Friday, May 31, 2013

Celebrity Xpedition Runs Afoul of the Galapagos National Park

The Galapagos National Park has cited Celebrity Xpedition for transportation and storage of 12 kilograms of frozen lobster tails in the Galapagos while out of season. Because of this, Celebrity Xpedition’s license that is necessary to enter the Galapagos National Park has been temporarily suspended by the local authority. Unfortunately, it is necessary to cancel the June 2 sailing of Celebrity Xpedition.

Celebrity Cruises is deeply sorry for this unexpected impact on our guests’ vacation. We understand their excitement and anticipation for exploring the Galapagos onboard Celebrity Xpedition. Celebrity Cruises is committed to complying with the rules and regulations of the Galapagos, which are put in place to protect and safeguard this unique and pristine environment.

We ask that any guests booked on the Sunday, June 2, sailing of Celebrity Xpedition please call us at 1-888-829-4050 in the U.S. and 1-408-916-9001 internationally.

Norovirus: Not Just For Cruise Passengers

Poor Mel. He hasn't been on a cruise lately, but somehow picked up the dreaded norovirus last week. It started with a queasy feeling in his stomach and proceeded to erupt in uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea. We used to call it stomach flu, but its more current name is norovirus or noro for brevity. While Mel contracted noro once during a cruise, I've only been felled by it at home—twice in recent memory. The first time I got sick I read in the local newspaper that the entire county school system was experiencing an outbreak. The only place where I could have picked it up was at the supermarket. At that time they didn't have sanitizing wipe dispensers at the entrance to disinfect shopping cart handles. Now they do and I never fail to grab one before touching a cart. Mel may have picked up noro last week while shopping at a store that doesn't offer santizing wipes for cart handles. Or he might have gotten it while sampling all the goodies they pass out to shoppers in the store. Where and how he got it is irrelevant and thankfully he's better, but I guess I'll start carrying individually wrapped sanitizing cloths in my purse along with a mini-bottle of Purell for those times we encounter shopping carts with no sanitizing wipes at the store entrance. You can never be too careful.

Like many grocery stores with those sanitizing wipe dispensers, cruise ships are also proactive about hand sanitation and provide hand sanitizer at the entrance to restaurants. On our most recent cruises we have been greeted at the gangways upon embarkation by crewmembers who spritzed our hands before we boarded. The process continued on board and we even found sanitizing dispensers inside the elevators. Since Mel's unfortunate experience with noro on a cruise ship, he's extremely careful and only touches elevator buttons with his knuckle. I carry hand sanitizer in my bag and we use it frequently, especially after touching doorknobs and hand rails. Yes, we still wash our hands thoroughly with soap and water, but that isn't always an option. Thankfully, neither of us has contracted noro—or any other illness—while on a cruise since Mel was sickened that one time on the last night of a one-week sailing. He was treated by the ship's doctor with IVs (at no charge) and completely recovered in a day or two, but not before passing it along to me once we were home.

However, when hundreds of cruise passengers report to the infirmary with similar symptoms, does that necessarily mean their ship is SICK? Hardly. But you'd never know that from news reports about nasty "cruise ship diseases" that attack unsuspecting cruise vacationers. Yes, that's plural and there's more than one, but it's norovirus that often grabs the headlines. In all likelihood, it's an infected passenger who brought the noro aboard and spread it to others. Yes, the cruise lines require everyone to complete a pre-boarding questionnaire about their health and any symptoms they are possibly experiencing, but do you seriously think anyone who might be a bit sick to their stomach is going to admit that and be denied boarding?

In our related article we examine the question, Is Your Cruise Ship Sick? and separate the facts from fiction. We encourage you to learn more and be an informed passenger.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

More Grandeur of the Seas Cancelled Cruises

On Monday, May 27, Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas experienced a fire in the mooring area in the aft of the ship. At this time the passengers who were on board when the firee broke out, and who spent several harrowing hours at their muster stations until the all clear, have left Freeport in the Bahamas. Most of them flew to Baltimore on 11 chartered planes, while a couple dozen who didn’t wish to fly were transported by ferry to Fort Lauderdale, from where they continued north by bus or train.

The ship has moved from the Freeport Cruise Terminal to a berth at the Grand Bahama Shipyard, where repairs will be carried out. Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the fire, which broke out on the aft mooring deck.

Due to the extent of the damage, and not unexpectedly, due to the time needed to repair the ship at Grand Bahama Shipyard Ltd where repairs will take place, it is necessary to cancel Grandeur of the Seas’ next six sailings.

The ship is expected to return to service with the July 12th sailing.

In addition to the cancellation of the 5/31 sailing that was previously announced, Grandeur of the Seas’ additional cancelled sailings include:
June 07, 2013
June 14 2013
June 21, 2013
June 28, 2013
July 05, 2013
The line is deeply sorry for this unexpected disruption of their guests’ upcoming vacation plans.

Royal Caribbean International will provide affected guests with a full refund of their voyage fare. For their convenience, all monies paid will automatically be processed back to the original form of payment within the next three weeks. Guests who are ready to rebook on a future sailing, and prefer to reapply the funds prior to the refund process being completed, should do so prior to June 12. For guests or travel agents rebooking by June 12, please contact them at 888-824-0012. Otherwise, you may book at your convenience.

Royal Caribbean will also provide these guests with a future cruise certificate for 25% of the cruise fare paid. This certificate may be used for a future cruise on Royal Caribbean International.

Guests that have booked with a travel professional should contact their original travel agent with any general questions related to the cancelled sailings. Guests who have booked directly with Royal Caribbean should call 888-824-0012.

Remember, your professional travel agent is your advocate in these situations. Your agent should go to bat for you to resolve your personal situation in the best manner possible, particularly if fees are required for air rescheduling and any other incidental expenses you may incur.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship Norwegian Breakaway has only been in service since May 12th, but the line has already raised the cover charge for dinner in its high-end specialty seafood restaurant, Ocean Blue, from $35 to $49 per person.

While I was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict, my Fodor's editor was on board Norwegian Breakaway in New York for the naming event earlier this month. He told me that Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan shared his opinion that the quality of the food could support a higher cover charge for the restaurant developed in partnerships with New York chef Geoffrey Zakarian. As a result, it didn't exactly come at a surprise or take long for that higher charge of $49 to appear.

While Ocean Blue is now one of the most expensive specialty restaurants at sea, the good news for some passengers on upcoming cruises is that if they had the foresight to book a table before the increase went into effect they will still enjoy their meal for the lower charge.

Ocean Blue Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, May 27, 2013

Royal Caribbean Cancels Next Grandeur of the Seas Sailing

In a not unexpected move, the May 31st sailing of Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas from Baltimore, Maryland, has been cancelled to allow for repair of damages sustained as a result of today's fire (scroll down for complete details and photos). All booked passengers will receive a full refund of the cruise fare paid for their sailing. Royal Caribbean also will provide these guests with the opportunity to sail in the future by providing a future cruise certificate for 50 percent of the cruise fare paid for the May 31, 2013, Grandeur of the Seas sailing.

Guests who booked air transportation through Royal Caribbean International will receive a full refund for air costs. If they did not purchase air transportation through Royal Caribbean, the cruise line will pay for their airline change fees.

A dedicated telephone hotline has been established for guests on the current and May 31st sailings. Guests may call 1-888-824-0012 in the U.S. or +1-408-916-9000 internationally.

Royal Caribbean will provide an update regarding future sailings on Grandeur of the Seas by the end of this week.

While we know many readers' cruise vacation plans have now been disrupted—and there may be more disappointments coming later in the week as the situation unfolds—here at CruiseDiva.com we're pretty impressed with the way Royal Caribbean has kept the media informed. As a result, we've been able to spread the news to consumers in a timely fashion. Everyone from President & CEO Adam Goldstein and his executive team to the ship's captain and crew should be commended for a job well done under difficult circumstances.

Grandeur of the Seas Cruise Terminated in Freeport, The Bahamas: Passengers to Fly Home

Adam Goldstein meets with passengers aboard
Grandeur of the Seas
After assessing the damage from last night’s fire aboard Grandeur of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has made the decision to terminate the rest of the current voyage and arrange flights for all passengers to return to the ship’s homeport, Baltimore, Maryland.

Guests on Grandeur of the Seas’ current aborted sailing will receive a full refund of their cruise fare as well as a certificate for a future cruise.

