Thursday, February 28, 2013

Carnival Cruise Ships to Call at Royal's Private Island

Carnival Cruise Line is presently in the process of notifying passengers booked on Carnival Fascination and Carnival Ecstasy of an itinerary change taking place next month.

Key West, Florida has been scratched from each ships' five-day cruise schedules and replaced with a visit to Little Stirrup Cay, a private island in The Bahamas. When it sails from Jacksonville on March 14, 2013, Carnival Fascination will make the first of nineteen calls to the island, which are scheduled through December 2013, with an additional six calls planned in 2014. Carnival Ecstasy, which sails from Port Canaveral, Florida, will visit Little Stirrup Cay eleven times in 2013 and once in 2014.

In Carnival's letter to booked passengers, Little Stirrup Cay is described as Paradise! And indeed it is. As part of the Berry Islands in The Bahamas, Little Stirrup Cay is located approximately 55 miles north of Nassau and features beautiful white-sand beaches, scenic nature trails, and a coral basin that is home to manatees, stingrays, tropical fish, and other marine life. A wide selection of shore excursions, including snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking are available.

Does that sound familiar? About the only thing left out of the description is that Little Stirrup Cay is also known as Coco Cay. That's right, it's Royal Caribbean's very own private island. Carnival has given their booked passengers the opportunity to reschedule their cruise due to the change; however, they'll be sorry if they miss the opportunity to explore Coco Cay, err... we mean Little Stirrup Cay.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Norwegian Breakaway: This Beauty Floats!

The long wait is almost over for Norwegian Cruise Line and it won’t be long before this beauty is all theirs.

The largest ship ever constructed in Germany, Norwegian Breakaway was floated out of shipbuilder Meyer Werft’s covered building dock II yesterday morning in Papenburg, Germany where the 146,600-ton ship has been under construction since September 2011. At approximately 7 am (Germany time), the massive 4,000 passenger ship with her signature hull artwork designed by pop icon Peter Max, departed building dock II bow first—an unusual, but not unprecedented positioning. Norwegian Breakaway has an overall length of 324 meters (1,063 feet), and is 39.70 meters (130 feet) wide. The ship’s float out represents a major milestone in the vessel’s construction as it denotes that the ship has now moved into the final phase of construction with delivery taking place in just 58 days.

Norwegian Breakaway represents a significant achievement both for Meyer Werft and Norwegian Cruise Line in terms of innovation and design,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Chief Executive Officer. “Celebrating her float out today brings us closer to her much-anticipated delivery on April 25 when she will make her debut in Europe before arriving in her homeport of New York City on May 7. We can’t wait.”

“This new vessel is a further milestone for us. Its construction complies with the latest safety standards, and the ship meets all valid environmental regulations. Beyond that Norwegian Breakaway includes a lot of unique design elements and technical innovations,” said Bernard Meyer, Managing Partner of Meyer Werft.

Following the float out, tests were carried out in the harbor and the ship was berthed alongside the yard's outfitting pier. On March 4, the first crew members will move into their staterooms on board, and begin to familiarize themselves with the ship, readying her for guests. Norwegian Breakaway's conveyance down the river Ems towards the North Sea, where she will prove her seaworthiness, is scheduled for March 10 (weather permitting).

Norwegian Breakaway - Ready for Float Out


Float Out Norwegian Breakaway at Meyer Werft


For 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
· Norwegian Breakaway to Feature Cutting-Edge Spa & Fitness Experiences
· Norwegian Breakaway to Put NYC on Ice
· Norwegian Breakaway will Light Up the Night with Fireworks Shows
· Norwegian Breakaway Gets A New “Boss”
Images Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Royal Caribbean Casts Kristin Chenoweth In Her Latest Role As Quantum of the Seas Godmother

Royal Caribbean certainly made a splash on Sunday night during the televised Academy Awards show when they used a red carpet-inspired commercial to announce that Emmy and Tony award-winning actress Kristin Chenoweth will act as godmother to the line's next new cruise ship, Quantum of the Seas.


To say that the announcement was presented in an unconventional way is something of an understatement. Cruise lines traditionally build up to the launch of a new ship with "reveals" that tease consumers with the ships' most outstanding features and save the announcement of a godmother until shortly before the final reveal of the ship itself. Thus far, all Royal Caribbean has "revealed" for Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas (her sister-ship) are basics—general size and anticipated inaugural dates. It was just earlier this month that steel was cut to begin construction, Royal Caribbean Marks Construction Milestone & Names Project Sunshine Ships.

We have to give the cruise line credit, the commercial was an attention getting—and flashy move. Chosen for her effervescent personality and ability to wow audiences, Royal Caribbean says Chenoweth's versatile range of roles made her a natural fit, given that Quantum of the Seas is poised to introduce unprecedented experiences and amenities. We'd just like to hear more about them.

"I am so excited to be named godmother of Royal Caribbean International's newest ship, Quantum of the Seas. I have been lucky to play many roles and I am looking forward to this one," stated Kristin Chenoweth. "I think the Royal Caribbean brand is the perfect match for me, especially with their history of providing exceptional entertainment experiences to their guests."

The Quantum class of ships, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, will build upon Royal Caribbean's legacy of revolutionary ship design and bold innovation. At 158,000 gross registered tons (GRT) and with a capacity of 4,100 guests based on double occupancy, the ships will debut in fall 2014 and spring 2015, respectively.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Documents Holder Becomes A Treasured Keepsake

The days when nearly every cruise line provided some sort of document holder are long gone for the most part, but Regent Seven Seas Cruises is among the few luxury lines that continue the tradition. Regent, The Most Inclusive Luxury Cruise Experience™, has unveiled its new guest documentation holder and it’s a keeper. The new holder, which is soft, brown faux leather, snaps with a magnetic closure and features the Regent Seven Seas Cruises logo embossed on the front cover.

The keepsake holder arrives with a personalized Final Cruise Summary tailored specifically to the guest’s experience containing all reservation information for their cruise such as shore excursions, flight details, pre- and post-cruise hotel stays and land programs and any other supplemental items booked. It also contains special Regent Seven Seas Cruises luggage tags and the new “Welcome Aboard” pamphlet detailing onboard activities specific to the ship the guest is sailing on.

But the best part? The new documentation package can be used to hold a tablet such as an iPad, Kindle, or Nook during and after the cruise.

“Regent Seven Seas Cruises is dedicated to offering guests an unparalleled luxury experience that begins from the moment of booking and carries through each customer touch point, including when they receive their pre-cruise documentation,” said Randall Soy, the line’s executive vice president. “This one-of-a-kind keepsake holder provides everything the guest needs to start their dream vacation and gives them the perfect memento to remember their experience for years to come.”

Guests will receive the new documentation holder with February 2013 voyages and beyond. I must say, I really want one myself! To get yours, check out the Regent Seven Seas website and book your next cruise.

Image Courtesy Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Sunday, February 24, 2013

New Ports, New Itineraries & the Return of Insignia to Highlight Oceania Cruises’ 2014 Collection

With a high ratio of the deluxe cruise line’s repeat passengers who’ve “been there and done that” and are looking for new destinations, the latest news from Oceania Cruises presents them with numerous options from which to choose. The line’s 2014 Summer Collection promises 90 voyages, 10 new ports of call, an almost entirely new line-up of European itineraries. Additionally, Oceania has unveiled the highly anticipated return of Insignia to the fleet upon completion of her charter.

Oceania’s five ships—Riviera, Marina, Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica—will sail to more than 180 destinations throughout the world. The 2014 cruise collection features 70 European cruises, 93 percent of which are new itineraries, plus 10 Alaska voyages, seven all-new Canada/New England cruises, and three Panama Canal voyages. All summer voyages feature two-for-one cruise fares and free airfare with additional bonus savings of up to $3,500 per stateroom if booked by August 31, 2013. Bookings for the 2014 Summer Collection made by May 31, 2013, also offer the added value of free pre-paid gratuities.

Oceania Cruises’ newest ship, Riviera, will spend the entire summer in the Mediterranean on a series of 7-, 10- and 14-day cruises, sailing from as far west as Barcelona and the French Riviera, through Italy and Greece, to as far east as the Black Sea. Riviera ends the season with a transoceanic voyage to Miami.

Marina begins the European season in June 2014 with a series of cruises in Scandinavia, Russia, and the British Isles, several of which feature the popular two-night stays in St. Petersburg. Marina spends the second half of the season in the Mediterranean, culminating with a transoceanic voyage from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro.

