Friday, September 30, 2011

New Cruise Review! Carnival Freedom

Vincent and Mary Finelli achieve Platinum past-passenger status with Carnival Cruise Lines on their Carnival Freedom cruise and share their experiences and concerns.

Vincent said, "If you must drive on I-95, what better time than 11:00am on a Saturday morning? All the anxious days South Florida spent watching hurricane Irene meander up the east coast of the US were over for Florida, but not for the rest of the country. Irene dropped record rain on everywhere in the Eastern US, but not in South Florida, where it was badly needed. Yet, here we were boarding the Carnival Freedom on a cruise we thought might never happen, since we waited a long time for a wheelchair accessible cabin with balcony."

Take a look at the challenges encountered by our fellow passengers with mobility impairments and how they overcome them.

Image: Carnival Freedom in Key West (c) CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, September 29, 2011

311 to Host Second Annual Caribbean Cruise Aboard Carnival Destiny

311, formed in 1990 in Omaha, Nebraska by vocalist/guitarist Nick Hexum, vocalist/dj SA Martinez, lead guitarist Tim Mahoney, drummer Chad Sexton and bassist P-Nut has sold over 8.5 million units in the US, had 7 albums reach the Top 10 on Billboard's Top 200 Sales Chart, and 9 singles reach the Top 10 on Billboards's Alternative Chart. After years of incessant touring, 311 has earned a reputation as one of the most influential and entertaining live bands in the US, with an extremely dedicated fanbase. Now, Sixthman is excited to announce that the band is taking those loyal fans on vacation once again, launching the second annual 311 Caribbean Cruise May 10-14, 2012, on the Carnival Destiny. The ship will leave from Miami and dock in Half Moon Cay (a private island in the Bahamas), staying for two days of music, sand, sun, and fun before returning to Florida.

In addition to seeing two special 311 shows and performances by many supporting artists and DJs, every fan on the cruise will get a personal photo with the band, and will have the opportunity to participate in a Q-and-A session with band members.

On the previous cruise 311 band members even participated in various events onboard. Bassist P-Nut played in a basketball tournament with fans, Vocalist Nick Hexum judged a 311 Karaoke contest, and Vocalist SA Martinez did a DJ session at one of the ships nightclubs. The 2012 311 Caribbean Cruise will once again include lots of onboard games and activities (casino gambling, swimming, karaoke, 311 trivia contest, cannonball contest, bingo, movie screenings, late-night dance parties, etc) and many excursions will be available on Half Moon Cay (snorkeling, horseback riding, jet-skiing, fishing, biking, etc) making this an unparalleled fan experience for 311 fans from around the world.

Last year's cruisers had the time of their lives and 311 and Sixthman plan to make the 2012 cruise even better. The 2011 311 Caribbean Cruise included fans from all 50 US States and 12 countries. It's this extreme affinity for 311 that the band and Sixthman are excited to celebrate on board. Last year's cruise sold out quickly; fans who want to come along should book fast. When was the last time you cruised to a private island with your favorite band? Get on the boat with 311 by visiting their 311 Cruise website. Alumni who sailed last year can opt-in to the pre-sale from Sept 26-30, and begin booking Oct 10. All other fans can sign up starting Sept 26 through Oct 10, and begin booking Oct 18.

Photo Courtesy of Sixthman

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cruise Review: Celebrity Summit

Long time cruiser George Hall takes a look at Celebrity Cruises in general and a Celebrity Suite experience in particular when sailing aboard Celebrity Summit from Bayonne, New Jersey. In addition to his review, George shares the following video with highlights of the ship and a peek inside Celebrity Suite 6106.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Aloha, Mickey!

Disney's iconic characters greet visitors to
Aulani, Disney Resort and Spa
The new Aulani, Disney Resort and Spa has just opened its doors in Hawaii on the quiet west coast of Oahu. Georgina Cruz highlights why it’s ideal for Hawaii pre- and post-cruise stays.

The new resort boasts typical Hawaiian architecture and décor and Georgina shares the details she discovered during her recent stay. As a destination resort, Aulani is not connected to a theme park, but filled with its own natural, cultural, and just plain nifty attractions including water fun at pools, slides, lazy river, and a snorkeling lagoon.

However, not everyone wants to fly to Hawaii to cruise and based on an overwhelming response to the first Hawaiian itinerary it offered, Disney Cruise Line has added a second Hawaii cruise to its 2012 schedule. The addition of a second Hawaiian voyage complements a diverse array of Disney Cruise Line itineraries departing from Los Angeles, including cruises to the Mexican Riviera and the Pacific Coast. With so many sailings originating from the West Coast, a Disney family cruise vacation is more accessible to guests from the western United States.

“We listen to our guests, and shortly after we announced our first Hawaiian voyage it was clear our guests wanted more options to visit Hawaii,” said Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz. “This second sailing to Hawaii is part of a wide variety of Disney Cruise Line vacation options for families in 2012 including new itineraries, regional homeports, and the debut of our newest ship, the Disney Fantasy.”

Two Hawaiian Sailings in 2012…
Disney Wonder will sail through the breathtaking beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, where guests can experience the famous beaches of Waikiki on Oahu, see the views from high atop the summit of Haleakala Crater on Maui, take in the lush tropical gardens and waterfalls of Kauai’s “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” and explore the natural wonders of the world’s most active volcano on the Big Island.

For the first time, Disney Cruise Line will offer two special voyages to Hawaii from Los Angeles, calling on Kahului, Maui; Nawiliwili, Kauai; Honolulu, Oahu; and Hilo on the Big Island; plus Ensenada, Mexico. The 15-night Hawaiian itinerary, which includes nine days at sea, departs April 29, 2012. The newly-added 14-night Hawaiian itinerary, with eight days at sea, departs Oct. 14, 2012.

Photo Courtesy of Georgina Cruz

Monday, September 26, 2011

Paul Gauguin Set to Receive Multimillion-Dollar Renovations

Paul Gauguin, the highest-rated and longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific is about to undergo the most extensive renovations in the ship’s 14-year history. Scheduled for completion in Jan 2012, the $7 million renovation will feature extensive enhancements to both interiors and exteriors of the ship. The renovations will take place in January during the ship’s 10-night crossing from Tahiti to Brisbane and 11-night drydock in Brisbane. When joining the South Pacific Discovery sailing departing Jan 26, 2012, guests will be aboard a vessel that has been thoroughly updated and redecorated for even greater comfort.

Following the renovations, all suites and staterooms will feature new carpeting, refinished furniture with new fabrics, new teak railings on the balconies, decorative side panels around the windows, and new bathroom flooring. Renovations throughout the ship will include new flooring and replaced carpeting, elegant new furniture, new window treatments and decorative wall panels, and new signage, providing a lighter, brighter feel.

La Veranda will offer guests a redesigned entrance, refinished indoor and outdoor furniture and solar shades throughout. Le Grill will boast new decorative partitions and divider walls, as well as a new buffet area and new lighting. L’Etoile will also feature a redesigned entrance in addition to video equipment for conferences.

Promenade Deck 5 will boast a new built-in banquette and expanded casino in Le Casino, and Deck 6 will receive a new integrated display case for books and art. La Palette will feature a decorative stone band along the front of the bar and an updated lighting system, as well as new outdoor furniture. Le Grand Salon will offer a refurbished dance floor to provide the perfect venue to dance the night away under the South Pacific sky.

The Gauguin’s previous renovation, totaling $6 million, was completed in Jan 2009. The upcoming refurbishments show Paul Gauguin Cruises’ level of commitment to the vessel and the importance of the overall product and guest experience. For information about Paul Gauguin cruises, visit the Paul Gauguin Cruises website.

Image courtesty of Paul Gauguin Cruises

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cooking Up Creativity

Celebrity Cruises' charismatic Vice President of Culinary Operations (and primo chef) Jacques Van Staden took a new approach to dining with the introduction of Qsine restaurant onboard Celebrity Cruises. A modern atmosphere, iPad menus, and innovative recipes are all a part of sharing a unique and playful dining experience with guests. While I sampled a preview of the menu aboard the Celebrity Eclipse conveyance sailing a couple years ago, it's a difficult concept to describe, so I'll let the experts show you in the video below.


