Saturday, April 30, 2011

Get Your Thrills On Carnival Magic

Thrill seeking sport enthusiasts have always gone somewhat unchallenged on Carnival Cruise Lines ships in the past. Yes, the ships all have sports courts, waterslides, and some have entire water parks, but none have offered a real “extreme” challenge until now, with Carnival Magic’s upcoming debut. The SportsSquare takes Carnival’s outdoor recreation areas to an entirely new level with the cruise industry’s first ropes course where passengers can traverse across nets suspended above Spa Deck 12 and offering expansive sea views to the water nearly 150 feet below.

Surrounded by an eighth-mile jogging track, the SportsSquare complex also includes the first outdoor weightlifting area on a cruise ship, along with Carnival’s first two-level miniature golf course—which sounds like more my speed—a Vita exercise course, and lighted multi-purpose court for basketball, volleyball, and soccer. For more sedentary competition, there are ping pong and foosball tables. A full bar with a large flat-screen display is available for those who just want to relax and check out the sports action in the area or on TV.

Carnival Magic’s other top-deck amenities include the splash-tastic WaterWorks aqua park that will offer even more thrills with an exhilarating “Twister” spiral water slide, as well as the new Aqua Play splash park designed for youngsters and their families, featuring a gigantic, 500-gallon “dump bucket” and a host of other wet ’n wild features. Resort-style pool areas offer the perfect venue for catching rays or some Zs.

While I’m not likely to be donning safety gear and trying out the ropes course (pictured above left and with the miniature golf course pictured above right), I look forward to seeing it in action in the upcoming days.

Images Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Disney Cruise Line Makes Inaugural San Francisco Visit


In a photo taken yesterday, Disney Wonder sails under the Golden Gate Bridge on the way to the Port of San Francisco. This is the first time Disney Cruise Line has visited the City By The Bay. The ship stopped here for two days as part of a repositioning itinerary heading north to begin Disney Cruise Line’s first Alaska season. During the 7-night Alaskan itinerary, the Disney Wonder visits Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, and Tracy Arm Fjord.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Carnival Magic: Set To Launch

With just a couple days until the debut of the new 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic, last minute preparations are underway at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, in anticipation of the ship’s inaugural May 1 voyage from Venice.

Workers are putting the finishing touches on the Carnival Magic’s dazzling interiors and public spaces and crew members are on board undergoing various training exercises and familiarizing themselves with the facilities and features aboard the new 130,000-ton vessel.

As the line’s newest “Fun Ship,” Carnival Magic will introduce a host of innovations, including the Cucina del Capitano, a new family-style restaurant that brings the heritage of Carnival’s captains to the table; SportSquare, an expansive open-air recreation complex featuring the first-ever ropes course at sea; and the RedFrog Pub, a Caribbean-inspired watering hole with its own private label draught beer.

Immediately prior to the May 1 inaugural cruise, Carnival Magic will be officially named by Lindsey Wilkerson, a former St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient who now serves an employee and an ambassador for the organization. Wilkerson’s choice as godmother is a tribute to Carnival’s ongoing relationship with St. Jude, one of the world’s premier centers for the research and treatment of pediatric cancer and other catastrophic diseases.

Stay tuned as Cruise Diva brings you on-the-scene details of her upcoming debut from Venice. In addition, if you are a Carnival Cruise Lines Facebook fan, you can “virtually” experience the excitement of Carnival Magic’s May 1 launch from Venice, Italy, with a series of videos that will showcase the ship's inaugural activities along with its many unique features and innovations.

A series of 11 videos will be posted every half hour between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. (U.S. Eastern time) on Sunday, May 1. The videos will take you on a journey as they enjoy a front-row seat at the Carnival Magic's naming ceremony, tour the ship's bridge, and learn more about the Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub, WaterWorks aqua park, and Cucina del Capitano Italian restaurant, with insight from company executives who helped create these exciting new spaces. After the videos are posted, you can participate in a Facebook quiz based on what you’ve seen for a chance to win a 7-day Carnival Magic cruise for four to the Caribbean.

Carnival Magic will operate a series of 7- to 12-day Mediterranean voyages through October then reposition to Galveston, Texas, in November to launch 7-day Caribbean voyages, becoming the port’s largest year-round ship.

Photo Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Royal Wedding Celebration Preparations on Cunard Line

Cunard Line really knows how to celebrate royal events with dignity and grace and today’s wedding will be no exception.


Featured aboard the Line’s regal fleet of Queens–Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and the new Queen Elizabeth–will be Royal Wedding celebration activities, including:

-- Viewing party of the Royal Wedding live via satellite TV broadcast in the Royal Court Theatre and in all staterooms
-- Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea service featuring Twinings limited edition Royal Wedding Tea
-- A commemorative “Princess Royale” cocktail to mark the occasion
-- A celebration dinner and commemorative menu at each of the restaurants, including a slice of traditional wedding fruitcake
-- A royal champagne toast to Miss Catherine Middleton and HRH Prince William by the ship’s Captain
-- A Royal Wedding Ball with dancing to a big band orchestra in the Queens Room ballroom

Cunard’s association with the Royal Family dates back to 1859 when Queen Victoria bestowed the title of Baronet to Samuel Cunard (Cunard Line founder) for his services to the country during the Crimean War. Since then, eight Cunard liners have been named by senior members of the Royal Family–four by Her Majesty The Queen, including the recent October 2010 Royal Naming Ceremony of the Line’s newest ship, Queen Elizabeth.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Costa Ships to Celebrate the British Royal Wedding

Noted for its love of romance and la dolce vita, Italy’s Costa Cruises will broadcast live television coverage of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton aboard all 14 of its ships on Friday, April 29. With broadcast rights from BBC World News, Costa will provide full coverage of the highly anticipated global media event, combined with a day of festivity and surprises.

Extensive coverage of the ceremony live from Westminster Abbey will be broadcast on the in-cabin entertainment system in every stateroom as well as on large screens in the theaters and on the Lido Decks of Costa’s fleet, with 13 ships in the Mediterranean and one in Asia. As a bonus for their passengers who are British subjects, Costa will set aside reserved seating for them to view the broadcast in public areas.

Costa’s tribute to what has been billed as “the wedding of the century” does not stop at the end of the broadcast. The entire day will be marked by a series of royal wedding–themed events in “British style.” At 10 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time the chimes of Big Ben will announce the start of the celebrations and the surprises for all the guests on all 14 Costa ships.

Activities planned include a royal wedding trivia quiz, Royal Bingo, live music, a Royal Street Party on the outside decks, a “food corner” with classic offerings like fish and chips, and a special Royal cocktail. The fun and revelry is set to end in grand style with a themed wedding cake in honor of William and Kate.

Royal Caribbean Premieres “Kung Fu Panda 2” At Sea

Get your fanciest formal night gown ready as Royal Caribbean is rolling out the red carpet in honor of the May 26, 2011 world premiere of the highly anticipated DreamWorks Animation film “Kung Fu Panda 2” with 3-D movie viewings, a family-themed promotion, and special onboard programming throughout the summer. Guests sailing on Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, and Liberty of the Seas from June through August 2011 will have the unique opportunity to see the 3-D animated film at sea while it is still in movie theaters worldwidw. The cruise line will host a series of red-carpet premieres, which will be celebrated onboard Oasis of the Seas on June 4, 2011, Freedom of the Seas and Allure of the Seas on June 5, 2011, and June 18, 2011 for Liberty of the Seas. Ample viewings of “Kung Fu Panda 2” will take place throughout each sailing onboard all four ships through the end of August 2011.

