Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cruise Travel: Effective Complaining

Sadly, there’s no such thing as a perfect vacation and things can go just as wrong at sea as they do on land. Minor quibbles can be brought to the attention of the crewmembers you come in contact with on a regular basis. However, for the really big problems, you should work your way up the managerial ladder to the top until you are satisfied.

The most important thing to remember is that you should deal with problem situations on the ship when they occur; there's not much that can be done after the cruise is over.

What happens if you weren't able to resolve a situation on board? When it comes to post-cruise problem solving, Cruise Diva has suggestions for Effective Complaining.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hurricane Earl Prompts Itinerary Adjustments

After the quiet opening months of the 2010 hurricane season, things are beginning to heat up with Hurricane Earl, the fifth named Atlantic storm of the year, moving in on islands in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean. Proactively, Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have altered some ships' itineraries to avoid the storm.

Cruise Ship Itinerary Alterations, Updated Noon 8/30

Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival Dream, which departed Port Canaveral on Saturday, will sail to the Western Caribbean and call at Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, and Costa Maya instead of following the planned Eastern Caribbean itinerary that included Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten.

Carnival Victory, which left San Juan on Sunday, will bypass St. Thomas and remain at sea today. A scheduled call in St. Maarten has been canceled and the ship plans to visit St. Thomas later in the week.

Carnival Pride sailed from Baltimore on Sunday and has cancelled a Wednesday visit in Grand Turk. Instead, it will make a call at Port Canaveral, Florida. Instead of Half Moon Cay, the ship will call at Nassau, Bahamas.

Royal Caribbean: Enchantment of the Seas, which departed from Baltimore last Thursday, will call at Samana, Dominican Republic today instead of St. Thomas. It will visit Labadee on Tuesday and spend Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at sea in order to arrive in Baltimore on Saturday.

Oasis of the Seas will not make its port calls Tuesday in St. Thomas and Wednesday in St. Maarten. The ship made an extended Sunday call on Nassau, will spend today and tomorrow at sea, then visit Costa Maya on Wednesday and Cozumel on Thursday. Friday will be a sea day returning to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.

Freedom of the Seas, which sailed Sunday from Port Canaveral, has been diverted to the Western Caribbean and will call at Grand Cayman and Cozumel on Wednesday and Thursday instead of the Eastern Caribbean ports of St. Thomas and St. Maarten.

Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Epic, which sailed from Miami on Saturday will visit Cozumel and Roatan in place of St. Maarten and St. Thomas. Epic will lengthen a Friday call in Nassau.

Norwegian Dawn was scheduled to leave New York on time yesterday, but faces a possible itinerary alteration depending on the path the storm takes.

Port Outlook
Hurricane watches are in effect for Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and British Virgin Islands. Tropical storm conditions are expected over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico today, with the possibility of hurricane conditions tonight. Hurricane warnings have been issued for St. Maarten, St. Barth's, Antigua, St. Kitt's, and neighboring islands.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cruising From New Orleans

Many people know that the Cruise Diva team is based in the South, but aren't aware of our Louisiana history. Throughout the 1980s, our home was in Baton Rouge and we grew to love the city, the state, and, of course New Orleans as well. We watched the televised coverage of Hurricane Katrina five years ago with sadness and growing concern.

Less than two years post-Katrina, it felt good to be going home to Louisiana again. Our mission was to embark on a cruise. After driving through the sad remains along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and skirting the edge of New Orleans' infamous Lower 9th Ward, we were relieved when the iconic Superdome came into view and we were once again in the New Orleans we knew from years past—long before the hurricane brought terrible flooding and death to sections of the city.

We wondered if the city had recovered enough for tourists to enjoy it as much as we always had. Just as we'd remembered, there's no better place to start a day in New Orleans than at the Cafe du Monde, the original French Market coffee stand since 1862. (You didn't think Starbucks invented the coffee house, did you?) Fortified with chicory-laced cafe au lait and sugary beignets, a walk through the French Quarter is in order. Boutiques, antique shops, and sidewalk cafes line the main streets of the Quarter. Bourbon Street enjoys a raucous reputation for smoky bars, music clubs, and strip joints, yet is also where some of the most elegant restaurants and hotels are located.

The downtown area is where everything is happening. Adjacent to either side of Canal Street are the French Quarter and Warehouse/Arts Districts with accommodations ranging from intimate bed-and-breakfasts to luxury high-rise hotels. With streetcars in service, as well as taxis and buses, getting around is easy.

Find out how to get there, where to stay, and what to see and do when Sailing From New Orleans.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Find a Cruise, or an Embarkation Port on Your iPhone

As a rule, I'm not one to promote products that I don't own or have at least tried out. However, I'm not about to give up my trusty BlackBerry for an iPhone, so this is something I can't share first-hand experience with. The ability to view deck plans on a small screen is probably better left to people with keener eyesight than mine, but I do like the idea of having port directions at hand whenever I need them. I know iPhone users love their apps, so this one is for them.

Any iPhone owners out there? Feedback is appreciated.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Carnival Invites Cruisers To 'Make The Magic Yours'

With only 246 days left before launch, let the magic begin! As Carnival Cruise Lines unveils new details about its newest "Fun Ship," Carnival Magic, fans and fun-seekers can learn more and join in the action, well before the ship sets sail next year. Carnival's new, interactive online home for Carnival Magic at www.carnivalmagic.com showcases the ship's standout features through a full-screen virtual tour and more, as well as many ways for "Fun Ship" enthusiasts to add their own unique touches to the new vessel, set to debut May 1, 2011.

Through the Make the Magic Yours campaign, which includes a wide array of contests and promotions, Carnival is inviting fans of fun to "make the Magic theirs" by submitting ideas and voting on their favorites, while supporting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital®. The campaign will run Aug. 24, 2010, through Feb. 18, 2011, and Carnival will make a donation of up to $50,000 to St. Jude, based upon participation and voting.

How You Can Add Magic Touches To the Ship
On the Carnival Magic microsite, users can learn more about participating in a sea of fun monthly contests and other promotions that comprise the Make the Magic Yours campaign, which will continue up to Carnival Magic's inaugural sailing in May 2011. Beyond bragging rights, Carnival will be giving away great prizes, from digital cameras to a free cruise. And by participating in many elements of the campaign, fans will also do good by generating monetary donations from Carnival to support St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Carnival will be challenging fun-seekers everywhere to name some of Carnival Magic's special features, including a gigantic 500-gallon water dump bucket, the largest at sea housed in the WaterWorks aqua park, along with the two-level mini-golf course in SportsSquare, and a delicious dish at Cucina del Capitano, Carnival's first Italian trattoria. Other opportunities include creating fun toasts, coaster sayings, and music playlists for its new island-inspired RedFrog Pub. This winter, kids will be invited to get into the act with creative ways to make the Magic theirs, as well.

