Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cruise News: Post-Fire Continuing Events Surrounding Costa Allegra

Costa Allegra Updates From Costa Crociere
Wednesday, February 29th 2012

Time 5.30 pm (CET)
Members of Costa Cruises’ Care Team have reached and boarded Costa Allegra. Team members met with guests to assess their needs upon disembarkation.

So far, 376 guests out of 627 have accepted Costa Cruises’ proposal to continue their vacation in Seychelles. They will be accommodated at Costa Cruises’ expense, in high-quality hotels on the following islands: Praslin, La Digue, Silhouette and Cerfs.

Costa Cruises also will arrange homeward flights at the end of their vacation. The remaining 251 guests decided to return to their homes on flights arranged by Costa Cruises, departing Mahé Thursday evening, March 1.

Time 11.30 am (CET)
Following the latest contact with Costa Allegra—currently under tow to Mahé, Seychelles—Costa Cruises reports that the situation on board is stable and weather conditions are good.

Arrival time of the ship at Mahé on Thursday, March 1, is subject to change according to speed and sea weather conditions. Currently, arrival is expected at 9 a.m. Seychelles time (1 a.m. ET). Costa is constantly updating authorities involved in the operation following each contact with the ship.

Within the next few hours Costa’s "Care Team" will reach the ship, and team members will immediately begin working to achieve repatriation of all guests. At the same time, members of "Care Team" based on the island are organizing hospitality services for guests and arranging air charter transfers.

Costa has optioned more than 600 airline seats to facilitate guest travel and more than 400 hotel rooms have been reserved for guests’ accommodations needs.

On board soft drinks and cold foods such as fruits, cold cuts and cheeses are being served. Mineral water is provided for personal hygiene needs. Fresh bread is delivered daily via helicopter.

Cruise News: Disney Cruise Line Makes Its Inaugural Visit to New York to Christen Disney Fantasy


In these photos (taken yesterday, Feb. 28, 2012), the Disney Fantasy, the newest Disney Cruise Line ship, sails past the Statue of Liberty after traveling nearly 3,800 miles across the Atlantic Ocean from Bremerhaven, Germany.


The 4,000-passenger Disney Fantasy will be christened in New York on March 1, then sail to her home of Port Canaveral, Florida. With her maiden voyage scheduled for Mar. 31, the Disney Fantasy will sail 7-night cruises to the Caribbean and Disney’s private island Castaway Cay.


Images Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line, Top: David Roark/Disney, Photographer;
Center and Bottom: Kent Phillips/Disney, Photographer

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cruise News: Post-Fire Timeline of Events Aboard Costa Allegra

Costa Allegra Updates From Costa Crociere
Tuesday, February 28th 2012

Time 07.00 pm (CET)
This afternoon around 12:30 p.m. CET (3:30 p.m. Seychelles time; 6:30 a.m. ET) the two tugs and a second ocean-going fishing vessel reached Costa Allegra to assist the ship. Costa Allegra continues to be towed by French-flagged fishing ship Trévignon and is maintaining a speed of about 6 knots. At the current speed and with stable weather conditions Costa Allegra is expected to arrive at Mahé, Seychelles, in the early morning of Thursday, March 1.

On Wednesday Costa expects the arrival of a helicopter to deliver about 400 flashlights and fresh bread. There is sufficient food and other comfort items on board. Also, thanks to the arrival of a small generator delivered by a local Navy ship that is present on site, the ship crew is doing everything possible to make the situation on board more comfortable by trying to restore basic services.

Early this afternoon Costa Cruises’ Care Team arrived at Mahé. The group of 14 people includes executives and managers as well as specialized technicians. The team is tasked with providing assistance to the ship, guests and crewmembers on their arrival at Mahé.

Upon arriving Care Team members immediately met with local authorities and those responsible for rescue coordination to arrange operational details of guests’ arrival at the island. Top priority was given to securing necessary accommodations at local hotels and organizing an efficient process for making guests’ travel arrangements.

Eight members of the Care Team will board Costa Allegra tomorrow morning via a local Navy ship to meet guests and discuss arrangements with them and to assist the ship’s staff in thorough technical inspections. With the Costa Care Team will be two officers from Seychelles Immigration to facilitate customs procedures.

Time 1.00 pm (CET)
Costa Cruises informs that in view of extensive and accurate checks carried out with local maritime experts’ support, in order to ensure the safety of our guests on board, the disembarkation on Desroches island cannot be performed and therefore it has been decided that the ship will be towed to Mahé/Seychelles. The disembarkation in Desroches does not assure the necessary and adequate security conditions for mooring the ship and guests’ disembarkation. In addition, logistics and hotels on the island are not enough: it would require an immediate transfer from Desroches to Mahé through Ferries after disembarking the ship through tenders. Thus the ship will be towed to Mahé, also with the assistance of two tugs that are approaching the ship and that would allow to increase the speed. The arrival in Mahé expected during the morning (local time) on Thursday, March 1, just few hours after the possible arrival to Mahé from Desroches through Ferries.

Helicopters will ensure continuous supply of food, comfort items, flashlights in order to mitigate guests discomfort given the difficult conditions on board. Costa Cruises is working with all the Authorities responsible for the coordination of the emergency, to ensure the best possible assistance to all our guests and make their discomfort as short as possible and to reach their next destination. The Company is sincerely sorry for the inconvenience: absolute priority is to make it as short as possible.

Time 09.30 am (CET)
The risk of fire is the one traditionally considered most seriously risk on board a ship or a boat and is therefore the subject of special preventive measures, training of personnel and plans for active protection. All ships, from the design and building stages in the yard, are built using criteria and materials making them safe and reliable from the point of view of fire prevention.

As provided for by the various international regulations and the Company’s procedures, all fire protection systems and equipment are subjected to regular tests, trials and inspections. In the event of a fire, the ship’s structure itself is designed in order to isolate the fire, thus making it more manageable and less dangerous. To this end the ship is divided into main vertical areas, separated by special metal bulkheads of large thickness equipped with special fire doors with the same characteristics as the bulkheads, which, once closed, manually or from the navigating bridge, are fire-retarding divisions. The ventilation, air extraction and conditioning ducts are equipped with special fire dampers which automatically close in the event of high temperature in order to stop the air flow, in order to avoid to feed the fire.

All ship spaces, including crew and passenger accommodation spaces, are equipped with fire detectors automatically signalling the presence of smoke or high temperature to the navigating bridge. Moreover, any person aboard can signal the outbreak of a fire by means of the numerous manually operated alarms located throughout the vessel. If the temperature reaches high levels, thousands of sprinkler heads (atomisation plants/sprinklers), located on ceilings, are automatically activated. Some particularly hazardous spaces are protected by fixed fire-extinguishing systems (i.e. carbon dioxide for machinery spaces, steam for the galley kitchenette hoods, nebulized water for the deep-fryer, etc.).

Throughout the vessel and in all spaces there are also hundreds of portable fire extinguishers of different kinds (for use in different types of fires) and permanent stations equipped with fire hoses connected to a pressurised water plant. The effectiveness of all fire-fighting equipment is ensured by regular maintenance and testing according to a precise schedule with set intervals. Fire-fighting teams, consisting of highly qualified trained experts are always aboard and take part in regular drills. In addition, all crewmembers participate in practical training sessions and theory courses during which they are taught how to react in case of fire or smoke, the use of fire-fighting equipment and procedures to be followed.

These measures allowed to bring promptly under control and extinguish the fire broke out in the local generators on Costa Allegra.

Time 08.30 am (CET)
A helicopter took off from Mahè this morning and it is arriving to the area where Costa Allegra is located, bringing to the ship both food and communication devices (satellite phones and VHF radios). The weather is good. Guests were invited to prepare their luggage in order to be ready for the time of disembarkation. The ship is expected to arrive to Desroches island tomorrow morning.

Time 07.30 am (CET)
Costa Allegra, since last night, has been towed by the French ocean-going fishing vessel Trevignon. The ship is being towed in the direction of Desroches Island. Guests on board are continuously informed and assisted by the captain and the staff; a cold breakfast was served this morning.

