Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 & Artemis North Atlantic Challenge Make A Rendezvous At Sea

While sailing one of her 21 Transatlantic Crossings this season, Cunard Line‘s flagship Queen Mary 2 navigated a mid-Atlantic rendezvous to cheer on the rowing team for ‘Artemis Investments’ as they attempt to break the 114-year old world record, set back in 1896, by rowing from New York to England. The 23-foot, purpose-built rowing boat with its four-man team departed New York on 17 June.

“It was a thrilling moment to witness this one-of-a-kind encounter at sea, not only for me and the crew, but for all our guests aboard Queen Mary 2,” said Captain Nick Bates. “We wish the Artemis team good luck and Godspeed as they continue the quest for their world record-breaking journey.”

The opportunity for Queen Mary 2’s guests and crew to show support for this adventurous challenge was especially poignant since one of the Artemis team crew members served as a crew member aboard the flagship liner when she was launched in 2004.

Transatlantic Crossings are part of Cunard’s legacy and reflect the pinnacle of adventure and civility in ocean travel. Queen Mary 2 is the only liner offering regularly scheduled Transatlantic service, ranging from 7-day voyages between New York and Southampton, England, to 8- and 9-day Crossings offered to Cherbourg (France) and Hamburg (Germany). Cunard’s blog has additional photos and video capturing the spirit of the occasion at WeAreCunard.com.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Princess Cruises Details 2011-2012 Hawaii Cruise Season

Some of our most memorable vacations have been spent in Hawaii. We love the islands, but not the flights to get there. That’s why we're interested in Princess Cruises’ just announced roundtrip cruises from California. Princess Cruises will take passengers on a variety of island voyages in 2011-2012 with a full schedule of cruises to Hawaii.

Cruise travelers interested in the convenience of a roundtrip voyage from Los Angeles can choose to sail aboard Golden Princess or Sapphire Princess to the Land of Aloha with calls at Hilo on the Big Island, Honolulu, Kauai, and Lahaina on Maui, plus Ensenada, Mexico. The ships will sail between Sept 28, 2011 and April 25, 2012.

“Everyone dreams of running away to an idyllic Pacific island,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “Our cruises can bring these wonderful islands to life, with more choices than ever to find the perfect vacation.”

The Hawaiian Islands each have their own personality. On Oahu, the state capital of Honolulu offers a wealth of historic, cultural and scenic attractions, including famous Waikiki Beach, America’s only royal residence the Iolani Palace, and Pearl Harbor. The Big Island, the youngest and largest of the Hawaiian Islands, has the most varied in landscape–with striking black sand beaches, tropical rain forests, and the famed Volcanoes National Park, home to three volcanoes, including the actively erupting Kilauea. Known as the "Garden Isle," Kauai offers lush green valleys, cascading waterfalls and geological wonders, such as the dramatic Nã Pali Coastline, and spectacular Waimea Canyon. The second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui boasts some of the world's most superb beaches and dramatic mountain landscapes. Visitors can also explore the port town of Lahaina which was once King Kamehameha’s capital.

Take a look at these and other South Pacific options from Princess in Cruise Diva's Cruise News.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Stupid Cruiser "Mistake" or Intentional Crime?

Bermuda's Royal Gazette reports that George Koumoulis, a passenger on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Dawn admitted making what he said was a "stupid, stupid mistake" by possessing cannabis when the ship arrived at Heritage Wharf in Dockyard on last week.

Passengers aboard the ship, which had sailed from New York, complained they smelled the odor of cannabis (that would be marijuana, or weed, in case you wondered) coming from the room the 37-year-old financial analyst from Abingdon, Maryland shared with his brother. Cruise ship staff investigated and found Koumoulis, as well as his stash and rolling papers.

Bermudian Police were informed and Koumoulis admitted the drugs were his.The Bermuda government takes drug offenses seriously and the man was fined $1,500. He also missed the rest of his cruise back to New York. Not only was his a stupid mistake (although we consider it intentional), it was costly as well.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What to Expect on Your Cruise: General Info & Debarkation Day

Just as there is no such thing as a perfect vacation, a flawless cruise is an unrealistic expectation. Every officer and staff member on your ship has the same goal: to meet passenger expectations and provide a safe and satisfying voyage. The more you know as a passenger, the better you will be prepared.

All cruises come to an end eventually and it hardly seems fair that you have to leave when it feels like your vacation has just begun—days on a cruise fly by!

Your debarkation process actually begins the day before you arrive at your ship's homeport. Sometime during that day your cabin steward delivers special luggage tags to your stateroom, along with Customs forms and instructions. Be organized and avoid a lot of last-minute anxiety.

Cruise Diva shares General Cruising Information & Wrapping Things up on Debarkation Day.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What to Expect On Your Cruise: Days in Port

Land Ho!
The Captain deftly inches your cruise ship alongside the pier as line handlers scurry to grab the ropes and secure them. The gangway appears and everyone is anxious to proceed ashore. But first there is a delay until the announcement that the ship has "cleared."

What's that all about? Simple... before anyone can leave the ship, local immigration officials must give their approval—or "clear" the passengers to go ashore. Procedures vary, depending on the port of call, but generally it means the identity/nationality of all passengers is verified. This can be accomplished by examining the manifest (often the case in non-US Caribbean ports) or checking passports that are held by the Purser (in Europe, Asia, South America, and the South Pacific). When ships enter, or re-enter, US ports (including Puerto Rico—pictured above—and the US Virgin Islands) after visiting a foreign port, all passengers are required to report to Immigration with their identity papers. Hint—if you don't have a passport, get one. A passport smooths the way and is always acceptable identification.

Port calls add an allure to cruise ship travel that cannot be duplicated by any other type of vacation experience. What you do ashore depends entirely on your interests and comfort level when confronted by a new environment and culture.

Cruise Diva shares What to Expect, Days in Port on A Cruise

Monday, July 26, 2010

What to Expect On Your Cruise: Sea Days

You've embarked on your cruise and are looking forward to a day at sea. What's that like?

Keep in mind that all days at sea aren't identical, but they do have a lot in common. Most ships schedule activities, port talks, lectures, games, and fitness programs on a non-stop basis. Your daily schedule will be your guide to what's happening on board.

This is the time to personalize your cruise experience—you can participate in any or all the activities scheduled or do nothing more strenuous than lift an umbrella drink while reading a book poolside.

Cruise Diva shares What to Expect, Sea Days on A Cruise

Sunday, July 25, 2010

MSC Cruises Confirms Construction of MSC Fantastica

You may recall a while back when MSC Cruises announced that their next new ship would be named MSC Favolosa. Then Costa announced their latest newbuild of the same name, which would launch nearly a year before MSC’s. Confusing? Apparently so because MSC Cruises has announced the conclusion of the legal process that finalizes their new ship order and confirms construction of a new ‘Fantasia’ class cruise ship to be named MSC Fantastica. Instead of fabulous, the new MSC Cruises vessel will be fantastic. Got that? MSC Fantastica, or U32 as it is referred to in the shipyard, is being built by STX France, making it the 12th ship in the MSC Cruises fleet. MSC Fantastica will build upon the success of the ‘Fantasia’ prototype, offering a unique experience for guests in its class thanks to innovative features such as the MSC Yacht Club, exclusive ship-within-a-ship area onboard, for unprecedented levels of privacy and personalized service.

Pierfrancesco Vago, worldwide chief-executive-officer for MSC Cruises, said, “We are delighted at the confirmation of this important investment—a sign of the success of our ambitious growth strategy. Together with STX France, we are focused on further enhancing MSC Cruises’ leading positioning within the world’s cruise industry.

An important factor in the success of the project was the financial backing provided by French financial institutions, and especially by Coface, the French Export Credit Agency, making it possible for the vessel to be delivered as required by MSC Cruises by the end of spring 2012. Does this mean MSC will stray from the tradition of having its ships christened by Sophia Loren in favor of another Italian beauty? Will the Italian-born first lady of France, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, be the godmother of this fantastic ship? That’s an idea we’ve seen floated.

