Friday, August 31, 2012

Cruise News: Port of New Orleans Opens Today

Update From Carnival Cruise Lines

CARNIVAL ELATION 08/31/12 - 3-DAY DEPARTURE:
FUNtastic news! The Port of New Orleans will reopen early this morning.

Due to the time required to transit the Mississippi River, the ship will be alongside in the afternoon. We’ll be busy saying good bye to our disembarking guests, so check in for your 3 day Fun Cruise @ Sea will now take place between 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM on Friday, August 31, 2012 at the Erato Street Cruise Terminal.

So join us for three days of unforgettable fun and receive:
- 50% refund of your cruise fare (refunded within the next 2 weeks)
- 25% future cruise discount on a 3-5 day Carnival cruise (restrictions apply)
- Gratuities will be adjusted to reflect the shortened voyage
- Shore excursions purchased for Cozumel, as well as, the government fees and taxes, will be automatically refunded to your Sail and Sign account
Refunds will not be provided for flight changes, hotel accommodations, meals, transfers, or other incidental costs. However, guests who purchased Carnival’s Vacation Protection Plan should check their plan for reimbursement considerations.

Guests who purchased flights with Carnival's FlyAweigh program will automatically have their flights adjusted to the new day and time. You will be notified of your new flights by our Travel Services department. Guests with independent flight arrangements, please adjust your travel plans accordingly.

We certainly hope you’ll sail with us but if you elect to cancel, please contact 1-800-CARNIVAL to request your future cruise credit.

To stay up to date, if you have not done so already, please sign up for text updates by texting CCL1 to CRUISE (278473).

Once again, we are sorry the weather has caused a delay in getting your fun started. Rest assured, once you step on board, we'll waste no time in getting it going!

See you soon!

An Olympic Champion, Guest Musicians & More Jazz Up Crystal's South Pacific Voyage

When Crystal Cruises' Crystal Symphony sets out on her November 25th South Pacific voyage, she'll groove to the energetic beat of live jazz performances and host a diverse list of lecture topics.

From Los Angeles to Hawaii and French Polynesia, a host of prolific guest musicians will treat sea-goers to daily live music, ranging from ragtime to swing, while Louis Zamperini, Olympic champion and subject of the bestseller Unbroken; American musical theater author Herb Keyser; Clint Van Zandt, former Chief Hostage Negotiator and "Silence of the Lambs"-style profiler for the FBI; and General Nick Halley will also be aboard to rivet audiences as Crystal Visions Enrichment guest speakers. Also just added to the rich lineup is Discovery Channel and National Geographic "Storm Chaser," Tim Samaras.

Clarinetist Pieter Meijers is set to lead a jazz ensemble of percussionist Eddie Metz; trumpeter, pianist and banjo player Randy Morris; keyboardist and vocalist Tom Hook; bassist and vocalist Nicki Parrott; and vocalist Rebecca Kilgore, thanks to jazz aficionados, Jazzdagen Tours.

Crystal Symphony's recently redesigned lounges, nightclubs, and theaters will also be bustling with full stage productions like new show Diva, solo headliners like comedian Dale Gonyea, lively piano tunes in the Avenue Saloon, dance hits in Luxe, "Magic Castle at Sea" magic shows, and much more.

"While cruise insiders know that Crystal always sparkles on days at sea, this lineup of great jazz music, fascinating speakers, and breathtaking destinations is particularly stellar," says Bret Bullock, vice president of entertainment.

Departing from Los Angeles, the 13-day luxury cruise overnights in Honolulu, Hawaii and visits Moorea, Society Islands en route to another overnight in Papeete, Tahiti.

Image Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cruise News: Carnival Offers 8/30 Cruise Departure Options & Shifts Operations to Mobile As The Port of New Orleans Remains Closed

Carnival Cruise Line Statement

We are closely monitoring Tropical Storm Isaac and keeping in close contact with port officials.

CARNIVAL ELATION – 8/25/12 DEPARTURE
Officials at the Port of New Orleans have informed us the Mississippi River remains closed to ship traffic. Since it is uncertain when the river will reopen, the Carnival Elation will now proceed to the Port of Mobile. Weather permitting, debark will take place on Friday morning. Guests will be bused back to New Orleans.

CARNIVAL ELATION 8/30 DEPARTURE
Our scheduled 4-day cruise will be shortened to a 3-day Fun Cruise @ Sea departing on Friday, August 31, 2012. Please proceed to the Port of New Orleans and plan to arrive between 1:00 PM and 4:00 PM on Friday. The parking garage at the port will be open. Busses will take guests and their luggage to Mobile.

We sincerely apologize for this disruption to your cruise. Here are your options. Sail with us and receive a:
- 50% refund of your cruise fare (refunded within the next 2 weeks)
- 25% future 3-5 day cruise discount (restrictions apply)
- Gratuities will be adjusted
- Refund of government fees and taxes
- Refunds will not be provided for flight changes, hotel accommodations, meals, transfers, or other incidental costs
Should you wish to cancel or reschedule, please contact 1-800-CARNIVAL to request your future cruise credit. Guests who purchased flights with Carnival’s FlyAweigh program will automatically have their flights adjusted to the new day and time. You will be notified of your new flights by our Travel Services department. Guests with independent flight arrangements, please adjust your travel plans accordingly.

To stay up to date on any changes, we encourage you to sign up for text alerts by texting CCL1 to CRUISE (278473). If you have already done so during your online check-in, you will automatically receive updates.

At the moment, there are no changes expected for any other sailings departing on or after Thursday, August 30, 2012. In the event we need to make a deviation to a future itinerary, we will update our guests. Once again, we’re very sorry that Mother Nature did not cooperate with our plans. However, we’re confident you’ll have loads of fun on board.

Carnival Cruise Lines Tests "My Awesome Bar Program"

Earlier this month Carnival Cruise Lines began testing a new all-inclusive beverage program aboard Carnival Victory that went into play on the ship's August 5th departure.

Dubbed "My Awesome Bar Program," participating guests can imbibe in a wide variety of wine, beer frozen cocktails,, and spirits, along with sodas and non-alcoholic frozen cocktails, throughout their cruise at one convenient, flat rate. All wines by the glass, beer and individual cocktails priced $10 and lower are available within the program. Full bottles of wine and champagne, as well as wines by the glass, beers, and individual cocktails priced above $10, are available at a 25 percent discount.

Guests can sign up for the "My Awesome Bar Program" at Carnival Victory's atrium and casino bars, as well as a bar within the main pool area. To preclude 'sharing' of drinks with your cabin mate, each guest aged 21 years and over booked in the same stateroom must purchase the beverage package. Guests must be 21 years or older to consume alcohol on Carnival ships.

The cost for the program is $42.95 per person per day, plus a 15 percent gratuity. There's no word on the length of the testing period, but assuming all goes well and the package is wildly popular, we could see the program offered fleetwide. Or not. For two adults sharing a cabin, the bar bill for a one-week cruise would be an awesome $700.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cruise News: Princess Cruises' Next New Ship Will Be Named Regal Princess

Regal Princess' Keel is Laid
Princess Cruises marked the beginning of construction of the second of its new generation of ships with the official keel laying ceremony yesterday at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy. At the same time the line announced that the ship’s name will be Regal Princess. The vessel, a sister ship to Royal Princess, will debut in Spring 2014. The company and shipyard officials started the countdown to the ship’s launch today as the keel, the bottommost part of the ship, was ceremoniously lowered into position in the building dock.

“Just as Royal Princess was named after one of our iconic early vessels, Regal Princess also takes a name from our past that we think is well suited for this spectacular ship,” said Alan Buckelew, president and CEO of Princess Cruises. “Today’s keel laying is an exciting event as it marks a key milestone in our newbuilding program.”

Following a traditional blessing by a priest, the ship’s keel, which weighs approximately 500 tons, was moved into position by a huge crane onto the keel blocks. The computer-guided maneuver took only minutes, belying the more than 2 million man hours that will ultimately go into building the vessel. The 3,600-passenger, 141,000-ton ship will remain in the building dock until its float-out next summer.

Regal Princess will offer many of the same special features as Royal Princess, which debuts in June 2013. Among these are a greatly expanded atrium, 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; the new Princess Live! television studio; a pastry shop; a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds diners in a curtain of light; and balconies on all outside staterooms. More information and video previews of Royal Princess are available at the Princess Cruises website. Additional details including schedules and itineraries for Regal Princess will be announced next year.

