Friday, November 30, 2007

Celebrity Cruises: Turning Up The Heat

No, it's not a new threat about global warming, although it's sure to be a "hot spot" at sea.

In collaboration with the renowned Corning Museum of Glass, Celebrity Cruises will bring the captivating art of glassblowing to sea when the Museum's "Hot Glass Show" debuts on Celebrity Solstice in December 2008. Located on the ship's upper deck within a custom-designed, outdoor glassmaking studio, the Hot Glass Show will present the history and craft of glassblowing, from its ancient origins to its current countless uses. Three resident "gaffers"--highly skilled glassblowing artists--will educate and entertain cruisers with live glassmaking shows, lectures and workshops.

"We're confident our guests will be awestruck by what we're offering with The Corning Museum of Glass," said Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Dan Hanrahan.

Celebrity Cruises' microsite,, offers a sneak peek at The Corning Museum of Glass Hot Glass Show on Celebrity Solstice.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Have you been to FunShip Island?

The Internet continues to amaze me with all the cool stuff that continuously pops up. One site that I've visited in the past was brought to my attention again recently and it's almost as much fun as a real cruise.

I'm talking about FunShip Island, Carnival Cruise Lines' playful behind-the-scenes look at a cruise. It's said that cruise ships are destinations themselves these days and I agree. While aboard FunShip Island I visited the Piano Bar, played craps in the Casino (I won!), and relaxed in the sauna while listening to music I downloaded to my iPod. I also took a wild ride down the ship's twisting waterslide. Woo hoo!

Then I went ashore and relaxed at the beach before interacting with a playful dolphin. Filppy let me feed him, danced for me, and then we swam together.

To bring a ray of sunshine into a dreary winter day, take a virtual visit to FunShip Island!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How About Some Cheese With Your Wine?

Where can connoisseurs savor the perfect pairing of 'vin et fromage' from a 25,000-bottle cellar of more than 350 labels and 40 types of cheeses while traveling the globe? Where can the intrepid traveler learn first-hand that the first cheese was made in the Middle East or that an aged Dutch Gouda is the perfect complement to a California Chardonnay? Why, only aboard Crystal Cruises' 2008 voyages, when all of the onboard wine sommeliers will be certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers and certified Cheese Sommeliers will be introduced on the line's 60+ voyages in destinations around the world.

The training and knowledge of the wine sommeliers allows guests to turn enjoyable samplings into edifying experiences with in-depth information about the history, horticulture, vineyards, and subtle flavors of the wines being tasted, including rare and extraordinary wines. To complement fine wines, the cheese sommeliers will be expanding Crystal's selection of regional and artisanal cheeses, and can offer insights on sampling suggestions, the harmony with wines and spirits, and information on the history, manufacturing and fine distinctions of each cheese. Extensive hands-on training provides the cheese sommeliers with in-depth knowledge of unique blends from numerous countries worldwide with a special emphasis on France, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and England.

"Great travel experiences include sights, sounds, and also tastes," says Toni Neumeister, Crystal's vice president of food and beverages. "Our new certified experts will offer an added dimension to the culinary experience by educating and encouraging both novices and connoisseurs to discover new wines and cheeses that enhance their dining and travel encounters."

While I'm no connoisseur (I didn't know there is such a thing as a Cheese Sommelier), I am glad to know it's no accident that I prefer Gouda Cheese with my Chardonnay. Maybe I'm not such a novice after all!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Victoria, Now Formally A Cunard Queen

The hand-over ceremony of Cunard Line's Queen Victoria took place at the Fincantieri Marghera shipyard in Venice to mark the completion of the ship. With Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and corporate dignitaries on board, the celebration included performances throughout the day by the Band of the Scots Guards.

On the bridge and now in command of the new 90,000-ton vessel is Captain Paul Wright, pictured here. Queen Victoria is due to leave the shipyard on November 30, and sail to Southampton, where she will berth at the City Cruise Terminal at 9:30 am on Friday December 7. Following her Naming Ceremony on December 10, Queen Victoria will depart on her Maiden Voyage, to a splendid firework display, at 5:00 pm on Tuesday December 11.

While I won't be sailing on her sold-out inaugural cruise, I will be on hand to share details of the Naming Ceremony with you... and other little details, such as her Godmother HRH The Duchess of Cornwall's christening wardrobe and, of course, a signature Cruise Diva photo tour.

Take a peek at our preview info about Queen Victoria and watch for reports on the festivities next month.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Two Ships, Two Profiles: Carnival Freedom & Costa Fortuna

It isn't often that I have the opportunity to experience two ships in one week and I'm delighted to share them with you on

First, I sailed on the 4-night maiden Caribbean cruise on Carnival Freedom from Miami to Key West and Cozumel on Nov 12-16. Then, I spent the night aboard Costa Fortuna in Fort Lauderdale on Nov 17 as she prepared for her inaugural Caribbean season.

