Friday, April 30, 2010

Princess Cruises Makes It "eZ" to Book Your Flights

Princess Cruises is introducing a completely re-designed, new generation air program giving passengers easy and full control of their flights and the ability to seamlessly coordinate them with their cruise itinerary. For the first time, Princess passengers will have access to real-time pricing and flight availability, immediate flight confirmation, competitive airfares, and something no major online air booking website offers–next port protection in the event of flight delays. The innovative Princess eZAir(SM) program provides passengers and their travel agents the ease of a single booking source for both air and cruise reservations, with all transactions conveniently accessed online.

Travelers using Princess eZAir can choose air carriers and flights, as well as select their preferred cabin level and seating, all with no extra customization fee. They can also order special meals, request a wheelchair and apply their frequent flyer number. And unlike air purchased through other online air booking websites, the line will assist Princess eZAir passengers with re-routing to the next port of call should they experience a flight delay that causes them to miss the ship’s departure.

“We’ve modernized our air program to give our passengers full control of their flight arrangements,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “Until now, passengers paid a set price for air and were given their flight details closer to sailing. Now they can plan their entire vacation as they wish, with real-time access to flights – and competitive airfares – that are compatible with their cruise and other travel plans.”

With Princess eZAir, cruise passengers can choose from two different air options – flexible and restricted – depending on the certainty of their travel plans. The flexible plan allows passengers to cancel or modify their reservation without charge, while the restricted option offers the benefit of a typically less expensive fare for those travelers who are comfortable with cancellation and change restrictions. Passengers can view both fare options side by side, so they can make the best choice for their vacation schedule.

Flexible Air Option – Passengers choosing the flexible air option will have the benefit of a fully refundable air ticket that can be changed without charge, giving them full freedom with their travel plans. Tickets are refundable up to 45 days before the flight.

Restricted Air Option – Passengers also have a choice of a typically lower-priced restricted option which is not refundable, and is subject to change fees. In addition, restricted air tickets must be paid for at the time of booking air to lock in the schedule and lower rate.

With Princess eZAir, flights can be purchased from approximately 330 days to four days before cruise departure. The new program will be in effect for virtually all Princess voyages sailing after Sept 1, 2010. Passengers with existing air bookings will automatically be transferred to the Flexible pricing option. Princess air flights can be booked through a professional travel agent or by calling 1-800-PRINCESS.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Carnival Promotion Offers Miltary Personnel Discounted Rates For Up To Three Staterooms

In honor of Memorial Day, Carnival Cruise Lines is offering a promotion throughout May that allows active and retired military personnel to book up to three “Fun Ship” staterooms at discounted rates for themselves and their friends and family members. Reservations must be made between May 1-31, 2010, to qualify for this special offer, which is available in conjunction with a wide range of 3- to 8-day “Fun Ship” departures through April 30, 2012, including voyages to The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, Canada, and New England.

Rates start at $219 per person for 3- and 4-day cruises; $299 per person for 5-day voyages; $389 per person for 6-day departures; $439 per person for 7-day voyages; and $549 per person for 8-day sailings. Voyages operate from 12 convenient year-round U.S. homeports along the east and west coasts and Gulf of Mexico, as well as seasonal departures from Seattle, New York, and San Diego.

“We’re very pleased to offer this special Memorial Day promotion to members of our country’s armed forces. It’s our way of recognizing their outstanding service to our country,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO.

The promotion is valid for individual bookings only, availability is capacity controlled and this promotion cannot be combined with other discount offers such as resident or senior rates, or past guest promotions. Eligible military personnel must sail to take advantage of this offer. Fare code PM1, PM2, or PM4 must be requested for the military guest’s cabin and PM3 for the two additional cabins during the reservations process. Military personnel must provide proof of service. Certain other restrictions apply. For additional information and reservations, call 1-800-327-9501 (individual) or 1-800-327-5782 (groups).

New Cruise Review: Star Princess in South America

When Vincent and Mary Finelli saw that the film “Flying Down to Rio” (Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers' first film together) was airing on TCM on March 11, 2010, they took it as a good omen as they were flying to Rio de Janiero that very same evening. Vincent said, “For months we had been telling everyone we were flying down to Rio, something we had been wanting to say for most of our lives. The glamour, the natural beauty, and the excitement of Rio are unparalleled in South America.”

What about flying home? There's just no fun in that, so let's join the Finellis as they enjoy the trip home aboard Star Princess in South America.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Carnival Adds Unique 'Spirit' to Mexican Riviera Cruises

Carnival Cruise Lines will introduce a new one-of-a-kind schedule from San Diego encompassing 5- and 9-day Mexican Riviera voyages aboard the 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit beginning Dec. 10, 2010.

On this unique program, 5-day cruises will visit the popular resort town of Cabo San Lucas for two full days. The 2-day visits to Cabo San Lucas were selected based on guest feedback requesting more time to enjoy this popular destination, which is highlighted by its distinctive rock formations, lush landscape, and aqua-blue waters teeming with tropical fish. Five-day cruises depart Sunday and return Friday, offering the ideal short cruise vacation at an attractive price.

Nine-day cruises depart Friday and return Sunday so guests can enjoy a longer cruise with more time in the ports of call, all within a typical weekend-to-weekend vacation period. In addition to a 2-day call in Cabo San Lucas, the 9-day cruises will also visit Puerto Vallarta, a charming city where guests can relax on white-sand beaches or stroll along the famed Malecon, a seaside walkway lined with restaurants, art galleries, and shops. Also featured is Mazatlan, known as the Pearl of the Pacific for its beautiful beaches, abundant marine life, and myriad fishing and diving opportunities. Rounding out the itinerary is La Paz, a sun worshippers’ paradise famous for its sportfishing, snorkeling and scuba diving, with white-sand beaches stretching the length of its waterfront. This is the first time La Paz has been featured as a regular stop on a Carnival itinerary.

Carnival Spirit will operate its new 5- and 9-day Mexican Riviera schedule through April 1, 2011. The Carnival Spirit will then offer its previously scheduled 12-day Hawaii cruises (April 10 and 22, 2011) and a full season of 7-day Alaska cruises departing from Seattle (beginning May 10, 2011).

The new 5- and 9-day cruises replace the Carnival Spirit’s previously scheduled 8-day Mexican Riviera program. Guests scheduled to sail on the 8-day voyages have the following options: switch to a new 9-day Mexican Riviera cruise with their 8-day cruise fare protected; re-book an alternate Carnival sailing and receive a $50 per person on-board credit; or cancel and receive a full refund.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Princess Maxima of the Netherlands to Name Holland America Line's ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Her Royal Highness Princess Maxima of the Netherlands will name Holland America Line's new Signature-class ship, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, in a ceremony in Venice, Italy on July 4, 2010. The 2,106-guest ship is the fourth to carry that name for the line and is being built by Italian shipyard Fincantieri-Cantieri Navali Italiani S.p.A. in Marghera, Italy. The naming ceremony will feature gala festivities in Venice, where an audience of special guests will witness an extravaganza of entertainment, the blessing of Nieuw Amsterdam and the traditional breaking of a champagne bottle across the ship's bow as the finale.

"The Dutch Royal Family is continuing a long and proud tradition of naming Holland America Line ships that started more than 80 years ago, and we are truly honored that Princess Maxima will name Nieuw Amsterdam," said Stein Kruse, president and chief executive officer of Holland America Line. "The naming ceremony will mark a signature moment in our company's 137-year history as Princess Maxima becomes godmother of Nieuw Amsterdam, which, with her sister-ship Eurodam, will share the distinction as the largest passenger ships ever to fly the Dutch flag."

Nieuw Amsterdam IV will be the 11th Holland America Line vessel launched by a member of the Dutch Royal Family. Previous ship dedications include ss Statendam III in 1929 by Prince Hendrik and ss Nieuw Amsterdam II in 1937 by Queen Wilhelmina. Then-Crown Princess Beatrix christened ss Statendam IV in 1957 as well as the ms Prinses Margriet in 1964. The ss Rotterdam V was launched in 1958 by Queen Juliana. Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet dedicated ms Prinsendam II in 1973, ms Nieuw Amsterdam III in 1983, ms Rotterdam VI in 1997, and ms Oosterdam in 2003. Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands served as ms Eurodam's godmother in 2008.

Princess Maxima was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 17, 1971, as Maxima Zorreguieta. She was engaged to His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, March 30, 2001 and on Feb. 2, 2002, Maxima wed Prince Willem-Alexander, who is Her Majesty Queen Beatrix's eldest child and first in line of succession to the throne. Upon her marriage, Maxima received the title Princess of the Netherlands.