So, raise your glass in a toast as the Make the Magic Yours campaign begins with the RedFrog Coaster Contest, challenging grown-up fun-atics to submit their best pub line. The winning sayings will appear on the thousands of drink coasters used each voyage in Carnival Magic's Caribbean-themed RedFrog Pub as pints of the pub's signature beer, ThirstyFrog Red, Fun Ship Specials and other beverages are enjoyed by guests.

Through Sept. 7, 2010, Carnival welcomes those ages 21 and above to submit the pub-appropriate lines they believe best capture the magical moments experienced on a Carnival "Fun Ship." Entries must be 60 characters or less and Carnival coaster-worthy, as they'll be judged by the company based on relevance, creativity and humor, then culled down to 10 finalists, nine chosen by Carnival and one wild card determined by consumer voting.

In mid-September, Carnival fans and fun-seekers will be invited to vote for their favorite sayings to choose three lucky winners who will be announced later that month. Each winner will receive a special commemorative version of their RedFrog Pub coasters and other items including a digital camera, RedFrog Pub bartending items and more. Additional information and contest rules are available at www.carnivalmagic.com/contest.

The 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic is slated to debut in Europe with a series of 7- to 12-day Mediterranean cruises operating May 1-Oct. 16, 2011. Following a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing, Carnival Magic will launch 7-day Caribbean service from Galveston, Texas, Nov. 14, 2011, becoming the port's largest year-round cruise ship.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Carnival Magic: The Countdown Continues

Now that they're down to 247 days until launch, here's one of the new spaces on Carnival Magic that will have sports junkies jumping for joy. It's SportsSquare. Taking Carnival's popular outdoor recreation areas to an entirely new level, SportsSquare will feature the cruise industry's first ropes course where thrill-seeking guests can traverse across nets suspended above Spa Deck 12 and offering spectacular views to the sea nearly 150 feet below. Surrounded by an eighth-mile jogging track, the expansive SportsSquare complex also includes the first outdoor weightlifting area on a cruise ship, along with Carnival's first two-level miniature golf course, a Vita exercise course, a lighted multi-purpose court for basketball, volleyball and soccer, along with ping pong and foosball tables. A full bar with a large flat-screen display is available for those who just want to relax and check out the sports action in the area or on TV.

Carnival Magic's other top-deck amenities include the splash-tastic WaterWorks aqua park (above) that will offer even more thrills with an exhilarating "Twister" spiral water slide, as well as the new Aqua Play splash park designed for youngsters and their families, featuring a gigantic, 500-gallon "dump bucket" and a host of other wet 'n wild features. Resort-style pool areas offer the perfect venue for catching rays or some Zs, although adults might want to head for the Serenity area for more peace and quiet.

In addition to the new features Carnival Cruise Lines has unveiled, Carnival Magic will also have a variety of signature "Fun Ship" elements, including:

• Expansive Family-Friendly Spaces: The ultimate family vacation, Carnival Magic offers more than 19,000 square feet of space catering to kids and families, including dedicated spaces for children (Camp Carnival), 'tweens (Circle "C") and teens (Club O2), with organized activities and enthusiastic counselors for each group.
• Serenity: The ideal space for some adult-only "me" time, Serenity offers comfortable chaise lounges and chairs, hammocks, colorful umbrellas and two jumbo-sized whirlpools, along with full bar service specializing in frothy, icy concoctions.
• Cloud 9 Spa: Guests in the mood for a workout or some personal pampering can visit this stunning and sophisticated facility. At the Cloud 9 Spa, troubles melt away as guests soak in the soothing thalassotherapy pool, unwind in the elaborate thermal suite or just take in the elegant, serene surroundings.
• Stateroom Innovations: With 1,845 staterooms, Carnival Magic offers a wide array of accommodation types, including two-bathroom/five-berth cabins and connecting staterooms that hold particular appeal to families; cove balcony cabins closer to the water line; and spa staterooms providing special access and benefits.
• Food, Glorious Food: Whether its authentic delicacies from India and China, a full-service meal in an elegant, two-level dining room, a late-night slice of pizza, an exquisite meal in a classic American steakhouse, or just a burger by the pool, Carnival Magic offers a tantalizing array of international cuisines sure to satisfy every palate.
• Dazzling Entertainment: From a laugh-out-loud Punchliner Comedy Club, live bands along the promenade, Superstar Live Karaoke where guests sing to channel their inner rock star fronting a four-piece band, or dazzling production shows incorporating the latest special effects, nights are truly special aboard Carnival Magic.
• Carnival's Seaside Theatre: This 270-square-foot LED screen and poolside seating is the perfect spot for guests to sit back, relax and watch classic and first-run movies, sporting events, news, concerts and other programming, either during the day or night.
• Ocean Plaza: A place to see and be seen, Ocean Plaza is a stunning indoor/outdoor cafe and live entertainment venue where guests can dance to live music and enjoy specialty coffees and sweets - even freshly made milkshakes. Full bar service, specializing in martinis and mojitos, is also available.
• The Lanai: Taking the traditional cruise-ship promenade to new heights, The Lanai is a half-mile, open-air promenade encircling Promenade Deck 5. Here, guests can stroll while enjoying spectacular ocean vistas, curl up with a good book, soak up some sun in a comfortable deck chair, or relax in one of four cantilevered whirlpools that extend out over the ship's sides.
• Fun Hub: Available on any guests' Internet-connected laptop or at dozens of convenient locations throughout the ship is the Fun Hub, a social network and comprehensive shipboard intranet portal that provides access to a variety of information on Carnival Magic's services, facilities and daily activities. Carnival Magic will also offer bow-to-stern Wi-Fi and cell phone service.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Carnival Magic: The Countdown Begins

They're counting down the days (only 248 more) at Carnival Cruise Lines' Miami headquarters. That's when their newest "Fun Ship," the 130,000-ton Carnival Magic, sets sail.

While we wait, Carnival is giving us a peek through the porthole at some of the ship's unique spaces and fun features. From Carnival's first-ever pub, featuring its own private label beer, to an authentic trattoria that brings the heritage of Carnival's Italian captains to the table, to an expansive outdoor sports complex featuring the first-ever ropes course and outdoor weight-lifting area on a cruise ship—along with cruising's first gargantuan water dump bucket—Carnival Magic is destined to be the most innovative "Fun Ship" to date.

