Friday, January 31, 2014

Mix Up Some Super Bowl Fun

This Sunday is game time when the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos mix it up in the Super Bowl so the master mixologists at Carnival Cruise Lines have created two team color-themed cocktails for passengers to enjoy while checking out all the exciting gridiron action aboard Carnival's "Fun Ship" fleet.

The colorful libations, The Blue Blitz and The Green Machine, are inspired by the two teams competing for the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy this weekend and Carnival has been kind enough to share the drink recipes with those of us who are watching the game at home and want to create them to serve at our personal Super Bowl gatherings.

Blue Blitz
Ingredients:
1.25 ounces Sauza Tequila
.75 ounces Blue Curacao
1.75 ounces lemonade
1.75 ounces simple syrup
Directions: Pour all ingredients in a blender, add one large scoop of ice and blend until smooth. Pour into daiquiri glass and garnish with a lime and a cherry.



Green Machine
Ingredients:
1.25 ounces Skyy vodka
1 ounce Midori melon liqueur
2 ounces pineapple juice
.5 ounces pina colada mix
.25 ounces lemonade
Directions: Place ice in a shaker, pour in all ingredients, shake vigorously and pour into daiquiri glass. Garnish with pineapple slice, cherry and mini-parasol.

Enjoy!

Images Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Book Now" Because Crystal Fares Are On The Rise

Anyone planning a voyage on Crystal? Then take this to heart... book as soon as possible because fares are going up soon. Crystal Cruises has announced that due to overwhelmingly positive response and significant increase in booking activity since launching its Jan 3 to Feb 28 "Book Now Fares" and offers, the luxury line is raising rates on a record number of cruises on March 1. Cruise fares will increase on 94% of all currently published 2014, 2015 and 2016 voyages (more than 120) for the next "Book Now" period that will end on April 30, 2014.

Crystal's revenue for 2013 ended nearly 22% ahead of 2012, 2014 is already 78% booked, and 2015 bookings are 42% ahead of this same time last year for 2014. "Travelers who don't book by the end of February risk not only losing out on great savings, but possibly any space at all," says Edie Bornstein, Crystal's president.

Bornstein attributes the booking success to Crystal's unparalleled reputation for superior service, the striking investments in the design of its ships, and an overall award-winning vacation experience that is earning Crystal its highest ratings ever for guest satisfaction. Strong support from travel agents worldwide and advance publication of carefully crafted itineraries of varying lengths with abundant overnights have contributed to the success story.

Crystal's current "Book Now" savings promotions and all-inclusive value are capturing the attention of discerning travelers. Through Feb 28, 2014, they are guaranteed:
-- "Book Now Fares": Up to $2,500/person off Asia voyages and up to $1,800 off cruises in Europe, from the North Cape and British Isles to the Dalmatian Coast and French Riviera.
-- Air Allowance: Up to $800/person toward airfare on 23 voyages in 2014 and 2015 in Asia, Alaska, Australia/NZ, Indonesia, and the Pacific Coast, whether air is booked through Crystal or not.
-- Crystal Getaways: 21 shorter 2014 itineraries of 5-10 days in length in Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean and New England/Canada, starting from as low as $1,215 per guest.
-- 2016 World Cruise Savings: Combining all offers, returning Crystal cruisers can save nearly $19,000, including a $1,000 "As You Wish" shipboard credit.
-- Ultra-Low Solo Fares: Just a 10% "Single Supplement," one of the lowest in the industry, for solo stateroom occupancy on more than 35 2014 and 2015 cruises.
-- Crystal Family Memories: Shipboard credits, free berths and other perks for family and friends traveling in groups of six or more on any Crystal cruise.
-- Kids Sail Free: When sharing a stateroom in a third berth with two full fare adult cruisers on more than 35 2014 sailings in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, and New England/Canada.
-- Explorer Combinations: Up to 25% savings by combining two or more back-to-back spring and summer voyages in Europe, New England/Canada or Transatlantic.
-- 2014/2015 Holiday Savings: Save up to $1,500/person to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas/New Year's in Asia, Australia, South America, Caribbean, Panama Canal, or France/Italy.
-- Double Crystal Society Savings: Returning guests can save twice the usual Society savings, up to $1,360/person, on 13 voyages through Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Asia.
-- BONUS Share the Experience: Aboard seven early 2014 voyages in Asia, guests sponsoring new-to-Crystal guests can earn $400 per guest in shipboard credits.
-- Early Payment Savings: Save an additional 2.5% by paying in full 180 days prior to sailing.
For more information, visit Crystal Cruises.

Image Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Celebrity Cruises Hosts “The 50 Yard Lounge” During Super Bowl Week

It’s Super Bowl Week and many of us have invited friends over to watch the game and cheer on their favorite team. A big part of those game day preparations include adult beverages and food. To get New Yorkers and visiting fans in the mood, Celebrity Cruises will present them with a taste of its award-winning cuisine in “The 50 Yard Lounge” during Super Bowl Week in The Big Apple. Located directly next to Madison Square Garden and Penn Station at One Penn Plaza, the Lounge will be New York City’s premier VIP destination for food, drink, and football from Jan 29–Feb 2, 2014.

Encompassing more than 15,000 square feet of heated roof decks, tented plaza, and restaurants, the Lounge will feature A-list stars and legends of football, food, and music headlining the events including Super Bowl XVII-winning quarterback Joe Theismann; Heisman Trophy Winner and famed quarterback Doug Flutie; Hall of Famer Cris Carter as well as ESPN’s Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg (courtesy of Almond Board of California.)

“We will offer exclusive, fun and spirited food offerings for food and football fans alike,” offers Michael Daniels, Celebrity’s Regional Marketing Manager for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. “Our chefs and mixologists are going to provide delicious and memorable experiences for all of the guests, each day from morning til night.”

Celebrity’s head of food and beverage operations, Chef John Suley, will prepare a variety of unique dishes from the premium vacation brand’s onboard dining venues. Inspired by Celebrity’s ‘uniquely unordinary’ Qsine, guests can indulge in kobe beef hot dogs on poppy seed buns with togarashi, kewpie mayonnaise and nori flakes. “Soup-er Bowls” filled with beer and cheddar cheese soup, smoke bacon and jalapeno pumpernickel croutons will be served with panini, a selection from the cruise line’s onboard creperie, Bistro on Five and mid-week, New York Jets defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis will cook alongside of Chef Suley.

"Together with Hawthorn Beverage Group founder Josh Durr and his highly skilled mixologists, we will be offering fans, season ticket holders, and visitors a variety of new artisanal cocktails that are exclusively available onboard Celebrity,” said Chanelle Duarte, Celebrity's manager of Beverage Development. “These are made with liqueurs, fresh ingredients, organic juices and the finest artisanal spirits, resulting in a combination of new-school libations and updated old-school favorites. Offered along with our “4th Quarter Late Night Snacks” of pizza, tacos, burgers and selections from our popular Qsine menu, we are sure to shake things up in the Lounge.” Celebrity is also featuring delicious molecular cocktails by master mixologist Junior Merino, internationally known as “The Liquid Chef.”

As part of the event, Celebrity partnered with The Daily Meal, one of the nation’s largest food websites and an official media sponsor of The 50 Yard Lounge. The Daily Meal will feature photos and recipes of delectable Celebrity cuisine, as well as behind-the-scenes videos of Chef Suley and his team in action as they prepare dishes for the multi-day event.

Celebrity Cruises is a fan of fans from the world of sports and recently announced it is the official cruise line of The New York Rangers. Hockey fans will have the opportunity to sail the “Rangers Legends Cruise” with Rangers greats Ron Duguay, Adam Graves, Ron Greschner and Stephane Matteau in August 2014.



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Illness Cuts Explorer of the Seas Cruise Short

Royal Caribbean has issued the following statement regarding Explorer of the Seas current sailing:
Explorer of the Seas will return home from its 10-day cruise two days early, after an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness that spiked over the weekend. New reports of illness have decreased day-over-day, and many guests are again up and about. Nevertheless, the disruptions caused by the early wave of illness means that we were unable to deliver the vacation our guests were expecting. After consultation between our medical team and representatives of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we think the right thing to do is to bring our guests home early, and use the extra time to sanitize the ship even more thoroughly. We are sorry for disappointing our guests, and we are taking several steps to compensate them for their inconvenience.

