Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Royal Wedding Afloat

It's been nearly three decades since July 29, 1981, when a worldwide audience of over 750 million television viewers watched as Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana Spencer were married in a "Fairytale Wedding." However, seeing the nuptials live while at sea simply wasn't an option. Most cruise ship staterooms didn't have a television back then and, if they did, the programs aired were mostly old movies or activities taped on board.

Times have changed and when Charles and Diana's eldest son Prince William and his bride Kate Middleton are wed on April 29, 2011 in Westminster Abbey, London, passengers at sea on at least two British passenger lines will be able to watch the event live.

Cunard Line
Guests on board Cunard’s three ships–Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth-on April 29, 2011, the day of the Royal Wedding, need have no fear of missing one second of the historic union of the future King and Kate Middleton. Each of the three ships feature Royal Court Theatres–West End in style and West End in size–where the wedding ceremony will be broadcast live.

Queen Mary 2’s Royal Court Theatre seats over 1,000 guests, who will be able to watch events unfold in plush cinema comfort as the ship sails between New York and Southampton, on a 7-night Transatlantic Crossing (April 26–May 2).

“If demand for seats exceeds supply we are able to use our Planetarium and lecture room, Illuminations, which seats a further 450 passengers,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard.

The Royal Court Theatres on the smaller Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria seat over 800 passengers, and they too will be used to screen the Royal nuptials live. At the time Queen Elizabeth will be at sea heading for Southampton, and Queen Victoria will be at sea in the Mediterranean.

“Cunard is a company with an enviable heritage and unparalleled links to the Royal family–our ships were named either by Her Majesty The Queen or by her apparent successor, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall,” Shanks continued. “It follows then that our passengers are likely to have an above average interest in the pageantry of a Royal wedding. We intend to cater for that and ensure they do not miss one minute. Royal weddings don’t happen that often and with our impeccable Royal connections we intend to ensure that our red ensign ships lead the British merchant marine in marking this momentous day.”

The day will also be one of celebration on all ships, with that evening’s dinner featuring a commemorative menu and a champagne toast.

P&O Cruises
Passengers on board any of the seven ships in the P&O Cruises fleet on Friday April 29, 2011 need not worry about missing out on the Royal wedding as the ceremony from Westminster Abbey will be shown live on board.

Managing director, Carol Marlow, said: "The whole nation will be gripped on April 29th as the Royal wedding takes place at Westminster Abbey. As Britain's favorite cruise line it is only fitting that our passengers should have a front row seat from unique locations around the globe. It will certainly be a grand celebration with almost 14,000 passengers sailing with us at this time."

Arcadia: 2,000 passengers watching as they finish their transit of the Panama Canal and head towards Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Aurora: 1,800 passengers watching as they cross the Atlantic heading home from Barbados, next stop Madeira
Azura: 3,100 passengers watching on the giant SeaScreen by the pool, from Palma
Oceana: 2,000 passengers watching from the open sea en route to Southampton from Gibraltar
Ventura: potentially 3,100 passengers watching from Southampton (turnaround day)
Oriana: 1,800 passengers watching from Palma

Up to three lucky couples can share their wedding day with the Royals, and be married by the ships Captain on board Aurora as they sail across the Atlantic from the Caribbean. The P&O Cruises Weddings at Sea program provides an affordable and stress free way to get married and wedding certificates feature the nautical coordinates of their wedding location.

As Ventura is in her home port, Southampton, passengers sailing on that date will be able to join in with a special Royal sailaway party, with flag waving, champagne, and a celebratory atmosphere.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cruise Review: An "Elite" Cruise Aboard Crown Princess

Avid cruisers and frequent review contributors Vincent & Mary Finelli share their fifteenth cruise on Princess and it was another pleasant one. They are now Elite members of the Captain's Circle and look forward to more cruises on Princess ships for the enhanced benefits, such as complimentary Mini Bar set up, free laundry and professional cleaning services, deluxe canape selections, and, most of all, the special breakfasts at Sabatini's!

This was Vincent & Mary's first cruise on board the Crown Princess, but her class includes Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess and they have sailed on both of them. Cruise Diva is pleased to share their delightful and insightful Crown Princess Review.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Surprise Godmother for Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has once again made maritime history. At the official naming ceremony for the world's largest cruise ship, Allure of the Seas, guests were enchanted when her larger-than-life godmother was unveiled—Princess Fiona.

If you don't know who Princess Fiona is, don't worry because we didn't either. However, her unique choice is a first—the first time that a 3-D animated character is the godmother of a cruise ship. The 3-D star of DreamWorks Animation's hit film series, "Shrek," presided over the celebration, joining and interacting in 3-D with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s Chairman and CEO, Richard D. Fain, during the ceremony pictured above). This naming further highlights Royal Caribbean's new partnership with the DreamWorks Animation film studio.

"It's never easy choosing the right godmother, but we realized we had the perfect candidate right in front of us. Princess Fiona is not only a Royal, but we felt such a unique ship deserved a unique godmother and Princess Fiona symbolizes the fun and entertainment that is so extraordinary on Allure of the Seas," said Fain.

Attended by approximately 3,500 guests, the event was part of a one-night inaugural celebration-fundraiser, benefiting United Way of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, Haitian relief efforts, and other charity partners. The naming ceremony took place in Allure's main Amber Theater and was broadcast live throughout the ship, as well as via streaming video on the Internet. The ceremony included the customary bagpipe-and-drums procession, the U.S. national anthem performed by international recording artist and West End- and Broadway-star MiG Ayesa, and a scene from Royal Caribbean Productions' new aerial production Blue Planet. The ceremony culminated with the traditional breaking of a Champagne bottle—featuring a festive label specially created by pop-artist Romero Britto, who also has an onboard gallery—on the ship's hull, electronically activated by one swift karate-chop by Princess Fiona herself. Video of the event is available on the ship's dedicated website, AllureOfTheSeas.com.

The sister ship to Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas boasts an array of new features and onboard amenities, many of which have never before been seen at sea. In addition to the signature Oasis-class neighborhood design which provides guests with the opportunity to seek out relevant experiences based on their personal style, preference or mood, Allure measures 5 centimeters longer than Oasis. Allure has a number of new entertainment options, including the DreamWorks experience, Blue Planet, Chicago: the Musical, and OceanAria.

With a cache of distinct new onboard activities and amenities, Allure of the Seas spans 16 decks, encompasses 225,282 gross registered tons, carries 5,400 guests at double occupancy, and features 2,700 staterooms. Allure of the Seas alternates a Western Caribbean with an Eastern Caribbean seven-night itinerary from her home port of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Allure of the Seas Naming Ceremony: Live Video Web Stream

Although you can't be there in person unless you purchased a cabin for the one-night inaugural celebration charity fundraiser, you can still join Royal Caribbean and more than 3,500 guests today via live video web streaming of the naming ceremony of Allure of the Seas. The event will be held prior to the ship’s departure from her Port Everglades homeport.

Allure of the Seas’ surprise godmother will also be revealed in the ceremony, which will be held in the ship’s Amber Theater, and include a customary pipes-and-drum procession, a performance of a scene from Royal Caribbean Productions’ new aerial production Blue Planet, and then culminate with the traditional breaking of a champagne bottle on the ship’s hull.

WHEN: Sunday, Nov 28, 2010 at 4:30 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time

WHERE: Log on at AllureoftheSeas.com

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cruise Travel: A Holiday Gift For Cruise Ship Fans

As the year draws to a close and we're all shopping for unique holiday gifts for special people, here's one that cruise ship and ocean liner aficionados alike will treasure. The 2011 desk calendar from P.K. Productions features twelve images of passenger ships of all shapes and size, captured by cruise journalist Peter Knego during a busy year of travel in 2010.

The vessels range from the former "Love Boat" twins, DISCOVERY (ex ISLAND PRINCESS) and PACIFIC (ex PACIFIC PRINCESS) to the under-construction QUEEN ELIZABETH and the brazenly unapologetic NORWEGIAN EPIC. A wreck, a pair of laid up classics, an elegant diesel/sailing ship, a smoldering Italian, Oceania's sleek REGATTA and parting shots of the liner-like last P2 transports round out the selections. It all ends on a tenuously hopeful note with the freshly-painted MV AURORA (ex XANADU) under tow to a new home on the San Francisco waterfront. The settings span from Alang to Eleusis/Petrola, New York, Monfalcone, Genoa, the Aegean Sea, and the Turkish hamlet of Bodrum.