The original Regal Princess, launched in 1991 (pictured at right) was a controversial design created by one of the world’s most gifted and daring architects, Renzo Piano. Suggestive of a dolphin’s silhouette, the domed observation lounge of the 70,000-ton ship housed a unique entertainment complex that included the casino, a bar, and a dance floor. Nearly 25% of her accommodations offered what was to become a Princess Cruises hallmark—affordable balconies.

Images Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cruise News: Hurricane Isaac & the Port of New Orleans

Carnival Cruise Line Statement

CARNIVAL ELATION - 8/30/12 DEPARTURE

We are closely monitoring the effects of Hurricane Isaac.

Hurricane Isaac is expected to make landfall off the coast of Louisiana later this evening. Local officials have informed us the Mississippi River is currently closed to ship traffic and may cause a delay in our return to New Orleans on Thursday.

To stay up to date on any changes that may affect our departure, port closures, and weather updates, we encourage you to sign up for text alerts by texting CCL1 to CRUISE (278473). If you have already done so during your online check-in, you will automatically receive updates.

We will continue monitor the situation and provide you an update on any new developments. Rest assured, the safety and comfort of our guests and crew is our number one priority. We will operate all of our ships at a safe distance from the storm at all times.

At the moment, there are no changes expected for any other sailings departing on or after Wednesday, August 29, 2012. In the event we need to make a deviation to a future itinerary, we will update our guests. We will continue monitor the situation and provide you an update on any new developments.

Cruise News: Isaac Heads For Gulf Coast & Port of New Orleans Closes

As Isaac takes aim at the U.S. Gulf Coast, there has been no evacuation ordered for the city of New Orleans, but the Port of New Orleans closed yesterday afternoon.

At this time the Port’s cruise operations have not been affected by the storm. Last weekend Carnival Conquest departed Sunday as scheduled and is due back on Sunday, Sept. 2nd. Carnival Elation is scheduled to arrive Thursday at the Erato Street Cruise Terminal.

More information will be available immediately after the storm passes when the Coast Guard evaluates all waterways to determine when the river will be reopened for safe transit.

Travel Guard North America Providing Free Assistance Services to U.S. & Canadian Travelers Affected by Tropical Storm Isaac

As Tropical Storm Isaac continues on its path through the Gulf of Mexico, Travel Guard North America® has announced that it will provide emergency travel and medical assistance services free to all U.S. and Canadian travelers and their families affected by the storm. Travel Guard’s free services offer travelers emergency travel assistance such as flight rebooking, hotel booking, emergency cash coordination and message relay, as well as emergency medical assistance including referrals, access to air ambulance and medical providers and more.

Travelers and their families seeking Travel Guard’s assistance services can reach the company directly by calling (866) 644-6811. Travel Guard has experienced a considerable increase in call volume over the past several days and has already assisted a number of its customers with rescheduling flights and other travel arrangements.

Though Tropical Storm Isaac has not yet been named a hurricane, the threat that it poses to the U.S. Gulf Coast may be imminent and being prepared is a necessity.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) recently changed its hurricane outlook for 2012, projecting an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season due to El Niño. For those planning to travel during this time, purchasing a travel insurance plan can provide helpful assistance in the event of a travel disruption or emergency, as well as reimbursement for losses due to covered reasons. Travelers should keep in mind that, even if their final destination is not affected by a hurricane, they may still experience trip disruptions due to hurricane-related airline delays and cancellations.

“Tropical storm and hurricane rumblings should encourage travelers to plan carefully for their next trip. Keeping travel interruptions top of mind, such as a hurricane or tropical storm, is always a best practice before you begin your travels,” said Carol Mueller, Vice President at Travel Guard. “Tropical Storm Isaac is a reminder that inclement weather can arise and change quickly, so it’s important to be prepared.”

Travel Guard’s assistance service centers have access to the most current information regarding airline flight schedules, can act as emergency travel counselors and are prepared to help travelers with alternative travel solutions. For more information about Travel Guard, travelers can talk to their travel agent, visit TravelGuard.com or call Travel Guard’s World Service Center at 1.800.826.1300.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Port of Miami Reopens & Other Cruise Ship Departure Updates

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES STATMENT

CARNIVAL VALOR and CARNIVAL IMAGINATION – 8/27/12 DEPARTURE
Good news! The Port of Miami has reopened. Check-in is set from 8:00pm to 11:00pm. Due to limited seating, please do not proceed to the cruise terminal any earlier than 8:00 PM. We’ve secured the Doubletree Convention Center in the event you need a place to wait. 711 N.W. 72nd Avenue, Miami, FL, 33126, Phone# 305-261-3800. Also, enjoy dinner on us tonight. We will post a $25 per person credit to your Sail & Sign account.

We’re sorry for the delay and are looking forward to welcoming you on board.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL STATEMENT

ALLURE OF THE SEAS
Due to Tropical Storm Isaac, Allure of the Seas’ next sailing will now begin tomorrow, Tuesday, August 28. We ask that guests who are scheduled to sail on Allure of the Season Sunday, August 26, not arrive at the port until 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 28. We kindly ask that guests come to the terminal between 11:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 28, for check-in and boarding.

Regrettably, the delayed departure will have an impact on the scheduled itinerary. Allure of the Seas will now spend Wednesday, August 29, at sea, call to Cozumel, Mexico, on Thursday, August 30, spend Friday, August 31, at sea, and Nassau, Bahamas, on Saturday, September 1.

If you are sailing on Allure of the Seas’ next sailing and you feel you will not be able to arrive on Tuesday, please call us at 888-829-4050 in the U.S., and 408-926-9002 internationally.

MAJESTY OF THE SEAS
The Port of Miami closed at 11:00 p.m. Friday evening and as of 11:00 a.m. on Monday had not yet reopened. Because of this, Majesty of the Seas' boarding today was selayed. Boarding will now start at 7:30 p.m. today. Guests can begin arriving at 7:30 p.m. and should arrive no later than 9:30 p.m.

Majesty of the Seas will call on Nassau, Bahamas, on Tuesday, August 27, as scheduled. However, the arrival time in Nassau may be impacted by the later departure. More information will be provided to guests once they board the ship.

MONARCH OF THE SEAS
Boarding for Monarch of the Seas began at 1:00 p.m. today, as scheduled. Monarch of the Seas will spend Wednesday, August 29, at sea, and call to CocoCay, Bahamas, on Thursday, August 30.

Cunard Offers Insights Into The Elusive Greta Garbo

Garbo is probably best remembered for her reclusive (I vant to be alone) persona, but she will always be hailed as Hollywood’s “First Modern Woman,” Garbo’s timeless appeal spans the eras of both silent and talking films. Regarded for her striking beauty and style, the four-time Academy Award® nominee is best known for her classic roles in “Anna Karenina,” “The Temptress,” “The Kiss” and “Grand Hotel.”

Cunard Line guests will have the opportunity to learn more about the famed actress, as well as view and purchase her rarely before seen personal items during Queen Mary 2’s November 20, 2012 Transatlantic Crossing. In addition, during the voyage, Garbo’s great nephew, Derek Reisfield, will headline Cunard's on board enrichment program, Cunard Insights, where he will provide a personal account of her life and iconic Hollywood career.

The on board auction and display will give guests an exclusive preview of Julien’s December 2012 Garbo auction event in Beverly Hills, and will feature several of her most photographed belongings, including her iconic cashmere turtleneck and vintage umbrella, used to shield herself from paparazzi. Relics from Garbo’s world travels, including her vintage Louis Vuitton suitcase, travel watch and a luggage tag bearing her travel alias, will also be displayed for guests’ viewing.

During his guest lectures for Cunard Insights, Derek Reisfield will recall personal stories from the actress’ life, which he experienced during his weekly, childhood gatherings with her. Topics will also include career highlights, Garbo’s personal relationships with dignitaries and celebrities such as President John F. Kennedy, Sir Winston Churchill and William Randolph Hearst, and will highlight her lesser-known historical contributions to American and British military intelligence during World War II.

“We are pleased to partner with Julien’s Auctions who, along with the Garbo Family, are graciously providing our guests exclusive access to some of Garbo’s prized possessions,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “A highlight of any Cunard voyage is our Insights program, and we are delighted to offer such a personal account of Garbo’s legacy to Hollywood and to the rest of the world.”

