Friday, May 30, 2008

NCL Surprise: Five Lucky F3 Registrants Are Going to Vegas, Baby!

Last month Norwegian Cruise Line launched the third generation of their Freestyle ships, code-named the F3. In a milestone ceremony on April 24th, the first block of the keel, a double bottom block weighing 322 tons, was put into place marking the start of the overall construction of the ship.

You may be thinking, that was so last month, right? Yes, and no. Had you read's Cruise News, you'd have learned that, "More details about the F3 ships including other innovative accommodations, public spaces, dining, entertainment/nightlife, cutting-edge technology and casino will be announced leading up to the launch of the first F3 ship in 2010. For the latest updates on F3 with downloadable high-resolution images of the New Wave staterooms, visit" Stick with me here: most importantly, you'd have been able to click that link and register for updates from NCL.

As a surprise benefit, not only would you be receiving updates about the ship, you'd also have had a shot at being one of the five recipients of a free trip to Vegas, Baby! NCL announced yesterday that for its next big reveal of the company’s innovative F3 ships, the cruise line will whisk five lucky consumers to an exciting event in Las Vegas on June 17th where more details of the project will be announced. The consumers will be selected at random after having registered on NCL’s F3 web site prior to May 28th. Yes, sadly, that was two days ago and if you hadn't registered... no Vegas for you. How come you weren't warned? If it makes you feel better, I didn't even know about it.

“The interest in F3 is extremely high,” said Andy Stuart, executive vice president and chief product officer for NCL. “The tremendous response of initial registrations on, which launched less than a month ago, has been incredible. We decided to surprise and reward five people who were some of the first to express interest in our innovative, next generation ships and give them the opportunity to experience the next F3 reveal in person.”

The five consumers will join NCL executives, press (including Cruise Diva), and travel partners in Las Vegas for the big reveal on June 17. The trip includes airfare for two, a two-night stay at Caesar’s Palace, and an invitation to the exclusive event.

Oops. You didn't register so you didn't win? It's not too late and you can still get in on the action. As NCL continues to reveal aspects of the ships, registrants may be whisked away to other exciting locations for the unveiling of the next chapters. Get registered and we might meet up at the next reveal!

For info about the last big reveal, check out NCL Throws Us A Curve at

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Celebrity Solstice Extends Inaugural Season: Three additional sailings include new maiden voyage

Celebrity Solstice, widely heralded as the most exciting ship entering the market even before it launches, has introduced three additional sailings for cruisers to enjoy during its inaugural season this year. Celebrity Solstice now will enter service with a Thanksgiving cruise, Nov 23, 2008, three weeks prior to its previously announced date of Dec 14, followed by two additional seven-night Caribbean cruises. Each new seven-night cruise – Nov 23, Nov 30 and Dec 7, 2008 – will offer the same itinerary, departing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, with visits to San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten, and Basseterre, St. Kitts.

Acknowledging that some guests booked on Celebrity Solstice’s original maiden voyage of Dec 14 may wish to switch to the new maiden voyage, Celebrity has established a two-week rebooking window from today through June 12. During that time, guests booked on the Dec 14 sailing will have the opportunity to transition to the Nov 23 cruise without penalty, in the same stateroom or suite as originally booked, at the original fare. Guests encountering air-change fees as a result of opting to switch will be reimbursed for those fees up to $100 per person, provided acceptable proof of fees is presented to Celebrity by Jan 31, 2009. Bookings for the Nov 23 sailing will be open exclusively to guests booked on the Dec 14 cruise until June 12, when the special two-week rebooking period ends. Bookings for the Nov 30 and Dec 7 sailings open today.

Celebrity Cruises' current fleet will be joined by Celebrity Solstice in 2008, Celebrity Equinox in 2009, Celebrity Eclipse in 2010, and a fourth Solstice-class ship in 2011. For more information, call your travel agent, dial 1-800-437-3111, or visit

Toying With Us By Land & By Sea

It’s like somebody just handed you the key to a magical toy trunk! Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and all their buddies from the Disney-Pixar hit movies Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are now under the spotlight at sea on Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder. And they are playing with you on land too at Disney parks in Florida and California—perfect for those looking for fun pre- and post-cruise adventures.