On a related note, Celebrity Cruises has expanded its already robust culinary talent by naming 2010 James Beard Foundation "Rising Star Chef" nominee and 2007 "Rising Star Chef of American Cuisine" John Suley as its director of Culinary Operations.

Tapped by Celebrity's Van Staden (who is himself a James Beard-nominated Master Chef), Suley is widely regarded as one of the country's top "up and coming" chefs. Prior to joining Celebrity, he worked in the star-studded, international dining scene as executive chef at the South Florida incarnation of three-time James Beard honoree Alfred Portale's famed "Gotham Bar and Grill" (New York), "Gotham Steak" at the chic Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. At Celebrity, Suley joins Van Staden in leading the line's continuing quest to achieve the highest levels of consistency, quality and innovation in the culinary experience.

"John Suley is known for his edgy and innovative cooking style, and is a genuinely unique chef," said Van Staden, "Having known him for 12 years, and observing the amazing contributions he made during the recent debut of our newest Solstice Class ship, Celebrity Silhouette, I am confident he will be an inspirational and creative leader within Celebrity's innovative culinary team, and will make tremendous contributions as we continue to prove to vacationers around the world that we can treat them to a dining experience that is easily comparable to the best on land."

For more information, visit CelebrityCruises.com

Video Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Traveling, Security & the Age of Facebook

Frequent cruiser, former supervisor for the State Judiciary in New Jersey, and long-time Internet user Karen Segboer has experience with not only travel and online networking, but with “bad guys” on the wrong side of the law as well. She’s shared some important words of wisdom with me to pass along to everyone who’s active on social networking sites and is planning a trip.

Whether you are going on a cruise, to Disney World, or just visiting out-of-town family for a few days, take heed of Karen’s advice...

“We hear (and worry) so much about Homeland Security when it comes to leaving home, getting on a plane or a ship or maybe even a train or a bus, but what about personal security, especially in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and other social network sites? I resisted Facebook for a very long time, finally succumbing because everybody else in the world that I wanted to interact with and talk to was there. Most days I’m glad I joined. Many of us have been wringing our hands recently because of the newest Facebook upgrades, changes and improvements, but do we really ever take a good, hard look at what we’re putting out there in the world? It’s an easy thing to get carried away with sharing information. We know from reading in the newspaper or hearing on the TV news about online scams and predators who go after children and elderly folks. But what about travelers? What about those who watch us online, waiting for us to go someplace?

There are so many places on the Internet to rejoice in an upcoming cruise, telling our Facebook ‘Friends’ where we’re going and how long we’ll be away, when we’re leaving and when we’re coming back home again. But is this such a good idea? And how about those new Facebook ‘Friends,’ or the friends of friends we now all have on Facebook? Do we really know enough about them to be sharing such personal information about ourselves?

I’ve tried very hard to keep the kind of information off the Internet that could bring unexpected visitors to my home while I’m away or allow someone to take advantage of my good fortune of being on vacation. I don’t always succeed, exuberance overcomes me, and I sometimes slip and put information out there that should best be kept to myself for the time being. I try to keep the vacation updates and photos uploaded to my Facebook page until I get back home again. Failing that, I always try to remember to post that I have someone at my home house- and pet-sitting (which is true, with two cats and a dog), neighbors watching our place because we’re not at home, so anyone considering my residence as an easy target will probably think twice. E-mailing vacation photos to the ones back home that you trust is fine. Posting all of it ‘out thre’ is maybe not so fine.

Before Facebook and some of the other more popular social networks took off so successfully, the other now less-populated places online like Usenet were sources of information for bad people to do bad things while you were away from home. Several years ago, in one Usenet newsgroup I used to frequent, a woman who lived in Manhattan would use her full address and phone number in her signature file at the end of all of her posts in a cruise newsgroup. No doubt she thought it was the friendly, outgoing thing to do. But when she announced that she and her family would be on a cruise, gave the date of departure and the date she was coming back home again, then put her information out there once again, one other regular poster spoke up, hopefully to her benefit and without any malice felt by her. All of this is not new regarding the bad guys out there. I’m reminded of a local scam many years ago involving a group of home invaders checking out obituaries in the newspapers to see who would be attending a funeral and when so they could rob their house!

We worry about our kids. We worry about our finances. We worry about security for so many things when it comes to the Internet, and as more and more time goes by, we use it more frequently regarding things for which we never in the past would have trusted the online world. Facebook, although relatively new, but still ubiquitous, should trigger some guidelines for you to implement for yourself when you’re not at home, as well. Be careful, be safe, be cautious when giving out your personal information to the world. And have a nice cruise.”
Since her retirement (most of her career was spent as a probation officer in Northern New Jersey), Karen has been indulging her penchant for both writing and traveling—as much as possible of both pursuits. Karen’s first cruise back in 1988 was on an old converted Moore-MacCormack ship renamed the Queen of Bermuda. She says, “Before we were out of the Hudson River and into the North Atlantic, I was hooked. Of course, my husband was a seasoned ship person, having gone back and forth across the Pond since he was a young lad, the very first time, emigrating on an old Holland America Line ship called the Maasdam, later to become the much-loved Polish ship, Stefan Batory. Our next cruise is a two week trip on HAL’s Oosterdam. Next year it will be a Spring cruise to the Baltic area.”

Friday, September 23, 2011

Seven Seas Voyager Emerges From Drydock Refurbished & Refreshed

Even classic beauties need a pick-me-up now and then and, with that in mind, Regent Seven Seas Cruises sent their 700-guest Seven Seas Voyager to dry dock, from which she has emerged with beautifully renovated suites and public areas, completing the third phase of the luxury line’s multi-phase, fleet-wide Seven Seas Signature initiative.

As part of the ship’s makeover, new plush carpeting was installed throughout the entire interior of the ship and the décor in 26 top suites was freshened with new wallpaper, fabrics, curtains, and art pieces. In addition, Penthouse (that’s one pictured here) and higher-category suites have been equipped with iPads and selected suites also received new upgraded balcony furniture. Several enhancements were also made to the ship’s public rooms. The popular pre-dinner cocktail spot, Voyager Lounge, features new drapery and furniture, including sofas, armchairs, stools, and tables, while new Turkish carpets bring added elegance to the Connoisseur Club. On Deck 11, refurbishments to the pool area include an updated Pool Bar and expanded Pool Grill, and marble-edged corridors that now lead guests to new wood flooring in the Observation Lounge. The ship’s popular La Veranda restaurant has new chairs and wallpaper and the coffee bar on Deck 5 has been expanded to accommodate demand.

Enhancing the culinary experience was also a key Phase Three element of the Seven Seas Signature initiative. Menus in Seven Seas Voyager’s Compass Rose were expanded with select items from the Signatures and Prime 7 specialty restaurants, as well as a greater emphasis on dishes from the regions visited.

Seven Seas Voyager is emerging as a fresh new product with thoughtful touches that will enhance our guests’ overall experience,” stated Mark Conroy, president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “Through our Seven Seas Signature program we are continuing to evolve our brand and look forward to announcing additional updates in 2012-13.”

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is widely recognized as the world’s most inclusive ultra-luxury cruise line with round-trip air, all-suite accommodations, gourmet cuisine, premium spirits and fine wines, live entertainment, shore excursions, gratuities, and a pre-cruise luxury hotel stay included in cruise fares. For more information, visit RSSC.com.

Image Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Norwegian Breakaway’s Steel Cutting, It’s Starting To Come Together

The first piece of steel was cut yesterday at Meyer Werft shipbuilders in Papenburg, Germany for the construction of Norwegian Breakaway, the first of two new Freestyle Cruising® ships for Norwegian Cruise Line, set for delivery in April 2013. Pictured here, the first plate of steel took four minutes to cut by a plasma torch in the yard’s state of the art facility. This plate will become a supporting part of the double bottom in the middle of the new ship.

“Today’s steel cutting marks the start of construction for Norwegian Breakaway, our next generation Freestyle Cruising ship, that will captivate and amaze our guests,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer. “We are extremely pleased with the progress we have made so far in planning this incredible vessel. We now look to the capable and talented team at MEYER WERFT to bring this ship to life.”

