Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two New Ships Reach Milestones: Allure of the Seas & Disney Magic

Royal Caribbean International's newest ship Allure of the Seas passed under the Storebaelt Bridge (Great Belt Bridge) in Denmark yesterday as she makes her transatlantic journey to her homeport in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The ship, which had to retract its funnels in order to pass beneath the bridge, had only a few feet of clearance as it made its way under the bridge.

Later in the day, another event was unfolding further south in Papenburg, Germany. After 20 months of construction, Disney Dream floated out of the enclosed building dock at the Meyer Werft shipyard, completing a major construction phase. The ship was greeted by thousands of visitors lining the shore to see the newest Disney Cruise Line ship, which features the first water coaster at sea and other cruise industry firsts designed to build upon Disney’s commitment to delivering unparalleled family cruises.

As pyrotechnics lit the sky, Disney Dream made its first public appearance as a tugboat pulled it from the enclosed building dock. Thousands of local residents gathered to see the "float out" ceremony. The “Float Out” is a special maritime event that celebrates the ship’s final stages of construction, where exteriors become complete and final touches are assigned to interiors. In true Disney-style, the celebration was highlighted with appearances by Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Disney Dream will remain alongside Meyer Werft’s outfitting pier in the shipyard harbor for about two weeks while testing is completed on the ship’s stabilizers, rudders, and other functional features, and work on the ship’s interiors continues. The ship is scheduled to leave the Meyer Werft shipyard and be conveyed down the River Ems the second weekend in November, where its destination is the North Sea at the port of Eemshaven, The Netherlands. Disney Dream is scheduled to sail its maiden voyage on Jan. 26, 2011 from Port Canaveral, Florida.

Illustrations Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International & Disney Cruise Line

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Maiden Voyage Fit For A Queen

Not all new ship Maiden Voyages are created equal and some are a disappointment to passengers who anticipate something special. That wasn't the case as Queen Elizabeth completed her 13-night Maiden Voyage in Southampton, England last Tuesday. As well as enjoying the distinction of being the first to sail on Cunard Line’s new Queen, guests were also treated to several surprises during the voyage.

British singing icon Lulu took the Royal Court Theatre by storm with a rousing performance of hits and a tribute to the 1980s and was joined by surprise guest Kiki Dee.

Headlining the Cunard Insights line-up was broadcasting legend Sir David Frost, who spoke to a packed theatre on “Interviews I Shall Never Forget.” Frost, who led the TV satire boom in the 1960s, has interviewed the seven most recent US Presidents, as well as Vladmir Putin and Nelson Mandela (the latter on QE2 in March 1998), and was the subject of the hit 2008 motion picture “Frost/Nixon.”

In addition, the first marriage proposal took place on board, with guest James McCracken proposing to girlfriend Lisa Lehman – the answer was “yes!”

Most importantly, Queen Elizabeth received a warm welcome from the hundreds of guests on board who have been full of praise for both the ship and her crew. In fact, 98% of those on board reported that they would recommend Queen Elizabeth to a friend, which bodes extremely well for her Maiden Season. One of the many highlights of the voyage was the ship’s new restaurant, The Verandah, which was full every night with guests enjoying fine French cuisine in a setting reminiscent of the original Queen Elizabeth. On a personal note, Cruise Diva had lunch in The Verandah during the naming ceremony events and concurs—the food and surroundings are superb.

“Expectations were bound to be high for her Maiden Voyage, which sold out in 29 minutes 14 seconds, and I am elated to hear the high praise from our guests. This is a true testament to the ship’s officers and crew who have done a magnificent job. We can’t wait to welcome future guests on board,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line.

Queen Elizabeth received warm welcomes and bon voyages from all the ports visited during her Maiden Voyage: Vigo, Lisbon, Cadiz, Las Palmas, Tenerife, La Palma and Funchal. For more information, go to QueenElizabeth.Cunard.com and see Cruise Diva's ship profile, The Art & Soul of a Cunard Liner: Queen Elizabeth.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Royal Caribbean Gets The Keys To Allure of the Seas

Yesterday was a big day at STX Europe shipyard in Turku, Finland as Royal Caribbean Intl took delivery of the newest addition to the cruise line's fleet, Allure of the Seas.

With Captain Hernan Zini at the helm, Allure of the Seas departs Turku today, starting the 13-day countdown to her U.S. debut into her homeport of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Thursday, Nov. 11. Allure of the Seas joins sister-ship Oasis of the Seas as the world's largest cruise ship. Fans and enthusiasts are invited to follow her trans-Atlantic crossing through daily onboard webisodes and updates posted on Chairman and CEO Richard Fain's "Chairman's Blog" at AllureoftheSeas.com and the "President's Blog" by President and CEO Adam Goldstein at RoyalCaribbean.com.

In Finland for the handover, Fain took time out from kicking the tires and checking under the hood to share some observations on the Chairman's Blog:

"The most striking feature is just how complete the vessel is. At delivery, Oasis was largely complete, but there were significant areas where workers were scurrying about frantically trying to finish. This was especially apparent in the entertainment areas such as the main theatre, the AquaTheatre and the upper decks. In addition, although the hardware was ready, the crew was rushing to get all the soft codes in place: plates, silverware, towels, retails supplies, casino chips, etc. As a result, it still looked very much like a construction site with the same kind of frenetic activity and the same kind of cacophony of noises coming from all directions.

By contrast, Allure is calm and the ship pristine. Here, the crew was able to get access to their areas much earlier and have already gotten most of that stuff put away. As a result, there is a calmness onboard that one rarely sees at a ship delivery. At the same time, there is a strong undercurrent of not allowing ourselves to become complacent. Everything needs to be perfect and while it is almost so, it is not yet so. The net result is that our inspection felt like no other inspection I have done. Where normally, we would be discussing what details needed completing and what our plan for completing them would be, here we were simply observing how polished everything was and what operating activities would take it to a new level.

There is one exception to the unhurried and unharried pace. We decided to replace the donut shop with a fancy hot dog station called the Boardwalk Dog House. (Don’t worry, the donuts will still be available from a wagon nearby.) However, since it wasn’t part of the contract, we are building the Dog House ourselves and this work couldn’t start until the yard released the area to us. Finally we have something about which I am an expert and I will weigh in on this important epicurean delight."

The official naming ceremony for the 225,282 gross registered tons, 5,400-passenger (double occupancy) Allure of the Seas will take place on Nov 28 during a one-night celebration to benefit the United Way chapters of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, among other charities. A special 4-night sailing on Dec 1 will call at the cruise line's private beach destination of Labadee, along the north coast of Haiti, and Allure of the Seas' inaugural 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary will depart on Dec 5, which launches her year-round alternating Western Caribbean and Eastern Caribbean 7-night itineraries.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Disney Dream’s Spectacles Take Cruise Ship Family Entertainment to New Heights

Talk about elevating cruise ship entertainment to new heights: A little mermaid soars over the stage in a stunning aerial ballet … Pirates rappel from atop the ship’s funnel during a swashbuckling adventure … The evening sky lights up with a dazzling spectacle of sound and color. When the Disney Dream sets sail in January 2011, Disney Cruise Line is more than just raising the bar with entertainment designed to charm and bedazzle the entire family. Guests will delight to some of the most elaborate original musicals presented at sea, over-the-top deck parties and, bursting above it all, the largest fireworks spectacular aboard a cruise ship.

It’s Show Time!
Every night is show time at Walt Disney Theatre, an elegant, 1,340-seat entertainment palace that is at once classic and ultra-modern. Spanning three decks with orchestra and balcony seating, the theater is resplendent with art deco styling recalling luxurious show places of a bygone time. At the same time, it is equipped with theatrical technology that makes it one of the most advanced venues on land or sea, allowing producers to bring original productions and Disney stories to life in a whole new way. The lineup of musicals presented at Walt Disney Theatre includes:

“Disney’s Believe”
Headlining the musical repertoire is “Disney’s Believe,” an original stage spectacular premiering aboard the Disney Dream. Combining a heartfelt story with a captivating musical score, the lavish production tells the story of a workaholic father who, through the power of Disney magic, reconnects with his daughter and learns a valuable lesson about what is important in life (scene pictured above). More than 20 of Disney’s most beloved characters take the stage during “Disney’s Believe,” including Cinderella, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins and Belle from “Beauty and The Beast.”