After returning to home port on Wednesday, Jan. 29, we will perform a thorough “barrier” sanitization program on the entire ship to make certain that any remaining traces of the illness are eliminated. It will be the third aggressive sanitizing procedure the ship has undertaken since we became aware of the issue, and will additionally provide a window of more than 24 hours where there are no persons aboard the ship, which is a significant help. Guests scheduled for the next cruise on Explorer of the Seas can be confident that all possible measures will have been taken to prevent further problems.

At this point, it appears that reported illnesses among guests and crew peaked during the first few days of the cruise – though, as is common with many illnesses, some additional cases are to be expected over the course of the week. Our doctors tell us symptoms are consistent with that of norovirus, but that they are awaiting the results of tests to confirm that diagnosis. Our response included flying additional medical personnel and equipment to meet the ship, and conducting additional sanitizing procedures at two of the ship’s stops.

In the end, however, the number of cases was still higher than any of us want to see. We will be cooperating with authorities and conducting our own internal assessments to make sure we are doing all we can to promote the health and safety of our guests and crew.
We understand that all passengers on Explorer of The Seas will receive compensation in the form of a 50% refund of their fare and a 50% future cruise credit. Royal Caribbean is also giving passengers that were quarantined in their cabins due to Norovirus symptoms an additional credit of one future cruise day for each day they were kept isolated. Additionally, Royal Caribbean is reimbursing passengers for change fees imposed by the airlines for their early return home.

Just an FYI, the US Centers For Disease Control (CDC) notes that from 2009-2010 63.7% of all Norovirus outbreaks were in healthcare facilities (most often group and extended care facilities), 19.6% in the food industry, 9.8% in schools/daycare, and 2.1% in private residences. Cruise ships did not even get a mention.

For additional context, during this time there were 31 outbreaks of Norovirus reported in private residences and a grand total of 9 in cruise ships.

During that time period Cruise Diva contracted Norovirus and the only place she'd been was the grocery store. So, to be entirely safe, maybe people should move out of their private homes since there is almost four times the risk of catching Norovirus there. The incidence rate overall appears to be around 650 cases per 10,000 population.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines Introduces Revamped Wedding Program

“Destination” weddings are currently all the rage and they aren’t limited to Vegas’ iconic chapels with Elvis look-alikes officiating. In fact it isn’t unusual to spot couples in their bridal finery on Carnival Cruise Lines’ cruises, where more than 2,600 ceremonies are performed each year, either aboard ship on embarkation day or in tropical ports of call.

To make their “big day” even more special for couples, Carnival has totally revamped its wedding program by upgrading everything from floral arrangements, decorations, and photography to new culinary selections and an even greater variety of romantic on-island ceremonies.

Couples can say “I do” during memorable shipboard celebrations that now include an array of lavishly presented culinary options and upgraded beverage service, along with new multi-tiered wedding cake choices like chocolate ganache, coconut cream, and red velvet, all baked on board. Enhanced amenities such as a decorated wedding aisle and other traditional touches, along with upgraded champagne flutes and other keepsake items, are also included.

For those who want to tie the knot in paradise, Carnival offers a variety of beachside ceremonies with recently added choices such as Grand Turk and Freeport complementing Barbados, Grand Cayman, St. Thomas, the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, and other beautiful and exotic locales.

Carnival’s enhanced wedding packages feature:
Just You & Me (maximum of eight people) – starting at $1,355 and includes:
• Wedding ceremony
• Bouquet and boutonniere
• Tiered wedding cake with keepsake wedding topper
• Champagne toast with keepsake flutes
• Photography services
• Decorated wedding aisle
• Pre-recorded music
• Officiant (couples are also welcome to bring their own clergy)

Time to Celebrate (based on 20 guests) – starting at $1,795 and includes:
• All of the amenities of Just You & Me plus:
• One-hour reception
• Open bar
• Selection of hot & cold hors d’ oeuvres
• Coffee/tea service

Time to Celebrate…Big! (based on 20 guests) – starting at $1,975 and includes:
• All of the amenities of Just You & Me plus:
• One-and-one-half-hour reception
• Open bar
• Selection of hot & cold hors d’ oeuvres
• Custom-designed ice carving

Let Us Serve You (minimum 8 guests) – starting at $1,595 and includes:
• All of the amenities of Just You & Me plus:
• Full-service dining room luncheon with four-course menu
• Open-pour wine

Island Breeze – starting at $1,395 and includes:
• Romantic ceremony performed at an exotic island location
• Complimentary round-trip transportation to island venue
Packages include the services of a personal wedding planner to assist the couple on their special day, as well as priority check-in and boarding for the bridal party and all invited guests. For an additional charge, wedding packages can be customized as well with features such as music and videography services. To reflect all the new choices, Carnival has updated its wedding web site at Carnival.com/wedding-cruises and has also created a glossy new brochure to provide an at-a-glance view of the company’s wide-ranging offerings.

Already married and want to add a little romance to your voyage? Couples can reaffirm their marriage vows with Carnival’s Renewal of Vows ceremonies, which are performed by the ship’s captain.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Saturday, January 25, 2014

For 2014, the Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships Sets Sail

Now in its 29th year of publication, author and cruise expert Douglas Ward's Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships is available in bookstores and on Amazon.com (the link provided above). Known as "the cruise industry Bible" for its candid description of 285 ocean-going cruise vessels, there is even a Kindle edition.

Ward has spent over 5,900 days at sea, beginning when he worked for Cunard Line in 1965 aboard Queen Elizabeth 2, and has taken over 1,000 cruises and completed 158 transatlantic crossings. However, his sailings aren't the usual cruiser's experience. Cruise Diva has traveled on several voyages where Ward was busy at work and he seldom relaxes. His sharp eye catches nearly every detail, like accessibility for the disabled, the softness of towels and linens, the temperature of the buffet food, and even the proper height of toilets for comfort.

The Berlitz guidebook is divided into two main sections. The first combines Ward's authoritative text with color photographs to illustrate the cruise experience and help readers make their decisions about what style of cruise, cruise line, and ship size is most appealing for them. Included is practical information from subjects such as booking and what things cost to safety and environmental concerns. The second section contains reviews of every major cruise ship, from the smallest yacht-like vessels to the world's largest, from ships for budget minded travelers to the most luxurious and expensive. Details include specifications on size, number of cabins, passengers, and crewmembers, as well as an overview of what features to expect on board.

If you want to take your cruise research with you in digital form on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, the Berlitz Cruise Ships 2014 app is available to download from the iTunes App Store.

With "Wave Season" in full swing, either the guidebook or app will put a smile on any avid cruise traveler's face.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Crystal Cruises Adds Free Wi-Fi to Repeat Passenger Perks

There are a lot of reasons why cruise passengers want or need to stay "connected" while at sea. Some need to check on family members at home and others have business obligations. Not everyone has the luxury to turn off their life when on a cruise vacation, but the cost of Internet use can add up to some significant dollar amounts. Luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises recognizes that and has added a new perk to its All Inclusive onboardexperience: Free Wi-Fi for Crystal Society members, the line's "club" of repeat guests, beginning Fall 2014.

Effective with Crystal Serenity's Sept 19 New England/Canada sailing and Crystal Symphony's Oct 15 Panama Canal cruise, each Crystal Society guest will receive 60 minutes of complimentary internet access for every day of the cruise. For example, a 10-day cruise will offer 600 free minutes per person (or 1,200 free minutes per couple), a 12-day cruise offers 720 free minutes per person (or 1,440 free minutes per couple), a 14-day cruise offer 840 free minutes (or 1,680 free minutes per couple), etc. The time can be used any time throughout the voyage.

Society members can use the new complimentary access time wirelessly via iPad, iPhone, laptop, or other wireless device or on Crystal's own Computer University@Sea 27" dual-compatible iMac computers. A multi-million dollar Wi-Fi upgrade rolled out in recent months helps guests enjoy maximum onboard connectivity.

"We are continually refining our all-inclusive experience to offer an array of choices for our global guests. Since the majority of our guests are repeaters, we opted to expand our Crystal Society offerings to thank our loyal patrons," said Edie Bornstein, Crystal's president. "Whether they are on board for a second 10-day getaway or on their 20th time for an expansive 108-day World Cruise, travelers today appreciate staying plugged in. By adding this coveted perk to our All Inclusive experience, repeat cruisers in all stateroom and suite categories have one more reason to choose Crystal as their home base while traveling the world in the finest of luxury and ease."

The company has spent more than a year planning and installing improvements to the onboard internet experience, including:
-- Maximizing satellite bandwidth with the latest technology, allowing for more users and more content to stream simultaneously.
-- Expansion of Wi-Fi signal range throughout the ships, making wireless connection available everywhere on board, including all staterooms, public spaces, and outdoor decks.
-- The ability to access internet in areas that were previously unavailable, such as Japan.
All full revenue guests who have completed their first Crystal cruise automatically become Crystal Society members, and, thusly, can take advantage of this perk on all subsequent Crystal voyages. Guests wishing to purchase additional minutes for $.75 per minute can do so without an activation fee. Internet packages that reduce the per minute charge are also available.

So, what could be better? Make the perk available to all passengers, with a slightly less generous number of minutes for first-time Crystal cruisers.

Image Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines Announces 'Carnival LIVE Concert Series'

We've always felt that there's good entertainment to be found on cruises and have often marveled that we didn't have to pay extra to enjoy it. That's about to change with Carnival Cruise Lines' announcement that they are set to bring the best in live music to the seas. A first-of-its-kind experience in the cruise industry, the Carnival LIVE Concert Series offers Carnival guests the opportunity to enjoy an exclusive onboard performance by a diverse roster of popular music artists while ships are docked at select ports of call... but it won't be included in the cruise fare.

Beginning in April 2014, Carnival LIVE concerts will take place on board eight Carnival ships that call in the following ports: Cozumel, Mexico; Nassau, the Bahamas; and Catalina Island, California. Artists will join the ship while in port, perform in the main show lounge that evening, and debark following their show.

Tickets cost $20-$40 each and a limited number of VIP tickets are also available for each show for $100-$150 each. The VIP experience includes an artist meet and greet, photo opportunity, seating in the first three rows and a commemorative laminated concert pass. All tickets can be purchased through Carnival's online Shore Excursion System prior to sailing, or on board participating ships at the Shore Excursion Desk based on availability.

Carnival has booked 49 performance dates for the 2014 concert series with the following artists:
-- 38 Special
-- Chicago
-- Daughtry
-- Foreigner
-- Gavin DeGraw
-- Jennifer Hudson
-- Jewel
-- Kansas
-- Lady Antebellum
-- LeAnn Rimes
-- Martina McBride
-- Olivia Newton-John
-- REO Speedwagon
-- STYX
-- Trace Adkins
"Performing live is one of my favorite things," said GRAMMY® Award-winner, Jennifer Hudson at an exclusive launch event for Carnival LIVE in New York City yesterday. "I'm excited to be part of this unique concert series that will allow me to interact with my fans in such an intimate and memorable setting."

In addition to the Carnival LIVE Concert Series, Carnival is also enhancing its popular shipboard house bands. The bands will feature both male and female lead singers, a more choreographed, themed and diverse set list, and increased interaction with guests. Nine Carnival ships currently feature the new bands, with implementation across the full fleet over the course of this year.

"Onboard entertainment is an important part of the overall guest experience when cruising," said Mark Tamis, senior vice president of guest operations for Carnival Cruise Lines. "With the Carnival LIVE Concert Series, our guests will enjoy an exclusive performance with one of their favorite artists for an extraordinary value. Combined with our enhanced house bands fleetwide, this is just another example of the many ways we are constantly looking to create even more fun and memorable moments for our guests."

Below is a preliminary concert list; visit Carnival.com/CarnivalLive to view the full list of 2014 Carnival LIVE concert dates. Note that these dates are subject to change and are the dates when the concert itself takes place, not the date the sailing begins.

Artist Concert Date Concert Ship Departure Port
Kansas 22-May-14 Cozumel, Mexico Breeze Miami
Jennifer Hudson 19-Jun-14 Cozumel, Mexico Breeze Miami
STYX 09-Oct-14 Cozumel, Mexico Breeze Miami
Lady Antebellum 20-Nov-14 Cozumel, Mexico Breeze Miami
REO 23-Apr-14 Cozumel, Mexico Ecstasy Miami
Foreigner 10-May-14 Nassau, Bahamas Ecstasy Miami
Martina McBride 14-May-14 Cozumel, Mexico Ecstasy Miami
Kansas 21-May-14 Cozumel, Mexico Ecstasy Miami
Chicago 04-Jun-14 Cozumel, Mexico Ecstasy Miami
Jennifer Hudson 18-Jun-14 Cozumel, Mexico Ecstasy Miami
Olivia Newton-John 28-Jun-14 Nassau, Bahamas Ecstasy Miami
Gavin DeGraw 20-Aug-14 Cozumel, Mexico Ecstasy Miami
STYX 08-Oct-14 Cozumel, Mexico Ecstasy Miami
Lady Antebellum 19-Nov-14 Cozumel, Mexico Ecstasy Miami
STYX 07-Apr-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fantasy Charleston
38 Special 07-Sep-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fantasy Charleston
Leann Rimes 29-Oct-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fantasy Charleston
Kansas 13-Nov-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fantasy Charleston
Trace Adkins 25-Nov-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fantasy Charleston
Daughtry 04-Dec-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fantasy Charleston
REO 15-Dec-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fantasy Charleston
STYX 08-Apr-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fascination Jacksonville
Kansas 16-Apr-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fascination Jacksonville
38 Special 06-Sep-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fascination Jacksonville
Kansas 24-Sep-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fascination Jacksonville
STYX 29-Sep-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fascination Jacksonville
Trace Adkins 13-Oct-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fascination Jacksonville
Trace Adkins 24-Nov-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fascination Jacksonville
Daughtry 03-Dec-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fascination Jacksonville
REO 17-Dec-14 Nassau, Bahamas Fascination Jacksonville
STYX 15-Sep-14 Catalina Island, CA Imagination Los Angeles
REO 22-Sep-14 Catalina Island, CA Imagination Los Angeles
Jewel 10-Nov-14 Catalina Island, CA Imagination Los Angeles
STYX 16-Sep-14 Catalina Island, CA Inspiration Los Angeles
REO 23-Sep-14 Catalina Island, CA Inspiration Los Angeles
Jewel 11-Nov-14 Catalina Island, CA Inspiration Los Angeles
REO 22-Apr-14 Cozumel, Mexico Paradise Tampa
Martina McBride 15-May-14 Cozumel, Mexico Paradise Tampa
Chicago 03-Jun-14 Cozumel, Mexico Paradise Tampa
Gavin DeGraw 21-Aug-14 Cozumel, Mexico Paradise Tampa
Kansas 15-Apr-14 Nassau, Bahamas Sensation Orlando
Foreigner 09-May-14 Nassau, Bahamas Sensation Orlando
Olivia Newton-John 27-Jun-14 Nassau, Bahamas Sensation Orlando
Kansas 23-Sep-14 Nassau, Bahamas Sensation Orlando
STYX 30-Sep-14 Nassau, Bahamas Sensation Canaveral
Trace Adkins 14-Oct-14 Nassau, Bahamas Sensation Orlando
Leann Rimes 28-Oct-14 Nassau, Bahamas Sensation Orlando
Kansas 14-Nov-14 Nassau, Bahamas Sensation Orlando
REO 16-Dec-14 Nassau, Bahamas Sensation Orlando

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Seabourn Finalizes Contract for New Luxury Ship

It's official...Seabourn is getting a new vessel to replace capacity that will be reduced when the company's Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit, and Seabourn Legend are transferred to new owners in April 2014, April 2015, and May 2015, respectively.

With the line's three original mega-yachts leaving the fleet in the near future, Seabourn has announced the formal signing of a contract for construction of a new all-suite, all-veranda ship, continuing the fleet modernization that the company began in 2009 with the launch of Seabourn Odyssey. The highly popular class of ship also includes the Seabourn Sojourn (2010) and Seabourn Quest (2011).

The configuration of the new, 40,350 GRT vessel will be based on the Seabourn Odyssey-class ships, with one additional deck and new expanded public areas. The ship will be built by Fincantieri S.p.A. in Italy, with delivery scheduled for mid-2016. It is expected to carry just 604 guests, based on double occupancy of the all-suite lower berths. The design will maintain Seabourn's high ratio of space per guest and enable highly personalized service by nearly one staff member per guest on board. In addition, every suite will feature a private veranda.

"The new ship will continue the evolution that began with Seabourn's fleet expansion, adding modern design elements and innovations consistent with Seabourn's reputation for understated elegance," said Richard D. Meadows, Seabourn's president. "With its delivery, the most highly rated cruise line in the world will also offer travelers the newest fleet of ships in the luxury segment."

The contract with Fincantieri continues a longstanding relationship of more than two decades between Seabourn's parent company, Carnival Corporation and the Italian shipbuilder.
Seabourn Quest Image Courtesy of Seabourn Cruises

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

American Cruise Line Offers Complimentary Shore Tours on Paddlewheel River Cruises

There’s a lot of history along United States rivers, so to be sure that passengers don’t miss the best sights American Cruise Lines—with the largest fleet of US-flagged passenger vessels—is offering complimentary shore excursions on all Mississippi and Columbia River cruises aboard its two authentic paddlewheelers, Queen of the Mississippi and Queen of the West. The complimentary shore excursions in each port are valued at more than $300 per person—a substantial value.

Complimentary tours on Mississippi River cruises include:
• Battle of Vicksburg Tour – Vicksburg, MS: Guests will tour the Vicksburg National Military Park and discover the site of one of the Civil War’s most legendary battles –The Siege of Vicksburg.
• Oak Alley Plantation Tour – Oak Alley, LA: Guests will sip delicious Mint Juleps as they enjoy an educational tour by guides in period clothing, and a walk through the quarter mile canopy of 300 year old live oak trees.
• Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum – Hannibal, MO: Guests will enjoy a trolley tour of this historic town and discover the inspiration behind Mark Twain’s writing, while reliving their favorite scenes from Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
Complimentary tours on Columbia and Snake River cruises include:
• Mount St. Helens Tour – Rainier, WA: A scenic bus ride takes guests to the Mount St. Helens Johnston Ridge Observatory. The observatory sits on a bluff overlooking the crater and offers views of Mount St. Helens' lava dome, pumice plain and landslide deposit.
• Columbia Gorge Discover Center – The Dalles, OR: Guests enjoy a sprawling interactive museum with exhibits and collections of local cultural history. The exhibits focus on the volcanic upheaval and raging floods that created the Gorge, the unique horticulture and wildlife of the region, and eleven thousand years of history.
• Winery Tour – Richland, WA: Known as "The Heart of Washington Wine Country," the Tri-Cities region houses more than 160 wineries within a 50 mile radius. Sample award-winning wines and enjoy breathtaking views of beautiful vineyards on this narrated winery tour.
On each 8-day Columbia and Snake River and Mississippi River itinerary, guests enjoy views of a diverse landscape and extended visits to unique ports along the way. Onboard, they find numerous and distinct amenities, including personalized service and spacious staterooms. They also experience American Cruise Lines’ open-seating dining plan, which allows guests to dine in a single seating at the time of their choice, while surrounded by panoramic views of the river. Enriching educational events and themed entertainment are offered daily and help paint a picture of what life on American rivers was like in days gone by. Additionally, for a limited time, a complimentary pre-night hotel stay will also be offered on bookings made throughout Wave Season. To learn more, visit American Cruise Lines.

Image Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Monday, January 20, 2014

Windstar Cruises Transforms New Yacht

The new Yacht Club, a chic lounge and coffee bar 
Windstar Cruises takes delivery of Star Pride on April 17, 2014, the first yacht of Windstar’s 2013 purchase of three luxury cruise ships. The work to transform Star Pride into Windstar’s private yacht style will take place in Barcelona immediately following handover and the ship’s inaugural voyage embarks May 5, 2014.

“The planning for Star Pride’s transformation to Windstar’s unique private yacht style is nearly complete. Our enhancements include significant style changes and stem-to-stern upgrades,” said Hans Birkholz, chief executive officer of Windstar Cruises. “The main theme is a casual elegant ambiance, with a warm contemporary style. The look and feel of the renovations will align with our sailing fleet.”

Windstar is working in partnership with Alan McVitty and Trimline Interiors, both of whom played a part in the success of Windstar’s recent $18 million sailing fleet-wide renovation, to complete Star Pride’s stem-to-stern transformation that will renovate public spaces, dining venues, and suites.
• Public Spaces: the majority of public areas will receive updated décor, complete with new furnishings, upholstery, lighting, wall coverings, carpeting, ceiling finishes, window treatments, and floor coverings. The enhanced color palette combines sand and marine shades to contrast with the warmth of wood finishes, elevating the look and feel to casual elegance.
• Yacht Club: the indoor observation area on the top deck will become a chic coffee bar and lounge, where guests enjoy espresso and various sandwiches and pastries while relaxing with a good book, exploring their iPads with wifi, or just watching the coast line as they sail to the next destination. The area will receive a complete overhaul, with new Amtico® flooring, furniture, and an open layout that embraces the view.
• Compass Rose: the club space will turn into Windstar’s popular Compass Rose, redesigned with all new contemporary furnishings, including rich new flooring finishes, plantation shutters, and comfortable chairs and bar stools designed for socializing. Live music can be found here nightly.
• Reception: this area will be refreshed with new paneling, light fixtures, and wall coverings. An additional desk for guests to consult with the destination manager and guest service manager will also be added.
• Star Bar: the outdoor deck bar will offer casual drinks during the day and a venue for star-gazing by night. The bar area will be expanded with teak decking, new stools, and lighting.
• Dining Venues: all restaurants will be transformed to embrace Windstar’s casual elegance, where guests are free to eat when, where, and with whom they please (no jackets or ties required). All dining experiences are complimentary.
• AmphorA: Windstar’s formal dining experience will be introduced as AmphorA Restaurant. The main dining room will be redesigned, featuring mirror panels with Murano glass, new soft lighting, wall coverings, and art work. The room will feature a new seating layout; setting the stage for Windstar’s signature dining experience featuring contemporary, international menus and fresh, local dishes.
• Veranda/Candles: the restaurant in the aft of the yacht will be an inviting buffet during the day, with plentiful outdoor seating highlighting Veranda’s new look – the perfect spot for breakfast and lunch alfresco. At night the venue will transform to Candles Grill, a favorite Windstar romantic experience where guests can dine with table service under the stars.
• Suites: all 106 suites will be renovated to showcase new furnishings, leather headboards, plush sofas and chairs, drapes, new lighting features, window coverings, plush carpeting, new art work, stylish bed cushions, and luxurious bed throws. The suites will feature a warm color palette that embraces comfort and relaxation.
• Destination Suites: the Owner’s Suites will now showcase different, unique Windstar destinations, such as the Bora Bora Suite. Guests can get a taste of one of the hidden harbors that Windstar sails to, all in the comfort of their suite.
• Life Onboard: Star Pride will highlight Windstar’s small ship advantage of sailing with fewer than 300 privileged guests. Life on board will showcase many of the experiences found on Windstar’s sailing fleet.
• Sail Away: guests will experience Sail Away from each port enjoying the enchanting music of 1492: Conquest of Paradise as the yacht cruises to the next day’s adventure.
• Deck Barbecue: the line’s signature Deck Barbecue gala will take place one night per voyage on the pool deck. The 5-star buffet offers an array of dishes from lobster to an Asian-style suckling pig, jerk marinated chicken and other specialties. Seafood paella is cooked right on deck giving guests a taste of the Spanish favorite with a local twist. After dining is complete, guests enjoy the ever-popular crew show.
• Open Bridge: Windstar will continue its Open Bridge experience, inviting guests to come into the Bridge when the yacht is at sea. Guests can talk with the Captain and officers on watch, view the navigational chart, and enjoy some of the best views on the yacht.
• Watersports Platform: the swim and sports platform located at the back of the yacht will be brought to life Windstar style. The platform offers a variety of water toys such as water skis, wakeboards, kayaks, paddleboards, and sailboats, guests can also enjoy the freedom of their own private yacht by swimming to and from the platform.
• Service: Windstar’s crew members are highly valued and famous for their pampering without pretense, offering service that is personal, anticipatory, and genuine.
• Luxury as You Like It®: Unlike many of the all-inclusive luxury brands, Windstar offers a choice of personal amenities. Shore excursions can be booked as a collection or by individual tour. Alcoholic beverages are available a la carte or through a beverage package, ensuring that guests aren’t paying for someone else’s bar bill. A variety of other amenities are available for guests to tailor their cruise as they choose.
“The transformation of these small all suite yachts will redefine the idea of casual elegance in luxury cruising,” said Birkholz. “We are eagerly anticipating the May 5th inaugural voyage when Star Pride’s luxurious, modern, and stylish upgrades will be unveiled.”