The Breakaway class ships, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, will each be 144,017 gross tons and will have approximately 4,000 passenger berths. These 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. The 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. The new ships’ names were chosen from 230,000 entries received in “Norwegian’s Cruising for Names” contest.

Bernard Meyer (left) and Kevin Sheehan at the
Norwegian Breakaway steel cutting 
The shipyard's managing directors Bernard Meyer and Lambert Kruse, as well as Aloys Meemann, project manager, attended the steel cutting ceremony in the laser center. “We are very happy to build these innovative ships for Norwegian and to continue our long lasting relationship,” said Meyer. “We can guarantee to deliver a cruise vessel with an exceptional interior design, extremely comfortable staterooms and the highest technical standards.”

To date, the company has revealed details on all of the ships’ traditionally styled staterooms which combine the form and function of the line’s Jewel class ships’ staterooms with the modern and contemporary design touches of Norwegian Epic (without the curves and controversial bathroom “cubicles”). A rich mix of stateroom options will be available including the innovative Studios, designed and priced for solo travelers, the re-introduction of Oceanview staterooms, Balcony and Mini-Suites, along with Spa Balcony, Mini-Suites and Suites in close proximity to the spa. The ship also features The Haven by Norwegian, comprised of 42 suites at the top of the ship and 18 additional suites located throughout the ship.

The company expects to release details on Norwegian Breakaway’s inaugural itinerary in the near future. In the meantime, you can find details about Norwegian Breakaway here on the Cruise Diva blog at:

· Norwegian Cruise Line Begins “Project Breakaway” Reveal
· Norwegian Cruise Line Introduces “The Haven”
· “The Haven” by Norwegian: Posh Accommodations For Project Breakaway
· Norwegian Breaks Out More Project Breakaway Accommodations
More information about Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway can be found at NCL.com/Breakaway.

Images Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Norwegian Cruise Line “Rolls” Out More Sushi Selections

While it isn't one of my favorite foods—mainly because I'm hopeless when it comes to eating anything with chopsticks—I know how popular sushi is with my friends and fellow passengers, so this is big news for them. Norwegian Cruise Line will now offer its popular sushi a la carte menu, previously available on Norwegian Epic, throughout its fleet (with the exception of Norwegian Sky). The extensive menu, which features sushi, sashimi, light appetizers, and desserts, will now also be offered as a lunch option on embarkation and sea days.

The new menu gives guests the freedom and flexibility to customize their dining experience by providing pricing per item with dishes averaging four dollars. Guests can select from a number of different appetizers such as edamame, miso soup, or sesame seaweed salad. Sushi selections include such favorites as the Godzilla Roll, a tasty roll with sweet shrimp, mango, avocado, caramelized cashews and coconut; and the Dynamite Roll with yellowtail, salmon, green onion, and maki tempura style. Different variations of sushi and sashimi like yellow fin tuna, octopus and salmon are also offered. Guests can complete their meal with a dessert like green tea cake or fruit sashimi. Those sound so good that I plan to try them on my next Norwegian cruise, but only if I can use a fork.

The sushi a la carte menu began rolling out to the fleet this past weekend, starting with Norwegian Dawn on Sept 16; Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Star, and Pride of America on Sept 17; Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Pearl, and Norwegian Spirit on Sept 18. Norwegian Sun passengers will have to wait until Oct 5 to get their saushi fix.

For more information, visit NCL.com.

Image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Carnival Breeze Floats Out

It's a major milestone in every new ship's construction—when the water meets the hull.

Before that happened last Friday, a ceremony was held aboard the Carnival Breeze at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy. In a time-honored maritime tradition, a commemorative coin was welded to the ship’s mast to mark the occasion.

Following the coin ceremony, the dry dock facility was filled with water and the Carnival Breeze was floated out and repositioned to another dock where she will undergo final interior outfitting in preparation for her June 3, 2012 debut.

Carnival Breeze is scheduled to enter service June 3, 2012, with a special 12-day cruise from Venice to Barcelona, positioning the vessel for a summer schedule of 12-day Mediterranean cruises. Following its trans-Atlantic crossing, Carnival Breeze will launch year-round 6- and 8-day Caribbean cruises from Miami on Nov 24, 2012, becoming the largest Carnival ship to ever sail from that port.

Take a look at the float out and welding of the coin.


Images and video courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Monday, September 19, 2011

Charleston Welcomes Cruisers, Really

Despite the billboard that "greets" visitors driving into the city on I-26, Charleston, South Carolina really does welcome cruise passengers.

The environmental groups that sponsor the billboard are in the minority and Charleston's thriving hospitality industry doesn't treat visitors arriving to embark on a cruise any differently than others.

Although we have sailed from Charleston in the past, Mel and I recently spent two nights there for personal reasons and had the opportunity to speak with Eddie McBride, Concierge at Courtyard by Marriott Charleston Downtown/Riverview, where we stayed. Only about two miles from the downtown Charleston Historic District, where the cruise ship terminal is located, Eddie indicated the Courtyard is a popular hotel for pre-cruise stays and even offers complimentary parking to its guests for the duration of their cruise. While there is no hotel shuttle service to the pier, metered taxi services run $2.15 per loaded mile. Eddie, who has worked at the Courtyard since its opening, offers a wealth of information about area attractions and his restaurant advice turned out to be extremely satisfying. At his suggestion, we enjoyed a quiet dinner at the nearby Marina Seafood Restaurant and were quite pleased with the food, service, and view of the sun setting over the water.

Renovated earlier this year, the Courtyard offers views of either the city or the Ashley River. While we reserved a city view room, we were assigned one overlooking the spacious outdoor patio, waterfront swimming pool, and river.

Softened by filmy white drapes with room darkening liners, puffy white duvets, and stacks of cushy pillows, the ketchup and mustard colored decor is pleasant and comfortable. A welcoming letter from the manager included post cards that we could send to friends from the front desk where complimentary postage would be provided. Another welcoming touch was two bottles of Fiji water and Ghirardelli Chocolates.

Long credenza-style cabinetry at the foot of the beds features drawers; a mini-fridge, microwave, and coffee maker behind doors; and a pull-out table that is the perfect height for laptop users to access free WiFi while seated at the desk chair. We also found the table to be an ideal dining spot for a meal we ordered in from a local restaurant.

Although hotel dining is only available in the onsite Ashley River Cafe at breakfast, the 24-hour Market features snacks, beverages, ice cream, soups, and homemade sandwiches and salads. Complimentary coffee service is available in the lobby area's Regatta Lounge, which was a busy spot in the evening with a full service bar and big-screen television.

Back to the billboard, locals didn't comment negatively about the groups responsible for it, but indicated they are very vocal for such a small segment of the population. Noted for its gracious charm and hospitality, Charleston is an ideal port city from which to take a cruise. My advice is to arrive a day or two early and soak in the atmosphere. It doesn't get much better than in this fine old-south city.

For more Charleston information, join Cruise Diva in Cruising From Charleston, The Antebellum Belle

Images © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cruise To The F1 Monaco Grand Prix 2012

Enjoy luxurious accommodations aboard the 112 guest mega-yacht, SeaDream I and take in the one of the most important and prestigious automobile races in the world—the 70th Grand Prix of Monaco 2012. Taking place May 24-27, 2012 the race is held on a narrow course laid out in the streets of Monaco, with many elevation changes, tight corners and a tunnel, making it one of the most demanding tracks in Formula One. In spite of the relatively low average speeds, it is a dangerous place to race.

Auto enthusiasts and jet setters flock to Monte Carlo for the race, the warm climate, the famous casino and the chance to rub elbows with a Prince or movie star. Although it has a reputation for being a glitzy tax haven for millionaires, the Principality offers an array of exceptional cultural attractions including the Princess Grace Rose Garden and the Oceanographic Museum.

Sail with SeaDream I on voyage #11221 embarking in Nice, France on May 26, then spend May 27 in Monte Carlo followed by five more days of heavenly Mediterranean yachting. After Monte Carlo the itinerary calls on St. Tropez, France; Portovenere, Italy; Viareggio (gateway to Florence), Italy; Portoferraio, Elba, Italy; Portofino, Italy with disembarkation on June 2 in Monte Carlo, Monaco. For further details visit SeaDream.com.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

American Cruise Lines’ American Spirit to Set Sail in Alaska

American Cruise Lines, a leader in small ship cruising, announced that its 100-passenger American Spirit will operate its recently introduced Alaskan itineraries debuting in June of 2012.

Built in 2005, American Spirit will be the newest vessel operating in Alaska, offering a full range of onboard amenities, including an elevator to all decks, numerous glass-enclosed lounges and the largest staterooms by far. The majority of accommodations have private balconies and all feature extra-large opening picture windows to maximize each passenger’s personal view of the Alaskan scenery; towering glaciers, verdant forests, floating ice castles and islands and waters teeming with wildlife.

“Our passengers are going to experience Alaska like they never have before in the comfort of the American Spirit,” said Paul Taiclet, Vice President of Hotel Operations, American Cruise Lines. “The oversized staterooms, spacious public areas, and multitude of modern-day amenities make this ship by far the most comfortable and accommodating.”

American Cruise Lines’ unique approach to small ship cruising will introduce passengers to secluded and seemingly untouched waterways and in the company of expert naturalist guides and local experts. The American Spirit is specially designed to navigate these narrow inland waterways, while the intimate atmosphere onboard is perfect for onboard camaraderie as guests often find themselves amongst others who seek enriching travels and share their passion for exploration, adventure and discovery.

Beginning in June of 2012, American Cruise Lines will offer several different 7- and 11-night Alaskan itineraries, including round trip cruises departing from Juneau, Alaska, and one-way repositioning cruises between Juneau and Seattle, Washington. Offering a uniquely pampered—yet adventurous way to experience Alaska—American Cruise Lines promises that passengers will experience breathtaking views of the Alaskan wild in the premier vessel available, while having up close and intimate access to wildlife, inside passages, and glaciers in the comfort of the American Spirit launch or for the more adventure–inclined passengers, by kayak.

American Cruise Lines, the largest U.S. cruise line, operates the newest fleet of small luxury ships in the industry. Seven ships, each carrying no more than 150 passengers, offer more than 30 unique itineraries along the inland waterways and rivers of the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, 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.

Image Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Friday, September 16, 2011

Celebrity Reflection: Celebrating the Keel-Laying

No doubt about it, Celebrity Cruises isn’t merely sitting back and reflecting on the sucess of their latest class of vessels. Forging ahead, the line celebrated the keel-laying of the fifth in its five-ship Solstice Class series, Celebrity Reflection, at shipbuilder Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany earlier this week.

Decorated with garlands of greenery (that’s something Germans do when building almost any structure), the 500-ton block measuring 66-ft by 118-ft was lifted into the building dock with an 800-ton crane. Also traditional, it was commemoratively placed on a collection of coins.

Celebrity Reflection is the 10th ship to be built for Celebrity Cruises by Meyer Werft. The two organizations’ collaboration began in 1988, with the building of the former Celebrity Horizon. And in a unique twist, Celebrity Reflection shares the same trio of numbers as designated by Meyer Werft to the first Celebrity ship built at the yard: The former Celebrity Horizon’s shipyard number was S-619; Celebrity Reflection’s is S-691.

Image Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sale Away on Celebrity Cruises

Although summer is almost over, it’s still pretty warm in many parts of the country and things are really heating up at Celebrity Cruises’ headquarters. They’ve shared some hot deals with us that we’re pleased to pass along to you.

Holiday Savings Event
Why bother cooking holiday meals when a culinary adventure at sea awaits? Not to mention the relaxation to be found when surrounded by intuitive service, airy and tasteful spaces, and much more. Next week vacationers who book select 2011 Christmas and New Year’s sailings with Celebrity Cruises can enjoy a special dollars-off deal. On nearly all* of Celebrity’s 2011 holiday sailings that are booked between Sept 19-25, consumers can enjoy as much as $1,000 off the price of each stateroom.
*Excludes sailings on Celebrity Century and Celebrity Xpedition

Upgrade Your View (4- and 5-night Caribbean Cruises)
Until Sept 30, vacationers who book select 4- and 5-night Caribbean cruises on Celebrity Millennium can enjoy specially priced stateroom upgrades. On eligible sailings, upgrades from inside to ocean view staterooms are $49 per person, upgrades from ocean view to veranda staterooms are $99 per person, and upgrades from veranda to Concierge Class staterooms are $49 per person.

Upgrade Your View (7- to 12-night Caribbean Cruises)
Until Sept 30, vacationers who seek a Caribbean escape in the lap of modern luxury—the four ships in Celebrity’s award-winning Solstice Class—can take advantage of specially priced stateroom upgrades on select sailings. The offer includes free upgrades from ocean view to veranda staterooms on select 7-night sailings, free upgrades from ocean view to veranda staterooms on select 12-night sailings on the brand-new Celebrity Silhouette, sailing this Nov through April 2012, from Cape Liberty (Bayonne), New Jersey, and up to $99 per person upgrades from ocean view to veranda staterooms on 10- and 11-night cruises on Celebrity Equinox.

Alaska Cruisetours Event
Until Sept 30, vacationers who book select 2012 Alaska cruisetours can take advantage of a special $300 onboard credit offer for the cruise portion of their vacation.

Celebrity Silhouette Holy Land Shore Excursion Packages
Guests sailing on Celebrity Silhouette’s Sept 15, Sept 27, and Oct 10 cruises can take advantage of special savings on shore excursion packages that include the top highlights of the Holy Land itinerary, and save up to $85 per person. Packages can be booked onboard, or online up to four days prior to sailing.

National Cruise Vacation Week—Oct 17-23, 2011
Consumers can vacation in modern luxury with an added perk, when they book their next Celebrity Cruises vacation during the National Cruise Vacation Week (Oct 17-23, 2011). The offer is for up to $150 in onboard credit on nearly every sailing offered from Jan 1, 2012-April 30, 2013.* Guests who book sailings 4 nights in length or longer will receive $50 onboard credit per inside or oceanview stateroom, $100 onboard credit per veranda stateroom, and $150 per Concierge Class stateroom, AquaClass stateroom or suite.
*This promotion does not include sailings on Celebrity Xpedition or Celebrity Eclipse

During a promotion’s booking window, more details (including full terms and conditions) are available online, at CelebrityCruises.com/specials.

Image © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Breakaway and Getaway on Norwegian

Last week when Norwegian Cruise Line revealed Possible Names For Its Two New Ships, Cruise Diva’s favorites in the naming game were Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Journey. Alas, neither of them were chosen (which is why I would probably be a loser on any game show). Instead, Norwegian has selected as the winning names for its two new Freestyle Cruising® ships: Norwegian Breakaway, launching in April 2013, and Norwegian Getaway, launching in April 2014.

The names were selected as the culmination of its “Norwegian’s Cruising for Names” contest. The line felt those names best reflected the innovation of the brand along with the freedom and flexibility of the line’s signature Freestyle Cruising. Plus, they invoke the feeling that these ships will provide a “break” at sea from the stress of everyday life. Breakaway is defined as “a departure or break from routine or tradition” and Getaway is defined as “a place where one escapes for relaxation, vacation, etc.” Makes sense to me and they are original. Well, except for Breakaway since that has been the code name of the project from the beginning.

And (drum roll) “Norwegian’s Cruising for Names” contest winners are Kimberly Powell of Lafayette, Louisiana, who first submitted Norwegian Breakaway, and Dennis Hultman of Vienna, Virginia, who first submitted Norwegian Getaway. The contest entry period ran from July 18 to August 14, 2011, during which 230,000 entries were received. Winners Powell and Hultman will each receive a trip for two to Norwegian Breakaway’s inaugural festivities, including the Christening Ceremony (date/location yet to be determined). The trip includes round-trip coach airfare for two, ground transportation, balcony stateroom accommodations (double occupancy), and on-board meals. They are going to love the experience. Norwegian really knows how to throw a Christening party.

At 144,017 gross tons, the Breakaway-class ships will each have approximately 4,000 passenger berths and represent an opportunity for guests to “break away” from their daily routines to find an authentic 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. To date, the company has revealed all of the ships’ staterooms, which include the innovative Studios, designed and priced for solo travelers, along with The Haven by Norwegian, comprised of 42 suites at the top of the ship. You can find details about them here on the Cruise Diva blog at:

· Norwegian Cruise Line Begins “Project Breakaway” Reveal
· Norwegian Cruise Line Introduces “The Haven”
· “The Haven” by Norwegian: Posh Accommodations For Project Breakaway
· Norwegian Breaks Out More Project Breakaway Accommodations
Further information on Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway can be found at NCL.com/Breakaway.


Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Regent Seven Seas Cruises 3-Day Event

It isn't often that we cover "deals," but Regent Seven Seas has announced a 3-Day Event we want to share. If you book select voyages between Sept 14-16, 2011, in addition to receiving cruise-only fares from $2,299 per person, you will also receive a Shipboard Credit of up to $500 per suite. To receive the special offer, contact Regent Seven Seas Cruises or your travel agent and mention the "3-Day Event" at time of booking.

If you aren't ready to book now and miss out on this special 3-Day Event, you still have three weeks to book one of their all-inclusive cruises before fares increase on the most popular voyages Oct 1, 2011.

On a Regent Seven Seas cruise, these items are included in your fare:

• Unlimited Shore Excursions
• Beverages, including Fine Wines and Premium Spirits
• Pre-Paid Gratuities
• In-suite mini-bar replenished daily
• 24-hour room service and no additional charge for specialty restaurants
For additional information, call Regent Seven Seas Cruises at 877.505.5374 or visit the Regent Seven Seas website.

Image © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Monday, September 12, 2011

On 9-11, Where The Planes Landed


Diverted Aircraft in Halifax
 We all know that after the terrorists used commercial jets to strike their targets in the United States, all airline traffic was grounded. Planes were landed in airports as quickly as they could get on the ground and those airports were not necessarily their intended destinations.

Doug and Sherry Lindsey were passengers on one of those flights, inbound from Europe and this is their experience as Doug related it to me shortly after 9-11.

"After a couple of days post-cruise from R7, our Amsterdam to Philadelphia return flight was diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia on 9-11. Our flight crew claimed we were diverting because of "weather," but wouldn't say ANYTHING else. We knew from "popping" ears that we'd been descending for at least 30 minutes before that and we knew the "weather" story was baloney and started to get scared. What could be so bad that they'd lie to try and hide it? A bomb or a hijacker on board? Literally minutes later we pop out of the clouds and land seconds after that.

As our jet taxies, we count almost FIFTY aircraft, including maybe fifteen Boeing 747s parked nose-to-nose on every available inch of concrete (Halifax is a VERY small airport.) Virtually every international carrier has a plane or two. Our Boeing 767 is one of the smaller aircraft. It looks like a wartime evacuation. We later learn that over 200 flights inbound to USA are diverted to Eastern Canada.

We're told we'll be put up in Halifax till everything is sorted out. We sit on the plane for 10 hours (this is after a 7 hour flight) while the city of Halifax scrambles to accommodate over 9,000 people in emergency shelters. Eventually we get off the plane and are escorted to the terminal. It looks like every cop, fireman, EMT, soldier, sailor and reservist in Nova Scotia has been mobilized. There is an army of people maintaining very tight security and shepherding passengers. After maybe an hour at the terminal, we're bussed about 30 minutes to our shelter, the "Park Exhibition Centre." Inside is a TV room filled with [donated] large-screen monitors tuned to CNN. Several welcome desks filled with Red Cross volunteers register us, inquire if we need anything special including medications, show us where temporary phone banks have been set up, and guide us to our beds. There are huge tables set up with beverages and hot food. It's obvious that every fast food joint in Halifax has been cranking all day to support this.

Part of the Centre is a very large communal room where bedding for about 1,500 people has been set up. We find out later that volunteers have gone door-to-door in Halifax to get pillows, blankets and linens. At least one local mattress outlet has cleaned out its warehouse and delivered it here. The Salvation Army contributes what they have; at least 1,000 wool blankets. The hot food is welcome and the beds feel good. We're grateful to be safe and amazed at the degree of mobilization and support that's materialized in a few hours on our behalf. Most of it is done by Halifax citizen-volunteers.

The next morning we wake up and go into the sports arena, which has been set up as a dining hall, with more big monitors tuned to CNN, FoxNews, etc. A hot breakfast is catered by the staff of Halifax's own World Trade Centre. There is unlimited hot & cold food & beverages during our stay. We spend most of the day reading newspapers and watching CNN, as the media assembles the story. We see the photos and footage of the destruction, the victims, the rescuers, and hear the stories of survivors and heroes alike. We listen to dozens of talking heads attempting to analyze and interpret.

By afternoon a trailer with field showers is setup. Internet access is available nearby. A "Stunt-Dog" show is performed in the parking lot. There's also a free shuttle van to the shopping centers so we can buy clothing and other "necessaries" (we never gain access to our luggage). Each night there's live music of all sorts. Just about everything imaginable shows up within a few hours of somebody thinking of it or requesting it.

There are maybe 10 planeloads of people at our facility (there are 17 other hosting facilities, most much smaller). Aircraft start leaving on the second day, but all of these are returning to Europe, or continuing to Canadian destinations.

Thousands of Halifax families offer to host travelers in their homes. We'll never know how many; the Red Cross stopped accepting offers after it reached 4,000 on the first day. So many Haligonians, as they call themselves, come into our shelter that they're almost a nuisance; to offer a place to stay, a restaurant meal, a private tour around town, anything they can think to help make our stay more pleasant. We witness hundreds of acts of individual kindness during our stay.

Lots of Canadians stop by to say hello; military, police, Mounties, catering staff. Many offer sympathy, but I think they mostly want to get a face-to-face "take" on how we Americans feel. Canadians with "Therapy Dogs" also stop by many times. The pilot of our plane stops by each day to say hello and see how everyone's doing. He's a bright, decent, caring fellow.

We hear the same things many times on Canadian TV, in the Canadian newspaper letters and editorials, and from dozens of individual Canadians. The message is worded many different ways, but it comes down to this: "The destruction may have taken place in NYC and Washington DC, but they attacked us too. You suffered the blow for us, but this is our fight. We'll help anyway we can. We'll fight back too."

On the first day, we take advantage of the shopping shuttle. On the second day, we use the field showers and take a 2-hour bus tour of Halifax. The sights are pleasant but not particularly remarkable. But everywhere we turn we meet open, generous, giving people. We realize that we too, can at least make a gesture.

On the second and third days, we set up a table in the dining area, with a sign that says "'THANK YOU HALIFAX'-Sign Up Here" and start off with our own thank you note. At least two planeloads of people are gone by the time we start, but in a day and a half, at least 500 people stop by. Their contributions range from a name and address, to full page 'Thank You' notes. We read through them. Most are quite touching. Some of our Canadian hosts cry when they read them.

Our plane is called on the morning of the third day, and we leave a copy, at least 75 pages, with the volunteer staff.

We get to the terminal, and a few minutes later the flight crew shows up. Everyone starts clapping; they're not merely our ticket home, in three days they've become our friends. With many delays for heightened security, we reach Albany, NY late that night. It's never felt so good to be home."
I have nothing to add to his narrative, except to express my gratitude to our Canadian friends and neighbors. Your support and kindness will never be forgotten.

Halifax International Airport Staff Photographs©, used with permission

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11 Never Forget

Nothing is quite as all-American as sharing a Bud with friends. And nothing is quite as moving as this "Clydesdale Respect" Budweiser advertisement that was created as a 9-11 tribute. Although it only aired once on Feb 3, 2002 during the Super Bowl, it's as relevant today as it was then.


Please, never forget the fallen heroes and victims of 9-11.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cruise News: Tropical Storm Maria, 9/10 Update

Carnival Cruise Lines Statement, 4:00PM
We’ve been closely monitoring Tropical Storm Maria in the Atlantic. All warnings have been discontinued as of the latest advisory and all sailings departing on Saturday, 9/10/11 or after will operate as scheduled. In the event we need to make a deviation to the itinerary, we will update our guests.

CARNIVAL VICTORY: 9/11/11 departure
The port of San Juan has reopened and the ship will dock as scheduled on Sunday, 9/11/11. Check-in remains from 2:30PM to 9:30PM and sailing is scheduled for 10:00PM.

