Friday, January 30, 2015

Seabourn Names Newest Sister-Ships

Luxury, small ship cruise line Seabourn has unveiled the names of its two new ships, both inspired by its current fleet. Launching as Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation, the first will join the fleet in late 2016 and the second in spring 2018.

Expanding on the line's popular Odyssey-class ships, Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation will build on the success of the Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn, and Seabourn Quest. That trio of ships entered ultra-luxury cruising with enhanced accommodations and innovative amenities when they were introduced between 2009 and 2011. Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation will maintain the line's high ratio of space per guest, enabling highly personalized service by close to one staff member for each guest on board. With the addition of the two new ships, Seabourn will have the youngest and most modern ultra-luxury fleet in the industry.

"Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation will applaud the current fleet in both vessel design and guest experience," said Seabourn President Richard Meadows. "Both words, Encore and Ovation, pay tribute to the tremendous success and outstanding accomplishments our current ships have achieved. They are perfect names to celebrate Seabourn's expanding fleet."

Configured with one additional deck, Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation will feature newly expanded public areas and modern design elements and innovations consistent with Seabourn's reputation for understated elegance. The new 40,350-GRT vessels are expected to carry 604 guests each, based on double occupancy, and every suite will feature a private veranda. Hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany has signed on to design both ships in their entirety, drawing inspiration from the line's rich history and yachting heritage. He will design all indoor and outdoor guest areas, including the multiple dining venues, The Spa at Seabourn, showrooms, casino and lounges, outdoor deck areas, and the popular Seabourn Square, the social hub of the ship with a club-like ambiance.

Seabourn offers key elements that set the cruise line apart: thoughtfully appointed all-suite accommodations, most with verandas; superb dining in a choice of venues; complimentary open bars throughout the ship; complimentary fine wines poured at lunch and dinner; award-winning service and a relaxed, sociable atmosphere that makes guests feel right at home on board. The ships travel the globe throughout the year, sailing to many of the world's most desirable destinations, including marquee cities, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and lesser-known ports and hideaways.

The line has launched a new dedicated microsite with updates about Seabourn Encore at encore.seabourn.com. Additional details, news and images will be revealed on the site on an ongoing basis.

Seabourn Encore Pool Deck Image Courtesy Seabourn

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Seven Seas Explorer Keel Laid in Style

The first building block for Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer was placed last week during a special keel laying ceremony at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy. The keel laying signals a significant milestone in the construction and brings the vessel one step closer to its July 20, 2016 maiden voyage.

In a ceremony befitting of the world’s most luxurious ship, a sleek black Rolls Royce Phantom transported the three symbolic coins to the keel laying event. Upon arrival, a dapper butler emerged with a red velvet pillow carrying the coins to be welded into the keel, including a rare 1921 U.S. silver coin known as the Peace Dollar symbolizing the safe passage of Seven Seas Explorer; a 1959 silver Italian Lire representing the year the Fincantieri shipyard was established; and a commemorative coin specially minted for this occasion.

Jason Montague, president and chief operating officer for Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Robin Lindsay, executive vice president of vessel operations, and Franco Semeraro, senior vice president of hotel operations welded the coins into the ship’s keel before the building block was lowered into place in the dry dock.

“With construction beginning in earnest today, we took a major step closer to realizing our vision, to provide our guests with a vessel that will be hailed as the most luxurious ship ever built,” said Montague. “Every inch of the Seven Seas Explorer will exude elegance and grandeur, and that extends to all aspects of the ship from the lavish suites to the gourmet restaurants and stylish public spaces. We even ensured that the keel coins convey a sense of luxury.”

At 56,000 gross-registered tons and carrying only 750 guests, Seven Seas Explorer will boast one of the highest space ratios in the cruise industry and among the highest staff-to-guest ratio, further strengthening Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ widely recognized position as a leader in the luxury cruise segment. World-renowned architectural interior design firms Tillberg Design AB, RTKL Associates and ICRAVE are designing the vessel. Seven Seas Explorer will join the award-winning Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet in the summer of 2016. Reservations for her maiden voyage and inaugural season opened Jan. 19, 2015 exclusively for Seven Seas Society members and will become widely available starting Feb. 4, 2015.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Land of “Frozen” Coming to Disney Cruise Line

This summer Disney Cruise Line and movie fans can immerse themselves in the animated hit “Frozen” with brand-new experiences inspired by the film, including a deck party, a three-song stage show production number, new character meet and greets, storybook adventures ashore, and more.

A Day of Frozen Fun
Debuting this summer, on select Disney Magic and Disney Wonder sailings to Europe and Alaska, Disney Cruise Line guests are transported to the land of “Frozen” when the ship is transformed into a winter wonderland and a day of frozen fun culminates in a celebration with friends from the Kingdom of Arendelle. On one morning, guests will awake to discover a magical freeze has overtaken the atrium lobby with sparkling icicles adorning the grand staircase, resembling the majestic mountain-top ice palace of Queen Elsa.

Icy adventures and fun for the entire family throughout the day include all-new meet and greets and themed experiences:
• Memorable moments with Anna, Elsa, and for the first time in forever, Kristoff and Olaf
• “Anna’s Chase for the Chocolate” scavenger hunt for those who share Anna’s sense of adventure, with a special surprise for finishing the game
• “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” activity where kids take on Elsa’s magical powers to make snow and ice
• “The Maypole Swirl and Twirl” for families to learn a traditional Scandinavian dance spinning and braiding giant ribbons
• “Frozen” themed dining experience, including a menu inspired by traditional Nordic fare and special dishes inspired by the film
Evening fun kicks off with “Freezing the Night Away with Anna, Elsa, and Friends,” a family-friendly interactive deck party featuring the famous royal sisters of Arendelle and their Nordic companions. By nightfall, the freeze has spread to the upper decks of the ship, with giant snowflakes, icicles, and snow-covered rocks. The celebration begins with a high-energy line dance, set to the movie’s ice cutting scene. Sven, the trolls, and Olaf, make virtual appearances at the party. Sven engages the crowd in reindeer games and Olaf leads a sing along to his signature song, “In Summer.” Elsa arrives with a snowy gust of wind, calling on guests to sing “Let it Go” with her as she conjures up a wintry spectacle to cool things down for Olaf. The evening concludes with more family dancing on the pool deck, followed by fun just for adults in the nightclub featuring dance performances and frozen specialty drinks.

New Production Number in “Disney Dreams”
Friends from “Frozen” are also making their stage show debut at sea in the Walt Disney Theatre aboard the Disney Magic. In the Disney Cruise Line production, “Disney Dreams … An Enchanted Classic,” Anna, Elsa, and Olaf join the line up of Disney characters who together teach a young girl the power of her dreams. Brand-new scenes featuring “Frozen” characters include renditions of three popular songs: “Let it Go,” “For the First Time in Forever” and “In Summer.” Special effects include a snowfall throughout the theatre and a transformation of the young girl’s room into her own ice palace.

Magical Meet & Greets
Olaf will be giving warm hugs when he joins Anna and Elsa on their royal tour of the Disney Cruise Line ships. Children and families will have the opportunity to meet and take photographs with their favorite “Frozen” friends on the Disney Fantasy, Disney Dream, Disney Wonder, and Disney Magic.

Adventures Ashore in Norway
Disney Cruise Line guests who travel aboard the Disney Magic to Norway, the land that inspired Arendelle from “Frozen,” can join new Port Adventures that bring this fairytale setting to life. One signature adventure ashore in Ålesund, Norway will immerse guests in the splendor and charm of Norway, with the help of Anna and Elsa, in a storybook village. On other shore excursions guests will discover the natural wonders, architecture, and rich Scandinavian culture depicted in the film. Seven- and nine-night voyages begin June 6, 2015, sailing through Norwegian fjords and calling on ports including Stavanger, Ålesund, Geiranger, Molde, Olden and Bergen, Norway.

Olaf’s Summertime Freeze on Castaway Cay
With the help of everyone’s favorite snowman, Disney Cruise Line is cooling down Castaway Cay with the addition of Olaf’s Summertime Freeze bar. Serving non-alcoholic specialty frozen drinks in souvenir cups, the creative menu features refreshing beverages such as “Olaf’s Flurry Freeze,” “Sven’s Carrot Delight” and “Warm Hugs.” Olaf’s Summertime Freeze opens summer 2015 near the Pelican Point tram stop by Castaway Cay Family Beach.

Image Courtesy Disney Cruise Line

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Refreshed Queen Victoria Sets Out To Conquer The World

When Queen Victoria set out on her 2015 World Voyage last week she revealed a stunning new look as she sailed past a fusillade of fireworks. The ship left Southampton in top drawer form having just returned from an intensive 20 day refurbishment at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg.

Nine brand new single staterooms were installed as part of the refurbishment. In addition to refreshing existing furnishings, enhancements were made to the outdoor spaces, beverage provision in the ship’s informal Lido restaurant, and eight brand new internet stations have been installed on the upper floor of the library.

“The results of Queen Victoria’s refit are a true testament to Cunard’s ability to respond to passenger input. We are delighted to incorporate their wish for more outdoor space with enhancements to the Upper Grill Terrace and additional areas for sunbathing. We also provided more single staterooms for our single travelers. It’s this commitment to our passengers that keeps Cunard’s 175 year heritage going strong,” commented Rick Meadows, President of Cunard, North America.

For such a large undertaking, 2,000 contractors representing thirty different nationalities worked a total of 600,000 man hours around the clock to replace all 215,278 square feet of carpet in the passenger areas. They also renewed all 3,167 mattresses on board and replaced over 19,685 square feet—3.75 miles—of pipe work insulation. 2,695 gallons of paint were used inside and out, enough to paint 54 Boeing 737's.

Such a successful refit depended on a great working partnership between the ship and the shipyard and throughout the refit, Cunard’s shipboard White Star service standards were observed. To sustain the workforce over its tea-breaks for example, over 317 gallons of soup—served in true Cunard style, with croutons—and 2,000 cookies were consumed daily. 80,000 teas and coffees were consumed over the 20 days.

In honor of the company’s anniversary, Queen Victoria welcomed her World Voyage passengers aboard with a commemorative flag-raising ceremony which took place at the ship’s mast. This was to hoist the signature flag for the first time on board and as is traditional, was performed by the youngest crew member, 20 year-old deck cadet Fraser Browne. The flag will be flown at iconic landmarks across the world during all three of the fleet’s World Voyages and will be auctioned at their conclusion with all proceeds going to The Prince’s Trust, Cunard’s official charity.

Queen Victoria’s first call was Ponta Delgada in the Azores and she is now sailing to the Caribbean, will transit the Panama Canal, and then make her way to Hawaii and Australia.

Images Courtesy Cunard Line

Monday, January 26, 2015

New Cruise Review: Oceania Cruises’ Riviera

Georgina Cruz shares a “Goldilocks” style voyage: neither too short that it ended too quickly and called at few ports, nor too long that it required two weeks or more of vacation time.

Set sail with Georgina on Oceania Cruises’ Riviera for a 10-day “Mayan Mystique” voyage roundtrip from Miami.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Carnival Cruise Line Reveals New Carnival Vista Features with Connections to the Sea

Carnival Vista Atrium
In a splashy New York-style reveal, yesterday Carnival Cruise Line announced the details of its most innovative ship ever, Carnival Vista, set to launch in spring 2016. Designed to connect guests to the ocean with sweeping ocean views and plenty to do both outdoors and inside, Carnival Vista will introduce an array of new features including: SkyRide, a breakthrough suspended open-air cycling experience; the world’s first IMAX® Theatre on a ship; an expanded water park featuring the colorful Kaleid-O-Slide, the line’s first raft-riding water tube slide; Seafood Shack, a New England-inspired eatery; RedFrog Pub, including the line’s first onboard brewery, and other enhanced dining, bar, and entertainment options; as well as new scenic and family-friendly accommodation types. The ship’s inaugural Mediterranean itineraries will mark the line’s return to Europe.

High-Powered Outdoor Fun
Carnival Vista SportSquare
With SkyRide, the cruise industry’s first pedal-powered open-air aerial attraction, Carnival is creating some of the highest outdoor vistas at sea. Adventurous riders can climb aboard hanging recumbent-like bikes to cycle their way around the 800-foot suspended track with views from 150 feet above the sea. Nearby will be SkyCourse, a suspended ropes course. Both are part of the expanded outdoor activity park that also includes a new indoor sports hangout, The Clubhouse at SportSquare¸ featuring mini-bowling, ping-pong, arcade basketball, sports video gaming and more.

In the largest WaterWorks water park in the fleet, kids and kids at heart will find an array of splash-tastic fun including Kaleid-O-Slide, the line’s first-ever water tube attraction. Riders will hop on inflatable one or two-person rafts taking them on a fun-filled 455-foot adventure of exhilarating twists and turns with stunning kaleidoscopic visual effects.

Big-Time Entertainment at the Multiplex
Carnival Vista’s inside views are truly spectacular as well. Carnival is partnering with entertainment innovator IMAX® to bring the world’s most immersive cinematic experience to sea with the first-ever IMAX® Theatre on a ship. Guests will take in the latest Hollywood blockbusters, IMAX classics, and IMAX documentary content on a screen that’s three decks high. Next door at the Thrill Theater, moviegoers can enjoy a multi-dimensional special effects experience. Both are part of the Carnival Multiplex, a first at sea for film fans, complete with concession stand offering popcorn and movie snacks. No word yet on whether there is a charge. The Warehouse, featuring a variety of video and arcade games, is located adjacent to the Carnival Multiplex.

Fresh New Dining & Bar Options
Featured on Carnival Vista and a first for the fleet will be a New England-inspired Seafood Shack, a casual indoor/outdoor dining venue near the Lido Marketplace eateries. The seafood-lovers’ spot will feature a menu full of fresh favorites available for purchase, including lobster rolls, steamed lobster, fried shrimp, crab cakes, fried clams, and more.

RedFrog Pub
At the RedFrog Pub, Carnival will brew up great beer for good times in its first ever brewery. During each sailing two giant copper-topped glass kettles will create ales and lagers that can be enjoyed on tap from the bar and through unique tabletop taps that allow guests to pour their own beer. The full bar will also offer an array of Caribbean-inspired cocktails, beers, and rums. Indoor/outdoor seating, live music, and brewing tours and tastings will also be offered in this fun venue.

Carnival is expanding the line’s popular Latin-infused Havana experience inside and out on Carnival Vista. Celebrating Cuba’s gloried past, Havana Bar serves traditional cocktails and bites during the day and transforms into a sizzling Latin dance club at night. The fun also extends outdoors with a new Havana Pool located aft offering views of the ocean, whirlpools, and a relaxation area, complete with colorful umbrellas, faux palm trees, thatched patio huts, and comfy seating, perfect for soaking up the sun while enjoying a mojito.

Carnival Vista Havana Cabana Patio
More Accommodation Options
Carnival Vista will offer a wide variety of well-appointed staterooms and suites including two new accommodation classes. Tropics-inspired Havana Cabanas feature accommodations with private outdoor patios, complete with lounge chairs and hammock, that face the expanded Lanai ocean-air outdoor promenade and offer expansive sea views in addition to easy access to the Havana Bar and Pool.

Located within a new dedicated family zone on Deck 2, the new Family Harbor accommodations offer an array of ocean-view, balcony, and interior staterooms that accommodate up to five family members. Parents and kids will have even more room to relax at the new, exclusive Family Harbor Lounge, a secluded space designed as a family hang out with large-screen TVs, games, and complimentary breakfast and snacks. A family concierge desk will be available to assist families in making this their best vacation ever.

Carnival Vista Family Harbor Suite
Carnival Vista celebrates the connection to the oceans on which we sail and gives our guests amazing seascapes around every corner and more ways to enjoy every moment of sun and fun during their cruise vacation,” said Mark Tamis, Carnival’s senior vice president of guest operations. “From our exhilarating new high-altitude SkyRide to the Kaleid-O-Slide water tube slide to our IMAX anchored Carnival Multiplex to the multitude of dining and bar options, we are thrilled to share the details about our largest and most innovative ship with our guests.”

Fahrenheit 555
New Meaning to Dining Out
Thanks to an expanded Lanai on Deck 5 guests can stroll or sit and enjoy a beverage at one of the many dining and bar venues that will now feature outdoor areas.
• The line will offer its first-ever outdoor seating options at specialty eateries including Fahrenheit 555, a classic American steakhouse, and Japanese-style Bonsai Sushi restaurant where diners will enjoy sea views as delicious as their meals. Cherry on Top will be the sweetest spot at sea, with a new premium mixed-to-order custom ice cream creation bar, outdoor seating and more than 80 bulk candy options.
• The intimate Library Bar will also offer guests indoor/outdoor options, in addition to the hoppin’ RedFrog Pub and stylish Havana Bar.
Vacationers will find Fun Ship 2.0 favorite poolside eateries and bars including Guy’s Burger Joint, serving burgers and fries created by chef and author Guy Fieri, and BlueIguana Cantina, featuring made-to-order tacos and burritos. Poolside bars BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar will also provide cocktail options, as will the mixologists at the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar.

Horizons Dining Room
The ship’s main dining rooms, Reflections and Horizons, offer an array of menu items for guests who want to enjoy a full-service breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The striking modern interiors created by award-winning designer BigTime Design Studios offer decidedly different décor than previous Carnival ships. The Horizons dining room will also feature a unique bar that’s the perfect spot for meeting friends and enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail or an after-meal aperitif.

The Vista Atrium will set a festive mood with its multi-deck-high centerpiece that will delight guests with its LED screens and changing visuals to create the right atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to welcome guests boarding the ship, meet friends at the bar or enjoy live entertainment and dancing.

Serenity Deck
Relax & Recharge
For those who wish to unwind and relax, Carnival Vista has a two-level Cloud 9 Spa featuring an array of amenities, including a thalassotherapy pool, four steam chambers, the line’s first infrared sauna and hamam, and special “experience showers” that provide a soothing fragrance element, along with a high-tech indoor cycling studio. Guests can get away from it all at the adults-only Serenity retreat, where there’s breathtaking views, tranquility, and even more lounging options to relax including the line’s first outdoor massage huts.

Family Fun for All
As the family cruise leader, carrying more than 700,000 children on board each year, the company designed Carnival Vista with even more fun for families day and night.
• The indoor/outdoor Camp Ocean for children under age 12 is a dedicated undersea-themed play space with more than 200 fun and educational ocean-inspired activities.
• Carnival Vista will be the second ship in the fleet to feature Dr. Seuss Bookville, a special reading and play space inspired by the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. Here kids and their families can read beloved Dr. Seuss books, make arts and crafts and stretch their imagination with toys and games. Also part of the line’s Seuss at Sea program, Carnival Vista guests can enjoy Green Eggs and Ham with The Cat in the Hat and Friends character breakfast, the Seuss-a-palooza Story Time and Parade and more.
• Carnival Vista will also introduce four new games at the family-centric HASBRO the Game Show, as well as special family-friendly comedy performances at Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez.
Carnival’s Return to Europe
The largest ship in the fleet, Carnival Vista will measure 133,500 tons, 1,055 feet long, and have a guest capacity of 3,936 (based on two per cabin). The new vessel will debut May 1, 2016, with a 13-day cruise departing from Trieste, Italy, the first European voyage for Carnival in three years. A variety of Mediterranean itineraries will be offered with port calls throughout Italy, France, Spain, Croatia and Turkey, as well as several new destinations for Carnival such as Crete (Heraklion), and Corfu, Greece; Valletta, Malta; Palermo, Sicily; Cagliari, Sardinia; and Gibraltar. On Oct 21, 2016, Carnival Vista will embark on a special 13-day transatlantic crossing and arrive in New York Nov 3, 2016, then operate a series of voyages from the Big Apple. Carnival Vista’s European cruises are currently available for reservations. Additional information on the New York departures will be available next month.

Images Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Princess Cruises Goes North to Alaska! with Local Experiences

Crabs, Lumberjacks, Wolves & More
Adding to its long-standing recognition as a leader in Alaska cruise vacations, Princess Cruises is launching North to Alaska!—a series of new onboard offerings that fully immerse guests in the Great Alaska experience. Created in partnership with local experts, North to Alaska! features a variety of authentic Alaska culinary, educational, and entertainment experiences designed to delve deeper into the fascinating frontier guests are exploring around them. The program includes expanded Alaska seafood offerings, with signature dishes from local chefs and restaurants; unique interactions with Alaskans; and onboard festivals to allow guests to eat like a local, learn from the locals, and celebrate like a local. North to Alaska! debuts in May 2015 on Princess cruises to Alaska.

"From world-famous Alaska seafood, to learning about life as a lumberjack, to Midnight Sun deck parties and more, we're bringing the last frontier onboard Princess ships to make the #1 vacation experience in Alaska even better," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. "The new program also demonstrates Princess' ongoing innovation in cruise vacations and our commitment to super-serving our guests with highly engaging and memorable experiences for the vacation of a lifetime."

North to Alaska! highlights include:

Eat Like A Local
Providing a culinary journey to savor, Princess has partnered with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to feature nightly a variety of authentic Alaska cuisine—including King Crab, King Salmon, and fresh Halibut, among others—prepared by Princess chefs who were trained by Alaska seafood chefs to capture a true taste of the North. Specialty restaurants will also offer a regional Alaska cuisine menu on select evenings.

In addition, Princess has partnered with some of the best Alaska area joints to provide local favorites and signature dishes onboard including crab cakes from Tracy's King Crab Shack in Juneau; fish tacos from Ketchikan's Alaska Fish House; and the Mermaid Burger from the Skagway Fish Company. The winning dish from the 2014 Great Alaska Seafood Cook-off, pan-seared Alaska salmon with root vegetable hash and mushroom tea, created by local chef Travis Haugen of Southside Bistro, will be featured in the main dining rooms.

Learn From the Locals
With Alaska cruises all about discovery and exploration, Princess is bringing the variety of Alaska cultures onboard to regale guests with stories of life in Alaska and "a day in the life" hands-on interactive activities:
-- From the popular Discovery Channel program, "The Deadliest Catch," Captain David Lethin and his shipmates from the Aleutian Ballad will relate their true-life adventures and experiences in the Bering Sea in pursuit of crab.
-- Guests will live like a "logger head," learning the history of logging from a local lumberjack and participating in an axe-throwing competition.
-- New York Times best-selling author and renowned storyteller Nick Jans will tell his compelling, emotional story of Romeo, the wolf, and the effect he had on the people of Juneau, as told in his book, "A Wolf Called Romeo."
-- Kids and teens will explore their adventurous side with activities including a Jr. Ranger program, panning for gold, "The Deadliest Catch" crab-sorting game, an interactive green screen game, and more.
Celebrate Like a Local
Guests will experience the thrill of the Klondike, harkening back to the glory days of gold rush fever. Fun for the whole family, the Klondike festival onboard activities will include Alaska icon and sled-racing presentations, penny whistle classes, traditional dance performances, an arts and crafts show, and more. The festival day will culminate with a celebration of the natural phenomenon of a visible sun at night during the Midnight Sun top-deck party, complete with entertainment, games and specialty drinks.

In total, seven Princess ships offer more than 120 Alaska cruise departures during the summer season, May-September, originating from San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver BC, and Whittier (Anchorage), Alaska.

For passengers interested in experiencing even more of the Great Land, Princess cruisetours offer a variety of itinerary options for a complete land and sea Alaska experience ranging from 10 to 15 nights. All cruisetours include a 7-day Voyage of the Glaciers sailing including a visit to Glacier Bay National Park, plus up to four nights in the Denali National Park area with stays at Princess' riverside wilderness lodges.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Carnival Cruise Line To Honor Military Families At The Carnival Freedom Arrival In Texas

When Carnival Freedom arrives in its new year-round homeport of Galveston, Texas, on Saturday, Feb 14, U.S. military families will get more than a simple Valentine card from Carnival Cruise Line. Through a partnership with Operation Homefront, a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial and other assistance to military families, Carnival will provide a day of onboard fun and activities for service members and their families.