Time 00.00 am (CET)
The French ocean-going fishing ship reached Costa Allegra and the two captains are in radio contact. At dawn Costa will evaluate the assistance operations the fishing vessel can provide.

Cruise News: Norwegian Cruise Line To Introduce Moderno Churrascaria Fleet-Wide

One of our favorite dining experiences during our recent Norwegian Epic cruise was dinner in Moderno Churrascaria, the Brazilian-style steakhouse. After helping ourselves to a soup and salad bar, servers known as passadors made the rounds to our table offering meat on skewers—lamb, various cuts of beef, chicken, sausages, and even sweet pineapple. Sides included fried bananas, garlic mashed potatoes, rice, and beans. Beside your plate is a card to indicate your wishes—to continue service you place the green side up and when you’re done you turn it over to the red side. We saved room for dessert and my flan was exquisite. While I had never dined in a churrascaria in Brazil, my husband Mel has on numerous occasions and I was anxious to hear his impression of Moderno. One word said it all—authentic. Plus, he said the meats we enjoyed in Moderno were more tender than those he’d typically been served in Brazil.

And now Norwegian Cruise Line is enhancing dining options for guests fleetwide by introducing its signature Brazilian-style steakhouse on board additional ships. Moderno Churrascaria first debuted on board the line’s newest ship, Norwegian Epic, and was the first dining concept of its kind at sea. Because of positive guest feedback and popular demand, Norwegian is now offering this sensational dining experience on eight Freestyle Cruising ships. Moderno Churrascaria is currently available on board Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Sun, and Norwegian Pearl. Norwegian Gem will be outfitted with its own Moderno restaurant in late February, followed by Norwegian Jewel in March and Norwegian Star in April of 2012. The cover charge for Moderno Churrascaria is $20 per person and, in our experience, well worth it.

To dine at Moderno Churrascaria or any of the line’s specialty restaurants, you now have the opportunity to pre-book your reservations before your cruise. With the introduction of a fleet-wide dining reservations system, guests cruising within 45 days on any Norwegian ship can plan and pre-pay for their specialty dining choices in advance by visiting NCL.com/myncl. While we had no problem securing reservations by using the interactive television and telephone reservation systems once on board Norwegian Epic, we were a party of two and easily accommodated. Plus, we made all our reservations as soon as possible when we reached our stateroom on embarkation day. For larger groups it’s advised to pre-book whenever possible for the best possible service and to avoid disappointment.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cruise News: Fire Aboard Costa Allegra

Costa Crociere Statement

Costa Cruises confirms that today at 10:39 CET a fire broke out on board Costa Allegra in the electric generator room. The shipboard fire-extinguishing system and emergency procedures were activated promptly and special fire-fighting squads extinguished the fire.

The fire did not spread to any other area of the ship. There were no injuries or casualties. Inspections of the engine room are ongoing to determine when the equipment can be restarted.

As a precaution, the general emergency alarm was sounded and all passengers and crewmembers not engaged in the management of the emergency reported to their muster stations.

Currently the ship is more than 200 miles southwest of the Seychelles and approximately 20 miles from Alphonse Island. Tugboats and other naval and aerial units have been dispatched to Costa Allegra.

According to standard procedures, Costa Allegra transmitted a distress signal and the relevant authorities were alerted, including the Maritime Rescue Control Center in Rome, Italy. Costa Crociere and the relevant authorities are actively monitoring the situation.

On board Costa Allegra are 636 passengers of various nationalities and 413 crewmembers.

The ship departed Saturday, Feb. 25, from Diego Suarez, Madagascar, and was cruising toward the port of Victoria (Mahè, Seychelles) where it was scheduled to arrive tomorrow Feb. 28.

Costa Allegra was built at T. Mariotti shipyards in Genoa in 1992. The 28,597-ton vessel is 188 meters (617 feet) long with eight passenger decks and 399 cabins. The vessel can carry a maximum of 1,400, including crew.

Cruise News: Norwegian Expands Nickelodeon Cruises

One of the really fun things we enjoyed during our recent cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic was the Nickelodeon program. No, we don't have children, but it was so much fun to watch the excitement the kiddies on board experienced when they encountered their favorite characters and took part in the Nickelodeon activities. Mel and I just happened to pass SpongeBob SquarePants in the Atrium one night and his Nick escort graciously snapped the photo at left with our camera. Hotel Director Richard Janicki later told me that's not uncommon—Norwegian isn't focusing on making money by limiting photo ops to those taken by ship photographers and guests are encouraged to use their own cameras, even during the scheduled official Meet and Greet activities when numerous Nick escorts are on hand to shoot the snapshots for them. A nice touch for the family budget.

Up until last week families could experience Nickelodeon only on board Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Epic, but Norwegian has expanded the popular program and welcomed Nickelodeon aboard Norwegian Gem as well, giving guests the opportunity to cruise with SpongeBob, Patrick, Dora the Explorer, and Diego, among other favorite Nickelodeon characters. The new Nickelodeon experiences on Norwegian Gem include some of the popular family events, shows and activities that were first introduced in April 2010 on Norwegian Jewel and in July 2010 on Norwegian Epic, plus an exciting line up of new experiences.

Each cruise features Nickelodeon’s all-new Pajama Jam Character Breakfast. Upon arriving in the Spinnaker Lounge, guests, who are encouraged to wear their pajamas, are greeted with a goody bag filled with surprises and props for use during the event. Donning their pajamas, Team Nick and the rest of the gang sing and dance while families enjoy their morning meal. Each child attending the breakfast receives a complimentary, keepsake photograph.

Nickelodeon characters don their pajamas for the new Pajama Jam Breakfast on Norwegian Gem
Splash Mobs add a whole new element of surprise, bringing a new energy and excitement to the ship. These spontaneous, impromptu games are fun for the whole family with pies, slime, and other surprises. Additional elements include Dora’s Dance Party, where children ages six and younger have the chance to sing and dance to their favorite songs with Dora the Explorer and Team Nick; Nickelodeon Character Meet and Greets; Nick Jr. Story Time; and Nickelodeon arts and crafts.

Families can enjoy all of these exciting events as Norwegian Gem sails a series of 7-day Bahamas and Florida voyages from New York City through Sept 1, 2012. Ports of call include Orlando and the Beaches (Port Canaveral), Florida; Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian’s private island) and Nassau, Bahamas, as well as three days at sea. From Sept 8 through Oct 10, 2012, Norwegian Gem will sail 10-day Eastern Canada and Quebec cruises, followed by a series of 9-day Eastern Caribbean voyages.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cruise News: Mexican Banditos Hit Cruise Passengers

Every time I see one of those Mexico Taxi Project ads on television (like the one below), I shake my head in wonder. Is anyone watching gullible enough to think that travelers who just returned from Mexico would by chance hire that particular cab? What a coincidence! And the returning tourists all naturally had a great time. No rain, no hassles, no bandits robbing them at gunpoint.

What's the possibility that the Mexico Taxi Project will film any of the 22 passengers from Carnival Splendor who were held at gunpoint by masked bandits and robbed of their valuables (cash, cameras, watches, etc) while on a shore excursion in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico last week? Just a guess, but not likely in my opinion that you'll see any of them being chatted up by airport cabbies any time soon.

A story in informador.com.mx reports that authorities initially made light of the attack. While the story is in Spanish, my translator returned this result in English, "The Municipal police initially reported that it was only a slight incident with Americans; however, later they admitted that it was an assault, but that it had been only one subject." I guess one subject means it was no big deal since the 22 visitors were all robbed at the same time. The robbers fled into the hills and were reportedly pursued by "an intense mobilization of state and municipal police officers." Sure, they'll catch those bad guys. Or not. In any event, apparently none of the passengers were injured and they sailed away on their ship after what had to have been a harrowing experience.

It's a shame that the tourism industry along Mexico's Pacific Coast has been harmed by the country's high crime rate, but they have no one to blame but their fellow citizens and what appears to be the indifference of government officials. Cruise lines that might have been inclined to return to Mexican Riviera ports (after an absence due to the mere threat of crime in the area) may now rethink their decisions, particularly since the latest incident involved passengers on an excursion booked on board their ship. Clearly the robbers knew where they were going to be and targeted them at the best spot to commit their crime and make a quick getaway.

