Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Cruise Review: P&O Cruises' Azura

Join Emma Gray aboard P-and-O Cruises' Azura for a cruise to some of the most popular and interesting Baltic ports of call.

Emma shares that, "Azura is one of the newest and largest of P-and-O's fleet and as such has many modern and contemporary design features. The main atrium of the ship stretches over three floors making it the smallest I have ever seen on any ship, yet despite it being far smaller in height than others it still has an open and spacious feel to it thanks to clever lighting and the use of a lot of glass.

The Glasshouse is just one of the bars on the ship which I enjoyed whilst onboard. It has a clever design plan which creates intimate corners and smaller areas whilst still being large and open plan. P&O have created The Glasshouse in partnership with Olly Smith, a television and newspaper wine specialist, and it functions as a fine wine bar and restaurant. The food here was delicious and the bar staff were very friendly and helpful at all times. I recommend that any future passengers who enjoy wine try out one of the fabulous wine flights!"

Join Emma on P-and-O Cruises’ Azura cruising through the beautiful Baltic

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Carnival to Award 24 Prizes in a 24 Hour Fun-A-Thon

While they haven’t divulged what the initial 23 prizes are, Carnival Cruise Lines is hosting a contest that will award 24 prizes in 24 hours, including a cruise on the new Carnival Magic, for those who “like” the cruise line on its Facebook fan page.

All you need to do to enter the Fun-A-Thon contest is fill out the registration form on Carnival’s Facebook page between now and July 5th. Then, on Thursday, July 7th, the company will begin awarding a prize an hour for 24 consecutive hours, culminating in the grand prize of a 7-day Caribbean cruise for two aboard the new Carnival Magic from Galveston, Texas.

The contest is open to fans 21 years of age and older who are United States residents. For additional information and complete contest rules, visit Carnival's Facebook fan page and look for the “24 Prizes in 24 Hours” link in the left-hand column. Click the link and good luck!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cunard Line Limits Smoking in Upcoming Policy

Nearly two weeks ago we shared information on updated smoking policies at Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, and Holland America Line in Carnival Cruise Brands Extinguish The Smoking Lamp In Cabins and On Balconies. At the time we wondered about other cruise lines that sail under the Carnival Corporation umbrella and whether their smoking policies would be revised as well.

Edward Goodman, a sharp-eyed reader who saw our article here on the Cruise Diva blog, alerted us to a new smoking policy at Cunard Line that we were unaware of, but which he spotted in the 2012/Winter 2013 Voyages Brochure. We checked with Cunard Line headquarters and, sure enough, here is their policy that is set to be effective next spring:

The safety, comfort and enjoyment of all our guests has always been a key
concern at Cunard. As such, smoking is no longer permitted in any public area with the exception of Churchill’s Cigar Lounge (cigars only), designated areas on the open decks, and the upper level of G32 on Queen Mary 2. Smoking is permitted on stateroom balconies.

With effect from March 24, 2012 for Queen Victoria and April 27, 2012 for Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2, smoking will no longer be permitted in staterooms; however, smoking is permitted on stateroom balconies.
As promised earlier this month, we’ll keep you posted with developments from other cruise lines as we receive them. For the latest information about where you can and can’t smoke at sea, visit CruiseDiva.com’s Smoke on the Water.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Get A Good Night’s Sleep At Sea

You want to sleep well wherever you lay your head so it’s good to know that cruise lines consider that when selecting bedding for their ships. No one want to sleep on a lumpy mattress outfitted with pancake-thin pillows and scratchy sheets. Although hotels have been in the process of offering upgraded beds and bedding for years, cruise lines have now joined the wave.

In addition to the gentle rocking motion of almost any ship, these are our favorite places to insure restful sleep at sea.

Silversea Cruises. Topped with a memory foam cover, mattresses feature a spring system with a soft and firm side that can be reversed to suit your preference. Down duvets, a choice of nine pillow types, and 300 thread count Egyptian cotton linens insure sweet dreams. (That's the bedroom in a Royal Suite aboard Silver Spirit pictured here.)

Carnival Cruise Lines. The Carnival Comfort Bed features a thick spring mattress, a downlike nonallergenic pillow, high-quality sheets and pillowcases, and a 100% hypoallergenic down duvet covered by a satiny cotton-blend duvet cover.

Holland America Line. The Mariner’s Dream bed is an extra-thick Sealy innerspring pillow-top mattress. Hypoallergenic poly or goose-down pillows and cuddly down blankets are covered in 300-thread-count sheets with a soft, sateen finish.

Oceania Cruises. Last, but not least, the line that inaugurated the bed wars at sea with its “Tranquility Bed” and upped the comfort with the “Prestige Tranquility Bed,” Oceania has outfitted all accommodations with high-quality mattresses, 350-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens, silk-cut duvets, and goose-down pillows.

Sweet dreams!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Statement Regarding Queen Mary 2's Failing CDC Score

The Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assists the cruise industry in the prevention and control the introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses on cruise ships.

Cruise ships that carry 13 or more passenger and have a foreign itinerary that also call on United States Ports are inspected as part of the Vessel Sanitation Program, including periodic, unannounced operational sanitation inspections.

More often than not, cruise ships pass with flying colors. In order to do so, a ship must receive a score of 86 or higher. So it came as a surprise to learn that Queen Mary 2 flunked her most recent inspection. It's no surprise that cruise lines take these inspections seriously and Cunard Line is no exception, as you can tell from the following statement issued by the company on Friday, June 24, 2011.

Cunard Line Responds
Cunard's Queen Mary 2 received an uncharacteristically low score of 84 following her voluntary Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) inspection in New York on June 10, 2011. On most previous inspections she has scored over 95, on three occasions achieving the maximum of 100.

The poor assessment on June 10th resulted largely from one small area of the ship's overall operation. All the issues raised in the report were immediately addressed and have now been corrected.

Ship and shore management have now redefined certain roles and responsibilities to clarify accountability and the Company's already rigorous training schedule has been stepped up. The Company is confident that failings of this nature will not occur again, and that the ship's VSP scores in the future will return to the customary consistently high level.
CruiseDiva.com publishes the scores on a quarterly basis in our Summary of Sanitation Inspections of International Cruise Ships.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Windstar Adds Pedal Power To Their Cruises

More often than not if you want to pedal more than an exercise bike in the gym, you're out of luck on most cruise ships. Exceptions are SeaDream Yacht Club and some European river boats, but the pickings are slim.

However, cycling enthusiasts now have a new biking option that features 7000-series, aluminum frame Dragon Marine Folding Bikes. Windstar Cruises has added the bike program to its fleet of sailing yachts for passengers who enjoy exploring destinations on their own by bicycle rather than on foot. Wind Surf has eight of the bikes and Wind Spirit and Wind Star each have four.

While there is no charge for using the bikes available on SeaDream and most river boats (other than when they are part of an organized shore tour), Windstar is a less-all-inclusive cruise line and their bikes come with a fee. The bikes, including helmets, locks, and chains, are available for half day rental at $39 for four hours or a full day of eight hours for $59. Bikes are available to rent in most ports and can be reserved through Windstar's Destination Manager aboard each vessel.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Gavin MacLeod Surprises LEGO “Love Boat” Creator

When we were kids my younger brothers had LEGO building blocks, but their “creativity” mostly extended to leaving them scattered on the floor where they often jammed our mother’s Hoover. If only they had been more determined, and had more blocks, they might have come up with something original like the remarkable 9.5-foot-long replica of the original “Love Boat”–Pacific Princess–that not only attracted the attention of fans at this year’s Brickworld convention in Chicago, one of the world’s largest LEGO conventions, but even caught the eye of the famous television show’s captain, actor Gavin MacLeod.

MacLeod, a Princess Cruises ambassador, paid a visit to the convention to surprise the LEGO “Love Boat” creator, Ryan McNaught. One of the few master LEGO builders in the world, McNaught had no idea he would come face to face with the real “Love Boat” captain. Their meeting was captured on the video below.


McNaught, who was even presented with his own captain’s hat, called the experience “mind blowing–especially after seeing him on TV for all those years.”

