Saturday, September 27, 2008

Eurodam News Blog Exceeds 1 Million Page Views

It's no surprise that one of my favorite cruise line blogs, the Eurodam News Blog, has a huge following. Designed as the primary portal for information about the construction and operation of the premium line's first Signature-class ship, ms Eurodam, which launched July 1, 2008, it's grown to be much more. The Eurodam News Blog is informative, as well as lighthearted and I'm sure other readers are as happy as I am to see it flourishing. You see, the Eurodam News Blog passed the 10-million-hit threshold and million-page-view mark this past week. The high traffic numbers can be attributed to compelling and entertaining postings such as the recent "Surf's Up—Catch a Bulb!" showing correspondent Pam Kern hangin' ten on the bulbous bow of Eurodam and providing an explanation for the function of the ship's protrusion. (That's Pam pictured here.)

"Eurodam News Blog has been an innovative new way for Holland America Line to engage guests and others in learning about Eurodam and how all our ships operate," said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. "As an interactive forum, we've received countless questions and requests for specific information and have responded with photos and posts. It's been a great project to engage guests, crew, travel agents, journalists, employees and cruise enthusiasts."

Live since June 2007, Eurodam News Blog provides unique insights into every aspect of the new ship. Regular posts cover a wide variety of topics, from interior decor to new public rooms to entertainment and dining venues and menu developments. In addition, it features profiles of the officers and shipboard staff. Since the ship's inaugural in July and its entry into service, the blog has featured content submitted by guests—some while they were still on board. Such categories as "Postcard from..." enable guests and crewmembers to submit photos and stories from Eurodam's ports of call. The site has a blog board composed of top Holland America Line executives from various departments who are involved in the shipbuilding process and serve as sources of site content. Visitors are encouraged to register and post comments and questions for responses.

If you only have time to read one cruise line blog each day, join Cruise Diva and make the Eurodam News Blog a part of your surfing routine.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Here's An Incentive to Book Your Next Carnival Cruise in October

This is what we call lagniappe in Louisiana... it’s a little something extra, like getting a 13th beignet when you order a dozen. Carnival Cruise Lines is rolling out its first-ever “October Recharge” event featuring special offers, including free stateroom upgrades and special ‘Fun Ship’ savings throughout the month of October.

The special offers are available in conjunction with a variety of “Fun Ship” departures, including a wide range of 3- to 5-day getaways to the Caribbean or Mexico, 7-day voyages to the Caribbean or Mexican Riviera, or longer length sailings to Europe and Alaska.

“In addition to offering excellent value, October is the perfect time to book a ‘Fun Ship’ cruise for some much-needed R&R as it is positioned perfectly between the busy summer period and the often-hectic holiday season,” said Ruben Rodriguez, Carnival’s executive vice president of marketing and guest experience.

Everyone likes lagniappe, so get on board by contacting a travel agent, calling 1-800-CARNIVAL, or visit beginning Oct 1st.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Personalize Your Holland America Shore Excursion e-Brochure

Proving once again that they are a leader when it comes to cruise line web site innovation, Holland America Line has launched a new online Shore Excursion e-Brochure system that allows you to view and print shore excursion information for your upcoming booked cruises. Now, you can receive up-to-the minute, personalized information that is specific to your sailing. This technological web site enhancement allows you to access and update any shore excursion that applies to your cruise itinerary 24/7.

In addition, you can review your own personalized Shore Excursion e-Brochure from six months to a year before your cruise departure date rather than waiting for the hard-copy version that accompanies cruise documents 30 to 60 days prior to leaving home. Besides tailoring the Shore Excursion e-Brochures to each ship and sail date, the online version offers the same useful information as the print versions, but with two newly added and helpful features: tour pricing and excursion departure times. In the five weeks since the Shore Excursion e-Brochure online system has gone live, 20,470 guests have downloaded an e-brochure.

Here's how the online system works: Visit the Shore Excursion page on Holland America’s Web Site and simply input your booking number and last name, then click on the “View Your Personalized Shore Excursion Brochure” link and a personalized e-brochure will immediately download. The Shore Excursion e-Brochure will include your name and all available shore excursions for the cruise you have booked. You have the option of continuing their shore excursion viewing online, printing a personalized Shore Excursion e-Brochure for review at a later date, or booking tours immediately.

“We strive to personalize each guest’s experience and to endeavor to make their interaction with us as easy and enriching as possible,” said Richard D. Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. “By giving our guests the flexibility of printing an e-brochure with their shore excursion options that is tailored specifically to their cruise itinerary, we are able to present the exact information they need—when they need it.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Azamara Cruises Offers a "Quest for Europe"

Has it really been a whole year since Cruise Diva sailed on the inaugural cruise? Next week Azamara Quest will commemorate one year of offering cruisers a deluxe cruise style to exotic destinations. And now Azamara Cruises is offering consumers something else—the opportunity to celebrate by taking advantage of special booking incentives. To participate in the promotion, called the “Quest for Europe” sale, just book a 2009 Europe cruise between Sept 22 and Oct 19, 2008, and enjoy onboard credit: $600 per suite, $400 per veranda, and $200 per oceanview stateroom. You will also enjoy the freedom of 50% reduced deposits when booking Azamara’s 2009 Europe sailings between the above dates.