Mexico Taxi Project? Bah humbug.


Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rolling On The River With Mark Twain

Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum
Nothing is as quintessential Americana as the Mississippi River and Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who is known to most of us as Mark Twain. American Cruise Lines is celebrating his life and legacy by offering a Mark Twain tribute cruise aboard the brand new authentic paddlewheeler, Queen of the Mississippi. The cruise will honor the famous American author and humorist often referred to as the “Father of American Literature.” Virtually synonymous with the life along the Mississippi River, his experiences are immortalized in his famous writings including Life on the Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885).

Available on the September 15th seven-night /eight-day St. Louis roundtrip sailing, American Cruise Lines will celebrate Twain’s life and works. During his career, Mark Twain spent several years as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River and this cruise will be a unique way to experience the River in the same way that Mark Twain would have seen it himself, as well as highlighting many of the most important places and events in his life.

Planned stops include an extended visit to his childhood hometown in Hannibal, Missouri. Additional features of this tribute cruise include:

• Mark Twain Impersonator and Entertainer
• Exclusive tour of Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum
• Onboard display of a First Edition copy of Life on the Mississippi
• Guided trolley ride throughout Hannibal
• Guest Gift: Special edition copies of Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn
• Honorary dinner and cocktail reception
With this cruise, American Cruise Lines aims to provide an unforgettable journey back in time with history and adventure at every bend in the river. It will capture the spirit of Twain’s own ideals: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do,” Twain wrote. “Explore. Dream. Discover.”

The Queen of the Mississippi carries 150 guests in spacious staterooms, many of which are twice the size of those on any other Mississippi riverboat. Staterooms feature large private balconies with sliding glass doors and all of the amenities today’s travelers expect, while maintaining the elegance of classic late 1800s Mississippi riverboats. American Cruise Lines will operate the authentic paddlewheeler over the entire Mississippi River System, including the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers. The Queen of the Mississippi will also be able to travel at significantly higher speeds than all other Mississippi riverboats, minimizing night travel and making more itineraries possible with longer visits to the river towns. A number of unique riverboat journeys are planned that take passengers as far north as St. Paul, MN on the Mississippi River and as far east as Pittsburgh, PA on the Ohio River. To learn more, visit AmericanCruiseLines.com.

Image Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Friday, February 24, 2012

Celebrity Cruises to ‘Heat Things Up’ By “Solsticizing” Their Alaska 2013 Season

This week Celebrity Cruises announced a bigger and better 2013 European season with the most and newest ships in the region.

However, that announcement didn’t catch our attention nearly as much as the one that followed about their plans for Alaska in the summer of 2013. That’s when the sleek, 2,850-guest flagship of the Solstice Class fleet, Celebrity Solstice will become the first of its class to offer cruise vacations in Alaska, joining Celebrity Century and Celebrity Millennium (scheduled to be “Solsticized” in April 2012) in pairing Celebrity’s chic style and design, signature cuisine, exciting activities, and outstanding service with the region’s breathtaking, inspiring scenery. With its 85 percent veranda accommodations, Celebrity Solstice guests will have that many more opportunities to take in the endlessly appealing views.

While complete details of Celebrity’s summer 2013 itineraries, including the full slate of featured destinations, cruisetours, and departure dates, aren’t available yet, they will be announced when the first of the series opens for booking in early March. The line will continue to present special booking options exclusively for the members of its Captain’s Club loyalty program. For more information, visit CelebrityCruises.com.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Say “I Do” Like A Queen

Cruise lines don’t go to the trouble of reflagging their ships for nothing and Cunard Line’s reflagging of the entire fleet (from their former registered homeport of Southampton in Great Britain to Hamilton, Bermuda) was done to offer passengers a new program—a wedding program. While Cunard ships have long served as romantic backdrops to love stories across the globe, couples will soon be able to say “I do” during a cruise or crossing aboard the most famous ocean liners in the world—Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria—during a ceremony conducted by the Captain.

Only Cunard offers the truly unique option of saying “I do” mid-Atlantic on a classic trans-Atlantic Crossing aboard the grandest ocean liner in the world, Queen Mary 2. This is the first time in Cunard’s 172-year history that it will be possible to marry on board, and demand is already high.

Couples wishing to wed at sea can choose from the full spectrum of Cunard’s worldwide voyages lasting seven nights or more and departing after April 2012. In addition to Crossings, destinations include the Mediterranean and Scandinavia, Canada and New England, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, Hawaii, the Far East, and Australia.

To maintain exclusivity, only one wedding will be arranged per day, at either 11:00am or 3:30pm, and the ceremonies will take place on days at sea. With a dedicated on board wedding coordinator, the bride and groom will find that all of their wedding needs can be met, from hairdressing, make-up and manicures in the spa, to the wedding ceremony itself, as well as photography and video, and the reception afterwards. In addition, weddings can be tailored with Cunard's “Finishing Touches” to reflect individual requests and preferences, from an accompaniment by the ship’s own harpist, to a beautiful ice sculpture.

Choosing to marry on one of the three largest Cunard ships ever built creates an exceptional setting for any style of celebration. Various venues are available aboard each ship depending on the size of the wedding party, from elegant lounges to award-winning restaurants, including The Verandah on Queen Elizabeth and Todd English on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria. Under the guidance of Cunard’s global culinary ambassador, Chef Patron Jean-Marie Zimmermann, the ships’ world-class culinary teams will prepare wedding canapés, a delicious wedding lunch or an exquisite wedding dinner.

Cunard has created a Wedding Package with a tempting array of optional extras to meet all requirements. The main package includes the ceremony conducted by the Captain, traditional wedding music, a White Star Bellman escorting the bride, floral arrangements, Veuve Clicquot Champagne and, of course, the wedding cake as well as priority check-in and luggage delivery.

A never-to-be-forgotten day is available for $2,500 plus a marriage license fee of $575. An array of Cunard's “Finishing Touches” are also available for purchase and include items such as a Bride and Groom’s Champagne and Caviar Breakfast in Bed, or a three-tiered fruit cake. In addition, wedding gifts of fine wines, champagne, and spa treatments can be purchased in advance and arranged for on board.

What’s included in the Wedding Package:

• Priority luggage delivery
• Press service for bridal outfits
• Priority embarkation (and disembarkation) for the bridal couple
• Services of a wedding coordinator on board
• Two fresh floral arrangements for the ceremonial room
• Bridal bouquet and bridegroom’s boutonniere, with a choice of roses, lilies, or exotic flowers
• One-tier wedding cake
• Traditional wedding music
• Elegant wedding ceremony venue
• White Star Bellman to escort the bride to the ceremonial room
• Ceremony at sea conducted by the Captain
• Commemorative wedding certificate
• Commemorative printed wedding menu
• Bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne
• Bride and Groom Breakfast in Bed
• Wedding invitations and Thank You cards for voyage guests
Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line adds, “And the ships are so much more than simply a setting for the ceremony itself–they are also honeymoon destinations, offering newlyweds a fresh view to wake up to each morning and a trousseau of unforgettable destinations to discover together ashore.”

For more information about Cunard’s new Weddings Program, visit Cunard.com.

Photo Courtesy of Cunard Line

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Crystal Cruises Bookends Sailings With More Overnights

Some of the things that concern us on every cruise embarkation day include the worry of late flight arrivals, lost luggage, relocating to/from pre-cruise hotels, finding quality restaurants, and settling in prior to sight-seeing. As Crystal Cruises prepares to segue to "All-Inclusive" starting next month, the luxury line has also been transforming in another big way: to a focus on significantly more local shipboard overnights at the beginning of cruises. For the upcoming European season, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony have doubled the number of voyages that begin with days (and nights) in port. While eliminating the concerns outlined above, the move also enhances recreational choices due to the more extensive options available on board Crystal's ships than can be found at most hotels on land.

