Sunday, March 31, 2013

Carnival’s Adri Ford is Two-Time Winner in Barcardi Cruise Competition for “Bartender of the Year”

Adri Ford & the Carnival Team
Adri Ford, a bartender at the Alchemy Bar aboard Carnival Conquest, has been named “Bartender of the Year” at the annual Bacardi Cruise Competition for the second consecutive year. She also received the “People’s Choice Award” which is voted on by guests attending the annual event, which this year attracted a record 2,800 entries from bartenders and chefs throughout the cruise industry.

Ford earned her second Bartender of the Year award for creating the Bacardi Caribbean Hideaway, a refreshing cocktail featuring Bacardi’s Oakheart rum, which was the required ingredient for the signature cocktail category this year. Ford received a $5,000 check and an etched glass trophy for her winning entry. Additionally, Carnival Cruise Lines earned a free on-board Bacardi crew party for submitting the most entries in this year’s competition.

Ford has been with Carnival for three years, including the past five months at Carnival Conquest’s Alchemy Bar, a cocktail pharmacy-themed lounge where bartenders in lab coats “prescribe” custom cocktails that feature unique ingredients and are divided into fun categories like Mood Enhancers, Fountain of Youth, and Relief for What Ails. Patrons can even fill out a prescription pad and create their own tailor-made concoctions.

The Alchemy Bar is part of Carnival’s $500 million Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement strategy that is transforming the line’s vacation experience with a variety of innovative dining, bar and entertainment options. The Alchemy Bar will be among the many Fun Ship 2.0 innovations featured on the renovated Carnival Sunshine when it debuts May 5 in Europe.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Coming Attractions: Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 to Make 200th Transatlantic Crossing

Cunard Line's flagship Queen Mary 2 will mark a major milestone on her July 6, 2013 voyage from New York to Southampton, achieving her 200th Transatlantic Crossing in her ninth season since entering service in 2004. The milestone will be commemorated with various activities and special speakers and performers on board to add to the celebratory mood.

“Sailing a Transatlantic Crossing aboard our flagship Queen Mary 2 is a luxury travel experience like no other,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. “And now with 200 Crossings under her belt, the grandest ocean liner in the world has proven to be the icon of the new golden age of ocean travel across the Atlantic.”

As part of the Cunard Insights on board enrichment program, Stephen Payne OBE, who was largely responsible for the overall design of Queen Mary 2, will present a fascinating perspective on her construction. Stephen also will be the guest of honor at an evening gala on board, which will include a commemorative dinner with a special menu. In addition, BBC newsreader and Classic FM presenter Nick Owen will lecture on board.

Also adding to the festivities will be 16 musicians, plus a band leader and vocalist, from the world-renowned Juilliard School of Dance, Drama and Music. The group will perform as a jazz orchestra providing a selection of Big Band, Swing, and Glenn Miller style music and smaller ensemble pieces. Other Juilliard performances will include an evening event in the Royal Court Theatre with full orchestra and vocalist, an afternoon tea dance, lunch time jam sessions featuring an ensemble in the Chart Room, and a late evening ensemble in Illuminations. The band leader and members of the orchestra will also give two jazz master class lectures and a live Q&A.

Queen Mary 2 is still the largest, longest, tallest, widest, and most expensive ocean liner ever built. She is also the fastest passenger ship in the world. In the course of the flagship's 200 Transatlantic Crossings, Cunard estimates that passengers have consumed:
  • 8.4 million cups of tea
  • 980,000 scones
  • 481,000 bottles of champagne
  • 644,000 eggs
  • 960,000 litres of milk
Queen Mary 2 Sails From New York City
In total, Queen Mary 2 has served 22.4 million meals and sailed over 600,000 nautical miles during her first 200 Crossings. These figures do not take into account her annual World Cruise or her sailings to the Canaries, Fjords, Iceland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, around Britain, up to Montreal and Quebec in Canada, or among the Caribbean islands.

Looking at Cunard’s earlier vessels, Queen Mary (1936-1967) crossed the Atlantic 1,001 times; Queen Elizabeth (1940-1968) crossed 896 times; and Queen Elizabeth 2 (1969-2008) crossed 812 times.

Transatlantic Crossings aboard Queen Mary 2 offer time to leisurely explore the ship’s extensive on board amenities and activities, including lectures through the award-winning Cunard Insights program; stargazing in the only planetarium at sea; white-gloved afternoon tea served in the Queens Room or a spin around the dance floor during a Royal Nights themed ball; taking in a performance or workshop by members of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art; or perusing 8,000 volumes in the largest library at sea.

Special promotional fares for the 200th Transatlantic Crossing aboard Queen Mary 2 on the 6 July 2013 voyage are available. For more information, visit Cunard.com.

Images Courtesy of Cunard Line

Friday, March 29, 2013

Barbie™ Sets Sail With Royal Caribbean

Little girls love Barbie™. In fact, some of us ladies of a certain age loved her when we were little girls and still have our favorite Barbie doll. The Barbie in this photo is mine and I think she's trying to tell me something... my Barbie wants to take a cruise.

As we reported here on Cruise Diva’s Blog last year, today’s Barbie—undeniably the world’s most famous doll—now sails onboard Royal Caribbean ships thanks to an exclusive partnership with Mattel. From fashion shows to movies to tea parties to a stateroom filled with Barbie amenities, the “Barbie™ Premium Experience” creates a lifetime of cruise memories for little girls and their families.

The link above to our story has all the details and the video below gives a first-hand look at the excitement when little girls sail with their BFF, Barbie. It’s really cute to see the delighted expressions on their faces.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cunard Line Revises Dress Codes

Formal night on Queen Mary 2
When packing for your next cruise or crossing on a Cunard Line ship you, you may be able to pack a little lighter, but not much.

Cunard has renewed its commitment to the pleasure (or pain, depending on your style) of dressing up aboard “The Most Famous Ocean Liners in the World” with an update to its dress codes, while at the same time encouraging the loosening of ties on its less formal nights. Research with existing passengers and luxury travelers in general has led them to strengthen their commitment to special occasion dressing three times a week on its Transatlantic Crossings and twice each week on sailings to the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, and beyond.

However, in response to the grow trend toward more casual attire at home and while traveling, Cunard is adjusting its advice on dress codes for other nights. The result: along with two or three formal nights each week, there will be four or five “informal” evenings where jackets are required but ties will be optional, heightening the sense of anticipation for formal nights even more.

“The glamour of dressing to the nines is a hallmark of traveling with Cunard, and distinguishes us from the mass of cruise operators where dressing up has become a thing of the past,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line, who added, “Formal nights are a chance for the ladies to sparkle in cocktail dresses or full-on evening gowns, while for the gentlemen, dinner jackets–or tuxedos or dark suits–always bring a touch of sharp, 007-type style to the occasion.”

Passengers opting out of evening wear on formal nights are welcome in the ships’ main buffet restaurants and in the adjoining Winter Garden or Garden Lounge bars, but not in other areas of the ship, out of respect for their fellow guests. By day, smart casual remains the style of choice among Cunard’s passengers, as in a five-star hotel ashore.

This change from the previous evening dress codes of “formal,” “semi-formal” and “elegant casual” to just “formal” and “informal” will take effect before Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, and flagship Queen Mary 2 set out on their main sailing seasons in April/May 2013.

All future passengers are being advised of the adjustment in good time before departure. For more information, visit Cunard.com.

Image © CruiseDiva.com

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Regal Princess, Princess Cruises' Next New Ship Floats Out

Regal Princess met the water for 
the first  time in a traditional 
shipyard ceremony yesterday
Regal Princess reached a major milestone in her construction process when the Princess Cruises vessel was “floated out” yesterday at her building dock at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy. A traditional ceremony marked the occasion as the ship met sea water for the first time. Following the Italian shipyard’s custom, the float out of a ship begins when a “madrina,” or godmother, cuts the cord that begins the flow of water into the ship’s building dock to begin the two-day process of setting the ship afloat.

Once totally afloat, Regal Princess will be moved to the outfitting dock where final construction and interior outfitting will take place. Regal Princess, a sister ship to the soon-to-debut Royal Princess, will debut in June 2014 with a season of Mediterranean cruises.

Regal Princess and Royal Princess are new-generation ships for Princess Cruises. Among the special features found on board the 3,600-passenger vessels will be a greatly expanded atrium, the social hub of the ship; a dramatic over-water SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed walkway extending more than 28 feet beyond the edge of the vessel; plush private poolside cabanas that appear to be floating on the water; the new Princess Live! television studio; a pastry shop; a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds diners in a curtain of light; and balconies on all outside staterooms.

Find more Royal Princess & Regal Princess details, images, and videos on Cruise Diva's blog at:
Princess Cruises Newest Ship Will Be A Royal
Royal Princess: Expanded Atrium, New Features
Royal Princess Introduces Updated Amenities and A New Balcony Stateroom Category
Royal Princess: Expanded Atrium, New Features
Princess Cruises Raises the Curtain on New Royal Princess Entertainment Venue
The Ultimate In Relaxation Coming Aboard Royal Princess
Princess Cruises Shares A Look At New Royal Princess Fitness Facilities
Princess Cruises Takes Dining To The Next Level With New Royal Princess
Princess Cruises Unveils Posh Royal Princess Sanctuary & Retreat Pool With New Features
Junior Cruisers Have A Lot to Look forward to In New Royal Princess Youth & Teen Centers
Things You Might Not Know About Royal Princess

Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Royal Caribbean Ships Meet in Singapore

It was a historic meet-up when Royal Caribbean International’s two Asian-based cruise ships Voyager of the Seas (left) and Legend of the Seas (right) both arrived at Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore in the morning and were berthed side by side for the first time there.

Voyager of the Seas, the largest cruise ship based in Asia, was starting on her 8-night cruise to Shanghai while her fleetmate Legend of the Seas was leaving for a 2-night Malacca weekend cruise as part of her Singapore season.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Newest Jewel in the MSC Cruises Fleet, MSC Preziosa is Christened by Screen Legend Sophia Loren

On Saturday, March 23rd, the newest ship in the MSC Cruises fleet, MSC Preziosa, was christened in Genoa, Italy during a glittering naming ceremony.

As she has for the other ships in the MSC fleet, international screen legend Sophia Loren served as Godmother. The glamorous, high-profile event included a gala dinner prepared by a team of Eataly chefs and entertainment from top Italian and international performers in the company of celebrities, selected guests, media, authorities, and the top management of MSC Cruises. MSC Preziosa is the 12th addition to the MSC fleet and the fourth flagship in the company’s celebrated Fantasia class.

The christening itself was attended by numerous international artists, including Italian singer Gino Paoli who performed a selection of his classic hits, and maestro Ennio Morricone who conducted a 55-piece orchestra. Star ballet dancer Roberto Bolle was on hand as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. MSC Cruises supports UNICEF through their joint “Get on Board for Children” initiative, which has raised over 2 million euros to date for disadvantaged children in Brazil. Bolle was welcomed on stage by the Genoa Russian Ballet College performing a sequence from Swan Lake, directed by Irina Kashkova.

During the show, MSC Preziosa was also the star of a completely original ‘flash mob’ involving the passengers on board MSC Splendida and MSC Opera, departing from Genoa on their regular itineraries that night, as well as guests celebrating the christening of MSC Preziosa–a total of over 10,000 people. Guests from all three ships were invited to join in a simple, fun and moving activity involving light games and sounds.

The highlight of the evening was of course the floodlit ceremony and parade of the ship’s officers, when the peerless Sophia Loren–treasured godmother to the MSC Cruises fleet–cut the ribbon and named MSC Preziosa to a crescendo of champagne and fireworks.

“This evening we will celebrate MSC Preziosa: her sparkling beauty and outstanding features, from the longest single rider body waterslide on the waves, Vertigo, to the first two Eataly restaurants at sea,” said MSC Cruises CEO Pierfrancesco Vago.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Things You Might Not Know About Royal Princess

Princess Cruises has revealed nearly all the features about Royal Princess—with the exception of naming her Godmother—and they know their many loyal passengers are looking forward to its debut in June. The ship will contain many striking features, including a soaring atrium and the dramatic over-the-water SeaWalk. But what may escape immediate notice are the myriad of unique innovations throughout the ship designed to enhance the Princess Cruises experience that passengers have come to know and love. Including technological advancements, fresh entertainment offerings, new taste treats, and expansions of the classic Princess experience, these new features will bring an extra level of enjoyment for everyone on board when the ship sets sail.

To bring you up-to-date on what to expect, here are “ Things You Might Not Know about Royal Princess”...

1. New (and Complimentary) On-Demand Stateroom Programming – A new generation of in-room television entertainment will debut aboard Royal Princess, offering an extensive array of on-demand movies and other programming options. The entire library of hundreds of movies, as well as classic and contemporary television show episodes, will be offered free to passengers. The new system will also offer a live feed from the ship’s television studio Princess Live!

2. Four Brand-New Original Production Shows – The Princess Theater aboard Royal Princess will debut four new production shows, including “Colors of the World,” an experiential journey through the destinations visited by Princess ships; “Spectacular!” a colorful music extravaganza; “Sweet Soul Music,” a tribute to rhythm and blues; and “What the World Needs Now,” an elegant show celebrating the music and style of the ‘60s.

3. Tea Tower with Sommelier and 250 Blends – Featuring a tea sommelier and a choice of 250 blends, tea lovers will revel in Royal Princess’ unique tea tower located in the ship’s central Piazza.

4. Art & Architecture Mobile Tour – A new self-guided tour will enable passengers to explore the ship’s extensive art collection using their personal smart phones or tablets. Passengers can enjoy the 30-stop tour at their leisure, or scan a QR code located at each artwork to discover interesting facts about the artist and their work.

5. Outdoor Art Installation by Marine Artist Wyland – Famous marine artist Wyland is creating a dramatic, custom piece of sea-inspired art that will be installed on the ship’s top deck. The new work will be revealed during the ship’s inaugural celebration in June.

6. Flair Bartending Shows – The top-deck SeaView Bar will feature midday and sunset flair bartending shows where talented bartenders will entertain passengers with their impressive bottle-tossing and mixing skills.

7. Whiskey Flights at Wheelhouse Bar – Inspired by the growing popularity of whiskey, the line’s signature Wheelhouse Bar will feature a menu of three different whiskey flights, each featuring three whiskeys. Passengers can choose from single malts, three “Glens,” and other iconic whiskey options.

8. Daily Pub Lunch – Also in the Wheelhouse Bar, Princess’ popular English pub lunch will be offered daily. Previously available only on select sea days, Royal Princess will serve the full traditional pub-style lunch on all sea days and on port days will offer fish and chips and a ploughman’s lunch. Signature brews will also be available.

9. Mobile Cruise Information Intranet – Princess@Sea, a brand-new mobile-friendly intranet site will enable passengers to easily access daily updates about entertainment, onboard specials, weather and port news, as well as review their onboard folio from their personal mobile or tablet devices.

10. Royal Indulgence Package – New cabanas in The Sanctuary, which feature an array of exclusive treatments in the adults-only setting with ocean views, will offer customized packages that range from $320 to $3,000, the latter for a “Royal Indulgence” package for four people.

11. Concierge Lounge for Suites – A first on a Princess ship, suite passengers can access an exclusive area to relax or work, with access to full front desk services, plus light snacks and beverages. A dedicated lounge staff will be on hand to assist with such things as shore excursions, specialty dining, or Lotus Spa reservations. It will also serve as a private disembarkation lounge for suite passengers.

12. Largest Gelato Menu at Sea – Royal Princess’ new gelateria will serve up the largest variety of Italian-inspired gelato and ice cream creations at sea. Gelato will feature a menu of eight delicious flavors prepared by the ship’s pastry chef, plus more than 20 toppings and sauces, and specialty items such as sundaes, waffle cones, and sweet crepes.

13. Sabatini’s Bites and Flights – As the line’s signature Sabatini’s Italian restaurant will be located right next to Vines on deck 5, the wine bar will now offer Sabatini’s Bites to accompany its popular wine flights. Passengers can sample small bites of such dishes as Tuscan Brochettes, Beef Carpaccio, and Lamb Chop Lollipops.

14. Largest Outdoor Movie Screen at Sea – Princess was the first cruise line to introduce this innovative offering in 2004. Aboard Royal Princess, not only is the Movies Under the Stars screen 30 percent larger than our current screens, it will be the largest at sea.

15. Touch Screen Photo Finder with Facial Recognition Technology – The Royal Princess photo gallery will feature digital kiosks that use facial recognition technology to help passengers find all of their photographs. Passengers can save favorites, customize prints, and take advantage of special packages, all from the convenience of the kiosk.

16. Princess Live! All Day Programming – The new television studio aboard Royal Princess, a first for Princess, will feature programming from 8am until midnight, including live talk shows (such as the daily Wake Show), demonstrations, and performers. With seating for just under 300, the space will afford a more intimate opportunity to meet the ship’s entertainers, play games, and enjoy refreshments with the dedicated café.

17. Four Different Water and Music Shows – The ship’s central pool area will feature daily and nightly performances of four separate themed sequences comprising dancing fountains, special music, and live performers. The Movies Under the Stars screen will also be incorporated as an additional show element.

18. Largest Collection of Super Tuscan Wines at Sea – More than 20 choices of these headline-making wines from Tuscany will be available in Sabatini’s, featured by the bottle and in a new Sabatini’s Super Tuscan Wine Tasting event, where passengers can enjoy the rare opportunity to sample the wines accompanied by small plates from the Italian restaurant.

19. Largest Complimentary Pizza Restaurant at Sea – Alfredo’s Pizzeria, already a favorite on several vessels, will take Princess’ reputation for serving the best pizza at sea to a new level. With 121 seats, Alfredo’s aboard Royal Princess will be the largest such pizza restaurant at sea, and will feature an expanded menu of Neapolitan-style pizzas, calzones, flatbreads, and baked pasta.

20. Princess’ Greenest Ship – Royal Princess has been designed to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, making it the line’s greenest ship. Some of the key areas of focus include the ship’s extremely efficient hull and propeller design, which requires the same energy as the line’s smaller ships to drive it; a distributed air conditioning system with a large number of fan coil units rather than a centralized system; usage of low energy lighting throughout the ship with an emphasis on LED; the addition of variable speed drives to the biggest electrical consumers such as ventilation fans; a tunnel washer in the laundry which will reduce water consumption; and the introduction of additional monitoring of the ship’s overall energy usage.

The 3,600-passenger Royal Princess is a new-generation ship for Princess Cruises. Among the special features found on board will be plush private poolside cabanas that appear to be floating on the water; a pastry shop; a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds diners in a curtain of light; and balconies on all outside staterooms. The ship’s 2013 maiden season will include cruises on the line’s signature Grand Mediterranean itinerary throughout the summer, followed by Eastern Caribbean cruises beginning in the fall. More information and video previews of the ship are available at Princess.com/RoyalPrincess.

Find more Royal Princess details, images, and videos on Cruise Diva's blog at:
Princess Cruises Newest Ship Will Be A Royal
Royal Princess: Expanded Atrium, New Features
Royal Princess Introduces Updated Amenities and A New Balcony Stateroom Category
Royal Princess: Expanded Atrium, New Features
Princess Cruises Raises the Curtain on New Royal Princess Entertainment Venue
The Ultimate In Relaxation Coming Aboard Royal Princess
Princess Cruises Shares A Look At New Royal Princess Fitness Facilities
Princess Cruises Takes Dining To The Next Level With New Royal Princess
Princess Cruises Unveils Posh Royal Princess Sanctuary & Retreat Pool With New Features
Junior Cruisers Have A Lot to Look forward to In New Royal Princess Youth & Teen Centers
Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Norwegian Launches New “Guppies” Program for Children Under Three

Children and teens have always given Norwegian Cruise Line’s youth programs and facilities high marks and now the line has gone a step further by introducing a brand new “Guppies” program to Splash Academy. The expanded children’s program offers interactive programming for kids’ ages six months to three years old and gives parents with children under the age of three the opportunity to engage in a variety of sensory-based programs with them, including baby art, featuring organic, vegetable-based “Wee Can Too” art products, baby “Rhyme Time,” where a storyteller recites popular nursery rhymes featuring puppets, and “Motion in the Ocean,” a parent and baby mini-workout.

Norwegian Cruise Line is also celebrating the successful fleet-wide implementation of its enhanced Youth and Teen programs, Splash Academy and Entourage. The new programs, announced in February of 2012, have received enthusiastically positive reviews from parents and kids, and have made a dramatic impact on the overall family cruise experience. With the new programs, kids and teens have the chance to participate in a variety of innovative events and activities throughout their cruise, specially tailored to their individual age groups. Both Splash Academy and Entourage feature a different theme each day, such as “Rumble in the Jungle,” and “Under the Big Top,” offering new surprises every time the children return to the program.

Kids of all age groups love participating in the sporting activities that were developed through the partnership with The King’s Foundation and Camps, a United Kingdom-based organization. The sports component of the youth programs offers high quality sports activities designed to make a positive impact on the children. Examples include soccer skills; physical challenges; and icebreaker action games. Bowling tournaments, soccer challenges and “dodge ball under the stars” are just a few of the active offerings for teens. The new program also offers the family a chance to play along in a variety of sporting activities including dodge ball, tug-of-war and other exciting family challenges.

One of the most popular aspects of the new program is the circus workshop, developed through the partnership with Hilario Productions’ Cirque du Jour, which offers fun circus activities for the whole family. Through the program, children have the rare opportunity to learn a variety of unique skills such as balancing feathers, juggling, plate spinning and even stilt walking. Classes take place within the youth program, but a family circus school performed in a circus ring, hosted by the Cruise Director, who acts as ringmaster, is also offered.

Parents also enjoy participating in activities and events with their children, including cupcake decorating; pizza making; family game shows; family charades; Family Deck Party; and a special Family White Hot Party. Additional information about Norwegian’s family offerings can be found at NCL.com/family.

Image © CruiseDiva.com

Friday, March 22, 2013

River Cruises Are Booming

America's Baby Boomers are responsible for many things, not least among them a boom in travel. With more time and disposable income available than ever before, they are taking to the air and waterways worldwide in numbers unseen in the past.

In response to Boomers' lust for travel in comfort and style, several companies that operate the river boats so popular with them are introducing new vessels at a rapid clip.

Take Vantage Deluxe World Travel, which, if you've been following Cruise Diva's Blog, you know the line just launched River Splendor last week in Antwerp, Belgium. That ship followed one introduced in 2012, and a sister-ship will follow this spring, bringing their state-of-the-art fleet designed to appeal to American travelers to four deluxe river vessels in Europe.

AmaWaterways, which operates more than a dozen ships worldwide, continues to build upon their fleet of custom-designed vessels in Europe, Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Africa. The company will debut two new ships in Amsterdam and Portugal in 2013, to be followed in 2014 by two more in Europe.

The largest fleet of river ships, operated by Viking River Cruises, grew this week when the line set a world record with the christening of ten new Viking Longships—four of the christenings took place in Amsterdam and the remaining six were conducted live via satellite from the shipyard in Germany. That feat followed the christening of six ships in 2012, with twelve more planned for launch in 2014. Viking's chairman Torstein Hagen wants to have 100 river cruise vessels operating on European waterways by 2020. That may seem far fetched, but the line is already half-way to that mark with a fleet that sails in Europe, China, Russia, Southeast Asia, and Egypt.

You don't have to be a Baby Boomer to enjoy a river cruise, but if you're under 55 you may find yourself the youngest passenger on your ship.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

River Splendor Sets Sail for Bruges & Amsterdam

River Splendor docked in Terneuzen
With the fireworks and festivities surrounding River Splendor’s christening behind us, our vessel cast off and departed Antwerp sometime after 1am. Unless you were looking out a window, you wouldn’t have known it—cruising on a river is certainly smooth sailing.

All passengers were assigned to one of four shore excursion groups at the beginning of the voyage and at the port talk for Bruges, Mel and I were pleased to learn that the Program Manager assigned to our group was a native of the medieval city. He outlined that our excursion was not only to be a walking tour, but would also include a segment on a canal boat. As we chatted with him we realized that the itinerary was nearly identical to one we’d taken on a previous visit to the city. We reluctantly decided to stay aboard River Splendor when she docked in Terneuzen, a 45-minute ride by coach to Bruges. It turned out to be a good decision as the day was cold and it snowed. Mel explored the village of Terneuzen and I used the time to become better acquainted with River Splendor. We met up for lunch in the aft-facing Captain’s Club lounge where light lunches are served and brats, hot dogs, and burgers were being prepared on a grill on the aft veranda.

River Splendor in a lock
Later we logged on to the Internet with our laptop utilizing the ship’s complimentary WiFi to check email and Mel had a nice chat with Captain Roger about River Splendor’s mechanical and energy-efficient “green” features. The Captain also explained how the ship’s size is determined by European Union regulations, including the length of 442 feet—naturally she has to fit into the locks she transits—the Captain said those locks are the river ships’ biggest obstacles. However, there are also bridges to go under with only 20 feet of clearance and when River Splendor approaches one everything on the top deck, including the railings, furnishings, awnings, and even the wheelhouse, are “folded down” to pass beneath them. Captain Roger explained that the wheelhouse is actually lowered into an open space on the deck below.

Amsterdam—home of canals, bicycles & houseboats
As we arrived in Amsterdam the next morning it was obvious we’d gone under a low bridge because the top deck awnings and chairs were still folded flat. Approaching the pier, there were already two river vessels docked there on either side of it and River Splendor tied up alongside Viking Idun—rafted together the two ships’ lobbies lined up and we went ashore by walking through the Viking ship. From what little we observed, it was interesting to compare the two—Vantage’s River Splendor has an elegant traditional look and a more modernist décor appeared to be the theme of the Viking ship.

It was a short walk on the pier to where covered (and heated!) boats awaited for our tour through the canals of Amsterdam. We sipped wine and munched on cheese and crackers as our guide pointed out the sights. No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to a diamond factory and we probably learned more about them than our husbands cared for us to know. At the conclusion of the demonstration every guest was served a flute of champagne containing a “diamond”—two of which were real. Mel’s and mine weren’t real, but we shared the excitement of the winners’ good fortune. At the conclusion of the tour we had all afternoon to visit the city’s museums and attractions on our own.

All good trips must come to an end and Vantage’s care of their passengers was quite apparent in the debarkation process. They had everyone’s flight departure times and scheduled the transfers accordingly. After an early breakfast of Belgian waffles we set our luggage out in the passageway for pick-up at 7am and by 7:30 our transfer van was on the way to the airport.

We hope you’ve enjoyed a taste of our journey. Watch next week for a complete ship preview of Vantage Deluxe World Travel’s brand-new River Splendor online at CruiseDiva.com.

Photos © CruiseDiva.com

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

River Splendor, Arrival & Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp skyline from River Splendor
There’s the river, but where’s our boat? We could be forgiven for our confusion after a long flight from New York to Brussels, Belgium and a coach transfer to Antwerp to board Vantage Deluxe World Travel’s brand-new River Splendor. Stepping off the bus we saw Captain Roger Spoor standing level with the dock—no, he wasn’t walking on water, he was on the top deck of River Splendor waiting to personally greet every passenger as they boarded. Despite the snow and cold wind—a rarity this time of year in Belgium—it was a warm welcome.

We later learned that Antwerp’s River Schelde rises and falls with the tide. By mid-afternoon River Splendor was completely visible from the shore and our starboard side 4th deck cabin with a French balcony had a splendid view of the city, including the Cathedral’s spire, rather than the side of the concrete dock that was our earlier “view.”

River Splendor—top deck level with
roadway ashore at low tide
No one likes air travel these days and we are no exception. Delays due to New York weather kept our flight from Atlanta to JFK on the ground for more than an hour and we barely made our connecting flight. Fortunately, we did and our suitcase was the first off the plane in Brussels—meaning it was probably the last one to make it to the plane. Despite a somewhat rocky start to our trip due to the airline, once we were in the hands of Vantage’s personnel we began to experience the care they provide their guests. During the four-night Grand Inaugural Sailing aboard the new River Splendor they literally took care of everything to make the voyage enjoyable.

A welcome light lunch was served buffet-style in the Compass Rose Restaurant and the afternoon activities included classical music in the Latitude 52° Lounge, followed by a welcome briefing hosted by Captain Roger and Hotel Manager Laci. Like other river vessels, River Splendor doesn’t have life boats, but during the safety briefing we were instructed on the use of life vests and how to proceed in case of an emergency. Afterwards, the Vantage Program Managers (our hosts onboard and ashore) gave a port talk before the Captain’s Welcome Diner in the restaurant—a delightful set menu with choice of entrée. The men at our table enjoyed the veal with risotto so much that they requested, and were served, a second portion!

For the Grand Inaugural Sailing we were entertained by Richie “Rich” & 24Karat Funk  in the Latitude 52° Lounge each evening; however, most voyages feature local entertainment brought on board and music provided by a DJ for dancing.

While we were able to catch a nap between lunch and the welcome briefing, we retired early in order to be well rested for the next day’s adventure—a walking tour of Antwerp that included the gorgeous Cathedral where four magnificent works by the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens are displayed. Three of the masterpieces, including the famous triptych, The Decent From The Cross, were created especially for the Cathedral (pictured here). When the tour concluded there was time to explore the city independently and shop for necessities—such as Belgian chocolates.

Tours were conducted using audio headsets that enabled us to hear the interesting facts, customs, and stories recounted by our English-speaking guides. Even Mel, who tends to bring up the rear while taking photos, was able to follow the commentary with the headset... and not get lost.

Back on board River Splendor we were treated to a “Cultural Connection” lecture about Belgian chocolate and sampled fruit dipped in dark or milk chocolate as well as chocolate Easter eggs. Then we went ashore to attend the naming ceremony (see our story at Vantage Deluxe World Travel Christens ms River Splendor) before attending a celebratory dinner at the Grand Café Horta in Antwerp.

Follow along tomorrow for more of our voyage!

Photos © CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Vantage Deluxe World Travel Christens ms River Splendor in Antwerp, Belgium

ms River Splendor Godmother, 
Miss Belgium Noemie Happart
The Cruise Diva crew was on hand last Thursday when Vantage Deluxe World Travel, which is celebrating 30 years of success as a world renowned tour operator, introduced the ms River Splendor in Antwerp, Belgium. The newest addition to its growing European river cruising fleet was christened by Miss Belgium Noemie Happart as the ship's godmother. After the four-night Grand Inaugural Sailing, the new River Splendor began its official inaugural voyage on March 17th from Amsterdam.

Measuring 442 feet in length, the maximum allowed by European Union regulations, the ms River Splendor boasts several innovative features that are consistent with Vantage's new fleet including a fuel efficient propulsion system that allows for reduced emissions and earns the vessel a "green ship" designation, energy-saving LED lighting and canvas ceilings throughout the ship, a hydraulic sliding roof that provides as indoor/outdoor dining experience in the aft-facing lounge, and the largest full-service galley of any European river cruising company. With a maximum of 176 passengers and 45 crew members, the ms River Splendor offers one of the best crew-to-passenger ratios available and the most public space of any Vantage European river cruising ship. This newest vessel is the second ship to come online, following the successful launch of the ms River Discovery II in 2012.

The traditional champagne bottle break
"We are incredibly excited to launch the second ship of our new fleet, the ms River Splendor alongside our most valued partners and a select group of best customers," said Kevin Wallace, COO of Vantage Deluxe World Travel. "We are expecting significant growth in the number of passengers we host on our European river cruising vessels in 2013 and 2014 including new departures to the Seine, Rhone, Saone in France and the Elbe in Germany, and we are looking forward to offering our customers the best cruising experience available anywhere with this exceptional ship." Wallace added, "We could not ask for a better 30th anniversary gift. We are looking forward to showing our customers the world aboard our new fleet!"

In addition to an intimate cruising experience, Vantage's newest ship offers a variety of accommodations. The larger staterooms include a 330 square foot owners' suite, 12 spacious 250 square foot deluxe suites, and a selection of other stateroom offerings. French balconies are featured in 78% of accommodations and all boast hotel style beds, individual climate control, flat-screen TVs equipped with free Video on Demand, U.S. television channels, and interactive trip planning and GPS tracking; free WiFi; personal safes; U.S.-type electrical outlets; and bathroom amenities by L'Occitane. With eight single staterooms, the ms River Splendor is ready to satisfy the demand of single travelers. The new ship's dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows to offer diners delightful river views while they enjoy menus of favorite American and European dishes; a full service cocktail lounge featuring live, local entertainment; and an internet center, library, and fitness room.

As part of Vantage's major $120 million fleet investment program, ms River Splendor will immediately double Vantage's river cruising fleet, joining the ms River Discovery II, which was introduced in 2012. The ms River Venture will launch in late March 2013 and the soon-to-be-renovated ms River Navigator will sail again in September 2013. In addition to enhanced amenities, the fleet will offer passengers new itineraries along the Elbe, Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers, a new Grand River voyage in France, and revamped itineraries in Portugal and Russia. Vantage has been a pioneer in the river boat industry since 1999. For more information on current travel programs, visit VantageTravel.com.

Images (c) CruiseDiva.com

Monday, March 18, 2013

Carnival Cruise Lines Fleet Update

It seems that whenever I travel, something happens that I cannot keep readers of my blog updated about. Last week while I was in Europe to attend the christening of Vantage Deluxe Travel’s River Splendor (more about that starting tomorrow when I recover from jet lag), the Carnival Dream experienced a problem that is outlined in the March 14th Q&A below. Following the Q&A is a statement from Carnival Cruise Lines regarding that and other occurrences during the week.

Facts on Carnival Dream

Q: What is going on with Carnival Dream? What happened?
A: While at dock in St. Maarten yesterday, the ship’s engineering team conducted a regularly scheduled test of the ship’s emergency diesel generator. A malfunction occurred which has rendered the emergency generator inoperable. At no time did the ship lose power and the ship’s propulsion systems and primary power sources were not impacted. However, for a period of time last night, there were interruptions to the elevators and restroom services. Toilets and elevators are currently working, and have been since about 12:30am.

Q: Where was the ship when the problem occurred?
A: The Carnival Dream was at dock in St. Maarten during a regularly scheduled port of call visit and remains there currently. All passengers are safe and comfortable.

Q: Did the ship lose power?
A: At no time did the ship lose power and the ship’s propulsion systems and primary power sources were not impacted.

Q: Why is the ship not able to sail back to Port Canaveral?
A: While the ship’s propulsion systems and primary power source were not impacted, in an abundance of caution, we prefer not to sail with guests on board without an operational back up emergency generator.

Q: Are the toilets and elevators working?
A: Toilets and elevators are currently working, and have been since about 12:30am.

Q: Is it true that toilets were overflowing and sewage on floors, in hallways, etc.?
A: We have had multiple conversations with the ship’s management team. Based on the ship’s service logs and extensive physical monitoring of all public areas, including restrooms, throughout the night, we can confirm that only one public restroom was taken offline for cleaning based on toilet overflow and there was a total of one request for cleaning of a guest cabin bathroom. Aside from that there have been no reports of issues on board with overflowing toilets or sewage. The toilet system had periodic interruptions yesterday evening and was fully restored at approximately 12.30am this morning.

Q: Are guests allowed to get off the ship?
A: Guests have the option to get off the ship to visit the port of St. Maarten until their scheduled return home. We have also arranged complimentary water taxi service for guests who wish to explore other areas of the island.

Q: What is going to happen with the guests from here?
A: All guests are being flown via a combination of commercial and private chartered air to either Orlando, which is the closest air gateway to Port Canaveral, or to their final destination depending on their individual needs.

Q: Is it true that Carnival is flying everyone to Miami and putting them on buses?
A: No.

Q: What kind of compensation will they receive?
A: Guests on the current voyage will receive a refund equivalent to three days of the voyage and 50 percent off a future cruise.

Q: Are you cancelling future cruises?
A: We have cancelled the ship’s next voyage which is scheduled to depart on Saturday, March, 16. Guests scheduled to sail on this cruise will receive a full refund and 25 percent off a future seven-day cruise. Guests who re-book will have their current rate protected on the future sailing. Additionally, any non-refundable transportation related expenses will be reimbursed.

Q: How many passengers and crew are onboard?
A: There are 4,363 guests and 1,370 crew on Carnival Dream.

Q: What are you doing to help passengers without passports?
A: We have already addressed this issue with the relevant authorities and the guests will not have an issue traveling without passports.

Carnival Cruise Lines Update - March 16, 2013

We would like to share an update with you regarding the status of Carnival Dream, Legend and Elation and to answer your questions and clarify many misperceptions that are being driven by confusing and, in many cases, inaccurate media coverage. We would also like to update you on the status of our ongoing internal review in the wake of the Carnival Triumph incident.

Carnival Dream

As of this evening, we will have nearly completed the process of flying all guests from St. Maarten to either Orlando or their final destination via a combination of 21 charter flights and multiple commercial air flights. Additionally, we are providing some 600 hotel rooms in Orlando as needed based on travel plans, along with all motor coach transportation needs. Once all guests have left the ship, Carnival Dream will make preparations to sail back to Port Canaveral with the crew on board and we expect to sail on Sunday.

The ship’s power plant, propulsion and hotel systems are fully operational. Aside from some periodic interruptions to restroom and elevator service for a few hours Tuesday night, at no time have any of the ship’s systems and services not been functional. One public restroom was taken offline for cleaning Tuesday evening, but otherwise there were no issues with sanitation functionality or cleanliness on the vessel. Reports to the contrary are completely false.

We have had permission from all necessary regulatory authorities to depart from St. Maarten and sail to Port Canaveral since earlier this week. However, it was our decision not to sail with guests on board without a functioning back-up emergency generator. Upon arrival in Port Canaveral early next week, we will install a replacement emergency generator, followed by the appropriate inspections and approvals to operate our next scheduled voyage on Saturday, March 23rd.

Carnival Legend

Carnival Legend is experiencing a technical issue with the ship’s propulsion system which is having a minor effect on the ship’s maximum speed which is being reduced by a few nautical miles per hour versus normal capacity. The ship’s safety systems, steering and all hotel services are functioning normally and the ship, which has been achieving speeds of 19 knots, is scheduled to arrive in Tampa on time tomorrow morning.

On Sunday afternoon, Carnival Legend is expected to depart on schedule while technicians continue to make progress on the repairs. The ship is expected to operate its normal itinerary with the exception of one port – Grand Cayman – which is being replaced by Costa Maya. Any guests wishing not to proceed based on the change to one port of call have been given the option of cancelling and receiving a full refund.

Carnival Elation

At no time has the Carnival Elation been under tow or required the assistance of a tug boat. The ship continues to operate its normally scheduled itineraries. The ship is experiencing a minor technical issue with the steering function of one of its two redundant Azipod propulsion units and the tug that is trailing the ship while it travels on the Mississippi River is purely a precautionary measure. The ship is scheduled to return on time from its current voyage on Monday. Repairs are expected to be fully completed prior to the ship’s departure for its next cruise on Monday afternoon.

Our Commitment to Safety and Security

We would like to sincerely apologize to our guests for the disruption to their vacation plans as a result of these occurrences. The cause of each one is unrelated although we take each of them very seriously. As always, the safety of our guests and crew is our foremost priority. Carnival Cruise Lines carries some 4.5 million passengers a year and operates thousands of cruises without incident. Our historical safety record is outstanding. We have comprehensive maintenance programs in place that meet or exceed all regulatory standards and requirements.

We are committed to learning from any incident that may occur on one of our vessels to apply lessons learned and prevent future occurrences. We are presently conducting a comprehensive fleet-wide review that encompasses multiple operational areas, systems and training. We have assembled an expert team from across the company, as well as a variety of outside experts to complete the assessment. We expect to make an announcement early next week on the initial steps of our implementation program based on the results of our review. In the meantime, we are confident that we will continue to provide our guests with a safe, fun and memorable vacation experience and look forward to welcoming them on board.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

British Ports Continue Growth

Britannia may no longer rule the waves worldwide, but more passengers than ever before are visiting Great Britain through the country’s 52 cruise ports. Figures released by CruiseBritain show that in 2012 more than 100 ships visited the UK. And these ships brought a record 723,000 passengers on day calls, a rise of 11 per cent. 2012 also saw 962,000 passengers begin their cruise at a UK port, a 10 per cent increase on 2011, with 84 per cent of passengers being British.

Forty-seven different cruise lines tied up in a UK port in 2012 with passengers taking day trips to a variety of destinations across the country. Britain’s island geography makes Round Britain cruises an unusual and unique itinerary option and allows visitors to explore coasts, castles, cities, and countryside in one easy visit. Plus, Britain’s geographical proximity to complementary countries offers additional choice for a wide range of lines and ships. From expedition cruises to boutique ships, British-focused to German, North American, French and Spanish-focused lines, Britain is growing in appeal.

“The growth in both cruise ship visits and passenger numbers is a continued testament to Britain’s value as a cruise destination,” commented Kate O’Hara, Chair CruiseBritain. “Since 2004, we have seen the number of visiting passengers more than double and the number of different cruise ships calling has gone from 76 to 105, a rise of 38 per cent. The uniqueness of Round Britain cruises together with our diverse regional history, heritage, culture and scenery ensure our continued success. Britain’s destinations deliver an excellent passenger experience and we all work towards delivering a smooth operation for the cruise lines,” added O’Hara.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Darwin Australia Marks Growth as Popular Port of Call

Capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, Darwin is fast becoming a popular port of call for cruises heading to Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Located adjacent to Darwin’s Central Business District, the Fort Hill Wharf terminal welcomed more than 42,000 passengers in the 2011-12 season, representing annual growth of nearly 6 percent. Forty-three ships passed through Darwin last year, including many of the major cruise lines such as Holland America, Princess, Celebrity, Carnival, Seaborne, Silversea, Cunard, and Royal Caribbean. The growing and vibrant international city of Darwin is a key regional port for ships whose passengers want to explore more remote areas to fully experience all of the Territory’s offerings from indigenous art and culture to its amazing wild and marine life.

If you go, here are some of Darwin’s main attractions:
Crocodile Country -- This is Australia after all, and Darwin is an ideal place to take a cruise to see jumping crocs, dive with them in the “Cage of Death, or get up close to stuffed ones as large as 16-foot “Sweetheart” at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

Tours with local guides -- For an authentic tour of the region, a traditional Larrakia guide takes visitors on an excursion to Darwin’s enormous Harbor along the Esplanade pointing out sites of cultural significance along the way. Below the Esplanade, through a pocket of rainforest is Lameroo Beach where visitors learn of the various marine animal totems of the indigenous Larrakia people.

Defence of Darwin -- The Defence of Darwin Experience is the first facility in Australia to provide visitors with an immersive, interactive, multimedia experience that is dedicated to the period 1932 to 1945, a very important time in Territory history. The commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin and provides an opportunity for visitors to understand the impact of the war on Darwin and its inhabitants, both civilian and military.
Beyond Darwin, popular tour destinations include:
KAKADU & LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARKS -- There are two world-class national parks in the Top End of the Territory that are ideal for exploring the region’s natural beauty. Litchfield National Park offers waterfalls, waterholes, bushwalks, four wheel drive tracks as well as bird and wildlife. Listed as a World Heritage site for its cultural and natural values, Kakadu is accessible by road and air with a range of tours from one day or longer.

KATHERINE -- As the gateway to nature and adventure, the Katherine region extends from the Gulf of Carpentaria near the Queensland border towards the Kimberley in the west. One of the most popular activities here is to cruise, canoe, bushwalk or fly over the magnificent Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park or soak in Mataranka’s thermal pools. Katherine can be explored on tours from Darwin, as a whistle-stop tour on The Ghan train journey, or as a self-drive destination.

ARNHEM LAND & TIWI ISLANDS -- From Darwin, visitors can take day trips to experience the Polynesian-influenced Tiwi people and the indigenous people of Arnhem Land just across the water. Both the Tiwi Islands and Arnhem Land are particularly appealing for blue water fishing enthusiats. Arnhem Land also offers the opportunity to visit indigenous art centers or take tours with local guides to learn about the indigenous culture while exploring the beaches of white sand and azure waters.

ALICE SPRINGS -- Australia’s most famous outback town, Alice Springs offers the opportunity to explore historic sites and see the work of local artists in Aboriginal art galleries. Visitors can also tour the Royal Flying Doctor Service facilities, the world renowned aero-medical service that brings first class health care to people in the most remote areas of the bush.

AYERS ROCK/ULURU -- This is the heart of the Red Centre and is an iconic destination for anyone visiting Australia. In addition to the significant physical and archeological presence this sandstone formation represents, it also holds great cultural significance to its traditional Aboriginal owners. Uluru/Ayers Rock can be experienced from several different vantage points and touring options. Adventure seekers can choose to walk the base, ride a camel or even tour Uluru on the back of a motorcycle. Those who seek an aerial view can do so by various helicopter tours.
Triple the size of California, Australia’s Northern Territory encompasses almost one sixth of the country’s total land mass and is home to the legendary Outback with its diverse Aboriginal culture, incredible natural landscapes, and unique wildlife. From the awe-inspiring Red Centre icons of Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and Kings Canyon to the Top End’s adventure and wildlife destinations of Katherine Gorge and Kakadu National Park, Australia’s Northern Territory is a dramatic, beautiful cultural destination. For more information on travel to Australia’s Northern Territory, visit AustraliasOutback.com.

Image Courtesy of Australia’s Northern Territory

Friday, March 15, 2013

What Was it Really Like Aboard The Disabled Carnival Triumph?

A Dallas realtor told a Royse City Rotary Club audience in Texas that she likes talking about her experiences aboard the Carnival cruise ship, Carnival Triumph, that was disabled 150 miles off Southern Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula last month after an engine room fire.

Jim Hardin reports in the Royse City Herald-Banner of Greenville, Texas, that it wasn't exactly the total disaster related on CNN and other media outlets.
“I like talking about it because I like people to hear the true story,” Vicki White, whose brother is Royse City Rotarian Tom Shelton, told club members last Thursday morning.

“It was an experience I will never forget,” White said. “It brought out the worst in humanity, but they were few and far between. Believe me, the best of humanity far prevailed.

White said she can’t understand why some passengers are telling horror stories about food shortages. “We ate very well,” she said. “Once the cruise ship started taking over serving the portions themselves, lines went fast,” White said. “There was plenty of food. We had everything from grilled chicken, to steak, to chocolate mouse, to cake and fruit, and bagels and cream cheese, eggs and sausage. “So, all this stuff about living on pickles and onions, it’s just a lie. I mean, we all ate at the same place.”

The crew tried to entertain the passengers, she said. And they all pitched in to help. She said the women who did facials and massages went out on night security patrols. The man who was the headliner at the ship’s comedy club grilled chicken. And the entertainers who performed in the Broadway show served meals. “Everybody was working,” White said. “Everybody on the crew was doing something. Passengers volunteered, but they (crew members) said, ‘We’ve got it covered.’ They always had a smile on their faces no matter what.”

What bothered her most, she said, was the lack of communication.
For more of Vicki White's observations, click on the link above for the complete story in the Royse City Herald-Banner.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cruise Lines to Increase Calls to St. Kitts

Port Zante Arrivals Building in St. Kitts
You should begin to see St. Kitts appear more often on cruise ship itineraries in the days ahead as the island continues to grow its cruise tourism sector at an impressive rate. Cruise arrivals are projected to increase to approximately 650,000 for the 2013/2014 season and to more than 700,000 in 2014/2015.

To accommodate the growing cruise sector, plans are being developed to improve the capacity for berthing larger ships at the third pier located at the cargo port, and for designing a second cruise pier downtown at Port Zante. The St. Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority (SCASPA) expects to install a breasting dolphin at the multi-purpose cargo pier so that it can accommodate ships over 850 ft. in length, giving St. Kitts the ability to berth three large ships by the start of the 2013/14 season.

“As a direct result of our persistent sales calls, as well as our focus on improving our destination product and service offerings, we are pleased to announce that the significant growth we have seen in the cruise sector over the past six years will continue,” said Senator Ricky Skerritt, Minister of Tourism & International Transport. “Cruise Executives have indicated to me that St. Kitts has become an increasingly important port of call, one that helps them market their itineraries.”

Future cruise tourism developments now confirmed for St. Kitts include the following:
· For the first time, St. Kitts & Nevis will be receiving scheduled calls from four ships of the luxury Seabourn Cruise Line, which will make a total of 29 calls in 2013/2014 bringing over 6,000 passengers.

· Pullmantur Cruises will make 22 weekly calls in the 2013/2014 season from the ship Horizon, which will provide approximately 30,800 incremental passengers. It is the first Spanish cruise line to call at St. Kitts.
· Costa Cruise Line will make six calls in 2013/2014 with the Costa Mediterranea, which will bring an additional 14,400 passengers.
· Two German-based lines will call on St. Kitts in the next two seasons with Aida Cruises making a total of 11 calls from two vessels in 2013/2014, which will total 27,100 passengers, and TUI Cruises bringing back the Mein Schiff for regular season calls in 2014/2015 following a successful test season in 2011/2012.
· Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Lines has booked calls in 2014/2015 with the Norwegian Pearl, which will make 14 calls bringing approximately 33,500 passengers, and with the Norwegian Breakaway, which will make three calls bringing an estimated 12,000 new passengers.

· Disney Cruise Line will be making four off-season calls in the summer of 2014, yielding a projected total of 9,600 passengers.
In February 2013, Carnival Cruise Line replaced the weekly year-round calls of the Carnival Victory with the larger capacity Carnival Valor, which has increased the berths per call by 216. The Valor also carries 407 more crew members than the Victory.

Royal Caribbean International is also expected to increase its number of calls in 2014/2015.

St. Kitts passed the half million passenger arrivals mark for the first time in the 2009/2010 cruise season. In addition to increasing cruise passenger arrivals, the geographic markets from which the lines originate are expanding, with vessels now hailing from the USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Located in the northern Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, St. Kitts offers a diverse tourism product developed from the destination’s natural beauty, cultural heritage, and rich history. The island’s stunning variety of tourism attractions include hiking through the tropical rainforest, riding the region’s only scenic railway which connects the island’s former sugar plantations, visiting the Caribelle Batik factory, touring Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park—the only man-made UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Eastern Caribbean—ziplining, and more traditional vacation pastimes such as watersports, golf, shopping, tennis, gourmet dining, gaming at St. Kitts’ exclusive casino, or simply relaxing on one of the island’s sandy beaches.

Image Courtesy of St. Kitts Tourism Authority

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Carnival Sunshine Transformation in Progress

Over the past several decades ship builders have performed what seemed like miracles to existing cruise ships. Decks have been added to some, while others have been cut in half to receive entirely new mid-ship sections. With that in mind, it’s interesting to see the unprecedented renovation taking place aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ soon-to-be former-Carnival Destiny—the world’s largest cruise ship when she was launched in 1996. When the work is done, the resulting vessel will emerge from the 49-day, $155 million dry dock as a like-new cruise ship with a brand new name—Carnival Sunshine.

Hundreds of Carnival employees and contractors are hard at work transforming the ship from Carnival Destiny into Carnival Sunshine, which will be the first ship in the Carnival fleet to feature all of the elements of the line’s $500 million Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement initiative. Carnival Cruise Lines is also documenting the process in a series of videos. The initial demolition of many of Carnival Destiny’s existing spaces is already underway, from removing the water slide to make way for the new WaterWorks park to reconfiguring the open decks to accommodate new poolside venues such as the RedFrog Rum Bar, BlueIguana Tequila Bar and Guy’s Burger Joint, as well as the stunning three-level Serenity adults-only retreat. After the initial demolition, workers will begin installing the enticing new spaces. This episode in Carnival’s ongoing video series offers an insightful behind-the-scenes look at the progress:


Video Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Norwegian Breakaway Filled With Technological Advances

Passengers who will be boarding Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship in days to come won’t notice the environmentally-friendly and technologically advanced innovations it contains, but they play an important role in today’s travel at sea.

Norwegian Breakaway, currently wrapping up construction at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, will incorporate a number of emission reducing, energy saving and enhanced safety systems which will be in use when the ship is delivered on April 25, 2013.

“Being environmentally conscious is of the utmost importance to us at Norwegian as we have demonstrated with our state of the art environment practices and technology in place across our fleet,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Chief Executive Officer. “Norwegian Breakaway features a number of environmentally friendly attributes in line with our Eco-Smart Cruising philosophy. We are proud that with these technologies we continue to lead the way in ship innovation and reduction of our carbon footprint.”

Emission Reducing Features:
Norwegian Breakaway is equipped with a new generation of ABB XO Azipods, that are smaller and more streamlined, which, together with a new Azipod Dynamic Optimizing system, will enhance steering and turning angles, leading to a saving in fuel and reduction in emissions. 
Through Advanced Computional Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations, the underwater hull has been optimized to provide the least resistance for the average speed of the ship’s planned itineraries, enhancing the ship’s speed/power ratio by 20 percent.
The ship will also increase its energy efficiency and, therefore, reduce emissions, through the use of the latest generation of silicon-based antifouling paint on the ship’s hull.
Features on the bridge include a trim optimization system from Eniram that collects data over time and optimizes the trim at different loading and speed conditions, while taking weather and wave elements into consideration. In addition, the NAPA voyage optimization system helps to plan the ship’s cruise in more intelligent ways, such as taking currents, engine configuration and weather into account.
Norwegian Breakaway has been outfitted with a new system called Pure Dry that recovers fuel oil from waste oil; thus reducing the amount of waste oil that will be disposed of ashore.
Heat recovery is another priority in energy savings and, on Norwegian Breakaway, it is implemented on the freshwater and diesel generators. These heat exchangers, along with waste heat exchangers from the main engines, can be used in other sources on board, such as to heat potable water.
Norwegian is the first cruise line to install a galley energy management system, known as GEM, from Almaco. The system will automatically turn on the ship’s ovens at scheduled times, allowing the chefs to better manage their kitchens throughout the day and further increase energy efficiency.
Norwegian Breakaway includes an advanced remote control system for the staterooms. This system allows for power, air conditioning and lighting to be switched off remotely when guests are not in their staterooms.
The majority of lighting in the public spaces of Norwegian Breakaway is LED, in order to increase the ship’s energy efficiency.

Enhanced Elements:
The ship features an all-new mustering tracking system for both guest and crew mustering via Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs).
A state-of-the-art water ballast treatment system supplied by Alfa Laval has been installed on Norwegian Breakaway, a first among Norwegian’s fleet.
For information about the 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”
Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, March 11, 2013

Queen Elizabeth & the Queen Mary to Meet for the First Time in Long Beach on March 12

Whenever two of Cunard Line’s queens—past or present—meet up it’s an event, as it will be tomorrow when Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth and the legendary Queen Mary will make history when they meet for the first time in a Cunard Royal Rendezvous in Long Beach Harbor. This rare evening encounter will be open to the public and will feature traditional whistle salutes between the ships and conclude with a fireworks display. Adding to the significance of the occasion, the Royal Rendezvous will be Queen Mary’s first encounter with a Queen Elizabeth since 1967 when Queen Mary, during her final Transatlantic Crossing in Cunard service, passed by the original Queen Elizabeth on the morning of September 25th.

“The Queen Mary is a cornerstone in our nearly 175-year history, and we are very pleased to introduce our youngest Cunarder to this legendary ship in festive Royal Rendezvous fashion,” said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line.

If you are in Long Beach, the best public viewing location of the Royal Rendezvous is on the Promenade Deck of the Queen Mary herself, at the aft (back) deck of the ship. Free access to the ship will be offered from 4:00-9:00pm; the charge for parking will be $15.00. A DJ will be on deck providing musical entertainment while everyone awaits the historic meeting. Queen Elizabeth will sail into Long Beach Harbor at approximately 6:30pm, and the fireworks display will begin at 7:30pm.

Joining these maritime icons overhead will be one of Goodyear’s famous blimps, the Spirit of America, which will escort the Queen Elizabeth into the harbor and capture aerial coverage of the Royal Rendezvous.

During Cunard Line’s history, the Queen Mary epitomized the Golden Age of Ocean Travel and served as a Cunard liner for more than 30 years. She also served as a British Royal Mail Ship (RMS) and as a troopship during World War II. Winston Churchill credited Cunard with ending the war one year early due to the dangerous troop transport that both the Queen Mary and the original Queen Elizabeth provided.

The Queen Mary’s influence lives on today, inspiring Cunard’s modern fleet; and she continues to be a popular tourist and maritime destination as a hotel and museum in Long Beach Harbor, located south of Los Angeles.

For more information on the historic meeting of Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary, visit: Cunard.com/rendezvous and QueenMary.com/royalrendezvous.

Image Courtesy of Cunard Line

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New Cruise Review: Noordam

Here at Cruise Diva HQ we always appreciate our readers reviews, be they good, bad, or indifferent.

Sadly, in this case, Paul Murray relates, "We were very disappointed with our most recent voyage on the Noordam. There were some very good points about the ship as well, but the overall impression I/we had with the Noordam and Holland America was negative."

Paul started with good impressions, but there were also some less than satisfactory incidents that left him with unrealized expectations—never a good way to end a cruise. For the full account, here's his Noordam Review.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

Charity Cruise To Benefit Veterans

To benefit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and Operation Homefront, Princess Cruises' first-ever charity cruise in support of U.S. veterans will feature a number of special guests including former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen (Ret.); retired senior officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force; an award-winning war correspondent; and other respected speakers, authors, and panelists. The voyage is expected to generate $1 million, split equally between the two charities.

Princess President and CEO Alan Buckelew, a Vietnam veteran himself, will be on board to host the cruise. He will be joined by special guests Admiral Mullen, former Army Chief of Staff General George Casey (Ret.), former Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz (Ret.), and former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead (Ret.), who will each host military branch gatherings throughout the voyage. The senior officers' wives, Deborah Mullen, Sheila Casey, Suzie Schwartz and Ellen Roughead will take part in a panel discussion centered on the lives of military families and the changing roles and challenges of spouses before, during and after deployment.

In addition, guest lecturers on the cruise will include:
• Joe Galloway – Decorated War Correspondent and Co-Author of We Were Soldiers Once…and Young
• Justin Constantine – Lt. Colonel, USMC Reserve, speaker and veteran's advocate
• Gregory Melikian – Former Army sergeant selected to announce the unconditional surrender of Germany and the end of WWII in Europe
Princess Cruises has been designated a commemorative partner with the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, a national program organized to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Princess Cruises will conduct activities to recognize Vietnam Veterans and their families for their service, valor, and sacrifice throughout the sailing.

The Western Caribbean cruise will sail Nov 5-9, 2013 roundtrip from Houston aboard Caribbean Princess, with a call at Progreso, Mexico. The 4-day cruise will offer passengers the opportunity to honor those who have served in the military as well as active duty military personnel. In addition to the line-up of military guests and speakers, there will be special performers, celebrities, unique topic panels, and a military film festival. Princess will custom-design onboard activities such as a Stars and Stripes Sailaway, a military themed show, a Red, White and Blue Gala, game shows, trivia quizzes and more to celebrate US veterans.

A portion of each passenger's cruise fare, which is expected to total approximately $500,000 will be matched by Princess Cruises for a total of $1 million earmarked for the two veterans' organizations to share equally. As part of Princess' ongoing Military Cruise Benefit Program, active and retired military personnel choosing to book this cruise will receive a $50 onboard credit.

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