Additionally, as an extension of the DreamWorks Experience summer programming, the Oasis-class ships will dazzle consumers with Boardwalk family festivals celebrated three to four times per sailing through the end of August. Guests of all ages are invited to come down to the Boardwalk to get their faces painted; enjoy live performances by stilt walkers, marching bands and DJ’s; as well as watch themed circuses and balloon artists; and participate in special kids activities.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Carnival Cruise Lines Takes Delivery Of Carnival Magic

Carnival Corporation added its 100th cruise ship to its fleet today with the delivery of the Carnival Magic. This photo illustration provided by Carnival Cruise Lines depicts the new vessel along with the company’s first ship, Carnival Cruise Lines’ Mardi Gras which began service in 1972. At 130,000 gross tons, the Carnival Magic is almost five times the size of the Mardi Gras’ 27,250 tons. Carnival Magic stretches 1,004 feet in length with a beam of 158 feet and a capacity of 3,690 guests compared to the Mardi Gras’ 650-foot length and 86.5-foot beam and passenger capacity of 906.

In recognition of this achievement, on April 29 all guests sailing aboard Carnival Corp’s 100 ships will enjoy a complimentary champagne toast at dinner to commemorate this historic and unprecedented milestone. All told, more than 227,000 guests across the company’s 10 cruise brands will participate in the toast, believed to be the largest celebration of its kind at sea.

On a personal note, my first Carnival cruise was on the Mardi Gras, sailing a 4-night Bahamas cruise from Fort Lauderdale more than two decades ago. As I remember it fondly, I look forward to embarking on Carnival Miracle for her maiden sailing.

“We Are Cunard” Blog Has A New Host

While there are other cruise directors who probably should retire, we were surprised to hear that Cunard Line had bid farewell to longtime Entertainment Director Alastair Greener earlier this week. To take his place penning the WeAreCunard blog, the line announced that Cunard President Peter Shanks will be the primary writer going forward. Since taking the helm as president, Shanks has been a regular contributor to the blog, enthusiastically sharing his experiences, from launching the new Queen Elizabeth in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen last October, meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu during Queen Mary 2’s 2010 World Voyage, to climbing atop famed Sydney Harbour Bridge earlier this year.

“I love to write about Cunard and I share Alastair’s passion both for the company and for the new world of communication in which we live, where blogs bring things to life that other forms of communication simply can’t touch,” Peter Shanks remarked. “We intend to continue developing the blog and through it bring a whole range of Cunard experiences and celebrations to life.”

Shanks will continue to engage Cunard fans and guests on the blog each week, along with having guest bloggers recount stories of their adventures on board. He spoke with the Line’s Director of Entertainment Martin Lilly on his goals and vision for the blog in the video interview below.


Guests sailing a luxury cruise vacation aboard Cunard delight in the experience of the voyage itself, not just the destination. By day, guests enjoy voluminous libraries, world class spas, white-gloved afternoon tea service and engaging Insights guest enrichment programmes; and by night are entertained by black tie dinners, Royal Nights themed balls, West End-style productions and Veuve Clicquot champagne cocktails.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cruise Travel: Hospitality & Service

At one time many of the hospitality staff members on cruise ships were from islands in the Caribbean. While it's become more popular across the cruise industry to offer "European" style service, we miss the friendly islanders, especially those from Jamaica. We remember returning to our cabin after a day in Mazatlan, Mexico to find a towel animal in the shape of Señor Frog fashioned by our Jamaican room steward. Far from home and family, they always delivered a smiling "no problem" response to any request for more ice or an extra towel. Not that their European and Asian counterparts don't do a good job, it's just not the same.

We were reminded of this during a recent stay at the Riu Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Our favorite waitress greeted us in the dining room on our last morning with the breakfast table message pictured above. We were certainly touched and hope to return. Now, that's hospitality.

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Cruise Review: Carnival Victory

Keith Henderson reviews a recent Southern Caribbean cruise aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Victory and shares highlights of each port of call.

Keith says, "We have gone on a few cruises and feel that the big three (Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean) are comparable with slight differences between the three. For this cruise we kept an open mind regarding Carnival as we enjoyed our previous cruises with them." He concludes his review by offering a direct comparison between sailing with Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line.

How well did their Carnival Victory cruise measure up? According to Keith, "We enjoyed our cruise on the Victory. While it was port intensive, we tried our best to relax as much as possible. We would not hesitate taking another Carnival cruise."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cruise News From Cruise News Daily

It's the beginning of a new week, or the end of the last one depending on how you look at things, so it's time to share Cruise News Daily's video cruise news for the week ending April 23, 2011.

This week's news from the cruise industry includes items about a fire on a cruise ship off the Mexican coast, Port Canaveral expansion, a passenger overboard, Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas, Silversea Cruises, and the drydock progress being made on Princess Cruises' Grand Princess.

Charleston Will Get A New Cruise Terminal

The Post and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina) reported last Thursday that the State Ports Authority board of directors voted to move ahead with plans for the proposed new passenger cruise terminal in downtown Charleston's Union Pier. The board also reaffirmed its commitment to control the cruise business, allowing no more than 104 cruise ship calls a year.

The new terminal will be located immediately to the north of the current terminal, utilizing what has been a facility for cargo handling. The existing area of the Union Pier will undergo redevelopment when the new cruise terminal is complete. Work is slated to begin by the end of this year and be finished by the end of 2012.

The pier's redevelopment plan will result in improved traffic flow and also limit the terminal to a single ship at a time, which is more than what some opponents would like. Thankfully, cooler heads have prevailed and Charleston will be able to offer a more pleasant and seamless passenger drive up, park, and embark/disembark process. Charleston is currently the year-round homeport for Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Fantasy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Navigator of the Seas Will Skip Europe This Winter

Does Royal Caribbean know something about the possibility of softening demand in Europe, or were winter cruises in the Mediterranean simply unattractive?

The line has announced the redeployment of Navigator of the Seas for the 2011-12 winter season, which will offer a wide selection of Caribbean vacation options. Instead of sailing its originally scheduled 14-night winter cruises in the Mediterranean, Navigator will now reposition to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and operate a range of 5- to 9-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries beginning Nov 20, 2011. The ship will also offers a 14-night, trans-Atlantic itinerary from Rome to Port Everglades, departing Nov 6, 2011, and a 15-night return cruise to Rome on April 14, 2012.

From Port Everglades, Navigator of the Seas will alternate a 6-night Western Caribbean with an 8-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary. Ports of call on the 6-night sailings include Grand Cayman, the newly opened Historic Falmouth Port, and Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private beach destination on the north coast of Haiti. The 8-night sailing features calls at St. Maarten, St. Kitts, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Labadee.

Additionally, a 7-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary, with departures on Jan 8 & 22, 2012, subtracts a call at St. Kitts from the 8-night itinerary, while a 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary, departing Jan 15, adds a call to the 6-night itinerary at Cozumel, Mexico. A special 9-night New Year’s cruise, departing Dec 30, 2011, adds a call at St. Thomas to the 8-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary.

Happily, Europe’s loss is our gain here in North America.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grand Princess: No More "Shopping Cart"

Quite possibly the most significant transformation of any cruise ship ever started on April 12th when Princess Cruises' Grand Princess entered a 24-day intensive drydock to change her profile inside and out. Yesterday, workers removed Skywalkers Disco, the "spoiler" that offered views over the ship's stern, and the video below offers a first glimpse of her sleeker profile.

  

The newly renovated Grand Princess will debut on May 5th in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where she will subsequently depart on a transatlantic crossing for her summer and fall homeport of Southampton. From there, she will cruise on a variety of European itineraries. Happily, Europeans will no longer be able to call her the "shopping cart" ship.

