Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cruise News: “Cabanas on the Cay” Make Their Appearance on Great Stirrup Cay


Norwegian Cruise Line was the first cruise line to offer an uninhabited tropical island experience exclusively for its guests. Great Stirrup Cay offers magnificent white sand beaches, majestic palms and calm, pristine waters where an abundance of colorful marine life inhabits the surrounding coral reefs. Activities on the island include snorkeling; Waverunner® tour; eco boat tour; kayaking; parasailing; shopping at the straw market; and more.

But there was something missing. One of the most coveted amenities on other cruise lines’ “private islands” has been their cabanas where guests could relax and enjoy the beach atmosphere in comfort and relative privacy. Norwegian Cruise Line has rectified that oversight and announced that “Cabanas on the Cay,” exclusive private cabanas with VIP service and amenities, are now available on Great Stirrup Cay, the line’s 250-acre private island in the Bahamas. The launch of “Cabanas on the Cay” marks another significant addition to the island as part of the $25 million dollar enhancement project.

Located to the west of the island’s main beach, these perfectly-appointed private Cabanas boast exclusive service and amenities to provide guests with the ultimate island escape and total relaxation. Available for $249 per day, each Cabana accommodates up to six guests and is fully furnished with lounge chairs, tables, cooler, beach towels and a shower. Cabana rental also includes a $50 food and beverage credit; up to six all-day passes to the Hippo Waterslide, a $120 value; and one large float, a $25 value; for guests to enjoy during their time on the island.

Guests who reserve one of the 10 “Cabanas on the Cay” will enjoy priority tender service to the island and, upon arrival to their private cabana, will receive six complimentary bottles of water and a refreshing fruit basket. As they relax on one of the comfortable lounge chairs, guests will have the opportunity to use their $50 food and beverage credit towards pre-ordered “Cabanas on the Cay” food and beverage selections. Norwegian has prepared an exclusive menu for Cabana guests consisting of delicious seafood, charcuterie, sushi, and fruit platters. Guests who choose to dine at the Island’s BBQ can use their credit towards one of the many beverage packages available exclusively for Cabana guests, or towards other beverage purchases on the island. For families, or other small groups cruising together, this is a real bargain compared to other private island cabana offerings.

Each of the 10 Cabanas on the Cay are available on a first-come-first-serve basis and can be pre-booked as a shore excursion on NCL.com or through the Shore Excursion Desk on board.

How To Get There
You will have to sail on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship to visit this island retreat, so here are the NCL ships scheduled to call there:

Norwegian Sky makes year-round stops at Great Stirrup Cay on her 3- and 4-day cruises from Miami. Norwegian Gem visits Great Stirrup Cay during her 7-day Bahamas and Florida itinerary from New York. Beginning in October, Norwegian Jewel will also stop at Great Stirrup Cay on her 7-day Bahamas and Florida cruises from New York. Norwegian Pearl will also visit Great Stirrup Cay this winter on her 7-day Western Caribbean itinerary from Miami. Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian’s newest ship launching next spring, will visit Great Stirrup Cay on 7-day cruises from New York to Bahamas and Florida beginning in mid-October 2013.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cruise News: Sophia Loren Christens MSC Divina During Star-Studded Ceremony

MSC Divina, the 12th jewel in the MSC Cruises fleet, was welcomed during last Saturday’s gala ceremony in Marseille, France, and was officially christened by Sophia Loren, godmother to the MSC Cruises fleet.

The celebration included aerial artists Captens Aerobatic Display Team and the Brietling Jet Team, local folk group La Poulido de Gèmo and a medley of MSC Divina’s theatrical shows. The event’s featured performer was critically acclaimed Italian singer, pianist and composer Paolo Conte.

Gerard Depardieu, one of Europe’s most accomplished actors and talented leading men, narrated the events and the story of MSC Divina. Also in attendance were numerous international stars, including classical performer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Maxim Vengerov, a supporter of the joint MSC Cruises and UNICEF Get on Board for Children initiative which funds a project for education equality for disadvantaged children in Brazil that has raised more than $1.3 million to date. Vengerov took to the stage with local children and released hundreds of UNICEF balloons and delighted guests with a violin solo.

The highlight of the evening was the floodlit ceremony and parade of the ship’s officers, when Sophia Loren—godmother of the MSC Cruises’ fleet—cut the ribbon and named MSC Divina to a crescendo of champagne, confetti, and sparkling fountains.

Discover Sophia Loren’s Royal Suite
Every MSC ship christened by the screen legend has a Sophia Loren suite and lucky guests staying in suite number 16007 (pictured above) on MSC Divina’s deck 16 can revel in the glamour and style of a suite designed for and with the help of Ms Loren. Rich reds, specially designed lamps and a wild heather and red carpet have been chosen by her, while stunning photographs of her most memorable roles decorate the walls. A replica of the dressing table Ms Loren uses in her own home allows suite guests to prepare for an entrance like a film star.

Coming To The Caribbean
So, you may be yawning right about now... an Italian cruise line christens their new ship in France... and what’s the big deal? Here’s what we have to look forward to in North America... MSC Cruises will be bringing MSC Divina to its newest departure port—the Port of Miami—beginning in the fall of 2013. Cruise Diva, for one, can’t wait.

Photo Courtesy of MSC Cruises

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Disney Wonder Begins Sailing from Seattle

Disney Cruise Line has been busy making news “firsts” during the past week. Yesterday Disney Wonder set sail for the first time from the Port of Seattle, taking cruisers on the first of fourteen 7-night Alaskan itineraries. To celebrate the inaugural call on Seattle, Captain Thord Haugen and his shipboard officers hosted local port officials and community leaders aboard the vessel for a plaque exchange ceremony, which is maritime tradition.

“The Pacific Northwest is a favorite destination for our guests and we are excited to be here,” said Disney Cruise Line Captain Thord Haugen. “Our guests can’t wait to experience the breathtaking beauty this region is known for, from spectacular glaciers to snow-capped mountains to a wide variety of wildlife.”

The Alaskan itinerary for the 2,700-passenger Disney Wonder includes stops in Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska, and Victoria, British Columbia. In September, the ship heads back to Los Angeles, California to sail 7-night itineraries to the Mexican Riviera in the fall. At the end of the year, the Disney Wonder will reposition to Miami, marking the first time a Disney Cruise Line ship will sail out of Southern Florida.

It’s a shame Disney Wonder didn’t arrive a few days earlier when I could have photographed her myself as she was docked with Seattle’s iconic Space Needle in the background.

Photo Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Disney Magic Greets NYC Sporting World's Largest Bumper Sticker

Last week Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic, arrived in New York Harbor displaying the world’s largest bumper sticker, proclaiming NYC=Magic. Usually found on the back of family minivans, the 50-foot-long by 11-foot-wide super-sized sticker is larger than a city bus. The ship departed last Friday, marking the beginning of Disney’s first-ever sailings out of Manhattan—allowing local residents to experience a Disney vacation in their own backyard.

Disney Magic will sail a total of 20 cruises from New York, including 8-night cruises to the Bahamas and 5-night cruises up the New England coast to Canada plus 2-night cruises that will give a sampling of the Disney Cruise Line experience over a weekend:

• The eight Bahamas cruises will include a day at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay; Nassau, Bahamas; and a stop at Port Canaveral, Florida, giving guests an opportunity to visit the nearby Walt Disney World Resort. As part of this itinerary, each guest will receive a one-day Walt Disney World Park Hopper ticket and round trip transportation between their Disney ship and the resort. Departure Dates: May 25, June 2, 22, 30, July 20, 28, Aug. 17, 25
• The nine 5-night cruises up the New England coast will call at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick. In these popular Canadian ports, guests can soak in splendid natural vistas, explore historic sites, visit quaint cafes and charming shops, and browse Canada’s oldest farmer’s market. Departure Dates: June 10, 17, July 8, 15, Aug 5, 12, Sept 2, 7, 12
• Three 2-night cruises out of New York are perfect for families looking for a quick getaway with a day at sea over a weekend. Departure Dates: June 15, July 13 and Aug 10
Photo Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cruise News: Vision of the Seas Sails Around Strikes in Oslo, Norway

Royal Caribbean Statement

Royal Caribbean International continues to monitor the ongoing workers strike in Norway, which currently includes the port pilots in Oslo. Local and International Maritime regulations stipulate that all cruise ships must have a pilot onboard in order to enter various ports of call throughout the world. Port pilots are experts in the navigation of the local waters and play a crucial role in entering and departing ports of call.

