Tuesday, December 31, 2013

“Linked By The Sea” Aboard Princess Cruises

Unlike other cruise line blogs that are generally written by employees to share announcements and information, Princess Cruises’ blogs also rely on passengers to share their experiences with readers. In 2011, they rolled out their first blog, 50 Essential Experiences, The Travel Bucket List in which Princess destination experts and readers shared their Essential Travel Experience of the Week (Cruise Diva’s contribution is here, The Hidden Value of Travel: Amsterdam, The Netherlands).

Inspired by the success of that year-long themed blog, Princess launched a new one for 2012 entitled “Inspired to Cruise: A Year of Reasons to Get Away From the Everyday.” The blog chronicled diverse reasons why passengers are compelled to take a cruise vacation, including a mix of celebrations, accomplishments, family milestones, and other deeply personal reasons to take a cruise.

The line recognizes that a voyage on a Princess Cruises ship not only offers a relaxing retreat from which to explore the world, but also often results in the creation of new friendships or touching connections with others. Princess constantly hears such stories from passengers and crew, and each week throughout 2013 shared one about personal bonds that occurred on a Princess cruise in “Linked by the Sea.” The blog has now wrapped up a year of chronicling interesting stories from passengers and crew members who have made significant connections at sea during a cruise. In total, 48 travel stories captured the diverse ways people make discoveries onboard that lead to meaningful or lifelong relationships.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Monday, December 30, 2013

Bud Light Hotel (Norwegian Getaway) Preparing For Super Bowl Weekend

Bud Light made "waves" across the country last month when it announced Bud Light Hotel New York would take place on a brand-new cruise ship docked on the Hudson River (that would be Norwegian Cruise Line's new Norwegian Getaway). The Official Beer Sponsor of the NFL announced its concert lineup for the four-day Bud Light Hotel that includes headline performances by Foo Fighters and Imagine Dragons as well as a tribute to New York City's hip-hop history curated by The Roots.

To host parties befitting of the Big Apple, the Bud Light Hotel will even extend beyond Norwegian Getaway and include a full makeover of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum footprint. To accomplish this feat, Bud Light will construct the Bud Light Hotel Amphitheatre—a heated concert venue across the street from the Intrepid that will host the weekend's nightly concerts and parties—and the Bud Light Hotel Lounge—a two-level, 1,500-person venue adjacent to the Intrepid—that will house hospitality activations during the day as well as late-night after-parties. In total, this year's Bud Light Hotel event space will encompass more than 300,000 square feet.

The festivities will kick off on Thursday, Jan. 30, when EA SPORTS and Bud Light host "The Roots Present Hip Hop NYC" featuring RUN DMC, Busta Rhymes and special guests. This one-of-a-kind show will chronicle New York's hip-hop legacy with The Roots performing alongside legendary New York hip-hop artists. The concert will follow EA SPORTS Madden Bowl XX, which showcases NFL players and celebrities in head-to-head competitions playing Madden NFL 25.

The Bud Light Hotel will shift musical gears on Friday, Jan. 31, when Bud Light hosts the "Pandora Presents" party featuring Imagine Dragons. One of the biggest breakout acts of 2013, Imagine Dragons released one of the top-selling rock albums of the year and performed to sold-out crowds across the nation on their headlining tour.

Bud Light Hotel New York will reach its crescendo on the eve of football's biggest game when Foo Fighters headline the Bud Light Main Event concert on Saturday, Feb. 1. Joining Foo Fighters on the Bud Light Main Event lineup is the popular Grammy Award-winning Zac Brown Band. The two bands share a common bond—Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl recently collaborated with Zac Brown Band on their newest project, "The Grohl Sessions Vol. 1." The Bud Light Hotel weekend will come to a close on Super Bowl Sunday when Pepsi and Bud Light present a pre-game concert featuring performances by rockers Fall Out Boy and country star Jake Owen.

When the festivities and the game come to an end—no matter which team wins—Norwegian Getaway will shed her "hotel" image and make her way to her new Miami homeport to be christened on Feb. 7th by her Godmothers, the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Friday, December 27, 2013

Good Times on The Malt Shop Memories Cruise

As the end of 2013 approaches, we're thinking back to the good times we had this year. One trip stands out as the most memorable as we ponder, what would it be like to turn back time to our teens—go to another sock hop, and dress up for another Prom? Just ask any of the passengers who sailed with usd on Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2013 aboard Holland America Line’s Eurodam. Not only were we able to do those things, we attended concerts every night starring some of the best-loved artists of our day—Neil Sedaka, Bobby Rydell, Shirley Alston Reeves of The Shirelles, The Four Tops, The Tokens, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers, Petula Clark, Lesley Gore, Gary U.S. Bonds, Chris Montez, The Crystals, and Little Anthony and The Imperials. Of course no Malt Shop Memories Cruise would be complete without the Elvis Tribute Artists.

Take a trip down memory lane with the Cruise Diva Crew on The Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2013.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It's Your Duty To Shop, But It Won't Be As Duty-Free In Texas

It's been a while since Cruise Diva took a look at duty free shopping in It's Your Duty To Shop, But It Won't Be Free, and it's rime to take a look at the rules since recent developments in Texas have made it a little less duty-"free" than in the past.

You know you're going to shop while on a cruise vacation, so before leaving home it's a good idea to pre-plan your shopping forays to insure the best retail therapy experience. Whether souvenirs, bargains, or high end goods are the object of your quest, set a budget (then stick with it) and check prices before you set sail. The Caribbean was once a shopper's paradise due to its duty-free status and visitors found bargains galore. Much of that luster has diminished, but it's still possible to find deals. Even if you pay the same amount for a bottle of imported perfume in St. Thomas as you would have paid at your hometown Macy's, you'll save the sales tax and that can be considerable in some states.

Two items that are still bargains for most cruisers are alcohol and tobacco. St. Thomas is particularly smoker-friendly and cigarettes there can be purchased at bargain prices—often less than half of what they cost in some states. Shops on board and ashore are also noted for alcohol and tobacco prices that can't be beat in many of our home states, so it isn't uncommon to see departing passengers toting boxes containing bottles of duty-free liquor ashore at the end of their cruises.

However, that may not be such a frequent sight in Texas in the future. Be prepared to get out your wallet after Jan. 4, 2014 if you are bringing alcohol or tobacco into The Lone Star State when your cruise ends in Galveston. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) passed a resolution to begin collecting personal importation taxes on such purchases whether they were made in duty-free shops or not. While the state has been collecting such taxes along the Texas-Mexico border for forty years, apparently it just dawned on them to extend the practice to seaports as well. TABC tax collection points will be located in both terminals 1 and 2 at the Galveston cruise facility where passengers pass through the U.S. Customs secondary checkpoint. Shoppers will be able to pay the taxes with either cash or credit cards. How conveniently thoughtful of them! The tax man will accept your "donation" in the Port of Houston starting in the fall of 2014. Depending on what you purchase, the state's tax rates could wipe out any duty-free savings.

The good news (so far) is that other states, such as Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, and California, haven't followed suit (yet). In case you wonder what the duty-free limitations are, they are explained in Cruise Diva's Traveler's Standard Duty-Free Exemption.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Whether you're on land or at sea, Cruise Diva wishes you peace and joy and a very Merry Christmas.

Linda and Mel

Image Aboard Renaissance Cruises R3

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

NEW! Ship Preview: Carnival Sunshine

Sail along with Cruise Diva from New Orleans on a cruise aboard the totally refurbished Carnival Sunshine.

Pierside, Carnival Sunshine may look just like another Carnival Cruise Lines ship, but that appearance is deceiving as she was originally Carnival Destiny when first launched in 1996.

After a 49-day $155 million total transformation that featured the addition of a partial deck and the expansion of two more, Carnival Sunshine emerged as a virtually new ship that contains all the Fun Ship 2.0 innovations which have been added to other ships in the fleet, as well as a few unique spaces.