Hosted by Grand Princess Cruise Director Martyn Moss, videos, as well as photos of the entire drydock process, are available at the Princess Cruises web site and on YouTube.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's in a name? Prince Albert II No More

You could say I really fell for Prince Albert II in September 2008. That's when I boarded Silversea Cruises luxury expedition vessel in Fort Lauderdale and promptly broke my leg. Unfortunately, I was unable to sail on my Prince Albert II cruise and now it looks like I never will. No, there's nothing wrong with the splendid little ship, but it is undergoing a significant change very soon. You see, ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises has announced plans to change the name of the Prince Albert II to Silver Explorer when the vessel is in dry dock undergoing routine maintenance prior to commencing a summer program of Northern Europe and Arctic voyages.

"Our expansion into adventure travel has turned out quite successful and we have to prepare for the possibility of adding more ships," said Manfredi Lefebvre, Silversea's chairman. "To reinforce the Silversea luxury brand image for the expedition segment, we decided to change the name of our first expedition ship to Silver Explorer and anticipate any future expedition ships will bear similar names that evoke a sense of luxurious adventure." He added, "It has been an absolute privilege to have a ship in our fleet named in tribute to His Serene Highness Prince Albert II. We will continue to honor his legacy of exploration and environmental conservation through our support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, and look forward to hosting future onboard fundraising events to benefit the Foundation's projects."

Silver Explorer continues to offer full-scale exploring from an ultra-luxury base at sea, in true Silversea style. With the largest average size accommodations of any expedition ship, guests enjoy spacious, ocean-view accommodations (many with French balconies or large private verandas), butler service, sumptuous gourmet cuisine, warm hospitality and personalized service (with a crew-to-guest ratio of nearly one to one), and Silversea's generous selection of all-inclusive shipboard amenities, including complimentary beverages, bottled water, wines and spirits served throughout the ship, 24-hour room service, stocked in-suite beverage cabinet and all gratuities. The Lloyd's Register 1A ice-rated vessel explores the world from top to bottom, including Central and South America and Africa.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Good Hope: Falmouth, Jamaica's Showcase Destination

As I noted last week, my recent rest and relaxation trip to Jamaica was not a cruise. For the first time, I arrived by plane and Mel and I stayed at the all-inclusive Riu Resort in Ocho Rios. As a hotel guest, I found my options for touring Jamaica were as numerous as those offered to cruise ship passengers.

Many of the more adventurous excursions were offered by Chukka Caribbean, one of the most popular tour operators in the region. Known for showcasing the natural side of the Caribbean, their signature tour is the Horseback Ride N' Swim. Earlier this year they launched a series of tours at their newest location, Good Hope. While I could have purchased tours directly with Chukka Caribbean as a hotel guest, they can only be booked by cruise passengers directly with the cruise lines as space is pre-sold to ships for their arrival dates.

Located only twenty minutes from Falmouth in Jamaica’s Trelawny Parish, the Good Hope estate was the basis of one of the largest sugar fortunes made in 19th century Jamaica and contains a rare inventory of restored historic buildings.

The Great House (pictured above), was built in 1755 by Thomas Williams for his bride Elizabeth, who died shortly after their marriage and was buried beneath the ground floor entryway. Subsequently purchased by John Tharp, who also acquired all the adjoining plantations, Good Hope eventually grew to 9,000 acres in its heyday. On today’s 2,000 acre estate, with a view overlooking the Queen of Spain Valley, the Martha Brae River, and the Cockpit Mountains, all rooms in the Great House are furnished with priceless 18th and 19th century Jamaican antiques and the estate affords an authentic glimpse into plantation life.

Cruise passengers whose itinerary includes a port call in Falmouth can choose from a variety of activities at Good Hope, including a horse and carriage ride through the grounds, river-tubing on the Martha Brae River, zip-lining through the canopy over the river (pictured at right), exploring the scenic countryside on an ATV, or a more sedate tour of the Great House, with or without lunch on the garden patio. A tour of the estate with tea is also offered. As noted above, tours operated by Chukka Caribbean cannot be purchased independently.

Cruise Diva wishes to extend her appreciation to Jerron Britton and Sharon Williams of the Jamaica Tourist Board, William Tatham of the Port Authority of Jamaica, Carl Hendricks of the Port of Falmouth, and Marina Delfos of Falmouth Heritage Walks for their hospitality and assistance during her day in Falmouth.

Photos © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Walking Tour of Historic Falmouth, Jamaica

Founded in 1769 mid-way between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, Falmouth prospered from Jamaica’s status as the world’s leading sugar producer. With more than 80 sugar estates nearby, the town was meticulously mapped out according to Colonial tradition in a grid plan, with streets named after British royalty and heroes. The richness of historic Georgian architectural buildings, which are still occupied and maintained, reflect the town’s heritage. Established in Falmouth in 1799, the first piped water supply system in the Western Hemisphere continues to be a source of pride.

The leisurely paced Falmouth Heritage Walk I joined with passengers from Allure of the Seas took us through Falmouth’s commercial and residential streets while the guide shared the little known history of the town and what made it a rich and significant port in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Points of interest included Falmouth Courthouse and the adjacent Cenotaph war memorial (pictured above left); Water Square, where Falmouth residents got running water before New York City (pictured below right); Barrett House Ruins, the remains of the town home of planter William Barrett who owned much of the land upon which the town is built; and Fort Balcarres, built to guard Falmouth Harbor. Mid-way through the tour a comfort break was taken at St. Peter’s Anglican Church where our guide distributed icy bottles of water.

Throughout the first half of the 19th century Falmouth was the birthplace of Jamaica’s abolition slavery movement. The site of many revolts, scores of the town’s buildings served as safe houses for escaped slaves until the practice of slavery was outlawed in 1838. Our guide explained how the movement to abolish slavery was essentially founded in Falmouth when we visited the former home and grave of the famous abolitionist William Knibb.

Other sights included fine examples of Falmouth’s Georgian era architecture. Based on classic Greek and Roman designs and adapted to local conditions to create a unique island style, Georgian buildings are recognizable by their double hung sash windows, keystones, columns, symmetry of facade, and some with full length verandahs. Constructed of a native limestone material over brick and remarkably preserved, most structures are still in use as either private residences or commercial buildings. While Falmouth is seeing a revival with the recent opening of the cruise port, buildings that may seem unimpressive as they undergo restoration are rich in history. The Jamaican government declared Falmouth a National Monument in 1966. In some instances it’s difficult to distinguish old construction from new as current structures are being built to mimic the Georgian style.

Our walking tour concluded back at the cruise port after visiting the classic Georgian home of Ms. Anne Hyatt (pictured left), who not only invited us to enjoy the breeze in her shaded garden, but also took us inside for a look at every day life in Falmouth. Like most of us, Ms. Hyatt keeps in touch via the Internet. I found we had a lot in common as we are both cat lovers and she works closely with her local pet rescue society.

While Falmouth’s streets are easily explored on your own, finding your way around can be confusing even with a map, due to a lack of street signs. Should you become disoriented or require directions, look for a member of the Falmouth Tourism Courtesy Corps wearing official white shirts and hats. They are on hand to assist visitors and can help with finding a taxi outside the cruise port. Another way to get around town to see the sights is the Falmouth tourist trolley, which stops at points of interest. Tickets and trolley schedules are available in the Cruise Port.