The eternal cycle of life exemplified in a maritime setting, the cover shot was taken from the radio mast of the SS WINNER 5 (former AUSONIA) as the sun rose behind her divinely MidCentury Italian funnel at Alang this past March. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2010 (cover picture above used with permission). The calendar measures 8.25 by 4 inches and is printed on high quality glossy card stock.

How To Order: Price: $15.00 per calendar plus $3.00 shipping and handling in the U.S. or $4.00 for overseas airmail shipping. For multiple orders, please add $1.00 additional postage per additional calendar. California residents please add 8.25% sales tax ($1.25 per calendar). Please send a check or money order (in US dollars only) to: P.K. Productions, 15485 Mallory Court, Moorpark, CA 93021-3253 USA or send an e-mail to pkpro7@aol.com or pk@midshipcentury.com if you would like to pay with a credit card via PayPal (a $1.00 PayPal service charge is applied).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Paul Gauguin Cruises: Shop on Black Friday to Prepare for Tahiti Cruising

Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the highest-rated and longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific, is offering a special Black Friday sale to kick off the holiday season.

During their two-week sale you'll find Super Savings off cruise pricing in all categories on select sailings, plus free airfare from Los Angeles. And, as Black Friday comes to Tahiti, Paul Gauguin Cruises is kicking off the holiday season with even more incredible savings on previously advertised cruise fares–the perfect gift idea for the holidays. Book between November 26th and December 10th to enjoy this special offer of savings from $750 to $2,775 per person on select sailings that include:
  • 7-night Tahiti & the Society Islands: April 2 & 9, 2011
  • 7-night Tahiti & the Society Islands: June 4 & 11, 2011
  • 11-night Cook Islands & Society Islands: March 5, May 14 & June 18, 2011
BONUS: Book on Black Friday (November 26th) or November 27th and receive a $100 per person Spa Credit to the Deep Nature Spa by Algotherm aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin. For reservations, contact a professional travel agent, call 1-800-848-6172 or visit PGCruises.com.

About Paul Gauguin Cruises
Owned by Pacific Beachcomber S.C., the leader in French Polynesia luxury destination resorts, Paul Gauguin Cruises operates the luxury cruise ship m/s Paul Gauguin, providing a luxurious cruise experience tailored to the unparalleled wonders of Tahiti, French Polynesia, and the South Pacific. The Gauguin was built at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint Nazaire, France. The ship is 513 feet long, 71 feet wide and has a draft of 16.9 feet and accommodates 332 guests with a staff of 215. The Gauguin has undergone more than $25 million in enhancements, has completed more than 570 South Pacific cruises, and served more than 155,000 guests, including more than 14,000 honeymooners since its inaugural sail in 1998.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving From Jamaica

No, Cruise Diva isn't in Jamaica, but I'm not the only one in the family who travels on business. In this case, it's my husband Mel who's currently in Jamaica and arriving home in time for dinner on Thanksgiving Day.

You may recall that in an October 20th blog story (Jamaica Me Crazy), I mentioned that my husband had recently been in Jamaica. I asked him to swing past the Falmouth Port area, where it had been reported that construction progress for the new cruise terminal and nearby attractions were on course. Mel's on-the-scene assessment was quite negative at the time and his update isn't much better.

This time I asked Mel to take some photos and I've added a couple here. Although he couldn't get too close, he reported it's evident that a lot of work has been done, yet it's still painfully obvious that much more will be needed before the port in particular, as well as attractions in the historic Georgian-style town will be ready to welcome cruise ship passengers. At the port there are no paved roads completed and the buildings pictured above and below are shells without windows. (Click the images for a larger view.)

As reported in October, Holland America Line's Falmouth port calls scheduled for November and December were cancelled and their cruise ships will call either at Ocho Rios or Montego Bay instead. However, Jamaica's president of cruise shipping, William Tatham optimistically said the first ship to arrive will be Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas, which is still 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 postponed until March 2011. Maybe by then the port will be finished and the ships will visit on schedule. But with January 7th just a little over six weeks away, Mel's assessment is that they could only make that opening date if work proceeds round-the-clock and, even with the cranes in evidence, he saw no actual work going on this week. Still pretty dumpy, Falmouth town itself isn't expected to be fully "restored" for at least another year and a half.

For a bit more background on Falmouth's planned development, you might want to read our report from last May, Getting to 'Historic Falmouth Jamaica' on Island Time. Take heart if you have a cruise planned that is supposed to call at Falmouth and you are diverted to a different Jamaican port. Most of the same (or similar) excursions offered by the cruise lines for Falmouth are available from the alternative ports as well. Despite recent media reports that there's "no problem, mon," Mel's photos tell a bleaker story.

In any event, the Why Not? blog hosted by Adam Goldstein, President & CEO of Royal Caribbean Intl assured followers last May that the port will offer a "more authentic" Jamaican experience, which has proven to be true. Thus far, it's certainly a visible example of authentic Island Time.

Cruise Food: Thanksgiving Dishes

First, from Carnival Cruise Lines, we have a soup for the season that would be delicious on any cold night, but is particularly appropriate for Thanksgiving. Of course we mean their popular roasted pumpkin bisque with turkey and walnut quenelles. It's bound to warm you up on a blustery evening. Come to think of it, this recipe would an ideal day-after-Thanksgiving treat (and a way to use leftover turkey).

Roasted Pumpkin Bisque With Turkey & Walnut Quenelles

Ingredients
For the Soup:
1 cup Half-and-half
1 cup Heavy Cream
6 cloves Fresh Garlic, peeled
1 cup Leeks, chopped
1 cup Onions, chopped
2 cups Pumpkin Puree
5 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 quarts Turkey Stock
Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Quenelles:
½ lb. Turkey Breast Meat
1 each Fresh Egg White
¼ cup Heavy Cream
¼ cup Walnut Halves
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions
For the Soup: Roast onions, leeks and garlic with olive oil in a pre-heated oven at 300° F for about 30 minutes; remove and puree. Bring a strong turkey stock, pumpkin puree and pureed vegetables to a boil. Simmer for 45 minutes. Add half-and-half and simmer for 30 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Finish with the heavy cream.

For the Turkey and Walnut Quenelles: Roast walnut halves in a medium hot pan without oil (or fat), then grate in a food processor to a fine paste. Cut the lean turkey breast into small chunks and place it in a processor bowl with 2 ice cubes; grind to a paste. Add heavy cream, egg white, salt and pepper; process until very smooth. Add the grated walnuts and process until mixed well–do not over-mix. Refrigerate the mixture until properly chilled (2 hours). Bring some chicken or turkey stock to a simmer, add quenelles (dumplings made from 2 tsp. of the mixture above), simmer for 1 minute and remove from heat. Arrange 3 quenelles in a soup cup or bowl, add about 6 fl. oz. of the pumpkin soup, and garnish with a sprig of sage. Yields 10 servings or 2 quarts.

No leftover turkey? Well, trust me, the soup is great on its own.

And, if you're looking for something unique to serve for Thanksgiving dessert, here's one that Viking River Cruises is happy to share.

One of the best things about traveling on a river cruise in Europe is the opportunity to sample delicious local cuisine. This is one of the recipes the Viking River Cruises folks have collected while traveling through France—the almond paste, an ingredient often used in French baking, gives this delicious dessert a Continental flavor. Serve alone or top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Thanksgiving Apple Cranberry Tart

Ingredients:
1 unbaked, room-temperature 9-inch tart shell
1 roll (about 7 oz) almond paste
1 cup fresh cranberries
5 medium-sized apples (preferably Macintosh), peeled and sliced to make approximately 5 cups
A quarter cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
A half cup uncooked oats
A half cup all-purpose flour
A half cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold or frozen
A quarter cup sliced almonds
Vanilla ice cream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Flatten almond paste on a sheet of wax paper with a rolling pin, to form an 8-inch circle. Press almond circle into the bottom of the unbaked tart shell. In a bowl, combine cranberries, apples, sugar and a half teaspoon of cinnamon. Pour on top of almond circle, into tart shell. In a bowl, combine the remaining cinnamon, oats, flour and brown sugar. Cut butter into very small pieces and stir into cinnamon mixture until crumbs form. Spoon crumb mixture evenly over the top of the apple mixture. Bake 50-60 minutes. Sprinkle with sliced almonds during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and enjoy. Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sixthman on Selling Out, Ships and Dip, and More

Sixthman, the affinity travel company that develops musically-driven lifestyle events with an emphasis on themed cruises has updated their scheduled events by announcing that Cayamo is SOLD OUT! They are running a waiting list, so get on it while it's still short - Cayamo.com.

