Saturday, June 29, 2013

Catch a Cruise Deal This Weekend

Royal Caribbean says that summer goes hand-in-hand with vacation and there’s no better way to create unforgettable memories this season than with one of their cruises. Today, Saturday, June 29, the cruise line known for “WOW”-ing guests with its first-at-sea concepts is offering an onboard credit of up to $50 per stateroom for guests to enjoy when sailing between July 1 and Sept 30, 2013. Guests can apply their onboard credit toward a range of new specialty dining options, shore excursions, or a rejuvenating spa treatment to make their Royal Caribbean vacation extra special. With summer just underway, there is still the time to finalize a family vacation on a Royal Caribbean ship, where destinations such as the grandeur of the Alaskan frontier, the lush and laid-back Caribbean, or Europe’s cultures and heritage are delivered with the cruise line’s GOLD Anchor Service.

Vacationers who book a Royal Caribbean cruise on June 29, 2013, on any sailings departing July 1 through Sept 30, 2013, will receive $25 onboard credit per Interior and Oceanview stateroom, and $50 per Balcony stateroom and Suite-category stateroom. The Super Saturday Sale is applicable for all new individual U.S. and Canadian bookings. For more information about Royal Caribbean’s Super Saturday Sale, visit RoyalCaribbean.com/SuperSaturday.

Even more enticing in terms of credits and discounts, Princess Cruises is celebrating Independence Day with a “Red, White & Blue Sale” featuring cruise deals on North American departures. The June 27 to July 8 event offers cruise discounts of up to 40 percent, plus up to $100 free onboard spending money.

More than 100 cruise departures are featured in the sale, including cruises to the Caribbean, Hawaii, Panama Canal, the California Coast, Mexico, Canada & New England, and the West Coast. Cruises depart between September and December 2013.

In addition to special fares, passengers booking balcony staterooms or above will receive an onboard credit of $100 (for sailings 10 days or longer), $50 (7- to 9-day cruises), or $30 (1- to 6-day cruises); and those booking interior or oceanview staterooms can get credits of $50 (cruises 10 days or longer), $25 ((7- to 9-day cruises)) or $15 (1- to 6-day cruises).

A sample deal includes a 7-day Caribbean cruise: $499 interior (was $599); $699 balcony (was $949). For information and pricing,visit Princess.com/cruisedeals/redwhitebluesale.jsp.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Discover New Homeports, Itineraries & Shake Spot, the Coolest Place Aboard Carnival Sunshine

When Carnival Cruise Lines transformed the former Carnival Destiny into Carnival Sunshine, the like-new cruise ship introduced a host of new venues when it re-entered service last month. Certain to be one of the most popular, Shake Spot made its debut as the place to chill out—where you can enjoy a variety of hand-crafted milkshakes and floats available with creative toppings.

Located adjacent to Ocean Plaza on the Deck 5 Promenade, Shake Spot offers nine different kinds of milkshakes with tempting choices such as the Strawberry Creamsicle, Tropical Delight, and Mocha Java Rev-Up served with a shot of espresso, along with seven kinds of floats, including the Brown Cow with chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup, and Coca-Cola, and the Purple Cow, a refreshing concoction of vanilla ice cream and grape soda. For an extra kick, you can even order “adult versions” of the frozen treats—upon request the shakes and floats can be spiked with your choice of bourbon, rum and various liqueurs.

There’s even an all-inclusive “Shake Lover’s Package” for those who simply can’t get enough of these unique and nostalgic treats on vacation.

Carnival Sunshine entered service in Europe on May 5th and is operating a series of 9- and 12-day Mediterranean cruises through October before it repositions to its temporary New Orleans homeport for a series of 7-day Caribbean cruises beginning in November. In April 2014 Carnival Sunshine will relocate to Port Canaveral where it is scheduled to operate year-round voyages that include port-intensive 7-day cruises to the eastern and western Caribbean, a number of 8-day Caribbean cruises, and 5-day departures featuring Florida, Caribbean, and Bahamian ports.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Regent Seven Seas Cruises Set to Refurbish Seven Seas Voyager

Regent Seven Seas Cruises has announced that Seven Seas Voyager—the line's second all-balcony, all-suite ship, which was introduced in 2003—will receive a multi-million dollar refurbishment at the ship’s scheduled dry dock in October.

The 700-guest capacity vessel, a sister-ship to Seven Seas Mariner, will enter dry dock on October 14 in Marseille, France and reveal her stylish new look on Oct 23 when she sets sail on the 10-night Lands of Myths, Seas of Fables cruise from Rome to Venice.

As part of the ship’s refurbishment plans, all Penthouse Suites will be re-decorated in a stunning new décor with elegant custom-crafted furnishings, plush carpeting, curtains, wall coverings, lighting, original artwork, and outdoor furniture.

A complete refurbishment is also planned for the Horizon and Observation lounges. The venues will receive distinctive new bars, furniture, carpeting, wall coverings, lighting and original art. Additionally, the Constellation Theater will be refurbished with new carpeting, wall coverings, tables, wall sconces, banquettes and chairs. New plush carpeting will be installed throughout the interior of the ship and all public spaces will receive an eclectic selection of original artwork. The atrium will be outfitted with fine marble and receive new furniture. Outside, new teak will be installed on all balconies. The outdoor relaxation area on Deck 11 and outside the Observation Lounge on Deck 12 will receive new resort-style furniture and decor.

“In keeping with our on-going commitment to deliver the most all-inclusive luxury travel experience, we are making improvements to Seven Seas Voyager that will enhance our guests’ overall experience,” said Kunal S. Kamlani, president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “Within the past five years, we have made significant investments in a comprehensive refurbishment program that has updated our fleet of elegant, stylish and sophisticated ships that are designed with the comfort of our discerning guests in mind.”

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ fleet is comprised of three luxurious all-suite ships that carry from 490 to 700 guests to worldwide ports of call. Depending on the ship, guests can choose from up to four, open-seating gourmet restaurants, including Prime 7, a contemporary American steakhouse and Sette Mari at La Veranda, the line’s Italian dining experience. With some of the highest space-per-guest ratios in the cruise industry, accommodations include such requisite amenities as down comforters, Egyptian cotton linens, flat-screen television, DVD players and Wi-Fi access. Penthouse and higher-category suites aboard all three ships are equipped with iPads. To receive a brochure or for more information on Regent Seven Seas Cruises, visit RSSC.com.

Silversea Introduces Complimentary Streamed Movies For Guest Mobile Devices


It seems that you can't travel anywhere these days without some sort of mobile device, whether it's a Kindle to read the latest novel, or a laptop or tablet loaded with your favorite movie or television show to pass the time while on a flight or even a cruise ship. In a cruise industry first, luxury line Silversea Cruises is making it easier to watch films and keep up with world events while at sea with a complimentary service that provides streaming movies and live television news broadcasts to guests' mobile devices aboard Silver Cloud. The service can be accessed on any Wi-Fi-enabled laptop, smartphone, tablet, or even e-book reader—any device with a browser. It includes access to an extensive library of classic and recent Academy Award-winning feature films, with more than 80 per cent of the movies offered in five languages: English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish.

"We're delighted to be able to offer this innovative service to enhance our guests' onboard experience," said Fabio Agostini, Silversea's chief information officer. "Smartphones and tablets are a necessity for today's travelers, who rely on instant access to information. Jason Cohn, our director of infrastructure, and his valuable team worked closely with RedCell Technologies, HMS, and On-Board Movies to develop a streaming media service that would fit seamlessly with our guests' increasingly technology-driven lifestyle."

If you're like me and don't have your own tablet, a limited supply of iPad minis is also available (on a first-come, first-served basis) to Silver Cloud guests wishing to borrow one to view the streamed movies and television during the voyage.

By the end of 2013, the service will be rolled out to four additional ships: Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper, Silver Wind, and Silver Galapagos. In the coming months, the company is also planning to add an expansive selection of international newspapers to its menu of streamed media offerings, an option currently in the testing phase. For additional information, visit Silversea.com.

Image Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New Royal Caribbean ChoiceAir Offers Lowest Airfare Guarantee

Royal Caribbean International has introduced a new Lowest Airfare Guarantee with Royal Caribbean ChoiceAir, the cruise line’s flight booking system for guests who want the best airfare and flight options for their cruise. There is a catch, though—the window of opportunity for that lowest fare is tight, but the reward is sweet for those who qualify. If you find a cheaper airfare within 24 hours of booking your flights on ChoiceAir, Royal Caribbean will refund 110 percent of the difference in onboard credit to spend during your cruise vacation. It may not add up to a lot of money, but on a cruise every dollar counts.

Along with its Lowest Airfare Guarantee, there are additional benefits. Royal Caribbean ChoiceAir provides you with flexibility to choose among a wide range of airlines and flights, along with round-the-clock guest support throughout the vacation planning process and peace of mind in knowing that you will make it to the ship for your cruise. If disaster strikes and the ChoiceAir flight is delayed or cancelled, Royal Caribbean will work to re-accommodate you to help you make it to your ship in time for departure or to the next port. With an existing cruise booking, guests can instantly start shopping for their ChoiceAir flights at RoyalCaribbeanChoiceAir.com. More information about Royal Caribbean ChoiceAir can be found at that link.

To kick off the new Royal Caribbean ChoiceAir program, the cruise line is offering a $50 onboard credit bonus for U.S. and Canadian guests who make a new booking from now through July 14, 2013, on a Royal Caribbean cruise of six nights or longer and then book their flights on Royal Caribbean ChoiceAir within the same period. Vacationers must mention offer code “SOX9” at the time of their cruise booking in order to receive the offer. Additional restrictions may apply for the Royal Caribbean ChoiceAir limited-time offer, but it’s certainly worth looking into.

Monday, June 24, 2013

NEW Cruise Review: Why You Might Want to Pack Your Own Pillow

Frequent cruise traveler Karen Segboer opens her review of a recent Alaska Inside Passage cruise on Holland America Line's Volendam with some troubling questions, "Can something as innocuous as a simple offering of after dinner candied ginger gone missing (and instead, store-bought cellophane- wrapped candy peppermints in its place) affect a long-standing opinion if a cruise line? Would a reputation as once being 'the spotless fleet' come back to haunt a ship with apparently not a clean pillow onboard to be found?"

Karen also says, "At the end of the day, I try to balance comments with positive and negative aspects." Here at CruiseDiva.com, I always appreciate frank and honest opinions and hope you do as well. While I did take my own personal pillow once when faced with a stay in the hospital, I've never packed one for a cruise vacation. However, I might consider doing so in the future after hearing about Karen's experience.

Image Courtesy of Holland America Line

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Arrive Early or Late For Majesty of the Seas' June 24, 2013 Sailing From the Port of Miami

Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas is scheduled to sail out of the Port of Miami, on Monday, June 24, 2013. The Miami Heat victory parade is also scheduled for Monday, June 24. Some of the victory parade festivities will take place in the downtown Miami area and include streets that provide access to the Port of Miami.

Therefore, the cruise line asks that guests who are scheduled to sail on Majesty of the Seas on June 24 arrive at the port between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. or between 1:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Check-in for your sailing will take place between these times. The sailing’s departure time will be delayed to accommodate this event, but it will not impact the scheduled itinerary.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

MSC Cruises Kicks Off Countdown To MSC Divina's Miami Arrival By Announcing New Partnerships

In less than six months MSC Divina will make her arrival in PortMiami and MSC Cruises is getting ready with a series of exciting new features on board the first MSC vessel to sail year-round from North America.

Eataly Partnership
In line with its unique Mediterranean flair, MSC Cruises has joined forces with Eataly, the popular Turin-based chain and epicurean emporium, which is partnered with popular celebrity chefs such as Mario Batali and Lidia Matticchio, to launch two incredible restaurants and a marketplace onboard MSC Divina. The decision to partner with Eataly was made after rave reviews and a successful launch onboard the recently christened sister-ship MSC Preziosa. In the area that previously hosted the Tex Mex specialty restaurant, MSC Divina will now feature two entirely unique dining venues; the upscale Ristorante Italia and spectacular regional steakhouse, Manzo, fashioned after the famed restaurant in Eataly's Manhattan location. A boutique Eataly marketplace will also be available for guests to purchase authentic Italian and artisan products.

Aqua Cycling
Aqua Cycling by Hydrorider
Spinning enthusiasts can now celebrate as MSC Divina becomes the industry's first ship to offer Aqua Cycling by Hydrorider. What has been reported as this summer's latest fitness craze by Extra TV and highlighted on Good Morning America, Time Magazine, and numerous other media, Aqua Cycling will allow MSC Divina guests to take spinning to new heights while cruising the Caribbean. Hydrorider, whose products are made in Italy, provides aquatic cycles made of marine industry stainless steel that can be placed in pools for classes and training. For a minimal fee, guests can participate in classes led by fitness professionals who have been trained in the benefits of cycling under water, while enjoying energetic music and healthy fitness challenges.

Healthy Eats at Sea
Onboard MSC Divina, guests will enjoy a variety of healthy choices tailored for every meal. Throughout the day, dining experiences will offer a range of light options (such as soups, salads, grilled chicken and fish, steamed vegetables and egg white omelets), vegetarian selections (curries, pastas and special vegetarian dishes) and whole grain breads. In addition, MSC has introduced "Deliciously Healthy Menus" for dinner, featuring a selection of nutritionally balanced dishes all listed with caloric values. Gluten-free dishes (approved by the Italian Celiac Association or AIC) are also offered in main dining rooms.

Taking health & wellness to a new level, MSC has also introduced "Five Colors of Well-Being", creating synergies between the nutritious drinks and spa treatments offered at the MSC Aurea Spa & Bar with nutritional selections found in the Wellness Corner of the buffet. Colors can influence our lives and our moods while our health and well-being can be affected by the rainbow of nutrients in our food. With this in mind, the "Five Colors of Well-Being" are Blue/Violet (cleansing), Green (relaxing), Red (anti-aging), White (purity) and Yellow/Orange (beautiful skin). Guests can now choose spa treatments, nutritious drinks and healthy foods based on their area of focus as outlined by the Five Colors of Well-Being menu.

New Entertainment Experiences
Onboard MSC Divina, guests will enjoy an incredible slew of new entertainment options created to provide cruisers with a wider variety of daytime and nighttime activities and entertainment. Each sailing, theater goers will delight in production shows featuring a cast of 30 dancers, singers, musicians and visual acts as well as headline entertainment specially tailored to the itinerary and/or guest nationality. As guests cruise the Eastern and Western Caribbean, island bands will be featured onboard with local cultural shows offered pier-side on certain days. Dance lovers onboard MSC Divina will be able to take the stage in a big way and "Dance with the Stars" as they are paired up with one of MSC's professional dancers and enter competitions.

For guests looking to truly relish in MSC's Mediterranean heritage, "Italian Days" dedicated to the music, dance, cuisine and folklore of the region, featuring Italian themed dinners, theater shows, music, language lessons, dance lessons and the art of pizza making will be presented regularly. Finally, for our younger guests, MSC Divina will offer new activities for teens including Teen's White Party, MSC Flashmob and Hey Mr. DJ Hip-Hop while our mini and junior club guests will enjoy activities such as Kids Bingo, Fairytales Time, and live talent shows.