For more information on MSC Cruises, visit MSCCruisesUSA.com.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

New Cruise Review, Holland America Line's Veendam to Bermuda

When I heard that Karen Segboer had taken a cruise this summer on Holland America Line's ms Veendam to Bermuda, I wanted to hear all about it. Karen is a savvy cruise traveler whose observations are based on years of experience and she shares what's old, what's new, and even some overheard conversations worthy of a hearty chuckle.

Unfortunately, Cruise Diva was unable to sail to Bermuda aboard Veendam this summer due to scheduling conflicts and other commitments. Fortunately, I'll have the opportunity next year as Holland America Line will offer twenty-four 7-day cruises to Bermuda aboard ms Veendam in 2011, continuing the schedule established this year with weekly cruises to the popular vacation destination. Holland America Line returned to regular Bermuda service departing from New York in 2010 after more than 25 years. The 2011 voyages begin May 1 and will sail roundtrip from New York through Oct. 9, calling at St. George's and Hamilton.

"Bermuda offers our guests an outstanding warm-weather vacation experience, with pristine beaches, cultural charm and world-class shopping and golf," said Richard D. Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. "Our roundtrip departures from New York also provide exciting pre- and post-cruise stay and sightseeing opportunities, making this a unique and very attractive itinerary."

The 1,350-guest Veendam will spend one day at St. George's and two nights at Hamilton, providing guests with multiple opportunities to experience the island's British charm, world-renowned pink-sand beaches and abundant cultural heritage sites by day and to sample its lively evening restaurant and nightclub scene.

Bermuda offers vacation activities for the entire family, from the historic Globe Hotel in St. George's—a center for Confederate blockade runners during the American Civil War and today a museum—to water sports including kayaking, deep sea fishing, and snorkeling. Guests can choose from more than 40 shore excursions, including Atlantic Reef fishing, scuba diving and dolphin encounters in Hamilton and horse and carriage tours and a glass-bottomed kayak eco-tour in St. George's.

The weekly itineraries will call first at St. George's, Bermuda's original capital. Founded in 1609, the town of St. George's in the northeast area of Bermuda is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest continuously inhabited English settlement in the Americas. Narrow, twisting streets and pastel-painted houses create a European feel. Its diverse historic and cultural sites include St. Peter's Church, the oldest continually used Anglican Church in North America, and Fort St. Catherine, with displays of weapons, artifacts and a replica of the British Crown Jewels. More than a dozen forts dating to the 17th century command the surrounding hills.

Following St. George's, guests will have the opportunity to explore the island's capital, Hamilton, which is the commercial hub and seat of government located at Bermuda's geographic center. From Veendam, docked at the center of town, guests can take a short walk to Front Street and explore its array of colorful shops and restaurants. Hamilton also is home to a massive 19th-century, neo-Gothic cathedral and the Georgian-style Sessions House, built in 1815.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gourmet Getaway Aboard Freedom of the Seas

I love food, but I could hardly be called a foodie. My favorite kitchen tools are a crock pot and microwave. However, I have traveled with a few real expert food writers who enthusistically recognize and reveal what spices were used in a dish just by sniffing it. And now, Royal Caribbean is offering them and other food fans the opportunity to transform their next cruise vacation into a gourmet getaway, thanks to 12 specialty voyages onboard Freedom of the Seas that are part of the cruise line’s “Epicurean Discovery” series. Designed to provide culinary enthusiasts with an experience of a lifetime, this mouth watering package features a variety of special events throughout the week devoted to cuisine and fine dining, with each sailing hosted by a different renowned celebrity chef, such as “Iron Chef” contender Johnny Vinczencz; 2010 James Beard winner for “Best Chef in the South” Michael Schwartz; and “Top Chef” Chicago contender Spike Mandelsohn.

Available exclusively to guests booking suite accommodations or higher, the 7-night “Epicurean Discovery” package offers foodies a unique educational endeavor led by gastronomic mavericks, including private dinners, a wine tasting, experiential lecture and private tour, as well as a tapas sampling reception, signed photo and cookbook.

Guests participating in the new onboard experience will still have ample time to enjoy Freedom of the Seas’ signature amenities, from the FlowRider surf-simulator, H20 Zone interactive water park, signature rock climbing Wall and only full-size boxing rink at sea to Broadway-caliber production shows, one-of-a-kind ice shows, and fully equipped Freedom DaySpa and Fitness Center, as well as enjoy the various ports of call. Sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida,

Freedom of the Seas sails 7-night cruises to the Eastern Caribbean, calling on Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; Philipsburg, St. Maarten and Royal Caribbean’s private island CocoCay, Bahamas; and to the Western Caribbean, calling on Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Mexico; and Royal Caribbean’s private destination Labadee, Haiti. A complete list of chefs and respective sail dates is available at RoyalCaribbean.com/epicurean.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Carnival Adds More Laughs Fleetwide

Who doesn't enjoy a good joke and like to laugh? There really is something to the expression “Laughter Is The Best Medicine” when you’re feeling blue. While comedy shows have always been part of Carnival’s entertainment lineup, the concept was taken to another level aboard the Carnival Dream, which offered the line’s first dedicated comedy club last fall.

And now, Carnival Cruise Lines is adding more laughs and upping the fun quotient at sea with the introduction of Carnival Punchliner Comedy Clubs—dedicated comedy lounges rolling out fleetwide on all 22 “Fun Ships” by the end of the year. Building on the tremendous success of its first comedy club, Punchliner Comedy Clubs will feature a wide variety of side-splitting comics.

Located in the ship’s aft lounge, each Punchliner Comedy Club will offer guests loads of laughs with five 35-minute shows on multiple nights during each voyage, with at least two comedians performing each night. The two early-evening shows offer fun for the whole family while the later performances will feature adult-oriented comedy. Carnival Punchliner Comedy Clubs will feature hilarious, laugh-out-loud performances from established comedians as well as rising stars, with approximately 10 shows per voyage offered on short cruise itineraries and approximately 20 shows per cruise on longer length departures.

Along with Carnival Dream, comedy clubs are also currently featured on Carnival Glory, Carnival Pride, and Carnival Sensation — with the concept being incorporated into the remainder of the fleet over the next several months. When Carnival Magic enters service in May 2011, a Punchliner Comedy Club will also be featured on the line’s newest “Fun Ship.”

All of Carnival’s aft show lounges will be converted to comedy clubs with a special stage and branded glassware, menus, employee uniforms and other items featuring the Punchliner Comedy Club logo. Guests can learn about the performer lineups and schedules in the ship’s Fun Times newsletter. For additional information, visit Carnival.com.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No Cuba Libre From Our Brit Cousins

Richard Sasso, CEO and President of MSC Cruises USA (pictured here), is one of the cruise industry’s savviest executives and when he speaks it's wise to pay attention. According to a recent article in the Palm Beach Daily News, Sasso’s opinion is that “Even if the United States lifts the travel ban to Cuba, don’t expect Havana to be a port of call for American cruise lines any time soon.”

The Palm Beach paper reported that Sasso is heartened by the recent news that congressional support for ending the American travel ban to the island nation appears to be on the rise since reports by Cuba’s Roman Catholic Church indicate the government there has agreed to release 52 political prisoners. However, while Sasso said he foresees the day when Cuba will be on every major cruise lines’ Caribbean port roster, he is quoted as saying, “Right now, though, they lack the infrastructure and facilities to handle the huge influx of vessels and visitors. It’ll probably take one, two or maybe three years before the necessary developments are completed. Lots of work has to be done. We also have to be sure there’ll be no political backlash.”