Offering a first-hand account of the situation was West Michigan native Brian Goss, a former Grand Rapids Fire Department firefighter and current fire chief in Brentwood, Tennessee. Aboard at the time of the fire with his wife, children, and some friends, Goss offered a very positive assessment of the emergency to WOOD TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Goss said he wasn’t too nervous about the fire until crew members began one step of the ship's safety procedures. “Not really, until they detached and lowered the lifeboats,” Goss said. “That was a little unnerving.” He also said, “I assumed that the professionals fighting the fire had things under control, which they did. Shipboard firefighting is a unique animal and they are well-trained and well-practiced. I simply tried to help keep people calm at our muster station, as anxiety was high among some of the older passengers.”

The Captain & Royal Caribbean executives
meet with passengers aboard Grandeur of the Seas
No announcement has been made yet regarding future sailings, but it goes without saying that it’s unlikely that Grandeur of the Seas will be back in service for its next cruise. One fortuitous aspect of the ship reaching safe harbor in Freeport, The Bahamas is the availability of the island’s shipyard and dry dock facility where final repairs, shipboard operating enhancements, and the addition of new features to the fire-stricken Carnival Triumph were recently undertaken.

Images Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Grandeur of the Seas Routed to Freeport, The Bahamas After Fire On Board

Grandeur of the Seas 
All Guests and Crew Safe and Accounted for While Ship's Condition is being Evaluated

Grandeur of the Seas arrived in Freeport, The Bahamas, this morning at approximately 10:15 a.m. ET. Grandeur of the Seas was en route to CocoCay, The Bahamas, when the ship experienced a fire in the mooring area in the aft of the ship at approximately 2:50 a.m. ET. The fire was extinguished at 4:58 a.m. and the ship was redirected to Freeport for further evaluation.

Nearby at the time, Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Sensation was standing by to assist if the need arose.

In an abundance of caution, the Captain deemed it necessary to muster all guests to their assembly stations during the incident. All 2,224 guests and 796 crew have been accounted for, and guests have since been allowed to return to most staterooms and public areas.

The safety of our guests and crew is our top priority, and we will continue to focus on their immediate needs and concerns. Medical staff has responded to several calls for medical assistance, but none of them have been medical emergencies. The calls have included fainting, reports of high blood pressure, and an ankle sprain.

Throughout, the ship's power, propulsion and communications systems functioned uninterrupted.

Royal Caribbean International's President and CEO Adam Goldstein and a Guest Care team are en route to Freeport to meet guests.

A dedicated telephone hotline has been established for family members of guests at 1-888-824-0012 or internationally at +1-408-916-9000. The cruise line requests that only families of guests use the telephone numbers in order to help ease call volume and ensure that they can receive information as quickly as possible.

Grandeur of the Seas was on a 7-night sailing that departed Baltimore, Maryland, on May 24, and includes port calls to Port Canaveral, Florida; CocoCay and Nassau, The Bahamas. Part of Royal Caribbean International's fleet of cruise ships, the ship was launched in December 1996 and recently refurbished in May 2012. Grandeur of the Seas has a maximum capacity of 2,446 guests;measures 916 ft. long and 105.6 ft. in width; and has a cruising speed of 19 knots.

Adam Goldstein, President & CEO, and
Anders Aasen, AVP Technical Services,
inspect the damage on deck six.
Update: Grandeur of the Seas will remain docked overnight in Freeport. Some guests are staying onboard, while others have chosen to spend the day ashore. A number of guests in staterooms affected by the fire will be put up in hotels in Freeport.

Information on Grandeur of the Seas' current sailing and upcoming sailing will be announced as soon as it becomes available.

Images Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Friday, May 24, 2013

Malt Shop Memories Cruise—the “Malt Shop Scoop”

When our Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2013 dining/concert seating assignment letter arrived in the mail recently we were delighted, not to mention reminded that in only six months we’ll be boarding one of our favorite ships—Holland America Line’s Eurodam—to relive our (ahem) “youth” through the artists and music of the Malt Shop era. Mel and I are Malt Shop Memories Cruise alumni and the experience just keeps getting better.

To keep us up-to-date and build excitement (as if we needed to be more excited!), our Malt Shop Memories hosts at Entertainment Cruise Productions have introduced the “Malt Shop Scoop”—a newsletter that will offer some special gifts and incentives to participants, and provide some insights about the cruise and the performers. The first newsletter included a trivia question and interview…
Which is the only '60s group to reach the national Top Ten with their first seven single releases?
A. The Beatles
B. The Supremes
C. Gary Lewis and the Playboys
D. The Beach Boys
I have to admit I got that one wrong. If you guessed Gary Lewis and the Playboys, then I want you on my trivia team! And, did you know that Gary Lewis’ father is Jerry Lewis? Yes, that Jerry Lewis!

From the “Malt Shop Scoop” interview with Gary Lewis, which you can read in full here:
That remarkable run of hits began in February 1965 when “This Diamond Ring” knocked “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” out of the top spot on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100. One might think that, like many aspiring rock ’n’ roll stars, Gary had spent years playing in bands. Yet, even though he loved the music from “Hound Dog” on, his actual climb from forming a band to chart-topping act took just one year. 
As for the upcoming 2013 Malt Shop Memories Cruise, Gary can’t wait. “We’re going to have a ball. I love hanging out. I don’t hide. If people want to talk to me, I’ll talk to everybody. It’s very important to me, because the fans put me wherever I am. I care about them; I care about what I do. I realize what a blessing this gift of music is, and I give back to the fans as much as I can.”
Although the Eurodam is already 80% sold out, there are still some cabins available, but probably not for long—Malt Shop Memories Cruise ’12 sold out and the pace of sales for Malt Shop Memories Cruise ’13 is even faster. Cabins remain in the Deluxe Stateroom with Verandah and Outside Cabin categories, but, if you want a different category of cabin, just call the office (888.852.9987) and they will see if you can be accommodated. There are usually cancellations and, sometimes, they can make something happen for you.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the 2013 Line Up of Performers:

  • Neil Sedaka
  • Four Tops
  • Petula Clark
  • Bobby Rydell
  • Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley
  • Little Anthony and The Imperials
  • Lesley Gore
  • Gary U.S. Bonds
  • Shirley Alston Reeves, Original Lead Singer of The Shirelles
  • Gary Lewis & The Playboys
  • Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon
  • Jay Siegel's Tokens
  • The Crystals
  • Chris Montez
  • The Passions
  • The Eternals
  • The Devotions
  • The Emotions
  • Jerry Blavat, Emcee Extraordinaire
  • Robert Klein, Comedian

The Elvis Tribute Program with:

  • Mark Anthony
  • Jay Dupuis
  • Dwight Icenhower
  • Gino Monopoli
  • Anthony Von
  • Cliff Wright
  • Jay Zanier
  • EAS Band

More information is available on the Malt shop Memories Cruise web site. Hope to see you on board!


Image Courtesy of the Malt Shop Memories Cruise

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Royal Caribbean Announces Inaugural Season Itineraries for Quantum of the Seas

As reported last month, Royal Caribbean has begun to reveal the features passengers will find on their Quantum-Class ships, beginning with Quantum of the Seas. Cruisers are sure to experience the “WOWs” that the line is known for on board, but there will be ports of call to visit as well. To end the suspense, Royal Caribbean has unveiled Quantum of the Seas’ first 18 Caribbean sailings, ranging from seven to twelve nights, with the official inaugural voyage set for Nov 23, 2014. Bookings will be available to Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program members beginning May 28, 2013 before opening to the general public on June 4.

Vacationers in the New York-metropolitan area and around the world can choose among 7- and 8-night Bahamas, 8- to 11-night Eastern Caribbean, and 11- and 12-night Southern Caribbean itineraries aboard Quantum of the Seas. The groundbreaking new ship will sail roundtrip from Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, N.J. to the most popular Caribbean destinations through April 2015.

“Royal Caribbean is proud to partner with some of the Caribbean’s premier destinations for the inaugural season of Quantum of the Seas,” said Adam Goldstein, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “The Quantum class of ships will combine a new set of truly exciting and first-at-sea innovations that can only be found on Royal Caribbean, with some of the most incredible destinations in the region. We can’t wait to WOW vacationers with Quantum cruising.”