In return, MacLeod was astounded by the extraordinary ship constructed from more than 250,000 LEGO bricks. It’s the largest single project ever undertaken by McNaught, the son of a Melbourne, Australia travel agent, and a cruise fan himself.

The model features the exterior of the famous ship on one side, while the other side is an open cutaway revealing all the action inside-from chefs in the kitchen to passengers working out in the health club. Flashing LED lights for the disco and tiny motors powering the propellers and elevators complete the replica.

MacLeod was also especially interested to see the ship features the TV show cast, with LEGO models of his own Captain Stubing, as well as purser Gopher, cruise director Julie, and even some of the show’s most famous guests.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Norwegian Cruise Line Begins “Project Breakaway” Reveal

Cruise lines love to give new projects a coded name and Norwegian Cruise Line’s has dubbed their next new class of ships “Project Breakaway.” Cruise lines also like to keep us guessing about the new features and designs and host “reveals” to pique our interest as we await their launch. With the introduction of the first of two Project Breakaway vessels still two years away, NCL has unveiled a look at its new balcony and mini-suite stateroom designs for the company’s next generation Freestyle Cruising ships. Scheduled for delivery in April 2013 and April 2014, each of the 144,017 gross ton vessels will have approximately 4,000 passenger berths.

“The overall design theme for Project Breakaway’s staterooms is ‘modern boutique hotel meets the sea.’ We strongly considered the overall needs of our guests when designing these staterooms and wanted them to be greeted with an ambiance that is warm and inviting and has a very contemporary feel with clean, modern lines,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer. “We also wanted to maximize the use of space within the staterooms, so that our guests are as comfortable as possible and storage space is well planned throughout. Ultimately, our goal is to achieve a really good balance of form and function–well designed, beautiful, comfortable and sensible living space.”

Project Breakaway ships represent an opportunity for the Norwegian guest to “break away” from the routine of work, school, and daily stress, and find a true respite at sea. These new ships will take the best of the best from all of Norwegian’s existing ships drawing on the line’s experience of having launched 10 ships in the past 10 years–starting with Norwegian Star and Sun in 2001 and culminating with the launch of Norwegian Epic in 2010.

Norwegian commissioned design group Priestmangoode of the United Kingdom, working in conjunction with Tillberg Design of Sweden, to design the staterooms for Project Breakaway. Priestmangoode won accolades and awards for designing the Studios, the first staterooms designed specifically for solo travelers, on Norwegian Epic. Project Breakaway staterooms combine the form and function of the line’s Jewel class ships’ staterooms with the modern and contemporary design touches of Norwegian Epic.

Project Breakaway ships will each have 1,024 balcony staterooms and 238 mini-suites set in rich paneling with warm tones and accent colors. Each balcony stateroom has a king-size bed (that can be separated) with a pillow top mattress set against a chestnut leather headboard cushioned and tufted to make reading and sitting up in bed more comfortable. A convenient lighted recess above the bed can hold books, magazines, tablet computers, or electronic reading devices. Each room has a sofa bed with additional storage. A built-in 26-inch flat screen television is mounted on the wall and tilts so it can be viewed from the sofa or the bed. Underneath the television is another recessed nook to hold cruise information, books, and magazines. A built-in vanity area features shelving and lots of storage space. LED lighting surrounds the perimeter of the ceiling to give the room warmth. There is also a full-size closet that is easily accessible with sliding doors. The staterooms are energy efficient, utilizing key card access to control lighting in the room.

The balcony bathroom features a contemporary, clean design, ensuring more generous and comfortable space and, most importantly, privacy. Gone is unpopular bathroom cubicle layout of Norwegian Epic’s New Wave stateroom design. The new bathrooms have multiple rich-wood shelving areas to help reduce clutter and keep everything within easy reach for guests. There is an enclosed vanity underneath the sink that hides the trash bin, along with more storage. The built-in sink is generous in size and has an easy to use faucet. A private shower with a shaving bar for ladies completes the room.

Cruise Diva’s favorite category on NCL ships, the mini-suites are a roomier version of the balcony stateroom with a larger, more luxurious bathroom that incorporates a large, modern double sink with two faucets complete with a mosaic glass tile backsplash. There are open and enclosed storage spaces under the sink. The bathroom also features an oversized spa-like shower with a rain shower head and multiple body spray jets, along with a separate handheld shower head.

Norwegian will reveal additional stateroom category designs and more announcements will happen throughout the summer, fall, and beyond with the first ship scheduled to open for reservations this October. Information on Project Breakaway can be found at www.ncl.com/breakaway.

Images top-to-bottom, right: balcony stateroom, balcony stateroom, balcony bathroom; top-to-bottom, left: mini-suite, mini-suite bathroom

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Seabourn Quest Makes A Dazzling Debut

As the sun set over Barcelona, Spain's waterfront, Seabourn introduced their new 450-guest Seabourn Quest to the world on June 20th during a glittering naming ceremony presided over by Blythe Danner. The award-winning actress served as godmother to the new luxury vessel, Seabourn's third new ship and the sixth to join its fleet, completing a three-year expansion for the line.

Guests booked on Seabourn Quest's Maiden Voyage had the unique opportunity to participate in the festivities. A full orchestra was arrayed on either side of the swimming pool, and a projection screen set above the deck allowed guests to view the climactic moment when a bottle of champagne smashed against the bow of the ship. Adjacent to the screen, a contingent of crew members who had served in the start-up teams of all three new ship launches instantaneously broke confetti-filled champagne bottles in a synchronized wave pattern and as the bottle crashed. The memorable evening was capped off by a dazzling fireworks display sparkling against the city's skyline.

"Seabourn Quest is the embodiment of Seabourn-style cruising," said Richard Meadows, Seabourn's president. "She is sleek and stunning, with spacious decks and public rooms, luxurious suites, a variety of award-winning dining experiences, and an amazing crew offering intuitive and highly personalized service. We can assure guests the very finest travel experiences when they cruise with us on this beautiful ship."

Seabourn Quest is the third iteration of the sleek and widely admired design that first appeared as Seabourn Odyssey in June 2009, and has been hailed as "a game-changer for the luxury segment." The second sister-ship, Seabourn Sojourn, entered service in June of 2010. Seabourn Quest's 225 luxurious and spacious suites, 90 percent of which offer private verandas, feature separate living areas and bedrooms, writing desks with personalized stationery, and generously sized granite bathrooms with separate bath and shower and twin sinks. Suites are outfitted with walk-in closets, an interactive flat-screen TV with a wide selection of music and movies, and iPod and MP3 connections. Personal bars and refrigerators are stocked according to guest preferences.

Like its sister ships, Seabourn Quest houses an 11,400-square foot Spa at Seabourn, the largest spa on any luxury vessel, providing the ultimate pampering experience at sea. The two-deck facility features a Kneipp Walk, an herbal bath facility and aroma steam bath with salt inhalation, and a Kinesis Wall. A Spa Villa is available for guests seeking an indulgent private experience, with a treatment area large enough for duet treatments, a shower, a bathtub big enough for two, a private balcony for sunbathing, a full living room, a dining table, and double daybed for relaxing.

For foodies everywhere, Seabourn Quest offers gourmet dining experiences in four dining venues that rival the finest restaurants anywhere, all at no extra charge. The Restaurant is a fine-dining and open-seating gourmet experience, with the capacity to seat all guests. Restaurant 2 offers exciting avant-garde dining, serving innovative small-plates tasting menus. The indoor/outdoor Colonnade features an open-kitchen style, while the Patio Grill offers al fresco poolside dining on deck. Guests can also enjoy meals from The Restaurant menu, served course by course in the comfort and privacy of their suite or on their veranda. All dining venues, as well as six bars and lounges, serve a full range of beverages, including Champagne, fine wines and spirits, with Seabourn's compliments.

Seabourn Quest offers a host of other amenities and features, including two swimming pools, six whirlpools, and a unique marina with a variety of watersport activities. One of the most popular spots is Seabourn Square, an innovative concierge lounge with a "club room" ambiance, making guests feel at home during their cruises.