Top 18
For the first-time in the Caribbean, MSC guests can now enjoy a new adults-only oasis boasting premium deck space and stunning sea views onboard MSC Divina. Available for a nominal daily fee on Fantasia-class ships beginning summer 2013, Top 18 features dedicated spa services, bar menu and a comfortable lounge setting, the perfect exclusive venue to relax and unwind surrounded by incredible ocean vistas. Guests of Top 18 are greeted by an attendant with a refreshing chilled towel and escorted to their own personal lounge bed or relaxation pod. Misters and complimentary fruit skewers will be provided while guests can take advantage of specially tailored on-deck spa treatments without leaving the comfort of Top 18's personal lounge beds. These include exclusive reflexology and facial treatments, as well as various head, neck and shoulder massages.

MSC Yacht Club
Also available for the first-time in North America, is the luxurious MSC Yacht Club. Already a favorite among experienced cruisers, the "ship-within-a-ship" will now be available for guests sailing the Caribbean looking for unparalleled indulgence, comfort and convenience. From your personal butler, 24-hour concierge service and complimentary wines and spirits available any time of the day, guests booked in the MSC Yacht Club Suites are pampered throughout the MSC Yacht Club's exclusive lounges and pool area. This oasis of premium tranquility provides several private venues, including Le Muse panoramic restaurant, Top Sail Lounge, pool and relaxation area as well as private access to the MSC Aurea Spa.

"This is just a sneak peek into several exciting announcements in store for North American travelers" said Ken Muskat, Senior VP of Sales & Marketing. "Soon, you will be able to experience the best kept secret in cruising as we bring MSC Divina, one of our newest and most beautiful vessels to this market. While we will always proudly maintain our authentic Mediterranean flair which appeals to so many travelers, the announcements made today express our continued commitment to tailoring MSC Divina's excellent product to the tastes of this market."

To mark the countdown of MSC Divina's arrival to PortMiami, guests who book between June 24 and July 8, 2013 for sailings from April 12 to Oct 11, 2014 will receive an onboard credit to be used for onboard purchases. Bookings made in Suites or MSC Yacht Club will include a $200 per stateroom onboard credit and those in Balcony a $100 onboard credit based on double occupancy. Visit MSCCruisesUSA.com for additional information.

Image Courtesy of MSC Cruises

Friday, June 21, 2013

Crystal Serenity to Receive Chic "Extreme Makeover"

Come November, Crystal Cruises will put a $17-million redesign in place aboard their flagship, Crystal Serenity. The line is planning sweeping makeovers of the ship's Crystal Penthouses (the top accommodations) and Lido Deck, as well as the indoor/outdoor Trident Grill, Tastes restaurant, and Crystal Serenity's Lido cafe. Building upon the success of Crystal Symphony's "living wall," Crystal is expanding its green concept to the Lido area.

Maintenance, cleaning, mechanical updates, and environmental upgrades will also be implemented throughout the ship's interior and exterior spaces during the two week dry dock at the Navantia Shipyard in Cadiz, Spain. Upon completion, Crystal will have spent $52 million on Crystal Serenity's Extreme Makeover in the past two years and a total of almost $120 million on the Extreme Makeover of its fleet in recent years.

"Our redesigns aren't merely new fabrics and soft goods. It is indeed extreme when you take out pools, tear down walls, and completely re-invent spaces to create new chic, contemporary, and exceptionally welcoming and comfortable public areas and accommodations," says Crystal President Gregg Michel. "While we are honored we have won respected design awards for our remodels, we are even more gratified by the response from our guests—international travelers who have an eye for style and appreciate fine design in their lifestyle and when they vacation."

Lido Cafe
Here's what is in store:
Lido Deck
London's Adfecto design firm was inspired by Santa Barbara's casual, yet cultured, "American Riviera" vibe for the transformation of the ship's spacious Lido deck. Natural stones, wrought iron, and an array of blues set the resort-like tone for space's major reconfiguration that will remove its indoor pool and Tastes kitchen, move the ice cream bar to the Trident Grill, and add more sofa seating, an open kitchen, and a cocktail bar. In addition, four "living walls" and additional greenery surrounding the Trident lounge area will bring the outdoors in. As with Crystal Symphony, Crystal Serenity's Lido cafe will be redesigned with modern food islands replacing long buffet counters, more tables for two, and a fresh baked goods kitchen. A new, cherry wood dance floor will also be installed in the Palm Court, the ship's largest gathering place for drinks and dancing.
Crystal Penthouses
Toronto's II BY IV, the firm that won major design awards for its previous remodel of Crystal Serenity's staterooms, is redefining the ship's four top suites with clean lines, classic simplicity, and refined elegance in a dramatic ultra-contemporary remodel. Interiors of the butler-serviced, 1,345 square-feet residences will be gutted and spaces completely reconfigured. The dining area will move closer to the floor-to-ceiling windows and the private outdoor deck, while the former dining room will now hold a den/library/media room with a queen-sized sleeper sofa and closet. With a new shower added to the guest powder room, the space can function as a second bedroom, ideal for families and couples traveling together. The Penthouse also features a spacious living room and butler's pantry with private entrance.

The master bedroom will be made over with luxurious bedding, curtains, two entrances, and a new seating area. The master bath will feature marble, mosaics, a walk-in glass shower, and two waterproof Aquavision TV's, one embedded in the mirror, and one by the large window-side Jacuzzi tub. In keeping with modern tech living, the CP's will feature three flat screen TV's, including a 3-D TV, plus a surround sound audio system, iPod docking stations, and increased wall outlets.

The Best of the Rest
With more than 700 different jobs scheduled to be completed during the 13 days, the 500+ contractor crew and several hundred Crystal crew will also be working round-the-clock to thoroughly deep clean the ship, repaint exteriors, refurbish the "port pod," add energy-saving LED lighting in public areas and crew offices, and more.
Crystal Serenity's first voyage after completing dry dock will be a 12-day Nov 27 Lisbon-Barcelona cruise through the Canary Islands, followed by Transatlantic crossing to the Americas, a Christmas/New Year's voyage in the Caribbean, and the annual World Cruise, an 89-day ultimate luxury adventure from LA to London, starting Jan 18, 2014. For more information, visit CrystalCruises.com.

Images Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Celebrity Xpedition to Return to Galapagos on June 30

Celebrity Cruises has announced that Celebrity Xpedition’s license, which is necessary to enter the Galapagos National Park, will be reinstated and the ship will return to service for the June 30 sailing. However, regrettably, it will be necessary to cancel the June 23 sailing of Celebrity Xpedition.

In their statement, Celebrity Cruises apologized for the vacation disruption of all guests booked on cancelled sailings, "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 designed to protect and safeguard this unique and pristine environment."

Guests booked on the June 23 sailing will receive a full refund of the monies paid. Celebrity will also provide them with a 25% future cruise credit for another Celebrity Xpedition cruise. The credit is based on the amount they paid for their June 23 cruise and may be used for a future cruise on Celebrity Xpedition within the next two years. Future cruise certificates will be mailed to guests' home addresses or to their travel agent within two to three weeks.

Additionally, if a guest purchased air transportation through Celebrity Cruises, the line will provide them with a full refund. Guests who did not purchase air transportation through Celebrity Cruises, will be reimbursed for their airline change fee.

Booked guests with questions or concerns can contact Celebrity Cruises directly at 1-888-829-4050 in the U.S. and 1-408-916-9001 internationally.

