Friday, November 30, 2012

CHEERS! On More Carnival Cruise Lines Ships

As we reported in August, Carnival Cruise Lines began testing a new all-inclusive beverage program aboard Carnival Victory that they initially dubbed "My Awesome Bar Program."

Apparently the trial period has gone well, and although they haven't announced an introduction fleet-wide, Carnival has tweaked the program somewhat by renaming the all-inclusive beverage package "CHEERS!" and expanding the test to other ships as well, including Carnival Splendor, Carnival Breeze, and Carnival Dream. Watch for CHEERS! to be available on more of the line's ships that sail itineraries of 6-days or longer in the near future.

By purchasing the package, 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 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. The details are here on the Cruise Diva Blog.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Silversea's Silver Cloud Completes Major Refurbishment

Hot Rocks Dining
Silversea Cruises' Silver Cloud recently emerged from an extensive three-week dry dock in Palermo, Italy, where extensive renovations were made to nearly every area of the luxurious ship. Silver Cloud's interior decoration was completely updated, including all the suites, public spaces, and dining venues, in order to introduce a fresh and contemporary classic atmosphere. Silversea made a significant financial investment in this refurbishment to ensure its guests experience a renewed sense of luxury and comfort when sailing aboard Silver Cloud.

Enhancements included...

Refreshed Public Spaces: A totally renewed lobby now displays a color palette of warm earth tones that is carried throughout most areas of the ship with the installation of stylish new carpets, wall treatments and artwork in the corridors, staircases and public spaces. Providing contrast to the main color scheme of the ship is The Bar, now decorated in cooler shades of teal mixed with neutral tones of brown and beige. All new furniture, carpet, curtains and reconditioned wood flooring give the Panorama Lounge a refreshed contemporary look, while The Spa and Beauty Salon also received makeovers.

Sophisticated New Decor for Suites: Sofas and chairs have been updated with new fabrics and all carpets, headboards, curtains, and outside veranda furniture have been replaced. Each suite has a new mattress custom-made exclusively for Silversea. The mattress features an individual spring system with a soft and firm side that can be reversed to suit each guest's preference. The new beds are outfitted with plush new Pratesi sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers. All bathrooms have been enhanced with new flooring, marble appointments and either a new bath-and-shower combination or a new walk-in, glass-enclosed rainforest shower with sitting area, offering a soothing, spa-like experience. (This replaced the existing bath-and-shower combination in nearly 90% of the Veranda and Vista Suites). The Owner's, Grand and Royal Suites are outfitted with a modern wet room bath configuration featuring a new rainforest shower that is separate from the bathtub.

Upgraded Outdoor Spaces: The jogging track features all-new synthetic turf and the pool area is outfitted with new deck furniture. In addition, teak decks and woodwork enjoyed a fresh reconditioning and polishing.

Dining Enhancements:

-- Le Champagne, the only Relais & Châteaux restaurant at sea, has been completely transformed with an upgraded entrance design, the addition of gleaming, backlit wine displays, a redesigned seating layout, and new wood flooring, fabrics and window treatments.
--La Terrazza's updated interior includes a remodeled buffet area and handsome new banquettes along the walls, offering greater seating flexibility, including more tables for two.
--The Restaurant has been refreshed with chairs dressed in bright new fabrics, new window treatments and reconditioned hardwood flooring.
--The Grill, with its unique interactive dining concept, is now featured aboard Silver Cloud as the existing Pool Bar and Grill area was expanded with additional seating, a large overhead awning, and the removal of the central stair unit, which was replaced with a curving corner staircase. At this new outdoor restaurant, guests may enjoy an innovative dining experience that lets them cook prime meats and fresh seafood on heated volcanic rocks at their table.

Image Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New on Wind Surf: Stella Bistro


With fleetwide renovations nearly complete, Windstar Cruises has announced that Wind Surf, the line’s flagship sailing yacht, will feature a new dining experience when she emerges from dry dock on December 1st. Formerly known as Degrees, the restaurant will be transformed into a contemporary dining room with a French twist, and will be renamed Stella Bistro. The name, derived from the Latin word for star, was selected as a tribute to the restaurant’s special dining experience, unique to the fleet as Stella Bistro will only be on Wind Surf.

The newly created menu will draw on contemporary dishes with a French flair, as exemplified by entrees such as Coquille St. Jacques Provençale, a seared, skewered scallops dish served on pappardelle and tossed with artichoke hearts, spinach and capers in a light, white wine sauce; or the Roasted Magret of duck, a duck breast and duck confit on cherry sauce paired with parisienne potatoes and French beans.

Other menu items, inspired by the seasonings and flavors used in French cooking, include escargots bourguignon; cream of wild mushroom soup; and goat cheese soufflé. Dessert is a decadent affair with dishes such as apple aumoniere, a combination of apples, marzipan and honey baked into a filo pastry and served in vanilla custard; or chocolate Napoleon, the famous French pastry that consists of layers of soft, creamy chocolate and praline.

Guests can also choose to include paired wines in the Stella Bistro dining experience. Specially selected by the executive chef to enhance the flavors, three different glasses of wine are served in combination with the appetizer, entrée and dessert. For the first time this winter season, Windstar will offer European wines by the glass, such as a deep red French Burgundy or a crisp Italian Pinot Grigio, in addition to the extensive offerings of the American regions typically served in the Caribbean.

With a capacity of eighty-six diners, the intimate setting will feature new furniture, flooring, wine display cabinet, and a collection of classic and contemporary pendent lighting. The walls will be decorated with an eclectic mix of antique mirrors and vintage photographs.

Image Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Princess Cruises Unveils Posh Royal Princess Sanctuary & Retreat Pool With New Features

When Princess Cruises’ new Royal Princess debuts next June, passengers will find that two of the line’s signature features have been enhanced to provide them with the ultimate in relaxation. Both The Sanctuary and the popular adults-only pool also will offer private cabanas for the first time. Located near the forward end of the top deck, these two areas together provide a peaceful haven. With a new look and feel, the larger Sanctuary will feature fresh décor plus two new private cabana options along with its plush loungers and Serenity Stewards. Meanwhile, the Retreat Pool will provide a serene spot for a dip, along with its new poolside cabanas.

The three new private cabana options will give passengers the opportunity to personalize their relaxation time, with elegant Sanctuary and Lotus Spa cabanas in The Sanctuary, while the Retreat Pool offers poolside cabanas for enjoying an extra special day at the water’s edge. Cabana guests looking for a gourmet treat can order one of the ship’s new cabana picnic baskets, packed with artisan edibles paired with a premium wine. Both areas are detailed in the latest Royal Princess preview video below.


The Sanctuary – This oasis of tranquility will feature all the special touches that have made The Sanctuary so popular since it was first introduced on Crown Princess in 2006, plus a number of new features. With a 20 percent larger space than on the line’s other ships, The Sanctuary adds four private Sanctuary Cabanas for more luxurious experience, plus two Lotus Spa Cabanas offering an elegant private space for a range of spa treatments. Featuring the air of a romantic hideaway under its distinctive white canopy cover, The Sanctuary design includes strategically placed rock gardens and special topiary planting with atmospheric lighting. These new elements create an inviting path leading to a new central pavilion. Passengers can relax on plush lounge chairs or circular daybeds, while Serenity Stewards provide healthy refreshments and music players with peaceful music. Space in The Sanctuary can be reserved for $15 for a half day/$25 for a full day, per person.

Sanctuary Cabanas – Within The Sanctuary, four new Sanctuary Cabanas offer an even more exclusive and special experience with amenities such as a personal television with noise-reducing wireless headphones, cushy sofas, luxurious robe and slippers, a welcome cocktail, and healthy snacks including nuts, and dried and fresh fruit. The cabana also features a fully stocked mini-bar with waters and sodas, as well as a choice of alcoholic options, including beer or wine. Sanctuary Cabanas will be available beginning at $80 for a half day.