In Addition, Kid Rock's Chillin' the Most Cruise, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Simple Man Cruise, and Sixthman's 311 Cruise are also sold out and running waiting lists. 311 and Simple Man have just announced new artists! You can see a list of all upcoming cruises, including The Rock Boat, Ships and Dip, VH1 Best Cruise Ever, and more at Sixthman.net/upcomingevents.

SHIPS AND DIP 4
Sixthman has also informed us that they are switching up the itinerary for Barenaked Ladies' Ships and Dip 4 cruise to maximize the good times! Instead of calling at Belize, they'll stop in Cozumel, Mexico, on Feb 9th. The change occurred because they were only guaranteed a tender port in Belize City, and if you've ever cruised (especially in February), you know that there is never a guarantee you'll actually make it to the tender port. With Cozumel, they have a spot dockside so everyone can get off the ship if they choose to go ashore. Norwegian Cruise Lines is awesome and they're issuing every cabin a $50 onboard credit for being so understanding.

Also, Angel Taylor won't be able to sail on Ships and Dip after all, BUT Sixthman has added several new great artists to the lineup, including ELLIOTT BROOD - a popular Canadian act, JUKEBOX THE GHOST - a super fun band who has toured with BNL in the past, Halifax singer-songwriter JENN GRANT, and "karaoke king" JONNY Z. The cruise sails on Norwegian Dawn from Feb 6-11, 2011. Get more info about the artists and activities at ShipsandDip.com.

INDEPENDENT TRAVELER PROGRAM
Before we finish, I want to let you know about an exciting addition to Sixthman's sales options. Due to popular demand from solo guests, they have created the Independent Traveler Program for a few select cruises. Here is how it works:

Guests can book a cabin at the Single Occupancy Rate for a Two Person Cabin. If the cruise sells out, Sixthman contacts the guest to see if he or she has been able to secure a friend to join you in your cabin. If so, then the second guest is added at the same rate as the first guest. If not, Sixthman will match the solo traveler with a cabin mate of the same sex from our other guests in the program. Guests will be assigned in the reverse order of which they book, so the first guest to select the Independent Travelers Program will be the last guest assigned a cabin mate. If the cruise does not sell out, then guests in the program will not be assigned a cabin mate. Either way, the solo travelers are only responsible for his or her share of the fare and fees.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Your Cruise Vacation: Shopping

Nearly everyone who goes on vacation, and especially a cruise vacation, does a bit of shopping. It's the law. My motto is that there's no such thing as a "bad" souvenir if it brings you pleasure and reminds you of an enjoyable trip. Pictured here is one of my favorite and funky buys—turf for your tootsies from The Lawn Club shop aboard Celebrity Solstice.

Cruise Diva offers suggestions on how to Plan Before You Shop Ashore; what you'll find in The Shops Onboard; and then looks at Cruise Ship Shopping At Its Finest in It's Your Duty To Shop, But It Won't Be Free.

But before you go overboard and shop 'til you drop, get the information you need from U.S. Customs: The Traveler's Standard Duty-Free Exemption.

As a bonus, we also share some insider tips on How to Pursue No-Cost Cruising Souvenirs.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cruise Travel: Oprah's "Favorite"

Viewers know that Oprah Winfrey is the queen of swag and she enjoys sharing her "favorite things" with her live studio audience in an annual orgy of giving. This year was no different with the items ranging from a Season 25 T-Shirt from the O Store and Nike "Free Run+" shoes to a Nikon D3100 Digital SLR camera.

Recipients of the final prize of the day can put those items to good use as they pack up to sail away a 7-day adventure aboard the world's largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas.

"Cruising, of course, is one of my favorite things," Oprah told the audience. "And you are going to have the time of your lives."

To get them to Allure of the Seas' Fort Lauderdale homeport, United Airlines is providing round-trip flights, but Oprah didn't divulge if that's her favorite airline. We suspect her preference leans more toward private Gulfstream jets. Of course.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cunard Line Honors Military Personnel with On Board Credit Program

In recognition of recent Veterans & Remembrance Day Holidays and to honor those who have served and continue to serve in the military, Cunard Line is promoting its military on board credit program for active and retired military personnel. The credit, which ranges from $50 to $250 per stateroom depending on the length of the voyage, is available to members of the United States and Canadian armed forces with appropriate service identification.

The on board credit amount is $50 for voyages six days in length or less, $100 for voyages of seven to 13 days, or $250 for voyages of 14 days or longer, offered on a per stateroom basis. The Line’s military personnel on board credit program is available to active military personnel plus retired and disabled military veterans with proper verification as follows:
  • Active personnel currently serving in the following service divisions: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, Reserves, Canadian National Defense (military verification certificate).
  • Retired Personnel defined as: Enlisted personnel or officers with a minimum of 20 years of service, medically retired or 100-percent disabled (blue or tan uniformed ID card/Canadian white N.D. 21 ID card).
  • Veterans with an Honorable Discharge serving a minimum of two years or six months in an active war zone in any of the United States service divisions listed above or Canadian National Defense (DD 214 plus current photo ID).

“We commemorate and thank those who have fought around the globe to bring peace and freedom worldwide,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “Throughout our 170 year history, we have supported military forces during wartime; today we recognize their dedicated service and hope that this program provides a small token of our gratitude.”

To request the military personnel on board credit, eligible persons should apply no later than one week prior to the voyage departure date. Guest and sailing information should be accompanied by proof of eligibility and provided to either the guest’s travel agent or to Cunard Line. For more details about how to submit information, contact 1-800-7-CUNARD (1-800-728-6273). For more information and to book a voyage aboard a Cunard ocean liner, contact your travel agent or visit Cunard.com.

Friday, November 19, 2010

St, Kitts: Will Seabourn Sojourn Call There?

The last time I was on a cruise ship that called at St. Kitts it rained. It was such a deluge that the ship left early and repositioned to nearby Nevis where the weather was a bit drier. Since then I've been back to Nevis, but not St. Kitts and I must admit that I have been looking forward to visiting there next month.

Unfortunately, an attack on cruise passengers by armed robbers last weekend may prompt a change my upcoming itinerary on Seabourn Sojourn. The robbers, who ambushed a tour bus carrying passengers from Celebrity Mercury, blocked a road and boarded the bus when the driver stopped to clear the way. They then held the passengers at gunpoint while they robbed them of money, jewelry, cameras, mobile phones, and other valuable. Thankfully, no one was hurt. However, Carnival Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises canceled port calls at St. Kitts this week.

A statement by St. Kitts police said the robbery was unprecedented. "Last year, over 500,000 cruise passengers safely disembarked in St. Kitts to enjoy the many attractions of our island. We deeply regret any type of incident that might tarnish our visitors' experience. As law enforcement authorities, we are committed to root out and expose the persons responsible."

Their commitment, and the outrage of citizens has paid off. Top officials from the St. Kitts Police High Command, The Ministry of National Security, and The Ministry of Tourism & International Transport have revealed the latest developments in the ongoing investigation into the incident. At a press conference, the officials announced that four individuals had been arrested in relation to the incident and that a number of items were taken into police custody. A special investigative task force has been put in place to investigate the incident and increased tactical patrols and uniformed police presence has been established in the tourism-concentrated areas and other key local venues. Further, a comprehensive plan is being put together to help prevent instances of this sort from taking place in the future.

“We hope never to see this type of incident again in our Federation and look forward to working with the police to reinforce strategies and procedures designed to prevent any further occurrences of this nature,” said Senator Ricky Skerritt, Minister of Tourism & International Transport. “While the act was reprehensible, our police, Ministry of National Security and especially the people of St. Kitts & Nevis should be commended for their swift and decisive response to this affront to our nation’s economic security and reputation as a safe and welcoming tourism destination.”

According to Acting Commissioner of Police Stafford Liburd, concerned residents of St. Kitts rose to the occasion after realizing the damage this kind of incident could do to the country’s image and economy and it was the assistance of the local people which was the major factor in the success to date of this investigation. The local outrage as well as the potential impact of the matter on the important cruise industry led local people to flood the police with calls and leads in the first 36 hours following the incident. The information they provided ultimately led to the arrest Tuesday morning of the four persons in connection with the incident. “I was getting so many calls on my cell phone that I had charge my phone several times today,” said Liburd. “We had overwhelming public support on this and it shows the influence of tourism.”