Nieuw Amsterdam Defines 'Premium'
The second in the Signature-class series of vessels, Nieuw Amsterdam's décor features stylized design elements from its namesake New York City, luxurious appointments and amenities as well as all the hallmarks of the Holland America brand. Following its naming in Venice, Nieuw Amsterdam will sail several 12-day Mediterranean cruises, then embarks on an autumn trans-Atlantic crossing to the Caribbean, and will sail 7-day eastern and western island itineraries from Nov 2010 through March 2011. For more information on Nieuw Amsterdam, visit HollandAmerica.com.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Carnival Dream Cruise Review

Join Tim Hickey aboard Carnival Dream, from embarkation to debarkation and get his impression of the unique Cove Balcony accommodations.

Psst... did you know there is a "Hidden Observation Deck"? It may not remain a secret (or hidden) for long. Tim shares how to find it in his review.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It's North to Alaska in 2011 for Oceania's Regatta

The great land of Alaska will join the list of destinations visited on the award-winning itineraries of Oceania Cruises for summer 2011. Highlights include two full days of glacier cruising and a mix of marquee as well as off-the-beaten-path ports, the latter a hallmark of all Oceania Cruises' voyages.

Ten departures are designed to explore Alaska's Inside Passage in depth, including Sitka, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, plus less-visited outposts such as Kodiak, Homer and Hoonah. Depending on the itinerary, travelers will also cruise the awe-inspiring Hubbard Glacier, Gulf of Alaska, Tracy Arm and College Fjord.

Alaska-bound cruisers can choose from four exciting, new itineraries with two-for-one fares and free air:
  • Majestic Alaska: 14 days roundtrip from San Francisco, a maiden port for Oceania Cruises, visiting Victoria and Vancouver, BC; Sitka, Hoonah, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska; and Astoria, Ore. Departs May 12, Aug. 26.
  • Alaskan Grandeur: 12 days between San Francisco and Vancouver. Ports include Astoria and Victoria, as well as Wrangell, Juneau, Hoonah, Sitka and Ketchikan. Departs May 26, Aug. 4.
  • Frontiers & Glaciers: 10 days roundtrip from Vancouver, calling at Sitka, Hoonah, Kodiak, Wrangell and Ketchikan. Departs June 7, Aug. 4.
  • Glacial Wilderness: 12 days between Vancouver and Anchorage, with visits to Ketchikan, Wrangell, Juneau, Hoonah, Skagway, Sitka, Seward and Homer. Depart June 17 & 29, July 11 & 23.
"We are thrilled to add the 49th state to our growing slate of enriching itineraries," stated Frank Del Rio, Oceania Cruises' founder and chairman/CEO of parent company Prestige Cruise Holdings. "Our guests are always seeking destinations rich in history, culture, adventure and stunning scenery. The great state of Alaska delivers all of these points of interest and more. We would also like to thank Alaska's Governor, Sean Parnell, and the Alaska Legislature for their efforts to rollback the head tax on cruise passengers which was an important consideration in evaluating our deployment alternatives."

Travelers will discover Alaska aboard Oceania Cruises' 684-guest Regatta, an intimate ship acclaimed for its open-seating gourmet dining (no surcharges), luxurious public rooms and accommodations, and warm, attentive service. Oceania Cruises' maiden Alaska cruises go on sale April 28, 2010. For reservations or to order a brochure, contact a travel agent, visit OceaniaCruises.com or call toll-free at 800-531-5658.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Celebrity Eclipse: Mission Accomplished

Celebrity Eclipse, the latest premium cruise ship from Celebrity Cruises, returned yesterday to her homeport in Southampton from Bilbao, Spain, where she welcomed approximately 2,200 holidaymakers stranded by the travel disruption caused by the volcanic eruption in Iceland. The sailing replaced the previously-planned 2-day promotional cruise for travel partners and press from April 22-24.

Dan Hanrahan, President and CEO, Celebrity Cruises, said, "We're proud of our tradition of planning and implementing meaningful and memorable ship launches, but the launch of Celebrity Eclipse is truly unique. The atmosphere has been fantastic amongst the guests and our crew. Everyone feels they are part of something truly special."

Celebrity Cruises worked with tour operators Thomson, First Choice, Thomas Cook, Travel Counselors and the Co-operative Travel Trading Group to repatriate as many of their customers as possible. "We appreciate everything Thomson, First Choice, Thomas Cook, Travel Counselors and the Co-Operative Travel Group did to make the very quick turn around in Bilbao work so well," added Hanrahan. In addition, Celebrity made 50 staterooms available to Britons identified as having an urgent need to return to the UK. The travelers were organized with assistance from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's crisis team in Madrid.

Launch plans for Celebrity Eclipse are now continuing as planned with naming ceremonies in Southampton presided over by Godmother Emma Pontin, ocean-racing yachtswoman and breast cancer survivor, today. The naming celebration will coincide with a power walk to raise funds for the breast cancer charity Walk the Walk. The Celebrity SunWalk will see men and women in decorated bras walking a 5km and 10km route through Southampton, culminating in front of the new ship, all to raise both awareness and money.

Celebrity Eclipse is the first of Celebrity Cruises' ships to be based out of Southampton, and will welcome its first paying guests on 26 April 2010 prior to offering cruises through the summer to the Mediterranean and Canary Islands.

Cruising & Conservation: How Cruise Lines Commemorated Earth Day

Earth Day 2010 was celebrated this week on Thursday, April 22nd.. You may have done something “green” to recognize the date and you may have even booked a cruise. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) marked Earth Day 2010, the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day, by taking note of the industry’s continued environmental progress and innovation.

“Our industry recognizes and appreciates its responsibility to reduce our environmental impact on Earth Day—as we do every day,” said CLIA President and CEO Terry Dale. “The cruise industry has made great strides in CLIA’s 35 years to become a leader in the maritime industry through responsible practices and innovations that are reducing environmental impact. We are proud of the fact that while our industry has grown considerably over the years, our lines meet or exceed all domestic and international environmental standards, in part because we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in technology and innovation in recent years. We are proud of the significant progress we have made to protect the environment.”

This week, CLIA conducted an on-line social media poll regarding perspectives on cruising, the environment and green initiatives. While not a scientific research instrument, the survey found that onboard recycling efforts do not go unnoticed. The majority of respondents correctly guessed that cruise ships recycle up to 40% of all waste. However, most underestimated how much less waste passengers produce on a cruise ship compared to when they are at home. Waste minimization efforts by CLIA lines result in the average cruise passenger producing upwards of 70% less garbage while on board a cruise ship.

From simple actions passengers might notice, such as energy efficient LED light bulbs and high-efficiency appliances that reduce energy consumption, to more complex steps that are largely behind-the-scenes, such as plugging into shore-based power and installing solar panels that sustainably power on-board amenities, the cruise line industry is demonstrating its commitment to sound environmental stewardship. More information can be found at CruiseIndustryFacts.com.

Below are several noteworthy “above and below deck” initiatives CLIA collected from some of its member lines to highlight on Earth Day 2010.

DID YOU KNOW?
  • CLIA lines recycle over 79,000 tons of garbage in a given year largely including paper, plastic, aluminum cans and glass.
  • In addition to recycling, waste minimization programs are underway that result in the average cruise passenger producing upwards of 70% less garbage (1.5 lbs/day) than at home (4-5 lbs/day).
  • Reusable laundry bags are being used in guest staterooms, thus removing plastic laundry bags from the waste stream. This simple step can save thousands of bags each voyage.
  • Halogen and incandescent light bulbs have either been replaced on many lines or are being replaced with LED lights, which last 25 times longer, use 80% less energy, and generate 50% less heat.
  • Cruise lines are using ecological, non-toxic, slick hull coatings that save as much as 5% of fuel usage for propulsion.
  • Water re-use systems are at work that recycle engine cooling water for heating passenger cabins, and air conditioning water for use in laundry facilities and for deck washing.
  • Automated air conditioning systems monitor public spaces for passenger occupancy, which automatically shut off to conserve energy when passengers are not present.
  • Reflective window coatings have been designed especially for cruise ships that deflect sunlight and heat penetration, thus requiring less air conditioning to cool indoor spaces.
  • One line alone invested $400 million toward Research and Development over the last 10 years related to environmental protection.
  • Environmentally-sensitive lubricants are being used for engine systems that biodegrade more than 60% in 28 days compared to conventional marine lubricants, which can take up to a year to biodegrade 50%.
  • Water conserving ice machines on cruise ships require less water by injecting air pockets into ice cubes, which freeze faster and also consume less energy than traditional ice machines.
  • The industry has partnered with Conservation International to serve as an environmental stewardship advisor, helping CLIA member lines consider new initiatives to protect the environment.
To protect the marine environment in which the industry operates and as a condition of membership in CLIA, all member lines adopt and comply with the CLIA Waste Management Practices and Procedures. These practices and procedures were designed specifically to minimize the industry’s environmental impact and in fact, in some instances, go above and beyond state, federal, and international requirements. For instance, while not required to do so, CLIA members as a policy treat all blackwater (sewage) before it is discharged anywhere in the world with U.S. Coast Guard approved wastewater treatment technology. Additionally, many lines are in various stages of employing advanced wastewater purification systems (AWPS) that produce water cleaner than what is discharged from most municipalities.