Azamara Cruises’ 2009 Europe season will include 20 new ports of call and overnight stays in some of the most romantic cities on the continent. The line’s series of 7- to 15-night itineraries will visit 91 ports in 36 countries, and depart from five different homeports: Athens, Greece; Barcelona, Spain; Copenhagen, Denmark; Rome and Venice, Italy. Overnight stays will be offered in Barcelona, Edinburgh, Scotland; Florence and Ravenna, Italy, Istanbul, Turkey; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Stockholm, Sweden. Late-night (10 pm or after) departures will be offered in 10 ports of call, allowing passengers to capture more of the flavor of each locale’s nightlife.

Get highlights of Azamara’s 2009 Europe season, that includes a series of consecutive 7-night Mediterranean cruises, which, for travelers interested in pairing itineraries back-to-back, will present no repeat ports of call, in's Cruise News.

Take a look at Azamara Quest's world of deluxe cruising with

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Seabourn Launches Early Booking Promotion For 2009 Europe

Cruises, especially those in Europe, can be the ultimate travel bargains. While still pricey, here's an opportunity to reap some big money savings on a once-in-a-lifetime ulta-luxury Seabourn cruise.

The Yachts of Seabourn has announced a temporary increase in the Early Booking Savings offered on an array of its cruises aboard the all-suite Seabourn Pride, effectively lowering the fares by as much as $1,600 per person. The 9- to 14-day voyages, including the popular Scandinavia & Russia and Norwegian Fjords cruises, sail in the spring and summer of 2009, and are being offered at increased savings of up to 50% off the brochure fares.

“This is a way for us to underline the value of cruising with Seabourn in Europe,” said Pamela Conover, Seabourn’s president and CEO. “We are offering our guests an extra five to fifteen percent Early Booking Savings, which can mean $700 to $1600 per person.” Conover noted, however, that savings can and will be reduced as the cruises fill. “My advice,” she said, “is to take advantage of it while you can.”

Voyages offered at the increased Early Booking Savings include:
  • 14-day Mediterranean voyages departing March 31 and April 14, 2009 with savings to 50% and fares from $6,045 per person, based on double occupancy of a 277-square foot ocean-view suite.

  • A 14-day Rivers of Western Europe and an 11-day Grand Harbors of Europe voyage in May are likewise offering 50% savings, and fares from $5,520 per person for 11 days or $7,045 for 14 days.

  • The entire summer schedule in Northern Europe is being offered at Early Booking Savings of up to 40%, with 9- to 14-day fares starting from $5,400 to $8,454 per person, double.
For details on the voyages, Seabourn Pride and the Early Booking Savings, contact your travel agent, call Seabourn at 1-800-929-9391, or visit The Yachts of Seabourn.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Celebrity Cruises Announces New Deployment for Celebrity Millennium & Celebrity Mercury

Celebrity Cruises has announced new itineraries for Celebrity Millennium and Celebrity Mercury, presenting guests with new cruise vacation options from the historic coastal cities of Baltimore, Maryland, and Charleston, South Carolina, along with the brand’s popular Caribbean cruises from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Correspondingly, the line announced plans to discontinue its Australia and New Zealand cruises previously scheduled for late-2009 and 2010 on Celebrity Millennium.

“Australia and New Zealand are charming and beautiful destinations, and we’re confident we’ll return again as our brand and fleet grows,” said Celebrity’s President & CEO Dan Hanrahan. “Currently, though, our travel agent partners and guests have repeatedly said they want more options to sail with Celebrity from the Eastern seaboard, where our brand was founded, and still has a very large and loyal base of cruisers. So, we’re pleased to present some very attractive new cruise vacations from that region.”

Celebrity Millennium Takes On Celebrity Mercury's Territory: The 2,038-guest Celebrity Millennium will cap its 2009 season in Alaska with cruises previously scheduled for the 1,898-guest Celebrity Mercury, offering more capacity on the popular sailings. The itineraries will reflect those previously announced for Celebrity Mercury, with the addition of a 12-night wine-themed cruise departing from Vancouver on Sept 28, 2009, followed by an eastbound, 16-night Panama Canal cruise on Oct 10, 2009, from San Diego to San Juan, where Celebrity Millennium will offer a series of 10- and 11-night Southern Caribbean cruises roundtrip from San Juan, beginning Oct 26, 2009. Guests with reservations on the sailings previously scheduled for Celebrity Mercury will be contacted and re-accommodated on the same sailing dates on Celebrity Millennium, at the rates paid.