While Carnival Magic offers vacationing passengers a variety of opportunities for fun, relaxation, and enjoyment, the two innovations that appeal most to the Cruise Diva team are:

• RedFrog Pub: A new concept for Carnival, the RedFrog Pub (above) offers a laid-back Caribbean vibe with island-inspired snacks and drinks, including ThirstyFrog Red, a private-label draught beer brewed especially for Carnival Magic. Located on Promenade Deck 5, the 100-seat indoor/outdoor pub is a convivial place where guests can relax, meet new friends, sip a frozen cocktail, and snack on Bahamian conch salad, grouper fingers, firecracker Jamaican chicken wings, and other Caribbean favorites. RedFrog Pub will also offer tastings of top-rated rums of the Caribbean and a collection of the region's best beers. With a nod to Carnival Magic's Caribbean itineraries, which kick off in Nov 2011, RedFrog Pub's decor is decidedly British West Indies meets Key West, evoking the warmth and friendliness of a local island watering hole. Nautical-themed interiors with rich wood details, vibrant tile work, portholes, and images of ships at sea, along with foosball and shuffleboard tables, and a jukebox, complete the playful pub atmosphere.

• Cucina del Capitano ("The Captain's Kitchen"): An homage to Carnival's rich Italian lineage—all of the line's captains are Italian and many Carnival ships, including Carnival Magic, are built in Italy—Cucina del Capitano (above) is a dinner-time option with made-to-order Italian favorites in comfortable, relaxed surroundings. Dine on hand-made pastas, risotto, and fresh-from-the-oven Italian specialties—many served family style—complemented by a wine list specializing in Italian vintages. Many of the dishes and recipes were hand-selected by Carnival's captains. Framed archival photographs, many from the captains' personal collections, table arrangements that invite conversation, wood-beam ceilings, and ornate wrought ironwork recreate the ambiance of a cozy Italian home, while the warm service makes everyone feel like they're part of the family. Truly an unforgettable dining experience. Dinner carries a nominal fee. During the day, the space is utilized as a casual made-to-order pasta bar with items offered on a complimentary basis.

These and more of Carnival Magic's many features are highlighted on the interactive micro-site, CarnivalMagic.com, which features a full-screen virtual tour, exclusive images and videos, construction footage, and more. The virtual tour is exceptionally well done. The site also contains details on a series of unique contests and promotions Carnival will offer for fun fans to add their personal touches on Carnival Magic leading up to the ship's maiden voyage.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Featured Cruise Review: Celebrity Solstice

Last January our frequent contributors Mary and Vincent Finelli cruised on Celebrity Solstice to the Eastern Caribbean and enjoyed a memorable experience. So memorable, in fact, that they booked Celebrity Solstice again in order to give the new Aqua Class a try.

Cruise Diva is happy to share their Western Caribbean Aqua Class cruise aboard Celebrity Solstice.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Retail Therapy: Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth

Ever since Queen Mary entered service in 1936, Cunard’s Queens have been famous for offering the best on board shopping featuring some of the finest luxury brands and gifts from around the world. The new Queen Elizabeth, which enters service in October 2010, will be no exception. Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Arcade will feature iconic products from Fortnum & Mason. Since 1707, Fortnum & Mason has been the quintessential English store situated in the heart of London’s Piccadilly and issued with two Royal warrants. On board, Fortnum & Mason will offer unique teas, preserves, biscuits and gifts.

“Decades of experience have told us that on board shopping is important to our guests and Cunard has an unrivalled reputation for providing the finest shopping at sea,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “Queen Elizabeth will be no exception in this regard and I am very excited with the range that will be offered by high-quality world-famous brands that are a perfect fit for our brand and our guests.”

In addition to Fortnum & Mason, shoppers on board Queen Elizabeth will be able to purchase other brands that have never before been available at sea. The new Cunarder will be the only ship in the world to feature men’s designer clothing by Hackett of London, producers of the finest authentic and classic menswear and “The home of the essential British kit”; Harris Tweed, world-renowned for their genuine hand-woven Scottish woollen fabrics; and English fashion accessories by designer Anya Hindmarch, who always had a passion for bespoke details, the latest of which will be found on board.

Queen Elizabeth will also feature Chopard, watches and jewelery of exceptional quality, exclusively created to the highest standards in Geneva; Penhaligons, with fragrances and gifts for men and women including perfume, aftershave, cologne, eau de parfum, body lotion and bath oil; and Aspinal of London, best known for their hand-made leather photo albums, leather wallets and purses, leather journals, wedding albums and guest books in both classic and contemporary designs.

To celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s introduction, a new Cunard Signature Collection will offer a premium logo collection ranging from travel accessories to designer clothing.

Cunard was the first Line to offer suit hire facilities at sea, and Queen Elizabeth will continue this valuable service with Moss Bros Hire, providing everything needed for elegant formal events.

Queen Elizabeth will be the second largest Cunarder ever built and will join her sisters, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, as part of the youngest fleet in the world. She will feature many unique Cunard traditions linking her with her sisters and their predecessors, together with all the modern day luxuries Cunard’s guests have come to expect. There will also be features that will give the vessel her own style and personality. The first Queen Elizabeth was one of Cunard’s greatest ships, and the new Queen Elizabeth will reflect her predecessor in interior grandeur, décor and style, but with a modern twist. From the outside, her distinctive black and red livery will hint at an experience that differentiates a Cunard liner from a modern-day cruise ship. This will be most evident in the ship’s adherence to liner traditions, with elegant double and triple height public rooms on a grand scale, luxuriously endowed with rich wood panelling, intricate mosaics, hand-woven carpets, gleaming chandeliers, and cool marbles. Art Deco features will pay homage to the original Queen Elizabeth, reflecting The New Golden Age of Ocean Travel.

Queen Elizabeth will depart on her sold-out Maiden Voyage on Oct 12, 2010. This 13-night celebration will leave from the company’s home port, Southampton, and will call at Vigo, Lisbon, Cadiz, Las Palmas, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (overnight call), and Funchal. For more information, visit queenelizabeth.cunard.com.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Plan Your Cruise Vacation With Carnival Cruise Lines On Facebook

Only a few days after announcing that a little Fun Ship birdie is answering cruiser questions on Twitter, Carnival Cruise Lines has announced the launch of a new social commerce Facebook application that allows users to easily view, compare, select, and share Carnival cruises with their Facebook friends. The application, the first of its kind in the cruise industry, allows users to engage their social network in their vacation planning through personalized newsfeed updates and even invite friends to book the same trip.

The application, available on Carnival’s official Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/carnival), enables the user to explore all available Carnival cruise options without leaving Facebook by providing the functionality to sort cruises by date, duration, port of call, and accommodation type. Once users decide on a particular cruise, they can share the detailed cruise information with their Facebook friends by simply clicking a button. Users can also customize their newsfeed messages, which include a link to the cruise, to invite friends to book the trip as well.

“A Carnival cruise is a very social experience and this application is a natural extension of our efforts to engage our nearly 250,000 Facebook fans in a unique and exciting way,” said Jim Berra, Carnival’s chief marketing officer. “By allowing our customers to share their cruising plans with Facebook friends, we are making it easier for them to plan group trips and encourage others to join in the fun.”