The ships are similar in layout, yet oh-so-different. Take a look...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Time To Choose: Which Girl Has "IT"?

Wow! More than 500 online video entries were submitted by Latitudes members (past NCL guests) in the Search for the Latitudes “It” Girl contest. Based on creativity and the originality of their submissions, including how they embody the attributes of NCL’s hottest, hippest new ship, Norwegian Gem, as well as the free spirit of NCL’s Freestyle Cruising, NCL has whittled the entrants down to five finalists.

Now that finalists have been chosen, NCL needs your help. They only have one chance to get this right because the winner will be named Godmother of its new ship, Norwegian Gem and receive the ultimate bling, a fab 7-day cruise in Norwegian Gem’s posh Garden Villa for her and five members of her entourage. So, listen up. This is important. And keep in mind that BFFs come and go, but a godmother is forever.

Finalist videos are now posted on and YOU are invited to help pick the winner by voting for your favorite “It” Girl now through December 7, 2007. The five finalists will be whisked away to Norwegian Gem’s christening ceremony on December 18, 2007 in New York City where the winner will be revealed and will christen the ship.

So, which one will it be? Which has the qualities of an “It” Girl--sophistication, independence and confidence, eagerness to explore new destinations and learn new things, glamour, style and culture, along with a youthful and adventurous spirit? Cruise Diva has a fave, but isn't telling. Watch the videos and you decide.

Shades of Titanic: Rescue at Sea

The Associated Press reports that 154 passengers and crew aboard the expedition ship Explorer took to lifeboats in frigid Antarctic waters early Friday morning. All were safely transferred to Nordnorge, a Norwegian cruise ship. No injuries have been reported at this time.

A fist-sized hole was punched in the hull of Explorer when it struck an iceberg or other submerged object before dawn near the South Shetland Islands, south of Argentina.

Seas were calm during the rescue, according to Susan Hayes, a representative of GAP Adventures, the Canadian-based operator of the tour aboard the Explorer. It is unclear whether the abandoned vessel will sink, although it is listing heavily and sinking seems likely.

UPDATE: Although pumps were used earlier in an effort to save Explorer, subsequent photos have shown it lying on one side with its hull exposed. Britain's Sky News reports that according to a Chilean Navy spokeman, "Our units in the area aren't seeing anything. The Explorer is not visible any longer." The ship has apparently succumbed to its injuries and sunk.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Aloha, Hawaii

The Associated Press reports that by the end of 2007, 469 cruise ship calls to the Big Island of Hawaii are expected to generate upward of $94 million in visitor expenditures. That's the good news. However, the bad news is that cruise ship calls to the island are expected to drop by nearly a third next year, eliminating hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in tourist revenue. The average passenger spends about $100 per day during a day in port, buying souvenirs, going on tours, and dining ashore. Their future absence will be painful to the local economy. The pain doesn't stop there, though. While ship visits are expected to fall to 310 in 2008, the numbers are expected to decline further through 2011.

Norwegian Cruise Lines is withdrawing NCL America's Pride of Hawaii from island service altogether in Feb 2008 and a revised schedule for Pride of Aloha that began this year in Sept has reduced that vessel's Big Island calls from once a week to only twice every three weeks to accommodate its longer, 10- to 11-day itineraries that include Fanning Island. According to NCL, an increase in foreign-flagged competition entering the Hawaii market from the mainland has caused an excess of capacity and accounts for its poor yields in the state that they were expected to "own" with its US-flagged ships.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Costa Fortuna: Love, Laughter, La Dolce Vita in the Caribbean

Where has Cruise Diva been the past few days?

To celebrate Costa Cruises' 60-year Diamond Anniversary and the debut of Costa Fortuna in the Caribbean, we spent last Saturday night on board in Fort Lauderdale.

After checking in and touring the ship, we enjoyed a fantastic celebratory dinner followed by a special presentation featuring Costa Fortuna's entertainers in the main show lounge. Other highlights were a pizza tossing demonstration, bocce ball games, a comedy show, and dancing in the main lounges. Costa really knows how to throw a party!

Costa Fortuna has now begun her season of Eastern, Western, and Southeastern Caribbean sailings that continue through April 2008. Unfortunately, she set sail yesterday without us, but now that we've sampled "Cruising Italian Style," we look forward to the opportunity to experience a real cruise soon.