"By adding more overnights to the cruises, especially at embarkation, travelers only have to unpack once, yet get even more time to experience a culture, while still having their Crystal home as a luxurious base," explains President Gregg Michel. "They also begin meeting the people who will be sharing their time aboard—the staff and other travelers who will become their Crystal family by vacation's end—all the sooner."

Crystal has also added overnights to the middle and/or end of the majority of cruises this year. We've always hating missing the sights in disembarkation ports unless we plan to spend some time in a hotel after our cruise and overnights in such ports as Venice, Barcelona, or Istanbul, will allow Crystal guests to see significantly more of their final destination without having to move to a hotel or rush to the airport to fly home. Twenty-six large cultural capitals and smaller locales renowned for their charm are featured in North America, the Pacific, and Europe from March through December, with an impressive 69 overnights planned in Europe alone. A sampling includes:

— MEDITERRANEAN, including the BLACK SEA and MIDDLE EAST (43 overnights/10 ports): Venice, Ashdod, Istanbul, Odessa, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Monte Carlo
— BALTIC and NORTHERN EUROPE: (21 overnights/4 ports): Stockholm, Copenhagen, and St. Petersburg, with five cruises featuring two nights ("double overnight") in the latter
— WESTERN EUROPE and UK (5 overnights/4 ports): Edinburgh, Bordeaux, and Reykjavik
— NORTH AMERICA: (9 overnights/4 ports): NY, Quebec City, San Francisco, and Montreal
— SOUTH PACIFIC, AUSTRALIA, AND NEW ZEALAND: (6 overnights/4 ports): Papeete, Auckland, Melbourne, and Sydney, with a huge complimentary VIP New Year's Eve celebration during a double overnight in the latter.
Crystal's new strategic planning evolution will extend through 2013 into 2014, with more than 85% of next year's 64 itineraries offering two or more days in port, and a more than 50% increase in overnights on embarkation day.

Crystal Serenity Image Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Mardi Gras

Even though we no longer live in Louisiana, the Cruise Diva household still celebrates Mardi Gras with the traditional "king cake," which takes its name from the biblical three kings. In Catholic liturgical tradition, the Solemnity of Epiphany, commemorated on January 6th, celebrates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. The Eve of Epiphany (the night of January 5th) is popularly known as Twelfth Night (the Twelve Days of Christmas are counted from Christmas Eve until this night). The season for king cake extends from the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas (Twelfth Night and Epiphany Day), up until Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday"—the day before the start of Lent (this year—today!). Some friends and neighbors may have "king cake parties" every week through the Carnival season as we did in Louisiana. Our cake pictured here is the centerpiece of the beads, or "throws," we collected during many parades in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Each king cake should have a trinket, either a plastic "baby" or a bean inserted within it. The person who gets the slice of cake containing the trinket is declared the King or Queen of the party and is obligated to host the next party and supply the next king cake.

It's great fun and we're happy to share our annual celebration with you this year.

It Was An EPIC Cruise In Many Ways

With all the activities, entertainment, and dining options available to us on board Norwegian Epic, it was obvious that no one could take part in all of them. However, we gave it a try and even had a few unexpected encounters.

Join Cruise Diva on a Caribbean cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's flagship Norwegian Epic. We hope you enjoy our choices of what to see, do, and eat as much as we did.

Photograph © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Cruise Review: Oasis of the Seas

Last fall I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Francine Silverman, hostess of the Blog Talk Radio show, Ship to Shore with Silverman. At that time I learned she would be sailing on Oasis of the Seas and she graciously offered to share her impressions.

There were a few surprises, but overall the Silverman family's cruise aboard Oasis was a success as they celebrated birthdays, enjoyed the entertainment, and walked. A Lot!

Listen to Francine and the Cruise Diva discuss cruises, here.

Image Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Intl

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Icy Strait Point Celebrates Their Heritage

You may never have heard of it, but it’s one of Alaska’s treasures and a port of call for many cruise ships. Located 50 miles west of Juneau, Icy Strait Point is a privately owned destination for cruise ship passengers and independent travelers. Just over a mile from the Native village of Hoonah, the wilderness port allows guests to experience Tlingit culture, Alaska-sized adventures—pictured here is a whale sighting—and unspoiled wilderness. Icy Strait Point is owned by Huna Totem Corporation, the Native village corporation for Hoonah.

Icy Strait Point is planning a series of events throughout the 2012 summer season to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Hoonah Packing Co. cannery, located at the heart of the Alaska Native-owned cruise ship destination.

A few special treats are in store for guests each day that a cruise ship is in port—that’s 46 days between May and September. The 100th guest to disembark the cruise ship in the morning will receive a prize. Later in the day, Icy Strait Point historian Johan Dybdahl will lead a complimentary tour of the cannery. Guests also will find salmon specials on the Cookhouse Restaurant menu. This is the same eatery that served Hoonah Packing Co. cannery workers as far back as 1912.

Celebratory events will take place on Icy Strait Pont’s Neighbor’s Days, offered twice a season to encourage Juneau or Gustavus residents and other locals to visit. On those days, Icy Strait Point offers packages that include transportation from Juneau or Gustavus and one excursion.

The 100-year celebration kick-off event will take place on Saturday, June 23, which corresponds with the traditional start of the fishing season and will focus on the fishing history of the Icy Strait Point site and cannery. Many of the fishermen who delivered fish to the cannery or utilized the maintenance facility at the cannery will be on hand to share stories about their experiences.

A second event on Saturday, August 18, will focus on the history of the cannery itself and the people who worked there. Many Hoonah community members had family who worked at the patch table, slime line or fish house, and most love telling stories about their experiences around the cannery grounds. The cannery was key in helping the community of Hoonah after the devastating fire of June 14, 1944, that destroyed most of the village.

Once the economic engine of the nearby village of Hoonah, the cannery is no longer used to process fish. Its facilities have been fully restored and guests can now take tours to find out how it operated in 1912 and enjoy a free museum that offers a historical look at the area and the commercial fishing industry in Southeast Alaska. Visitors can learn about the canning process from beginning to end through interpretive displays and may even “can” a souvenir. (Items are vacuum-sealed and then canned to mail home or to friends and relatives.) Many of the original canning labels are on display.

The cannery is also home to 11 Alaskan-owned shops, offering a carefully curated selection of Alaska Native art and crafts, wild Alaska salmon, handmade soaps, candles and beads, local Native remedies and Icy Strait Point logo items. The shops are staffed by Alaskans, many of whom are from Hoonah, and the products are locally sourced.

Meet the people who will greet you at Icy Strait Point and then take a vitual whale-spotting cruise.



Image and Videos Courtesy of Icy Strait Point

Saturday, February 18, 2012

World-Wide Trek: Cruise With A Cause

It isn’t exactly a world cruise, but it’s close. For the next 14 months the globetrotting team of Darren and Sandy Van Soye will be trekking the planet on a global adventure to raise awareness about world geography and make the subject more accessible to children around the globe. The Southern California couple has just begun the first leg of their more than year-long journey by boarding Pacific Princess for a cruise across the Pacific bound for Sydney, Australia.

The couple, who are chronicling their journey at Trekking The Planet, were inspired to plan their journey after they saw first-hand what a positive impact a previous family trip around the globe had on their two daughters’ lives. Their full travel itinerary incorporates five different Princess Cruises voyages, totaling 96 days sea. Both the first and last legs of their journey, plus three legs in between, will be aboard a Princess cruise ship.

“Our dream is to educate children about geography and world cultures so we’ve planned the ultimate trek around the world to do just that,” said Sandy Van Soye. “We wanted to use cruise ships as part of our travel method because they offer an efficient way to reach all the different stops on our voyage while minimizing our global footprint. Once we decided to cruise for part of our trip, it only made sense to book our sea travel with Princess Cruises based on our previous travel experience with them and the fact that their ships go everywhere in the world. Our five cruise itineraries will enable us to reach all the destinations on our list while also giving us the opportunity to relax onboard between our land treks.”