For a sneak peek at “Toy Story–The Musical” on board Disney Wonder, is pleased to present photos and a behind-the-scenes look by Georgina Cruz. As Georgina says, "Children who watch the production are entranced at the sight of the toys coming to life. And for adults like me, it is an opportunity to go back to my childhood, even if just for a little while."
Photo courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Windstar Cruises: The Cruise Line For Romantics

Cruises, which operates a three-ship fleet of luxury yachts that explore hidden harbors and secluded coves of the world's most treasured destinations, invites couples celebrating honeymoons, renewing wedding vows or honoring a special anniversary to explore the beauty and wonder of romance at sea.
It's no surprise to returning guests that Windstar's award-winning reputation for sophisticated, yet casual elegance has earned it the title of "Most Romantic Cruise Line" by many travel professionals. Chilled champagne and chocolate-dipped seasonal fruit await couples upon their arrival in deluxe oceanview staterooms. Mornings bring a leisurely breakfast in bed option and the opportunity to indulge in a "Time for Two" massage. Later, couples can take in a tropical sunset while being treated to an elegant dinner for two at a quiet table.
All Windstar cruises offer "Romance Under Sail," an unforgettable way to celebrate a wedding, birthday or any special occasion. Guests can select a romantic "Picnic for Two" on the beach (offered on select cruises) or relax and have dinner come to them, courtesy of 24-hour room service. There is no better way to express love than by renewing wedding vows. Couples can give in to a lifelong dream and have the ship's captain preside over the ceremony at sea, with the exotic shores of St. Thomas as a witness. From special pampering on board to exclusive shore excursions for two, Windstar offers an experience guests will never forget. Some packages or gift items are available at an additional charge.
"It is our honor that guests choose to celebrate their special occasions with us," said Diane Moore, President of Windstar Cruises. "Our relaxed attitude, picturesque destinations and pampering service help ensure that the romance of Windstar Cruises endures." For more information, visit Windstar Cruises' web site.
Want more romance? Cruise Diva shares her picks for the Most Romantic Ships.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Norwegian Majesty Makes a Big Catch: Rescues Fishermen

On Saturday, May 24, 2008 at approximately 4 pm, Norwegian Majesty departed from Charleston, South Carolina for its scheduled seven-day cruise to Bermuda, but changed its course approximately two and a half hours into the sailing after receiving a distress call from a fishing boat.

Mark Harold, the captain of the 24-foot fishing boat “Not On Call,” sent out several distress calls with no response for hours. The boat, which departed from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, was caught in a violent storm about 30 miles from shore. After battling the storm for hours, the boat began to run out of fuel and he feared that the ship would capsize once the fuel ran out and the engine shut down. In addition, it was getting dark.

Hope returned to the four men aboard “Not On Call” when Norwegian Majesty answered their distress call and changed its course to assist. At approximately 7:30 pm, Norwegian Majesty arrived alongside the boat and all four men were rescued after they climbed up the pilot ladder on the starboard side. A half-hour later, with all four men safe on the ship, Norwegian Majesty continued on its voyage toward St. Georges, Bermuda.

Once on board, Harold and his three crew members Michael Cease, Greg Stevenson and Allan Narowski were given hot coffee and towels. Their clothes were laundered and they have been enjoying the cruise, which reached Bermuda today at approximately 2 pm. The men are expected to disembark and return to their homes in South Carolina.

Photo: Norwegian Majesty beneath a "Carolina Blue" sky in Charleston, SC ©

Welcome Aboard Mariner of the Seas

After 50-plus cruises and his many, many reviews published online over the years, you may know my Internet mentor George Hall as George in NY. Many of us who participated in the long-defunct Prodigy "Afloat" message boards and Usenet group have remained friends and avid cruisers over the years and George is no exception. His wit and cruise travel insights continue to entertain and inform us. And, not incidentally, he taught me how to create web pages.

So, it's my pleasure to share Mariner of the Seas, a brand new review from George Hall.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Disney Cruise Line Returns to West Coast for Summer 2008

The Port of Los Angeles fireboat and a small group of residents from San Pedro, California gathered during the early morning hours of Sunday, May 25 to welcome Disney Magic back to the Port of Los Angeles. Now it's easier than ever for guests residing in Southern California and other western states to experience Disney Cruise Line’s highly popular seven-night cruises. Disney Magic is on the West Coast for a limited engagement, sailing just 12 cruises this summer to the Mexican Riviera, but staterooms are available for select voyages throughout the season. Disney Cruise Line developed the special itinerary in response to overwhelmingly positive feedback about its original West Coast sailings in 2005 and requests from guests who wanted to see the ship once again depart from the Port of Los Angeles.

“When we launched our first Disney Cruise Line Mexican Riviera sailings in 2005, the guest reaction to the itinerary was tremendous. We have a significant Disney Cruise Line fan base on the West Coast and we look forward to another summer season sailing from the Port of Los Angeles,” said Disney Cruise Line President Tom McAlpin.

Significant enhancements have been made to Disney Magic since its original West Coast sailings in 2005. Today, guests can enjoy poolside movies on a 24-by-14-foot jumbo LED screen, an expanded spa and fitness center exclusively for adults and a new youth activities space designed for children ages 10-14.