In early 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new and expanded rules under the Vessel General Permit System that regulate all vessel discharges, including those not previously covered by the U.S. Clean Water Act. The EPA’s Vessel General Permit program regulates no less than 26 discharges incidental to the normal operation of vessels, encompassing even rain water runoff and engine cooling water. Everything discharged into U.S. waters from commercial ships is now regulated. In its December 2008 Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report, the EPA commended the cruise industry for its solid waste management practices, which surpass the practices of most municipalities in the U.S. The report concluded that the cruise ship industry's environmental standards are “designed to increase compliance with regulatory regimes, and in some cases incorporate voluntary standards and procedures that go beyond what is required by law or regulation.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

A West Coast Loss is Ultimately a Gulf Coast Gain

The big news in ship deployment this week is Royal Caribbean Intl's announcement that Mariner of the Seas will be leaving its Los Angeles homeport, effective in January 2011. While repositioning, Mariner of the Seas will offer a short South America season before debuting in the Mediterranean as Royal Caribbean’s record-setting 11th ship in the region for summer 2011. Mariner of the Seas will homeport at Rome (Civitavecchia) from March through Oct 2011, replacing Splendour of the Seas, which will now homeport in Venice, offering 10- and 11-night Greek Isles and Turkey itineraries for the season.

Mariner of the Seas will then return to North America for the 2011-12 winter season, offering 7-night Western Caribbean itineraries from Galveston, Texas, replacing Voyager of the Seas. As a result, Voyager of the Seas will herald Royal Caribbean’s return to New Orleans in winter 2011-12, offering vacationers another Gulf Coast port to embark on a memorable 7-night Western Caribbean cruise.

Adam Goldstein, President and CEO Royal Caribbean Intl revealed yesterday in his "Why Not?" blog that, "Our deployment decision reflects both strategic and financial considerations. Royal Caribbean has had a major presence at the Port of Los Angeles and on the west coast of Mexico for many years with various ships and it is our hope to return in the not too distant future. Our preference would have been to continue to deliver Mariner of the Seas’ Mexico Riviera itinerary. Unfortunately, while the ship delivered great value to its guests on that itinerary, it will deliver superior performance for our shareholders as well as great value for our guests on the routes that we have announced."

Goldstein added, "One postscript from behind the scenes–in the days leading up to this announcement our team created and then implemented an entire communications strategy. We had to take into account local, regional and federal authorities in multiple countries including of course port authorities who will be affected by these changes whether favorably or unfavorably. Given that our ships move and that cruise industry trends and consumer preferences are dynamic, it’s critical that we maintain positive relationships around the world. While it’s not fun to call someone and tell them we are going to move our ship from their port, it’s better to let them know directly from us than for them to see it first online or in a newspaper."

Important Information for Booked Passengers:

Guests currently booked on Mariner of the Seas’ Mexican Riviera sailings from Jan 16, 2011, and onward will be contacted with the following offer. Until May 6, 2010, affected guests can opt for a full refund of any fares paid, or enjoy $200 onboard credit per stateroom ($400 per suite category stateroom) when they rebook their vacation, at the same fare or lower prevailing fare, on a Mariner of the Seas sailing before Jan 16, 2011, or on the same 2011 departure date aboard Voyager of the Seas, sailing from Galveston. More information is available at www.RoyalCaribbean.com/MarinerOfTheSeasRedeployment.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Carnival Ecstasy Avoids a Collision

Statement From Carnival Cruise Lines:

Yesterday, April 21, at approximately 12.55 pm U.S. central time, the cruise ship Carnival Ecstasy was forced to perform a maneuver to avoid an object in the water which resulted in the ship listing 12 degrees to the starboard side. The object was a large buoy which was adrift and mostly submerged thereby preventing it from being detected by the ship’s radar. The Carnival Ecstasy was on the final leg of a 5-day cruise that departed Galveston, Texas, on Saturday, April 17 with stops in Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico and was carrying approximately 2,340 passengers and 900 crew.

The movement of the vessel resulted in minor injuries to 60 guests who were treated at the ship’s infirmary as well as some minor damage to merchandise and unsecured objects.

The vessel docked this morning in Galveston, Texas, as scheduled. All proper authorities, including the U.S. Coast Guard have been notified.

Carnival sincerely apologizes for the distress and discomfort this occurrence has caused our guests. The safety, comfort, and care of our guests and crew is our top priority.

Disney Cruise Line Europe Travel Advisory

For those Guests traveling April 24, 2010, onboard the Disney Magic sailing from Barcelona, Spain:
  • We continue to monitor airport closures related to the volcanic activity in Iceland very closely.
  • The Disney Magic is scheduled to depart as planned.
  • At this time, we do not anticipate guests who have booked their flights through Disney Cruise Line to be impacted by these airport closures.
  • Should the situation continue, if needed, our Air/Sea team will work directly with guests who booked their air arrangements with us to re-route or re-schedule flights.
  • Independent air guests should work directly with their air carrier or travel agent to make modifications to their arrangements if needed and notify us of any changes in their air schedule.

Princess Cruises Launches New “World of Savings” Promotion on Global Itineraries

Princess Cruises has launched a new “World of Savings” promotion that offers customers significant discounts on select 2010 voyages to many of the line’s worldwide destinations, including cruises to Asia & Africa, Canada & New England, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii & the South Pacific, and the Panama Canal. The promotion runs through May 31 and features savings of up to $1,000 per couple off Launch Fares.

“Princess ships cover the globe, and these new savings give passengers a compelling opportunity to experience first-hand why Princess is the industry’s destination leader,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president.

Examples of World of Savings starting fares include:

• Asia & Africa: 15 days from $1,599 per person
• Canada & New England: 7 days from $549 per person
• Caribbean: 7 days from $499 per person
• Europe: 7 days from $1,099 per person
• Hawaii & South Pacific: 10 days from $1,099 per person
• Panama Canal: 10 days from $899 per person

The World of Savings promotion is available to residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Additional information about the promotion is available at Princess.com/worldofsavings.page.

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.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Norwegian Epic Celebrates Earth Day By Supporting Sea Life

In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, 2010, Norwegian Cruise Line announced it will donate $5 for every Norwegian Epic booking made that day to help support the Officer Snook Water Pollution Program/Youth Environmental Programs, Inc., specifically the organization’s sea turtle release program. Officer Snook educational programming is included in Norwegian’s Kids Crew programs across the fleet. Children of all ages who participate in Norwegian’s Kid's Crew can learn about the importance of clean water, and the effects and prevention of marine pollution.

Norwegian Epic, Norwegian's largest and most innovative Freestyle cruise ship (pictured above during sea trials), will feature several environmentally-friendly features particularly in its heating and cooling, lighting, garbage handling, sewage and glazing systems. In an effort to further support the environment and the regions in which the ship will sail, Norwegian is saluting the Office Snook Water Pollution Program/Youth Environmental Programs Inc.'s sea turtle release event and donating $5 for every deposited booking made on April 22 for any of Norwegian Epic’s scheduled sailings through April 7, 2012.

"We support the environment by incorporating the most environmentally-friendly equipment on board and utilizing 'green' practices wherever possible," said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. "We also try to instill positive environmental habits amongst our young cruisers and Officer Snook has been a great partner that has helped us educate millions of kids. It's our honor to support them and the waters and sea life where Norwegian Epic will sail."

Guests who have not yet booked a trip on Norwegian Epic can now do so and support a worthy cause. Simply call 866-234-7350, visit Epic.NCL.com, or contact a travel professional on April 22, book your cruise (with deposit), and Norwegian will donate $5 per reservation to sea turtle release and water pollution educational programs.

Originally known by its project name “F3” Cruise Diva charts Norwegian Epic’s progress:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Celebrity Eclipse Rescue Mission Update

LONDON, April 20, 2010: Celebrity Eclipse, the new GBP500 million cruise ship from Celebrity Cruises, will set sail from Southampton this evening (April 20) on a rescue mission to collect stranded UK holidaymakers from Bilbao, Spain. The voyage replaces the planned 2-day launch celebration cruise for VIPs originally scheduled to depart on Thursday (April 22).

Celebrity Cruises can now confirm that it is working specifically with TUI UK—the parent company of tour operators Thomson and First Choice—and also Thomas Cook and The Co-operative Travel Group (CTTG) on this sailing. By working with these four major tour operating brands we are able to maximise the help we can give. Thomson, First Choice, Thomas Cook and CTTG have the infrastructure in place to transport as many customers as possible, from across Spain, to Bilbao.