‘The Golden Mickeys’: A Timeless Tribute
“The Golden Mickeys,” an award-style show celebrating the musical heritage of Disney animated films, is a Disney Cruise Line guest favorite. On the Disney Dream, the show gets an extra sprinkle of glitz and glamour with new production numbers including an aerial ballet featuring Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” and a romantic duet performed by Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, lead characters of Disney’s newest animated feature, “Tangled.”

‘Villains Tonight!’
The malevolent world of the Disney villains takes a comical spin in “Villains Tonight!,” the first full-scale musical production dedicated to the Disney villains. The show is a fun-filled musical comedy starring Hades (“Hercules”), who embarks on a quest filled with wacky antics and amusing musical numbers to bring evil back into the Underworld. “Villains Tonight!” features a “Who’s Who” of Disney “baddies,” including Ursula (“The Little Mermaid”), the Evil Queen (“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”), Captain Hook (“Peter Pan”) and Scar (“The Lion King”).

Party on Deck
The Disney Dream transforms into a pirate ship with two new events brimming with buccaneer fun and a new fireworks spectacular. The evening kicks off with “Mickey’s Pirates IN the Caribbean,” a family-friendly interactive show featuring the famous Disney characters. Then, a special appearance by Captain Jack Sparrow, from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, kicks off “Club Pirate,” a high-tech, open-air dance party on the upper decks of the ship. Guests unleash their inner pirate and dance their boots off during this family-friendly and electrifying bash featuring stunning visuals and special effects.

Fireworks at Sea
The only cruise line to feature fireworks at sea, Disney Cruise Line ups the entertainment ante and lights up the sky with the largest fireworks extravaganza presented aboard a cruise ship. The skies above the Disney Dream explode with brilliant colors during “Buccaneer Blast!” With more “bang” than ever before, the pyrotechnic spectacular is choreographed to a dramatic score featuring songs from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, Peter Pan and the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at the Disney theme parks.

Illustration Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Cruise Review: Holland America Line's ms Ryndam

This is what's called a two-fer. First, after an earlier Bermuda cruise on Veendam this year, Karen Segboer shares her unique perspective about Holland America Line’s S-class Ships: Antithetical Asymmetricies Aboard the Ryndam on (what was to be) a Western Caribbean cruise from Tampa.

For more about that itinerary and what happens when bad weather is in your path, Karen shares her thoughts and observations on being diverted on your cruise(s). With Hurricane Paula forming in the Western Caribbean, this is what happened Aboard ms Ryndam: Course Correction.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Art & Soul of a Cunard Liner: Queen Elizabeth

Welcome aboard for an exclusive Cruise Diva profile of Cunard Line's newest regal vessel, the third liner in Cunard Line's 170-year history to bear the name Queen Elizabeth.

We hope you enjoy your illustrated "virtual" tour as much as we enjoyed spending time on board in Southampton for the naming events.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Norwegian Cruise Line To Build Two New Next Generation Freestyle Cruising Ships

Following the successful launch of Norwegian Epic, the company’s largest and most innovative ship to date, Norwegian Cruise Line announced today that it has reached an agreement with MEYER WERFT GMBH of Germany to build two new next generation Freestyle Cruising ships for delivery in spring 2013 and spring 2014, respectively. Each of the 143,500 gross ton vessels (pictured here in an artists' remdering), the largest passenger/cruise ships to be built in Germany, will have approximately 4,000 passenger berths and a rich cabin mix. Additional details about each ship’s new and exciting features will be released as construction progresses. The contract price for the two vessels is approximately €1.2 billion. The Company has committed financing in place from a syndicate of banks for export credit financing in connection with this project.

“We have always been focused on a disciplined approach to capacity growth. Our decision to add two new ships reflects the significant progress we have made in improving our operating performance and repositioning the Company over the last several years, as well as the strong market demand we are seeing for Norwegian Epic and our other ships,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “Building on the incredible success and popularity of Norwegian Epic, we are taking the best of what our newest ship has to offer, as well as drawing on our legacy of innovation in the cruise industry, in creating a new class of Freestyle Cruising vessel that is sure to provide our guests with the unparalleled freedom and flexibility they have come to expect on a Norwegian cruise.”

“We are excited to be returning to MEYER WERFT and are confident that their rich ship building history and expertise will bring our vision to fruition,” added Sheehan. MEYER WERFT, based in Papenburg, Germany, most recently built Norwegian’s four Jewel-class ships – Norwegian Gem delivered in 2007, Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Jade delivered in 2006, and Norwegian Jewel delivered in 2005. These new vessels are the eighth and ninth that the Company will build with MEYER WERFT.

“Norwegian Cruise Line and MEYER WERFT have a long history of working together. We are thrilled to continue our partnership. Our teams work very well together and we are looking forward to building this new, exciting and innovative class of vessels,” said Bernard Meyer, managing partner of MEYER WERFT. “In addition, the 21,000 employees of the yard and its supplier companies* involved in the construction of the ships appreciate the new project from one of our longstanding customers.”

Norwegian Cruise Line pioneered the concept of Freestyle Cruising and currently offers guests the freedom and flexibility to enjoy their cruise vacation on their own terms, including multiple dining venues, relaxed attire, a variety of accommodations and world-class entertainment. The Company took Freestyle Cruising to the next level with the introduction of Norwegian Epic in June 2010. The 4,100 passenger vessel has been called the “entertainment ship” with a variety of shows and venues that trump land-based resorts like those found in Las Vegas. Headliners include Blue Man Group, Cirque Dreams™ & Dinner, Legends in Concert, The Second City® Comedy Troupe, Howl at the Moon Dueling Pianos, and Slam Allen Blues Band. In addition, the ship features Nickelodeon™ at Sea as part of its wide-range of family offerings. Further innovations include the largest spa at sea, the first true ice bar at sea, and The Studios, which are staterooms designed and priced for solo travelers, along with The Villas, the largest suite complex at sea.

“We are bringing this spirit of innovation to these two new build ships, as Norwegian continues to offer our guests new and exciting ways to enjoy their Freestyle Cruising vacation,” said Sheehan.
*Source: Economic Research Institute of Lower Saxony, Hanover 2010

New Cruise Review: Norwegian Epic

This was Vincent & Mary Finelli's seventh cruise on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, but their 87th cruise overall.

There have been a lot of changes in cruising since Vincent's first transatlantic sailing in 1956 on the Greek Line's Olympia, a 22,000 gross tons liner. Vincent says changes have occurred not only in the size of the ships, but in the activities and entertainments they feature. Norwegian Epic, at 153,000 tons, offers so many types of activities, dining, and entertainment that it makes the comparison to the old ship mind boggling.

Come aboard Norwegian Epic with our frequent contributors the Finellis as they share their experience and cruise review on CruiseDiva.com.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Savannah As A Cruise Port?

After eyeing the success of Charleston, SC as a port of call and homeport, television stations in Georgia, such as WRDW here in Augusta, are reporting the possibility that Savannah could become a cruising homeport as well. Pictured here is Carnival Fantasy docking in Charleston.

The city of Savannah awarded a $129,500 contract to the consulting firm BEA Architects of Miami to do a market study about Savannah's potential to be a homeport or a port of call for cruise ships and two of their consultants have concluded that Savannah is well positioned to take advantage of growth in the cruise ship industry. After BEA's Bruno Ramos and Charles Towsley offered the assessment to a Savannah task force, Alderman Tony Thomas told the Savannah Morning News, "I think everyone left pretty excited." He feels the study will be a blueprint for building a cruise ship business in Savannah, but he might want to curb that enthusiasm.