For complete itineraries and more information, check out the Disney Cruise Line web site. Disney Magic is scheduled to sail back to Port Canaveral, Florida on Aug. 17.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Royal Caribbean Selects Project Genesis Ship Names: Oasis of the Seas & Allure of the Seas

An oasis is commonly defined as a fertile area in an arid region or a place of refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast. Today, Royal Caribbean Intl adds another use of the term, defining it as the official name for the cruise line's newest and most awe-inspiring class of cruise ships, until now referred to by the code name "Project Genesis." The name Oasis of the Seas was selected from more than 91,000 entries in Royal Caribbean's "Name that Ship" contest, which the cruise line launched on Jan 18. Entrants were invited to submit two names ending in "of the Seas" that best encapsulate the universe of experiences a Royal Caribbean cruise provides guests. The contest marks the first time members of the general public, outside of the cruise industry, have been given the opportunity to name a cruise ship.

The winning combination of names, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, was submitted by George Weiser, of Livonia, Michigan. Weiser's well-chosen names scored the highest among all contest entries considered by a panel of judges, and earned him the honor of naming not only the world's next largest and most innovative cruise ships, but the entire class of the new ships, the Oasis-class. Weiser is joined by Jennifer Conley, of Robertsville, Missouri, who suggested Mystique of the Seas and also Allure of the Seas. Conley is also a winner in the naming contest for earning the second-highest score.

"Our customers are remarkably passionate about Royal Caribbean," said Adam Goldstein, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean Intl. "This naming contest has been a fantastic expression of their interest and commitment. We are thrilled to announce these two names."

When launched in late 2009, Oasis of the Seas will be the largest and most revolutionary cruise ship in the world. An architectural marvel at sea, she will span 16 decks, encompass 220,000 gross registered tons, carry 5,400 guests, and feature 2,700 staterooms. The ship will homeport in Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In 2010, she will be joined by a sister ship, Allure of the Seas. Additional information is available at Royal Caribbean's web site.'s Cruise News offers more details about the naming contest and Project Genesis Reveal takes a look at the ships' features.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Explore "The Heart of Alaska" With Princess Cruises

"We are so lucky that we have Alaska ... everything is different here - it is all so unique." That view from Denali National Park Ranger Patrick Gamman is one of a dozen Alaska voices featured in "The Heart of Alaska," a dramatic new video produced by Princess Cruises. Shot exclusively in high-definition format to showcase the Princess cruisetour experience, "The Heart of Alaska" beautifully depicts the land, wildlife, and people of Alaska, with interviews from some of the people who make the state unique, and who tell a compelling story of life in the untamed wilderness of Alaska's interior.

This isn't a slick marketing device or a brochure-on-video. If it weren't for the credits, you'd barely recognize it as being produced by a cruise line. The documentary offers a unique introduction to the wonders of the state as it is seen through the eyes of Alaskans. Viewers meet rangers from both Denali and Wrangell St. Elias National Parks, Alaska natives, homesteaders, and dog mushers who share an insiders' perspective of life in the 49th state. Other voices include a bush pilot, a captain from Fairbanks' iconic riverboat, and a mountain climber. The film also brings the audience up close to the wildlife of Denali National Park, including bears, moose, dall sheep, and caribou. Soaring photography takes viewers high above the world's tallest peaks, including 'The Great One,' Mt. McKinley and the narrative is down to earth, telling the story through many Alaskan voices, each with a unique perspective on life in the state. Among the observations shared on screen is, "The heart of Alaska is anywhere and any time you get off the road."

Available exclusively from Princess, the 26-minute video was filmed over nine days last summer in Alaska. It will be shown on board Princess ships in Alaska and can be purchased on the ships and at Princess' five Alaska wilderness lodges. "The Heart of Alaska" is the first of a series of Princess videos taking a unique look at many of the company's destinations.

For information about Princess Cruises, visit the company's website at To learn more about what to see and do during your Alaska cruise, visit Cruise's Alaska Ports of Call and pick up a copy of Fodor's Alaska Ports of Call.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Flying To Your Cruise Port Just Got More Expensive

Susan Foster, packing guru and author of Smart Packing for Today's Traveler has been warning readers that it would only be a matter of time before checking your luggage on flights would incur additional charges. Her newsletter today confirmed it: "American Airlines announced this morning (according to the Associated Press) that they will begin to charge $15 for the first checked bag for domestic tickets purchased on or after June 15. They will continue to charge $25 for a second checked bag. Some undiscounted tickets and high level frequent flyers are exempt from these charges, as are international travelers."

For those of us embarking on cruises, that's not good news. Unless it's a very short cruise (3- or 4-nights), I usually check a suitcase when flying to a distant embarkation port. I'm sure there are many of us who also pack a carry-on containing our essentials, as well as a camera bag and even a briefcase with a laptop. I know I'll try to consolidate those items for future flights.