Unfortunately, we cannot help everybody. Celebrity Eclipse can only make one repatriation sailing and our Bilbao pick up will be restricted to customers of Thomson, First Choice, Thomas Cook and CTTG who have been allocated a space aboard the ship. We are advising customers of other tour operators to NOT turn up at the port in the hope of travelling with Celebrity Eclipse. Whilst we want to get as many people home as we can, we have to adhere to strict safety and security regulations. We are only able to transport customer travelling with First Choice, Thomson, Thomas Cook, and CTTG.

Celebrity Cruises understands that many more people have had their travel plans disrupted and we wish them a safe return home. Further travel advice is available from:

New Ship Celebrity Eclipse to Support UK Holidaymaker Repatriation Mission

To offer a hand to stranded U.K. citizens on holiday, new cruise ship Celebrity Eclipse has cancelled the first leg of her launch celebrations—scheduled to begin on April 22—in order to assist U.K. travelers whose return from their Easter break has been halted due to the impact of ash clouds from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in Iceland. Celebrity Cruises is working with U.K. tour operators to collect these stranded vacationers affected by the airport closures and subsequent flight cancellations that have affected travelers in Northern Europe.

Celebrity Eclipse will arrive in Southampton as scheduled at 9 am on Tuesday, April 20, 2010, and will depart that evening to Bilbao, Spain, where she is scheduled to arrive in the early hours of Thursday, April 22. Stranded travelers will join the ship throughout Thursday morning. The ship will return to Southampton, arriving late Friday evening. This sailing will replace the activities planned during the 2-night, round-trip launch celebration cruise from Southampton. On her new operation, Celebrity Eclipse will collect the delayed vacationers—some delayed by up to seven days—who were on package holidays with major U.K. tour operators. Over 2,000 travelers are currently expected to join Celebrity Eclipse in Bilbao.

"The events affecting air travel are completely unprecedented, and it is in times like these that the global travel industry needs to pull together," said Richard D. Fain, chairman of Celebrity Cruises and chairman and CEO of its parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "Collecting stranded British and Irish vacationers is a fitting first mission for new ship Celebrity Eclipse—what better way for a ship dedicated to the U.K. to mark her arrival? We hope that guests initially invited to join the launch celebrations on April 22 will understand the change of plan, and we look forward to welcoming as many of them as possible to the naming ceremony on April 24 instead."

Celebrity Cruises is working with major U.K. tour operators to try to assist with their challenge to repatriate as many of their customers as possible. Plans for Celebrity Eclipse remain fluid as the situation regarding reopening air space continues to change. Celebrity Cruises will continue to make updates as circumstances evolve.

The naming celebrations for Celebrity Eclipse are planned to go ahead unchanged, and she will be named by Hampshire yachtswoman and breast cancer survivor Emma Pontin late afternoon on Saturday, April 24. Celebrity Cruises is working to accommodate guests who were originally scheduled to join the 2-night launch celebration sailing on April 22 so they may now attend the 2-night naming celebration cruise on April 24 April. Celebrity Cruises will contact all affected guests directly.

Over the last few days the extraordinary closure of the U.K., Irish, and northern European airports affected around 6 percent of guests trying to join a Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean Intl, or Azamara Club Cruises vessel globally. This includes both those trying to complete return travel at the end of a cruise, or journeys to a ship to embark on a cruise. Guests booked on a fly/cruise package directly with Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean Intl, or Azamara Club Cruises, who were unable to join their sailing, are being offered alternative travel arrangements to join the ship mid-cruise, if possible. If this cannot be achieved, guests are being offered a full refund of their cruise fare in the form of a future cruise credit or an alternative fly/cruise. Fly/cruise guests who booked with a tour operator, and not directly with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., should contact their booking partner.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. will work with cruise-only guests who have not booked as part of a package to file a claim with their travel insurance and contact the airline they booked with directly. Whenever possible, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is making every effort to assist cruise-only guests with the information and services they require. Additional assistance to affected guests include offering day-room hotel accommodation, assistance booking hotel accommodation, and dedicated help desks in hotels and airports in impacted destinations.

Monday, April 19, 2010

How the Volcanic Ash Affects Royal Caribbean Ships

From the “Why Not?” Blog, Adam Goldstein, President and CEO Royal Caribbean Intl, addresses the volcanic ash situation that has snarled worldwide travel and how the cruise line is coping with the challenge.

Volcanic ash from Iceland has ascended over Europe and is affecting air travel to, from and within the region just as the new European cruise season is getting underway. This is proof that we had not yet seen “everything.” We are affected by the interaction of a still-erupting volcano and an uncertain wind and weather pattern. These factors are about as far beyond our control as is imaginable. As a result, we are dealing with this challenge on a day to day and even hour to hour basis. Our goal is to enable as many people as possible to board our ships before the ships must depart to maintain all or nearly all of their scheduled itineraries. While our primary focus is on the ships in Europe, there are also ships in the Caribbean and elsewhere that are expecting guests originating from Europe. We are hoping that the situation abates but working intensively on it while it persists.

This situation is obviously about far more than our issues or even the cruise industry’s issues. Besides airlines, it has implications for hotels, rental cars, trains, ferries, and every other element of travel and leisure. We need to take all of this into account.

As always, we protect our guests who have purchased air transportation through us. For example, guests who purchased air arrangements through Royal Caribbean and who were scheduled to travel on cruises departing on April 18th, and whose travel became impossible due to airport closures, will be provided a refund of their air fare and a Future Cruise Certificate in the amount of the cruise fare paid.

This situation presents much more complexity than what we usually face with downline protection for a limited number of guests. This bizarre set of circumstances is a powerful reminder of the benefits of purchasing travel insurance with trip cancellation protection. It’s impossible to generalize what coverage will be provided in this instance, but having coverage is very likely to be preferable to having no coverage.

While this is a “case of first impression” as the lawyers like to say, our key people know their roles and responsibilities in a situation and assume them seamlessly. Given the time difference between the US and Europe, the first conference call of each morning occurs at 5 a.m. Eastern time. We are obviously monitoring the progress of the cloud of debris as well as any pronouncements from national authorities about the implications of the situation on their airports and air flights. We discuss all of this by email and phone as a management team as each day unfolds and try to agree as quickly as possible on any information to post on our web site or issue in the form of a letter to our guests currently onboard.

Under the present strange circumstances we expect to deal with unforeseeable nuances every day. One issue that is more than a nuance is that our crew are affected as well, either not being able to go home or not being able to get to their ship. I’m sure we are far from alone in this.

"Freestyle Cruising" aboard Norwegian Pearl

When Norwegian Caribbean Line (Norwegian Cruise Line's original name) launched regularly scheduled cruises from Miami over forty years ago, the idea of a cruise vacation itself was innovative. Since 1966, you could say that Norwegian Cruise Line has danced to its own drummer, with other cruise lines following the beat.

With NCL leading the way, the flexibility to do your own thing without eliminating what some cruise passengers enjoy about cruising has changed the face of cruise travel in the 21st century.

Cruise Diva took a fresh look at the real cruise industry "Game Changer" when we experienced Norwegian Cruise Line's "Freestyle Cruising" aboard Norwegian Pearl.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Celebrity Cruises Takes Delivery of Celebrity Eclipse

Last week Celebrity Cruises celebrated achieving “a perfect 10.” Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of the brand’s parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., and Celebrity’s President and CEO Dan Hanrahan participated in a shipboard ceremony marking the transfer of ownership of Celebrity Eclipse from shipbuilder Meyer Werft to Celebrity Cruises, bringing the fleet to a total of 10 stunning ships.

On the heels of a series of promotional activities in Hamburg, Germany, and Southampton, England, the 2,850-guest Celebrity Eclipse will be formally named in ceremonies April 24, and will enter service April 26, presenting a series of sailings roundtrip from Southampton to the Mediterranean, Russia, and Scandinavia throughout the summer. The stylish new ship will offer Caribbean sailings from the Port of Miami beginning this winter.

Join Cruise Diva on the "Conveyance" Journey aboard Celebrity Eclipse, the third Solstice-class ship in the Celebrity Cruises fleet. Find out why it's the Sham-WOW of cruise ships and take an exclusive first look around the interiors.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Make Your Own "Fun Ship" Cocktail

The cruise is over, it's time to unpack, and then you ponder ... what to do with the souvenir drink glasses and mugs you've brought home.

Re-creating the memories of the fun you had on board is important. Too important to use your special glass for just any beverage. A rum and Coke seems too mundane to drink from your "Fun Ship" glass. The souvenir faux-canning jar mug pictured here was served filled with a frosty margarita and salted rim and it's been refilled with homemade margaritas on many occasions since.

While a pina colada would also be appropriate for your sipping pleasure, why not try an authentic "Fun Ship®" Cocktail perfected by Carnival Cruise Lines' bartenders? With the recipe below you can mix up your own, with or without alcohol, for a refreshing summer cooler. Fill your souvenir glass and enjoy.