Windstar will welcome the two additional yachts in April and May of 2015. Deployment and additional details will be announced in the coming months.

Image Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The American Queen Steamboat Company Closes on Purchase of American Empress

The American Queen Steamboat Company, owner and operator of the U.S-flagged American Queen, announces the closing on financing and full ownership of its second vessel, the American Empress. The company entered into a purchase agreement of the 223-guest riverboat with the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) in May 2013 and has had a team onboard preparing for her April 2014 launch on the Columbia and Snake River. All documents were signed by MARAD and American Queen Steamboat Company executives making the handover official.

Formerly the Empress of the North, the American Empress will deliver 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. A U.S.-flagged vessel, the American Empress measures 360 ft. with five towering decks and accommodates 223 guests in seven stateroom categories.

“Over 30 skilled craftsmen and engineers have been hard at work preparing the American Empress for service over the last eight months focusing on the exterior, engine room and now the hotel portion of the vessel,” shared John Waggoner, Chairman and CEO of the American Queen Steamboat Company. “It is exciting to officially sign on the dotted line taking full ownership of the vessel and begin writing a new chapter in U.S. river cruising history.”

The American Empress was built in 2003 and operated by Majestic America Line from 2003 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 when she begins service April 5 after a christening ceremony in Portland, Oregon. Her maiden voyage will be a 9-day journey immersing guests in the splendor of the Columbia and Snake Rivers featuring stops to some of the region’s most celebrated ports including Astoria, Ore.; Stevenson, Wash.; The Dalles, Ore.; Sacajawea State Park, Wash. and finally Clarkston, Wash.

Complimentary shore excursions will be available in every port and include the cultural and historical landmarks that signify the living legacy of the region’s first settlers. Travelers with specific interests are encouraged to enjoy the variety of Premium Experience Excursions such as the Walla Walla Wine Trail or the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum. Daily lectures will also be provided by the Riverlorian, an onboard history and culture expert.

Limited space remains on the American Empress inaugural voyage and will offer an unforgettable experience for even the most seasoned of travelers. For additional information, visit online at AQSC.com.

Image Courtesy The American Queen Steamboat Company

Friday, January 17, 2014

Norwegian Launches the “Ultimate Dining Package”

Dining in Moderno Churrascaria
One of our favorite features about cruises with Norwegian Cruise Line is the availability of numerous specialty restaurant on each ship in the fleet. We would dine in one every night while sailing with Norwegian, but the cover charges add up. That concern has been lightened now that the line has introduced a new way for guests to have access to one of their specialty restaurants every night of their cruise. Called “Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining Package,” this new program offers special package rates based on the length of the cruise.

The Ultimate Dining Package gives guests the opportunity to have a taste of something deliciously new every night of their cruise when they experience the array of specialty restaurants* found on board Norwegian ships. Diners will delight in Norwegian’s signature steakhouse, featuring succulent grilled steaks, perfectly cooked double cut lamb chops, and other steakhouse favorites. Another one of Norwegian’s signature specialty restaurants is the French bistro, where guests will enjoy French favorites such as escargot, coq au vin, and a spectacular vanilla crème brulee for dessert. Guests will also love dining in Norwegian’s traditional Italian restaurant, where they can feast on a variety of pastas, made-to-order specialty pizzas, and other Italian favorites such as chicken parmesan and osso bucco in a casual atmosphere. At Norwegian’s Asian Fusion restaurant, guests can experience the flavors of the far east including Japanese Teppanyaki, Chinese, or Pan-Asian Cuisine. Meat lovers will delight in the opportunity to dine in Moderno Churrascaria, where unlimited servings of succulent Brazilian barbeque are served tableside by Norwegian’s own passadores.

Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining Package is available in tiers based on cruise length. On three to six day voyages, guests can dine anywhere throughout their cruise at a set price of $59 per person; for seven-day voyages, the package is $119 per person; $149 per person on eight to 10 day cruises; $199 per person for cruises of 10 to 15 days; $259 per person during cruises of 16 days to 25 days; $299 per person during cruises of 26 days to 35 days and $349 per person during cruises of 36 days to 45 days. The package is currently available on all Norwegian ships fleet wide.

“We are excited to offer guests the Ultimate Dining Package, giving them the opportunity to experience each of our incredible specialty restaurants,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line's chief executive officer. “The Ultimate Dining Package truly captures the essence of Freestyle Cruising by allowing guests to dine in the specialty restaurant of their choice, every night of their cruise, at one very reasonable package price.”

To take advantage of the Ultimate Dining Package, guests with a current cruise reservation can either pre-purchase the package by logging into their “myncl” account on NCL.com or by purchasing the package on board during the first or second day of their cruise.
* Package does not apply to Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian or a la carte priced restaurants such as the Sushi Bar, Noodle Bar, and Ocean Blue on the Waterfront. However, when dining in one of these venues, guests will receive a discount of 20% off their bill. Entertainment-based dining such as Cirque shows, Second City lunches, Nickelodeon Pajama Jam, Wine Lovers Lunch, Illusionarium, and Chef’s Table are also not included.
Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines Introduces Brand New Shore Excursion Best Price Guarantee

Passion Island, Carnival excursion in Cozumel
There are many times when booking an excursion through your ship's tour desk is a wise decision as Cruise Diva explains in Going Ashore. Making the decision whether to book tours onboard or go it on your own with an independent tour operator just got less stressful to your budget if you are sailing on a Carnival cruise. Passengers who book a shore excursion through the cruise line can be completely confident they are getting the best price and best value with the introduction of a new shore excursion best price guarantee. The only guarantee of its kind in the cruise industry, the program is now available fleetwide for all Carnival Cruise Lines shore tours on ships sailing from North America.

Under the best price guarantee, guests who find the same tour offered by another operator at a lower price than their booked excursion either before or during their cruise can complete a claim form to receive 110 percent of the difference in the form of a shipboard credit. The guarantee is available for excursions booked prior to or during a cruise. If guests pre-book an excursion, then find a comparable tour advertised online at a lower price, they can complete an online form up to seven days prior to the cruise to invoke the guarantee. Guests can also complete a form during the cruise either before or after their excursion has taken place. Claims are typically processed within 24-48 hours.

"Many of our repeat guests who have booked Carnival shore tours previously are already knowledgeable on the outstanding value our tours provide," said Mico Cascais, vice president of tour operations for Carnival Cruise Lines. "However, our research indicates that many others, particularly first-time cruisers, are interested yet concerned as to whether or not they are getting the best deal. The best price guarantee program will assure our guests they are getting both the highest quality and the best value on all of our tours," he added.

