finally, a running vacation. (July 11, 2010; Holland America Line)
  6. "little people - BIG SHIP": Celebrity Fan Cruise with Amy Roloff - Amy has become well known from her show on the Discovery Channel: "little people - BIG WORLD." (June 26, 2010; Royal Caribbean)
  7. Bon Appétit Travel Series: Kurt Gutenbrunner -This hosted sailing will provide guests with the opportunity to enjoy private events with the celebrated guest chef on board exclusively for this group. Mix and mingle with Chef Gutenbrunner during exclusive epicurean experiences and interactive demonstrations that will reflect the taste and style of the region, as well as his own culinary character. (Oct 9, 2010; Regent Seven Seas Cruises); Shaun Hergatt - Executive Chef and Partner of SHO, Chef Hergatt, brings his passion for hospitality and his stellar culinary background to this unique Bon Appétit Travel Series cruise. His distinctive style of boldly flavored, innovative dishes based on the flavors of Australia has won praise in the US and abroad. (Sept 22, 2010; Regent Seven Seas Cruises)
  8. Malt Shop Memories Cruise: A 4-night cruise highlighting music from the 1950s and '60s. Appearances include Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Lesley Gore, The Original Drifters, The Platters and Lou Christie. DJ Jerry Blavat, also known as the "Geator with the Heater," serves as host of the cruise and emcee of special events. (May 13, 2010; Carnival Cruise Line)
  9. The Swingers Cruise: We're not talking about dancing! (Jan 23, 2011; Windstar Cruises)
  10. Dr. Ruth Westheimer: Dr. Ruth is a psychosexual therapist who pioneered speaking frankly about sexual matters on radio with her program, Sexually Speaking. (July 6, 2010; Cunard Line)

And last, but certainly not least... a somewhat controversial theme cruise returns to sea:

  • 3rd International Cougar Cruise: Come join the 3rd International Cougar Cruise, for younger men/older women! (Dec 3, 2010; Norwegian Cruise Line)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Exceptional Booking Volumes Spurs Fare Increases For NCL

This may be a trend in the making, so you might want to start making your cruise vacations a bit sooner than later.

Only a little over a week after Carnival Cruise Lines announced upcoming fare increases spurred by strong booking numbers, Norwegian Cruise Line reports they too experienced an unprecedented year-to-date increase in booking volume during their “Year of the Freestyle Vacation” wave season promotion in January and February. In addition, group business was up close to twofold. The company also saw a strong interest in its new ship debuting in June, Norwegian Epic, and for its Hawaii-based ship, Pride of America. Because of this demand, prices are set to increase fleet wide up to seven percent as of Thursday, April 2, 2010. That’s 2 percent higher than the “up to 5 percent” announced by competitor Carnival.

“Our first quarter wave season promotion definitely persuaded consumers to book a Norwegian cruise vacation as we saw heavy call volumes translating to exceptional bookings,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line chief executive officer. “As we move out of wave season, consumers and travel partners can expect to see our prices rise across the fleet, especially for our new, highly anticipated ship Norwegian Epic.”

About Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line is the innovator in cruise travel with a 43-year history of breaking the boundaries of traditional cruising, most notably with the introduction of Freestyle Cruising which has revolutionized the industry by allowing guests more freedom and flexibility. Today, Norwegian has the youngest fleet in the industry with 10 purpose-built Freestyle Cruising ships, providing guests the opportunity to enjoy a relaxed cruise vacation on the newest, most contemporary ships at sea.Norwegian is presently building Norwegian Epic, the company’s largest and most innovative Freestyle Cruising ship to date, for delivery in June 2010. Norwegian Cruise Line is the official cruise line of Blue Man Group, debuting for the first time at sea on Norwegian Epic. For more information on Norwegian or to book a cruise, call 866-234-7350, visit ,or phone a travel professional.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Silver Spirit: Scheduled Departure From Valparaiso, Chile on March 8


We have been closely monitoring the situation in Chile and are pleased with the current progress. Based on the information we have received from our local ground operators, things are rapidly returning to normal in Santiago and the Silver Spirit is expected to depart Valparaiso as scheduled.