"FUN SHIP®" COCKTAIL

•1/2 oz. Amaretto
•3/4 oz. 151 Rum
•3/4 oz. Vodka
•1/2 oz. Apricot Brandy
•4 oz. Fruit Punch (recipe below)
Garnish with a cherry and orange slice.

FRUIT PUNCH

•2 oz. Orange Juice
•1 oz. Pineapple Juice
•1 oz. Sweet & Sour Mix
•.25 oz. Grenadine
•.125 oz. Angostura Bitters

"FUN SHIP®" COCKTAIL
(non-alcoholic)
•4 oz. Orange Juice
•1 oz. Lemon Juice
•4 oz. Pineapple Juice
•1 oz. Cranberry Juice
•dash Grenadine
•dash Angostura Bitters
Blend and pour over ice

Friday, April 16, 2010

Princess Cruises: Update on Flight Cancellations Due to Volcanic Eruption

The airspace over the UK and much of Northern Europe remains closed due to volcanic ash clouds caused by a volcanic eruption in Iceland, and we understand the air space may be closed for a considerable time.

The National Air Traffic Services (NATS), the UK air traffic control body, is providing public updates every 6-12 hours on whether the close has been extended, but we know with certainty that flights for many of our UK passengers have been cancelled.

The main impact is on the charter flights into and out of Barbados for UK passengers disembarking or embarking Sea Princess Saturday, April 17. Our current plan is for Sea Princess to sail from Barbados tomorrow as planned.

We have deployed a Princess care team to Barbados to assist affected passengers, and we will continue to keep both outbound and incoming passengers updated with the most current information available.

Volcanic Ash: Are You Covered By Travel Insurance?

Surely no one could have imagined the havoc that a volcano erupting in Iceland could cause on air travel to and from and within Europe. Airports from London to Zurich and all points in between and further afar are closed due to the ash cloud that has drifted across Europe. You are wise to insure your travel plans, but your travel insurance may, or may not, cover you, as outlined in the following email I received today from John W. Cook, President of QuoteWright.com®.

Travel Insurance policies contain 4 separate coverages that might apply:

-- trip cancellation,
-- trip interruption,
-- missed connection,
-- travel delay.

All 4 of these are "named peril" coverages which will only provide coverage if the claim was caused by one of the specific covered events.

The ash cloud caused by the eruption can be classified as either a "natural disaster" or an "adverse weather" event. This classification can have a big effect on coverage for trip cancellation and interruption coverages. Under those coverages some, but not all, companies include "natural disasters" which causes your airline to cease operations to be a covered event. Most of the plans limit coverage for "natural disasters" that make your destination uninhabitable.

A more common covered event is "adverse weather" causing your airline to cease operations for a specific time period (usually 24 hours). If the event is interpreted to be a "natural disaster," coverage might be limited for trip cancellations or interruptions unless it's one of the plans that include "natural disasters" in their covered events that causes your common carrier to cease operations. Otherwise the question is did it make your destination uninhabitable?

Coverage for travel delay and missed connection is clearer. These coverages are also "named peril" benefits however, the majority of plans include "natural disaster" as a covered event.

Bottom line is to read your plan carefully and don't assume that there will or will not be coverage.

Azamara Club Cruises Offers Special Europe Promotion

When there’s extraordinary service, elegant surroundings, and true destination immersion awaiting on a voyage with Azamara Club Cruises, what could make it better? Try an exceptional value that just became even more enticing. The upmarket brand’s special offer of 2-for-1 fares on all sailings through March 2011 continues, and now, on bookings for select sailings made by June 30, 2010, guests will receive an onboard spending credit of $500 per booking, as well as a $500 per-person ChoiceAir credit. The new offer applies to bookings for Azamara Club Cruises’ European voyages from April 25 through Nov 10, 2010 on Azamara Journey, and voyages from May 3 through Nov 20, 2010, on Azamara Quest. The offer is applicable to new, individual bookings in North America only, in all categories with the exception of Club Interior staterooms.

Travelers who take advantage of Azamara’s new, limited-time offer also can enjoy the host of new, inclusive amenities just introduced on both ships this month. Now, guests sailing on every voyage of Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest will be offered complimentary, vintage red and white wines from boutique vineyards around the world at lunches and dinners; bottled water, sodas, specialty coffees and teas, whether in public venues or in staterooms and suites; housekeeping, dining and bar staff gratuities; shuttle bus service to and from port communities, where available; destination-influenced entertainment and enrichment programs; specialty dining in the intimate specialty restaurants, Prime C and Aqualina (complimentary for suite guests; stateroom guests are charged a $15 per person cover); true English butler service in suites; self-service laundry, and concierge services.

Among the European destinations in which guests sailing with Azamara Club Cruises can immerse themselves this year are nine first-time locations for the brand:

• Bastia, one of the two largest cities on the mountainous Mediterranean island of Corsica
• Chania, one of Crete’s most appealing cities, marked by stately neo-classical mansions and massive Venetian fortifications
• Korcula, Croatia, an island rife with small, uninhabited beaches, breathtaking views of nature and medieval architecture
• Katakolon, the Greek seaside town offering a gateway to Olympia, the birthplace of the competitive athletic games
• Skiathos, one of Greece’s most environmentally protected islands, known for its pine tree forests as well as its long, shining beaches
• Zakynthos, Greece (also known as Zante), part of the Ionian Islands and home to the endangered caretta species of sea turtle
• Trieste, the historic Italian port and capital of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, nestled in the northeast corner of the Adriatic Sea against the backdrop of a limestone plateau
Gijón, located on the Catabrian Sea on Spain’s Costa Verde, halfway between eastern and western Asturias
• Liverpool, England’s centuries-old port made just as famous by its one-time musical residents, The Beatles, as by the landmarks designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites

To offer more time in port, including time to dine and sample the nightlife ashore, Azamara Club Cruises has scheduled overnight stays in Europe this year in Florence (Livorno), Sorrento, and Venice, Italy; St. Petersburg, Russia; Barcelona, Spain; Stockholm, Sweden; Istanbul, Turkey; Edinburgh (Leith), Scotland; London (Greenwich), England; Bordeaux, France; Berlin (Warnemunde), Germany; Athens (Piraeus), Greece; and Monte Carlo, Monaco. Late-night stays (departing at 10 pm or later) are featured in 21 European ports this year, including Dubrovnik, Croatia; Alexandria and Port Said, Egypt; St. Tropez, France; Volos, Mykonos, Rhodes and Santorini, Greece; Dublin, Ireland; Ashdod and Haifa, Israel; Ravenna and Trieste, Italy; Valetta, Malta; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Kotor, Montenegro; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Lisbon, Portugal; Gijón, Spain; and Bodrum and Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey.

For more information, call 1-877-999-9553 or visit the Azamara Club Cruises web site.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Enriching New Choices for Teens Aboard Crystal Summer Cruises

As a rule, teenagers find little in the way of organized activities available for them on most luxury cruise ships. With the popularity of family and multi-generational group cruise travel, all that is changing on Crystal Cruises' fleet. Teens can learn to make sushi like a professional Nobu-trained chef, take a golf lesson with PGA pro instructors, and immerse themselves in language classes with Berlitz educators on Crystal Cruises' award-winning ships this summer. Renowned for Six-Star enrichment for adults, the luxury line offers younger guests opportunities to enhance their travel experiences with onboard programming that is sophisticated, entertaining, and complimentary.

Crystal reports that, as of March 2010, it has nearly five times more family groups booked through its Crystal Family Memories program for this year versus 2009. To accommodate this growth, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity have expanded the hours and breadth of supervised activities for junior cruisers of all ages. Junior cruisers can enjoy enriching programs like their parents in sessions tailored specially for them. From a Swedish lesson while en route to Stockholm, to Olympic-style competitions sailing from Athens, kids ages 3 to 17 can immerse themselves in destination-related activities, organized by Crystal's Junior Activities Directors on summer cruises.

Teen options include:

-- *NEW* Sushi making - From Junior Activities Directors, learn techniques practiced by Nobu-trained chefs in Silk Road and The Sushi Bar
-- Dance lessons - Group instruction with onboard championship dancers
-- DJ-hosted dance parties.

"Like their parents, our younger guests are well-traveled and curious about the places they're visiting," says Bret Bullock, vice president, entertainment. "Younger travelers enjoy the camaraderie and friendships they cultivate with their peers from around the world."

Crystal's Family Memories program group perks include a complimentary berth, Private Adventure credit, and family portraits. The purpose-built Fantasia and Waves children's and teens' facilities, rare in luxury cruising, feature crafts areas, toys and popular video games. Kids' menus, complimentary ice cream bars and babysitting are available.

Junior activities are subject to change per cruise. For more information, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit CrystalCruises.com.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Beautiful Bermuda. So Close, Yet Away From It All

The inevitable first question everyone asks is about the beaches, "Is the sand really pink?" Yes, it is! And the water is crystal clear. Bermuda's palette is pastel... pink, coral, green, and every shade of blue. The beaches, architecture, and water surrounding Bermuda exhibit a rainbow of soft color accented by white roofs and colorful flora.