Since the port pilots in Oslo are on strike, and they are required to be onboard in order for us to enter the port, if the strike continues Vision of the Seas will be unable to dock in Oslo on Sunday, May 27, as originally planned. Because of this, it will be necessary to modify Vision of the Seas’ boarding and debarking process on Sunday. Vision of the Seas will arrive in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Sunday, and guests will be transported to and from Oslo via motor coach.

Crystal Cruises Honors Soldiers

Crystal Cruises is honoring heroes past and present with on-board get-togethers for veterans and loved ones of all nations on every luxury cruise. Activities planned for ttoday's American Memorial Day weekend promise to be extra special, with a unique Crystal Adventure to the WWII landing beaches of Normandy, and each ship remembering those who have died in service of their nation, as follows:

Crystal Symphony: Four-Star Marine General Anthony Zinni, former Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command, hosted an open forum at sea on Saturday, May 26. On Memorial Day itself, Crystal's President Gregg Michel will escort guests to the French site of D-Day. The shore excursion includes visiting the former German fortification at Pointe du Hoc, historian-guided military truck transport to Omaha Beach, and a memorial ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery, final resting place of 9,000+ American soldiers. All attendees will receive a commemorative medallion for the day.

Crystal Serenity: Memorial Day will begin with a morning veterans' get-together in Palm Court, led by foreign policy author Dr. Robert Freedman, and featuring refreshments and a poetry dedication. Like with Crystal Symphony's shipboard gathering, the event will be open to anyone wishing to attend, with participant introductions, personal observances, and sharing of stories.

Regular veterans' get-togethers, led variously by Cruise Directors and special guest presenters, are a new staple on board the fleet, providing opportunities to recognize soldiers' sacrifices and share past experiences, no matter what role or country they served. Paul McFarland, Crystal Symphony's Cruise Director and a veteran himself, explains the gatherings' significance: "The relationship between vets, male and female, is a 'brotherhood' that spans generations and wars. Regardless of when or where someone was stationed, soldiers have something in common, sharing life-altering experiences and a unique bond, unlike any other family or friend relationship."

Both ships will be sailing the western coast of France over the solemn holiday weekend, with Crystal Symphony spending the rest of the summer in the Baltic region, and Crystal Serenity cruising the Mediterranean area until December.

Image Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Princess Cruises Video Introduces the Royal Princess Interior Design Team

A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into the creation of any new ship and Princess Cruises has released the latest in its series of videos previewing the new Royal Princess with a look into that creative process. In their latest installment, the interior designers creating the look and feel of the new ship offer a preview of what passengers can expect when the vessel debuts in June 2013.

Featuring Vice President of Interior Design Teresa Anderson and Coordinating Architect Giacomo Mortola, the video takes viewers through the ideas behind the new ship design, from the ethereal feel of the marble and glass spiral staircases in the atrium to the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright in the décor of the aft dining room.

For Anderson, Royal Princess' design springs from the concept of ‘global chic.' "I believe that's what Princess Cruises is all about—taking influences from fashion, from art, from history... what you capture when you're traveling the world."

"My goal," notes Anderson, "is to find a harmony of comfortably elegant décor throughout the ship that is spectacular, yet resonates with all types of people. And on Royal Princess with the use of rich and elegant materials with warm tones, I think we've achieved that goal better than ever before."

While for Mortola, light was an important element. "More than any other project I've worked on, on the new Royal Princess, I used light as a central component of my designs," said Mortola. "The Chef's Table Lumiere in the aft dining room is a great example of this. The table is surrounded by a curtain of fiber-optic lights which creates real drama—unlike any dining experience you've had."

Watch as they explain the thinking behind the process of creating the new Royal Princess:


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 50 percent larger atrium which is the social hub of the ship; a dramatic over-water SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed walkway 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; the new Princess Live! television studio; a dedicated pastry shop; more dining options including a special Chef's Table Lumiere, a private space that surrounds diners in a curtain of light; and balconies on all outside staterooms. The ship's 2013 maiden season will include cruises on the line's signature Grand Mediterranean itinerary throughout the summer, followed by Eastern Caribbean cruises beginning in the fall.
Video and Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Find more Royal Princess details on Cruise Diva's blog at:

Princess Cruises Newest Ship Will Be A Royal
Royal Princess: Expanded Atrium, New Features

Saturday, May 26, 2012

When Gavin MacLeod Met ... Gavin MacLeod

Gavin MacLeod and Gavin MacLeod meet
on the bridge of Island Princess
Princess Cruises wondered, "What's in a name?" I have a simple anwer to that...one of my Facebook "friends" is Linda Coffman from Texas and I enjoy reading her posts about life in the Lone Star state. Less pleasant was when I met a travel agent from Florida who attempted to steal my Cruise Diva brand name with a bogus trademark application.

However, in the case of Princess Cruises, this name game is happier. While the name Gavin MacLeod naturally is associated with the famous TV captain of "The Love Boat"—it turns out that the line coincidentally also has a real-life bridge officer with the same name and the long-time Princess ambassador couldn't wait to meet him. When Island Princess Third Officer Gavin MacLeod, who hails from Inverness, Scotland, joined Princess in 2010, he never gave much thought to the fact that he shared a name with the actor who made the role of "Captain Stubing" an iconic part of television history. But when Island Princess recently called at the port of Los Angeles, the two men met on the ship's bridge and enjoyed lunch together at Sabatini's restaurant. The pair also signed several navigational charts to be auctioned for charity.

Frequently filmed aboard Princess ships throughout its 1977-86 run, "The Love Boat" created a lasting legacy in the cruise industry. Actor Gavin MacLeod has continued his association with the cruise line ever since, serving as an ambassador who travels regularly aboard Princess ships and represents the company at a variety of events throughout the year.


Image Courtesy of Princes Cruises

Friday, May 25, 2012

Grandeur of the Seas Is About To Be Grander


Grandeur of the Seas enters drydock
at the Navantia ship yard in Cadiz, Spain

While I have been visiting Alaska ports of call and enjoying all the new features and experiences aboard Royal Caribbean’s rejuvenated Rhapsody of the Seas this week, her Vision Class sister-ship Grandeur of the Seas is in drydock to also be outfitted with most innovative features and popular venues Royal Caribbean first introduced on their Oasis-class fleetmates.

Earlier this month Grandeur of the Seas began a five-week long, $48 million dry dock at the Navantia ship yard in Cadiz, Spain, where she is receiving the array of new venues, jaw-dropping entertainment, and exciting amenities for guests. Launched in 1996, Grandeur of the Seas is the third of six Vision-class ships to undergo extensive revitalization. The two previous were Rhapsody of the Seas, now sailing in Alaska waters, and Splendour of the Seas, offering itineraries in Brazil.

"This latest revitalization is part of our pursuit to continually raise the bar to deliver the best experience for our guests. Coupled with itineraries to exciting global destinations and friendly and engaging Gold Anchor Service from every staff and crew member, these virtually new ships will continue to deliver the Royal Advantage," said Lisa Bauer, senior vice president of Global Sales and Marketing, Royal Caribbean International. "With the completion of our fleet-wide revitalization and enhancement program, every ship will be our best ship."

The bow-to-stern revitalization of Grandeur of the Seas includes a host of new dining venues, technological upgrades, and new entertainment offerings, as well as a refresh of all furniture, carpet, upholstery, and staterooms.

Guests looking for a savory dining experience onboard Grandeur of the Seas will be in for a treat with an array of new dining venues including:

· Giovanni’s Table: An Italian trattoria featuring classic dishes served family style (open for lunch, $15 per guest, and dinner, $20 per guest)
· Izumi Asian Cuisine: Featuring mouthwatering flavors with hand rolled sushi, as well as hot-rock cooking, the pan-Asian cuisine restaurant is an authentic dining experience (open for lunch, $3.00 per guest, and dinner, $5.00 per guest plus a la carte menu pricing)
· Park Café: An outdoor gourmet market featuring customized 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 guest)
· Chef’s Table: An exclusive and intimate event co-hosted by the Executive Chef and Sommelier for a five-course, wine-pairing fine dining experience (open for dinner, $95 per guest).
In addition, the ship will receive a new Diamond Lounge for Crown and Anchor Society loyalty guests, a Concierge Lounge for suite guests and top-tier loyalty guests, as well as a transformed Viking Crown Lounge that will feature a stunning new design, as well as a new menu featuring bite-size delectables.