Lotus Spa Cabanas – Two new Lotus Spa Cabanas offer a truly special alfresco massage experience. These larger, enclosed areas will offer added privacy, a comfortable resting area with a television and plush chairs, a treatment area with two massage tables for a refreshing couples massage and beautiful ocean views looking out over the front of the ship. A variety of packages will be available for the Lotus Spa Cabanas.

Retreat Pool – Adjacent to The Sanctuary, the Retreat Pool will offer an exclusive area for adults to relax and rejuvenate. The Retreat Pool on Royal Princess will offer more space and seating than the adult pools on other Princess vessels, plus add new Retreat Cabanas that can be reserved for an enhanced experience. These cabanas are the perfect way to enjoy private space poolside, or even add the indulgence of one of the ship’s special picnic baskets. The Retreat Pool is open to all adults, and Retreat Pool Cabana rental will be available beginning at $50 for a half day.

Cabana Picnic – Passengers reserving a cabana in The Sanctuary or the Retreat Pool can also pamper themselves with a gourmet picnic featuring a premium bottle of wine paired with a gourmet feast of antipasti, artisan sandwiches, pizza and even fresh-baked desserts. Picnic items passengers may find in their basket include Young Spinach Salad with Stilton Crumble, Pancetta Chips, Toasted Pecans and Black Pepper Vinaigrette; Ahi Tuna Poke with Hass Avocado, Red Onions, Sesame Seeds and Crisp Wonton Skins; and Alfredo’s Surf and Turf Pizza with Lobster Medallions and Beef Tenderloin. Baskets serving two people will begin at $40.

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.
Find more Royal Princess details, images, and videos on Cruise Diva's blog at:

Princess Cruises Newest Ship Will Be A Royal
Royal Princess: Expanded Atrium, New Features
Royal Princess Introduces Updated Amenities and A New Balcony Stateroom Category
Royal Princess: Expanded Atrium, New Features
Princess Cruises Raises the Curtain on New Royal Princess Entertainment Venue
The Ultimate In Relaxation Coming Aboard Royal Princess
Princess Cruises Shares A Look At New Royal Princess Fitness Facilities
Princess Cruises Takes Dining To The Next Level With New Royal Princess
Video Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Monday, November 26, 2012

Making Memories at Sea: The Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2012

It's good to be a Baby Boomer. That's something those of us now known as Seniors have known all our lives—we grew up at a time of prosperity and great promise and we were raised by The Greatest Generation. Wonderful things happened as we grew up… men walked on the moon and innovation, including computers and the Internet changed the way we worked and communicated. Movies (Rebel Without A Cause, American Graffiti) and television shows (Bandstand, Happy Days) were dedicated to us in our teen years.

And, of course, there was our music, which exploded on the national scene when Dick Clark began hosting American Bandstand on August 5, 1957. "It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it" became a teenager’s mantra. It’s still the clarion call for Baby Boomers to take the floor to dance to the Oldies, But Goodies by Elvis, The Platters, The Coasters, Dion and the Belmonts, Buddy Holly, Chubby Checker, and more. The list goes on and on.

Our music was amazing—in fact, it still is. Along with that good beat that you could dance to, you could understand the words and many of us remember them fifty-plus years later as we sing along.

What would it be like to turn back time, go to another sock hop, and enjoy another Prom? Just ask any of the passengers who sailed on Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2012. Not only were we able to do those things, we attended concerts every night starring some of the best-loved artists of our day—The Chiffons, The Platters, Dion, The Tymes, The Drifters, the incomparable Chubby Checker, Darlene Love, and Kenny Vance, and an icon of our era, Frankie Avalon.

Join us aboard Holland America Line’s Eurodam as Cruise Diva recounts all the shows, the events, and the great time had by all on this very special cruise featuring the music and artists we enjoyed on the Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2012.

Image (c) CruiseDiva.com

Sunday, November 25, 2012

MSC Cruises’ Redesigned Buffet Offers a More Satisfying Casual Dining Experience

One of the most often heard comments during our cruises aboard MSC ships has been that the buffet restaurant hours were too short. MSC Cruises has now extended them, as well as transforming the buffet restaurants on board MSC Splendida, MSC Fantasia, and MSC Poesia with the help of famous Italian food designer Paolo Barichella. The buffet area has been restyled around new concepts of presentation and service, offering a casual dining experience morning, noon, and night. The buffet is the most visited dining area on board, particularly during breakfast and lunch, and continually enhancing this area is a priority for a company which prides itself on making each cruise a culinary voyage of discovery.

“The idea behind the new buffet was not only to increase the quality of service and variety of fresh choices but also to create a real culinary experience and reshape the way we present food on board,” said Enrico Borniotto, general manager of MSC Italcatering. “Guests can now enjoy watching our skilled chefs prepare a range of fresh dishes, from MSC’s signature authentic Italian pizzas and breads to perfect sautéed pasta and tasty cuts of meat. Aside from redesigning the area in terms of decor, we tried to bring on board the concept of the visible kitchen. Some guests cannot imagine that most of the food is fresh on such big ships and that pasta, pizza, bread and desserts are handmade. This is an extraordinary added value to be proudly presented to guests.”

The redesigned buffet now includes different speciality corners, arranged with a more intuitive feel for guests trying to decide what delicious dishes to select. Fruit and vegetables are now sliced and diced in front of guests at the salad and fruit corner, where fresh products are arranged by color to help guests get the necessary five a day, the “color way”. The carving show corner provides delicious cuts of meat from turkey to beef, while burgers, hot dogs, chips and a selection of sandwiches, piadina wraps, and traditional focaccias can be found at the grill take away corner.

Various types of homemade bread, from breadsticks to bread rolls, pretzel buns, rye bread, French baguettes, seeded bread rings, grissini, and artistic MSC logo breads, can be found at the bakery corner, and guests can even watch MSC bakers producing the daily selection of bread at the special bakery show corner.

MSC’s authentic Margherita pizza, as well as a pizza of the day, puff pastry jalousie and stuffed calzone, can be found at the pizza corner, while the pasta station offers different pastas, including pasta au gratin, homemade stuffed pasta, ravioli and tortellini, all cooked in front of the guests. The Mediterranean corner provides a large selection of traditional cheeses, including provolone, gorgonzola, gouda, Grana Padano, ricotta, mozzarella, brie, and camembert, as well as cuts of high quality origin-certified cured hams, Mortadella and salami, ready to be carved in front of guests.

Children will find a special selection of healthy and tasty items adapted for kids’ tastes in the children’s corner, where MSC’s youngest guests will also enjoy the dessert corner, where different sweet treats, including cakes, crème bavaroises, cupcakes, puddings, tarts and mousses, are available every day.

Five different dishes can be found at the daily specials corner, offering a full menu including soup, pasta gratin and sautéed pasta, rice and hot dishes with meat, fish and vegetables. Speciality recipes from a wide range of countries including Morocco, Spain, Greece, Indonesia, China, Mexico and India can be found at the ethnic corner, which offers four different choices from the country of choice each day. Finally, guests can find the perfect wine or soft drink for their meal on the tailor-made buffet bar list and at the beverage station, which offers a wide variety of hot and cold drinks.

The redesigned buffet project will be rolled out across the whole fleet by summer 2013. MSC Cruises has also recently introduced more flexible opening times for the buffet service, with buffet restaurants across the fleet now open non-stop for 20 hours a day, from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m., so guests can now satisfy their hunger at any time of the day and into the small hours of the morning, with no extra charge. As room service is available 24 hours a day, MSC Cruises has made sure that every hour of the day is covered. For more information about MSC Cruises, visit MSC Cruises USA

Image (c) CruiseDiva.com

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Norwegian Cruise Line Kicks Off the Holiday Season with The Radio City Rockettes


Norwegian Cruise Line has kicked off the holiday season in Big Apple fashion by unveiling a Norwegian Breakaway interactive exhibit in the Grand Lounge of New York’s historic Radio City Music Hall, featuring a 1:100 scale model of the 4,000 passenger ship. Guests attending the show have the opportunity to tour the exhibit to view the model and learn all about the ship’s unique attributes, entertainment, dining, destinations, and more.