Beginning in May 2014, Nautica will sail the Western Mediterranean and then head north to Scandinavia, Russia and the British Isles. Featured itineraries include two back-to-back 20-day voyages: Viking Odyssey, which explores Greenland and Iceland as well as Scotland and Ireland, and Path of the Midnight Sun, which ventures as far north as the Polar Ice Barrier.

After a two-year charter, Insignia returns to the fleet in May 2014 with cruises throughout the Mediterranean and three voyages that call on cities such as Bilbao, Lisbon, and Bordeaux along the Atlantic coasts of Spain, Portugal, and France. The season also features more visits to the Dalmatian Coast, including Insignia’s Adriatic Medley sailing, which stops in Albania, Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia.

New ports in Europe include Tirana (Durrës), Albania; Antibes, France; Hamburg (Bremerhaven), Germany; Chania (Crete), Kos and Syros, Greece; Ullapool, Scotland; Lysekil, Sweden; and Milford Haven, Wales.

Closer to home, Regatta begins and ends the Alaska season with voyages through the Panama Canal. There are a total of 10 sailings in Alaska, including four new itineraries and several cruises sailing roundtrip from Seattle. Travelers also get a sneak peek at the winter season with the early release of the new 24-day Amazon Odyssey sailing, departing from Miami on Nov 4, 2014.

Both Regatta and Insignia will offer seven autumn cruises along the Eastern Seaboard, the most in Oceania Cruises’ history. Voyages such as Capitals & Coastlines, 10-day sailings between New York and Montreal onboard Regatta and Insignia, will stop in some of the most beautiful places in New England and Canada, including new port of call Saguenay, Quebec, at the most stunning time of year.

Image Courtesy of Oceania Cruises

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Miss Belgium Noémie Happart to Christen New Vantage River Cruising Ship

Vantage Deluxe World Travel will officially launch their new river cruising vessel, ms River Splendor on March 14th at a grand inaugural event in Antwerp, Belgium. Miss Belgium Noémie Happart will serve as the godmother of the ms River Splendor in a traditional naming ceremony in which the godmother breaks a “christening fluid” or bottle of champagne over the vessel, officially declaring it named, blessed and ready to sail. Noémie Happart, from Grace-Hollogne in the province of Liege, became Miss Belgium earlier this year and will go on to represent Belgium at the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants later this year.

The new vessel is part of a $120 million fleet investment program, which will double Vantage’s river cruising fleet by 2014. The new ship offers intimate cruising for no more than 176 passengers, single staterooms and single seating dining options as well as larger staterooms with French balconies and wi-fi throughout the ship. This launch follows the successful inaugural season of the ms River Discovery II, which launched in March 2012. In addition to enhanced amenities, passengers can choose from new itineraries along the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers, a new Grand River voyage in France, and revamped itineraries in Portugal and Russia.

The celebratory christening along the port of Antwerp, in Belgium will include live music, toasts and speeches from Vantage management followed by a three-course dinner aboard the new ms River Splendor for over 200 guests. The following day, the ms River Splendor will depart on a four-day inaugural voyage along the Rhine River to Amsterdam. While Cruise Diva has been devoted to sharing information about ocean cruises for two decades, Mel and I will be on board for the inaugural to experience a brand new style of cruising for us, so watch for our reports and photos next month.

“Vantage has been building vessels in central Europe for 30 years and our friends in The Netherlands and Belgium have always been gracious and hospitable,” says Vantage COO Kevin Wallace. “Our Waterways of Holland & Belgium trip continues to be one of the most popular in our portfolio and we could not be more excited to welcome Miss Belgium Noémie Happart as our godmother on March 14th to help us celebrate our fleet expansion.”

Designed with the American traveler in mind, the 442 ft. ms River Splendor will offer luxury amenities and the best crew-to-passenger ratios in the industry, says Wallace. “Our extensive selection of river cruise itineraries is really changing the way travelers experience all corners of Europe.”

Image Courtesy of Vantage Deluxe World Travel

Friday, February 22, 2013

Royal Caribbean & Coca-Cola Make a Perfect Freestyle Blend For Passengers

Certain Royal Caribbean ships now feature Coca-Cola's new Freestyle Machine, demonstrated in the video below. With basic soft drinks that guests can blend with flavors to their hearts' content to create 100+ variations, it's an innovation that provides the best beverage package at sea. A chip embedded in the souvenir glass that comes with the purchase of a soda package allows the use of the machines at no additional charge.


Not to be confused with "Freestyle" cruising (that would be another cruise line), the machines were named by the Coca-Cola Company.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

New Cruise Review: Celebrity Reflection

Join avid cruisers and frequent Cruise Diva contributors Mary and Vincent Finelli on their 99th cruise aboard the newest ship in Celebrity Cruises' fleet, Celebrity Reflection.

Yes, you read that right...their next cruise will be their 100th. As Vincent relates, "This was our 99th cruise and another good one, since we have never had a bad one yet. However, it was not as good as the other cruises we had on the Celebrity ships. We always had fantastic cruises on Celebrity, thus our expectation for this one was also high. Although this was a good cruise, it did not meet our expectation."

Image Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Windstar Cruises to Expand Fleet with Trio of Seabourn Ships & Seabourn Will Add a Newbuild

Rumor had it that Windstar Cruises has been looking for vessels to expand its fleet and the one most often mentioned in that regard was the Club Med ship that is a twin of the line’s Wind Surf. So, the announcement by Seabourn that the sale of the line’s original three vessels Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit, and Seabourn Legend to Xanterra Parks & Resorts(®), owner of Windstar Cruises, came as something of a surprise.

There will be no disruption in service or changes in operations on any currently published Seabourn voyages. Seabourn Pride will be transferred after its published schedule ends in April, 2014. The Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend will be transferred to Windstar in April 2015 and May 2015, respectively.

Under the project name Global Windstar, the expansion will double the size of Windstar’s recently renovated, three luxury sailing yacht fleet, making the company the market leader in small-ship cruising with 300 or fewer passengers, with a total of 1,230 berths.

“Windstar Cruises has experienced four straight years of revenue growth. This expansion is the perfect way to build on the momentum following our recent fleet-wide renovation, providing us with the much needed capacity to match the accelerating demand for our intimate style of yacht cruising,” said Andy Todd, chief executive officer of Xanterra Parks & Resorts, owner of Windstar Cruises. “Global Windstar enables us to extend our unique small-ship experience throughout the world.”

After Seabourn Pride enters the fleet in the Mediterranean in April 2014 the ship will receive a Windstar branded renovation, which will give the ship a new name and casually elegant look, the Pride with set sail a month later in May 2014; voyages are expected to go on sale in May of this year. The other two yachts are scheduled to start sailing in May of 2015 following their dry-dock period.

“Windstar is proud of its heritage in sailing, but what our guests are most enthusiastic about is our intimate, yacht style of cruising. This style is the core of our brand experience and the new ships are a perfect fit to build on that foundation,” added Hans Birkholz, chief executive officer of Windstar Cruises.

The fleet expansion will provide Windstar Cruises access to new destinations such as Asia and South America, in addition to the fifty countries the company already sails to. Known for visiting hidden harbors and secluded coves of the world, Windstar will continue to focus on the unique destinations that large ships cannot call on. The opportunities of Global Windstar are already evident with the recent announcement of Windstar’s return to Tahiti in May of 2014. Tahiti has been one of the top destinations requested by Windstar guests and travel partners.

Seabourn Cruises states that during the transition, the luxury line is fully committed to continuing to deliver its award-winning standards on Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit, and Seabourn Legend, and providing its clientele with the ultra-luxury service and onboard product they have come to expect.

“Seabourn remains dedicated to our mission of creating the world’s finest travel experiences through our small-ship cruising product,” said Seabourn president Richard Meadows. “Our three newest vessels, Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn, and Seabourn Quest have raised the bar for ultra-luxury cruising and we intend to add a fourth ship of similar design,” he continued. “Seabourn is already in discussion with shipbuilders and an order is likely to be announced within the current fiscal year. The new ship will allow Seabourn to maintain much of its current guest capacity.”

Image Courtesy of Seabourn Cruises

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Emergency Planning For Your Cruise Vacation

After living in an area of Louisiana prone to flooding and hurricanes, we learned to plan for emergencies, including loss of electric power and, on occasion, no water.