On the Bahamas cruises, guests call at Port Canaveral, Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; and CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private tropical island paradise. The Eastern Caribbean cruises will include ports of call among San Juan, Puerto Rico; Samana, Dominican Republic; St. Thomas; St. Kitts; and St. Maarten. Guests on the Southern Caribbean cruises will call at San Juan, St. Maarten, Martinique, Barbados and St. Kitts. On most Caribbean sailings, Quantum of the Seas also will visit Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s very own highly-rated private beach paradise on the north coast of Haiti.

To learn more, visit Royal Caribbean International Reveals Quantum-Class Ships.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

It's Westward Ho! For The American Queen Steamboat Company

The American Queen Steamboat Company, owner and operator of the U.S-flagged paddlewheeler American Queen, announces the purchase of the Empress of the North. To be renamed the American Empress, the vessel is scheduled to resume sailings on the great rivers of the Pacific Northwest in April 2014 calling Portland, Oregon her homeport. The American Empress will deliver riverboat opulence on a grand scale, following in the pedigree of the line’s namesake American Queen, and proudly serve as the largest overnight riverboat west of the Mississippi River.

“The American Queen has ushered in a rebirth of U.S. river cruising, welcoming thousands to discover the heartland of the United States and its iconic port cities,” shares Ted Sykes, president and COO of the American Queen Steamboat Company. “Now the American Empress will continue that tradition as an ambassador to the Pacific Northwest, a region equally rich in American and natural history.”

A U.S.-flagged riverboat, the American Empress measures 360 ft. with five towering decks and accommodates 223 guests in seven stateroom categories. The American Empress will sail the Columbia River and Snake River, offering 7-day voyages between Portland, Oregon and Clarkston, Washington. Ports of call include Astoria, Washington; Stevenson, Washongton; The Dalles, Oregon; Umatilla, Oregon; and Richland, Washington.

The American Empress was built in 2002 and operated by Majestic America Line from 2002 to 2008, sailing Alaska’s Inside Passage and the Pacific Northwest. Just as the American Queen brought luxury and grandeur to river cruising America’s heartland, the American Empress will do the same for the Pacific Northwest. For additional information, visit online at AQSC.com.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Norwegians Are "Legally Blonde"

What could be more appropriate for a ship built by Norwegians than showcasing a musical about a lovable and smart blonde who turns out to be a legal whiz? If you sailed on any of Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships in the 1990s you may have seen such Broadway favorites as 42nd Street, Will Rogers Follies, and Grease performed on board. Now, the line continues its legacy of innovating cruise ship entertainment with the announcement that the seven-time Tony Award nominated musical LEGALLY BLONDE will be featured on Norwegian Getaway, along with an additional Broadway show: the dance sensation BURN THE FLOOR, and an all-new stand-up comedy program in partnership with Levity Entertainment Group, the largest producer of comedians in the world. Norwegian Getaway will feature multiple, specially-designed entertainment venues throughout the ship so that guests can choose from a wide variety of entertainment each evening of their cruise with choices to appeal to a broad audience.

“Norwegian has truly raised the bar when it comes to entertainment at sea and that is why it was extremely important to me that Norwegian Getaway feature high caliber entertainment that will continue to exceed our guest’s expectations,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “With LEGALLY BLONDE performing in the Getaway Theater, along with BURN THE FLOOR, world-class comedy by THE LEVITY ENTERTAINMENT GROUP, magic in the previously announced ILLUSIONARIUM, THE GRAMMY EXPERIENCE, and all of the other entertainment offerings, we continue our commitment on Norwegian Getaway to offer guests the best entertainment experience possible.”

LEGALLY BLONDE
Headlining the 787-seat Getaway Theater is the seven-time Tony Award nominated Broadway musical, LEGALLY BLONDE. Liverpool Confidential has called the show, “Kind-hearted, comical and camp, Legally Blonde–The Musical is right up there with Mamma Mia! and Hairspray.” LEGALLY BLONDE tells the story of Elle Woods who, after being dumped by her boyfriend, follows him to Harvard Law School to win him back. With the help of some new-found friends, she learns that it’s so much better to be smart. The show opened on Broadway at the Palace Theater on April 29, 2007 and closed in 2008 after playing 595 performances. The show was also one of London’s most popular West End shows, where it played at the Savoy Theatre and won three Laurence Olivier Awards, including one for “Best New Musical.” In addition to being a bona fide Broadway hit musical, LEGALLY BLONDE is a global success and is currently touring in Australia.

BURN THE FLOOR
Offering shows in both the Getaway Theater and more intimate performances, dance sensation BURN THE FLOOR dazzles with their re-invented ballroom dancing. Beginning with, and maintaining all the wonderful traditions and the social history of the Ballroom dance art form, BURN THE FLOOR is a groundbreaking show, serving as a melting pot of styles, energy and excitement for today’s generation of dancers. It is Ballroom “supercharged.” The show premiered in London in 1999 and toured the US for the first time in 2000, including performances at Radio City Music Hall.

LEVITY ENTERTAINMENT GROUP COMEDY & HOWL AT THE MOON
Headliners Comedy Club on Norwegian Getaway will feature top-tier comedians presented through the line’s new partnership with Levity Entertainment Group, the world’s largest producer of live comedy. Levity employs over 300 artists nationwide each week, creating special events, original tours, and television specials with some of the biggest names in comedy, including Daniel Tosh, Amy Shumer, Bill Cosby, Gabriel Iglesias, and Jeff Dunham, who is currently the most successful touring comedian worldwide.

The world’s greatest rock n’ roll dueling piano show, Howl at the Moon, which received rave reviews on Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Breakaway, will also be featured in Headliners on board Norwegian Getaway. This total entertainment experience features talented piano players who not only entertain the audience; they make them part of the show. The fun is centered around two baby grand pianos and a full out rock show with Howl’s entertainers playing the best music from 70’s rock to hip-hop for four hours per show.

GRAMMY® EXPERIENCE & ILLUSIONARIUM
Norwegian Getaway will also be the first to have the GRAMMY® Experience at sea which will feature artifacts chosen and curated by the GRAMMY Museum® along with live performances by past GRAMMY winners and nominees, among others. The ship will also feature an all-new dining and entertainment experience, The Illusionarium. A first of its kind at sea, The Illusionarium will envelop guests in the fascinating world of magic, inviting them to experience the astonishing illusions of world-class magicians and supernatural special effects. In addition, every Norwegian Getaway sailing will feature a dazzling fireworks show in Spice H20.

NORWEGIAN GETAWAY
Currently being built at Meyer Werft in Germany, Norwegian Getaway will be 146,600 gross tons and offer a wide range of accommodations. The ship represents an opportunity for the Norwegian guest to “get away” from the routine of work, school, and daily stress, and find a true respite at sea that reflects the energy and culture that Miami is known for worldwide. To date, the company has revealed the ship’s groundbreaking design, including The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place; a wide range of indoor and outdoor venues on three dynamic decks that create a whole new complex at sea and enhances guests’ connection with the ocean. Celebrity Chef and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian will also open three dining concepts on Norwegian Getaway: Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian; Ocean Blue on the Waterfront and The Raw Bar, that were recently launched on Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway’s New York -based sister ship.

The 4,000 passenger ship will also feature a rich mix of stateroom options, including The Haven by Norwegian, comprised of 42 Suites at the top of the ship in an exclusive, private key-card enclave and 22 additional Suites located throughout the ship; the innovative Studios, designed and priced for solo travelers; a wide range of Oceanview staterooms, Balcony and Mini-Suites; along with Spa Balcony, Mini-Suites and Suites in close proximity to the spa.

Norwegian Getaway will sail 7-day cruises from Miami to the Eastern Caribbean beginning on Feb 1, 2014, with ports of call including Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas. Information on Norwegian Getaway’s accommodations and itinerary can be found at getaway.ncl.com.

Monday, May 20, 2013

From Rivers to the Sea: The Vikings Are Coming

Viking Star
When Viking Cruises launches its ocean product line, Viking Ocean Cruises, it will mark the introduction of the travel industry's first new cruise line in nearly a decade. Developed from the ground up to focus their cruises on the destinations, Viking Ocean Cruises will begin sailing in May 2015 with its first vessel—Viking Star—embarking on maiden voyages in Scandinavia and the Baltic and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.