The line’s youngest guests, children ages six to 36 months old, won’t be left out as the ship will feature a Royal Babies and Tots Nursery. The nursery offers parents childcare drop-off options in the daytime and evening, carefully maintaining an optimum staff to child ratio. Daily interactive free-time play also is offered for parents and children, encouraging them to bond while playing with a variety of Fisher-Price developmental toys in specially designed programs offered exclusively for Royal Caribbean.

For guests who need to stay connected while onboard, Grandeur of the Seas will offer ship-wide Wi-Fi service. The ship also will feature an outdoor video screen overlooking the pool deck, as well as an award-winning digital, interactive way-finding system that was first introduced on Oasis of the Seas.

Like its sister ships, Grandeur of the Seas’ Centrum will be completely transformed into a chic and lively new space that will feature an array of daytime activities, as well as unique nighttime entertainment with a new high-flying experience where aerialists glide through the five-story atrium. The transformation continues with the ship’s original Champagne Bar reinvented as the R Bar, a retro bar that will feature signature cocktails and a savvy mixologist who will create elaborate cocktail concoctions for guests. Guests in the Centrum and R Bar should also be on the look out for surprise performances that will entertain and excite the senses throughout the day and evening.

When the refurbishments are complete on May 31st, Grandeur of the Seas will sail an 11-night Mediterranean itinerary roundtrip from Barcelona, Spain. From there she will spend the summer offering a variety of Mediterranean itineraries from Venice, Italy and Provence, France. Details on her upcoming itineraries can be found at RoyalCaribbean.com.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rhapsody of the Seas: More For Families

In the past, young families with infants and toddlers had a difficult decision to make if they wanted to take a cruise. If their children were too young for the youth program—for which they usually had to be at least three years old and potty trained—their options were limited. With Royal Caribbean’s Royal Babies and Royal Tots program, they can now take a cruise with the assurance that their tiny cruisers will be well taken care of when mom and dad want to participate in adult activities.

Rhapsody of the Seas’ new nursery for babies 6 to 36 months old has drop-off options during the day and in the evening. Parents are given a special bag for their little one’s diapers, wipes, and other supplies that they bring along when they check into the nursery. There is an $8 per hour charge and a maximum of eight babies and toddlers can be accommodated. With one staff member on hand for 4 children, the care is personal and attentive—and they even change diapers so there’s no need for a beeper call for mom or dad to come and take care of it. Food is even delivered for the little ones at lunch and dinner. Parents can instruct caregivers about their children’s preferences at nap time and, if for instance they like to be read a story or be sung to sleep with a lullaby, that will be taken care of.

For fun, there is an assortment of Fisher-Price toys that babies and toddlers can play with and there’s a daily play time for parents to join in. Parents can even plan to pack lighter by ordering the supplies they need—organic baby food and diapers, wipes, and creams by Huggies will be delivered to them upon arrival in their staterooms.

There’s no longer a need to leave little cruisers behind at Camp Grandma since Royal Caribbean has made it so easy to travel with them.

Photo: © CruiseDiva.com

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rhapsody of the Seas: Glacier Sighting

Things don’t always go as planned when at sea and our visit to Sawyer Glacier is a case in point. Rhapsody of the Seas entered Tracy Arm Fjord at 5am and was scheduled to be at the glacier face around 8:30. As I was dressing, I heard the voice of our captain, Rob Hempstead (a native of Rhode Island in the United States) announce over the public address system that ice was clogging our approach to Sawyer Glacier and Rhapsody of the Seas would be turning around.

There was no need for disappointment, though. Captain Hempstead saved the day by steering a course for Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier. Word came from a scouting boat that the waters were clear and the glacier came into view at about 9:45.

The only sound at the bow of Rhapsody of the Seas was the clicking of cameras as we spotted Dawes Glacier through the mountains. After arriving as close as possible, the captain rotated the ship to give everyone the best view from whatever vantage point they’d chosen.

Even though the glacier didn’t calve, as a bit of a bonus, Rhapsody of the Seas’ passengers were able to marvel at the scenery in Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm as well as see a pretty impressive glacier.

Photo: © CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rhapsody of the Seas: In Skagway, Alaska

Passengers aboard Rhapsody of the Seas were greeted by a lovely day in Skagway, Alaska—not sunny, but mild in the 60s. While I’ve been here before, I hadn’t taken the scenic White Pass and Yukon Route train tour that explores the Yukon by motorcoach and train. Our driver spotted this bear along the way to meet the train in British Columbia, Canada and the big guy paused from snacking on dandelions long enough to pose for us. It was certainly a high point of the morning and a memorable sighting.

Once aboard the narrow gauge train (pictured below) we were treated to some of the most amazing scenery in North America. The time passed quickly as we listened to the narration and busily snapped photos. Our train car was very comfortable with large windows, complimentary drinking water, and bathroom facilities. For those who wanted better photos, a small outdoor viewing platform is located between cars and was a popular spot for shutterbugs. It was also a tad chilly with all the snow close by so I stayed inside where it was warm and cozy.

White Pass and Yukon Route
Back in Skagway we headed to a salmon bake luncheon in Liarsville—called that because it’s where journalists made their homes during the Gold Rush and most of the stories they shared were over the top exaggerations. After eating, our hosts put on a show and taught us to pan for flecks of gold in the nearby stream.

To wrap up the day, our last stop was the Red Onion Saloon where our hostess—in working girl attire—led the way upstairs to the brothel museum and shared the life and times of Skagway’s heyday as a stop for prospectors on the way to the gold fields.

It was a long and very full day of Alaska history and natural beauty.

Photos © CruiseDiva.com

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rhapsody of the Seas: In Juneau, Alaska

When we reached our first port of call in Juneau, the capital city of Alaska, it seemed only fitting to travel the way Alaskans do—by seaplane. There are no roads in and out of the city and the Wings Aviation planes take off and land on water. For the excursion booked through Rhapsody of the Seas we boarded our plane right in the center of town and headed to Taku Lodge for a salmon feast.

Once on the plane we donned headsets for a narration of what we were seeing as we flew over incredible snow capped mountains and glaciers. Everyone had a window seat and I admit the view had me breathless. Once at the isolated Taku Lodge, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, we were greeted with steaming cups of hot Russian tea. After a stroll outside to view the Hole In The Wall glacier, we were treated to salmon roasted over an alder wood fire, with baked beans, coleslaw, warm apple compote, and herb biscuits and sourdough bread, with ginger cookies for dessert. To wash it down, water is chilled with real glacial ice.

After lunch, visitors were invited on a short guided trail walk, but alas, there were no bear sightings. The scenery from the porch swing on the lodge is stunning, with the glacier (pictured here) just across the water. Closer by, hummingbirds were flitting around a hanging feeder and it was an unusual sight—the tiny birds in the midst of the wilderness.

The 3 ½ hour Taku Lodge Feast and Glacier Seaplane excursion with 50 minutes of flight time ($315 for adults and $270 for children) was an incredible experience and will certainly be the highlight of this Alaska cruise.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Aboard Rhapsody of the Seas, Fun Food in the New Park Café

On embarkation day I arrived aboard Rhapsody of the Seas hungry. After a cross country flight without even a snack, I was really hungry. On my way to the Windjammer Marketplace, Rhapsody’s buffet restaurant, I took a wrong turn and ended up in the Solarium where I found the brand new Park Café.

This new ultra casual option is like a friendly neighborhood deli offering light fare such as freshly made sandwiches, paninis, and crispy salads made to order with toppings ranging from cheeses and croutons to tiny shrimp. Lunch service begins at 11am and continues until 6:30pm so you could even have a very casual light early dinner there.

Breakfast at Park Café is sure to be a popular option as well. From 7am until 10am the selections included a variety of muffins and pastries, bagels with all the trimmings, an assortment of fruits and my favorite—a fried egg topped with melted cheese on an English muffin.

A nearby beverage bar has coffee, juices, and lemonade and the Solarium Bar serves cocktails. Late night snacks are also offered in Park Café from 11pm until 2am, but I haven’t had a chance to check those out yet. Should you want to take your food with you, the servers will even put it on a paper plate.