The pantry staples in our home included canned foods (and a manual can opener), flashlights and spare batteries, as well as plenty of bottled water. When storms were on the horizon we didn’t have to rush to the store, we were prepared with a supply of medications, some cash on hand, and plenty of gas in our vehicles—we learned never let the tanks get less than half full.

The habit of keeping a flashlight in our car came in handy last year when we arrived in Fort Lauderdale just as the area was feeling the full brunt of Hurricane Sandy passing offshore. Our hotel lost power for several hours shortly after we arrived and that flashlight came in handy, as did the bottles of water and snacks we also carry on road trips—restaurants in the area were also without power and we were thirsty and hungry. In our luggage was an ample amount of prescription medication that would last not only for the duration of our upcoming cruise on Holland America Line’s Eurodam, but also a few extra days.

Most of us don’t like to think that anything like the fire and stranded-at-sea conditions aboard Carnival Triumph that took place last week will happen to us, but it could. Like they say in football, the best offense is a good defense and these tips will help you get through an emergency.

• Travel with a passport. Carnival Triumph was on a closed-loop sailing and passengers weren’t required to have passports—900 of them didn’t have one and if the ship had been towed to Mexico, that situation would have made their re-entry into the United States tricky.
• Have a copy of your passport on hand just in case yours is lost or stolen. Keep it separate from the actual passport.
• Pack enough prescription medication to last for the trip and at least a few extra days. This is particularly important when travelling internationally, or on every cruise.
• Consider packing a small bottle of antibacterial soap for when times when the water available is questionable.
• Always have a small container of waterless hand sanitizer handy.
• Bottled water and snacks—power bars or even chips—can help you over rough patches.
• A small first aid kit with at least a few bandages and antiseptic cream is a must.
• A flashlight can be a lifesaver in emergency situations, especially on a dark ship.

Those suggestions may seem simply like common sense, but it’s surprising how many travelers leave their common sense at home when they depart on a vacation.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Royal Caribbean Changes Gratuity Policy

On March 1, 2013, Royal Caribbean International is changing its recommended gratuity guidelines. Automatic tips of $12 a day per person, per day for guests in standard accommodations, and $14.25 per person, per day for those in suites, will be be automatically added to passengers' SeaPass accounts each day. Gratuities will be distributed to dining staff, stateroom attendants, and housekeeping personnel.

Royal Caribbean states that the new automatic gratuity policy is based on current industry standards. The previous recommended amount was a total of $11.65 per day, per person, or $13.90 for those accommodated in suites. Passengers could previously pay by charging gratuities to their onboard account or in cash.

Gratuities may be adjusted according to the level of service passengers feel they received while on board.

The new policy only applies to passengers who have not prepaid gratuities before February 28, 2013; passengers who prepaid their tips when booking their cruise will not be charged in this manner.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Norwegian Cruise Line Expands Bermuda Shore Excursions

With its newest ship, Norwegian Breakaway, launching cruises from New York City this May, Norwegian Cruise Line has expanded its tour offerings in Bermuda. The line has added several new excursions that are available only to guests on Norwegian Breakaway, as well as a number of excursions for guests on both Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Dawn, sailing from Boston to Bermuda. The new tour options add to Norwegian’s extensive shore excursion program, which offers guests more than 30 unique Bermuda excursions.

The new 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway will sail a series of 22 seven-day cruises from New York to Bermuda beginning May 12, 2013 through Oct 6, 2013. Departing on Sundays, the ship will spend three full days in Bermuda, along with three days at sea.

New 2013 Bermuda Shore Excursions Exclusive to Norwegian Breakaway
Private Boat Tour with Captain: Guests can explore Bermuda at their own pace with this half day adventure for the whole family. Sailors will enjoy the privacy of their own boat, and the freedom of exploring at their own pace on this half day motor boat charter. A captain will navigate the hidden treasures and beautiful scenery that Bermuda has to offer.

Night Snorkel: Experience Bermuda in a way that few others have—under the sea and under the moonlight. Guests will be equipped with snorkel gear and an undersea dive light to explore the island’s underwater life during the night. Snorkelers can expect to see a variety of sea creatures that only venture out after dark and will be in awe of the vast variety of coral formations that come to life by the shine of a light. 
Wildcat Island Tour & St George's: Join an exciting adventure to the old town of St. George's aboard Bermuda's spectacular tour sensation, the WildCat! This Adventure comes complete with an entertaining narrated tour of the Island's historic sites and other points of interest, and also includes a stop in the old town, allowing guests time to walk around at their leisure and explore the historical sites and scenery.

Railway Trail Bike & Beach Tour: Guests can maximize their time in Bermuda on this great combination tour. First, enjoy sight-seeing the rural West End of the island during a short shuttle to Somerset Island. After receiving instruction on riding and safety, explorers will begin their guided cycle tour along the original Bermuda Railway Trail. During the bike ride, a guide will stop at various points of interest, highlighting the spectacular scenery along the trail. Time permitting, guests will also have the opportunity to hike up to the historic Fort Scaur or visit the sprawling 17th century Mott Family estate. After the ride, riders can cool off with a refreshing swim at one of the island’s beautiful beaches and enjoy a complimentary beverage.
Night Fishing: For an evening of unforgettable adventure, guests can head out on the “Jolly Roger,” Bermuda’s family-friendly fishing adventure boat, and enjoy night fishing on the island’s barrier reef. Once onboard, anglers will enjoy a sunset ride through Bermuda’s pristine inshore waters to reach the fishing grounds. They’ll be provided with light spinning tackle, bait and any instruction they may need to hook into some snappers, triggerfish, jacks or any other of the countless species of nocturnal reef dwellers that abound Bermuda’s waters. The only thing needed for this excursion is some enthusiasm and a little luck—the captain and crew will take care of the rest for a memorable and exciting trip.
The following tours are available to guests on Norwegian Breakaway & Norwegian Dawn
Dolphin Encounter: Enjoy spending time with one of the ocean’s most playful and friendly creatures, the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin. This encounter includes 45 minutes of interaction, in both shallow and deep-water. Guests will have the opportunity to touch, swim alongside and even receive a “kiss” from these incredible marine mammals. Tour price also includes admission to the Maritime Museum, featuring treasures and historical highlights of the island’s storied nautical past.

Island Fever Theatre Show: The Island Fever Show offers a professionally-choreographed stage show that highlights Bermuda’s rich musical and cultural heritage. Guests can choose from traditional theatre style seats, or a more casual café-style seating to enjoy the show. The costuming and stage sets reflect the vivid colors and tropical feel of the island and is set under an 8,000 square foot tent located right in the Royal Naval Dockyards, within walking distance of the cruise ship terminal. 
West End, Bermuda Underwater Explorations Institute & Hamilton Tour: Enjoy spectacular views of the North Shore and the Great Sound during this half-day guided driving tour. The tour begins with a crossing over Somerset Bridge, reputed to be the smallest drawbridge ever built. Next, guests can stop for pictures at the island’s famous Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse and view one of Bermuda’s famous pink sand beaches. The tour continues on to the Bermuda Underwater Explorations Institute (BUEI), showcasing the island’s rich underwater history. Visit the Shipwreck Gallery and discover a world of treasures, from cannons to clay jars all pulled from shipwrecks found in the deep waters around the island. The tour ends in Hamilton at the Ferry Depot, where guests can browse the famed Front Street Shops.
Discover Stand Up Paddleboarding: Experience Bermuda by sea while enjoying the world's fastest growing water sport—stand up paddleboarding. Guests will learn how to stand up and maneuver their board from professional instructors before starting off on a journey around the coastal waterways. Knowledgeable guides will showcase the island’s flora and fauna and teach boarders about Bermuda's unique ecosystem. After the tour ends, guests can cool off at a local beach and enjoy a complimentary beverage.
All 2013 Bermuda shore excursions are currently available for pre-booking by calling Norwegian’s reservations team at 1-888-NCL-CRUISE or by logging on to NCL.com. As many tours fill up quickly, guests are encouraged to make selections as early as possible.

Bermuda Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Houston Airport System Opens Arms to Welcome Carnival Truimph Passengers Back to Texas

In a Texas-sized welcome, the Houston Airport System served the needs of hundreds of Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Triumph passengers who flew into George Bush Intercontinental Airport on chartered flights operated by Delta Air Lines. The flight operations were managed by a team of aviation professionals who created a plan on February 14 to offer a warm and seamless arrival to ease the processing.