Back by popular demand after a 3-year long hiatus, Celebrity Cruises returns to Bermuda this spring when Celebrity Summit offers 7-night cruises sailing from Bayonne, New Jersey. A Celebrity cruise is the best of both worlds—time at sea to enjoy the sophisticated ambiance, superb dining, and personal service aboard Celebrity Summit and two overnights in Bermuda, one of the world's most charming and elegant island destinations.

While Bermuda is only a 2-hour flight from many northeastern cities, a cruise is more than simply transportation. Celebrity Summit is a convenient getaway option for vacationers in the northeast, with departures from Bayonne for Kings Wharf, Bermuda on most Sundays from April 25 through Sept 5.

Wouldn't you like to arrive in Bermuda relaxed, already unpacked, and in vacation mode? Check out the Celebrity Summit sailings for one that fits your travel plans at CelebrityCruises.com.

CruiseDiva.com shares Sights To See & Things To Do in Bermuda and recommends Fodor's Bermuda 2010 for even more in-depth information.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Celebrity Eclipse to be Named by Courageous Ocean-Racing Yachtswoman

Celebrity Cruises has announced the appointment of Emma Pontin, an inspirational UK-based yachtswoman, to serve as Godmother of Celebrity Eclipse, the third in their series of five stunningly successful Solstice Class ships. Pontin will name the ship in Southampton, England, during the ship’s formal naming ceremony April 24, which will conclude with a magnum of champagne, custom-made by The Corning Museum of Glass, commemoratively crashing against the hull of the 2,850-guest ship.

Pontin began her career as an ocean-racing yachtswoman in 2002 when she crewed on her first Challenge Transatlantic race with only one week’s sailing experience. Her devotion to the sport grew to the point that, in 2006, she was selected to skipper a yacht for the ARC Transatlantic race. But, prior to the start of the race, Pontin was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to immediately return to the UK for treatment, which culminated in a double mastectomy for precautionary measures. Celebrity Cruises selected Pontin to serve in the revered role of Godmother in recognition of her positive and empowering fight against the disease, from which both her aunt and grandmother died. Throughout her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she continued to sail, instruct, and race, and even skippered several major races during the following 12 months.

“I am hugely honored and believe that serving as the Godmother of this wonderful ship is truly one of the greatest compliments to be bestowed on me,” said Pontin. “I look forward enormously to taking up my duties in presiding over and naming this ship during what is one of the most important dates in a ship’s life. It is extremely flattering to be recognized for what came naturally to me when fighting breast cancer, and I hope that through this association with Celebrity Cruises, I will continue to inspire and encourage many others. I feel very blessed and privileged to be able to name Celebrity Eclipse in one of the UK’s sailing capitals.”

Pontin is currently mounting her next big challenge: a 30,000-mile full circumnavigation of the world, with a planned departure from London in Oct 2011 to raise funds for, and global awareness of, breast cancer. On April 24, as part of the Celebrity Eclipse naming celebrations, the first “Celebrity Sunwalk” sponsored by Celebrity Cruises will see thousands of women, men, and families walking through Southampton in decorated bras helping to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer. The walk is reminiscent of “Walk the Walk,” founded by Nina Barough, Godmother of sister-ship Celebrity Equinox and a breast cancer survivor who works tirelessly to raise funds for vital breast cancer causes.

Celebrity Eclipse enters service April 26 from Southampton on a 3-night Paris (Le Havre) cruise, then returns to Southampton to embark on the ship’s official maiden voyage departing April 29 with a short 4-night cruise to Cork (Cobh), Ireland. The ship will present a series of Mediterranean and Russia and Scandinavian cruises throughout the summer, and will offer Caribbean sailings from Fort Lauderdale, FL, beginning this winter. For more information, visit CelebrityCruises.com.

While you wait for the official launch, set sail with Cruise Diva on the “Conveyance” Journey aboard Celebrity Eclipse, the Sham-WOW of Cruise Ship Experiences and take an exclusive first look around the interiors.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Disney Cruise Line Introduces French-inspired Remy On the Disney Dream

In an exquisite, top-deck restaurant with incredible ocean views, Disney Cruise Line debuts Remy–its first-ever premier dining option. With French-inspired, gourmet cuisine by two award-winning chefs, Remy melds classic and contemporary styles in a sophisticated new dining concept exclusively for adults on the Disney Dream.

Chef Arnaud Lallement from l’Assiette Champenoise, a Michelin two-star restaurant just outside Reims, France, and Chef Scott Hunnel from award-winning Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World Resort, are collaborating to create a French-inspired menu featuring superior products and seasonal ingredients sourced from around the world. Master Pastry Chef Erich Herbitschek of Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World Resort and Chef Mattieu Gerard Siegrist of l’Assiette Champenoise will lend their talents to create Remy’s savory breads and delectable dessert offerings. French-trained Chef Patrick Albert, executive chef for Remy, oversees an all-star culinary team that will provide guests with a superb experience and epicurean excellence each day aboard the ship.

“Remy, a first-of-its-kind onboard experience, takes Disney Cruise Line dining to new heights,” said Ozer Balli, vice president, Disney Cruise Line Hotel Operations. “The extraordinary success of Palo on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder encouraged us to create this elegant, upscale and even more intimate dining experience for the Disney Dream.”

Dinner at Remy is a lavish and leisurely affair, starting with a signature chilled Champagne cocktail made tableside, followed by eight to nine small courses complemented by a stellar wine list. Lallement’s cuisine is simple and stylish, such as roasted lobster with cream, and fresh asparagus with black truffles and vin jaune. It earns l’Assiette Champenoise two stars (of a possible three) from Michelin, making the experience “excellent cooking and worth a detour.” Hunnel’s innovative dishes offer small tastes of everything from wild caviar to Kobe beef and Japanese Wagyu strip loin. His cuisine earns Victoria & Albert’s the coveted AAA Five Diamonds, a rating accorded a mere 0.19 percent of restaurants in North America and the Caribbean.

Polished touches at Remy include a tableside trolley for serving international cheeses, decanting stations for wines, and post-prandial coffee service including French press and grand crème. With a subtle nod to the hit Disney•Pixar film “Ratatouille” and its petite French star Remy, the softly lit main dining room with seating for 80 is designed in Art Nouveau style with a palate of soft greens, deep reds and rich gold. The restaurant’s classic French design features graceful sinuous lines on chair backs, etched in glass and in wall treatments, Nouveau-style floral and leaf design in the carpet and warm lighting. The famous Remy character is subtly and artfully integrated into the design.

Tables are elegantly set with Frette linens, Riedel glassware, Christofle silverware and china made exclusively for Remy, with gracious accents such as purse stools for women’s handbags. The attentive serving staff is part of the sophisticated story, dressed in long white aprons, black jackets or burgundy vests, and bow ties. “From the moment our guests walk through the door, they are seamlessly transported to a fine French dining experience,” said Balli.

The private Chef’s Table dining room seats 16 and offers a glimpse into the kitchen. The room is furnished with rich “Ratatouille”-inspired décor–bold red carpet, chairs and drapes with touches of gold, opulent chandeliers, and scenes of Paris on the walls. The private Chef’s Table dining room has its own entrance to the kitchen to allow the chefs easy access, and offers a special multi-course menu.

A glass-walled wine room with marble flooring has seating for up to 16 guests amid more than 900 bottles of wine including a fine rare selection of Old World wines balanced with a solid selection of New World wines. Once dinner is booked and guests are on board, they are invited to meet with a sommelier in Remy’s wine room to taste and pre-select their wines for the evening.

To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a vacation, visit www.disneycruise.com.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Norwegian Pearl, Disembarkation

One of the highest and lowest points of every cruise has to do with luggage. First, there's the high point when your suitcases are delivered to your stateroom. After unpacking, your cruise has officially begun.

We found our standard outside cabin on Norwegian Pearl to be quite comfortable and, in part, that was due to the abundant storage space. In addition to six very large drawers, there was a shallow one in the "dressing table," ample closet space for our hanging garments, and a bank of deep shelves that held our laptop cases, shoes, and camera bags. If that weren't enough, there were shelves above the dressing table and more shelves above the drawers next to the closet, where the mini-fridge is also located. A table and chair, in addition to the dressing table, had Ethernet and electrical outlets conveniently located on the adjacent wall.

And the low point? When it's time to get out the suitcases and repack to leave. My system to make that process a bit less painful is to refold our clothing after it's worn and put it in a suitcase as the week progresses. That way, by the day before debarkation, we're almost all packed and the suitcases are ready to be put in the passageway to be taken off the ship.

We found "Freestyle" disembarkation a breeze, in part because we were offered the opportunity to join the Suites & Villa VIPs. We gathered in Bliss Lounge at 8:30 where the concierge Ryan escorted us ashore after the "Easy Walk Off" passengers—those who disembarked with all their luggage—had left. A great many passengers took advantage of that option and there was surprisingly little luggage lined up inside the terminal for such a large ship with so many passengers.