Aside from the good food, what I liked best about Park café is that I don’t over eat there. Like many people, I often put too much on my plate in the buffet line.

Photo: © CruiseDiva.com

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Comfortably at Home Aboard Rhapsody of the Seas

Rhapsody of the Seas in Alaska
It’s been a while since I last sailed on one of Royal Caribbean’s Vision Class ships, of which Rhapsody of the Seas is one of six in that class. Since then, the cruise line has been rejuvenating these vessels by adding features that passengers enjoy most on their newer fleetmates. As I reported earlier this year, a “Like New” Rhapsody of the Seas was introduced in March and there are many upgrades I anticipate discovering while on board this week in Alaska that weren’t a part of the original Vision Class experience.

The first new discovery is my Superior Oceanview Stateroom on Deck Seven that measures in at 192 square feet with a 42 square feet balcony. I’m in 7650 and, along with my counterpart on the ship’s opposite side in 7150, have a somewhat obstructed view. Actually, it's simply a bit of angled steel that doesn't obstruct much and it’s still a great spot to breathe in the fresh sea air in Alaska.

In addition to the two twin beds (that can be converted into a single queen-size) and a sitting area with sofa bed and occasional table, other fairly standard features in my home for the next week are a mini-refrigerator, vanity/desk area, hair-dryer, telephone, safe, and 110/220 electrical outlets. New stateroom amenities include a flat screen television, remodeled bathroom, and refreshed interior décor with new linens and furniture. There’s plenty of storage, especially since I’m sailing alone. Had my husband Mel been able to accompany me, we would both be quite comfortable here.

Possibly one of my favorite new features isn’t actually inside my stateroom, but reaches me nonetheless—it’s the recently installed bow-to-stern WiFi. An additional perk that’s coming soon is that passengers will find iPads in every stateroom, allowing them to access the daily Cruise Compass of events and activities; personal daily itineraries, including shore excursions; monitor their onboard account; order room service; view restaurant menus; access the Internet; and watch movies.

Like other Royal Caribbean ships, Rhapsody of the Seas offers four main categories of accommodations—suites, balcony staterooms, outside staterooms with an ocean view, and inside stateroom. After choosing a category, you can then select a specific room type to suit your needs whether that means large enough for a family or accessible for the mobility impaired.

Smokers should note that smoking is not permitted inside any stateroom on board Rhapsody of the Seas or any other Royal Caribbean ship. Smoking is permitted only on private outdoor balconies of suites and staterooms that have them and in other specially designated public areas.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Where’s the Cruise Diva? Jetting to Seattle

I’ve left my husband Mel and the Tabby Trio of kitties behind and am (hopefully by the time you read this) on my way to Seattle via US Airways to board Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas for an Alaskan adventure. Our itinerary will take me and fellow passengers to the ports of Juneau and Skagway, AK, and Victoria, BC. We’ll also be cruising through Tracy Arm Fjord, where with a lot of luck we’ll see Sawyer Glacier do the calving thing that’s such a thrill. Hopefully, we’ll also spot some whales, eagles, and perhaps a bear.

For this solo cruise, I’m prepped with a cruise wardrobe that can be “layered” and have a box of No-Jet-Lag to help with the time changes between the Eastern and Pacific—not to mention Alaska—zones. Mel said the homeopathic remedy helped him on his last trip to Brazil and I hope they are as useful for me. I have a lot of trouble when traveling from my home in the southeastern US to western regions and due to a past bout of deep vein thrombosis, I have to get up and walk around the plane frequently while flying.

As a rule I usually arrive in my embarkation port a day or so before boarding—and you should as well—so it will be interesting to arrive on the day we set sail. Follow along on the blog this week to see if I made it to Rhapsody of the Seas and also to read about some interesting shore excursions I will experience. Should you have a couple days to explore Seattle pre- or post-cruise as I did on a previous Alaska cruise, here are my picks of things to do:

Seattle Day One
Seattle Day Two
Seattle Day Three

Cruise News: New Exhibition In New York to Celebrate SS United States


Built to be both luxury superliner and Cold War weapon, America’s flagship, the SS United States was the fastest and safest ocean liner ever built. Larger than the Titanic and faster than the Queen Mary, this marvel of America n engineering smashed the transatlantic speed record on her historic maiden voyage in 1952, a record that remains unbroken. As part of a year-long, 60th anniversary celebration of the vessel’s dramatic debut, the SS United States Conservancy has produced an exhibition of rare artifacts, artwork, and ephemera showcasing the lost-era of transatlantic sea travel. Revealing letters and photographs featuring the ship’s designers, officers, crew, and passengers will also be on display. The exhibition, entitled “The Ocean Liner United States: Celebrating the Past and Future of America’s Flagship,” opens at the Forbes Galleries, New York today May 18th and runs through September 8th. The SS United States exhibition will be free and open to the public from 10am –4pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

Items in the exhibition lent by collectors from across the country will transport visitors back to an era of travel in grand style, where world leaders and celebrities roamed America’s “ship of state” as she sped across the Atlantic. Through personal stories of crew members, tourists, and immigrants, the exhibition will shine a spotlight on life aboard the ship in the 1950s and 1960s and convey the SS United States’ special role as national symbol and cultural icon.

China, furniture, artwork and documents from the ship’s top-secret design are among more than 120 artifacts assembled. These include souvenirs from the maiden voyage, custom-made glassware from the ship’s bars and period graphics, both in the form of print advertisements, ship menus and brochures. Prominently featured will be famed enamellist Mira Jedwabnik Van Doren’s original plaques of American birds that once hung in a first class suite and one of the stunning cocktail tables she designed for the ship’s Observation Lounge. Mira traveled with her family from Poland to the United States in 1939 where her biggest early break was her work on the SS United States. Private papers from the vessel’s designer, William Francis Gibbs, as well as from Commodore John Anderson, the ship’s longest-serving captain, will also be featured. Other personalities associated with the ship profiled include Elaine Kaplan, the pioneering female engineer who helped design the ship’s record-breaking propellers, as well as other passengers and crewmembers.

The exhibition calls attention to the SS United States Conservancy, which purchased the historic vessel last year, and its work to save and repurpose this beautiful, one-of-a-kind triumph of American engineering for future generations. The group has mounted a national effort to raise funds for the vessel’s upkeep, commence an external restoration process and develop a shipboard museum. The Conservancy’s Redevelopment Project is also working to identify a private developer to transform the United States, withdrawn from seagoing service in 1969, into a self-sustaining, multipurpose waterfront destination.

“By celebrating and saving this American icon, future generations will have a window into a bygone era of passenger travel and this testament to American optimism and inventiveness,” states Susan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Conservancy and granddaughter of the ship’s designer, William Francis Gibbs.

Space for the exhibition was made possible through the generous support of Robert L. Forbes, Vice President of Forbes and President of ForbesLife, who serves as a member of the SS United States Conservancy Board of Directors. The Forbes Galleries, New York are located at 62 Fifth Avenue (at 12th Street) in Manhattan.

ABOUT THE SS UNITED STATES CONSERVANCY
A national nonprofit organization founded in 2004, the SS United States Conservancy leads the global effort to save and repurpose the SS United States. The Conservancy raises public awareness and financial resources for the maintenance, restoration and ultimate reuse of this iconic vessel and works to ensure that the fastest ocean liner ever to cross the Atlantic remains an inspiration for generations to come. For more information about the SS United States, visit ssusc.org.

Image Courtesy of the SS United States Conservancy

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cruise News: AIDAmar Christened in Hamburg

It's like Vince, the television pitchman for ShamWow says, "Made in Germany...you know the Germans always make good stuff."

With that in mind, take a look at the impressive christening video of German cruise line AIDA Cruises' ninth ship, AIDAmar in Hamburg over the past weekend. Recognizable by the smiling lips painted on their bows, the ballet performed by a trio of AIDA ships is quite a feat. I have to admit, that's the most unique "bottle breaking" spectacle I've ever seen. Don't miss the incredible fireworks that follow it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cruise News: Plans for Dominican Republic’s New Amber Cove Cruise Center Unveiled

It was nearly thirty years ago when the last cruise ship made a call at Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, but that is about to change.