Royal Caribbean Statement, 3:00PM
Royal Caribbean Intl continues to monitor the path and progress of Tropical Storm Maria to ensure guests enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain our ships steer clear of the storm. The safety of our guests and crew is always our foremost concern.

UPDATED – The Port of San Juan has reopened. Serenade of the Seas will arrive in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at 6:00am on Sunday, Sept 11, as scheduled. Guests on the subsequent sailing should arrive at the port at their regularly scheduled boarding time.

In an abundance of caution, and in order to provide our guests with a safe and comfortable sailing, Oasis of the Seas will sail a modified itinerary. The ship will now call on Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, on Tuesday, Philipsburg, St. Maarten, on Wednesday and Nassau, Bahamas, on Friday. The ship will return to Port Everglades, as scheduled, on Saturday.

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

Norwegian Cruise Line Statement, 1:00PM
At Norwegian Cruise Line, the safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance. Therefore, the company is closely monitoring the path of Tropical Storm Maria. The following is an update on our ships sailing this weekend:

Norwegian Jewel, departed today from New York and is expected to sail as scheduled to the Bahamas and Florida.

Norwegian Gem, departing on Sunday from New York to Bermuda, is expected to sail as scheduled at this time. Depending on the path of the storm, the ship may need to alter its itinerary.

We will advise our guests if there are any changes to the itineraries as soon as the information becomes available. We will update our website and Facebook page again tomorrow.

NOTE: Scroll below for earlier updates from Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Intl.

Cruise News: Tropical Storm Maria, 9/10 Update

Carnival Cruise Lines Statement, 1:00PM

We’ve been closely monitoring Tropical Storm Maria in the Atlantic. Although all warnings have been discontinued as of the latest advisory, we were still forced to make changes to some 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.

CARNIVAL DREAM : 9/10/11 departure
Below is our revised itinerary:

Sat Port Canaveral, depart 4:00 PM
Sun Fun Day at Sea
Mon Fun Day at Sea
Tue Mahogany Bay/Isla Roatan, Honduras, 7:00AM-6:00PM
Wed Costa Maya, Mexico, 7:00AM-6:00PM
Thu Cozumel, Mexico, 7:00AM-5:00PM
Fri Fun Day at Sea
Sat Port Canaveral, FL, arrive 8:00AM

CARNIVAL FREEDOM: 9/10/11 departure
Below is our revised itinerary:

Sat Fort Lauderdale, FL, depart 4:00PM
Sun Fun Day at Sea
Mon Cozumel, Mexico, 8:00AM-5:00PM
Tue Fun Day at Sea
Wed Grand Cayman, 7:00AM-6:00PM
Thu Montego Bay, Jamaica, 7:00AM-5:00PM
Fri Fun Day at Sea
Sat Nassau, The Bahamas, 10:00AM-5:00PM
Sun Fort Lauderdale, FL, arrive 8:00AM

CARNIVAL VICTORY: 9/11/11 departure
The port of San Juan has reopened and the ship will dock as scheduled on Sunday, 9/11/11. Check-in remains from 2:30PM to 9:30PM and sailing is scheduled for 10:00PM.

Royal Caribbean Statement, 10:00AM
Royal Caribbean Intl continues to monitor the path and progress of Tropical Storm Maria to ensure guests enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain our ships steer clear of the storm. The safety of our guests and crew is always our foremost concern.

The Port of San Juan is currently closed and it is not known when it will reopen. We encourage guests on the Sunday, September 11, sailing of Serenade of the Seas monitor the Royal Caribbean website and their airlines for any additional updates regarding the storm and the status of the port. Royal Caribbean will have Guest Assistance Agents at the San Juan airport and pier to provide guests with assistance. The airport Guest Assistance Agents will be located at a Hospitality Desk in the Arrivals Baggage Claim Area-Lower Lever, in Terminal B and in Terminal D.

In an abundance of caution, and in order to provide our guests with a safe and comfortable sailing, Oasis of the Seas will sail a modified itinerary. The ship will now call on Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, on Tuesday, Philipsburg, St. Maarten, on Wednesday, and Nassau, Bahamas, on Friday. The ship will return to Port Everglades, as scheduled, on Saturday.

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

Cruise News: Tropical Storm Maria

Carnival Cruise Lines Statement
We’ve been closely monitoring the forecasted path of Tropical Storm Maria 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.

CARNIVAL DESTINY : 9/10/11 departure
We are reversing the order of our scheduled ports to ensure we remain at a safe distance from the storm on our way to Jamaica and Grand Cayman. The revised itinerary will be:
Sat Miami, FL, depart 4:00PM
Sun Fun Day at Sea
Mon Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, 8:30AM-4:30PM
Tue Ocho Rios, 8:00AM-3:00PM
Wed Fun Day at Sea
Thu Miami, FL, arrive 8:00AM
 CARNIVAL VICTORY: 9/11/11 departure
Tropical Storm Maria is expected to pass near San Juan on Sunday. The port of San Juan will be closed as of 6:00PM on Friday evening. At this time it is uncertain when the port will reopen. We will provide guests with another update no later than 6:00PM on Saturday. We encourage guests to sign up for updates by texting CCL2 to 36500.

Royal Caribbean Statement
Royal Caribbean continues to monitor the path and progress of Tropical Storm Maria to ensure guests enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain our ships steer clear of the storm. The safety of our guests and crew is always our foremost concern.

Given Tropical Storm Maria’s current location and projected path, Royal Caribbean has not altered the itineraries of any ship that departs today or Sunday. We encourage guests on the Sunday, Sept 11, sailing of Serenade of the Seas monitor the Royal Caribbean website and their airlines for any additional updates regarding the storm.

Money Saving Tips For Your Next Cruise

On the last morning of every sailing there are increasingly frantic announcements requesting that so-and-so report to the Purser's Office to settle an on board account. I've often speculated whether or not they overextended their credit card limit.

Charge, charge, charge and you can see the cost of your cruise vacation rising faster than a helicopter over Alaska's glaciers. Although your fare includes a lot, it doesn't cover everything. Holding down the add-on expenses isn't easy—after all, it's your vacation, you deserve it, and you want it to be special. A bit of pre-planning not only will make all the difference in the enjoyment of your cruise, but it can also take a lot of the worry out of straining your resources. As you'll see, there are ways to keep those costs minimal.

The list below includes most of the extra-charge categories for which cruise travelers find themselves paying additional. See Cruise Diva's Cruising Cost Control for specific tips on how to keep spending on these items in check.
  • Air fare
  • Beverages
  • Casinos and games of chance
  • Photographs
  • Food
  • Gratuities
  • Internet access
  • Cell phone access
  • Laundry, pressing, dry cleaning
  • Medical treatment
  • Shopping
  • Shore excursions
  • Spas, salons, personal trainers, and specialized exercise classes
  • Sports
  • Luggage handling
So, you say...those things are not included in my basic cruise fare, then what is? Cruise Diva has your question covered in What IS and Is NOT Included In Your Cruise Fare.

Image © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Friday, September 9, 2011

Norwegian Breaks Out More Project Breakaway Accommodations

Hot on the heels of revealing their possible names, Norwegian Cruise Line has unveiled the balance of stateroom designs for Project Breakaway, the cruise line’s two new next generation Freestyle Cruising ships scheduled for completion in April 2013 and April 2014. Similar to the Balcony and Mini-Suite staterooms revealed this summer (images here), The Studio, Spa Balcony, Spa Mini-Suite, Oceanview, Family Mini-Suite, and Inside staterooms combine the form and function of the line’s Jewel class ships’ staterooms with the modern and contemporary design touches of Norwegian Epic.

Norwegian is continuing the popular award-winning Studio staterooms for solo travelers on the Project Breakaway ships. The 59 Studios (image at left) on each ship are specifically designed and priced for the solo traveler with an innovative bathroom design that includes a separate sink and shower to provide more personal space. The Studios, the majority of which connect, feature a full-size bed with convenient lighted recess above the bed to hold books, magazines, tablet computers, or electronic reading devices and have a unique window to the corridor. These rooms also have private keycard access to the Studio complex and exclusive two-story Studio Lounge with a bar.

