Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cruise News: Carnival Triumph Has Set Sail

Carnival Cruise Lines Statement RE: Carnival Triumph
MATTER RESOLVED
5.30pm ET

The matter involving the Carnival Triumph has been resolved and the ship has just departed on its scheduled 5-day voyage.

The ship will operate its normal itinerary with stops in Progreso and Cozumel, Mexico. While the matter was pending earlier today, guests were allowed to board the ship as normal and enjoy its many outstanding features and facilities.

Carnival Triumph is based year-round in Galveston, Texas and operates 4- and 5-day cruises to Mexico.

Cruise News: Will Carnival Triumph Sail Today?

Well, as of right now, we don't know. The Galveston County Daily News reports that officials from Carnival Cruise Lines are "meeting with attorneys this morning and scrambling to ensure that the 2,758-passenger vessel Carnival Triumph can sail from Galveston as planned today."

In the event that Carnival can resolve the legal issue without delay, Port of Galveston Port Director Mike Mierzwa told the Galveston County Daily News that he recommends passengers scheduled to embark today not cancel their plans.

In an initial report of the situation from Bloomberg that we referenced below, Carnival Triumph would be allowed to dock today to disembark passengers and cargo before moving to another berth inside the port until the "attachment" is lifted by the federal court.

Port Director Mierzwa hopes to know this afternoon whether Carnival Triumph will sail from Galveston Island on the ship's scheduled 5-day cruise to Yucatan and Cozumel. Hopefully, he'll know sooner than later.

While we have no official statement from Carnival Cruise Lines, one of their employees has posted this online at Facebook:

"A legal motion was filed in a Texas federal court that resulted in a judge issuing an order to hold the Carnival Triumph in port. The litigation in question relates to a lawsuit brought about by a passenger who sailed on the Costa Concordia in Italy this past January. The Costa Concordia is a vessel operated by Costa Cruises. Carnival Cruise Lines and Costa Cruises are both part of a global organization called Carnival Corporation and plc, however, the two cruise lines operate completely independently.

We want to assure you that we are working diligently through the appropriate legal channels to get this matter resolved as soon as possible. We are optimistic the issues regarding the Carnival Triumph will be resolved and the ship will depart on its scheduled voyage later today.

In the meantime, we are proceeding with our normal embarkation process."
Cruise Diva normally doesn't give a lot of credibility to Facebook posts, but this one seems to be from an informed source. However, an earlier Facebook post stating, "Embarking guests will be given a letter as they arrive at the terminal informing them of the situation," is no longer visible. No word on whether anyone is actually being allowed on board the ship.

Just a side note. I used to work for the US Federal District Court and none of their employees, especially judges, like to work on the weekend, unless it's a dire emergency.

Cruise News: Carnival Triumph "Under Arrest"?

We hope this is an early April Fool's joke gone bad, but Bloomberg and CND's Cruiseblogger have reported that "a Texas judge has ordered Carnival Triumph arrested when it returns to Galveston on Saturday (March 31, 2012)."

Apparently the situation is related to a $10 million lawsuit filed by the family of a German passenger who died aboard the Costa Concordia shipwreck off the Italian coast in January. Carnival Triumph is operated by Carnival Cruise Lines and Costa Concordia was operated by Costa Crociere; both lines are Carnival Corporation brands.

This is shaping up to be a long weekend with a lot of bad news.

Cruise News: Azamara Quest Engine Room Fire Update

Azamara Club Cruises Statement
March 30, 11:30 p.m. ET

Engineers onboard Azamara Quest continue to work on restoring propulsion to the ship. Once they have restored the ship’s propulsion, Azamara Quest will sail directly to Sandakan (Sabah), Malaysia. When propulsion has been restored to the ship, we will be able to provide an estimated time of arrival. Until then, we will be working with our guests to determine how we can best assist them with next steps and travel arrangements.

Larry Pimentel, president and chief executive officer, will be flying to Sandakan in order to meet with Azamara Quest guests personally. Mr. Pimentel is scheduled to arrive in Malaysia on Monday morning, local time.

Unfortunately, five crew members onboard the ship suffered smoke inhalation during the fire. The crew members are being treated in our medical facility. However, one crew member is more seriously injured and requires additional and urgent medical attention that can only be provided in a hospital. Once the ship arrives in Sandakan, the crew member will be immediately transported to a local area hospital.

The damage caused by the fire will require us to cancel the rest of Azamara Quest’s voyage once the ship arrives in Sandakan. We encourage guests on the April 12, 2012, sailing of Azamara Quest to monitor this website on Monday, April 2 for an update on your voyage.

If you have specific questions regarding Azamara Quest, you may call toll free 1.888.829.4050 from the United States and Canada. Guest outside the United States may call direct or collect to 1.408.916.9001.

"Like New" Rhapsody of the Seas Takes To The Sea

Rhapsody of the Seas in Alaska
A Royal Caribbean Vision-class ship introduced in 1997, Rhapsody of the Seas has emerged from a month-long $54 million dry dock in Singapore's Sembawang Shipyard as a virtually new ship.

Newly rejuvenated with a bow-to-stern transformation, Rhapsody of the Seas promises to deliver a host of new dining options, visually stunning entertainment, and unique amenities. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy all of Rhapsody of the Seas' new signature features as they sail in Alaska this summer or Australia in the fall.

The all-encompassing revitalization introduces a range of guest features and premium experiences that are sure to impress even the most experienced cruiser, including the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery designed for the cruise line's youngest guests, 6 - 36 months old, a Diamond Lounge for Crown and Anchor Society loyalty members, a Concierge Lounge for suite guests and top-tier loyalty guests, and completely refreshed staterooms. Also new, staying connected at sea will be easier with Wi-Fi availability throughout the ship. A host of other technological enhancements include flat-panel televisions in all staterooms, an outdoor LED movie screen on the pool deck, as well as a digital way-finding system.

For guests who want to tickle their taste buds, Rhapsody of the Seas has an expanded array of dining options with the addition of five of the fleet's most highly acclaimed dining concepts: Giovanni's Table, Izumi Asian Cuisine restaurant, Park Cafe deli-style restaurant, Chop's Grille steakhouse, and the exclusive 14-guest Chef's Table (priced below).

• Giovanni's Table: An Italian trattoria featuring Italian classics served family-style (open for lunch, $15, and dinner, $20)
• Izumi Asian Cuisine: Featuring tempting flavors and a sushi bar with hot-rock cooking, the pan Asian cuisine restaurant is a no-hassle, authentic dining experience (open for lunch and dinner, $3.00 cover charge for lunch and $5.00 for dinner plus a la carte menu pricing)
• Park Cafe: An indoor/outdoor gourmet market featuring salads, sandwiches, soups, and pastries (open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, complimentary)
• Chops Grille: Royal Caribbean's signature steakhouse offering premium cuts and quality meats (open for dinner, $30 per person)
• Chef's Table: An exclusive and private experience co-hosted by the executive Chef and Sommelier for a wine pairing dinner of five courses (open for dinner, $95 per person).
For entertaining experiences, the reinvented Centrum offers enriching daytime activities and a new high-flying entertainment performance where aerialists glide through the five-story atrium visible from the 60's inspired R Bar below. R Bar is a new bar concept first introduced on board Splendour of the Seas. The Viking Crown Lounge has also been newly re-imagined and sports a new design concept as well as a new menu featuring bite size goodies.

From her Singapore dry dock, Rhapsody of the Seas first voyages to Sydney, Australia, and from there she will sail across the Pacific via Hawaii to her Alaska season that begins in May. In Alaska, Rhapsody of the Seas sails every Friday on 7-night, round-trip cruises from Seattle, calling at Juneau and Skagway, Alaska, and Victoria, BC as well as transiting Alaska's Inside Passage and venturing up Tracy Arm Fjord to Sawyer Glacier.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cruise News: Engine Room Fire Aboard Azamara Quest

12 noon ET
Today at approximately 8:19 p.m. ship time, Azamara Quest experienced a fire in the engine room. The fire was contained to the engine room and was quickly extinguished. There were no injuries of guests reported and the atmosphere aboard was calm. However, in an abundance of caution, the Captain initially mustered all guests at their assembly stations. The ship has run on generator power until full power can be restored to the engine room.

Azamara Quest is currently on a 17-night sailing that departed Hong Kong, China, on Monday, March 26, and includes port calls to Manila, Philippines; Sandakan (Sabah), Malaysia; Palapo (Sulawesi), Benoa (Bali), Semarang and Komodo, Indonesia and concludes in Singapore on Thursday, April 12.