Minister of National Security, Sam Condor, also reported receiving an impressive number of calls from the local community with information on the case following his national media broadcast Monday evening in which he appealed for urgent public support to the Police efforts. The investigation continues to be handled with the utmost urgency by all official organizations involved and no additional cancellations of port calls are anticipated at this time.

Located in the northern Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, St. Kitts offers a diverse tourism product developed from the destination’s natural beauty, cultural heritage and rich history. The island’s stunning variety of tourism attractions include hiking through the tropical rainforest, riding the scenic railway that connects the island’s sugar plantations, visiting the Caribelle Batik factory, touring Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, the only man-made UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Eastern Caribbean, and the more traditional vacation pastimes such as watersports, golf, shopping, tennis, dining, gaming at one of St. Kitts’ two casinos, or simply relaxing on one of the island’s sandy beaches.

While I haven't heard one way or another, I sincerely hope Seabourn Sojourn stops there next month as planned. [UPDATE: It will!] For more information about St. Kitts, visit stkittstourism.kn.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And the Winning Name is “Power Drencher”

Our congratulations go out to Judy Yee of Las Vegas, Nevada, the winner of Carnival’s “Name the Bucket” contest!

Judy’s entry of “Power Drencher” received more votes than any other, meaning that her creative moniker will now be displayed on the massive 300-gallon water bucket that will take center stage in the sprawling WaterWorks aqua park on the new Carnival Magic, set to debut May 1, 2011.

The “Power Drencher”–the largest water bucket afloat—will be one of several splash-tastic features available within the WaterWorks facility, which will also include an enclosed 320-foot-long Twister slide and the DrainPipe, an exhilarating funnel-shaped water attraction.

In addition to having her name associated with a signature feature on Carnival’s most innovative “Fun Ship,” Judy also received a prize pack containing a digital camera, beach bucket, towel, sunscreen, and sunglasses.

Aside from serving as a clever way to name this giant water attraction, the contest raised thousands of dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, with Carnival donating $1 for each entry and vote, as well as for each Facebook fan who “liked” the contest.

WaterWorks is sure to be one of the most popular features on the new 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic which is scheduled to enter service from Europe May 1st. The ship will operate a series of seven- to 12-day Mediterranean cruises before repositioning to Galveston, Texas, for 7-day Caribbean voyages beginning Nov. 14, 2011, becoming the port’s largest year-round cruise ship.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Carnival Splendor To Be Out Of Service For Repairs Until January 16, 2011

Carnival Cruise Lines has cancelled voyages of the Carnival Splendor through the departure of January 9, 2011, to allow time for repairs following an engine room fire last week. The ship is scheduled to re-enter service on January 16, 2011.

Guests who were scheduled to sail on these voyages will receive a full refund of their cruise fare and air transportation costs, along with a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.

Carnival Splendor was towed to San Diego following the fire which occurred off the Mexican coast on November 8. A team from the U.S. Coast Guard, NTSB and flag authorities, along with Carnival’s engineers and technicians, is currently on board investigating the cause of the fire. Carnival personnel are being assisted by representatives of the shipyard that built the vessel and other manufacturers of engine room components in assessing damage and necessary repairs.
“We realize how much guests look forward to their vacations and know that they are very disappointed by this news. We too are disheartened that we are not able to fulfill the dreams of those who have entrusted us with their important vacation plans. We sincerely apologize to everyone who was scheduled to sail on these cancelled voyages and look forward to welcoming them aboard in the future. Now that we have a full technical team engaged in the assessment, we wanted to provide this information as quickly as possible,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO.

Carnival is contacting travel agents and guests on the affected sailings and providing assistance in finding alternate cruises. Travel agent commissions on the cancelled sailings will be protected.

Carnival Corporation estimates that the total impact from voyage disruptions and related repair costs will result in an approximate $0.07 reduction in the company's 2010 fourth quarter earnings per share. The impact of voyage disruptions in the first quarter of 2011 is not expected to be material to the company's 2011 earnings.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Celebrity Cruises to Expand “Solsticizing 2.0” on Celebrity Infinity

Celebrity Cruises coined the word “Solsticized” earlier this year, and brought its meaning to life for guests who set sail on Celebrity Constellation following an ambitious 15-day revitalization in April.

During that time in drydock, Celebrity complemented the ship’s already award-winning style and design with some of the most popular venues on the line’s widely-heralded Solstice Class ships, including:

• the tantalizing Tuscan Grille steakhouse
• the vibrant creperie, Bistro on Five
• a “cool” new ice-topped Martini Bar
• the inviting Café al Bacio and Gelateria
• Cellarmasters wine bar, complete with the “Enomatic” state-of-the-art wine serving system allowing guests to select wines by the glass, at the touch of a button
• more sumptuous suites, with all new furniture, flat-screen TVs, upholstery, bedding and carpeting
• restyled staterooms, with entirely new carpeting, flat-screen TVs, upholstery and bedding
new color schemes, carpeting and upholstery reflective of the Solstice Class’ stylish, modern design in every public venue

And now, Celebrity has announced plans to add all these features on Celebrity Infinity, in addition to its industry-first, spa-inspired “AquaClass” accommodations and the Mediterranean-themed “Blu” specialty restaurant, when the ship becomes the second in the Millennium Class fleet to be “Solsticized.”

“Everything we’ve introduced on our award-winning Solstice Class fleet, and everything we’re adding to our popular Millennium Class ships, is inspired by extensive research into what is most important to guests on vacation,” said Celebrity’s President & CEO Dan Hanrahan. “All of our new venues and attributes–paired with the spectacular service of our highly dedicated crew–are designed to enhance that all-important feeling of getting away and fully enjoying every aspect of Celebrity’s upscale onboard experience.”

After emerging from scheduled drydock Dec 3, 2011, in addition to all the new venues and features introduced this year on Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Infinity will also offer:

• AquaClass accommodations–marking a Millennium-Class ‘first’ –allowing guests on Celebrity Infinity to experience the brand’s popular spa-inspired accommodations and amenities
• the intimate, Mediterranean-themed specialty restaurant, “Blu,” offered exclusively for AquaClass guests
• more private luxury havens with entirely new verandas added to the ship’s spacious, sumptuous Celebrity Suites
• the hip Celebrity iLounge, which debuted on Celebrity Eclipse and made Celebrity Cruises the industry’s first Authorized Apple Reseller
• additional new oceanview and inside staterooms

Celebrity currently plans to similarly refurbish Celebrity Summit in Jan 2012, followed by Celebrity Millennium in April 2012. Bookings for the newly refurbished Celebrity Infinity open Monday, Nov 22, 2010. For more information, call your travel agent, dial 1-800-437-3111 or visit CelebrityCruises.com.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cruise Travel: An Updated Paper Luggage Tag Solution

As we reported on CruiseDiva.com some time ago, while most passengers have no complaint about printing e-documents for their cruise, luggage tags printed on paper are a cause for concern. Frequent cruiser George Hall said, "Someone will have to explain to me how these paper tags stay on through the process." Cruise Diva has had occasion to print out and use the paper tags and offered suggestions for how to keep them securely in place: Luggage Tags, Then & Now.

But now, I've discovered an even better method of attaching those fragile paper luggage tags without "laminating" them with clear packing tape. Favors by Serendipity* has come up with an ingenious Cruise Luggage Tag Holder for those printed luggage tags.

We love that cruise lines are going green and we love these luggage tag holders because they are reusable.

Not only are they useful, they won't fall apart in transit. The grommet at the top makes them even sturdier and longer lasting. Designed to accommodate 8.5" x 11" folded paper, just print your tags, fold them according to the instructions, put them in the holders, attach to your luggage handles, and relax. You're set for worry-free luggage transfer from pierside to your cabin.

The holidays are coming up and, priced at $2.95 each for from one to four holders (order five or more at $2.50 each), these are perfect stocking stuffers for avid cruisers.

*Favors by Serendipity has been in business since 1975 creating everything from handcrafted items to wedding and party favors.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Allure of the Seas Receives A Warm Welcome At Port Everglades

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, arrived at her homeport of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Thursday, Nov 11th, which is Veterans Day here in the U.S. Eagerly awaiting the ship's arrival amidst thousands of U.S. flags were hundreds of onlookers, including Royal Caribbean executives and employees, community organizations and residents, as well as a flotilla of maritime escorts made up of fireboats and private watercrafts. The second of the cruise lines Oasis-class ships made her U.S. debut following a 13-day transatlantic journey from Turku, Finland.

In the upcoming week, Allure will be abuzz with activity, first with hundreds of landscapers boarding the ship to add more than 12,000 live plants to the ship's Central Park neighborhood, as well as other final preparations. NBC's TODAY broadcasts the fourth hour of their show live from Allure on Friday, Nov. 19, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. ET. Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb will unveil the diverse line-up of entertainment and innovative onboard amenities that differentiate Allure from Oasis of the Seas. The inaugural activities and events can be followed via webisodes at AllureoftheSeas.com.

In the meantime. the Oasis-class ships made history once again yesterday, Saturday, Nov. 13th, at 5:30 p.m. when Allure of the Seas was joined by sister-ship Oasis of the Seas for a one-of-a-kind visual of the world's two largest ships together for the first time. They met off the Florida coast, where passengers aboard Oasis of the Seas flanked the top decks to wave at the crew onboard Allure and get an up close and personal peek at the world's newest cruise ship. That's Allure in the foreground of the photo here. In a friendly case of sibling rivalry, Allure of the Seas' captain, Hernan Zini, confirms that his ship is five centimeters longer than Oasis of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean launches Allure of the Seas with a refreshing new array of features and onboard amenities. In addition to the signature Oasis-class neighborhood design with seven unique spaces like Central Park and the Coney Island-style Boardwalk, complete with a hand-carved carousel and an AquaTheater, her distinct personality takes center stage presenting new features such as:
  • New entertainment offerings including the launch of a partnership with DreamWorks Animation and the Broadway hit, Chicago: The Musical
  • 26 dining options including the first Starbucks at sea, a new spin on fine dining at 150 Central Park conceptualized by The Culinary Institute of America alumna Molly Brandt, as well as the Samba Grill Brazilian steakhouse, Rita's Cantina Mexican cuisine, and The Boardwalk Dog House
  • A wide array of retail options including a BRITTO Gallery fashioned by pop artist Romero Britto and GUESS Accessory boutique
  • Innovative technology features such as a 3-D movie theater, iPod docks in suites, self service kiosks, and digital way-finding signage for guests
The official naming ceremony for Allure of the Seas will take place on Nov 28th during a one-night inaugural celebration fundraiser to benefit the United Way chapters of Miami-Dade and Broward counties and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Haiti Fund, among other charities. The godmother of Allure of the Seas will be unveiled during the special ceremony which will be streamed live at 4:30 pm on AllureoftheSeas.com.

A special 4-night sailing on Dec 1st 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 5th. Allure of the Seas alternates a Western Caribbean with an Eastern Caribbean 7-night itinerary from her home port of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Photos Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Intl.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cunard Line Brings "A Grand Celebration at Sea" to the Tournament of Roses Parade

Following the revelry of Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Naming Ceremony last month, Cunard Line continues A Grand Celebration by announcing its inaugural participation in the 122nd Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade® presented by Honda, the globally televised event considered “America’s New Year’s Parade.” Cunard has revealed a rendering of its float, themed “A Grand Celebration at Sea," created by award-winning Fiesta Parade Floats in collaboration with renowned artist and float designer Raul Rodriguez.

Marking the first time Cunard has participated in the world-famous parade, “A Grand Celebration at Sea” will illustrate the Cunard fleet of Queens–flagship Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and the new Queen Elizabeth–and depict the ultimate sense of occasion, including ballroom dancing, a big band orchestra, champagne toasts, and multigenerational families celebrating their dreams and friendships while building memories, all on board a luxury cruise vacation with Cunard.

“We are delighted to be part of such a celebrated event like the Rose Parade,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “This year’s Rose Parade theme of building dreams, friendships, and memories, ties perfectly with our legacy and heritage. For more than 170 years sailing the seven seas, the Cunard name has been synonymous with fulfilling aspirations, fostering life-long friendships, and creating memorable experiences for all of our guests.”

From bow to stern, Cunard’s float will be decorated in floral grandeur, reflecting the line’s classic ocean travel experience. The float will also depict signature hallmarks found on a Cunard liner, including the Grand Lobby staircase and the Queens Room Ballroom. Additionally, an oversized floralgraph of Cunard’s three Queens takes center stage at the top of the float’s ascending staircases, a fitting reference to the modern fleet and also to the upcoming Cunard Royal Rendezvous taking place on Jan 13, 2011 in New York Harbour. This rare maritime event will be only the second time in Cunard’s history that three regal Queens have docked together in New York Harbour.

Featuring an eloquent fusion of floral and architectural detail in Cunard’s rich tradition of elegance and grandeur, the float stands at 24 feet high, 18 feet wide and 55 feet in length. It will include a big band orchestra and ballroom dancers to bring to life the Line’s famed Royal Nights Themed Balls, along with theatrical smoke rising from Cunard’s signature black and red funnel.

Thousands of red Black Magic roses, purple phalaenopsis orchid sprays, green cymbidium orchids and hypericum, and white Casablanca lilies will border the length of the float, along with more than 45,000 red Opium roses that will carpet the steps and floors. Layers of black onion seed and crisp white sweet rice will be used to adorn the distinctive shape of Cunard’s elongated bow, while shimmering deep brown flax seed will replicate the rich texture of hand-polished mahogany woods throughout the architectural features. Water waves showcased by white roses, dendrobium orchids and phalaenopsis orchids will sweep over oceans of light and dark blue iris, delphinium and hydrangea blossoms.

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses is a volunteer organization that annually hosts the Rose Parade taking place Saturday, Jan 1, 2011, at 8 a.m. (PST) featuring majestic floral floats, high-stepping equestrian units and spirited marching bands.

Visit Cunard.com/rendezvous to see planned festivities and viewing locations for the Cunard Royal Rendezvous celebration. For more information about Cunard Line, visit Cunard.com.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Princess Cruises Honors Veterans With Military Onboard Credit Program

In recognition of Veterans Day, Princess Cruises is promoting the line’s military onboard credit program for active and retired military personnel. The credit, which ranges from $50 to $250 per stateroom depending on the length of the cruise, is available to members of the United States and Canadian armed forces with appropriate service identification.

“As I discovered when I recently wrote about my own military experience on our company blog, we have a large number of veterans among our passengers,” said Alan Buckelew, Princess Cruises president and CEO. “We want to honor all military personnel this Veterans Day and thank them for their service.”

The line’s military personnel onboard credit program is available to active military personnel plus retired and disabled military veterans with proper verification as follows:
  • Active personnel currently serving in the following service divisions: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, Reserves, Canadian National Defense (military verification certificate)
  • Retired personnel defined as: Enlisted personnel or officers with a minimum of 20 years of service, medically retired or 100% disabled (blue or tan uniformed ID card/Canadian white N.D. 21 ID card)
  • Veterans with an Honorable Discharge serving a minimum of 2 years or 6 months in an active war zone in any of the United States service divisions listed above or Canadian National Defense (DD 214 plus current photo ID)
The onboard credit amount is $50 for cruises 6 days or less, $100 for cruises of 7-13 days, or $250 for cruises of 14 days or longer, offered on a per stateroom basis.

To request the military personnel onboard credit, eligible persons should apply no later than one week prior to the cruise departure date. Passenger and sailing information should be accompanied by proof of eligibility and provided to either the passenger’s travel agent or to Princess Cruises. For more information about how to submit information, contact 1-800-PRINCESS.

Buckelew’s story about his return to Vietnam, “A Soldier Returns … as a Tourist” (along with many comments from veterans) can be found on Princess’ blog: 50EssentialExperiences.com.

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, November 11, 2010

Carnival Splendor: San Diego Arrival

November 11, 2010 (11:45 am EST)

The cruise ship Carnival Splendor, which lost power after experiencing an engine room fire, arrived in San Diego at approximately 8.30am local time.

Carnival has made arrangements for all guests to either travel home today or overnight in area hotels and has a large team of employees in San Diego to assist with these arrangements.

Guests will be receiving a full refund along with reimbursement for transportation costs. Additionally, they will receive a complimentary future cruise equal to the amount paid for this voyage.

"We wish to thank our guests for their patience and cooperation during this very difficult situation and offer our sincerest apologies," said Gerry Cahill, Carnival's president and CEO.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
At approximately 6 am Monday (U.S. Pacific Standard Time), Carnival Splendor experienced a fire in the aft engine room. The fire was extinguished and there were no injuries to guests or crew. The ship was towed back to San Diego via tug boats.

The Nov. 14th 7-day cruise from Long Beach has been cancelled. Guests scheduled to sail on this voyage will receive a full refund of their cruise fare and air transportation costs, along with a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.

Carnival Splendor was on the first leg of a seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise that departed Sunday, Nov. 7, from Long Beach, Calif. The ship's normal itinerary includes stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. The ship, which measures 113,000 gross registered tons and first entered service in July 2008, was carrying 3,299 guests and 1,167 crew.

Contact information for family and friends of guests on board: 1-888-290-5095 or 305-406-5534

The Yachts of Seabourn: Better Bookings, Higher Fares

If you yearn to get away from it all on a Seabourn mega-yacht, you might want to make your plans sooner rather than later. As they have just announced, award-winning, small-ship cruise specialist The Yachts of Seabourn took more bookings in October, 2010 than in any other month in the company’s history. Net bookings exceeded the same month last year by a whopping 166 percent.

Seabourn President and CEO Pamela Conover said that reviews and reports on the company’s two newest vessels are helping fuel the demand. “Seabourn Odyssey was called ‘a game-changer’ when she was launched in 2009,” said Conover. “And she and Seabourn Sojourn have certainly changed the game for us. In the past two years, our new yachts have attracted the attention of hundreds of new travel agent partners. And tens of thousands of their clients have had their first Seabourn experience. Now those guests are coming back,” she continued. “And they are bringing their friends and families with them.”

And, now that new-to-Seabourn guests have had a taste of the luxury life on board, here is where the really good news for Seabourn kicks in. As a result of the increasing demand, the company has been able to introduce a new pricing strategy for 2011 aimed at restoring the advantage to those who book early. The first step in the initiative was to announce fare increases of between $200 and $800 per couple on nineteen 2011 cruises effective Nov 1st. The company said that additional fare increases will be implemented on Jan 1, 2011. That means you need to act fast to lock in the best fare.

Seabourn is entering the final months of an assertive expansion of over 200 percent capacity increase in three years. The first two vessels, Seabourn Odyssey and Seabourn Sojourn, are already in service and a third, Seabourn Quest, will debut in June. Throughout the expansion, the company has managed to maintain the exceptional quality of its onboard product, on which its reputation is based.

With the addition of the new yachts, the six-yacht Seabourn fleet will comprise the largest luxury cruise presence in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe in 2011. The expansion likewise allows the company to expand its range of seasonal cruising options in more exotic destinations such as Southeast Asia, South America, India, Arabia, the South Pacific, and even sail extended, round-the-world cruises. For more information on Seabourn’s yachting vacations, visit Seabourn.com and watch the Cruise Diva blog for an upcoming day-by-day account of yachting aboard Seabourn Sojourn in the Caribbean, beginning December 1st.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Update Carnival Splendor

Miami, FL, November 10, 2010 (12 noon EST)

The cruise ship Carnival Splendor, which lost power after experiencing an engine room fire, is currently being towed via tug boats to San Diego. Based on favorable sea conditions, the ship is expected to arrive around midday on Thursday.

As the ship gets closer to coastal areas, guests are now beginning to receive intermittent cellular service. Additionally, the ship's phone system is working on a limited basis and guests are able to make complimentary calls home.

A large Carnival team continues to work on hotel, flight and transportation arrangements for the guests and will be on the ground in San Diego when the ship arrives.

Guests continue to be provided food and beverage service and a limited schedule of activities. Toilets continue to function in most staterooms and all public restrooms.

Contact information for family and friends of guests on board: 1-888-290-5095 or 305-406-5534

Carnival Splendor Update

Carnival Cruise Lines Statement: Nov 9, 2010 (8:15 pm EST) — At approximately 6 am Monday morning (U.S. Pacific Standard Time), a fire was detected in the aft engine room aboard the cruise ship Carnival Splendor. The fire was extinguished and there were no injuries to guests or crew.

The ship has been operating on auxiliary generators and engineers have been unable to restore additional power to the vessel. Thus far, one tug boat has reached the ship and has begun towing with additional tugs en route to expedite the vessel’s return.

Given the ship’s speed and current position, we have decided to take the vessel to San Diego where it is expected to arrive late Thursday. Additionally, we are in the process of making all the necessary hotel and flight arrangements for our guests. If the ship is unable to maintain sufficient speed under tow, it is possible that we could revert to the previous plan and dock in Ensenada.

Last night, the ship’s engineers were able to restore toilet service to most cabins and all public bathrooms, as well as cold running water. Currently several key hotel systems, including air conditioning, hot food service, and telephones, are not available. The ship’s crew continues to actively work to restore other services.

Guests are able to move about the ship and food and beverage service, along with some shipboard programming, including children’s activities and entertainment, are being provided.

The vessel’s command is in contact with the U.S. Coast Guard which has deployed assets to the cruise ship’s location and is assisting in providing additional provisions which became necessary due to the lack of refrigeration on board.

Guests on the current voyage will be receiving a full refund along with reimbursement for transportation costs. Additionally, they will receive a complimentary future cruise equal to the amount paid for this voyage.

Carnival Splendor was on the first leg of a 7-day Mexican Riviera cruise that departed Sunday, Nov. 7, from Long Beach, Calif. The ship’s normal itinerary includes stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The ship, which measures 113,000 gross registered tons and first entered service in July 2008, is carrying 3,299 guests and 1,167 crew.

Carnival has also made the decision to cancel the Nov. 14th 7-day cruise from Long Beach. Guests scheduled to sail on this voyage will receive a full refund of their cruise fare and air transportation costs, along with a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.

“We sincerely apologize to our guests for this unfortunate situation and offer our thanks for their patience and cooperation during this challenging time. The safety and comfort of our guests is our top priority and we are doing everything we can to allow them to return home as quickly as possible. We also apologize for having to cancel the next voyage of the Carnival Splendor. We realize how much guests look forward to their vacations and we know how disheartening it is to have their plans disrupted,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO.

Contact information for family and friends of guests on board: 1-888-290-5095 or
305-406-5534.

Crystal Adds New Pacific Coast Cruises for Fall 2011

You may recall reading on the Cruise Diva blog back on August 14th that we weren't surprised when Crystal Cruises announced they were cutting back on their future Mexican Riviera sailings. At that time the luxury line announced they were replacing two planned Mexican Riviera cruises with new 7-day springtime getaways departing on April 10 and 17, 2011 to explore the Pacific Coast.

Due to popular demand, Crystal Cruises is offering travelers more opportunities to explore California's coastal cities with two additional Pacific Coast voyages added to the fall 2011 calendar. Conveniently sailing round-trip from Los Angeles aboard Crystal Symphony, the 7-day "Coastal Escape" and "Pacific Sunsets" cruises feature Crystal's first ever itineraries with 2-day, 2-night overnight stays in San Francisco, plus visits to Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Ensenada, Mexico. Departing Nov 20 and Dec 4, 2011, the voyages both offer $500 per person 'All Inclusive-As You Wish' shipboard credits, in addition to free air transportation from numerous North American gateways and Two-for-One cruise fares.

"Interest in our new spring Pacific coastal cruises has been very strong," says Bill Smith, senior vice president, sales and marketing. "It made sense to replace a couple of our fall 2011 Mexican Riviera cruises with West Coast cruises that are generating attention from locals, East Coasters, and even overseas-based guests." Smith adds, "Whether for a family reunion, a single traveler's vacation, or a couple's getaway, the California coast offers beautiful scenery, charm and diverse cultural experiences. Complementing the destinations is the luxurious, and always inviting, resort that is Crystal Cruises—where every wish is met with unparalleled personalized service, extensive choices, abundant space and superior quality."

Perfect Choice Dining expands Crystal's dining choices in 2011 with new flexible Open Dining by Reservation, enabling guests to dine when and where they choose, in addition to the line's classic main and late seating options. Also, with a new promotion, children under 17 can sail free with two adults in the same stateroom on the Nov 20th Thanksgiving cruise. For more information, visit CrystalCruises.com.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Carnival Splendor Fire

At approximately 6 am Monday morning (U.S. Pacific Standard Time), a fire was detected in the aft engine room aboard the cruise ship Carnival Splendor. The fire was extinguished and there were no injuries to guests or crew.

The ship has been operating on auxiliary generators and engineers have been unable to restore additional power to the vessel. As a result, the current voyage is being terminated. Tugboats are currently en route to the ship which is located off the coast of Mexico, approximately 200 miles south of San Diego. The tugs are expected to reach the ship around midday local time today and will tow the vessel to Ensenada, Mexico in an effort to get the guests home as quickly as possible.
Currently several key hotel systems, including air conditioning, hot food service, and telephones are not available. Last night, the ship’s engineers were able to restore toilet service to all cabins and public bathrooms, as well as cold running water. The ship’s crew continues to actively work to restore other services.