For cruisers who really like to relax, the 28 Spa Balcony and the 20 Spa Mini-Suite staterooms feature tranquil spa décor and easy access to the adjacent spa and fitness center. Plus, complimentary access to the Thermal Spa Suite during operating hours is an indulgent perk that comes with these categories.

On the Project Breakaway ships, Norwegian is re-introducing Oceanview staterooms that feature large picture windows. Of the 158 Oceanview staterooms on each ship (image at right), there are approximately 42 Family Oceanviews that sleep up to five and have a bathroom similar to the Mini-Suite with a modern double sink, bath tub, and a second wardrobe for added storage. The Family Mini-Suites located on Deck 12 and 13 feature all the attributes of the Mini-Suite and are located in close proximity to the children’s facilities, making it convenient and easy for families. For families with small children, there are a number of staterooms with bath tubs.

Project Breakaway ships include 449 Inside staterooms that feature two lower beds that can be converted to a queen-size bed. Many are connecting and sleep up to four. They are located on various decks throughout the ship and some are adjacent to the children’s facilities.

Each of the 144,017 gross ton Project Breakaway vessels will have approximately 4,000 passenger berths, for which Norwegain commissioned design group Priestmangoode of the United Kingdom and Tillberg Design of Sweden, to design the staterooms. Priestmangoode won accolades and awards for designing the Studios, the first staterooms designed specifically for solo travelers, on Norwegian Epic.

More information about Project Breakaway can be found here on the Cruise Diva blog at:

· Norwegian Cruise Line Begins “Project Breakaway” Reveal
· Norwegian Cruise Line Introduces “The Haven”
· “The Haven” by Norwegian: Posh Accommodations For Project Breakaway
· Norwegian Reveals Possible Names For Its Two New Ships

Images Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Norwegian Reveals Possible Names For Its Two New Ships

Norwegian Cruise Line (“Norwegian”) has selected five finalist names in its “Norwegian’s Cruising for Names” contest.

The contest that sought names for the cruise line’s two new next generation Freestyle Cruising® ships scheduled for delivery in April 2013 and April 2014 received a record-breaking 230,000 entries over the four-week entry period, which ran from July 18 to August 14, 2011. According to the official rules, the contestant who was the first in time (according to the date and time stamp on the online submission) to submit a specific name in accordance with the criteria was eligible to be considered as a finalist.

The finalist names are (in alphabetical order):

· Norwegian Bliss, first submitted by David Menker of Dallas, TX;
· Norwegian Breakaway, first submitted by Kimberly Powell of Lafayette, LA;
· Norwegian Escape, first submitted by Joseph Funigiello of Naples, FL;
· Norwegian Getaway, first submitted by Dennis Hultman of Vienna, VA;
· Norwegian Journey, first submitted by Florence Pflaster of Carolina Shores, NC.
“We received an overwhelmingly positive response to our naming contest, showing the passion and enthusiasm cruisers have for our new ships,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer. “We thank everyone who took the time to reflect on a name for our ships. It was very challenging to select just five finalists.”

The finalist names were selected by Norwegian because they reflect the innovation of the brand along with the freedom and flexibility of the line’s signature Freestyle Cruising and invoke the feeling that these ships provide a “break” at sea from the stress of everyday life.

The line will announce the two winning names from the five finalists on Sept 13, 2011. The winners will receive a trip for two to the first ship’s inaugural festivities, including the Christening Ceremony (date/location yet to be determined). The trip includes round-trip coach airfare for two, ground transportation, balcony stateroom accommodations (double occupancy), on-board meals, as well as government taxes and fees.

The Project Breakaway ships will each be 144,017 gross tons and will have approximately 4,000 passenger berths. These 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 Norwegian Sun in 2001 and culminating with the launch of Norwegian Epic in 2010. More information about Project Breakaway can be found here on the Cruise Diva blog at:

· Norwegian Cruise Line Begins “Project Breakaway” Reveal
· Norwegian Cruise Line Introduces “The Haven”
· “The Haven” by Norwegian: Posh Accommodations For Project Breakaway
Cruise Diva’s favorites in the name game? We like Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Journey.


Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

She’s So Divine...And She Floats!

You may know that the divine film legend Ms. Sophia Loren is godmother of several MSC Cruises ships, but you may not realize that the newest ship will be named for her.

MSC Divina will be appropriately themed as a divine goddess and the ship’s 18 decks (13 of which are for guests’ use) are being named after the gods of ancient Greece; among them Urano, Afrodite, Aurora, Giunone, Artemide, Zeus, Mercurio, Cupido, Iride, Minerva, Apollo, Saturno, and Elios. An addition to the ship is the aft Garden Pool purposely designed and decorated as an upscale area for quiet retreat, philosophizing, or simply gazing into the sunset.

The third and latest addition to the MSC Cruises’ flagship Fantasia class, MSC Divina floated out of dry dock B at the STX Europe ship yard in Saint-Nazaire, France on Saturday, Sept 3, and transferred to dock C for final fitting and furnishing. Float out represents a major milestone in the construction of this 140,000 ton ship, which will accommodate up to 4,363 guests when it become the 12th ship in MSC Cruises’ fleet.

Construction of MSC Divina began more than a year ago with a total of 74 mega-blocks each consisting of a set of large pre-fabricated hull components used for assembling the ship. Work on the keel is nearly completed. Already 50 percent of the outfitting has been done including completion of the electrical networking, plumbing, and public areas. Work has also begun on 400 of the 1,751 staterooms, 100 more than her sister ships MSC Fantasia and MSC Splendida. In an environmentally friendsly move, the ship will feature a new reverse osmosis system for fresh water production that requires 40 percent less power.

We know Ms. Loren will be an especially proud godmother when she christens her namesake ship on May 26, 2012 in Marseille, France. MSC Divina is destined to be be one “Sophia” of a ship!

Photo Courtesy of MSC Cruises

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Final Building Block Added to Disney Fantasy

The final building block for the newest Disney Cruise Line ship, the Disney Fantasy, was placed last Saturday at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, signaling completion of a major milestone in the ship’s overall construction. The final block placed was a 265-ton portion of the ship’s bow, complete with the signature Disney Cruise Line golden filigree.

The Disney Fantasy will bring to life many of the innovative features guests love on the recently launched Disney Dream including AquaDuck—the world’s first shipboard water coaster. But new design elements and guest experiences will give the Fantasy an identity all its own. Some of the new highlights found on the Disney Fantasy include:

• Europa—a nighttime entertainment district exclusively for guests 18 and older that features sophisticated bars and trendy lounges inspired by the very best in European travel.
• A new, innovative show for the Animator’s Palate restaurant where diners will serve as guest animators. During the “Animation Magic” show guests are asked to hand-draw a character of their own at the start of dinner. After an entertaining show featuring montages from Disney animated films and shorts, guests prepare for a whimsical finale moment where the guest-drawn characters spring to life and interact with characters from beloved Disney animated classics.
• At Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on the Disney Fantasy, aspiring young princesses and pirates receive the full fairy tale treatment with pixie-dusted and piratical makeovers at this very special salon.
• “Disney’s Aladdin—A Musical Spectacular” will take the stage on the Disney Fantasy. During this Broadway-style production, guests laugh along with the wise-cracking Genie and the cast from the classic animated Disney film, “Aladdin.”
The Disney Fantasy will sail alternating 7-night cruises from Port Canaveral, Florida to the Eastern and Western Caribbean and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. The maiden voyage is scheduled for March 31, 2012. To learn more about Disney Cruise Line and Disney Fantasy, visit DisneyCruise.com.

Images Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cruise News: Tropical Storm Updates for Carnival Cruise Lines’ Mobile & New Orleans Cruise Ship Arrivals, Departures & Itineraries

Carnival Cruise Lines Update: 5:30pm

We continue to closely monitor Tropical Depression Lee, which has delayed the arrival of the Carnival Elation into Mobile and Carnival Triumph into New Orleans. 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.

CARNIVAL ELATION: 9/5/11
The Carnival Elation will not be able to dock today due to weather conditions in the Gulf. The ship is tentatively scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning at 9:00AM, weather permitting, and will operate a 4-day cruise to Cozumel. Guests will receive a 20% refund for the missed day, to be be processed in the manner payment was received. Guests who wish to cancel will not receive a refund. Any incidentals for lodging, meals, etc. are the guests responsibility. Those with Cruise Vacation Protection Plan or independent insurance can claim reimbursement.