Attended by the country’s dignitaries and government leaders, groundbreaking ceremonies for the Caribbean’s newest destination, the $65 million Amber Cove Cruise Center, were held this week in the Dominican Republic. On the Bay of Maimon—located near Puerto Plata in the country’s North Coast—the new facility, which represents one of the largest cruise industry investments ever made in the Dominican Republic, is scheduled to open in 2014. The project is designed to re-establish the Dominican Republic’s North Coast as a popular cruise destination.

A joint project between Carnival Corporation and the Rannik family of Grupo B-and-R, the new two-berth Amber Cove Cruise Center will be able to accommodate up to 8,000 cruise passengers and 2,000 crew members daily. The facility is expected to host more than 250,000 cruise passengers in its first year of operation. Amber Cove will encompass 30 acres of waterfront property and will feature a welcome center with a variety of retail offerings, including a marketplace for locally sourced Dominican crafts and souvenirs, as well as a wide range of themed restaurants and bars and an exciting water attraction. A transportation hub allowing visitors easy access by land and sea to the surrounding destinations and attractions will be included, as well.

“Amber Cove promises to be a spectacular facility that will serve as a gateway for cruise guests to experience the natural beauty and wonder that makes the Dominican Republic such an attractive tourist destination,” said Giora Israel, Carnival Corporation’s senior vice president of global port and destination development.

Our photo above—taken during an eco-tour—illustrates an unspoiled beach along the Dominican Republic coast.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Carnival Breeze Completes Sea Trials in Adriatic Sea

The 130,000-ton Carnival Breeze, Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest ship, is shown in the video below conducting sea trials in the Adriatic Sea in preparation for its inaugural June 3 voyage from Venice, Italy.

The 3,690-passenger vessel, currently in the final stages of construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, had a full contingent of officers, technicians, and engineers on board who thoroughly tested the Carnival Breeze’s sophisticated navigation, technical and mechanical systems.

Carnival Breeze will offer a variety of innovations, including the line’s first Thrill Theater, an immersive multi-dimensional special effects experience that makes viewers feel as if they’re part of the movie, along with popular features such as WaterWorks, with fun water slides and attractions, and SportSquare, an expansive top-deck recreation area with a ropes course, mini-golf, an outdoor fitness area and more. Exclusive to Carnival Breeze is Bonsai Sushi, the line’s first full-service sushi restaurant, and Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ, an open-air dining venue featuring a variety of grilled barbecue favorites and traditional sides.



Following its inaugural 12-day cruise that departs Venice June 3 and arrives in Barcelona June 15, Carnival Breeze will operate a summer schedule of Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona through Oct 25. The ship will then sail on a 15-day transatlantic crossing from Barcelona to Miami, positioning the vessel for year-round 6- and 8-day Caribbean departures beginning Nov 24, 2012. Carnival Breeze will be Carnival Cruise Lines’ largest ship ever based in South Florida.

CruiseNews: Celebrity Millennium Rounds Out Celebrity Cruises' Ambitious 'Solsticizing' Initiative

Two short years ago Celebrity Cruises set out to accomplish one of the most ambitious revitalization initiatives in the history of the cruise industry and—with a few tweaks detailed below—the massive task was completed as Celebrity Millennium set sail last Saturday from Miami, fresh from becoming the fourth and final Millennium Class ship to complete the line's $140-million "Solsticizing" process. Incorporating a host of the venues and experiences guests like the most on the Solstice Class ships was an astonishing feat—each ship completed the massive transformation during short three-week drydock periods.

"Solsticizing has been such an exciting initiative for us—and more importantly, for our guests, as indicated by their response to each of our Solsticized ships," said Celebrity's President and CEO Dan Hanrahan. "Our Millennium Class ships already had a large and loyal following, having repeatedly ranked at the top of many of the world's most prestigious consumer polls, and their original style, design and ambience served as significant inspiration for the design of the Solstice Class. So now, we're bringing it full circle, incorporating on the entire Millennium Class what our guests enjoy most on the Solstice Class. It ties our whole fleet together in a very powerful way."

One of the many Solstice Class features added to the Millennium Class ships* is Celebrity's trendsetting AquaClass category of staterooms, with spacious, private verandas; exclusive access to the stylish specialty restaurant, Blu; complimentary access to the Persian Garden and Relaxation Room in the AquaSpa; a personal Spa Concierge to book exotic AquaSpa treatments; use of plush Frette bathrobes and slippers; enhanced personal care products, and plentiful in-room amenities, including Hansgrohe shower heads, fog-free bathroom mirrors, aromatherapy selections, and daily deliveries of complimentary bottled water and teas. [*Note: AquaClass and its associated of amenities will be added to Celebrity Constellation in 2013.]

Another Celebrity exclusive—"Qsine," the novel restaurant introduced on Celebrity Eclipse in 2010 and Celebrity Silhouette last year—is also dazzling guests on Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Summit, and Celebrity Millennium as a result of each ship's revitalization. The first restaurant at sea to present a menu and wine list on an iPad™, Qsine serves a blend of classic and contemporary dishes in custom-made serveware, such as spring rolls served in vertical springs, and popcorn shrimp in theater-style popcorn boxes. Described in press reviews as "the latest and most innovative restaurant," "cutting-edge," and "appealingly quirky," the restaurant and menu were designed to take what guests expect of a specialty restaurant and "turn it upside down" in a captivating, entertaining and flavorful way.

Joining AquaClass, Blu, and Qsine* in the "Solsticizing" initiative are:

-- the hip Celebrity iLounge, which debuted on Celebrity Eclipse and made Celebrity Cruises the industry's first Authorized Apple Reseller (to be added to Celebrity Constellation in 2013).
-- Celebrity's "eXhale" bedding program, in partnership with Reverie®, a leader in the field of luxury bedding. Hand-made in the U.S. with natural raw materials such as bamboo and sustainable natural rubber, the mattresses are almost entirely recyclable and biodegradable, feature removable, hypo-allergenic, antibacterial and dust mite-resistant covers, and a breathable, plush pillow top with a patented air flow design. Rounding out Celebrity's eXhale bedding program are custom-embroidered, 100% Egyptian cotton linens (to be added to Celebrity Constellation in 2013).
-- A new twist within Celebrity's casually elegant bar, Michael's Club, where its selection of fine whiskies, cognac, bourbons and scotches is now complemented with craft beers, including 50 international selections (the new Michael's Club concept will be added to Celebrity Constellation in 2013)
-- the "cool," ice-topped Martini Bar and Crush
-- Celebrity's vibrant creperie, Bistro on Five
-- the inviting Cafe al Bacio and Gelateria
-- Cellarmasters wine bar, complete with the "Enomatic" state-of-the-art wine serving system--an industry-first when it debuted on Celebrity Solstice--allowing guests to select wines by the glass, at the touch of a button
-- entirely new verandas added to the ship's spacious, luxurious Celebrity Suites
-- additional new oceanview and inside staterooms
-- an expanded collection of original, contemporary art

* During the Solsticizing of Celebrity Constellation in 2010, the Solstice Class-inspired specialty restaurant "Tuscan Grille"—an Italian-themed steakhouse—was added to the ship, within the space occupied by Qsine on her sister ships.
Celebrity Millennium is currently on a Panama Canal voyage from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego. Following a 5-night wine-themed cruise from San Diego to Vancouver May 27, the ship will offer 7-night Northbound and Southbound Alaska sailings between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cruise News: Princess Cruises' Statement on Star Princess

All of us at Princess Cruises are deeply saddened that two Panamanian men perished at sea after their boat became disabled. We are very sorry for the tragic loss of life.

As soon as we became fully aware of this incident, we immediately launched an internal review to investigate the claim that Star Princess failed to come to the aid of the disabled boat in March, after a crew member was alerted by passengers who spotted a small boat through a high-powered lens used for bird watching.

Because of what we suspect was a case of unfortunate miscommunication, regretfully the Captain of the Star Princess was never notified of the passengers' concern. Had he been advised, he would have had the opportunity to respond, as he has done numerous times throughout his career.

This is an upsetting and emotional issue for us all, as no employee onboard a Princess ship would purposefully ignore someone in distress. It is our ethical and maritime responsibility to provide assistance to any vessel in need, and it is not an uncommon occurrence for our ships to be involved in a rescue at sea. In fact, we have done so more than 30 times over the last decade.

Our investigation has not yet concluded, and at the same time our flag state of Bermuda has also launched an investigation into this incident. We have agreed not to pre-empt their work by discussing any of our preliminary findings, and when their investigation is complete we will be able to provide more details.