And that brings us to another warning that's even more ominous. Susan says, "Most likely there will be many more travelers who will carry on bags to avoid the added fee, which will swamp the TSA screening process and create much longer passing times at all security checkpoints. Once past security, aircraft have limited storage areas so this will overload the carry on bin capacity and produce major 'bin rage' as competition accelerates for this space. Anticipate delays as more bags must be gate-checked."

However, Susan offers the following advice to help you prepare. "From now on, it is essential to check with each airline that you intend to fly to learn what their checked and carry-on luggage policy is for the date you plan to travel. Be prepared for this to change and check before each flight. Before you travel, make the decision to pay the fee and avoid the carry-on hassles, or learn to pack light into the smallest carry-on bag possible for the trip with only the 3-1-1 bag for lotions and potions. For help with packing less, go to for traveling light ideas."

Susan also wonders if, "it’s likely that other cash-strapped airlines will think this is a great idea and adopt this policy as soon as they possibly can?" Unfortunately, I think we can count on it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cruise Ships: Keeper of the Keys

Like most men, my husband has trouble keeping track of his stuff and a minor source of irritation whenever we get ready to go out is his question, "Where are my keys?"

I can't even begin to imagine the task of knowing how to locate just the right key when there are 4,528 of them, as there are for Holland America Line's soon-to-launch Eurodam. How do they do it? The Eurodam News Blog offers insight into the tagging and distribution of all the keys necessary to open doors, offices, lockers, steward stations, and more. Which departments have the most? If you guessed Engineering and Housekeeping, you'd be right. And what department has the least? It's the Medical staff.

If you've ever wondered what happens when you lock your cabin safe and can't get into it, I have the answer (from personal experience). Have no fear, there's someone who can get into every safe onboard and reset yours so you can use it.

Aren't you glad all you have to worry about is your cabin key card?

Coming up next month: Watch for Cruise Diva's blog live from the Eurodam.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Is it that easy to "FALL" from a cruise ship?

While the news has been full of the recent incident in which a woman fell to her death from Norwegian Dawn as the ship was bound for Bermuda, three luckier passengers went overboard from cruise ships last March. Yes, they were lucky indeed. All three were rescued alive.

Is it that EASY to simply "fall" off a cruise ship? At Cruise Diva, we don't think so and we take a look at how it could happen in Can you "FALL" off a cruise ship?

We believe you'll agree that it isn't that easy. However, accidents do happen and we applaud Norwegian Cruise Line for being so forthcoming about the circumstances surrounding the recent incident on Norwegian Dawn. Preliminary investigative reports indicate it was more than likely a tragic accident and not the result of foul play.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Overboard: NCL Shares Video Timeline

While their hurt and confusion is understandable, there was no apparent reason for the family of missing passenger Mindy Jordan to point the finger of blame on her companion Jorge Caputo or Norwegian Cruise Line. As related yesterday, the woman apparently fell overboard from Norwegian Dawn on Sunday evening and recovery efforts by the ship and US Coast Guard failed to rescue her.

Since learning of the tragedy, Ms. Jordan's family has granted numerous interviews with the media, including the Philadelphia Daily News, and urged an investigation into what they feared was foul play. Upon arrival in Bermuda on Wednesday, the ship was met by investigators from the FBI. Apparently the family was unaware that such an event is routinely investigated by the authorities.

Last night NCL began to offer answers to the family's questions and set the record straight. NCL had initially indicated that Ms. Jordan was "attempting to climb from one exterior balcony on deck nine to an adjoining balcony and fell overboard." Her son Barry Jordan said that was out of character for his mother and is quoted asking, "Did the cruise ship have cameras? Did they go through the cameras? I want to know the story."

Yes, the ship did have cameras and NCL's new statement reports that "advanced safety and surveillance system operating on Norwegian Dawn, including cameras in the interior hallways and on the exterior sides of the ship, has confirmed that Mindy Jordan was in her stateroom alone at the time of the incident."

Following is what the cameras determined:

  • Jordan and Caputo dined at the Garden Café with the couple they were traveling with and then returned to their assigned adjacent staterooms at approximately 7:28 pm.
  • At 7:36 pm., Caputo left his stateroom to join his friends in their stateroom next door. From that time on, Jordan was alone in her stateroom.
  • At 7:53 pm., surveillance cameras from the exterior of the ship captured Jordan falling overboard from her balcony, straight into the water. Shortly thereafter, an emergency call was made from the friends' stateroom, and Caputo was seen exiting to seek help.
  • At 7:57 p.m., a man overboard announcement was made and the ship's crew began lifesaving operations, including the launch of two rescue boats.