However, guests who have made independent flight arrangements to Santiago are urged to contact their travel agent or airline directly to reconfirm their schedule as flights are operating, but sometimes to an altered timetable. If you are a Silversea air/sea guest and have questions regarding the status of your flight to Chile, please contact our offices at 1-800-722-9955

Also, as a courtesy to embarking guests who may have difficulty with a transfer to Valparaiso, there will be limited transportation available from The Ritz-Carlton Hotel to the pier departing sharply a t 2:00PM on Monday, March 8. The ship will sail at 10:00pm as per our published schedule unless we know there are a large number of guests who are delayed and we have been provided this information.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Watch The MSC Magnifica Christening Live

The count-down is underway and even though most of us can't be in Hamburg in person, we can watch the christening of MSC Cruises' MSC Magnifica live on MSC Web TV. The christening celebration includes an evening (although it is afternoon here in the US) of entertainment and celebration both onboard and ashore through a live broadcast shown on two giant screens. Renowned Italian singer Eros Ramazzotti, adult contemporary/soft rock/pop artist, performs on stage during the christening while MSC Cruises' traditional godmother, Italian screen legend Sophia Loren, participates in the ribbon cutting. Ramazzotti is one of the most popular Italian singers and songwriters selling more than 40 million records in his 25-year career.

Get the popcorn ready and hare in the excitement of this terrific event today, March 6, at 2:30 PM (EST) live at

MSC Magnifica combines the intimacy of her three Musica Class sister vessels with the state-of-the-art facilities and comfort of the company's larger flagships. MSC Magnifica offers 16 bars and lounges, four restaurants. A magrodome making it possible to enjoy one of the four pools throughout the year regardless of the weather. Other features on board include a high-tech 4D cinema, mini-bowling alley, the Balinese inspired MSC Aurea Spa and more. The new addition to the MSC Cruises' fleet will sail the Eastern Mediterranean beginning March 20, for 7-night itineraries departing Venice, Italy and calling at Bari, Italy; Katakolon (Olympia) Greece; Izmir, Turkey; Istanbul, Turkey; and Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Open-Air BBQ on Carnival Dream is a Big Hit

A new open-air barbeque on The Lanai aboard the Carnival Dream has proven to be a huge hit, attracting upwards of 700 hungry passengers each day. Located along the ship’s expansive outdoor promenade, the new barbecue option was introduced a few weeks ago and features a variety of popular grilled items, from sliders and chicken to quesadillas and hot dogs, along with salads, homemade chips and salsa, and traditional barbecue accompaniments.

The new al fresco venue is just one of several casual dining choices on board Carnival Cruise Lines' newest and largest ship. The huge 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream also has a 1,700-seat poolside eatery called The Gathering that features an Indian tandoori, burrito bar, Mongolian wok station, a custom-made pasta venue, a New York-style deli, extensive salad and dessert bars, and Carnival’s ever-popular 24-hour pizzeria. These casual alternatives complement multi-course full service meals available in the Scarlet and Crimson main dining rooms and The Chef’s Art Steakhouse serving prime steaks and other fine cuisine.

Carnival Dream operates year-round 7-day Caribbean service from Port Canaveral, Florida, carrying an estimated 200,000 guests annually from that port.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Update on Star Princess Departure from Valparaiso, Chile

From Princess Cruises:

We can confirm that all passengers able to reach Star Princess are now onboard and the ship has prepared to sail from Valparaiso. Our decision to remain in Valparaiso was a necessary one due to the closure of the airport over the weekend and subsequent reduced flight schedules through today, and allowed many additional passengers to reach the ship.

This delayed departure does require us to alter the remainder of the itinerary. Regrettably, we will be dropping the ports calls of Punta Arenas and Stanley, and the scenic cruising of Cape Horn. The new itinerary will continue to call in Ushuaia on March 8, Montevideo on March 12, and Buenos Aires on March 13. For details of the times in each port, please contact Princess Reservations.

Passengers who were unable to join Star Princess in Valparaiso may continue to secure alternate flight arrangements and join the ship at one of the ports on the new itinerary. Princess Reservations is in the process of making call-outs to passengers, advising of this option. If you have made plans to join the ship, please contact Princess Reservations with your flight schedule and planned port of embarkation.

Again, we thank you for your patience and understanding and we hope you are able to join us onboard Star Princess.

Where In The World Is Copenhagen's Little Mermaid?

If your Baltic cruise includes a call in Copenhagen this year, you might be in for a disappointment. The Little Mermaid, Denmark's biggest tourist attraction and, for many visitors, the symbol of Copenhagen and Denmark won't be perched on her stone at Langelinie in Copenhagen Harbor. For 95 years she has greeted visitors from around the world, but now it is the little lady's turn to take a trip abroad. When the World Expo is held in Shanghai in 2010, it will be with The Little Mermaid as a main attraction.

She is a hard one to find a substitute for in Copenhagen, but Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has agreed to do the job. While The Little Mermaid is in Shanghai for the World Expo 2010 from May 1st to Oct 31st, an exchange installation by Weiwei, the Andy Warhol of China, will take her place in Copenhagen. His artwork can best be described as a multimedia installation, which registers, documents, and articulates the movements and changes that occur during the time The Little Mermaid is away. The installation is active around the clock and the reproduction of images happens in several layers at once. Incorporated in the piece are a number of technologies such as cameras and web connections.