Following the naming ceremony, Seabourn Quest departed on a 14-day Maiden Voyage to Athens, stopping at beautiful seaside towns and ports in France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Seabourn Quest's maiden season includes 7-day Eastern Mediterranean cruises, as well as a 7-day Black Sea voyage. In the fall, the ship will cross the Atlantic Ocean from Malaga, Spain, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from where it will sail on a series of round trip voyages in the Caribbean. On Jan 5, 2012, Seabourn Quest will begin a 109-day Maiden World Cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Venice on a unique eastbound course via South America, South Africa, the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. For more information, visit Seabourn.com.

For a first-hand look at luxury cruising aboard sister-ship Seabourn Sojourn, join Cruise Diva for a "Yachtsman’s Caribbean Voyage".

Image Courtesy of Seabourn

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Man Overboard Rescue By Norwegian Spirit

About three hours after sailing from New Orleans on Sunday, and while Norwegian Spirit was still making its way down the Mississippi River, a passenger went overboard.

Thankfully, it was still light enough at about 8pm and he was seen going into the river. A boat was immediately deployed by the cruise ship to rescue him. While we are using the masculine "he/him" there is no word on who the passenger is or any additional details about the incident.

Safely back on board, the ship's medical team treated the passenger's injuries until he was disembarked for additional treatment ashore.

Norwegian Spirit is continuing its Western Caribbean cruise itinerary on schedule.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cruise Vacations: Best Fun and Funky Activities

Being on vacation means having a good time. While you may be able to amuse yourself, your fellow cruise ship passengers might sometimes need a little nudge. The best activities get everyone involved in the fun and give them an opportunity to let loose a bit. Our favorites aren’t always the most sophisticated activities at sea, but they will make you smile.

Carnival Contests. As wacky to watch as they are to participate in, the knobby knees and hairy chest competitions are something of a throwback. However, you have to love the enthusiasm of the contestants who compete for a “solid gold” plastic ship-on-a-stick trophy.

Celebrity Solstice-class Ships Lawn Club. Hone your short game on the only real grass putting greens on the high seas. The half acre of turf above the water also provides a sea of green for genteel games of croquet, lawn games, picnics, and simple barefoot strolls.

The Costa Toga Party. Do as the Romans did—dress up in a toga (supplies and accessories are provided on board) and join in the Bacchanal. Peel a grape for your significant other as you await the arrival of Julius Caesar.

Disney “Pirates in the Caribbean” Deck Party. Even Captain Hook smiles on a Disney cruise, and nowhere is that more evident than at this fun deck party. Full of high energy and high spirits, we won’t spoil the surprise of how Mickey makes his exciting entrance, but the grand finale is the only fireworks show presented from on board a cruise ship while at sea.

Princess Cruises Champagne Waterfall. A highlight of every “Love Boat” cruise is the traditional champagne waterfall—the next best thing to New Year’s Eve. After the Maitre d’ supervises the setting up of hundreds of champagne glasses (pictured above), he deftly begins filling the “fountain” from the top. As champagne cascades into each layer below, all the ladies aboard are invited to assist. It’s a great photo op.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Holland America Line Dishes Up New Menu Items

Passengers sailing on Holland America Line ships this summer are going to find tantalizing new dishes on the main dining room menu. Six Culinary Council chefs assembled by Holland America have each provided recipes for signature dishes and desserts that showcase their expertise and specialties. The Culinary Council members include Council Chairman and Holland America Line Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, along with renowned international chefs Jonnie Boer, David Burke, Marcus Samuelsson, Jacques Torres and Charlie Trotter.

"Our Culinary Council is a 'dream team' of chefs from around the world, and the exceptional dishes they have shared are unique expressions of their cultural backgrounds, skills and passion for the culinary arts," said Richard Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guests programs. "We continuously strive to provide our guests with exclusive experiences, and offering them the chance to enjoy the delights of these celebrated chefs during their cruise is an incredible opportunity."

Culinary Council chefs and a selection of their dishes to be featured:

-- Master Chef Rudi Sodamin created a seared Cajun tuna steak with plum tomato confit and horseradish rosti potatoes. He also contributed a veal chop with creamy Porcini sauce served with baby vegetables and homemade spatzle.
-- Jonnie Boer, head chef of De Librijie in Zwolle, the Netherlands, shares his expertise with a beef strip loin with Hache sauce served with carrot and celeriac-bacon purees, and roasted Parisian potatoes. For dessert, his brioche toast with caramelized apricot will be served warm with clove ice cream.
-- David Burke, a chef, artist and inventor, prepared roasted chicken with sausage cornbread stuffing served alongside roasted vegetables with bacon, green beans and apple cider-chicken gravy. Burke also created a spice-crusted prime rib and whipped potatoes, accompanied by sauteed asparagus and baby carrots.
-- Marcus Samuelsson blended culture and artistry in his grilled salmon with miso, garlic, sesame and cilantro, served in a spiced tomato broth with kale. For dessert, Samuelsson created a rich chocolate cake accented with bourbon- and blueberry-infused whipped cream.
-- Jacques Torres, one of the world's most respected chocolatiers and pastry chefs, will delight guests with a chocolate platter featuring chocolate cornflakes, creamy white chocolate mousse and a bitter-sweet chocolate slice. The dessert menu also will highlight Torres' crepes with caramelized pears served with warm raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream.
-- Charlie Trotter, winner of 10 James Beard Foundation awards, created sauteed opakapaka, also known as crimson snapper, on a bed of bleeding heart radishes, served with baby turnips stuffed with black trumpet mushrooms, sauteed morel mushrooms and basil-thyme oil. Another featured dish is Trotter's grilled venison loin with dates served with seasoned quinoa, salsify puree and broccoli rabe.

"When we came together on the Culinary Council, it was our vision to bring unique dishes to our guests that would expose their palates to new and exotic flavors," said Sodamin. "All of the chefs developed outstanding dishes that our guests are going to be talking about long after their cruise is over."

Besides sharing their insights on menus and culinary offerings, the Council will consult on the line's Culinary Arts Center enrichment program to help create new and innovative learning experiences for guests. For more information, visit HollandAmerica.com.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Meet Carnival Cruise Lines’ Latest “Towel Creations”

Cabin stewards on all Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships are masters in the art of crafting towel animals and last month our steward aboard Carnival Magic proved to be an expert at creating the adorable kitty pictured here.

Alas, the presence of towel animals isn’t a given and not every cruise line considers them a cabin amenity. However, they have grown so popular with Carnival Cruise Lines’ passengers that stewards spend hours training to make the numerous species that inhabit the Carnival Towel Animal Farm. Carnival estimates their passengers are delighted by over ten million towel animals every year and have even awarded them a featured role in the cruise line’s advertising campaigns.

Short of stealing the towels, now you can have your own at-home towel animal zoo—at least until you need to dry your hands. So many passengers requested directions that Carnival has published “Towel Creations”—a beautifully illustrated book with easy step-by-step instructions. Now in its fourth edition, Towel Creations is available in the gift shops aboard all Carnival ships, as well as from the line’s stateroom stewards. The book can also be ordered via the Gifts and Services section of Carnival.com and delivered to your stateroom. The cost is $14.95. Plus, with the purchase of the latest edition of Towel Creations, you will not only learn the “tricks of the trade” for making 40 different towel animals but also help children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®, one of the world’s premier centers for the research and treatment of pediatric cancer and other catastrophic diseases. One dollar from the sale of each book will be donated to St. Jude through Carnival’s Care to Play program, whose goal it is to raise $3 million over a three-year period.

While comparing my old edition of Towel Creations to the new one I noted that there are some changes. The new book has dropped some animals (like the worm), added some (for instance, a pigeon), and revised a few with new looks. The kitty has a new look and Cruise Diva tried to replicate it by using the most recent book’s instructions. Sadly, I met with some frustration and mine is not ready for a close-up. While I keep trying to make a photo-worthy towel kitty, here is what it is supposed to look like. I’m sure it will only take a little more practice before mine is equally as cute.