Cruise Diva wishes to extend her appreciation to Jerron Britton and Sharon Williams of the Jamaica Tourist Board, William Tatham of the Port Authority of Jamaica, Carl Hendricks of the Port of Falmouth, and Marina Delfos of Falmouth Heritage Walks for their hospitality and assistance during her day in Falmouth.

Photos © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cruise News: Princess Cruises Reinstates Calls to Egypt

Princess Cruises has reinstated calls to Egyptian ports on all itineraries where they were previously removed. In February due to political unrest, Princess modified itineraries for 18 sailings scheduled to call in Egypt through November. The cruises aboard Star Princess, Dawn Princess, Ocean Princess, and Pacific Princess have now returned to their originally published itineraries. Princess’ first Egypt call is scheduled for May 15.

"The situation in Egypt has calmed considerably since wide-spread protests earlier this year, and the tourist areas aren’t currently being affected,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “So we’re pleased to tell passengers they can once again plan to experience this country’s iconic pyramids and other ancient wonders.”

The Egyptian ports of Alexandria and Port Said are part of the two-day Egypt experience included on the line’s 12-day Holy Land sailings. Sailings depart from May 7 through Nov 15, 2011. Passengers currently booked on Holy Land sailings are being contacted with the revised itinerary information. Princess will continue to monitor the situation in Egypt and consult with various authorities to obtain the latest information and advice.

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

A Look at the Falmouth, Jamaica Cruise Port

Sadly, Cruise Diva’s mini-vacation in Jamaica has come to an end and I’m back to work. In reality, my editor gave me an assignment before I left home and the last day of my Jamaica sojourn was spent on the job. My assigned write up about the new cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica will appear in the 2012 edition of Fodor’s Caribbean Ports of Call guidebook. Pictured here is Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, the tallest “skyscraper” in Falmouth on April 13th.

After the grand opening hype last month, and subsequent stories about cruisers being hassled by aggressive vendors when they left the port area, what did I find? Although construction is still ongoing within the port itself, the area open to passengers is cheerful and clean. Buildings to house dozens of shops, a 40-vendor craft market, restaurants, and transportation centers are scheduled to be ready for occupancy this summer, but you don't have to look far to already find the warmth and hospitality of the Jamaican people.

Musicians, stilt walkers, and clowns were on hand to greet guests coming ashore from Allure of the Seas (and probably distract them from the construction). Authorized local vendors currently set up their wares in the shaded verandahs along the pedestrian thoroughfare in front of what will be permanent homes to such shops as Diamonds International and Dufry duty free, as well as other internationally known businesses and established Jamaican merchants. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville is planned, although details were scarce.

For passengers with their own laptop computers and other devices, the entire port complex will be a WiFi “hot spot” with a fee for use (to be determined). For those of us who never leave our work at home, that’s great news.

Also located within the Falmouth Cruise Port is Falmouth’s most historic building, the town home of sugar planter John Tharp, which is being restored to house a maritime museum.

Lining either side of the walkway to exit the port are illustrated signboards with historic and cultural information about the town of Falmouth, as well as the country of Jamaica. They are worth a read and I wish I had the time to check them all out. What I was able to check out is the Historic Falmouth Heritage Walk, a tour that I joined with passengers from Allure of the Seas. What I did not encounter were aggressive vendors and taxi drivers after leaving the port area. Stay tuned for highlights of the walking tour and more—I also visited the nearby Good Hope Great House and toured the grounds.

Cruise Diva wishes to extend her appreciation to Jerron Britton and Sharon Williams of the Jamaica Tourist Board, William Tatham of the Port Authority of Jamaica, Carl Hendricks of the Port of Falmouth, and Marina Delfos of Falmouth Heritage Walks for their hospitality and assistance during her day in Falmouth.


Photos © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Sunday, April 17, 2011

MSC Cruises to Broadcast Royal Wedding

Italians love a party, especially when it includes a wedding, and they aren’t about to miss what has been dubbed the event of the century. A global audience of 2.4 billion is expected to watch the royal wedding of Britain’s Prince William and Catherine Middleton on Friday, April 29 and MSC Cruises’ guests won’t miss the festivities.

With the exception of MSC Sinfonia and MSC Opera, which will not be sailing in European waters, the royal wedding will be broadcast in English across all the MSC fleet.

Bars on board will be serving a variety of champagnes and Prosecco, an Italian white wine, with a special commemorative royal cocktail (sparkling wine, cognac and Grand Marnier), so guests will be able to raise a glass—or two—to toast the happy couple.

If your invitation to the royal wedding failed to arrive (alas, I haven’t received mine either), you still have the opportunity to join the festivities aboard an MSC Cruises ship. For more information, visit MSCCruisesUSA.com.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Six-foot ‘Towel Elephant’ Debuts on Carnival Dream

We were surprised and pleased to find a towel animal on the bed in our room every night at the Riu Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica earlier this week. That—and Bingo in the entertainment area—reminded us a great deal of being aboard a cruise ship. Now there’s an even bigger reason to plan a future cruise. Inspired by Carnival’s highly popular towel animals—an iconic element of the “Fun Ship” vacation experience that greets guests as they return to their staterooms each evening—the line has introduced a six-foot-tall “towel elephant” who has quickly become an on-board favorite.

Currently featured aboard the Carnival Dream, the as-yet-unnamed terrycloth pachyderm frequently interacts with guests along the promenade and makes regular visits to the Camp Carnival play area, posing for photos and keeping kids amused and entertained.

In addition to the Carnival Dream, the towel elephant is planned for five other Carnival ships—Carnival Imagination, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Sensation, and Carnival Magic, which is set to debut May 1.

There’s no word yet about how Fun Ship Freddy feels about the competition; however, in my personal opinion, the towel elephant is certainly cuter and cuddlier, not to mention less scary than Fun Ship Freddy for the littlest kids.

Did you ever wonder how the creation of towel animals came about? Cruise Diva explains the history of these Ultimare Bed-Time Pals.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Watch The Grand Princess Transformation

Quite possibly what is the most significant transformation of any cruise ship ever is underway right now. It certainly is a milestone in Princess Cruises’ history as Grand Princess is in the midst of a 24-day intensive drydock that will change her profile inside and out. It’s a fascinating process and Princess Cruises is sharing it in a daily video journal chronicling the event.

Hosted by Grand Princess Cruise Director Martyn Moss, the videos, as well as photos, are available at the Princess Cruises web site and on YouTube. From the first installmentwhen you get a first look at the beginning of the ship’s transformation as it sails to the Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport, Bahamasto the final unveiling, the journal will include daily updates through May 4.

While performing the makeover, approximately 1,400 workers will be busy around the clock adding many of Princess’ trademark features, including the signature Piazza atrium. Several new spaces will also be created including a unique tea lounge and library called “Leaves”; “Alfredo’s,” a full-service pizzeria with an open kitchen concept; and a new nightclub called “The One5,” which will take shape on deck 15. One of the most dramatic video momentsand one you won’t want to missis certain to be the removal of the distinctive Skywalkers Nightclub, which is being taken off to improve the ship’s operational performance, including greater fuel efficiency.

“Our passengers really loved following the photo journals we offered during previous drydocks,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “So for this, our most extensive transformation, we wanted to take it to the next level and enable viewers to follow along with daily videos. We expect Martyn to share some intriguing behind-the-scenes footage of the work that goes on during a project of this magnitude.”

Among the other changes highlighted in the video journals will be the transformation of the ship’s atrium to the Piazza, complete with the International Café and Vines Wine Bar. Among the new restaurants to be added is the Crown Grill, the line’s classic steakhouse and seafood restaurant. Also part of the renovation will be the addition of seven new suites; remodeled casino, boutiques and art gallery; enhancements to the Horizon Court, Lotus Spa, and wedding chapel; and the addition of Crooner’s Martini Lounge.