For more than 170 years, Cunard Line’s Transatlantic Crossing has appealed to a broad range of sophisticated travelers with a love of glamour, elegance and tradition. Each Crossing features a series of Royal Nights—themed balls held in the Queens Room—the largest dance floor at sea; and each evening, the Royal Court Theatre presents West End-style musical revues and guest performers. For more information about Queen Mary 2, visit Cunard.com

Image Courtesy of Cunard Line

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cruise News Update: Tropical Storm Isaac Disrupts Cruise Arrivals/Departures/Itineraries

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL
UPDATED STATEMENT


ALLURE OF THE SEAS

No change from yesterday’s statement, which is here.

MAJESTY OF THE SEAS

The Port of Miami closed at 11:00 p.m. yesterday evening and plans to reopen on Monday, August 27. Because of this, Majesty of the Seas’ boarding on Monday will be delayed. Boarding will now start on Monday at 5:00 p.m. Guests can begin arriving at 5:00 p.m. and should arrive no later than 8:00 p.m.

Majesty of the Seas will call on Nassau, Bahamas, on Tuesday, August 27, as scheduled. However, the arrival time in Nassau may be impacted by the later departure. More information will be provided to guests once they board the ship.

We encourage guests sailing Majesty of the Seas continue to monitor the Royal Caribbean website for any additional updates.

MONARCH OF THE SEAS


Boarding for Monarch of the Seas will begin at 1:00 p.m., as scheduled. Monarch of the Seas will spend Wednesday, August 29, at sea, and call to CocoCay, Bahamas, on Thursday, August 30.

However, we suggest that guests sailing on Monarch of the Seas on Monday, August 27, continue to monitor the Royal Caribbean website for any additional updates.

If you have not done so already, we strongly suggest guests complete their online check-in as soon as possible, including the section on your preferred method of contact while traveling. You can access online check-in at royalcaribbean.com/onlinecheckin.

Chair Hogs Beware

Peak time on the Pool Deck
A sight you're likely to encounter on almost any ship is rows of poolside lounge chairs with towels and personal items on them, but no people. That's the scourge of the Chair Hogs, those passengers who arise before dawn and set about 'saving' loungers in prime territory. After depositing their belongings, they wander off to breakfast or even go back to bed content in the knowledge that they've beaten everyone else to the best chair by the pool.

That practice has always been frowned upon and passengers are warned not to practice chair saving. However, until now, nothing much has been done about the situation. That's changing for the better and cruise lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Lines are taking measures to prevent it. When pool attendants notice a chair occupied only by a towel and and other stuff, they put a warning note on it with the current time. After an allotted period, usually 30 or 40 minutes, the chair is set free when the attendants remove whatever has been used to 'save' it. Those items are then put in a secure location for their owner to retrieve.

Has this policing method worked? Only time will tell, but it's made a lot of sun worshipers happy when more chairs are available. As far as the Chair Hogs go...they are just plain rude so we don't care what they think.

Image (c) CruiseDiva.com


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cruise News: Tropical Storm Isaac Disrupts Cruise Arrivals/Departures/Itineraries

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL STATEMENT

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

ALLURE OF THE SEAS
Given Tropical Storm Isaac’s current location and projected path, and the forecasted weather for South Florida, Allure of the Seas’ next sailing will now begin on Tuesday, August 28. We ask that guests who are scheduled to sail on Allure of the Seas on Sunday, August 26, not arrive at the port until 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 28. We kindly ask that guests come to the terminal between 11:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 28, for check-in and boarding.

Regrettably, the delayed departure will have an impact on the scheduled itinerary. Allure of the Seas will now spend Wednesday, August 29, at sea, call to Cozumel, Mexico, on Thursday, August 30, spend Friday, August 31, at sea, and Nassau, Bahamas, on Saturday, September 1. If you are sailing on Allure of the Seas’ next sailing and you feel you will not be able to arrive on Tuesday, please call Royal Caribbean at 888-829-4050 in the U.S., and 408-926-9002 internationally.

MAJESTY OF THE SEAS
The Port of Miami has informed us that they will close the port at 11:00 p.m. this evening and plan to reopen on Monday, August 27. Because of this, there is a possibility that Majesty of the Seas’ boarding on Monday will be delayed. We encourage guests sailing Majesty of the Seas continue to monitor the Royal Caribbean website for any additional updates.

MONARCH OF THE SEAS
We also suggest that guests sailing on Monarch of the Seas on Monday, August 27, also continue to monitor the Royal Caribbean website for any additional updates.

If you have not done so already, we strongly suggest guests complete their online check-in as soon as possible, including the section on your preferred method of contact while traveling. You can access online check-in at royalcaribbean.com/onlinecheckin.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES STATEMENT

We are closely monitoring the forecasted path of Tropical Storm Isaac and keeping in close contact with port officials. The storm is now forecasted to affect the South Florida area on Sunday as a hurricane. Due to forecasted path of the storm, several cruises are impacted. All affected guests will be notified via email.

If you have not done so already, we strongly suggest guests complete their online check-in as soon as possible. Please ensure to provide your email, as well as sign up for text alerts for updates on any changes to your cruise.

CARNIVAL VALOR – 8/18/12 DEPARTURE
The Port of Miami is expected to close by 11:00 PM on Saturday. Weather permitting, the port will reopen on Monday at noon. The Carnival Valor will remain at sea a safe distance away from the storm until the port reopens.

CARNIVAL VALOR – 8/26/12 DEPARTURE
Our scheduled 6 day cruise will be shortened to a 5 day cruise visiting Grand Cayman and Montego Bay. Unfortunately, this means we will cancel our call in Key West. Check-in for your cruise is now scheduled on Monday August 27, 2012, from 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM, and sailing is set for 8:00 PM. The times in Grand Cayman & Montego Bay remain unchanged.

We sincerely apologize for this disruption to your cruise. Here are your options.

• Sail with us and receive a:
- One-day pro-rated refund of your cruise fare (refunded within the next 2 weeks)
- $50 per person on board credit
- Refund of $13.11 for the government fees and taxes for Key West
- Gratuities will also be adjusted to reflect the shortened voyage
- Shore excursions purchased for Key West will be automatically refunded
- Refunds will not be provided for flight changes, hotel accommodations, meals, transfers or other incidental costs.

• We realize this is an unexpected change in your travel plans and we certainly hope you still cruise with us. However, should you wish to cancel or reschedule, please contact 1800 CARNIVAL to request your refund or future cruise credit.

CARNIVAL LEGEND – 8/19/12 DEPARTURE
The Port of Tampa is expected to close by 3:00 AM on Sunday. At this time, they are uncertain as to when the port will reopen. Therefore, we have made arrangements to dock at Port Canaveral instead, where we will arrive at 8:00 AM on Sunday. Buses will be available to take guests to the Port of Tampa or the Tampa airport. The parking garage at the port will be open. It will take approximately two and a half hours to the Port of Tampa from Port Canaveral.

CARNIVAL LEGEND – 8/26/12 DEPARTURE
Due to the expected port closure in Tampa, the Carnival Legend will dock in Port Canaveral on Sunday. We ask that guests proceed to the Port of Tampa and plan to arrive between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM. The parking garage at the port will be open to park your vehicle. We will have buses available to take you and your luggage to Port Canaveral. Please do not proceed to Port Canaveral directly as the ship will be docking in Tampa when we return next week.

It will take approximately two and a half hours to Port Canaveral from the Port of Tampa and no adverse weather is expected. The last bus will depart from Tampa at 4:00 PM and we expect to sail at 8:00 PM.

At this time, our itinerary remains unchanged. However, there is a possibility we may have to make changes, depending on the path of the storm.

CARNIVAL IMAGINATION – 8/24/12 DEPARTURE
The Port of Miami is expected to close by 11:00 PM on Saturday. Weather permitting, the port will reopen on Monday at noon. The Carnival Imagination will remain at sea at a safe distance from the storm until the port reopens.

CARNIVAL IMAGINATION – 8/27/12 DEPARTURE
Check-in for the Carnival Imagination is set for 4:00 PM – 7:30 PM.