Now, I admit that I'm not the brightest bulb in the chandelier when it comes to social media programs, but I thought I'd give it a try before sharing this new application here on the Cruise Diva Blog. It took me a moment to find the “Cruise Finder” navigation tab (right at the top of the Carnival Facebook home page—duh). When I clicked on it a “Request for Permission” form appeared asking for the following:
Request for Permission
Carnival Cruise Finder is requesting permission to do the following:
—Access my basic information
—Includes name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information I've shared with everyone.
I trust Carnival with personal information every time I am booked on a cruise with them, but I'm still a bit leery of openly sharing information on Facebook so I exited without going any further. Carnival calls this application groundbreaking, but I'll let someone else break that ground on Facebook.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Malt Shop Memories Cruise, Class of 2011

Break out your bobby socks and poodle skirts and get ready to join the Class of 2011. Sixthman and Time Life proudly announce that the second annual Malt Shop Memories Cruise will set sail from Port Canaveral, Florida, to Nassau, Bahamas, aboard the Carnival Sensation. The cruise leaves on Sunday, May 8, 2011, and returns on Thursday, May 12. Performers include Chubby Checker, Little Anthony & the Imperials, Shirley Alston Reeves—Original Lead of the Shirelles, The Crystals, The Original Drifters, The Tymes, and more.

Based on Time Life's acclaimed Malt Shop Memories box set, the cruise brings the sounds of the 50s and 60s to life, with live performances from the best acts from the Malt Shop era. Along with live shows, guests will enjoy onboard activities such as dance contests and lessons, theme nights, and more.

Chubby Checker joins the Malt Shop Memories Cruise just in time for the Twist's 50th birthday. Shirley Alston Reeves, co-founder and original lead singer of The Shirelles, makes a great addition to the lineup, as do The Crystals, who had several top ten hits such as "He's a Rebel" and "Da Doo Ron Ron." Sixthman and Time Life are also looking forward to welcoming Philly group The Tymes who had a hit with "So Much in Love," as well as The Skyliners whose "Since I Don't Have You" topped charts in the fifties.

Radio personality "The Geator with the Heater" Jerry Blavat will again emcee the cruise, and several of the artists from 2010's cruise will return, including Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Original Drifters, and a capella doo wop groups The Del Rays, The Devotions, The Fireflys, and award-winning Elvis Tribute Artist Gino Monopoli (pictured above).

The first ever Malt Shop Memories cruise took place in May of 2010 and Cruise Diva was reporting from on board. Along with our fellow cruisers, we felt transported back in time to simpler days with the best music in the world. We forged new friendships and intermingled with the likes of Frankie Avalon, Little Anthony, Lou Christie, and Lesley Gore. Some of the activities we enjoyed included hula-hoop contests, a sock hop, wine tastings, and bingo.

Plan to be a member of the Class of 2011 and check out the details for the vacation of a lifetime at MaltShopCruise.com. Fares include entertainment, meals, onboard activities, and more.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Does My Cruise Vacation HAVE To End?

Other than hearing “are we there yet?” from little ones in the back seat during a family road trip, the saddest vacation quote I can think of is “it’s time to disembark the vessel.”

Royal Caribbean International has felt our pain and passengers on European sailings who wish to remain on board longer on departure day may now sign up in advance of the cruise for their Late Departure Program. Sign up online under Shore and Land Excursions for the port of call where the cruise terminates.

In another variant of “I don’t want the vacation to end yet,” for passengers on Oasis of the Seas who have time before their flight leaves, Royal Caribbean is testing an Extended Stay program that allows the Oasis passengers to store their luggage and enjoy a day in Hollywood, Florida in and around the boardwalk. This opportunity encompasses shopping, dining, going to the beach, riding the trolley, and/or relaxing at the cruise lines’ hospitality center. This opportunity is also available as a shore excursion under the port of call, Ft. Lauderdale, for all guests sailing on board Oasis of the Seas.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tweet Carnival With Your Questions

When you have a question or concern about your Carnival cruise, who you gonna call? Provided that you can ask it in 140 characters or less, now you can tweet Carnival Cruise Lines for an answer.

Carnival has expanded its guest service options with a new Twitter profile that is specifically assigned to cruise-related questions or pre- or post-cruise comments from guests sailing aboard the “Fun Ships.”

Through the new Twitter profile (www.twitter.com/CCLsupport), you can submit questions regarding any aspect of “Fun Ship” cruising or post a query, comment, or concern, either prior to or following your voyage. Carnival’s guest service personnel are monitoring and responding to posts.

The new service-focused Twitter profile complements the line’s existing Twitter profile (www.twitter.com/carnivalcruise), which offers a variety of news and information on the happenings at Carnival.

Oh yes, and if you'd like to follow Cruise Diva, we also have a Twitter profile at www.twitter.com/CruiseDiva.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where The Cruises With Character Are

What's that!?! You think you saw a mouse on your ship? Definitely yes, if you are sailing on Disney Cruise Line ships!

And, as our special contributor Georgina Cruz points out, you'll find some of your favorite movie and television cartoon characters and mascots at sea on other cruise lines as well.

Follow along as Georgina introduces you to Cruises With Character.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Halfway Through Hurricane Season 2010

Hurricane Season officially started on June 1st and lasts until November 30th, so we're almost halfway through it for 2010. Thus far, it's been pretty quiet out there in the Caribbean, but savvy cruisers know... storms happen. They're a fact of life. And, quite frankly, Mother Nature isn't interested in whether or not she spoils your cruise vacation. She does what she wants and when she wants to do it. She is what she is... kind of like your mother-in-law when she comes to visit.

However, Mother Nature is somewhat more unpredictable than most mothers-in-law. Unlike some of her other tricks, such as violent, out-of-nowhere tornadoes and sneaky earthquakes, hurricanes build slowly and pick up speed. Using modern technology, forecasters are able to predict and track them to a certain degree but even the most up-to-the-minute devices aren't perfect. Impossible as it is to say with one hundred percent certainty exactly where they will hit, at least the National Hurricane Center is able to issue advance warning to those in harms way.

Any Port in a Storm? Not So Fast!
Excerpt from a 1995 U. S. Navy Press Release: "The approach of Hurricane Felix caused 66 Navy ships to depart Norfolk Naval Base and the Norfolk, Virginia area on 15 and 16 August..."
So, what's with the above press release quote from the Navy? Find out in Cruising Into Hurricane Season from CruiseDiva.com.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Another Cruise Line Says Adios to Mexican Riviera

Other cruse lines have steadily trimmed back on their sailings to the Mexican Riviera so it came as no surprise that Crystal Cruises is doing so as well. The luxury line has announced two new 7-day getaways exploring the Pacific Coast that depart on April 10 and 17, 2011. Sailing between Los Angeles and Vancouver aboard Crystal Symphony, the northbound and southbound "Pacific Escape" and "Coastal Exploration" itineraries visit Santa Barbara and San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Astoria, Oregon; and Victoria, British Columbia.