Not everyone is happy with the prospect of North American-based cruise ships calling on Cuba some day. Two of my media colleagues in the UK have expressed their opinions in blog articles this week and I must say I was surprised by their negativity. Travel writer Jane Archer said in her blog, “I can't bear to think of the place becoming yet another Caribbean island clone, with overpriced jewellery shops, tacky t-shirt emporiums and liquor stores right by the port so Americans can buy their souvenirs without having to see too many locals.” Ouch. The other writer, John Honeywell, whose blogs appear under the name Captain Greybeard, was a bit less harsh, but stated that his countrymen (who are presently visiting Cuba on UK-based cruise lines), would “be able to tell Mr Sasso—and the rest of the American cruise industry—that the Cuban experience is more enjoyable now than it will be after the island develops the infrastructure he thinks it will need to meet the demands of US passengers.”

Gee, it almost sounds as if the Brits want to keep the Yanks out of Cuba for fear that we’ll “spoil” it by boosting the Cuban economy with our tourist dollars. We wonder who the Cubans would rather have visit. Freely spending Americans who would help to build their infrastructure, or stingy Brits who prefer to see an impoverished 1950s-style Havana remain that way? You decide.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sorry, Baltimore: Celebrity Century Is Headed Down Under

After her 2011 season ends in Alaska, Celebrity Century won't be repositioning to Baltimore, Maryland as previously planned. Instead, like the iconic boomerang, Celebrity Cruises has announced plans to return to the Pacific and Down Under in 2011-12, with an enticing new series of vacations aboard Celebrity Century. The 1,814-guest ship is ideal for offering guests spectacular views of the scenic region, having been refitted in 2006 to add 314 new verandas, along with the elegant Murano restaurant and the truly "cool" Martini ice bar.

"This marks a significant expansion of Celebrity's diverse array of global vacation options," said Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Dan Hanrahan. "We're thrilled to return to Australia and New Zealand. It's a region our guests and trade partners around the world have said they wanted to experience again with Celebrity, pairing our award-winning dining, exceptional service and high style with the beauty, charm and diversity of the area. This move further exemplifies our 'Designed for you' platform, and how we fulfill what cruisers desire."

Marking the line's first return to the land Down Under in two years, Celebrity's exotic new Australia and New Zealand season—bookended by a series of vacation options in Hawaii—features a total of 36 ports in six countries: Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, French Polynesia, the U.S. and Mexico. The lineup includes 10 distinct itineraries, with six varied departure ports, including Sydney and Perth (Fremantle), Australia; Auckland, New Zealand; Honolulu, Hawaii; San Diego, California, and Ensenada, Mexico.

Celebrity's new series begins Oct 2, 2011, with two consecutive 15-night Hawaii sailings from San Diego, followed by a 10-night Hawaii cruise from Ensenada to Honolulu. An 18-night "Pacific Jewels" voyage departs Honolulu Nov 11, followed by five 12- and 13-night New Zealand cruises between Sydney and Auckland, including a festive holiday sailing departing Sydney Dec 24. These offer a more destination-rich experience for cruisers, with only three days at sea, versus five on most competing lines' itineraries.

Cruisers also have the opportunity to experience a rare, 36-night circumnavigational voyage, a first for Celebrity, through two combinable 18-night sailings: One will sail around the southern portion of Australia, featuring an overnight stay in Sydney and transits through three sounds—Milford, Doubtful, and Dusky—in New Zealand's World Heritage-designated Fiordland National Park. The second of the combinable 18-night sailings takes cruisers around Australia's northern coast, and features a visit to the idyllic island of Bali, Indonesia—marking yet another first for Celebrity. The new series also includes two tantalizing, 18-night Trans-Pacific voyages visiting the French Polynesian islands and Hawaii. Among the ports Celebrity will visit for the first time are Geraldton, Broome, Darwin, Cairns, Brisbane, Adelaide, Albany, Bunbury, and Perth, Australia, in addition to Burnie, Tasmania, and Bali.

To complement the cruises and allow guests to delve deeper into the land Down Under, Celebrity has created a series of cruisetour packages, with details to be announced when bookings open for the entire slate of vacation options on Thursday, July 29. Celebrity also will announce details of an early booking incentive on that date.

Celebrity's new itineraries replace the previously announced series of 12-night Caribbean cruises from Baltimore on Celebrity Century. Guests with individual and group bookings that are named and deposited on Celebrity Century departing between Nov 1, 2011 and March 21, 2012, have the option to cancel their booking, or move to the same category of accommodations on a comparable Transcanal voyage on Celebrity Infinity, either Oct 28, 2011, or March 27, 2012; Celebrity Century's Hawaii sailings Oct 2 or 17, 2011, or April 2 or 20, 2012; 10- or 11-night Caribbean cruises on Celebrity Equinox in 2011, or entirely new 12-night Caribbean sailings from Cape Liberty, NJ, on Celebrity Silhouette, the line's fourth Solstice Class ship, entering service in 2011. Holiday sailings are open only to guests currently booked on Celebrity Century's double-holiday voyage of Dec 23, 2011. Guests with applicable bookings who opt to shift to one of the eligible sailings will receive a $200 per stateroom or $400 per suite onboard credit. Guests with reservations on the previously announced sailings on Celebrity Century from Baltimore in 2011-12 will be proactively contacted by Celebrity Cruises. Guests with questions specific to those bookings are welcome to call 1-888-281-9343.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What to Expect On Your Cruise: Embarkation Day

No two cruises are identical. Are your expectations realistic?

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

First of all, keep in mind that your embarkation day cannot officially begin until the ship is clear of departing guests and their luggage. The debarkation process can be as drawn-out as a divorce. While the previous weeks' passengers make their way reluctantly down the gangway, the staff and crew are busy readying the ship for the next sailing. By the time the last straggler departs, trucks are already arriving at the dock with provisions and a lot of heavy work is going on behind the scenes. Staterooms and public lounges are thoroughly cleaned and readied and a steady stream of supplies and luggage are brought aboard. There can even be an exchange of crewmembers, with some leaving and others arriving.

The vessel's entire turn-around procedure is as carefully choreographed as the most intricate ballet.

Arrival
Whether you take a bus transfer or taxi from the airport or a hotel, the first people you encounter at the terminal are baggage handlers. They are not cruise line employees and they do expect a tip—a couple dollars per suitcase is sufficient. You may be required to show your cruise ticket and picture ID at this point for verification and security purposes. Be sure your ship's luggage tags are securely fastened to your suitcases before you hand them over.

Cruise line shoreside staff are milling about to point you in the right direction—they are easily recognizable in official looking attire with name tags and, often, a clipboard. Once inside the terminal, you might encounter a check-in line. Actual boarding time is often scheduled for noon but some cruise lines will begin processing early arrivals and then direct them to a "holding" area. During check-in, you will be asked to produce your documents and any forms you were sent to complete ahead of time, plus proof of citizenship, and a credit card (to pay for your on board charges). You are issued a boarding card that often also doubles as your stateroom "key" and shipboard charge card.

At some point, either before you enter the check-in area or before proceeding to the ship, you and your hand luggage will have to pass through a security procedure, somewhat like that at airports.

Everyone is anxious to get on board and begin their vacation, but this isn't the time to get cranky if you have to wait. Keep in mind, you cannot board until the ship is ready for you. Once boarding begins, you will inevitably have your first experience with the ship's photographer and be asked to pose for an embarkation picture. It only takes a second, so smile. You are under no obligation to purchase any photos taken of you during the cruise and they are a nice souvenir.

Of course once you're on board there's a lot more you want to know about cruising. Let CruiseDiva.com be your guide and discover What to Expect On Your Cruise.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's Bermuda Cruise Season

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

Located in the North Atlantic, the nearest land mass is North Carolina, some 570 miles distant. Actually comprised of 150 tiny islands of volcanic origin, collectively Bermuda encompasses only 21 square miles of land. The locals tend to regard the connected islands as one and refer to the largest, Bermuda Island, simply as “the island.”