6:00 p.m. ET
Azamara Quest engineers have restored power to one of the ship's engines. This additional power has permitted the ship to reestablish air conditioning, running water, plumbing, refrigeration, and food preparation on board for the comfort of the guests and crew. While the ship does not have propulsion capabilities at this time, it is in the process of being repaired.

The ship, still located 200 miles off the coast of Balikpapan (Borneo), Indonesia, in calm seas is currently running on emergency power until full power can be restored to the engine room.

Azamara Club Cruises will continue to closely monitor the situation on board Azamara Quest and provide updates as they occur.

Cruise News: Celebrity Cruises 2013-14 Winter Caribbean Season Focuses on Sailings From Southern Homeports

We know the 2012-13 winter Caribbean season won't begin for months, but as Celebrity Cruises says, "There's no better time than winter to seek out sun-soaked, exotic destinations..." and they know their loyal guests like to plan ahead. That's exactly what the cruise line is offering them the opportunity to do with its newly announced 2013-14 winter itinerary line-up featuring six stunning ships sailing in the Caribbean to create the ultimate winter getaway.

A new itinerary offering will be 4- and 5-night roundtrip Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Florida on Celebrity Constellation, which was "Solsticized" in drydock last year to include guest-favorite enhancements such as the Tuscan Grille specialty restaurant, CellarMasters wine bar, and Cafe al Bacio and Gelateria, among other venues. Prior to the 2013-14 winter season, new AquaClass accommodations with exclusive access to the Mediterranean specialty restaurant, Blu, will be added to the ship. From December 2013 through April 2014 Celebrity Constellation will sail Bahamas cruises featuring port calls in Key West, Florida and Nassau, Bahamas; and Western Caribbean itineraries with stops in Key West and Cozumel, Mexico.

In addition to Celebrity Constellation's short Caribbean cruises, voyages through the region's vibrant blue waters will be offered on four of Celebrity's five Solstice Class ships and one additional Solsticized Millennium Class ship in the winter of 2013-14. Three of these ships will offer 7-night cruises:

-- Eastern Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Miami, Florida on Celebrity Reflection, currently under construction and debuting later this year with Celebrity's first-ever AquaClass Suites and the ultra-luxurious Reflection Suite and Signature Suites
-- Alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale on Celebrity Silhouette, the ship that introduced the interactive Lawn Club Grill and private cabanas known as The Alcoves to vacationers
-- Port-rich Southern Caribbean cruises on the recently Solsticized Celebrity Summit, roundtrip from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Two Solstice Class ships will offer longer cruises with even more ways to maximize vacation time by enjoying all that Celebrity offers onboard, along with the relaxing vibe of the Caribbean:

-- Celebrity Eclipse will offer a 14-night Exotic Southern Caribbean itinerary roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale from November 2013 to April 2014.
-- Celebrity Equinox will repeat her 2012-13 10- and 11-night "Ultimate Caribbean" cruises sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale from December 2013 to April 2014.
Yes, you read that right. Once again there will be no Caribbean-bound cruises on Celebrity ships from the New York area next winter. We were always somewhat puzzled about the decision to base their newest ship Celebrity Silhouette in a cold weather homeport for its inaugural Caribbean season last year. The outer deck amenities are ideal for Caribbean cruising, but it takes a day or two to get into warm weather when going south from the northeast in winter months. Homeporting in Fort Lauderdale makes more sense and passengers can enjoy those features almost immediately upon boarding. Or, perhaps the Lawn Club's live grass was going dormant from the wintry winds. In either case, good move, Celebrity!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Freeport, Hit The Beach At Grand Lucayan

Your ship has docked in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island and you’ve grabbed a taxi to take you to the beach, but which beach? The island’s beaches are all accessible to visitors, but you’d like the amenities that come with a day pass to an exclusive resort area, so head for Grand Lucayan, Bahamas, Grand Bahama Island’s premier resort.

From April 13-Dec 15, 2012, Grand Lucayan offers cruise passengers the opportunity to enjoy all the resort has to offer for only $10 for adults and $5 for children. You can take advantage of access to the resort’s multiple swimming pools, private beach, use of non-motorized sports (including snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, and boogie-boarding).

If you enjoy your day pass and want to come back, the 519-room Grand Lucayan, Bahamas is situated along an expansive 7.5-acre beach only 70 miles off the coast of Florida. With stunning views of the Caribbean Sea, the property is a AAA-rated Four Diamond resort, offering some of the finest amenities in the Bahamas. Hotel guests enjoy spacious accommodations, nine restaurants, four swimming pools, water sports activities, four tennis courts (all with Grand Slam surfaces), a 25,000 square-foot Senses Spa & Fitness Center, 18-hole championship golf course (The Reef Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr), and a Las Vegas-style casino. Get more info from their website.

Image Courtesy of Grand Lucayan, Bahamas

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Yen For Sushi, Sake & Sun Princess In Japan

In response to a growing interest in cruising in Japan, Carnival Corporation plans to introduce the largest deployment ever by a global cruise line in the Japanese market. Not only is the cruise line global, Japanese passengers will recognize the ship on tap as a “Love Boat” that has been tailored to meet their preferences. One of the world’s favorite cruise line brands, Princess Cruises, will launch an 87-day cruising program featuring a total of nine cruises on seven different itineraries operating from April through July of next year. Cruises from both Yokohama and Kobe aboard Sun Princess will be from nine to 12 days in length.

The unique itineraries have been customized for the Japanese vacation market, and will launch with the most significant national holiday of Golden Week, a nine-day cruise on April 27, 2013 which includes two days in Hakata during the renowned Dontaku Festival.

“Our new Japan deployment is three times larger than that of any competitive international cruise program, with superior itineraries specifically designed for the Japanese market,” said Alan Buckelew, Princess Cruises president and chief executive officer. “It’s the very first time a global cruise line is offering a full season of cruises from April to July designed specifically for passengers from Japan. We believe that our unique itineraries and on board experience will prove extremely popular and will help to introduce cruise vacations to a growing number of Japanese vacationers.”

Approximately 18,000 passengers are expected to be carried during this first season of cruising in Japan. Highlights of some itineraries include overnight stays at cities with popular annual festivals, destinations known for their natural hot springs, northern ports of Japan, and foreign ports in Korea and Taiwan, among others. The 2013 Japan homeport program features the following cruises:

• 9-day Golden Week: Departs April 27, 2013 sailing roundtrip from Yokohama with calls at Hiroshima (overnight); Nagasaki; Busan, South Korea, and Hakata (overnight).
• 12-day Round Japan with Festivals: Departs May 6, 2013 sailing roundtrip from Yokohama with calls at Aomori, Busan, Kanazawa (overnight), Sakaiminato, Maizuru, and Nagoya.
• 9-day Korea and Taiwan: Departs May 18, 2013 sailing roundtrip from Yokohama and June 23, 2013 sailing from Yokohama to Kobe, with calls at Busan and Cheju, South Korea; and Kaohsiung and Taipei, Taiwan.
• 9-day Round Japan with Onsens: Departs May 27, 2013 sailing roundtrip from Yokohama with calls at Nagoya, Kobe, scenic cruising of Japan Inland Sea, Matsuyama, Busan, Kagoshima and Beppu.
• 9-day Kyushu & Korea: Departs June 5, 2013 sailing roundtrip from Yokohama with calls at Koshi, Kagoshima, Nagasaki, Cheju, Busan and Hiroshima.
• 9-day Hokkaido & Russia: Departs June 14 and July 14, 2013 sailing roundtrip from Yokohama with calls at Kushiro, scenic cruising of Shiretoko Peninsula; Korsakov, Russia; Otaru, Hakodate and Aomori.
• 12-day Round Japan: Departs July 2, 2013 sailing from Kobe (overnight) to Yokohama with scenic cruising of Japan Inland Sea and calls at Hiroshima (overnight), Busan, Sakaiminato, Maizuru, Kanazawa, Aomori and Sapporo.
At 77,000-tons, Sun Princess carries 2,022 passengers and features a high number of staterooms with private balconies, Lotus Spa, steakhouse, wine bar, patisserie, pizzeria, boutiques, and Internet café among other amenities.The cruise experience will be substantially the same as the Princess Cruises product offered around the world, providing an impressive array of dining and entertainment options in addition to the line’s signature innovations such as its popular Movies Under the Stars poolside theater and The Sanctuary, an exclusive top-deck retreat.

