Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Smooth Seas, Smooth Sailing, Smooth Jazz Cruise

It's no secret that this Cruise Diva loves cruises. What you may not know about me is my passion for music. I don't leave home without my iPod and I'm happiest when experiencing some down time with an upbeat tempo while relaxing at sea.

Like other music lovers, my husband Mel and I appreciate music festivals where the artists really connect with their audiences. Unfortunately, for most of us that means traveling to distant cities where the hottest musicians are most likely to appear. It was relatively easy for us to attend the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival when we lived nearby, but we've found an even better way to enjoy concerts without the hassle of parking and crowds—one of the full-ship charters presented by Jazz Cruises LLC.

I must admit that I wasn’t a Smooth Jazz aficionado when we set sail on our first Smooth Jazz Cruise in 2008 and barely knew what to expect. While the style is difficult to describe, it’s a little bit funky with some soul and R-and-B tossed in, and all performed to a great beat. It’s contemporary and the sounds are infectious. And, yes, you can dance to it. Janet—a fellow passenger, who was 83 years young—captivated us during the nightly concerts with her dancing in the aisles. Staying seated is nearly impossible.

Some things really do get better with age and when The Smooth Jazz Cruise 2013 departs Fort Lauderdale on Holland America Line's Westerdam, it will officially be The Greatest Party at Sea. New name. New lineup of stars. New ports of call. And there are two sailing dates: Jan 13-20 and Jan 20-27, 2013.

VERY SPECIAL GUEST
George Benson will be the special guest of The Greatest Party at Sea, which will be the first time he has ever performed on a cruise.

STELLAR LINEUP
Jazz Cruises' mission remains the same: showcase the best smooth jazz stars in the galaxy. Brian Culbertson will return for his second sailing. In addition to George, other new faces making their debut with us will be the legendary Bob James, the lovely and talented Angie Stone, and dynamic violinist Ken Ford. Superstar hosts David Sanborn and Marcus Miller will be back, along with special event hosts Jonathan Butler and Candy Dulfer. Completing the lineup are fan favorites Alonzo Bodden, Rick Braun, Richard Elliot, Jeff Golub, and Brian Simpson.

NEW PORTS
The Greatest Party at Sea will sail to Cozumel, Belize, and Key West, spending two nights and a full day in Cozumel, which creates special opportunities for you. George Benson will be there for the entire stay in Cozumel.

BOOKING A CABIN FOR THE SMOOTH JAZZ CRUISE 2013
As we discovered when we sailed in 2008, fellow guests line up to book the next year's cruise before the current one has barely started and Westerdam departs full. Cabin are now available to book online at TheSmoothJazzCruise.com or by calling the office at one of the toll-free numbers, 888.852.9987 (for U.S. and Canada) or 800.852.99872 (international).

Smooth Jazz Cruise ’12 guests have first priority for cabin selection through Nov 30, 2011, after which is Open Booking. Anyone else wishing to reserve a cabin may do so and their cabin will be assigned at the beginning of Open Booking. There are three different rates: a Standard Rate, which is for new guests; a Returning Guest Rate, for those who sailed on previous cruises; and the 4 or More Rate, for those guests who have sailed on four or more of our prior sailings.

Prior guests who book before Nov 30, 2011, have until Feb 15, 2012, to pay their deposit. All other guests shall pay the deposit when their reservation is confirmed. A $50/person processing fee is due with each reservation. This fee is fully refundable if the reservation is not confirmed. Pricing options are available on the TheSmoothJazzCruise.com website.

Re-live The Smooth Jazz Cruise 2008 with Cruise Diva for a taste of what to expect.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Famous Blondes, Shipboard Affairs & Tropical Drama On Board For First TCM Classic Cruise

After his "Poseidon Adventure," who would have thought that Ernest Borgnine would go on a cruise? Look what's in store for him when he sets sail aboard Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Millennium on Dec. 8-12, 2011...

A pair of Hitchcock blondes, a classic shipboard love affair, tropical drama in the Florida Keys, and intimate conversations with legendary Hollywood figures are just some of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences planned for passengers on the first-ever TCM Classic Cruise, a partnership between Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Sixthman, the industry leader in theme cruises. TCM has unveiled the first slate of events for the high-demand voyage, which will feature film legends Ernest Borgnine, Tippi Hedren, Eva Marie Saint, and Norman Jewison, along with Turner Classic Movies primetime host Robert Osborne, TCM weekend-daytime host Ben Mankiewicz and the Alloy Orchestra. They will join scores of classic-movie fans for the 4-day voyage sailing from Miami to Key West and Cozumel.

Below is the first roster of events lined up for the TCM Classic Cruise, which unfortunately (or fortunately, if you've already booked a cabin) has already sold out. Additional events and programming will be announced soon.

Hitchcock Blondes: Eva Marie Saint and Tippi Hedren
Oscar® winner Eva Marie Saint and Golden Globe® winner Tippi Hedren will sit down to share their memories of working with the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. Fans will also be treated to two of their greatest films with the director, North by Northwest (1959), starring Saint as a seemingly innocent bystander drawn into a case of mistaken identity with Cary Grant, The Birds (1963), with Hedren as a spoiled heiress who finds herself in an avian nightmare with Rod Taylor.

A Conversation with Ernest Borgnine
Ernest Borgnine will sit down with TCM host Robert Osborne for an in-depth conversation about the 94-year-old Oscar winner's storied life and career.

Key Largo in the Keys
There may be no better way to enjoy Bogie and Bacall in John Huston's 1948 classic Key Largo than by watching the movie while sailing to the Florida Keys. TCM will present a special screening of the dramatic thriller starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore and Oscar-winning supporting actress Claire Trevor.

A Poolside Affair
TCM invites passengers to a special poolside screening of one of the most romantic shipboard romances of all time - An Affair to Remember (1957). Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr star in the tale of a couple who falls in love on a cruise, then makes arrangements to meet later on the roof of the Empire State Building.

A Night at the Opera on the Ocean
TCM will screen the frantic Marx Brothers comedy A Night at the Opera (1935), featuring a memorably hilarious scene in which 15 people are crammed into a stateroom on board a ship.

Speedy and the Alloy Orchestra
The Alloy Orchestra, an innovative three-man musical ensemble that has written and performed live accompaniment to classic silent films for more than two decades, will perform their original score for Harold Lloyd's delightful comedy Speedy (1928) during a special screening.

Guests will also enjoy a variety of movie-themed events, including live music, dancing and classic movie trivia contests for great prizes.
Although the cruise is currently sold out, fans hoping to get on board can add their names to the waiting list by going to TMC Cruise.com or calling (877) 223-7030.

We hope Mr. Borgnine has a less eventful debarkation from Celebrity Millennium than the one he experienced from the ill-fated Poseidon of movie fame.

Monday, August 29, 2011

SeaDream Yacht Club Goes Star-Studded—Spending This New Years in St. Barts

Cruise Diva never dreams of a White Christmas or New Years Eve either. I’ve seen enough snow in my lifetime, so give me sunny skies, warm breezes, and sandy beaches.

This year SeaDream Yacht Club and their boutique, twin mega-yachts, SeaDream I and SeaDream II must have had me in mind when planning their New Year's celebration. Both yachts will be spending Dec 31 (New Years Eve), 2011 in St. Barts. Also known as Saint Barths, this French island offers a unique vibe of laid back Caribbean meets chic French Riviera. Beaches, shopping, fine dining, and nightlife have made St. Barts a hot spot for billionaires, super models, and Hollywood’s who’s-who. New Years Eve is the culmination of all things extravagant in the harbor of Gustavia. Expect 100 luxury yachts at anchor, some hosting star-studded private concerts, live music, and celebrations across the island with a fireworks display at midnight.

SeaDream I, Voyage #11201 sails from San Juan, Puerto Rico on Dec 30 for 7-nights, spending Dec 31 and Jan 1 in St. Barts. Other islands on this itinerary are Anguilla, Virgin Gorda, Jost van Dyke, and St. John. The voyage concludes in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Jan 6, 2012. SeaDream II, Voyage #21201 sails from St. Thomas, U.S.V.I on Dec 30 for 7-nights, spending Dec 31 and Jan 1 in St. Barts. Other islands on this itinerary are Saba, Virgin Gorda, Tortola, Norman Island, and Jost van Dyke. The voyage concludes in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Jan. 6, 2012. SeaDream’s Caribbean voyages feature their signature Champagne and Caviar Splash™ beach barbeque and ample opportunity to use the yacht’s Jet Skis, kayaks and other complimentary water toys. The line suggests booking early as space is limited on these voyages.

The expression “yachting” is not only a statement about size; it describes a lifestyle aboard the intimate vessels. Chic and stylish, SeaDream’s 56-stateroom twin yachts are favored for their elegant informality, state-of-the-art facilities, personal service provided by a crew of 95, inclusive open bar and gratuities, ocean-view accommodations, luxury spa and world class cuisine. Itineraries include the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Amazon. “It’s yachting, not cruising” Enjoy the difference. For further details, visit SeaDream.com.