The 3,006-passenger Carnival Sunshine offers stunning features—such as the Caribbean-inspired Red Frog Pub with its own private label house brand Thirsty Frog Red draught beer; a massive water park with waterslides, aqua play splash park, and drencher-type "bucket"; SportsSquare outdoor recreation area with mini-golf, a basketball/volleyball/soccer multipurpose court, an outdoor fitness center, ropes course, and even a hot dog stand; the all-new Ji Ji Asian Kitchen specialty restaurant; Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse; and Cucina del Capitano Italian specialty restaurant. And there's even more, as the ship incorporates "Fun Ship 2.0" elements, including Guy's Burger Joint, the Blue Iguana Cantina, the Library Bar, and poolside bars—the Red Frog Rum Bar and Blue Iguana Tequila Bar. Other dining and entertainment highlights include Bonsai Sushi, the line's full-service sushi restaurant; Sea Days Brunch; Hasbro, The Game Show; and new musical revues from Playlist Productions.

For a ship that once was the world’s largest, Carnival Sunshine feels surprisingly intimate with its fresh new public rooms and sunny atmosphere. While her decor is toned down considerably, within her Caribbean inspired interiors you'll still find all the fun you expect and more.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Monday, December 23, 2013

Holland America Line Increases Specialty Dining Charges

Passengers cruising on Holland America Line's ships will soon be paying more for dinners in their specialty restaurants. By the end of the year, prices in the Pinnacle Grill will increase from $25 to $29; Le Cirque dinners, which are served in the Pinnacle Grill, will set passengers back $49 (up from $39); and Tamarind prices will be raised from $15 to $20.

We understand there will be no increase for the Master Chef's Dinner, currently $89 per person including wine pairings, and the $10 charge for Italian dinners in Canaletto Restaurant doesn't change.

Even with the increases, specialty dining remains a bargain on Holland America Line.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Carnival Valor Rescues Five Mariners From Sinking Yacht Off Coast Of St. Maarten

Earlier this morning, while sailing off the coast of St. Maarten, the Carnival Valor rescued five mariners from a pleasure craft that was sinking in inclement weather.

Following the rescue, the five adults were brought on board Carnival Valor and evaluated by the ship's medical staff, and provided with food and water. Two of Carnival Valor's deck officers sustained minor contusions during the rescue effort.

Carnival Valor is currently in St. Maarten, its next scheduled port of call, where it arrived this morning. Carnival Valor is on the last leg of a 7-day cruise that departed San Juan last Sunday, December 15, part of its year-round schedule of week-long southern Caribbean departures from that port.

The rescue continues Carnival Cruise Lines' longstanding practice of assisting distressed mariners and vessels at sea.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

MSC Cruises’ Lirica Class Ships Set For A “Renaissance”

All four of MSC Cruises’ Lirica class ships—MSC Armonia, MSC Lirica, MSC Sinfonia, and MSC Opera—will be part of an ambitious $273 million “renaissance program” over the next two years.

The smallish class of ships won’t be huge following their transformation, but they will be larger, filled with more features, and accommodate more passengers and crew. The upgrades will add new entertainment options, technological advancements, expanded shopping options, and up to nearly 200 new cabins per ship. The ships will also have entirely new splash parks, with water features and water cannons. Additionally, onboard boutiques will be enhanced with new interiors, more space, and an all new high-end perfumery with display corners dedicated to leading brands, such as Dior, Lancôme, and Dolce & Gabbana.

“When our four Lirica class ships return to the seas after a total of 38 weeks in dry dock, they will be entirely new ships with additional amenities and comfort for our travelers, allowing them to reach sophisticated and refined destinations around the world,” said MSC Cruises’ Chief Executive Officer, Gianni Onorato, during a press conference in Rome. “The extensive renovations represent a huge investment, and reaffirms, once again, our company’s dedication to high standards, cutting-edge technology and continuous product innovation. MSC Cruises’ ships are works of art in their own right. With these exciting upgrades to our fleet—already renowned for its unrivaled style and elegance—we will be even more competitive”.

The dry dock schedule for the MSC Cruises Lirica Class “renaissance program” is:
· MSC Armonia: August 31 to November 17, 2014
· MSC Sinfonia: 12 January 12 to March 16, 2015
· MSC Opera: May 2 to July 4 2015
· MSC Lirica: August 21 to November 9, 2015
The four Lirica class ships, built between 2003 and 2005 at the STX yards in Saint-Nazaire, France, will be upgraded by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri. The ships are currently 251 meters (823 feet) long, weigh 60,000 tons, and carry 2,069 passengers. With the addition of 193 passenger cabins, 59 crew member cabins, and other new features, the ships will be 275 meters (902 feet) long, weigh 65,000 tons, and carry 2,680 passengers after renovations are complete.

While MSC Cruises didn’t reveal exactly how the transformations are to be accomplished in their announcement, by taking into consideration the increased post-renovation length of approximately 79 feet, we can assume that the ships will be “stretched”—a process that involves cutting a ship apart and inserting an entirely new section before putting it all back together again. However, the new water parks could be added by building up with the addition of a new deck. No matter how it is accomplished, it will be an amazing feat that bears keeping an eye on and we’ll keep you posted here on the blog and in Cruise Diva’s Cruise News as details become available.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Viking Cruises Reaches Major Milestone For New Ocean Cruise Line

The keel has been laid for Viking Cruises' first ocean cruise ship, Viking Star, marking the next construction phase of the company's first-ever ocean-going vessel. The ceremony took place on Wednesday, December 18, at Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard outside Venice, Italy.

Steel was first cut for Viking Star in June 2013, and the laying of the keel is a formal recognition of the start of construction. The 930-passenger Viking Star features state-of-the-art design from experienced nautical architects and engineers. Viking Star is scheduled to be delivered in early 2015.

As reported by Seatrade Insider, this is just a start for Viking's ocean cruises—"With two memoranda of understanding, in April and December 2012, and subsequent contracts signed respectively on July 12, 2012, and Dec. 13, 2013, Fincantieri is building two ships for Viking while other two await finalization of financing, 'but we don’t see major problems,' said Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman of Viking Cruises, adding, 'The current plan for Viking Cruise includes these four ocean-going ships plus two more (options), but this is only the beginning,'"

Of his destination-intensive concept, Hagan said, "The ship and cruising idea are designed for people of 55-plus years, couples-focused, English-speaking, well-educated, affluent, who have an interest in culture, history and music" and when "compared to other competitors in the same market niche... [cruises will cost] significantly less."

Additionally, Hagan has revealed the success of the line's marketing campaign, saying, "Our new ocean itineraries are selling at an unprecedented rate, and the enthusiasm we have seen from guests is truly remarkable. There is undoubtedly interest in an ocean cruise experience that returns the focus to the destination, and Viking is actively planning to meet that demand."

Viking's ocean itineraries will include Viking Star's maiden voyages in Scandinavia and the Baltic; and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean. The all-veranda custom-designed vessel allows travelers to get closer than ever to their destinations with maximum time in ports, while highlighting history, art and local culture through privileged-access excursions and onboard experiences that are truly designed for the experienced traveler. On a related note, the company will also launch a record-breaking 14 new river vessels—Viking Longships®—in March 2014.

Take a look at what is in store on Viking Star.


Image & Video Courtesy Viking Cruises

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Is Quantum of the Seas Too Big For Bermuda?


Earlier this year the Bermuda Sun revealed that Royal Caribbean was “keen” on adding Bermuda to the 2015 summer season of its newest mega-ship. But there is a hitch—Quantum of the Seas may just be too big. That being the case, it would mean shipping channels would need to be dredged if Bermuda is to be on the ship’s itinerary.

The size problem was revealed during simulation tests conducted last month in the United States. It was determined that the existing North and South Channels are not big enough to safely accommodate the vessel, particularly in high winds. Norwegian Breakaway, the biggest ship to presently call on Bermuda, transits the North Channel to reach the West End.

A Bermuda Government spokesman said, “Technical officers from the Ministry of Public Works in consultation with the Department of Marine & Ports will analyze the simulation report and trial run data, and then provide recommendations that will be considered by Cabinet.”