FOR ALL DEPARTURES ABOVE:
Guest who purchased flights with Carnival’s FlyAweigh program will automatically have their flights adjusted to the new day and time. You will be notified of your new flights by our Travel Services department. Guests with independent flight arrangements are asked not make any changes to your travel plans until our next update this evening. Most airlines have advised that they will allow you to make one change free of charge.

Since we know that storms and hurricanes can be very unpredictable, we will continue to monitor the storm and provide web updates at Carnival.com. To stay up to date on any changes that may affect your departure, further port closures, and weather updates, we encourage you to sign up for text alerts by texting the numbers below for your particular ship:

CARNIVAL LEGEND – Text CCL2 to CRUISE (278473)
CARNIVAL VALOR – Text CCL4 to CRUISE (278473)
CARNIVAL IMAGINATION – Text CCL5 to CRUISE (278473)

If you have already done so during your online check-in, you will automatically receive updates. Once again, we’re very sorry for these changes and truly regret that Mother Nature threw a wrench in our plans this week. However, we’re confident you’ll have loads of fun on board. Rest assured, the safety and comfort of our guests and crew is our number one priority. We will operate all of our ships at a safe distance from the storm at all times.

At the moment, there are no changes expected for any other sailings departing on or after Sunday, August 26, 2012. In the event we need to make a deviation to a future itinerary, we will update our guests.

Advice For Cruising Parents

So, you're considering a family cruise (or any other vacation), these are safety tips for traveling with children or teens from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation:
• Children of any age should not be allowed to wander alone, especially in unfamiliar areas or venues.
• Parents should be aware of who their children are socializing with and their activities.
• Children should not socialize with venue employees or share personal information with them.
• Children should never use public restrooms without parental supervision.
• Children should be instructed to never accept beverages or food items from strangers without parental approval.
• Parents should consider bringing their own hired babysitter.
Take this advice to heart and keep an eye on your children and teens. No one wants to read about rapes or other attacks on cruise ships or resorts.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cruise News: Tropical Storm Isaac & Tropical Depression Joyce Alter Cruise Itineraries

Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Ecstasy will cancel its call to Half-Moon Cay on 8/26 and visit Freeport, Bahamas instead.

Norwegian Cruise Line
Statement: The safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance. Therefore, the company is closely monitoring the paths of Tropical Storm Isaac which is currently forecasted to impact the Bahamas and Florida, along with Tropical Depression Joyce which is currently forecasted to impact Bermuda.

Because of the storms, we are modifying the following itineraries:

Norwegian Sky will depart Miami today as scheduled on a three-day cruise to the Bahamas. The ship is cancelling its call to Great Stirrup Cay on Saturday. The ship will now call Nassau on Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm and spend Sunday at sea. Depending on the path of the storm, the ship may have a delayed arrival to Miami on Monday.

Norwegian Dawn will depart Boston as scheduled today to Bermuda. In order to maximize guests’ time ashore, the ship will arrive at 8 am on Sunday, three hours earlier than scheduled. Depending on the path of the storm, the ship may need to depart Bermuda earlier than scheduled.

Norwegian Gem will depart New York as scheduled on Saturday to the Bahamas and Florida. The ship will change the order of its ports, calling on Great Stirrup Cay on Tuesday, Nassau on Wednesday, and Port Canaveral on Thursday.

Guests on board the vessels will be kept up to date by the ships’ Captains. It is also important to note that Norwegian will continue to closely monitor the storms and if the paths change, they may need to modify these itineraries.

Disney Cruise Line
Statement: The safety of our Guests and Crew is always our first priority at Disney Cruise Line. We are closely monitoring the current weather conditions and path of Tropical Storm Isaac in the Caribbean and Tropical Storm Joyce in the Atlantic through the National Weather Service.

At this time, we have not made any changes to the following itineraries:

Disney Fantasy: August 25th, 7-night sailing to the Eastern Caribbean
Disney Magic August 25th, 8-night sailing to the Bahamas
Disney Dream: August 29th, 4-night sailing to the Bahamas

Should weather conditions change, our Captains can alter the ship's course or itinerary for the safety and well being of our Guests.

Cruise News:Tropical Storm Isaac Alters More Caribbean-Bound Cruise Ship Itineraries

You may remember Isaac as the lovable bartender on television's "The Love Boat" series. Some passengers on Caribbean cruises this week, and possibly next week as well, will have different memories of Isaac, the tropical storm that's currently mixing up itineraries instead of frou-frou drinks served in hurricane glasses.

In addition to the changes we previously reported here, there are now a few more ships impacted.

Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Liberty, which sails from Miami, cancelled its scheduled call at Grand Turk yesterday and visited Nassau today.

Royal Caribbean International
Two ships that set sail today, Majesty of the Seas(leaving from from Port Canaveral) and Monarch of the Seas (leaving from Miami), will not visit CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas this weekend.

In addition, Royal Caribbean encourages guests sailing on Allure of the Seas this Sunday, August 26, and Majesty of the Seas and Monarch of the Seas on Monday, August 27, to continue to monitor their website for any additional updates. They also strongly suggest that if you have not done so already, you should complete your online check-in as soon as possible, including the section on your preferred method of contact while traveling.

UPDATE: Should Royal Caribbean need to provide guests sailing on Allure of the Seas this Sunday with important information regarding their sailing, they will use the contact method they provided in their online check in.

Cruise Diva urges you to stay in touch with the cruise line or your travel agent for updates if you have a Caribbean cruise booked that departs this coming weekend.

Image Courtesy of National Hurricane Center

Cruise News: Specialty Dining Package Available on Norwegian Cruise Line Fleet

One of the highlights of a cruise on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship is the dining experience. We love the choices the specialty restaurants offer us, but have to budget wisely because the charges can add up.

To make the restaurants more appealing—and give our wallets a break—Norwegian Cruise Line is introducing a new Specialty Dining Package, “Signature Trio,” that gives guests the unique opportunity to pre-purchase three specialty restaurants prior to sailing at a special rate. Guests who take advantage of Norwegian’s Specialty Dining Package can experience three of the line’s most popular specialty restaurants: the steakhouse, French bistro, and Italian restaurant at a special package rate of $47 per person. The offer is currently available on all ships fleet wide.

The Signature Trio gives guests a taste of something deliciously new and the opportunity to experience three of the line’s most popular restaurants. Diners will delight in Norwegian’s signature steakhouse, featuring succulent grilled steaks, perfectly cooked double cut lamb chops and other delectable steakhouse favorites. Also included in the trio is Norwegian’s signature French bistro, where guests will enjoy French favorites such as escargot, coq au vin and a spectacular vanilla crème brulee for dessert. The third specialty restaurant included in the trio is Norwegian’s traditional Italian restaurant, where guests will feast on a variety of pastas, made-to-order specialty pizzas, and other Italian favorites such as chicken Parmesan and osso bucco in a casual atmosphere. Normally, surcharges for those three would set us back $55 apiece, so the savings isn’t huge, but we certainly appreciate it.

To take advantage of the Signature Trio Specialty Dining Package, you will have to plan ahead. Guests with a current cruise reservation can either pre-purchase the package by logging into their “myncl” account on NCL.com or by contacting Norwegian reservations at 888-NCL-CRUISE. The offer is not available for purchase on board. In addition, the package is not available for sailings that occur during Christmas or New Years.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cruise News: Tropical Storm Isaac Brews Up Caribbean Cruise Itinerary Changes

So far, tropical storm Isaac has prompted at least two cruise ships to alter itineraries in the Eastern Caribbean this week. The storm is slowly growing in strength and making its way toward the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and possibly the United States Gulf Coast by early next week.

These are the itineraries affected for which we currently have information:

Royal Caribbean International

Allure of the Seas, which departed Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, has switched its Eastern Caribbean itinerary to the Western Caribbean itinerary, and is calling at Falmouth, Jamaica and Cozumel, instead of St. Thomas and St. Maarten. In a statement, Royal Caribbean said they expect no other changes are forthcoming.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Valor, on a cruise that left Miami on Sunday, will steer clear of the storm by skipping its scheduled call at Curaçao today and will visit Nassau, Bahamas instead.

If you have a cruise booked that departs this coming weekend, stay in touch with the cruise line or your travel agent for updates.