Ship redeployments are not unusual in the cruise industry, but what is unusual is the frank statement by Bill Smith, Crystal Cruises' senior vice president, sales & marketing, "The beauty of a floating resort is that you can move your hotel to other destinations when there is demand. We are keeping several fall 2010 itineraries through the Mexican Riviera, in additional to others in spring and fall 2011; the West Coast and Northwest itineraries add dimension and scope to the worldwide destinations we're offering in 2011."

What he doesn't say is that the Mexican Riviera's ports are awfully "been-there and done-that" to west coast passengers. Lingering memories of swine flu and the hint of danger in Mexico don't help to pump up demand. And, probably most important, is that cruise lines can command higher fares in other regions.

About their newly announced itineraries, Smith adds, "Crystal's Pacific Coast cruises showcase a stunning and remarkably diverse blend of iconic West Coast highlights, from the California beaches and the Golden Gate Bridge to the plush forests of Oregon and British Columbia. The itineraries offer our guests new destinations, the opportunity to sail with the World's Best at an incredible value and great convenience for North American travelers. Even international guests can enjoy this sampler of some of the most beautiful places in the western U.S. and Canada."

Passengers who book by Sept 30, 2010 will enjoy complimentary air transportation from more than 20 North American gateway cities. For more information, visit CrystalCruises.com.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Contemporary Art & Ultra-Contemporary Technology Converge On Celebrity Cruises

The artwork cruise lines display on their vessels has always been truly extraordinary and some of the finest modern art at sea is found on Celebrity Cruises’ ships. While other cruise lines have offered art tours, usually with audio loaded on an iPod®, Celebrity is playing off the series of hip, high-tech “firsts” it has introduced in recent months by debuting the industry’s first self-guided art tours on an iPad®. Some of the first passengers to experience the iPad tour are pictured here.

Earlier this year, Celebrity introduced the first “Celebrity iLounge”–a modern lounge equipped with MacBook® workstations, a retail space featuring Apple products and accessories, and an enrichment center where certified staff present a variety of courses and offer guests tips on Mac and iPod usage. Celebrity Cruises is itself an iPad pioneer, having become the first cruise line to present a menu and wine list on an iPad when it introduced its engaging “Qsine” specialty restaurant earlier this year.

A new addition to Celebrity’s extensive “Celebrity Life” series of onboard entertainment and enrichment activities, the iPads on each Solstice Class ship house floor plans of every deck on the ship, with select works of art flagged on every deck. A guest simply touches the screen to select the work of art he or she would like to learn more about, and the screen transitions to full details about the piece, including the title of the work, artist’s name, medium used, description and image. In addition to the art tour application, the iPads also present guests with the opportunity to explore digital versions of each Solstice-Class vessel’s in-stateroom art catalogs.

“The response to the Celebrity iLounge and to the iPad menus in Qsine was so positive, we knew our guests would relish yet another opportunity to capitalize on the latest technology in an entertaining, enriching way,” said Celebrity’s Senior VP of Hotel Operations Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. “Celebrity’s ‘Designed for you’ platform is built on our commitment to listen to our guests and offer experiences inspired by them and their sophisticated travel desires.”

With more than 14,000 works of original, contemporary art on its three Solstice Class ships alone, Celebrity Cruises is the holder of one of the world’s largest corporate collections of contemporary art. Throughout the ships, a vast range of mediums is represented, including glass, acrylics, oils, photography, digital prints, video, etchings, sculptures and collages. Approximately 15 percent of the art on each Solstice Class ship is site-specific or commissioned artwork, such as the signature living trees in enormous vases suspended within the Solstice Class ships’ sweeping, airy Grand Foyers.

Celebrity’s new iPad art tours will be available on Celebrity Solstice beginning Aug 15, and on Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Equinox beginning August 21. The tours currently are in English, and also will be offered in Spanish by the end of this year. Celebrity will add German and French versions in 2011. For more information, visit CelebrityCruises.com.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New FOX TV Shows Premiering Aboard Princess Cruises Ships

It’s been a while since the Princess Cruises vessels were the first cruise ships to star in a television show (“The Love Boat”), but the line hasn’t shied away from those heady days and their connection with the small screen. In an industry first, Princess Cruises and FOX Television have joined together this summer to premiere two of FOX’s fall primetime shows across the line’s 17-vessel fleet. Throughout August, passengers on Princess ships will be among the first to view the new programs, “Lone Star” and “Raising Hope”–the only primetime network television shows to premiere at sea prior to their network debut in September.

Passengers can view the pilot episodes of both shows at special screenings on the ships’ Movies Under the Stars poolside screens or in the Princess Theater, and can later also watch the shows on their stateroom televisions. Passengers attending the screenings will also receive a FOX tote bag to use throughout their cruise. In addition, two lucky passengers at each screening will have the chance to win a large tote bag full of FOX items.

“These screenings are an exciting first for us, and we’re pleased to partner with FOX to host the first TV ‘screening room’ at sea,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “No cruise line has ever offered the opportunity to see primetime premieres a month before they’re broadcast at home.”

The two shows premiering onboard are:

LONE STAR premieres Monday, Sept. 20 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. The series centers on a charismatic and brilliant schemer – Robert Allen (newcomer James Wolk) – who has meticulously constructed two lives in two different parts of Texas. In Houston, he’s a devoted husband charming his ultra-wealthy in-laws to cement his position in the rich family business he aims to clean out. More than 400 miles away in the suburban west Texas town of Midland, he lives a second life with his sweet, naïve girlfriend, playing the perfect boyfriend while secretly bilking local investors of their savings. As he tries to hold his two lives together, while fending off angry investors and the growing suspicions of those around him, Robert puts it all on the line hoping he can beat the odds, leave the schemes behind and keep two separate relationships afloat.

RAISING HOPE premieres Tuesday, Sept. 21 (9:00-9:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX. The half-hour comedy follows the Chance family as they find themselves adding an unexpected new member into their household. At 23 years old, Jimmy Chance (Lucas Neff) is going nowhere in life. He skims pools for a living, parties every night and still lives at home with his family. Jimmy’s life takes a drastic turn after a chance romantic encounter with a wanted felon. Months later, Jimmy learns his one-night stand is pregnant with their baby, and after she gives birth, he is charged with raising their daughter.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

And the Allure of the Seas' New Chef Is...

After hosting an eight week-long contest, which culminated with five intense hours in the competition kitchens at The Culinary Institute of America, Royal Caribbean has found the next culinary superstar to lead the kitchen of the signature restaurant onboard Allure of the Seas, the cruise line's newest ship which will make her debut in Dec 2010 and share the title of world's largest and most innovative cruise ship with sister-ship Oasis of the Seas. Maureen "Molly" Brandt of Stillwater, Minn. has landed 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.