However modifications will be made including introducing key passenger-facing positions which will be filled by Japanese-speaking crew members. Dining room menus will offer international Princess cuisine while additional offerings will cater to Japanese tastes, and an a la carte sushi bar will be opened. A specially designed enrichment program will include an expert lecture series on art, culture, and history. Other amenities such as the shopping selection and spa treatments will also be tailored to Japanese tastes, and onboard collateral items and stateroom information will be translated into Japanese. An extensive array of shore excursions will be available to complement the itineraries so that Sun Princess passengers can experience all the ports have to offer.

Additionally underscoring the importance of Japan in the growing worldwide cruise market, Carnival Japan, Inc. has been formed to sell the Princess Cruises brand and certain other Carnival brands in Japan. Bases in Tokyo, Carnival Japan, Inc. is part of Carnival Corporation, one of the largest vacation companies in the world.

This new season of cruises will open for sale on April 16, 2012 and the sailings, along with all other cruises sold in the Japan market for Princess’ worldwide destinations, will be sold in Japanese Yen. Additional information about Princess Cruises is available at Princess.com.

Sun Princess Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chef Kirsten Dixon Unlocks the Secrets of Alaska Cuisine for Silversea Guests

One of the highlights of any Alaska cruise is the availability of freshly caught Alaska salmon, halibut, and king crab. However, there’s more to Alaskan cuisine than fish and seafood and Award-winning chef Kirsten Dixon, who has been cooking and living in the backcountry of Alaska for more than 20 years, will introduce Silversea guests to a wide variety of native dishes during a Culinary Arts enrichment program aboard Silver Shadow’s Voyage 3213, sailing May 17 to 31 from Tokyo to Seward, with calls in Hakodate, Kushiro, Petropavlovsk, Dutch Harbor, Kodiak, and Homer.

Dixon and her family own Within the Wild Adventure Company, which operates three remote wilderness lodges in Southcentral Alaska (Winterlake Lodge, Redoubt Bay Lodge, Tutka Bay Lodge); the Cooking School at Tutka Bay; a home goods boutique, RusticWild; and La Baleine, a café in Homer, Alaska. Dixon spends time at all three lodges during the summer and frequently teaches cooking lessons in the kitchen at Winterlake Lodge or at the Cooking School at Tutka Bay. Dixon attended culinary school at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, and earned a master’s degree in gastronomy from Adelaide University in Australia. She has written two cookbooks, including The Winterlake Lodge Cookbook, for which she won the "Best Female Chef USA" award at the Gourmand International Cookbook Awards in 2004.

"We’re delighted to be able to showcase the talents of Chef Dixon on one of our Culinary Arts voyages," said Christian Sauleau, Silversea's executive vice president of fleet operations. "These culinary theme sailings are a great way for guests to perfect their cooking skills, learn the secrets of master chefs, and discover the unique flavors and ingredients of a particular region."

On Culinary Arts enrichment voyages, celebrity chefs display their exceptional talents during dynamic and informative cooking demonstrations. The voyages also feature escorted provisioning trips to international markets (when the itinerary permits), food and wine pairings, creative regional dishes, and a five-course grand gourmet dinner. Throughout these special sailings, the featured guest chef and Silversea’s executive chef are on hand to share their culinary expertise and answer any questions. Travelers with a passion for food will be pleased to know that this Silver Shadow voyage will also feature the exclusive "Relais and Châteaux L'École des Chefs" interactive cooking school, hosted by Silversea culinary trainer David Bilsland.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Norwegian Breakaway Is Set To Be A Teen-Pleaser

There’s a rule of thumb familiar to most husbands that “if mama isn’t happy then no one is happy.” However, after observing families on cruise vacations for more than two decades, I disagree with that premise. It’s the teenagers that you have to keep happy. If they are bored and disgruntled, the entire family suffers along with them and their displeasure has less to do with the motion of the ocean than with just being a teenager on a family vacation. To counter teen angst and any kiddie complaints that “there’a nothing to do,” Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, Norwegian Breakaway, will debut the largest dedicated teen and youth facilities in the fleet.

Entourage is Norwegian Breakaway’s high energy, exclusive teen complex for ages 13 through 17, located high atop the ship on Deck 16. This hip, sophisticated area was designed to give teens their own funky space that includes air hockey; foosball; and an arcade center with five separate areas featuring large screens to play the latest video games while lounging on comfy sofas. In the evening, Entourage transitions into a teens-only nightclub with a dance floor, large screen television and music, including a video jukebox. Entourage has the advantage of being located next to the video arcade and a step away from an outdoor eatery and refreshment area to round out the teens’ experience.

For the first time, the youth area, named Splash Academy, will span two decks that are conveniently located adjacent to the family-friendly staterooms and feature areas designed specifically for three specific age groups. Babies and toddlers under age three, along with their parents, will also have their own dedicated play space with activities.

“The best family vacation will get even better when our new ship Norwegian Breakaway launches in April of next year,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “We know how extremely important it is for families to offer engaging, interactive programs for children and teens in a comfortable, well-equipped environment. Norwegian Breakaway will incorporate our biggest youth facilities with the best youth programming at sea with our new Splash Academy and Entourage programs.”

Splash Academy is centrally located on Decks 12 and 13 adjacent and easily accessible to the family-friendly staterooms. The reception area, located on Deck 12, is in close proximity to the forward elevators. As parents enter, they will utilize Norwegian’s e-Youth tablet-based electronic registration which allows them to swipe their keycard and input a password to sign in their children. Just past the brightly-colored and welcoming reception area, the three to five year olds will have their own space decorated with vibrant, engaging colors along with child-sized furniture. Wall mounted activities will keep little hands busy in between organized programming. In a separate area decorated with fun graphics to captivate children’s imaginations, the six to nine year olds will enjoy building block activity centers. An interactive dance mat with corresponding large video screen will encourage lots of activity. In addition, a dedicated space houses popular video game stations, along with a relaxing video viewing lounge.

Upstairs on Deck 13, the 10 to 12 year olds will have their own space designed specifically for older children. It will include a multipurpose visual dance space with a touch screen jukebox, plenty of moveable tables for activities and comfortable bean bags for lounging. An activity zone will include everything needed for arts and crafts and more. There is also a “hang out” area with dedicated gaming stations that will feature the latest video games. Rounding out the space will be a cool and comfortable lounge area with sofas and chairs in vibrant colors creating the perfect atmosphere to chill out.

Entering service in April 2013, Norwegian Breakaway will sail from her year-round homeport of New York City to Bermuda in the summer and The Bahamas and; Florida and The Caribbean in the winter. More information can be found at breakaway.ncl.com and 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
Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Carnival Conquest Will Call Miami “Home” in 2013

After receiving the extensive dining, bar, and entertainment enhancements that are part of Carnival Cruise Lines’ ongoing Fun Ship 2.0 Initiative, Carnival Conquest will also get a new homeport when she repositions from New Orleans to Miami in November 2013.

On its new Miami-based schedule, Carnival Conquest will operate year-round 7-day Caribbean departures from the busy South Florida port, departing every Sunday on two distinctly different Caribbean itineraries. Week-long eastern Caribbean cruises call at Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan, and Grand Turk, while the western route features extended stops at Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Belize, and Mahogany Bay (Isla Roatan).

Prior to the start up of its Miami-based program on Nov. 24, 2013, Carnival Conquest will operate two special departures—a 7-day exotic eastern Caribbean cruise from New Orleans to San Juan Nov. 9-16, calling at Grand Turk, La Romana (Dominican Republic); Tortola, and St. Thomas, as well as an 8-day southern Caribbean voyage from San Juan to Miami Nov. 16-24, visiting St. Kitts; Dominica, St. Maarten, Antigua, and Grand Turk.