Image Courtesy of SeaDream Yacht Club

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cruise News: Hurricane Irene Leaves Behind Damage on Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay

Royal Caribbean Statement

Regrettably, the island of CocoCay, Bahamas, was impacted by Hurricane Irene, and we feel our guests’ experience ashore would be disrupted. Because of this, we cancelled Monarch of the Seas’ call to CocoCay today and Freedom of the Seas’ call to CocoCay tomorrow, August 29.

Monarch of the Seas stayed overnight in Nassau, Bahamas last night and departed at 11:00 am today, August 28.

Freedom of the Seas will call on Nassau, Bahamas, on Monday, August 29 from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Royal Caribbean has not altered the itineraries of any other ship that departs today.

Cruise News: Puerto Rico & The Bahamas Welcome Visitors Following Hurricane Irene

Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC) says that the Island is open for business and fully operational for tourists after Hurricane Irene passed through last week. All hotels, casinos, airports and ferries are operating as normal on the main island as well as Culebra and Vieques. Cruise ships and airlines are arriving and departing as scheduled. Beaches are open and the water is safe for swimming. The majority of roads have been reopened and electricity has been restored across most of the Island.

PRTC's tourism service line (1-800-981-7575) will operate on its normal schedule (Monday-Friday 8:00 am until midnight and Saturday-Sunday 9:00am until midnight, all times Eastern Time) and tourist information centers on the Island are available during regular business hours to offer support to tourists who need it.

The Bahamas

Hurricane Irene passed 60 miles to the east of the major tourist centers of Nassau and Paradise Island and 100 miles east of Grand Bahama Island before making its way out of Bahamian waters last Thursday evening, Aug. 25. Cruise ports in Nassau and Grand Bahama Island are open. The first cruise ship operated by Disney returned to Nassau Friday morning, Aug. 26, and other ships have resumed calls to both ports.

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism assures us that major tourism areas in Nassau and Freeport, Grand Bahama Island have reported limited damage and are returning to normal operations, with visitors already returning to the beaches. Attractions throughout The Bahamas are open, including the country's largest resort, Atlantis. For updates and news regarding The Islands of The Bahamas, please visit Bahamas.com.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cruise News: Hurricane Irene Impacts Princess Cruises' NY/Brooklyn Departure Today

Hurricane Irene Update—Caribbean Princess August 27 departure from New York/Brooklyn Cruise Terminal

To minimize the effects of Hurricane Irene on Caribbean Princess' departure from New York today, Saturday, August 27, the ship's arrival time in New York has been moved up one hour earlier to 6 am.

Cruise check-in will now begin at 10 am and not 1 pm as originally scheduled. Passengers have been contacted and advised to arrive at the cruise terminal as early as possible.

For passengers planning to drive to the port and park at the pier, we have been advised that the parking area at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will most likely be closed due to anticipated flooding. It is recommend that passengers instead make arrangements to be dropped off at the cruise terminal. Please note that Princess Cruises cannot be held responsible for any damages to vehicles parked at the pier.

We are continuing to monitor the path of the storm and will alter the ship's itinerary if necessary. Passengers will be kept fully advised of any changes required.

Cruise News: Hurricane Irene Impact, Holland America Line

As a result of weather and sea conditions related to Hurricane Irene in the Atlantic, nearby cruise itineraries have been reviewed. While we intend to stay as close as possible to the published schedules, there may be some changes to select itineraries. The current status is as follows:

ms Veendam August 21, 7-day Bermuda Cruise

The ship departed Bermuda at 5:00pm on Thursday, August 25, and was scheduled to arrive in New York one day early on Saturday, ahead of the storm’s anticipated arrival. Guests who desire to leave Saturday morning in advance of the storm will be able to do so. For guests who overnight until Sunday, the ship will remain in port. These plans have been approved by the United States Coast Guard and the New York City Mayor’s Office.

ms Veendam August 28, 7-day Bermuda Cruise

The ship will remain in New York overnight on Sunday, August 28, and will now depart Monday, August 29, at 2:00 pm. Guests will be able to embark as scheduled on Sunday provided there is access to the cruise terminal. Due to the government declared evacuation of some areas of the city and impending transit challenges, access to the cruise terminal may be limited or closed on Sunday.

For guests considering embarkation on Sunday, Holland America Line encourages guests to check local New York City transit and government websites (http://www.nyc.gov/ or http://www.mta.info/). If you are in the local area, you can also call our special information line at 732-698-1222 for the latest information on access to the pier.

Embarkation on Monday, August 29 will begin at 8:00 am and continue until 1:00 pm, at which time all passengers should be on board the ship. The revised itinerary is below:

Sunday, Aug 28 New York, overnight
Monday, Aug 29 New York, depart 2 pm
Tuesday, Aug 30 At Sea
Wednesday, Aug 31 Hamilton, Bermuda, arrive 9 am, remain overnight
Thursday, Sept 1 Hamilton, Bermuda, overnight
Friday, Sept 2 Hamilton, Bermuda, depart 2 pm
Saturday, Sept 3 At Sea
Sunday, Sept 4 New York, arrive 7am
ms Maasdam August 27, 7-day Canada/New England Cruise (Boston to Montreal, Quebec)

Guests will embark in Boston on Saturday, August 27, as planned and the ship is scheduled to sail at 5:00pm, prior to the storm's anticipated arrival. Due to very high winds and rough seas expected near the first two port calls of Bar Harbor, Maine, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, these calls have been cancelled and the itinerary modified, adding the ports of Gaspe and Saguenay, Quebec later in the week.

Saturday, Aug 27 Boston, depart 5:00 pm
Sunday, Aug 28 At Sea
Monday, Aug 29 Sydney, Nova Scotia, arrive 8:00 am, depart 5:00 pm
Tuesday, Aug 30 Charlottetown, PEI, arrive 8:00 am, depart 5:00 pm
Wednesday, Aug 31 Gaspe, Quebec, arrive 7:00 am, depart 1:00 pm
Thursday, Sept 1 Saguenay, Quebec. arrive 12:00 noon, depart 8:00 pm
Friday, Sept 2 Quebec, arrive 7:00 am, depart 5:00 pm
Saturday, Sept 3 Montreal, arrive 7:00 am
We will continue to monitor the weather conditions closely and communicate any further changes if necessary to guests and travel agents as they are implemented.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cruise News: Hurricane Irene Impact, Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises continues to closely monitor the path and progress of Hurricane Irene to ensure guests enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain our ships steer clear of the storm.

Based on weather forecasts that put Hurricane Irene on track to impact the east coast this weekend, and that the Governors of New Jersey and New York declared a state of emergency, Celebrity Summit remained in Bermuda until 5:00 pm Friday, August 26. We now anticipate that the ship will arrive in Bayonne, New Jersey, on Monday, August 29.

Because of the ship's late arrival, Celebrity Summit's next sailing will now depart on Monday, August 29. Guests scheduled to sail on the Sunday, August 28, sailing of Celebrity Summit should now arrive at Cape Liberty on Monday between 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm. We also encourage guests on this sailing to continue to monitor updates for any possible additional modifications. Celebrity Cruises has not altered the itineraries of any other ship that departs this weekend. Celebrity Cruises will continue to closely monitor weather conditions and will update this information.

Cruise News: Hurricane Irene Impact, Carnival Cruise Lines

Cruise News: Hurricane Irene Impact, Carnival Cruise Lines

Itinerary Updates: 8/26/11, 6:30 PM (EST)

We are continuing to closely monitoring the forecasted path of Hurricane Irene in the Atlantic and it is now clear the track of the storm will force us to make some changes to our scheduled itineraries. As always, the safety of our guests is our number one concern and our ships will maintain a safe distance from the storm at all times.

Hurricane Irene is expected to pass thru the east coast this weekend. We have modified the itinerary below.

CARNIVAL GLORY – 8/27/11

In anticipation of Hurricane Irene’s arrival Sunday night, New York City is taking pre-cautionary measures that may affect your ability to arrive at the terminal on a timely basis. We encourage all guests sailing on the Carnival Glory to make plans to arrive at Pier 88 between the hours of 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM. Please bear with us as the debarkation process from the previous sailing will be ongoing, but we will do all possible to make you comfortable. Sailing time remains at 3:00 PM, however we may sail earlier.

CARNIVAL PRIDE – 8/28/11

Since Hurricane Irene is forecasted to affect the northeast coast early Sunday morning, the Carnival Pride has been directed by the US Coast Guard to arrive early from the previous cruise and proceed to a secure, alternate location until the storm passes. Therefore, if the track remains the same, embarkation is scheduled for Monday, August 29th from 10am to 2pm at the Baltimore cruise terminal. An email was sent to all guests on Thursday evening with additional information.