While Bermuda has dozens of resorts, small hotels, and cottages, a land vacation can be pricey. The best way to enjoy a Bermuda holiday is by ship. Cruises depart weekly from Boston and New York City, and less frequently from other ports such as Philadelphia and Baltimore. After spending a day and a half at sea, your ship will berth either in Hamilton, St. George, or King's Wharf (the Royal Naval Dockyard). The most desirable itineraries are those that include the former two city ports because the Dockyard's location is isolated, although new facilities offer shopping diversions and pubs. After spending a couple nights in either Hamilton or St. George, your ship will move to the other port for the remainder of your Bermuda stay. Ships at the Dockyard generally don't reposition.

The Gulf Stream’s warming effect insures a frost free, mild climate. Cruising "season" coincides with Bermuda's "high season"—April through October. A word of caution, this is also Atlantic "Hurricane Season" and your itinerary could be severely impacted if one blows your way. Sailing time to and from the US can range from mirror calm to rough and rocky, although the latter is uncommon.

Are you ready to Explore Bermuda on a cruise this summer?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Princess Cruises Details Their 2011-2012 Asia/South Pacific Cruise Season

The diverse lands of Asia evoke images of exotic cultures, ancient mysteries and modern bustling cities. Whether visitors long to see the ornate gilded pavilions, ancient temples, towering skyscrapers or distinctive natural beauty, an Asia cruise offers a truly unique cruise vacation. For the Fall 2011-Spring 2012 Asia season, Princess Cruises will offer 14 itineraries that include more than 60 vibrant ports throughout Asia and beyond, plus land and sea cruisetours to visit more of mainland China. The world's largest and most populous continent, Asia encompasses a rich collection of nations, peoples, sights and sounds. From the grandeur of China's Great Wall to the jeweled palaces of Bangkok, the continent's attractions dazzle on a variety of Princess itineraries, including Southeast Asia and China routes, roundtrip voyages from Australia, and multi-continent adventures that include travel to and from Alaska, Australia, or Africa. Passengers can choose to sail on Diamond Princess, the intimate Ocean Princess, or even aboard one of the Princess ships based "Down Under."

"The unique sights, sounds, and even tastes of Asia make it one of our most sought after exotic vacation options," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. "We've been taking passengers to these ancient lands for decades and passengers continue to be fascinated by the range of cultures and astounding sites they can experience in the Far East."

In China, cruisers can see the ultramodern and the ancient juxtaposed at the port of Shanghai, as the city's gleaming skyscrapers clash against its colorful temples. In bustling Hong Kong, passengers can explore the former British colony from its harbor or narrow streets. This duty-free capital of the world offers endless shopping and unique dining experiences on floating restaurants. On some itineraries, passengers can enjoy extra time in Hong Kong including an overnight stay with Princess' signature Two-Day Experience. Travelers who opt for a China cruisetour spend extra time in Beijing, where they can explore a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the massive Forbidden City where they can wander through its 250 acres of palaces, pavilions and courtyards. Once designed to keep invaders out, The Great Wall presents an unforgettable sight, stretching more than 4,000 miles. In Xian, travelers discover one of the 20th Century's greatest archaeological finds, more than 8,000 Terra Cotta Warriors and horses. On the Yangtze River cruise, passengers sail through the region's renowned gorges, and visit the Three Gorges Dam site.

The cities of Japan and South Korea offer another look at Asia, including the juxtaposition of war and peace in Nagasaki. Once a symbol of the horrors of war, this beautiful setting today draws visitors to its Peace Park and atomic bomb museum. Busan, South Korea's second largest city, is the gateway to a fascinating land that is the second-oldest country in Asia.

Among the distinct countries of Southeast Asia, passengers can experience the rich culture of Thailand with a visit to Bangkok, home to gilded temples, monks in saffron-colored robes and a maze of canals. In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, bustles with activity and offers fascinating sites such as the National History Museum, the Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels. Singapore, the commercial center of Southeast Asia, is a gleaming mix of cultures and a shopper's paradise. As a new itinerary feature this season, many Princess routes are now scheduled to sail in or out of Singapore, giving passengers an opportunity to spend additional time exploring this diverse cosmopolitan society.

Princess offers passengers a variety of Asia itineraries, to explore China, Southeast Asia, or even multi-continent voyages. Travelers can also choose "Aussie style" voyages sailing to Asia from the Australian ports of Sydney, Brisbane or Perth.

Southeast Asia & China Sailings: Passengers can enjoy the best of Asia as they travel between Beijing and Singapore. This 16-day voyage takes travelers to Busan, Nagasaki, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, and Bangkok, with the option to add an overland excursion to Cambodia's Angkor Wat. Sailings depart throughout the Fall 2011-Spring 2012 season aboard Diamond Princess from Oct 2011 until April 2012.

Australia & Asia sailings: Travelers can explore two continents aboard Diamond Princess with sailings between Sydney and Singapore or Beijing. The Australia & Asia itinerary takes passengers on a 19-day journey from Singapore to the Asian ports of Ko Samui, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, and Bali; plus Australian calls at Darwin, Port Douglas and Airlie Beach for the Great Barrier Reef. The 23-day Australia & China route also sails around northern Australia and adds ports such as Taipei, Nagasaki, Busan, Shanghai and Dalian. Sailings depart Nov 27, 2011 and Feb 4, 2012.

Australia & Asia Small Ship Experience: Ocean Princess offers journeys between Australia and the wonders of Asia, featuring the intimate, classic cruising atmosphere of a small ship. The 20-day Australia & Asia voyages sail to northern Australia, including the Whitsunday Islands, Great Barrier Reef and Darwin; plus call in Bali, Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), and Bangkok and Ko Samui in Thailand. Ocean Princess sets sail on Nov 12, 2011 and March 17, 2012.

Alaska & Far East Sailings: Princess passengers can also explore the northern reaches of the Pacific with voyages between Alaska and the heart of Asia. Diamond Princess sails on 15- or 19-day itineraries between Beijing and either Anchorage or Vancouver. The ship takes passengers across the international dateline and calls at Sapporo (Muroran), Vladivostok, Busan, and Qingdao and Dailan in China. Sailings depart on Sept 24, 2011 and May 1, 2012.

Mediterranean, India & Asia: For a far-flung adventure, passengers can sail on a 28-day voyage from Rome to Singapore aboard Ocean Princess. The small ship will take cruisers to Sorrento, Athens, and Kusadasi before transiting the Suez Canal and continuing on to Sharm El Sheik, Aqaba, Safaga, Dubai, Muscat, Mumbai, Cochin, and Kuala Lumpur. Ocean Princess departs on Oct 15, 2011.

Africa, India & Southeast Asia: Ocean Princess also offers a 30-day journey from Singapore to Cape Town. Passengers can enjoy the small ship experience on an itinerary to Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Maldives, Mumbai, Muscat, Dubai, Mauritius, Reunion, Durban, and East London, plus an overnight call in Cape Town. Travelers have the option to visit the Taj Mahal in India or take a safari to Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa. The sailing departs on April 6, 2012.

Roundtrip Asia Sailings from Australia: Australia-based Sea Princess and Sun Princess offer a variety of sailings to Asia roundtrip from Australia. These "Aussie Experience" cruises offer activities and cuisine that reflect local tastes and use Australian dollars as the onboard currency.

Sun Princess sets off from Perth on a roundtrip Southeast Asia Explorer itinerary that ventures to a variety of ports in a 21-day adventure. With calls at Bali, Ho Chi Minh City, Sihanoukville (Cambodia), Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, travelers will experience the rich diversity of Southeast Asia. The ship departs on Aug 11, 2011.

•The Treasures of Asia Grand Adventure encompasses voyages to and from Singapore from Perth, combined into an unforgettable 25-day roundtrip grand voyage. Sun Princess will call at Phuket, Langkawi, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Sihanoukville, Bangkok, Ko Samui and Bali. The adventure begins on June 18, 2011.