"The Houston Airport System is happy to assist out partner Delta Air Lines with a smooth transition of the many passengers making their way home from the Carnival Triumph," said Lance Lyttle, Houston Airport System Chief Operating Officer. "We provided water, refreshments, comfort stations and coloring books with crayons to children. They boarded buses while here at Intercontinental and either continued on to Galveston at the port to retrieve their vehicles or were greeted by family in the baggage claim area."

Dozens of HAS employees were on site on the cargo tarmac, curb side of Terminal A, and working behind the scenes to ensure seamless arrival as passengers claimed bags, reconnected with loved ones, and continued to their final journey home. The Houston Airport System assigned a large team of employees who devoted their entire day to the details to facilitate a smooth operation for the cruise travelers to expedite their movement into IAH. The plan handled an average of one jet every hour between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. The inbound flights deplaned on a cargo ramp and the passengers boarded buses to transport them to the terminal.

About Houston Airport System: The Houston Airport System served 50 million passengers in 2012. Houston's three airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) and Ellington Airport (EFD) contribute over $27 billion to the regional economy. Visit Fly2Houston.com for more information about Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Triumph of the Human Spirit

The drama aboard Carnival Triumph came to an end as a steady stream of passengers departed the vessel in Mobile, Alabama Thursday night and into the early hours of Friday morning.

Segments of live coverage on CNN were introduced to the strains of “Sweet Home Alabama” as reporters awaited passengers to interview—some of whom they’d been in contact with as the ship neared port. If media members expected horror stories, no doubt they got some; however, by and large the interviewees were upbeat and smiling. One group of ladies, whose family member was evacuated to another ship early on in the ordeal due to her need for dialysis, held a banner reading “Thank You For Your Prayers” and proclaimed that prayer and faith sustained them. Two young women donned Carnival bathrobes against the chill of the night with ‘Float Trip’ scrawled on the backs. They explained that what began as a cruise turned into a trip floating around in the Gulf of Mexico.

I turned the TV off at 1am, but without exception the passengers I saw on CNN praised the crew and their efforts to make them comfortable. It was mentioned that crewmembers were laboring under the same adverse conditions.

Carnival Triumph Limps Into Mobile

The drama ended as Carnival Triumph made it to Mobile, Alabama last night—the largest ship ever to dock there. Passengers began to debark at about 11:15pm EST. As the ship approached Mobile the staterooms were dark, but some emergency lights onboard were visible. With over 4,000 passengers aboard, some crowded the rails cheering and waving. While an ambulance met the ship and a passenger was carried off in a stretcher, no one died during the crisis on board.

Eric Robles and his 6-months pregnant wife were to be among the first passengers to debark and he said they couldn’t wait to get off safely. Their family members were waiting ashore to meet the pregnant “raging Cajun.” They must be from Louisiana!

Larry Poret, who was on board with his 12-year old daughter for a father-daughter vacation said it was a perfect bonding experience, although Carnival clearly failed to deliver a great vacation for the pair.

Greta Van Sustern on Fox News spoke to Amy Weber, whose boyfriend was onboard for a bachelor party. He and his buddies were helping others and reported the crew was performing an amazing job by doing all they could for passengers.

Another passenger stated that people were “dying of heart attacks and strokes,” but that report is less than credible. Passengers with serious medical issues were previously evacuated, including one earlier in the day on Thursday who reportedly suffered a stroke.

Most passengers told the media that they though Carnival Cruise Lines was doing a good job, especially employees on board, despite tho horrible odors and darkness they endured.

Passenger Brenda Colon said it was a challenging experience. They made the best of it, but the lack of bathroom facilities was the worst. She said some passengers took their cabin mattresses outside on deck to sleep on until it got too chilly last night and there was only one day when lines for food were lengthy. Another passenger stated that the ship was unpleasant, but the company onboard was good. Others said they passed the time by playing cards, reading books, and “played scavenger hunts to charge cell phones.”

A hundred coaches were at the ready to take passengers to New Orleans for the night, where 1,500 hotel rooms awaited. Twenty chartered planes will fly them to Houston on Friday. In the alternative, those who want to go straight to Galveston will also be provided with transportation from Mobile. Some passengers plan to take the busses to Galveston to retrieve their vehicles and then head home where they will enjoy hot showers, use toilets that flush, and hug family members.

Many passengers were seen debarking Carnival Triumph wearing ship’s bathrobes—it was a chilly night in Mobile—no doubt those robes will be a memorable “souvenir” of a cruise gone wrong.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Carnival Triumph Nears Mobile

CNN is calling it, “Hell on High Waters,” but is it? Robin, a passenger onboard Carnival Triumph who’s been in contact with CNN says it’s not as bad as some reports. It’s her first cruise—and probably her last—but she says she and her companions are trying to make the best of it, although some passengers have become “snippy,” to say the least.

During CNN’s live coverage via helicopter this evening, a medical expert opined that health risks to those onboard are likely minimal. Passengers report that they are able to cleanse their hands with waterless sanitizer and are more aware of the need to do so than they otherwise would have been.

Reports of passengers taking a lot of food after waiting in line for hours have been tempered by other reports that the “hoarders” were simply getting food for themselves and family members.

Spirits seem to be high as Carnival Triumph approaches land and passengers say that they are able to charge multiple cell phones at a time by using extension cords brought onto the ship by fellow cruisers. It’s a passenger initiative that demonstrates the camaraderie of those on board. Additionally, passengers in outside cabins have shared their space—and daylight—with those in inside cabins.

By all accounts, the crewmembers have performed on an amazing level. Carnival Triumph will be the largest cruise ship ever to dock in Mobile and reportedly is only being allowed to do so due to the plight of passengers on board. A “luggage brigade” of crewmembers will assist their debarkation in Mobile because there’s only one working elevator on Carnival Triumph (although we cannot confirm that).

The ship, which is 116 feet wide is making its way down the 400 foot wide channel in darkness—a challenging feat. Lights seen on the ship during CNN's evening coverage are powered by the emergency generators. Tugboats continue to keep the vessel on course despite the wind.

“Cruise industry expert” Ross Klein was interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, but you have to keep in mind that Klein's well-known agenda is to depict the entire cruise industry in the worst light possible. He began that quest after his wife was “disrespected” by a bartender who was unable to lower the volume of music on a pool deck as she requested.

While in cell phone contact with CNN, Julie, a passenger on Carnival Triumph, says that she and her fellow cruisers from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Indiana have been miserable, but have been getting by with their faith in God.

Kudos to CNN for connecting family members ashore with their loved ones on board via cell phone while interviewing them on the air! That said, one of the dumbest interviews I heard today was with a 16-year old whose major concern was her inability to text her friends. She also said she felt sorry for the "elderly" on board who were breaking their ankles. Huh?

On a brighter note, Carnival Triumph passenger Ed Buck tells Fox News that he's happy about the compensation offered by Carnival Cruise Lines and will take advantage of the free cruise they have offered as part of the compensation package.

U.S. Coast Guard Photo/Ensign Chris Shivock

Carnival Triumph Update From Mobile

At a news conference in Mobile, Alabama this afternoon, Terry Thornton, senior vice president of Carnival, addressed the media.

Thornton related that the Carnival Triumph's arrival was further delayed earlier in the afternoon by problems with tugboat lines, but the ship entered the channel at about 2:30pm CST. It will be seven to ten hours before Carnival Triumph is alongside the pier and will likely take another five hours to fully debark all passengers. The first ashore will be passengers with children and anyone with special needs. U.S.Customs and Immigration officials have already boarded the ship to process passengers prior to arrival. Crewmembers on board will assist with luggage.

Hotel accommodations and meals will be provided for people who've traveled to Mobile to pick up passengers.

CNN has been covering the story all afternoon and has been in contact with passengers aboard Carnival Triumph. While they all agree that conditions on board have been miserable, some sound more upbeat than I would have expected. They seem cheered by the sight of land and the prospect of their ordeal ending soon.

U.S. Coast Guard Photo/Ensign Chris Shivock

Cruise Travel: Romance Afloat

Ask six couples what the most romantic aspect of a cruise is and you are likely to get a dozen different responses. To some, it could be the freedom to relax and enjoy one another's company. Or maybe it's the joy of getting away from home, work, and responsibility for a few cherished days.

One thing is certainly true—many couples consider a cruise the most romantic vacation imaginable. Which cruise ships are the most desirable for romantics? Cruise Diva shares her picks for the Most Romantic Ships at sea.

We also offer hints to enhance Romance at Sea and enjoy Princess Cruises' sumptuous Ultimate Balcony Dinner.