Image Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Steel Is Cut For Viking Cruises' Viking Star

Viking Star
Last month Viking Cruises made a bold expansion move with the announcement that From Rivers to the Sea: The Vikings Are Coming to ocean cruising. Now it's official and steel has been cut to begin construction of its first ocean cruise vessel, Viking Star. Marking a major milestone toward fulfilling the company's promise of an ocean product, the steel cutting took place at Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard outside Venice, Italy. Viking Star is scheduled to be delivered in early 2015, with maiden voyages beginning in April 2015.

"This is a big step towards realizing our ocean cruising plans," said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises. "With our new ocean cruises, we are applying the same principles behind our award-winning river cruises—small, intimate ships with destination-focused itineraries that allow guests to experience privileged access excursions and onboard cultural experiences."

The ship was designed by experienced nautical architects and engineers, including London-based SMC Design and Los Angeles-based Rottet Studios. The 47,800gt ship will have 464 cabins and accommodate 928 guests. Viking Star is one of two ocean ships on order; both will be built by Fincantieri at its Marghera shipyard.

Viking's foray into ocean cruising marks the introduction of the travel industry's first entirely new cruise line in nearly a decade. Itineraries for maiden voyages starting in April 2015 include cruising in Scandinavia and the Baltic; and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean. Guests on the 928-passenger all-veranda Viking Star will experience cruising with destination as the focus, maximum time in port and an onboard cultural enrichment program ideal for an experienced traveler with an interest in history, art and culture.

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 with 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 Viking Longships christened in 2013 and 12 new Viking Longships planned to launch in 2014.

Image Courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Queen Victoria Gets a New Verandah

No, it isn’t a new category of balcony accommodations, it’s a new alternative dining venue, The Verandah, which opened aboard Cunard Line’s Queen Victoria for her St. Petersburg & Baltic Explorer cruise that departed Southampton on June 1st. The 100-seat alternative dining venue replaces the Todd English Restaurant and is based on the same concept as the popular, award-wining Verandah Restaurant introduced on Queen Elizabeth, with a slightly different menu highlighting a sophisticated, contemporary, and relaxed theme.

The new Verandah menu includes a choice of seven entrees, eleven plats principaux, and six dessert selections. Plats principaux include Beef and Lobster Flambéed with Cognac and Truffle with Parmesan Fries—the most popular dish to date—and Baked Rack of Lamb in Pastry with Morel Mushrooms and Madeira Reduction, pictured above.

The Verandah menu has been created by Chef Patron Jean-Marie Zimmermann, global culinary ambassador for Cunard Line, who is also a Michelin-starred chef. A particular highlight of the menu is Carpaccio of Smoked Beef with Marinated Aubergine, Quail’s Egg and Truffle Mayonnaise, which combines magical pairings of flavors with theatrical touches: the dish is served under a glass cloche filled with scented smoke as seen here at right.

With its vibrant taste of the Mediterranean, the Todd English Restaurant will remain the alternative dining venue aboard Queen Mary 2, as befits her iconic Transatlantic Crossings and more even mix of British and American passengers. This first-ever Todd English venue at sea has proved highly successful aboard Cunard’s flagship since her introduction in 2004.

Other evening dining alternatives aboard Cunard’s fleet include the Kings Court (Queen Mary 2) and The Lido (Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria). By night, these areas transform into intimate and casual spaces that offer cuisine from around the world:

Queen Elizabeth choices including the South American grill “Asado” and “Jasmine” with its menus drawn from across Asia, while “Aztec” adds its own twist to Mexican culinary classics.

Queen Victoria’s Lido transforms into “Bamboo” for Asian flavors, “Coriander” with Indian cuisine, and “Prime” which features steaks and seafood.

The Kings Court aboard Queen Mary 2 offers authentic Italian dishes in “La Piazza,” traditional British dishes in “The Carvery,” and flavours from across Asia in “Lotus.” Also featured on board is the Boardwalk Café, offering burgers on deck.

For more information, visit Cunard.com.

Images Courtesy of Cunard Line

Monday, June 17, 2013

Disney Cruise Line Updates 2014 Schedules

Several new sailings have been added to the Disney Magic schedule for fall of 2014. The Magic will be going to dry-dock from Sept 7 through Oct 10, 2014 to undergo a complete remodel, getting new decor, new kids clubs, new restaurants and much more. When the ship comes back online, it will move to Port Canaveral (the Magic has been sailing primarily out of Miami) and will take on 7-night sailings to the Caribbean. To cover the Miami sailings, the Disney Wonder will take over the already-scheduled dates. The Magic will alternate Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries through the middle of November, then will sail Western itineraries for the rest of the year. These last Western sailings will alternate between Key West, FL and Falmouth, Jamaica.

The new sail dates include:
10/18/14: 3-night repositioning cruise from San Juan to Port Canaveral
10/21/14: 5-night Bahamian itinerary
10/26/14: 7-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary
11/02/14: 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary
11/09/14: 7-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary
11/16/14: 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary (Jamaica)
11/23/14: 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary (Key West)
11/30/14: 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary (Jamaica)
12/07/14: 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary (Key West)
12/14/14: 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary (Jamaica)
12/21/14: 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary (Key West)
12/28/14: 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary (Jamaica)
Disney Cruise Line has also announced changes to other sail dates in fall 2014. As part of the relocation of the Disney Magic to Port Canaveral from Miami, the Disney Dream will now sail on Mondays and Fridays. Currently, Disney Dream sets sail on Sundays and Thursdays. Guests booked on sailings after October 2014 will be changed to the new Monday and Friday departure schedule. These guests have been notified of the change.

Several sailing dates have been changed to accommodate the Disney Dream's new Monday and Friday departure schedule:
October 23, 2014 changed to October 16, 2014
October 26, 2014 changed to October 27, 2014
October 30, 2014 changed to October 31, 2014
November 2, 2014 changed to November 3, 2014
November 6, 2014 changed to November 7, 2014
November 9, 2014 changed to November 10, 2014
November 13, 2014 changed to October 23, 2014
In addition to those changes, sailings previously scheduled on the Disney Magic will now take place on the Disney Wonder. These departure dates remain the same:
October 22, 2014
October 26, 2014
October 31, 2014
November 5, 2014
November 9, 2014
November 14, 2014
November 19, 2014
November 23, 2014
November 28, 2014
December 3, 2014
December 7, 2014
December 12, 2014
December 17, 2014
December 21, 2014
December 26, 2014
December 30, 2014
With departure dates more than a year away, we don't expect Disney Cruise Line will offer compensation to passengers whose cruises are affected. Nor should they have to.

Image Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Carnival Triumph, Back Home in Galveston

In the video below Carnival Cruise Lines executives discuss the $115 million repairs and upgrades to Carnival Triumph, including significant enhancements to the ship's emergency power, operating redundancies and fire safety systems, as well as a number of new Fun Ship 2.0 dining and bar innovations.


The 102,000-ton, 2,758-passenger Carnival Triumph arrived at its homeport of Galveston, Texas, on June 11, 2013 to resume year-round service on 4-day cruises to Cozumel, Mexico, and 5-day cruises to Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"DWTS: At Sea" Aboard Holland America Line

So, you think you can dance? Oops, that's a different television show, but if you really want to get up on stage aboard a Holland America Line ship and perform, pack your dancing shoes because you can.

On every Holland America Line cruise* guests will have the opportunity to:
- Participate in complimentary dance classes based on dance routines from the ABC smash hit show: "Dancing with the Stars." This is your chance to learn the basics or new steps. 
- Compete in the "Dancing with the Stars: At Sea" competition. Following an early elimination process, finalists will have the opportunity to take to the main stage with Holland America Line professional dancers. One Cruise Champion will emerge, based on the highest combined point total from our panel of three judges as well as audience participation.
At the end of 2013, the Cruise Champion with the highest score from each ship will have an opportunity to perform as a finalist on the Champions Cruise in January 2014. Finalists, and a guest, will be invited on a complimentary 7-day Champions Cruise to the Caribbean, where the 15 finalists will dance for the coveted mirror ball trophy and title of Holland America Line's "Dancing with the Stars: At Sea" Grand Champion.

"Dancing with the Stars: At Sea" producer Anthony gives you an inside look at the "DWTS: At Sea" guest competition rehearsals in the video below. Here he is with the 6 finalists on stage rehearsing before the main finale:


*See eligible cruise dates and terms & conditions at HollandAmerica.com/DWTSrules

Friday, June 14, 2013

National WWII Museum Announces 70th Anniversary of D-Day Cruise in 2014

Here’s a cruise that is sure to appeal to history buffs. To mark the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, France, next year, The National WWII Museum will host an exclusive, educational travel program aboard Silversea Cruises’ luxurious Silver Cloud cruise ship. The 10-day trip will feature an elite group of renowned historians: Award-winning journalist and best-selling author Tom Brokaw; Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author, Rick Atkinson; best-selling WWII author, Dr. Donald L. Miller; historian and author, Dr. Robert M. Citino; Phil Reed, founder of the Churchill Museum, London; Dr. Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, president and CEO of The National WWII Museum and Dr. Keith Huxen, the Samuel Zemurray Stone Senior Director of Research and History at The National WWII Museum.

The “70th Anniversary of D-Day Cruise” will kick-off on May 30, 2014 in Lisbon, a center of intrigue and espionage during WWII. Cruise-goers will have the chance to visit many of the historic sites in the old city before sailing north to St. Nazaire on the Brittany Coast. During WWII, this historic port featured a dry dock important to German naval forces and served as a base for the German U-boats. It was the target of a famous British commando raid in 1942.

Following the trip to St. Nazaire, the ship will cruise onto the English Channel, stopping at the town of St. Peter Port where many German military installations still remain. There the group will visit with locals who survived the war under German occupation. The Silver Cloud will then visit the English port of Portsmouth before docking for five nights in the Caen Canal in the heart of Normandy.

During the Normandy stopover, daily touring opportunities will be offered to sites including the D-Day invasion landing beaches, the Abbey de Caen, the Memorial de Caen, the Airborne Museum and Hill 314 at Mortain. Many of these visits will include unique accounts from veterans and French civilians who experienced the war firsthand. The group will also take part in the 70th Anniversary ceremonies at the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach and will visit the Utah Beach Museum and the Memorial de Caen for special after-hours receptions. The Mayor of Caen has invited the group to tour the famous 11th Century Norman Abbey for a final farewell reception on behalf of the city. Further stops will include Pointe du Hoc, Sainte-Mere-Eglise, Pegasus Bridge as well as British and Canadian beaches. Additional cultural tours will include Bayeux, Mont Saint-Michel, Paris and more.

“Our ‘70th Anniversary of D-Day Cruise’ is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for scholars of WWII, history buffs and those who experienced World War II firsthand to visit these famous sites during this momentous anniversary,” said Dr. Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, president and CEO of The National WWII Museum. “It is also an ideal trip for luxury travel enthusiasts, as the ship’s amenities are truly top-of-the line.”

Costs for the cruise vary depending on accommodations, but include food and beverages, luxurious suite accommodations, lectures and tours. Airfare is not included as part of the cruise package. For more information, please visit ww2museumtours.org or call 877-813-3329 x 257.

The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and the Home Front. For more information, visit nationalww2museum.org.

Image Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Royal Princess is Officially Christened in Southampton

“I name this ship Royal Princess. May God bless her and all who sail in her.” With that blessing, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge cut the ribbon to release a bottle of Moët champagne and christen Princess Cruises’ newest ship, Royal Princess. And, yes, the bottle broke!

If you missed the live streaming of the event from Southampton this morning, you can catch it ‘on demand’ at Princess.com.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Watch Royal Princess Christened Live Online

When Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge christens Royal Princess on Thursday, June 12, you can join the invited guests in Southampton to enjoy the festivities. Princess Cruises will be streaming the ceremony live online at www.princess.com, so everyone worldwide can enjoy the spectacular event, which will formally welcome the new ship into the company’s fleet.

The live streaming will begin at 11:15 am local time in Southampton, which will be 6:15 am EDT in the U.S. You can also choose to play back a recording of the ceremony soon after the event for viewing at your leisure.

In addition to the official breaking of the bottle of champagne against the ship by The Duchess, viewers will also be able to follow all the quay-side festivities–including performances by British pop singer and songwriter Natasha Bedingfield singing her hit, “Unwritten,” British actress and “the first lady of London’s West End” Kerry Ellis, and internationally renowned percussive orchestra Mass Ensemble. The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth and The Pipe Band of 1st Battalion Irish Guards will open the event with the pomp and ceremony of British ship-naming traditions.

“We know this ship has generated a great deal of interest around the world, and that many people are interested in seeing the amazing ceremony and the christening by The Duchess,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “So, no matter where you are, you can watch the festivities live online–or can choose to play it back later.”

To set the mood, here’s a sneak peek at Royal Princess.

Celebrity Xpedition June 16th Sailing Cancelled

For the third week in a row Celebrity Cruises has been forced to cancel a Celebrity Xpedition sailing, this one scheduled to depart on June 16.

As we reported last week, the previous two cruises were also cancelled when the line ran afoul of the Galapagos National Park, which cited Celebrity Xpedition for the transportation and storage of 12 kilograms of frozen lobster tails in the Galapagos while the crustaceans were out of season. Because of this, Celebrity Xpedition’s license—mandatory for entry into the Galapagos National Park—has been temporarily suspended by the local authority. Celebrity Cruises hopes to work with the Galapagos National Park authorities to lift the ban and restore its license before it is necessary to cancel more voyages.

Celebrity Cruises has issued the following statement:
The Galapagos National Park has cited Celebrity Xpedition for transportation and storage of 26 pounds 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, this has made it necessary to cancel the June 16 sailing of Celebrity Xpedition
We will provide all guests with a full refund of the monies paid for their June 16 sailing. We will also provide them with a 25% future cruise credit for another Celebrity Xpedition cruise. The credit is based on the amount they paid for their June 16 cruise and may be used for a future cruise on Celebrity Xpedition within the next two years. Future cruise certificates will be mailed to guests' home addresses or to their travel agent within two to three weeks. 
Additionally, if a guest purchased air transportation through Celebrity Cruises, we will provide them with a full refund. For guests who did not purchase air transportation through Celebrity Cruises, we will reimburse them for their airline change fee. 
Celebrity Cruises is truly sorry for this disruption of 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 designed to protect and safeguard this unique and pristine environment. 
While we will proactively contact guests booked on the Sunday, June 16, sailing of Celebrity Xpedition, they also are welcome to call us at 1-888-829-4050 in the U.S. and 1-408-916-9001 internationally. 
We continue to engage in dialogue with the Galapagos National Park on our guests' behalf, and will provide any new information as it becomes available.
Image Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Seabourn is Set to Explore Antarctic With an Expert Expedition Team

Penguins, seals, and icebergs, oh my! If your bucket list includes visiting Antarctica in style, then you'll want to take a look at what Seabourn has in store for the upcoming cruise season. The line has added more lecturers and naturalists to the expedition staff on the line's "Ultimate Antarctica & Patagonia" cruises, rounding out an experienced team that will offer guests insights and knowledge of the White Continent during its series of four 21- to 24-day voyages aboard Seabourn Quest, which begins in November. Collectively, the 15-member expedition team represents more than 100 years of work, research, and involvement in Antarctic matters.