•The 42-day China & Japan journey sails roundtrip from either Sydney or Brisbane. Passengers on these voyages will calls at ports such as Airlie Beach, Darwin, Kota Kinabalu, before spending two days in Hong Kong on Princess' signature Two-day Experience. Other stops include Shanghai, Busan, Nagasaki, Osaka, Tokyo, Iwo Jima scenic cruising, Guam and Rabaul (Papua New Guinea). Sailings on Sea Princess and Sun Princess depart on Sept 21, 2011 and Mar 4, 2012 respectively.

•Covering several continents, the South Africa & Indian Ocean Odyssey sails roundtrip from Perth on a 46-day adventure. Sun Princess will call at Asian ports such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Phuket, then move on to India with visits to Mumbai, Goa, and the Maldives. After crossing the Equator, the ship visits the Seychelles, and the South African ports of Richard's Bay, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Durban. The ship calls at Reunion Island and Mauritius before returning to Perth. Sun Princess departs on May 3, 2011.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tragedy In St. Thomas

If you've read the cruise news blog in an online national newspaper web site this week, you know about the death of a 14-year old Carnival Victory passenger who was, unfortunately, in the wrong place at the wrong time in St. Thomas on Monday. The young teen and other passengers, including her parents, were riding in an open-air taxi (similar to the one pictured here) bound for a day at Coki Beach when the vehicle was caught in the crossfire of what appears to have been a gang-related shooting. Another passenger in the taxi was wounded and the teen died.

Apparently there have been problems in the area around Coki Beach, but not at the beach itself or the adjacent Coral World attraction. While the passengers in the taxi were sightseeing independently, Carnival has wisely suspended ship sponsored shore excursions to that part of the island for the time being. Other cruise lines have taken notice as well. One of Cruise Diva's colleagues, Alan Wilson who publishes Cruise News Daily, was aboard Celebrity Solstice, which docked in St. Thomas two days after the incident. He and his fellow passengers received letters advising them of it. He reports, "Even though a suspect was arrested, Celebrity has canceled a shore excursion to the Coki Beach area, and is advising passengers to use common sense and to be aware of your surroundings when going ashore" He also reported that if Celebrity Solstice passengers had a shore excursion booked through the ship and preferred to remain on board, they were issued a refund without penalty.

Alan went ashore and said it seemed to be "business as normal, at least in the area of the port" and added, "I had no sense of danger." While ashore he heard no one discussing "murder, murder, murder," as was so breathlessly reported in the aforementioned US newspaper website article, which was simply rehashing what had been published earlier in a St. Thomas newspaper.

It would be a shame if St. Thomas were to share the same fate as St. Croix, another US Virgin Island with a reputation for high crime, that has been a cruise port wasteland for nearly a decade. Yes, crime statistics have increased in St. Thomas, but they have elsewhere as well. Should cruise lines bypass the US Virgins altogether, as has been suggested by some? Should you remain onboard if your ship docks there? Based on the sensational stories published this week, you'd think so. But if you do, then you might want to avoid the cities of Chicago and Atlanta and even our nation's capital. Bad things happen everywhere.

Celebrity Cruises' advice to their passengers is the right approach: common sense and awareness of your surroundings. Sadly, it's too late for the innocent young teen passenger who was simply going to the beach.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Celebrity Cruises Adds Intriguing Istanbul Itineraries

Celebrity Cruises has designed three new 12-night, port-intensive itineraries sailing roundtrip from one of Cruise Diva's favorite ports—Istanbul. Aimed at connecting cruise travelers with the Byzantine city of Istanbul and three new ports of call, Celebrity’s introduction of these new cruises in the early fall of 2011 marks the first time the cruise line has offered roundtrip cruises from the city on the famed Bosphorus Strait that connects Asia and Europe, a unique placement that has long intrigued travelers due to its multiple cultures.

Presented on the newly revitalized, 2,034-guest Celebrity Constellation, the “Greek Isles and Turkey” cruises, sailing on Sept 19 and Oct 1 and 13, 2011, will each begin with an overnight in port in Istanbul, before spending a day at sea. Then, guests will enjoy stops in Ephesus (Kusadasi), Bodrum and Marmaris, Turkey; Rhodes, Santorini, Athens (Piraeus), Mykonos and Chania (Souda), Crete, Greece, before spending one more day at sea and returning to Istanbul. Bodrum, Marmaris and Chaniain—new ports for Celebrity Cruises—are examples of ways the cruise line is designing unique experiences in exotic destinations to appeal to discerning cruisers.

The Istanbul itineraries will be bookended by Mediterranean sailings taking place on Sept 7 and Oct 25, 2011. On Sept 7, Celebrity Constellation will sail a 12-night itinerary from Amsterdam to Istanbul, featuring visits to Brugges, Belgium; Cherbourg, France; Vigo, Spain; Gibraltar, United Kingdom; Sicily, Italy and Athens. The 11-night October 25 cruise from Istanbul to Barcelona features an overnight stay in port in Istanbul, then visits to Athens; Naples, Rome, and Florence, Italy; Provence, France; and Palma de Mallorca. On Nov 5, Celebrity Constellation will reposition from Barcelona to Fort Lauderdale, Florida during a 14-night transatlantic voyage, featuring visits to Cartagena, Spain; Gibraltar; Madeira, Portugal; and Tenerife and La Palma, Canary Islands. Guests who wish to extend their Istanbul experience can combine the Oct 13 roundtrip Istanbul cruise, the Oct 25 Istanbul-to-Barcelona cruise and the Nov 5 transatlantic cruise, without repeating any ports except Athens, for a 37-night extravaganza.

Celebrity Constellation was recently the first Celebrity Cruises vessel to be “Solsticized,” or revitalized to include some of the most popular venues found on the line’s widely-heralded Solstice Class ships, including the tantalizing Tuscan Grille steakhouse; the vibrant creperie, Bistro on Five; a “cool” new ice-topped Martini Bar; the inviting Café al Bacio and Gelateria; Cellarmasters wine bar, complete with the state-of-the-art wine serving systems known as “Enomatics,” allowing guests to select and serve wines by the glass, at the touch of a button; more sumptuous suites, with all new furniture, flat-screen TVs, upholstery, bedding and carpeting; restyled staterooms, with entirely new carpeting, flat-screen TVs, upholstery and bedding; and new color schemes, carpeting and upholstery reflective of the Solstice Class’ stylish, modern design in every public venue. The revitalization is only part of Celebrity’s Designed for you platform, which–when combined with the brand’s Celebrity Life onboard experiences, more robust Captain’s Club loyalty program, and other brand enhancements–represents a nearly $200-million investment. Interested cruisers are encouraged to visit CelebrityCruises.com.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth To Feature All-New Theatre Company

When Cunard Line’s new Queen Elizabeth debuts in October 2010, the Line will introduce an original concept in theatrical entertainment at sea with the newly formed Queen Elizabeth Theatre Company. Guests will enjoy a brand new repertoire of shows premiered by the Theatre Company’s 29 singers, dancers, actors and musicians.

New shows will include :
  • The hit “Slice of Saturday Night,” a popular nostalgic pastiche of 1960s music which has been staged in London and toured extensively throughout the UK and US. Adapted for the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Company by its original writers, “Slice of Saturday Night” features all of the Theatre Company members—the largest production show ever staged by Cunard.
  • “The Piccadilly Line,” showcasing the talents of the entire Theatre Company, explores the spoken word, song and prose as characters get on and off a train journey on the world’s oldest underground rail system. The action is set in the shell of a London tube train carriage.
  • “Hotel Royale” is a musical production featuring 16 singers and dancers who whimsically bring to life the story of a hotel which is past its prime—once the playground of the rich and famous, it is now home to some quirky staff and unusual guests.
  • “Sing,” a lively production based on the popularity of “Singers in Concert” performed on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, features 21 live musicians and four singers on stage, and creates an audience-pleasing atmosphere from the very first note. The show’s influences are drawn from contemporary musical theatre, pop and classic songs, which will be very familiar to the audience.
  • “La Danza” is a cutting edge dance production showcasing the virtuoso talents of the dance ensemble. Following in the footsteps of “Apassionata” and “Dance Passion,” two hugely successful shows currently running on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, “La Danza” will feature a wide range of choreography performed by truly talented performers.
Performing in the new ship’s majestic Royal Court Theatre, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Company will also present a compelling variety of musical productions and abridged versions of popular plays such as a Neil Simon triple bill and Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” The Simon show will feature three scenes, one each from some of the playwright’s best-loved shows—“Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” “Plaza Suite” and “The Odd Couple”—each linked by their setting: an apartment or hotel suite. At the conclusion of each show, the audience may take part in an informal Q&A session with the actors. Queen Elizabeth’s guests will also be able to take part in a specially written panel quiz show which will offer an afternoon of friendly banter. The Theatre Company will have its own take on topical news and entertainment stories.