Brandt was one of six chefs to be a finalist in the Allure of the Seas Culinary Challenge, a contest open exclusively to the Culinary Institute of America's network of 40,000 alumni. The six chefs participated in a two-part final challenge last week, where they were each required to showcase their culinary prowess and creativity by participating in an interview with, as well as preparing a three-course meal for, an esteemed panel of judges from Royal Caribbean and The Culinary Institute.

"Partnering with the Culinary Institute and having the ability to tap into their alumni has been an amazing opportunity," said Lisa Bauer, Senior Vice President, Hotel Operations, Royal Caribbean "Each of the finalists truly showcased their passion and knowledge in the kitchen and we are extremely excited to have selected Molly as our new Chef de Cuisine for 150 Central Park."

After her entry video was selected as the "fan favorite" in the consumer voting portion of the contest, Brandt went on to impress the judges at the Final Challenge by serving up a menu consisting of Chilled Lobster with fennel, carrots, citrus, caviar and tempura battered lobster mitt; Provencal Lamb Loin with Dijon potato puree, ratatouille, pattypan squash and olive tapenade; and Pistachio Cake with whipped rosewater creme fraiche and carbonated raspberries.

A 2006 alumni of The Culinary Institute of America, Brant was named a Food and Wine best student chef in 2006. While in training she worked at the Food Network as a culinary extern, where she prepared food for a variety of production projects including "Iron Chef America," "Emeril Live," and "Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee." Immediately following graduation, she spent a year as a teaching assistant in the CIA's Escoffier restaurant, before going on to work in the kitchens at restaurants in New York, Minnesota and abroad, including the critically acclaimed, Michelin starred Cafe Boulud in New York City. Currently Brandt owns her own private chef and catering company, Cook in the Kitchen in the Twin Cities. She is also the co-founder and villa chef for Flavors of Italia, a company that offers intimate, culinary-focused vacations in Northern Tuscany.

Located in the lush and tropical grounds of the ship's Central Park neighborhood, 150 Central Park will feature decor that will embrace the mellow earth tones, unique textiles and fixtures inspired by nature's four seasons. Inspired by the simple elegance concept of trend-setting restaurants in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, each detail of 150 Central Park will be dedicated to enhancing the dining ambiance, from the tabletops to the service team uniforms. The restaurant menu and certain design aspects will be developed and determined by the winning chef of the Allure of the Seas Culinary Challenge.

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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Costa Favolosa, Costa Cruises’ Fifteenth Ship Set to Debut in Summer 2011

Costa’s newest ship, the Costa Favolosa, took to the sea for the very first time last week at a ceremony held at Fincantieri’s Marghera ship yard in honor of the ship’s technical launch. Costa Favolosa (114,500 tons; 3,000 double occupancy), will set sail on her first cruise in July 2011. She is the fourth of five new ships delivered or set to be delivered between 2009 and 2012 for Costa, Europe’s Number One Cruise Line. In Spring 2012, Costa Fascinosa, a sister ship to the Costa Favolosa, will complete Costa’s ambitious fleet expansion program.

“The launch of Costa Favolosa confirms the strength and leadership of our company,” said Costa Crociere S.p.A. President Gianni Onorato. “Despite the ongoing effects of the economic downturn in 2010 and the uncertain outlook for global tourism, our fleet expansion program has continued uninterrupted.”

The construction of each new ship involves the labor of around 3,000 people, comprising both the employees of Fincantieri, the shipyard, and those of about 500 contracted suppliers, most of which are Italian firms. The ceremony for the launch of Costa Favolosa observed the protocol laid down for such occasions by seafaring tradition. The director of the shipyard invited the Godmother, Beatrice Siri, to cut the ribbon and the bottle of champagne duly broke against the bows of the ship. Betarice Siri, new building and special projects deputy of Costa Cruises, has been directly involved in the construction of the fleet’s last six ships, including Costa Favolosa. After the opening of the valves and the gradual flooding of the slipway where the ship has taken shape over the last few months, the hull of Costa Favolosa was transferred for the first time to its natural element–-the sea. The launch was preceded by the welding of a coin to the base of what used to be the mainmast in a ceremony traditionally considered to augur well.

As her name suggests (Favola is Italian for “fairy tale”), Costa Favolosa is intended to interpret the excitement and emotion of people who view the cruise as a magical voyage in a “contemporary enchanted castle,” a perfect combination of fabulous atmosphere and state-of-the-art high-tech fun with a truly amazing range of amenities. The main innovations on board include: six new suites with private verandas and Jacuzzis; a new entertainment area for teenagers (other age groups are sure to enjoy it too), comprising 4D Cinema, PlayStation World, a bar with ice-cream, drinks and popcorn, and a Teens’ Dance Floor; a children’s game room, and a new open-air Aqua Park water playground with its own pirate galleon. Facilities will combine the very best of the Costa product: the Samsara Spa, one of the largest and most exclusive wellness centers ever built on a cruise ship; a large lido extending over two decks, with a sliding glass roof and giant movie screen; a Grand Prix driving simulator; and a golf simulator. A newly designed aft pool area will be particularly large and inviting with 1000 m2 of space dedicated to relaxation and entertainment with the added attraction of new raised whirlpool tubs.

The Costa Favolosa is set to make her debut on a 3-day mini vernissage cruise departing from Venice on July 4, 2011, and calling at Dubrovnik (Croatia) and Koper (Slovenia). This will be followed by her grand inaugural cruise, which leaves Venice on July 7. This 10-day itinerary will visit Israel, Greece and Turkey with stopovers in Bari, Corfu (Greece), Haifa (Israel), Izmir (Turkey) and Dubrovnik (Croatia). Throughout the 2011 summer season the Costa Favolosa will offer 7-day cruises from Venice and Bari to Olympia (Greece), Izmir and Istanbul (Turkey), and Dubrovnik (Croatia). For more information on Costa Cruises, visit CostaCruises.com.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Crystal Adventures Offer New Perspectives

If you've been there and done that, you might want to consider a Crystal cruise for something different. This fall, Crystal passengers can see what backstage life is like at the Monte Carlo Ballet, how the ponies live at St-Tropez's Polo Club, view Mexico's Sierra Madre mountains from a private plane and Copper Canyon by privately chartered rail, among other "private access" experiences. The luxury cruise line is offering nearly 100 brand new Crystal Adventures with its fall itineraries, offering travelers distinctly new perspectives on the destinations.

"Crystal's well traveled guests continually seek fresh and exclusive ways to see destinations," says John Stoll, vice president, land and port operations. "We design our Crystal Adventures to appeal to a broad range of interests and offer travelers more choices."