To get you started, here’s the first video episode:



The newly renovated Grand Princess will debut on May 5 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where she will depart on a transatlantic crossing for her summer and fall homeport of Southampton, from which she will cruise on a variety of European itineraries.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

All-Inclusive Or A Cruise?

Aside from the appeal of visiting several ports after only unpacking once upon boarding, a cruise is a great way to “sample” destinations and possibly discover one you’d like to return to and spend more time there. While I’ve visited Ocho Rios, Jamaica numerous times as a cruise passenger, my husband Mel travels to Jamaica on business frequently and often speaks positively of the friendly people and the island’s natural beauty. After the promise of some R&R, I agreed to accompany him and that's why we recently spent four days at the Riu Resort in Oco Rios.

Check-in at the Riu Resort reminded me a little of checking in for a cruise—there was a short line and we had to wait for about 15 minutes for our room to be ready, but we passed the time overlooking the beach with rum punches in hand. Riu is all-inclusive and our “fare” of $389 a night for two included all food and beverages. Once we entered the Junior Suite, I unpacked for our stay and immediately entered vacation mode. A built-in bar with dispensers of Appleton Estates rum (the house rum and one of my favorites) and soft drinks and Red Stripe beer in the fridge is only a portion of the amenities. The marble tiled and granite-clad bathroom had double sinks and a jetted tub, there were two double beds, a small sitting area with bureau and television, and a balcony overlooking the sea completed the features.

A stroll along the beach and through the open air colonnades revealed places to play, numerous bars, restaurants, two pools, a children’s program, exercise area, and thoughtfully positioned seating areas to sit and enjoy the breezes. The lobby is a complimentary WiFi hot spot and popular with guests who’ve brought their own computing devices. For others, the Sport Bar has an Internet center that charges a fee for use of the computers.

It’s a bit early to tell how this cruise diva will take to the all-inclusive resort vacation, but so far there are enough similarities with cruises to make the resort a pleasurable option. Restaurants are either buffet-style or a reservations-required steakhouse option (at no additional charge) and the food selections are plentiful and very tasty. Every night there is a show in the open air “theater” and the engaging Entertainment Staff members circulate to make sure their guests are having a good time. One night’s performance was Jamaica’s top Michael Jackson tribute artist, preceded by an exceptionally talented band from Cuba with a diverse playlist.

One positive aspect of the resort experience is the politeness of the tour operators and vendors who set up each day in the Riu's open air colonnades. There’s no hassle to stop and buy such as we often find as disembarking cruise ship passengers.

Oh yes, and the towel animal on the bed is decorated with greenery and a flower. Sort of like a cruise, but somehow more “local” and more personal. And my R&R? No problem, mon. It’s going fine.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Carnival’s Port Canaveral Embarkation Team Earns Top Honors

Most passengers encounter cruise line employees for the first time when they arrive at their embarkation port and those employees are the ones who make an all-importantand hospitablefirst impression. If you have with Carnival Cruise Lines from Port Canaveral in the past year you were likely to have met the best of their best shoreside personnel. To illustrate how consistently dedicated Carnival’s staff in Port Canaveral is, they have once again earned top honors in the company’s annual guest comment card survey, which ranks embarkation personnel from the lines’ 11 year-round homeports in a variety of service- and process-related categories. This is the sixth time that Carnival’s Port Canaveral team has earned the award in the past 13 years. The 135-member team was recognized for their outstanding professionalism, enthusiasm, and friendliness while assisting guests embarking on the two Carnival ships that presently sail from Port Canaveral year-round.

Carnival is the largest cruise operator from Port Canaveral, with the 2,052-passenger Carnival Sensation offering 3- and 4-day Bahamas cruises and the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream sailing 7-day Caribbean departures. In November, Carnival will increase their presence by adding a third ship, the 2,052-passsenger Carnival Ecstasy, which will offer 4- and 5-day Bahamas cruises year-round. With these three ships, Carnival will carry an estimated 600,000 passengers annually from Port Canaveralthe most of any cruise line.

“The dedication to service from Carnival’s embarkation team and the port’s operations staff again proves to be a winning combination,” said Stan Payne, CEO, Port Canaveral. “From the time of arrival in our parking lots to their departure post-cruise, passengers benefit from the joint efforts of the team of professionals at Port Canaveral working to provide a quality vacation experience from start to finish. We are excited to be the Port of the Year for this honor.”

In recognition of their achievement, the Canaveral Port Authority hosted a celebratory breakfast for Port Canaveral embarkation team members, Carnival Sensation personnel, and the port’s operation staff last week inside Cruise Terminal 5. Later this month, the Port Canaveral embarkation team will enjoy a reception and dinner compliments of Carnival at a local restaurant, during which they will be presented with a plaque to display in their offices.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Make Plans For Last-Minute Luxury Cruising With Crystal

Summer's almost here and you want to get away on a cruise, but you think it's too late to start planning. No worries. Crystal Cruises has a solution—their rare "Standby" program that enables last-minute travelers to sail the ultra-luxe line at up to 75% off brochure fares on five May-June sailings in Alaska, the Baltic and North Cape. Greatly reduced tiered pricing offers fares as low as $2995 for 12-day cruises.

Based on availability, the standby fares require a $500 per guest deposit upon reservation and will be confirmed on a "first requested, first confirmed" basis no earlier than 45 days prior to departure.

Eligible cruises include:

--12-day Alaska cruises: round-trip from San Francisco, departing May 9, 21 & June 2
--11-day Scandinavia/Russia sailing: Hamburg to Stockholm, departing May 22
--14-day North Cape/Arctic Circle voyage: Copenhagen to Stockholm, departing June 13

Standby fares on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity are cruise-only, for new bookings as of April 7, and do not include air transportation; port, security and handling charges; or "All Inclusive—As You Wish" spending credits. Fares are per person, based on double occupancy accommodations, and other restrictions apply. Final payment is due within three days of confirmation.

"We haven't offered anything like this in almost a decade," says Bill Smith, Crystal's senior vice president, sales & marketing. "There is no doubt that travelers who make their decisions early are rewarded with early confirmation, a greater choice of accommodations, and value-added spending credits. However, there are people making travel decisions closer in, and this is an extraordinary opportunity for luxury travelers who just can't plan their vacations far in advance."

Crystal Cruises' resort experience always includes a host of complimentary amenities, from enlightening enrichment workshops to pampering pillow menus and specialty dining featuring the cuisine of Nobu Matsuhisa and Piero Selvaggio. For more information, visit CrystalCruises.com.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cruise Travel: An Introduction To Holland America Line's Culinary Arts Center

Holland America Line's Culinary Arts Center is featured on each of the line's fifteen ships. A first-class "show kitchen at sea," the Culinary Arts Centers presented by "Food & Wine" magazine resembles the elaborate show kitchens used by celebrity chefs on television cooking programs. The facilities are used for demonstrations, tastings and hands-on cooking classes during every Holland America Line sailing. Each facility features a theater-style venue with two large plasma video screens and a large cooking display counter.

In partnership with "Food & Wine" magazine, Holland America Line will schedule approximately 65 celebrated chefs and wine experts to sail in 2011. On cruises that do not have a celebrity chef on board, classes and demonstrations are conducted by Holland America Line's own expert chefs.