Until then, we remain focused on ensuring that such an incident could not happen again, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families who are affected.

Meet Jaime Dee, Carnival Liberty’s Vivacious Cruise Director

It isn’t often that cruise passengers encounter a female cruise director so we were somewhat surprised to hear Jaime Dee’s voice over the public address system soon after boarding Carnival Liberty. In fact, over the past twenty-plus years Mel and I have sailed on only two ships with entertainment staffs headed by female cruise directors.

While some passengers feel that a cruise director can make or break their onboard experience, I’ve never noticed that it made a big difference in mine. Not until encountering Jaime, that is. Her energy and enthusiasm is positively infectious and she leads the pack when it comes to engaging passengers—it’s been a long time since I’ve seen activities and deck parties so well attended on any ship. She does it fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, and never slows down. She even got me and my bad knees dancing along.

Only twenty-six, metro Detroit native Jaime became involved in theater as a young girl and moved to interactive dinner theater before graduating from Michigan State with degrees in community relations and psychology. Jaime wanted to travel after graduation and—having been on cruises in the past—her mother suggested she go to sea. As a result of her encouragement, Jaime began her journey with Carnival Cruise Lines five years ago as a member of their entertainment staff. On her move up to Assistant Cruise Director, she served on ten ships and was part of the Carnival Splendor inauguration team where I first encountered her. Presently Jaime’s position is Acting Cruise Director on Carnival Liberty and she looks forward to being assigned to her own ship. She’s never forgotten her roots as an entertainer and credits her voice coach Debbie Tedrick with instilling in her a sense of integrity and honor.

As one of three female cruise directors presently sailing with Carnival Cruise Lines, Jaime looks upon her gender as a positive—women are happy to see one of our own in charge. In addition, she enjoys her role as “mom” to crewmembers when they need a bit of compassion and understanding. For others who would like to follow in her footsteps, she says they should let their personalities shine through and answer all the questions they are asked when interviewed. Applicants should only apply if they want to work hard and help passengers have a good experience on their cruise.

Jaime finds it great to reconnect with passengers who’ve sailed with her before and her advice for cruisers to make the most out of their vacation is to be involved. As a rule, I don’t often turn the television on in my cabin, but I tuned in for Jaime’s “Morning Show” on a regular basis while aboard Carnival Liberty to follow her incredibly fun and entertaining interaction with my shipmates.

If you think Jaime looks familiar—as I did—and don’t recognize her last name, “Dee” is short for Deitsch. It was a pleasure to meet with her and hear her story and I hope our paths cross again in the future.

Thanks for sharing a bit of time with me, Jaime, and for posing with my travel kitten Pres!

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cruise On, Mom

Some people ask how Cruise Diva discovered her love for ships and the high seas. I discovered the source of my fascination in a dusty box of mementos from a long ago, dimly remembered voyage. It wasn't my cruise vacation, but my mother's. You could say I have a cruise gene. It was there all along, tucked away in the corner of a closet shelf. Dormant for years, it was just waiting to be found.

What was my mother's first cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Song of Norway in 1980 like? Some things never change...there was the boat drill and Captain's Party (pictured here, Mom being greeted by the ship's Master), plus sunny days, relaxation beside the pool, dancing the night away, and plenty of casino action. Blackjack was her game and my mother loved the casino!

As I remember my mom today, join me in a Mother's Day tribute to the lady who passed along her cruise genes to me. Welcome aboard my mom's first cruise on the Song of Norway: Cruise On, Mom.

And, just to get you in the mood and illustrate how some things have changed on board Royal Caribbean ships, Royal Caribbean has produced the following video of families together enjoying quality time, creating memories, and giving moms some well-deserved time off. From the FlowRider to the Spa, there is something that appeals to everyone in the family. I never got to take a cruise with my mother, but I hope every child who has the opportunity to do so disembarks with a smile.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cruise News: Oceania Cruises Christens ‘Riviera’ in Barcelona

Amid pomp and ceremony, Oceania Cruises christened Riviera, the newest entry in the upper-premium cruise ship market, during an invitation-only event in Barcelona yesterday. The ship’s godmother, Chef Cat Cora (pictured here), the restaurateur, humanitarian, author, and co-host of Bravo's new "Around the World in 80 Plates," named the ship and was joined by Deacon Ricardo Rodriguez-Martos of the Barcelona’s Apostleship of the Sea, who bestowed the traditional blessings.

The national anthems of the U.S. and Spain, together with a Catalan flamenco performance and a duet of “Barcelona” performed by Soprano Alina Furman and Tenor Giorgio Olmo set a festive atmosphere for the ceremony. Nearly 1,300 guests, including Xavier Trias, Mayor of Barcelona; Sixte Cambra, president of the Port of Barcelona and Jose Alberto Carbonell, director of the Port of Barcelona, were in attendance. Frank J. Del Rio, the line’s founder and chairman, and Kunal S. Kamlani, the line’s president, presided over festivities that concluded with a 15-liter Nebuchadnezzar of Champagne (weighing some 114 kilos), custom-made by Veuve Clicquot, commemoratively breaking against the ship’s hull.

“Today, the baton as the world's premiere ship has passed to Riviera,” said Del Rio. “When asked, I've repeatedly said that it was going to be hard to improve on Marina's perfection, but I didn't say it would be impossible. And we have done just that—improved on perfection.”

In thanking the invited guests, local hosts and dignitaries in attendance, Kamlani noted that Barcelona, a city renowned for its charm, diversity of cultures, art and design, was the ideal setting for the christening as, “Riviera is a work of art herself, and designed to bring the beauty of the world to our guests.” Barcelona also holds a special significance for Oceania Cruises as the line’s first ship, Regatta, was named in Barcelona in 2003.

Like Marina, her sister ship, Riviera also features a Bon Appétit Culinary Center, a Canyon Ranch SpaClub®, luxurious suites by Dakota Jackson, Ralph Lauren Home-furnished Owner’s Suites, and a grand Lalique staircase lit from above by a dazzling, custom-made chandelier. Her distinguishing features include a museum-worthy collection of fine art focusing on the works of some of Latin America’s most accomplished and admired contemporary artists and an Artist Loft with hands-on instruction.

Following the christening cruise, Riviera begins a 10-day maiden voyage from Venice to Athens, departing on May 16, 2011. From May 16 through Nov 29, 2012, she will offer a total of 20 Mediterranean voyages, calling at ports in France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Turkey as well as Israel, Croatia, Cyprus, Montenegro, Morocco and Monaco, with maiden calls in Cephalonia (Argostoli), Motril (Granada) and the Canary Islands.

Image Courtesy of Oceania Cruises

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cruise News: First Steel Cut for Norwegian Getaway

Kevin Sheehan, chief executive officer
of Norwegian Cruise Line, and
Bernard Meyer, managing director of MEYER WERFT
Earlier this week we reported that the keel was laid for Norwegian Breakaway and now we've learned that the first piece of steel was cut at MEYER WERFT in Papenburg, Germany on Friday, May 4, for the construction of Norwegian Getaway, the second of two new Freestyle Cruising® ships for Norwegian Cruise Line, set for delivery in spring 2014.

Norwegian Cruise Line and MEYER WERFT executives watched as the first plate of steel was cut by a plasma torch in the yard’s state of the art facility. This plate will become part of Block 40 that will comprise the new vessel.

Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway are going to revolutionize the cruise industry with their spectacular design and unique offerings,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer. “Cutting the first piece of steel for Norwegian Getaway takes us one step closer to having this ship join our fleet in 2014 and begin sailing year-round from Miami, the cruise capital of the world.”

Norwegian announced in April that Norwegian Getaway will be homeported year-round in Miami following her delivery scheduled for spring 2014. Norwegian Getaway’s sister ship, Norwegian Breakaway, will begin sailing from her year-round home port of New York City in May 2013.

The Breakaway class ships, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, will each be 144,000 gross tons and will have approximately 4,000 passenger berths. These ships represent an opportunity for the Norwegian guest to “break away” from the routine of work, school, and daily stress, while finding a true respite at sea.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cruise News: Carnival Liberty Earns 100% Score on US Public Health Inspection

Carnival Liberty earned a 100 score on its most recent United States Public Health (U.S.P.H.) inspection last week, marking the fifth time that a Carnival Cruise Lines ship has earned a perfect score this year.