Guests who book their excursion through Carnival enjoy the convenience of having shore excursion tickets delivered to their stateroom, 24/7 access to shipboard staff to answer questions and obtain assistance, and an assurance that they will receive a refund or the excursion time will be adjusted as needed based on weather or other issues affecting a ship's scheduled port of call visit. Additionally, ongoing communication between tour operators and shipboard staff ensures that the cruise line is aware and can make necessary changes to a ship's departure time when a tour is running late or unexpected circumstances arise.

The online and onboard claim forms require guests to provide the name of the competitor offering the comparable tour, excursion name, where the tour was advertised and the duration, price and any items included in the tour such as lunch, drinks, transportation or admission fees. The best price guarantee is applicable to shore excursion matches on the same date as the tour purchased from Carnival.

Additional information on Carnival's shore excursion best price guarantee can be found at carnival.com/shoreexcursionbpg.

Image © CruiseDiva.com

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Un-Cruise Adventures Releases 2015 Alaska Deployment

Whale watching in Alaska during
an Un-Cruise Adventures voyage
Whether you are a history buff, active adventurer, or luxury-minded cruiser, if you are ready to start planning a small ship cruise in Alaska next year, you can start even earlier this year. Un-Cruise Adventures has released its small ship adventure cruise schedule for Southeast Alaska in 2015. Seven vessels carrying 22-88 guests offer 115 total departures from April through September.

Adventure activities, culture, history, wildlife and remote wilderness star on ten itineraries ranging from one to three weeks duration. Alaska-bound travelers with popular Glacier Bay National Park on their wish list have more opportunities to experience the park on a small ship adventure in 2015. The line’s newly released 2015 deployment shows 87 out of 115 departures visit Glacier Bay for one or more days of in-depth exploration, most including off-boat adventures of hiking and kayaking.

“We’ve developed our itineraries based on years of experience sailing in remote areas of Alaska,” said Captain Dan Blanchard, CEO. “You will see the beauty and awe inspiring, raw nature that makes Alaska a must-see, must-explore destination.”

Travelers may choose an Active, Luxury or Heritage Adventure. Active Adventures aboard expedition vessels—60-guest Wilderness Adventurer, 74-guest Wilderness Explorer, and 76-guest Wilderness Discoverer—focus on adventure activities in remote wilderness. Luxury Adventures aboard yachts—22-guest Safari Quest, 36-guest Safari Explorer, and 86-guest Safari Endeavour—include adventure activities along with upscale amenities and more inclusions on board. Heritage Adventures aboard the 88-guest S.S. Legacy, a replica coastal steamer, focus on living history with crew in period costume and sail port-to-port with shoreside tours included such as Skagway’s famed White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad.

Enter the heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush on the S.S. Legacy sailing weeklong Alaska’s Golden History adventures between Ketchikan and Juneau, Alaska (and reverse). History comes alive through presentations and skits on board and included tours to points of historical interest. Ports visited include Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka and Skagway. Whales, wildlife and wilderness are highlighted on a full day spent inside Glacier Bay National Park along with a day’s exploration in Icy Strait and Chichagof Island.

A weeklong Discoverers’ Glacier Country itinerary roundtrip Juneau, Alaska spends two days inside Glacier Bay National Park and explores around Icy Strait, Chichagof Island, Baranof Island, Frederick Sound, Stephen’s Passage, Ford’s Terror and Endicott Arm. The Luxury Adventure cruise is offered on three upscale yachts—Safari Quest, Safari Explorer, and Safari Endeavour. The inclusive cruise includes all premium wine, beer, and spirits; a massage; transfers; taxes and fees; and all adventure activities from the yacht.

The popularity of the Northern Passages & Glacier Bay itinerary between Juneau and Sitka, Alaska (and reverse) spurred the line to add more departures for 36 total in 2015. Two days are spent inside Glacier Bay National Park. Other areas explored include Icy Strait, Chichagof Island, Baranof Island, Peril Strait and Sergius Narrows. The Active Adventure is available on the Wilderness Adventurer, Wilderness Discoverer, and Wilderness Explorer.

The Inner Reaches Eastern Coves itinerary sails from Juneau to Ketchikan, Alaska and explores Tracy Arm Wilderness, Frederick Sound, Thomas Bay, a half-day port call in Wrangell, Behm Canal and Misty Fjords National Monument. The Active Adventure is offered on all three expedition vessels. Four departures are offered on Luxury Adventure yachts Safari Endeavour and Safari Explorer.

The Inner Reaches Western Coves itinerary sails from Ketchikan to Juneau, Alaska and explores El Capitan Passage and Cave, Chatham Strait, Frederick Sound, a half-day port call in Klawock, Stephen’s Passage, Endicott Arm, Ford’s Terror and Dawes Glacier. The Active Adventure is offered on two expedition vessels—Wilderness Discoverer and Wilderness Explorer.

With an increase in the number of travelers combining itineraries to create two or three week adventures, the line reorganized its schedule to make it more convenient. Travelers may now stay on board the Wilderness Explorer or Wilderness Discoverer for the duration and experience up to three different itineraries—Northern Passages & Glacier Bay, Eastern Coves, Western Coves—making their cruise an Ultimate or Ultra Adventure.

In spring and fall, a 12-night Famed Passages of Discovery itinerary sails between Seattle and Juneau (and reverse) on six departures. And an 11-night Gold Rush Legacy cruise sails from Seattle to Juneau (and reverse) aboard the S.S. Legacy.

Active and Luxury Adventures include adventure activities: kayaking, hiking, skiff excursions and paddle boarding. Heritage Adventures include shoreside tours. Fresh, innovative cuisine is served on all vessels. Select theme cruise dates are available for photography and marine biology interests. Kids in Nature departures cater to families with children younger than 13 years. Charters and group incentives are available.

Image Courtesy of Un-Cruise Adventures

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Norwegian Epic to Homeport in Europe Year-Round, Starting in April 2015

With their newest cruise ship Norwegian Getaway set to be “Miami’s ship,” Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that Norwegian Epic will depart the seasonal Caribbean market from South Florida to home port year-round in Barcelona, Spain starting April 30, 2015. Norwegian Epic will be the largest Norwegian Cruise Line ship to ever home port in Europe year-round. Norwegian Epic’s 2015 European Itineraries are scheduled to be announced mid-March.

“We are excited that our largest ship, Norwegian Epic, will homeport in Europe year-round in 2015,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “Norwegian Epic’s innovative accommodations, world-class entertainment and plethora of dining options are the perfect complement to the European cruise market, one of the most sought-after cruise destinations in the world.”

Throughout 2015, Norwegian Epic will offer a variety of European itineraries offering guests the opportunity to experience why Norwegian was named “Europe’s Leading Cruise Line” six years in a row by the World Travel Awards. In addition, guests on board Norwegian Epic can experience the best of Freestyle Cruising®, which gives guests more choices in dining, accommodations, and world-class entertainment, in a relaxed atmosphere. Freestyle Cruising® also gives guests cruising through Europe the flexibility to stay ashore longer giving them more time to explore all that Europe has to offer.

While cruising throughout Europe, guests can experience the ship’s array of recreational activities from the expansive Aqua Park, featuring three waterslides and the largest bowl slide on water, the Epic Plunge, to the rappelling wall, rock climbing wall, bowling alley, and pampering Mandara Spa, one of the largest spas at sea.

Foodies cruising through Europe on board Norwegian Epic will delight in the ship’s 20 different dining options. Steak lovers can feast on steakhouse favorites, including Certified Angus Beef in Cagney’s, the line’s signature steakhouse. Moderno Churrascaria, Norwegian’s Brazilian-style steakhouse offers guests the opportunity to sample succulent grilled and slow-roasted meats carved tableside by passadors in addition to Moderno’s expansive salad bar. Norwegian Epic’s Chinese Noodle Bar offers counter seating around an open kitchen and serves traditional Chinese noodles, wok-fried dishes, and dim sum. For American Favorites and comfort food, guests can take a seat in O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill. Additional dining options include Teppanyaki, a Japanese hibachi-style restaurant; Sushi Bar; Garden Café, the ship’s action station buffet-style restaurant; The Manhattan Room, an art deco inspired supper club; La Cucina, Norwegian’s home style Italian restaurant; Le Bistro, Norwegian’s signature French restaurant; and more. Norwegian Epic also boasts 20 unique bars and lounges, including the SVEDKA/Inniskillin Ice Bar, which was the first-ever true ice bar at sea.