Here's the link to our photo tour of Costa Fortuna. You won't want to miss the images of this magnificent ship.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Carnival Freedom: A Fun Day at Sea

Someone should thank Mother Nature for the absolutely gorgeous weather during this cruise--sunny days, with cooling tropical breezes. Our day at sea was absolutely ideal for lounging in the sun and watching the synchronized swimming contest, video concerts on the big-screen Seaside Theater, or enjoying the live music by Caribbean Breeze. For kids in Camp Carnival, there was a build-your-own Teddy Bear Workshop. Naturally, the last day of our cruise offered an opportunity to try our luck in the casino and then do some last minute shopping.

But dinner in the Sun King Supper Club was the highlight of the day. I started with a New England crab cake and then tried what turned out to be fantastic lobster bisque. With choices like prime rib, Dover sole meuniere, porterhouse steak, lamb chops, free range chicken, and veal chops, it could have been difficult to make a selection. However, I had my eye on the surf 'n turf from the moment I opened the menu. How could I pass up a lobster tail, grilled filet over cardamom carrots, and pumpkin ravioli? To top off dinner, the citrus cheesecake was a light and refreshing dessert. The restaurant itself is an absolutely stunning room with lovely tapestries and marble accents. We particularly enjoyed the live music and opportunity to dance between courses. The supper club is a don't miss evening of fine dining.

Then it was time for a final "Big Easy" production show in the Victoriana Lounge and last minute packing. It seemed like we'd just boarded, but we were able to pack a lot of fun into four nights!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Carnival Freedom: A Day in Cozumel

"Double the Carnival Fun"--Carnival Freedom and Carnival Fascination

After an early start to the day in Key West and a late night evening last night, we looked forward to sleeping in today. While we weren't scheduled to arrive in Cozumel until 1pm, Capt. D'Aita surprised us with an early arrival and Carnival Freedom docked at the International Pier shortly after 11am, just as we were finishing up a late breakfast. With five ships in port, we feel fortunate to be docked as not all the pier facilities here have undergone repair. Carnival Fascination is tied up beside us, Carnival Legend and Grand Princess are docked downtown, and passengers from Norwegian Sun are tendering ashore.

It was a busy day in San Miguel, but we did a bit of shopping and relaxed with light refreshments at Las Palmeras and spent a festive hour or so at Senor Frog before heading back to the pier and reboarding Carnival Freedom. With our ship fairly empty, we snapped some pictures and will have a photo tour to share when we get back home.

At dinner last night it was difficult to select from such a varied menu. I passed up the Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail in favor of Pumpkin Soup and a Broiled Lobster Tail with a glass of Georges Blanc Chardonnay won over Prime Rib. Tonight was easy--we decided to have early dinner and I headed for Carnival Freedom's really excellent pizza and a Caesar salad. It may seem a bit backward, but now I'm ready for a shower and an evening of fun. That's the beauty of a cruise vacation these days--there's something for everyone and choices abound.

We'll end the night at the Mexican Buffet poolside. By then I'm sure to be hungry again!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Carnival Freedom: A Day in Key West

Even though Key West isn't a "big" town--Duval Street is a mere 14 blocks long from sea to sea--we maximized our short time in port by taking a tour on the Old Town Trolley to see some of the landmarks we've missed during our past explorations around town.

One of Key West's newest attractions, and bound to be the highlight of anyone's day, is the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center where exhibits include an interactive map of the Florida Keys, a replica of the Aquarius underwater laboratory, a "living reef" and replicas of South Florida habitats such as mangroves, complete with sound effects. A beautifully filmed orientation movie emphasizes the importance of the reefs, the hammock, and the interaction of the species that inhabit the delicate eco-system. For families, it's a wonderful opportunity to learn together and it's just a short distance from Truman Dock. We were told it offers a triple benefit to visitors--there's air conditioning, no admission charge, and plentiful parking. Eventually a promenade along the waterfront will make it easier to reach on foot, although it's certainly within walking distance even today.

Leaving Key West behind at 2pm, we're looking forward to formal night, which means a splendid dinner followed by one of Carnival's lavish production shows--Ticket to Ride. Then, perhaps a bit of jazz and a nightcap in the Habana Bar or late-night fun around the piano in... where else? the Piano Bar. The night is young, but we're not, so we'll save some energy for Cozumel tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Carnival Freedom: Embarkation Day

Some embarkations are easier than others. Here in Miami, Carnival's new terminal is the picture of efficiency. Three of four security scanners were open today and the process was swift. Be prepared with your identification and ticket and to send your laptop through the x-ray machine just as if you were in an airport. After reaching the second level, there are 50 check-in stations and little or no waiting, depending on how busy it is when you arrive. Up one more set of escalators, smile for your embarkation photo and you're almost on board.