Norwegian Breakaway Exhibit
Designated the “Official Cruise Line” of the Rockettes, Radio City Music Hall and the “Official Partner” of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Norwegian Cruise Line takes center stage during every Radio City Christmas Spectacular performance. In one very special scene, The Rockettes dance in front of the backdrop of a glittering Times Square, featuring an eye-catching “Cruise like a Norwegian” billboard (pictured above). This year’s production commemorates 85 years of the past, present and future of the Rockettes featuring dazzling dance numbers, beloved favorites, breathtaking special effects and a brand new showcase featuring the Rockettes' most extraordinary costumes through the years, alongside beloved favorites that have been in the show since its inception.

The Rockettes, one of New York’s most illustrious and beloved icons, will christen Norwegian Breakaway as the official Godmothers on May 8, 2013, further strengthening the ship’s strong ties to New York. As the stars of the annual Christmas Spectacular production, the Rockettes entertain more than one million people at Radio City Music Hall each year and have played to 75 different cities across the country with the national touring production.

As part of their role as Godmothers, two Rockettes will sail aboard the first six sailings of Norwegian Breakaway, beginning May 12, 2013, and the first sailing of each month thereafter, taking part in special events for guests to enjoy. Onboard Norwegian Breakaway, the Rockettes, with their unparalleled grace, athleticism and precision technique that has made them part of the fabric of New York City for 85 years, will be showcased with a variety of offerings, including a historical retrospective in the ship’s library, exclusive fitness class designed by the Rockettes, featured beverages and more. On select sailings, guests will have the exclusive opportunity to meet two of the Rockettes.

To celebrate the holiday season and introduce Norwegian Breakaway’s legendary godmothers, Norwegian invites guests to experience the Rockettes’ dazzling performance first-hand and is offering a 25% savings on tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, now through December 30, 2012. For more information, visit RadioCityChristmas.com/cruise and use promotional code “Cruise.”

For more information about the features onboard Norwegian Breakaway, visit Breakaway.NCL.com.

Images Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey of the Sea

Carnival Cruise Lines has a lot to be thankful for this year, so to celebrate Thanksgiving Day and the arrival of its newest cruise ship, Carnival Breeze, to its Miami homeport, the cruise line donated 137,500 meals to Feeding South Florida and erected a 50-foot-tall inflatable turkey atop the ship.

The 1,250-pound nylon turkey—decked out in a straw beach hat and colorful Hawaiian shirt—was scheduled to be displayed on Wednesday, Nov. 21st in preparation for the holiday festivities. The giant fowl sat 14 stories above the waterline and gazed toward nearby McArthur Causeway until just before the ship made its inaugural sailing from Miami on Thanksgiving Day. We only hope motorists on the causeway weren’t too distracted!

Also on Wednesday, Carnival presented a charitable donation to Feeding South Florida that provided 137,500 meals to families in need throughout Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties. Pembroke Pines–based Feeding South Florida is the largest food bank in the state and a member of Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity. In 2011, Feeding South Florida distributed more than 30 million pounds of food valued at almost $50 million within the South Florida community.

The new 3,690-passenger Carnival Breeze—the largest Carnival ship ever homeported in South Florida—debuted this summer in Europe. The new vessel features on-board innovations including a variety of new dining, bar, and entertainment options that are part of the company’s $500 million fleetwide Fun Ship 2.0 product-enhancement program. Following a 2-day introductory cruise that departed yesterday (without the turkey), Carnival Breeze will launch year-round 6- and 8-day Caribbean cruises from Miami Saturday, Nov. 24.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving on Land or at Sea

This year we're home for Thanksgiving, but there's nothing quite like a holiday feast at sea when someone else does the cooking and cleaning up. Pictured here is Cruise Diva's traditional turkey being carved aboard Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow on a previous Thanksgiving cruise from Rio to Buenos Aires. It tasted as good as it looked.

Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Princess Cruises’ Thanksgiving Sale Offers Cruise Deals

If you’ve finished your holiday shopping...congratulations! If, like me, you haven’t even started and are dreading the crowds at the mall, take heart. Princess Cruises has a solution to our shopping woes—the opportunity to plan a post-holiday cruise with a special Thanksgiving Sale. Running from Nov 21-26, these cruise deals offer discounts of up to $1,000 plus up to $100 cash back as an onboard credit. And, best of all, we don’t even have to leave home to get in on the bargains.

More than 200 sailings are on sale, including some of the line’s most popular cruise destinations. Travelers can cruise to the majestic scenery of Alaska, the fun in the sun of the Caribbean, the tropical paradise of Hawaii, and even the marvel of engineering that is the Panama Canal.

In addition to special fares, passengers booking balcony staterooms or above will receive an onboard credit of $50 (cruises up to nine days) or $100 (for sailings 10 days or longer), and those booking interior or oceanview staterooms can get credits of $25 (cruises up to nine days) to $50 (cruises 10 days or longer).

Examples of the special cruise deals include:
Caribbean cruise — 7 days: $769 balcony (was $1,269); $569 interior (was $819)
Alaska cruise — 7 days: $1,154 balcony (was $1,354); $854 interior (was $954)
Hawaii cruise — 14 days: $1,690 balcony (was $2,690); $1,090 interior (was $1,790)
Panama Canal cruise — 14 days: $2,199 balcony (was $3,149); $1,499 interior (was $2,399)
Cruise departures run from January through July 2013. More information about the cruise sale and pricing will be available at Princess.com/sale. All cruise prices are per person, based on double occupancy and now include government fees and taxes. The Thanksgiving Sale runs from 12:01am PDT on Wednesday, Nov 21 through 11:59pm PDT on Monday, Nov 26, 2012 and is available to residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS (1-800-774-6237), or by visiting Princess.com.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Not One, But TWO Cruise Lines Poised to Set Sail from Port of Houston

“Build it and they will come” was beginning to look like a futile gesture on the part of the Port of Houston. Since it was completed in 2011, the state-of-the-art Bayport Cruise Terminal located in Pasadena, Texas has been idle—only being put to use in 2008 when when the Port of Galveston was heavily damaged by a hurricane. Just outside of Houston, Bayport is an enticing homeport for travelers in search of efficient and world-class services before and after their cruise. The cruise terminal’s proximity to fine restaurants and hotels make it an ideal point of disembarkation. While it’s not quite as accessible to the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico as the facility in Galveston, perhaps more importantly, it is conveniently accessible to both major Houston airports. And finally, the new terminal will soon see not one, but two cruise lines call it home.

Princess Cruises will launch new service from the Port of Houston beginning in 2013 when it starts sailing from the Bayport Cruise Terminal. Princess Cruises and the Port of Houston Authority confirmed an agreement for the line to make passenger cruise calls during the 2013-2014 cruise season at the port’s cruise facility. The new service is scheduled to begin in November of 2013. A total of 26 departures are planned for the season.

The inaugural cruise is an unprecedented sailing aboard the Caribbean Princess to support U.S. veterans. The historic cruise, which will sail between Nov. 5 and Nov. 9, is expected to raise $1 million for two U.S. veterans organizations, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) and Operation Homefront.

The Port Authority’s agreement with Princess Cruises marks the first full contract with a cruise line to use the Bayport Cruise Terminal. Both Princess and the Port Authority project the cruise activity will have a significant positive impact on the economy of Harris County and the greater Houston area, including the cities of Houston and Pasadena. Smaller cities near the cruise terminal are also expected to benefit.

On the heels of the Princess agreement, Norwegian Cruise Line and the Port of Houston Authority announced that they have also reached an agreement for Norwegian to sail seasonally from Houston for three years, totaling 75 calls, with an option to extend for up to two years. Beginning in the fall of 2014, Norwegian will bring the 2,374-passenger Norwegian Jewel to Houston to sail 7-day Western Caribbean cruises. The line’s return to Houston marks the first time Norwegian has had a ship sailing from the city since Norwegian Dream in 2007.