“Towel animals have become synonymous with the Carnival vacation experience and the Towel Creations series has been very successful with upwards of 40,000 books sold each year,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO. “We’re thrilled to publish the fourth edition of the popular how-to guide while raising money for one of our favorite charitable partners, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” he added.

Carnival says it’s been 20 years since the line debuted its first towel animal—an industry first that has since been much replicated across the cruise industry. Cruise Diva agrees they were at the forefront and has a bit of trivia to share. How did towel animals become such an iconic cruise feature? Find out in our story about the Ultimate Bed-time Pals.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Silversea Plans A Stellar Line Up Of Speakers To Enrich 2012 World Cruise

When I realized my voyage from Barcelona to Southampton aboard Silver Spirit last month was the final segment of the 2011 World Cruise, the first thing that came to mind was that enrichment lectures would be an outstanding feature during days at sea.

Once aboard I saw the lecture title "Buckingham Palace" and, as expected, the speaker, journalist and author Brian Hoey offered information about that—and even more in his presentations. For instance, he shared tidbits about interacting with the Queen and his second lecture was all about Princess Diana. In a third presentation, he spoke of the "Hollywood Royalty" he had interviewed.

A second lecturer, Bruce Reidel, terrorism expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, a former CIA officer, and a senior adviser to four US presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues, looked back on the events surrounding 9/11 and spoke about how serious a future threat Al Qaeda continues to be. The insights he shared were enlightening and thought provoking.

There's no better time for the cruise line to show off quality speakers than during a World Cruise and an array of renowned lecturers is already slated to host enrichment programs aboard Silver Whisper's first-ever World Cruise in 2012—a 115-day voyage that embarks in sunny Fort Lauderdale and concludes in glamorous Monte Carlo. While guests visit 45 ports in 27 countries stretching from the Caribbean and South America to Africa, the Far East, Arabia, and Europe, an impressive cast of distinguished speakers has been tapped by Silversea to complement their journey. Like me, you can probably only dream of sailing off on the entire World Cruise. But segments are certainly within reach and you can enhance your onboard experience by selecting one with a topic and speaker you find personally appealing.

"World Cruise guests expect a truly extraordinary journey offering broad cultural exploration and intellectual adventure," says Steve Tucker, Silversea's vice president of field sales for North America. "We searched the globe to find just the right professors and distinguished personalities to share their knowledge and insights. The result is an impeccable enrichment roster that is sure to enhance our guests' travel experience."

Headlined by Emmy Award-winning former anchor of 20/20 Hugh Downs and bestselling author Bill Bryson, take a look at some of the the line-up and when they will join the cruise:

• Hugh Downs: One of the most familiar figures in American television, best known for his 21 years as co-anchor of ABC's 20/20 news program, will host Voyage 4203, Jan 23-Feb 5, Rio de Janeiro to Cape Town.
• Bill Bryson: The celebrated author, whose numerous international bestsellers include the science book A Short History of Nearly Everything, winner of the Aventis Prize, is slated to host Voyage 4206, March 3-14, Singapore-Shanghai.
• Nigel West: Renowned military historian specializing in intelligence, counterintelligence and security issues, his many books include At Her Majesty's Secret Service, will host Voyage 4205, Feb 16-March 3, Mauritius-Singapore.
• Daniel Silke: A politician and international affairs expert, who served four years as a Member of Parliament in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament in Cape Town, is slated to host Voyage 4203, Jan 23-Feb 5, Rio de Janeiro to Cape Town.
• Robin Hanbury-Tenison, O.B.E.: Founder and president of Survival International, the world's leading organization supporting tribal peoples, and named by The Sunday Times as "the greatest explorer of the past 20 years," will host Voyage 4202, Jan 7-23, Fort Lauderdale to Rio de Janeiro.
• James Bradley: World War II scholar and bestselling author of Flags of Our Fathers (his father raised the U.S. flag over Iwo Jima in 1945), will host Voyage 4207, March 14-26, Shanghai-Bangkok.
• Philip Hurst: Historian and world affairs expert, this former deputy director of The Australian Institute of International Affairs, will host Voyage 4208, March 26-April 13, Bangkok-Dubai.
• Tim Hughes, Ph.D.: Former lecturer in political studies at the University of Cape Town and consultant to the BBC since 1994, working as an adviser on national elections, Zimbabwe and Nelson Mandela, will host Voyage 4204, Feb 5-16, Cape Town-Mauritius.
• Dr. Mark H. Elovitz: The internationally acclaimed world affairs commentator and lecturer, who served as a professor of law, a litigator, government advisor, historian and U.S. Air Force officer, will host Voyages 4206-4207, March 3-26, Singapore-Bangkok.
• Dr. Herb Keyser: Author of numerous books and featured on several U.S. television programs, including Nightline, the physician, world traveler and music expert will host Voyage 4209, April 13-May 1, Dubai-Monte Carlo.

Silver Whisper departs on her World Cruise January 6, 2012. For more information, visit Silversea.com.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Carnival Cruise Brands Extinguish The Smoking Lamp In Cabins & On Balconies

In a move that’s sure to please some passengers and anger others, some cruise lines under the the Carnival Corporation banner are rollng out new smoking policies.

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises has announced that smoking will no longer be allowed in passenger staterooms or on balconies, effective on all sailings departing after January 15, 2012.

The new policy reflects changing customer preferences and the move around the globe–from North America to Europe–to further restrict areas where smoking is allowed, according to the line.

“Our consumer studies now show that smokers are a small minority of our passengers, and that the large majority of passengers value having their primary living space onboard smoke-free,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president.

Swartz added that balconies are included in the new policy because they are a hallmark feature of Princess ships, and the line believes it’s important to keep that peaceful space clear of smoke.

She added that Princess still welcomes passengers who smoke, and will continue to provide special venues around the ship to accommodate smokers. Smoking will continue to be allowed in the Churchill’s cigar lounge, a section of the disco and casino, and a portion of the open decks.

Booked passengers are being notified of the new policy, which is also being communicated widely throughout the line’s informational materials. Passengers who violate the new policy will be charged a cleaning fee of $250.

Carnival Cruise Lines

As part of its ongoing commitment to keep pace with changing guest preferences, Carnival Cruise Lines will be modifying its smoking policy across its 23-ship fleet.

The new smoking policy will be rolled out in two stages:

• Effective June 15, 2011, cigarette smoking in public areas will be permitted only in Carnival’s dance clubs, designated areas within the casino and casino bar, certain sections on the open decks and in the jazz clubs on 13 Carnival ships. The 13 ships include Carnival Destiny, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Victory, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Glory, Carnival Valor, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Freedom, and Carnival Splendor. Cigar smoking will also be permitted in the jazz clubs. On other vessels in the fleet, cigar and cigarette smoking will be permitted in designated areas on deck.
• Effective December 1, 2011, smoking will be prohibited in all guest staterooms. Those guests in balcony accommodations will be permitted to smoke cigarettes and cigars outside on the balcony. Spa staterooms, currently featured on Carnival Splendor, Carnival Dream, and Carnival Magic, will continue to remain entirely smoke-free, including on the balconies.

The modified smoking policy is the result of recent guest surveys conducted by the company that covered a wide range of topics. The surveys indicated that nearly 90 percent of all Carnival Cruise Lines’ guests are non-smokers with less than five percent of guests opting to smoke in their staterooms.

These changes will be implemented aboard all 23 Carnival Cruise Lines ships, which operate 3- to 16-day voyages to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, Panama Canal, Bermuda, and Europe.

Carnival is updating all of its collateral materials and communicating details of the modified smoking policy to its guests and travel agent partners. Passengers who violate the policy by smoking in their staterooms will incur a $250 cleaning and refreshing fee.

Holland America Line

Holland America Line has announced that in keeping with the majority of guest preferences today, a change is being made to the shipboard smoking policy on its fleet of 15 ships effective for sailings departing on or after January 15, 2012. The new smoking policy now designates staterooms as non-smoking areas in addition to the indoor public areas already defined as non-smoking.