While Bermuda is not on her previously announced schedule of itineraries, if Quantum of the Seas is to visit the island in less than two years a decision will need be be forthcoming and dredging will have to commence soon in order to be finished in time.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Martinique Opens New Cruise Village

Tourism Commissioner Karine Roy-Camille
cuts the ribbon to open the Cruise Village
Cruise passengers going ashore in Martinique are set to be greeted by the Martinique Tourism Authority’s latest initiative to welcome them to the island—the Martinique Cruise Village. Located at the Pointe Simon Cruise Terminal at the entrance of downtown Fort-de-France, the complex consists of vendors and information points that will be open from 8:30am to 4:30pm on days of ship calls until Friday, April 18, 2014.

The village features a wide variety of vendors, who all accept US dollars, including: local clothing stands, jewelry and accessory designers, locally-produced skin care products and perfumes, souvenir shops, local artists exhibiting their paintings and artisanal treats. Set to the rhythm of live music, the experience is enriched by local dancing and rum tasting. In addition,visitors will soon be able to buy the local AOC rums.

Mrs. Karine Roy-Camille, the Martinique Tourism Commissioner said, “This temporary cruise village is a milestone for the cruise passengers’ experience in Martinique. We hope to enhance visitors’ appreciation of the island by extending the traditional Martinican hospitality from the moment they step off the boat.”

The Martinique Tourism Authority and the Fort-de-France tourist office also have booths onsite to assist visitors in planning their perfect day on the island. Further into the city, visitors will be assisted by “city stewards” easily noticeable by their red jacket uniforms. These multilingual local guides, dispatched throughout the city, are on hand to answers questions, give directions and greet visitors.

Cruise lines making port calls in Martinique during the 2013-2014 cruise season include: Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Aida, Seabourn, Star Clippers, Club Med, Compagnie du Ponant, Costa, MSC, Sea Cloud, and Swan Hellenic.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

American Cruise Lines Building Four New Riverboats

European rivers are arguably the world’s most cruised inland waterways, but there is domestic competition on the horizon as American Cruise Lines expands its presence on U.S. rivers. The line, which is the largest U.S.-flagged cruise company and operates the newest fleet of riverboats and small cruise ships on more than 35 itineraries around the country, revealed that it is building four new riverboats for American river cruising. Construction has already begun on the first two ships, with the first to begin cruising in in the spring of 2015. It will be followed by the others entering service between 2015 and 2017. The first two new riverboats will carry between 150 and 200 guests and will cruise the Mississippi River system and the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The four new ships will bring all the latest amenities and comforts to each area cruised, including the largest staterooms, private balconies, and spacious dining and lounge venues.

In 2012, American Cruise Lines reinvigorated Mississippi River cruising by bringing an unprecedented level of refinement and service to the river through its introduction of Queen of the Mississippi, the first new ship on the river in nearly twenty years. The additional new ships will have many of the same features and have the largest staterooms ever with sliding glass doors for panoramic views, room service, and other amenities unique to American Cruise Lines.

At least one of the four new ships will operate cruises along the Columbia and Snake Rivers from the Pacific Coast to the Idaho border, more than 500 miles inland. It will be specially built for cruising in the Pacific Northwest with historic accents and modern conveniences. Every stateroom is designed to have panoramic views, private balconies, and room service. The art collection is being carefully selected to highlight the Lewis and Clark expedition and the Native American tribes who helped them. Guests will learn about the Lewis and Clark expedition while enjoying the comforts of the finest ship to ever sail this region. The itinerary will be similar to American Cruise Lines’ existing itinerary on the Columbia and Snake Rivers aboard Queen of the West, which underwent extensive renovation in 2010.

“There is a longstanding history of riverboating in America,” said Timothy Beebe, Vice President of American Cruise Lines. “Since the 1800s, each new riverboat has sought to outdo the last by offering more amenities, comforts, and service than its predecessors. The Columbia and Snake Rivers have not seen a new riverboat in over ten years, so the upgrade is overdue, and the new ship on the Mississippi River will complement the Queen of the Mississippi beautifully.”

The new-building program comes on the heels of a recent American Cruise Lines revelation that the company has experienced annual growth of more than 25% in each of the past three years. The company is the leader in U.S. river cruising and has an ambitious growth plan to provide its product and service to more people each year. Long established and deeply experienced in cruise travel, American Cruise Lines has most recently received world-wide recognition as the first to revive paddlewheel river cruising in America. The line is known for working closely with guests and travel agents before, during, and after a cruise to create a highly personalized cruise experience.

Image Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Monday, December 16, 2013

NEW! Royal Princess Review

Join Cruise Diva for a first-hand look at Royal Princess, the first cruise ship in a brand new class for Princess Cruises and the line's largest and most feature-filled ship to date.

What made a positive impression and what didn't? Find out as Cruise Diva shares her opinion.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Saturday, December 14, 2013

MSC Divina Now Sailing From Miami

A scheduling conflict kept this Cruise Diva from sailing on MSC Divina when she arrived in Miami last month to begin offering year-round cruises to the Caribbean. The video below shows her arrival and what I missed. I'm sorry I couldn't be there to greet her, but hope to bring a full first-hand report in the new year.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Coming to Carnival Cruise Lines in 2014—'Seuss at Sea' for Kids & Families

Dr Seuss Bookville
One ship, two ships, it’s Dr. Seuss on cruise ships! Carnival Cruise Lines has unveiled an exclusive partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises to bring the beloved children’s brand and favorite characters to the line’s fleet of 24 “Fun Ships.” In an industry first, the Carnival Seuss at Sea program will offer a variety of exciting and immersive onboard youth, family, dining and entertainment experiences featuring the amazing world and words of Dr. Seuss.

“It is fun to have fun but you have to know how,” said the Cat in the Hat in the iconic Dr. Seuss book. The fun on Carnival starts in the main dining room during The Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with the Cat in the Hat and Friends. Attendees will have the opportunity to kick off their day dining on playful foods straight from Dr. Seuss’s imagination—green eggs and ham, moose juice and goose juice, along with colorful fruit and pancake stacks, funky French toast and more, with traditional breakfast favorites also available. While Carnival’s wait staff set the tone with Dr. Seuss-inspired uniforms, popular Dr. Seuss characters such as the Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two, and Sam will be joining guests at their tables for fun interactions and one-of-a-kind photo opportunities. Hosted on the first sea day of each cruise, this special breakfast will be available for $5 per guest.

Every ship in the Carnival fleet will have a selection of classic Dr. Seuss books, toys, and themed activities for children to enjoy. Special showings of beloved movies such as “The Cat in the Hat” and Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” will be shown outdoors on the giant screen of the Seaside Theater on Lido Deck as part of the cruise line’s Dive-In Movies programming. On Carnival Freedom, which is undergoing a major refurbishment in May, and Carnival Vista, which debuts in early 2016, there will be a Dr. Seuss Bookville facility, a unique and dedicated Seuss-themed play space featuring iconic décor, colors, shapes and funky furniture inspired by the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. The perfect place for families to relax, unwind and enjoy each other’s company, guests can read one of many available Dr. Seuss books or stretch their imagination through other family-fun activities including arts and crafts, toys and Dr. Seuss-inspired games.

Story time at sea will never be the same with the introduction of Seuss-a-palooza Story Time, A Rhyming Good Time—an interactive reading event that brings to life the colorful world of Dr. Seuss for kids of all ages. Hosted on a sea day each voyage in a custom-created environment on board or within Dr. Seuss Bookville, this memorable storytelling event will feature some of the most beloved Dr. Seuss characters. At other times during the voyage, children and families will have the chance to meet and interact with favorite Dr. Seuss characters and participate in special photo opportunities featuring colorful and zany Dr. Seuss-inspired artwork, as well as through events and activities such as the Seuss-a-palooza Character Parade where guests can join Dr. Seuss characters in a swirly conga line along the Promenade. A variety of Dr. Seuss-themed retail items will be available, as well.