The unannounced inspections, which are conducted twice each year and required for any cruise ship with an international itinerary calling on a U.S. port, encompass a broad range of shipboard sanitation areas, including proper food handling, preparation and storage procedures and overall cleanliness of the galley and other shipboard areas. The potable water supply used in spas and pools is also examined.

Carnival Liberty, the first ship to undergo the initial phase of Carnival’s $500 million Fun Ship 2.0 enhancement initiative, operates year-round 7-day Caribbean cruises from Miami.

Take a look at Cruise Diva' first hand review and fresh look at Carnival Liberty in our latest review.
Image: Carnival Liberty Docked at Grand Turk © Cruise.Diva.com

Ship Review: A First Hand Look at Carnival Liberty's "Fun Ship" 2.0 Enhancements

When Cruise Diva sailed on Carnival Liberty's very first Caribbean cruise in 2005, we learned from Joe Farcus, Carnival's former ship architect, that the theme of the ship's decor was the pursuit of artistic freedom.

Fun is what Carnival Liberty is all about and the first Conquest-class vessel in Carnival's fleet to receive the cruise line's latest "Fun Ship" 2.0 upgrade is not only a sparkling tribute to artists and craftsmen—with interiors that showcase their creativity and skill—it's also about new dining options and innovative changes to familiar spaces.

A walk through Carnival Liberty reveals the artistry that brings pleasure to our daily lives in ways we may not think about or recognize in true "Fun Ship" style.

Join Cruise Diva for a fresh look at Carnival Liberty in our latest review.

Image: Carnival Liberty Docked at Grand Turk © Cruise.Diva.com

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wind Star Renovations Complete

It's long been the subject of dispute...are Windstar's masted vessels cruise ships with sails, or sailing ships that cruise? In reality, they are both, although wind power is only used to "assist" the speed of the fleet's graceful trio.

Windstar now tells us there's a fresh new breeze at sea as their four-masted sailing yacht Wind Star (originally launched in 1988) is now fully renovated and under sail, the first of their three sailing yachts to complete what will be an $18 million renovation of the entire fleet. This landmark renovation brings Windstar's fleet to the pinnacle of luxurious contemporary style, just what you'd expect from the world's best private yachts, and perfectly suited to provide a vacation experience that is 180 degrees from ordinary—intimate, elegant, relaxed, unique.

Beginning with Islands of the West Mediterranean, sailing April 29th from Barcelona to Rome, guests will experience an entirely new level of Windstar Style. Soft, seascape tones provide a beautifully soothing color palette. All new teak decking and brilliant white canvas sails—custom-designed upholstery—stunning artwork and design. From furnishings to finishes. From headboards to hand rails. Everything is new, everything is complete—ready to welcome passengers on board.

Additionally, twin sister-ship Wind Spirit has recently joined their larger fleetmate Wind Surf in the completion of its stateroom and corridor renovations; both will be fully renovated in December of this year. Their debut voyages will be Dec 1, 2012 for Wind Surf and Dec 22, 2012 for Wind Spirit.

Images Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Keel Laid for Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Cruise Line executives and officials from MEYER WERFT took part in the Keel Laying Ceremony of Norwegian Breakaway at the ship yard in Papenburg, Germany on Friday, May 4. During the official ceremony, the first of 73 blocks that will comprise the 144,000 gross ton vessel was lifted into the covered building dock, marking the start of the block assembly.

In the dock, Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer, laid the traditional "lucky coin," before the 350-ton first block was placed by the 800-ton crane. A special commemorative coin was created to celebrate the day’s activities.

“The anticipation is building for this incredible ship,” said Sheehan. “It’s thrilling to mark the start of the block assembly and realize that in one year we will take delivery of Norwegian Breakaway. We can’t wait.”

Norwegian Breakaway is the first ship being built by MEYER WERFT utilizing a more efficient construction process which will deliver a ship of more than 140,000 gross tons in less than 12 months.

“We are so proud to begin the process of constructing the ship out of 73 blocks that form the structure of the ship and are looking forward to seeing it take shape over the coming months,” said Bernard Meyer, managing director of MEYER WERFT. “Norwegian Cruise Line has a reputation in the industry for innovation and we are very happy to continue that with this new ship.”

The 4,000 passenger Norwegian Breakaway will arrive in her year-round homeport of New York City in early May 2013. The ship will begin weekly summer 7-day cruises to Bermuda on Sunday, May 12, 2013. From October 2013 through April 2014, the ship will offer voyages from the heart of Manhattan to the Bahamas and Florida and the Southern Caribbean.

To date, the company has revealed the ship’s groundbreaking design, including The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place, a wide range of indoor and outdoor venues on three dynamic decks that will create a whole new complex at sea that enhances guests’ connection with the ocean. The top decks of Norwegian Breakaway will feature the first Aqua Park at sea with five full-size water slides, including twin Free Fall slides, the first ever at sea, and a three-story sports complex that includes the largest ropes course at sea, a nine-hole miniature golf course, basketball court, rock climbing wall and more.

The ship will also feature a rich mix of stateroom options including The Haven by Norwegian, comprised of 42 Suites at the top of the ship and 18 additional Suites located throughout the ship; the innovative Studios, designed and priced for solo travelers; the re-introduction of Oceanview staterooms, Balcony and Mini-Suites; along with Spa Balcony, Mini-Suites and Suites in close proximity to the spa.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Aloha, Disney Wonder

This week the Disney Wonder called on Honolulu, Hawaii for the first-time, sailing past iconic Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach. The Disney Wonder is in the middle of a special 15-night Hawaiian cruise with stops in Hilo, Hawaii; Kahului, Maui; Honolulu, Oahu; Nawiliwili, Kauai; and Ensenada, Mexico.

If you missed the opportunity to sail to Hawaii on Disney Wonder's current cruise, Disney Cruise Line is offering a second 14-night Hawaiian voyage that will depart from the Port of Los Angeles on Oct 14, 2012.

Image: Kent Phillips, photographer

Monday, May 7, 2012

New Cruise Review: Princess Cruises' Grand Princess

According to frequent cruisers Mary and Vincent Finelli, when the Grand Princess entered Venice, Italy in 1998 for the first time it was said that the only thing more brilliant than the sunrise over the Venetian Lagoon was the sight of the Grand Princess.

There's been a lot of sea water passing beneath her hull in the ensuing years and after extensive refurbishment, would Grand Princess meet the Finelli's expectations on their third cruise aboard the ship?

Happily, we share the answer in their latest Grand Princess Review on CruiseDiva.com.

Image: Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Sunday, May 6, 2012

More Time in Glacier Bay Sets These Cruises Apart

If Alaska is one of cruising's crown jewel regions, then Glacier Bay National Park is the Hope Diamond of the Great State's destinations. Unfortunately, not every cruise ship sailing through Alaskan waters makes it into Glacier Bay. Fortunately, with more of the coveted Glacier Bay entry days than any other cruise line, un-cruise adventure operator InnerSea Discoveries and American Safari Cruises can offer guests two or three days of in-depth exploration inside the Park throughout summer 2012. Designated as a Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay is a wilderness sanctuary with tidewater glaciers, deep fjords, towering mountains and a variety of wildlife including whales, seals, sea lions, bears, mountain goats, sea birds, sea otters and moose.

From May through August, three yachts of American Safari Cruises offer luxury adventures sailing 57 week-long Alaska cruises roundtrip Juneau with two days spent inside Glacier Bay: 22-guest Safari Quest, 36-guest Safari Explorer, 86-guest Safari Endeavour (new in 2012). Longer 15-day cruises between Seattle and Juneau (and reverse) are offered in spring and fall and also include a 2-day exploration inside the Park.

From June through August, the 76-guest Wilderness Explorer, an InnerSea Discoveries expedition vessel joining the fleet in spring 2012, sails 12 week long active adventure cruises between Juneau and Sitka, Alaska (and reverse). The itinerary includes three full days exploring inside Glacier Bay National Park including the lesser visited but equally spectacular East Arm with McBride Glacier and Muir Glacier. An innovative human-powered watercraft—a new amenity only aboard this vessel—may be taken out for low-impact, up-close exploration powered by two peddlers and up to six paddlers.

“We’ve been operating our yachts on extended explorations inside the Park for 15 years and many of our captains have even longer histories of experience there,” said Captain Dan Blanchard, principal and CEO. “This summer, a new human-powered watercraft aboard the Wilderness Explorer will allow guests to explore inlets inside the park that are closed to motorized traffic.”