Better known for their river cruises, Viking Cruises has aggressive expansion plans in both the ocean and river cruise categories, with a second ocean ship on order for delivery in 2016 and conditional orders and options for four more additional ocean vessels. The ocean ship order follows the company's continued rapid fleet expansion in the river cruise sector, with 10 new river ships recently christened in March of this year and 12 new river ships planned to launch in 2014. Before going any further, those ambitious plans sound somewhat familiar...remember Renaissance Cruises? From 1998 to 2001, the now-defunct line introduced eight extremely popular mid-sized ships. Hopefully, the Vikings have a larger war chest. But I digress.

Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises, shares his vision, "It is our view that in the race to build bigger ships, many cruise lines have lost sight of the destinations to which they sail. With our new ocean cruises, we are applying the same principles behind our award-winning river cruises to our itinerary and ship design; privileged-access excursions; and onboard experiences to make destinations the true focus."

Leveraging extensive feedback and input from Viking River Cruises passengers, Viking Ocean Cruises was developed with experienced travelers in mind. Itineraries are curated for maximum time in port, often with late evenings or overnights, so guests can experience local nightlife or evening performances. Ports include both cosmopolitan cities and "collector ports," and appeal to those with an interest in history, art and culture. In addition, all-inclusive pricing provides unparalleled value—with every cruise fare including a veranda stateroom, shore excursions in each port of call, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Passengers also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of their fare, including: beer and wine with lunch and dinner service; wi-fi; self-service laundry, and 24-hour room service—a value of more than $2,400 per couple for an average cruise.

Viking Star

Classified as a "small ship," the new 928-passenger all-veranda Viking Star is engineered at a scale that allows direct access into most ports, so guests have easy and efficient embarkation and debarkation.

Viking Star Technical Details
Length overall: 745.4 ft.; beam 94.5 ft.; draft 20.7 ft.; air draft 131.2 ft.; gross tonnage (GRT) 47,800 t; deadweight 3,640 t; service speed 20.0 kn; number of decks 14; classification: Lloyds Register.
The ship has been designed by experienced nautical architects and engineers, including an interior design team of London-based SMC Design, and Los Angeles-based Rottet Studios. The first of two ocean ships on order, Viking Star will be built by Italy's Fincantieri shipyard. The ship's understated elegance and modern Scandinavian design is crafted for maximum guest comfort. Highlighted features include:
-- All Veranda Staterooms: Guests can choose from five stateroom categories, starting from a 270 sq. ft. veranda stateroom, all with private verandas, king-size beds, large showers, and LCD TVs.
-- Explorer Suites: Viking Star's 14 Explorer Suites are two-room suites ranging from 757 to 1,448 sq. ft. and offer sweeping views from wrap-around private verandas as well as the most amenities and privileges of any category onboard.
-- Two Pool Choices: In addition to the Main Pool with a retractable dome permitting any-season swimming, Viking Star features one of the only infinity pools at sea, allowing passengers to swim surrounded by their destination in a glass-backed pool cantilevered off the stern.
-- The Spa: In keeping with Viking's Nordic heritage, The Spa onboard Viking Star is designed with the holistic wellness philosophy of Scandinavia in mind, from the centuries-old tradition of the sauna to a "snow grotto" where snowflakes gently descend from the ceiling through chilled air.
-- Explorers' Lounge & Wintergarden: Spaces designed to facilitate mingling and storytelling, the two-deck Explorers' Lounge at the bow of the ship is the perfect spot for taking in scenery through double-height windows over a glass of aquavit or pint of local craft beer; and the Wintergarden is a serene environment in which to relax and enjoy afternoon tea service complete with a curated tea selection.
-- Dining Choices: Viking Star offers multiple restaurant locations and food choices--from The Restaurant and the World Cafe, serving a variety of global cuisines and regional specialties--to intimate dining experiences at The Chef's Table, Italian Grill and The Kitchen Table, all serving meals prepared with fresh, local ingredients. Furthermore, with multiple choices for outdoor seating during meals, Viking Star offers more al fresco dining than any other ship.
-- Enriching Entertainment: Connecting passengers to their destinations through authentic experiences is central to Viking Cruises, and Viking Star's onboard venues include a dramatic three-deck atrium where passengers can enjoy musicians playing regional and classical music; the Star Theater, home of enrichment lectures from scholars and experts; an onboard cooking school where guests can learn local specialties; and the Viking Piano Lounge, where guests can relax, mingle, and exchange stories after a day of exploring.
-- Sustainable Features: Designed with the environment in mind, Viking Star features energy-efficient hybrid engines, a hydro-dynamically optimized streamlined hull and bow for maximum fuel efficiency, onboard solar panels, and equipment that minimizes exhaust pollution and meets the strictest environmental regulations.
Itineraries and pricing are outlined on the Viking Ocean Cruises web site at vikingcruises.com/oceans and Viking is offering an introductory Early Booking Discount in the U.S. market for the 2015 maiden season with 2-for-1 pricing on cruise departures and savings of $2,000 per couple on international air. The 2015 maiden season is initially being offered only in the U.S.; Viking will begin marketing the new ocean cruises in the UK, Australia and New Zealand later this year.

This new cruise line looks intriguing.

Image Courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Final Episode in Carnival Sunshine Video Series

With Carnival Sunshine’s transformation complete, here’s the final installment in the video series that highlights several of the ship’s new features including Havana Bar, Liquid Lounge, and Ji Ji Asian Kitchen.

Those are but a few of the many innovations incorporated during the massive $155 million dry dock. The unprecedented makeover added a variety of dining, bar, and entertainment options that are part of the line’s ongoing Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement initiative.

Other innovations aboard the 3,006-passenger vessel include Carnival’s first three-deck-high Serenity adults-only retreat, the largest RedFrog Pub in the fleet, and guest favorite Guy’s Burger Joint developed by Food Network star Guy Fieri.

Carnival Sunshine entered service last week and is currently operating a series of 9- and 12-day Mediterranean voyages through October.

Check out the video and discover what other fun new spaces guests are able to enjoy aboard Carnival Sunshine.


Video Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Princess Cruises Joins USA Vietnam War Commemoration as Partner

In a special ceremony coinciding with Armed Forces Day today, Princess Cruises was officially recognized as a commemorative partner of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration. Major General James T. Jackson (U.S. Army, retired), pictured here, presented a commemorative flag and certificate from the Secretary of Defense to Princess Cruises President and CEO Alan Buckelew, a Vietnam veteran himself, to mark the occasion.

The cruise line is being recognized as a commemorative partner in this program, created by the Department of Defense, in part because of activities saluting veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces during Princess’ first-ever fundraising cruise. The sailing is expected to generate $1 million for two organizations committed to U.S. veterans—Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Inc. and Operation Homefront Inc. The 4-day cruise sails from Houston November 5.

More than 100 Princess employees were in attendance at the special celebration, including many Vietnam veterans, veterans from other conflicts, and military family members. Local student cadets from Valencia High School’s Jr. Air Force ROTC opened the program with the presentation of the colors.

“This is an important partnership for us at Princess, and as a veteran, it’s also a cause near and dear to my heart,” said Alan Buckelew, Princess president and CEO. “Like many Vietnam veterans, I don’t talk about my experience much, so I understand the importance of recognizing those who served as we mark the war’s 50th anniversary.”

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration is a national program conducted under the leadership of the Department of Defense to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The national program will include activities to thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam Warincluding those held as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action—for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the U.S. and to thank and honor the families of these veterans. As a commemorative partner, Princess Cruises will conduct activities to recognize Vietnam Veterans for their service, valor and sacrifice. To learn more about the national commemorative program, visit vietnamwar50th.com.

Princess’ first-ever cruise to support 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, Coast Guard and Air Force; an award-winning war correspondent; and other respected speakers, authors and panelists. More information and the latest line-up of special guests can be found at princess.com/cruisingforacause.

The Western Caribbean cruise will sail November 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 impressive military guests and speakers, there will be special performers, celebrities, unique topic panels and a military film festival. Princess will feature custom-design onboard activities such as a Stars and Stripes Sailaway; a military themed show; a Red, White and Blue Gala; and more–to celebrate US veterans.

A portion of each passenger’s cruise fare totaling 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. Additional information about the special “Cruising for a Cause” sailing supporting U.S. veterans can be found at princess.com/cruisingforacause.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Friday, May 17, 2013

Natasha Bedingfield to be Featured Singer at Royal Princess Naming Ceremony


Adding a touch of glamour to the naming ceremony that will launch Princess Cruises' Royal Princess, British singer-songwriter Natasha Bedingfield will perform at the June 13 naming ceremony of the new ship in Southampton. The globally acclaimed artist will make a special appearance at the celebration, where Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge will officially name the ship.