“The entertainment on Queen Elizabeth is the most extensive ever seen on a Cunard liner, mixing tradition with satire,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “The Royal Court Theatre is comparable to London West End or Broadway Theatre—and we have created our own Theatre Company to really bring it to life. From the best of Broadway to Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’—we offer something for everybody.”

Queen Elizabeth continues the tradition of presenting Cunard’s Royal Nights with the debut of “The Cunard Ball,” “London Swings,” “The Starlight Ball,” and the “Elizabethan Ball.” “London Swings” will be featured on the same evening as “Slice of Saturday Night,” with its inspirations taken from flower power and popular British '60s icons such as Twiggy, Mary Quant, and Carnaby Street.

In addition, Queen Elizabeth will offer Cunard’s award-winning Insights enrichment program which introduces guests to stimulating experts and accomplished academics. Through a series of lectures, Q&As, social gatherings and workshops, guests connect with personalities who have achieved notable distinction in areas including history, world affairs, science, arts and literature. The Insights programme underscores Cunard’s view that on board entertainment should afford guests a provocative and rewarding experience. New for Queen Elizabeth will be the introduction of Professional Insights, a series of expert workshops on diverse subjects including antiques and auctions, sculpture, movie reviews, performance poetry, and even weather forecasting.

Video blogs about the new entertainment program have been posted on the WeAreCunard YouTube channel, featuring Queen Elizabeth's on-board Entertainment Director Alistair Greener chatting with Cunard President Peter Shanks (Part One) and Martin Lilly, director of entertainment (Part Two). For even more information about Cunard and Queen Elizabeth, visit Cunard.com.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Carnival Cruise Lines Announces '1-2-3 Go! Sale'

Act now—or at least by the end of the month—to snag a deal on your next Carnival Cruise. The "Fun Ships" cruise line is hosting its first-ever "1-2-3 Go! Sale" which combines three of their most popular sales incentives—Cash Back of up to $160 per stateroom, best available upgrades, and attractive "Fun Select" rates—to provide unprecedented value to consumers. The promotion is available on a wide variety of 3- to 8-day "Fun Ship" cruises departing from Aug 2010 through Feb 2011, including voyages to The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii. To quality, bookings must be made between July 12-30, 2010.

The "1-2-3 Go! Sale's" cash back option is provided in the form of a shipboard credit that can be redeemed once on board. Guests will receive a shipboard credit of up to $80 per stateroom on 3- to 5-day cruises and up to $160 per stateroom on voyages of six days or longer. The shipboard credit is automatically applied to guests' on-board accounts when they board their cruise and can be redeemed toward a wide range of shipboard purchases. Any unused funds at the end of the cruise will be returned to guests on debarkation day in the form of a check.

The best available upgrade feature applies to new individual bookings for categories 4A and higher. Upgrades are available within specific stateroom accommodation types (i.e., interior to interior, ocean view to ocean view, balcony to balcony). Guests are encouraged to book now to secure the best possible choice of staterooms.

The cash back and best available upgrade features must be combined with the line's "Fun Select" rates to be eligible for this promotion. With "Fun Select" rates, guests can select the stateroom of their choice based on deck, location, and accommodation category.

Carnival has 22 "Fun Ships" operating voyages from three to 16 days in length to The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, New England, and Europe. The line currently has two new 130,000-ton ships on order—Carnival Magic, set to debut in Europe May 1, 2011, and Carnival Breeze, scheduled to enter service in spring 2012. For additional information and reservations, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL, or visit Carnival.com.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Norwegian Epic Is A Power Saver

Something very “green” on Norwegian Epic— that we’ve only seen in European hotels and on MSC ships—is a very cool power saving feature.

When you enter your stateroom, you must insert your key card in a slot by the door that activates the stateroom lights. You have to remove your key when you leave in order to get back in and the lights won’t stay on when it’s out of the slot. Thus, it’s impossible to leave the lights on and waste electricity.

Plus, it’s a very neat way to keep track of your key card. We really like it and expect to see on other cruise ships in the future.

Photo courtesy of Alan Wilson, Cruise News Daily

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Protecting Our Oceans: Crystal's Commitment to Sustainable Seafood & Caviar

In its dedication to protecting marine environments and preserving their habitats, Crystal Cruises has committed to serving only sustainable seafood aboard its award-winning vessels. Known for the sophisticated fare served in the Crystal Dining Room and specialty restaurants Silk Road and The Sushi Bar and Prego, Crystal is the first cruise line to publicly commit to such a policy.

Since 1990, Crystal has served fresh fish and live lobster in the Crystal Dining Room and specialty restaurants, and with this new commitment, will offer guests a wide variety of sea fare raised in a sustainable manner, protecting the species for future generations. With guidance from both governmental and non-governmental conservation organizations and fisheries, the line favors suppliers that share the same ideals and boast documented reputations for methods that minimize the impact on local wildlife and ecosystems.

"We recognize that by sourcing seafood responsibly, we can help protect the environment and marine populations for generations to come," says Toni Neumeister, vice president, food & beverage. "It's simply the right thing to do, and allows us to continue offering our guests the highest quality cuisine while being good stewards of the oceans on which we sail."

Effective immediately, the initiative is the latest in Crystal's history of responsible seafood purchasing and sourcing. The line was the first cruise line to discontinue the use of endangered caviar from the Caspian Sea and introduced farmed caviar from the U.S., France, and Uruguay, which has now become the standard in the luxury hospitality industry. Additionally, Crystal discontinued offering endangered species of fish more than a decade ago. For more information , visit CrystalCruises.com.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Help Royal Caribbean Pick A Chef

When dining out it's always up to you to choose the items on the menu that you'd like to try, but how often do you get to pick the items that actually appear on the menu?

Thanks to a partnership with The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Royal Caribbean recently launched the Allure of the Seas Culinary Challenge, a contest open exclusively to CIA graduates for a shot at the job of a lifetime - a one-year paid contract to be the Chef de Cuisine of 150 Central Park onboard Allure of the Seas. Entrants were required to create an original, signature recipe that could potentially be featured on the menu of 150 Central Park, as well as submit a video entry to AllureOfTheSeas.com, demonstrating the preparation of the dish.

The submission period has ended and six chefs have been selected as finalists for their culinary prowess and creativity. They will each participate in a final challenge on Aug 5 & 6, where they will be required to conduct an interview with, as well as prepare a three-course meal for, an esteemed panel of judges from Royal Caribbean and The Culinary Institute of America, who will ultimately select the Chef de Cuisine.

But, here's where you come in. Royal Caribbean wants help from you to give your favorite chef a boost. You're invited to follow the link above and cast a vote once a day from now through July 18th for the chef you feel should win. The chef with the highest number of votes will be named the "Fan Favorite" and awarded additional points to his/her overall score at the final challenge, where one will be named the winner.

And there's something in it for you. Not only will the votes help set a course on the high seas for one talented chef's career, but with each vote cast, you will automatically be entered for a chance to win a trip for two to a preview sailing aboard Allure of the Seas, where you will be one of the first guests on the new ship, enjoy a cooking demonstration with the winning chef, as well as a memorable dinner at 150 Central Park.