Happy Valentines Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Carnival Cruise Lines Announces Compensation for Inconvenienced Carnival Triumph Passengers

Carnival Cruise Lines Statement
Regarding Carnival Triumph: Feb 13, 2013 – 5:45pm EST


Carnival Cruise Lines has announced further compensation for the passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph, currently being towed via tug boats to Mobile, Alabama after an engine room fire early Sunday caused a loss of propulsion.

All guests on the current voyage will receive further compensation of $500.00 per person.

Gerry Cahill, President & CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines said: “We know it has been a longer journey back than we anticipated at the beginning of the week under very challenging circumstances. We are very sorry for what our guests have had to endure. Therefore, in addition to the full refund and future cruise credit already offered, we have decided to provide this additional compensation. I look forward to welcoming everyone to Mobile tomorrow and have mobilized our full resources to assist and support them as they travel home.”

As previously announced, all 3,143 guests on board will receive a full refund of the cruise along with transportation expenses and reimbursement of all shipboard purchases during the voyage, with the exception of gift shop, art purchases and casino charges. All passengers will also receive a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for this voyage.

Third Tug Headed to Carnival Triumph

Carnival Cruise Lines Statement
Regarding Carnival Triumph: Feb 13, 2013, 2:30pm EST


Carnival has dispatched a third tugboat to assist in towing Carnival Triumph to port. The tugboat is currently en route from Port Fourchon, Louisiana and is expected to arrive at the ship this evening to further support the vessel’s return to Mobile, Alabama on Thursday. The U.S. Coast Guard continues to be on the scene as the ship is in tow.

We are mobilizing approximately 200 people to be on the ground in Mobile to support the Carnival Triumph’s arrival and guests’ travel home. We are currently finalizing travel arrangements for guests from Mobile. Carnival Triumph guests were given the option of boarding buses directly to Galveston or Houston, Texas, or to spend the night in a hotel in New Orleans, where they could rest before flying out on private charters the next day. Carnival will cover all travel related and incidental expenses.

Carnival has reserved and arranged the following: approximately 100 motor coaches; more than 1,500 New Orleans hotel rooms; multiple charter flights from New Orleans to Houston on Friday; and transportation from Houston to the Port of Galveston so that guests may retrieve their cars if they drove to the port.

There are 3,143 guests and 1,086 crew on board. We continue to update the designated emergency contacts for all guests presently on board Carnival Triumph. Concerned family and loved ones of guests and crew may call 888.290.5095 or 305.406.5534.

Upcoming Voyages
Carnival Cruise Lines has also announced the cancellations of 12 additional voyages of the Carnival Triumph. The 12 cancelled cruises, which encompass sailings from Feb. 21 through April 13, 2013, are in addition to two previously cancelled voyages scheduled to depart Feb. 11 and Feb. 16.

Guests on the affected sailings will receive a full refund of their cruise fare, as well as non-refundable transportation costs, pre-paid shore excursions, gratuities, and government fees and taxes. Guests will also receive a 25 percent discount on a future three- to five-day Carnival cruise or a 15 percent discount on a six- to seven-day cruise. Travel agent commissions will be protected.

Carnival sincerely apologizes for this disruption in our guests’ vacation plans.

Carnival Triumph operates four- and five-day cruises from Galveston, Texas. The current Carnival Triumph voyage departed Galveston, Texas, on Thursday, February 7 and was scheduled to return on Monday, Feb. 11.

A Dozen More Carnival Triumph Sailings Cancelled

Carnival Cruise Lines Statement
Regarding Carnival Triumph: Feb 13, 2013


Carnival Cruise Lines has announced the cancellations of twelve additional voyages of the Carnival Triumph, which operates 4- and 5-day cruises from Galveston, Texas, following an engine room fire that has left vessel without propulsion. The twelve cancelled cruises, which encompass sailings from Feb. 21 through April 13, 2013, are in addition to two previously cancelled voyages scheduled to depart Feb. 11 and Feb. 16.

Guests on the affected sailings will receive a full refund of their cruise fare, as well as non-refundable transportation costs, pre-paid shore excursions, gratuities, and government fees and taxes. Guests will also receive a 25 percent discount on a future 3- to 5-day Carnival cruise or a 15 percent discount on a 6- to 7-day cruise.

Carnival sincerely apologizes for this disruption in our guests’ vacation plans.

Why You Shouldn't Leave For Your Cruise Without A Passport

This week there were 3,143 passengers aboard Carnival Triumph who were set to make an unexpected debarkation in Progreso, Mexico. Of the total, 900 of them were traveling without passports. The passengers boarded Carnival Triumph in Galveston, Texas, where they also expected to leave the ship Monday. That's called a closed-loop cruise and passports are not required for such itineraries.

When I heard about the fire on board last Sunday and the need to tow the ship to a Mexican port—with plans to fly passengers home from there—I wondered how many of them do not have passports. Even though Mexico is a friendly neighboring country that shares a lengthy border with the United States (including Texas, incidentally), it's still a foreign country and a passport is required for flights into and out of Mexico. No doubt that Carnival Cruise Lines would have done everything possible to smooth the way for their inconvenienced passengers, but their task would have been complicated by the lack of passports for nearly a third of them.

The good news is that instead of disembarking in Mexico, Carnival Triumph's passengers will end their journey in Mobile, Alabama. No doubt there are 900 non-passport-holders on the ship who are relieved that they don't have to deal with immigration authorities in Mexico.

I've heard all the reasons why cruise travelers don't bother with getting passports and the one that is the least valid is, "passports cost too much for our entire family." Well then, my advice is to stay home and save up until you can afford the one document for each family member that will INSURE that you can disembark a ship in a foreign port and fly back to the United States without worry. You never know when an emergency will make that necessary and you can't count on American embassies or consulates to be of much assistance. For the passengers on Carnival Triumph who don't have passports, this should be a real learning experience.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Carnival Triumph Press Conference

Carnival Triumph Press Conference February 12,2013
Gerry Cahill, President & CEO, Carnival Cruise Lines


From a related story by the Associated Press,
The reassurances made by Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO Gerry Cahill were in sharp contrast to what some passengers have told relatives about dirty and hot conditions aboard the ship, including overflowing toilets and limited access to food. 
Cahill said the ship has running water and most of its 23 public restrooms and some of the guest cabin bathrooms are working. He downplayed the possibility of an outbreak of disease from unsanitary conditions, saying the ship hasn't seen an abnormal number of people reporting to the infirmary as being ill.
London's Daily Mail is reporting an even more sensational story with a questionable headline,
"Carpets soaked in urine, sewage running down walls and onion sandwiches for dinner: Passengers reveal the dire conditions of disabled Carnival cruise ship that they will be stuck on until Thursday."
I recall hearing similar accounts about poop floating down passageways in 1999 when passengers were adrift on Carnival's Tropicale, which was struck by the double whammy of a fire and a tropical storm. As it turned out those stories were greatly exaggerated. While we are sure that the situation is less than ideal on board Carnival Triumph, we won't know the exact conditions until the ship reaches Mobile.

Carnival Triumph Headed to Mobile

Carnival Cruise Lines Statement
Regarding Carnival Triumph: Feb 11, 2013, 8:30pm ET


As previously reported, the Carnival Triumph, while on a four-day cruise that departed Galveston last Thursday, experienced an engine room fire on Sunday morning and has been without propulsion in the Gulf of Mexico since that time. The ship’s automatic fire extinguishing systems activated and the fire was successfully extinguished. Fortunately, there were no injuries to guests or crew members.

Monday evening, the first of two tugboats arrived and is tied up to the ship with the second expected in the early hours of Tuesday morning. We had originally planned to tow the ship to Progreso, Mexico, the closest port to the ship’s location early Sunday. Since that time, the ship has drifted about 90 miles north due to strong currents. This now puts the ship nearly equidistant to Mobile, Alabama and given the strength of the currents, it is preferable to head north to Mobile, rather than attempt to tow against them. We now expect to arrive in Mobile sometime on Thursday, roughly the same time the ship would have arrived in Progreso given the distance the ship has traveled. From there, we will provide the necessary transportation to get our guests home. Mobile also provides simpler re-entry, particularly for the 900 guests onboard traveling without passports.

We have maintained constant contact with the ship’s officers. All of our guests are safe, and we’re doing everything we can to make them as comfortable as possible. The ship has maintained emergency generator power since the fire occurred and the technical team on board has been successful in gradually restoring auxiliary power to operate some basic hotel functions. Currently, public and cabin toilets are operational in certain sections of the ship, power has been restored to a limited number of elevators, and some power in the Lido dining area is providing for hot coffee and limited hot food service.