When it comes to accommodations, Norwegian Epic offers a range of innovative accommodations options to suit every taste and budget. For guests looking for the ultimate in luxury, the ship features The Haven by Norwegian, Norwegian’s exclusive ship-within-a-ship suite complex comprised of 60 suites and villas on two private decks located on top of the ship. Norwegian Epic was the first ship to offer Studio staterooms designed and priced exclusively for solo travelers, giving guests the opportunity to cruise solo throughout Europe. Plus, Norwegian Epic also offers a wide variety of comfortable balcony and inside stateroom options and family-friendly accommodations including multi-room Suites, interconnecting staterooms and two-bedroom Family Suites.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, January 13, 2014

Norwegian Cruise Line Gets the Key to Norwegian Getaway

L to R: Bernard Meyer, managing partner Meyer Werft;
Wolfgang Thos, Yard Captain;
Rune Myre, Norwegian Getaway’s Captain;
Kevin Sheehan,
Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO
On January 10th a ceremony in Bremerhaven, Germany was held for Norwegian Cruise Line to take delivery of the 145,655 gross ton cruise ship Norwegian Getaway from shipbuilder MEYER WERFT after a building period of only 15 months. The ship, the second of two Breakaway Class ships, is being delivered just nine months after the launch of sister-ship Norwegian Breakaway.

After her delivery, Norwegian Getaway sailed to Rotterdam for the start of inaugural festivities, which will continue in Southampton before the ship departs for her transatlantic cruise to New York where she will take part in Super Bowl festivities. Norwegian Getaway will then be christened in Miami on Feb 7th.

“The team at MEYER WERFT, along with our new build team, operations teams, and all of the ship’s officers and crew have done an amazing job on Norwegian Getaway and we are thrilled with how spectacular the ship looks,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “Norwegian Breakaway revolutionized cruising with its Waterfront and strong connection to New York. Norwegian Getaway will do the same as Miami’s ultimate ship, offering the only way to cruise the Caribbean from Miami with a plethora of incredible features.”

“We are more than thrilled to deliver the second Breakaway class vessel to Norwegian Cruise Line ahead of her original schedule,” said Bernard Meyer, managing partner with MEYER WERFT. “Norwegian Getaway is the newest and most advanced cruise vessel on the seas and we are proud of the team that worked diligently to design and build her.”

The latest engine technology, the pod drive system, improved hydrodynamics as well as effective energy saving, heat recovery and ballast water treatment guarantee an ecological cruise experience at significantly reduced operating costs.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Seabourn Launches 2014 Signature Savings Event

Seabourn has launched its 2014 Signature Savings Event, featuring special offers and savings on a worldwide array of voyages throughout 2014 and 2015.

Seabourn's Signature Savings Event applies to select 2014 and 2015 cruises around the globe. Sample offers include complimentary suite upgrades, additional savings on combination cruises, and shipboard credit on premium suites for Mediterranean cruises. Many of the line's Northern Europe, Antarctica and Patagonia, South America, and Arabia, Africa and India voyages feature complimentary suite upgrades and shipboard credit on premium suites. Cruises to Southeast Asia, Australia, Canada and New England, as well as transatlantic sailings, include shipboard credit on premium suites.

The promotion includes these offers on select sailings:
-- Special savings
-- Complimentary veranda suite upgrades
-- Additional savings up to 15% on Combination Voyages
-- $1000 USD per suite shipboard credit for penthouse and premium suites
"Now is the season when many travelers plan their vacations for the year," said John Delaney, Seabourn's senior vice president, marketing and sales. "Our Signature Savings promotion offers the absolute best value opportunity for booking a Seabourn cruise."

Seabourn's intimate ships offer key elements that set Seabourn apart: spacious, thoughtfully appointed suites, many with verandas; superb dining in a choice of venues; open bars throughout the ship; fine wines poured at lunch and dinner; award-winning personalized service and a relaxed, sociable atmosphere that make guests feel right at home on board. Seabourn's ships travel the globe throughout the year, sailing to many of the world's most desirable destinations. Cruises of seven days to more than 100 days visit hundreds of ports, including marquee cities and lesser-known ports and hideaways. For more information about Seabourn's Signature Savings Event, visit Seabourn.com.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Mock-ing" Quantum of the Seas

Are you anxiously awaiting the launch of Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas in November of this year? Then you'll want to take a look at the designer mock-ups in the following video that have been created to help ensure a seamless guest experience and a more efficient, cost effective building process.



Video Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Intl

Friday, January 10, 2014

Legends in Concert Celebrates One Thousand Performances Aboard Norwegian Epic

There was cause for celebration on Jan 3rd aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic when the ship’s famed performance group, Legends in Concert, performed their 1000th show on board. The occasion was marked with a performance by Legends’ entire cast, ensemble, and crew featuring tribute artists: Steven Tyler, Katy Perry, and Elvis Presley. Following the performance, the cast was presented with a special congratulatory cake made by the ship’s Executive Chef Denton Laing.

“We are thrilled to congratulate Legends in Concert on this incredible milestone,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line's chief executive officer. “Legends in Concert has helped Norwegian Epic take cruise ship entertainment to an entirely new level, as guests of all ages love watching performances by these extremely talented tribute artists.”

In addition to celebrating their long running success at sea, Norwegian and Legends in Concert announced that the renowned celebrity tribute production stage show will continue to perform their show on board to entertain Norwegian Epic guests through 2015.

“We are delighted our cast and production have put smiles on the faces of more than half a million of Norwegian Epic’s guests since 2010,” said Brian Brigner, Chief Operating Officer for Legends in Concert. “Our partnership with Norwegian Cruise Line has been wonderful and we are very pleased to continue entertaining Norwegian Epic’s guests with our incredible tribute artists.”

A staple on the Las Vegas strip for more than 30 years, Legends in Concert is known as the pioneer of live tribute shows and has assembled the greatest collection of live tribute artists and celebrity look-alikes in show business. Legends in Concert debuted for the first time at sea in June 2010 on board Norwegian Epic and the production continues to be a popular onboard favorite, playing six performances each week in the ship’s Epic Theater. Legendary tribute artists who have performed on board Norwegian Epic over the past three years include the likes of Madonna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Adele, Jimmy Buffet, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, and many more.

Legends in Concert shows aboard Norwegian Epic feature three celebrity tribute performers taking the stage in the Epic Theater for six 45-minute shows over three days during every 7-day cruise. In addition, several band and ensemble cast members from the Legends’ production deliver “Duets”, a cabaret-style show that is performed on three additional nights each cruise in the Manhattan Room, the ship's New York-inspired supper club, providing an unprecedented dining and entertainment experience. The celebrity performers change every six months to keep the show fresh and exciting.

Norwegian Epic is currently sailing 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruises from Miami, Florida. Ports of call on this tropical itinerary include St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and Nassau Bahamas. Starting Feb 2, 2014, Norwegian Epic will set sail to the Western Caribbean on seven-day cruises visiting ports of call including Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Costa Maya, Mexico; and Cozumel, Mexico. Beginning in May and throughout the summer, Norwegian Epic will be sailing in the Mediterranean.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Happy 10th Birthday to Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2

Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 is the only liner that offers regularly scheduled transatlantic crossings and she is celebrating her tenth 'birthday' this year.

Take a look at what you can expect on a crossing...


Listen as Naval architect and Queen Mary 2 designer, Stephen Payne talks about her construction:


For a first-hand look at the QM2 experience, join Cruise Diva on her crossing from Southampton to New York City in Cruise Diva's Cruise Diary:: Crossing the Atlantic in Royal Style.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Carnival Helps You Get Your Sunscreen On

We've all seen fellow passengers who apparently attempted to get a suntan on the first day of a cruise. They're usually as painfully bright red as a lobster on formal night. Sunburns like that are dangerous and Carnival Cruise Lines has set a course to encourage responsible time in the sun with Ocean Potion® sunscreen, which will set sail, literally, for the first time ever when it partners in early 2014 with Carnival, the world’s largest cruise operator. Beach-tested and approved Ocean Potion is made in the USA by Cocoa, Florida-based Sun & Skin Care Research, LLC (SSCR). The partnership represents the first time Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines joins forces with a sun care company to create an onboard promotional experience with a branded sunscreen.