Image Courtesy of National Hurricane Center

Cruise News: Princess Cruises Presents...The Second Annual “Entertainer of the Year” Cruise

The first Princess Cruises Entertainer of the Year cruise this past April was such a success that the line is making it an annual event. During the second annual cruise to determine 2012’s winner, passengers aboard the Feb 9-16, 2013 Valentine’s Day cruise on Crown Princess sailing the Western Caribbean will cast their ballots to show their love for their favorite candidate from four finalists.

Leading up to next year’s cruise, the Princess Cruises entertainment team will select the four top finalists for 2012 and air video clips of their performances online so fans can see the entertainers who are up for the award. Aboard the Entertainer of the Year cruise, passengers will be able to see live performances from each finalist and then cast their ballot for their favorite. A special party will be held on the final night of the cruise to announce the winner, who will receive a $5,000 cash prize and hold the title of “2012 Princess Cruises Entertainer of the Year.”

Highlights from the first Entertainer of the Year cruise, in which comedian Carlos Oscar was named the top entertainer across the Princess Cruises fleet, are captured in this overview video.


“Passengers loved our first Entertainer of the Year competition, especially the opportunity to see all the finalists on one cruise,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “Many passionate fans were championing their favorites and the final performances onboard were hugely popular. We can’t wait to see to see who our passengers pick next year.”

Image and Video Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Make the Most of Your Cruise Vacation Photos

Rhapsody of the Seas "Before" Photoshop
So, you’re on a cruise and all set to take some super vacation photos. You have plenty of media cards for your digital camera, plus extra batteries or a charger—you’re ready to record memories to last a lifetime.

Or maybe not. We’ve all snapped a shot of our loved ones in front of our ship only to see later that the people in the photo are barely recognizable—their faces are dark and everything behind them is bright. That mistake can be overcome with fill flash, so don’t forget to set your camera to flash in such situations. If you happen to get caught up in the moment and forget to adjust your camera settings (and we all do now and then!), there’s always Photoshop, or other photo editing programs, to fix the image in your computer.

Another huge mistake is not holding the camera level. That’s one of my big problems—I sometimes find my ship looks like it is listing.

Rhapsody of the Seas "After" Photo Editing
Take a look at the two photos I’ve added here on the blog. The “before” shot of Rhapsody of the Seas above is my blooper. While looking through my camera’s viewfinder, the image looked fine, but I wasn’t holding the camera precisely level. My camera has a “grid” that can be set to avoid that, but I don’t usually use it because the lines clutter up the viewfinder and I can’t always clearly see through them. However, all was not lost and I was able to fix it by using Photoshop to straighten out the image. The “after” image shows Rhapsody of the Seas as she actually looked. Still not perfect, but much better after “straightening” the horizon in the photo.

From a lot of the photos I’ve seen online lately, it seems that some amateur photographers purposely shoot their images at an angle. Maybe that’s a trendy way to take snapshots these days, but scrolling through a slideshow of images taken at a tilt can make you positively seasick. Unless you are a pro shooting an “artsy” or “edgy” image on purpose, keep in mind who is going to be looking at the photo and don’t do it. Trust me, it isn’t pretty.

Take my advice—use your flash to fill in shadows when needed and hold that camera as level as possible. In addition, get a photo editing program to clean up the images that need it. You want to take the best photos possible IN your camera, but if you goof, don’t hesitate to use photo editing.

Photos (c) CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cruise News: Holland America Line’s Volendam Rescues Stranded Sightseers in Glacier Bay

While en route to Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay, Alaska, Holland America Line’s ms Volendam rescued 70 persons from a disabled sightseeing boat belonging to Allen Marine on Sunday, Aug. 19th. Volendam responded to a distress call at 11:16 am local time from the 79-foot sightseeing vessel Baranof Wind, which struck a rock near Russell Island in Glacier Bay. The incident disabled the boat’s steering and propulsion and caused it to take on water.

Volendam lowered a tender, which collected 69 tourists and one Glacier Bay park ranger and returned to the ship, where the passengers were cleared through security, given a safety briefing, and then provided a meal. Volendam continued on to Margerie Glacier following the rescue.

“It’s the code of the sea to provide assistance in an emergency, and Captain Peter Bos and his crew responded quickly and professionally to render aid to the passengers of Baranof Wind,” said Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America Line. “We are proud of our officers and crew, and this is shining example of how our training prepares us to react to any situation.”

Volendam rendezvoused with an Allen Marine boat at around 6 pm to transfer the rescued passengers back to Bartlett Cove, where their excursion originated. The Holland America Line ship then proceeded to its next port call at Ketchikan, where it arrived on schedule.

The U.S. Coast Guard thanked the crew of Volendam for their quick response to the emergency.

Image Courtesy of Holland America Line

Monday, August 20, 2012

Get A Taste of Excellence Your Way Aboard Holland America Line

We hadn't intended to do it, but during a cruise aboard Holland America Line's Westerdam, we never ate in the dining room. To foodies—indeed to most cruise passengers—the thought is, well, unthinkable. For us, though, it made a lot of sense to have meals our way.

What we discovered was that between dinners in the Pinnacle Grill and the Lido Restaurant's evening table service, we were on our own schedule and more relaxed all week. We enjoyed our cruise even more than usual. Dinner in the Lido Restaurant is also a great alternative for families with small children—they can all dine together in the laid back atmosphere and still select some of the same dishes from the buffet that are being served in the main dining room.

Come along for A Taste of Excellence with CruiseDiva.com.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cruise Review: A Classic Mediterranean Cruise Aboard Holland America Line's Nieuw Amsterdam

Join San Francisco-based journalist Robert W. Bone for a port intensive Mediterranean cruise aboard Holland America Line's stunning flagship, Nieuw Amsterdam.

Image Courtesy of Robert W. Bone

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cruise News: It’s A Family Affair! Get A Look At The Festive Royal Princess Float-out Ceremony

Princess Cruises President and CEO Alan Buckelew,
Royal Princess Madrina Victoria Nash, Royal Princess
 Captain Tony Draper and Captain Nick Nash
 celebrate the float out of Royal Princess.
With a dash of history and one family’s touching memories marking it as a very meaningful occasion, Princess Cruises’ newest ship, Royal Princess, reached a significant construction milestone this week when the vessel was “floated out” at its building dock at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy. A traditional float-out ceremony was highlighted by a participant with a unique tie to the ship and the unveiling of a special ship’s bell.

Princess President and CEO Alan Buckelew and Royal Princess Captain Tony Draper attended the event, as did long-time Princess master Captain Nick Nash and his daughter, Victoria, who served as the ship’s “madrina” (or “godmother”). Following the Italian shipyard’s tradition, the float out of a ship is celebrated when the madrina cuts the cord that begins the flow of water into the ship’s dock. Victoria Nash was chosen to serve as madrina because she has a special connection to the first Royal Princess—as a baby, she was christened aboard the first Royal Princess (after the ship itself was originally christened by the late Princess Diana a dozen years earlier in 1984).

“The original Royal Princess left our fleet some time ago, but we wanted to bring the spirit of that much-loved ship, also a prototype design, to the new Royal Princess,” said Buckelew during the ceremony. “And who better to do that than Victoria, who has grown up into a beautiful young lady who will now have a special connection with both vessels.”

As is tradition, the ship’s bell was used as her christening bowl during that ceremony and Victoria’s name was subsequently engraved inside the bell to commemorate the occasion. Thanks to the Nash family, this same bell will be aboard the new Royal Princess. At the christening in 1996 and pictured here: from left, now Captain Nick Nash, Sue Nash, Baby Victoria, and now Captain Alan Wilson

“Captain Nash was presented with the ship’s bell from our original Royal Princess following its decommissioning, and we are delighted that he has very generously offered this bell to be placed aboard our new Royal Princess, in honor of his daughter,” said Buckelew. “Thank you Nick, for this wonderful gift.”

The two day float-out process involves slowly letting water into the building dock to set the vessel afloat. The ship is then moved to the outfitting dock where final construction and interior outfitting will take place until the ship debuts in June 2013. Take a look at the event below.


The 3,600-passenger Royal Princess is a new-generation ship currently under construction for Princess Cruises. Among the special features found on board will be a greatly expanded atrium, 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; the new Princess Live! television studio; a pastry shop; a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience 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.