All guests on the current Carnival Triumph voyage will receive a full refund for the cruise, along with transportation expenses. In addition, they will receive a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for this voyage, as well as reimbursement of all shipboard purchases during the voyage, with the exception of gift shop and casino charges.

We’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience, discomfort, and frustration our guests are feeling. We know they expected a fantastic vacation, and clearly that is not what they received. Our shipboard and shoreside teams are working around the clock to care for our guests and get them home safely.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cruise Travel Planning & Packing Tips

Over the years I've been asked a number of times how I got started in the travel writing business. Trust me, it wasn't easy to become established. However, with a focus on cruises it's been a labor of love. I began quite simply with a packing list that I shared on a one-page website hosted by the old, defunct Prodigy service after I was overwhelmed by sending it out to all those who requested it in email.

From that humble beginning, I co-authored a cruise advice column entitled "Ask the Cruise Queens" in Porthole magazine and was contracted by the Mining Company to be their cruise travel guide. After moving to the job of content editor with eCruise, a cruise marketing company, I began freelancing again in 2001 and CruiseDiva.com was born—and has just celebrated twelve years online! Yes, Cruise Diva was on the Internet for years before those other big websites with message boards launched.

In addition to maintaining the website singlehandedly, I've published a monthly newsletter, which I replaced with this blog in 2007, and have authored Fodor's The Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises—now in its 4th edition and soon to be revised again—as well as contributed the cruise content to ten other Fodor's guidebooks and the Cruises section of the Fodor's website.

With a lot of travel inked into my calendar, the past twenty years have been busy and fulfilling. Everything aside, though, one of the tasks I enjoy best is sharing information about cruises, ships, and the how-to tips I've gathered over the years. You'll find some of the best tips at Favorites from CruiseDiva.com & Friends—where you'll find out what the photo above is all about—and even more useful hints for your comfort and safety by visiting HOT Tips for Cruisers. Some of the ideas came from my first-hand experience and others were contributed by fellow cruise travelers.

CruiseDiva.com has often been called "Cruising 101" and I hope you find it helpful as I move into my third decade of cruising and writing about it.

Image © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Without Full Power Available, Carnival Triumph is to be Towed to Progreso, Mexico & Passengers to Fly Home

Carnival Cruise Lines Statement
Regarding Carnival Triumph: Updated 7:30PM EST


This morning the cruise ship Carnival Triumph experienced an engine room fire while the vessel was sailing approximately 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The ship’s automatic fire extinguishing systems activated and the fire was contained to the aft engine room. At this time, the fire is fully extinguished. There were no casualties or injuries to guests or crew. All appropriate authorities including U.S. Coast Guard have been notified.

The vessel is currently without propulsion and the ship is operating on emergency generator power. The ship’s technical crew has determined the vessel will need to be towed to port. A tugboat is en route to the ship’s location and will tow the vessel to Progreso, Mexico, which is the closest port to the ship’s current location. This will enable us to disembark guests and get them home as quickly as possible. The ship is expected to arrive in Progreso Wednesday afternoon and guests will be flown from there back to the U.S.

There are 3,143 guests and 1,086 crew on board. Guests are being provided with food and refreshments. Another Carnival ship, the Carnival Elation, is currently on scene and transferring additional food and beverage provisions to the Carnival Triumph.

We have contacted the designated emergency contacts for all guests presently on board Carnival Triumph. Concerned family and loved ones of guests and crew may call 888.290.5095 or 305.406.5534.

All guests on the current Carnival Triumph voyage will receive a full refund of the cruise, along with transportation expenses. In addition, they will receive a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for this voyage, as well as reimbursement of all shipboard purchases during the voyage, with the exception of gift shop and casino charges.

The next two voyages of Carnival Triumph, scheduled to depart Monday, Feb 11 and Saturday, Feb 16 are being cancelled. Guests scheduled to sail on either of those voyages will receive a full refund, reimbursement for non-refundable travel expenses and a 25 percent discount on a future 3- to 5-day cruise. Carnival is in contact with impacted guests to advise them of the situation.

Engine Room Fire Cripples Carnival Triumph

Carnival Cruise Lines Statement
Regarding Carnival Triumph 3:30p EST


This morning Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Triumph experienced an engine room fire while the vessel was sailing approximately 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The ship’s automatic fire extinguishing systems activated and the fire was contained to the aft engine room. At this time, the fire is fully extinguished. No casualties or injuries to guests or crew have been reported.

The vessel is currently without propulsion and the ship is operating on emergency generator power. The ship’s technical crew is continuing to assess the damage and attempting to restore power. In the meantime, a tugboat is being dispatched to the ship’s location in the event it is needed. All appropriate authorities including U.S. Coast Guard have been notified

There are 3,143 guests and 1,086 crew on board and all guests have been asked to remain in the ship’s public areas and open decks for their comfort. Guests are being provided with food and refreshments. All guests on the current voyage will receive a full refund inclusive of gratuities and any transportation expenses.

Carnival Triumph is currently on a 4-day cruise that departed Galveston, Texas last Thursday. Carnival has contacted guests booked on the next voyage, which was scheduled to depart tomorrow to make them aware of the situation and advise that tomorrow’s voyage will not depart as scheduled. Guests have the option of cancelling now and receiving a full refund or waiting for further information to determine if a shortened, partial voyage may be possible.

Further updates will be provided as information becomes available. Designated emergency contacts for all guests on board have been notified. Concerned family and loved ones of guests and crew may call 888.290.5095 or 305.406.5534.

Carnival Sensation Earns a Perfect Score On U.S.P.H. Inspection

Officers and crew gathered on the bow to celebrate after Carnival Cruise Lines’ 2,052-passenger Carnival Sensation earned a perfect 100 score on its most recent United States Public Health (U.S.P.H.) inspection conducted in Port Canaveral, Florida.

To earn a perfect score of 100, cruise ships must receive the top mark on all 42 items that comprise the U.S. Public Health Service’s comprehensive Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) checklist.

The unannounced inspections, which are conducted twice a year and required for any cruise ship with an international itinerary calling at a U.S. port, evaluate vessels in a wide variety of areas, including adherence to proper food handling, preparation and storage procedures, and overall galley cleanliness. Ships’ potable water supplies used in spas and pools are evaluated, as well.

Carnival Sensation operates year-round 3- and 4-day Bahamas voyages from Port Canaveral.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cunard Line Now Offers Behind the Scenes Tours

Many passengers wonder what happens on their ship’s bridge, behind the stage in the main theater, or where the crew lives and relaxes. A number of cruise lines have introduced tours to show them and now Cunard Line has added one to its comprehensive list of on board activities by offering Behind the Scenes Tours for the curious guest.

Led by Cunard senior officers, the tours offer guests unprecedented access to the ships’ private areas, such as the Medical Centre, Engine Control Room, Butchers Shop and the Mooring Deck. Topics range from environmental concerns, such as recycling 15,000 liters of used cooking oil, to the logistics of stocking more than 5,000 lines of consumable products, such as shower gel and beef joints.

Guests get a “back of house” look at the Bridge
(left) and the Mooring Deck  (above) during a voyage 

aboard  Cunard Line’s flagship Queen Mary 2.
















During the 222-step tour, guests learn first-hand of the many provisions required to manage Cunard Line’s ocean liners. Tour stops include:
The Bridge – At the widest part of the ship, the captain and navigational officers greet guests and give a tutorial of all the dials, buttons, radars and navigational charts that help them safely helm Cunard’s Queens.
Royal Court Theatre – Guests peruse more than 3,000 costumes in the costume store, and light and sound engineers give hands-on lessons in operating the stage equipment.
Galley and Provisions – Guests catch a glimpse of the complex logistics of moving provisions around the world in containers and picking them up in different ports mid-voyage, to accommodate 11 tons per day. The tour includes stops at the Food Stores, Butchers Shop, Freezers, and the Galley.
Mooring Deck – Guests learn the purpose of the anchor winches, windlesses and other critical machinery on the most forward part of the ship.
Medical Centre – Guests tour Cunard’s floating hospital and meet the exceptional medical staff that keeps everyone on board healthy and well.
Burma Road – Guests tour the only main crew passageway to run the entire length of the ship and get a look at where the crew and officers socialize after work.
Waste Handling Room – Guests observe Cunard’s round-the-clock waste handling operation, and learn the differences between five waste sorting streams: hazardous, recyclable, suitable for incineration, food waste and suitable for donation.
“Similar to a feat of magic, our seamless ocean travel experience results from a delicate balance between what’s seen and not seen,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “Our Behind the Scenes Tours offer the inquisitive guest an intimate glimpse of what goes into the way we run our ships to ensure their comfort, safety and satisfaction.”