Celebrity Mercury Offers New Options on the Eastern Seaboard: Celebrity Mercury will sail a 17-night Panama Canal cruise from San Diego on Oct 23, 2009, ending in Baltimore. There, from Nov 2009 to Feb 2010, the ship will present a series of new 12-night Eastern Caribbean cruises, as well as four 9-night cruises. Celebrity Mercury then will present a series of 10- and 11-night Eastern and Western Caribbean voyages from Charleston from Feb through April 2010. The new itineraries on Celebrity Mercury replace the Southern Caribbean cruises from San Juan previously scheduled from Nov 2009 to April 2010. Guests with affected bookings will be contacted and offered the option to be re-accommodated in like accommodations on identical Southern Caribbean itineraries on Celebrity Millennium at the rate paid.

For additional information, including ports of call for each ship's new itinerary, and options for guests holding bookings on the canceled Australia and New Zealand cruises, see's Cruise News.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cruise Travel: Nassau, Bahamas

Is it really “Better in the Bahamas” as the old tourism slogan suggests? It surely is if it’s snowing in Buffalo and you can escape for a few days of sun, sand, and turquoise water.

The Bahamas, North America’s nearest and most accessible tropical islands are ideally suited as a destination for short 3- and 4-day cruises and some 7-day cruises call there as well. Nassau on New Providence Island and Freeport/Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island are the most frequent port stops. Each has something unique to offer visitors, from the excitement and glamour of luxury resort casinos in Freeport to Nassau’s down-home straw market (pictured above). Both offer sugary white sand beaches and a host of activities. is proud to share expert cruise advice & ideas about the Bahamas in The Telegraph's Cruise Guide to Nassau.

Decide for yourself if a quick getaway to the Bahamas is right for you with Cruise Diva’s Ports of Call.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Crystal Cruises Adds Middle Eastern Twist to 2010 World Cruise

Every once in a while a voyage is announced that makes it to the top of my Dream Cruise list. Yes, there are places that even Cruise Diva hasn't been to... yet. Crystal Cruises has recently announced just such a voyage, a dream around-the-world cruise that has me yearning for exotic ports of call and unique experiences.

For its 15th annual World Cruise set for 2010, luxury cruise specialist Crystal Cruises has set a new course with a Middle Eastern twist. The detailed 108-day itinerary, features maiden visits to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and a host of other fascinating destinations. Although the departure is more than a year and half away and reservations don't open until October, Crystal Cruises has more than 100 guests on its waitlist.

On Jan 10, 2010, the award-winning Crystal Serenity will depart Miami on an unprecedented voyage exploring South America, Africa, and India, with a greatly expanded focus on the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Black Sea, and several European ports in the Mediterranean Sea en route to London. The epic journey will visit 41 ports in 37 countries.

"Based on extensive research, site inspections and discussions with contemporary world affairs experts, we feel we have created an unparalleled voyage for the most discriminating travelers," says Gregg Michel, president of Crystal Cruises. "On one itinerary, our 2010 World Cruise guests can visit an incredible combination of destinations renowned for being profoundly rich in antiquities and cultural history."

Significant for 2010:

* Seven maiden calls: Port Elizabeth, South Africa; Bandar Abbas, Iran; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Manama, Bahrain; Khasab, Oman; Alfujairah, United Arab Emirates (UAE); and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.* First time Crystal has included the Black Sea ports in a World Cruise.
* Overnight stays in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Safaga, Egypt (for Luxor/Karnak); Athens, Greece; Odessa, Ukraine; Istanbul, Turkey; and Barcelona, Spain.
* Two-night shipboard stays in Cape Town, South Africa and Dubai, UAE.
* Late night calls in, among others, Ashdod, Israel; Cochin and Mumbai, India; Bandar Abbas, Iran; Manama, Bahrain; Aqaba, Jordan; Alexandria, Egypt; Kusadasi, Turkey; Livorno, Italy.
* Complimentary shore-side events, Crystal Adventures shore excursions, onboard parties, gifts, enhanced onboard entertainment, and expanded Creative Learning Institute and Crystal Visions lecture program.
* Available in seven individual segments ranging from 13 to 21 days, or back-to-back segment combinations.

World Cruise fares will be available in October, when Crystal Cruises will begin accepting reservations. Full World Cruisers booked for 2009 will have the opportunity to book 2010 before it is open to the public. For additional information, visit the line's website at

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 Embarks on 100th Transatlantic Crossing

As Queen Mary 2 prepares to sail her 100th Transatlantic Crossing, Cunard Line reveals the captivating statistics that illustrate the Line’s singular hold on the bygone glamour that defines their Transatlantic travel experience. The only company offering regularly scheduled Transatlantic service via flagship Queen Mary 2, Cunard Line continues a tradition that began 168 years ago. The iconic ocean liner will depart on her 100th Transatlantic voyage on Sept 21 from Southampton, England arriving in New York on Sept 27. Upon arrival, she will have logged 711,288 nautical miles since her debut with 316,729 nautical miles on Transatlantic voyages alone.