Image and Video Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Friday, August 17, 2012

Norwegian's Private Island Experience Just Got Better

A day spent on a cruise line’s private island is often cited as cruise passengers’ fondest memory in their favorite port of call. Norwegian Cruise Line started it all as the first cruise line to offer an uninhabited tropical island experience exclusively for its guests. Great Stirrup Cay, the line’s 250-acre private island in the Bahamas, offers beautiful 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 a Waverunner® tour; a large Hippo Waterslide; eco boat tour; kayaking; parasailing; shopping at the straw market; and now there is more.

Norwegian has announced that a new Stingray Encounter and Fate of the Fancy Snorkel Adventure are now available on Great Stirrup Cay. In addition, coming soon is a brand new Lighthouse Beach Bar presented by Patron. The launch of these three brand new experiences marks more exciting additions to the island as part of the ongoing $30 million enhancement project.

Located inside Bertram’s Cove, on the right hand side of the main beach, the Stingray Encounter invites guests to interact with 18 specially-trained stingrays in an enclosed area. This exciting and unique excursion introduces guests to these smooth and graceful creatures. Each of the stingrays has a name and its own unique personality, and guests will enjoy feeding, watching and holding them, for the perfect photo opportunity. Also included in the Stingray Encounter experience is use of a mask, snorkel, and snorkel vest so that guests can peer below the surface to examine the rays up close. The hour-long excursion includes 45-minutes of interaction with the rays and is $29 per adult and $19 per child.

Norwegian is also launching a new snorkel trail experience called, “Fate of the Fancy Snorkel Adventure,” for guests to enjoy during their time on Norwegian’s private island. Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities on the island and Norwegian has now enhanced that experience with the snorkel trail.

Located near the Stingray Encounter in Bertram’s Cove, the Fate of the Fancy Snorkel Adventure is the first private island snorkel trail to depict an actual legend as it portrays the tale of a shipwreck. As the legend goes, “The Fancy,” sailing from Nassau, Bahamas in 1696, encountered a mythical creature named Lusca that was half-shark, half-octopus. It is believed that Lusca was responsible for the ship disappearing near the Berry Islands, the location of Great Stirrup Cay. Guests can explore discover and look for clues underwater that lead to the treasure that the Fancy was carrying, highlighted by 17 different underwater scenes that depict the shipwreck and Lusca’s legend, including cannons, a sunken piano, treasure chests, swords and more.

Developed in conjunction with IDEA Inc., an Orlando-based company with experience in developing theme park experiences, the Fate of the Fancy Snorkel Adventure features some authentic artifacts that are more than 300 years old. In addition, all of the artifacts are eco-friendly and will stimulate additional marine life in the area. To experience the snorkel trail, guests can rent snorkel equipment at a rate of $29 per adult or $15 per child for the entire day. Guests wishing to experience both the Fate of the Fancy Snorkel Adventure and the Stingray Encounter during their time on the island can purchase a combination package that includes both tours at a discounted price of $49 per adult, a $9 savings, and $29 per child, a $5 savings.

Norwegian has also partnered with the popular spirits brand, Patron, to introduce a new island bar experience to Great Stirrup Cay called, Lighthouse Beach Bar presented by Patron. This is the first private island bar that Patron has sponsored. It will feature Patron products, as well as a full range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The bar will be completely redesigned and will be outfitted with beach-inspired décor, Patron branded materials, including bar stools, umbrellas and menu boards, as well as two large flat-screen TVs that will showcase a variety of entertainment from music videos to sporting events. The new bar is set to open in September 2012.

How To Get 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 the Bahamas and Florida beginning in mid-October 2013. For more information, visit NCL.com.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Carnival Cruise Lines Now Sailing From Port Canaveral ’s New Terminal

Carnival Cruise Lines began a new chapter in its operations from Port Canaveral, Florida this week when the 2,052-passenger Carnival Ecstasy departed on a 5-day cruise from the port’s new state-of-the-art Terminal 6.

The sold-out cruise of the Carnival Ecstasy is the first of Carnival’s more than 225 annual departures from the new facility, which serves as a convenient embarkation/debarkation port for the line’s three ships sailing year-round from Port Canaveral. In addition to 4- and 5-day Bahamas/Key West cruises on the Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival’s Port Canaveral-based ships include the 2,052-passenger Carnival Sensation, which sails 3- and 4-day Bahamas voyages, and the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream offering 7-day Caribbean departures. Together, these three ships carry more than 600,000 guests annually from the popular Central Florida port.

Port Canaveral also serves as featured destination for two Carnival ships, providing guests an opportunity to check out the area’s beautiful beaches, as well as local attractions and landmarks throughout the Space Coast.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Get Fodors.com On Your Mobile

Here at Cruise Diva headquarters, we're committed to BlackBerry as our mobile device of choice. What that means is that we're somewhat limited in our selection of "apps" and, as someone who uses her mobile phone as a business tool, that limitation doesn't bother me a bit. I don't want my phone cluttered with stuff I may, or may not, use very often. My phone is not a toy (I'm looking at you, iPhone app junkies!)

That said, there is an app of sorts that I'm fond of and it's from my publisher, Fodor's. I said app of sorts because you don't have to download anything to use it. It's accessible right in your mobile's browser at Fodors.com. I was intrigued by what they said in their Travel Blog online, "We're not sure if you noticed, but browsing Fodors.com on your phone just got awesome. We're proud to announce that Fodors.com is now optimized for phones of all shapes and sizes. You'll find it easier to use and navigate, offering quick access to all the relevant travel information, fascinating blog posts, and Forum conversations you're accustomed to."

So, I gave it a try and happily it looks great on my BlackBerry Torch. Plus, the site is not only designed for readability, it's also optimized for touch screens. And, in a shameless bit of self promotion, the Cruises section was written by yours truly.

Finally...something truly awesome for my BlackBerry!

Image (c) CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Celebrity's Reflection Leaves the Building

Ship watchers from around the region gathered over the weekend at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany as they do whenever a new cruise ship "floats out" of the covered building. Celebrity Reflection, the fifth and final sister ship in Celebrity Cruises' Solstice-class of vessels emerged into the daylight to the delight of those gathered to see her for the first time in the sunshine. Now out of the dry-dock, she'll be alongside a fitting out berth until her conveyance down the River Ems.

This video from Meyer Werft gives an inside look of the float out process.



Work aboard Celebrity Reflection continues at the shipyard until she is ready for her conveyance on or about September 16-18. After completing her sea trials, she will be ready for her official launch in October.

Cruise Diva was honored to be on board when Reflection's older sister Celebrity Eclipse made her way along the river. If you missed it, join me on The “Conveyance”.

Video Courtesy of Meyer Werft

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Ultimate In Relaxation Coming Aboard Royal Princess

Lotus Spa:  Hydro-therapy Pool
With National Relaxation Day fast approaching, Princess Cruises has unveiled details of the expanded Lotus Spa that will offer passengers new ways to relax and rejuvenate while cruising aboard the new Royal Princess, including a new location just off the atrium, a convenient stop for passengers enjoying a treatment before or after nearby activities and dining options. When the ship debuts next June, cruisers will find a spa with a welcoming feel and contemporary, sophisticated décor, as well as more treatment rooms than any other Princess spa. New features will include private Couples Villas and The Enclave, a thermal suite that is triple the size of any existing Lotus Spa. Here passengers will be able to totally decompress with new relaxing options such as the Hammam (a Turkish-style steam room), the Caldarium (an herbal steam room), the Laconium (a dry heat sauna) and the line’s first-ever hydro-therapy pool.