Onboard promotions and activities will include fun, playful sun care-related messaging and will include the following components:
• Sun-Lovers’ Trivia—Fun messages on the Seaside Theatre poolside LED screens on sea days, as well as Ocean Potion samples available at nearby towel huts.
• Carnival entertainment staff will engage with guests as they are enjoying “Your Fun Moments in the Sun,” with photos showcased on the Seaside Theater screen leading up to the Ocean Potion-sponsored deck activity, the “Don’t Fry. Reapply!” sunscreen break.
• A fun and engaging entertainment activity at select ports that will build on Ocean Potion’s legacy of sandcastle-building beach events which are designed as fun for the whole family.
• Guest giveaways, including co-branded T-shirts, carry-alls, and can “koozies.”
• Samples of Ocean Potion’s popular SPF 30 general protection sunscreen will be distributed to guests as they head into port as well as at Carnival outdoor decks via towel huts at the main pool areas—the most relevant spaces—since the sun’s rays are amplified by water, making superior sun protection all the more important.
Four Carnival ships will participate in the initial promotion: Carnival Breeze from Miami; Carnival Liberty from Miami and Port Canaveral; Carnival Sunshine from New Orleans and Port Canaveral; and Carnival Triumph from Galveston. The promotion will kick off aboard Carnival Breeze January 12, 2014. Guests will try Ocean Potion at onboard sampling stations via gallon pump containers and more than 90,000 individual samples of Ocean Potion will be distributed on the four Carnival ships.

Since its creation, the Ocean Potion line has pioneered ingredient innovation and new product innovations will be announced in 2014. In a happy bit of synchronicity for a product that is taking to the seas, sea botanicals are key Ocean Potion ingredients, as are antioxidants that replenish skin depleted by a day in the sun. Ocean Potion products incorporate broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection, from SPF 15 to 70. Non-greasy, rapidly absorbed, and with a great orange-cream fragrance, Ocean Potion is fortified with Vitamin D3—indispensable for skin health and a youthful appearance. The skin, the body’s largest organ, is the last organ to absorb Vitamin D from food or supplements. Applied topically, however, Vitamin D3 delivers benefits directly to the skin. Notably, the brand is among those products expressly recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation for “safe and effective sun protection.”

Hopefully, the only red creatures we’ll be seeing in the future aboard Carnival’s ships will be on plates.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Princess Cruises Plans Valentine’s “Cruise with a Heart”

Get ready to spend Valentine’s Day cruising with your special someone when Princess Cruises’ second “Cruising for a Cause” sets sail in February from Ft. Lauderdale to celebrate Valentine’s Day. On board will be a special line-up of expert guests and celebrities who will help educate passengers about heart health. The benefit cruise will raise funds for the American Heart Association’s (AHA) programs and educational outreach.

Sailing the Caribbean from Feb 10-15, 2014 aboard Ruby Princess, the 5-day voyage will offer passengers a heart-themed experience, focused not only on “affairs of the heart,” but also a variety of onboard features themed around healthy living and heart health awareness. Among the educational opportunities available exclusively for this cruise are training in the American Heart Association’s Hands-OnlyTM CPR; seminars on how to better manage stress, diet, and exercise; and a heart disease and stroke survivor reception. Passengers can also take advantage of complimentary blood pressure screenings and participate in a fundraising walk on deck, patterned after AHA’s successful HeartWalks. Valentine's Day themed programming will include a special onboard renewal of vows and other romantic touches. The cruise will be capped off with a Ruby Red Gala party.

Special guests appearing exclusively on this sailing include:
• Dr. Kathy Magliato, MD, MBA, FACS: Dr. Magliato is one of the few female cardiothoracic surgeons in the world with specialization in heart failure, heart transplantation, and artificial/mechanical heart technology. A nationally recognized expert on heart disease in women, she is currently the Director of Women’s Cardiac Services at Saint John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica, California.
• Jesse Sapolu: Four-time Super Bowl champion Jesse Sapolu played center and offensive guard for the San Francisco 49ers during his 15-year football career. He now serves as the 49ers’ alumni coordinator, and is a motivational speaker and author of the biography “I Gave My Heart to San Francisco.”
• Chef Marc Anthony Bynum: Cook Healthy; Cook Delicious! A finalist on Food Network's “Chopped,” celebrity Chef Bynum will be offering fun, innovative healthy cooking demonstrations for passengers.
• Diana von Welanetz Wentworth: An award-winning author and national speaker on many facets of heart health, Wentworth’s passion for nurturing women’s hearts arose from her own surprising heart attack.
• David & Karen Gamow: The authors of “Freedom from Stress,” the Gamows have provided workplace stress management training to clients including NASA, CBS, GE, Marriott, Intuit, Nokia, Stanford School of Medicine, and the U.S. Army.
• Bernie Kopell: For 10 seasons, Bernie Kopell looked after the health of passengers aboard TV’s version of Pacific Princess as Doctor Adam Bricker (“Doc”) on The Love Boat. Kopell will be available to meet with and sign autographs for passengers.
A portion of each passenger’s cruise fare, totaling approximately $500,000, will be matched by Princess Cruises with an additional $500,000, for a total of $1 million. The proceeds will be used to support the American Heart Association’s mission to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The American Heart Association cruise will sail on a Western Caribbean itinerary roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale, with calls at Grand Cayman and Cozumel. A tax-deductible portion of each fare ranging from $100 to $300 per person, depending upon cabin category, will be donated to the American Heart Association.

The cruise is the second of the company’s new “Cruising for a Cause” initiative where Princess will dedicate entire sailings to support select charitable causes.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Cruise Ships for 2014

Whether they are an all new design or not, the introduction of a new ship into a cruise line's fleet is always exciting. Without further ado, CruiseDiva.com is happy to preview the ocean-going ships that are being introduced this year.

In addition to the descriptions found at New Cruise Ships for 2014, we have some video previews to share here on the blog.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Getaway



Princess Cruises' Regal/Royal Princess


Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas

Friday, January 3, 2014

Celebrity Cruises & Steiner Leisure Part Ways

Celebrity Cruises did not renew its agreement with Steiner Leisure to operate the spas on ships in the Celebrity fleet. Their contract expired on Dec. 31, 2013 and the cruise line has not yet revealed the spa and wellness partner that will replace Steiner, which is the world's largest operator of cruise ship spas.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Catching the Cruising Wave

Now that the holidays and 2013 are behind us, it's time to think about the new year and where we want to go on our next cruise vacation. Indeed, it's "Wave Season"—the time of year when a majority of bookings are made and, happily, cruise lines are offering some good deals to make it worth their while for consumers to make a reservation.

While last year was a particularly bad one in terms of image for cruise travel, with the Carnival Triumph incident being called a 'poop cruise' and dire reports in the national news, the attractive 2014 fare offerings arriving in email the past couple weeks are reflective of the industry's effort to win consumers over.

It's time to catch that "wave" before the deals disappear.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

We weren't at sea this year, but we celebrated with a water view nonetheless. Our party spot was the elegant Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center alongside the Savannah River.

Included in our festive New Year's Eve package was dinner, drinks, dancing, a toast at midnight, accommodations (so we didn't have to drive home), and New Year's Day breakfast.

Party hats, leis, noisemakers, and champagne. The Marriott had those as well. And, as was routine more then two decades ago (illustrated in the photo here of Cruise Diva and Mel), so did cruise ships. In fact, that twenty-something-year old picture was not taken during a New Year's Eve celebration. Back then, there was a festive party atmosphere on the second formal night of every week-long cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's iconic SS Norway.

Here's wishing you a very happy and prosperous 2014 and smooth sailing no matter where your cruise travels take you!