Carnival Conquest’s dry dock is scheduled to take place Oct. 14-28, 2012 and incorporate a wide variety of exciting on-board features, including:

• RedFrog Rum Bar, a poolside version of the RedFrog Pub offering a variety of the Caribbean’s top rums and beers, which are enjoyed in a laid back island-infused atmosphere
• BlueIguana Tequila Bar, a friendly rival to the RedFrog Rum Bar, this lively and engaging watering hole specializes in frozen cocktails and Mexican beers, in a fun and festive environment
• Alchemy Bar, a cocktail pharmacy where highly trained mixologists create custom cocktails using interesting flavors and ingredients
• EA SPORTS Bar, an interactive sports bar where patrons can view live action, play popular EA SPORTS video games and keep up with the latest scores on the 24/7 sports ticker
• Guy’s Burger Joint, a complimentary poolside venue offering fresh-made burgers, hand-cut fries and innovative toppings and condiments created in partnership with Food Network personality and chef Guy Fieri
• BlueIguana Cantina, a free-of-charge Mexican cantina with authentic tacos and burritos that can be personalized by diners at an extensive salsa and toppings bar
• The Punchliner Comedy Club & The Punchliner Comedy Brunch presented by George Lopez, who is taking Carnival’s popular comedy offerings to the next level with hilarious, side-splitting comedians and a humorous twist on the traditional mid-morning culinary feast
• Hasbro, The Game Show, where guests are the stars of the show through larger-than-life adaptations of the company’s iconic and popular board games presented in the ship’s main show lounge
• Playlist Productions, takes Carnival’s legendary revues to another level incorporating high-tech special effects with live performances to create a memorable entertainment experience
• DJ IRIE, the celebrity spin-master and official DJ of Carnival Cruise Lines whose Spin’iversity is training the line’s shipboard DJs so they can place their own distinctive musical stamps on the line’s nightclubs and other venues
With the Carnival Conquest, Carnival will have five ships based year-round in Miami, as well as one operating from there on a seasonal basis. Collectively, these six vessels will carry more than a million guests from the Port of Miami—the most of any Carnival homeport.

In the meantime, Carnival Conquest will continue its schedule from New Orleans through Nov. 9, 2013. Then, as previously announced, Carnival Conquest will be replaced in New Orleans by the Carnival Sunshine (the ship that currently sails as the Carnival Destiny, but which will be renamed following an extensive 49-day refit that begins next winter).

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Norwegian Cruise Line Selects Names For Its Enhanced Youth & Teen Programs

Norwegian Cruise Line has selected the names for its new Youth and Teen programs from the thousands of entries they received in the recent “Up2YOU” naming contest.

Splash Academy is the new name for its enhanced Youth program and Entourage is the new moniker for its revitalized Teen program. Names were also selected for the four age groups in the Youth program: Guppies for ages up to 2; Turtles for ages 3 to 5; Seals for ages 6 to 9; and Dolphins for ages 10 to 12. The company announced its new enhanced youth and teen programs earlier this year that launched on Norwegian Gem in February and are currently being rolled out to all the ships in the Norwegian fleet.

The grand prize contest winners are Misty Horning of Princeton, Kentucky who first submitted Splash Academy and Lili Kabelitz of Sag Harbor, New York who first submitted Entourage. Each will receive a seven-day Caribbean cruise for a family of four. Those who submitted the winning names for the age groups will each receive a $100 American Express® gift card.

“We introduced our new Youth and Teen programs on Norwegian Gem to rave reviews from parents and kids alike,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “The winning names capture the spirit and fun-filled nature of the new exciting programs that are designed to be educational and interactive.”

The enhanced curriculum focuses on team building and assisting in developing children’s interpersonal and confidence-building skills. With activities that are tailored specifically to each age group, the new youth and teen programs focus on creative and unique activities, along with more sporting events, through a partnership with King’s Foundation and Camps. A highlight of the program is a circus school in partnership with Hilario Productions Cirque du Jour, a New York-based company that specializes in teaching children real circus skills. The overall curriculum focuses on team building and assisting in developing children’s interpersonal and confidence-building skills.

Both Splash Academy and Entourage will feature a different theme every day. Whether it’s ocean-related, pirates, space cowboys, jungle fever or circus, every day will offer a new surprise that is tailored to the individual age groups with a variety of themed activities. Specific emphasis is being placed on sports through the partnership with The King’s Foundation and Camps, a United Kingdom-based organization that provides high quality sport and activity programs designed to make a positive impact on children. A large variety of sports activities and workshops are being offered including soccer skills; physical challenges; and icebreaker action games. For teens, bowling tournaments, soccer challenges and dodge ball under the stars are just a few of the active offerings. There is also a chance for the whole family to play along with a variety of sports including dodge ball, sports court fun, tug-of-war and King’s Camps’ family challenges.

Creative arts also play a big role in the program. With a focus on theater and the arts, young cruisers will have the chance to participate in puppet shows, mini improvisational acting classes and the ability to act out their favorite spy or survivor in themed activities such as Superspy Mission Impossible and Desert Island Adventures.

Through the partnership with Hilario Productions Cirque du Jour, Norwegian is offering circus workshops for the whole family teaching a variety of skills such as balancing feathers, juggling, plate spinning and even stilt walking. Classes will take place within the youth program and there is also a family circus school performed in a circus ring, hosted by a ringmaster. Hilario Productions Cirque du Jour was established by a team of performers from the famed Ringling Brothers, so kids and parents can learn from some of the best circus entertainers. Additional offerings for families to participate in together include cupcake decorating; pizza making; a variety of family game shows; family charades; Family Deck Party; and a special Family White Hot Party.

Splash Academy also offers activities for cruisers under three and their parents who can enjoy sensory play classes which include baby art featuring “Wee Can Too” organic art products. There are also fun events such as parent and baby “Rhyme Time” where a storyteller recites popular nursery rhymes featuring puppets or “Motion in the Ocean,” a parent and baby mini workout.

Norwegian’s youth counselors have a degree or relevant in child care or sports education. The company has recruited staff with leadership qualities and those who can serve as positive role models. The counselors will continue to use cute, catchy nicknames which the children enjoy.

Splash Academy and Entourage are currently available on Norwegian Gem and are rolling out to all of Norwegian’s ships. Launch dates are as follows: Norwegian Jewel on April 21; Norwegian Star on May 6; Norwegian Dawn on May 25; Norwegian Epic on May 27; Norwegian Pearl on June 17; Norwegian Jade on June 30; Norwegian Sky on July 16; Norwegian Sun on July 24; Norwegian Spirit on August 14; and Pride of America on August 25. Norwegian Breakaway launching in April 2013 will also feature the new youth and teen programs. Further information on Norwegian’s family offerings can be found at NCL.com/Family.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cruise News: Costa Concordia Death Toll Officially At Thirty

Sadly, Italian civil protection authorities report that five bodies were found yesterday outside the wrecked hull of Costa Concordia. The Associated Press and other wire services say the bodies were discovered outside the ship, between the hull and the rocks.

While recovery of the bodies is expected to take several days, their discovery bring the confirmed death toll to 30 with two people still missing.

Royal Princess Is Already Breaking Records

With the launch over a year away, Princess Cruises logged the biggest booking day in its history for a new ship’s inaugural season with the anticipated debut of Royal Princess. Opening the books on its 2013 Mediterranean season last week, sales for the new Royal Princess reached an all-time record for the most bookings of any Princess ship’s maiden season voyages.

“We’re thrilled to see such enthusiasm for our new Royal Princess,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president of sales, marketing and customer service.

The ship’s 12-day Grand Mediterranean cruises between Barcelona and Venice begin on June 23, 2013. Preceding these cruises, Royal Princess sails on her inaugural voyage, a 7-day Iberia cruise from Southampton to Barcelona departing June 16.

“Offering our newest ship on our most popular Europe itinerary, the Grand Mediterranean, has clearly proved popular with consumers and we’d like to thank everyone who has booked a cruise on the new Royal Princess,” added Swartz. “The combination of an extraordinary on board experience with these iconic European ports is sure to give passengers the cruise of a lifetime.”

The 3,600-passenger Royal Princess is a new-generation ship currently under construction for Princess Cruises. Among the new features found on board will be a greatly expanded atrium, the social hub of the ship; the dramatic 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; plush private poolside cabanas that appear to be floating on the water; 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. Eighty percent of the ship’s staterooms will feature a balcony.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cruise News: Costa Concordia Defueling Operations Conclude; ‘Caretaking’ Operations Commence

Costa Crociere, the municipality of Giglio Island and the Costa Concordia Emergency Commissioner’s Office announce that the operations to remove the fuel from Costa Concordia have successfully been completed.

Defueling operations, which were carried out by experts from the Neri/Smit Salvage team hired by Costa Crociere, began at 5 p.m. Feb. 12 and continued around the clock whenever sea and weather conditions were favorable. The removal of the fuel from 17 tanks of the ship will be completed by Friday night March 23. The operations used a system of pumps and valves to remove the fuel. “Hot tap” valves were attached to the side of the ship, a hole was drilled into the tank and a pipeline was attached. This enabled the oil to be heated and pumped out while seawater was pumped in to maintain the ship’s stability. Minimal amounts of fuel cannot be pumped out of the bulkheads of the tanks, but they pose no significant environmental risk.