All other sailings departing on or after Friday, August 26, 2011 will continue to operate as scheduled. In the event we need to make a deviation to the itinerary, we will update our guests.

Cruise News: Hurricane Irene Impact, Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean International continues to closely monitor the path and progress of Hurricane Irene to ensure guests enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain our ships steer clear of the storm.

In an abundance of caution, and in order to provide our guests with a safe and comfortable sailing, Explorer of the Seas will depart Cape Liberty, Bayonne, New Jersey, on Saturday, August 27 at 4:00 pm, one hour earlier than originally scheduled. We ask that all guests arrive at the pier no later than 3:00 pm.

Regrettably, the island of CocoCay, Bahamas, was impacted by the storm, and we feel our guest's experience ashore would be disrupted. Because of this, we have cancelled Majesty of the Seas' call to CocoCay on Saturday, August 27, and Monarch of the Seas' call to CocoCay on Sunday, August 28.

Monarch of the Seas will now stay overnight in Nassau, Bahamas, arriving at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 27 and departing at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 28.

Majesty of the Seas will now spend Saturday at sea and call on Nassau, Bahamas, on Sunday, August 28 as scheduled.

At this time, Royal Caribbean has not altered the itineraries of any other ship that departs today, tomorrow or Sunday. Royal Caribbean will continue to closely monitor weather conditions.

Cruise News: Hurricane Irene Alters Holland America Line Itineraries

Holland America LineTravel Advisory Regarding Hurricane Irene

As a result of weather and sea conditions related to Hurricane Irene in the Atlantic, nearby cruise itineraries have been reviewed. While we intend to stay as close as possible to the published schedules, there may be some changes to select itineraries. The current status is as follows:

ms Veendam August 21, 7-day Bermuda Cruise

The ship departed Bermuda at 5:00pm on Thursday, August 25, and is scheduled to arrive in New York one day early on Saturday, ahead of the storm’s anticipated arrival. Guests are welcome to disembark on Saturday or stay overnight until Sunday morning. Those onboard have been notified of these options.

ms Veendam August 28, 7-day Bermuda Cruise

The ship will remain in New York overnight on Sunday, August 28, and now depart Monday, August 29, at 2:00 pm. Guests are welcome to embark as scheduled on Sunday or may embark on the ship Monday morning from 8:00 am until 1:00 pm. Weather permitting, shuttles will operate from the ship into areas within Manhattan for guests' convenience.

The revised itinerary is:

Sunday, Aug 28 New York, embark for overnight
Monday, Aug 29 New York, depart 2 pm
Tuesday, Aug 30 At Sea
Wednesday, Aug 31 Hamilton, Bermuda, arrive 9 am; remain overnight
Thursday, Sept 1 Hamilton, Bermuda, remain overnight
Friday, Sept 2 Hamilton, Bermuda, depart 2 pm
Saturday, Sept 3 At Sea
Sunday, Sept 4 New York, arrive 7am
ms Maasdam, July 23, 35-day (roundtrip Boston) or August 9, 18-day (Amsterdam to Boston) Voyage of the Midnight Sun

Holland America Line expects no changes to this schedule. The ship is due to arrive in Boston as scheduled on Saturday, August 27 at 7:00am.

ms Maasdam August 27, 7-day Canada/New England Cruise (Boston to Montreal, Quebec)

There are no itinerary changes at this time. Guests will embark in Boston on Saturday, August 27, as planned and the ship is scheduled to sail at 5:00pm. Itinerary adjustments will be made if storm conditions require doing so but any changes will not impact the time of departure from Boston.

We will continue to monitor the weather conditions closely and communicate any further changes if necessary to guests and travel agents as they are implemented.

Cruise News: Hurricane Irene Alters Carnival Cruise Lines Caribbean Itineraries

Hurricane Irene Update From Carnival Cruise Lines
8/26/11 – 1:00 PM (EST)

Hurricane Irene is expected to pass thru the east coast this weekend. We have modified the itineraries below:

CARNIVAL FASCINATION, which departed Jacksonville yesterday is spending a day at sea today and will call at Key West from 7am to 4pm tomorrow and Freeport, The Bahamas from 7am until 2pm on Sunday before returning to Jacksonville on Monday.

CARNIVAL IMAGINATION, which departs Miami today at 4pm will spend tomorrow at sea before visiting Nassau, Bahamas from 7am until 6pm on Sunday and concluding the cruise on schedule in Miami at 8am Monday morning.

Cruise News: Hurricane Irene Alters Norwegian Cruise Line Itineraries From Northeastern Ports

Statement From Norweigian Cruise Line:

At Norwegian Cruise Line, the safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance. Therefore, the company continues to closely monitor the path of Hurricane Irene. Because of the storm, we are modifying the following itineraries:

Norwegian Jewel will return to New York early on Saturday, August 27 and guests currently on board will disembark beginning at 6 am. Embarkation for the August 27 cruise will commence earlier beginning at 10 am. The ship will depart three hours earlier than scheduled at 1 pm. All guests are advised to arrive at the pier between 10 am and noon. Once the ship is underway, there may be a change to the scheduled Bahamas & Florida itinerary.

Update 2:00pm: Norwegian Gem will remain at sea, keeping a safe distance from the storm, on Sunday, August 28 instead of returning to New York as scheduled. The ship will arrive in New York at 8 am on Monday, August 29. All guests for the August 28 cruise are asked to arrive at the pier on Monday, August 29 beginning at noon. The ship is scheduled to depart New York at 4 pm on Monday en route to Bermuda.

Both Norwegian Dawn sailing from Boston and Norwegian Sky sailing from Miami today will depart as scheduled.

Guests on board each vessel will be kept up to date by the ship’s Captain. It is also important to note that we will continue to closely monitor the storm and if the path changes, we may need to modify these itineraries.

We appreciate our guests’ understanding.

Cruise News: Hurricane Irene Alters Carnival Cruise Lines Itineraries From Northeastern Ports

Carnival Cruise Lines Hurricane Irene Update:

We’ve been closely monitoring the forecasted path of Hurricane Irene in the Atlantic and it is now clear the track of the storm will force us to make some changes to our scheduled itineraries. As always, the safety of our guests is our number one concern and our ships will maintain a safe distance from the storm at all times.

Hurricane Irene passed thru the Bahamas yesterday. So, at this time, we can't be sure whether we will be able to make our scheduled calls to the Bahamas this weekend. We have modified the itineraries below.

CARNIVAL GLORY – 8/27/11

In order to provide a better experience ashore, we have reversed the order of our ports of call. After sailing from New York as scheduled on Saturday, we will now visit Halifax on Monday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM and Saint John on Tuesday from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. UPDATE: Carnival Glory will depart New York tomorrow two hours ahead of schedule at 3pm. Passengers may arrive at the pier to begin boarding at 10am and need to be checked in no later than 2:30pm.

CARNIVAL PRIDE – 8/28/11

Since Hurricane Irene is forecasted to affect the north east coast early Sunday morning, the Carnival Pride has been directed by the US Coast Guard to arrive early from the previous cruise and proceed to a secure, alternate location until the storm passes. Therefore, if the track remains the same, embarkation is scheduled for Monday, August 29th from 10am to 2pm at the Baltimore cruise terminal. Please be on the lookout for an email with additional information.

All other sailings departing on or after Friday, August 26, 2011 will continue to operate as scheduled. In the event we need to make a deviation to the itinerary, we will update our guests. Please continue to check back on Carnival.com for further updates.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cruise Weather News: Additional Hurricane Irene Itinerary Adjustments

Tropical Weather Update From Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises continues to closely monitor the path and progress of Hurricane Irene to ensure guests enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain our ships steer clear of the storm.

Given the current location and projected path of Hurricane Irene, Celebrity Summit will depart Kings Wharf, Bermuda, today at 6:00 pm, a day earlier than originally scheduled. Celebrity Summit will now arrive in Cape Liberty, Bayonne, New Jersey, on Saturday, August 27 at 6:00 p.m.

We encourage guests on the Sunday, August 28, sailing of Celebrity Summit monitor these updates for any possible modifications to the itinerary.

At this time, Celebrity Cruises has not altered the itineraries of any ship that departs this Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Celebrity Cruises will continue to closely monitor weather conditions.