In total, the Van Soyes’ journey will cover 50 countries on six continents over the course of the 424-day world tour. Throughout their travels, the couple will share 60 different geography education modules they have created as well as pictures and videos of their travels for anyone in the world to use. So far more than 700 classrooms around the world will be following their travels, representing 50,000 students.

“We frequently hear stories from travelers who cruise to accomplish a goal – from celebrating milestones with family members to crossing something off their bucket list,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “Sandy and Darren are a great example of how cruise travel can be both relaxing and rewarding. We’re inspired by their story and we’re honored they’ve chosen Princess to help them achieve their trekking goals.”

In addition to creating educational materials and providing live updates from their travels, the Van Soyes will also be presenting lectures for Princess Cruises passengers interested in geography. Like any world travelers, they’re looking forward to visiting some “bucket list” worthy destinations including The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Bali in Indonesia, Casablanca in Morocco, and The Amazon River in Brazil.

The Van Soyes’ cruising plans include:

Jan. 28 to Feb. 27, 2012: San Diego to Sydney aboard Pacific Princess
March 17 to April 6, 2012: Sydney to Singapore aboard Ocean Princess
Dec. 2-20, 2012: Rome to Fort Lauderdale aboard Pacific Princess
Dec. 20, 2012 to Jan. 4, 2013: Fort Lauderdale to Manaus aboard Pacific Princess
March 10-26, 2013: Santiago to Los Angeles aboard Star Princess
Here’s a video capturing some of the excitement of their first day on board Pacific Princess:


The Van Soyes will complete their global journey in March 2013.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cruise News: Costa Concordia Defueling Operation Status

Costa Crociere Statement on
Concordia Defueling Operation

The Concordia Emergency Commissioner's Office and Costa Crociere have announced that the pumping of fuel from the cruise ship Costa Concordia has been continuing around the clock since 5 pm Feb 12, in accordance with the plan devised by the Neri/Smit Salvage team.

From the time defueling began until 7 am Feb. 17, a total of 952 cubic meters (251,492 gallons) of fuel have been pumped out of four tanks located in the forward part of the ship.

A total of 1,428 cubic meters (377,237 gallons) of fuel is still to be removed from 13 tanks, of which 576 cubic meters (152,163 gallons) is located in the forward part of the ship. According to the schedule drawn up by the Neri/Smit Salvage experts, if sea and weather conditions remain favorable, all of the fuel still on board the ship should be extracted within three weeks if operations can continue 24 hours per day.

Since the outset Costa Crociere's priorities have been to guarantee maximum safety, the least possible environmental impact and protection of the environment of Giglio and the island's tourism industry, while carrying out defueling within a reasonable time frame.

Both the defueling procedure and the other operations scheduled on Costa Concordia are being conducted jointly with full cooperation between Costa Crociere and the Concordia Emergency Commissioner's Office.

Cruise News: Carnival Cruise Lines Shifts More Ships in the Caribbean & Europe for 2013

With this week's story about Carnival Legend’s 2013 European deployment still fresh in our minds, Carnival Cruise Lines has announced another surprise ship shift to take place next year. The “Fun Ship” line will increase capacity on its 7-day Southern Caribbean itineraries from San Juan, as well as on its 4- and 5-day cruises from Miami, deploying newer, larger ships in both markets. And, the bigger surprise is that another ship will set sail for Europe.

The 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor will launch a five-port, 7-day schedule from San Juan beginning Feb. 10, 2013, becoming the newest and largest ship to operate year-round from that port. Carnival Valor will replace the 2,758-passenger Carnival Victory, which will reposition from San Juan to Miami to assume the Carnival Destiny’s 4- and 5-day cruises beginning Feb. 4, 2013. Carnival Victory will then be the newest and largest ship to operate year-round 4- and 5-day voyages from South Florida.

Carnival Valor’s 7-day Southern Caribbean sailings from San Juan will feature extended calls at five tropical islands–St. Thomas, USVI; Bridgetown, Barbados; St. Lucia, West Indies; St. Kitts, West Indies; and St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles. In addition to calling at some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches, these seaside destinations are known for their world-class snorkeling and scuba diving, as well as water sports opportunities.

Carnival Victory will offer year-round 4- and 5-day cruises from Miami when it launches service from the popular homeport. Carnival Victory’s Miami-based schedule features three distinctly different itineraries, providing a variety of convenient and affordable cruise options departing from one of America’s top tourist destinations. Four-day “long weekend” cruises departing Thursdays call at Key West, Florida, and Cozumel, Mexico; 5-day cruises departing Mondays include stops at Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands; the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay; and Nassau, The Bahamas. Five-day voyages departing Saturdays feature George Town, Grand Cayman; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Each of these destinations offers a truly unique vacation experience, with miles of gorgeous white-sand beaches and an interesting array of shore excursion choices such as zip-lining, horseback riding, kayaking, and more.

So, what’s with the Carnival Destiny’s schedule? When Carnival Victory replaces her in Miami, she will offer a 16-day transatlantic crossing departing Miami Feb. 4 and arriving in Civitavecchia (Rome) on Feb. 20, 2013. Featured ports on the crossing include Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal; Malaga, Spain; Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Genoa and Livorno, Italy. Details on the Carnival Destiny’s deployment following the transatlantic crossing will be announced at a later date.

Once again we note that without a brand-new ship launching from Italy next year, Carnival is sending not one, but two ships across the Atlantic to fill that void. Granted that neither ship, Carnival Legend (2,124-passengers) or Carnival Destiny (2,642-passengers), is as large as the 3,646-passenger Carnival Breeze that debuts this summer and sails her maiden season in the Mediterranean; however, when combined, the two older ships far exceed previous capacity for Carnival’s seasonal European deployment.

In addition to the above announced itineraries, there will be special repositioning cruises to get the fleetmates in position. Carnival Victory will offer a one-of-a-kind 8-day cruise from San Juan to Miami departing Jan. 27, 2013, with stops at St. Thomas, Aruba, Curacao and Nassau, while Carnival Valor will feature a one-time 7-day cruise from Miami to San Juan departing on Feb. 3, 2013, visiting Grand Turk, Antigua, St. Kitts and St. Thomas.

And then, of course, there is that unexpected Carnival Destiny transatlantic crossing. For the time being, we’ll have to wait to see where’s she sailing once she reaches the Med, although there is the possibililty that Carnival Destiny could take over the schedule of Costa Concordia. Perhaps Carnival Destiny could even be transferred to the Costa fleet. Of course that’s pure speculation on my part. But if it comes to pass, remember that you heard it here first.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Royal Princess: Expanded Atrium, New Features

Royal Princess’ atrium will feature two marble
spiral staircases illuminated by back-lit glass domes
with lines of light that dramatically stretch down
 to the sparkling water features below.
Princess Cruises gifted us with a Valentine this week—a peek inside Royal Princess’ expanded atrium. Designed to enhance the lively street-café atmosphere passengers have become accustomed to on current Princess ships, the new Royal Princess will feature more open space for viewing live entertainment in the Piazza from decks 6 and 7, as well as new venues that appear to float mid-air.

Set to debut in June 2013, this new atrium represents a prototype design that builds on the line’s classic style. At first glance, it reminds me of an elegant European opera house.

Deck-by-deck, the Royal Princess’ atrium features include:

Deck 5

As on most Princess ships, the International Café will be serving fresh-baked pastries, panini sandwiches, salads, fresh-baked cookies specialty coffees, and sweet desserts, but aboard Royal Princess this favorite venue will have an expanded seating area and an eye-catching new lighting feature, making it the perfect area to grab a light meal, meet friends for coffee or enjoy an a snack while watching the array of Piazza entertainers.

A new shopping stop, Celebrations will offer gifts especially for passengers celebrating a special occasion, or those looking for a well-deserved indulgence. Passengers will find premium chocolates, colorful flower arrangements, and other gift items perfect for someone enjoying a special day.

For a delicious desert or afternoon delight, Royal Princess’ Gelato gelateria will serve up a variety of tempting treats such as designer sundaes, sweet crespelle (Italian crepes), creamy fruit smoothies, frosty shakes, and delightful homemade waffle ice cream cones.