The cruise line also said it has offered to make arrangements for Jordan's family to join the ship today in Bermuda to view the surveillance footage, and "remains committed to assisting the family in any way possible during this tragic time."

Sail Away With Your Marriott Rewards Points

Marriott Rewards members who would rather spend their vacations at sea than on land can now redeem points for cruises through a partnership with World Travel Holdings, one of the world's premier cruise distributors.

World Travel Holdings offers trips with 17 different cruise lines to destinations around the world. Points can be redeemed for certificates in the following amounts:
  • 70,000 Marriott Rewards points for $250 certificate
  • 110,000 Marriott Rewards points for a $500 certificate
  • 145,000 Marriott Rewards points for a $1,000 certificate
Marriott Rewards points can be earned at over 2,800 Marriott Intl hotels around the world, including Marriott Hotels & Resorts, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Renaissance Hotels & Resorts, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn by Marriott, Fairfield Inn by Marriott, TownePlace Suites by Marriott, SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Marriott Vacation Club, Horizons by Marriott Vacation Club and Grand Residences by Marriott Vacation Club.

To make a reservation, members can call 1-800-228-9290 or visit For information about Marriott Rewards, call 1-800-450-4442 or log onto

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Search For Missing Passenger Called Off

Cruise vacations offer the opportunity to experience activities we haven't tried before, but balcony-hopping isn't one of them.

Sadly, Norwegian Cruise Lines says a 46-year old female passenger was apparently trying to climb between balconies on the Norwegian Dawn when she lost her footing and plunged into the ocean. The incident happened at about 7:50pm last Sunday night as the ship, bound for Bermuda from New York City, was off the Atlantic City, NJ coast.

Norwegian Dawn immediately began a search and rescue operation and called the U.S. Coast Guard. After seven hours of searching for the woman, Coast Guard helicopters from Atlantic City and Massachusetts called off their search late on Monday due to heavy winds and rain.

While NCL hasn't disclosed the woman's identity, Louise Jordan of Bordentown has informed the media that the missing passenger was her daughter, Mindy Jordan. She said her daughter's boyfriend and cruise companion, Jorge Caputo of Pine Hill, notified the family from the ship.

Norwegian Dawn is due to arrive in Bermuda today.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hit Princess Cruises With Your Best (Photo) Shot

Did you take a great picture on your last Princess cruise? If you did, it might earn you a free Princess cruise.

The Princess Free Cruise Photo Competition is open to past passengers whose entries are judged based on quality, content, and execution, as well as the corresponding story they submit. Find your best photo and write 50 words (or less) describing your Princess experience. Submit it after your cruise and you might enjoy another cruise... on Princess! Four cruises are being given away per year so don't pass up the opportunity to be a winner.

Check the Summer 2008 Princess Captain's Circle Quarterly (the magazine for past passengers) for details and send your 4" x 5" print and story to Princess Cruises Photo Competition, Princess Captain's Circle, 24305 Town Center Drive, Santa Clarita, CA 91355 or email your 1200 x 1600 pixel digital photo submission (JPEG or TIFF format) and story to with "Princess Cruises Photo Competition" in the subject line. Include your name, address, Captain's Circle member number, area code and phone number, cruise date, ship name, title of photo, where it was taken, the names of any passengers depicted in the photo, and your 50-word story. Name each emailed photo file with your member number, such as 1234567A.jpg; when submitting a print in the mail, tape a piece of paper with your info to the back of the photo and include your story on a separate piece of paper. The contest is limited to one photo entry per member per cruise. Photos must be taken on a 2008 Princess cruise or cruisetour.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Carnival Cruise Lines Tests Flexible Dining Option

Last week in our Did You Know? blog entry, we shared some changes Carnival Cruise Lines had made in their evening dining room experience. While those dress code and dining time changes were implemented almost without notice, Carnival has now announced they will begin testing a new flexible dining option on board Carnival Legend. Beginning with the ship's June 29, 2008, departure, guests can choose an open seating option for dinner that will allow them to dine at whatever time they wish between 5:30 pm and 9:30 pm nightly in the ship’s main restaurant.

In no way does the new flexible dining pilot program aboard Carnival Legend replace Carnival’s popular classic dining system, which provides a choice of either main or late seating. Under classic dining, guests dine at the same table with service from the same wait staff throughout the full voyage. Instead, guests will be asked to designate either flexible/open seating or classic, assigned seating prior to departure and their choice will be in effect for the full cruise.

The new open seating dining initiative is the latest addition to Carnival’s Total Choice Dining and designed to provide guests with additional flexibility in their dinnertime options.