The 96,000-square-foot Bayport Cruise Terminal combines visual appeal, passenger convenience, accessibility and innovative security systems. Passenger access from parking and drop-off areas is immediately adjacent to the front of the terminal. Covered walkways connect the building to bus and private passenger drop-offs and taxi stands. Once inside the terminal, passengers’ first-class experience continues in the expansive great area.

Economic activity from a single cruise line is expected to generate $50 million annually, according to the firm Martin Associates, including local purchases of $3.6 million. Over a four-year period, this is expected to result in a $200 million dollar economic impact to the greater Houston region. A total of 222 jobs will be touched, including the creation of almost 100 new jobs. An estimated $941,000 annually in state and local taxes is anticipated.

Image: Bayport Cruise Terminal

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cunard Line Second Video in Online Series Celebrating World Voyages


With its 2014 World Voyage Season coming up, Cunard Line released the second video in its online video series highlighting some of its most avid World Voyage passengers. In the video above, Michigan residents Richard and Pat Donahey (Belleville) and Dr. Martin and Linda Weissman (Birmingham), and Maryland residents Peggy and Pamela Zirkle (Berwyn Heights) share some of their favorite World Voyage memories and unique souvenirs.

Throughout the video, actual guests highlight stories from various destinations and World Voyage excursions ranging from exploring King Tutankhamun’s Tomb and the Egyptian Pyramids, to golfing some of the world’s best courses, and the new friends made along the way. The passengers unanimously express their awe at the many diverse attractions they have visited. Truthfully, many of them are places this Cruise Diva longs to see as well.

Linda Weissman speaks enthusiastically about the daring adventures she and her husband, Dr. Martin Weissman, have taken part in while “living their bucket list,” including riding camels at the Egyptian Pyramids, elephants in Thailand and ATVs in Africa. Travelers Peggy and Pamela Zirkle share a glimpse of their exotic hat collection from each place they have traveled to, including Vietnam. I loved it that they weren’t quite sure which hat was from which country they visited—I have the same problem with my cat figurine collection. Richard Donahey recounts his sheer amazement when he and Pat experienced The Great Wall of China.

Cunard’s 2014 World Voyage Season will cover more than 116,000 nautical miles across six continents, with visits to 85 unique ports of call in 40 countries. The program features three World Voyages ranging from eight to 133 days aboard Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth, with embarkation points in Southampton, England, New York, Fort Lauderdale, and San Francisco in the United States.

For more information, visit Cunard.com. There’s still time to book a 2014 Cunard World Voyage.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

'Dancing with the Stars' To Sizzle At Sea On Board Holland America Line

Finally! The stars of one of my favorite television programs are going to sea. Holland America Line has announced that an exciting new "Dancing with the Stars" experience will be featured on board their ships next year. Whether you like to Tango, Quickstep, Paso Doble, or sit back and enjoy watching the sizzling performances, the new program offers an entirely unique experience on the high seas.

Six theme cruises in 2013 and early 2014 will feature "Dancing with the Stars" events including dance lessons; a chance to meet the dancers, ask questions and take photos; and a dazzling production starring celebrities and the famed dance pros, complete with glamorous costumes and routines from the TV show. Currently scheduled to appear on select sailings are two-time champion pro dancers Mark Ballas and Kym Johnson; pros Tristan MacManus and Lacey Schwimmer; and some of your favorite celebrity competitors.* More dance pros and celebrities to be announced.

In addition to the theme cruises, every sailing on all 15 ships in the Holland America Line fleet will feature an exclusive "Dancing with the Stars" program including dance lessons and an opportunity for some lucky guests to dance center stage in an exciting dance-off performance. These activities will feature the ships' professional dancers and will be developed in collaboration with the show's dancers and choreographers.

"'Dancing with the Stars' is an international phenomenon and we know this exciting new addition to our entertainment line-up will be very popular with our global guests," said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America Line. "The theme cruises offer a unique opportunity to interact with dance pros and stars from the show, learn the moves and even take center stage."

The "Dancing with the Stars" theme cruises are: Feb. 16, 2013 ms Eurodam 7-day Eastern Caribbean; Jun. 22, 2013 ms Veendam 7-day Canada & New England; Jun. 30 and Jul. 7, 2013 ms Oosterdam 7-day Alaska; Jan. 5, 2014 ms Nieuw Amsterdam 7-day Eastern Caribbean; and Jan. 12, 2014 ms Nieuw Amsterdam 7-day Western Caribbean.

For more information about the "Dancing with the Stars" theme cruises and Holland America Line's cruises and CruiseTours, visit HollandAmerica.com.

Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars currently airs Mondays, 8:00 p.m. (ET) and Tuesdays, 8:00 p.m. (ET) on ABC.

*Performers are subject to change.

Image Courtesy of Holland America Line

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Azamara Quest Sports New Azamara Blue Hull After Drydock

Azamara Quest, the first of Azamara Club Cruises’ twin boutique ships to undergo extensive refurbishment, has emerged from an eight-day drydock, complete with refreshed public spaces and staterooms and a new “Azamara Blue” hull. Named for the cruise line by Navantia Shipyard, the unique navy-blue color tone of Azamara Quest’s hull adds to the elegance of the ship’s silhouette.

Known for featuring longer stays and more overnights in port to present their up-market passengers the opportunity for night touring, the cruise line is poised to break away from its category with its newly refreshed ships that sail to worldwide destinations that larger ships are unable to reach. Paired with the new complimentary AzAmazing Evening shore events on every voyage starting with each ship’s Europe 2013 season, Azamara is providing one of the most unique travel experiences that spotlights the nightlife of some of the world’s most intriguing destinations.

Shipwide renovations included new carpets, upholstery, and a new color palette in public spaces reflecting the cruise line’s inviting atmosphere; new mattresses and upgraded veranda furniture for suites and staterooms; and a resurfaced pool, and new sun loungers and pool towels on the outer decks. The Casino Bar also was expanded and enhanced with new furniture, while the Spa and fitness center was refreshed with a new steam room, showers, and state-of-the-art Life Fitness cardio equipment. Furthermore, a range of enhancements were made behind the scenes in the staff and crew area to add to the comfort of the cruise line’s most valuable asset.

On the culinary front, guests can now enjoy a new caviar and champagne bar within Aqualina, one of the ships’ two specialty dining venues, as well as a new Chef’s Table concept featuring three wine degustation menus—Italian, French, and Californian. At Mosaic Café, the ships’ central gathering spot, guests can purchase a freshly brewed cup of bespoke coffee.

Guests aboard Azamara Quest enjoy more inclusive amenities, such as included gratuities for housekeeping, dining and bar staff; complimentary bottled water, sodas, specialty coffee, and teas, as well as complimentary red and white boutique wines to accompany lunch and dinner; complimentary self-service laundry; English Butler service for suite guests; and shuttle transportation to city centers in ports, where available.

Azamara Quest is presently sailing a 13-night Madeira and Canary Islands voyage, which will be followed by a 4-night Spanish and Northern Africa voyage on Nov 28. The ship then embarks on a 16-night trans-Atlantic voyage Dec 2nd to Rio de Janeiro for its South America season.