The Seuss at Sea initiative builds upon Carnival’s leadership position in family cruising. The line carries more than 700,000 kids aboard its fleet each year—nearly half of the total number of kids carried by the entire North American cruise industry. Roll-out of the Seuss at Sea program will begin aboard Carnival Splendor in February 2014 with implementation across the full fleet by 2015, as well as Carnival Vista when that ship enters service in early 2016.

“We are thrilled to bring the fun, whimsical and wonderful world of Dr. Seuss to life for our guests of all ages to create even more fun and memorable moments during our cruise vacations,” said Mark Tamis, senior vice president of guest operations for Carnival Cruise Lines.

Take a look...



Image & Video Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Bacardi Bar Opens on Norwegian’s Private Island

Norwegian Cruise Line has introduced an exclusive new bar and it isn’t afloat. The Bacardi Bar, a first of its kind rum bar, opened Dec 9th on Great Stirrup Cay, the line’s private island in the Bahamas. The Bacardi Bar on Great Stirrup Cay offers guests the opportunity to relax at a spectacular beach bar venue and experience Bacardi’s range of rums at the beverage company’s first permanent Bacardi Bar location in the Caribbean.

The Bacardi Bar on Great Stirrup Cay celebrated its grand opening during Norwegian Pearl’s visit to the island this week. Guests sailing on board Norwegian Pearl attended the bar’s opening festivities, which featured a live DJ set, exhibitions by two of Bacardi’s top mixologists, drink samples, giveaways and a christening ceremony featuring a Bacardi-bottle breaking.

Inspired by Bacardi’s rich 150 year history and distinct Cuban heritage, Great Stirrup Cay’s Bacardi Bar and terrace feature the iconic Bacardi Bat logo, original Bacardi advertising artwork, and Cuban-inspired fixtures including specially-designed tiles and shutters. Guests who visit the Bacardi Bar during their time on the island can experience some of Bacardi’s superior craft rums through superb freshly made cocktails such as the Cuba Libre and the Original Bacardi Mojito. In addition, the Bacardi Bar will feature a flight of Mojitos so that guests can sample some of Bacardi’s most popular Mojito creations. Guests who visit the bar each week will have a chance to experience exclusive events and entertainment, including live mixology, live DJ’s, and a variety of interactive games.

"We have had a long, strong partnership with Norwegian Cruise Line I and am pleased that we were able to work together so closely to develop Great Stirrup Cay’s new Bacardi Bar,” said Zachary Sulkes, Bacardi Global Travel Retail Regional Manager. “It is partners like Norwegian that allow Bacardi to continue to bring added value to the cruise industry. Norwegian’s Private Island offered an opportunity for Bacardi and Norwegian to give guests a new and unique experience, and we believe Norwegian’s guests will agree when they visit the island.”

Norwegian was the first cruise line to offer an uninhabited tropical island experience exclusively for its guests. Norwegian’s 250-acre private island offers beautiful white sand beaches, swaying palms, and calm pristine waters where an abundance of colorful marine life inhabits the surrounding coral reefs. Activities on the island include snorkeling; Waverunner® tours; eco boat tours; kayaking; parasailing; shopping at the straw market; and more.

Guests sailing on board Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Breakaway, and Norwegian Sky all have the opportunity to experience the Bacardi Bar during their upcoming cruises to the Bahamas.
-- Norwegian Pearl offers 7-day cruises to the Western Caribbean from Miami. Ports of call include, Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico.
-- Norwegian Sky sails year-round from Miami, offering a series of 3- and 4-day cruises. Norwegian Sky visits Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay on 3-day cruise, the 4-day itinerary also includes a visit to Grand Bahama Island.
-- Norwegian Breakaway cruises from the Big Apple to the Bahamas & Florida, now through Dec 28, 2013, with ports of call including Port Canaveral (Orlando and the Beaches), Florida; Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas.
Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Comedy Fundraiser Raises $8,000+ For Toys For Tots

In the spirit of the season, a recent comedy fundraiser sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines and featuring three popular comedians was an overwhelming success, selling out the 350-seat Fort Lauderdale Improv Comedy Club and generating more than $8,000 for the United States Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program.

Sponsored by Carnival’s Global Contact Center and hosted by Eli Rodriguez, a Carnival personal vacation planner who is also a professional comedian, the standing-room-only event showcased the talents of Happy Cole, Tommy Drake, and Lester Bibbs, three hilarious comedians who are among the featured acts that regularly appear at Carnival’s fleetwide Punchliner Comedy Clubs and at comedy clubs throughout the country.

The benefit comedy show is just one of several holiday fundraisers coordinated by Global Contact Center employees designed to raise money to purchase toys for needy children as part of the Toys for Tots program. According to event organizers, the comedy benefit was so successful that plans are already in the works for another fundraiser next year.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Night at B.B. King's Club on Holland America Line

Aboard Holland America Line's Eurodam for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise last month, we were treated to an unexpected performance of the B.B. King Blues Club Band. As a rule, cruise ship performers get a 'vacation' during full-ship charter music themed cruises so it was a very pleasant surprise that we were able to spend "A Night at B.B. King's Club" and enjoy their outstanding show.

And now, due to the exceptional popularity of its first B.B. King's Blues Club on ms Eurodam, Holland America Line will expand the experience to five ships in 2014. The concept that debuted in March 2013 will become an integral part of the nightly entertainment experience on Eurodam, ms Noordam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Westerdam, and ms Zuiderdam. In addition, "Live from BB King's" headlines one night on the ship's main stage in the Show Lounge. Entertaining guests with its musicianship and quality, the B.B. King Blues Club Band will return to Eurodam for an open-ended run starting on March 23, 2014, following their current run that ended Dec. 8, 2013. The Club will be onboard Westerdam now through April 5, 2014, and Zuiderdam now through March 17. Noordam and Nieuw Amsterdam begin open-ended runs of B.B. King's Blues Clubs, with launch dates of Dec. 16 and April 6, respectively.

"The B.B. King's Blues Club on Eurodam is packed full every night and is one of our highest-rated entertainment offerings," said Richard Meadows, executive vice president of marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America Line. "By expanding it to other ships in the fleet, more of our guests will be able to enjoy these talented musicians and their engaging performances."

The music and excitement that comes direct from Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, thrills guests five nights a week when world-class musicians from the B.B. King Blues Club Band create a dynamic sound to get the crowd energized. The eight-piece band features two vocalists backed by a drummer, bassist, guitarist, sax player, trumpeter, and organist. Each ships' Queen's Lounge will be trimmed with portraits of the Memphis Blues legend, illuminating the prominence of Memphis blues and its influence on everyone from Sam & Dave and Otis Redding to The Rolling Stones and Neil Diamond. A special stage will be crafted to resemble a Memphis nightclub with hanging guitars as a backdrop. Exclusive specialty cocktails from the land-based clubs also will be served, featuring the tasty, rum-based Lucille and Rock Me Baby concoctions mixed with different fruit liqueurs and juices.

Created and named after the reigning king of the blues and recording artist for more than four decades, B.B. King's Blues Club in Memphis, Nashville, Las Vegas, West Palm Beach, and Orlando are supper club-style restaurants featuring live music every night of the week. B.B. King's offers a perfect blend of some of the finest music and a variety of the South's most delicious comfort foods influenced by flavors from New Orleans all the way to the Mississippi Delta. For more information, visit BBKingClubs.com and HollandAmerica.com.

Images © Cruise.Diva.com

Monday, December 9, 2013

Oceania To Transform Their Trio of “R-Class” Ships

Last month Oceania Cruises announced details of the largest refurbishment program in the company's history. The award-winning trio of R-Class ships, Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica will undergo a combined $50 million dollar transformation during the second quarter of 2014.