Available on board Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth, Cunard’s Behind the Scenes Tours last three and a half hours and cost $120 per person. Currently, one tour with a maximum of 16 guests is available per voyage and can be booked on board through the Tours Office. For more information about the Behind the Scenes Tours, visit Cunard.com.

Images Courtesy of Cunard Line

Friday, February 8, 2013

MSC Cruises To Star In PBS Television Series

Famed travel expert and award-winning journalist Burt Wolf sails the ancient route of the Venetian traders—Venice to Bari, and across the Adriatic Sea on board the MSC Divina during a half-hour PBS (Public Broadcasting System) television show, Travels and Traditions, that starts airing this month. Viewers can follow Burt as he explores one of the most photogenic coastlines in the world through Montenegro, Turkey and Malta, visiting walled cities, discovering UNESCO World Heritage sites and strolling cobblestoned streets in the quaintest of villages.

Beginning February 10th, during the next six months, Travels and Traditions is scheduled to air on PBS stations across the United States and abroad. Please check your local television listings for dates and times. If, like me, you just can't wait, the video can be watched on the MSC Cruises website or right here on Cruise Diva's blog below.


MSC Cruises is a privately-held, family-owned, Italian cruise line with a fleet of 12 ships. The fleet cruises year-round in the Mediterranean and seasonally in Northern Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, South America, the Indian Ocean, and South and West Africa.

MSC Divina sails the Mediterranean through October 2013 with ports of call, including Venice, Italy, Bari, Italy, Katakolon, Greece, Izmir, Turkey, Istanbul, Turkey and Dubrovnik, Croatia. It will begin sailing the Caribbean for the first time in November 2013 from PortMiami. For more information about MSC Cruises, visit MSCCruisesUSA.com.

Image © CruiseDiva.com; Video Courtesy MSC Cruises

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Carnival Destiny Sails into the Sunshine & Carnival Victory Makes a Splash in Miami

Carnival Destiny has departed on its final voyage from Miami—an 18-day trans-Atlantic crossing that ends in Venice, Italy, on Feb. 22 when the vessel will be in position for a $155 million renovation that will add a host of dining, bar, and entertainment innovations and spectacular outdoor spaces.

After a 49-day dry dock at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy, the ship will emerge rebuilt and be renamed Carnival Sunshine. It then debuts with a series of Mediterranean cruises beginning with a 14-day voyage from Venice to Barcelona April 12-26, 2013. The ship will then operate a series of 18 nine- and 12-day Mediterranean cruises either round-trip from Barcelona or sailing between Barcelona and Venice. Following a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing departing Barcelona Nov. 1 and arriving New Orleans Nov. 17, Carnival Sunshine will operate a special 6-day Caribbean cruise departing Nov. 18 before launching year-round 7-day Caribbean service from the Big Easy Nov. 24, 2013.

Innovations added during the dry dock will include a stunning three-level Serenity adults-only retreat, a WaterWorks aqua park featuring a 334-foot-long water slide—the longest in the “Fun Ship” fleet—along with fun poolside watering holes RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar, and unique to Carnival Sunshine spaces such as Havana Bar, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, ShakeSpot, JavaBlue Café, and more.

Carnival Destiny entered service in November 1996 as the world’s first 100,000-plus-ton cruise ship, introducing a wide variety of new features and facilities. Over the past 17 years, the original Destiny-class ship has played a pioneering role in the company’s history, operating voyages from Miami, San Juan, New York, Boston, Norfolk, Virginia, and other ports and carrying millions of satisfied vacationers. The ship is ready to make history again, undergoing an unprecedented makeover that will add all of the exciting elements that are part of Carnival’s “Fun Ship” 2.0 enhancement program.

With one ship heading toward its destiny, another—sister-ship Carnival Victory—has arrived at PortMiami to kick off its new year-round schedule of 4- and 5-day cruises that visit tropical ports throughout the Caribbean and Bahamas. Carnival Victory’s new Miami-based schedule features three distinctly different itineraries, providing cruisers with a variety of convenient and affordable cruise options departing from one of America’s top tourist destinations.

Four-day “long weekend” cruises departing Thursdays call at Key West, Florida, and Cozumel, Mexico; 5-day cruises departing Mondays include stops at Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands; the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay; and Nassau, The Bahamas; and five-day voyages departing Saturdays feature George Town, Grand Cayman; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Each of these destinations offers a truly unique vacation experience, with miles of gorgeous white-sand beaches and an interesting array of shore excursion choices such as zip-lining, horseback riding, kayaking, and more.

Carnival Victory offers a variety of ways to have fun, from a 214-foot-long Twister water slide and fun supervised activities and spacious play areas for kids in three age groups to a 270-square-foot poolside LED screen showing nightly Dive-In Movies and a wide range of dancing and entertainment venues, including the Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez. Dining options range from two full-service restaurants with extensive menus and wine lists to a two-level casual eatery offering an array of delectable culinary choices, including a New York-style deli, an Asian specialty venue, a 24-hour pizzeria, pasta- and meat-carving stations, and a Taste of the Nations area offering a different international cuisine each day. Additionally, 60 percent of the ship’s 1,379 staterooms offer either an ocean view or private balcony.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Royal Caribbean Marks Construction Milestone & Names Project Sunshine Ships

Royal Caribbean International took a major step this week in the development of the cruise line’s next generation of cruise ships when the first piece of steel was cut for the first of two Project Sunshine ships. The steel cutting took place at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, where the two ships will be built.

To celebrate the milestone, Royal Caribbean announced the names of the two new ships – Quantum of the Seas, set to debut in fall 2014, and Anthem of the Seas, which will follow in spring 2015. They will be part of the Quantum class of ships and will build upon Royal Caribbean’s legacy of revolutionary ship design and bold innovation.

“We are extremely excited to celebrate this important milestone for our first Project Sunshine ship. After three years of design and advance planning this is the first step of the construction of the ship and I look forward to seeing it all come together in the coming months,” said Adam Goldstein, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “The new ship will be such a leap forward in terms of vessel design and guest experiences that we thought the name Quantum of the Seas was perfectly appropriate.”

Royal Caribbean International’s legacy is built on introducing ‘at sea firsts’ such as rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, surf simulators, zip lines and even a tropical park with over 12,000 live plants. The Quantum class of ships will continue to build on this legacy with unprecedented experiences and amenities. They will once again deliver on Royal Caribbean’s tradition of designing for ‘WOW’. The video below is a look at the first step in their Quantum Leap Forward in Cruising.


“Throughout our history we have made huge strides in cruise ship design and innovation and the Quantum class will be no exception,” said Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. “We look forward to introducing consumers to Quantum cruising.”

Image & Video Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Seabourn Introduces New European Combination Cruises

Seabourn has introduced clever new itineraries for its award-winning small-ship fleet in Europe for the coming season that provide appealing opportunities for travelers to combine two or more cruises and see more, sail more, and save 10 percent or more on fares for longer luxury cruise vacations. In addition, during Seabourn's Signature Savings Event now underway, a complimentary veranda upgrade is available on many of its European Combination Cruises. Although Seabourn offers dozens of extended Combination Cruise values on all six of its intimate all-suite ships year-round and worldwide, many of the Combination Cruises in Europe provide extended itineraries with several departures scheduled conveniently throughout the season.

"Many of our guests book Combination Cruises to take full advantage of our port-rich itineraries," said John Delaney, Seabourn's senior vice president of marketing and sales. "They are especially popular with travelers exploring the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Aegean Seas."

Some outstanding examples of Seabourn's European Combination Cruises include:
Seabourn Quest offers 20-day European Combination Cruises for 2013, with with complimentary veranda upgrades. Isles of the Mediterranean sails from Athens (Piraeus), Greece to Barcelona, Spain on June 18, Aug 17, and Sept 16, 2012, calling at 17 ports and featuring Seabourn's exclusive Evening at Ephesus complimentary shore event, plus two scheduled Marina Days. The Rivieras, Spain & Rome variation cruises between Monte Carlo and Athens on June 28, Aug 27, and Sept 26, 2012, with a late-night stay in Barcelona and planned Marina Days in Le Lavandou, France and Golfo Aranci on Sardinia.