Friday, July 9, 2010

More Reasons to Cruise Aboard Norwegian Epic

When Norwegian Cruise Line introduced the "Freestyle Cruising" concept there were certainly many traditional cruisers who were aghast at the idea that they wouldn't necessarily be sitting at the same dinner table, with the same companions, and being served by the same wait staff every night.

Other cruisers, like Cruise Diva, felt liberated. No longer would we have to suffer in silence as our tablemates played the "Have You Been To...?" game in one-upmanship style. Nor would we be waiting for chronically tardy dinner partners, or the ones who couldn't get through a meal without bickering.

The traditionalists had some valid concerns, though. They wondered if the food and service in the main dining rooms would suffer due to the introduction of reservations-required, extra charge restaurants serving specialty meals. They also scoffed at the idea that passengers would actually pay for food on a cruise ship.

Those concerns and attitudes proved to be without merit. Cruise Diva has found the food on NCL's "Freestyle Cruising" ships to be better than it was previously, especially in the dining rooms and buffets. And the specialty restaurants, while requiring some planning in terms of reservations, are extremely popular.

So, let's go out to dinner on Norwegian Epic and try some of the no-charge options as well as the dining with an international flavor. Pictured above is the dining room Taste, which serves traditional and contemporary cuisine. The design with that high, high ceiling and spectacular chandelier is quite dramatic.

Norwegian Epic's second dining room, the Manhattan Room (below) is probably my favorite with panoramic ocean views from the two-story, floor-to-ceiling windows. The dance floor gives it the feel of a New York City supper club, although it's uncertain how many diners will actually take a spin on it between courses.

Moving along to the specialty restaurants, Cruise Diva has three favorites that are featured on Norwegian Epic.

Cagney's Steakhouse & Moderno Churrascaria
Cruise Diva loves the traditional steakhouse and wonders why no one else has ever fused it with an Argentinean-inspired Churrascaria. It's a natural fit. While the meals are served in what North Americans would consider the usual way in Cagney's, in Moderno the waiters come to your table with knives and a skewer, on which are speared meat grilled to order.


Teppanyaki
As good as the food is in this popular restaurant, the chef is the star of the meal. The contemporary Asian décor and 24 oversized Hibachi grills set the stage for some amazing dinner theater.


Le Bistro
One of Norwegian Cruise Line's signature dining venues, Le Bistro has been Cruise Diva's favorite since first dining there on Norwegian Dream more than a decade ago. Aboard Norwegian Epic, the décor is contemporary and the French-inspired dining in the less fussy atmosphere is a great way to celebrate a special occasion.


"Fresh & Freestyle, Pizza 24/7"
After a long day of doing whatever you want, you may not feel like dressing up to go "out" to dinner, so do what we do at home. Order pizza! That''s right, pizza delivery service is offered 24 hours a day aboard Norwegian Epic. You can get a piping hot pizza with your favorite toppings delivered directly to your table, your stateroom, poolside, or your favorite bar or lounge. Just ask a server or call room service to place your order.

Photos Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reasons to Cruise Aboard Norwegian Epic

Now that Norwegian Epic has reached her new homeport of Miami, it's time to think about the reasons you might want to give the largest "Freestyle Cruising" ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet a try.

1. You want to live differently.
For many cruiser travelers, a view of the sea is an important part of their cruise vacation experience. The good news if you're considering a cruise aboard Norwegian Epic is that every single ocean view stateroom also has a balcony.



All "new wave" staterooms feature a unique bathroom treatment where the shower and toilet are enclosed in separate compartments and the modern vanity sink is actually in the living space. In addition, the walls are curved, creating a feel of spaciousness. With two lower beds and a sitting area, there is room for up to three in the standard and deluxe balcony categories and four in the family deluxe balcony staterooms.

2. You crave pampering.
For a special "spa" cruise, Norwegian Epic has a real treat, the exclusive Spa Suites with private key card access to the Spa Stateroom complex. Featuring soothing spa décor, the suites include a circular queen-size bed, a hot tub in the room (yes!), a private balcony, and butler service (after all, you deserve to be pampered). In addition, the two-person suites include entry to the Mandara Spa and the fitness center, as well as complimentary access to the thermal suites where you’ll find heated tile lounge chairs, saunas, hydrotherapy pool, whirlpools, and steam rooms. Plus, there is exclusive access to the Villas Courtyard, Concierge Lounge, private restaurant and bar. Naturally, the concierge is available to make dinner reservations if your butler isn't around.


3. For you, it's all about the spa.
If your budget doesn't include a suite, as an alternative there are spa balcony staterooms and, if you need a tad more room, deluxe spa balcony staterooms that each sleep up to three and receive keycard access to the Spa Stateroom complex, plus entry to the Mandara Spa and fitness center, including complimentary access to the thermal suites described above.


4. You want privacy.
Not everyone who'd like to take a cruise has a travelling companion and now there's a way to sail solo without a huge single supplement added to the fare. Aboard Norwegian Epic, there's a group of 100-square foot Studio staterooms specifically designed and priced for you alone with lighting to suit your mood, a full-size bed, a one-way "porthole" to the adjacent passageway (the studios are inside accommodations), and separate areas for the bathroom, sink, and shower.


5. But you don't want to be alone.

Studio dwellers have private access to their own exclusive Studio Lounge where there's morning coffee to start the day and snacks for when hunger strikes and you want something simple. The Studio Lounge is an area designed for meeting and mingling with other Studio guests. Who knows? You might meet a future cruise companion there.


Those are just the first five reasons to book a cruise on Norwegian Epic. Come back tomorrow for more!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Join Kid Rock for the "Chillin' the Most Cruise 2011"

Here's the news that Kid Rock fans who missed the boat this year have been waiting for. Kid Rock's Chillin' the Most Cruise 2011 is now on sale to the public. Alumni guests and fan club members had first dibs at cabins, so there are fewer than 100 left; fans should book as soon as possible.

The 2010 recap video below tells the story about what a great time everyone had this year. By taking a photo with every single guest, pouring free shots of Jim Beam at the sail away party, and throwing together an impromptu DJ set at 1 AM on the Lido Deck, Kid Rock hosted one hell of a party!

Get on board for 2011—it's sure to be even bigger and wilder. The cruise leaves from New Orleans on Carnival Triumph on April 7 and sails to Cozumel April 9, returning to Louisiana on April 11, 2011. Guests can book their cabins at KidRockCruise.com.




Photo (by Will Byington) and video courtesy of Sixthman, leaders of the music-themed cruise movement.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Celebrity Cruises Gets Personal With Enhanced Concierge Service

Celebrity Cruises is about to offer you more personalized service by introducing a new “Personal Concierge” program aimed at further enhancing the brand’s “Designed for you” reputation, by emphasizing the customized onboard service that has long set Celebrity Cruises apart from its competitors. By individually communicating with guests to learn their personal preferences, tastes and needs, Celebrity’s new Personal Concierges deliver individualized attention, much like that of a personal assistant, for any guests who wish to heighten special occasions and create new ones.

“Our guests cruise for many reasons, whether they’re seeking an unforgettable vacation or celebrating life’s most precious milestones,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Senior Vice President, Hotel Operations. “We have designed the new Personal Concierge position in order to help guests make their vacation with us a truly personalized experience, in a way that minimizes their effort but maximizes their enjoyment.”

The Personal Concierge on each ship is an expert in matching Celebrity’s onboard offerings to guests’ individual desires for a particular event or experience. Guests don’t have to be celebrating any special occasion to enjoy the Personal Concierge service. Personal Concierges also help guests to arrange private shore excursions, book spa and specialty dining experiences and more, for no other reason than to make the most of their vacation. Personal Concierges also handle the fine details of arranging onboard celebrations of personal milestones such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, retirement and graduation. The consultative services of the Personal Concierge are free of charge; guests only have to pay for the services and events arranged.