Among the features of the Lotus Spa on Royal Princess will be:
• The Enclave – The central feature of Princess’ largest-ever thermal suite is the dramatic hydro-therapy pool to help rejuvenate the mind and body with a cascading rain shower and therapeutic air jets in various locations around the pool. Passengers can also choose to relax on heated stone beds or soothing water beds, plus enjoy steam and sauna options using different temperatures, humidity zones, and aroma infusions to offer a sense of rejuvenation. New features include:
• The Hammam – A Turkish-style steam bath to enhance well-being, the Hammam’s warm marble slab is a soothing addition to a massage and can be used with clay, mud or salt treatments.
• The Caldarium – A feature taken from Roman times, this warm, light steam ceramic chamber offers an infusion of herbal aromas. Walls, floors and seats are heated for a deep penetrating warmth that promotes relaxation.
• The Laconium – This warm, dry chamber gradually warms the body to help with purification and detoxification.
• Sensory Showers – Passengers can choose from four different experiences: Tropical Rain, Cold Mist, Rain Shower or Siberian Shower, which also include dynamic mood lighting and aromas to enrich the experience.
• Scrub & Shine Bar – As a prelude to any spa treatment, or as an addition to use in The Enclave, passengers can get recommendations from a “mixologist” for the perfect scrubs to complement their treatments. The bar offers a selection of salt and sugar scrubs to choose from, which can be “spiced up” by adding a mixture of herbs.
• Treatment Rooms – The Lotus Spa on Royal Princess features more treatment rooms than ever before (a total of 18), including two new luxurious Couples Villas. These private retreats offer a quiet place for time together with side-by-side massage tables, a soothing whirlpool bath, customized music for relaxation and a sitting area with ocean views.
• Relaxation Lounge – A private space to relax before a treatment, this comfortable lounge features a calming atmosphere and scenic ocean views. Passengers can enjoy a cup of herbal tea or fruit-infused water as they unwind.
• Lotus Spa Salon – The spa will also feature a full service salon featuring a new “social” nail bar with side-by-side stations for an interactive manicure experience. Included in the salon are private teeth whitening stations with individual TVs, pedicure stations and a barber shop for men.
“The opportunity for total relaxation is one of the key reasons to cruise with Princess,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “So naturally, our signature spa is a popular place for passengers to escape from any stress and tension. With the new Lotus Spa aboard Royal Princess, we’re excited to give our passengers the ultimate place to unwind.”

The 3,600-passenger Royal Princess is a new-generation ship currently under construction for Princess Cruises. Among the special features found on board will be a greatly expanded atrium, 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; the new Princess Live! television studio; a pastry shop; a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience 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.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Sunday, August 12, 2012

MSC Serves Up “Happy Meals” At Sea

Meal times on any MSC Cruises ship never fail to make Mel and me happy. That’s him pictured here with his favorite pasta dish. With their kids-sail-free policy, MSC’s cruises are very attractive to families and we’ve often seen several generations of them traveling together on board. In many cases everyone goes their own way to do what they want all day long, but grandparents in particular think the entire clan should meet up at dinner time. That can sometimes be a challenge with little ones in the mix. However, MSC has announced three innovative features which make it even easier for children to have family fun and fun meals at sea.

Happy Dinners
MSC Cruises has created the perfect recipe for a great family meal. Often, children don’t like being seated for hours while adults want to take their time over dinner. MSC Happy Dinners offers the best of both worlds. Children are served dinner from the kids’ menu while parents are enjoying their opening courses, with everyone dining together as a family. Then, when the children have finished, they no longer have to wait patiently for the adults to finish. With MSC Happy Dinners, the children are picked up by specialized Kids’ Club staff members when they’ve finished and are then free to have fun with friends their age, leaving parents to leisurely savor the different courses and wine and to enjoy the rest of their dinner.

Fun Time Dinner
For kids who relish their independence and would love the freedom of eating with their friends, away from the grownups, MSC Fun Time Dinners may prove even more tempting. With MSC Fun Time Dinners, children ages 3-11 can join the entertainment team and their new friends in a separate, specially decorated area of the buffet restaurant for their evening meal and then have fun in the Mini and Junior Club while parents enjoy a leisurely dinner alone, picking up the kids when they’ve finished. Three of these nights are theme parties—a Welcome Party, Italian Party, and Farewell and Birthday Party—while the remaining four MSC Fun Time Dinners are fun from start to finish!

Both the MSC Happy Dinners and the MSC Fun Time Dinner services are now available free on all MSC ships. Dedicated to children ages 3-11, parents need to register their children in advance with the Mini or Junior Club and complete the special “dinner coupons.”

Extended Kids’ Club Hours
MSC Cruises has also extended the hours of its Kids’ Club program. Additionally, every morning from 9-10 am and now also from 5-6 pm, MSC Cruises offers a special program designed for babies and toddlers ages 10-36 months to spend quality time with their parents with the support of MSC Kids’ Club staff. Staff members organize dedicated games and activities aimed specifically at MSC’s youngest guests and their parents, including playing with bricks, musical games, baby disco, puzzle games, and drawing.

Happy Dinners, Fun Time Dinners, extended hours, and the range of activities tailor-made for families on board the MSC fleet should provide a satisfying and stress-free cruise vacation for the everyone. As a bonus for those passengers without kids, the dinner programs should also mean a quieter dining experience in the formal restaurants. It’s a win-win for everyone. For more information, visit MSC Cruises online.

Image (c) CruiseDiva.com

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Windstar Shines Brightly With New Yacht Renovation

AmphorA Restaurant
From the top of her sails to deep within her hull, Wind Star, one of three sailing yachts in Windstar Cruises’ fleet, has undergone a complete transformation. With an updated modern, casual elegance from stem to stern, the brand’s landmark cruise experience has been totally rejuvenated. As part of the $18 million fleet-wide renovation, Wind Star was the first yacht to receive redesigned staterooms and owner’s suites and enhanced public areas.

“We have a company-wide commitment to ensuring our yachts are in excellent condition,” said Hans Birkholz, Chief Executive Officer and President of Windstar Cruises. “The vision for the renovation is a classic, stylish luxury that dramatizes the unique thrill of sailing and a private yacht experience.”

Wind Star’s décor was updated with new furnishings, upholstery, art, lighting, wall coverings, carpeting, ceiling finishes, window treatments, and floor coverings. The design palette combines sand and marine colors contrasting elegantly with the warmth of wood finishes, elevating the look and feel to stylish luxury at sea.

The Restaurant was transformed into a whole new dining experience as AmphorA Restaurant including a redesigned seating layout, and state-of-the-art wine display and storage. A new menu was introduced featuring savory dishes such as Dover sole, duck a l’orange and lobster ravioli. The Veranda’s outdoor seating was significantly expanded, creating an ideal mid-ship area for guests to enjoy breakfast and lunch alfresco. The interior includes a new buffet, new lighting, and epicurean style display counters. The Compass Rose was also reconfigured to open up expansively to the adjoining outdoor deck.

Other public areas enhanced include:
• The Lounge – new hardwood flooring was put in, accented with inset rugs, a new mix of contemporary furniture, and a lighter color palette. A new AV system was also put in place.
• Casino – installed new sound insulation.
• Reception Area – received a make-over with new artwork and a fresh color palette.
• The Pool Bar – redesigned to offer a more engaging and upscale social experience by creating additional alfresco seating for sunset dining at Candles Grill with new awning and deck furniture.
• Library – enhanced to promote a more relaxing atmosphere.
• Wind Spa – received a soft goods update.
“So far the feedback on Wind Star’s renovation has been excellent,” said Birkholz. “We wanted to really enhance the feeling of being on your own personal yacht, and I think we’ve succeeded.”

As part of the $18 million renovation project, Windstar Cruises has already redesigned the fleet’s staterooms and suites. The newly enhanced rooms showcase new leather headboards, stately arm chairs, linen wall coverings, new lighting features, window coverings, plush wool carpeting, new art work, stylish bed cushions and luxurious bed throws. Additionally, the owner’s suite received new furniture. The billowing white sails that make Windstar Cruises famous were also replaced. Over 69,000 square feet of hand-crafted sails, equivalent to 1.5 acres, were ordered. Wind Spirit, the last of the fleet to receive the order, hoisted the sails up last week.

The next phase in the renovation project will include the complete enhancement of Wind Surf, previewing on Dec 1, 2012 and Wind Spirit, to be completed on Dec 22, 2012. To learn more about Windstar Cruises renovations, visit the website WindstarCruises.com.

Image Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sleeping Around The World With Silversea

Royal Suite: Silver Spirit
It's always been possible to sleep royally during a Silversea cruise and soon it will be nearly impossible not to get your beauty rest. Silversea guests will find their sleep experience elevated to a new level of comfort with the debut of luxurious Pratesi custom-made bed linens. Founded in 1860 and renowned for creating masterpieces in linens for the Italian and European aristocracy, the legendary Italian linens firm is bringing its high-quality and stylish creations to the beds in every Silversea suite beginning with the Sept 3 voyage of Silver Spirit, followed by Silver Cloud in November. Pratesi bedding will then be rolled out to the rest of the Silversea fleet in 2013.