As part of the festivities, 14-time GRAMMY® nominee Martina McBride will perform that afternoon outdoors on one of the ship’s top decks. The country singer has previously performed as part of the line’s breakthrough onboard concert series, Carnival LIVE, which offers guests the best live music at sea from some of the most popular and highly requested music acts.

“The arrival of Carnival Freedom to its new Galveston homeport is historic as it marks the first time a cruise line has based three year-round ships in Texas,” said Jim Berra, chief marketing officer for Carnival Cruise Line. “We’re thrilled to celebrate this occasion by giving back to the great state of Texas and welcoming aboard military families who make our freedom possible.”

Military families who have registered through Operation Homefront will enjoy a full day and evening of fun aboard the 110,000-ton Carnival Freedom while it is in port, including overnight accommodations, meals, entertainment, and activities, all compliments of Carnival Cruise Line. Prior to the concert, Carnival will conduct a special check presentation to Operation Homefront providing $100,000 to the organization.

Carnival Freedom recently underwent a $70 million makeover which added an array of Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancements. Event attendees will have access to the ship’s new family entertainment programming including Seuss at Sea, as well as the new Camp Ocean kids facilities. The latest updates also incorporated a number of bar, dining and entertainment innovations including complimentary eateries such as BlueIguana Cantina and Guy’s Burger Joint, developed in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, poolside bars serving up delicious frozen drinks and cocktails including BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar, as well as the pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar and the line’s Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub.

To kick off year-round sailings from Galveston, Carnival Freedom will depart on Feb. 15th for a special 6-day voyage to Mexico followed by the launch of 4- to 7-day cruises that visit ports throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Florida. Together with Carnival Triumph and Carnival Magic, the line will carry more than 600,000 passengers annually from Texas.

Image: Carnival Freedom in Key West © CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Escape At Sea With New Sights, Sounds & Tastes

Norwegian Cruise Line has revealed numerous new partnerships with leaders in the fields of dining, beverage, and entertainment to feature all-new branded experiences onboard Norwegian Escape. The line’s newest ship will feature several new culinary experiences, along with two Tony Award-winning musicals, and a unique Supper Club, when she begins sailing from her homeport of Miami in November 2015.

Norwegian Escape’s ultimate culinary experiences will be helmed by James Beard Award-winning Iron Chef Jose Garces and Miami restaurateurs Jose Mendin, Andreas Schreiner, and Sergio Navarro of The Pubbelly Restaurant Group; in addition to new beverage concepts The District Brewhouse, featuring craft beers from Wynwood Brewing Company, and The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar. Three new shows, including Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals After Midnight and Million Dollar Quartet, along with a new supper club concept will be exclusive to Norwegian Escape.

“With Norwegian Escape, we are transforming culinary experiences at sea and continuing our legacy of innovation that has revolutionized dining in the cruise industry,” said Drew Madsen, Norwegian Cruise Line’s President & COO. “We are building on our solid foundation of branded partnerships, including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and welcoming new ideas and flavors from award-winning chefs. Norwegian also continues to pave the way as a leader in entertainment, as we bring two Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals and a post-modern cabaret direct from Los Angeles to Norwegian Escape.”

New Concepts by Jose Garces
James Beard Award-winning Iron Chef Jose Garces will launch two specialty restaurants onboard Norwegian Escape, his first at sea. Known for his dining concepts, Chef Jose Garces brings Latin-inspired culinary expertise, ranging from classic Mexican dishes to Cuban specialties. On board Norwegian Escape, Bayamo by Jose Garces will highlight Latin dishes with a Cuban-influence in a chic dining room and al fresco on The Waterfront. Dishes will feature the flavors of Latin America with Spanish influences.

Pincho Tapas Bar by Jose Garces will offer traditional Spanish tapas à la carte in a lively, casual setting. Plates will be prepared on an authentic la plancha grill right at the bar in front of guests and feature Latin dishes.

Sugarcane Mojito Bar, a Norwegian signature favorite, will complete the space and serve as an entry to Bayamo. Guests who wish to have a cocktail before dinner can settle into the tropical setting, enjoy live Latin music, and select from more than 10 different mojitos and rum-based cocktails and can even select a “flight” of mojitos to sample.

Food Republic
A brand new concept for Norwegian, the Food Republic will be a modern, upscale food emporium from The Pubbelly Restaurant Group featuring global cuisine for sampling and sharing. Guests dining in the Food Republic will experience a culinary journey via small plates, with flavors ranging from Asia to Central Europe and the Mediterranean, all available à la carte.

Open for lunch through dinner, The Food Republic offers guests the freedom and flexibility to choose what they want, when they want it, with convenient iPad ordering. With a simple swipe of their key card, food is prepared to order and brought directly to the guest’s table.

The District Brew House
A concept never before done at sea, the District Brew House is a hip, urban craft beer hall featuring an exclusive partnership with Miami’s Wynwood Brewing Company. Complete with a keg room, 24 draft beers on tap and more than 50 different bottled beers, the District Brew House will also offer a menu of gastropub-style plates for snacking that will complement the beer and beverage offerings, including cocktails from Bar Lab’s James Beard Award-nominated mixologists Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi. Guests sampling the District’s many offerings will also be entertained, with interactive nightlife and sing-alongs of everyone’s favorite tunes, as well as a traditional photo booth, where guests can add their photo to the District’s pin board and leave their mark on this cool new space.

The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar
Norwegian Escape will also be home to the line’s first wine bar in partnership with the Michael Mondavi Family—The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar. From the novice to the enthusiast, The Cellars features an array of immersive wine experiences, focusing on tasting, education, and the enjoyment of wine, all accompanied by small plates and tapas, available à la carte.

Carlo’s Bake Shop
Guests will also enjoy treats from Carlo’s Bake Shop by Buddy Valastro, star of TLC’s “Cake Boss” and “Next Great Baker.” The decadent confections that the original Carlo’s bakery is known for will all be available à la carte for guests who wish to indulge their sweet tooth.

New Entertainment Offerings
Continuing with Norwegian’s commitment to excellence in entertainment, Norwegian Escape will feature two Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals headlining in the Escape Theater. The smash-hit musical After Midnight, which recently completed its run on Broadway, combines the big-band songs of Duke Ellington, a roof-raising onstage jazz band, and the best dancing from Broadway. A cast of megawatt singers, dancers and tappers will bring Harlem's Cotton Club to life.

Also showing in the Escape Theater following a successful run on Broadway, Million Dollar Quartet is the smash-hit musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together rock 'n' roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. On December 4, 1956, these four young musicians gathered at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions ever. Million Dollar Quartet brings that legendary night to life, featuring a score of rock hits. This musical will bring guests inside the recording studio with four major talents who came together as a red-hot rock 'n' roll band for one unforgettable night.

In a new concept exclusive to Norwegian Escape, the Supper Club has been re-imagined for a unique dinner and show. For The Record is a critically acclaimed Hollywood night that celebrates classic soundtracks of motion picture masters in a one-of-a kind 360° post-modern cabaret. Guests will spend an evening with a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal in this mashed-up retrospective of the John Hughes' coming of age 1980's teen films. Audiences will relive the classic new wave sounds from Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty In Pink, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Expanding a successful run that began on Norwegian Getaway, Headliners Comedy Club will include top comedians through the line’s expanded partnership with Levity Entertainment Group, the world’s largest producer of live comedy.

Currently being built at Meyer Werft in Germany, Norwegian Escape will sail weekly 7-day cruises from her year-round homeport of Miami to the Eastern Caribbean beginning on Nov 14, 2015. The 164,600 gross ton ship will be the largest ever to home port year-round in Miami, carrying 4,200 guests to tropical Caribbean destinations including St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, January 19, 2015

Silversea: Always Exclusive & Now More Inclusive in the Med

Silversea Cruises has kick started 2015 with more bang for your buck. The luxury line has introduced a new program that includes shore excursions and WiFi for new bookings on any of the line's 52 Mediterranean cruises this year.

"We're delighted to enhance the value proposition for our guests with the launch of this new ultra-inclusive pricing initiative," said Kristian Anderson, Silversea's senior vice president and general manager for the Americas. "Our company is known for pioneering the concept of all-inclusive voyaging. By including shore excursions and WiFi in the cruise fare, we're making the Silversea vacation experience more indulgent and relevant for today's active luxury traveler."

Guests may enrich their travel experience with a choice of included Silver Shore Select excursions offered in every port of call. Whether it's exploring the ancient Acropolis of Athens, strolling back through time along the marbled lanes of Ephesus, or discovering the Renaissance treasures of Florence, these small-group excursions present a destination's art, history, and culture in an intimate, authentic way, utilizing comfortable transportation and expert local guides.

The special all-inclusive fares also include two hours of complimentary WiFi per guest, per day, and unlimited complimentary WiFi for the line's larger suites (Medallion and higher categories).

The new perks join an array of included amenities that already features: open-seating gourmet dining; butler service for all suites; select wines, champagnes, premium spirits, specialty coffees, bottled water, juices and soft drinks; in-suite bar stocked with guests' preferences; in-suite dining and 24-hour dining service (from a formal dinner ordered from The Restaurant menu and served in-suite, to lighter fare served in attended lounges); lecture and enrichment programs; roundtrip transportation into town (in most ports); and onboard gratuities (exclusive of spa treatments).

In addition to the included Silver Shore Select excursions, guests may purchase tours from a variety of land programs offering exceptional value, including the more-immersive Silver Shore Collection tours, as well as Silver Shore Privato, which provides a private car and driver for independent exploring.

For further details and a full list of the Mediterranean cruises, visit Silversea.com/exclusive-offers.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Add a City Stay to Your Celebrity Cruise

When cruise travelers embark on their ship in a far-flung locale they often head straight to the port from the airport and miss a great opportunity to explore the embarkation city. Now they can begin their cruise vacation earlier with Celebrity Cruises’ new “Celebrity City Stay” vacation packages and let the experts take the hassle out of planning and preparation. Combining destination expertise with unbeatable value, the newly curated pre-cruise experiences will be available in 16 intriguing and dynamic places. Celebrity City Stay packages bring vacationers even closer to the world’s must-see cities, such as Athens, Abu Dhabi, Barcelona, Hong Kong, London, Singapore, and Sydney. The one-of-a-kind packages are available in nearly every port city the cruise vacation company sails from.

Enhancing guests’ Celebrity vacations, City Stay vacation packages include:
• Three nights in four-star, luxury hotel accommodations, with complimentary breakfast
• Transfers to and from the airport, hotel and the booked Celebrity cruise
• Full day of an in-depth fully guided City Highlights Tour and lunch
• Half day with an in-depth fully guided tour and a farewell dinner
• Dedicated Celebrity Cruises Hospitality Desk at the luxury hotel, to provide personalized service
• Classic Beverage Package for two, including wine and spirits, while sailing with Celebrity
• Families and friends in a stateroom as additional guests can receive a Classic non-alcoholic beverage package and a 40-minute internet package
“Our destination experts have specially curated each Celebrity City Stay so that vacationers can get even more up close and personal with the destination before departing on their cruise. Our guests can enjoy upscale and immersive three-night experiences in some of the world’s most beautiful and captivating cities,” said Bernardo Carrillo, Managing Director, Celebrity Vacations, Celebrity Cruises. “From authentic dining, in-depth tours hosted by local experts, free time to go off the beaten path, and four-star accommodations to come back to, there’s no better start to a modern luxury vacation than an early one.”

For full details about the new Celebrity City Stay vacation packages, visit CelebrityCruises.com/VacationPackages.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Kathie Lee’s Back With The Fun & The Wine!

Kathie Lee Gifford hosts a GIFFT wine tasting
aboard Carnival Breeze
Remember the ’80s when Kathie Lee Gifford became closely associated with the Fun Ship brand as spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line? That was when Carnival launched the first national television ad campaigns in the cruise industry and Kathie Lee appeared in such memorable campaigns as: “If You Could See Me Now” and “Ain’t We Got Fun?”

Gifford, now a host of the “Today” show, returned to “The World's Most Popular Cruise Line®” last Sunday when she surprised guests embarking on a 6-day western Caribbean cruise on Carnival Breeze at PortMiami with an onboard tasting event to introduce her GIFFT Collection of wines.

Created in consultation with California-based Scheid Family Wines—one of the largest vineyard owners in Monterey County—the GIFFT Collection consists of a Red Blend and a Chardonnay, both estate-grown. In September 2014, Wine Enthusiast magazine gave the red 91 of a possible 100 points and the Chardonnay 88 points in its tasting rating. The GIFFT Red Blend combines Merlot (42 percent), Petite Sirah (25%), Syrah (12%) and Petit Verdot (10%); while the Chardonnay is a flavorful estate-grown Coastal California dry white. Carnival is the only cruise line to feature GIFFT wines, and both varietals are now available at a wide array of bars and in the main dining rooms on all Carnival ships.

“I can’t tell you how exciting it is for me to be back on board with Carnival!” said Gifford. “It’s like coming home again—this time bearing great wines!”

Image by Andy Newman Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Regent Seven Seas Cruises Reveals Seven Seas Explorer

With a one-of-a-kind, opulent 3,875-square-foot suite, extravagantly designed lounges and showplaces, and lavish gourmet restaurants, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is setting a new standard for luxury Cruise vacations with the launch of Seven Seas Explorer.

At 56,000 gross-registered tons and carrying just 750-guests, the all-suite, all-balcony ship will boast the highest space ratio in the cruise industry, with every inch of the vessel evoking elegance and grace. With its debut in summer of 2016, Seven Seas Explorer will offer guests another exciting option to explore the world with Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ signature brand of all-inclusive luxury.

The meticulous level of craftsmanship and lavish detail is what guests will first notice upon boarding the ship through the main atrium lobby. A beautiful, circular inlaid marble floor marks the heart of the ship. Steps away and anchoring the lobby are twin, elegantly etched glass staircases that draw the eye upward towards a magnificent cascading crystal chandelier. After walking through the lobby, it will be evident to guests that Seven Seas Explorer is truly in a category of its own, and that promise of a high luxury standard continues throughout the vessel.

Suites
Regent Seven Seas Cruises will introduce a new category of luxury suite exclusively for Seven Seas Explorer that sets the tone for the well-appointed and spacious all-suite accommodations found throughout the ship. Pictured here, the Regent Suite is a plush two-bedroom, 3,875-square foot suite complete with an in-room spa retreat, with personal sauna, steam room and treatment area. The suite also features an outdoor, glass-enclosed sitting area aptly named the Vista Garden, where guests can enjoy unobstructed 270-degree views over the ship’s bow and toward the horizon. The design and artistry found in the Regent Suite is evident in every suite throughout the ship. Each suite category features its own unique layout and design elements, ranging from the warm and welcoming island manor appeal of the Deluxe Suite to the sumptuous sapphire jewel inspired Penthouse Suite. The spacious interiors are complemented by the largest verandas in the cruise industry, providing guests ample space to enjoy fresh ocean breezes without leaving their suites.

Dining
Seven Seas Explorer will feature an unrivaled collection of specialty, casual and main dining options. Each restaurant exhibits its own intricate and elegant design, providing a dining atmosphere that complements the high service level and diverse menu offerings.

Catering to guests’ culinary desires, the ship will offer three distinct specialty restaurants, including Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ fleet-wide signature steakhouse, Prime 7. Aboard Seven Seas Explorer, Prime 7 will feature a new décor highlighted by dark purple hues, silver accents and plush leather seating, reminiscent of a London private member club. Intimate seating alcoves specifically for couples looking to enjoy a secluded, romantic meal are sure to be a highlight.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ hallmark main dining room, Compass Rose (pictured above), will receive a new, contemporary look with the debut of Seven Seas Explorer. The restaurant’s look features a sophisticated and airy design motif with a cascading aqua-blue chandelier that conveys a whimsical grotto feel throughout the restaurant. Guests can enjoy casual indoor and al fresco dining in the effortlessly chic Italian Riviera-inspired La Veranda on deck 11. With 270-degree ocean views, La Veranda offers a delectable buffet for breakfast and lunch, and transforms into an elegant fine dining restaurant, Sette Mari at La Veranda, each evening for dinner.

Lounges
Within the luxuriously appointed lounges aboard Seven Seas Explorer, guests can enjoy a wide variety of complimentary libations while being entertained by live musical performances or production shows. The ship’s primary showplace, the two-tiered Constellation Theater, pays homage to the glamour of Hollywood’s golden age. The ornate 694-seat theater features cabaret-style seating intermixed with cocktail tables that feature hand-blown Murano glass lamps. Subtly woven into the theater’s design is the motif of a swan. Abstract and not-so-abstract aspects of this elegant creature are found in theater’s seating banquettes, ceiling architecture, and entry-way mosaic.

The Observation Lounge (illustrated above) brings to life the opulence of the Roaring Twenties. A folded metal canopy surrounds the lounge’s signature bar and a delicate crystal chandelier hovers over the dance floor. The lounge’s design features a color palate of rich silver, gold, black, and white hues. Floor to ceiling windows surround the room, providing guests with incredible ocean vistas. Just off the ship’s atrium lobby, the Explorer Lounge provides more of a country club vibe with rich mahogany wood columns, comfortable leather chairs, deep blue fabrics, and sumptuous flooring. On one side of the lounge, a golden proscenium outlines a small stage where live musical performances will take place, and anchoring the opposite end, a polished black marble bar ringed by plush, deep opal blue bar stools stands ready to serve guests.

“We set a high benchmark for Seven Seas Explorer, not only to build a ship that far surpasses the current standard in luxury cruising, but to design a ship that will be recognized industry-wide as the most luxurious ship ever,” said Jason Montague, president and chief operating officer for Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “This ship will offer our guests a new level of grandeur throughout, from its lavish suites to its elegant public spaces and gourmet restaurants. We cannot wait to share this ship with the world when she joins our fleet in the summer of 2016.”

The maiden voyage for Seven Seas Explorer will be a 14-night sailing from Monte Carlo to Venice on July 20, 2016. The ship will remain in Europe for its inaugural season, sailing 11 voyages that crisscross the Mediterranean and visit sought-after destinations such as Barcelona, Ibiza, St. Tropez, Venice, Istanbul, Alexandria (Egypt) and Jerusalem.

Images Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Princess Launches “Come Back New” Ad Campaign

To ring in the new year Princess Cruises has launched a fresh advertising campaign to remind travelers of the memorable moments they can experience while aboard a Princess Cruises vacation. The program comes on the heels of last year’s successful “come back new” marketing campaign that marked the return of the line’s advertising on television in more than a decade and reminded viewers that cruising can transform and enrich their lives.

The new travel advertising campaign debuts at the beginning of “wave season” when many guests book their cruise vacations for the upcoming year, and promotes Princess Cruises’ 50th anniversary milestone with national broadcast, print and digital advertising.

The broadcast ads utilize the storytelling approach of the “come back new” theme to showcase Princess guests experiencing unforgettable events as they happen on Alaska cruises and cruises to the Caribbean, two of the line’s most popular destinations. Print ads explore a variety of cruise destinations, cultures and culinary experiences that can lead guests to discover new things while on a cruise vacation.

“This new campaign is an exciting opportunity for us to continue the successful momentum of our first ‘come back new’ campaign with fresh content for our 50th anniversary year,” said Gordon Ho, senior vice president of marketing, Princess Cruises. “These new spots showcase the juxtaposition between the reality of daily life and the experience our guests have when they cruise with us to amazing destinations. Princess Cruises passengers are passionate about exploring and experiencing the world around them and the new Discovery partnership takes this to a whole new level.”

Many of the ads also promote the cruise line’s recently announced partnership with the Discovery Channel and the “Discovery at Sea” program, including stargazing, interactive onboard activities and shore excursions based on top-rated Discovery network shows and designed to entertain and delight families aboard Princess ships.

Here’s a sample of the new spots that will begin appearing on your television through the month of January.


Image and Video Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pearl Seas Cruises is Exploring Cuba Itinerary Options

With the normalization of US-Cuba relations and travel to the island nation seemingly just around the corner, cruise industry newcomer Pearl Seas Cruises is exploring possible itinerary options for Cuba.

The newest high-end specialty ship cruise line in the United States, Pearl Seas Cruises has developed a new style of upscale small ship cruising, starting with its brand new 210-passenger flagship, the Pearl Mist. The ship features the latest technology in safety, navigation, and communication and the finest accommodations and amenities. Cuba cruises would offer guests a genuine experience to a variety of different ports, particularly those which larger ships cannot visit. Rich in history and culture, Cuba is a great fit from a passenger-interest perspective.

“Cuba has been on our radar for quite some time,” said a spokesperson for Pearl Seas Cruises. “Our small ships are perfect for exploring the most beautiful areas by docking in small towns or in the heart of historic cities in addition to Havana. Many ports require infrastructural changes to accommodate larger ships, but we can visit easily. Our clientele is well-traveled and enjoys visiting exotic destinations where they can find enriching experiences.”

Pearl Seas Cruises is considering cruises which will operate on both the Southern and Northern coasts of Cuba. Cruises could begin and conclude in South Florida or at one of many island nations near Cuba. Various length cruises are being considered, all which will offer a unique perspective of Cuban culture—its heritage, education, economy, history and more. Further details on the line’s consideration of Cuba as a cruising destination will be released in the coming months.

The Pearl Mist currently operates various Great Lakes, Canadian Maritimes, and New England cruises. Caribbean cruises are planned for 2015.

Image Courtesy Pearl Seas Cruises

Friday, January 9, 2015

Holland America Line Ships Conduct Rescues at Sea

ms Zaandam with crewmembers from the sailing yacht Polonus
At 2:10 a.m. Jan. 3, 2015, while en route to Oranjestad, Aruba, Holland America Line’s ms Zuiderdam answered a distress call from the Bahamian inter-island vessel Excalibur that was sinking with eight crewmembers onboard. Zuiderdam was approximately 15 miles away and the closest ship in the area. Zuiderdam altered course and was able to successfully execute a nighttime rescue of all eight crewmembers at 3:01 a.m. The ship brought them onboard and provided food and accommodations. The rescued crewmembers debarked in Aruba on Jan. 5.

“Congratulations to the officers and crew onboard Zuiderdam for their quick response that saved the lives of eight people,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “We are proud to be able to come to the rescue when called upon, and it’s even more gratifying when everything goes as smoothly as this operation did.”

Zuiderdam currently is in the middle of a 10-night Panama Canal cruise roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that departed Jan. 2 with calls at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas; Oranjestad, Aruba: Willemstad, Curaçao; and Puerto Limon, Costa Rica in addition to a partial Panama Canal transit.

In addition, on Jan. 4 ms Zaandam came to the aid of seven crewmembers from the sailing yacht Polonus that were staying at the Arctowski Polish research station at King George Island in Antarctica. The crew, all Polish nationals, were stranded after their yacht went aground. They are being taken to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and will disembark Jan. 11.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Thursday, January 8, 2015

West Coast Cruisers to Enjoy Fun Ship 2.0 Features Aboard Carnival Miracle

When the west coast homeported Carnival Miracle emerges from an extensive refurbishment this spring it will sport an array of new on-board features, from unique bar concepts like RedFrog Pub and Alchemy Bar to a number of new entertainment choices such as Playlist Productions and Hasbro, The Game Show, and the family-friendly Seuss at Sea program. The new features, part of the line’s ongoing Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement initiative, will be added during a two-week-long dry dock that will take place March 7-21, 2015.