On 20 distinctive voyages this fall, Crystal's award-winning ships explore the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Holy Land, Canary Islands, British Isles, New England/Canada, Panama Canal and the Mexican Riviera. Many of the latest highlights ashore include VIP access and unique points of view:

Exclusive Access
-- Private visit to Venice's Doges Palace before it opens to the public for the day;
-- Guided behind-the-scenes tour of the Monte Carlo Ballet, including the costume department;
-- Behind-the-scenes visit to the Polo Club St-Tropez, exploring the stables and luxury clubhouse, and visit with the polo ponies.

New Points of View
-- Explore Reykjavik's hot springs, lava fields, trails and mud banks;
-- In a private plane, soar over the Sierra Madre mountain range to Guadalajara to experience its musical, spiritual and artistic culture (from Puerto Vallarta);
-- Bay of Fundy discovery with guidance from a resident marine biologist highlighting the indigenous wildlife (St. John, New Brunswick);
-- Mountain biking adventure featuring spectacular island views on Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain.

For more information, visit CrystalCruises.com.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Celebrity Cruises Introduces A More Flexible Group Policy

On a positive note for travel agents and their clients, Celebrity Cruises has announced a new and improved group policy to better align with consumer booking trends. This change provides travel agents with options, depending upon the number of staterooms they need to hold, with one of the key benefits being more time to market and sell their group inventory. That also gives their clients more options and more time to get on board.

“We want to make it easy for travel agent partners to think of Celebrity as their go-to cruise line when it comes to group space,” said Celebrity’s Senior Vice President of Sales Dondra Ritzenhaler. “We not only aim to design ships and programs that appeal to the tastes of our guests, but also to cater to the desires of our partners, especially travel agents who are vital in creating memorable vacations for their clients.”

Celebrity’s group policy will continue to offer both a no-deposit and deposit program. Celebrity’s no-deposit program will now permit travel agents to hold a maximum of 16 staterooms up to 120 days prior to the sailing date for cruises of up to eight nights and 150 days prior to the sailing date for cruises of nine nights or longer. The deposit program grants travel agents the opportunity to set aside between 17 and 50 staterooms until 120 days before the sailing date for cruises of up to eight nights and 150 days before the sailing date for cruises of nine nights or longer. Deposits are due within 30 days of creating the group space.

Travel agents are welcome to use either group booking program at any time based on need. These changes do not apply to cruisetours or Celebrity Xpedition sailings. The new group policy becomes effective Aug. 10, 2010. The new policy pertains to travel agencies operating in the United States and Canada. For more information on the group policy, travel agents can visit CruisingPower.com or call 1-800-963-0311. For consumer information, call your travel agent, dial 1-800-437-3111, or visit CelebrityCruises.com.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Great Theme Cruises You Won't Want To Miss

Our friends at Sixthman are at it again. They've scheduled some of the best theme cruises at sea and Cruise Diva is always happy to share the news and updates.

JILLIAN MICHAELS ULTIMATE WELLNESS CRUISE is Sixthman's first non-music cruise, and we're so ready for it that we've even started a challenge in the office to see who can get the healthiest by the time we sail. Healthy Lifestyle Coach JEANETTE JENKINS, founder of The Hollywood Trainer and creator of Bikini Bootcamp will be joining the voyage. Jeanette has worked with Serena Williams, Queen Latifah, Kimora Lee Simmons, and many more. She has also been featured on the Today Show, Tyra, and Dr. Oz. jillianmichaels.com/cruise

We're happy to announce that 38 SPECIAL will be joining Lynyrd Skynyrd on SIMPLE MAN CRUISE 2011. Guests who've joined us all four years were over the moon to hear the news--38 Special are a favorite among the southern rock cruisers. They recently released a brand new studio album and can't wait to play the new songs at sea. simplemancruise.com

Also, CAYAMO has added celtic rockers ENTER THE HAGGIS to inject some dancing into the mix, as well scheduling SARA WATKINS for some solo sets. Sara will also be performing with Works Progress Administration on board. SHANNON WHITWORTH is joining us on Cayamo for the first time, along with TOBY LIGHTMAN, who will also be sailing on The Rock Boat XI this year. Cayamo guests will also enjoy guitar workshops from JIMMY GALLOWAY when they're not enjoying the live performances. cayamo.com

Barenaked Ladies and Sixthman are excited to announce that GREAT BIG SEA have been added to SHIPS AND DIP 4! Great Big Sea have been a fan favorite on Ships and Dips of the past, so guests are especially thrilled for them to be included. In March of this year, Great Big Sea celebrated their seventeenth anniversary as a band with a live show in Omaha, Nebraska - fans traveled hundreds of miles to be a part of the event. That level of fan dedication is a testament to Great Big Sea's talent, tenacity, and to their energetic live shows. shipsanddip.com

Last but not least, THE ROCK BOAT XI welcomes ED KOWALCZYK OF LIVE, ANTIGONE RISING, ASLYN, MATT DUKE, and DEATH ON TWO WHEELS along with TOBY LIGHTMAN. Ed is on the threshold of his solo career, so fans will get to witness some inspiring new songs. Toby has toured with Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers, Jewel, and Marc Cohn, so we can't wait to see her live. Aslyn is no stranger to The Rock Boat and guests are excited to have her back. Jersey-born Matt Duke will bring his coffeehouse serenades to the ship for the first time. Antigone Rising will be featuring their new lead singer, Nini Camps, as part of their all-female ensemble, and Atlanta-based Death on Two Wheels will present their haunting guitar sounds to new fans on the ocean. therockboat.com

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Holland America Line Introduces Intimate Approach to Shipboard Entertainment

With the recent launch of the 2,106-guest ms Nieuw Amsterdam, Holland America Line is showcasing its new approach to shipboard entertainment, opting to bring more intimacy to evening shows. Exemplifying this new direction is the singing group Cantare (pictured here), a quartet of male performers with a pop music repertoire covering several eras.

"With this new approach we've focused on getting top-notch performers, and you'll see more faces from Broadway, 'American Idol' and other well-known performance outlets gracing our stage," said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. "We're looking to share meaningful entertainment experiences with our guests through the quality of the music and performances, as well as deliver increasingly innovative and enriching options."

Several production shows will debut aboard Nieuw Amsterdam, including "N.Y.C.," a musical tour of the Big Apple; "Ladies Night," a fun and fabulous all-female revue; "Live from the Avalon Ballroom," an extravaganza of ballroom dance and music; "Garage Band," a '60s and '70s musical set in an automobile service center, and "It Takes Two," a revue of famous duets and duos. Following the shows' run aboard Nieuw Amsterdam they will expand across the fleet by the end of 2010. Throughout the cruising year, Holland America Line's more than 200 entertainers perform more than 90 shows on the 15 ships in the fleet. In addition to the resident performers, guests also can enjoy a variety of entertainment including comedians, musicians and magicians.

On several ships, performances take place in the new Showroom at Sea, a modern-day take on the classic nightclub that features state-of-the-art technology and a different show and themed atmosphere nightly. The Showroom at Sea is aboard Nieuw Amsterdam, as well as ms Veendam, ms Rotterdam, ms Statendam, and ms Ryndam as part of the $525 million Signature of Excellence enhancement program. The Showroom at Sea features a completely redesigned main stage that introduces a new seating layout and an enlarged dance floor. A new sound system, enhanced lighting and high-tech video projections transport guests into diverse environments as scenery and decor leap off the stage and into the audience.

Holland America Line's creative team has earned more Tony, Emmy, Grammy, and Oscar nominations than any other in the cruise industry. Hugh Durrant--a costume, set and theatrical designer--has won Emmy awards for his work with Cher and others. Fashion icon Bob Mackie, who created many of Holland America Line's costumes, has a long history of award-winning designs for celebrities.Take a look Behind the Stage on Westerdam with Cruise Diva.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Trusting Your Cruise Travel Resources

Every now and then I receive an email inquiry about something specific regarding a particular ship or a cruise line's policies. I try to answer such questions as responsibly as possible, either from first hand experience or by asking a trusted contact for details. I cover the cruise industry exclusively and won't write about subjects with which I'm unfamiliar. You really wouldn't want to read a cooking article from yours truly.

In addition to writing, I read a lot and I often read what others have written about cruise travel. It's interesting to get other perspectives on a subject that I've also covered. Professional cruise travel writers belong to a relatively small community. We know each other fairly well because we attend the same conventions and ship previews and we communicate with one another regularly. I've even collaborated with fellow writers on books and articles.

So, it wasn't uncommon that I read an article this week entitled "Choose Your Cabin Wisely." Published in two parts on the Helium.com website, the more I read, the more I was dismayed by the content. The writer was correct that cabin choice determines the cruise fare a reader will pay, but the devil is in the details and those details were lacking. With my editor's cap in place, I'd have sent that article back to the author with queries, but the Helium website, as is the case with many general content websites, doesn't employ the traditional author-editor system with regard to publishing. And that's the point of my blog today. As with cruise reviews written by regular passengers, consumers who search the Internet for travel information have to take care and consider the reliability of seemingly authoritative articles. Just like the bad old days when the National Enquirer published stories about aliens from outer space, readers have to weigh the content, the source, and whether what they are reading measures up to trusted resources.

For instance, the article in Helium stated that an interior cabin would "more often than not come with two single beds and they are extremely small. If you don’t plan on spending a lot of time in your room and you are not cruising as a couple the interior room might suit you fine." Yes, as a rule, inside cabins have two beds. However, unless otherwise indicated, on most modern ships they can be put together to form a single larger bed. The article implies that an inside cabin would be unsuitable for a couple, which is silly considering the fact that many inside cabins can accommodate as many as four people. Additionally, they may be small, but they are usually not significantly smaller than an outside cabin on most contemporary ships.

Moving along, the writer shared this, "Also the cabins on higher deck floors are more expensive than those on lower floors because you tend to feel more of the motion down below." That's simply not the case and the opposite is actually true. Lower decks are preferable for people with a tendency to suffer motion sickness because they are more stable. Staterooms on higher decks have more expansive sea views, which is why the fare increases deck-by-deck for identical accommodations, with those on the highest decks being the most expensive.

While I wish the following statement were totally accurate, it isn't: "Just as in a hotel, suites are the largest in the room categories. They generally consist of a minimum of two rooms, but they can be as large as five rooms depending on the cruise liner." In reality, most cruise ships suites are larger than standard staterooms, but the living area and sleeping areas are usually separated only by a curtain. Take a look at the photo above. That's a Penthouse Suite on Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Seven Seas Mariner. Huge, but in the end it's one space. Granted, there are suites with separate rooms, but if I didn't know better and took the writer's word for it, my suite expectations would have been unmet in that Penthouse. And finally, the writer adds, "There may also be special privileges attached to those who stay in these suites, such as dining at the Captain’s table." Yes, some suite occupants may be invited to dine with the captain, but on most ships there are more suites than seats at his table. That's just common sense.

The Internet is a great tool for researching your travel choices, but keep in mind that you have to weigh the trustworthiness of what you read.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Carnival Launches New Superstar Live Karaoke

Get ready to break out your untapped American Idol. With the band warmed up, amps cranked, spotlight set, and the adoring crowd ready to explode, Carnival guests will take the stage, grab the mic, and live out their music-star daydreams on the open seas. Introducing Superstar Live Karaoke, Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest entertainment feature puts guests into the act, fronting a live band and performing their favorite songs to a packed house.

Superstar Live Karaoke combines two popular forms of entertainment–live music by talented musicians and karaoke by Carnival’s singing sailors–and cranks it up. It is fun for all when aspiring singers or fun-seekers have their moment in the spotlight while a few hundred of their friends, family and fellow guests cheer them on and sing along. Following a high-energy introduction, the would-be music legend hits the stage to belt out a favorite tune accompanied by talented musicians playing the electric guitar, bass, drums and keyboards, as well as versatile backup singers to provide sweet harmonies.

“We’re thrilled to bring this new entertainment option to the Carnival vacation experience. Superstar Live Karaoke takes Carnival’s participatory fun to a new level with our guests unleashing their vocal talents and fulfilling their musical fantasies while fronting a great live band,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO.

Those interested in living their dream as a super star–for one night, at least–simply sign up with the on-site host in the designated Superstar Live Karaoke lounge on board. Participation is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Guests can channel their inner rock star, pop idol, Motown legend and country crooner, selecting from a list of more than 100 song titles that span a wide variety of musical styles and genres from artists including ABBA to Zac Brown Band and everything in between.

For those about to rock, there are plenty of classic songs from AC/DC, The Beatles, Pat Benatar, Bon Jovi, Joan Jett and others, as well as contemporary hits by artists such as The Black Eyed Peas, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga and Maroon 5. Guests can add a twang with current and classic country songs made famous by Garth Brooks, Patsy Cline, Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Shania Twain, and others, or pay their respects to soul, rap and R&B greats by performing songs by Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Wilson Pickett and Sir Mix-A-Lot, among many others.

The program, which recently debuted aboard Carnival Conquest and Carnival Valor, premieres on the Carnival Pride this week. Superstar Live Karaoke will be introduced to the line’s 12 Fun Ships that operate itineraries of seven days or longer by year’s end.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cruise Travel: What You Can... & Can't Bring Home

You know you can't bring your cabin steward home at the end of a cruise, but what you may--and may not--take with you when you prepare to disembark might be a bit confusing.

Cruise Diva clears up what You Can & Can't Bring Home. You may be surprised by our advice and our revelations.