Later this month Carnival will begin contacting guests sailing on the Carnival Legend’s June 29 departure and beyond to advise them of the new dining initiative. Carnival Legend sails year-round seven-day western Caribbean cruises from Tampa.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Stockholm Greets 2008 Cruise Season With New Terminal

Today's grand opening of Stockholm Cruise Center Frihamnen marks the start of the Swedish capital's 2008 cruise season. The 32,291 square feet former cargo terminal underwent a complete interior and exterior renovation and now includes cafés, Internet access, waiting areas and baggage handling. The exterior has created a new city landmark with its brightly lit colors and original design. The terminal's first call will be Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's Jewel of the Seas on Sunday, May 11, beginning a series of mini-cruises with Stockholm as homeport for the line.

The state-of-the-art cruise terminal will play a pivotal role as Stockholm prepares to receive a record-setting 265 ships in 2008, a 5 percent increase over 2007. The fifth largest cruise destination in Northern Europe, according to Cruise Europe, the Scandinavian capital is expected to receive 30 turnaround calls and upwards of 300,000 passengers during the season, which runs through Sept. "Fourteen new ships will be calling this season and an increase can already be seen for the 2009 season," said Josefin Haraldsson of Stockholm Visitor's Board.

Stockholm's popularity as a turnaround destination continues to grow with an 11 percent increase over 2007 projected this season. With the additional turnarounds, including the addition of Princess Cruises, more than 30,000 passengers will have additional time to explore Stockholm before or after their cruise.

Join Cruise Diva for last summer's Swedish Sojourn aboard Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow.

Photo: Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace, Stockholm

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Carnival Rolls Out Web Site Redesign

Before he left the helm at the head of Carnival Cruise Lines, Bob Dickinson used to say that if you hadn't taken a Carnival cruise recently, then you hadn't really taken a Carnival cruise. That can now also be said about visiting Carnival's web site, which has emerged from an extensive redesign with a host of new features. Enhanced navigation and layout, a variety of images and content, and numerous technical advancements are all designed to make users’ online experience easier and more informative than ever.

Highlighting the next generation of are dozens of new videos and virtual tours, along with upgraded images and content showcasing all 22 of the line’s “Fun Ships.” Also included are upgrades to special sections focusing on various aspects of the Carnival vacation experience such as dining, spa, youth programs, destinations and shore excursions. These are so cool you can almost taste the food in the dining section. Well, actually you can taste some of it by using the recipes to make your favorites at home.

The “new and improved” has a strong focus on enhancing end-user support, with a more detailed FAQ section, an enhanced site search engine, and live feeds featuring Carnival news headlines on virtually every page. There’s also an updated section where first-time cruisers and visitors can sign up for Carnival news and information via both email and RSS feeds.

To satisfy everyone’s inner-geek, the site includes a number of technological advancements as well, with a higher site resolution that provides a better platform for multi-media components, greater compatibility across all Web browsers and optimized Web pages for visitors who access the site via hand-held phones and other communication devices. Take a look for yourself at

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Holland America Line's ms Eurodam Features Private Cabanas

It's no secret that the Cruise Diva loves new ships, especially those that are first in their "class" and offer new features. One of the reasons I'm looking forward to sailing aboard Holland America Line's brand new Signature-class vessel ms Eurodam in late-June is the promise of hot new facilities. Another reason is because I can always depend on a Holland America Line cruise to be refined and comfortable without being stuffy. So what new feature do I anticipate experiencing the most on ms Eurodam? (Well, aside from the new pan-Asian Tamarind Restaurant and one of chef Rudi Sodamin's libation concoctions, the Tamarind Cocktail.)

My wish is to relax and enjoy the outdoors aboard Eurodam in the comfort of my own private haven... of course I'm referring to the cabanas on the Observation Deck, in an area called the Retreat, or those located around the mid-ship pool on Lido Deck. The airy, tented cabanas are furnished with stylish woven chaises, ottomans, and upholstered settees. All cabanas come stocked with bathrobes and plush towels, handheld fans, an Evian spray mister, and iPods preloaded with music. Chilled waters are available to quench my thirst and I'll look forward to iced fruit skewers in mid-morning and frozen grapes, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a glass of champagne in the afternoon. Select discounted services from the Greenhouse Spa and Salon are also available on port days to guests who book the cabanas, which may be rented by the day or for an entire cruise.

  • The Retreat: The 14 cabanas in the Retreat offer guests a spa-like private area where they can relax and recharge surrounded by healthy refreshments and luxurious leisure amenities. Fresh fruit, salads, wraps and juices are available at the Retreat, with light breakfast options offered as well. Retreat cabanas are $45 on port days and $75 on sea days.
  • Lido Cabanas: Eight cabanas around the Lido pool offer a private respite in a livelier area of the ship. Lunch at the Lido cabanas will be served upon request from a menu of poolside favorites from the Terrace Grill or Lido Restaurant. Lido cabanas are $30 on port day and $50 on sea days.