After many years of being a port of call on various cruise ship itineraries and acting as a seasonal homeport, Charleston, SC, landed a deal to homeport Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Fantasy year-round. The ship offers 5-, 6-, and 7-day cruises to the Bahamas and Key West, FL, as well as seasonal voyages to Bermuda beginning next year. Officials estimate it brings in $70 million annually in spending. Although a similar deal would be great for the economy in Savannah, and afford an even closer drive-to embarkation port for Georgians and residents of other southeastern states, it's not as easy as it might seem to become a homeport. Savannah is situated between Jacksonville, FL and Charleston, SC, both successful embarkation ports. With Mobile, AL similarly well established, and not that far from Georgia, there's a lot of competition for the very few "pathfinder" ships available to new ports. Additionally, cruise lines don't currently have many new ships on order that will end up in the Bahamas/Caribbean, prime itinerary targets for a Savannah port.

Savannah's task force should look to Mobile for advice. It took years of work before Mobile landed their first cruise ship and it then it took more years of lobbying before the Alabama city got a bigger and newer vessel to homeport there. The cruise industry isn't much different than any other when it comes to supply and demand. There is a beautiful new port facility nearly idle in Norfolk, VA. My advice to the Savannah task force would be to work on becoming a port of call first. Homeporting may come later; however, like Norfolk's experience, you can't count on ships staying. They go where they can make the most money. Just like any other industry.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Regent Seven Seas Cruises Redefines The All-Inclusive Concept

Although Regent Seven Seas is already recognized by Condé Nast Traveler readers as the “most inclusive ultra-luxury cruise line” because airfare, all-suite accommodations, gourmet cuisine, open bars, sightseeing excursions, gratuities, and taxes are included in the fare, Regent has just raised the “all-inclusive” bar even higher by offering their guests complimentary overnight accommodations at deluxe hotels before every cruise. Beginning with its 2011 Europe season, every cruise will also include a free, pre-cruise luxury hotel package that features airport-hotel and hotel-ship ground transfers and breakfast prior to check-out.

“To be the best of the best, we believe that exclusivity means inclusivity,” affirms Mark Conroy, the line’s president. “As travel to a destination can often be tiring, we decided to up the luxury ante by including a deluxe hotel stay so our guests can relax and explore a world-class city before beginning their Regent Seven Seas cruise.”

The Regent Seven Seas fleet is comprised of three luxury all-suite ships that carry from 490 to 700 guests to ports in Australia, Europe, Asia, Alaska, and the Caribbean. Public areas are resplendent with rich fabrics, textures, and furnishings. Suites, among the most spacious at sea, measure from 300 to 1,200 square feet and offer tastefully appointed living and sleeping areas, marble bathroom, walk-in closet, flat-screen TV, fully stocked bar, and private balcony. Facilities include several elegant bars, a show lounge, casino, library, Internet center, card room, outdoor pool, hot tubs, and the Canyon Ranch SpaClub®. Depending on the ship, guests can choose from up to four, open-seating gourmet restaurants, including Prime 7, a superb, new steakhouse. For more information or to receive a brochure, visit RSSC.com. Visit CruiseDiva.com for Regent Seven Seas Cruise Reviews.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage Set; Reservations For Disney Cruise Line 2012 Itineraries Now Open

While we're waiting for Disney Dream to "float out" at the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, later this month, Disney Cruise Line has announced that Disney Fantasy will sail her maiden voyage on April 7, 2012, bringing even more innovation, unique guest experiences, and personalized service for which Disney Cruise Line is known.

A sister ship to the Disney Dream, the Disney Fantasy will feature an AquaDuck water coaster, magical children's areas, world-class entertainment, delightful dining, retreats for adults and immersive experiences for guests of all ages with beloved Disney stories and characters. Guests can now book Disney Cruise Line sailings, including the Disney Fantasy, for the initial part of the 2012 season.

"The Disney Fantasy continues our tradition of sailing beautifully designed vessels that offer innovations, world-class guest service and memorable family vacation experiences like only Disney can do," said Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz. "We are delighted to expand our offerings to provide guests with more options and more flexibility to enjoy a Disney family cruise."

While additional Disney Fantasy details and more 2012 itinerary information will be released at a later date, here are the initial 2012 itineraries for the entire Disney fleet:
  • Disney Fantasy 2012 Schedule (April - August)
    The Disney Fantasy will depart on her maiden voyage April 7, 2012, and will sail out of Port Canaveral on 7-night Caribbean itineraries, alternating eastern (St. Maarten and St. Thomas) and western (Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel). Both itineraries include a stop at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.
  • Disney Dream 2012 Schedule (January - August)
    The Disney Dream will sail alternating 3-, 4- and 5-night cruises from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas and Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. Five-night itineraries will include two stops at Castaway Cay.
  • Disney Wonder 2012 Schedule (January - April)
    The Disney Wonder will sail 7-night Mexican Riviera cruises from the Port of Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas.
  • Disney Magic 2012 Schedule (January - April)
    Prior to the Disney Fantasy entering service on April 7, the Disney Magic will sail out of Port Canaveral on 7-night Caribbean itineraries, alternating eastern (St. Maarten and St. Thomas) and western (Key West, Grand Cayman and Cozumel). Both itineraries include a stop at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.
To learn more about Disney Cruise Line, visit DisneyCruise.com.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Cruise Review With A Twist! Emerald Princess, A Wedding Love Boat

As Pat Fernandez says, “This will not be the average cruise review, where someone describes food, stateroom, embarkation procedures, ports of call, and the typical how good or bad each moment was. This is my daughter’s wedding at sea.”

Join Pat, his daughter Jennifer, her new husband Byron Wyatt, their family, and friends aboard Princess Cruises’ Emerald Princess for a special occasion and share their joy.

I have to admit that I was initially confused by his email and thought Pat was the mother of the bride. He kindly straightened me out, though, and it would be hard to find a more proud father. He now calls himself “señor mother of the bride” and has asked that I share their favorite wedding photos here and on the Cruise Diva website. You must agree that Emerald Princess is a lovely setting.

We extend our very best wishes for a happy future to Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jamaica Me Crazy

"Island time" is a pretty well-known concept in the Caribbean where a slower pace prevails than in most of North America. Nowhere is it more pronounced than in Jamaica where it's not uncommon to hear, "no problem, mon" even when problems are clearly apparent.

When my husband was in Jamaica on business last month I asked him to swing past the Falmouth Port area, where it had recently been reported that construction progress for the new cruise terminal and nearby attractions were on course. His on-the-scene assessment was quite negative. Although it was evident that much work had been done, it was painfully obvious that much more would be needed before the port and historic Georgian-style town would be ready to welcome cruise ship passengers.

Therefore, it came as no surprise to read in Jamaica's The Gleaner newspaper last week that the initial three ships scheduled to dock at Falmouth Port (Holland America's ms Ryndam and ms Noordam and P&O's Aurora will call at other Jamaica ports. Holland America Line reports that the 11/3, 11/17, and 12/15 calls of the ms Ryndam to Falmouth, Jamaica have been replaced with port calls to Montego Bay, Jamaica. The 12/1 call of the ms Ryndam and 12/26 call of the ms Noordam to Falmouth have been replaced with stops in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. As reported in The Gleaner, Holland America's vice-president of Caribbean affairs, Matthew Sams said, "The port is not conducive to make a call" after looking over the area.

Only a few months ago The Gleaner stated, "work has not started on refurbishing the 18th-century commercial capital." My husband confirmed that as well with the simple description, "it's a dump." However, the delay in opening is being given a positive spin by Jamaica's president of cruise shipping, William Tatham, who says, "Having spent so much money developing this port, our feeling was that the guest experience was more important than anything else. It was always agreed that we would deliver only at a certain level to our customers."

And when will that be? Tatham says the first ship to arrive will be Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas, which is scheduled to visit the port on Jan 7, 2011. Meanwhile, calls by Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, for which the port was conceived, have been delayed until March 2011. Maybe by then it will be no problem, mon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Princess Cruises Increases Alaska Deployment In 2012

Princess Cruises has announced a small step in the “revival” of the Alaska cruise market and it’s a positive move that we’re pleased to see. After two years operating just three ships on its Voyage of the Glaciers route, Princess will be returning a fourth ship to its signature itinerary for the 2012 summer season. The decision by Princess to increase its Alaska capacity was prompted, in part, by recent changes to the head tax structure in the state and the more balanced approach to doing business in Alaska, according to the line.

“We are particularly appreciative of the efforts of Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska state legislature that have resulted in meaningful progress toward resolving the challenges facing Alaska’s recovery as a cruise destination,” said Alan Buckelew, president and CEO of Princess Cruises. “We still have work to do, but the recent changes definitely played a part in this decision.” Buckelew pointed out that bringing a fourth ship back to the Gulf of Alaska route has wide economic impacts from Southeast Alaska to Prudhoe Bay. “Because the one-way route lends itself to longer visitor stays, with visits to both the interior and Southeast Alaska, we calculate it has twice the potential economic impact of roundtrip cruises,” he said.

“We are especially pleased to be able to announce this additional capacity to our business partners and supporters throughout Alaska who have worked tirelessly to advocate for a more positive business climate,” Buckelew added. “They have improved the investment environment for all cruise lines and for all cruise dependent businesses throughout the state.”

Princesses’ Voyage of the Glacier itinerary is the line’s most popular Alaska itinerary, taking passengers between Vancouver and Whittier across the Gulf of Alaska with a visit to Glacier Bay and ports of call in the state’s southeast. Because many passengers on this one-way route usually spend extra time in Alaska’s interior utilizing Princess’ lodges, rail and motorcoaches, this itinerary provides significant tourism benefits to the state. No doubt our Canadian friends in Vancouver will be pleased with the additional ship in their 2012 homeport lineup as well.

Full details of Princess’ 2012 Alaska deployment will be announced in spring 2011, including which ship will be added to the lineup. Additional information about Princess Cruises is available by visiting the company's website at Princess.com.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Carnival Magic’s “Name the Dish” Contest: And The Winner Is...

Carnival Cruise Lines has a winner! Following several days of on-line voting, “Il Bacio del Mare” (Kiss of the Sea), submitted by Ted Fazioli of Salem, NH, was chosen the winner of Carnival Magic’s “Name the Dish” contest. The contest invited consumers to come up with a creative moniker for a delectable new menu item in Cucina del Capitano, the family-style Italian restaurant featured on the new 3,690-passenger vessel, which is set to debut from Europe May 1, 2011.

Facing heated competition from hundreds of contest participants, Ted’s entry was selected as one of five finalists by a panel of judges and then received the most votes by consumers during the at-large voting period on CarnivalMagic.com. For winning the “The Yummiest Contest Around,” Ted receives a prize pack containing a pasta pot, Carnival recipe book, apron and a bottle of wine–not to mention bragging rights for “Il Bacio del Mare” having earned a prominent spot on “Cucina del Capitano’s” diverse menu.

Developed by Carnival’s master chefs, “Il Bacio del Mare” truly captures the essence of fine Italian cooking, offering a tantalizing combination of spaghetti, clams, garlic, white wine, olive oil, vermouth, pesto, brioche bread crumbs, cherry tomatoes, and arugula, all topped with shaved Parmesan cheese. “Il Bacio del Mare” will be featured among an enticing array of appetizers, side dishes and entrees offered in “Cucina del Capitano,” which pays homage to Carnival’s rich Italian lineage. All of the line’s captains are Italian and many of its ships, including the Carnival Magic, are built in Italy.

The décor of Cucina del Capitano recreates the ambiance of a cozy Italian home with wood-beam ceilings, ornate wrought ironwork, and framed archival photographs–many from the captains’ personal collections (artist rendering below).
And with a last name like Fazioli, we suspect Ted will feel right at home in Cucina del Capitano.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Silversea Dramatically Reduces 'Solo Traveler' Fares on Select 2011 Voyages

Ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises has reduced the single supplement on more than 20 sailings in 2011 to just 10%-25% (above the per-person, double-occupancy fare) for Vista, Veranda, and Midship Veranda suites. Initially launched last summer on select 2010 voyages, the line's specially reduced Solo Traveler fares proved such a popular incentive with independent travelers that the company is extending the offer to select 2011 itineraries.

"With special fares like these, which can be combined with Silver Savings, Free Air, and $250 Shipboard Credit offers, there's no excuse for single travelers to stay at home," said Steve Tucker, Silversea's vice president of field sales for North America. "If you travel on your own, now is the ideal time to finalize your vacation plans for next year and treat yourself to the luxuries of a Silversea voyage."

Silversea's crew-to-guest ratio of nearly one to one ensures single guests will enjoy highly personalized service, warm hospitality, and an ambiance that makes them feel right at home. Also, on several voyages, Gentlemen Hosts will be on board, which is a real plus for single female guests looking for a dining companion or a dance partner. All-inclusive fares include a spacious, ocean-view suite (most suites feature a private veranda), attentive butler service, complimentary wines and spirits, fine dining, sophisticated enrichment and entertainment programs, and all on board gratuities.

Solo Traveler, Silver Savings, and $250 Shipboard Credit are capacity-controlled programs and subject to availability. The Shipboard Credit is offered per suite, not per voyage, and only once to guests sailing on consecutive voyages. Shipboard Credit is valued in U.S. dollars, regardless of booking currency. It may not be redeemed for cash, and any unused portion will be forfeited. Additional restrictions may apply. FREE AIR: A free round trip economy air package, that includes transfers between airport and pier on the day of embarkation and disembarkation, is available from 22 gateway cities in the U.S. and Canada. It is a capacity-controlled program offered for a limited time. Additionally, there are specially priced air programs available from another 50 cities.

For a complete list of 2011 sailings offering single supplements from only 10% to 25%, visit Silversea.com and click on Special Offers.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Norwegian Cruise Line Parties In Pink To Promote Breast Cancer Awareness

If you are boarding a Norwegian Cruise Line ship this month, pack something pink. NCL has announced that their popular fleet-wide White Hot Party, the line’s signature dance party, on board its Freestyle Cruising ships turns pink for the remainder of the month of October to help commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The White Hot Party is a heavenly theme party held on board Norwegian’s ships where guests come dressed in head-to-toe white. The party’s Angel Dancers keep the crowd moving late into the night in spectacular venues including the aft outdoor beach club Spice H2O on Norwegian Epic; Norwegian Sky’s vast pool deck, as well as the Bliss Ultra Lounge. The party takes place once per cruise and features specialty cocktails such as the Angeltini and the Heavenly Coladatini.

The usual White Hot Party t-shirts sold in the on-board gift shops will be available in the well-known pink color to help spread the word on fighting breast cancer. The limited edition Pink Hot Party t-shirts will be available on board throughout the month of October for $18 each with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure Miami/Ft. Lauderdale. The Susan G. Komen Foundation is dedicated to the education and research about causes, treatment and the search for a cure. They have invested over $1.5 billion in finding a cure for breast cancer.

“Breast cancer affects more than 1.3 million women a year, so it is a cause that continues to need attention and one that everyone can support,” said Kevin Sheehan, chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line. “It’s a great way for our ships, crew and guests to all be a part of spreading awareness.”

Nine of the line’s 11 Freestyle Cruising ships are participating, including: Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Spirit, Norwegian Star, Norwegian Sun, and Pride of America. For further information on Norwegian Cruise Line, visit NCL.com or contact them in the U.S. and Canada at 888- NCL-CRUISE (625-2784).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Where the Water Meets the Hull: Carnival Magic Floated Out

With less than seven months until her maiden voyage, the new 130,000-ton Carnival Magic reached a major construction milestone when she was “floated out” earlier this week from her outfitting quay at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.

The initial stages of a cruise ship’s construction take place in a dry dock facility. Once exterior outfitting is completed, the dry dock is flooded with water and the ship is “floated out” and moved to a wet dock facility where construction continues. The next major milestone of the Carnival Magic, sea trials in the Adriatic Sea, are slated for early next year in anticipation of the ship’s May 1, 2011, European debut.

The most innovative “Fun Ship” to date, the 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic will offer a host of new facilities and features, including the RedFrog Pub, a Caribbean-inspired watering hole with its own private label beer; Cucina del Capitano, an Italian family-style restaurant that brings the heritage of Carnival’s captains to the table; and SportsSquare, an expansive sports complex featuring the first-ever ropes course and outdoor fitness area at sea. Other innovations include Carnival WaterWorks aqua park; a Serenity adults-only retreat; The Lanai, a wrap-around promenade with whirlpools that extend out over the ship’s sides; and a stunning indoor/outdoor café and live entertainment venue called Ocean Plaza.

Carnival Magic is slated to debut with a 9-day cruise from Venice to Barcelona May 1-10, 2011, followed by a series of 7- to 12-day Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona, the line’s first departures from that port. Following a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing, Carnival Magic will launch 7-day Caribbean service from Galveston Nov. 14, 2011, becoming the largest cruise ship ever based in Texas year-round. More images and video of the Carnival Magic’s float out can be viewed at CarnivalMagic.com under the “How It’s Made” section.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Queen Elizabeth Naming: “Pomp & Circumstance Fit For A Queen”...

As Alastair Greener, Queen Elizabeth's Entertainment Director put it, “Nobody does that like the British.”

At a question-and-answer session the day before the Queen Elizabeth naming ceremony, Peter Shanks, CEO and Managing Director of Cunard Line, told those of us in the American media group that his mission was to make the hairs on the back of our necks stand up during the proceedings. He certainly accomplished that goal. While we were disappointed that no personal photography would be allowed during the event, we were assured there would be photos and video available for us to share.

As promised, here is the video of naming ceremony highlights as well as footage of The Queen inspecting the ship named in her honor. I've added Mr. Shanks' prepared remarks below, but two things stand out for me. One is the amount of time The Queen spent personally interacting with the officers on the ship's bridge and secondly, Her Majesty's impish smile at about 5:44 in the video.

Remarks from Peter Shanks:
Your Majesty, distinguished guests

In our 170-year history, Cunard has owned three ships bearing the name Queen Elizabeth.

The first was launched in 1938.
The second was launched in 1967.
And the third is being named today, in 2010.

And there is only one person here who can claim presence at all three Elizabeth namings: and that person is ... Her Majesty The Queen. The fact is, Her Majesty has a longer association with Cunard than any of us currently employed at Cunard. And it gives me enormous pride and pleasure, on behalf of the company, to welcome Your Majesty and to thank you for again being so generous with your time.

The first Queen Elizabeth was launched at Clydebank on 27 September 1938 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, better known to us now as The Queen Mother. She was
accompanied by the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

The largest ship ever built at that time, Queen Elizabeth was denied the glamorous celebrity-packed Maiden Voyage experienced by her sister Queen Mary in 1936, complete with its rapturous, triumphant entry into New York. Instead, built on the eve of war, she went unfinished into trooping duties which Sir Winston Churchill credited with shortening the war for the benefit of us all.

In the peace that followed she did what Cunard ships were intended to do, and crossed and recrossed the Atlantic like a shuttle in a gigantic loom, weaving together the Old World with the New. She carried movie stars and magnates, entrepreneurs and emigrants in the British style for which Cunard is rightly famous.

The second Queen Elizabeth, perhaps better known as QE2 and also built at Clydebank, was launched by Her Majesty The Queen on 20 September 1967. A style icon of her age, combining the ultra contemporary with Cunard tradition, she exuded a design perfection that Lord Snowdon said she made him proud to be British. She was superlative in every way. She was the longest-serving of all Cunard liners. She travelled more miles and called at more ports than any other ship in history. She was, arguably, the most famous and best loved ship in the world.

Like her namesake, QE2 also served her country in exemplary fashion in time of war. Who can forget her triumphant return to Southampton after the 3,000 mile journey from the South Atlantic bearing survivors of the conflict in 1982? Who did not feel a patriotic tingle as she was welcomed home into Southampton Water by the Queen Mother on board the Royal Yacht Britannia, and by thousands of flag-waving wellwishers on shore?

And the third Queen Elizabeth is the magnificent vessel you see behind me now. While she could not be built in Clydebank, she nonetheless exudes Britishness in the Cunard manner, and she will carry the name of Southampton on her stern around the globe. Those of you who have been on board know that her grand and spacious public rooms make her, like her predecessors, quintessentially British, But like them, she has an international appeal, an appeal which will boost the British economy by gently easing dollars from American pockets, Euros from French and German pockets, yen from the Japanese and roubles from the Russians.

Many representatives of these countries, and others, are with us today. I thank them for undertaking their journeys to be here–journeys that would have been inestimably more enjoyable and relaxing had they come by sea!

And I must also thank the workers of the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone who not only built this ship in record time, but on time. I was tempted to say that a monument should be erected to celebrate their achievement, but there is no need of one: here it is as much their monument as St Paul’s Cathedral is a monument to the remarkable talents of Sir Christopher Wren.

It is amazing to think that Cunard, one of the oldest name sin shipping, is now reborn with the world’s youngest fleet. The previous two Elizabeths marked significant new eras for Cunard; this Elizabeth does likewise.

Many claim the souls of ships as their own: the shipping companies, the shipyards, the home ports, the Captains. But the essence of this ship belongs to one person: the person for whom it is named. This, Your Majesty, on the eve of your Jubilee Year, is without doubt your ship.

And your ship will be guided though the world’s waters by Captain Wells, his officers and his crew. I can do no more than echo to him the words of Samuel Cunard to his first master, Captain Woodruff, as the company’s first ship Britannia left Liverpool 170 years ago: “Your ship is loaded: take her; Speed is nothing; follow your own road; deliver her safe, bring her back safe. Safety is all that is required.”

A message from Cunard’s past is just as relevant for this new ship, which together with Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria represents the future.

But the safe and happy passage of ships depends not just on the skill of the Master and crew, nor on our good wishes. It depends also, of course, on God’s amazing grace.
Mr. Shanks shares his thoughts about the day and a bit of behind-the-scenes info about The Queen's ship tour in the We Are Cunard blog.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Princess Cruises’ Ships Are Plugging Away In San Francisco

Island Princess helped inaugurate the Port of San Francisco’s new shore power facility by “plugging in” to electric power from shore last week. The new shore power technology at the Port of San Francisco cruise ship terminal enables Princess Cruises’ ships, and other equipped vessels, to use power from the city’s grid instead of the engines to power the ship’s onboard services—reducing emissions when docked in San Francisco. The port becomes the fourth in the world where Princess Cruises’ ships can take advantage of this innovative technology. The new shore power installation in San Francisco is a cooperative effort by the Port of San Francisco, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Environmental Protection Agency, Holland America Line, and Princess Cruises.

“We know that local air quality is an important issue in the Bay Area, so we’re pleased to join with the port to debut this important environmental initiative,” said Dean Brown, Princess Cruises’ executive vice president. “Our commitment to shore power technology began nearly 10 years ago, and we’re very pleased we can now ‘plug in’ our ships in San Francisco.”

Princess’ shore power program made history when it debuted in Juneau, Alaska in 2001. It expanded to Seattle in 2005, and then to Vancouver in 2009. Shore power connections are planned to roll out in other ports that have made commitments to the technology, including Los Angeles and San Diego. Currently nine of the line’s ships are outfitted with the capability to “plug in” to a shoreside power source, representing an investment for Princess of nearly $7 million in equipment alone.

To create this unique power system, also known as “cold ironing,” Princess has outfitted its ships with custom-built connection cabinets that join the ship’s electrical network to the local electric system ashore. The electric power is transmitted from a landside transformer to the vessel via four 3½-inch diameter flexible cables. The actual cable connection on a vessel is a traditional, though quite large, plug and socket. The length of time needed to connect a ship to shore power and shut down the vessel’s diesel generators is approximately 40 minutes. Once connected, the ship’s engines are powered down and, simultaneously, the necessary amount of power is delivered to run the ship’s services while in port.

The Princess ships currently equipped with shore power technology include:

-- Coral Princess
-- Dawn Princess
-- Diamond Princess
-- Golden Princess
-- Island Princess
-- Sapphire Princess
-- Sea Princess
-- Star Princess
-- Sun Princess

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available by visiting the company's website at Princess.com.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Queen Elizabeth: The Royal Naming Ceremony

In a royal ceremony with as much pomp, pageantry, and nostalgia to satisfy the most avid Anglophile, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II gave Cunard Line’s new Queen Elizabeth her name and bestowed her blessing upon the liner. The christening began yesterday with performances by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the Massed Bands of the Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, and Fanfare Trumpeters of the Irish Guards.

As invited guests took their seats, Her Majesty toured Queen Elizabeth, and guests in the grandstand on the pier were treated to a stroll about the ship along with Her Majesty via live video feed as she stopped on the bridge to chat with the officers and surprised the assembled group pierside by blowing the ship’s whistle. Interspersed with the live feed were videos of the young Queen Elizabeth II doing the same things aboard the world’s most famous ocean liner, Queen Elizabeth 2.

When The Queen arrived in the open air amphitheater via her royal Bentley to take her place in the royal box, the festivities began with the singing of Great Britain’s national anthem. After an introduction by Peter Shanks, CEO and Managing Director of Cunard Line, Her Majesty rose to perform the christening, “I name this ship Queen Elizabeth. May God bless her and all who sail in her.” With that, she pushed a button that sent a jeroboam of Cunard Graves, Baron Phillipe de Rothschild, 2009 smashing against the hull, the ship’s whistle sounded once again, and streamers filled the air. Captain Wells led guests in three cheers for Her Majesty before the royal car whisked her away.

On a personal note, this was certainly one of the most memorable events I’ve had the honor of attending. The moment that really took my breath away during the ceremony was the appearance of bagpipers in Queen Elizabeth’s open forward hatch. As they played Amazing Grace, Lesley Garrett, Britain’s most popular soprano sang the haunting melody. I know I wasn’t the only one in the audience who got misty-eyed

To give you some idea of how important the launch of the new Cunarder was here in Great Britain, tour operators offered a close up look at Queen Elizabeth from the water as she awaited her naming (pictured here). The spectators waved and toasted the latest entry into the roll call of famous liners. As Queen Elizabeth leaves this afternoon on her maiden voyage, Southampton’s harbor banks will no doubt once again be lined with locals to see her off and wish her fair winds and calm seas.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Queen Elizabeth: Ready for Her Name

In Southampton on a sunny, crisp autumn English day, the newest Cunard liner awaits naming by Her Majesty The Queen.

On Board Queen Elizabeth: Art & Memorabilia


Art plays a large part in cruise ship décor and on no ship is it more important than on the new Queen Elizabeth. I’ve only been on board for a day, but I’ve already seen that signature art deco style pieces, such as a mural at the Reception Desk by Academy-Award winner, author, and art deco expert Arnold Schwartzman (above), mingle seamlessly with contemporary art commissioned for the ship, including the 18.5-foot marquetry panel depicting the port bow of the original Queen Elizabeth, created by David Linley, son of the late Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon, and Her Majesty The Queen’s only nephew (left). Priceless items from Queen Elizabeth 2 and the original Queen Elizabeth are found throughout the newest Cunard Queen.

Art deco flourishes, wood paneling, intricate mosaics, chandeliers, and cool marbles combine to give Queen Elizabeth a design and personality of her own, but include overtones of the late 1930s when her predecessor, the first Queen Elizabeth, was built. The iconic silver QE2 model created by Asprey of Bond Street, London in the early 1970s (pictured below)—and displayed for many years on QE2—now greets guests at the Yacht Club entrance and is an important highlight of the current Queen Elizabeth’s art collection, demonstrating the enduring history of that famous liner.
Along with memorabilia highlighting the relationship between the three Queen Elizabeth liners and Great Britain’s Royal Family, murals based on the launch ceremonies of the original Queen Elizabeth and QE2 that were painted by Italian artist Diego Bormida, are displayed in Cunard Place, located on Deck 2 near the Queens Room.

A closer look in each public room reveals museum quality paintings and sculptures. For an art lover, it's a floating feast. Additionally, it is a relief that Queen Elizabeth’s fine art program departs from the ubiquitous art auction format with Cunard’s introduction of a partnership with Clarendon Fine Art, one of the most celebrated new galleries in London’s tony Mayfair district.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

British Airways vs Delta: Seat Wars to London to See The Queen

By the time you read this my British Airways flight will have landed in London's Heathrow Airport and I'll be in Southampton to attend the gala events aboard Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth, including her royal naming ceremony where she'll be christened by Her Majesty The Queen.

In the past my luck with British Airways has been rather spotty, despite having Club World (Business) class tickets. The food is generally pretty dreadful, even by airline standards, and the service is just okay. At least the drinks are still free. The last time I flew with them I was even downgraded when I checked in at Gatwick on a return flight to Atlanta. It turned out that they'd overbooked Club World and didn't want to split up families, so they singled me out as a solo traveler to sit in Premium Economy. When we landed and I saw how trashed the Club World section was by the dozen or so kids in the family groups up there, I was glad I hadn't been in the midst of the chaos.

On that particular flight I was unable to reserve my seat ahead of time (apparently due to the overbooking situation) and I wanted to avoid that on this trip to the UK. Sleep is more important on an overnight flight and the seats in Club World fully recline. As soon as I received my itinerary and booking number I opened the BA.com website to complete the 'Advance Passenger Information' section, which is a government requirement of all passengers before travel. No problem. It was easy enough to fill in. Then I moved on to the seat selection page of the site and stopped cold. While there were certainly enough open seats from which to choose, I discovered that to "pre-reserve" one of them I would have to pay an additional $90! For that, I would have "dibs" on the remaining seats. Yes, it appeared that quite a few Club World passengers had drunk the BA Kool-Aid and paid for the privilege of selecting a seat when they booked the flight (or perhaps their most frequent Frequent Flyers aren't dinged for the fee). However, I learned I could wait until check-in to choose my seat, which the BA website cheerfully states "is free for everyone from 24 hours before your flight departs." How generous of them.

"Hidden" airline fees were recently the topic of discussion between consumer and travel groups (including the Consumer Travel Alliance, the National Consumers League, and the Business Travel Coalition) and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, with the groups offering their support for his efforts to require transparency in airline ticket pricing. I hope they are successful because that British Airways charge for reserving ANY seat in advance was a stunner. Many airlines charge for premium seats, particularly those with more leg room, but this is the first time I've run up against a charge for ANY seat, especially when flying in a premium section of the plane.

Did I pay the $90? No, of course not. However, when I moved on to the Delta.com website to complete the booking information for next Tuesday's return flight to Atlanta, I happily also selected my preferred seat. For no additional charge. Take a guess which airline will get my business in the future.

Now...on to Southampton to board Queen Elizabeth and share our first impressions for the next couple days (WiFi connections willing).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Meeting A Queen

Last week, during a handover ceremony on board Queen Elizabeth at the Fincantieri Monfalcone shipyard, Cunard Line took delivery of the new 92,400-ton vessel. Aboard the second largest Cunarder ever built and the third new liner for the luxury cruise line in six years, the Italian flag was ceremonially lowered and the Blue Ensign was raised, marking the entry of another magnificent Cunard liner into the Register of British Shipping.

“This ceremony to mark the completion of the Queen Elizabeth and our acceptance of delivery, is just the first of a number of significant events over the next few weeks, including the ship’s official naming by Her Majesty The Queen in Southampton on Monday, Oct 11,” said Cunard President Peter Shanks.