“After the tragic incident involving the Costa Concordia we took immediate action to guarantee the least possible environmental impact and protect the environment of Giglio and the island’s economy and tourism industry, working productively and in full cooperation with the Emergency Commissioner’s Office and the Municipality of Giglio,” said Costa Crociere S.p.A. President Gianni Onorato. “We appointed the world’s leading salvage company to carry out the defueling operation, and this has been done successfully, preventing a potential ecological disaster.”

Onorato said that Costa Crociere is pleased with the results, and the company will continue to work with the same commitment during the next stages of the salvage mission until all the necessary operations are completed.

“The reliability and expertise of our company are shown by the professionalism with which we manage projects like this one,” said Onorato. “I wish to reiterate that the Costa Concordia incident was a one-off extraordinary event, extremely serious but unrepeatable, and I wish to express our condolences to the families of the victims and our closeness to all the people who suffered because of this incident.”

“We have observed and monitored the total commitment of all the parties involved in the efforts to prevent even the slightest environmental impact on the island and today we can see that our optimism was not misplaced,” said the Mayor of Giglio Sergio Ortelli. “The fact that the various operations and measures have been jointly agreed and implemented has enabled us to achieve what is a great result for the future of Giglio Island. We cannot forget the tragedy that occurred here and our thoughts are continuously with the families of the people who died or are missing. At the same time, the efficiency and effectiveness of the response to the emergency, combined with the fact that the daily analysis conducted by ARPAT and ISRA has confirmed that our waters are still crystalline, means that we can now look to the future with greater peace of mind.”

The people of Giglio are confident, continued Ortelli, that the next stage of the salvage operation, which will be more complex, will be handled with the same team spirit that has emerged to date and that this will lead to the same positive result that is the common goal. “I wish to thank the inhabitants of Giglio, who, at such a difficult time, have shown a tremendous sense of responsibility,” he said.

Costa Crociere made a multimillion-euro investment in defueling operations, with the primary focus on removing the fuel from the ship as quickly and cleanly as possible. Now that the fuel has been successfully pumped out of the tanks, and ahead of finalization of the wreck removal plan, attention is now focused on “caretaking” operations. The intention is to guarantee environmental monitoring and protection with the assistance of experts using dedicated means and resources, and to clean up the seabed and the area around the hull. Caretaking will be conducted by Neri/Smit Salvage technical staff appointed by Costa Crociere and will last one to two months.

As previously announced, regarding removal of the ship, the six working plans submitted by the March 3 deadline are being evaluated. A short list is being developed and the best plan will be selected and announced in early to mid April. All of the plans submitted prioritize the need to minimize the environmental impact, protect Giglio’s economy and tourism industry, and guarantee safety. The operation to remove the wreck is expected to take from 10 to 12 months, depending on which plan is chosen.

Carnival Passenger Reaches 100th Cruise Milestone

Now, I would say that this gentleman certainly likes to have fun. He’s proven that fact in a big way with his loyalty to Carnival Cruise Lines’ fleet of “Fun Ships.”

Last week Dennis Coleman of Baltimore sailed on his 100th Carnival cruise–a 7-day Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Dream from Port Canaveral, Florida–becoming only the fourth guest in the company’s 40-year history to achieve this distinction.

To commemorate this significant milestone, the Port Canaveral embarkation staff and the Carnival Dream team truly went all out in making Coleman’s cruise truly memorable. The festivities started before Coleman even boarded the ship, with the embarkation staff creating a special banner to celebrate his arrival. The fun continued once on board where Coleman received the full VIP treatment, starting with a greeting by the ship’s crewmembers (pictured above) and including a special dinner with Captain Massimo Marino and his officers, as well as a complimentary meal in The Chef’s Art steakhouse, and numerous other on-board amenities.

Coleman achieved the 100-cruise mark in less than 10 years, first sailing with the line aboard the Carnival Fantasy in 2003 and reaching Platinum status (10 cruises) roughly two years later. He has sailed on every ship in the Carnival fleet, including 12 times on the Carnival Dream, and has already booked a cruise on the line’s newest ship, Carnival Breeze, which debuts this summer. It is estimated that Coleman has spent a whopping 723 days at sea with Carnival. No word on what his total cost was to achieve that goal, but I’m pretty sure it exceeds my travel budget!

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cruise News: Monarch of the Seas to Sail Off to the Pullmantur Fleet

The rumor is now official. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has formally announced the transfer of Monarch of the Seas from its Royal Caribbean International cruise brand to its Pullmantur brand, a cruise and tour operator based in Madrid, Spain.

You still have time to enjoy Monarch of the Seas, though. The ship won’t join Pullmantur until April 1, 2013, following its last sailing for Royal Caribbean International, which departs on March 29, 2013.

“We are very proud of Monarch of the Seas for delivering great service and outstanding destinations to vacationers since her maiden voyage,” said Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. “She will go on creating wonderful travel memories through her final sailings for our brand through next March and then continue doing the same for Pullmantur’s guests.”

Monarch of the Seas was built at Chantiers de L’Atlantique (now STX France) in St. Nazaire, France and sailed its maiden voyage on Nov 17, 1991. The Monarch was the second of three vessels built for the Sovereign class of cruise ships, which were the world’s largest and most innovative of their time. The first, Sovereign of the Seas (launched in 1988), has already been transferred to Pullmantur and the third, Majesty of the Seas (introduced 1992), will continue to sail for Royal Caribbean. At least for the time being.

With the incorporation of Monarch of the Seas, Pullmantur will increase its total guest capacity by nearly 25 percent and meet a rising demand for the brand’s distinctive All Inclusive-style cruise holidays.

Pullmantur is the leading Spanish Tour Operator and Cruise Company, founded in 1971, and noted for introducing the ‘All Inclusive’ concept to mainstream European cruising. Pullmantur is leader of the cruise market in Spain and Portugal, currently operating a fleet of four vessels, with a daily passenger capacity of 9,000, cruising worldwide, and calling on approximately 100 destinations. The company offers a unique door-to-door flight service, operated by its in-house air travel division with a fleet of four Boeing 747-400. Pullmantur Air provides charter flights to the European Cruise Port Embarkations and long-haul flights between Spain and the Caribbean Sea for the company’s tour-operation division. Spain based Pullmantur, operates through satellite offices in Brazil, Mexico, Portugal, and France.

Image Courtesy of RoyalCaribbean Intl

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Silver Shadow in Minor Collision With Commercial Vessel

In the information age of the Internet, it seems that everyone is a "citizen reporter" or "photographer/videographer" these days. No where is that more apparent than when a big story breaks and television news outlets use on-the-scenes photos and video captured on someone's mobile phone.

So, it's no surprise that a story has shown up on CNN iReport, a user-generated content section of CNN.com—complete with a photo and the breathless headline "Italian cruiseship Silversea Shadow crash into container ship." Not only is the ship's name incorrect, but by describing it as "Italian" the story plays off the recent sinking of Costa Concordia in a way that casts Italian passenger shipping companies in a negative light and sensationalizes an incident that probably doesn't deserve such hype.

The story also relates that the accident occurred in heavy fog and, "Passengers were called to muster stations." That sounds like a smart move on the part of the ship's captain. Thankfully, no one aboard Silver Shadow was injured. It's interesting that a disclaimer "Not vetted for CNN" appears alongside the story.

I was interested in the cruise line's account of what happened and received the following statement from Silversea Cruises.

Statement on Silver Shadow
Silver Shadow was involved in a minor incident on March 16, 2012 at around 4:20 GMT as it was approaching the pilot station in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. There was contact between Silver Shadow and a local commercial vessel. Silver Shadow incurred limited minor dents and guests' safety was never compromised. The ship was fully operational and continued on its course to Ha Long Bay where all shore tours operated normally.

Silversea will carry out a full investigation into the incident.
I'm not saying that passenger's report was inaccurate, but in the heat of the moment—especially after being called to muster stations—perceptions can be somewhat overwhelmed by emotion.

Monday, March 19, 2012

New Cruise Review: MSC Poesia

Would our frequent cruisers with Italian heritage enjoy a cruise aboard what was for them a new cruise line and ship—MSC Cruises' lovely MSC Poesia?

Vincent and Mary Finelli did have a fine time, but probably won't be back, despite the excellent food and service. Sadly, the ship just isn't wheelchair friendly enough.

Check out what Vincent and Mary found problematic about MSC Poesia in their latest cruise review.

On a side note, a friend and colleague was also on the ship with his mother the same week as Vincent and Mary. My friend's mother uses a walker and her experience was similar, which confirms the Finellis' findings regarding issues encountered by those with mobility challenges

Photo: MSC Poesia At Anchor © CruiseDiva.com

Sunday, March 18, 2012

KISS & Cruise

KISS fans, don’t forget to pack your Halloween costumes when you get ready to join the KISS Navy for the wettest, wildest, and most rockin’ adventure at sea, 2012's KISS Kruise II.

The legendary rock band KISS has once again partnered with Sixthman to offer their fans another unforgettable rock ‘n’ roll experience. This year’s sequel to the infamous inaugural voyage last fall will take place aboard the beautiful Norwegian Pearl Oct 31 through Nov 4, 2012 with fans rocking from Miami to Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, Norwegian’s private island reserved just for KISS fans. Following an exclusive booking period for KISS Fan Club members, a limited number of remaining staterooms are now on sale to the public.

The four night cruise includes many features of the phenomenal 2011 voyage, as well as exciting new attractions, including each member of the band leading their own onboard activity. KISS Kruisers will have the rare opportunity to explore Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas. Guests will receive an exclusive autographed KISS Kruise II print and a photo of themselves with the band and their cabin mates. KISS will perform a live concert in Norwegian Pearl’s main theater, as well as a special unmasked acoustic show on the ship's pool deck. The KISS Kruise II also includes a Q-and-A with the band, costume contests, wild theme nights, and of course, an insane Halloween blowout, surpassing any music fan's wildest dreams. The Kruise also includes special performances from Big Rock Show, Radiolucent, and Yacht Rock Revue. Stay tuned for announcements regarding shows, contests, activities, and additional guest performers to round out this extraordinary event.

Fares include entertainment, meals in the complimentary restaurants, and access to many Norwegian Pearl amenities, such as the two pools, hot tubs, massive spa, rock climbing wall, sports deck and fitness center. Select balcony staterooms and luxury suites in The Haven by Norwegian, including the largest suite at sea – the 5,000-square foot Garden Villa that sleeps up to eight, are also available, featuring incredible views, private hot tubs, and butler and concierge services. For more information visit: TheKISSKruise.com.

Image Courtesy of Sixthman

Saturday, March 17, 2012

For Whom The (Cruise Ship) Bell Tolls

Well this is certainly embarrassing news out of Rome. Despite the presence of "laser systems that measure millimetric shifts in the Costa Concordia shipwreck and 24-hour surveillance by the Italian coast guard and police" it has been reported by the National Post that underwater thieves have made off with the Costa Concordia's ship's bell.

Apparently it's a fact that some people will go to great lengths to steal almost anything. While the daring heist happened nearly two weeks ago, we have yet to see the bell advertised on eBay. However, keep an eye out for it in the cruise memorabilia category: "Ship's Bell, inscribed with Costa Concordia and 2006, the year the ship was christened."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cruise News: Cruise Shipping Miami Wrap-Up

Cruise Shipping Miami, the cruise industry's major convention in the United States (formerly known as Seatrade) has wrapped up its March 12-15 events this year. While Cruise Diva was unable to attend the 28th annual event, we do have a summary to share.

The State of the Industry

The opening plenary session of the 28th annual Cruise Shipping Miami event got under way Tuesday with a full range of cruise industry issues and topics addressed by top cruise executives. Since last March, the cruise industry reached record passenger levels, sailing to more than 120 countries, establishing new destinations, implementing the latest on-board technologies and building innovative ships. The future couldn't be brighter. But that doesn't change the fact that the Costa Concordia accident is still top of mind for most of the cruise industry.

Daniel Read, director of UBM's Cruise Shipping Group, began Tuesday morning's "State of the Industry" session with somber acknowledgement of the tragedy. "Recent months have been challenging," he said. He tempered his reflections with hope for continued growth.

Keynote speaker Howard Frank, vice chairman and COO of Carnival Corporation and CLIA chairman, said the Costa Concordia tragedy affected not just one company, but the entire industry. He offered his deepest sympathies for the families and loved ones of the victims, some of whom he visited personally. He also paid tribute to the heroic efforts of Concordia's crew as well as the residents of Giglio Island, who opened their homes to passengers. He also thanked everyone in the industry for their confidence and support. On a personal note, Frank mentioned that whenever he visits a Carnival company, he wears that company's lapel pin. For the last two months, however, he said he's only worn his Costa pin. He said he couldn't be more proud of Costa and firmly believes the cruise line will come back even stronger.

Frank also spoke of the global response to the Costa Concordia tragedy and how safety is CLIA's number-one priority. He mentioned a top-to-bottom industry safety review, which so far has resulted in a mandatory muster of all embarking passengers prior to departure. This new policy exceeds existing legal regulations and has been voluntarily initiated by cruise line members of CLIA, the European Cruise Council and the Passenger Shipping Association. Frank added that the industry has every reason to look to the future. Last year a record 16 million passengers throughout the world went on a cruise, and he expects this growth to continue. He also reminded those in the industry they have the privilege of bringing joy to passengers as well as the responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment for all.

The State of the Industry forum took on a different format this year, with the CEO panelists taking part in a round-table discussion rather than making individual presentations. Topics, as well as questions submitted to moderator Christine Duffy, president of Cruise Line International Association, touched on a range of subjects and were addressed throughout the session by the six cruise line executives.

In light of the Costa Concordia incident in January, the discussion began with industry safety and regulations policies. Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, spoke about bridge management and the need for continuous improvement in safety practices, even with the industry's excellent safety record. Royal has gone as far as to implement a new training program in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to bolster their bridge practices and techniques.

Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America Line, agreed with Goldstein that the industry is fundamentally very safe, yet he believes that we need to do a better job of communicating and explaining safety successes.

"Our primary focus is on prevention," said Gerald Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines. "But sometimes things can go wrong, and we have to be prepared with a flexible plan." Carnival's plans include identifying people to perform certain duties in the event of an emergency and training those people who are both shipboard and shoreside.

Carrying mostly European clientele, MSC Cruises pays careful attention to their ability to communicate in a variety of languages should an emergency arise, said CEO Pierfrancesco Vago. The line features in-cabin videos, booklets and door plaques in several languages, and trains crew to communicate with guests.

All panelists agreed that shipboard crewmembers are well prepared in emergency-response and crisis situations because of their regular drills and training. Kevin Sheehan, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, suggested that having the officers be more visible would help ease safety concerns among guests.

The session then turned to public health, a topic that continues to plague the industry due to norovirus outbreaks. However, Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, was quick to point out that the U.S. Public Health organization is a great partner to the industry and that it is incumbent upon the lines to get the word out about health practices aboard ships.

Corporate social responsibility also plays an important role with lines. Cahill noted that often when a natural disaster hits a port, the cruise industry is one of the first responders. Goldstein added that the industry also often supports the recovery process, such as his line building a school in Haiti, long after the situation is out of the news.

Social responsibility goes beyond aiding in recovery, however. Sheehan, who also is chairman of Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, spoke about that organization's ability to raise funds to donate Christmas gifts to needy children. Social responsibility also includes building port infrastructure, guests shoreside spending and commitment to the environment.

Goldstein recently met with the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss regulations regarding emissions-control areas that go into effect Aug. 1, 2012. The new laws will require lower-sulfur fuel options or some type of equivalent, said Goldstein, and he's hoping the meetings will help EPA understand how cruise lines make decisions. Kruse is scheduled to meet with EPA this week to continue the talks, and he's hoping the agency understands that the lines have assets that can move, which could be devastating to smaller ports.

When discussing earnings, Cahill said bookings looked good and not so dismal as they are being made out to be. In fact, the line is ahead of where it was at the same time last year. Hanrahan said Celebrity regularly conducts surveys of potential cruisers, and the number of "cruise rejecters," or people who will never cruise, hasn't changed despite recent industry challenges. Norwegian Cruise Line, said Sheehan, has not seen a change in cancellations since the Concordia incident.
On a lighter note, before Bob Dickinson retired as top gun of Carnival Cruise Lines, the State of the Industry address was always a highly anticipated event at Seatrade because Dickinson could always be counted on to shoot a few zingers at the executives of competing cruise lines, particularly targeting his counterpart at Norwegian Cruise Line, which was then Colin Veich. This year it seems that Stein Kruse of Holland America Line has picked up Dickinson's torch. Kruse, who is a Norwegian, got laughs from the normally staid attendees by asking NCL's Kevin Sheehan what exactly it meant to "cruise like a Norwegian." Maybe you had to be there to get the funny and we hope to be back in person next year.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cruise News: Princess Cruises Cancels Two Caribbean Princess Sailings

Princess Cruises Statement

Caribbean Princess experienced a problem with the port propulsion motor which necessitated the ship returning to San Juan yesterday to evaluate the situation. After further review by technical experts, we have confirmed the full extent of the damage to the motor. We now know the time and work required to make the repairs and we regret that we need to cancel the next two voyages, departing March 18 and March 25.