While retaining the warmth, intimacy, and charm Oceania Cruises’ guests have come to expect, all public rooms, suites, and staterooms will feature elegant new furnishings and décor. Many of the amenities and design elements that debuted on the line’s newest ships, including Baristas, Oceania Cruises’ signature specialty coffee bar, and the state-of-the-art grill in the Terrace Café, are being added during the refits.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to incorporate many of the best features and interior design elements from our acclaimed Marina and Riviera to Regatta, Insignia and Nautica. Not only does it enrich and enhance the guest experience, it underscores our commitment to providing our guests with a consistently outstanding experience across the entire fleet,” stated Kunal S. Kamlani, President of Oceania Cruises.

Transformation Highlights:
· All staterooms will receive rich new décor, imbuing them with a new sense of style, elegance and flair.
· Penthouse suites will be transformed with stunning new furnishings, rich upholstery and a vibrant yet calming palette that reflects the sea, sun and sky.
· Owner’s and Vista Suites will receive new bathrooms featuring oversized showers along with new marble and granite vanities.
· The addition of Baristas, our relaxing coffee bar where master baristas prepare complimentary illy® espressos, frothy cappuccinos and fresh pastries throughout the day.
· The Terrace Café will be transformed with dramatic new furnishings, flooring, wall-coverings, and lighting. This restaurant will also feature a state-of-the-art grill, which prepares cooked-to-order specialties such as juicy steaks, succulent lobster tails and mouth-watering chops
· Horizons will be resplendent in a new palate of soothing sea blues, cocoa brown and mint and furnished with all new chairs and sofas that are perfect for conversing, relaxing or simply taking in the stunning views.
· The Main Lounges will be completely refurbished with new carpeting, chairs and luxurious new fabrics and upholstery.
· Ever-popular Martinis will receive new furnishings while retaining its classic ambiance.
· The pool deck will sport all new furniture and new tile work.
· The Canyon Ranch Spa Club will have new Steam and Changing Rooms with dramatic new mosaics.
· The Sports Deck, located atop the ship with magnificent vistas of the sea, features a new mini-golf course, new shuffleboard courts and selection of deck games.
The transformed Insignia's first cruise after she returns from her two-year charter will depart on May 8, 2014 from Barcelona. Nautica will debut on May 16, 2014 in Civitavecchia and Regatta on June 7, 2014 in Vancouver for her Alaska cruise SEASON.

Additionally, Virginia Watters, wife of the line’s Founding Chairman, Joe Watters, and the original Godmother of Insignia, will rechristen the ship in Istanbul on June 11, 2014. The ceremony will celebrate the return of the ship to the Oceania Cruises fleet after a two-year hiatus. Virginia Watters first christened Insignia in March 2004 in the presence of His Serene Highness, Prince Albert in Monte Carlo, Monaco. Since then, the ship has carried tens of thousands of guests on hundreds of voyages around the globe. Ten years later, Virginia Watters will rechristen “her ship” and welcome the 684-guest vessel back in true Oceania Cruises style.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Holiday Gifts For Cruisers

It's that time of year again with Holiday gift-giving just around the corner. Here at Cruise Diva headquarters we're acting as Santa's little helpers with some suggestions for gifts for cruisers. Since the malls are full of shoppers with long lines and difficulty finding parking, we've been browsing the products offered online and think we have some winners.

You might recognize the suggested gift pictured here on the left. That's a Cruise Luggage Tag Holderfrom Favors by Serendipity, available at Amazon.com in sets of eight or four. Cruise Luggage Tag Holders go the distance with no need to reinforce or laminate your printed luggage tags. The grommet at the top makes them even sturdier and longer lasting. Each tag includes a 6 1/2" vinyl loop for attaching to the luggage handle. Just print, fold the tag according to the instructions, put in a holder, attach to your luggage handles and then relax. Serving as a dual purpose luggage tag, insert your itinerary when flying and replace with your cruise luggage tag before getting on the ship. Now that most cruise lines have gone green and are having their passengers print out their own luggage tags, we love these luggage tag holders because they are reusable. Cruise Diva's have been used more than a dozen times are still look like new.

Another favorite from Favors by Serendipity, also offered by Amazon.com, is the Travel Shower Caddy at right. It's unique because it is perfectly sized for cruise ship showers, whether you bring your own travel size products, or use theirs. It's custom designed for travel size products, lightweight, and flat so it doesn't take up room in your suitcase (or the shower). As you can see by the photo, Cruise Diva also finds hers useful for small items that can get "lost" among larger bottles on the bathroom shelf. The Travel Shower Caddy comes with suction cups to attach it to the shower wall and also has Velcro straps for hanging it to bars on shower or bathroom shelves. I even use it at home by attaching the suction cups to my bathroom mirror. It's really an all purpose gift that your cruising friends and family will find useful all year-round.

We also turn to Amazon.com for another shipboard favorite—the water resistant Money & ID Holder at left. It has all the convenience of a lanyard and doesn't require punching a hole in your keycard. It comes sized in a 28" length for Womenand in a 34" length for menand is an ideal backup in the event your purse or wallet is stolen or lost. You can wear it outside clothing to exhibit an ID/keycard or under outer clothing when more security is needed, such as when going ashore. It's water and moisture resistant, but not designed for swimming. When in our cabin, we find hanging up our ID holders on a hook keeps them handy and we are less likely to lose track of them. For the really forgetful, they can be hung on the cabin's inside doorknob so you never forget your keycard when leaving the room.

And finally, we'd like to recommend our cruise and travel related Fodor's guidebooks listed in the column to the right. With material written by Linda Coffman, AKA the Cruise Diva, we hope they will add to your knowledge about cruising and assist you with decision-making before your next cruise vacation.

Happy shopping and happy holidays!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Carnival Corp Names Vice Admiral William Burke As Its First-Ever Chief Maritime Officer

Carnival Corporation, the world's largest cruise company, announced that Vice Admiral William Burke has been appointed to the newly created position of Chief Maritime Officer, effective Dec 9, 2013. Burke will report directly to Chief Operations Officer Alan Buckelew and will have oversight of the company's maritime operations around the world. He will be responsible for maritime quality assurance and policy, shipbuilding, ship refits, and research and development.

"Bill had a distinguished career with the U.S. Navy, and we are excited about him joining our leadership team, especially in a key position new to Carnival," said Buckelew. "In addition, Bill has deep experience in overseeing large maritime operations, both at sea and in shipyards, and his knowledge and expertise will be a major asset. But just as importantly, he is highly respected as a dynamic leader with a strong record of building high-performing teams."

Burke had a career in the Navy spanning 35 years with extensive experience in safety, engineering, strategic planning and operational readiness. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1978 with a degree in systems engineering, he served various active duty positions around the world for the Navy.

Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald added, "We are excited that Vice Admiral Burke is joining the Carnival family. His leadership and deep experience will serve us well in managing our fleet of over 100 ships carrying more than 10 million guests a year."

In recent positions, Burke served as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems directing the team that planned, programmed, budgeted and executed a large annual budget for Navy personnel, training, readiness, maintenance, platforms, and ordinance for all ships, submarines, aircraft and aircraft carriers, and as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics for Navy readiness and maintenance of all ships, submarines, aircraft and aircraft carriers, along with shore readiness and maintenance, logistics, and environmental and energy programs.

Carnival Corporation is the largest cruise company in the world, with a portfolio of cruise brands in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia, comprised of Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Ibero Cruises, P&O Cruises (Australia) and P&O Cruises (UK). Together, these brands operate 101 ships totaling 208,000 lower berths with eight new ships scheduled to be delivered between spring 2014 and fall 2016. Carnival Corporation also operates Holland America Princess Alaska Tours, the leading tour company in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon.

Meet Princess Cruises “Entertainer of the Year” Finalists

Three’s a charm and Princess Cruises is preparing to crown its top guest entertainer during the cruise line’s third annual Entertainer of the Year competition. Four finalists have been selected from the array of talented performers—comedians, magicians, tribute bands, and other specialty acts—who grace the Princess stages each year, and they will compete for the title during Princess’ upcoming Entertainer of the Year cruise.

Passengers will also be able to get in on the act by casting their ballots for their favorite performer aboard Caribbean Princess during the ship’s March 22-29, 2014 Western Caribbean cruise. Each finalist will offer several live performances during the cruise, after which passengers vote for their favorite entertainer. The winner will be announced on the final night of the cruise at a celebratory event in Princess’ signature venue, The Piazza.