Image Courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises

Friday, November 16, 2012

Discover America On A River Cruise

From sea to shining sea, there’s a lot of history and scenery to discover right here in our own backyards. American Cruise Lines, operator of the newest riverboats and small cruise ships in the United States, has introduced its Discover America Cruise Collection™, an assortment of featured itinerary combinations and themes that showcase some of the United States’ most intriguing places, such as the American Heartland on the Mississippi River and the Wild West on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. In addition, the Discover America combination packages feature specialty pricing and travel credits on back-to-back cruise bookings.
Wild, Wild West (15 Days): Mississippi River and Columbia & Snake Rivers – This featured combination offered aboard two authentic paddlewheelers, will take guests on an unforgettable journey into the American Heartland and the Wild West. Aboard Queen of the West, guests will follow the rivers that helped shape the West, tracing the footsteps of the legendary explorers Lewis and Clark. Aboard the brand new Queen of the Mississippi, guests will travel back in time, experiencing life and travel on the river as Mark Twain did in days gone by. The Wild, Wild West package begins on June 15, 2013.
Coast to Coast (15 Days): Historic South & Golden Isles and Columbia & Snake Rivers– This exciting package takes guests cross country from the desert canyons and historic landmarks of the West, to the Civil War battlefields, plantations and charming cities of the South. On both cruises guests will see history come alive while discovering the pristine beauty of the wild western frontier and the graceful South. The Coast to Coast cruise package begins on May 4, 2013.
 Great American River Run (22 Days): Mississippi River, Columbia & Snake Rivers, Great Rivers of Florida – American river cruising is here to stay! This classic American adventure elegantly brings guests through the impressive rivers and waterways of the American Heartland, Pacific Northwest, and the South, offering a complete discovery vacation for those seeking an alternative viewpoint, or an all-in-one exploration of the great United Sates. The Great American River Run begins on April 13, 2013.
“America is an impressive country filled with truly unique cruising options which most people are unaware of. The Discover America Cruise Collection aims to change that,” said Timothy Beebe, Vice President, American Cruise Lines. “There is a tremendous amount of history and culture in America, and so much to discover. We take pride in introducing and re-introducing the great places of the U.S. to our guests from the unique viewpoint of its waterways.”

Image: Queen of the Mississippi Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Carnival Breeze Godmother Named

While the 3,690-passenger Carnival Breeze debuted earlier this year in Europe, Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest ship has yet to be christened. However, that’s about to happen when the traditional naming ceremony is held on board the 130,000-ton ship while it is docked at its homeport of PortMiami on Dec. 8, 2012. Selected to serve as godmother of Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest and largest ship ever based in South Florida is Tracy Wilson Mourning, whose lifelong ambition to help others inspired her to establish the Honey Shine mentoring program for young girls a decade ago. A noted motivational speaker and author, Mourning will preside over the the invitation-only event, at which time a $25,000 donation from Carnival Cruise Lines will be made to the Honey Shine program.

“I am honored to serve as godmother to the Carnival Breeze,” said Ms. Mourning. “The Honey Shine mentoring program continues to be a vital part of our community thanks to the generosity and commitment by companies like Carnival Cruise Lines,” she added.

Embodying her credo of “Be Comfortable Being You,” Mourning founded the Honey Shine mentoring program in 2002 as a way to make a difference in the lives of young girls by pairing them with female role models in the community. Through a combination of classroom training, spiritual education and collaborative experiences, Honey Shine’s goal is to empower young women and create future leaders in our communities, fulfilling the organization’s mission of “Inspiring Young Girls To Shine As Women.” In addition to the Honey Shine program, she and her husband, NBA legend Alonzo Mourning, donate much of their time to a variety of other philanthropic causes that benefit the youth of South Florida.

“Tracy is a hero in our community and with Miami serving as our headquarters since our inception 40 years ago, I can think of no better choice as godmother of the new Carnival Breeze,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO. “Tracy’s passion, commitment to serving others and desire to help make South Florida a better place is extraordinary and we are proud and honored that her name will be forever associated with this magnificent ship,” he added.

Carnival Breeze features a host of on-board innovations, including a variety of dining, bar, and entertainment options that are part of the company’s groundbreaking Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement program, a $500 million initiative that is rolling out across the line’s fleet. Carnival Breeze kicks off its new Miami-based schedule with a special 2-day cruise operating Nov. 22-24, followed by the launch of year-round 6- and 8-day Caribbean departures Nov. 24, 2012.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Low Solo Fares Offered On Expanded Selection Of 2013 Crystal Cruises

Solo travelers have long considered the dreaded "single supplement" to be a costly nuisance when booking a cruise on their own. Crystal Cruises understands and has taken their needs into consideration by offering exceptionally low single occupancy fares on an increased number of cruises to more destinations in 2013. Solo travelers have a choice of a different worldwide cruise in almost every month from April to November, 2013. With single supplements of just 10%, travelers can save as much as $1,000 for a private, deluxe outside stateroom on 10 varied cruises of seven to 18 days, including:
-- April 12 -- Kobe to Vancouver - 18 days for $6,030;
-- May 9 -- Rome to Istanbul - 9 days for $3,670;
-- May 23 -- New York to Reykjavik - 12 days for $4,265;
-- June 25 -- Stockholm to Copenhagen - 10 days for $5,485;
-- July 6 -- Istanbul to Rome - 7 days for $2,865;
-- July 20 -- Stockholm to Copenhagen - 10 days for $5,485;
-- July 30 -- Copenhagen to Stockholm - 10 days for 5,485;
-- Sept 2 -- London to Barcelona - 9 days for $4,375;
-- Nov 2 -- Rome to Lisbon - 13 days for $4,805; and
-- Nov 23 -- Miami to Rio de Janeiro - 16 days for $5,260.
"Hundreds of solo travelers have taken advantage of our fall 2012 'singles promotion'," says Jack Anderson, Crystal's senior vice president, marketing and sales. "Our guests love the way we take care of them, the programs we provide, and the friendliness and camaraderie on board. Given the variety of cruise destinations, lengths of cruises and breadth of dates, this offer is not only a great opportunity for independent vacations, but also for girls' getaways and summer family and friends' reunions. People can enjoy bonding travel get-togethers, while saving on the added comfort of a private stateroom."

Among the extraordinary care Crystal provides for solo travelers are Ambassador Hosts on every sailing for those seeking a dance partner, assigned seating for dinner in the Crystal Dining Room, and "Table for 8," which brings individuals together for friendly shared dining in the specialty restaurants at night. Crystal Cruises' ocean resort experience always includes fine wines, premium spirits, and gratuities with one's vacation, as well as a host of other complimentary amenities, from enlightening enrichment speakers and fitness classes to pampering pillow menus and specialty restaurant dining, featuring the world-renowned cuisine of Nobu Matsuhisa. Additionally, even without the single specials, Crystal already boasts one of the lowest supplement rates for sole occupancy of a double stateroom.

Image Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Design Details Unveiled For Carnival Sunshine

As we reported earlier this year (Carnival Destiny, You Are My Sunshine), Carnival Cruise Lines is investing $155 million dollars on a makeover that will transform Carnival Destiny into Carnival Sunshine.

The line has now revealed more details about the transformation that will take place from February to April 2013 during a 49-day dry dock at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard. The ship will re-enter service with all of the dining, bar, and entertainment elements of the line’s Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement program, along with several all-new features. Among the new highlights are a new racing-themed water park featuring Carnival’s longest water slide (pictured above), the tropical-themed Havana Bar, a full-service Asian restaurant, and more.

Here’s a look at the unique features only available on Carnival Sunshine:
·· Havana Bar, located aft within Lido Marketplace, which by day serves as a casual gathering spot for relaxing with friends and enjoying Cuban coffee and Cuban finger foods such as pastelitos and croquetas, while at night transforms into a Cuban-inspired courtyard with a cool Latin vibe featuring live music and classic Cuban cocktails.
·· WaterWorks, an all-new water park where the young–and the young at heart–can zip down five different slides and have a splash-tastic time with 40 different interactive water features, including a 300-gallon drenching bucket that will serve as the signature element of the SplashZone kids’ water play area..
·· A full-service Asian restaurant that will feature favorites from the Far East, enhanced by a serene décor of prayer rolls, wood-beamed ceilings and other design elements (lunch is complimentary; $12 charge for dinner).
·· Shake Spot, the ideal place to “chill” and enjoy hand-crafted milkshakes while taking a break from all the fun in the sun.
·· Located adjacent to Shake Spot on Promenade Deck is JavaBlue Café, the place to connect, meet up and savor sweet and frothy cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and other caffeinated favorites, as well as coffees made with liqueurs, along with decadent confections.
·· For those who crave delicious, hand-tossed, artisanal-style pizza anytime of the day or night, there’s Pizzeria del Capitano, an expansion of the line’s popular Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant–free of charge. 24 hours a day with pizza baked in a traditional pizza oven.