Holland America Line also offers a youth Culinary Arts Center activity program to teach kids and teens how to cook. The program incorporates dishes from breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in complimentary 45-minute-long classes. Kids under 8 years old learn to make theme cookies, fruit roll-ups, ice cream sandwiches, salad people art and scones. Kids 8 and over make soft pretzels, granola bars, pita chips and hummus, and saltwater taffy. Teens also can attend adult culinary demonstrations.

The Culinary Arts Center and guest enrichment program are part of Holland America Line's innovative and leading culinary initiatives, which also include a partnership with Le Cirque to present "An Evening at Le Cirque in the Pinnacle Grill" and a Culinary Council comprised of renowned international chefs Jonnie Boer, David Burke, Marcus Samuelsson, Jacques Torres, Charlie Trotter, and the line's Master Chef Rudi Sodamin. For a full schedule of Holland America Line's culinary guest program, visit the Holland America web site and click on the Culinary Arts Center tab.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Celebrity Cruises Continues To “Solsticize” Millennium-class Ships

Celebrity Cruises coined the word “Solsticize” last year, referring to the addition of some of the most popular venues on the line’s widely heralded Solstice Class ships, to its Millennium Class ships.

 In keeping with those plans, when Celebrity Millennium becomes the first Celebrity Cruises ship to sail an Asia season next year, she will do so with a new slate of AquaClass staterooms. In a drydock scheduled for April 2012, 70 of the ship’s existing Concierge Class staterooms will be converted to Celebrity's signature, industry-first, spa-inspired AquaClass staterooms, and an additional 37 will be built. Guests who book sumptuous “Celebrity Suites” in which to enjoy Celebrity’s Asia cruises will also enjoy more time outdoors on a new veranda, as Celebrity plans to add these to Celebrity Millennium’s eight existing suites in this category. Celebrity also plans to add six inside staterooms and 17 oceanview staterooms, increasing the total number of available staterooms to 1,079.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Holland America Line Offers More Capacity For 2012 Alaska Season

The 2011 Alaska season is only hust about to get underway and already Holland America Line is looking forward to next year when they will offer more sailings to America's last frontier.

Beginning in May 2012, Holland America Line will feature four Alaska cruise itineraries on seven of its mid-sized vessels, totaling 130 departures from May 2 through Sept. 23. The extensive itinerary offerings will increase the line's passenger capacity in the region by nearly 6 percent, which should boost the state's economy and please the governor and local residents who rely on tourism dollars.

Holland America's guests can choose from a selection of 7- to 14-day cruises that sail roundtrip from Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia, and also between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska. Guests will have the opportunity to visit some of the region's most popular ports of call and scenic surroundings, including Alaska's famed Inside Passage and Glacier Bay National Park, a glacier-crowned maritime wilderness that stretches over 3.3 million acres.

"Alaska itineraries continue to be among the most popular cruises Holland America Line offers, and our increased capacity means more guests will have the opportunity to explore a region that has so much to offer culturally, historically and experientially," said Richard Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. "Cruising is one of the best ways to experience Alaska so you can get up close to a glacier, visit several ports or perhaps even see some wildlife from the comfort of your balcony."

Three Options for Roundtrip Seattle Alaskan Explorer Voyages
Both ms Oosterdam and ms Westerdam will sail the 7-day Alaskan Explorer voyage departing roundtrip from Seattle May 6 and 12, respectively. The 1,380-guest ms Amsterdam will homeport in Seattle and includes two Alaskan Explorer sailings on May 18 and May 25. Amsterdam then sails a series of 14-day Alaskan Explorer voyages beginning June 1 for a total of eight sailings from Seattle.

During embarkation for the Seattle voyages, a ranger from the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park will be available to talk to guests about the Klondike parks and other national parks located throughout the Inside Passage. On all Glacier Bay sailings, a park ranger and native interpreters from the Huna people board the ships to explain the origins of their tribe and cultural traditions.

Seven-Day Inside Passage Voyages Sail from Vancouver
Three Holland America Line shipsms Volendam, ms Zuiderdam, and ms Zaandamwill sail roundtrip from Vancouver on a series of 7-day Inside Passage voyages. The 1,432-guest Volendam (Wednesday departures) and 1,916-guest Zuiderdam (Saturday departures) sail a total of 41 voyages from May 2 to Sept 22. Two additional Inside Passage cruises sail aboard Zaandam on May 6 and Sept 16.

Seven-Day Glacier Discovery Voyages Provide Exploration Further North
Statendam and Zaandam once again will provide the only mid-sized cruise ship experience available in the Gulf of Alaska. Glacier Discovery cruises sail between Vancouver and Seward (Anchorage) with Sunday departures May 15 through Sept 16.

Holland America Line also offers more than 250 optional shore excursions in conjunction with its Alaska cruises. While in port, guests can optimize their Alaskan experience with excursions that involve everything from adventure and wildlife watching to history, art and cuisine. Introduced in Juneau in 2009 with a whale viewing and data collection research tour, exclusive Cruise with Purpose shore excursions turn vacation time into an exciting give-and-take opportunitycombining traditional tour content with a chance to make a difference to society, the environment, animal welfare or economic growth.

Guests also can enjoy active excursions such as sea kayaking, fly or sport fishing, dog sledding and viewing eagles, sea otters and whales. Other exciting excursions feature such attractions as the White Pass Summit Scenic Railway from Skagway, Russian heritage in Sitka, a photography tour in Haines and a five-course tasting meal featuring Alaska seafood prepared by a local chef in Ketchikan.

For more information on Holland America Line's Alaska Voyages, visit HollandAmerica.com.

Friday, April 8, 2011

On The Move: Disney Cruise Line Adding US Homeports & Itineraries In 2012

Since the launch of Disney Cruise Line in 1998 the line has focused on its core strength—combining a Disney theme park vacation with a cruise from Florida or, more recently, California. Sure, they have spent some time in European waters and have added Alaska to the mix this year, but they haven't expanded much in the US. Until now, when, for the first time ever, Disney Cruise Line will set sail from three new US homeports in 2012—New York, Seattle, and Galveston, Texas—making the Disney family cruise vacation more accessible to guests around the country. Additionally, the cruise line will offer more choices than ever before with several new itineraries planned.

"In 2012, we're making it easier than ever for families to enjoy a Disney Cruise Line vacation by offering cruises from a variety of regional homeports," said Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz. "Guests can now enjoy a magical, one-of-a-kind Disney cruise experience with the convenience of departures from their own backyard."

2012 New York Schedule
Beginning May 25, 2012, Disney Magic will sail a total of 20 cruises from New York—including 8-night cruises to the Bahamas and 5-night cruises up the New England coast to Canada plus 2-night cruises that will give a sampling of the Disney Cruise Line experience over a weekend:

-- The eight Bahamas cruises will include a day at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay; Nassau, Bahamas; and a stop at Port Canaveral, Florida, giving guests an opportunity to visit Walt Disney World. As part of this itinerary, each guest will receive a one-day Walt Disney World Park Hopper ticket and round trip transportation between their Disney ship and the park.
-- The nine 5-night cruises up the New England coast will call at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick. In these popular Canadian ports, guests can soak in splendid natural vistas, explore historic sites, visit quaint cafes and charming shops, and browse Canada's oldest farmer's market.
-- Three two-night cruises (June 15, July 13 and Aug. 10) out of New York are perfect for families looking for a quick getaway with a day at sea over a weekend.

2012 Galveston Schedule
Beginning Sept. 22, 2012, Disney Magic will sail twelve 7-night cruises from the Port of Galveston to the Western Caribbean. Ports of call include Grand Cayman and Mexico's Costa Maya and Cozumel. A Caribbean cruise on Disney Magic offers families a tropical getaway with the world-class entertainment found on a Disney Cruise Line vacation. Guests will enjoy three magical days at sea to explore all of the fun aboard Disney Magic and three days in port to lounge on warm, golden beaches, to swim and snorkel in azure waters or to shop to their heart's content in exotic marketplaces.