The plush new bedding collection, which features 240 thread count, 100% Egyptian cotton satin sheets, pillowcases, and duvet covers, will complement an already lavish collection of sleep amenities enjoyed by Silversea guests. These include a memory pillow top and dual-side mattress that can be flipped to provide either soft or firm support, a down duvet, and a pillow menu offering nine different pillow options, from soft down to memory foam, and chamomile or lavender aromatherapy pillow covers. They even offer my favorite—a body pillow encased in a satiny cover.

"Getting a great night's sleep is a priority for luxury travelers," said Ellen Bettridge, Silversea's president of the Americas. "We know many of our guests have luxurious bedding in their own homes, and if they have not yet discovered Pratesi, we're happy to introduce them to this revered Italian brand."

Silversea Cruises is known for offering guests large-ship amenities aboard its intimate, all-suite vessels: Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper, and Silver Spirit, all designed to offer an atmosphere of conviviality and casual elegance. With the inclusion of the expedition ship Silver Explorer, Silversea Cruises' itineraries encompass all seven continents and feature worldwide luxury cruises to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, both polar regions and over 450 fascinating destinations in between. For more information, visit Silversea.com.

Image (c) CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cruise News: New ‘Faster to the Fun’ Program Being Piloted on Two Carnival Ships

Airlines have done it, so it isn’t a surprise that a cruise line is now offering perks-for-a-fee—perks that are normally reserved for their most loyal passengers. Carnival Cruise Lines has begun testing a new program on two ships that provides participating guests with an array of attractive benefits available for purchase through the new Faster to the Fun program.

The pilot program will roll out August 20th on Carnival Imagination and August 25th on Carnival Liberty. Faster to the Fun includes early embarkation, early stateroom availability, express luggage delivery service to staterooms, priority for dinner seatings and tender availability, and choice of early or late debarkation. The program enables guests to get their “Fun Ship” vacation started early and also includes express access to the ships’ guest services desk for any assistance guests may need during their voyage.

Carnival says that Faster to the Fun was developed based on extensive guest surveys that indicated a strong interest in a fee-based package providing priority access and benefits. However, the jury is still out on whether this will be a short-lived trial or a permanent feature. Online, message board posters give the new program announcement a mixed bag of responses. Some really like it, while others are unhappy that they have spent thousands of dollars and weeks at sea to earn the perks that anyone can now purchase for what is a pittance by comparison.

The Faster to the Fun program is capacity controlled and space is limited, so that should be some consolation to top tier loyalists who are concerned that such benefits as their access to a special line at guest services could be compromised. For Diamond and Platinum level members of Carnival’s VIFP (Very Important Fun Person) Club guest recognition program, all Faster to the Fun benefits, including the two new benefits of early stateroom availability and express luggage delivery service, are available free of charge.

Faster to the Fun is currently available for purchase in conjunction with voyages on the Carnival Imagination and Carnival Liberty via the shore excursion section of Carnival.com. The cost is $49.95 per stateroom (regardless of number of occupants). After purchasing a Faster to the Fun package, participants will need to re-print boarding documents so Faster to Fun is reflected on them.

But, here’s a Cruise Diva tip. If you don’t want to pay the fee and still don’t want to wait in a long line at embarkation, don’t rush to get to the pier. Arrive at about 2pm and you shouldn’t encounter the lines that form earlier in the day.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cruise News: Ernesto Weakens, But Still Shuffles Cruise Ship Itineraries

While former hurricane and now tropical storm Ernesto is still on the move, the National Hurricane Center reported this morning that its maximum sustained winds are now reaching 50 miles an hour and it's dumping heavy rain on portions of the Yucatan Peninsula. Another cruise ship itinerary has been altered to avoid the storm.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Elation, which departed New Orleans on Monday, is spending the day at sea today instead of calling at its scheduled port in Progreso, Mexico. The ship will visit Cozumel on Thursday as originally planned.

For more ship itinerary alterations, please scroll down to find previous reports.

American Cruise Lines Introduces Queen of the Mississippi

Passengers interesting in rolling along the mighty rivers of the USA got a brand-new choice in riverboats when American Cruise Lines, operator of the newest fleet of riverboats and small cruise ships in the industry, celebrated the launch of Queen of the Mississippi.

Commencing the company’s first-ever season on the Mississippi River, the 150-passenger Queen of the Mississippi, the first new, authentic paddlewheeler built for the Mississippi River in nearly 20 years, set sail August 4, on a sold-out, 8-day, roundtrip voyage from New Orleans.

Queen of the Mississippi offers guests a brand new way to see the longest river system in North America and explore the remarkable port cities that line the way. Almost all of the ship’s spacious 300-plus-square-foot staterooms—the largest in the industry—offer private balconies with sliding glass doors, while an all-American crew cater to passengers’ every need. Daily educational events and themed entertainment help paint a picture of what life on the Mississippi was like in days gone by. Construction of Queen of the Mississippi was completed in June by Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland, making it the most elegant, fully-functioning, authentic paddlewheeler in the industry.

“The launch of Queen of the Mississippi represents the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Mississippi Riverboating, where 21st century amenities are offered aboard an authentic paddlewheeler that is historic in appearance,” said Charles A. Robertson, president and CEO, American Cruise Lines. “We know Queen of the Mississippi will set a new standard for river cruising expectations.”

During the 8-day journey, guests will explore Queen of the Mississippi’s numerous amenities, including the most spacious staterooms and suites in the industry, unique lounges and libraries. Every stateroom features hotel-style bathrooms, access to room service, in-room phones, Wi-Fi and satellite TV. Seasoned cruise passengers will also appreciate American Cruise Lines’ exclusive, open seating dining plan, which allows guests to enjoy meals in a single seating or at the time of their choice, while surrounded by panoramic views of the River.

To learn more about American Cruise Lines and river cruising on Queen of the Mississippi, visit American Cruise Lines online.

Image Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Country Music Star Blake Shelton & Friends Invite You To Cruise With Them

When Norwegian Pearl leaves Miami to sail the Caribbean to San Juan, St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau from Oct 14-21, 2012, country music sensation Blake Shelton and his fellow entertainers will be on board to host a country music jamboree at sea.

They say, “The music and the events are what you are paying for. The cruise is just a bonus!”

Live country music every night featuring a great lineup!
. A nightly show in the Stardust theater.
. Blake will perform 2 shows over 2 nights and special guests will perform on the other nights.
. Nightly performances around the ship from special guests in 2 other locations.
. Question and Answer sessions.
. Opportunities to get up close and personal with musical guests.
. Late night dance parties with radio station djs.
. Song writer workshops. Some insight on how it’s done for you songwriters out there.
. Surprise unplugged performances and jams.
. Search for the best voice on the ship contest–judged by the pros.
. Lots of other surprises that you will find out about by signing up as a Blake Shelton Cruise follower.
Experience the wonders of getting to the Caribbean aboard Norwegian Pearl. Her chic bowling alley, rock climbing wall, 16 dining options, 13 bars and lounges, casino, spa, pools, fitness center, and so much more make this Jewel Class cruise ship a destination of her own.

From traditional fine dining to endless buffets with custom-order action stations, there is a host of dining options included in your cruise fare. For an additional cover charge, you’ll have access to a world of possibilities including gourmet French, Japanese, teppanyaki, and an upscale steakhouse–16 different dining options in all.

Nintendo Wii™ on a 2-story screen, waterslides, a climbing wall, bars and lounges of all kinds, two pools, six hot tubs, countless sun lounges, kid’s centers, teen discos, a spa that offers a wide range of treatments to rejuvenate you, and more are all on board. Wireless Internet access is available for a fee in your stateroom and all public areas, 24 hours a day.

Flexible accommodations range from the affordable to the over-the-top opulence of Suites and Villas. But the ship is nearly sold out, so if you want to get on board, act fast.

What is included in the cruise package?
Everything related to the Blake Shelton programming is included, as are gratuities. Prices do not include airfare or ground transportation to and from Florida, airport transfers to or from the cruise ship, specialty restaurants, personal expenses such as photos, souvenirs and island tours, sodas, bottled water or alcoholic beverages (except at our scheduled onboard cocktail parties), or any other extra activities that you may choose to participate in on the ship or on shore that require a fee.

For more information, including a lineup of the entertainers and cabin availability, check out the Blake Shelton Cruise web site.