Unlike most guests aboard cruise ships or tour boats, guests enjoying Alaska un-cruise adventures with InnerSea Discoveries and American Safari Cruises have the privilege of disembarking the boat to go hiking ashore, exploring via a small inflatable boat or kayaking—all accompanied by a National Park Ranger and shipboard expedition guides. A Park Ranger boards each boat at the park entrance and stays on board for the full two or three days overnighting on the boat (except for the 12-guest Safari Spirit). The Ranger takes the lead on narration and interpretation of the park’s history, native culture of the Hoonah Tlingit, geology, flora and fauna.

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

NOTE: American Safari Cruises' Safari Spirit was also scheduled to sail the itineraries with two days in Glacier Bay this summer; however, the ship suffered an unfortunate fire while undergoing maintenance at Fishermen's Terminal in Seattle to prepare for its upcoming season in Alaska. No one was injured, but the 12-passenger vessel has been declared a total loss and will not be repaired. Booked passengers will be accommodated on the line's other yachts.

Photos Courtesy of American Safari Cruises and InnerSea Discoveries

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Carnival Liberty: Service With A Smile

Everywhere we go aboard Carnival Liberty we are greeted by smiling staff and servers. The one person who deserves kudos for making us comfortable is a boy named Su. That would be our cabin steward Sugangga from the Philippines, who told us, “Just call me Su. That’s easier.”

Among Su’s many talents are creating the towel animals that passengers look forward to seeing on their beds each evening. I miss my tabby cats whenever we travel and brought along Pres (short for Presley), my stuffed kitten. He’s enjoyed greeting the arrival of each towel animal and has served as the unofficial “leader” of our virtual Towel Animal Day Care Center populated with puppies, frogs, and more.

We’ll miss Su and his caring attention when we have to disembark Carnival Liberty, but look forward to seeing our trio of tabbies—Elvis, Priscilla, and Lisa Marie—when we return home.

It’s just a shame that our real kittles didn’t get to play with the towel animals.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Carnival Liberty: “Fun Ship” 2.0 and More

Two of the new features aboard Carnival Liberty that have proven extremely popular are the RedFrog Rum Bar (pictured here) and BlueIguana Tequila Bar.

Located on opposite sides of the main Lido Deck pool, the bars engage in a bit of friendly rivalry with alternating live jams in the afternoon and even livelier nighttime deck parties featuring dancing, contests, prizes and giveaways. Red is the color to wear to RedFrog’s Caribbean Beach Party and naturally blue is de rigueur for BlueIguana’s Mexican Fiesta.

Cruise Director Jamie is on hand to lead all the action and every Tuesday night is a celebration of Mardi Gras “Fat Tuesday” aboard Carnival Liberty with dancing, live jazz, and beads to catch. I even joined in to dance…bad knees and all. That’s proof of Jaime’s infectious energy and the engaging action.

Families haven’t been overlooked and some of their fun activities have included an 80’s Name That Song contest, Balloon Bingo, Game Show Mania, and a “Thriller” Dance Class.

While the hot and Cool Dance Nightclub doesn’t get going until late, the DJs keep the music going until even later. We haven’t had the chance to check it out yet—we’ve been having too much fun, but will definitely get around to it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

All New Full-Size Sushi Restaurant & Outdoor BBQ Venue Among Cuisine Choices On Carnival Breeze

Carnival Breeze: Bonsai Sushi
Dining is a highlight of the Carnival vacation experience and the 130,000-ton Carnival Breeze will feature a huge array of culinary choices when it enters service June 3. Two new offerings will include Bonsai Sushi, the line’s first full-service sushi restaurant, and an open-air barbecue venue called Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ.

To celebrate Carnival Breeze’s exciting variety of dining choices, today Carnival Cruise Lines is launching a sweepstakes on its Facebook fan page at facebook.com/carnival that is tied to another of the ship’s dining spots, the Mexican-themed BlueIguana Cantina. The sweepstakes asks fans to choose their favorite burrito or taco toppings available at the casual dining venue for a chance to win a Caribbean cruise for two on the new 130,000-ton “Fun Ship,” along with round-trip air transportation.

Here’s a look at the Carnival Breeze’s many different tantalizing dining choices:

Bonsai Sushi – Carnival’s first full-service sushi restaurant, Bonsai Sushi offers a wide variety of Asian-inspired delicacies with a contemporary decor featuring artwork by world-renowned graffiti artist Erni Vales, colorful koi kites flown during impromptu celebrations, and, of course, several Bonsai trees. Located along Promenade Deck, Bonsai Sushi includes a number of varieties of sushi, sashimi, and rolls along with bento boxes and the venue’s own interpretation of a sushi boat–- in this case, a sushi “ship”–with prices ranging from $1 for appetizer-sized portions to $15 for a sushi ship for two.

Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ – Reminiscent of a backyard barbecue, this complimentary open-air dining venue located on Promenade Deck offers a mouth-watering array of grilled favorites, including barbecued chicken breast, kielbasa, Italian sausage, and Fat Jimmy’s signature item, pulled pork sandwiches, along with traditional sides like baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw and mini-corn muffins.

Guy’s Burger Joint – fresh-made burgers, hand-cut fries and innovative toppings created in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri.

BlueIguana Cantina – offering authentic tacos and burritos that can be personalized by diners at an extensive salsa and toppings bar.
The Punchliner Comedy Brunch presented by George Lopez – featuring hilarious comedic performances and an extensive menu of brunch-time favorites.

Fahrenheit 555 – a classic American steakhouse offering mouth-watering steaks and other gourmet fare with impeccable service (venue will carry a surcharge consistent with other steakhouses in the Carnival fleet).

Cucina del Capitano – a family-style restaurant reminiscent of a cozy Italian home with dishes such as Piatto della Nonna, inspired by the grandma of Carnival Breeze Captain Vincenzo Alcaras with penne pasta, crispy shrimp and prosciutto in a vodka cream sauce (venue will serve as a free lunch-time pasta bar during the day with a nominal charge for dinner).

Lido Marketplace – a casual poolside eatery offering an array of international favorites, from paninis and 24-hour pizza to Indian Tandoori and a Mongolian Wok station and just about everything in between.

“The Comfort Kitchen” – new venue located within Lido Marketplace offering American-style “comfort food.”

Ocean Plaza – an indoor/outdoor café serving cappuccinos, lattes, and espressos as well as pastries and other confections.

RedFrog Pub – an island-themed pub where guests can nosh on Caribbean-inspired fare while soaking up the distinct British-West-Indies-meets-Key-West ambiance.

Serenity – salads, sandwiches, wraps and other light fare available at the ship’s exclusive adults-only retreat.

The Taste Bar – complimentary bite-size offerings inspired by popular Carnival dining venues, along with a signature cocktail tied to that eatery’s particular theme available for purchase.

Sea Dogs – a hot dog-shaped cart within the SportSquare outdoor recreation area offering all-beef franks and traditional toppings (debuts on Carnival Breeze in November).
‘BlueIguana Cantina Fight for Your Appetite’ Sweepstakes
Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, the “BlueIguana Cantina Fight for Your Appetite” sweepstakes runs from today through May 10 on Carnival’s Facebook fan page. Fans are asked to choose their favorite taco and burrito toppings in a series of head-to-head competitions pitting such options as guacamole vs. sour cream or breakfast burritos vs. traditional tacos. All participants who vote are entered into a drawing for a Carnival Breeze Caribbean cruise for two, as well as round-trip air transportation, that will be awarded on May 17. In a fun twist, the sweepstakes includes a unique feature in which fans can digitally throw images of burrito and taco toppings and other BlueIguana Cantina food items at their fellow Facebook enthusiasts’ pages. Additional information and sweepstakes details are available at facebook.com/carnival. Images, information and videos specific to the Carnival Breeze are available at carnivalbreeze.com.

Exciting European, Caribbean Itineraries
Following an inaugural 12-day cruise from Venice departing June 3, 2012, Carnival Breeze will operate a series of 12-day Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona through Oct 25, 2012. After its trans-Atlantic crossing, Carnival Breeze will sail year-round from Miami beginning Nov 24, 2012, offering port-intensive 6- and 8-day cruises that showcase the best the Caribbean has to offer. For additional information and reservations, call 1-800-327-9501.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines