Friday, May 30, 2014

Crystal Kicks Off A Quarter-of-a-Century Celebration With 2015 Asia Season

From untouched rainforests to a "Monkey Island"; from working cacao plantations to pristine R&R beaches; from two thousand-year-old temples to huge metropolises of fine dining, Asia is a continent of contrasts—to be highlighted during Crystal's 2015 Asia cruise season. Ten 12- and 13-day itineraries, plus five shortened "Getaways" of 6- to 7-days, kick off the ultra-luxe line's 25th year of sailing by cruising through Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia.

Highlights include:
-- Maiden calls to Belawan, Indonesia; Sanya, China; Kochi and Aomori, Japan;
-- Later evening stays in Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Chan May, Vietnam; Bali, Indonesia; Pusan, South Korea; Taipei/Keelung, Taiwan; and Singapore;
-- Culture/region-intensive itineraries, including two all-China cruises, with multiple overnights in the country's major cities, and other voyages concentrating heavily on Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
-- At least two separate overnights offered on every cruise;
-- Calls to gems "less-visited" by the line, such as Yantai, China (Crystal's first visit since 1996); Malacca City and Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia; and Taipei/Keelung, Taiwan;
-- Two-night stays in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City and Yangon (formerly Burma);
-- A three-day pre-/post-cruise overnight land program to Beijing and the Great Wall, included with two March/April cruises
"The 2015 Asia voyages amount to one of our most immersive, wide-ranging seasons in the region in our 25-year history," says Crystal President Edie Rodriguez. "All travelers—those cruising Asia for the first time and those who have long loved visiting there—will find something new to broaden their perspectives on these ancient lands."

Crystal's 2015 Asia itineraries collectively call in Ho Chi Minh City and Chan May, Vietnam; Kota Kinabalu, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi, Malaysia; Surabaya, Bali, Semarang, Jakarta and Belawan, Indonesia; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Pusan, South Korea; Taipei/Keelung, Taiwan; Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sanya, Dalian, Xiamen, Yantai and Beijing, China; and Kochi, Osaka, Aomori, Otaru and Tokyo, Japan.

Image Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines Introduces West Coast Options

Carnival Cruise Lines is making exciting enhancements to its West Coast cruise operations, deploying two popular Spirit-class ships that feature a variety of Fun Ship 2.0 innovations as well as a huge number of balcony staterooms. The new deployments include Carnival Miracle introducing year-round 7-day Mexican Riviera departures from Long Beach, California, beginning in October 2014, and Carnival Legend operating the line’s Alaska program from Seattle in May 2015. In Addition, Carnival Miracle and Carnival Legend will also offer four Hawaii cruises in 2015-16.

Carnival Legend recently underwent an extensive makeover that added a host of new features, including WaterWorks, highlighted by Green Thunder, the fastest and steepest water slide at sea, and the RedFrog Pub, a Caribbean-inspired watering hole serving the line’s private label draught brew, ThirstyFrog Red. The full-service Bonsai Sushi restaurant offering Asian specialties and Cherry On Top, a confections and novelty store, were added, as well.

Carnival Miracle also offers a wide range of innovations, including the Serenity adults-only retreat featuring its own pool and full bar service, the Punchliner Comedy Club with up to 20 family-friendly and adults-only shows each week, a wedding chapel, a luxurious 14,500-square-foot health and wellness facility, and an enclosed corkscrew water slide full of twists and turns. Carnival Miracle will also undergo a dry dock in March 2015 that will add a variety of additional Fun Ship 2.0 features. Carnival Miracle and Carnival Legend each offer fun, supervised programs for children ages 2-17, as well as nearly 850 ocean view and balcony staterooms, perfect for viewing the sea and passing scenery.

Carnival Miracle Year-Round Mexican Riviera Cruising
Carnival Miracle will introduce year-round Mexican Riviera cruising from Long Beach on Oct 4, 2014. The program will encompass three different week-long itineraries, including a new three-port, 7-day cruise featuring Mazatlán on the majority of departures. In addition to the call in Mazatlán, the new three-port itinerary will feature the stunning Mexican resort destinations of Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. The full day call at Mazatlán will provide guests with ample opportunities to explore this scenic seaside destination, which features world-class beaches and sportfishing, as well as the Malecon, an outdoor promenade lined with shops, restaurants and centuries-old architectural structures.

Carnival Miracle’s year-round schedule from Long Beach also includes two other itinerary options. The first is a 7-day, two-port itinerary that features a stop in Cabo San Lucas, along with a 2-day overnight stay in Puerto Vallarta. While in Puerto Vallarta, guests can explore this tropical paradise known for its beautiful beaches, excellent diving, and sizzling nightlife. The second alternate itinerary includes a visit to Puerto Vallarta, along with a 2-day call at Cabo San Lucas, known for its white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and the distinctive El Arco (The Arch), a 30-foot-high rock formation where the Pacific Ocean joins the Sea of Cortez.

Carnival Legend to Alaska
Following its inaugural season in Australia, Carnival Legend will replace Carnival Miracle, which is sailing Alaska cruises this year, and again operate the line’s seasonal Alaska program beginning in May 2015. In total, 16 week-long Alaska cruises will operate from the Port of Seattle from May 26 to Sept 8, 2015, departing each Tuesday.

Port calls on these voyages include the popular Alaskan towns of Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, as well as Victoria and cruising Tracy Arm Fjord or sailing Glacier Bay. Carnival Legend will also operate a special one-time 8-day Glacier Bay voyage departing Vancouver May 18 and arriving in Seattle May 26, 2015. Each of these destinations offers a rich history and culture, along with natural wonders, such as calving glaciers, magnificent fjords, and native sea and animal life. A wide range of shore excursions, from helicopter flightseeing and rainforest canopy tours to hiking, canoeing, and kayaking expeditions, are also available. Carnival Legend will also feature an on-board naturalist who educates guests on the region’s colorful history and points out animal and marine life from the ship’s bridge.

Say Aloha to Hawaii
Carnival will offer four Hawaii sailings in 2015-16: an 11-day cruise on Carnival Legend departing from Honolulu in May 2015 and three 15-day voyages aboard Carnival Miracle operating round-trip from Long Beach in October and November 2015, and November 2016.

The 11-day Hawaii voyage on Carnival Legend will depart Honolulu May 7 and arrive in Vancouver May 18, 2015, with extended stops in Kauai, Maui, Hilo, and Kona, along with an overnight call in Honolulu.

Carnival Miracle’s three Hawaii cruises will operate round-trip from Long Beach departing Oct 17 and Nov 28, 2015, and Nov 16, 2016. On these sailings, guests can visit the stunning island destinations of Maui, Honolulu, Kauai, Kona, and Hilo, as well as Ensenada, Mexico.

These voyages provide guests a variety of opportunities to get an “up close and personal” look at the Aloha State, from hiking across volcanic rock formations and relaxing on some of the world’s most famous beaches to learning more about rich Polynesian cultures and getting a bird’s eye view of the lush countryside via a helicopter tour.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Quantum of the Seas: a “Slow Boat to China”

After a North American debut in November 2014 and a series of maiden season cruises from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey, Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas will offer a unique “Quantum Global Odyssey” halfway around the world.

The 53-night journey, departing May 2, 2015, from the New York-metropolitan area will reposition the ship its new home in Shanghai (Baoshan), China. Guests sailing the entire Quantum Global Odyssey to the other side of the globe will be a part of Royal Caribbean’s history as the arrival of Quantum of the Seas is celebrated at some of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities along the way.

Quantum of the Seas will sail its nearly two-month, epic journey around the world via the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Arabian Gulf, and Indian Ocean. Guests aboard the Quantum Global Odyssey will have the opportunity to enjoy all the Quantum-class innovations, while visiting a collection of fascinating ports of call for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Alternatively, vacationers can choose among five sailings, ranging from three to 16 nights, which comprise the Quantum Global Odyssey:

-- An 11-night Ocean Voyage: Cape Liberty to Spain cruise, departing May 2, 2015, from Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, N.J., to Barcelona, Spain, with calls at Ponta Delgada, Azores; and Cartagena and Palma De Mallorca, Spain,
-- A 16-night Suez Canal Barcelona to Dubai itinerary: Departing May 13, with calls at Rome (Civitavecchia) and Naples/Capri, Italy; Athens (Piraeus), Greece; and Aqaba, Jordan,
-- A 14-night India & Southeast Asia itinerary: Departing May 29, which features overnights in Dubai, UAE; Cochin, India; and Singapore, as well as calls at Muscat, Oman; and Penang, Malaysia,
-- A 3-night Short Malaysia itinerary: Departing roundtrip from Singapore on June 12 , calling at Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang), Malaysia,
-- And a 9-night Exotic Asia itinerary: Departs June 15 from Singapore to Shanghai (Baoshan), China, with calls at Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Vietnam; Xiamen, China; and an overnight in Hong Kong.
The Quantum-class ships, Quantum of the Seas and sister-ship Anthem of the Seas (debuting in Southampton, U.K. in Apr. 2015), will introduce a new set of first-at-sea onboard experiences, such as Ripcord by iFLY, an exhilarating skydiving experience; North Star, an adventure that transports guests more than 300 feet in the air on a breathtaking journey; cutting-edge venues including SeaPlex, the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with bumper cars, roller skating, and more; and the cruise line’s largest staterooms ever. Guests also will enjoy the new Quantum-class “Dynamic Dining,” a new culinary experience that offers a landscape of 18 restaurant concepts as varied as dining in the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, including specialty restaurants created with partner-chefs Jamie Oliver, Devin Alexander, and Michael Schwartz. The Quantum Class ships span 18 decks, encompass 167,800 gross registered tons, carry 4,180 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,090 staterooms.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Insignia Rejoins the Oceania Fleet With Extreme Makeover

Baristas
After completing a two-year charter and an extensive dry dock, Oceania Cruises has welcomed Insignia back to the fleet. Insignia is the first of three sister ships from Oceania Cruises to undergo a massive $50 million refurbishment. Nautica and Regatta are scheduled to receive similar enhancements. Renovating three ships from bow to stern in a six-week time period marks the largest refurbishment program in Oceania Cruises’ history.

The multimillion dollar makeover brings many of the interior design elements from the award-winning Marina and Riviera ships to Insignia, Nautica, and Regatta while maintaining the warmth, intimacy and charm Oceania Cruises’ guests appreciate in the 684-passenger ships. In addition to elegant new furnishings and décor for all public rooms, suites, and staterooms, Insignia added several new guest experiences, including the ever-popular Baristas coffee bar, a cook-to-order grill at Terrace Café, and new outdoor recreation on the Sports Deck.

Horizons
In preparation for two special 180-day voyages, a version of the Artist Loft enrichment center was added exclusively to Insignia during the dry dock. The “Around the World in 180 Days” cruise departs from Miami on Jan. 10, 2015, and the “180 Day World Odyssey” sails from Miami on July 8, 2015.

“This is a milestone moment for Oceania Cruises. Not only did we welcome home a family member with Insignia rejoining the fleet, but she comes out of dry dock essentially a new ship, reflecting an even higher level of elegance and design,” said Kunal S. Kamlani, president of Oceania Cruises. “By adding features our guests adore from Marina and Riviera to Insignia, Nautica, and Regatta, it further enhances the upscale cruise experience and exceptional value for which Oceania Cruises is known throughout the industry.”

Notable Enhancements Include:
• Suites & Staterooms: There are significant updates to the Owner’s and Vista Suites with an all-new bathroom design that is elegant, yet contemporary in nature. The bathroom features wall-to- wall marble with a decorative inlay centerpiece, along with an expansive granite vanity that sits opposite an inviting oversized shower. The Penthouse Suites received all-new furnishings, rich upholstery, and a vibrant, yet calming palette that reflects the sea, sun, and sky. All staterooms were appointed with new décor elements featuring a refreshing sense of style and elegance.
• Terrace Café: The main casual dining option on board the ship is brand new from top to bottom. A resplendent collection of new furnishings, floorings, fixtures, and lighting accompanies the stunning floor-to-ceiling window views. The pièce de résistance is the cook-to-order grill featuring delicacies such as steaks, chops, and lobster tail.
• Baristas: The popular coffee bar where master baristas prepare complimentary illy brand espressos and cappuccinos throughout the day now makes its debut on Insignia. Baristas is the perfect location to relax with a beverage in one of the comfortable lounge chairs or sofas and is centrally located on deck 5, near the Grand Dining Room.
• Upper Decks: The Sports Deck, located atop the ship, received a new miniature golf course and shuffleboard courts, along with other deck games. The main pool area, ringed with luxurious sun beds, shimmers with blue and white mosaics, beautifully contrasted with rich teak decking.
• Relaxation & Enrichment: The Canyon Ranch SpaClub exudes a sense of tranquility with new décor elements including a flowing mosaic display. Inside the spa, guests will enjoy peaceful steam rooms with beautiful new tile mosaics, along with renovated changing areas.
• The all-new Artist Loft is tucked inside Horizons Bar, providing a variety of enrichment programs for guests to enjoy.
• Lounges: All of the ship’s main lounges are refreshed and refurbished. Horizons bar features a new color palette of soothing sea blues, cocoa brown and mint, complemented by new sofa, chair and table furnishings. Martinis maintains its classic ambiance with all-new furnishings. The Insignia Lounge was completely refurbished with new carpeting and chairs, along with luxurious new fabrics and upholsteries.
Penthouse Suite
Nautica debuted on May 16, 2014 with similar enhancements and Regatta is scheduled to reveal her upgrades on June 7, 2014.