“Recently, a guest sailing on Celebrity Summit asked the Personal Concierge to assist in planning a special evening during which he intended to propose to his girlfriend,” Lutoff-Perlo said. “The Personal Concierge spent time discussing the guest’s ideal evening, and then created an unforgettable romantic experience. The Personal Concierge arranged for a table in the ship’s specialty restaurant’s exclusive wine cellar for dinner that evening, ordered a dozen red roses to be delivered to the table, reserved a table in the ship’s nightclub and arranged for a bottle of chilled champagne to be ready for the guests upon their arrival there after dinner, and, while they were enjoying the evening, sent Celebrity’s “Classic Romance” package of strewn rose petals, champagne, and chocolate-covered strawberries to their stateroom in order to continue the romantic theme throughout the evening. Throughout the evening, the Personal Concierge ensured that everything went smoothly, and the next day, the guest, whose proposal was accepted, expressed his sincere thanks.”

This example illustrates the range of experiences designed for discerning cruisers who vacation on Celebrity Cruises’ award-winning ships, which are known for outstanding cuisine and engaging, life-enhancing activities set against a backdrop of stunning spaces and compelling destinations. Celebrity’s Personal Concierges also can assist guests with the fulfillment of pre-cruise purchases of onboard experiences made through the line’s online store, CelebrityCruises.com/shopcelebrity. Celebrity’s Personal Concierge program will be fleetwide by Sept 1 this year (with the exception of Celebrity Xpedition, the 92-guest megayacht sailing year-round in the Galapagos Islands).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Need-To-Know Travel Insurance Terms

Our good friends at InsureMyTrip.com realize that for most of us understanding travel insurance jargon is like learning a foreign language. However, with a little help from them, we can become proficient and confident travel insurance consumers.

"At InsureMyTrip.com one of our main goals is to educate travelers on the basics of coverage and empower them with the knowledge they need to select and purchase the right protection for all of their travels," explains Jim Grace, President and CEO of InsureMyTrip.com. "Understanding some of the most common insurance terms and applications is the first step in the learning process."

These are a few of the key travel insurance terms every consumer should know as they prepare to purchase trip protection for their upcoming travels:

Package Policies: Trip Cancellation Package Policies offer the broadest protection, including coverage for trip cancellation, interruption, baggage and travel delay, as well as medical and emergency evacuation. To receive the most benefit from the travel insurance policy including financial default and terrorism protection as well as coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, the majority of the policies require that you purchase your policy within 10 to 30 days of your first trip payment.

Travel Delay: A delayed flight can strand a person for hours or even cause them to miss a connecting flight to a vacation cruise. These events occur often and can wreak havoc on your itinerary not to mention your wallet for hotel accommodations, meals, and transportation caused by weather-related delays and cancellations. In the event of a travel delay lasting 5-12 hours (varies by company and plan), travel delay coverage can provide from $150 to $250 a day up to $1,500 maximum (varies by company and plan) for covered expenses you may incur while stuck in limbo.

Missed Connection: In the event you miss the boat, this benefit covers missed cruise departures resulting from a 3+ hour cancellation or delay of all regularly scheduled airline flights due to inclement weather or any common carrier-caused delay. Maximum benefits up to the covered amount are provided to cover the additional costs of transporting you to the en route cruise, reasonable accommodation and meal expenses, and nonrefundable trip payments for the unused portion of your cruise. Coverage is secondary to any compensation provided by a common carrier.

Trip Interruption: Emergencies big and small have a way of happening when you least expect them to. But the cost of cutting your trip short to take care of the problem can create a crisis of its own. Most Package Policies will reimburse your trip cost (per/person) plus 50% more to get you home quickly in the event of an emergency.

Travel Medical: Providing emergency medical coverage in the event of injury or illness, travel medical insurance policies are a 'must-have' for people going abroad. These plans also provide emergency medical evacuation coverage for transport to a proper care facility and can be purchased for travel up to a year in length.

Medical Evacuation: This coverage can be purchased as a stand alone policy or it may be included in comprehensive travel policies. It provides evacuation to the nearest appropriate care facility or, in some cases, to your hospital of choice depending on the company and plan.

Accident Plans: Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) plans pay benefits if you should have a serious injury that results in dismemberment or loss of life. Loss-of-life benefits paid by these plans are in addition to any benefits paid by life insurance plans.

Destination Made Uninhabitable: If your hotel, resort or vacation rental is devastated by a storm, coverage for weather-related trip cancellations and interruptions may apply (varies by company and plan).

24-hour Traveler Assistance: Providing a host of critical services from processing prescription refills to managing and monitoring itinerary changes, the 24-hour Traveler Assistance program is truly a traveler's best friend. A value-added benefit included in all travel insurance plans, insured travelers can call the company-provided phone number collect from anywhere in the world and receive special assistance with a wide-range of travel, medical, business, and concierge needs.

Licensed Insurance Representatives: U.S. travel insurance products and sales are regulated and monitored individually by state. Licensed in all 50 states, InsureMyTrip.com's Customer Care professionals are an expert team you can depend on to recommend only the best solutions for your travel insurance needs.

About InsureMyTrip.com
2010 marks the tenth anniversary of InsureMyTrip.com as the leading, consumer-oriented online travel insurance aggregator worldwide. Featuring insurance comparisons from the top industry providers, InsureMyTrip.com is a unique, one-stop resource designed to meet consumers' comprehensive travel insurance needs all in a secure environment. InsureMyTrip.com also specializes in providing integrated technology solutions for the travel insurance industry, with over 2,000 private-labeled and co-branded travel-related websites around the globe. InsureMyTrip.com is headquartered in Warwick, RI with additional offices and data centers in Connecticut and Oregon.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

You're Invited To Attend Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam Christening

Holland America Line is honored to have Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima of the Netherlands serve as godmother to ms Nieuw Amsterdam and you’re invited to join in the celebration. TheNieuw Amsterdam’s dedication ceremony will be webcast live from Venice, Italy, at 9 am Eastern Time, Sunday, July 4. To see it, visit the Holland America dedication website.

Nieuw Amsterdam will debut the intimate Master Chef’s Table (pictured here) in the Pinnacle Grill that includes an exclusive dinner menu for 18 to 20 guests created by Holland America Line Master Chef Rudi Sodamin. Each meal is enhanced with specially selected wine pairings by the ship’s sommelier. For a fixed price, the evening includes seven courses served on signature Versace china, each personally delivered by a special culinary expert that will be the evening’s host.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Norwegian Epic Gets Christened Today & You're Invited

Join the Norwegian Epic’s Christening Ceremony LIVE online with legendary country music star Reba McEntire as the Godmother.

Hosted by Jeff Garlin, register here in order to log on Friday, July 2 at 2:00 pm.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Carnival Magic to Operate 16-Day Transatlantic Crossing In October 2011

Are you looking for an exciting and affordable way to experience Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest “Fun Ship”? The 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic will operate a 16-day transatlantic crossing departing Barcelona Oct. 28 and arriving in Galveston, Texas, Nov. 13, 2011. Featured ports on the voyage include Palma de Mallorca and Malaga, Spain; Los Palmas, Canary Islands; and Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos, each offering interesting historical sites, excellent beaches and a host of shopping, dining, and sightseeing opportunities.

The transatlantic crossing follows the ship’s inaugural schedule of 7-, 9- and 12-day Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona beginning May 1, 2011–the line’s first departures from that port. Following the crossing, Carnival Magic will launch 7-day Caribbean service from Galveston Nov. 14, 2011, becoming the largest ship ever based at the port year-round.

As the line’s newest “Fun Ship,” Carnival Magic will offer many exciting amenities including a spectacular water park, an exclusive adults-only retreat, a wrap-around promenade with whirlpools that extend out over the ship’s sides, and expansive spa and children’s facilities.

Also featured will be a variety of stateroom choices, including deluxe ocean view accommodations with two bathrooms, some of which feature five berths and hold particular appeal for families; cove balcony cabins located closer to the water line; and spa staterooms that provide special access and benefits. A number of new innovations are scheduled to be announced in the near future.