After quickly locating our suitcases and making our way to the parking garage, we noted that we were on our way at 9:05. Had we not participated in the VIP process, we'd have still been off by approximately 9:30 and on the road shortly thereafter.

Disembarkation from Norwegian Pearl was bittersweet. We loved the Freestyle life on board, yet we're glad to be home with memories of an enjoyable and stress-free cruise.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Norwegian Pearl at Great Stirrup Cay

One of Norwegian Cruise Line’s most successful innovations—and one that’s been copied by other cruise lines—was the acquisition of Great Stirrup Cay, an uninhabited out-island in the Berry chain to provide passengers with a day ashore at a private beach. While many are content to relax in a beach lounger or work on their tans atop a float in the turquoise water of Bertram Cove, others can choose to snorkel, parasail, kayak, play beach volleyball, or sign up for an eco tour. Watersports and attractions include a 100-ft inflatable slide, paddleboats, and rafts.

Vendors in the Bahamian Straw Market only accept cash, but bar purchases and water toy rentals are handled with your ship charge card. There isn’t a lot of hardscape in the developed area and the use of strollers is problematic. However, passengers with mobility issues may use special sand wheelchairs on the island.

Over the years the facilities at Great Stirrup Cay have been expanded, but a huge renovation is in the works that will relocate the tendering operation to a sheltered cove and restore the beach area where tenders now perform dry landings right on the sand. While more attractions are planned for the pleasure of passengers, crewmembers haven’t been overlooked in the planning. New storage facilities will make their jobs easier when they no longer have to carry all their supplies—even including ice—to the island.

Two of the huge tenders that carried us from Norwegian Pearl to Great Stirrup Cay today offer a bit of nostalgia, and NCL history. They are Little Norway 1 and Little Norway 2, custom-built for and originally carried on the bow of the iconic SS Norway.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Norwegian Pearl at Sea

In the industry Norwegian Cruise Line has always been an innovator. For instance, the Norwegian Sky was the first cruise ship to feature an Internet café for passengers to stay connected at sea. Without that access, this blog wouldn’t be possible. Here aboard Norwegian Pearl I’m connecting my laptop to the web via Ethernet cable from my cabin. The speed is surprisingly fast for a cruise ship.

Small details make a big difference and one I find particularly helpful is the design of Norwegian Pearl’s passageway carpeting on accommodations decks. At first glance, it appears to simply be a colorful Caribbean design with tropical fish woven into a sea blue background. Look closer and you’ll see that the fish are all swimming toward the bow of the ship. So, to go forward, you follow the fish, to go aft, you walk in the opposite direction. It’s quite clever and helpful for those of us who are directionally challenged.

Beside our door (pictured above) is another clever feature—the cabin number is embossed on a “mailbox” where we find fliers and other communiqués. In addition, there is a dial to rotate indicating “welcome,” “do not disturb,” “make up cabin,” and “turn down cabin.” There’s no need to hang a tag on the door for the steward and it’s easier to remember. Little things like that, plus the abundant storage in our standard outside cabin make a big difference in comfort and convenience.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Norwegian Pearl in Tortola, BVI

When we went to the Garden Café for coffee this morning we could already tell it would be hot in port. Norwegian Pearl docked at 7am in Road Town, Tortola, but we took our time going ashore. The hot, sunny day really tested my 100 SPF sunscreen as we strolled through the vendors’ market near the piers and then headed into town to check out the wares in the craft market that fronts the water. Tortola is home to some very talented artists.

However, my main mission was something of a tradition for every time I visit Tortola—a stop at Pusser’s Outpost. Before I even asked, “Is it too early for a Painkiller?” I knew the answer would be, “It’s never too early.” Fortified by the creamy rum drink, I had enough energy to return to Norwegian Pearl in the heat. I’ll know later if the sunscreen did its job.

Taxi drivers all along the main roadway were offering rides to the north shore’s palm-fringed beaches—Cane Garden Bay, Brewers Bay, and Smugglers Cove. We are looking forward to a day at NCL’s private island for our beach outing this week so we took a pass. One of the best tours from Tortola is the boat to Virgin Gorda to visit the Baths, which we’ve done in the past and highly recommend.

Our day in Tortola was short as we sailed at 3pm. Tomorrow we’ll be relaxing on Norwegian Pearl during a sea day and it’s probably a good thing because tonight is NCL’s signature “White Hot Dance Party” and I don’t want to miss it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Norwegian Pearl in St. Thomas, USVI

It wasn’t until after dinner last night that Mel confessed he hadn’t been looking forward to dining in Teppanyaki as much as the other specialty restaurants. However, the food, service, and the chef’s skill with a fork and spatula changed his mind. It really is a fun dining experience and it’s no surprise that Teppanyaki is so popular on Norwegian Pearl. The Land & Sea combo (filet & shrimp) was our choice and Mel was happily impressed.

We’re in St. Thomas today and, of course, I had to do a bit of shopping. Just about every store downtown has an outlet in Havensight where we are docked, so I made quick work of my purchases and spent the rest of the day enjoying the (almost) deserted ship. Even though there aren’t too many passengers left on board, there’s plenty to do with a movie in the Stardust Theater, music & games poolside, a trivia contest, soccer & basketball tournaments, ping pong, and an art exhibit. Then there is also … whatever and I think I’ll do that—just kick back and relax with a book and a cold drink.

Tonight’s comedy/improvisation show is The Second City. We’re big fans dating back to the time when John Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Bill Murray were on the stage in Chicago so we’ll be there before dinner. Tonight we are trying the buffet for a totally casual evening. Tomorrow we have reservations in Le Bistro and we’ve heard that we won’t be disappointed. The dining and entertainment choices on Norwegian Pearl really suit our style. NCL must have had us in mind when they conceived the “Freestyle Cruising” concept.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Norwegian Pearl in Samana, Dominican Republic

If there is one port where an excursion is highly recommended on this itinerary, it is today. Samana is a tiny village—so small that only one shop is on the port shopping list—yet nearby are wonderful beaches and ecological treasures. Mel chose a Caves & Mangroves Exploration tour, which is just a bit too much sun for me, so my day was spent relaxing on board all morning and a bit of wandering ashore in the afternoon. For beach lovers, the excursion to nearby Cayo Levantado is well worthwhile. The private beach property is beautifully maintained and features arts and crafts shops, water toys for rent, and a delightful folkloric show.

In addition to being wonderfully laid back, NCL cruises have always featured some of the finest entertainment at sea. Last night was a treat in the Stardust Theater starring Oh What A Night! in a tribute concert to Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. While their banter was a bit corny, their singing and choreography were outstanding. Another passenger who’s seen “Jersey Boys” commented that the tribute artists last night were even better than the performers in the musical. Oh What A Night's rendition of “Grease” brought the audience to their feet. And we learned some Four Season trivia, for instance they recorded the song “Silence is Golden” before it was made a hit by the Tremeloes, but it was on the flip side of “Rag Doll” and took a while to be discovered by The Four Seasons’ fans. To end the show, we were treated to a surprise as one of the performers announced it was going to be a special night for one couple in the theater, at which time he handed the microphone to a young man who went down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend. And, yes—she said yes. For them, it was most definitely “Oh What A Night!”

We’ve easily fallen in step with “Freestyle” dining and chose the Indigo Restaurant, one of the two main dining rooms on board, for dinner last night. A combination of filet and lamb was an excellent choice and we were impressed with the quality of the food and the service. About the only negative was the noise level—it’s spring break and there are 2,933 passengers on board, with about 900 of them under 18. Teenage voices tend to travel when they are having a good time.

Tonight we are looking forward to dinner in the specialty restaurant Teppanyaki, which is dinner-and-a-show in itself as the chefs prepare your order right in front of you. Aboard Norwegian Pearl, it’s a must-do dinner and we are glad we made our reservations as soon as possible.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Norwegian Pearl, At Sea

The curtains in our stateroom are a soothing shade of blue-green, which gives the impression of waking up in the middle of the sea. Of course that’s just where we were yesterday as we spent Easter Sunday passing the coast of Cuba on our way to the Dominican Republic.

To mark the holiday, Norwegian Pearl was decorated with Easter finery and the Easter Bunny himself even made an appearance for photos. There was a lot on the schedule, including numerous family events like Ninteno Wii on the giant lobby screen and dodgeball for parents and children. Pool games were a big draw. For adults, NCL “U” offered a French Wine & Cheese Tasting, Grey Goose Martini Tasting, and Global Beer Tasting ($15 for each class) .