The 2,104-passenger Eurodam debuts this summer with European inaugural festivities, including a July 1st naming ceremony in Rotterdam with Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, followed by a maiden voyage in the Baltic region. Cruise Diva will be blogging daily from on board from June 28th through July 4th, so mark your calendar. In the meantime, ms Eurodam has her very own news blog where you can follow her progress.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

NCL Reaches For The Sky: Return Of The Norwegian Sky

NCL Corp (NCL) announced plans today to reflag and rename Pride of Aloha and launch the ship under her original name: Norwegian Sky. Offering 3- and 4-day Bahamas cruises from Miami, the 2,002-passenger ship, built in 1999, will return to the NCL international fleet after being outfitted with NCL’s Freestyle 2.0 enhancements. Norwegian Sky will be the youngest and highest quality ship sailing 3- and 4-day Bahamas cruises from Miami beginning July 14, 2008.

“NCL pioneered the first Bahamas cruise from Miami more than 41 years ago and last had a ship in the 3- and 4-day cruise market from Miami in 2003. By reintroducing Norwegian Sky and positioning the ship in Miami sailing short cruises to the Bahamas, we are returning to our roots. At the same time, we are raising the bar by offering a modern Freestyle Cruising ship that features a variety of accommodations, including balconies and suites, a multitude of on-board amenities and a choice of six restaurants,” said Colin Veitch, NCL’s president and CEO. “In addition, we will outfit Norwegian Sky with the Freestyle 2.0 enhancements currently being introduced across our fleet.”

Norwegian Sky will depart Miami on Mondays sailing 4-day Bahamas cruises with full-day stops in Grand Bahama Island, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island in the Bahamas. On Fridays, the ship will sail a weekend getaway 3-day Bahamas itinerary, departing Miami at 5 p.m. with all-day stops in Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, returning to Miami at 7 a.m. on Monday mornings. These sailings are scheduled through April 17, 2009. The new itineraries go on sale today.

For complete details, and a “Kids Sail Free Summer Vacation” program, see's Cruise News.

Cruise On, Mom

No one loved a cruise more than my mother. She convinced me I'd love them as well by telling me I wouldn't have to make my own bed, cook, or do dishes (all chores I dislike and don't do well).

It took me a while to book my first cruise and, unfortunately we were never able to sail together. However, I'd like to share my Mother's Day tribute to the lady who passed along her cruise genes to me. Cruise On, Mom, memories of my mom's last cruise on Royal Caribbean's Song of Norway.

Photo: Mom shaking hands with the Captain on formal night during a November 1980 cruise.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Baby on Board

We recently covered the age requirements for young adults on, but did you know that cruise lines also have minimum age requirements for infants? And that there are also regulations regarding moms-to-be? While policies vary, women who are from 24 to 28 weeks into their pregnancies cannot sail on most cruise lines.

Here's an example from Royal Caribbean Intl, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Cruises:
  • Infants sailing on a cruise must be at least 6 months old as of the first day of the cruise/cruisetour. However, for Transatlantic, Transpacific, Hawaii, select South American cruises/cruisetours and other selected cruises/cruisetours, the infant must be at least 12 months old (as of the first day of the cruise/cruisetour).
  • Also, Azamara Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean Intl cannot accept guests who will have entered their 24th week of pregnancy by the beginning of, or at any time during, the cruise or cruisetour. A physician's "Fit to Travel" note is required prior to sailing, stating how far along (in weeks) your pregnancy will be at the beginning of the cruise and confirming that you are in good health and not experiencing a high-risk pregnancy.

Check with your preferred cruise line before booking to avoid disappointment or worse. As Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines notes, "Denial of boarding for infants who do not satisfy these minimum age requirements may also result in the denial of boarding for one or more guests sailing with that infant. No refunds or other compensation shall be due from the cruise line to anyone as a result of the denial of boarding to an underage infant or other accompanying guests."

Friday, May 2, 2008

Carnival Cruise Lines: Did You Know?

You may know that in addition to maintaining this blog and the cruise information web site, I also write the cruise-related material for Fodor's Travel Publications' guidebooks. That means I do a lot of research regarding cruise lines, ships, and related topics. That research is often done aboard ships, but sometimes it takes some in-the-office digging to uncover what's going on afloat.

For instance, Carnival Cruise Lines has quietly been making some changes in their dining room experience that weren't in place during my last cruise in February. Since then, I've learned that their ships will be transitioning from four dinner seatings (5:45, 6:15, 8:00 or 8:30 PM) to the more traditional two seatings (6:00 or 8:15 PM). The change will be effective fleet-wide by summer 2008. As always, dining assignments are confirmed at embarkation.