For those guests who wish to smoke, there will continue to be designated areas available for this both inside and on outside decks. In addition, smoking is permitted on stateroom verandahs. As is already the case, cigar and pipe smoking is not allowed inside.

The new policy is being communicated to travel sellers as well as guests booked on sailings departing January 15, 2012 or later and will be posted on HollandAmerica.com.

Cruise Diva would just like to say that we have never understood the violent reaction of non-smokers to passengers smoking out of doors. The faux coughing and hand waving seem pretty unnecessary in the open air where smoke only lingers for seconds, even on adjacent balconies and especially on a moving ship when there is a breeze. This move by Carnival Corporation is sure to be controversial and we wonder if there will be cancellations as a result of the announcements. We also wonder if there are smokers who will consider it worth the $250 cleaning charge to smoke in their cabins.

We’ll keep you posted with developments from other Carnival brands as we receive them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cruise News: Charleston Groups File "Frivolous" and "Irresponsible" Lawsuit Against Carnival Cruise Lines

Long-time residents along the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas have a saying that, "An environmentalist is someone who just closed the purchase of his own beach front home." Put another way, they develop an attitude problem with a growing agenda. It's the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) attitude and, according to their agenda, there is no such thing as good future growth, despite whether it's for the general benefit of their community or state. Several groups in Charleston are exhibiting that attitude in regard to a certain type of tourism. It seems the only good tourist is one that doesn't intend to take a cruise. Cruiser tourists are environmentally unfriendly due to what the groups call a "giant" cruise operation. Cruise visitors are blamed for explosive traffic and, well, just about anything that could annoy Charleston's upper crust. In retaliation for their insulted sensibilities, The Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, Preservation Society of Charleston, and S.C. Coastal Conservation League have enlisted the Southern Environmental Law Center to file a complaint against Carnival Cruise Lines in state court. The lawsuit alleges that cruise ships violate local zoning ordinances and state laws and result in noise, air pollution, traffic congestion, and blocked views.

Not ones to stand idly by, Charleston city leaders and port officials are publicly defending Carnival and, in the video below, they state their case quite effectively. Their argument, that Charleston has been a maritime city since 1680, is a solid one—it's grown to be the nation's fourth busiest container port and has welcomed cruise passengers for decades, either during one-day port calls or as a seasonal home port. Port officials have stated that the cruise industry brings in $37 million annually and supports more than 400 jobs. And that's not just beneficial for Charleston, but includes a three-county coastal region. The city, State Ports Authority, Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, and the International Longshoremen's Union local intend to intervene on Carnival's behalf in the suit, which has been called "frivolous" and "irresponsible" by Bill Stern, Chairman of the S.C. States Port Authority, and "abusive" by Charleston's Mayor Joe Riley.

The lawsuit does indeed make bizarre claims against Carnival Fantasy that can only be termed imaginative. For instance the suit alleges that Carnival Fantasy defies sign regulations because of its funnel "with its unique fluke-like shape and bright, red, white, and blue coloring, the funnel is a registered Carnival trademark used as a corporate logo in marketing material is trademarked"; the ship supposedly defies building height regulations, despite the fact that a ship is not a building and most of the city is uphill from the harbor and actually looks down on it; and that Carnival Fantasy provides accommodations that are not allowed in the pier area because it's not zoned for that purpose, even though a ship is not a permanent hotel structure. You can read the entire complaint here. In general, the plaintiffs in the suit accuse the ship of being, well...icky. So far there's no word from Carnival, but they may not have been served with the lawsuit yet. Or they may still be laughing over the outrageous claims.

Oh, by the way, the photo above is Carnival Fantasy as seen from the roadway leading to the current cruise terminal. You might note in the photo that Carnival Fantasy doesn't even dwarf the terminal building. The ship is barely visible over the roof and hardly blocks anyone's view. Cruise Diva shot that picture from the bus that takes passengers from the parking structure (an old warehouse building) to the terminal. What the enviro-wackos say about Charleston traffic is true, but it's not just on cruise ship embark/debark days. On the morning we embarked there was less traffic on the way to the pier than what we'd encountered when we drove past it the previous afternoon, when no cruise ship was in port. The reality is that Charleston's downtown is a maze of congested one-way streets that are best navigated with a good GPS device.

Don't get me wrong, I love the city and when anyone asks I praise it highly. But Savannah is also a charming port city steeped in Southern tradition and hospitality. And Savannah's city fathers are eyeing the cruise industry to boost their tourism appeal and economy. I hope cooler heads prevail in Charleston, but if they don't, we have a saying here in Georgia, "Y'all come on in!"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Civil War Theme Cruises Will Be Featured Aboard Queen of the Mississippi

You may be thinking, “What’s the Queen of the Mississippi?” and you wouldn’t be alone right now. But that is about to change, especially if you are addicted to history of the South and the War of Northern Aggression (as my Virginian mother-in-law used to call it). American Cruise Lines, a leader in small ship cruising, has announced the planned offering of Civil War theme cruises aboard its brand new sternwheeler, Queen of the Mississippi, currently under construction in Salisbury, Maryland for its summer 2012 inaugural season.

Passengers on the theme cruises will be invited to retrace the steps of the Civil War, touring museums such as Vicksburg’s National Military Park and New Orleans’ Civil War Museum, the oldest museum in Louisiana; memorial monuments such as the 60-foot-tall statue of Robert E. Lee, also in New Orleans; and famous historic battle fields including those of Vicksburg and Nashville. Onboard, passengers will enjoy era-inspired cuisine, music, and entertainment, while sharing war theories along the way with onboard Civil War historians and lecturers. Dependent on itinerary, each theme cruise will feature elements specific to each destination, making for a truly exclusive experience.

“This reinforces our efforts to provide enriching cruises for our passengers, offering an elegant peek into American history through its waterways,” said Timothy Beebe, Vice President of American Cruise Lines. “Cruising aboard Queen of the Mississippi is a historic experience on its own, only to be heightened by our Civil War theme cruises. Passengers are in for quite a treat.”

The first brand new overnight sternwheeler built for the Mississippi in nearly 20 years, Queen of the Mississippi will be the grandest ever boasting oversized staterooms larger than those of all former Mississippi riverboats, private balconies, and all of the amenities today’s travelers expect. That’s an artist’s rendering of the Paddlewheel Lounge pictured here. American Cruise Lines will operate the sternwheeler over the entire Mississippi River System, with the option of cruising at significantly higher speeds to make more itineraries possible with longer visits to the river towns, especially those that played significant roles in the outcome of the Civil War.

Dates and details about American Cruise Lines’ Civil War and other theme cruises aboard Queen of the Mississippi will be available later this summer. American Cruise Lines operates the newest fleet of small ships in the industry and offers more than 20 unique itineraries along the inland waterways and rivers of the Pacific Northwest, the Mississippi River System, and East Coast of the United States, from New England to Florida. To learn more about American Cruise Lines, visit their website at AmericanCruiseLines.com.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Paper Luggage Tag Holders For Cruises

As we gathered in the lobby of our hotel outside Venice to await the bus transfer to Carnival Magic last month it became apparent that some of the group members were having a problem with their paper luggage tags. They'd printed them out, but hadn't given much thought as to how to actually attach them to their suitcases. One couple had laminated them before leaving home with a laminating machine (as a travel agent, he must do that for his customers). Ours were folded and tucked into secure plastic luggage tag holders specifically designed for that purpose. Fortunately for those who hadn't planned ahead, the hotel front desk had a stapler. However, before the desk clerk produced it we received numerous positive comments on the luggage tag holders and what a convenience they are. Not only that, the stapled on paper tags are pretty flimsy on their own.

"Where did you get the luggage tag holders?" We were asked that over and over. The holders pictured here are from WCBS4 Printing, whose web site says:

Based on the many requests we have had from our clients about the new print-your-own paper "luggage tags" now supplied by cruise lines, WCBS is happy to announce we have the NEW, customizable CruiseTags especially designed for cruises.