Carnival Sunshine will also offer all the elements that make up the line’s $500 million Fun Ship 2.0 enhancement program. These include dining options like Guy’s Burger Joint, developed with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, and BlueIguana Cantina, a complimentary Mexican eatery offering authentic burritos and tacos, along with innovative bar concepts such as the Caribbean-themed RedFrog Pub; the poolside RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar; EA SPORTS Bar, a partnership with the leading sports video game company; and the Alchemy Bar, featuring a vintage cocktail “pharmacy” theme.

Top-deck amenities will include a three-level Serenity adults-only retreat (pictured here)–the largest in the Carnival fleet offering a pool, waterfall, a full bar, whirlpool, and, of course, magnificent sea views–as well as SportSquare featuring a ropes course, including an exciting new zip line feature, an array of deck and table games, a basketball court, jogging track, and a two-level miniature golf course.

A variety of entertainment choices–from the family-friendly Hasbro, The Game Show, featuring larger-than-life adaptations of the company’s iconic games to high-tech Playlist Productions, which combine live performances with spectacular staging and special effects–will be offered, as well.

Following its dry dock, Carnival Sunshine will debut with a series of Mediterranean cruises beginning with a 14-day voyage from Venice to Barcelona April 12-16, 2013, followed by 9- and 12-day Mediterranean cruises either round-trip from Barcelona or sailing between Barcelona and Venice through Oct 20, 2013. Carnival Sunshine will then sail on a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Barcelona to New Orleans Nov 1-17, 2013, positioning the vessel for year-round 7-day Caribbean cruises from the Big Easy.

Carnival fans who want to get a sneak peek at these and a variety of other fantastic features of the ship can visit Carnival.com/Sunshine, which showcases a number of interior and exterior renderings and details the ship’s inaugural European and Caribbean itineraries.

Images Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Monday, November 12, 2012

Follow the Costa Concordia Wreck-Removal Project on Informational Website

Removal of the wreckage of Costa Concordia is proving to be a painstakingly slow process with many considerations, including environmental issues and the depth of the water beyond the shelf on which the ship lies.

Costa Cruises, in partnership with Titan/Micoperi, has launched a website that provides indepth information and images relating to the Costa Concordia wreck-removal project at TheParbucklingProject.com.

"Parbuckling" is the technical term for the process of rotating the wreck into an upright position—one of the most complex and crucial phases of the removal plan.

The website is available in both Italian and English (though some parts are only available in Italian), and provides a reference resource for anyone interested in learning more about the monumental and unprecedented technical challenge underway. The site's main features include background information about the project and the companies involved, up-to-date news, multimedia assets including videos, 3-D animations and pictures; thematic insights and technical details.

The removal plan is an extremely dynamic operation, so the website will be constantly updated to reflect the different phases of the plan and covering the future timetable and workflows.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Princess Cruises Announces First-Ever Cruise to Support U.S. Veterans

Cruise Diva grew up in a military family and is proud to support veterans of the U.S. armed forces through the Wounded Warrior Project. We’re also proud to see the cruise industry veterans, active military personnel and their families through discounts for them, as well as numerous Veterans Day special fare offers. Along those lines (but with a twist), Princess Cruises is marking Veterans Day by announcing an unprecedented cruise to support U.S. veterans, expected to raise $1 million for two highly regarded U.S. veterans organizations—the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) and Operation Homefront. Princess President and CEO Alan Buckelew, himself a Vietnam veteran, will be on board to host the sailing.

Sailing from Nov 5-9, 2013 aboard Caribbean Princess from Galveston to the Western Caribbean, the 4-day cruise will offer passengers the opportunity to honor both those who have served in the military as well as active duty military personnel. Onboard programming and activities—including guest lecturers, special topic panels, a Stars and Stripes Sailaway, service branch get-togethers, a film festival and more—will be custom-designed to celebrate those who have, and are, serving our country.

“We all know someone—a family member, a neighbor, a friend, perhaps ourselves—who has served,” said Buckelew. “As a veteran myself, I know that America’s warriors face immeasurable challenges both during active duty and when they return home. I look forward to meeting many of our passengers on board to help us raise much-needed funds to assist our veterans.” A video introduction from Buckelew is also available on YouTube.

A portion of each passenger’s cruise fare totaling approximately $500,000 will be matched by Princess Cruises with a further $500,000, for a total of $1 million earmarked for the two veterans causes. Funds raised will be shared equally by both organizations.

“We are humbled by such a generous gift and grateful to our friends at Princess Cruises, and we’re looking forward to the voyage,” said Jan C. Scruggs, VVMF’s founder and president. “We thank the company for honoring America’s military members, past and present, and for supporting our efforts to ensure their sacrifices and stories will always be remembered.”

”Our military families continue to make sacrifices after more than 10 years of war, and the American public has been generous in its support,” said Jim Knotts, chief executive officer of Operation Homefront. “We simply wouldn’t be able to help these families without donations from companies like Princess Cruises and its passengers. It is significant to note that the gratitude and respect shown by the public to our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is very different than how our Vietnam veterans were treated. This cruise will allow passengers to express their gratitude to veterans of ALL eras. It is an honor long overdue.”

The Western Caribbean cruise will sail roundtrip from Galveston, with a call at Progreso, Mexico. Cruise fares range from $604 to $1,704 per person based on double occupancy. A portion of each fare ranging from $100 to $300 per person, depending upon cabin category, will be donated to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and Operation Homefront.

The cruise launches the company’s new “Cruising for a Cause” initiative where Princess will dedicate entire sailings to support select charitable causes. This new, industry-leading program will provide the line’s passengers, many of whom are looking for opportunities to make positive contributions to their communities and the world, a way to make a difference even as they vacation. Additional information about the special “Cruising For A Cause” sailing supporting U.S. veterans can be found at Princess.com/cruisingforacause or by calling 1-800-PRINCESS.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Deal Alert: Holland America Line Offers Special Cruise Fares Through Veterans' Day

Now through Monday, Nov. 12, Holland America Line is offering special fares on select cruises in honor of Veterans' Day. The rates, which are available to all travelers, start at just $399 per person, double occupancy, for a 7-day Caribbean cruise.

Guests looking to travel the globe also can take advantage of special fares to other destinations as well. Mexico cruise rates start at $499 per person; Alaska, Canada/New England and Holiday cruises start at $599 per person; Europe and trans-Atlantic itineraries start at $699 per person; South America cruises start at $799 per person; Asia-Pacific rates begin at $899 per person, and Alaska CruiseTours, Hawaii/Tahiti and Australia/New Zealand cruises start at $999 per person. Special Panama Canal rates begin at $1,399 per person.

For more information about the special cruise fares and Holland America Line, contact a travel professional, call 1-877-SAIL-HAL (1-877-724-5425) or visit HollandAmerica.com and click on the banner announcement.

Friday, November 9, 2012

New Cruise Review: Carnival Valor

Making Lemonade: Hurricane Sandy

Keith Henderson relates sailing aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Valor during the dreaded storm that grew into Hurricane Sandy, "This was our first cruise where the weather forced an itinerary change. Due to tropical storm Sandy, our ports of call of Grand Cayman and Montego Bay were changed to Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico.

And the bottom line? "We enjoyed our cruise on the Valor. I think that they did a great job of adjusting the schedules to accommodate that change in ports of call due to the storm that became a hurricane."

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Norwegian Breakaway to Put NYC on Ice

Never satisfied to rest on their laurels, Norwegian Cruise Line has revealed that Norwegian Breakaway, the line’s newest ship, will offer a true Ice Bar on board, which will be kept at 17 degrees Fahrenheit and will honor its homeport by featuring ice sculptures of the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and the Chrysler Building to pay homage to New York City, its year-round homeport. The Ice Bar will also feature New York City-inspired specialty cocktails.