Ever since her Brit Award and Grammy-nominated multi-platinum solo debut album "Unwritten" in 2004, the British-born Bedingfield has been one of the world's most inspiring and innovative contemporary female singer-songwriters at the top of the charts. With three albums under her belt, she is known for her powerfully soulful voice and heartfelt and contagious pop anthems. Bedingfield's radio hits include songs such as "Unwritten," "Pocket Full of Sunshine," "Love Like This" and "These Words," and her music can also be heard in numerous movies and television shows.

"We're excited to have Natasha Bedingfield lend her voice to this special occasion," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. "Her music will add a wonderful contemporary touch to the time-honored elements of the traditional naming ceremony."

In addition to Bedingfield's performance, the Royal Princess inaugural ceremony will feature many British ship-naming traditions, including a blessing of the vessel, and a performance by The Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines Portsmouth (Royal Band) and the pipers of the Irish Guards. The pinnacle of the ceremony will be when the ship's godmother, The Duchess of Cambridge, breaks the champagne bottle on the bow of the ship.

The ceremony will be the highlight of week-long inaugural celebrations to welcome the vessel into service. Royal Princess will arrive at the Ocean Terminal in Southampton on Friday, June 7 and will depart on her maiden voyage on June 16.

The 3,600-passenger Royal Princess is a new-generation ship. Among the special features found on board will be a greatly expanded atrium, the social hub of the ship; an over-water SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed walkway extending 28 feet beyond the edge of the ship; plush private poolside cabanas that appear to be floating on water; the new Princess Live! television studio; the largest pastry shop at sea; a special Chef's Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds diners in a curtain of light; and balconies on all outside staterooms. After her maiden voyage the ship will sail Grand Mediterranean cruises throughout the summer, followed by Eastern Caribbean cruises beginning in the autumn.

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
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
The Duchess of Cambridge to Name Royal Princess
Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Thursday, May 16, 2013

SuperShuttle Launches "Destination Deals"

It's always nice to feel appreciated as a consumer and now SuperShuttle, the nation's largest airport ground transportation company, is offering its customers the opportunity to purchase local and national discounts on dining, entertainment and shopping through its partner Deem's Offers Network.

These customized Destination Deals on goods and services are sourced from Deem's™ syndicated commerce network, which currently has more than 1.2 million local and national merchants–ranging in category from dining, entertainment, and travel to shopping, wellness, and beauty. Available now, SuperShuttle customers will have access to Destination Deals with deals for event tickets, restaurant, nightlife, and more. SuperShuttle customers will have access to these deals on the road or even at home with deals on everyday purchases–everything from food to beauty treatments to carpet cleaning.

"SuperShuttle customers are some of the hardest travelers in the world. We feel they deserve and will enjoy relevant offers from us that provide added value to their travel experience. In addition, customers booking online through supershuttle.com can also earn airline points and miles on participating carriers including: Delta Air Lines SkyMiles®, Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns®, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United Airlines Mileage Plus®, or US Airways Dividend Miles® programs," said Ken Testani, senior vice president of global marketing & partnerships for SuperShuttle and ExecuCar. "We want our customers to know we appreciate their business. We hope they enjoy this new opportunity for discounts when they are at home or away."

SuperShuttle International, is a division of Veolia Transportation On Demand. SuperShuttle serves 39 airports, three airports in France, and Cancun, Mexico and seven harbors in the US. carrying more than eight million passengers a year. Airports served by SuperShuttle include some of the largest in the country including Los Angeles, New York, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Washington, D.C., and Miami.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Banana Coast Cruise Port Signs First Cruise Line for Multiple Calls

It's been nearly a year since the announcement that the Banana Coast in Honduras is Coming Soon.

As you can see from the aerial view pictured here, construction on the dedicated-for-cruise-passengers facility has moved right along and now the Banana Coast port has signed Holland America Line as the first cruise line to schedule regular calls there. Holland America Line's 1,260-passenger Ryndam is slated to call at Banana Coast 11 times between 2014 and 2015 on its western Caribbean itineraries. The ship's Nov. 19, 2014, call is Banana Coast's first scheduled visit by a cruise ship, followed by the Dec. 17, 2014, call from luxury line Silversea Cruises' Silver Cloud.

Themed "Where the Rainforest Meets the Sea," the $30 million Banana Coast project is the newest cruise destination in the western Caribbean and the first mainland Honduras cruise port at Trujillo. Construction on the passenger-reception and shopping center was completed in February and a full slate of shore excursions has been designed. Future plans call for construction of a two-berth, post-Panamax pier.

"Having a premium cruise line like Holland America Line recognize the exciting opportunities of regularly calling at Banana Coast is a testament to the work we've put into making the port the hottest new destination in the Caribbean," said Randy Jorgensen, general manager of Grande Trujillo Authoridad, which owns the port. "Banana Coast has so much to offer and we look forward to welcoming Holland America Line guests to our beautiful shores."

In March 2012 Banana Coast developers unveiled a diverse shore excursion program designed to offer something for everyone, including cultural, historical, soft-adventure, and eco-tour offerings.

"Banana Coast is a fresh, exciting destination with limitless potential, tucked inside the calm, protected waters of the Bay of Trujillo," said Simon Douwes, director of deployment and itinerary planning at Holland America Line. "The innovative and diverse portfolio of shore excursions will surely appeal to all interests, and those seeking rest and relaxation will find it on one of Banana Coast's beautiful beaches."

Holland America Line's fleet of 15 ships offers more than 500 cruises to 415 ports in 98 countries, territories or dependencies. One- to 110-day itineraries visit all seven continents and highlights include Antarctica, South America, Australia/New Zealand and Asia voyages; a Grand World Voyage and popular sailings to ports in the Caribbean, Bermuda, Alaska, Mexico, Canada/New England, Europe and Panama Canal.

For more information, visit the Banana Coast online.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Carnival Splendor's Year-Round Schedule Expanded

Carnival Splendor
2014 will bring significant changes to Carnival Cruise Lines’ year-round offerings from New York. The line has significantly diversified Carnival Splendor’s itineraries by adding new 4- and 5- day Canada cruises, 7-day Canada/New England departures, and the only program of 8-day eastern Caribbean voyages operating one-way between New York and San Juan.

These new voyages complement the ship’s popular year-round 8-day departures that showcase top destinations in the Caribbean, The Bahamas, and Central Florida. In total, Carnival Splendor will offer 10 different itineraries visiting more than a dozen scenic destinations throughout the Caribbean, Canada, and the U.S. Atlantic Coast, providing an incredible array of “Fun Ship” vacation choices.

Four- to Seven-Day Canada/New England Cruises from New York
Carnival Splendor will operate a schedule of 4-, 5- and 7-day Canada/New England cruises running from June to October 2014.

Four-day weekend cruises depart June 5, July 3 and 31, and Aug. 28, 2014, calling at Saint John, New Brunswick, while 5-day cruises depart Sept. 1 and Oct. 11, 2014, calling at both Saint John and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Five week-long “fall foliage” Canada/New England cruises will also be offered, featuring extended stops at Boston, Portland, Maine; Saint John and Halifax. Departure days for the 7-day voyages include Sept. 6, 13, 20, and 27 and Oct. 4, 2014. These attractive Canada/New England voyages provide guests the opportunity to view centuries-old architectural structures, explore awe-inspiring natural wonders, and visit interesting historical landmarks.

Unique One-Way Cruises Between New York and San Juan
For the first time, Carnival Splendor will offer a series of one-way voyages between New York and San Juan. The 8-day itineraries will operate from New York to San Juan or vice versa, with stops at St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Antigua, and St. Maarten. Three New York-to-San Juan cruises will depart Oct. 24, 2014, and Jan. 12 and Feb. 13, 2015, while three San Juan-to-New York voyages will depart Nov. 1, 2014, and Jan. 20 and Feb. 21, 2015. On these one-of-a-kind voyages, guests can visit some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and participate in a wide range of activities, from snorkeling, scuba diving and kayaking to zip-lining across the lush Caribbean countryside.

Eight-day Voyages Round-Trip from New York
These new options complement Carnival Splendor’s wide array of 8-day cruises round-trip from New York offered throughout the year. These include a Bahamas/Florida itinerary calling at Port Canaveral, Florida; and Freeport and Nassau, The Bahamas, along with two different eastern Caribbean routes, one featuring San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk, and another visiting Grand Turk, Nassau, and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay. In addition to outstanding beaches, guests sailing on these cruises can experience unique dining, shopping, and cultural opportunities and tour a variety of historic landmarks and attractions.