The combined experience of the senior team alone, which includes Captain Bjarne Larsen, Program Manager Victoria Wheatley, Expedition Leader Robin West, and Assistant Expedition Leaders Jarda Versloot-West and Chris Srigley, amounts to more than 225 Antarctic expeditions. In addition, Wheatley currently serves on the U.S. delegation to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM), and four of the lecturers have also been involved with ATCM.

New additions to the team include Dr. Roger Hewitt, who has lead expeditions and surveys in Antarctica for more than 15 years; Dr. Jason Hicks, a geologist who will discuss the geology and glaciology of South America and Antarctica; Meriwether Gill, who will share her passion of marine wildlife; Pat and Rosemarie Keough, award-winning photographers who will provide expert photography tips and advice to guests; and many more.

"We are pleased to have an expedition team with as much experience, knowledge and passion of Antarctica as this team," said Richard Meadows, Seabourn president. "Experience really counts on an Antarctic voyage because daily activities are planned around changing conditions, and changeable wildlife patterns. A team such as ours, with such broad-based expertise, will help ensure that Seabourn's guests get the most out of every day in Antarctica."

Seabourn Quest, one of the most luxurious ships ever to take guests to Antarctica, will carry an expedition team including six lecturers, four naturalists, three expedition specialists, and two award-winning photographers, who will share their knowledge, guidance and passion for Antarctica during each cruise. The team will accompany guests during landings to add valuable insights to the adventure, and the photographers will offer digital photography coaching to help guests capture exciting wildlife images and the visual splendor of the White Continent.

Beginning Nov. 20, 2013, Seabourn Quest will sail on a series of four 21- to 24-day voyages between Valparaíso, (Santiago) Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina. They include days exploring the Chilean coast and fjords, Beagle Channel, Glacier Alley, the breathtaking Torres del Paine National Park, Cape Horn, the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, Montevideo and five days of cruising and landings on the Antarctic Continent in uncompromised Seabourn luxury. A 24-day Holiday version, departing Dec. 11, 2013, will include two days exploring the sub-Antarctic wildlife Eden of South Georgia Island, renowned for its beauty and its vast, teeming rookeries of king penguins and other seabirds, as well as breeding elephant and fur seals. To read more about Seabourn Quest's entire Antarctic expedition team and their background and qualifications, visit seabourn.com.

Images Courtesy of Seabourn Cruise Line

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cruise Line Perceptions Sink

The results of recent polling by Harris Interactive, one of the world's leading market research firms, indicated what most travel agents and industry watchers probably already realized—the cruise industry took some tough perceptual hits earlier this year following several high publicity incidents, most notably the Carnival Triumph's heavily reported limp to shore after a fire and loss of power on board. A March Harris Poll found that Quality, Trust and Purchase Intent scores recorded in the week immediately following the Triumph's return to shore ("Post") showed notable drops when compared to scores recorded prior to the incident ("Pre")—not just for Carnival, but across many top cruise brands.

It was suggested by many at the time that these drops, due to widespread questions of quality standards and shipboard safety, were likely a temporary setback, and that perceptions would soon bounce back. However, a more recent Harris Poll of 2,052 U.S. adults surveyed online between May 14 and 16, 2013 (prior to the fire aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas) by Harris Interactive, finds that perceptions for the top cruise industry brands have not only remained below their pre-incident levels, but have continued to decline. Results are compared, where applicable, to Harris Poll EquiTrend® data collected from January 11, 2013 to February 8, 2013 (the Carnival Triumph incident lasted from February 10-14, 2013) and a Harris Poll of 2,230 U.S. adults surveyed online between February 19 and 21, 2013.

Worsening Waters
Looking at specific perceptual measures, the average perceived Quality score across the seven brands tested is down by 13% vs. its pre incident level and 6% compared to the post incident wave of testing. While Carnival's Quality score shows the steepest declines (down 28% vs. pre and 12% vs. post), all of the other brands tested ranged individually from 8%-11% below pre levels.

The average Trust score across the seven brands tested is also down in comparison to both pre (down 12%) and post (down 5%) incident; as with Quality, Trust shows the steepest decline for Carnival Cruise Lines (down 26% vs. pre, 11% vs. post). However, the six other brands tested remain between 8%-12% below pre incident Trust levels.

Purchase Intent has declined, on average, 11% from its pre incident level (and 5% from its post incident level). While this again affects most of the brands tested (with most down between 7%-15% vs. pre levels), it is worth noting that Holland America's Purchase Intent score has largely weathered this perceptual storm, holding at just 2% below its pre level. Carnival is again hardest hit, down 20% vs. pre, 8% vs. post.

Air Travel Gains Altitude over Cruises
Revisiting statements comparing the cruise industry to air travel—a comparison first made in the February Harris Poll—Americans' inclination to favor air travel over cruises has only increased. Over six in ten Americans (62%) agree that air travel is much more reliable than taking cruises (up from 57% in February), and the majority (56%) agree that air travel is much safer than taking cruises (up from 50% in February).

Roughly half of Americans (51%, roughly even with February's 53%) agree that they're less likely to take a cruise now than they were a year ago, with this sentiment once again proving stronger among those who have never taken a cruise (56%) than among those who have (43%).

One-third of Americans (32%) agree that cruises are "worry-free," down slightly from 35% in February, with past cruise experience again appearing to have a considerable impact on this perception: those who have taken a cruise (51%) are again more than twice as likely to agree that cruises are "worry free" as those who have not (22%).

"When we first addressed this topic in March, even we were open to the idea that a 'recency bias' of sorts might be impacting the results so soon after the Triumph fiasco, creating a low tide for the industry as a whole," concedes Harris Poll Insights Vice President Deana Percassi. "But these more recent findings, coupled with reports of heavily discounted pricing on Carnival cruises, indicate that the industry as a whole, as well as the Carnival brand specifically, may still be facing rough seas."

As a traveler who's sailed on a number of cruise ships and flown on several airlines in the past year, Cruise Diva is puzzled by the public perception that air travel is more reliable than cruise travel. Some of my flights have been cancelled or delayed and I came very close to missing a connection to Europe just last March. My husband and I prefer to drive to our cruise embarkation ports when it's practical simply because flying has become such a hassle. While I don't question the Harris Poll methodology, I do feel that their results are somewhat suspect in regard to the inclination of Americans to favor air travel over cruises. None of our cruises have been as unreliable as air travel and I believe the majority of well-traveled individuals would agree.

UPDATE: On a positive note, late last night it was learned that Bob Dickinson, the highly regarded former Carnival Cruise Lines President and CEO who retired in 2007, has been retained as a consultant to Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Carnival Cruise Lines and its other North American brands. As reported by Seatrade Insider, a leading industry publication, Dickinson's primary focus will be working with travel agents and he "will be conducting a gap analysis—looking at 'where they are in terms of travel agents and consumer perception, where they were five or six years ago and where they strengthened or weakened versus competitors.'" Dickinson will report to Carnival Corporation’s COO Howard Frank.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Disney Cruise Line Guests & Crew Take Part in First AquaDucky Derby Fundraiser At Sea

Thousands of Disney Cruise Line guests and crew members recently volunteered their time on all four ships to take part in the first “AquaDucky Derby” rubber duck races in the ships’ pools and famous water coasters to raise nearly $14,000 for Make-A-Wish International. The events saluted the 30th anniversary of the Disney VoluntEARS program, which provides opportunities for Disney cast and crew members to donate their time to worthy causes around the world.