Cancelling a cruise is not a decision we take lightly, and we sincerely apologize to our affected passengers for the disappointment this causes. Passengers booked on these sailings will receive a full refund as well as a 25% credit towards a future cruise. Those who booked their flights through Princess will receive a full refund or a future air credit based on the type of air purchased. Passengers who booked their air independently can submit their air change fees to Princess for a refund. We will also refund any transfers, pre- and post-hotel packages and government fees and taxes.

Passengers are currently being notified with these details. The next Caribbean Princess cruise is scheduled to depart from San Juan on April 1.

Cruise News: Princess Cruises Takes Dining To The Next Level With New Royal Princess

The New Chef’s Table Lumiere
When Royal Princess debuts in June 2013, the newest addition to the Princess Cruises fleet will include new special venues and experiences, plus fresh twists on some Princess favorites. Among the new options are several distinct dining spaces, including a special Chef’s Table Lumiere surrounded by a curtain of light to take the Chef’s Table experience to a new level, as well as wine cellar-inspired private dining spaces in the main dining rooms.

The ship will offer a larger Horizon Court buffet with a brand-new layout, new action stations, intriguing new bistro options—such as a crab shack and fondue restaurant—and even a dedicated pastry shop, an industry first. For a full evening experience, several restaurants and lounges have been located together, including the Crown Grill which has been combined with the Wheelhouse Bar, and Sabatini’s Italian restaurant which is now adjacent to Vines wine bar.

“These evolutions of our dining program will offer some exciting new options, as well as showcase our signature features which have become passenger favorites,” said Jan Swartz, executive vice president for Princess Cruises. “Royal Princess certainly will take our dining options to the next level.”

Take a look at the Chef's Table and other dining options on board in this preview video hosted by Princess Cruises Executive Vice President Rai Caluori and Vice President of Food and Beverage Operations Peter Tobler:


The 3,600-passenger Royal Princess is a new-generation ship currently under construction for Princess Cruises. Among the new features found on board will be a greatly expanded atrium, the social hub of the ship; the dramatic 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; plush private poolside cabanas that appear to be floating on the water; 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. Eighty percent of the ship’s staterooms will feature a balcony. Find more information at Princess Cruises.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cruise News: Norwegian Unveils Innovative Spaces Planned For Newest Ship, Norwegian Breakaway

The Waterfront on Norwegian Breakaway
Norwegian Cruise Line continues to satisfy our curiosity about their newest ship by unveiling a major innovation in ship design: The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place that will be featured on Norwegian Breakaway when she launches in April 2013.

This new concept includes an oceanfront boardwalk lined with shops, restaurants and bars, combined with three expansive, flowing decks of dining, bars, entertainment, gaming, and more. The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place will take cruising to new heights and offer an unparalleled experience with a unique connection to the ocean.

“With our newest ship, Norwegian Breakaway, we are continuing our tradition of innovation with a brand new ship design that will provide our guests with a unique experience unlike anything else at sea,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “The heart of Norwegian Breakaway and the elements that truly set it apart are The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place. Guests will enjoy al fresco dining while admiring the beauty of the ocean, along with the excitement and exhilaration of three expansive action-packed decks, as everything is designed to flow seamlessly."

Located on Deck 8, The Waterfront is an outdoor experience that adds an entirely new dimension to the line’s signature Freestyle Cruising, by offering a number of seaside venues that feature expansive ocean views and a sense of connection with the sea. The hub of the ship is 678 Ocean Place, a space that uniquely flows, intertwines, and connects three decks of daytime and nighttime amusements. There will be a total of 17* dining venues combined on both 678 Ocean Place and The Waterfront, along with 12* bars and lounges. Norwegian will also introduce a new dining concept on Norwegian Breakaway, Ocean Blu, the line’s first ever all-seafood restaurant, which will include a premium raw bar, along with a separate sushi bar.

The Waterfront
The Waterfront will feature eight outdoor dining and lounging options, including signature Norwegian favorites like Moderno Churrascaria; Cagney’s Steakhouse; La Cucina; Shaker’s Cocktail Bar; Malting’s Beer & Whiskey Bar; and the newest addition, Ocean Blu on The Waterfront, with outdoor seating and a special takeaway menu. The Waterfront will also feature another first for Norwegian—a gelato bar serving a selection of flavors of the delectable frozen treat. A yet-to-be-announced entertainment venue will also have an outdoor space.

678 Ocean Place
On Deck 8, 678 Ocean Place connects the excitement of The Waterfront outdoor spaces with interior dining venues for Moderno; Cagney’s; Shaker’s; La Cucina; Malting’s and Ocean Blu, including the raw and sushi bars. An elegant modern take on an ocean-inspired theme with a glamorous feel, Ocean Blu is the newest addition to Norwegian’s Freestyle Dining lineup. Featuring a premium raw bar and a sushi bar, Ocean Blu will offer seafood lovers a culinary treasure. “In a recent guest survey, our guests chose a seafood restaurant as the number one type of restaurant they would like on board our ships,” said Sheehan. “We listened to that feedback when planning the dining on Norwegian Breakaway and will launch Ocean Blu as our newest signature restaurant concept.”

More details about Norwegian Breakaway’s other signature features can be found in Cruise Diva’s Cruise News and in the microsite for Norwegian Breakaway that Norwegian has just introduced.

*One dining venue and one bar will be announced at a later date, along with all of the entertainment venues.
Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Cruise News: MSC Cruises Will Welcome MSC Preziosa to the Fleet

What could go wrong when a start-up cruise line (GNMTC) based in Libya orders a ship? As it turns out, a lot. For one thing, the Libyans who placed the order with STX France failed to make a scheduled payment last June and the shipyard cancelled the order. However, in anticipation of finding a buyer for the partially completed vessel, the shipbuilder continued working on it. To make lemonade from a “lemon” for both parties, MSC Cruises has announced that they have finalized negotiations with STX France and signed a contract to take over the 139,400-ton cruise ship. The new ship’s name is now MSC Preziosa and she will be the 13th addition to the MSC Cruises fleet. As well as continuing the line’s expansion, she will also be the precious fourth vessel in the series of Fantasia-class ships, which include MSC Fantasia, MSC Splendida, and the long-awaited MSC Divina. MSC Divina, coincidentally the sister ship of MSC Preziosa, is currently having her final touches applied in the STX ship yard in St. Nazaire, France before her christening in May 2012.

“The new ship represents an investment of €550 million and will be delivered at the end of March 2013. Negotiations with STX France have lasted over nine months; a significant but understandable period of time considering the importance of the investment and the unexpected nature of the takeover,” said Mr. Pierfrancesco Vago, CEO, MSC Cruises. “When MSC Preziosa is delivered we will have four ships of every class, giving us a total capacity of over 40,000 berths and the strength to sail in all seas. MSC Preziosa herself will sail the Mediterranean, exploring the beauty of Greek Islands, which represent the highlight of European cruising.”

Forty-five percent of MSC Preziosa’s total construction has been completed and her mechanical zones are 70% complete. The best, however, is that MSC Cruises will soon begin the fitting and furnishing of the 1,094-foot long, 124-foot wide ship and work its unique Mediterranean magic on turning MSC Preziosa into a stylish masterpiece and a perfect mix of advanced technology, elegance, and exclusive services.

MSC Preziosa will boast 1,751 staterooms, 17 guest elevators—including a private one for the exclusive use of MSC Yacht Club guests—and 14 guest decks. Guests will be able to enjoy four main restaurants, including two speciality restaurants; 21 bars; a casino; four swimming pools, including an infinity pool; 12 whirlpools; mini-bowling; a sports area with game courts; a Fitness Center; a children’s area; and the superb MSC Aurea Spa.