2012 Seattle Schedule
Beginning May 28, 2012, Disney Wonder will sail a total of fourteen 7-night cruises from the Port of Seattle to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska, as well as Victoria, British Columbia. Disney Cruise Line works closely with Alaskan tour operators to create exclusive-to-Disney family-friendly Port Adventures that allow guests to best experience Alaska's natural beauty and rich history.

2012 Los Angeles Schedule
Disney Wonder is scheduled to continue sailing 7-night Mexican Riviera cruises from the Port of Los Angeles for the majority of the year—throughout winter, spring and fall. Additionally, Disney Wonder will sail four 7-night Pacific Coast cruises from Los Angeles (on Sept. 16, Sept. 23, Sept. 30 and Oct. 7), calling on San Francisco, San Diego and Ensenada, Mexico. For the first time, Disney Wonder will offer a special 15-night voyage to Hawaii from Los Angeles, calling on Hilo; Kahului, Maui; Honolulu, Oahu; Nawiliwili, Kauai and Ensenada, Mexico.

2012 Port Canaveral Schedule
Disney Cruise Line ships will continue to sail a variety of Caribbean and Bahamian itineraries departing from Port Canaveral:

-- Disney Fantasy will depart on her maiden voyage March 31, 2012, and will sail out of Port Canaveral on 7-night alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. All Disney Fantasy itineraries include a stop at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.
-- Disney Dream will sail 3-, 4- and 5-night cruises from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas and Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. Five-night itineraries include two stops at Castaway Cay.
-- Disney Magic will sail out of Port Canaveral on 7-night Caribbean itineraries and 4- and 5-night Bahamian cruises in 2012 until she repositions to New York.

To learn more about Disney Cruise Line, visit DisneyCruise.com.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Carnival Magic Gets A Godmother

With the launch of their new ship Carnival Magic only a few weeks away, Carnival Cruise Lines has revealed her godmother. Lindsey Wilkerson, whose inspirational story has taken her from a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® to an employee within the organization and ambassador helping share its message of hope and inspiration, will officially name the 130,000-ton vessel during a shipboard ceremony taking place May 1 in Venice, Italy, prior to the ship’s inaugural voyage.

Lindsey Wilkerson’s selection continues Carnival’s ongoing relationship with St. Jude, one of the world’s premier centers for the research and treatment of pediatric cancer and other catastrophic diseases.

“Lindsey embodies the spirit of the tremendously talented, compassionate and dedicated individuals at St. Jude who are true heroes in every sense of the word. Lindsey’s selection as godmother is a tribute to the special children of St. Jude, as well as an acknowledgement of the groundbreaking efforts the organization has made in the fight against childhood cancer,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO.

Last year, Carnival launched its new Care to Play: Carnival For St. Jude Kids program, which encompasses shipboard fundraisers fleetwide that provide guests an opportunity to participate in fun, interactive activities designed to raise funds and awareness in the fight against childhood cancer. Carnival’s goal is to raise $3 million over a three-year period. The line will also make a $50,000 donation in Wilkerson’s honor during the naming ceremony.

Wilkerson was diagnosed with cancer at age 10 and began treatment as a patient at the St. Jude facility in Memphis, Tenn. After nearly three years of treatment, doctors determined her cancer was in remission and she went on to finish high school and attend college. She joined ALSAC, the fundraising organization of St. Jude, in 2004 and is now a volunteer specialist helping to engage and support St. Jude volunteers across the country.

“On behalf of all of the children of St. Jude, I’m so honored to serve as godmother to the beautiful Carnival Magic and celebrate this exciting opportunity,” said Wilkerson. “I am alive today because of the world class research and treatment at St. Jude. The generous support of Carnival and their guests will help St. Jude continue to provide hope to children stricken with catastrophic illnesses.”

Following the naming ceremony, Lindsey and her family will be among the nearly 3,700 guests, including the Cruise Diva, who will sail on the Carnival Magic as she departs on an inaugural 9-day Mediterranean voyage that ends in Barcelona May 10. The ship will then operate a series of 7- to 12-day Mediterranean cruises through October before repositioning to Galveston, Texas, for 7-day Caribbean cruises beginning in November. For additional information on Carnival vacations, call 1-800-327-9501 (individual) or visit Carnival.com.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Runners In Charleston Just Want To Have Fun (and a Wedding) With Carnival

Carnival Cruise Lines hosted a first-ever post-race wedding ceremony at the 2011 Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC, last weekend. The culminating event in the Race to the Altar contest was part of a fundraiser that resulted in a $10,000 donation to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Children's Hospital.

Carnival's Race to the Altar contest was part of the line's sponsorship of the annual 10K run, which is the third largest 10K race in the U.S. Following a nationwide search, Carnival selected Andy Cook and Tina Berwanger as the winning couple based on their inspiring personal story. Immediately following the 10K run, which the couple ran in custom-designed wedding attire (pictured here as they cross the finish line together), they were married in a beach-themed ceremony in Charleston's Marion Square, complete with sand, calypso band, and signature Carnival slushy drinks. For every slushy served, Carnival donated $1 to MUSC Children's Hospital. As winners of the Race to the Altar contest, Cook and Berwanger received a 5-day Bahamas honeymoon cruise aboard Carnival Fantasy.

"The wedding in Marion Square was the kind of spontaneous and fun experience that Carnival creates for our guests," said Jim Berra, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Carnival Cruise Lines. "This was our second year as a sponsor of the Cooper River Bridge Run, which is a great event and a wonderful opportunity to show our support for Charleston and MUSC Children's Hospital."

Carnival's sponsorship of the Bridge Run was part of a yearlong partnership with MUSC Children's Hospital, which includes in-kind and monetary donations and fundraising events, as well as quarterly hospital visits by crewmembers from the Carnival Fantasy, which is based in Charleston year-round.

The day prior to the race, at the Kid's Fun Run in Charleston's Hampton Park, Carnival Cruise Director Malcolm Burn led the crowd of children and their families in forming Charleston's largest conga line. See what you missed before and after the wedding and check out who gave the bride away in this video recap.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

USA Passport Day 2011

Are you planning travel outside of the United States soon? It's time to get started if you don't already have a passport. With summer only a couple months away, American citizens planning to travel abroad can make sure they have a valid passport by taking advantage of this once-a-year opportunity to submit an application in person.

Passport agencies and participating passport acceptance facilities throughout the U.S. will be open on Saturday, April 9, to serve you. So drop on by with the entire family and they’ll take care of your passport needs. Be prepared with passport forms, fees, processing times, and more information.

A list of the office locations and hours can be found at the State Department website.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Celebrity Cruises Begins Construction of Celebrity Reflection With Steelcutting Ceremony

Before boarding Celebrity Eclipse for her conveyance up the River Ems just a little over a year ago, Cruise Diva was among a group invited inside Meyer Werft shipyard to witness the next all-important step in the progress of Celebrity Cruises' Solstice Class. As the first steel was cut for Celebrity Silhouette, building of the fourth vessel in the series began. It may have only looked like a slab of steel back then, but it won't be long now before Celebrity Silhouette takes her place as the newest Solstice Class ship in the Celebrity fleet this summer.