Queen Elizabeth left the shipyard on Sept 30 to sail to Southampton, where she is berthed at the Ocean Cruise Terminal. Cruise Diva is honored that she will be present for the festivities when Her Majesty The Queen names Queen Elizabeth. The christening of every new ship is special, but this one will certainly be a one of the most memorable. To get in the mood as I make my way to Southampton, the photo above is her arrival yesterday and below is a video of the newest Queen in the Cunard Line at sea.


James Cameron couldn’t have produced a more moving tribute. Queen Elizabeth will depart on her Maiden Voyage at 5:00pm on Tuesday, Oct 12.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Princess Cruises to Welcome Film Critic Leonard Maltin Aboard Coral Princess

An executive at a small-ship luxury cruise line once told me that his ships featured movies on deck long before the introduction of big-screen Movies Under The Stars (MUTS) on Princess Cruises ships. That may be so, but there is no denying the cachet of the Times Square-style screen versus one put up temporarily and the popularity of watching a film in the sea-going equivalent of a drive-in theater (without the cars).

Princess has taken the screenings one step further with their fleetwide Leonard Maltin Movie Club, which invites passengers to view a specially selected film onboard. Each month, a new movie is featured, with a special video introduction from the renowned film critic. Later, cruise staff members host a gathering for passengers featuring a group discussion of the film, guided by questions and trivia provided by Mr. Maltin. The one-hour club meeting is open to all passengers. For passengers who want to further enjoy films in their stateroom, the Leonard Maltin Movie Channel on the ship’s television system features a selection of contemporary, classic, and animated movies specially selected by Mr. Maltin.

And in an even bigger move, Maltin will be sailing aboard Coral Princess’ Dec 15 holiday voyage, to present his favorite films of 2010 throughout the cruise especially for Princess Cruises passengers. During this 15-day Panama Canal cruise, movie buffs will be able to view the four films Maltin has dubbed “Leonard’s Unsung Favorites of 2010,” which he will personally introduce to the audience. Maltin will also lead a discussion of some of the films, will challenge passengers to a film trivia contest and also present a talk focusing on Hollywood of yesteryear. Passengers will be able to view the films on Coral Princess’ giant poolside Movies Under the Stars screen or in the Princess Theater.

“Leonard Maltin’s wealth of knowledge about the world of film has made him one of the most recognizable movie experts today,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “Passengers on this Coral Princess voyage are in for a special treat as he shares these hand-picked films with them.”

Leonard Maltin is one of the country's most recognized and respected film critics and historians. He may be best known as the resident film buff on the popular syndicated program “Entertainment Tonight,” where he has appeared since 1982. However, long before he became a familiar face on television, his annual paperback “Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide” established his reputation; he was 18 when the first edition was published. He has also published numerous other books and articles, and teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. In addition, Mr. Maltin has created television specials and DVDs on film topics, currently hosts the weekly program “Secret’s Out” on ReelzChannel, and introduces movies on DirecTV.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company's website at Princess.com.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Disney Dream Nears Completion

In just a few weeks—on Saturday, Oct 30, 2010—Disney Dream, to date the biggest cruise ship built by Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, will leave the yard's covered building dock (pictured here). The floating-out manoeuvre is supposed to commence around 5 pm and Disney Dream is scheduled to float out of the dock for the first time. In Disney fashion, the event will include a unique celebration to mark the milestone as the ship nears completion. While they aren't saying what the celebratory event will include, we predict at least a significant character appearance and the possibility of Disney's signature fireworks at the time when water reaches the hull.

Upon leaving the building dock, Disney Dream will remain in the yard harbor. On the following Sunday, tests and trials teams from Meyer Werft and Disney Cruise Line will perform functional tests of various technical systems such as the stabilizers and the rudders. Afterwards the cruise ship will remain berthed alongside the yard's pier for two weeks while the remaining interior work is completed and more trials and acceptance tests will be conducted.

The ship is likely to leave Meyer Werft and be conveyed down the river Ems on the second weekend in November. The exact date of the Ems conveyance will be published on MeyerWerft.com approx. 1-2 weeks in advance. Changes to the undocking time schedule or delays due to weather conditions are always a consideration on a conveyance voyage.

Disney Dream is the first of two ships Meyer Werft is building for Disney Cruise Line (USA). She is 1,115 feet long, 125 feet wide, and can accommodate as many as 4,000 passengers. Her powerful engines enable the Disney Dream to operate at a speed of up to 23.5 knots. Scheduled to launch on Jan 26, 2011, at 128,000 Gross Tons, she is the biggest cruise ship ever built in Germany and among the three longest cruise ships in the world.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Princess Cruises Launches “50 Essential Experiences: The Travel Bucket List” Blog

Everyone with the urge to travel has their own bucket list of places they want to go and even those of us who travel frequently have places we have yet to see. Cruise Diva has the Norwegian Fjords and North Cape at the top of her list. To celebrate those travel destinations, Princess Cruises has launched a new blog that will reveal the top travel bucket list experiences recommended by the line’s own well-traveled destination experts. “50 Essential Experiences: The Travel Bucket List” will be gradually unveiled over the next year in a series of weekly posts, each authored by one of Princess’ longest-serving shipboard and shoreside employees.

The 50 selected experts–each who have been with the company for more than 15 years and traveled thousands of sea and air miles visiting hundreds of countries, cities and sites–will share one of their inspiring experiences chronicling their unique perspective of must-see travel spots around the globe. Each blog entry will be a personal story, and readers will also meet the expert through a “revealing” questionnaire.

“Few people have seen more of the world than Princess' own destination experts,” said Jan Swartz, executive vice president for Princess Cruises. “And because they’ve been to so many destinations, they’re often asked to recommend those ‘don’t miss’ experiences that people should be sure to put on their travel bucket list.” Swartz emphasized that the blog is not just a list of places, but instead a list of experiences Princess hopes inspires others.

The experts featured in the blog will represent an array of departments and positions within Princess, including those in shoreside positions such as itinerary planning, ship operations and marketing, along with those who sail aboard its ships such as captains, hotel managers and cruise directors. Their posts will gradually be revealed through Sept 2011.

Crystal Morgan, director of market planning for Princess Cruises, authored the first blog post. She started her cruise career as an onboard shore excursion manager sailing to worldwide destinations and, after moving shoreside, now oversees itinerary planning for the line’s fleet of ships. Morgan shares one of her most memorable travel experiences, when she traced her grandmother’s footsteps to visit the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, the most celebrated monument in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a place that held a special meaning for her grandmother who had visited the site some 70 years earlier. In her post she writes, “I didn’t hear about my grandmother’s visit to this famous statue until I told her that I was being deployed to South America aboard Pacific Princess. It dawned on me that I would have the opportunity to trace her footsteps to this world-renowned landmark so many decades after her visit. Our circumstances could hardly be more different. She was barely a teenager on her journey up the mountain, traveling with her family, including several younger siblings for whom she cared. I would have charges of my own, but not children.”

Blog visitors will be encouraged to share their own essential experiences, and a different reader experience will be selected and showcased each week. All of the destinations described in the blog will be ones that passengers can travel to aboard a Princess ship, and links will help readers discover how they, too, can embark on similar adventures.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company's website at Princess.com.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Celebrity Cruises Serves Up ‘Delicious’ Holiday Sailings & Onboard Credits

We’ve dropped everything to share this onboard credit offer because the booking window is so short—there are only three days to make a qualified reservation. Travelers who select top-rated premium line Celebrity Cruises for their festive holiday vacation are destined for a series of “delicious” experiences and, for a limited time, can also enjoy an attractive onboard credit. Vacationers who book a Celebrity holiday cruise between Oct 5-7, 2010, have the opportunity to receive an onboard credit of up to $300 per stateroom on applicable sailings of seven nights or longer, or up to $200 per stateroom on eligible 5-night cruises.

The brand long recognized for award-winning cuisine and a hip, modern style, Celebrity will serve up a tantalizing Christmas dinner for guests across the fleet, with a blend of classic and contemporary dishes, including brioche-crusted salmon Wellington, traditional roasted turkey with classic trimmings, English Christmas pudding, and a French chocolate Yule log with orange confit.