Following the successful introduction of the first-ever ice bar at sea on board Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway will also have a unique artic-like frozen chamber, guaranteed to give guests the ultimate chill. The bar, seating, and even the glasses will all be made entirely from ice. Located on deck eight, the Ice Bar will accommodate approximately 25 guests at a time who will be given hooded coats and gloves to keep warm, since the room’s temperature will not rise above 17 degrees Fahrenheit.

Entrance to the Ice Bar can be reserved from 5:30pm-10:30pm nightly at a nominal cover charge that includes two signature cocktails. The Ice Bar will feature six New York City-inspired specialty drinks including:
· Spiked Apple Juice: Vodka, sour apple schnapps, melon liqueur and a splash of fresh lemon sour;
· Broadway Dreams: Vodka and ice wine chilled straight;
· Yellow Cab: Vodka, peach schnapps and orange juice;
· Times Square Lights: Citron vodka, blue curacao and fresh lemon sour;
· Central Park: Citron vodka, ice wine, and lemon/lime soda;
· Rock Center: Ice wine, vodka, blue curacao and club soda.
The Ice Bar will also serve two non-alcoholic beverages—the Lady Liberty, made of strawberry puree, pineapple juice and lemon juice, and the Coney Island, with orange juice, vanilla ice cream and milk. All drinks are served in specially-created glasses made entirely of ice.

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, New York’s ship will offer voyages from the heart of Manhattan to the Bahamas and Florida, as well as the Southern Caribbean.

For more information on the incredible features and accommodations on Norwegian Breakaway, visit Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway micro-site and these links on the Cruise Diva Blog:
· Norwegian Cruise Line Begins “Project Breakaway” Reveal
· Norwegian Cruise Line Introduces “The Haven”
· “The Haven” by Norwegian: Posh Accommodations For Project Breakaway
· Norwegian Breaks Out More Project Breakaway Accommodations
· Innovative Spaces Planned For Norwegian’s Norwegian Breakaway
· Norwegian Breakaway Is Set To Be A Teen-Pleaser
· Dining and Entertainment Options for Norwegian Breakaway
· Norwegian Breakaway’s Hull Artwork Unveiled
· NYC’s Iconic Rockettes Named As Norwegian Breakaway Godmothers
Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Special Veterans Day Sale From Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises is marking Veterans Day with a special sale starting today. Through November 12, more than 120 cruise vacations to Europe, Hawaii and Asia feature savings, including a free balcony upgrade plus up to $100 free onboard spending money.

Itineraries on sale include some of the line’s most popular European routes, including the Greek Isles, Scandinavia and Russia, the British Isles, and even the Mediterranean aboard the new Royal Princess. Hawaii cruises and Asia sailings are also included in the sale.

In addition to special fares, passengers booking balcony staterooms or above will receive an onboard credit of $50 (cruises up to nine days) or $100 (for sailings 10 days or longer), and those booking interior or oceanview staterooms can get credits of $25 (cruises up to nine days) to $50 (cruises 10 days or longer).

Cruise departures run from January through July 2013. More information about the cruise sale and pricing can be found at Princess.com/sale.

Examples of the special cruise deals include:
● Hawaiian Island cruise – 14 days: $1,694 balcony (was $2,690); $1,094 interior (was $1,790)
● Greek Isles cruise – 12 days: $2,479 balcony (was $3,109); $1,779 interior (was $2,129)
● Scandinavia & Russia cruise – 11 days: $2,639 balcony (was $3,039); $1,939 interior (was $2,139)
● British Isles cruise – 12 days: $2,694 balcony (was $3,094); $1,994 interior (was $2,194)
● Grand Mediterranean cruise – 12 days: $3,189 balcony (was $3,469); $2,189 interior (was $2,389)
● Japan cruise – 9 days: $1,989 balcony (was $2,715); $1,639 interior (was $1,715)
In addition to the Veterans Day Sale, Princess is also reminding passengers that the line offers a special onboard credit program with benefits for active military members and veterans. This credit of up to $250 (depending upon the length of the cruise) is available year round, and can be combined with the credit available through the Veterans Day Sale. Past passengers who have qualified for retired or veteran-status Military Personnel Benefits on previous sailings will no longer be required to resubmit requests for future voyages, but will have this discount automatically applied to their booking.

All cruise prices are per person, based on double occupancy and now include government fees and taxes. The Veterans Day Sale runs from 12:01 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, November 7 through 11:59 p.m. PDT on Monday, November 12, 2012 and is available to residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

New Cruise Review: American Queen

Follow In The Footsteps Of Mark Twain:

Join travel journalist Georgina Cruz rolling on Upper Mississippi River from St. Louis to St. Paul—a region of the country celebrated by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, and of course, Samuel Clemens, who wrote under the name of Mark Twain—abord American Queen for an all-American journey.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Disney Cruise Line Sails to Jamaica for the First Time

Yo, mon...Disney Cruise Line will be visiting Jamaica this year for the very first time with new itineraries departing from Galveston, Texas. The new 7-night Western Caribbean sailings will call on Falmouth, Jamaica, as well as Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico.

While in Falmouth, one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved Georgian towns, guests can sample the city’s history and culture, take a trip through time on a horse-and-buggy ride, shop for arts and crafts and taste Jamaica’s signature jerk recipes. Bamboo raft rides along the Martha Brae River offer exceptional views of the island’s lush tropical scenery and nearby Ocho Rios is known for its spectacular Dunn’s River Falls.

Also in late 2013, Disney Cruise Line will sail 7-night Bahamas cruises from Galveston, calling on Key West, Nassau, and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. A tropical paradise reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line guests, Castaway Cay is the ultimate escape, with powdery white sand beaches, turquoise blue waters and swaying palm trees. Always a favorite port of call, Castaway Cay is the place for those seeking adventure, relaxation or quality time with the family.

Fall 2013 Galveston Schedule

NEW: Western Caribbean, including Jamaica. The Disney Wonder will sail from the Port of Galveston on 7-night Western Caribbean cruises, including a stop at Falmouth, Jamaica. Plus, three days at sea allow you to experience the world-class entertainment, guest service, and one-of-a-kind shipboard experiences found only on Disney Cruise Line.
Ports: Galveston; Falmouth, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico
Departure dates: Oct. 5, 19, Nov. 2, 16, 30
NEW: Bahamas, including Castaway Cay. Seven-night Bahamas cruises, include a stop at Disney’s private island paradise, Castaway Cay.
Ports: Galveston; Key West; Castaway Cay; Nassau
Departure dates: Sept. 28, Oct. 12, 26, Nov. 9, 23, Dec. 7, 14
To learn more about Disney Cruise Line, visit DisneyCruise.com.

Image: Matt Stroshane, photographer

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Hurricane Sandy Cruise

JAXport aheada welcome sight!
After two decades of covering the cruise industry and more than a hundred personal sailings, a hurricane finally caught up to me. As you know, Mel and I spent last week on Holland America Line’s Eurodam enjoying the Malt Shop Memories Cruise. Like our fellow passengers, getting there was quite an adventure.

First off, Mel and I set out for Fort Lauderdale a day earlier than planned, which had nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy swirling about in the Caribbean and Atlantic. We wanted to avoid the traffic headed to Jacksonville, Florida on Friday for the Georgia-Florida football game, an annual event scheduled for Saturday that is called “the world’s largest cocktail party.”

That’s why we arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn near the Fort Lauderdale airport at about 6pm on Thursday, October 25th, just as the heavy winds and torrential rains of Hurricane Sandy were at their worst in the area. And then the power went out. We had a flashlight (courtesy of the hotel manager’s hurricane supply stash) and joined others gathered in the hotel’s lobby where large windows made it a bit lighter than our room in the growing dusk. Emergency lights were on in corridors and the door keycard system also worked thanks to generator power.