As for us, we’re taking a cue from the bottom of the daily schedule that reminds us we are free to “whatever”! After a relaxing Easter morning and a bit of shopping, we took advantage of an invitation to have lunch in Cagney’s Steakhouse. Breakfast and lunch in Cagney’s is a perk reserved for passengers accommodated in suites and villas. Of all their perks, I think it’s probably the best. The food and service were excellent and we’re looking forward to our dinner reservation there later on in the week.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Norwegian Pearl, Embarkation & Sailaway

Who’s sailing on Norwegian Pearl? This week our fellow passengers are of all ages. It’s still spring break and there are families from as far away as California, Utah, and New York. We even met a couple yesterday who’d sailed on Norwegian Pearl in Alaska last summer and decided to be married on the ship.

Sailaway from Miami is always a treat and the entertainment staff went all out for the lido deck festivities. Even though embarkation was a breeze (we arrived after the noon rush), we hadn’t had time for lunch so the poolside barbeque pictured here really hit the spot and held us until dinner.

With new procedures in place for the safety drill—no life jacket is required—the mustering process was quick and easy. In fact, we’re finding everything about “Freestyle Cruising” is easy. We can eat on our own schedule and do whatever we please. There is a full schedule of events to choose from, even on embarkation day. And, as the sun went down last night, the atrium filled with basketball fans to watch the Final Four on the huge screen located there. From the cheers we heard as we grabbed an early dinner in the Blue Lagoon Café, there were a lot of happy fans aboard Norwegian Pearl.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

NCL "Welcome Aboard" Norwegian Pearl

Last month when I logged into NCL.com to complete the Online Check-In process for our Norwegian Pearl cruise, I printed our e-documents to present the pier and thought nothing of also printing paper luggage tags. After all, it's become quite commonplace to no longer watch the mailbox for the arrival of a packet of cruise documents and paperwork to complete. So, it came as a surprise when I received the following email:
Congratulations, you’re about to embark on a unique cruise experience with Norwegian Cruise Line. It’s all thanks to our exclusive Freestyle Cruising®, where you’re free to whatever. Your Welcome Aboard Kit has been mailed and should be arriving soon. This kit contains your luggage tags and useful information including helpful tips on travel arrangements, what you should pack, what’s on board and a directory of the ship.

Also included in the kit are samples of our most popular Shore Excursions for your itinerary. NCL’s Shore Excursions are the best way for you to see the ports we visit. Our land tours sell out fast, so book your Shore Excursions online (up to 5 days prior to their sailing date) at ncl.com/shorex to reserve your spot.

We’re looking forward to welcoming you on board and we encourage you to complete the Online Check-In at ncl.com, for smooth sailing at the port. If you have any questions, please contact your Travel Professional or call NCL at 1.800.327.7030. Again, thanks for choosing to cruise with NCL.
What a nice touch! The booklet covers just about every question a passenger might have, and some even I hadn't thought of. So, with personalized luggage tags attached to the suitcases and our e-docs and passports in hand, we're off to the Port of Miami to board Norwegian Pearl. We'll be enjoying a week of Freestyle cruising and invite you to join us here as we share our adventure.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Innovation + Imagination = Magical Experiences Aboard Disney Dream

Adding to its impressive list of cruise industry firsts, Disney Cruise Line will combine technology-infused innovations and imagination to create a whole new level of magical experiences for families sailing on its newest ship, the Disney Dream. Throughout their cruise vacation, guests will encounter unexpected magic–such as a restaurant that transports guests under the sea, artwork that magically comes to life, and youth clubs filled with immersive gaming environments and personalized character encounters. New experiences planned for the Disney Dream include:

Animator’s Palate
For the Disney Dream, Disney Cruise Line is re-imagining a fan favorite from the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder–Animator’s Palate restaurant. The restaurant design is that of a classic animation studio filled with character sketches, maquettes (three-dimensional character models), paint brushes, colored pencils and other tools of the animation trade. Scenes and characters from popular Disney•Pixar films adorn the walls. Once the dinner service begins, however, the dining room begins a magical transformation as scores of wall-mounted LCD screens switch to scenes of a vivid undersea environment. It’s as if the restaurant was transported to the ocean floor and the LCD screens are windows, providing incredible views of a colorful coral reef and creatures that reside on the reef.

While dining, Crush, the surfer-dude sea turtle from Disney•Pixar’s “Finding Nemo,” makes a special appearance, swimming around the restaurant and engaging in live impromptu interactions with guests. Crush will ask guests about the experience onboard the ship and in turn answer questions about life under the sea. While Crush is moving throughout the restaurant, other characters from “Finding Nemo,” such as Nemo, Dory, Squirt and Bruce the shark, swim by and visit with guests. The dining experience culminates with a surfing lesson led by Crush as the EAC (East Australian Current) swirls around the room. As Crush swims away, other characters from “Finding Nemo” make a final appearance before magically turning into pencil sketches.

Interactive Play-Floor
For young cruisers, Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab will feature an interactive play-floor, a cruise industry first that blends the latest in gaming technology with Disney’s panache for storytelling. Located in the main gathering space in both venues, the interactive play-floor allows children to engage in team play exercises where their movements control the action on the interactive floor. For example, one activity has children scrambling around the perimeter of the interactive play-floor with their movements controlling the pitch of a virtual tilt maze. On the interactive play-floor, children will be able to explore a wide variety of gaming options with varying levels of difficulty. Disney Cruise Line youth counselors will use the interactive play-floor during storytelling activities where children will be able to fly over the streets of London with Peter Pan or ride the ocean waves with Crush.

Living Characters
Also in Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Disney’s Oceaneer Lab youth areas, Disney characters come to life and interact with children in one-of-a-kind experiences. On a 103-inch screen, Crush, the animated sea turtle from the Disney•Pixar motion picture “Finding Nemo,” or the mischievous animated alien Stitch make scheduled appearances to chat, play and joke with kids in live, unrehearsed conversations. Sometimes using silly props from their digital environments, Crush and Stitch amaze and entertain children during real-time, personalized appearances. These magical experiences with Crush and Stitch continue Disney’s legacy of bringing characters to life in new and incredible ways.

Enchanted Art
Throughout the Disney Dream, guests will encounter Enchanted Art that immerses guests in Disney storytelling in a completely new way. Appearing as traditional framed art, Enchanted Art (pictured above) magically comes alive when guests pause to admire the artwork. Enchanted Art will carry the appearance of popular art mediums–photography, oil paintings, paper sculpture, travel posters and animation cells. In reality though, they are framed LCD screens made to look like artwork through special effects and recognizes when a guest is present…which triggers the animated sequence. Guests may see new and different animations each time they come back and visit the Enchanted Art pieces. In addition, the Enchanted Art is used as part of a one-of-a-kind detective themed adventure where guests of all ages join a ship-wide quest to find either stolen artwork or missing puppies. By using a simple card that serves as a high-tech detective device, guests can peer behind virtual canvases and discover clues that will lead them to solve the mystery and capture the villain responsible. A self-paced adventure, the game offers six potential villains and features randomized events so each time a guest plays they will encounter a different and unique gaming experience.

Virtual Porthole
The Disney Dream carries on the spirit of innovation with a cruise industry first for all inside staterooms. Virtual Portholes offer a “window” to the world with a real-time view outside the ship. High-definition cameras placed on the exterior of the ship feed live video to each Virtual Porthole. The live video feed corresponds to the stateroom location–with a view to port, starboard, forward, or aft. As guests are observing the outside views, they may glimpse a magical surprise: animated characters may pop by the Virtual Porthole. Characters may include Peach the starfish from the Disney•Pixar film “Finding Nemo,” the flying balloon house from “UP” or even Mickey Mouse.

The Disney Dream is scheduled to depart on its maiden voyage Jan. 26, 2011, and will sail alternating 3- and 4-night cruises to the Bahamas and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. During summer months, the ship will alternate 4- and 5-night itineraries with two stops at Castaway Cay. To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a cruise vacation onboard the Disney Dream, guests can visit disneycruise.com, call Disney Cruise Line at 888/DCL-2500, or contact their travel agent.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Royal Caribbean Expands Allure of the Seas’ Inaugural Season

There’s going to be a bit more Allure in the Caribbean this year. Vacationers can experience the world’s newest, largest and most innovative cruise ship even earlier aboard Allure of the Seas, featuring the widest array of onboard amenities only found on an Oasis-class ship. Royal Caribbean has announced the expansion of Allure of the Seas’ inaugural season with a special 4-night cruise, departing Port Everglades on Dec 1, 2010. The special itinerary will feature two days at sea and a call at Labadee, Royal Caribbean private beach destination on the northern coast of Haiti.

Guests booked on the Dec 5 inaugural 7-night voyage have until April 30, 2010, to choose to be re-accommodated in the same stateroom on the new cruise. Any price difference will be adjusted on their booking. Additionally, these guests will receive $100 onboard credit per stateroom when adding the new 4-night cruise to their existing Dec 5 booking for an 11-night grand western Caribbean adventure.

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 feature 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 AllureoftheSeas.com.