An exclusive feature of MSC Preziosa—and of all Fantasia-class ships—is the MSC Yacht Club. Guests staying in the 69 exclusive MSC Yacht Club suites will be able to take advantage of the private sun deck, which includes The One Pool and Bar as well as two whirlpools; and the spectacular glass-walled Top Sail observation lounge with amazing ocean views. Butlers provide assistance with luggage during embarkation and debarkation; unpack and pack guests’ belongings upon request; serve traditional English afternoon tea; arrange for fine cigars, wines and spirits; and make dining room reservations as well as reservations for MSC Aurea Spa services; coordinate ad hoc shore excursions; and even plan private parties.

Cruise guests concerned about reducing carbon emissions can relax in the knowledge that MSC Preziosa’s green features, including an advanced waste water treatment system (AWT) and advanced energy saving systems, with a focus on air-conditioning, will gain the same impressive industry-leading ecoship and cleanship credentials as her sister ship MSC Divina.

On a side note, you might wonder what MSC Preziosa’s name means. Our Italian-to-English translator returns this result: an adjective for “precious, valuable, costly, dear.” That sounds just preziosa to us.
Photo © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cruise News: Caribbean Princess Temporarily Out Of Service

Propulsion problems have caused Caribbean Princess to abort its current 7-night cruise, which departed San Juan on Sunday, March 11. The ship is presently sailing at reduced speeds back to the port of San Juan for repairs. Passengers are safe and on board services are unaffected.

Passengers on the current abbreviated Caribbean Princess sailing will be refunded their cruise fare and receive an unspecified credit for a future cruise

Princess Cruises will contact passengers who are booked on the next cruise with updates on the status of their scheduled March 18 departure.

NCL Introduces “Norwegian iConcierge” Smart Phone App

Smart phone users, particularly those with iPhones, have a burning passion to stay connected no matter where they are—even at sea, where their cruise ship roaming charges can really add up. Now there’s an app for that! Norwegian Cruise Line is launching a revolutionary smart phone application which will allow iPhone, iPad, Android, and Windows7 users to interact with Norwegian Epic’s onboard guest information and service systems during their cruise. The app will also give guests the ability to communicate with other smart phone users via voice and text message on the same sailing.

Guests who download the free application will be able to conveniently access Norwegian Epic’s systems from anywhere on board using their smart phone to make shore excursion and dining reservations, gather information about onboard services and review their folio activity all from the palm of their hand. In addition, Norwegian iConcierge will be the industry’s first mobile application that allows guests to easily find and communicate with fellow cruisers. Guests who have the application installed on their SIP capable smart phones will be able to make and send unlimited calls and messages to each other while on board. What will all that tech savvy service cost? At an introductory rate of $7.95 for the entire sailing, it certainly sounds reasonable.

Norwegian iConcierge is a free download and will soon be available through Apple, Android, and Windows7 smart phone application stores. Currently, the application is exclusively for guests sailing on board Norwegian Epic beginning March 24, 2012, but deployment to the remaining fleet is expected in the near future.

Enhancements to the application for near-term deployment also include ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship calling capabilities using advanced voice over IP technology. Currently, “off-ship” calls using the existing cellular networks can be costly, but Norwegian iConcierge users will soon have the opportunity to even make these calls at much more affordable rates.

This latest innovation is in line with NCL’s history of technological innovations. In 1999, Norwegian was the first cruise line to offer Internet access at sea aboard Norwegian Sky; in 2002, Norwegian was the first in the industry to provide remote wireless Internet access to guests fleet-wide; and in 2006 Norwegian became the first cruise line to fully implement cell phone service fleet wide.

While I’m a BlackBerry fan myself, I do appreciate Apple’s devices and that’s my iPod Touch pictured here. Since I’ve found that it does nearly everything an iPhone does, except make telephone calls, it may work for onboard messaging as well.

Parents of teens who can’t stand to be out of touch with their friends—and anyone who can’t be totally inaccessible even when on vacation—will certainly rejoice at the lower cost to use the new app to stay connected while sailing on Norwegian ships. However, I wonder if the shipboard systems will be overloaded by them just as land based mobile service providers have found to be the case. That low introductory rate may have to increase to quell demand.

Time will tell.

Photo © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cruise Review: Return to Oasis of the Seas

For our friends and seasoned cruise veterans, Vincent and Mary Finelli, it was an annual ritual—their anniversary cruise. But did their second cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas measure up to their first experience aboard the world's largest ship?

Vincent points out that something seemingly as minor as a fully booked ship—as he describes it, "On the Royal Promenade at times it was like being in a busy airport or train station"—and stateroom location can change your cruise vacation experience. The Finellis always book wheelchair accessible accommodations with a balcony and chose one overlooking the Boardwalk on Oasis for a change of view.

Get the pros and cons regarding their move from seaview to interior "neighborhood" view and their preferred getaway spot for quiet solitude in their most recent Oasis of the Seas cruise review.

Image Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Intl

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Norwegians Dine Like a Gourmand at the Chef’s Table

Dedicated foodies used to have a difficult time choosing a cruise to experience the best dining experiences. Norwegian Cruise Line has made their task a bit easier by introducing an intimate, once-in-a-lifetime gourmet dining experience—the Chef’s Table—fleet-wide.

Guests who attend the Chef’s Table dining enjoy an incredible culinary adventure as they feast on a nine-course, upscale menu consisting of unique and contemporary creations using the highest quality ingredients, sophisticated cooking techniques, flavor compositions, and captivating presentations. All courses are accompanied by wines that are specially paired by the line’s Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson.

Here’s How It Unfolds
The two-and-a-half hour Chef’s Table dinner begins at an intimate reception where guests enjoy a glass of champagne as they mingle with the ship’s Executive Chef, Food and Beverage Director, Restaurant Manager, Assistant Maître d’, and Head Wine Steward. Following the reception, diners are invited to take a group photo before sitting down to begin their gourmet meal in a luxurious and intimate restaurant setting that provides privacy and exclusivity. The Executive Chef welcomes the group and then goes on to describe the first two courses: an Amuse Bouche ‘Molecular Gastronome’ consisting of Spherical Mango, Vodka and Jalapeno Ravioli and an Orange-Wasabi Glazed Ahi Tuna Tartar with freshly-baked Sesame Crisp.

Courses one and two are accompanied by the Master Sommelier’s expertly-paired wine selection. Asparagus Cream is served for course three, followed by the fourth course, a Short Crust Tartlet and a delightful Grapefruit and Moscato Granite is served as course number five. As the Executive Chef describes the ingredients and technique used to create courses three through five, the second wine selection is served and the Chef invites questions about the dishes. Course six consists of a Plantain-Crusted, Pan Seared Sea Bass accompanied by Mango, Papaya and Avocado Salsa and Lobster Veloute and a Milk-Fed Veal Chop with Anna Potatoes, Sautéed Spinach and Truffle Veal Jus rounds out course number seven. A specially-selected cheese platter that boasts an assortment of gourmet cheeses is served as course eight and the grand finale, course nine, is dessert, which consists of either a Yogurt-Mousse Dome with Lychee Raspberry Crème, Hazel Sablee and Lime Vanilla Reduction; or a Chocolate Log with ‘Spiced’ Dark Rum, Infused Banana and Cocoa Mousse.

This exclusive dining extravaganza is available for a cover charge of $75 per person, that includes gratuities, a behind-the-scenes galley tour, one group photo, and an individual photo with the Executive Chef. The Chef’s Table is limited to 12 guests and is presently offered once per cruise on board Norwegian Cruise Line ships fleet-wide, with the exception of Norwegian Jade, which rolls it out March 22, 2012.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cruise News: Timeline of Removal Plans Under Consideration For Costa Concordia Wreck

Costa Crociere reports that even as fuel continues to be removed from the grounded Costa Concordia, a total of six working plans to remove the hull from its resting place off the Island of Giglio were received by the deadline of March 3. Of the 10 world-leading salvage companies invited to tender for the contract, three decided not to bid due to previous commitments and two have joined forces to present a joint project.

An update on the process was given during a meeting in Rome March 6 with Pier Luigi Foschi, chairman and CEO of Costa Crociere S.p.A., and Prefetto Franco Gabrielli, the head of the Civil Protection Department and managing commissioner for the Costa Concordia shipwreck.

The six plans involve different approaches and techniques. However, they all share a focus on ensuring the least possible environmental impact and protecting tourism and business activities on the Island of Giglio with maximum safety. Given the complexity and extraordinary nature of the operation, the projects vary in duration, and estimates of 10 to 12 months, including a safety margin, have been presented.

The selection process will respect timing estimates. Technical assessments of the six plans are already under way and a short list will be drawn up by mid-month, from which the best plan will be selected, with the final decision made public in late March or early April.