When full power was restored we were able to get dinner at our hotel and all seemed well until I got an email on my BlackBerry from Entertainment Cruise Productions advising us that, “Due to Hurricane Sandy, Holland America has moved our embarkation port from Port Everglades to Port Canaveral on Saturday, Oct. 27.” Coaches would take us from Fort Lauderdale to Port Canaveral. That didn’t seem so bad. After a good night’s rest we received another update in mid-afternoon on Friday. This one seemed a bit ominous:
“Holland America has informed us that our ship for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise may depart from one of three ports: Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, or Port Canaveral. We will know later today or tonight which of those ports will be used. Holland America has made arrangements to transport all of our guests from Ft. Lauderdale, if required, to whichever port we will use. In the interim, we advise you to head for Ft. Lauderdale, stay in contact with us by looking at the website and by calling our office. We will make this work!

In our update yesterday, we left out one crucial piece of information. The Malt Shop Memories Cruise Pre-Party will proceed as scheduled tonight from 7 to 10pm.”
Again, no worries as we headed to the Friday night pre-party to enjoy music and the company of our fellow passengers. At about 8pm the announcement was made that our embarkation port would definitely be Jacksonville and a couple hours later we got another email saying, “Holland America has informed us that our ship for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise will depart from the Port of Jacksonville. Holland America has made arrangements to transport all of our guests from the Ft. Lauderdale area as well as Cape Canaveral to the Port of Jacksonville.”

At that point we groaned—we’d just passed through Jacksonville the day before and it’s a five hour drive in coaches. We had several options, but we chose the simplest and parked at Port Everglades after dropping off our luggage, which would be sent to the ship in trucks. Mel and I were assigned number 6 tags for the coach ride and were on the road and headed to Eurodam by 11:15am, along with a convoy of more than sixty other coaches!

Eurodam, at last
Once at the Jacksonville port we had to wait for the Carnival ship at the cruise terminal to leave and we all departed our coaches one by one to go through port security with the carry-ons we’d brought with us. Then it was back on the coaches for a short drive to the cargo area of the port where we actually boarded Eurodam at 6:30pm. On board, check in was swift and we made ourselves at home with what little we’d brought with us. Despite the rather nice box lunch we were given to eat on the coach (according to Florida law, the coaches were not allowed to stop along the way), we were hungry so we headed for the buffet and then the pool bar—drinks were complimentary all evening long courtesy of Holland America Line—and moods improved as the night went along.

Exhausted from the day, Mel and I turned in relatively early so I don’t know exactly what time Eurodam got under way. We were still at the dock at midnight on Saturday, but at 4:30am I awoke and we were at sea. I looked out in the passageway to see if luggage had arrived. It was there so I rolled it inside and brushed my teeth before going back to sleep. Yes, I’d forgotten to put toothbrushes in the carry-ons—they were in what we’d intended to take aboard in Fort Lauderdale.

After a boat drill early Sunday morning we learned that Eurodam would not stop in Grand Turk as scheduled on Monday in order to make San Juan in a relatively timely fashion on Tuesday—our arrival there was a few hours late. Due to spending more time at sea than originally planned, our Entertainment Cruise Productions hosts made lemonade from lemons and rescheduled the show that was cancelled due to our late embarkation on Saturday night.

It was quite an experience, one that I never dreamed we’d ever go through, but I have to give major kudos to Holland American Line and Entertainment Cruise Productions—they handled a very complex situation beautifully and kept us well informed throughout—Holland America Line reps called us and Entertainment Cruise Productions sent detailed emails. The most amazing thing was that only 24 passengers missed the embarkation and once on board we didn’t hear any complaining during the cruise. Everyone we spoke to in the elevators and around the ship had a wonderful time and nearly 50% of those on board booked the Malt Shop Memories Cruise for 2013!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Until Next Year, The Malt Shop Memories Cruise

All cruises have to come to an end and this one aboard Eurodam is no different. Well, in a way there is a difference—Mel and I are alumni of the inaugural Malt Shop Memories Cruise and there will be another one next year, once again right here on Eurodam.

We’ll be taking home wonderful memories of a unique cruise that started out rocking with Hurricane Sandy and a change of embarkation port, but ended up rolling with the flow. After all, how many people our age can spend Prom Night being entertained by Frankie Avalon? Each night we’ve seen some of the best artists of the 50s and 60s and, even though Bobby Rydell couldn’t sail with us due to medical issues, he met the ship in San Juan and came aboard to explain why—only four months ago he underwent a liver and kidney transplant. He sang “Mack The Knife” and bid us farewell until next year when he’ll be on board The Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2013 (Nov 3-10) with Neil Sedaka, The Four Tops, Petula Clark, the Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley, Little Anthony and The Imperials, Lesley Gore, Gary U.S. Bonds, and more.

While our time aboard has been enjoyable, it was also informative. Dion hosted a presentation of “The Winter Dance Party,” a documentary film made for the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame Archives, and shared his remembrances of “The Day The Music Died” when Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Richie Valens were killed. After that horrible plane crash in February 1959, stories have varied over the years about what really happened that fateful night. Dion revealed that he was to have been on the plane, but gave up his seat to Richie Valens. In Dion’s words, it was the “The Day The Music Exploded” and, thankfully, the music lives on

Image © CruiseDiva.com

Friday, November 2, 2012

Malt Shop Memories Cruise, Activities

Naturally we’re enjoying performances by all the top name rock ’n roll stars on board The Malt Shop Memories Cruise, but there’s a lot more going on in addition to the headline shows in the Mainstage Show Lounge.

Some of the other activities that are keeping us busy include Celebrity Bingo with Sheri Winkleman as Marilyn Monroe, afternoon cocktails hosted by a variety of the artists, trivia competitions, a renewal of vows ceremony, a Connie Francis tribute show in the Queen’s Lounge, the Buddy Holly Show with George Trullinger in the Crow’s Nest, dancing to the hits with DJ Joel in the Northern Lights Nightclub, and Elvis karaoke—with a special opportunity for the ladies to sing as the King. Movies of the malt shop era are screened in Eurodam’s movie theater and of course there is the Elvis Tribute Artists contest as well as Elvis performances in “The Jungle Room” where a highlight was Gino Monopoli recreating Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special.

One of the most popular events has been “Remembering Dick Clark.” Moderated by his friend and radio personality Jerry Blavat, the discussion panel included Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, Dion, and Darlene Love (pictured above), all who appeared on Clark’s iconic television shows. Their stories and remembrances ranged from hilarious to touching. It was a real inside look into how those stars’ lives were touched by Dick Clark—and even his wife, who gave Chubby Checker his name!

Image © CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Malt Shop Memories Cruise, The Difference

There are music-themed cruises and then there is Entertainment Cruise Productions, which hosts only full-ship charter cruises. Everyone on board has full access to all shows and events that follow the theme. In the case of The Malt Shop Memories Cruise, that means the music and fun we all enjoyed in the 1950s and 60s. From poodle skirts at the sock hop to formals for Prom Night, the majority of our fellow passengers are displaying great creativity in their choice of attire and accessories.

We may be “seniors,” but we remember the fun we had in our teen years and this is the place to relive those good times—on board Holland America Line’s Eurodam, one of the most elegant ships at sea.

Not only does Entertainment Cruise Productions provide the artists to entertain us and a great floating playground, they also give us pillow gifts. Every night is like our birthday when we return to our staterooms after dinner and an exceptional show. In addition to the tee-shirts that were included in our pre-cruise package, once on board we received a great souvenir book that includes our daily schedule and pages for notes and autographs. Plus, lanyards were provided to carry our key cards with the cards thoughtfully pre-punched for easy use. Since then we’ve been surprised with caps, backpacks, mugs, and more.

However, the finest gift of all is the opportunity to experience live performances by the artists and musicians who enriched our younger years and hear their stories—all in one place. And this is the only place on land or at sea where that happens.

A personal favorite aspect of The Malt Shop Memories Cruise is the camaraderie on board. It’s always cool to travel with a group and this is the ultimate group—one that shares our interests in music, as well as life in general.

Image © CruiseDiva.com