The enhancements include:
• RedFrog Pub: a Caribbean-inspired watering hole featuring the region’s best rums and beers–including Carnival’s own ThirstyFrog Red–enjoyed in a distinct British-West-Indies-meets-Key-West atmosphere
• Alchemy Bar: at this vintage-themed cocktail “pharmacy,” mixologists “prescribe” concoctions from different elixirs and ingredients with creative names like “Forty is the New Twenty”
• Playlist Productions: these four spectacular shows–88 Keys, 80’s Pop To the Max, Getaway Island and Heart Of Soul–combine live performances of recognizable pop and rock songs with special effects to create unforgettable evenings of entertainment
• Seuss At Sea: part an exclusive partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Seuss at Sea brings the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss to life with fun activities
• Hasbro, The Game Show: this audience-participation favorite features larger-than-life adaptations of the company’s iconic and popular games with titles like Connect4 Basketball, Sorry Sliders, and Yahtzee Bowling
• Cherry On Top: the “candy and more store” celebrates the joys of simple indulgences with bins of bulk candy, fun fanciful gifts and novelties, custom apparel, and more
• New SPORTS Bar: at this sports lovers’ paradise, guests can catch live sporting events and check out scores on the real-time 24/7 sports ticker
• Spin U: developed in partnership with DJ IRIE–Carnival’s official DJ who has entertained crowds from South Beach to Las Vegas–the fun DJ academy provides aspiring spin-masters ages 15-17 all they need to know to "hit the decks" and rock the club!
These innovations complement a wide range of existing onboard features such as the Punchliner Comedy Club, a Serenity adults-only retreat with vast ocean vistas, a classic American-style steakhouse serving prime cuts of beef and other upscale cuisine, a nine-hole miniature golf course, a 14,500-square-foot health and wellness center, and The Taste Bar offering bite-size samples from popular Fun Ship 2.0 dining venues.

“We’re really excited that the Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement program that began rolling out three years ago continues to bring innovative, fun and memorable dining, bar and entertainment options to the entire Carnival Cruise Line fleet and to the millions of guests who sail with us annually,” said Mark Tamis, Carnival’s senior vice president of guest operations. “The fantastic renovations on Carnival Miracle will also provide our valued travel agent partners with an exciting new cruise experience for their clients.”

Carnival Miracle operates year-round departures from Long Beach, California, offering three different week-long Mexican Riviera cruise options: a three-port itinerary featuring Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas; a two-port option that includes a stop in Cabo San Lucas, along with a two-day overnight stay in Puerto Vallarta; and a third choice featuring a day-long visit to Puerto Vallarta, along with a two-day call at Cabo San Lucas.

Additionally, Carnival Miracle will sail 15-day Hawaii cruises round-trip from Long Beach departing Oct. 17 and Nov. 28, 2015, and Jan. 16, 2016, along with a special one-time 13-day Mexican Riviera cruise departing Jan. 31, 2016.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Look Foward to Cooling Down in the Hottest Spots at Sea on Norwegian's Newest Ship

When Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest and largest ship, Norwegian Escape, debuts in October 2015 it will offer an even wider array of spaces than in the past for guests to relax and unwind while at sea. Guests will enjoy sheer serenity with the line’s most innovative Mandara Spa to date—a tranquil hideaway that at its epicenter will feature the largest Thermal Suite at sea, outfitted with the line’s first Snow Room. In addition to the spa, adults will have two private lounge spaces to enjoy on board at Vibe Beach Club and Spice H2O, which will feature an all-new grotto area for guests to cool off after a day of sunbathing.

Norwegian Escape’s Mandara Spa experience, spanning two decks, will feature unobstructed views of the ocean, the opportunity to melt away on one of the 17 heated loungers, or find instant stress relief in the spa’s hydro-therapy pool, whirlpools, steam room, dry sauna, sanarium, and salt room. Once guests have heated up, they can step into the rejuvenating cold Snow Room, a first for the line, and enter into arctic refreshment. The Snow Room, which ranges from a frosty 21 degrees to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, sends out a flurry of powdery snow throughout the day. Norwegian Escape’s Snow Room offers guests a multitude of health benefits, including stimulating blood circulation in the body and strengthening the immune system.

In addition to the spectacular Thermal Suite, Norwegian Escape’s Mandara Spa will be equipped with 24 contemporary furnished treatment rooms offering more than 50 signature services for both men and women.

Norwegian Escape’s full service salon will have guests looking their very best with a wide-array of hair, nails, waxing and kid-friendly services. The salon area will also feature a Barber Shop, offering exclusive men’s signature services.

Guests looking to stay fit while sailing, or who wish to try an exciting new exercise experience, can do so in Norwegian Escape’s state-of-the-art fitness center furnished with the latest Technogym® weight training and cardio equipment. All cardio equipment will synch to Apple music devices and feature a large, HD screen from which guests can watch television, follow a set training program or navigate the playlist. Norwegian group fitness favorites will be offered on board including Pilates, body sculpting boot camp, yoga, Zumba and TRX. Boxing buffs can enjoy Norwegian Fight Klub™, a high-intensity cardio boxing class. Personal training sessions will also be available, along with nutritional consultations and metabolic testing.

Norwegian Escape will also feature Spice H2O and Vibe Beach Club, two adult-only outdoor favorites perfect for lounging away the day. Spice H2O, located at the back of the ship on deck 17, is an adult-only enclave offering day-time complimentary leisure. A bevy of sun loungers surround a huge video screen, while two hot tubs await for those looking to de-stress. An all-new soothing grotto area, complete with waterfalls and perfect for cooling off from the warm Caribbean sun, will enchant guests upon entering the venue, offering an exotic escape. At night, all guests can dance under the stars in this open-air dance club or enjoy a cocktail at the bar with accompanying lounge area, featuring comfortable seating while admiring the ocean views.

Guests ages 18 and over will also have the opportunity to enjoy another private retreat—Vibe Beach Club—by purchasing an access pass. Complete with ocean views, a large hot tub, luxurious chaise loungers and a soothing water feature, Vibe Beach Club will be the ideal spot for adults to escape, offering a serene, comfortable setting while soaking up the sun. A full-service bar, water spritzers and chilled towels complete the exclusive experience.

Currently being built at Meyer Werft in Germany, Norwegian Escape will sail weekly 7-day cruises from her year-round homeport of Miami to the Eastern Caribbean beginning on Nov 14, 2015. The 164,600 gross ton ship will be the largest ever to home port year-round in Miami, carrying 4,200 guests to tropical Caribbean destinations including St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas.

Images Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Crystal Cruises Reveals 2017 Itineraries

Well, darn. When we saw the "rendering" image pictured here on Crystal Cruises' Facebook page, along with the announcement of news being shared, we were hoping the news would include new ships for the luxury line.

Despite our disappointment that the news wasn't about Crystal expanding their fleet, we are impressed that the line has firmed up its complete roster of global itineraries for 2017, with fares available for booking earlier than ever—a full two years in advance. The 2017 cruises and fares were unveiled online at Crystal's website and in Crystal's first complete two-year Worldwide Cruise Atlas, the most comprehensive cruise planning brochure the line offers, at 236 artfully illustrated pages detailing the diverse and enriching experiences set for the coming two years.

Following a 2016 season that boasts a history-making transit of the fabled Northwest Passage, plus a 102-day World Cruise circling the Pacific Rim and more maiden calls than ever before, 2017 promises for an exhilarating year of firsts, anticipated returns, remote locales and other highlights on all seven continents, including:
-- 57 voyages to 268 ports in 84 countries, with more than 150 overnights, the most ever offered in a single year
-- 32 Maiden calls to intriguing places like Maroantsetra, Madagascar; Iquique, Chile; and Djupivogur, Iceland; along with lesser known gems such as Calvi, Corsica; Sete, France; and Santa Margherita, Italy.
-- Crystal's first-ever voyages to New Guinea, and maiden calls in Vanuatu and New Caledonia, all featured on a January segment of the 99-day Grand Pacific Explorer Grand Cruise
-- A return to the Middle East and Holy Land, with Crystal Symphony among the very first luxury ships to visit Doha, Qatar, on a November itinerary that includes a call in Abu Dhabi, allowing for visits to the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest in the UAE, as well as the new Louvre museum, set to open in 2015, and the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim, scheduled for completion in 2017
-- A 94-day Southern Celebracion World Cruise aboard Crystal Serenity, circumnavigating South America and offering exotic adventure in the Galapagos, Antarctica, the Amazon, Machu Picchu, Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and more
-- A new 2-night inclusive overland program in Paris on two summer sailings in August
-- European options that offer more Mediterranean cruises and variety than ever before; new itineraries beginning or ending in Portsmouth, England and Valletta, Malta; and multiple overnights on virtually every voyage
-- Singular voyages include journeys to the North Cape, British Isles, Canary Islands and Holy Land
-- Caribbean journeys that begin or end in Charleston, South Carolina
-- Crystal's first-ever South Africa Holiday Cruise round-trip from Cape Town, highlighted by exceptional opportunities for safari adventures.
-- Itineraries designed around global events, like visiting Stockholm during Sweden's festive Midsummer celebration, Muscat on the Sultan's birthday (Oman's Independence Day) and Edinburgh for the Military Tattoo
"We continue to offer intrepid luxury travelers new ways to explore and experience the world, whether with a new destination or simply a new perspective on a favorite one," says Edie Rodriguez, Crystal's president and COO.