While reflecting on the success of Celebrity Cruises’ stylish Solstice Class vessels, the line’s President & CEO Dan Hanrahan activated the first cut of steel for the fifth in the five-ship class, Celebrity Reflection, at shipbuilder Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany. The sleek, 3,030-guest ship will debut in the Fall of 2012. Joining Hanrahan as he ceremoniously initiated Celebrity Reflection’s first cut of steel above are (l. to r.) Meyer Werft CEO Bernard Meyer; Meyer Werft’s Laser Center Director Hermann Lembeck, and Project Manager Lambert Kruse.

Proudly watching over her sister ship’s start, Celebrity Silhouette is presently in the final phases of her own construction (that's Celebrity Silhouette's steelcutting pictured at right). Celebrity Silhouette sets sail in July of this year, enhancing guests’ vacation time with a host of industry-first venues and experiences within The Lawn Club, including the interactive “Lawn Club Grill,” where guests can select and grill their own meats side-by-side with Celebrity’s expert chefs, or have them cooked to order; the relaxing, private, wi-fi-equipped cabanas called “The Alcoves”; “The Porch,” a breezy, casual dining spot offering sandwiches, coffees and captivating views of the sea and the ship’s lush lawn, and “The Art Studio,” where vacationers can bring out their inner artist. The ship also will present another entirely new venue, “The Hideaway,” an intimate, quiet space reminiscent of a childhood tree house.

Celebrity Reflection will present all the new venues, in addition to the line’s first AquaClass suites, expanding on Celebrity’s in-demand, spa-inspired AquaClass stateroom accommodations. The distinctive new experiences will join the diverse array of other modern venues and attributes already associated with Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships.

Celebrity Cruises’ iconic “X” is the mark of the premium cruise line, with spacious, stylish interiors; dining experiences elevated to an art form; personalized service, with a guest-to-staff ratio of nearly 2:1; unexpected, trendsetting onboard activities, all designed to provide an unmatchable experience for vacationers’ precious time. For more information, visit celebritycruises.com.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cruise News Of The Week

Cruise Diva is pleased to share news from the cruise industry for the week ended April 2, 2011, brought to you courtesy of Cruise News Daily.



Links mentioned in the video can be found on CruiseNewsDaily.com.

Windstar Cruises Bankrupt, But Still Sailing

In a not too unexpected move after trading in its stock was suspended by NASDAQ last Friday, Ambassadors International, Inc, owner of Windstar Cruises, announced that it has voluntarily filed petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. It has also entered into an agreement with a private investment firm, Whippoorwill Associates, Inc,  as agent for its discretionary funds and accounts. Under the terms of the agreement, Ambassadors proposes to sell substantially all of its assets, including its principal operating unit, Windstar Cruises, through a court-supervised sale process.

Ambassadors and Windstar intend to continue normal business operations during the sale process, which is proposed to be completed in approximately 45 days. Windstar also plans, subject to court approval, to continue to:

-- Operate all Windstar cruises as scheduled;
-- Maintain all of Windstar's customer programs and policies;
-- Honor all Windstar fares and reservations, including charter contracts;
-- Provide commissions and payments to its travel partners as usual and employee wages and benefits without interruption; and
-- Pay all Windstar vendors and suppliers for goods and services received both before and during the reorganization process in connection with the sale.

Whippoorwill, with over $1 billion under management, intends to maintain Windstar's business and operations and invest in Windstar's growth following completion of the anticipated sale.

Winners in this situation? Hopefully, booked passengers, both present and future.

Losers? It is expected that Ambassadors' stockholders and holders of Ambassadors' convertible notes will not receive any distribution following the sale and these securities will likely have little, if any, value following the Chapter 11 proceeding.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Crystal's Spring-Summer "You Care, We Care" Focuses On Kids & Conservation

For cruise travelers who want to make their vacation a more memorable experience, as part of its gratifying new "You Care, We Care" program, Crystal Cruises announces seven more spring-summer voluntourism excursions focusing on both conservation and helping disadvantaged children. Most outings include immersive education about the cultures visited ranging from urban farming lessons in Cartagena, Colombia to Maori traditions in New Zealand.

Scheduled in conjunction with voyages through Africa, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Pacific Coast aboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity sailings, the complimentary shore excursions offer hands-on opportunities for guests and crew to aid communities-in-need, including:

-- Langa Township, South Africa (4/18): Assisting orphans with homework at the Siyamphambili Orphanage;
-- Astoria, Oregon (4/14 & 4/20): Working with the Friends of Ft. Stevens to improve a former Civil War fort-turned-state park;
-- Makapu-u Beach, Hawaii (5/1): Removing invasive weeds that threaten the less than 2% of original coastal plant ecosystems left on Oahu;
-- Sitka, Alaska (5/14-8/18): Supporting the operation/maintenance of the salmon hatchery and/or marine-life exhibits at the Sitka Sound Science Center; and
-- Dublin, Ireland (7/29): Helping troubled youth from St. Joseph's Youth Club with facility upkeep, activity planning, and/or simply playing a game of snooker.

"Whether from the hugs from village children or the tears from grateful adults, our volunteers always leave these places moved by the experience," says John Stoll, vice president, land and port operations. "These trips are changing lives, on both sides of the spectrum."

This year, "You Care, We Care" volunteers have bonded with young burn victims over arts and crafts, card games, and a musical "jam session" at Lima, Peru's ANQUIEM Burn Rehabilitation Center; planted trees to restore native forests at the Hakikino Conservation Reserve in Napier, New Zealand; and helped with building restoration, garden revitalization, and/or recreational activities while brightening the lives of children at orphanages and villages in Lautoka, Fiji ; Rio, Brazil ; Marigot Bay, St. Martin ; and Colombo, Sri Lanka. Voluntourism excursions for the remainder of 2011 itineraries are in development.

A cornerstone of Crystal Cruises' culture is its genuine hospitality and service that has been internationally celebrated for two decades. This spirit of generosity extends to its respectful treatment of the environment, oceans and communities in which it travels. For more information, visit CrystalCruises.com.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Carnival Valor to Operate 6- & 8-Day Cruises from Miami in 2012

Building upon its distinction as the leader in Caribbean cruising, Carnival Cruise Lines will introduce a series of 6- and 8-day voyages from Miami aboard the 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor operating mid-Jan through Oct 2012. Carnival Valor’s 6- and 8-day departures provide consumers with new itineraries featuring unique combinations of Caribbean destinations and opportunities to visit islands that are typically not featured on longer length cruises from Florida.

Six-day cruises depart on Sunday and return the following Saturday, while the 8-day cruises depart on Saturday and return the following Sunday. All itineraries allow vacationers to cruise in one week, an advantage for those with limited time.
  • Western Caribbean 6-day cruises will call at Key West, Grand Cayman & Ocho Rios, departing once every two weeks beginning Jan. 15, 2012. 
Three different four-port, 8-day cruise itineraries will be offered on a rotating basis from Jan. 21 through Oct. 27, 2012. The itineraries include:
  • Eastern/Western Caribbean cruises calling at Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios, Grand Turk & Nassau
  • Eastern Caribbean cruises featuring stops at St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola & Nassau
  • Eastern/Southern Caribbean cruises to Grand Turk, La Romana (Dominican Republic), Curacao & Aruba
Between now and Dec 2011, Carnival Valor will continue to operate its 7-day voyages which depart Sundays from Miami, alternating to the eastern and western Caribbean.

Carnival Valor is one of 19 Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships that call at Caribbean destinations on a year-round or seasonal basis. Carnival carries over 3.3 million guests on Caribbean cruises annually, the most of any cruise operator. The line will expand its Caribbean offerings in November when the new Carnival Magic launches 7-day eastern and western Caribbean cruises from Galveston, becoming the port’s largest year-round ship.