Regular announcements apprising guests of the situation began at approximately 6.30 am yesterday. Guests were initially asked to move from their cabins to the ship’s upper open deck areas. At this time, guests have access to their cabins and are able to move about the ship. Bottled water and cold food items are being provided.

The vessel’s command is in contact with the U.S. Coast Guard which has deployed aircraft and cutters to the cruise ship’s location.

Guests on the current voyage will be receiving a full refund along with reimbursement for transportation costs. Additionally, they will receive a complimentary future cruise equal to the amount paid for this voyage.

“We know this has been an extremely trying situation for our guests and we sincerely thank them for their patience. Conditions on board the ship are very challenging and we sincerely apologize for the discomfort and inconvenience our guests are currently enduring. The safety of our passengers and crew is our top priority and we are working to get our guests home as quickly as possible,” said Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines.

Carnival Splendor was on the first leg of a seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise that departed Sunday, Nov. 7, from Long Beach, Calif. Monday was a scheduled day at sea. The ship’s normal itinerary includes stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The ship, which measures 113,000 gross registered tons and first entered service in July 2008, is carrying 3,299 guests and 1167 crew.

Speed Counts With Norwegian Cruise Line’s Freestyle Dash Offer

Dash to book by Nov 12 for reduced deposits and up to $250 in on-board credit. Norwegian Cruise Line launches its 3-day Freestyle Dash limited time offer* on Wednesday, Nov 10, 2010 with a special preview day for its Latitudes members (past guests) on Tuesday, Nov 9.

Get ready to escape the cold of winter and spend the holidays in the Caribbean on a 7-day getaway from Port Canaveral on Norwegian Sun; New Orleans on Norwegian Spirit; Miami on Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Pearl, or the line’s newest and most innovative ship, Norwegian Epic. The 3-day promotion provides half-off standard cruise deposits on select sailings and up to $250 in on-board credit per stateroom, based on cruise length and category, on new reservations made before Nov 12, 2010.

Guests who book sailings of up to six days and longer will receive $250 in on-board credit when sailing in a Garden Villa; $150 for suites; $100 for mini-suites and deluxe balcony staterooms; $75 for balcony staterooms; $50 for oceanview; $25 for inside and $12.50 for Norwegian Epic’s exclusive Studio staterooms. For sailings of up to five days, guests will receive $100 per stateroom in a Garden Villa; $75 for suites; $50 for mini-suites; $40 for balcony staterooms; $20 for oceanview and $15 for inside staterooms. The on-board credit can be used toward amenities such as spa treatments to shore excursions; gifts in the duty free shop; and dinners in any of Norwegian’s specialty Freestyle Dining restaurants.

Speed counts during the Freestyle Dash promotion. To book a cruise call Norwegian at 866-NCL-CRUISE (625-2784), visit NCL.com, or contact a travel professional.

*OFFER IS NOT COMBINABLE WITH ANY OTHER OFFERS OR PROMOTIONS.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Three's A Charm: MSC Divina

If you think writing cruise travel guidebooks is easy, think again. There's a lot of research involved and cruise lines don't always make it easy. Sure, they are very cooperative, but now and then I get thrown a curve when itineraries change, ships are sold, and now, MSC Cruises has named, renamed, and renamed the next ship in the Fantasia-class for the third time.

First it was planned that the ship would be MSC Favolosa, but Italian rival Costa Cruises beat them to the punch by announcing their new Costa Favolosa, which would launch before the MSC ship. Anticipating the confusion that might cause, MSC decided to name the new Fantasia-class sister MSC Fantastica. That sounded fantastic until MSC Cruises' favorite godmother Sophia Loren entered the picture. In a conversation with her friend Gianluigi Aponte, who coincidentally owns MSC Cruises, Ms. Loren expressed a desire to have a ship named after herself.

Voila! The new ship's name, not yet written in stone, or on the coin to be welded on the keel, was changed to MSC Divina. At 140,000 tons, the divine ship will be MSC Cruises’ largest to date with 3,502 lower berths. It will feature MSC's Yacht Club concept that offers a concierge, private swimming pool, solarium, lounge, butler service, and a dedicated spa entrance for nearly 100 balcony cabins. We understand there will be numerous as yet unnamed features, including an aft infinity pool and two more elevators than other Fantasia-class ships when she launches in summer 2012.

While not exactly the "MSC Sophia," Mr. Aponte explained that "a divine experience gives you memories that will last forever." We're sure Ms. Loren agrees and, after all what's in a name? It's sure to be a "Sophia" of a ship.

That's the second ship in the Fantasia-class, MSC Splendida pictured above

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Disney Dream: Ride The AquaDuck Coaster

When Disney Dream launches in January 2011, it will feature the world’s first-of-its-kind shipboard water coaster–the AquaDuck, which will sweep guests away on an exhilarating high-speed flume ride featuring twists, turns, drops, uphill acceleration, and river rapids–all while traversing the upper decks of the ship. ABC television's "Good Morning America" got an exclusive first look and shares their first ride. While you have to listen to a brief advertisement before the video begins, it's a behind the scenes look at what should prove to be one of the most popular attractions at sea. In addition to virtually taking the exciting ride with GMA, you can register to win a cruise in the Disney Dream Cruise Giveaway. Ten lucky winners will each be able to bring up to three friends or family members along with them!

And, no offense to the television video crew, but here's an even better look at how terrific the coaster will be as Disney crewmembers give it a "test" spin.

You may notice that the riders are wearing wetsuits. Remember, the ship is still in Germany and winter is fast approaching. Once the ship is sailing from Port Canaveral, all you'll need is a bathing suit and nerves of steel to face the 765-foot long ride that starts out at the funnel 160-ft above sea level. Two passengers at a time can ride on the dinghy as it shoots through a clear plastic tube that extends 13 feet over the side of the ship at one point. We hope Disney Dream's littlest guests won't be disappointed that they are unable to ride the coaster unless they are over 48 inches tall.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cruising From Charleston

Sailing From Charleston, South Carolina: It's the hottest homeport in the southeast. What's to see and do and how do you get there? Cruise Diva has the answers. Take a look at cruising from the Antebellum Belle, Charleston.

After an "Evolutions of Fun" transformation, Carnival Fantasy sails year-round from Charleston on a diverse schedule of itineraries. Cruise Diva takes you on board.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Princess Cruises Introduces New Europe Cruisetours for 2011

A common complaint about cruise travel is that you don’t get to “see enough” of the countries cruise ships visit. Princess Cruises has long recognized that their guests want to explore further afield and offers numerous cruisetours that allow them to do so. And now the line has unveiled two new cruisetour options for passengers on Europe cruises in 2011, providing them the opportunity to explore the mysteries of ancient Petra in Jordan or to enjoy a cruise up the dramatic Rhine River. The new itineraries join the line’s previously announced cruisetours giving passengers a total of five land/sea vacation choices in the 2011 season.

The 16-night Ancient Petra and the Dead Sea cruisetour steeps travelers in the history of the ancient world with visits to Jerash, Petra and the Dead Sea in Jordan in addition to the wonders of a Holy Land cruise to Israel and Egypt. The new 20-night Timeless Cities of the Rhine River cruisetour offers passengers a week-long cruise up the scenic Rhine River by riverboat combined with a Princess sailing to Scandinavia and Russia. In addition, Princess has added a new Rome and Venice tour combination that enables passengers on itineraries traveling between the two Italian cities to simplify their air travel with roundtrip flights.

“These new cruisetours add two significant new destinations to our Europe lineup,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “The Petra and Dead Sea tour makes a fascinating addition to the wonders already included on our Holy Land sailings such as Jerusalem and the pyramids of Egypt, while the Rhine offers outstanding scenery and history around every bend.

Ancient Petra and the Dead Sea: This 4-night tour combines with 12-night Holy Land cruises on Pacific Princess for a 16-night vacation through some of the most marveled at wonders of the ancient world. The fully escorted tour takes travelers to the ancient city of Jerash, one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world; Petra, a unique UNESCO World Heritage Site with a vast city carved into a sheer rock face that became a vital trade route junction; Mount Nebo, home to a number of remarkable mosaics; and the extraordinary Dead Sea. The tour features two nights in Amman, one night in Petra, and one night at the Dead Sea. Cruisetour departures include May 15, June 20, July 26, Sept 24, Oct 18, and Nov 11, 2011.