Hurricane Irene Travel Advisory From Holland America Line

As a result of weather and sea conditions related to Hurricane Irene in the Atlantic, nearby cruise itineraries have been reviewed. While we intend to stay as close as possible to the published schedules, there may be some changes to select itineraries. The current status is as follows:

ms Veendam August 21, 7-day Bermuda Cruise

The ship will now depart Bermuda at approximately 5:00pm on Thursday, August 25, rather than on Friday and arrive in New York one day early on Saturday, ahead of the storm’s anticipated arrival. Guests are welcome to disembark on Saturday or overnight until Sunday and enjoy New York. Those onboard have been notified.

ms Veendam August 28, 7-day Bermuda Cruise

There are no itinerary changes at this time. Guests will embark in New York on Sunday, August 28 as planned and the ship is scheduled to sail at 4:45pm. Based on the storm’s progress and intensity, departure may be delayed but that decision will not be made until Saturday evening or Sunday. If there is a delay, it will be posted on our website.

ms Maasdam, July 23, 35-day (roundtrip Boston) or August 9, 18-day (Amsterdam to Boston) Voyage of the Midnight Sun

Holland America Line expects no changes to this schedule. The ship is due to arrive in Boston as scheduled on Saturday, August 27 at 7:00am.

ms Maasdam August 27, 7-day Canada/New England Cruise (Boston to Montreal, Quebec)

There are no itinerary changes at this time. Guests will embark in Boston on Saturday, August 27, as planned and the ship is scheduled to sail at 5:00pm.

Itinerary adjustments will be made if storm conditions require doing so but any changes will not impact the time of departure from Boston.

We will continue to monitor the weather conditions closely and communicate any further changes if necessary to guests and travel agents as they are implemented.

Carnival Cruise Lines Update

Carnival Pride, 8/28/11

We are anticipating an early arrival into Baltimore so that the ship can stay ahead of the storm. Due to sea conditions, we are unable to determine a time of arrival just yet. We will inform guests as soon as we know more.

Hurricane Irene Statement From Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises is closely monitoring Hurricane Irene as it continues to develop. At this time, based on the forecast from the National Hurricane Center, we do not expect it to directly impact the itinerary of Caribbean Princess, including the ship's scheduled New York departure on Saturday, August 27.

We will take whatever actions are needed to avoid the effects of Hurricane Irene as the safety of our passengers, crew, and ships is always our first priority. Passengers will be advised if any changes are required.

Hurricane Irene Still On The Move & Shuffling Ships

These are the latest ships to change course as a result of Hurricane Irene:

Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sky steered clear of Freeport, Grand Bahama today and is instead calling at Key West, Florida.

Norwegian's Norwegian Gem is departing Bermuda 6 pm today, a day earlier than scheduled, to avoid the category 3 hurricane as it heads north. The ship will arrive in New York City on Sun, Aug 28th as planned.

Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas will depart Cape Liberty, Bayonne, NJ, on Sat, Aug 27th at 4pm EST, one hour earlier than originally scheduled.

Carnival Cruise Lines has issued the following statement and updates:

Hurricane Irene is expected to pass through the Bahamas today. At this time, we cannot predict whether we will be able to make our scheduled calls in the Bahamas this weekend. Therefore, we have modified the itineraries below, which will allow us to provide guests with a more enjoyable time ashore.

Carnival Sensation – 8/25/11

We have decided to cancel our visit to Nassau, and instead, will provide an overnight call on the port of Key West on Friday. Below is our revised itinerary:
Thu Port Canaveral (Orlando), FL depart 4:00PM
Fri Key West, FL arrive 12:00PM overnight
Sat Key West, FL overnight depart 6:00AM
Sun Port Canaveral (Orlando), FL arrive 8:00 AM
Carnival Fascination – 8/25/11

Since we are unable to determine if Nassau will be ready to receive visitors this Saturday, we have secured the port of Key West as an alternative. We continue to be in touch with the authorities in Nassau and will provide an update to our guests tomorrow. Additionally, we are now scheduled to depart today at 10:30 PM in order for the tide to lower and allow us safe passage though the Dames Point bridge. Below is our revised itinerary:
Thurs Jacksonville, FL depart 10:30 PM
Fri Fun Day @ Sea
Sat Possibly Nassau or Key West arrive 7:00AM, depart 4:00PM
Sun Fun Day @ Sea
Mon Jacksonville, FL arrive 8:00 AM
Carnival Fantasy – 8/25/11

We are sorry to say that we will be forced to cancel our scheduled call to King’s Wharf, Bermuda, as the route would potentially bring us very close to the path of Hurricane Irene. However, the good news is that we’ve secured the ports of Key West and Cozumel. Below is our revised itinerary:
Thu Charleston, SC depart 4:00 PM
Fri Fun Day @ Sea
Sat Fun Day @ Sea
Sun Cozumel, Mexico arrive 7:00AM, depart 4:30PM
Mon Key West, FL arrive 11:30AM, depart 7:00PM
Tue Fun Day @ Sea
Wed Charleston, SC arrive 8:00AM
All sailings departing on or after Friday, August 26, 2011 will continue to operate as scheduled. In the event we need to make a deviation to the itinerary, we will update our guests. Updates will be posted at Carnival.com.

Overnight In Port

We often hear travelers bemoan the fact that there isn't enough time in port cities to experience them properly. Their complaint is that cruise ships sail "too early" meaning there's no time to dine out ashore or enjoy the nightlife. Overnight calls are usually scheduled for embarkation day or the night before debarkation when passengers use the ship as a floating hotel either pre- or post-cruise.

Crystal Cruises is about to satisfy many cruise travelers' wishes by offering more overnights in port on their 2012 cruise calendar. Crystal's cruises lengths range from seven to 19 days, not including the three-month World Cruise. Seven-day voyages are sprinkled throughout the year, with half in the Mediterranean, half in North America. Watch for these new routes in 2012, many of which include overnights:

-- Jan 4, Panama Canal: Instead of simply sailing through the Canal, Crystal Serenity will stop in Panama, for a maiden call in Panama City.

-- Jan 18, World Cruise: A 94-day Australasian immersion, with segment highlights including: A maiden call in Newcastle, Australia, after visiting the island of New Caledonia; Overnights on both eastern and western Australian coasts, in Sydney and Perth, before voyaging to Bali, Java, and Singapore (overnight); A wide range of cultural experiences in one, starting in Osaka, Japan (overnight), then sailing to Petropavlovsk, Russia before traversing the Bering Sea to less-ventured calls in Alaska, through Glacier Bay, and back to L.A. along the Pacific Coast.

-- Feb/March, Brazil: An uber-regional Brazilian experience with five maiden calls (Buzios, Ilha Grande, Paraty, Sao Paulo/Santos and Itajai) exploring tropical coastline, rain forest and Portuguese-German heritage, and highlighted by an overnight in Rio during Carnival (also a highlight of the prior Feb. 20 voyage from Miami).

-- May 21, Europe's Western Coast: Journey of contemporary and historic contrasts along Spain and France's northern coasts, hitting unusual ports such as La Coruna (Galicia), Bilbao (Basque), St.-Jean-de-Luz (French Basque region, maiden call), St.-Malo (Brittany), and Honfleur (overnight).

-- July, North Cape: Although Crystal usually makes a North Cape voyage annually, 2012's version sees Norway's lesser-visited Molde, Andalsnes and Trondheim added, as well as a maiden call in neighboring Leknes/Lofoten.

-- Aug 3, Baltic: An eastern Baltic-focus stopping in Tallinn, Estonia; Riga, Latvia; and Klaipeda, Lithuania (maiden call), with an overnight in Stockholm and double overnights in St. Petersburg.

-- Sept 6, Black Sea: Overnight in Odessa, plus stops in Yalta, Ukraine and Sochi, Russia.

-- Sept 30, Eastern Canada: Seven-day, intimate French-Canadian/Gulf of St. Lawrence round-trip from Montreal with three maiden calls: Sept-Iles, Magdalen Islands, and France's Saint-Pierre/Miquelon.

-- Oct, U.S./Canada East Coast: Two 7-days between Boston and Montreal (overnight), offering a shorter-than-usual way to visit northeast New England, Halifax, and the Saguenay River area.

-- Dec, Australia/New Zealand: Holiday cruise through New Zealand and Australia boasts two nights in Sydney over New Year's Eve.

-- Trans-Ocean Sailings: With six major ocean-crossing sailings during the year, Crystal is reinventing the journey: A 16-day N.Y.-London/Dover Trans-Atlantic in May includes a maiden call in Heimaey, Iceland and just three days at sea; A 14-day reverse pond crossing overnights in Reykjavik and makes a maiden call in Akureyri, Iceland; Two sailings in Nov/Dec that, combined, sail from L.A. to New Zealand and stop in some of the most legendary romantic tropical islands in the Pacific, including Hawaii, Moorea, Papeete, Bora Bora, the Cook Islands, and Fiji.
Photo Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hurricane Irene Reaches The Bahamas

Most cruise line private islands are located in the "family islands" of the Bahamas chain and Hurricane Irene has not only caused cruise ships to steer clear, the cruise lines have also prepared their properties in advance of the storm and evacuated their on-site employees.

More cruise ship itinerary adjustments:

Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas bypassed their private island CocoCay today and headed for Key West, Florida, where it was expected to arrive this afternoon and stay overnight. After departing Key West the cruise will end on Friday when the ship reaches Miami, Florida.

Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas skipped CocoCay yesterday, is in Key West, Florida, today, and will spend a day at sea tomorrow before the cruise concludes on Friday in Port Canaveral, Florida.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Jewel cancelled a stop in Nassau today and is heading north to its New York homeport for its scheduled arrival on Saturday.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sky spent today day at sea instead of calling at Norwegian's private island Great Stirrup Cay. Depending on the storm, a port call at Freeport, Grand Bahama, may have to be cancelled for tomorrow. The current cruise ends in Miami on Friday.

Hurricane Irene appears to be heading toward the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where evacuation orders for tourists and residents have been issued.

Royal Caribbean & Universal Orlando Resort Offer Families the Best of Land & Sea

Decisions, decisions. What will it be for your family vacation...cruise or theme park? Some family members might prefer one, some may prefer the other. Now, you can give them what they want. Both.

Royal Caribbean Intl and Universal Orlando Resort are now offering the successful Royal Caribbean and Universal Orlando package from both the east and west coasts of Florida. With the addition of Jewel of the Seas, which begins homeporting seasonally in Tampa starting Nov 2011, the two vacation companies are providing families with more options to combine the best of land and sea into one appealing vacation while enjoying package savings. Guests booking the package will experience attractions at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, themed on-site hotels and a nighttime entertainment complex. Guests choosing to stay at one of Universal’s three on-site hotels also receive Universal Express ride access to skip the regular lines at both theme parks.

The land and sea vacation packages combine a 3- or 4-night stay at Universal Orlando Resort with a 3- or 4-night Bahamas cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas, a 4- or 5-night Western Caribbean cruise aboard Jewel of the Seas, or a 7-night Eastern or Western Caribbean cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas. The package includes hotel and shipboard accommodations, multi-day passes to Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, complimentary admission to select live entertainment venues at Universal CityWalk and ground transfers between airport, hotel, theme parks and the ship at port.

Home to two world-class theme parks, a nighttime entertainment complex and three themed on-site hotels, Universal Orlando Resort is a one-of-a-kind family vacation destination that brings entertainment blockbusters to life. At Universal Studios, guests can jump into the action with attractions based on some of pop culture’s best-known movies and TV shows, such as The Simpsons Ride, Shrek 4-D, Revenge of the Mummy, and the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster. Next door, Universal’s Islands of Adventure features the most cutting-edge rides and attractions on five uniquely themed islands – Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent and Seuss Landing.

For the cruise portion of the vacation, guests will enjoy Broadway-style musical revues and entertainment; Vegas-style gaming in Casino Royale; and rejuvenating and invigorating rituals in the onboard Day Spa. Younger guests can hang out with their peers in the cruise line’s Adventure Ocean youth program, where teens have their own dedicated space. New features in the complimentary onboard youth program, such as extended hours in the Adventure Ocean and teen spaces and pre-cruise ordering of baby supplies, help provide a stress-free experience for parents. Throughout their stay aboard every Royal Caribbean ship, all guests receive the cruise line’s signature friendly and engaging Gold Anchor Service from staff and crew.

For more information, visit RoyalCaribbean.com/Universal.

Photo: Freedom of the Seas © CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hurricane Irene And Your Cruise

Forecasters now prodict that Hurricane Irene is on track to strike the southeastern United States later this week as a major hurricane. Residents along Florida's east coast and northward into the Carolinas are being urged to make preparations.

What should you be doing if you have a cruise scheduled while Irene is churning about?

As luck will have it, your major concern should be your embarkation port. While a hurricane barrels down on your destination city, flights in and out are certain to be delayed or, worst case scenario, cancelled by an airport closing.

But, let's not worry about that. Assume you made it to the ship and have sailed. What can you expect? Cruise Diva has that information covered for you in Cruising Into Hurricane Season. Also on the Cruise Diva web site, our friend Karen Segboer relates the experience aboard Holland America Line's ms Ryndam during Hurricane Paula in Course Correction, or being diverted on your cruise(s).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hurricane Irene Mixes It Up With More Cruise Ship Itineraries

Carnival Cruise Lines may alter additional itineraries, depending Hurricane Irene's storm track. In the meantime, here are more changes.

Carnival Triumph, which sailed from New Orleans, will spend tomorrow at sea instead of calling on Freeport, Bahamas. The ship will visit Cozumel on Wednesday instead of Nassau and on Thursday it will visit Progresso, Mexico instead of being at sea.

Carnival Destiny, which sailed from Miami, will call at Key West tomorrow instead of spending the day at sea. It will visit Cozumel on Wednesday and Costa Maya on Thursday instead of calling at Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay. On Friday, it will skip Nassau and spend the day at sea.

Carnival Pride, which sails from Baltimore, will call at Port Canaveral, Florida tomorrow instead of spending the day at sea and will sail for Freeport on Wednesday.

Hurricane Irene Alters More Cruise Ship Itineraries

As Hurricane Irene makes her way through the Caribbean, a hurricane warning is in effect for the north coast of the Dominican Republic from the Haiti border eastward and in the southeastern Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands. By mid-day today, Weather.com has "increased the threat along Florida and southeast United States coast to HIGH. This threat level will likely change as forecast confidence increases both in the track and intensity. Other areas of the U.S., perhaps farther north along the East Coast."

As a precaution, Carnival Cruise Lines has altered more of their ships' itineraries:

Carnival Conquest, sailing a scheduled 7-day Bahamas and Florida cruise that left Galveston yesterday, will now sail a Western Caribbean itinerary. Port calls will include Costa Maya on Wednesday, Cozumel on Thursday, and Progreso on Friday.

Carnival Victory, currently on a 7-night cruise from San Juan, cancelled today's visit to St. Thomas and is presently sailing to Barbados for its scheduled Wednesday port call. The remainder of the itinerary is being evaluated.

Hurricane Irene Scatters Cruise Ships, Tracks Toward Florida

Weather.com reports that Hurricane Irene strengthened from tropical storm status early this morning to become the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season as it moved offshore of Puerto Rico, where it has already produced widespread tree and power line damage across the island.

Irene is forecast to become stronger over the next five days, because its center is expected to move over less land in the Caribbean. It is expected to track toward Florida and the Southeast U.S. Thursday into the weekend.

Cruise lines are already scrambling their ships' itineraries to avoid the effects of the storm.

Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Miracle, which departed from New York on Thursday for an 8-night Eastern Caribbean cruise stayed at sea yesterday instead of making a scheduled port call at San Juan, Puerto Rico. Today she is at Grand Turk instead of St Thomas and she is expected to visit Half Moon Cay tomorrow.

Carnival Liberty is also sailing an altered itinerary. She joins Carnival Miracle today in Grand Turk and it may be necessary to cancel scheduled San Juan and St Thomas port calls later this the week.

Royal Caribbean has reversed the Western Caribbean itinerary of Oasis of the Seas, which sailed from Fort Lauderdale on Saturday for a 7-night cruise. The ship will now visit Cozumel today, spend tomorrow at sea, visit Falmouth, Jamaica on Wednesday; and Labadee on Thursday. Oasis will spend Friday at sea before returning to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday as scheduled.

Freedom of the Seas, which departed Sunday for a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral is also sailing a reversed itinerary. The ship will call at Cozumel on Tuesday, Grand Cayman on Wednesday, Falmouth, Jamaica on Thursday, and Labadee on Friday.

Allure of the Seas will call at the ports on its scheduled 7-night Caribbean cruise, but will mix up the order. The ship will visit Nassau, Bahamas on Saturday instead of today. Visits to St. Thomas on Wednesday and St. Maarten on Thursday are expected to remain unchanged..

Serenade of the Seas' 7-night Southern Caribbean cruise, which left from San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday will also be altered with visits to Aruba tomorrow, Curacao on Wednesday, St. Kitts on Friday, and St. Thomas on Saturday.

Relaxation At Sea With Princess Cruises

Last week we told you that Princess Cruises is promoting a “National Relaxation Day” and they have even produced some one-minute videos to go along with the idea.

This one caught our eye because it features one of Cruise Diva’s favorite adult beverages. Shaken, not stirred.


And this one...it’s so serene that whenever we feel stressed we can watch it for a calming minute. Or more.



Video Courtesty of Princess Cruises

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where To Play In The Caribbean Breeze

As promised, here are some more images of Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Breeze, now under construction and due to launch June 3, 2012. After a summer schedule of Mediterranean voyages through Oct 25, 2012, she will leave Barcelona and sail to her new Miami homeport. From there Carnival Breeze will offer year-round 6- and 8-day Caribbean cruises beginning Nov 24, 2012.

We think you'll agree that Carnival Breeze's stylish and contemporary decor and bright color palette will be right at home in the sunny Caribbean. Take a look.