Images Courtesy of Oceania Cruises

Monday, May 26, 2014

Icy Strait Point Tempts Cruise Passengers With Alaskan Culinary Delights

When Icy Strait Point, the Alaskan Native cruise ship destination near Hoonah, Alaska, welcomed its first cruise ships of the season this month, it greeted travelers with several new tastes of the region. Known for sharing the area’s Tlingit culture with guests through 22 shore excursions, Icy Strait Point recently teamed up with regional purveyors to capture the flavors of Southeast Alaska, adding exclusive beverage products to restaurant menus that are already full of dishes showcasing Alaska seafood and regional ingredients.
Sitka-based Baranof Island Brewing Co. created a specialty beer for the cruise ship destination called Cannery Red, only available to visitors at Icy Strait Point. The name of the beer reflects the history of the restored Hoonah Packing Co. cannery at Icy Strait Point, which now houses several gift shops and a museum in its bright red building.

Heritage Coffee in nearby Juneau also developed a Mug Up brand of coffee to be served exclusively in Icy Strait Point’s Mug Up café and restaurants. The first two blends to be released are the aptly named Smooth Sailin’ and its hyper-caffeinated alternative, In-seine-ity, named for the seine boats that fish the area waters. The Mug Up brand is an ode to the Hoonah Packing Co. cannery workers of years past who would drink mugs of coffee to power through long, intense shifts at the cannery processing fish when the fishing boats came in due to the lack of refrigeration.

The Crab Station at Icy Strait Point, which has been serving guests fresh wild Alaska crab for years, will be offering up a new drink specialty this season as well. A twist on the traditional Bloody Mary, the drink will feature a crab leg, shrimp, sea asparagus garnish (a local specialty), lime and a salted rim. Guests can pair their Bloody Mary with their choice of Dungeness, king or tanner crab, all of which are taken out of the water live and then cooked and served up fresh.
“We’ve worked for over a decade toward incorporating local culture and crafts and regional food into each guest’s experience here,” said Stuart Campbell, Icy Strait Point’s food and beverage director. “It makes sense to work with local brands and products from Southeast Alaska to bring visitors at Icy Strait Point the most unique trip possible.”

Since its inception in 2004, Icy Strait Point has been on a mission to share the Huna Tlingit culture with its guests. An understanding of the area and its peoples’ relationship with the land is one of the most important lessons a visitor can take away. Icy Strait Point is a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Huna Totem Corporation, the village corporation owned by approximately 1,350 Alaska Natives with aboriginal ties to Hoonah and the Glacier Bay area. Located 50 miles west of Juneau and 22 miles south of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Icy Strait Point is the only privately owned cruise ship destination in Southeast Alaska. The former Hoonah Packing Co. Cannery building complex was restored to house the destination’s museum, gift shops, restaurants, and theater. For more information on visitor activities, visit icystraitpoint.com.

Between May and September 2014, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Holland America Line will make 73 ship calls on Icy Strait Point. Approximately 130,000 cruise passengers are arriving this summer—double the volume of Icy Strait Point’s first season in 2004.

Images Courtesy of Icy Strait Point

Friday, May 23, 2014

MSC Cruises Plans Two New Ships

It’s official. MSC Cruises has signed a contract with Fincantieri for the construction of two new cruise ships with an option for one more. The new ships will join the line’s 12 ships currently sailing, eventually allowing MSC Cruises to double the capacity of the fleet by 2022. The new prototype will be named “Seaside” and will be the largest cruise ship ever built by Fincantieri. Its innovative features will make it unique in the shipbuilding industry. The two ships will lead the way for a new generation of cruise ships that will be completely different from an architectural point of view.

“From the moment we started talking with Fincantieri, we had in mind to design and build two completely new ships, revolutionary in their structure, unlike anything that exists on the market today,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises. “Seaside is a futuristic prototype because of its structure, shape and versatility. Working closely with Fincantieri we are getting ready for the new and compelling challenge that the construction of these ships represents. It will be a real revolution in the world’s cruise market, an excellent product for its unique and innovative architectural features and cutting-edge technology.”

The two new ships will cost €700 million each and will be delivered to MSC Cruises in November 2017 and May 2018. With a length of 1060 feet, a width of 135 feet, and a height of 230 feet, the new ships will have a gross tonnage of 154,000 tons and will accommodate up to 5,300 passengers plus 1,413 crew members. The ships will boast 2,070 guest cabins, 759 for crew members, and 468,230 square feet of public areas available. Innovative in design and versatility, the new ships will be able to dock in any port around the world.

The Seaside prototype presents unique features such as a sea-level promenade that circumnavigates the sides of the ship with outdoor spaces, shops and restaurants. In addition, Seaside will also feature a splendid and spacious theatre, a terraced balcony and panoramic lifts with sea views. Furthermore, the ship will boast numerous technological innovations that will, among other things, further reduce fuel consumption by 25% and advanced safety systems that go beyond what is required by international regulation.