The one-of-a-kind fundraiser brought together crew members and guests, who purchased yellow rubber ducks to decorate and then enter in a water-filled race aboard the ships. Races took place in Goofy’s Pool on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, while those onboard the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy utilized the AquaDuck, the sea-going water coaster exclusive to Disney Cruise Line. All funds raised from the duck sales are being donated to Make-A-Wish International, an organization that grants wishes for children facing life-threatening medical conditions in 48 countries outside of the U.S. Since the first-ever official wish experience 32 years ago, Disney has helped grant more than 81,000 wishes globally and is involved in nearly 50 percent of the wishes granted each year.

According to Christiaan Abbott, Cruise Director aboard the Disney Dream, “Having our guests take part in this first-ever AquaDucky Derby has definitely made it especially unique. You can feel the excitement in the air. The entire shipboard community of guests and crew came together to have fun for a great cause, and the reaction from the crowd has been incredible.”


Events like this are just a small part of Disney’s commitment to give back to local communities through in-kind donations and the efforts of Disney VoluntEARS. In 2012, Disney Cruise Line cast and crew members completed 75 community outreach projects and donated more than 4,500 hours of personal service to nonprofit organizations, working both onboard the ships and in communities across Central Florida, The Bahamas, the Caribbean, Mexico and Europe. Additionally, the line provided more than $640,000 in charitable and in-kind donations to organizations supporting children, families and the environment.

About Disney VoluntEARS: 2013 marks the 30th anniversary of the Disney VoluntEARS program, organized to provide opportunities for Disney cast members, crew members, Imagineers and employees to contribute their time and talents to help strengthen communities around the world. Since 1983, Disney VoluntEARS across Disney’s many business units, including Disney Cruise Line, have given more than 7.5 million hours of volunteer service in more than 40 countries worldwide. That’s the equivalent of one person volunteering for 855 straight years! Projects include everything from bringing Disney characters to share smiles and laughter with children in hospitals and care facilities to participating in beach cleanups, leading reading programs and building community programs.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Musical Salute Welcomes Royal Princess to Southampton

Princess Cruises' Royal Princess received a musical welcome fit for royalty when the ship arrived in Southampton yesterday to begin a week-long series of inaugural events.

British actor, director and writer Simon Callow orchestrated the Southampton University Brass Band to serenade the new Princess Cruises ship with a rendition of "God Save The Queen" as the vessel sailed into the harbor. Royal Princess will be officially named in Southampton on Thursday, June 13 by The Duchess of Cambridge. The unprecedented musical welcome, conducted by Callow, was answered back by Royal Princess with its own special horn that plays the first notes of the theme song from the TV show "The Love Boat."

"What an extraordinary welcome Royal Princess received for her arrival in Southampton," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. "Starting the week off with this amazing musical orchestra offered the perfect way to tune up for a naming ceremony that will celebrate with many special musical performances."

The June 13 naming event will feature not only the christening by The Duchess, but also star-studded musical entertainment including British pop singer Natasha Bedingfield singing her hit "Unwritten," as well as a performance by British actress and "the first lady of London's West End," Kerry Ellis. The Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines Portsmouth and The Pipe Band of 1st Battalion Irish Guards will open the event with the pomp and ceremony of British ship-naming traditions.

The 3,600-passenger Royal Princess is a new-generation ship. Among the special features found on board is a dramatic multi-story atrium serving as the social hub of the ship offering a host of dining and entertainment options; 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.

While you can't hear the music, here's an aerial video of the Royal Princess' arrival in Southampton.


Image & Video Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fort Lauderdale Offers the Best in Pre-Cruise Shopping

One of the most popular pastimes on every cruise vacation (or any vacation, for that matter) is shopping, but passengers arriving early for cruises from Fort Lauderdale don't have to wait to embark on their ship to shop. While enjoying a day or two of pre-cruise fun, thry can also indulge in some retail therapy at Sawgrass Mills, the largest outlet and value retail shopping destination in the U.S. No car? No problem. A recently launched shuttle service has an added convenience for visitors staying at Fort Lauderdale Beach hotels.

Shoppers can take advantage of the Sawgrass Mills Shuttle for $15 one-way or $25 roundtrip per person (payable by credit cards, cash, or travelers checks). The shuttle, which will operate between the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday and between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Sunday, will transport guests to and from Sawgrass Mills three times daily. Shoppers can pick up the shuttle at participating area hotels, including The Atlantic Resort & Spa, B Ocean, Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach, Courtyard by Marriott Fort Lauderdale, Harbor Beach Marriott®, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six, The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, and W Fort Lauderdale. Take note that you are not required to be a guest of one of the participating hotels in order to take advantage of the shuttle service.

Locals and visitors alike have long considered Sawgrass Mills to be the place to shop with savings on everything under the sun from fashion apparel and home accessories, to electronics, sporting goods and toys. A recent luxury retail expansion has brought several first-in-market designer brands to Sawgrass Mills, including Diane von Furstenberg, Gucci, Prada, and Robert Graham, with outlet locations from Versace, Roberto Cavalli, and more coming soon. Other popular retailers offering everyday savings of up to 70% include Banana Republic Factory Store, Bloomingdale's-The Outlet Store, Coach Factory Store, Coach Mens Factory, The Disney Character Warehouse, LACOSTE Outlet, Last Call by Neiman Marcus, The LEGO Store, Nike Factory Store, Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, and electronic superstore BrandsMart USA, as well as outlet locations from St. John, Michael Kors and Tory Burch.

Sawgrass Mills' unique brand of shopping also offers a variety of family-friendly dining and entertainment. With eight full-service restaurants, such as a new prototype from California Pizza Kitchen, The Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Grand Lux Café, Villagio and Rainforest Café, plus two food courts there is something to satisfy every palate. Family entertainment abounds with a 23-screen cinema and IMAX, GAMEROOM, billiards, a children's carousel, and more.

For additional convenience and to avoid lugging your purchases around, Sawgrass Mills also now provides SHOP N DROP, an in-mall bag storage and shipping program. Out-of-town shoppers have the option to check their bags to the airport, store their purchases in a secure location to shop hands-free, or ship all merchandise to their final destination from Sawgrass Mills. Shipping fees vary based on the weight and final destination.

For more information, visit TheOfficialSawgrassShuttle.com or call the Sawgrass Mills Transportation Desk at 954-838-1039.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Celebrity Xpedition June 9th Sailing Cancelled

For the second week in a row Celebrity Cruises has been forced to cancel a Celebrity Xpedition sailing, this one scheduled to depart on June 9.

As we reported last week, the June 2nd cruise was also cancelled when the line ran afoul of the Galapagos National Park, which cited Celebrity Xpedition for the transportation and storage of 12 kilograms of frozen lobster tails in the Galapagos while the crustaceans were out of season. Because of this, Celebrity Xpedition’s license—mandatory for entry into the Galapagos National Park—has been suspended for 45 days by the local authority. It seems that the lobsters were legally purchased from certified local sources while in season and the dispute came about due to a new regulation requiring that all lobsters be consumed within five days of the end of season. Apparently the regulation was enacted on March 11th, but not published until April 22nd, and caught Celebrity Cruises unaware.

Passengers booked on the June 9th sailing will receive a full refund of their fare and a 25 percent future cruise credit for a Celebrity Xpedition cruise valid for two years. Celebrity will also issue refunds for airfare purchased through the line and reimburse change fees incurred by passengers who purchased airfare on their own.

Celebrity Cruises hopes to work with the Galapagos National Park authorities to lift the ban and restore its license before it is necessary to cancel more voyages.

Image Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cruising In Hurricane Season

It’s June and the weather has been so pleasant here at home that we nearly forgot hurricane season started last Saturday on the first of June. Thankfully, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hasn't forgotten, but their prediction for 2013 is grim.