Carnival Breeze: Lanai
Carnival Breeze: Ocean Plaza

Carnival Breeze: Piano Bar
Carnival Breeze: Dance Club
Carnival Breeze: Spa Thermal Suite
Carnival Breeze:Spa Therapy Pool
Images Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Carnival's Breeze-iest New Ship

Back in May we shared a photo here on the Cruise Diva blog of our stateroom aboard Carnival Magic: Home Away From Home. Interestingly, the immediate feedback from a reader asked the question, "Is that your actual cabin?" Yes, it was, although the furnishings, fittings, and color scheme on Carnival Magic were essentially similar to her sister-ship Carnival Dream and some earlier fleetmates. However, we subsequently learned that when Carnival Breeze launches next year, her staterooms are taking on a new look that we shared in Carnival Breeze’s Colorful New Staterooms.

Now that we've had the opportunity to see renderings of Carnival Breeze's public rooms, to say we are impressed would be an understatement. First and foremost, gone are the themed areas of earlier ships. We actually liked many of them, but the themes were sometimes diluted beyond comprehension during ship refurbishments. As you'll see in these images, in their place is a fresher, brighter contemporary decor that we find quite pleasing. We love the breeze-y new atmosphere they create.

Carnival Breeze Atrium

Carnival Breeze Atrium

Carnival Breeze Sapphire Restaurant
Carnival Breeze Steakhouse
We'll have more images to share here tomorrow and will follow up when we learn about additional Carnival Breeze features that will be unveiled in the future.

Carnival Breeze is scheduled to enter service June 3, 2012 with a special one-time voyage from Venice to Barcelona, positioning the vessel for a summer schedule of 12-day Mediterranean voyages through Oct 25, 2012. Following a 15-transatlantic crossing from Barcelona to Miami, Carnival Breeze will launch year-round 6- and 8-day Caribbean cruises from Miami Nov 24, 2012.

Images Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, August 19, 2011

From Europe to North America: Oceania Cruises Wants to Change Your Mind

In yet another sign that demand for some European cruises may be eroding further, Oceania Cruises has announced it will offer Canada and New England cruises for fall 2012 in place of previously scheduled Mediterranean voyages. In total, nine itineraries have been changed. Some of those previously scheduled included Egypt or Tunisia port calls, which now have less appeal for cruise travelers after political turmoil in the region.

Scenic highlights of the new itineraries include cruising the Bay of Fundy, Saguenay Fjord, and St. Lawrence River. Optional excursions enhance the destination experience and include a horse-drawn carriage tour of Quebec City; visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lunenburg fishing village; and a lobster lunch at Dalvay by the Sea, the 19th-century summer home built by then Standard Oil chief Alexander MacDonald. Outdoor pursuits include cycling Acadia National Park and Prince Edward Island and kayaking coves in Maine and Nova Scotia.

Travelers will discover these destinations aboard Oceania Cruises’ 684-guest Regatta–an intimate ship acclaimed for its open-seating dining (and no surcharges for its two specialty restaurants), upscale public rooms and accommodations, and warm, attentive service.

• Aug 30: Mediterranean Splendors, 12 days, Istanbul-Lisbon
• Sept 11: Colonial Passage, 14 days, Lisbon-New York
• Sept 25: Colors, Coasts & Coves, 12 days, New York-Montreal
• Oct 7: Colors, Coasts & Coves, 12 days, Montreal-New York
• Oct 19: Autumn Vistas, 14 days, New York-New York
• Nov 2: Enchanted Amazon, 25 days, New York-Miami
• Nov 27: Caribbean Interlude, 7 days, Miami-Miami

Whatever the reason for the redeployment–which Cruise Diva is frankly happy to see–Oceania Cruises has offered a nice explanation for the change.

“Our 2011 Fall Foliage cruises have been so well received by our travel agent partners and their clients that we decided to redeploy Regatta from Europe to Canada and New England in fall 2012,” stated Bruce J. Himelstein, Oceania Cruises’ president. “These new voyages offer exceptional value with two-for-one fares and free round trip air.”

For more information on the above new itineraries, visit the Oceania Cruises website.

Image Courtesy of Oceania Cruises

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Small Ship Alaska Cruises Are Getting Bigger

It wasn’t that long ago that the demise of Cruise West spelled less choice for cruise passengers who want to visit Alaska in a more intimate fashion. However, in less than a week this month, two small-ships cruise lines have announced new, bigger small-ship options for Alaska in 2012 and 2013.

American Safari Cruises
Last week American Safari Cruises announced it will more than double the capacity of its fleet of three yachts offering inclusive adventure cruises with the addition of an 86-guest small ship. The Safari Endeavour, formerly Cruise West’s Spirit of Endeavour, (pictured upper left) will undergo major renovation to transform it into an upscale vessel ready to sail in Southeast Alaska in summer 2012.

The yacht-style ship will sail weeklong cruise in Southeast Alaska from May to September. Roundtrip from Juneau, Alaska, the voyages will follow similar itineraries to those sailed by the yachts, with two days exploring Glacier Bay National Park and expedition cruising in Icy Strait, Frederick Sound, Thomas Bay, Chichagof Island, Ford’s Terror and Endicott Arm. Two-week cruises from Seattle to Juneau and reverse will be offered in spring and fall.

An extensive renovation project will add American Safari Cruises’ exceptional comfort and refined atmosphere to Safari Endeavour. The guest capacity of the yacht-style ship will be reduced 16% from 102 to 86 guests with a mix of twin (some convertible) and king beds. Five stateroom categories include three Master, 21 Commander, 12 Captain, three Admiral and four Commodore Suites. The suites will be created by merging two former staterooms and adding new step-out balconies. All staterooms have one or two outside view windows. Other amenities being added to the ship include two massage rooms, two hot tubs, sauna, exercise equipment, wine bar, and a library. Cuisine is innovative and fresh with seafood and produce purchased locally whenever possible. All meals will be served in the ship’s elegant dining room. An all-American crew of 34 will ensure attentive service with a guest-crew ratio of 2.5 to 1.

Even further on the horizon, American Safari Cruises is also acquiring the Safari Legacy, formerly the Spirit of ’98 (yep, another former-Cruise West vessel). Preliminary plans are for it to operate summers in Alaska’s Inside Passage beginning in 2013 and fall and spring on the Columbia/Snake Rivers.

InnerSea Discoveries
On the heels of a sold out inaugural season in Alaska, InnerSea Discoveries announced yesterday their acquisition of the 76-guest Wilderness Explorer, which also formerly sailed in the Cruise West fleet as the 86-guest Spirit of Discovery (pictured lower left). After significant renovations, the ship will sail active, adventure un-cruises between Juneau and Sitka, Alaska beginning summer 2012.

Itineraries will spend three days exploring Glacier Bay National Park, and move on to Icy Strait, Chichagof Island, and Peril Strait. In May and August, two-week cruises between Seattle and Juneau (and reverse) will be offered.

After the refurbishment, three cabin categories will consist of 21 Trailblazer, 13 Pathfinder, and 4 Explorer cabins. Bed configurations include twin or queen with many more made convertible during renovation. Cabins will feature flatscreen televisions with DVD players, iPod docking stations, and eco-friendly bath amenities. All cabins feature a large, view window.

During renovation, two hot tubs will be added, with one on the bow and one on the aft sun deck. A sauna and exercise equipment will also be added to the aft sun deck. The lounge bar will be expanded with the addition of 10 taps serving a selection of microbrews and cask wine. To ensure ample space for included adventure activities, a new swim step will be added to the ship’s main deck aft. The extra space will serve as a launch pad for excursions and host a state-of-the-art kayak launch platform able to quickly and safely launch five kayaks at a time.

Other shipboard amenities include complimentary on-deck yoga classes, a large resource library, well-stocked DVD library, and board games. A professional masseuse is part of the crew and massages are available for a fee. An underwater camera mounted on the ship’s bow will stream video from the underwater world to flatscreen televisions in all guest rooms and the lounge. Healthy and hearty meals feature fresh ingredients including locally caught Alaskan seafood. A 3-1 guest to crew ratio ensures attentive service.

Similarities and Differences
A National Park Ranger will board the ships of each line for the full duration of visits inside Glacier Bay to provide interpretation on the area’s history, culture, geography, flora and fauna. The park ranger, along with shipboard expedition guides, will also lead guests on hiking and kayaking expeditions within Glacier Bay.

With an emphasis on exhilarating explorations in Alaska’s wilderness, expert naturalists on all cruises lead hiking and kayaking tours of varying lengths and activity levels. Other adventure activities include stand-up paddle boarding, skiff explorations, and whale watching. Flexible itineraries and few set port times allow the ships to seek out wildlife and maximize viewing time.