“Perhaps more than any other voyage, a Transatlantic Crossing captures the imagination of the most intrepid travelers,” said Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Line. “A Transatlantic voyage recalls a bygone era of glamour and sophistication. For many, it is on par with the world’s most storied travel experiences.”

In addition to logging nearly three-quarters of a million miles, Queen Mary 2 will mark other milestones on her 100th Transatlantic voyage, including:
· More than 229,000 guests crossing the North Atlantic
· 450 pets crossing the North Atlantic
· 97,000 pounds of lobster served
· 2,700 pounds of caviar served
· 206,200 bottles of Champagne served
· Enough tea to fill nearly five Olympic-sized swimming pools
Queen Mary 2 has welcomed many notable guests, including Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, Uma Thurman, Richard Dreyfuss, Carly Simon, Rod Stewart, Tina Brown and Harold Evans, Terrance Howard, Donald Trump, and Dame Shirley Bassey. Her eminent visitors have included HRH Queen Elizabeth II, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Noor, Former President George Bush, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Take a Transatlantic voyage on Queen Mary 2 with Cruise Diva, Crossing the Atlantic in Royal Style.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Port of Houston Welcomes Two Carnival Cruise Ships

As a result of the closure of the Port of Galveston due to damage from Hurricane Ike, Carnival Cruise Lines' two Galveston-based ships, Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy, are scheduled to operate their regular cruise programs from the Port of Houston's Bayport Cruise Terminal effective with this weekend's departures.

The 2,052-passenger Carnival Ecstasy will resume its 4- and 5-day Mexico schedule from the Port of Houston starting with a 5-day cruise departing Saturday, Sept. 20. Beginning with the departure of Sunday, Sept. 21, the 2,974-passenger Carnival Conquest will depart Houston on 7-day cruises to the western Caribbean.

"We are pleased to continue our Texas operations from the Port of Houston, which will be a convenient option for guests who have already made travel arrangements for previously scheduled Galveston departures," said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO. "We are especially grateful to the Port of Houston for their responsiveness. Many of their personnel involved in making this happen were dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ike but set that aside to work with us on very short notice to assure that these vessels would continue to have a Texas homeport and with minimal disruption to our guests," he added.

Cahill indicated that the company plans to return to Galveston as soon as the necessary repairs to the port facilities are completed. "The Port of Galveston has been a valued and important partner since we launched year-round cruising from there in 2000. We look forward to bringing both the Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy back to the city as quickly as we can. We have enjoyed an outstanding relationship with Galveston over the years and our thoughts and prayers are with the people of this wonderful city during this difficult time," he said.

Carnival's two Houston-based ships will operate the same itineraries as they did from Galveston. Carnival Conquest will sail 7-day western Caribbean voyages departing Sundays to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Carnival Ecstasy will depart Thursdays on 4-day cruises to Cozumel, and on Mondays and Saturdays on 5-day voyages to Cozumel and Progreso.

The Port of Houston's newly opened Bayport Terminal is an $81 million state-of-the-art facility with 96,000 square feet of space (pictured above). It is conveniently accessed from both of the city's airports, and a variety of fine restaurants and shops are located nearby. The Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy will be the first cruise ships to utilize the new facility. For additional information, see the Port of Houston web site.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Royal Caribbean Encores World-Class Entertainment on Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has raised the curtain on another neighborhood aboard Oasis of the Seas, the cruise line's newest and highly anticipated ship set to launch in Nov 2009. Entertainment Place, a complex of diverse entertainment venues, is one of seven neighborhoods on the world's largest and most revolutionary cruise ship--a unique concept providing vacationers with the opportunity to seek out relevant experiences based on their personal style, preference or mood.

A contemporary night club district, Entertainment Place will introduce new signature after-dark spaces in more intimate venues that offer a variety of entertainment experiences. The new collection of venues will include Blaze, the hottest nightclub at sea; Jazz on 4, an intimate lounge filled with live jazz and blues; and Comedy Live, featuring side-splitting comedy. Dance enthusiasts also will be able to enjoy an elegant evening in Dazzles, a dance lounge featuring musically themed evenings, dance lessons and competitions.

Whether you are looking for a mellow low-key evening or an exhilarating high-energy 'night on the town,' Entertainment Place will have an experience to suit any mood. In addition, Oasis of the Seas also will offer some of the most captivating theatrical productions ever created by the cruise line's award-winning Royal Caribbean Productions team. The Opal Theater, Oasis of the Seas' state-of-the- art 1,380-seat main theater (illustrated above), will feature a thrust stage and proscenium extending into the audience space to create a more intimate and interactive environment. Entertainers will make their entrances from unexpected locations around the venue and perform aerial acrobatics enveloping audience members in an experience which unfolds around and above them. The popular Studio B with its ice skating rink will continue to awe guests with spectacular and vibrant ice shows and serve as the locale for a variety of themed events.