After two decades of covering the cruise industry and more than a hundred personal sailings, a hurricane finally caught up to us last year. Our voyage on what we began to call the Hurricane Sandy Cruise began with a bus trip up I-95 from Fort Lauderdale to Jacksonville, Florida to board Holland America Line’s Eurodam for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise. We hadn't given hurricane season a thought because it had been a light storm year hurricane-wise and the official season was nearly over. We were well taken care of by Holland America Line and our Entertainment Cruise Productions hosts for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise in terms of getting us on board and enjoying our cruise; however, the weather is certainly something to think about. Hurricane Sandy (pictured above) could have sunk our trip.

Travel insurance is another consideration to cover cruisers in such situations, especially this year as you can tell from this statement from the NOAA web site:
In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year. 
For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). 
These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
Cruise Diva takes an in-depth look at what’s in store if your vacation plans find you Cruising Into Hurricane Season.

Image Courtesy NOAA/NASA

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Celebrity Cruises Is Pulling Into Grand Central Terminal

Yes, you read that right, Celebrity Cruises is rolling out “The Lawn Club Experience” in New York City’s famed Grand Central Terminal. On June 10 and 11, Celebrity Cruises will take over Vanderbilt Hall to recreate its iconic Lawn Club, offering a taste of the interactive and premium experiences that guests enjoy on board the cruise line. The Lawn Club is featured exclusively on Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice Class ships, centered around a half-acre of real grass growing on the top deck. Local commuters and passersby can participate in the following Lawn Club Experience activities, including:
• Jazz Music at the Lawn Club: Lincoln Center presents the Jon-Erik Kellso Trio (June 10) and Mona’s Hot Three (June 11) to play jazz throughout the afternoon as crowds escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
• Celebrity Cruises Lawn Club Croquet Challenge: No need to wear all white, as anyone can have the chance to pick up a mallet and knock croquet balls through wickets to win prizes.
• Sit, Smile, Snap: Guests can relax in the oversized Celebrity Cruises Adirondack Chair and have their picture taken to instantly share with friends across the web.
• Fresh 102.7 WWFS-FM: Fresh 102.7-FM DJ, Christine Richie will spin great tunes and emcee all the exciting Celebrity Cruises activities throughout the event.
• Custom Spice Rub Station: Guests can channel their inner chefs and create their own spice rubs, just like at The Lawn Club Grill, the popular outdoor grilling specialty restaurant found on the Lawn Club of the two newest ships: Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection.
• Sweepstakes: By participating in any of the Lawn Club activities at Grand Central Terminal, guests can enter to win a free Celebrity Cruises trip for two (2) to Bermuda.
This on-land invasion runs in conjunction with Celebrity’s Grand Sale Event that promotes sailings from January to December 2014. For two days only, guests can save $1,000 on a Europe sailing, or $500 when booking a cruise to Alaska, Bermuda or the Caribbean. New Yorkers and those in the surrounding area have an easy commute to Cape Liberty (Bayonne), NJ, where they can board Celebrity Summit and cruise to Bermuda every Sunday through Sept 1, 2013. To learn more about the Celebrity Cruises Grand Sale event, visit celebritycruises.com/nyoffer.

Photo © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Monday, June 3, 2013

Set Sail on Crystal Symphony: New Cruise Review

It's been a while since my last Crystal cruise and I was delighted to learn that all the features I enjoyed then are unchanged aboard their ships, including my favorite Aveda toiletries!

Sail along with Cruise Diva's good friend and fellow travel writer Georgina Cruz and her husband Humberto aboard Crystal Symphony to discover an ocean of delights on a trans-Atlantic repositioning voyage from New York City to Reykjavik, Iceland.

Image Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Sunday, June 2, 2013

New Ships Make A Splash

Princess Cruises welcomed Royal Princess to their fleet on May 30, 2013, when shipbuilder Fincantieri delivered the ship to them with the traditional Changing of the Flag ceremony. The Fincantieri and Italian flags were lowered, and the flags for Princess Cruises and Bermuda were raised to signify the official transfer of the ship to Princess. We Americans will recognize the music, but it isn't My Country 'Tis of Thee... it's Hail to the Queen, the national anthem of Bermuda where Royal Princess is flagged. The ship is now on her way to Southampton, where she will be christened on June 13th.


Closer to home, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has announced that Royal Caribbean International will be having triplets instead of twins as the company has signed a contract with the Meyer Werft shipyard to construct a third Quantum-class cruise ship for delivery in mid-2016.

Royal Caribbean recently unveiled details of this new class of ship and was gratified by the public response to the design innovations. It also said that the new design included an advantageous configuration which includes a greater proportion of higher priced staterooms and that it achieves some of the greatest energy efficiencies at sea.

"We are encouraged by the very positive response we received from travel agents and consumers when we first announced some of the unprecedented offerings on Quantum Class last month," said Adam Goldstein, president and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean International. "The Quantum class will offer vacationers more unexpected activities in the most extraordinary spaces, and a third ship will offer even more opportunities for vacationers to experience Quantum cruising."

The yet-unnamed Quantum-class vessel will join the Royal Caribbean International fleet, alongside Quantum of the Seas, which will make its maiden voyage in 2014, and Anthem of the Seas, scheduled to debut in 2015.

Quantum ships will span 16 decks, encompass 167,800 gross registered tons, carry 4,180 guests at double occupancy and feature 2,090 staterooms. Quantum cruising will introduce never-seen-before-at-sea features, such as a skydiving experience, an adventure that transports guests more than 300 feet in the air on a breathtaking journey; cutting-edge transformative venues including the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with bumper cars, roller skating, and more; and the cruise line's largest and most advanced staterooms. These new, larger staterooms incorporate innovation in design, storage, and comfort, including the industry's first interior staterooms with Virtual Balconies, ensuring that every stateroom on Quantum of the Seas will have a view.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Queen Mary 2 Recalls the Maiden Arrival of the Original Queen Mary into New York

Today, as Cunard Line's flagship Queen Mary 2 sails into New York harbor at the conclusion of her current Transatlantic Crossing from Southampton, she will arrive on the 77th anniversary of the maiden call of the original Queen Mary in New York in 1936.

Queen Mary’s Maiden Voyage began in Southampton on May 27, 1936 when she departed to the sounds of gleeful bands and ecstatic crowds. On board were the famous bandleader, Henry Hall, scheduled to give a series of live radio broadcasts during the Crossing; the virtuoso harmonica player, Larry Adler; and well-known singer, Frances Day, who performed a song written especially for Queen Mary by Henry Hall. Interestingly, Miss Day was doubtful of the ship’s ability to provide fresh eggs throughout the voyage, and so brought along her own chickens.

Seventy-seven years later, flagship Queen Mary 2 left Southampton last Saturday, May 25, for New York. On board to speak is Jeffrey Weinberg, adviser to seven U.S. Presidents; and passengers still enjoy Cunard’s renowned on board entertainment, including presentations from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Today, the eggs, all 45,000 of them, are fresh and plentiful, and the Line’s legendary Transatlantic Crossings live on.

"During her nearly 10 years in service, Queen Mary 2 has proudly continued the Transatlantic legacy of elegance and glamour that Queen Mary so beautifully exemplified during her long reign of service," said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line. "On this special anniversary, we are also pleased to continue to call New York our U.S. homeport, a city which has embraced our ships throughout the decades and played a prominent role in many Cunard milestones," Shanks added.

Queen Mary would cross the Atlantic another 1,000 times during her 31-year career before being retired in 1967. Queen Mary 2 will sail her 200th Crossing on July 6th, from New York during this, her ninth year on the Atlantic.

It is interesting to compare the prices for these two voyages (per person):


Images Courtesy of Cunard Line