Other Seabourn Quest Combination Cruise options include a Mediterranean Marvels voyage from Barcelona to Monte Carlo, departing Aug 7 and Sept 6, 2012 that includes Rome, Florence, Athens and several Greek Isles, as well as both a Marina Day at Golfo Aranci and Seabourn's complimentary Evening at Ephesus shore experience. Spain & Mediterranean Gems sails round-trip from Barcelona on Oct 6, 2012, and also includes the exclusive Ephesus evening, as well as 15 other ports and scenic cruising of the active volcanic island of Stromboli near Sorrento, Italy.

Seabourn Legend's 20-day Mediterranean Nights itinerary sails round-trip from Rome (Civitavecchia) on July 17, Aug 6 & 26, and Sept 15, 2013. The itinerary includes 16 ports and features overnight stays in Barcelona, Spain and Valletta, Malta, plus late-night stays in Cannes, France and Monte Carlo, Monaco. The cruise also includes two planned Marina Days for enjoying water sports right from the ship at Ile de Porquerolles, France and Amalfi, Italy.

Seabourn Spirit offers five departures of a 21-day Venice & Adriatic Charms voyage sailing round-trip from Venice, Italy. The departures are June 11, July 2 & 23, Aug 13, and Sept 3, 2013. The cruise itinerary features 16 ports, including Katakolon (for Olympia) and an opportunity to visit the spectacular "Sky Monasteries" of Meteora in Greece, a Marina Day at Triluke Bay in Croatia, the UNESCO World Heritage mosaics of Ravenna, Italy and breathtaking Kotor Fjord in Montenegro, plus a two-day stay in Venice in mid-cruise and another full day and overnight at the end. Two water sports Marina Days are also planned.
Those are just a sampling and a complete listing of all Seabourn Combination Cruises are available at Seabourn.com.

Seabourn Quest Image Courtesy of Seabourn Cruises

Monday, February 4, 2013

Holland America Line’s Half Moon Cay Celebrates 15th Anniversary With New Features

Beach Villas under construction
When evaluating the “best” Caribbean ports of call, many repeat cruise passengers often cite the cruise lines’ own private islands as their favorite. Award-winning Half Moon Cay, Holland America Line’s private Bahamian island, celebrated its 15th anniversary this Caribbean cruise season, and to commemorate the milestone the island offerings and features have been enhanced.

When we called there last fall during the Malt Shop Memories Cruise, we noticed the structures under construction that are pictured here and learned that they would eventually become five new, colorful, two-story Beach Villas available for rent during each call. The two level luxurious hideaways boast exclusive hot tubs on the second floor and provide private accommodations for guests while they relax and experience the island’s highlights. Other beach cabanas were refreshed, and the Grand Cabana received new décor and a slide from the cabana deck straight into the ocean.

“For 15 years, Half Moon Cay has continuously been recognized as the most popular private island in the Caribbean, and to celebrate this milestone we have added several new features,” said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. “Our guests already rate Half Moon Cay as their favorite Caribbean port call, and these new enhancements will make the island even more enjoyable.”

A new glass-bottom boat that carries 290 guests also was introduced for tours and features underwater viewing of the island’s colorful reefs and sea life. The horseback riding tour is one of the island’s most popular, and six horses were recently added to the herd so more can enjoy the ride.

The enrichment of the island’s features extended to the Bahamian Church, which has been repainted and outfitted with new pews and interior artwork. The island’s private chapel is nestled in a garden overlooking the sea and provides the perfect setting for cruise guests to enjoy a unique, romantic wedding ceremony or vow renewal.

Over the past 15 years, Half Moon Cay—with its breathtakingly beautiful, crescent-shaped white-sand beach and warm, blue-green waters—has evolved into an idyllic playground for cruise guests while retaining the scenic natural beauty of the 1,700-acre uninhabited Little San Salvador Island.

On the island guests can find solitude just a short walk down the beach or rollicking fun at Captain Morgan’s Bar. Half Moon Cay offers shore excursions ranging from a swim with stingrays to a horseback ride and swim. The 700-acre lagoon offers water sports on its protected waters. New amenities and shore excursions have been gradually added to Half Moon Cay over the years, always with an eye to protecting the island’s natural beauty and preserving its status as an important migratory-bird sanctuary.

In addition to the five new Beach Villas, there are fifteen Beach Cabanas and one Private Oasis on Half Moon Cay with these features:

Beach Villas completed
Beach Villa Package
Board the first tender ashore, or have priority tender use, to maximize your time by being the first guests to arrive. For your comfort, you will find your two-story villa outfitted with air-conditioning, a 5 person capacity hot tub, refrigerator, ceiling fan, air conditioner, dining area with table and chairs inside, misting shower, and private sun deck. You will be provided with fresh fruit, vegetables with dip, and chips and salsa to snack on as well as an assortment of soft drinks and bottled water to quench your thirst. Floating mats and snorkel gear are also included for your use throughout the day. Note: The Beach Villa Package is applicable for up to 8 guests. Parties larger than 8 must book a "Beach Villa Package-Extra Person Surcharge" tour for each additional guest.

Private Cabana Package
Board the first tender ashore, or have priority tender use, to maximize your time by being the first guests to arrive. For your comfort, you will find your cabana outfitted with a refrigerator, ceiling fan, air conditioner, table and chairs inside, and deck chairs and a misting shower on the private terrace. You will be provided with fresh fruit, vegetables with dip, and chips and salsa to snack on as well as an assortment of soft drinks and bottled water to quench your thirst. Floating mats and snorkel gear are also included for your use throughout the day. Note: The Private Cabana Package is applicable for up to 4 guests. Parties larger than 4 must book a "Private Cabana Package-Extra Person Surcharge" tour for each additional guest.

Butler Service Upgrade Package: Villas & Cabanas
This special service upgrade is available to those guests who have purchased a Half Moon Cay Beach Villa or Cabana Package. The Butler Service Upgrade Package includes:
-- Unlimited beverages available from the various bars on Half Moon Cay. Drinks made from house brand liquor, all beers, soft drinks, bottled water and wine.
-- A picnic lunch consisting of appetizer, entree, and dessert.
-- Butler escort from your cabin to assist you ashore carrying all belongings to and from the ship.
-- Your Butler will see to whatever needs you have on the island including shopping from the island shops and any Shore Excursions bookings you may like to make on Half Moon Cay.
The Butler Service Upgrade Package price is applicable for up to 8 guests. For groups of more than 8 guests, each additional guest must purchase an Extra Person Surcharge for the Butler Service Upgrade.

Private Oasis Palm Package
The Private Oasis perches on a point, partially over water, so you can enjoy your private gathering in a luxurious setting, highlighted by an easy walkway into the warm turquoise waters. The Private Oasis offers a total of 1,620 square feet and includes a large covered deck and comfortable sun deck with eight-person hot tub. Features include an indoor teak dining table seating six people, outdoor teak lounges and bar stools accommodating 12, barbecue area, full wet bar and refrigerator, massage table, iPod music system, multi-colored Bahamian tapestries, men's and women's changing rooms, indoor and outdoor showers with heated fresh water, 100-foot walkway with misting stations and privacy gate. Your Palm Package menu throughout the day will include the services of a butler, personal chef, and lifeguard along with the following:
-- Fresh Fruit, Danish, Chips & Salsa from 10:00am - 2:00pm
-- Beverage Package with Soft Drinks, Bottled Water, Juices, Domestic and Imported Beers, House Pouring Wine by the Glass, Island Cocktails, Frozen Tropical Classics, and Mocktails from 10:00am-3:00pm
-- BBQ lunch buffet with Assorted Salads, Fruit Salad, Grilled Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Fresh Teriyaki glazed Mahi Mahi, Barbequed Pork Spare Ribs and Barbequed Chicken, Brownies & Cookies from 11:30am -1:00pm
Note: The base rate is applicable for up to 12 guests. Only one guest need purchase the reservation for up to 12 guests. For groups with more than 12 guests, an Extra Person Surcharge for the Private Oasis at Half Moon Cay must be purchased for each additional person from 13-25 guests.

If You Go
Book your Villa, Cabana, or Oasis Package online as early as possible to avoid disappointment as they almost always sell out before sailing. After you log in and complete your online check-in, you will find pricing in the shore excursion section of the Holland America Line website.

Images (c) CruiseDiva.com  & Courtesy of Holland America Line