There's also been a move at Carnival to relax the dining room dress code. This part of their published dress code policy doesn't seem to be altered, "Depending on the length of the cruise, either formal dress or casual resort wear is required in the Dining Room. The dress requirement for children is the same. For those not wanting to dress up, the Lido restaurants are open nightly (with the exception of the last evening of the cruise), and have a casual dress code."

However, you have to read the rest of the Frequently Asked Questions on their website to find out what you'll need to pack for your next Carnival cruise. It seems that while the following 'Cruise Casual' description is pretty much the norm (with the exception of 'dress' shorts at dinner!), the definition of formal, which is now termed 'Cruise Elegant,' is quite different from what we've come to expect:
  • Cruise Casual Dining Dress Code: Gentlemen--Sport slacks, khakis, jeans (no cut-offs), dress shorts (long), collared sport shirts; Ladies--Casual dresses, casual skirts or pants and blouses, summer dresses, Capri pants, dress shorts, jeans (no cut-offs). Not permitted in the dining room during the Cruise Casual dinner for ladies and gentlemen: gym shorts, basketball shorts, beach flip-flops, bathing suit attire, cut-off jeans, and sleeveless shirts for men.
  • Cruise Elegant Dining Dress Code: Gentlemen--Dress slacks, dress shirts. We also suggest a sport coat. If you wish to wear suits and ties or tuxedos, by all means we invite you to do so. Ladies--Cocktail dresses, pantsuits, elegant skirts and blouses; if you‘d like to show off your evening gowns, that's great too! Not permitted in the dining room during the Cruise Elegant dinner for ladies and gentlemen: shorts, T-shirts, beach flip-flops, bathing suit attire, jeans, cut-off jeans, sleeveless shirts for men, sportswear, and baseball hats.

For other answers to your Frequently Asked Questions, check the resources at Or, (shameless plug coming up)... you could buy one of my Fodor's guidebooks, which offer the basics about cruising and are updated annually. For a list of them, see the sidebar at right.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Is a "food fight" a good reason to sue a cruise line?

Nearly everyone who takes a cruise can't help but comment on the food. More often than not, they are in awe of how much food is available and the many choices they are offered. So, why are Eva Gularte, her sister, and mother suing Norwegian Cruise Line over the food? According to reports in the Miami Herald and Washington Post, the women were unhappy during their Norwegian Star cruise because they felt they received second-class treatment.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, the trio claims that NCL fails to disclose to passengers that making reservations for specialty restaurants might be difficult (or impossible) because passengers accommodated in suite accommodations receive priority seating. According to the Washington Post, the suit states, "The rest of the passengers are effectively disenfranchised from effectively participating in the freestyle [dining] program." Naturally the women want a refund. But wait! There's more! The lawsuit seeks class-action status for all NCL passengers who may have experienced similar situations in the past three years. NCL apparently hadn't been served with the paperwork when the story broke and hasn't commented publicly.

Now, I could understand suing a company if a product weren't delivered AT ALL, or if the company were grossly negligent. However, while we don't have all the facts (for instance, their cabin category), the women took the cruise and I'll bet they didn't starve. Maybe they didn't get to eat where they wanted to at the exact time they wanted to every night, but life's like that. You can't always get what you want (hat tip to the Rolling Stones for singing that). Restaurants on NCL ships are open in the evening from 5:30pm until midnight, and they seat diners until 10:30pm. It stands to reason that the most popular restaurants get busy during peak dinner hours (have you ever tried to get into your local Applebee's at 7pm?). With 14 dining spots to choose from on Norwegian Star, it's hard to believe that something wasn't available when the women were hungry. If they didn't have dinner reservations, they could have checked the video screens in public areas to see which restaurants weren't busy and gone to the one with the shortest waiting time. As a recent NCL cruise passenger related to me, that was the procedure he successfully followed.

I'll bet even the passengers accommodated in NCL's high end suites don't always get everything they want, although they do have dibs on a lot of good stuff. And, check the fare structure--good stuff doesn't come cheap. Like everything else in life, is it wrong for people to receive priority treatment when they've put out top dollar for it? Don't first class airline passengers (whose tickets are more expensive) sip champagne before take-off? Yes, I always notice that as I make my way to a coach seat. So what? It doesn't mean my treatment is second-class, it just means I'm frugal and get what I pay for, which doesn't include beer, let alone champagne.

Personally, I don't see what the women's problem is. It's not like cruise ships have steerage anymore. Nor does anyone go hungry unless they want to. Maybe the suite occupants on Ms. Gularte's sailing were reservation hogs. But, as NCL's advertising says, "whatever."