Variety of Fun On-Board Options Aboard Carnival Splendor
The 3,006-passenger Carnival Splendor offers a variety of on-board features and facilities, highlighted by a two-level 21,000-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa, along with four swimming pools, a cascading water slide and free, supervised programming and facilities catering to kids in three age groups. Dining options include two two-level main dining rooms, a classic American steakhouse and an expansive poolside restaurant offering a variety of international cuisines and a 24-hour pizzeria.

Carnival Splendor also offers a wide range of accommodation choices, including spectacular suites and Cloud 9 Spa staterooms, with more than 60 percent of all staterooms offering either an ocean view or private balcony. There are even inter-connecting staterooms that are perfect for families or guests travelling together.

“New York is a favorite homeport of Carnival guests and we’re delighted to expand our offerings from the Big Apple to include a diverse array of itineraries, from historic and charming cities in Canada and New England to a host of tropical island destinations throughout the Caribbean,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO. “At the same time, we’re also pleased to offer these special one-way cruises between New York and San Juan, which provide our guests with an even greater variety of exciting destinations from which to choose,” he added.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pixie-Dusted Pre- & Post-Cruise Options in Florida & California

Whether you're planning to sail on your next cruise from Florida or California, Disney Parks have exciting new attractions and great places to stay that will enchant the entire family.

"Good timing, as much magic awaits you on pre- or post-cruise stays at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts! Our family hit both this spring and here are some of our favorite new attractions and lodgings," said Georgina Cruz.

Get a first-hand look at the new attractions that await as Georgina the the Cruz family explore the Pixie-Dusted Pre- & Post-Cruise Options on both coasts.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Holland America Line Reaches 1 Million Facebook Fans

Holland America Line achieved an impressive milestone this week when it reached 1 million Facebook fans. The line's Facebook page is a social media hub where fans can come together to get the latest news, get cruising advice, find information on specials, find fellow travelers on the Roll Call tab, share photos, enter contests and more.

As Facebook maintains its popularity with users around the world, Holland America Line continues to use the social media channel to communicate with fans and share information about the premium cruise line.

"Our fans, guests, and potential cruisers recognize the importance of Facebook as a way to interact and we are excited to reach 1 million fans," said Richard Meadows, Holland America Line's executive vice president of sales, marketing and guest programs. "Our social community is very engaged and we look forward to continuing to grow our fan base through new initiatives and interesting content."

Holland America Line's Facebook page is a dynamic community for ongoing conversations regarding the premium cruise line. Fans are encouraged to share stories, questions, comments, photos, videos and links about their experiences with Holland America Line on the wall and by engaging with tabs that feature sweepstakes, Roll Call events, special offers, cruise planning and engagement. Fans also are invited to participate in the community by posting cruise photos, experiences, questions, answers and comments. Holland America Line staff actively monitor the page to provide answers, insights, product news and information that assists fans to learn more about cruising with Holland America line.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Crystal Cruisers Can Earn Huge Bonus Rewards

Crystal Cruises is dramatically increasing the incentive for guests to share the renowned Crystal Experience. On 14 upcoming 2013 and 2014 luxury cruises, Crystal's new Bonus Share the Experience program offers all booked guests $400 in shipboard spending credit for each new-to-Crystal guest they refer to sail on the same cruise, in a separate stateroom. Booked guests can earn up to $1,600 per person in shipboard credits for his/her friend's new booking made after May 1. Each new guest receives a $400 bonus shipboard credit, up to $800 per stateroom.

What's different about the new Bonus program and Crystal's existing Share the Experience program? The Bonus program applies to select cruises, referring guests don't have to be past guests, and the credits are 4 times greater.

Bonus-applicable Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony voyages include:
-- Mediterranean: Oct 17 & Nov 2, 2013
-- New England/Canada: Oct 23, 2013
-- South America: Nov 23 & Dec 9, 2013
-- Trans-Ocean: Dec 9, 2013 & Jan 18, 2014
-- South Pacific/Asia: Feb 16 to Apr 9, 2014 cruises on Crystal Symphony; Feb 10 & 22, 2014 voyages on Crystal Serenity
"Travelers won't find a richer referral program in the industry," says Jack Anderson, senior vice president of marketing and sales. "We are inviting our most valuable ambassadors to share the award-winning Crystal Experience with friends and family. To show our appreciation, we are rewarding them with Bonus credits that can be used for a customized Private Adventure on land, a signature spa series on board, or a coveted piece of jewelry from our shops, among other indulgences."

Crystal's passion for taking care of guests in an inviting environment of extraordinary space, quality and choices has earned the company more "World's Best" awards than any other cruise line, resort, or hotel in history. For more information and Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit CrystalCruises.com.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Norwegian Breakaway Christened by New York's Iconic Rockettes

The legendary Rockettes® danced their way into their role as Godmothers to Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, Norwegian Breakaway during a high-kicking, high-energy christening ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. Officiated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the entertaining event was hosted by Buddy Valastro, star of the TLC series “Cake Boss.”

Throughout the christening ceremony, which was simulcast in ten venues thoughout the ship and live streamed online, Norwegian Breakaway’s spectacular onboard amenities and entertainment were showcased in front of more than 4,000 guests. From live performances by Slam Allen, Howl at the Moon, Cirque Dreams & Dinner Jungle Fantasy, along with Burn the Floor and a show stomping finale featuring Rock of Ages, Norwegian Breakaway, the largest ship ever to homeport in Manhattan, kicked off its arrival to New York City in style.

“New York’s ship is home where she belongs,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “We’ve been anticipating this moment for more than two years and are so thrilled to finally have Norwegian Breakaway amongst New York City’s greatest icons. We thank the City of New York for the warm welcome and are looking forward to a very successful inaugural season.”

Boasting hull artwork designed by pop icon and America’s most popular living artist, Peter Max, Norwegian Breakaway was designed as New York’s ship inside and out. On board, guests will enjoy the high-caliber dining and entertainment options that New York City is known for worldwide, including three new restaurants by Food Network star and acclaimed New York chef Geoffrey Zakarian. The ship’s groundbreaking design also includes an open-air boardwalk called The Waterfront, the largest aqua park at sea, with five waterslides, and a wide array of accommodations including 60 suites in The Haven, innovative studios for solo travelers, ocean view staterooms, balcony and mini-suite staterooms for families.

Here's a video capturing her departure from New York for a preview sailing Wednesday afternoon...


Norwegian Breakaway will begin her weekly 7-day cruises to Bermuda, throughout the summer, on Sunday, May 12 with a special guest onboard, Kevin Sheehan, the line’s Chief Executive Officer. From October through April, Norwegian Breakaway will offer 7-day voyages from the heart of Manhattan to the Bahamas and Florida, as well as two 12-day sailings to the Southern Caribbean. For more information on the incredible features and accommodations on Norwegian Breakaway, visit breakaway.ncl.com.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Silversea Expeditions Introduces Galapagos Cruise & Land Packages

Machu Picchu
Most travelers wouldn't fly all the way to South America for a three or four night cruise, but when combined with a pre- or post-cruise land package for a total of eight to eleven days, it certainly sounds enticing. Silversea Expeditions is offering travelers just such an opportunity to experience special cruise and land packages for its 2013 Galápagos program. Eight new shorter Silver Galapagos voyages have been combined with South America land adventures to create a collection of vacation packages of 8, 10, or 11 days.

"These new cruise and land packages are convenient options for the luxury traveler who wants to experience a Galápagos cruise adventure and also explore some of the most intriguing regions of South America, but who may not have time for a lengthy vacation," said Ellen Bettridge, Silversea's president of the Americas.

NEW 2013 GALÁPAGOS EXPEDITION CRUISES

The new 4-day, Baltra-to-San Cristóbal expedition voyages, encompassing the islands of Santa Cruz, Genovesa, and Seymour Norte, are:
8301A: Sept 28-Oct 2
8307A: Nov 9-13
8309A: Nov 23-27
8311A: Dec 7-11
The new 3-day, San Cristóbal-to-Baltra voyages, tracing a route through the islands of Española, Santa Cruz, and Plazas Sur, are:
8303B: Oct 16-19
8307B: Nov 13-16
8309B: Nov 27-30
8311B: Dec 11-14
Silver Galapagos expedition cruises offer adventurous travelers the life-enriching chance to discover a wild, pristine paradise that has long been regarded as a natural laboratory of evolution. On complimentary expeditions ashore guided by an experienced expedition team (certified by the Galápagos National Park Service), Silversea's guests may experience up-close encounters with an abundance of wildlife that includes sun-basking land iguanas, giant tortoises, blue- and red-footed boobies, colorful marine iguanas, sea lions, penguins and Darwin's famous finches.