Exact dates of the departure of The Little Mermaid and arrival of Ai Weiwei's art installation were yet to be announced last week; however, The Little Mermaid is expected to leave Copenhagen in April. Her presence at the Expo is a gesture of cultural generosity and also an invitation to a cultural dialogue between Denmark and China. While she is gone, visitors to Copenhagen will be able to see an original copy of the sculpture in Tivoli Gardens.

Rogue Waves Kill Two in Mediterranean

Two cruise ship passengers were killed when a 26-foot wave smashed into the Cypriot-owned Louis Majesty off the coast of France yesterday. A statement issued by the Greek coast guard says six other people suffered relatively minor injuries in the incident. It also says the freak "rogue"waves hit the ship near the Mediterranean port of Marseilles, France as the ship was sailing from Barcelona, Spain to Genoa, Italy with 1,350 passengers and 580 crew on board. The victims have been identified only as a German and an Italian man.

Louis Cruise Lines spokesman Michael Maratheftis told Fox News that the ship was hit by three "abnormally high" waves up to 26-ft high that broke glass windows in the vessel's forward section. The ship has safely returned to Barcelona where the injured could be treated in local hospitals.

Operated by Louis Cruise Lines, the 18-year-old Louis Majesty sailed for years as Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Majesty until it was retired from the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet last October.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Celebrity Eclipse Makes Her First Public Appearance

In order to witness the next solar eclipse, you have to wait until July 11, 2010. But if you’re in the area of Papenburg, Germany, you can catch a glimpse of Celebrity Eclipse right now.

The third in Celebrity Cruises' stylish, $3.7-billion Solstice Class fleet, Celebrity Eclipse showed off her sleek profile Sunday as she emerged for the first time from the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Celebrity Eclipse will enter service April 26 and, following two "short break" cruises, will offer a series of Canary Islands, Scandinavia/Russia, and Spanish Mediterranean sailings roundtrip from Southampton, England. The new vessel will offer Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Miami beginning in November.

I'll get a first look late next week when I board Celebrity Eclipse for the "conveyance," as she sets sail backwards on the River Ems from the shipyard. Although the ship won't be totally complete at that time, hopefully the Internet service will be up and running for daily blog reports.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Important information for passengers on Star Princess March 2nd voyage from Valparaiso

Statement From Princess Cruises:

We have appreciated your patience over the past few days. We wish to confirm that Star Princess will sail from Valparaiso on Thursday, March 4 at 12:00 noon. We have made the decision to delay embarkation in order to provide additional time for our passengers to reach the ship. Embarkation will begin 8:00am on Thursday, March 4 and the ship will leave midday Thursday on a journey to Rio de Janeiro. Once the departure time is confirmed and the ship is underway, the Captain will make announcements as to the impact on the remainder of the itinerary.

For passengers still at home, we encourage you to continue to work with the airlines to rebook your flight to arrive in Santiago on or before 8:00am on Thursday, March 4. For those passengers with Princess Air, we're working with the availability given by the airlines to attempt to book flights when they become available.

For passengers in Chile, please arrive at the pier in Valparaiso at 8:00am on Thursday for embarkation. Due to earthquake-related port congestion, Star Princess has moved from the pier to an anchorage position in the port of Valparaiso. The ship will remain at this anchorage position for the remainder of Tuesday, March 2 and for the full day of Wednesday, March 3. Therefore, we kindly request you arrive for embarkation at 8:00am on Thursday morning. If you have any questions or require additional information, please call our Chilean ground handler at 09 7 897 27 85. Again we thank you for your patience and understanding and we hope you are able to join us on board Star Princess.

Star Princess in Valparaiso, Chile: Updated Status

Statement from Princess Cruises:

Star Princess arrived in Valparaiso, Chile—the terminus of a 12-day South America/Cape Horn cruise—as scheduled this morning, Tuesday, March 2. Because air flights are continuing to operate in and out of Santiago on a limited basis over the next several days, we recognize that passengers are having difficulties reaching Star Princess as planned. Therefore we will hold the ship in Valparaiso until noon on Thursday, March 4, giving arriving passengers additional time to meet the ship.

At that time, Star Princess will depart on a revised itinerary for the next cruise, calling at the ports of Ushuaia, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and ending in Rio de Janeiro on March 16. Passengers who are able to embark Star Princess in Valparaiso at the time of sailing on March 4 will sail on the revised itinerary, and will be advised after departure on their cruise details.