For more details about Entertainment Place, see's Cruise News. A video showing a preview of Entertainment Place with interviews from Royal Caribbean's executives can be viewed at

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike Aftermath: Port of Galveston Faces Uncertain Future

In 1900 there was little warning and no defense in advance of the legendary unnamed Galveston hurricane that killed 8,000 and which remains one of the deadliest natural disasters to hit the United States. We can only imagine the horror residents faced back then. Thankfully, with modern technology and storm tracking capabilities, Hurricane Ike left mainly devastation in the form of flooding, destroyed buildings, and loss of utilities. Fox News reports the plea of Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas to the residents who evacuated, "Do not come back to Galveston. You cannot live here at this time." Much the same warning applies to cruise ships operating from the Port of Galveston.

Operations at the Port of Galveston will remain shut down while underwater debris assessment teams investigate hazards in the ship channel and cruise operations are unlikely to resume for an indeterminate time, according to a report from the Galveston County Daily News. It is also reported that 2 to 3 feet of water flooded the cruise terminal and the wall facing the water has collapsed. Carnival Cruise Lines ships scheduled to return to Galveston on Sunday and Monday were unable to do so and have been diverted to New Orleans. Vehicles parked by cruise ship passengers at the port are most likely a total loss, according to city spokesperson Alicia Cahill.

Carnival Cruise Lines has issued the following statement as of 6pm, Sept 14:

We are closely monitoring the situation in Galveston and the impact from Hurricane Ike. We do not currently have a lot of information about the status of the shipping channel, cruise terminal or the port access infrastructure. Local communication has been very challenging and there are restrictions against incoming traffic into the Galveston area.We do not expect the Port of Galveston to be open on Monday and there is tremendous uncertainty about when the port will be available to us next week. Due to this situation, we will now cancel the following cruises:
  • Carnival Conquest Sept 14 departure that was re-scheduled to a 6 day cruise departing on Monday, Sept 15
  • Carnival Ecstasy Sept 15 departure
Guests will receive a full refund of cruise fare and we will process these refunds within three weeks.
  • Carnival Conquest Sept 7 Departure: The Carnival Conquest cruise that departed on Sept 7 will return to New Orleans on Monday, Sept 15. Guests will be able to debark on Monday or Tuesday. Guests will also be able to remain onboard and sail back to Galveston with the ship. However, we are uncertain about when the Port of Galveston will re-open.
  • Carnival Ecstasy Sept 11 Departure: The Carnival Ecstasy cruise that departed on Sept 11 will return to New Orleans on Tuesday, Sept 16 (2:00 PM arrival). Guests will be able to debark on Tuesday or Wednesday. Guests will also be able to remain onboard and sail back to Galveston with the ship. However, we are uncertain about when the Port of Galveston will re-open.
We sincerely apologize to our guests that are impacted by these cancelled or modified cruises. Most importantly, we hope that all of those that reside in the areas impacted by Hurricane Ike were able to remain safe. We also wish a speedy recovery to those that may have sustained damage homes or businesses.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Accessible Cruise Travel

With my broken leg in a cast, my eyes have really opened to the challenges faced by travelers with mobility impairments. It isn't easy to get around in a two-story house. What's it like on today's cruise ships?

Less than two decades ago "accessibility" on a cruise ship meant little more than a few inside staterooms set aside for mobility impaired passengers. Most public restrooms and nearly all en suite bathrooms had a "step-over" entryway—even passengers without mobility problems often tripped until they became accustomed to them.

In the wake of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the cruise industry began demonstrating ADA compliance. However, some older ships may still have physical barriers in both cabins and public rooms. In April 2001, the family of Carnival Cruise Lines announced an ambitious six-year plan for ship renovations to comply with the ADA. Cruise lines have always welcomed disabled passengers and are now designing new ships from the keel up with wheelchair access in mind.

Take a look at how they have done as Cruise Diva outlines Accessible Solutions.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Grand Turk Rebounds & Plans Oct 8th Reopening

In the wake of Hurricane Ike and the destruction it left behind, citizens on the island of Grand Turk can still count their blessings. While it may sound frivolous when considering residents' personal hardships, The Grand Turk Cruise Center, which is operated by Miami-based Carnival Corp, has scheduled an Oct 8, 2008 re-opening date. An engineering survey has confirmed that no damage was sustained to the cruise ship pier, which can accommodate up to two ships at one time. Minimal damage occurred to the facility's retail and restaurant complex.

"We believe we can complete repairs to the cruise center within a 30-day period and bring cruise ships back to Grand Turk," said Giora Israel, Carnival's vice president of strategic planning and port development. "We will be able to provide many of the wonderful, beach, snorkeling, and watersports experiences that Grand Turk is famous for, along with the oversized pool and food and shopping opportunities at the cruise center, including the extremely popular Margaritaville restaurant."