To offer guests an unforgettable New Year’s celebration at sea, Celebrity will present a sumptuous dinner beginning with champagne oysters and selections such as sparkling wine-infused strawberry soup, Chateaubriand with pink and green peppercorn crust, Mediterranean filet of sole Meuniére; and delectable desserts, including dark tropical and white chocolate mousse and five-spiced caramel with diced apples sautéed in cider. A festive poolside “countdown” party also will be presented on New Year’s Eve, with stations offering sliders, crepes, hot and cold canapés, fresh fruits, and pastries, complete with a complimentary champagne toast at midnight.

Celebrity guests can kick off the new year with an elaborate brunch, featuring roasted turkey breast, miso-glazed halibut, lobster pot pie, roast duck, cornbread stuffing, assorted cheeses and fresh fruits, carved round of beef, smoked fish, made-to-order omeletes, salads, fresh pastries, and a dark and white chocolate fountain with a series of condiments.

Celebrity will deck the halls across the fleet with festive decorations, particularly in the sweeping Grand Foyers, with staircases framed by poinsettias and sparkling garlands, among other unique touches. Guests of all faiths can participate in religious services officiated by priests, rabbis and reverends. Vocalists will wander the halls singing holiday carols, Christmas classics will be performed in the Celebrity Theater, and Santa Claus will make a special visit to offer gifts to children.

Celebrity offers vacationers a vast array of exceptional holiday options, with 22 sailings from six departure ports across nine of its 10 sleek ships eligible for the limited-time onboard credit offer. These include holiday cruises on its newest Solstice Class ship, Celebrity Eclipse, which makes her U.S. debut in Miami in November, joining Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Mercury, and Celebrity Summit in offering the best premium vacation experiences in the Caribbean. Rounding out its holiday sailings are a South America voyage on Celebrity Infinity, a Panama Canal vacation on the newly-‘Solsticized’ Celebrity Constellation, and a 9-night Bahamas cruise on Celebrity Mercury. Guests eager to review Celebrity’s eligible sailings and levels of onboard credit are encouraged to call their travel agent, dial 1-800-437-3111, or visit the Celebrity web site at CelebrityCruises.com.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Europe Travel Alert

The State Department issued an alert yesterday for U.S. citizens regarding the potential for terrorist attacks in Europe. Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks. European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack and some have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions.

Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services. U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.

The State Department recommends U.S. citizens register their travel plans with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration website. Travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444 from elsewhere in the world. For further information on safety tips while traveling abroad, U.S. citizens should also consult the following website: travel.state.gov/travel/tips/tips_1232.html.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Oceania Cruises’ New Marina Completes Successful Sea Trials

Oceania Cruises’ new 1,250-guest Marina has passed a critical milestone on the way to her January 2011 launch by successfully completing sea trials on Sept. 26. During the sea trials, which included three days of sailing the Mediterranean, technicians and engineers from the Fincantieri shipyard along with Oceania Cruises’ marine and technical teams evaluated the vessel’s speed, maneuverability, hydrodynamics and propulsion, among many other aspects of the ship’s performance.

“She is a beautiful ship. Marina was extremely maneuverable with virtually no vibration to be felt, even at high speeds,” stated Captain Dimitrios Flokos, the ship’s master. “Marina exceeded all expectations. In fact, shipyard representatives commented this was the most successful sea trial in recent history for technical performance.”

With her first hurdle behind her, the 65,000-ton ship, being built at Fincantieri in Sestre Ponente, Italy, is presently in the Genoa drydock where the final outfitting work will be carried out. A second and final round of sea trials will be run just prior to the ship’s delivery, scheduled for Jan. 17, 2011. More photos from the sea trials and new construction photos can be seen at the Oceania Cruises Blog.

Marina’s inaugural schedule includes a 13-day Maiden Voyage Jan. 22 from Barcelona to Miami, where inaugural activities are planned. On Feb. 8, Marina departs on the first of two 18-day Panama Canal transits that visit San Francisco or San Diego, both new ports for Oceania Cruises. Marina operates a 12-day Caribbean cruise, round-trip from Miami, departing March 16, before sailing along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and on to Europe to begin her inaugural Mediterranean season. To learn more about Marina, visit OceaniaCruises.com.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Silversea's Redesigned Website Features Functionality & Content By Fodor's

Silversea Cruises has launched their dramatically redesigned website this week at Silversea.com. With special effects designed to capture the essence of luxury travel, the site opens to a muted-silver seascape that comes alive when colorful animated photography fades in and out as if being revealed by a curtain drawing across a stage. From there, images by award-winning photographer Dana Neibert further reinforce the Silversea brand image by creating an ambiance of style and sophistication that is carried throughout the site.

"We've gone beyond our goal of making the new website more intuitive and user-friendly," said Linda Schultes, Silversea's vice president of worldwide marketing. "Travel often lets us live out our dreams, so we added a few dramatic touches to the website experience. The new design provides an elegant stage where you can indulge your imagination, while enjoying easy access to detailed information that will help in planning your journey."

Visitors can readily navigate the new site by clicking on tabs that offer information on destinations, ships, services, programs, special offers and more. New animated itinerary maps are complemented by up-to-date port descriptions supplied by Cruise Diva's colleagues at Fodor's Travel, one of the world's leading providers of travel information. And a new interactive deck plan tool enables visitors to view ship details, images, three-dimensional suite diagrams and 360-degree virtual tours.

Additionally, a new Google custom search feature has been added to improve accuracy of keyword searches on the site, plus social media share options now appear on each page, enabling visitors to share content on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other popular sites.

The redesigned Silversea Expeditions microsite at Silversea.com/expeditions displays a distinct look and feel unique to the expedition brand. Exciting new images and videos of the Prince Albert II in Antarctica, the Arctic, Central and South America offer visitors a glimpse into the amazing world of expedition cruising. Other improvements include an enhanced Voyage Journal section located on the home page, expanded Expedition Team section with profiles and schedules, and the debut of the Silversea Expeditions Blog, providing regularly updated news, commentary and expedition highlights.

Reflecting Silversea's global appeal, the new website displays the appropriate country-specific version of the site based on the currency of the visitor's geographic location. In the coming months, the site will also launch content written in German and Spanish.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Carnival Tests New ‘Steakhouse Entrees’ on Three Ships

Where's the beef?

Located on the newest ships in their fleet, Carnival Cruise Lines’ classic American steakhouse restaurants have proven to be extremely popular with guests who crave a really fine steak, as well as those who want to celebrate a special occasion by enjoying a steak (or lobster!) dinner in intimate surroundings.

That specialty dining option hasn’t been available to passengers on ships without steakhouse restaurants until now. Carnival began a test this week in which some of the most popular selections from its steakhouse menus will be offered in the main dining rooms on three ships that don’t feature steakhouses. The entrees are being offered on the Carnival Paradise, Carnival Triumph, and Carnival Inspiration and carry a fee of $18 each.

The four steakhouse entrees added to main dining room menus include a 9-ounce filet mignon, an 18-ounce grilled prime rib chop, broiled Maine lobster tail, and surf and turf consisting of a half lobster tail and petite filet mignon. The beef is USDA prime, dry aged, the same beef that is served in Carnival’s steakhouses. The testing period is expected to run approximately three months during which time the company will evaluate guest demand for these specialty menu items.

The new steakhouse options complement the line’s wide-ranging main dining room menu selections, which include a flat-iron steak offered nightly, along with prime rib and broiled Caribbean lobster tail served every voyage. While they can’t add the intimate surroundings of the specialty restaurants to the experience, you can still celebrate a special occasion with an exceptional meal of your choice, served by your regular wait staff, and in the company of your regular dinner companions. And, let’s face it, where else are you going to get those choices of entrees for that low price?

Carnival Inspiration currently operates 4- and 5-day Caribbean cruises from Tampa, Florida; Carnival Triumph sails 4- to 7-day Caribbean voyages from New Orleans, Louisiana; and Carnival Paradise offers 3- and 4-day Baja departures from Long Beach, California.