All the details showcasing the diverse itineraries in 2016 and 2017 can be found in Crystal's largest printed cruise Atlas to date. The beautifully designed and colorful brochure features cruise planning tools, information about Crystal's popular theme cruises along with the line's exclusive "Boutique Adventures" and other shore excursions highlights, and more.

Through March 2, 2015, all-inclusive "Book Now" cruise fares for 2016 and 2017 start at $2,200 per person. The 2016/2017 Worldwide Cruise Atlas can be viewed and ordered at CrystalCruises.com.

Image Courtesy Crystal Cruises

Monday, January 5, 2015

Crystal Cruises Celebrates 25th Anniversary

While we await a promised announcement from Crystal Cruises today (new ships?), we're happy to congratulate the line on its 25th anniversary. To mark a quarter of a century of cruising, Crystal is embarking upon a year of commemorative celebrations, cruises hosted by the company's leadership (both past and present), plus much more... that is, more itineraries (63) sailing to more ports of call (224) in more countries (65), including more than double the number of maiden calls (24) in 2014.

Kicking off Crystal's 25th Anniversary is the line's first-ever circumnavigation of the globe. The 108-day, round-trip Miami "Silver Celebration World Cruise," begins Jan 14, 2015 on Crystal Serenity and is the line's 20th annual epic journey. Crystal Symphony begins 2015 with a dazzling Asia series featuring Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, and Japan. In addition to the highlights of the year's global itineraries, new onboard entertainment and amenities and enriching experiences ashore will punctuate the Crystal experience in the coming year.

"A hallmark of Crystal's philosophy for more than two decades has been to pioneer new programs, amenities, experiences, and destinations, offering luxury travelers a truly unique journey each time they step aboard a Crystal ship," says Crystal president and COO, Edie Rodriguez. "In 2015, we're continuing that philosophy, pushing the limits and visiting new locales while celebrating the unchanging values that have made us the best in the world."

Of the 224 ports scheduled in 65 countries, two dozen of them are brand new for Crystal ships. The line's unprecedented calls include lesser-known locales like Albany, Australia; Ambodifotatra and Taolanaro, Madagascar; Arrecife, Canary Islands; Richards Bay, South Africa; Sanary-sur-Mer, France; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Souda Bay/Chania, Greece; Aomori, Japan; Archangel, Korsakov and Solovetsky Islands, Russian Federation; Belawan, Indonesia; Rijeka, Croatia; Bodo, Narvik and Oye/Hjorundfjord, Norway; Helgoland, Germany; Londonderry/Greencastle and Galway, Ireland; Kochi, Japan; Sanya, China; and Scarborough, Trinidad and Tobago.

On board, guests can enjoy the celebration of Crystal's 25th Anniversary with special parties and receptions and European voyages hosted by Rodriguez and the company's Chairman Nobuyoshi Kuzuya. Additionally, the festivities continue on four Trans-Atlantic, South America, and Asia itineraries hosted by long beloved Crystal captains Glenn Edvardsen, Reidulf Maalen, Helge Brudvik, and John Økland.

The lineup of festive occasions adds to the growing list of features guests can enjoy in 2015 both on board and ashore:
Crystal Symphony Makeover: Crystal Symphony emerged from a $20 million-plus redesign last fall with a new outdoor Fitness Garden; new equipment in the indoor Fitness Center; new designs in the main lobby area and bar; redesigned spa and casino spaces; additional PURE allergy-friendly staterooms and technological upgrades.

"My Life: The Music of Billy Joel": The newest show aboard Crystal Serenity pays tribute to Grammy Legend Award recipient and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, Billy Joel. Led by James Fox, who starred as the "The Piano Man" in the Broadway hit Movin Out, the 45 minute performance features more than a dozen timeless hits.

Late Risers' Adventures: Crystal recently introduced a collection of shore excursions scheduled especially for travelers who don't want to miss the adventures ashoreor their beauty sleep. The "Late Risers" excursion offer the same experiences in the world's most stunning destinations, beginning at 11:00 a.m. or noon, depending on the itinerary.

Sightseeing on the Run: In response to a growing active traveler quotient, guests can now see the sights—and maintain fitness—with Crystal's new "Site Running" Adventures.

Free Wi-Fi: Crystal Society members (their "club" of repeat guests) 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), which can be used any time throughout the voyage.
As soon as Crystal's big news is announced, we'll let you know!

Image Courtesy CrystalCruises.com

Friday, January 2, 2015

Oceania Cancels Portions of World Cruise

On December 11th Oceania Cruises' Insignia experienced an engine room fire while docked in St. Lucia during a 10-day cruise that began in San Juan, Puerto Rico four days earlier, resulting in the termination of the remainder of the voyage. With the ship out of service, a subsequent 14-day holiday sailing was also cancelled. The cruise line now anticipates repairs to take approximately nine weeks.

Due to the length of time anticipated to complete the repairs, the first three legs of Insignia's Around the World in 180 Days cruise, which was scheduled to depart Miami on January 10, 2015, has been cancelled as well. The modified world cruise is now scheduled to depart from Singapore on March 22, 2015 and follow the remainder of the scheduled itinerary.

Passengers holding world cruise reservations are receiving a prorated refund for the canceled segments of the voyage and a future cruise credit of 25% of the amount refunded. Those who chose to cancel received a complete refund and a future cruise credit equal to 25% of the value of the three cancelled segments. Passengers who opt to embark in Singapore to sail on the balance of the cruise will be provided complementary business class air fare to join the ship as well as a one-night pre-cruise hotel stay.

Image Courtesy of Oceania Cruises

Thursday, January 1, 2015

It’s A “Love Boat” Happy New Year At The Rose Parade!

“Today” show’s co-anchor Al Roker joins the cast of
“The Love Boat” to sing the show’s theme song.
A New Year’s Day tradition in our home is to grab an early breakfast and then settle in to watch the Rose Parade on television. This year’s is pretty special as we’ll be watching for Princess Cruises’ Rose Parade float to make its inaugural appearance.

Widely known for its starring role in television’s “The Love Boat,” Princess Cruises’ float in the Rose Parade launches the cruise line’s 50th anniversary year and pays tribute to the light-hearted TV show which played such an integral role in the line’s early history.

Earlier this week, the original cast of “The Love Boat” gathered to help decorate the Princess Cruises’ float that they will ride “on board” in the parade. Pictured above being interviewed by “Today” show co-anchor Al Roker in front of the float are, from left from right: Fred Grandy, Ted Lange, Bernie Kopell, Roker, Gavin MacLeod, Lauren Tewes, and Jill Whelan.

Named “50 Years of Inspiring Travel,” the float depicts Princess’ newest ship Regal Princess symbolically sailing through the world’s most fascinating cruise destinations and iconic landmarks that Princess guests have experienced over the past 50 years. Look for the Sydney Opera House, the leaning tower of Pisa, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, a traditional Japanese pagoda, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the tropical flowers and water falls of the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Mexico, as well as the majestic mountains and wildlife as featured on Alaska cruises—just some of the sights travelers will see when sailing with Princess, whose ships visit 350 destinations around the globe.

The float is 60 feet long and 24 feet high with more than 24,000 flowers and natural materials. Flowers include roses, orchids, and carnations, dendrobs, tulips, cymbidiums, delphiniums, and gerbera daisies. Regal Princess will be covered in large white navy beans, white mums, and button mums. The water will be accented by dark blue and white iris. Potatoes, green grapes, and seaweed will also be used on parts of the float.

A little factoid revealed by Julie Benson, Princess Cruises’ spokesperson, is that blueberries were used to craft the “Seawitch” company logo. According to Ms. Benson, “Our float builder says that blue is the hardest color to do... I think they nailed it!”

Images Courtesy Princess Cruises