We ask that you not proceed to the terminal until we confirm the ship’s arrival time and embarkation hours for your cruise. We will provide guests with another update confirming our plans for tomorrow no later than 10:00AM (CDT) on Tuesday. Please be on the look-out for an email with more information. We encourage guests to sign up for text updates by texting CCL2 to 36500.

CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: 9/5/11
The Carnival Triumph is delayed arriving in New Orleans from its previous cruise. The good news is that local pilots boarded the ship this morning and the ship is expected to dock at 5:00PM. Because of limited parking and seating facilities at the terminal, please do not proceed to the cruise terminal until 9:00PM. Embarkation is scheduled to take place from 8:00PM-10:30PM and sailing is scheduled for 11:00PM. This delay should not impact our scheduled itinerary. We encourage guests to sign up for text updates by texting CCL3 to 36500.

We're sorry Mother Nature is not cooperating with us. We look forward to welcoming guests aboard the Carnival Elation and Carnival Triumph. All other sailings departing on or after Monday, Sept 5, 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: Stormy Weather Updates for Carnival & Norwegian Cruise Ship Arrivals/Departures/Itineraries

Carnival Cruise Lines Update

We continue to closely monitor Tropical Depression Lee which has delayed the arrival of the Carnival Elation into Mobile and Carnival Triumph into New Orleans. 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.

CARNIVAL ELATION: 9/5/11
The Carnival Elation is still delayed arriving in Mobile from its previous cruise. Given prevailing weather conditions, the local pilots have not been able to board the ship. At this time we are still unable to provide an estimated arrival time. We will provide guests with another update no later than 12:00PM CDT (noon) on Monday. We encourage guests to sign up for text updates by texting CCL2 to 36500.

CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: 9/5/11
The Carnival Triumph is delayed arriving in New Orleans from its previous cruise. The good news is that local pilots have boarded the ship this morning and the ship is expected to dock at 5:00PM. Because of limited parking and seating facilities at the terminal, please do not proceed to the cruise terminal until 9:00PM. Embarkation is scheduled to take place from 8:00PM-10:30PM and sailing is scheduled for 11:00PM. This delay should not impact our scheduled itinerary. We encourage guests to sign up for text updates by texting CCL3 to 36500.

We're sorry Mother Nature is not cooperating with us. We look forward to welcoming guests aboard the Carnival Elation and Carnival Triumph. All other sailings departing on or after Monday, Sept 5, 2011 will continue to operate as scheduled. In the event we need to make a deviation to the itinerary, we will update our guests.

Norwegian Cruise Line Update

NORWEGIAN SPIRIT
Norwegian Spirit remained at sea yesterday, Sept 4, awaiting an opportunity for safe arrival to New Orleans. At this time, the ship is anticipated to arrive in New Orleans on Monday, Sept 5 in the late evening once berthing space at the pier becomes available. When the ship is alongside, guests will have the option to disembark Monday evening using the easy walk-off program or they can stay onboard until Tuesday morning if they need assistance with their luggage.

Embarkation for the Sept 4 Norwegian Spirit cruise will take place on Tuesday, Sept 6 beginning at 11 am. Guests are asked to delay their arrival at the pier to Tuesday, Sept 6. The ship is expected to sail at 5 pm. Because of the delay, Norwegian Spirit will sail a revised itinerary calling in Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. Guests will receive a two-day refund based on the cruise fare paid as an on-board credit.

NORWEGIAN GEM
Hurricane/Tropical Storm Katia
Norwegian Gem departed from New York; however, in order to avoid the path of the storm and provide a more comfortable and pleasant cruise for our guests, the ship will now sail to the Bahamas and Florida instead of Bermuda as scheduled. Norwegian Gem will now call on Orlando (Port Canaveral) on Tuesday, Sept 6; Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas on Wednesday, Sept 7; and Nassau, Bahamas on Thursday, Sept 8.

Cruise News: Tropical Storm Lee Update From Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Cruise Lines Statement

We are closely monitoring the forecasted track of Tropical Storm Lee and it is now clear that the track of the storm will affect our arrivals into Mobile and New Orleans. 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.

CARNIVAL ELATION: 9/5/11
Carnival Elation will be delayed arriving in Mobile from its previous cruise on Monday, 9/5/11. Given prevailing weather conditions, we are unable to provide an estimated arrival time. We will provide guests with another update no later than 10:00AM today. We encourage guests to sign up for text updates by texting CCL2 to 36500.

CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: 9/5/11
Carnival Triumph will be delayed arriving in New Orleans from its previous cruise on Monday, 9/5/11. Weather permitting, the ship is tentatively scheduled to dock at 3:00PM. Because of limited parking and seating facilities at the terminal, please do not proceed to the cruise terminal for embarkation until 7:00PM. Embarkation is scheduled to take place from 7:00-10:00 PM and there should be no impact to our scheduled itinerary. Another update will be provided no later than 10:00AM today to confirm our plans for the day. We encourage guests to sign up for text updates by texting CCL3 to 36500.

We're sorry Mother Nature is not cooperating with us. We look forward to welcoming guests aboard the Carnival Elation and Carnival Triumph!

All other sailings departing on or after Monday, Sept 5, 2011 will continue to operate as scheduled. In the event we need to make a deviation to the itinerary, we will update our guests.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

No Love For Traveling Brats

I don’t mind most small children. Like puppies and kittens, they can be cute and are often a lot of fun. However, the fun stops when the brattiness starts. That was so obvious on a recent trip to Jamaica that I haven’t been able to shake the experience of not one, but two flights in first class with little brats, and what I have come to call Snake On A Table in our resort hotel.

Seated a few rows behind us, an adorable little girl played with her Barbie during the entire flight from Atlanta to Montego Bay. Not a big deal, except that Barbie wasn’t using her indoor voice. As long as we were in the air and able to use headphones and an iPod to drown out the shrieks, it was tolerable. During take off and landing, the high-pitched squeals were like fingernails on a chalk board. But the return flight to Atlanta would be quieter because surely we wouldn’t be unlucky enough for her, Barbie, and her clueless mommy to be on it. Right? Thankfully, they weren’t. However, that flight had an even higher brat factor with a little boy of about four who jumped up and down in his seat almost continuously and screamed whenever the mood struck him. He and his mommy were right in front of us. His noise-cancelling-headphones-wearing dad was across the aisle and up a row. Out of sight (and hearing), out of mind, I guess. I will give his mother credit for telling him to sit down and be quiet. Unfortunately, it did no good. Training in manners, not to mention discipline, have to start at a younger age.

Interestingly, the Snake On A Table incident in our Ocho Rios hotel restaurant occurred almost immediately after I finished reading an article on CNN.com entitled Permissive parents: Curb your brats. While I was eating, a cute little guy appeared at my table and began playing with his rubber snake. Right beside my plate. Hoping he would go away, I smiled and told him I couldn’t play with him until I finished my eggs and coffee. So he started hitting me with the snake. I had no idea where he’d come from or which family he belonged with until his mother finally noticed he was missing (the squeaky “snake” noises he made while pummeling my arm might have alerted her). She turned around in her seat to look for him and, from the nasty look she shot in my direction, it was clear she thought I was trying to abduct her child, or maybe spear him with my fork.

Those are simply a few examples of the undisciplined behavior I’ve witnessed lately. No, they didn’t ruin my trip, but they did make for some unpleasant moments (or hours, in the case of being cooped up in a metal tube barreling through the sky). I’ve seen far worse—and even dangerous—examples of poor behavior and lack of manners on cruise ships as well as on planes and in hotels. Kids running on wet decks, climbing on railings, and playing in elevators all come to mind.

Parenting is hard work, no doubt about that, but some parents don’t seem to even try to control their children. Like I said, I don’t mind most little kids. And while I can’t tolerate brats, I would still hate to see them injured because they are allowed to act out.

Rant ended. I hope you know where your kids are and what they are doing on your next cruise vacation.

And by the way, if you don’t tolerate brats well and haven’t already seen that CNN article linked above, please enjoy the read. We are not alone. Sadly, the parents discussed by the author aren't likely to recognize themselves.