Clear for easy reading, it holds the luggage tag and easily attaches to luggage with a supplied loop.

• 3-1/4" wide by 6-3/8" tall.
• For print-your-own paper "luggage tags" now supplied by cruise lines.
• Super strong. Made from double laminated PVC.
• Sturdy plastic strap for ease of attaching to all types of luggage.
• Porters can easily see read passenger's name, ship, and state room through tag.

While this product is clearly aimed at travel agents who want to provide a service for their clients, and are priced for bulk purchases, the tag holders can be ordered plain (without an agency logo or name on them) and would be an ideal "extra" to order for large families and other groups cruising together. Think about the convenience, security, and what a hero you would be to your friends and family for providing them.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thanks, Telegraph!

While having my coffee and browsing the web, I happened to notice an article in The Telegraph entitled "The world's best travel blogs." Sub-titled "Candid, up-to-date and on the spot travel blogs are an excellent way to research a holiday. Suzy Bennett picks 25 of the best," I was naturally curious to see her picks.

What followed was something of a surprise. Naturally I expected the selections to be UK-centric and when I got to "Best for cruises" it was no surprise to see that the top choice was a site aimed at UK cruisers. But I was pleased to read, "Also have a look at the American blog cruisediva.blogspot.com"!

Although the Cruise Diva blog was conceived as a bit of lagniappe (a little something extra) to accompany the Cruise Diva website, it has taken on a life of its own and it is gratifying to know that it has been recognized not only in the US, but the UK as well.

Thanks, Ms. Bennett!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Communicating Good Customer Service Aboard Carnival Magic

Only a few days into the inaugural cruise aboard Carnival Magic last month disaster struck for my husband Mel. No, there was no iceberg in the Med, nor was it a medical emergency. He'd gone ashore in Naples and then headed off to Capri and Sorrento. Somewhere in Sorrento his BlackBerry went missing. Disaster? You may say no big deal—when on a cruise passengers should turn them off and leave them in the cabin. For Mel, a small business owner, that isn't possible.

A colleague had a good idea—call the phone and see who answers. I called and was promptly connected to Fabrizio, a policeman in the main square of Sorrento. The phone was found and turned in to him. Although Fabrizio's English was far better than my Italian, it was difficult to communicate. And, we were about to sail from Naples so there was no way to return to Sorrento to retrieve it. Enter Sabrina, a Guest Services rep aboard Carnival Magic who spoke to Fabrizio about how to return the phone to Mel in the United States.

It took a while, but Mel's phone arrived in the mail this week. A special thanks to Fabrizio and Sabrina! Good guest relations by both the Sorrento Police Department and Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Magic. Grazie!

Friday, June 10, 2011

MSC Cruises Returns to Tunisia

MSC Cruises has announced plans to return calls to Tunis at the port of La Goulette regularly, with sailings beginning July 5. MSC Fantasia and MSC Lirica are scheduled to return to La Goulette on July 5, with MSC Splendida and MSC Sinfonia calling at the port the next day. According to MSC Cruises’ worldwide chief-executive-officer, Pierfrancesco Vago, Tunis is back to normal and security is now stable.

The four MSC ships visiting La Goulette will offer 7-night cruises exploring the Western Mediterranean, with MSC Lirica calling at Genoa (Italy), Ajaccio (France), Civitavecchia (Italy), Salerno (Italy), La Goulette (Tunisia), Palma de Mallorca (Majorca, Spain), Marseille (France) and Genoa (Italy); MSC Fantasia calling at Genoa (Italy), Marseille (France), Barcelona (Spain), La Goulette (Tunisia), La Valletta (Malta), Messina (Italy), Civitavecchia (Italy) and Genoa (Italy); MSC Splendida calling at Genoa (Italy), Naples (Italy), Palermo (Italy), La Goulette (Tunisia), Palma, Barcelona (Spain), Marseille (France) and Genoa (Italy); and MSC Sinfonia calling at Livorno (Italy), Villefranche (France), Valencia (Spain), Ibiza (Spain), La Goulette (Tunisia), Catania (Italy), Naples (Italy) and Livorno (Italy). MSC Cruises will also be offering Tunis as a winter destination on MSC Splendida’s 7-night cruises between December 2011 and March 2012, departing from Genoa.

“We are glad to offer our guests one of their favorite destinations again for this summer’s 7-night cruises in the Mediterranean. Tourism represents one of the biggest resources for this country’s economic revival and we are proud to be making our contribution,” said Vago.

Guests visiting Tunis can enjoy its renowned North African hospitality on a varied array of excursions offered by MSC Cruises. The city welcomes MSC guests and enchants with its famous archeological site at Carthage, typical spice market in the Medina, traditional fishing village Sidi Bou Said, and more including La Goulette.

It's Going To Be A Summer of “Pandamonium” For Royal Caribbean

It won’t be long now before DreamWorks Animation’s 3-D feature film “Kung Fu Panda 2” hits the big screen in theaters. In conjunction with the film’s arrival, Royal Caribbean is celebrating its own style of Pandamonium aboard Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, and Liberty of the Seas with a series of onboard red-carpet premieres.

Through August 2011, guests of the four ships can enjoy screenings of “Kung Fu Panda 2” in 3-D, in addition to the year-round DreamWorks Experience, which first launched aboard Allure of the Seas, and features entertainment, character meet and greets, unique events and parades, a dedicated DreamWorks Animation channel on RCTV, and kids programming rooted in the popular DreamWorks Animation movies.

In the above photo, Cruise Director Ken Rush and Po the Dragon Warrior welcome guests at the red-carpet premier of “Kung Fu Panda 2” aboard Allure of the Seas.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Princess Cruises’ Passengers Can Share Their Princess Cruise Stories on Facebook

Are you an enthusiastic past passenger of Princess Cruises? Would you like to share your cruise experiences with other avid Princess fans? Then you should definitely be following Princess Cruises on Facebook where the line has debuted a new section on its page dedicated to stories from passengers. This new Princess Stories “tab” offers a unique space just for Facebook users to share tales of their favorite Princess experiences, whether they be discovering new places and people, interactions with crew members, connections with family and friends, a milestone celebration or a romantic occasion.

The section will be updated regularly so readers can enjoy, rate, and comment on, new stories as they are posted. In addition to stories shared by users, the space also features “Our Favorite Story from the Mailbag” showcasing interesting stories shared with Princess.

“Our fans have told us some fantastic stories over the years, and with this new feature on our Facebook page, we can share stories we love and also give passengers a formal place to recount their best memories from their cruises,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president.

Among the first stories featured in the Princess Stories section are tales of secret weddings, meeting future spouses at sea, and even a guide dog’s cruise experience. The first featured “From the Mailbag” story describes a chance meeting with a Princess employee who went out of her way to make sure some delayed passengers made it to their ship—by driving them to the port herself. Trust me, that’s a story you won’t want to miss!

The Princess Stories section can be reached by logging onto Princess’ Facebook page at facebook.com/PrincessCruises and clicking on “Princess Stories” in the left navigation column.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Crystal Launches New 'Private Adventure Option' Ashore

A cruise is a great way to travel to see legendary sites worldwide, but group tours can really be a drag. Too many people, not enough time, and guides that are sometimes out of earshot make them less than the best way to visit historic sites of interest. Not to mention what is often less-than-comfortable bus transportation. The Alternative? Until now, a private car and guide, which is often prohibitively expensive.

If you want a better experience without the high price, Crystal Cruises has you covered. Known for unique and creative land tours that complement its ultra-luxury cruise experience, the line is introducing a private shore excursion alternative for individualistic adventurers. Crystal's new "Private Adventure Option" enables guests to take already-organized group excursions-in a more intimate fashion.

For example, starting this August/September, parties of two, four, or six can opt for a personal guide and private vehicle to tour Ephesus, Pompeii, or the city of Barcelona on a shore-side itinerary already carefully crafted by Crystal's Land Programs team and its worldwide tour operators.