Why so soon? The rush isn't selfish, although it may appear to be. Quite the contrary, as Israel explains: by returning cruise ships quickly, important economic benefits will accrue to Grand Turk as the island moves forward with its recovery efforts. In addition to its existing staff on the island, Carnival Corp will bring in a number of skilled workers who will be housed and fed by the company. Those individuals will not only repair the cruise center complex, but also assist in the repair of some of the island's key attractions. The cruise center's lush landscaping, much of which was lost as a result of the storm, will be replaced on a gradual basis over the next several months.

"We will be investing millions of dollars in the coming months to help Grand Turk quickly re-build its cruise-focused tourism. Bringing tourists back to the island as quickly as possible will play a major role in driving the island's overall recovery," said Israel.

The Grand Turk Cruise Center is the largest private employer on the island and the cruise center staff, combined with shore excursion operators, comprises approximately 80 percent of non-government jobs in Grand Turk. Carnival Corp will also be providing financial and logistical assistance to shore excursion operators to enable them to resume their businesses. Cruise passengers and crew members will be offered the opportunity to participate in volunteer-oriented excursions for those who wish to assist in the island's recovery effort.

The Grand Turk Cruise Center serves as a gateway to the pristine island of Grand Turk, which is world-renowned as a diving and snorkeling jewel, and also features magnificent beaches, striking aqua-blue waters, and a variety of fishing and watersports activities. The first cruise ship scheduled to call at Grand Turk will be Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Destiny on Oct 8. Carnival Cruise Lines is the largest cruise-line user of the Grand Turk facility. Several other cruise lines, both from within the Carnival Corp familyof brands and from other cruise operators, also regularly call at Grand Turk. Additional information on the Grand Turk Cruise Center can be viewed at

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Carnival's "Fun Ship" Freddy Turns Six

Has it really been that long since we first met the big guy with the infectious smile? “Fun Ship” Freddy recently celebrated his sixth birthday during parties planned for him throughout the entire Carnival fleet.

Kids from “Camp Carnival” and youth counselors went all out to make sure that Freddy’s birthday was memorable, creating colorful birthday cards and banners and enjoying custom-designed birthday cakes created by the food and beverage staff. Freddy was obviously thrilled with the festivities–he couldn’t quit smiling and had a perpetual grin throughout each and every celebration.

Featured on all 22 Carnival ships, “Fun Ship” Freddy–Carnival’s fun-loving mascot with a funnel-shaped head–is roughly six feet tall and is normally decked out in his customary cruise staff uniform, with oversized white gloves and sneakers, and, of course, the requisite Carnival ID badge. “Fun Ship” Freddy naturally dons a tux for formal night.

In addition to greeting passengers of all ages and interacting with everyone aboard ship, “Fun Ship” Freddy poses for photos throughout each voyage and is often found in the children’s play areas, the focal point of many “Camp Carnival” activities.

Those hired to portray “Fun Ship” Freddy must undergo an intensive shoreside training session followed by a four-day “test run” in full costume aboard ship before being hired.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Holland America Line Invites You to Mix & Mingle and Dance the Night Away

As part of a new $200-million Signature of Excellence upgrade to Statendam, Maasdam, Ryndam, Veendam, and Rotterdam, Holland America Line is upgrading, revamping, and reconfiguring their centrally located bars and lounges to bring a new concept to their shipboard social scene.

An exciting new entertainment space called Mix is set to become the destination lounge where guests can meet and mingle throughout the day and night. Mix is an open and inviting space anchored by a pianist providing entertainment for three distinctly themed areas. In Mix, you'll find:
  • The bubbly flowing at Champagne, which offers a variety of 20 different champagnes and sparkling wines from around the world.

  • Martinis serving up 25 Grey Goose martinis elegantly offered in individual shakers as well as a full range of cocktails.

  • Spirits & Ales featuring an international selection of beers and premium whiskeys and brandies sure to entice even the most selective connoisseur.

In addition, the Ocean Bar will be enhanced to refresh its look. Guests who want to get their groove on or brush up on their ballroom dancing skills can sign up for lessons given by the Line's experienced staff. Providing tunes from the Great American Songbook, The Neptunes—Holland America Line's resident 3-piece music combo—will keep things lively as guests dance the night away and enjoy a cocktail in the luxuriously appointed lounge.

"A focus of this latest Signature of Excellence series of enhancements is our entertainment venues, where we've created the ultimate place to both socialize and be entertained," said Richard D. Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs.

For additional details, visit Cruise News at

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Carnival Triumph: New Cruise Review

Over the years, Vincent and Mary Finelli have been's most prolific cruise reviewer contributors. The Finellis just completed their fourth cruise aboard Carnival Triumph and I am pleased to once again share their experience. This review is a bit different, however. Carnival Triumph's master, Captain Salvatore Messina, he impressed our veteran cruisers with his kindness and intelligent handling of their sticky situation—itinerary alterations caused by the erratic Hurricane Gustav.