Image Courtesy MSC Cruises

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Norwegian Cruise Line’s NEXT Moves

Norwegian Cruise Line has always been about innovation and the line has revealed it is investing more than $250 million in “Norwegian NEXT,” a program focused on bringing “new enhancements, experiences and transformations” across the fleet over the next two years. With the goal of elevating the guest experience and building on the success of the line’s two new ships—Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway—Norwegian NEXT encompasses ship revitalizations, dining enhancements, new experiences in entertainment and guest activities, along with innovations in technology, new tropical destinations, and the line’s continued commitment to the environment. Through 2015, the company has plans to revitalize a number of vessels, including Norwegian Jewel, which just re-entered service following dry dock, along with Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Sky, and Norwegian Spirit, which were also recently refurbished.

“The youngest fleet at sea continues to get even better with our robust enhancement program taking place over the next two years,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “We want to continue to provide fresh and relevant experiences to our guests every time they sail with us. We are investing significantly in making sure that our guests have the vacation of a lifetime and fully experience what it means to Cruise like a Norwegian.”

Norwegian reinvented the dining experience at sea with the line’s Freestyle Dining concept, which it is taking to the NEXT level with the introduction of new menus in complimentary dining rooms and casual Garden Cafes that offer more variety and choice, including numerous new dishes crafted by expert chefs. Additionally, cruisers can now make specialty dining reservations 90 days prior to embarkation, 45 days earlier than the previous reservation window. Guests staying in The Haven, Norwegian’s ship-within-a-ship key card access suite complex, or in any suite category, can make specialty dining reservations 100 days prior to their cruise. New food and beverage venues are also being introduced across the fleet. Norwegian Jewel is the first to be retrofitted with the popular, complimentary dining venue, O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill. The line is also adding the Sugarcane Mojito Bar, first introduced on Norwegian Getaway, to Norwegian Jewel, adjacent to the new location of the Moderno Churrascaria restaurant. In addition, treats from the popular Carlo’s Bake Shop by Buddy Valastro, star of TLC’s Cake Boss, will be featured on all ships.

Along with dining, Norwegian is also making enhancements to its beverage program. A partnership with the Michael Mondavi Family has already introduced a new wine menu across the fleet and the family is curating wine concepts for Norwegian’s upcoming new ships. A new destination-based handcrafted beverage program, developed in partnership with mixologist Gabriel Orta of Miami-based Bar Lab Cocktails, is bringing guests seasonal specialty cocktails with a local twist. There will also be further fleet wide beverage training of bartenders, wine stewards and restaurant managers, providing guests with an even more knowledgeable staff to further enhance the dining experience onboard.

Norwegian is an innovator in entertainment and a wide range of new guest activities will be introduced across the fleet. The line’s exciting new H2GLOW Party, first introduced on Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, will also be rolled out fleet wide. Speaking to the quality of entertainment on board, the line is producing a series of new shows at its recently opened 45,000 square foot rehearsal facility, Norwegian Creative Studios, in Tampa, Florida. From soaring acrobats in “Elements,” to the 15-foot revolving showgirl staircase in “Paradis” to rocking out with the full rock band in “Rock of Ages,” Norwegian’s award-winning entertainment will be customized for every ship and itinerary with line-ups that will constantly stay fresh. With a focus on family, Norwegian’s five ships that feature exclusive Nickelodeon entertainment will offer new activities, dining experiences, and more ways to interact with Nickelodeon favorites like SpongeBob SquarePants.

The line is focused on introducing advanced technologies and innovations that bring more freedom and flexibility to its guests’ cruise vacation from start to finish. Enhanced pre-cruise planning experiences give guests the opportunity to easily design their vacation. Once on board, there is wireless internet access from bow to stern along with interactive digital displays that are being added fleet wide. These touch screen signs will allow guests to order specialty items, get directions and reserve dining and shore excursions simply with a scan of their stateroom key. Guests can also take advantage of Norwegian’s groundbreaking iConcierge mobile application to manage their cruise experience and stay in touch with fellow cruisers and family at home.

The line is also making a substantial effort to reduce its impact on the environment through its Eco-Smart Cruising programs and will install exhaust gas scrubbers on six ships, in addition to those that are already being fitted on Pride of America and the company’s two new builds, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss.

Enhancements continue on the line’s private island in the Bahamas, Great Stirrup Cay, with the opening of the Bacardi Bar. In addition, the line is developing a new eco-friendly cruise destination, Harvest Caye, in southern Belize. The 75-acre experience is planned to open in fall 2015 and will offer guests the option to take shore excursions on the mainland or enjoy the authentic shopping village, water sports, or relaxing beach area on the island. With Norwegian NEXT, the line is demonstrating its commitment to innovation and elevating the guest experience over the next two years and beyond.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Two Holland America S-Class Ships Will Leave Fleet to Join P&O in Australia

Carnival Corporation,the largest cruise operator in Australia and the only cruise company to have ships based full-time in Australian waters, is planning to significantly expand its market leadership Down Under. One of the fastest growing markets in the cruise industry—with Australian cruise passenger numbers having increased 130 percent in the past five years and projections of 800,000 cruise passengers in 2013 growing to one million by 2016—P&O Cruises (Australia), one of Carnival Corporation’s 10 brands, will add two ships to its fleet in 2015. With a total of five ships, P&O Cruises will establish Australia’s largest year-round fleet and be well-positioned to continue meeting Australians’ surging demand for cruise vacations.

The expansion leverages Carnival Corporation’s industry-leading scale and underscores its strategy of increased collaboration among its 10 brands, as the two ships will be transferred from the company’s Holland America Line brand to become part of the P&O Cruises fleet. In the meantime, Holland America Line is building its latest and largest ship, to be delivered in February 2016. The new Pinnacle Class ship will be 99,500 tons and carry 2,660 passengers, replacing the capacity of the two vessels moving to P&O Cruises in Australia.

“Australians know a good thing when they discover it, and that speaks to why taking a cruise has become the most popular vacation experience in the Australian tourism industry,” said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. “By any measure, Australia is one of the top performing cruise markets in the world, with an eye-popping average annual passenger growth rate of 20 percent over the past decade.”

Over the past 10 years Carnival Corporation has grown rapidly in the Australian market with its local fleet increasing from two full-time ships, both with P&O Cruises, to six full-time ships from three of the company’s brands—three P&O Cruises ships, two Princess Cruises ships, and one Carnival Cruise Lines ship. In 2015, with the addition of two ships to P&O Cruises, and the return of Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess full-time, that number will increase to nine. The company’s ships sail from five Australian cities as well as Auckland in New Zealand. During the past summer cruise season in Australia, the company had a record 20 ships from across seven of its brands sailing in Australian waters.

The two S-class ships being added to P&O Cruises, currently sailing as ms Ryndam (pictured above)and ms Statendam in the Holland America Line fleet, are mid-range in size, similar to the three existing P&O ships in Australia—the Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel, and Pacific Pearl. The ships will be completely refurbished to offer a new level of comfort and style and will include onboard features tailored for Australian and New Zealand passengers. Full details will be announced in coming months. Having a five-ship fleet will give P&O Cruises greater flexibility in its increased offering of short-break cruises, traditional cruises to the South Pacific and cruises to new destinations such as Papua New Guinea and Asia. The ships will join the P&O Cruises fleet in November 2015 and itineraries are being developed for the expanded fleet.

Carnival Corporation’s portfolio of cruise brands in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia are comprised of Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Ibero Cruises, P&O Cruises (Australia), and P&O Cruises (UK). Together, these brands operate 101 ships totaling 212,000 lower berths with seven new ships scheduled to be delivered between fall 2014 and summer 2016. Carnival Corporation also operates Holland America Princess Alaska Tours, the leading tour company in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

JAXPORT & Carnival Keep on Cruising

On Feb. 27, 2004 Carnival Cruise Lines inaugurated service from Jacksonville, Florida’s JAXPORT with service aboard the newly christened Carnival Miracle. In August 2004, Carnival began year-round service with the Celebration and upgraded to the larger, newer Fascination in September 2008.

Due to their successful partnership over the past ten years—with more than 1.6 million passengers embarking in Jacksonville—JAXPORT and Carnival Cruise Lines have reached an agreement to extend Carnival Cruise service from the port. Carnival Fascination will continue sailing from the JAXPORT Cruise Terminal in North Jacksonville to Key West and the Bahamas for 4-day and 5-day cruises.

“We are pleased to continue this valuable partnership with Carnival Cruise Lines and usher it into a second successful decade,” said JAXPORT CEO Brian Taylor. “The Fascination offers great value and service to vacationers. It also brings jobs and opportunity to North Florida, boosts tourism and offers the region a platform to promote all of our regional assets and attractions.”

For more information on cruising from Jacksonville, visit www.JAXPORT.com/cruise.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cruising With Mom

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

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

As I remember my mom, join me in a Mother's Day tribute to the lady who passed along her cruise genes to me and to all the mothers that we love so dearly. Welcome aboard my mom's first cruise on the Song of Norway: Cruise On, Mom.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Putting the Water in Carnival's WaterWorks

Each of Carnival Cruise Lines' "Fun Ships" has a watery playground for both children and adults to enjoy. Some are as elaborate as those found on land and others are even more so.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to keep the waterslides, sprays, and splash areas full of safe, clean water? This behind-the-scenes and below-the decks video helps to bring it all into perspective.



Video Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Princess Cruises Plans A Regal Inauguration Sale

It isn’t often that we highlight cruise sales and deals that are time sensitive, but this one runs for nearly a month, which affords plenty of time to take advantage of it.

To set the stage, Regal Princess, a sister ship to Royal Princess is set to sail May 20, 2014, offering its 3,560 guests a variety of enticing features, including a soaring atrium, the social hub of the ship; a dramatic over-water SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed walkway extending more than 28 feet beyond the edge of the vessel; plush private poolside cabanas; the Princess Live! television studio; a dedicated pastry shop; a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds diners in a curtain of light; and balconies on all outside staterooms.

With that launch upcoming, Princess Cruises is commemorating the debut of Regal Princess by offering a cruise sale with special gifts on more than 100 itineraries, including voyages during Regal Princess’ maiden seasons in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. During the Regal Princess Inauguration Sale, which runs through June 3, guests can join the celebration with festive extra touches to enhance their vacation. Guests can toast the new ship or their own special occasion with a free bottle of the renowned Nicolas Feuillatte French champagne, as well as receive stateroom location upgrades and a reduced deposit.

The sale allows guests to be among the first to experience the new cruise ship aboard voyages during Regal Princess’ maiden season in the Mediterranean this summer, or when she arrives stateside this fall for her maiden Caribbean season. Guests can also choose to celebrate with a cruise vacation to other destinations including the Caribbean, Canada and New England, Mexico, Panama Canal, California Coastal, Tahiti, Hawaii, and Asia. Guests booking voyages five days or less will enjoy a special reduced deposit of $50 per person during the sale, or $100 per person for longer voyages.

Examples of Inauguration Sale pricing and itineraries include:
• Caribbean cruise — 7 days; from $699 interior, $999 balcony
• Mexico cruise — 10 days; from $999 interior, $1,499 balcony
• Tahiti cruise — 10 days; from $1,499 interior, $2,199 balcony
• Panama Canal cruise — 11 days; from $1,199 interior, $1,699 balcony
• Grand Asia cruise — 17 days; from $1,399 interior, $2,399 balcony
The Regal Princess Inauguration Sale runs through 11:59 p.m. PDT on June 3, 2014 and is available to residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. All cruise prices are per person, based on double occupancy. More information about the Inauguration Sale and pricing can be found at Princess.com/sale. Information about other cruise deals and promotions is available at Princess.com/topcruisedeals.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A New Star Sets Sail With Windstar

Windstar Cruises set a new course for the line on Monday when it debuted the all suite Star Pride in Barcelona, Spain. During a christening ceremony and pier-side fiesta to celebrate the launch of the luxury yacht’s inaugural voyage, Mrs. Nancy Anschutz, wife of Mr. Philip Anschutz, owner of Xanterra Parks & Resorts®, Windstar’s parent company, was honored as Godmother of the vessel, successfully breaking the bottle of Veuve Clicquot on her bow.

Star Pride is the first of the three small luxury cruise ships added to the Windstar yacht fleet, and it leads the way as Windstar enters a new era of small ship cruising,” said Hans Birkholz, chief executive officer of Windstar Cruises. “We are honored to have Mrs. Anschutz serve in the prestigious role of Godmother. It’s fitting to have her christen Windstar’s first yacht in 16 years as the Anschutz family and Xanterra Parks & Resorts®, have been an integral part of Windstar’s transformation the last few years.”

Star Pride’s debut follows an intensive 3-week transformation period in which all of the yacht’s public spaces, dining venues, and suites were updated to meet Windstar’s casually elegant style. Windstar partnered with Alan McVitty and Trimline Interiors, both of whom spearheaded the recent $18 million renovation of Windstar’s sailing yachts, to complete Star Pride’s stem-to-stern transformation. Updates to Star Pride’s décor include new furnishings, upholstery, lighting, wall coverings, carpeting, ceiling finishes, window treatments, and floor coverings. Additionally, Star Pride introduces Windstar’s new Destination Suites. Each of the Owner’s Suites showcases a signature Windstar destination, complete with cultural décor and local art work. Windstar will eventually implement the Destination Suites fleet-wide.

Star Pride is the first of three power yachts to join the Windstar fleet. After undergoing major transformations to public spaces, suites, and dining venues, Star Breeze will begin its maiden voyage on May 6, 2015, from Nice, France, and Star Legend, will make its inaugural voyage on May 25, 2015, from Rome, Italy. All three yachts are identical, with a guest capacity of 212 in 106 suites. At 10,000 gross tons, each is 440 feet long with a breadth of 63 feet and six passenger decks. The yachts’ size fit perfectly with Windstar’s small ship philosophy of exploring secluded coves and hidden harbors. Windstar’s itineraries offer in-depth enrichment experiences that include local entertainment, authentic cuisine, and small group shore excursions. Sadly, the three mega-yachts, acquired from Seabourn, have no sails.

Image Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Did Norwegian Breakaway "Break Away" in NYC?