The cruise and land packages include an expedition voyage aboard the luxurious, all-suite Silver Galapagos, Silversea's Galápagos air package (between Quito or Guayaquil and Galápagos), the Galápagos National Park entrance fee, plus pre- or post-cruise South America land extensions. The land programs include deluxe hotel accommodations, all transportation, transfers, guided sightseeing and some meals. While air travel between guest's home and Lima, Quito or Guayaquil is not included, optional roundtrip air packages from select U.S. and Canadian gateways to South America are available through Silversea.

GALÁPAGOS CRUISE & LAND PACKAGES

Below is a sampling of the new Galápagos cruise and land package options:

8-Day Machu Picchu & Galápagos Package: Guests will enjoy 2 days surrounded by the history and culture of Ecuador's vibrant capital on the "Quito Discovery" land extension before embarking on their 3-day Galápagos expedition cruise. After witnessing the natural treasures of the Galápagos Islands from their base of luxury aboard Silver Galapagos, guests will then journey to Peru to spend 3 days exploring the glorious Lost City of the Incas on an exciting "Machu Picchu Explorer" land adventure, highlighted by a scenic journey in Peru's Vistadome train.

10-Day Puno, Lake Titicaca & Galápagos Package: The magnificent Andes and Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, are the setting for an exciting 4-day "Puno & Lake Titicaca" pre-cruise adventure. Highlights include a visit to the Sillustani tombs, a cruise to the floating reed islands of the Uros people with their centuries-old way of life, and a visit to Taquile Island to admire ancient weaving traditions. Guests then embark Silver Galapagos for an unforgettable 4-day expedition voyage through the Galápagos Islands, followed by 2 days absorbing the fascinating sights and attractions of Ecuador's capital on the "Quito Discovery" post-cruise land extension.

11-Day Amazon Explorer & Galápagos Package: Guests enjoy 2 days taking in the artistic, cultural and historic attractions of Ecuador's capital on the "Quito Discovery" land extension before embarking on their 3-day expedition voyage aboard the elegant Silver Galapagos. Following the Galápagos program is a unique 6-day journey to Peru's Amazon basin where it's possible to witness pygmy marmosets, howler monkeys, colorful toucans and other exotic wildlife that inhabit the region's lowland forests. Participants will cruise the Amazon in all-suite luxury aboard m/v Aqua, dining on perhaps the finest Amazonian-Peruvian gourmet cuisine on the river. Expert naturalists will be on hand to share insights about this amazing and fragile ecosystem.

For more details on the new Galápagos cruise and land packages, visit Silversea.com/expeditions.

Image Courtesy of Silversea Expeditions

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam Rescues Sailors in Mid-Atlantic

Last Saturday, May 4th, at 6:50 p.m. (UTC-2), Holland America Line’s ms Nieuw Amsterdam received a call from the U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center at Norfolk, Virginia, regarding a mayday signal it had received from sailing yacht Embla, which was disabled and adrift. Nieuw Amsterdam immediately diverted from its course and arrived on the scene at 9 p.m. local time.

The cruise liner then initiated rescue of the sailboat’s crew, two males ages 29 and 61. The men were taken aboard Nieuw Amsterdam following a security check and provided food and accommodations. They will disembark in the next port of call at the Azores.

“It is a time-honored law of the sea that any ship in the vicinity should render assistance to a vessel in distress that has issued a call for help,” said Richard Meadows, Holland America Line’s executive vice president of sales, marketing and guest programs. “While the incident diverted the ship from its course, we were happy to be able to safely rescue the two men and are incredibly proud of the crew of Nieuw Amsterdam for their efforts.”

When it received the call, Nieuw Amsterdam was approximately 600 miles east of Bermuda on its trans-Atlantic crossing to Europe, and sailing yacht Embla was approximately 35 nautical miles south-southwest of the cruise ship, according to the Coast Guard. Nieuw Amsterdam is expected to arrive today at Horta, Azores, Wednesday, May 8, on schedule.

Although we are terribly sorry for their misfortune, the rescued sailors are in good hands and we hope they can relax and rejuvenate during their time aboard Holland America’s gracious vessel.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Costa Cruises Has A Deal For Baby Boomers

With age comes privilege, and Costa Cruises is offering baby boomers lower fares on select European sailings with a "Senior Savings Spectacular" promotion on bookings made during May. The offer lets travelers 55 and older select among summer and fall 7- to 14-day itineraries for rates as low as $469 in the Mediterranean and $999 in northern Europe, per person, double occupancy.

Guests must be at least 55 years old and book through Costa's call center using the rate code "SENIOR." At the time of the booking guests must provide their date of birth to secure this promotion. Government taxes and fees apply.

"Many vacationers are booking getaways much closer to their travel dates, particularly baby boomers who have been relieved of their frantic work schedules," said Scott Knutson, vice president of sales and marketing for Costa Cruises North America. "Costa's Senior Savings Spectacular is designed to entice these travelers to enjoy the incredible sites, scenery, flavors and history of Europe at an amazing value."

Along with the Senior Savings Spectacular promotion, Costa recently launched Kids Free, a program for junior cruisers that enables families of four to sail for the price of two in the same cabin on select cruises. While each promotion stands on its own, combining the two creates an ideal vacation for multigenerational family travel.

In addition to sought-after travel itineraries and historic sites, Costa's fleet is renowned for its onboard amenities and international ambiance. Each ship offers true Italian-style cuisine and the latest in onboard entertainment, including the line's chocolate and coffee bars, Samsara spa, Grand Prix simulator, 4D theater and designer-brand shops. Between fine dishes, wellness menus and signature recipes, passengers also can enjoy culinary specialties from across the Italian peninsula.

For reservations as well as more information about Costa's Senior Savings Spectacular and Kids Free programs, call your travel professional or 800-GO-COSTA, or visit CostaCruises.com.

Image (c) CruiseDiva.com

Monday, May 6, 2013

Celebrity Cruises Partners With “54 Below” to Bring Broadway Star Power to Bermuda Cruises

Not known for featuring real celebrity entertainers on their stages, Celebrity Cruises has upped their showmanship image by turning to one of the nation's hottest entertainment spots to entice Broadway fans to pack their bags for a cruise to Bermuda. Celebrity Cruises has struck an exclusive partnership deal with Manhattan’s noted “54 Below,” which will bring guests on Celebrity’s newly “Solsticized” Celebrity Summit the industry’s most comprehensive, direct-from-Broadway entertainment experience while sailing to the pink-sand paradise of Bermuda.

Ensconced in a cool, cozy cellar space beneath the legendary, disco-era “Studio 54”—54 Below has been dubbed “a throwback to the heyday of authentic New York nightlife,” and “the hot new stage attracting Broadway’s brightest stars.” Now, those stars will light up the stage of Celebrity Summit during its Bermuda vacation season from Cape Liberty (Bayonne), NJ, now through October 2013.

"We are incredibly excited to partner with 54 Below, offering our guests a unique theatrical experience featuring world-class Broadway talent in cabaret style performances," said Celebrity's Director of Entertainment Eric Bohus. "This is another outstanding addition to the Celebrity entertainment lineup and perfectly complements our other new offerings announced this year, including late-night Las Vegas style entertainment with Sin City Comedy and engaging music activities through our partnership with Billboard."