Vincent relates that, "The itinerary was altered after Cozumel, Mexico. Instead of going East to Jamaica we went North, while Jamaica took a direct hit from the hurricane. Captain Messina kept us well out of harm's way, and we headed back for two fun filled sea days before landing at Half Moon Cay on Friday, a private white sand beach on a beautiful tropical island. On Saturday we landed at Nassau, Bahamas for another beautiful day. Whenever a port is dropped passengers always complain, but those with hurricane experience always avoid the high seas, wind and rain. It's an unwritten law! Bravo, Captain Messina."

One aspect of every cruise that Vincent shares is the accessibility of the ship he is aboard. You see, he uses a wheelchair and passengers with similar mobility issues can gain a lot of insight from his reviews. Truthfully, since breaking my leg last week, I've accrued a huge amount of admiration for Vincent and other special needs passengers and applaud them for getting out there and traveling!

Visit to read Vincent and Mary Finelli's complete Carnival Triumph Review.

Monday, September 8, 2008

UK Cruise Week Has Set Sail

Our British cousins are going to sea in ever greater numbers and, according to the Telegraph, there is growing interest about cruise travel in the UK. Last year, 38 per cent of people taking a cruise were first-timers, which is why National Cruise Week has been launched there. Running from Sept 7 to 14, a series of events will be held around the country to celebrate cruising. Adopt a dolphin, play a hand or two of poker, go to a beach party--there are lots of different things going on. Visitors can also talk to impartial agents about what type of cruise holiday would best suit them.

Check out National Cruise Week events and the related information about cruises in the Telegraph's Cruise Channel. Even we Yanks can learn a thing or two from the site, especially the useful insight into European ports of call.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hurricanes/Tropical Storms: Cruise Ship Itinerary Alterations

The Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico continue to heat up with tropical weather activity. To keep up with the news, check the National Hurricane Center for maps forecasting the storms' progress and, for cruise ship itinerary updates, Cruiseblogger has the latest reports for sailings affected by Hurricane Ike, as well as the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna.

You can also follow the path of storms as the cruise lines do by checking out

Friday, September 5, 2008

Goodbye, My Prince

You could say I fell for Prince Albert II in a big way this week.

After a speedy embarkation last Monday in Fort Lauderdale, we were aboard Prince Albert II and excited about our upcoming cruise. Mel and I dropped off our carry-on after getting our key card, had a look at our accommodations, and set out to explore what was to be our home for the next two weeks. Unfortunately, about ten minutes into our walk-about, I tripped and fell. It wasn't an ordinary fall. Mel managed to get me back to our stateroom where Silversea staff members took over--a wheelchair was produced and the ship's doctor whisked me off to his office for x-rays. My leg was broken just above the ankle.

Luckily, it was the small leg bone, we were still in port, and there was shoreside medical care available. It was decided that our best course of action was to go to Broward General Hospital to get my ankle stabilized, check into a hotel for the night, and fly home on Tuesday.

Due to the exploration nature of the cruise, we decided I simply wouldn't be able to participate in any activities and, thus, we decided not to meet the ship in Belize and complete the journey as suggested. It was a huge disappointment, but the crew aboard Prince Albert II was splendid and I learned first-hand how caring and efficient they are in an emergency. I must also commend the folks at Delta who met me curbside at the airport with a wheelchair and took charge of getting me through security and onto the plane.

For the next six weeks I'll be "cruising" around on crutches and dreaming of my fair prince. We'll meet again someday.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Holland America Line Returning To Bermuda

Beginning in 2010, Holland America Line will once again sail on regularly scheduled cruises between New York City and Bermuda. Holland America is the only major cruise line that will call on both Hamilton and St. George’s, Bermuda’s cultural and shopping hubs. Additionally, guests of Holland America Line will have an opportunity to fully experience Bermuda’s British charm and its unique island culture by day and by night with multi-day stays in each port.

When the 1,350-guest ms Veendam sails in late August 2010 on the first of 10 roundtrips to the island, it will mark Holland America Line’s return to New York City as a home port and to Bermuda as a destination. Holland America Line worked closely with the Bermudian government to form the partnership that takes Holland America Line back to the island that it first visited more than 70 years ago. In 1926, Veendam II, with a guest capacity of approximately 500, left New York on the company’s first Caribbean cruise. During the summers of 1930 and 1931, Veendam II sailed on five-day roundtrip cruises between New York and Bermuda.

“We are thrilled to homeport a ship in New York City again and especially to be returning to Bermuda,” said Richard D. Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs, “and it’s particularly relevant to be doing so on a ship with the same name as the one that sailed to Bermuda so many years ago. Veendam is ideal for this itinerary,” Meadows noted. “She is a premium mid-size ship, the perfect size to navigate the narrow entrances to the harbors in Hamilton and St. George’s. Veendam’s guests are able to step off the ship right in the center of each town. Ships larger than Veendam must tie up at the Dockyard facility a considerable distance from both towns. “With overnight stays in Hamilton and St. George’s, guests will truly have the time to explore Bermuda and gain an appreciation of its culture, its people and its history as well as the time to relax on the island’s beaches, play a full round–or two–of golf on its world-renowned golf courses or partake of the many activities offered.”