Something that surprised--and delighted--us was assistance to our stateroom. We had several carry-on bags and a steward with a luggage cart relieved us of our stuff in the lobby and took it all right to our cabin. All-in-all, this has been the most carefree embarkation we can recall. We've had lunch in the casual buffet Freedom Restaurant, our luggage is unpacked, and the fun has begun.

At sailaway, a first from Miami for Carnival Freedom, we traded repeated salutes with Carnival Fascination. We're on our way!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

On the Road to Freedom

That's Carnival Freedom and we're Miami-bound to embark on Monday for a 4-night cruise.

Follow along daily on the Cruise Diva Blog as we sail on Carnival Cruise Lines' newest "Fun Ship" to Key West and Cozumel.

We'll be leaving from the new terminal in the Port of Miami and look forward to sharing info about that as well.

Here's hoping for clear skies, calm sea, and fast Internet connections!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Titanic Survivors: Now There Is One

Barbara West Dainton, one of the last two survivors from the tragic sinking of the Titanic in April of 1912, has died at the age of 96. Dainton spent her last years at a nursing home in England and, according to a relative, her funeral was held last Monday. Too young to remember the night the ocean liner hit an iceberg and sank, throughout her lifetime she avoided publicity associated with Titanic and left instructions that her funeral take place before any public announcement of her death.

The sole living survivor of the disaster is Elizabeth "Millvina" Dean of Southampton, England, who was only 2 months old at the time the Titanic went down.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Spirit of Nantucket Grounded

Spirit of Nantucket, one of the small ships in Cruise West's fleet, was heading south on a 10-day cruise from Alexandria, VA., to Charleston, SC with 66 passenger aboard when it hit something in the Intracoastal Waterway around 5:30 am and began taking on water. The captain ran the vessel aground to prevent its sinking.

The Coast Guard evacuated everyone in the Intracoastal Waterway near an isolated area of Virginia Beach and took them to a ferry landing about two miles away. Cruise West made arrangements to take the passengers to a hotel. No injuries have been reported.

For its 2008 Alaska season, Cruise West plans to rename the 102-passenger ship Spirit of Glacier Bay.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pain at the Pump: Fuel Prices Force Fare Increases

With the price of fuel rapidly approaching $100 per barrel, Regent Seven Seas Cruises has announced a fuel surcharge of $7.50 per person, per day will be added to fares for 2008 voyages. The surcharge applies to existing bookings that are not paid in full by Dec 1 and new bookings made after that date.

It's not just luxury lines that are being squeezed by fuel prices. The North American brands of Carnival Corp & plc have announced they will implement a fuel supplement of $5 per person per day. The supplement, which only applies to the first and second guests in a stateroom and will not exceed $70 per person per voyage, is effective on all bookings for voyages departing on or after Feb. 1, 2008 on the following Carnival Corporation & plc brands: Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and The Yachts of Seabourn.

Other cruise lines that have already announced fuel surcharges are Crystal Cruises ($5 per person, per day on 2007 cruises), Hurtigruten ($6 per person, per day), and AIDA Cruises.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Podcasting: The New Wave of Vacation Planning for Disney Cruise Line

In a cruise industry first, Disney Cruise Line is reaching out to potential passengers through podcasts that offer a new way to get customized information about family-friendly Disney cruise vacations. Hosted by family travel expert Emily Kaufman (also known as The Travel Mom), the fifteen podcast episodes of Magic & Wonder: Cruising with Disney showcase the unique experiences Disney offers on a cruise vacation. Providing in-depth, portable information on specific areas of Disney Cruise Line, each episode offers tips for parents considering a family cruise vacation.

Interested? You can find all the videos on the Disney Cruise Line web site. In addition to watching episodes on the website or downloading them directly to your computer or video iPod, you can also share episodes with friends and family via email.

What a great way to get your friends and family interested in a cruise!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Cruise Ships: Build It & They Will Book It

Only a year after The Yachts of Seabourn announced that it would build two new, ultra luxury ships, advance booking activity for the first--to be christened Seabourn Odyssey--has led to the line's decision to exercise the option for a third sister-ship.

"Our decision to order a third new ship is based partly on the enthusiasm we have already seen for our new ship design," explained Seabourn's president & CEO, Pamela Conover. "That enthusiasm, combined with research indicating a continuing robust expansion in demand for ultra luxury cruising in general, convinces us that we have the right formula at the right time," she continued.

Seabourn Odyssey will debut in June of 2009. Bookings for its maiden season are being accepted from the general public starting today, after a successful advance booking period reserved for past guests of the line. The second ship in the series is scheduled to enter service in the summer of 2010.