Although the sister-companies each feature active, adventure cruises that allow passengers the freedom to engage in many activities, there are differences in their onboard product and fare structures. The more-inclusive American Safari cruise fares include all from-the-yacht activities and equipment, transfers, hand-crafted meals, fine wine, premium spirits, and microbrews, a massage, and all port charges, taxes, and fees. Tipping is discretionary, but a hefty 5% to 10% of the fare is suggested. Fares for the less-inclusive InnerSea Discoveries cruises still cover a lot, including transfers and all activities except optional excursions. Port charges, massages, spirits, and gratuities are extra.

Visit their websites at American Safari Cruises and InnerSea Discoveries for more information.

Photos Courtesty of American Safari Cruises and InnerSea Discoveries

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Can this cruise be saved? Get Me To The Ship On Time

A recent email from a new-to-cruising reader asked what Cruise Diva thought of his flight reservations. Could he make a connecting flight with a one-hour layover and would there be any problem with his plane arriving in Miami at 2:15 pm?

Without a crystal ball, that first one is a tough question to answer. For instance, while I've changed planes at Hartsfield-Jackson Intl Airport in Atlanta more than a hundred times and can get from gate-to-gate in under 12 minutes, I'm really familiar with the airport and its shortcuts. However, I'm still uncomfortable with anything less than a two-hour layover there, or at any other airport for that matter. With even a short delay in arrival, one-hour connections can be tight. These days, delays are all too common, which is what I told my reader. That answer is a squishy "maybe."

The second part of his question brought up an even bigger problem. His flight was scheduled to land in Miami at 2:15 pm, but his ship was departing Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades at 4:30! While they are only about 30 miles apart, the driving time on I-95 from Miami to Fort Lauderdale is about 40 minutes without traffic, with traffic it can take an hour or more. Of course that would be after my reader retrieves luggage at the airport and gets a cab or shuttle, which also takes time.

His party might make it to the port before his ship sails, but that might not be good enough if they haven't completed their check in online prior to arrival at the port. U.S. government security regulations require cruise lines to submit certain passenger information to law enforcement authorities at least 60 minutes prior to departure. To meet this requirement, they must have the necessary information in their records at least 90 minutes before departure. If the cruise line does not have their information by that deadline, my reader's party may be unable to sail. Passengers who wait to check in at the terminal risk being denied boarding even if they arrive at the terminal before the ship leaves.

The answer to the second part of his question is another "maybe you'll make it okay," but it's iffy.

My advice? Even if flights to Miami are cheaper, it's not worth the hassle and worry, not to mention the expense of ground transportation to Fort Lauderdale, just to save on airfare. A better option is to book earlier flights to Fort Lauderdale on the day of embarkation, or if that isn't possible, fly in the day prior to relax before boarding.

Got a question about flying to port? You'll find answers in Cruise Diva's Air and Sea: Solutions for the Landlocked.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rockin' the Boat

Rockin' the Boat - If all else fails,
 find a sympathetic bartender
Mal de mer...

That's a fancy French way of saying seasickness, motion sickness, upset stomach... and all that goes with it. Those who are afflicted claim only dying will relieve their discomfort. Many first time passengers are anxious about whether they'll be stricken with it.

Our good friend and avid cruise traveler, Dr. Joe Reynolds from Bastrop, Louisiana, recently told me, "I always thought one would get nauseated with seasickness, until I had vomiting but was not nauseated. An old sailor aboard the fishing vessel told me I was seasick. HA!"

I had to stop and think about what he meant—in other words, he didn't feel sick before it hit him. Thankfully, he's found a cure that works for him and might be useful for you if your inclined to get seasick as well. He continues, "For cruises I hate to take any prophylactic medications but I want something in the event that I do have a bout. I found SCOPACE which is scopolamine in pill form. A prescription is needed just like the Transderm Scōp® patch (which is the same medicine). So in addition to the Merazine, Meclizine, and other things, Scopace is good to have when the others don’t work. I used it once in the Brainfield Strait in Antarctica and once from NY to Bermuda. One pill only was used each time."

Dr. Reynolds also advises that if your physician has prescribed the Transderm Scōp® patch, you should use care and wash your hands well after applying it. If some of the medication has gotten on your hands and you and get some of it in your eyes by rubbing or touching them, it will dilate your pupils.

For more information on seasickness—its causes and cures, and the emergency remedy at the ship's bar—CruiseDiva.com takes a look at Seasickness: Rockin' the Boat.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Charleston: One Step Closer To A New Cruise Terminal

Despite opposition from a small group of locals protesting the inappropriateness of having cruise ships homeport there, Charleston, South Carolina is moving forward with plans for a new cruise ship terminal. Basically, the new terminal will be a repurposed industrial warehouse at the north end of Union Pier, where cruise ships currently berth. The (South Carolina) State Ports Authority plans to transform the warehouse into a modern cruise ship terminal at a cost of $35 million.

Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review voted 4-0 last week to initially approve the cruise terminal’s design (pictured in the rendering above). Of the seven Board members, three recused themselves from voting: one whose firm has involvement in the project, and two who are members of the Coastal Conservation League, which had a hand in a lawsuit filed in June against Carnival Cruise Lines.

Initially, there will be no parking garage alongside the new terminal, although one might be constructed later. Passenger parking will be provided in the large area alongside the converted warehouse/new terminal that once served as an automobile staging area for BMWs awaiting shipment. Another Board of Architectural Review meeting to go over the plan in more detail hasn’t been scheduled yet.

On a related note, Carnival Cruise Lines has responded to the lawsuit brought by the Coastal Conservation League, the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, and the Preservation Society of Charleston, which alleges that Carnival’s use of Union Pier (the location of the current cruise terminal and the site of the new cruise terminal) is illegal under city zoning.

The cruise line requested the dismissal on the grounds that the terminal has been used by passenger vessels since the early 1900s, long before the city zoning regulations cited were in existence. According to the Charleston Post and Courier, “Carnival also claims that state law prohibits cities from enacting zoning rules that would interfere with the SC State Ports Authority’s responsibilities, and argues that the plaintiffs don't have standing to sue.”

For more information about that lawsuit and the controversy surrounding it, see Cruise Diva’s blog coverage at Charleston Groups File “Frivolous” and “Irresponsible” Lawsuit Against Carnival Cruise Lines.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Five “Must Play” Caribbean Golf Courses For Cruisers

Golf is a perennial seagoing favorite of players who want to log the Caribbean’s most beautiful and challenging courses on their scorecards and take their games to the next level. Shipboard programs can include clinics, use of full-motion golf cages, and even individual instruction from resident pros using state-of-the-art computer analysis. Once ashore, escorted excursions include everything needed for a satisfying round of play, including equipment and tips from the pro, and the ability to schedule tee times at exclusive courses.

Cruise Diva is not a golfer, although her son is a pro. For cruise ship passengers, here are five “must plays” in the Caribbean that have been suggested to us:

The Black Pearl: Pristine Bay Resort, Roatan, Honduras
“The Black Pearl is laid out on one of the best canvases we’ve worked with,” says legendary course architect Pete Dye. Located 35 miles off the Honduran coast, Roatan is resplendent with unblemished, sugar sand beaches coexisting in harmony with azure Caribbean waters so shockingly blue it almost hurts to gaze too long. Like its pirate ship influenced moniker, it’s all sinisterly enticing. http://www.pristinebayresort.com/

Cinnamon Hill Ocean Course: Rose Hall Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica
Cinnamon Hill is like a Whitman’s Sampler of Jamaica’s awesome beauty combining fragrant foliage, verdant mountains and tranquil Montego Bay vistas. Its 15th green is serenaded by the smoothing cascade of an idyllic waterfall that was the site of a dramatic scene from the James Bond flick “Live and Let Die.” Like 007, you’re in for thrill after thrill as this course peaks at 350-feet above sea-level and crescendos with holes so close to the ocean you think you’ll need fins with soft spikes. http://www.rosehallresort.com/

Teeth of the Dog: Casa de Campo Resort, La Romana, Dominican Republic
Like Pablo Picasso must have done, Pete Dye seems to knock out masterpiece designs with ease. "The opportunity to carve out Teeth of the Dog was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Dye says in his book Bury Me In a Pot Bunker. "Without proper heavy machinery to crack the coral, the tireless Dominican crew used sledgehammers, pickaxes and chisels." The result is a Caribbean golf Eden. http://www.casadecampo.com.do/

La Cana Golf Course: Puntacana Resort and Club, Higuey, Dominican Republic
Golf courses don’t come much closer to the sea than La Cana Golf Course. Designed by P. B. Dye, La Cana features 14 ocean-view holes with four playing right on the water’s edge. It’s not often one’s given a choice to either hit your next shot or snorkel—that’s how close the agua is. And like most of the magnificent Caribbean—the water is as blue as it gets. http://www.puntacana.com/

Tierra del Sol Resort and Country Club: Malmok Beach, Aruba
Designed by Robert Trent Jones II, Tierra del Sol Resort and Country Club sits regally on the northwest side of Aruba. Open for visitors play, this Lesser Antilles gem has the unlikely, but thought-provoking, characteristic of being a "desert course with ocean views.” The target-style design and constant trade winds provide a unique challenge that calls for repeated play to master its numerous subtleties. http://www.tierradelsol.com/

Photo: Casa de Campo © CruiseDiva.com

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Princess Cruises Promotes A “National Relaxation Day”

If you were unaware that there is such a thing as National Relaxation Day on August 15th, you aren’t alone. Cruise Diva only learned about it as the result of a national survery commissioned by Princess Cruises for its second annual “Relaxation Report.” Princess Cruises, which helps more than 1.3 million passengers a year unwind aboard its worldwide fleet of ships, commissioned the survey to examine Americans’ relationships with vacations and the pursuit of leisure. And the results are in: According to the survey, three-quarters of Americans want to see National Relaxation Day become an official U.S. holiday. Apparently, overworked and over-scheduled Americans are so eager to adopt and observe this day of rest that they are even willing to trade-in an established holiday like Columbus or Labor Day.