The four finalists competing to hold the title of “Entertainer of the Year” are:
• Troy Thirdgill: Comedian Troy Thirdgill has not only performed for audiences on cruise ships, but also entertains at comedy clubs, military bases, colleges and large corporate events. His busy schedule has taken him to more countries than almost any comic in the world.
• Zach Winningham: Vocalist Zach Winningham hails from the Midwest farm town of Belleville, Indiana, where long country drives with his father introduced him to 50s and 60s rock n' roll, country, and bluegrass music.
• Hawley Magic: Illusionist Jonathan Hawley has performed around the world with his wife, Trisha, by his side as his featured assistant.
• Walk Like a Man: This dynamic tribute show captures the feel of a live concert performance from one of America's living legends, Frankie Valli. One of the lead vocalists, Val Martinez, even toured with Frankie Valli himself.
Finalists were determined by the Princess Cruises Entertainment department based on passenger surveys and onboard audience response. The winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize and will hold the title of “2013 Princess Cruises Entertainer of the Year.” More information about Princess Cruises’ live entertainment and other onboard activities is available at Princess.com/activites.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Carnival Cruise Lines To Introduce New Dinner Concepts

Food is a big deal on cruises and cruise lines are always looking at new ways to ramp up their passengers’ dining experiences. To that end, Carnival Cruise Lines is launching two new dinner concepts for the ships’ main dining rooms that will begin next week aboard the Carnival Glory. The new concepts, American TABLE and American FEAST, reflect an increased investment by Carnival in its main dining room experience and incorporate the results of extensive testing and research conducted among Carnival’s past guests.

During the development of the new dinner concepts, the cruise line’s management team spent time interacting with the leadership at Union Square Hospitality Group, a leading New York-based entertainment, food, and hospitality organization, to observe best practices and the organization’s approach to culinary excellence. Taking inspiration from that interaction, Carnival’s culinary team developed the new dinner concepts, which will be offered during a pilot period with some variation in the dishes, presentation style, and other elements to gauge additional guest feedback before rolling out the program fleetwide in the latter half of 2014 and 2015. Other ships included in the pilot are Carnival Liberty beginning in January, and Carnival Imagination and Carnival Inspiration starting in February.

American TABLE, offered on Cruise Casual nights, is designed to evoke a modern restaurant experience with an emphasis on American cuisine featuring a mix of familiar regional, fresh and contemporary dishes. Menus will change each evening and will feature an expansive array of appetizer, entrée, and dessert choices. Menu selections will feature a wide variety of new and inventive dishes, along with plenty of Carnival favorites that are exceptionally popular among the cruise line’s past guests.

Meals will begin with a stand-alone cocktail menu featuring a variety of drink specialties such as the Raspberry Mojito, the Carnival Cosmo, and the Sunset Serenity, which provide a unique twist on some favorite classics. Featured wines will also be offered by the glass, in addition to a wide-ranging list of wines available by the glass and bottle. The new American TABLE experience offers a full appetizer menu including selections such as Fried Calamari, which can be served family style for the table, as well as soup and salad options. Special selections called ‘Rare Finds’ for the more adventurous, such as Spicy Alligator Fritters and Frog Legs Provencal with Herb Butter, are available as well.

Entrée choices include pasta and poultry dishes such as Free Range Chicken with Salsa Verde and Charred Lemon or Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Breast with Black Bean, Corn and Tomato Salsa, as well as meat and seafood options such as Seared Tilapia with Capers and Parsley or Rosemary Braised Lamb Shank. Carnival favorites such as Flat Iron Steak with Pepper and Herbs, and Veal Parmigiana with Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce will continue to be offered as well.

“Port of Call” entree selections are inspired by the destination on the ship's itinerary that day. For example, when calling at St Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the day's ‘Port of Call’ entrees will include dishes such as Tropical Salad of Ripe Mango, Spicy Grilled Chicken Strips, Crispy Carrots and Red and Green Peppers on a Bed of Fresh Greens Drizzled with Tangy Raspberry Vinaigrette, and Island Chicken Curry with Potato Crisps and Sweet and Sour Mango Chutney. ‘From the Grill’ entrees such as Pork Chop with Caramelized Onions and Stewed Apple will be available every evening to provide diners with even more variety and choice.

Every exceptional meal should end with a fun dessert and the American TABLE dining experience will feature a special dessert menu with options such as S’Mores Parfait as well as a divine pie of the day option served whole for the table and a la mode. A variety of featured after-dinner drinks will also be available.

In addition to American TABLE, a second dining concept, American FEAST, will also be offered in the main dining room one or two times per voyage on Cruise Elegant nights. American Feast has been designed to create the feel of an elegant, elaborate special occasion celebrated by all guests in the restaurant. The American FEAST menu features a full selection of appetizers such as Mojito Cured Salmon with Minted Cucumber Slaw, and Crispy Crab and Corn Fritters with Pineapple, Coconut and Cilantro Salsa, followed by a savory pasta dish, served as the second course. Guests then choose their entrée from a selection of meats, seafood, and vegetarian choices such as Slow Cooked Prime Rib, Broiled Maine Lobster, and Miso Marinated Salmon Filet. Desserts such as Sticky Toffee Brioche with Whipped Crème Fraiche, Chocolate Nib Crunch, Toasted Coconut-Lime and Strawberry Compote will top off the meal in style.

“Dining has always been a hallmark of the Carnival cruise experience and we’re constantly looking for new ways to provide our guests with exceptional meals and service that become a highlight of their vacation, bringing people together while creating fond memories,” said Mark Tamis, senior vice president of guest operations for Carnival Cruise Lines. “With our new American TABLE and American FEAST concepts, we have sought to create a delicious, fun, welcoming and highly satisfying main dining room experience and look forward to our guests’ feedback as we refine the program to take it fleetwide next year.”

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Keep Your Cruise Essentials Secure Without A Purse

One of the great things about being on a cruise ship for us ladies is that we don't need to carry a lot of 'stuff'--our key card and a lipstick will generally see us through the evening. But we still need something to carry those essentials in. Usually a small purse is in order, although it can get in the way on the dance floor.

This is where a GirlyGoGarter® comes in handy. It's a lacy garter with a velcro closure and pockets that adheres to your upper thigh with GentleFlex™ Grippers. There are two types of pockets on the GirlyGoGarter®: easy-access (on the outside, just within the lace) and lock-flap (on the inside, against your thigh). Both types of pockets keep your money, ID, lip gloss, mobile phone, keys, passport and all of your essentials safe, secure and right at your fingertips.

It's a great little product and the lace is soft, not scratchy. But the garter is only practical if you are wearing a skirt. I loaded it down with a keycard, cell phone, and lipstick and didn't find it uncomfortable. However, a cell phone larger (and heavier) than my BlackBerry Q10 might weigh it down too much. Here's a tip. Don't order yours too large. The garter stretches a bit and the one I ordered was just too large for my leg.

Monday, December 2, 2013

MAMMA MIA! It's Quantum of the Seas

Building on their trend to feature fully licensed, Tony Award-winning Broadway productions at sea, Royal Caribbean International has announced that guests onboard Quantum of the Seas will enjoy MAMMA MIA! when she sails from the New York area in November 2014. The first details of the new ship's entertainment offerings were revealed to viewers who tuned in to watch the cruise line's float, "A World at Sea," set sail down the streets of Manhattan as part of the 87th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

More than 54 million people around the world have fallen in love with the characters, the story and the music that make MAMMA MIA!--the long running smash hit musical based on the songs of Swedish pop sensation ABBA--the ultimate feel-good show. The sunny, funny tale unfolds on a Greek Island paradise where on the eve of her wedding, a daughter's quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother's past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago. ABBA's greatest hits, including "Dancing Queen," "The Winner Takes It All," "Money, Money, Money," and "Take a Chance on Me," propel this enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship.