Senior Vice President, Hotel Operations, Thomas Mazloum, was inspired to create the program by his own Crystal cruise vacation. "While I heard how much guests appreciated the 'creative content' of our Crystal Adventures, some said they would love to take the same tour by themselves to make it even more personal," says Mazloum. "At Crystal, we are committed to giving our guests choices. Being able to really personalize your experience is the hallmark of a perfect luxury vacation."

For several years, Crystal has offered guests a "Crystal Private Adventure" program, which offers the opportunity to design customized land itineraries for individuals, their families, and friends. The new "Private Adventure Option" is similar, but follows established excursions in a private way. If guests prefer to modify their "Private Adventure Option" or expand the group, the trip would then become a custom "Crystal Private Adventure." Crystal's passion for creating exclusive, eye-opening luxury shore-side experiences is a cornerstone of its Crystal Adventures program, helping earn the line top ratings for two decades.

Launching Aug 14 and Sept 13 on Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, respectively, the "Private Adventure Option" can be pre-reserved at least one week prior to embarkation by emailing crystaladventures@crystalcruises.com. Prices will be at least 25% more than group tour fares, but vary depending on excursion length, vehicle size, guide costs and sites visited.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Princess Cruise News: Advisory on Sea Princess Cruise Departing June 9, 2011

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FROM PRINCESS CRUISES REGARDING ITINERARY CHANGES AND CRUISE CHECK IN

On the current sailing of Sea Princess there has been an increase in the number of cases of gastrointestinal illness amongst passengers caused by Norovirus, a common illness. It will be necessary for the ship to undergo a prolonged and additional disinfection in San Francisco on Thursday, June 9, 2011. As a consequence, embarkation will be delayed.

Cruise check-in is now scheduled to begin at 5:30pm. To ensure a smooth start to your voyage, we operate a staggered check-in schedule as noted below determined by your deck and cabin number. We kindly request that you plan to arrive at your scheduled check-in time.

5:30pm Aloha, Plaza and Riviera Decks/Cabins A201-A745, P225-P349, R303-R351
6:30pm Caribe and Emerald Decks/Cabins C201-C749, E301-E353
7:00pm Baja and Dolphin Decks / Cabins B201-B755, D201-D753

Passengers arriving prior to 5:30pm will be asked to return when check-in begins as there is very limited seating space in the terminal. All passengers must be onboard by 7:30pm.

In addition, our delayed departure will require itinerary changes to your upcoming cruise. Our call to Juneau on June 12 has been cancelled and replaced with a call to Sitka. The call to Haines on June 14 has also been cancelled and replaced with a call to Juneau. The revised itinerary is available on the Cruise Personalizer.

Thank you for your attention to this important message. Details of the pre-boarding health advisory are below.

Sea Princess Pre-Boarding Health Advisory; June 7, 2011

Dear Princess Passenger,

We would like to take this opportunity to advise you that during the current cruise, there has been an increase in the number of cases of gastrointestinal illness amongst passengers caused by Norovirus. In response, we initiated a comprehensive sanitation program developed in conjunction with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Furthermore, we have arranged for the ship to undergo a prolonged and additional disinfection in San Francisco on Thursday, June 9, 201. As a consequence, embarkation will be delayed until 5:30pm.

As a precaution, we will continue our disinfection efforts throughout this cruise. To assist us with these preventive measures, we ask for your full cooperation in the following:

« To prevent person-to-person spread, please ensure that you wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds and rinse them well under running water. Please ensure that you follow this procedure each time you use the toilet, after coughing or sneezing and before eating, drinking, or smoking. Avoid touching your mouth.

« Please attempt to always use your own stateroom's bathroom facilities.

« In addition to hand washing, please also use the alcohol hand gels where available and before eating in the buffet.

« Should you experience any symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea, please return to your stateroom and report this by immediately contacting the Medical Center by dialling 911.

Thank you for taking the time to read this important information. The success in controlling the spread of this virus relies heavily on the cooperation of you and your fellow passengers. Please see reverse for additional information regarding Norovirus.

If you have any questions regarding this advisory, please contact 1-800-PRINCESS.

Yours faithfully,
Dr. Grant Tarling
Chief Medical Officer

Gifting Travel Souvenirs

When my husband Mel's friend heard we'd be in Venice last month he had a request. Could we get his granddaughter a Murano glass ring? That wouldn’t have been a problem, if we’d had time to shop. We didn’t. However, in a previous trip to Venice I purchased several inexpensive Murano glass items, including the heart pendant pictured here and a Murano beaded bracelet, which I offered to Mel’s friend for his granddaughter. It wasn’t expensive and was just waiting in my “souvenir box” to be given to a 12-year old girl who’d broken her treasured Murano glass piece.

Whenever we travel I often pick up souvenirs for gifts. I don’t necessarily have a recipient in mind when I shop, but everything I buy always finds a home eventually. What sort of souvenirs make good gifts? I look for things that are symbolic of a place, such as the items of Murano glass and colorful pottery from Taormina, Sicily. From the Caribbean, tee-shirts are always a good buy.

On your next cruise, look for souvenirs that your friends and family will love receiving as much as you enjoy giving them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Get Your Zumba® On Princess Cruises

You gotta love it and now you can break out your best moves on your next Princess cruise. Zumba® Fitness, the exhilarating dance-fitness program that synchs red-hot international music and contagious choreography, is rolling out to the entire Princess Cruises fleet. Passengers on many Princess ships have already been joining in the hip-shaking fun with complimentary classes taught by licensed Zumba instructors. The classes quickly became among the most popular activities on board, and now additional staff members will complete the official training to become licensed Zumba instructors as the program expands fleetwide.

The Zumba program is a fitness party that fuses international rhythms with exotic beats and has helped to melt the pounds and inches off 12 million Zumba enthusiasts worldwide. Zumba classes provide an effective total-body workout, which successfully tone and sculpt while burning fat. On land, there are more than 110,000 Zumba classes held in gyms, fitness studios, and even nightclubs, attracting enthusiasts. At sea, Princess ships offer the complimentary workouts once or twice per cruise, transforming venues such as Club Fusion, the Piazza, or the outside decks adjacent to Movies Under the Stars into a high-energy Zumba fitness party.

"The energetic atmosphere and popularity of Zumba classes inspired us to send our staff members for official training to become licensed Zumba instructors, so that we could offer this fun new fitness option to our passengers," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. "As a result, our onboard Zumba classes are always packed, and consistently receive positive feedback from passengers who are happy to have the opportunity to try something they've been hearing about, or to continue with the program they have at home."

Zumba classes were first introduced in December 2010 and are currently offered aboard Caribbean Princess, Dawn Princess, Diamond Princess, Emerald Princess, Grand Princess, Golden Princess, Island Princess, Ruby Princess, Sapphire Princess, Sea Princess, and Star Princess. The program is expected to be available fleetwide before the end of the year. More information about Princess Cruises is available by visiting the company's website at Princess.com.

If you don't know what it's all about, here's a peek at a hot Zumba dance party.


By the way, if you were as surprised as I was that Zumba instructors require licenses, just watch the video and you'll see why.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Carnival Corporation Orders 141,000-Ton Cruise Ship for P&O Cruises

While Cruise Diva is based in the United States—and we suspect most of our readers are as well—there are significant things happening in other parts of the cruise world and this is one of them. Carnival Corporation has announced that it has contracted with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to construct a 141,000-ton cruise ship for its P-and-O Cruises brand scheduled to enter service in March 2015. The as-yet-unnamed 3,611-passenger vessel will be the largest in the P-and-O Cruises fleet, as well as the largest cruise ship built specifically for the British market. Ushering in an exciting era for P-and-O Cruises, the ship will offer a stylish and innovative new design and unprecedented number of passenger facilities, along with a variety of classic and iconic features of the P-and-O Cruises brand. Other specifications and new product innovations will be announced at a later date.

Commented Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation's chairman and CEO, "P-and-O Cruises is Britain's number one cruise operator, synonymous with high quality holidays that celebrate its rich British heritage. The UK continues to be a key growth market for Carnival and innovative vessels such as this new P-and-O Cruises ship—targeted specifically to British clientele—underscore our commitment to expanding this important cruise region."