A Princess passenger favorite, Vines wine bar will be pouring as many as 30 different wines by the glass, plus serving up an selection of tapas or sushi to accompany the many vintages. Passengers can also find favorite bottles for purchase or a gift for their favorite wine lover at Vines shop.

The classic cocktail bar Bar Piazza and Tea Tower complements the Piazza vibe by offering an endless array of “anything you can think of” libations, complemented by a twin tea tower of artisan-crafted varieties and infusions for custom creations with over 300 possibilities.

Just adjacent to the Piazza, a sparkling water feature will set off an extension area, the Mini-Piazza, the location of the Passenger Services Desk and Shore Excursion Desk. This dazzling Mini-Piazza will provide a special atmosphere for passengers making a visit to ask questions of Princess’ gracious crew members.

Also located in the Mini-Piazza will be Princess’ signature Tuscan-inspired specialty restaurant, Sabatini’s. Known for its celebrated pastas, seafood and Italian specialties, Sabatini’s will feature a fresh menu of sophisticated Italian favorites with an a la carte experience. With a refined yet casual Italian ambiance, Sabatini’s offers attentive personal service and the feeling of having just stepped into a ristorante in the heart of Tuscany.
Deck 6

A brand new Italian-inspired cocktail venue, Bellini’s is the perfect place to enjoy the lively atmosphere of the atrium’s activities, while indulging in a Bellini-inspired drink. Passengers will also enjoy views of the Piazza below in this “floating” space.

After quickly becoming a passenger favorite since its debut aboard Grand Princess, Alfredo’s Pizzeria has kept up Princess’ reputation for serving the best pizza at sea. Aboard Royal Princess the sit-down restaurant will feature an expanded menu and more spacious seating, perfect for enjoying the fresh toppings and crisp crusts of a personal pizza right from the eatery’s stone oven.

Now conveniently located in the atrium, the Photo and Video Gallery will offer new high-tech digital photo stations to help passengers easily find their images.
Deck 7

The new Ocean Terrace seafood bar will offer pearls of the ocean, fresh from the sea. Seafood lovers can indulge in an array of treats, including sushi, sashimi, ceviche and caviar in a space that seems to be floating over the atrium levels below.

An expanded Crooners Bar will not only offer the venue’s famous menu of 75 different martinis and classic 1960s-style “Rat Pack” atmosphere, but also a new entertainment option with dueling glass pianos for a lively show to go with the breathtaking views.
The 3,600-passenger Royal Princess is the first of two new-generation ships for Princess which are being built by Fincantieri at their Monfalcone, Italy shipyard. Some additional new features found aboard will be an over-water SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed enclosed walkway on the ship’s starboard side extending more than 28 feet beyond the edge of the vessel, and the similarly-unique cantilevered SeaView bar, featuring cocktails with unbeatable vistas. Also on her top decks, Royal Princess will feature a new adults-only pool surrounded by seven plush private cabanas that appear to be floating on the water, two additional pools, a dazzling water and light show, an expanded version of Princess’ signature adults-only haven, The Sanctuary, and the popular poolside theater, Movies Under the Stars.

Additional information about other ship features will be released in the coming months, but to get a better idea of how spectacular Royal Princess’ new Atrium will be, Princess Cruises’ President and CEO, Alan Buckelew, and Executive Vice President of Fleet Operations, Rai Caluori, invite us on a virtual tour in the following video.


Image and Video Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cruise News: Carnival Legend to Cross The Pond in 2013

With no new ship launching in Italy next year, Carnival Cruise Lines has announced it will nevertheless offer its widest array of European sailings ever with the Spirit-class Carnival Legend in 2013. Itinerary options will include the line's first Norwegian fjords cruise and its first extended program from the UK, as well as cruises to the Baltic, Mediterranean, and British Isles, beginning in the spring.

The 2,124-passenger Carnival Legend's schedule will encompass 12-day voyages to Norway/Western Europe, the British Isles and the Baltic departing from Dover (London), along with 12-day Mediterranean cruises departing from Venice, Barcelona and Dover. In total, Carnival Legend will operate an ambitious 17 European cruises between April 22 and Oct. 31, 2013, visiting 34 ports across 18 countries.

Norway/Western Europe, British Isles Cruises Round-Trip from Dover
For the first time, Carnival Legend will offer an extended series of voyages from Dover (London) with 12-day cruises to Norway/Western Europe, the British Isles, and the Baltic, each offering a spectacular array of interesting and awe-inspiring ports of call, from quaint villages to cosmopolitan cities.

The program includes a "Norway and Western Europe" cruise offering a unique combination of ports, as well as the unforgettable experience of sailing the Norwegian fjords. The voyage will operate Sept. 1-13, 2013, and visit Alesund, Bergen, Stavanger, and Oslo, Norway; Hamburg, Germany; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Zeebrugge (Bruges), Brussels, Belgium; and Le Havre (Paris), France.

A "British Isles, Norway and France" voyage will depart Sept. 13, 2013, and feature stops at Stavanger, Norway; Edinburgh, Invergordon, and Glasgow (Greenock) Scotland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; and Le Havre (Paris), France.

Six "Baltic Wonders and St. Petersburg" cruises will also be offered, visiting Copenhagen, Denmark; Berlin (Warnemunde), Germany; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia (overnight call); Tallinn, Estonia; and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Departure dates include June 21, July 3, 15 and 27, and Aug. 8 and 20, 2013. The June 21 departure will visit Zeebrugge (Bruges), Brussels, Belgium, instead of Amsterdam.

12-day Mediterranean Cruises
Several different Mediterranean cruises will also be offered, providing guests an opportunity to experience and explore some of the region's most popular and picturesque ports of call and enjoy a wide variety of dining, shopping and sightseeing choices.

The schedule includes 12-day cruises from Venice to Barcelona departing May 4 and 28, and Oct. 31, 2013. On these voyages, guests can tour medieval castles, sample delicious local cuisine, and marvel at ornate churches and other historic architecture as they visit Dubrovnik, Croatia; Messina, Naples, Civitavecchia (Rome), and Livorno, Italy; and Marseilles, France. The May 4 and Oct. 31 departures also include Athens, Greece; and Izmir, Turkey; while the May 28 voyage stops at Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

Carnival Legend will also operate 12-day Western Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona to Dover June 9-21 and from Dover to Barcelona Sept. 25-Oct. 7, 2013. These cruises offer guests the chance to sample all the region has to offer with extended visits to stunning seaside destinations in five countries, including Marseilles, France; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Livorno and Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy; Malaga, Spain; and Lisbon, Portugal.

Also featured are three "Grand Mediterranean" voyages sailing from Barcelona to Venice April 22, May 16 and Oct. 19, 2013. These voyages feature stops at Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Marseilles, France; Livorno, Naples, Civitavecchia (Rome) and Messina, Italy; and Dubrovnik, Croatia, along with an overnight call in Venice to provide guests with ample opportunities to explore this world-class city. The Oct. 19 voyage will include a stop at Olbia (Sardinia), Italy, instead of Monaco.

Rounding out Carnival Legend's 2013 Europe program is a 12-day voyage round-trip from Barcelona Oct. 7-19, 2013, with calls at Marseilles, France; Livorno, Civitavecchia (Rome), and Naples, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Venice (overnight call) and Messina, Italy.

15-Day Transatlantic Crossings in April and Nov 2013
Carnival Legend will operate a 15-day transatlantic crossing departing Tampa on April 7 and arriving Barcelona April 22, 2013. Featured ports on this voyage include King's Wharf, Bermuda; Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal; and Malaga and Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

Following its European schedule, the ship will operate another 15-day transatlantic crossing from Barcelona to Tampa Nov. 12-27, 2013, calling at Palma de Mallorca and Malaga, Spain; Funchal (Madeira), Portugal; Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands; and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay.

Back in Tampa, Carnival Legend will sail on a special 4-day cruise before resuming 7-day Caribbean service Dec. 1, 2013. The week-long cruises call at Half Moon Cay; Nassau, The Bahamas; and Key West, Fla.; or George Town, Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico; Mahogany Bay, Roatan; and Belize City, Belize.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cruise News: Costa Crociere Extends Deadline for Concordia Compensation

Costa Crociere has extended the deadline for acceptance of its compensation proposal for guests involved in the Costa Concordia incident to March 31, 2012.

The decision was taken to offer passengers more time to evaluate the proposal and to exercise their claims with less urgency. While the date for acceptance of the proposal has been extended, the process to redeem the compensation package and its terms remain unchanged from when it was offered Jan. 27, 2012. The extension of the deadline will not impact the claim process, but is intended to satisfy the requests of some guests.

The compensation package is available only to guests who have returned home. The families of deceased and missing victims and guests who were injured will be covered under a separate proposal based on their individual circumstances.

“Are You Too Sexy For Your Cruise?” Cruise Vacations Heat Up Romantic Urges

Today is Valentine’s Day and for many of us it’s a day to celebrate romance. There’s no doubt that some couples who’ve set sail on a cruise are looking for love or looking forward to making love and a recent survey* conducted by Royal Caribbean confirms that notion.

For couples looking to rekindle the spark in their romance, the sea is calling with a million ways to fall in love again. According to Royal Caribbean's survey, most Americans (90%) astoundingly ranked sex as the top activity on their cruise itinerary. Respondents also consider cruises to be the most romantic type of vacation while offering a better value for their dollar (84%). More than four out of five respondents also say that a cruise with their partner is more romantic than a land-based vacation, with a whopping 98% opting for an exotic cruise–to Bermuda or Europe, perhaps–as a special way to celebrate a special moment or occasion, such as Valentine’s Day or an anniversary.

Royal Caribbean proudly offers an endless array of options for keeping the passion alive. With 22 ships, calling on more than 270 destinations in 72 countries across six continents, they say there is something for every couple–whether they envision a romantic epicurean experience with their significant other, exploring a port of call, or simply sharing an intimate moment in the privacy of their stateroom. Based on the survey results, other reasons why couples should consider a cruise vacation with Royal Caribbean include:
Love Liner: The vast majority of survey respondents say they left their last cruise feeling more “connected” with their partner (80%), being more in love with their partner (67%) and feeling more attracted to their partner (65%). Royal Caribbean can supply the ship, all you need is your mate.

Relationship Rx: Is it possible to cruise your way to a better relationship? Perhaps. Nearly three-quarters of respondents say that spending time with their significant other on their most recent cruise improved their relationship.

Port of Love: Respondents indicated that they are more likely to enjoy a number of romantic activities on a cruise than on a land-based vacation, including watching the sunset (72%), strolling in the moonlight (58%), stargazing (56%) and sharing a romantic dinner à deux (55%).

The Motion of the Ocean: Half of the respondents say they are more likely to be intimate on a cruise than on a land-based vacation. And not only is sex more frequent on a cruise vacation, but many (62%) report that the sex on their last cruise was better than normal. Perhaps not surprisingly, night time is the right time, or most popular time of day to be amorous on a cruise (31%), while 28% prefer any time of day–morning, noon or night.

Nautical Naughtiness: 24% cite their balcony as the place onboard where they would most like to be intimate, other than their stateroom, of course, and 58% are more likely to pack lingerie or sexy underwear for a cruise than a land-based vacation. For an astounding 90%, sex ranks as the top activity on their cruise itinerary, ahead of sitting by the pool (84%), enjoying nightlife options (83%) and shopping (70%).
We certainly agree that romance is in the sea air, but caution warring couples to not put too much faith in Relationship Rx. Some pairs have just grown too far apart to be brought back together on a cruise, particularly if they are cooped up in a too-compact stateroom.

* Survey Methodology: This survey was conducted online between Jan. 27th and Feb. 1st, 2012, among a national probability sample of 1,000 adults 18 years of age or older who live in the continental United States. Half the sample was respondents who have previously taken a cruise, and the other half was respondents who have not taken a cruise but are interested in taking a future cruise. All respondents indicated that they are currently in a relationship (either married or dating).

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cruise News: New Muster Drill Policy

That’s something we haven’t seen for a while—passengers all lined up on deck for the muster drill wearing their personal flotation devices (life jackets to most of us). In recent years most cruise lines have adopted a procedure of holding the safety drills without requiring passengers to bring their life jackets along. Instead crewmembers illustrate how to put them on and anyone who has questions can then ask. Drills took place within 24-hours of sailing. More often than not, that meant attending a drill in the afternoon of embarkation day.

Exceptions to the policy usually included cruises that sailed late in the evening, such as when embarking in San Juan for an 11pm departure from port. However, in the wake of the Costa Concordia sinking, when it was discovered that many passengers had not attended a safety drill prior to when the accident occurred, that has changed. Last week the global cruise industry announced a new emergency drill policy requiring mandatory muster for embarking passengers prior to departure from port:

The new policy follows the industry’s announcement on Jan 27, 2012 of a Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review in response to the Concordia incident and as part of the industry’s continuous efforts to review and improve safety measures. The Cruise Lines International Association, European Cruise Council, and the Passenger Shipping Association put forward the new policy with the support of their member cruise lines.

The new muster policy, which has been voluntarily initiated by the associations’ members and is effective immediately, exceeds existing legal requirements by calling for the mandatory muster of all embarking passengers prior to departure from port. On rare occasions when passengers arrive after the muster has been completed, passengers will be promptly provided with individual or group safety briefings that meet the requirements for musters applicable under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The formal policy is designed to help ensure that any mandatory musters or briefings are conducted for the benefit of all newly embarked passengers at the earliest practical opportunity.

Musters are mandatory exercises conducted on cruise ships to ensure passengers are informed of safety protocols while onboard the ship, including emergency evacuation procedures. Current legal requirements for conducting a muster of passengers can be found in SOLAS and mandate that a muster occur within 24 hours of passenger embarkation.

The Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review includes a comprehensive assessment of the critical human factors and operational aspects of maritime safety. As best practices are identified, they will be shared among cruise industry association members and any appropriate recommendations will be shared with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), European Union and other governmental authorities as appropriate. The industry’s efforts also are consistent with the framework and spirit of the International Safety Management Code. Recommendations resulting from the Review will be made on an ongoing basis.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cruise News: Costa Concordia Docu-dramas to Air

Other than sharing statements with timely updates of the Costa Concordia grounding, I haven't felt comfortable "reporting" on the accident. I wasn't there and have no first-hand impressions to share, so I've been waiting to find out exactly what happened just like everyone else is. The Italian authorities are holding hearings to get to the bottom of the situation that led to the accident and I'm sure there will be information forthcoming when the investigation is complete.

While there are two television shows planned for American audiences that purport to give insight into the grounding and sinking of the ship as well as the experience as recounted by survivors, I came across a 4-part series of videos online, which were produced in Great Britain and might offer something of a preview of what the National Geographic Channel (airing tonight) and Discovery Channel (airs Feb 19) have on tap. Details of when you can view those US televised shows are below, but the videos of the recent documentary shown in the UK are embedded here. I'm not familiar with the videos' producers, but I believe that their films are non-sensational and may end up being the least "tabloid" version of events to date.









National Geographic Channel (NGC) announces the premiere of the first U.S. documentary detailing the modern-day Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster in a moment-by-moment account, told primarily through the eyes of those who experienced it.

Premiering Sunday, Feb 12, at 7 pm ET and again Monday, Feb 13, at 10 pm ET, NGC’s one-hour special "Italian Cruise Ship Disaster: The Untold Stories" weaves together in-depth stories from passengers and staff on board as well as Coast Guard rescuers with stunning home video (some never before seen on U.S. television) and CGI to reconstruct the sinking of the Costa Concordia as it happened.

While I don't have a complete description of the Discovery Channel program, "Cruise Ship Disaster: Inside the Concordia" will air on Sunday, Feb 19, at 10:00 pm EST and will also be replayed several times. Check your local listings for times.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Put Princess Cruises’ Blog On Your Coffee Table

It was a hit online and will be equally popular reading in your living room. The inspirational travel stories featured on Princess Cruises’ award-winning blog “50 Essential Experiences–The Travel Bucket List” have been gathered into a just-published collectors’ book. The beautifully-produced volume takes readers to some of the most fascinating places around the globe, following in the footsteps of some worldly travelers as they share their favorite travel memories and “must see” places.