The line-up set to appear at sea on Celebrity Summit through 54 Below has pretty impressive credentials, including Faith Prince, Tony Award winner for Best Actress in a Musical for Guys & Dolls; Tony Award winner for Best Actress in a Musical in A Chorus Line, Donna McKechnie; Anthony Rapp, best known for originating the role of “Mark Cohen” in Rent; Jarrod Spector, who starred as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys; Alice Ripley, who won a Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for Next to Normal, and also has appeared in Les Miserables and Sunset Boulevard; star of the hit TV show Glee (“Wes”) Telly Leung, whose Broadway credits include Rent and Godspell; the original “Annie,” Andrea McArdle, who went on to also star in Les Miserables, Starlight Express and Beauty & The Beast; three-time Tony Award nominee Christine Andreas, recognized for her roles in Oklahoma and On Your Toes; Elizabeth Stanley of Company, Cry Baby, Million Dollar Quartet; Shoshana Bean, whose credits include Hairspray and Wicked; Darius DeHaas of Kiss of the Spider Woman, Rent and Carousel; Tom Wopat of TV's The Dukes of Hazzard, City of Angels, 42nd St., Guys & Dolls, Chicago and Sondheim on Sondheim; Brent Barrett, whose credits include West Side Story and Chicago; Ann Hampton Callaway, Tony-nominated for her role in Swing; Liz Callaway, nominated for a Tony for her role in Baby, and who also performed in Cats and Miss Saigon; Gregg Edelman, a four-time Tony nominee, including nods for Best Actor in a Musical for City of Angels; three-time Tony Award nominee for her roles in Passion, Ragtime and Kiss Me, Kate, Marin Mazzie; Karen Mason, who has appeared in Mamma Mia and Hairspray and is best known for her portrayal of “Norma Desmond” in Sunset Boulevard; and Emily Skinner, whose credits include The Full Monty and Billy Elliot.

Additional acts yet to be announced will also appear on Celebrity Summit this season through Celebrity’s unique partnership with 54 Below.

Image (c) CruiseDiva.com

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Prepare For A Happy Mother's Day: Cruise On, Mom

Some people ask how Cruise Diva discovered her love for ships and the high seas. I discovered the source of my fascination in a dusty box of mementos from a long ago, dimly remembered voyage. It wasn't my cruise vacation, but my mother's. You could say I have a cruise gene. It was there all along, tucked away in the corner of a closet shelf. Dormant for years, it was just waiting to be found.

What was my mother's first cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Song of Norway in 1980 like? Some things never change...there was the boat drill and Captain's Party (pictured here, Mom being greeted by the ship's Master), plus sunny days, relaxation beside the pool, dancing the night away, and plenty of casino action. Blackjack was her game and my mother loved the casino!

As I remember my mom today, join me in an early Mother's Day tribute to the lady who passed along her cruise genes to me. Welcome aboard my mom's first cruise on the Song of Norway: Cruise On, Mom.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Holland America Line Releases First Pinnacle Class Ship Details

It isn't much, but we do have a "first look" at the planning Holland America Line is doing to make its new Pinnacle Class ships among the most gracious at sea. Holland America has selected two leading firms to create the interior spaces of the line's new 99,000-ton ship that is slated for delivery in February 2016. The first in a new Pinnacle Class of vessel, the ship will showcase decors by designer Adam D. Tihany and designer and architect Bjorn Storbraaten. Tihany will join Storbraaten, who successfully worked with Holland America Line on ms Eurodam and ms Nieuw Amsterdam, in designing the ship's public rooms. The new ship will feature exciting new public areas and dining venues, as well as a stunning onboard ambiance created in partnership with these two leading firms. Several new concepts are under development that have never been seen before on a Holland America Line ship, and as they evolve more details will be revealed.

"We are fortunate to bring together such distinguished professionals for our next-generation ship," said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America Line. "The ambience of a ship is an essential part of the cruise experience and we are confident that Adam, Bjorn and their teams of experienced designers and architects will strike the right balance between contemporary and traditional that is the hallmark of the interiors of Holland America Line ships."

About Tihany Design: Adam D. Tihany is regarded as one of the world's pre-eminent hospitality designers. Over the last 30 years, Tihany Design has become a leader in creating luxurious and innovative interiors at some of the world's most iconic properties, such as the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, and One & Only Cape Town. In addition, there are numerous hotels showcasing signature venues by Tihany, including The Breakers, The Broadmoor, and Hotel Cipriani in Venice to name a few.

About Yran & Storbraaten Architects: Founded in 1985, Yran & Storbraaten Architects is one of the world's leading architectural firms, specializing in cruise ship design. Known for working in a diversity of styles, the firm has developed a long international client list. As partners, Bjorn Storbraaten and Petter Yran have been pioneers in developing the luxury segment, achieving Y&S's standing as one of the industry's best. Storbraaten worked on both ms Nieuw Amsterdam and ms Eurodam, as well as the Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn, and Seabourn Quest, providing conceptual and architectural designs of restaurants, outdoor areas, lounges, theaters, nightclubs, and bars.

For more information about Holland America Line, visit HollandAmerica.com.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Trip Flip Goes Cruising on Carnival Breeze

Shannon & Nathan in the Red Frog Pub
So, you’re taking a vacation, but do you really know where you’re going to end up? Not if you’re a couple from Austin, Texas, who were surprised by the popular Travel Channel series, Trip Flip, with a 6-day cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest ship, Carnival Breeze, and whisked away to the balmy Caribbean.

Hosted by professional fun-seeker, comedian, and travel expert Bert Kreischer, Trip Flip does a “switcheroo” on travelers who may already be on vacation, as well as people still at home, by tossing out the itinerary and giving them an exceptional vacation experience they never saw coming.

During the Carnival Breeze episode, Texas natives Shannon and Nathan are initially taken on a vacation to Miami’s South Beach where they no doubt spotted cruise ships sailing into and out of the Port of Miami. After a few days, they’re surprised with a voyage on the spectacular Carnival Breeze. Viewers will have the opportunity to “cruise vicariously” through Shannon and Nathan as they check out the ship’s many features.

On board, the couple traverses the ropes course at SportSquare, taking in awesome views of the sea 150 feet below. They also take a plunge down the 312-foot-long Twister water slide and enjoy luxurious pampering at the Cloud 9 Spa. Kreischer even pulls some strings and gets Nathan, an amateur comedian, headline billing at The Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez. The episode also includes breathtaking scenes as the couple snorkel the colorful coral reefs of Grand Turk in the Turks & Caicos Islands.

The 30-minute episode featuring Carnival Breeze will air on Travel Channel on Sunday May 5, at 8 p.m. EST. Check your local listings.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Superstorm Sandy Sunk Their Cruise

The video below will surely tug at your heart. It’s meant to and the unfortunate family of Joanne Keating will without a doubt enjoy the cruise they’ve been given in a very generous move by Royal Caribbean as a result of their complaint to ABC News’ “7 On Your Side.”

You see, their plans for a cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line were sunk when “Superstorm” Hurricane Sandy washed away Keating’s home less than a week before the family was to set sail for the Caribbean last November. Even though their local ABC television station appears to have a letter from Norwegian explaining the cruise line’s policy regarding last-minute cancellations and their inability to “make any exceptions,” the reporting is pretty one-sided. The reporters in the video story attempt to shame Norwegian for not refunding Keating’s cruise fare or allowing the family to reschedule the cruise at a later date. The reporter says she ran into a “stone wall of silence” by Norwegian, despite displaying a letter from the line that clearly displays the Norwegian letterhead. The reporter also mentions that the situation would have been different if the family had purchased trip insurance to cover such a contingency, which she says would have only cost them $250. But they didn’t buy insurance and that’s the catch to their tale of woe.

Cruise lines and numerous third-party insurers sell coverage for just such emergencies and savvy travelers don’t leave home without it. Many travel sellers even ask their clients to sign a waiver if insurance is offered to them and they refuse it. As my colleague Alan Wilson of Cruise New Daily advises, without that coverage, travelers are “self-insuring” their trips. If it sounds uncaring that Norwegian wouldn’t give the family a refund or reschedule their $4,000 cruise, think of this… you wouldn’t go to Ford Motor Company and ask for your money back or for a replacement vehicle if you totaled your Ford automobile and didn’t have insurance to cover the loss.

I know I may sound like Cruella DeVil, but I question whether ABC News did the right thing by pitting Royal Caribbean against Norwegian Cruise Line, even though the family is delighted with the outcome. Taking the automobile example above a step further, when Ford refused a request for a replacement vehicle, would the television station have then gone to General Motors to plead the owner’s case? I don’t think so, but they had no qualms about pitting cruise lines against one another.

It isn’t up to me to be an arbiter in this situation, but I find it distasteful. In the end it sort of makes those who do the responsible thing and purchase travel insurance look like chumps. Watch the video, think of the automobile example I offered above, and make up your own mind. If you click on that link above to “7 On Your Side,” you will see comments that do not support the family’s refusal to purchase insurance.