The clean and friendly historic island, with its forts to discover, horses to ride, kayaks to paddle and oceans to explore, is an excellent destinations for families. “Cruising to Bermuda with Holland America Line is also an outstanding value when compared to staying in land-based resorts,” Meadows noted.

In addition to the ten sailings between late August and October in 2010, Holland America Line will visit the island and its towns for a full season beginning in May the following year, with 20 or more sailings anticipated.

Holland America Line Announces Ongoing Signature of Excellence Enhancements to Five Ships

As part of its ongoing Signature of Excellence, Holland America Line is doubling the amount to be spent in upgrades, enhancements and new features on five of the line’s most popular ships. Over the next two years, the ms Statendam, ms Ryndam, ms Maasdam, ms Veendam and ms Rotterdam will undergo extensive dry docks to create new venues, new staterooms, new décor and more. The 18-month, $200 million program will begin when Veendam enters an extended dock in spring 2009, and the last ship is slated for completion in late 2010. The investment in this new series of enhancements will include a new resort pool concept, innovative lanai staterooms, new entertainment and enrichment options, all new stateroom décor and more. Holland America Line’s commitment to enhancing its premium fleet now exceeds $525 million.

Signature of Excellence features and amenities are evident in every aspect of the Holland America Line cruise experience, offering guests more luxurious accommodations, more enticing destinations, enhanced dining experiences, more creative activities and even higher levels of service. Previously, during the first phase of Signature of Excellence, these five ships were enhanced with the Explorations Café, Culinary Arts Center, expanded Club HAL youth facilities and more. This next installment reinforces Holland America Line’s commitment to its popular mid-sized ships. The enhancements will add more verandah staterooms, introduce a new category of stateroom, expand the Lido Deck’s pool feature with The Retreat, create a showroom at sea and upgrade staterooms, bathrooms and fixtures.

“Holland America Line has long been the leader in the premium cruise segment,” said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president of sales, marketing and guest services. “This significant and continued investment reaffirms our commitment to our fleet of mid-sized ships and our ongoing leadership in the premium category by continually raising the bar in terms of products and services. In an era where cruise lines are building ships to carry more than 5,000 passengers, Holland America Line remains focused on mid-sized vessels. These enhancements will blend the latest innovations for premium travel into our ships, creating a deluxe experience that is unparalleled.”

The most dramatic alteration will be to the aft portion of the ships, allowing for a new resort-style pool area on Lido deck called The Retreat with a shallow area where guests may lounge in chairs and dip their fingers and toes in the water or relax on the bench and dangle their legs in the refreshing water. A new pool bar and an upscale pizzeria called Slice will be installed, as well as a canopy and wind screens to provide additional covered seating for the Lido Restaurant.

All staterooms will receive new décor, carpeting and soft goods. Each ship also will have an additional 44 to 46 staterooms, 32 with verandahs and the remaining will be inside staterooms. On the four S-class ships, twelve staterooms near the spa (on Deck 9) also will have verandahs added, and along with three inside staterooms, become ‘spa staterooms’ featuring a variety of enhanced spa amenities. On the Rotterdam, 23 staterooms on Verandah deck will become spa staterooms. On the five ships, forty-six new lanai staterooms will be created by replacing existing windows of 42 staterooms (on Lower Promenade Deck 6) with lanai doors that open directly onto the walk-around promenade, and adding four additional staterooms.

The program also involves enhancements to several of the public rooms. A Merabella luxury jewelry shop will be added. The Casino and Piano bars will be reconfigured into a multi-themed area called Mix with three separate bars—Martinis, Champagne and Spirits & Ales. Next door, the high-energy casino will be redesigned highlighting the always trendy table and slot games. The main show space will be transformed into the Showroom at Sea with the ambiance of a glamorous nightclub. The ever-popular Ocean Bar will be refurbished and carpets will be replaced in most public areas. The new Sky Room on Sports Deck will feature the latest in multi-generational video games and high-tech entertainment.

Entertainment and enrichment, or “edutainment,” is taking on a new, contemporary look and feel across the fleet. A new Explorations Team employs cruise staff, each specializing in a particular area, to educate and entertain guests with an expanded menu of activities including flower arranging, hands-on cooking, dancing and working with digital photos, blogs and movies. Each team consists of a party planner, a travel guide, dance directors and a “techspert.” On longer cruises, a book club leader joins the team to lead lively group discussions. Renowned for service levels provided by its award-winning staff, the program will also include significant crew area enhancements including a new fitness facility, internet centers, staterooms and recreational areas.

The industry-leading Signature of Excellence initiative announced nearly five years ago in Nov 2003 has evolved into an ongoing and comprehensive review of every aspect of the Holland America Line experience. Signature of Excellence is Holland America Line’s brand promise and continues to bring innovation and relevance to guests.