So what's the big deal? The new P-and-O Cruises ship will weigh in at 141,000 ton, making it even larger than Carnival Cruise Lines' flagship Dream-class ships that are, by comparison 130,000 tons each. Additionally, the Dream-class ships carry more passengers.

P-and-O Cruises Managing Director Carol Marlow added, "This next-generation ship will deliver the ultimate P-and-O Cruises experience, with 'sophisticated wows' and new features to attract thousands of newcomers to our brand, and equally to resonate with existing P-and-O Cruises passengers by giving them the 'P-and-O-ness' they recognize and love. She will offer 'the best of the best,' combining the favorite classic features of Oriana and Aurora, the choice and variety of Azura and Ventura, and a host of new ideas and concepts which together will deliver to our passengers the holiday of a lifetime, every time they travel with us."

Did you notice the mention of "features to attract thousands of newcomers to our brand"? That's just an indication of how popular cruises are becoming as a vacation option in the United Kingdom and the type of growth that's expected there.

Even with economic slowdowns worldwide, the cruise industry is still growing. It's just at a slower pace and in different areas than we're accustomed to seeing. The P-and-O ship order marks Carnival Corporation's first ship delivery for 2015, aligned with the company's strategy to construct two to three ships per year. It currently has seven additional ships on order—one ship scheduled for delivery for the remainder of 2011, three for 2012, two for 2013 and one for 2014.

Artist Redering Courtesy of Carnival Corporation

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cunard Line Joins Queen Mary’s 75th Anniversary Celebration in Long Beach

Last Friday, May 27, Cunard Line joined well-wishers aboard Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, to pay tribute to the legendary ocean liner on the 75th anniversary of her maiden 1936 Transatlantic Crossing from Southampton to New York. A General Manager’s reception kicked off the celebrations and included maritime devotees and historians, former crew members, and past guests of the iconic ship.

Also in attendance was a group of World War II squadron members, reunited for the first time since Queen Mary carried them across the North Atlantic during her service days as the Grey Ghost. Among these guests was Stuart Babcock (pictured here with Cunard spokeswoman Jackie Chase) of Hartford, Connecticut, who was with the 34th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron and sailed aboard a 6-day Queen Mary Crossing on March 21, 1944 from New York’s Pier 90 to Glasgow, Scotland. Flying alone and armed only with cameras, the WWII photo reconnaissance squadrons were the eyes of the allied armies over every battlefield. Accompanied by his daughter, Susan, for the anniversary celebrations, Babcock was visibly moved to be back on board the vessel for the first time since his journey during the war.

Representing Cunard at the reception, spokeswoman Jackie Chase presented a commemorative print to John Thomas, Queen Mary’s historical consultant and master of ceremonies, that mentioned references to the ship’s dramatic impact on the 20th century, including Winston Churchill’s famous accolade about Cunard’s role in ending WWII one year early due to Queen Mary’s transport of thousands of American troops between the United States and Great Britain.

Queen Mary is an icon of the 20th century who shall forever remain one of the world’s most beloved ocean liners, and an enduring symbol of the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,” said Ms. Chase, sharing excerpts from the commemorative print. “Since 1967, when Queen Mary retired to her new home in Long Beach, California, she has continued to fascinate visitors from all over the globe. She lives to bear witness to the revival of Cunard’s ocean liner renaissance with the advent of her namesake Queen Mary 2, which proudly carries on the company’s traditions, heritage and hallmarks made famous by Queen Mary.”

The 75th anniversary festivities continued throughout the weekend and included a fireworks show over Long Beach Harbor.

Photo Courtesy of Cunard Line

Friday, June 3, 2011

Princess Cruises News: Statement on the E-Coli Outbreak in Germany

Princess Cruises Statement

Princess Cruises is working closely with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to monitor the outbreak of E-coli in Germany. Almost all the cases have been reported in people living in Northern Germany or who have recently travelled to the area. The outbreak is suspected to be linked to the consumption of raw vegetables in Northern Germany although the exact origin of the illness is still being investigated.

Princess Cruises does not purchase any fresh food supplies from Germany. In addition, our enhanced food sanitation procedures onboard requires that all fresh fruits and vegetables, irrespective of their origin, are washed then sanitized before being served. In addition to shipboard procedures, we have stopped the serving of all raw fruits and vegetables on Princess-sponsored shore excursions in Germany during the Emerald Princess visits. Passengers travelling independently in Germany have been advised not to consume raw fruits and vegetables. All passengers sailing on ships in Europe have been issued a health advisory regarding the situation.

Further information on the outbreak can be obtained from the US CDC traveller's health website: cdc.gov/travel/notices.

Celebrity Silhouette Makes Her First Public Appearance

It was just a little over a year ago that Cruise Diva boarded Celebrity Eclipse for her "conveyance" journey up the River Ems from the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Before embarking, the small group of guests on hand for for the trip were invited inside the shipyard to take part in the first steel cutting of the next ship in the Solstice-class series, Celebrity Silhouette.

And now, the sleek silhouette of Celebrity Cruises' new Celebrity Silhouette has emerged from the same shipyard, where numerous area residents lined up to be among the first to see the fourth in Celebrity's stylish, five-ship Solstice-class fleet up close. And it is a tight squeeze as she makes her way up the river backwards—because the ship cannot be turned around at the shipyard.

Celebrity Silhouette sets sail in July of this year 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.

That's the steel cutting of Celebrity Silhouette pictured here—pretty amazing that it's now a nearly-complete ship—but even more amazing is the trip up the River Ems. Re-live a "Conveyance" Journey by setting sail with Cruise Diva on the conveyance of Celebrity Eclipse, the third Solstice-class ship in the Celebrity Cruises fleet.

Photo Above, Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
Photo Left, CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Celebrity Silhouette Style: Construction Nears Completion

Go behind-the-scenes here to see the first in a series of webisodes from Celebrity Cruise: "Celebrity Silhouette Style," featuring President and CEO Dan Hanrahan taking you on a tour of Celebrity Silhouette, the fourth in the stylish, five-ship Solstice Class fleet at the innovative Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.

Future webisodes will be highlighted on the Celebrity website at celebritycruises.com and at celebritycruiseschannel.com.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Seabourn Takes Delivery of Seabourn Quest

Completing the most ambitious expansion in the small-ship luxury segment of the cruise industry, Seabourn took delivery of the new 450-guest Seabourn Quest yesterday at the T. Mariotti shipyard in Genoa, Italy. The intimate, all-suite ship is the third vessel constructed by Mariotti for Seabourn's fleet, completing a three-year expansion that increased the ultra-luxury line's capacity by more than 200 percent.

"We are very pleased and excited to take delivery of Seabourn Quest," said Richard Meadows, Seabourn's President. "She is a beautiful vessel, and I have no doubt she will earn as much praise from the experts, and as much affection from our guests as her two sister-ships. Her officers, staff and crew are ready to welcome travelers on board to experience Seabourn-style cruising on our newest ship."

Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress Blythe Danner will serve as godmother and name the ship during a glittering sunset ceremony at the port of Barcelona on June 20, 2011. That evening, the ship will depart on a 14-day Maiden Voyage to Athens, stopping at the sort of beautiful seaside towns in France, Italy, Greece and Turkey that are a hallmark of the Seabourn cruise experience.

Seabourn Quest's maiden season includes 7-day Eastern Mediterranean cruises, operating alternately between Athens and Istanbul, and Venice and Athens, as well as a 7-day Black Sea voyage. In the fall, the ship will cruise across the Atlantic Ocean from Malaga, Spain, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from where it will sail on a series of round trip voyages in the Caribbean. On Jan 5, 2012, Seabourn Quest will begin a 109-day Maiden World Cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Venice on a unique eastbound course via South America, South Africa, the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean.

Seabourn Quest is the third iteration of the sleek and widely admired design that first appeared as Seabourn Odyssey in June 2009, and has been hailed as "a game-changer for the luxury segment." The second sister-ship, Seabourn Sojourn, entered service in June of 2010. For more information, visit Seabourn.com.