“Americans are busier than ever—be it for work or family,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “The overwhelming support for an official, nationally recognized day of relaxation demonstrates that we need reminders—and in some cases, permission—to simply relax and escape from our everyday routine.”

Nearly a quarter (23%) of Americans have never had a relaxing vacation, and, for those who have, it has been an average of three years since they last took a break from the routine grind of daily life. Three-quarters (74%) of Americans reported their inability to relax frequently negatively affects their mental and physical health.

“Although many Americans wish they could have National Relaxation Day off from work, there are plenty of other creative ways to observe the occasion—relaxing the dress code, opening the office later or leaving early, or sponsoring a calming staff activity,” said Swartz. “To celebrate this day, Princess Cruises will be providing our employees with complimentary yoga classes as well as shifting the dress code from ‘business-casual’ to ‘summer-fun.’”

In addition to making National Relaxation Day official, the Relaxation Report revealed a few other surprising revelations on Americans’ dreams of relaxation.

Relaxation Is Difficult: Despite the current economic climate, two out of five (40%) Americans think finding time to wind down is even harder than living within their budget (60%). And while technology may be making things easier for some, half (50%) of those surveyed agreed that having a smartphone by their side actually makes it harder to check out.

Kid-Free Travel: American families are well aware of the stresses of everyday living, and while three out of four (76%) parents would feel guilty leaving their little ones behind, more than half (54%) of parents say their perfect vacation wouldn’t include their children!

Time Is on Our Side: Most experts suggest creating minor moments of “me time” during the day, but Americans think that taking a week away delivers longer lasting results. Nearly half (45%) of Americans think a weeklong vacation is more likely to reduce the stress in their lives than taking small moments each day to decompress. Americans also agreed that it takes an average of two days to settle in and let the time off clear their busy minds—meaning a weekend trip just won’t cut it.

A Toast to Sleeping In: The 2011 Relaxation Report also illustrates a directional shift in Americans’ favored methods of achieving relaxation. In the 2010 report, Americans opted for reading (25%) and getting up early (55%) while on vacation. This year, however, roles were reversed, with Americans enjoying a cocktail (24%) and sleeping in (65%) as the preferred ways to unwind. Cheers to that!

About the 2011 Survey
The Relaxation Report, commissioned by Princess Cruises, was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,005 nationally representative Americans ages 18+ between July 7th and July 13th, 2011, using an email invitation and an online survey. Quotas have been set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the U.S. adult population 18 and older. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within ±3.1 percentage points, 95 times out of 100, of what they would have been had the entire population of adults in the U.S. been polled.

About the 2010 Survey
The Relaxation Report, commissioned by Princess Cruises, is based on findings from an Ipsos poll conducted Aug. 26, 2010-Sept. 12, 2010 (excluding Sept. 1 through Sept. 8, due to the Labor Day holiday). A nationally representative sample of 2,000 randomly-selected adults aged 18 and over residing in the U.S., was interviewed by telephone via Ipsos’ U.S. Telephone Express omnibus. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within ±2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire population of adults in the U.S. been polled.

While they didn’t poll me, I’ve decided to celebrate National Relaxation Day this year by sleeping in, dressing for summer fun, and having a cocktail. Sounds good to me!

Friday, August 12, 2011

American Safari Cruises Expands With Safari Endeavour

In a really big move sure to please small-ship cruise line fans, American Safari Cruises is adding an 86-guest ship to its fleet of three yachts that offer high-end, inclusive adventure cruises. The Safari Endeavour, formerly the Spirit of Endeavour (one of now defunct Cruise West’s largest and fastest, not to mention nicest ships in terms of features), will undergo major enhancements to transform it into an upscale vessel ready to sail in Southeast Alaska in summer 2012.

“This is an ideal time to expand our fleet,” said Dan Blanchard, principal and chief executive officer. “In our 14-year history, our occupancy rates have never been higher, and we are seeing an increase in demand for the type of small-group adventure travel we offer.”

Once upgraded to the standards of the American Safari fleet, the yacht-style Safari Endeavour will cruise in Southeast Alaska from May to September. Weeklong cruises roundtrip from Juneau, Alaska follow similar itineraries traditionally sailed by the line’s yachts with two days exploration in Glacier Bay National Park and expedition cruising in Icy Strait, Frederick Sound, Thomas Bay, Chichagof Island, Ford’s Terror, and Endicott Arm. Two-week cruises from Seattle to Juneau and reverse will be offered in spring and fall.

An extensive renovation project will add American Safari Cruises’ exceptional comfort and refined atmosphere on board. The guest capacity of the yacht-style ship will be reduced 16% from 102 to 86 guests with a mix of twin (some convertible) and king beds. Five accommodations categories include 3 Master, 21 Commander, 12 Captain, 3 Admiral, and 4 Commodore Suites. The suites will be created by merging two former staterooms and adding new step-out balconies. All staterooms have one or two outside view windows. Other amenities being added to the ship include two massage rooms, two hot tubs, sauna, exercise equipment, wine bar, and a library. An all-American crew of 34 will ensure attentive service with a guest-crew ratio of 2.5 to 1.

“The newly-created ambiance on board will be casual yet with a full menu of upscale amenities. The highlight remains the wilderness outside which we explore daily in a variety of ways,” said Tim Jacox, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

American Safari Cruises’ active, adventure cruises allow the freedom to engage in many shore and water-centric activities, as well as those available on board. Kayaks and stand-up paddle boards are available for excursions. Skiff rides will explore Alaska’s shoreline, wildlife, and glaciers up close. Expert naturalists and guides lead excursions on land and sea. An enhanced program of educational presentations will be presented in the salon. In Glacier Bay, a National Park Ranger boards the ship for two days to lead hiking and kayaking excursions and provide interpretation of the area’s history, culture and geography.

Dining is a highly anticipated part of each day, featuring American Safari’s innovative cuisine with fresh seafood and produce purchased locally whenever possible. All meals will be served in Safari Endeavour’s elegant dining room, and the complimentary bar offers premium spirits, fine wines, and microbrews.

The line’s other yachts include the 12-guest Safari Spirit, 22-guest Safari Quest and 36-guest Safari Explorer. Specializing in active, adventure cruises with flexible itineraries. The inclusive cruises include all from-the-yacht activities and equipment; transfers; hand-crafted meals; fine wine, premium spirits, and microbrews; a massage; and all port charges, taxes, and fees. In addition to Southeast Alaska, the fleet’s destinations include Mexico’s Sea of Cortés, Columbia and Snake Rivers, the Hawaiian Islands, and Washington and British Columbia. For additional information, contact American Safari Cruises at 888-862-8881, email sales@americansafaricruises.com, or visit the American Safari Cruises web site.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Celebrity Cruises Raises Specialty Dining Charges

Murano Restaurant aboard Celebrity Solstice
If you haven't pre-booked your specialty dining reservations in certain popular restaurants by Sept 1st, you'll be paying a higher cover charge on Celebrity Cruises' ships after that date. Surcharges are rising from $5 to $10, depending on the restaurant.

French-inspired Murano restaurants, found on the cruise line's Solstice-class ships and on Celebrity Century, will charge $40 per person (up from $35 per person). The same increase will be found by diners in the upscale ocean liner-themed restaurants on Celebrity's four Millennium-class ships.

Aboard Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Silhouette, the charge for meals found on the iPad menus in their quirky, fun-food Qsine restaurants is also going up to $40 per person.

In an unusual move, Celebrity is increasing the cover charge at its just-introduced Lawn Club Grill aboard Celebrity Silhouette from $30 to $40. That seems like quite a hike for a restaurant that hasn't yet established a following and where diners are encouraged (but not required) to grill their own food.

Pre-booked specialty dining reservations for the restaurants mentioned above that were made before Sept 1st will be charged at current rates. Charges for the other specialty venues are not increasing. For the time being, at least.