As the only cruise line to offer Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals at sea, Royal Caribbean guests can enjoy the 60's-inspired bebop of Hairspray on Oasis of the Seas, the jazz-infused score of Chicago: The Musical on Allure of the Seas, the toe-tapping disco beats of Saturday Night Fever on Liberty of the Seas and now, the storytelling magic of ABBA's timeless songs in MAMMA MIA! on the new Quantum of the Seas.

The new Quantum-class will debut in November 2014 with Quantum of the Seas, followed by her sister-ship Anthem of the Seas in April 2015. Each ship spans 16 decks, encompasses 167,800 gross registered tons, carries 4,180 guests at double occupancy and features 2,090 staterooms. More information on Quantum class of ships is available at RoyalCaribbean.com/QuantumoftheSeas.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chat, Find Friends & Book Services...MSC Divina Has An App For That

Dedicated to using the latest technological advancements to continually improve levels of service, MSC Cruises is making sure that travelers can connect effortlessly with the company at every stage, whether they’re in the process of booking their cruise or fine-tuning the details once on board. The latest example of this is the MSC Divina Traveler Web App, a new app designed to enhance the mobile experience of guests enjoying MSC Divina’s Caribbean itineraries.

Completely free to download and to use on board while the ship is sailing, the app is available in the company’s six official languages (English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish) and provides guests with up-to-date information about the ship, route, conditions at sea and in ports of call, promotions in the ship’s various shops and boutiques, as well as activities and special events on board. Travelers can even update their agendas with their preferred activities.

The app also allows users to reserve a wide range of services on board, from booking a table in the ship’s thematic restaurants, Eataly Steakhouse, Ristorante Italia and Galaxy, to saving a seat on popular shore excursions without having to wait in line at the excursion desk. Guests can use the app to chat with people they are traveling with, find new friends during their cruise, share their cruise experience with other connected passengers, and check-in and check-out of the various public spaces on board. For instant access to a world of information and new connections, and all for free, travelers on board can now connect to MSC Divina Traveler.

Over the coming months, this service will be rolled out across the majority of ships in the MSC Cruises fleet.

Image Courtesy of MSC Cruises

Friday, November 29, 2013

Disney Fantasy Presents The Royal Court Royal Tea for Young Princes & Princesses

Afternoon tea is a tradition on most cruise ships, but Disney Fantasy is taking it a bit further by celebrating the “Royal” in everyone, and whisking children and parents off to a magical affair during the Royal Court Royal Tea. This royal teatime provides families with classic Disney entertainment and exclusive meet and greet opportunities that evoke nostalgia in even the biggest “kids” who attend.

In the Royal Court restaurant aboard Disney Fantasy, children are greeted by Lady Chamomile, the Royal Tea Hostess, and are crowned as young princesses or dubbed as royal knights before they are escorted to their seats where more surprises await them. Lady Chamomile hosts the stately celebration with Chef Brule, the Royal Pastry Chef, and the pair presents the young princes and princesses with some of their most delightful culinary specialties during the merriment.

Of course, no royal celebration would be complete without a visit from classic (and modern) Disney Princesses, dubbing this fantastical affair an unforgettable family moment for all who attend. Each Princess will enter the Royal Court by invitation from Lady Chamomile and Chef Brule, with a little help from their royal guests. Escorted by a Royal Page, the Princesses will visit each table to meet guests and welcome them to the tea party. Lady Chamomile and Chef Brule prove to be welcoming and entertaining hosts of the event, telling stories, singing renditions of classic Disney tunes, and dancing—encouraging children to participate.

Served with tea sandwiches, pastries, cupcakes and tea, this courtly reception showcases some of Lady Chamomile’s and Chef Brule’s most delicious confections. Tea party guests soon discover that the Royal Court Royal Tea is full of surprises—young princesses receive a My Disney Girl doll dressed as their favorite princess, as well as a memory book, a jewelry box, and more, including very special gifts from each of the Princesses! Daring young princes complete their knightly fashions with a stately shield, seafaring Duffy bear, and more great surprises throughout the event. All royal guests also receive a memorable photograph and meet and greet opportunity with the Princesses, making this event a stand-out experience for both children and families. Now offered during 7-night itineraries onboard the Disney Fantasy, the Royal Court Royal Tea can be enjoyed by all.


The Royal Court Royal Tea party is available to young “princes and princesses” ages three and up. The cost is $279 for one adult and one child. An additional child is $210 and additional adult is $69.

Image & Video Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Before we sit down to dig into turkey, dressing, and all the other traditional dishes prepared for our Thanksgiving Day feast, we turn the television on to watch the iconic Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. This year, Royal Caribbean International has a float featuring some of the elements found aboard their cruise ships. One of the most recognizable is the rock climbing wall and their float has one too!

How'd they do that so that kids could actually climb it during the parade? Take a look...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Keep on “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Aboard Holland America Line

The “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” program has been such a hit that Holland America Line has extended it for another year. The experience brings the excitement of ABC’s hit show “Dancing with the Stars” to all 15 ships of Holland America Line throughout 2014. Once again the program will culminate with a Champions Cruise guest dance-off competition, which will take place on the Dec. 6, 2014, Caribbean sailing of ms Westerdam. Like 2013, the 2014 schedule will continue to feature “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” programming on all sailings throughout the year, in addition to six special “Dancing with the Stars” theme cruises featuring the show’s professional dancers and celebrities. Currently scheduled to sail on all six theme cruises in 2014 are professional dancers Tristan MacManus and Kym Johnson and television personality Carson Kressley and actress Sabrina Bryan.

Six Theme Cruises present the chance to sail with dance pros and celebrities from the hit ABC show. The “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” 2014 theme cruises are: June 14 and June 21 aboard ms Zuiderdam, 7-day Alaska roundtrip from Vancouver, British Columbia; July 26 and Aug. 2 aboard Westerdam, 7-day Alaska roundtrip from Seattle, Wash.; and Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 aboard Westerdam, 7-day eastern Caribbean roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Each theme cruise features guest performances from the dance pros and celebrities who dazzle the audience with routines from the television series. Additional events on theme cruises include dance lessons with the ship’s professional dancers, a special fashion show featuring glamorous show costumes and a chance to meet the dance pros and celebrities, ask questions and take photos with them.

Beginning with cruises that depart on or after Nov. 26, 2013, every sailing on all 15 ships in the Holland America Line fleet including the theme cruises will feature an exclusive “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” program. Included are complimentary dance lessons with the ship’s dance professionals and a dance-off competition for participating guests to compete for a chance to represent their ship on the 2014 Champions Cruise on Dec. 6, 2014. There will be a total of 15 winners on the Champions Cruise. Competitions held on sailings departing on or after Nov. 26, 2013 and ending no later than Oct. 22, 2014 are eligible.

Following preliminary rounds on each cruise, finalists will be paired with a Holland America Line dance professional to perform one of the show’s routines and compete against their fellow guests center stage in the ship’s main show lounge. A judging panel—senior ship officers, shipboard professional dancers and other cruise staff—will score participants’ performances and combine those scores with audience appreciation scores for a total tally to determine the winning guest Cruise Champion for each cruise. Judges onboard the six theme cruises may also include some of the “Dancing with the Stars” dance pros or celebrities onboard.

Beginning Sept. 21, 2014, winners of the guest competitions with the highest scores from each of Holland America Line’s 15 ships will be notified they have won a free ocean view stateroom on the Dec. 6, 2014, Champions Cruise to compete for the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy and title of Holland America Line’s “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Champion.

Image Courtesy of Holland America Line

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Celebrity Cruises To Kick Off 10th Anniversary Of Galapagos Vacations

The sentiment expressed by nearly every guest who experiences Celebrity Cruises' Galapagos Islands vacations comes down to a few simple adjectives: unforgettable, transformative, magnificent. As a result, Celebrity Cruises has announced that it is curating a guest-driven commemorative book that will debut next year to celebrate the cruise line's 10 years in the Galapagos Islands.

Past Celebrity Xpedition guests are being invited to be part of this storytelling collective, by way of sharing photos and stories of their Celebrity Xpedition memories on Celebrity's Facebook page. Guests whose content is selected for inclusion in the book will receive a free copy.

"We are pleased to have been providing thousands of vacationers with once-in-a-lifetime holidays in one of the world's most compelling and biodiverse regions for 10 years," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Celebrity Cruises. "We also are proud of the ways our guests and crew have helped us make a difference in the communities and ecosystems of the region. This book is the first of many ways we will commemorate that, as we enter our 10th year in this extraordinary destination."

Celebrity Xpedition's official 10th anniversary sailing will take place in June 2014 and all guests on board for the sailing will receive a complimentary copy of the book. The celebration will continue on every sailing through December 2015.

The state-of-the art, 100-guest Celebrity Xpedition has evolved Celebrity Cruises' signature vacation experience to meet the needs of the modern explorer. While guests enjoy an all-inclusive experience with hassle-free travel logistics—including privately chartered luxury air transfers and creature comforts such as gourmet cuisine, room service, in-suite dining, complimentary cocktails, plush bathrobes, and more—Celebrity's Galapagos vacations are focused on exploring unmatched natural wonders through naturalist-led experiences, including lectures and two tours and excursions daily. Celebrity's commitment to supporting and empowering the communities of the Galapagos Islands extends to a variety of initiatives, including a medical clinic, a fishing cooperative, agricultural cooperatives, and a partnership with the Galapagos Conservancy.

Image Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wii Have More Fun With Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line and Nintendo of America are expanding their partnership to offer the popular Wii U™ video game systems and Wii U games fleet wide. As part of the partnership expansion, the line will feature Nintendo’s newest video game console in all ships’ atriums and youth and teen centers. In addition, the new HD Wii U systems will be featured at various competitions and events on board each ship. Norwegian first partnered with Nintendo in March 2007, when Wii™ systems were introduced fleet wide. Now, with the introduction of Wii U, the successor to Wii, the gaming experience is being elevated to new levels. The interactive Wii U gaming system complements Norwegian’s Freestyle Cruising® by offering gaming opportunities to guests of all ages.

The new consoles give guests the chance to experience a variety of new action, adventure, party, racing, strategy, puzzle and sports games. Upcoming game rollouts will include The Legend of Zelda™: The Wind Waker HD, a high-definition re-release of one of the greatest Nintendo games of all time; Super Mario™ 3D World, the first multiplayer 3D Mario game for Wii U; New Super Luigi U™, starring Mario’s green-clad brother; Pikmin™ 3, which asks players to command an army of colorful creatures; and The Wonderful 101™, which puts players in control of a band of superheroes fighting off an alien invasion. Wii U delivers great video game experiences with exclusive Nintendo characters in HD. Wii U also features the GamePad controller, which removes the traditional barriers between players, their favorite games and the television by giving one player a second touch screen, while other players use traditional controllers. That lets different players experience the same game in different ways. It’s perfect for the kinds of multiplayer game-playing parties found on board cruise ships.

“The Wii consoles have always been extremely popular among our guests,” said Richard Ambrose, Norwegian Cruise Line’s vice president of entertainment. “The new Wii U systems are guaranteed to take gaming on board to the next level, and will surely be a hit.”

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brunch At Sea Aboard Carnival Sunshine

Sea days are a good time to sleep in and then enjoy a leisurely brunch. Aboard Carnival Sunshine we decided to do just that.

Along with the usual breakfast items you’d expect, such as steak and eggs, omelets, eggs benedict with either ham or salmon, pancakes, toast, croissants, coffee, and juice, there are also early morning starters such as fruit and cottage cheese, and midday-style selections like Caesar salad, mac and cheese, flaming tomato soup, pappardelle “Princie di Napoli” pasta, grilled salmon filet, hen ala diavola—chicken grilled with lemon and hot pepper, and a “hey” pork chop—a double cut pork chop topped with carmelized onion, and gorgonzola cream with sides of fries and blistered beans in BBQ sauce. A favorite with kids is the funnest French Toast, crusted with either Honey Nut Cheerios, Raisin Bran, or Frosted Flakes.

Ending with desserts—if you still have room—choices include ice cream, carmelized cheesecake, a double chocolate brownie, or banana cream pie just like grandma used to make.

The Bloody Mary Bar offers the traditional drink with vodka, or the bartender will mix up your own creation with rum, gin, or tequila—a “Bloody Maria.”

Brunch—a great way to start the day on Carnival Sunshine or her fleetmates—served from 8:30am until 1pm on sea days.

Images © CruiseDiva.com

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Carnival Sunshine Is So Entertaining

Studio VIP
With its launch this year, Carnival Sunshine introduced two brand new production shows—Epic Rock and Studio VIP, along with two other high-tech “Playlist Productions” shows—Latin Nights and Motor City, both of which debuted on Carnival Breeze last year.

In place of traditional stage scenery, Carnival’s “Playlist Productions” revues utilize towering LED screens that blend video, photographs, and special effects with the live on stage action of the singers and dancers to deliver engaging performances as the artists interact with automated movements of the screens, stage, lifts and scenic elements.

My personal favorite show is Motor City, which celebrates the R&B Motown sound of the 1960s and ’70s, with classic hits from Martha and the Vandellas, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and The Supremes to the more contemporary Stevie Wonder, Jackson Five, Lionel Richie, and the Commodores. The performers on the stage drew gasps from the audience when they perfectly synchronized their movements with those of the original artists projected on the screens behind them.

Hint: The shows are wildly popular so arrive early to get a seat. You won’t be sorry.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, November 22, 2013

Carnival Sunshine Dining Options

JiJi Asian Restaurant
A cruise wouldn’t be a cruise without food and Carnival Sunshine has no shortage of dining options, both complimentary and for nominal additional charges.

Two main dining rooms serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner with either set seating times or the increasingly popular open seating option. On sea days a morning brunch is served in the dining room at no additional cost.

Of course there’s the Lido Marketplace buffet that is nearly always open—and surprisingly uncrowded with its new setup of island stations that replace the usual lengthy buffet lines. Available 24-hours is hand-tossed pizza at Pizzeria del Capitano and, naturally, room service.

On the specialty restaurant front, traditionalists will find their favorite Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse on board for a leisurely upscale meal ideal for celebrating a special occasion. Reservations are required and the charge is $35 per person. Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, a new specialty option that has been introduced on Carnival Sunshine, features cuisine from the Far East with a $12 per person charge for adults, and $5 for children 11 and under. Selections at lunch include complimentary custom-made noodle dishes with a choice of noodles, vegetables, spices, and meats. Cucina del Capitano is the family-style Italian restaurant serving classic Italian dishes and new favorites for a nominal $12 per person charge at dinner. At lunch-time the restaurant is a complimentary pasta bar. In the evening Bonsai Sushi is a full-service sushi restaurant offering sushi, sashimi, rolls and more at al la carte pricing.

Taste Bar
Casual and complimentary poolside choices include BlueIguana Cantina where tacos and burritos can be personalized at a salsa and toppings bar and Guy’s Burger Joint for fresh-off-the-grill burgers, hand-cut fries, and innovative toppings. Aft in the SportSquare recreation area is Sea Dogs, a hot dog-shaped cart that serves up complimentary franks and toppings.

Still hungry? In the Ocean Plaza promenade you’ll find JavaBlue Café where cappuccinos, lattes, espressos, as well as coffees made with liqueurs, can be accompanied by pastries and sweet treats at a la carte pricing. Right next to JavaBlue is the Shake Spot that features individually priced classic milkshakes and floats, as well as adult versions spiked with bourbon, rum, and various liqueurs.

Finally, in Ocean Plaza The Taste Bar serves up a continental breakfast and offers complimentary sample tastings inspired by Carnival Sunshine’s dining venues, along with a signature cocktail tied to each eatery’s theme that are available for purchase.

The only thing missing is the Red Frog Pub’s “pub grub”… sadly, there’s no galley nearby.

Images © CruiseDiva.com