If you were watching the news last Sunday you were probably bombarded with breathless reports of a) a runaway ship in New York's Hudson River, or b) that a cruise ship had run aground in the river. While at a neighborhood cook-out that's what friends told me they heard. As often happens at such gatherings, the men were watching television while the women were in another room so I'm going with what they related.

Curious, I checked out the stories online and upon discovering that Norwegian Breakaway had been assisted by tugboats when docking on Sunday morning. I asked Norwegian Cruise Line what happened and this is their statement: "Norwegian Breakaway docked at Pier 88 in New York this morning at approximately 10 am. The ship was slightly delayed because of strong currents in the Hudson River."

Due to the delay, the line also advised embarking guests to arrive at the terminal after 2 pm. Norwegian Breakaway's cruise to Bermuda was scheduled to depart at 5 pm that day. Norwegian also expressed their appreciation to guests for their patience and understanding.

Early reports on the incident were apparently greatly exaggerated by the New York media. The New York Daily News even managed to find some disgruntled passengers upon debarkation, which is not uncommon after such events. Seldom are passengers who happily spent a few extra hours onboard interviewed.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, May 5, 2014

Moments to Remember from the Amsterdam’s 2014 Grand World Voyage

After its 113 day voyage of nearly 33,000 miles around the world, Holland America Line’s Amsterdam completed her Grand World Voyage on Monday, April 28th at Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades—the port from which it departed back in January. Amsterdam made three dozen stops in more than two dozen countries on five continents. Also included in the itinerary were a transit through the Panama Canal and two equator crossings.

On board for the entire journey—their second Holland America Line World Cruise—Georgina & Humberto Cruz share Moments to Remember from the Amsterdam’s 2014 Grand World Voyage.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Unleash Your Inner Shopper Like a Norwegian

This has probably happened to you. I know it’s happened to me. After browsing through the shops onboard during a cruise I’ve failed to purchase something that caught my eye. I still long for the cute little hat I failed to buy on the SS Norway in 1991.

A boon to those of us who want to keep shopping for cool cruising stuff from home, Norwegian Cruise Line has launched an all-new online shopping experience for guests, travel partners, and team members: NorwegianShop.com.

The easy to navigate new website features a variety of specially-designed Norwegian Cruise Line-branded merchandise such as logo apparel, tumblers, totes, duffle bags, and much more. My personal favorite item is the flip-flops that say “Norwegians Are Totally Beachin” on the top and have the Norwegian logo on the bottom.

NorwegianShop.com is the ultimate shopping destination for guests preparing for their upcoming cruise, for those who have just returned from a cruise, or for those searching for the perfect gifts for their friends and family who love to Cruise like a Norwegian.

Those who visit the site can shop for trendy lounge wear items, t-shirts, sweatshirts, luggage, and much more. In addition, the site features a variety of items that celebrate the line’s newest ships, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway. (Sadly, nothing that commemorates the historic SS Norway.) Gift certificates that can be printed out to be given as a gift and redeemed online can also be purchased on the site.

Items are reasonably priced and as a special “thank you,” Travel Partners and Norwegian’s Latitudes Rewards Members will receive a 10% discount off of their purchases on the site. Time to warm up my credit card!

To start shopping along with me, visit NorwegianShop.com.

Images Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Windstar Cruises Launches New Logo & Brand Insignia


With all the changes afloat for the line, Windstar Cruises has redesigned its logo and brand insignia as part of a comprehensive plan to refine marketing communications.

Inspired by Windstar’s continued commitment to unique luxury travel, the new logo presents a polished new look to dramatize Windstar’s casually elegant, yacht style experience in the luxury cruising industry.

The logo’s classic, serif typeface with a slightly taller initial capital letter is a modern interpretation of the elegant type styles closely associated with the yachting lifestyle. This is balanced by the flourish and star emblem. Placed behind the first letter and coming to rest above the “I,” the emblem draws its inspiration from soft breezes, gentle waves, and clear nights that are part of the intimate experience of small ship cruising.

"We wanted a refreshed look that keeps pace with the company as we enter into a new era of growth as the market leader in small ship cruising, yet still reflects our heritage of sailing,” said Hans Birkholz, president and chief executive officer of Windstar Cruises. “We will also be launching a new website in June of this year to align with our fresh image.”

The new look marks a highpoint for Windstar Cruises, which recently doubled the size of the fleet and expanded into new regions of the world such as Southeast Asia, Arabia, Iceland, and beyond. On May 2, Windstar will make its much anticipated return to Tahiti, which also will feature the company’s brand new Private Events, an exclusive event created solely for Windstar guests, and are complimentary on all 2015 itineraries. On May 5, in Barcelona, Spain, Windstar will celebrate the inaugural launch of Star Pride, the first of three new power yachts added to the Windstar fleet.

Images Courtesy of Windstar Cruises