Timeless Cities of the Rhine River: This 20-night cruisetour adds a 9-night tour, including a Rhine River cruise, to an 11-night Scandinavia and Russia cruise on Emerald Princess. The 7-night riverboat cruise from Basel to Amsterdam aboard Avalon Felicity, sails by the castles and vineyards of one of Europe’s greatest rivers, and includes guided excursions in Strasbourg, Heidelberg, Mainz, Rüdesheim, Koblenz, and Cologne. Passengers will also sail through the captivating Rhine Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered the river’s most beautiful stretch. After the river cruise passengers will enjoy overnights in Amsterdam and Copenhagen. The cruisetour departs on July 31, 2011.

Rome and Venice: Because of popular demand, Princess will now offer the opportunity to include extra time in Venice and Rome to cruises that begin in one city and end in the other. These packages give passengers the advantage of booking roundtrip flights from either city for more convenient air travel. Combinable with a variety of Greek Isles and Mediterranean Collection itineraries, the tours offer two nights in storied Rome as well as two nights among the magical canals of Venice, plus first-class rail travel between the cities.

These tours join the line’s three other European cruisetour options: Europe’s Imperial Treasures which visits the enchanting cities of Budapest, Vienna and Prague; Classic Italy, exploring the Eternal City of Rome, the Renaissance masterpiece of Florence and the stunning Tuscan countryside; and Ring of Kerry, a chance to discover the beautiful landscapes and charming villages of Ireland. 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, November 4, 2010

Oceania Cruises Unveils ‘Pillars of Distinction’ 2.0

As part of its ongoing Pillars of Distinction initiative–the most significant product investment in the company’s history–Oceania Cruises has announced the second phase of innovative fleet-wide enhancements. These multi-million-dollar updates are in addition to the previously announced physical enhancements being made during the regularly scheduled dry-docks for Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica.

"As the leader in upper-premium cruising, we continually raise the bar to exceed our guests’ expectations and offer unrivaled value," stated Bob Binder, president of Oceania Cruises. “This latest phase of our Pillars of Distinction program reinforces the three hallmarks of the Oceania Cruises experience: cuisine, service, and comfort.”

CUISINE
· An expanded menu of “Jacques Pepin Signature Items” in the Grand Dining Rooms, which include Cotes d’Agneau Grillees–grilled lamb chop served with ratatouille and lamb gravy with thyme, and Gambas Sauté Provençal–sautéed shrimp in olive oil from Nice with garlic, parsley and tomatoes
· Evening menus in the Terrace Café will focus on regional specialties from the area the ship is sailings in addition to each evening’s ever changing range of traditional favorites
· Gourmet VIP canapé service for all suite guests now includes a wider array of specialty, gourmand-inspired delicacies which are presented on new, custom designed china
· Espresso and Cappuccino from the famed Illy Coffee of Italy

SERVICE
· Free shuttle service in more than 90 ports worldwide where the ship is docked away from the city center
· Introduction of production shows created by the legendary Gary J. Musik company that feature a full ensemble, original choreography, lavish costuming, and rousing musical numbers
· Dramatically faster Internet speeds as a result of new partnership with MTN
· Complimentary in-suite newspaper delivery for Owner’s, Vista, and Oceania suites

COMFORT
· Upgraded bath amenities and toiletries in all accommodations, including Bulgari for Concierge-level and suite guests.
· Laptops, currently featured in all Owner’s and Vista suites on Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica, will be added to all Penthouse Suites
· iPads for all Owner’s, Vista, and Oceania suites

Pillars of Distinction amenities will be featured on Oceania Cruises’ new Marina, scheduled for delivery in January 2011, and sister ship Riviera, which joins the fleet in April 2012 and be introduced aboard Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica in the spring of 2011. The line’s Pillars of Distinction is an ongoing initiative, with more enhancements and updates to be announced. For reservations or to order a brochure, contact a travel professional, visit OceaniaCruises.com or call toll-free at 800-531-5658.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Promotion From Carnival Offers Military Personnel Discounts

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

Rates start at $219 per person for 3- and 4-day cruises; $279 per person for 5-day voyages; $399 per person for 6-day departures; $449 per person for 7-day voyages; and $649 per person for 8-day sailings. Also included are 7-day Europe voyages starting at $789 per person.

Voyages to the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico operate from 12 convenient North American homeports along the east and west coasts and Gulf of Mexico. Europe cruises depart from Barcelona, Spain.

“Carnival has a long history of supporting our U.S. military personnel through special pricing and promotions and we are pleased to offer this program throughout November to demonstrate our appreciation to these most deserving individuals,” said Joni Rein, Carnival’s vice president of worldwide sales.

The promotion is valid for individual bookings only. Military personnel must provide proof of service. Eligible military personnel must sail to take advantage of this offer. Certain other restrictions apply. For additional information and reservations, call 1-800-327-9501.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cruise Line Entertainment: Which Is The Best At Sea?

For years cruise lines have presented production shows described as Broadway-themed or Vegas-style entertainment. Their aspirations have been high, but seldom would they have been mistaken for the real thing. As a rule, cruise ship shows are quite entertaining and the performers range from good to excellent. Don't forget that "American Idol" finalist and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson got her first big gig aboard Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wonder. There's no question that Disney entertainment is superb.

However, passengers accustomed to actual Broadway shows and Vegas extravaganzas generally scoff at cruise ship shows they deem as cheesy or faux. Cruise Diva has never thought that was fair, but cruise line execs take what their guests say to heart and are now upping the entertainment ante.

With the introduction this year of Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) expanded the big-time theme to include actual Vegas acts at sea. In an industry first, they welcomed Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert aboard their newest ship to join another internationally well-known group whose reputation is nothing to sneeze at—the Second City Players, which are featured across the fleet. The reaction to this line-up of talent and showmanship has been nothing short of phenomenal. At this point, we might remind you that NCL pioneered the presentation of shortened versions of Broadway musicals aboard their ships. In the early-to-mid-1990s we saw "42nd Street," "Grease," and "Will Rogers Follies" presented on various NCL ships.

So, when we recently read what Adam Goldstein, President and CEO Royal Caribbean Intl said in his Why Not? blog, "I’m lobbying to change the name of our newest ship to Entertainment of the Seas," we paid attention.

Royal Caribbean is setting the stage for an encore when Allure of the Seas launches next month. Reprising the at-sea debut of "Hairspray" aboard Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas will feature "Chicago: The Musical" in its main show theater in a slightly condensed version to fit a run time of about 90 minutes. In addition, other entertainment options will be available, including a signature aquatic production in the ship's open-air AquaTheater and an ice show planned for the ship's ice-skating rink.

If that "slightly condensed" version of a hit musical has a familiar ring to it, it's because NCL did it first. More than two decades ago. While NCL (or anyother cruise lines) would be hard pressed to present ice skating reviews and aquatic shows, it is pretty difficult to compete with the popularity of Blue Man Group.

It is also beginning to look like we have a battle for the best entertainment afloat in the works. And the winner is ... cruise passengers.

Monday, November 1, 2010

MSC Wishes You “Happy Birthday” With a Free, 7-night Caribbean Cruise

MSC Cruises wants you to celebrate your upcoming birthday with a special gift–a free, 7-night Caribbean cruise. If you celebrate your birthday onboard MSC Poesia between Nov. 14 and Dec. 19, your cruise is on them and your companions pay from only $529 per person plus government fees and taxes (GFTs). Guests celebrating a birthday can choose from select dates and itineraries on bookings made by Dec. 12, based upon availability. Additional guests, up to two staterooms, travel for the same family and friends rate of $529 plus GFTs.

This special birthday gift is valid for new bookings, while space is available, on the following 7-night, Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises departing from Fort Lauderdale:

· Eastern Caribbean cruise, calls in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and Nassau Bahamas; departs Nov. 14, 28, and Dec. 12, 2010.

· Western Caribbean cruise, calls in Key West, Florida; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico; departs Nov. 21 and Dec. 5, 2010.

At least one person per stateroom must be celebrating his/her birthday during the chosen cruise as it will be requested at the time of booking. Rates are based on double occupancy for U.S. and Canadian residents. Government fees and taxes for all guests are additional; restrictions apply. Suites are excluded from this offer. MSC Cruises reserves the right to pass on any fuel surcharge without notice to all guests. Kids ages 17 and younger cruise for just $99 (GFTs are additional) when sharing a stateroom with two adults offering affordable family vacations. All cruises offer just a $100 deposit. For more information about MSC Cruises, visit MSCCruisesUSA.com, or see Cruise Diva's MSC Poesia, "Poetry at Sea"