Passengers who are currently onboard Star Princess and are unable to fly home because of limited air flights, have two options. They can disembark the ship as planned on March 2, or they can remain onboard for the next cruise (for a charge of $50 per person, per day for standard inside or outside staterooms and $75 per person, per day for balconie accommodations and above), and can disembark from any of the ports on the sailing up to and including Buenos Aires.

We are providing updates to passengers as we receive new information, and we appreciate their patience and understanding as we manage this unforeseen situation. In the meantime, our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragic earthquake in Chile.

MSC Cruises Signs Letter of Intent for MSC Favolosa in 2012

A mere three days after the MSC Magnifica flag ceremony at the STX Europe shipyard in Saint-Nazaire (France), MSC Cruises signed a letter of intent for the delivery of a new ship in June 2012, to join the eleven new vessels built over the past seven years. MSC Cruises’ worldwide CEO, Pierfrancesco Vago, said, “We are immensely proud to announce the signature of a letter of intent for the building of a new ship, MSC Favolosa.” Measuring 1,094 feet in length and 125 feet wide, MSC Favolosa will have 1,751 staterooms and be able to travel at speeds of up nearly 24 knots.

Award-winning naval architects De Jorio Design International is once again designing the newest addition to the Fantasia class. The ship will herald a state-of-the-art concept in space management. Two additional lifts to improve flow of the guests and a total redesign of decks and restaurants to offer guests on board unprecedented comfort and the highest space ratio per guest. The MSC Yacht Club, this “ship within a ship,” will be enlarged and redesigned as well as the Aft Lounge, adults-only area surrounding the Aft Infinity Pool, the casino and the disco.

To achieve the highest environmental standards, substantial investments will onboard also include more efficient evaporators, chillers, a new generation of propulsor motors, and an additional bow thruster to improve maneuverability.

For more information about MSC Cruises, visit the MSC Cruises USA website, call 877-665-4655, or contact a local travel professional.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Update on Star Princess Turnaround in Valparaiso, Chile: March 2

Statement from Princess Cruises:

Star Princess will end its current cruise in Valparaiso, Chile as scheduled on Tuesday morning, March 2. The cruise terminal is open and operational.

The airport there is operating on a very limited basis, and the vast majority of inbound and outbound flights have been cancelled. We are closely monitoring the situation.

Should the airport remain closed on Tuesday, we plan to keep Star Princess is Valparaiso for at least another 24 hours so our passengers who are unable to fly out, will be able to stay onboard until flight operations resume. Passengers who are already in Valparaiso will also be able to embark and stay on board the ship.

At this point we plan to operate the following cruise, which is sailing to Rio de Janeiro. We will keep passengers informed of any changes to the itinerary, but the earliest we would sail from Valparaiso would be Wednesday, March 3 at 6 pm.

Passengers who have booked their outbound or inbound air through Princess are being re-booked, and any modification to pre- or post packages have been taken care of.

For passengers onboard who had made independent travel plans in Valparaiso, we have assisted them by checking on the status of their hotel, and have provided them with this information.

This is a fluid situation and can change at any time. We are continuing to provide updates to our passengers as we receive new information.

Oceania Marina Floats Out & Welcomes A Baby Sister Ship

According to Frank Del Rio, chairman and CEO of Oceania Cruises’ parent company Prestige Cruise Holdings, “The only thing better than one new ship is two new ships.” So, to kick off the float-out of Oceania Cruises’ new 65,000-ton, 1,258 passenger Marina at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy last week, the cruise line celebrated by starting construction of its sister ship on the very same day. Marina is scheduled to begin service in January 2011 and her sister ship, to be named Riviera, will launch in April 2012.

Marina is the first new ship purpose-built for Oceania and promises upscale new features. Unusual for a mid-size cruise ship, Marina will have ten dining venues, including six specialty restaurants for which there are no surcharges. Highlighting the importance of food, Marina will also boast a Culinary Center where instructor chefs will hold culinary demonstrations and classes. Libraries are an outstanding feature of the trio of Oceania’s smaller ships and Marina’s library will take it up a notch by adding a coffee bar with a wall of windows overlooking the pool deck. The pool itself will feature double chaises with canopies and flowing curtains for a South Beach vibe.

A leader in the trend for luxury beds afloat, Oceania will introduce a new bedding system aboard Marina. The new Prestige Imperial bed, will eventually be rolled out fleetwide. The mattress will feature a 1.5-inch layer of memory foam, topped by a 2 inch thick a gel cushion, and wrapped with chamomile-infused padding. Bedding will include 1,000-thread count sheets in suites and Concierge-level staterooms. Standard accommodations will have 700-thread count sheets.

For additional information, call 800-531-5658 or visit Oceania Cruises online.