The 32,000-GRT ships, with hulls 650 ft long and 84 ft wide, will accommodate just 450 guests in 225 luxury suites, ninety percent of which will offer private verandas. The ships are specifically designed to achieve a balance between Seabourn's small-ship signatures, such as its highly personalized service, truly fine dining, and exceptional delivery of destinations, with the added spaciousness, features and amenities that a larger ship will allow. Seabourn's guests will continue to enjoy an unmatched level of personalized service from a skilled and dedicated staff, and one of the highest space-per-guest ratios in the industry.

Photo: Odyssey, The Marina– Offering complimentary watersports including kayaking, windsurfing and snorkeling (courtesy of Seabourn)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

What's happened to

If you've visited--or should I say tried to in the past day, you have been disappointed to receive an error message instead of the web site. The hosting service we have used without a problem during the last seven years is undergoing a "server migration" that was supposed to take a few hours in the dead of night. Apparently nothing ran smoothly and ALL the web sites hosted by my service, as well as many others, are still unavailable.

I apologize for the inconvenience. It's a headache for me too. I'm thinking of alternatives if the problems aren't solved very soon.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Princess Cruises Wants to Know Our Preferences

We all get requests to take surveys now and then and I mostly ignore them. However, I received an email inviting me, as a past passenger, to participate in a Princess Cruises "to better understand what European ports and cruise itineraries are most appealing." It further explained, "As a valued captains circle member and because of your unique experience with Princess Cruises, you have been selected to share your thoughts and help us plan exciting new itineraries for the European theater." How could I resist?

Plus, there was this incentive: "Your opinion will assist us in shaping the future of Princess Cruises and enable us to tailor memorable experiences specifically designed for you—our customer." Well, when a cruise line needs me, I'm there for them!

What did they want to know? First off, the usual demographics stuff--my sex and date of birth, country of residence, the number of cruises I've taken in total and the number I've been on in last three years. They also asked how likely I am to take one soon (one week until I sail again!), and asked me indicate where I've been on a list of 56 destinations. I'd been to 34 of them and have to admit that I've never heard of some on the list.

Then I rated my interest on a scale of from 1-10 in each port from a lengthy list. I generally ranked them 10 for those I'd like to return to, 6 for those that I've been to and consider ho-hum, and 8 for a few that were unfamiliar, but sound interesting--like Bulgaria (just one of several dozen choices). There were also three regions to rank from 1-10--the Med, Baltic, Holy Land. All rate a 10 from me.

Questions asked to help Princess Cruises analyze my responses were what state do I live in, my zip code, marital status, the number of adults in our household, and income category.

After participating to the survey, I got to thinking about my preferences in terms of well-known vs. less familiar ports and realized I like a mix. And my preference in ship size is generally under 1,500 passengers.

It's nice to know that Princess Cruises takes the opinion of Captain's Circle members to heart.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cruises: Better in The Bahamas?

They used to say, “It's Better In The Bahamas.” Whether that old tourism slogan is true or not, cruising is about to get better than ever with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) returning to Grand Bahama Island beginning next month. The line is increasing calls to The Bahamas, adding a total of 32 cruises between 2007 and 2009. Twenty-eight of these calls will be made by NCL’s new “It” Girl, Norwegian Gem, which entered service on October 1, 2007. Norwegian Jewel will make the first stop in Grand Bahama, along with a stop in Nassau, during a three-day Bahamas Getaway cruise on November 15, 2007, sailing roundtrip from Miami.

“This deployment reaffirms NCL’s long standing commitment to its relationship with The Bahamas which began some forty years ago. NCL was the first of the major cruise lines to call at The Bahamas and was the first in the industry to own and include a private island experience in our itineraries, at Great Stirrup Cay in the Berry Islands,” said Andy Stuart, NCL’s executive vice president of marketing, sales and passenger services. “We also have a long history of pioneering the development of new cruise destinations and we are pleased to be a part of establishing Grand Bahama Island as a major cruise destination.”

NCL decided to return to Grand Bahama Island after being invited by the Ministry of Tourism to experience all the island had to offer. NCL’s development team toured the area for the new cruise port facility, visited with the dolphins at UNEXSO, enjoyed a rugged Safari Jeep Tour exploring the nature trails of Grand Bahama and took an air boat tour through the mangroves. NCL estimates that these calls will contribute approximately $9 million directly to the economy of the Bahamas, with $4 million going directly to Grand Bahama Island

Get the itinerary details in Cruise Diva's Cruise News and read about Ports of Call in the Bahamas to discover what to see and do.