The book recounts each of the Essential Experiences from one to 50, just as they were featured on the line’s year-long blog. The site, one of the most popular blogs in the cruise industry, attracted millions of views and thousands of comments. Each of the 50 stories focuses on a notable travel destination, and each is told by one of the line’s destination experts–well-traveled employees from the shipboard and shoreside teams.

“Because of this reader enthusiasm, we decided to turn 50 Essential Experiences into a book to continue inspiring people to build their own bucket list of travel destinations,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “Few people have seen more of the world than our own destination experts,” noted Swartz. “In the more than four decades that we’ve been sailing the globe, many of our longest-serving shipboard and shoreside employees have logged thousands of sea and air miles visiting hundreds of countries, cities and sites. And now their experiences and recommendations will live on in this new book.”

Along with each author’s story, you can learn more about each Destination Expert through the “Five Revealing Questions” in which they tell more about favorite souvenirs and most memorable travel meals.

“50 Essential Experiences–The Travel Bucket List” is a 328-page softcover coffee table book, filled with dramatic photographs of each destination. The book is available for $18.95 on Amazon.com and in shipboard boutiques throughout the Princess fleet.

If you missed following it last year, the entire blog can be found at 50EssentialExperiences.com.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Carnival Miracle & Carnival Splendor Swap Coasts

Carnival Miracle
Carnival Spirit’s upcoming deployment to Australia to operate Carnival Cruise Line’s first cruises from that country has left those of us who cover the industry wondering, “Which ship in Carnival’s fleet will take its place?”

The answer came this week in the line’s announcement that the 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle will shift to the West Coast in spring 2013 to operate the line’s Alaska and Hawaii cruises as well as sailing the seasonal Mexican Riviera program with the 7-day itinerary currently offered on Carnival Splendor.

Carnival Splendor
In turn, the 3,006-passenger Carnival Splendor will reposition to New York to assume Carnival Miracle’s year-round 8-day Caribbean schedule beginning in March 2013, representing a capacity increase of 41 percent with this newer vessel. Too large to transit the Panama Canal, Carnival Splendor will offer three 13- to 18-day South America voyages from February to March 2013 while repositioning for its Big Apple debut.

Carnival Miracle, which recently emerged from a refurbishment that included the addition of an exclusive Serenity adults-only retreat and other enhancements, will provide guests with a fresh and exciting choice for West Coast cruising,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO. “At the same time, Carnival Splendor will provide a newer, larger ship on our year-round program from New York and during the course of its repositioning will offer three South America cruises that visit some of the region’s most spectacular and sought-after destinations,” he added.

Images Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Thursday, February 9, 2012

For Valentine’s Day, Norwegian Celebrates Romance at Sea

Todd O’Neil and Erin Picard of Peabody, Mass.
Fate is a funny thing and this tale of love and romance at sea illustrates it perfectly. It starts in September 2010, when Erin Picard was going through a very difficult time. As a registered nurse with three jobs, she dedicated her life to making sure others were happy and comfortable, while silently suffering through the pain of a lost love. To break free from it all, she and her best friend decided to take a cruise vacation on board Norwegian Spirit from Boston to Bermuda. Seven days after boarding Norwegian Spirit, Erin excitedly called her mother, Lee Bryant to announce that she met the man of her dreams on the cruise.

Bryant recalls the phone call, “She went on to tell me how the accommodations were spectacular, and the food was amazing. She told me that the Norwegian staff was some of the nicest people she had ever met. She had had the time of her life and met her true love. Erin sounded more excited and happy than she had been in a very long time.”

Coincidentally, it was one of Norwegian’s amazing team members that made this love connection happen. At the start of the cruise, fellow passenger Todd O’Neil jokingly asked Bar Waiter Reynaldo “Rey” Atizado from the Philippines if he knew of any nice women on board. Rey, not skipping a beat, walked directly to Erin and her friend and introduced them to Todd and his friend, and that’s where the love story began. It makes us wonder if Rey’s middle name is “Cupid”!

Two years later, Picard and O’Neil are marrying this summer and the couple couldn’t be happier. To add to their happiness and celebrate their incredible love story, Norwegian is sending Erin and Todd on a dream honeymoon to Europe on board Norwegian Spirit, the ship on which they met. They will visit Spain, Italy, France, Greece, and Turkey on Norwegian Spirit’s 12-Day Grand Mediterranean voyage from Barcelona to Venice, following their July 6, 2012 nuptials.

“We are so excited to be going back on board the ship where we met and to visit such romantic destinations in Europe,” said Picard. “We wouldn’t have been able to take a honeymoon right now, so we are so thankful and thrilled.”

For others sailing with their sweetheart, there are many ways to spoil your special someone on board. From romantic dinners in Norwegian’s signature French restaurant, Le Bistro, to a night of dancing in any of Norwegian’s many bars and lounges, to intimate couples’ massages in one of the line’s relaxing spas, there is no better place to celebrate love than on board a Norwegian cruise.

If you are sailing next week with your significant other, consider one of these romantic packages to share with your Valentine:

The Romance Package: sparkling wine and strawberries in stateroom upon embarkation, a traditional spa pedicure and manicure for one, two 25-minute half-body Seven Seas Massages, and tea service in stateroom. $249 per stateroom.
The Deluxe Romance Package: sparkling wine and strawberries in stateroom upon embarkation, choice of Exotic Frangipani Body Nourishing Wrap or Exotic Coconut and Milk Ritual Wrap for one, two 25-minute half-body Seven Seas Massages, tea service in stateroom, breakfast in bed, a keepsake portrait, and a romantic dinner for two with a complimentary bottle of wine in Norwegian’s signature restaurant, Le Bistro. $329 per stateroom.
For more information, visit NCL.com.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Norovirus: The "Cruise Ship" Disease?

It starts with a queasy feeling in your stomach and proceeds to erupt in uncontrollable vomiting, diarrhea, or both. We used to call it stomach flu, but its more current name is norovirus or noro for brevity. While my husband Mel contracted noro once during a cruise, I've only been felled by it at home—twice in recent memory. The first time I got sick I read in the local newspaper that the entire county school system was experiencing an outbreak. The only place where I could have picked it up was at the supermarket. At that time they didn't have sanitizing wipes at the entrance to wipe down shopping cart handles. Now they do and I never fail to grab one before touching a cart.

Similarly, cruise ships are also proactive about hand sanitation and provide hand sanitizer at the entrance to restaurants. On our most recent cruise we were greeted at the gangway upon embarkation by a crewmember who spritzed our hands before we boarded. The process continued on board and we even found sanitizing dispensers inside the elevators. Since my husband's unfortunate experience with noro, he's extremely careful and only touches elevator buttons with his knuckle. I carry hand sanitizer in my bag and we use it frequently, especially after touching doorknobs and hand rails. Yes, we still wash our hands thoroughly with soap and water, but that isn't always an option. Thankfully, neither of us has contracted noro—or any other illness—while on a cruise since Mel was sickened that one time on the last night of a one-week sailing. He was treated by the ship's doctor with IVs (at no charge) and completely recovered in a day or two, but not before passing it along to me once we were home.

However, when hundreds of cruise passengers report to the infirmary with similar symptoms, does that necessarily mean their ship is SICK? Hardly. But you'd never know that from news reports about nasty "cruise ship diseases" that attack unsuspecting cruise vacationers. Yes, that's plural and there's more than one, but it's norovirus that often grabs the headlines. In all likelihood, it's an infected passenger who brought the noro aboard and spread it to others. Yes, the cruise lines require everyone to complete a pre-boarding questionnaire about their health and any symptoms they are possibly experiencing, but do you seriously think anyone who might be a bit sick to their stomach is going to admit that and be denied boarding?

In our related article we examine the question, Is Your Cruise Ship Sick? and separate the facts from fiction. We encourage you to learn more and be an informed passenger.