Friday, July 31, 2009

Celebrity Equinox: At Sea

It rained on us a bit yesterday—not unexpected, as Celebrity Equinox is sailing just off the coast of England—but today dawned bright and sunny at sea. Right after breakfast a walk around the Lawn Club was my to-do list. The grass is bright green and inviting and just the spot for this afternoon’s scheduled bocce and quoits competitions.

As lovely as it is outside today, I needed some down time and headed for the spa. For those of us in Celebrity Equinox’s 130 AquaClass staterooms there are perks that come with our accommodations, including a multi-head Hansgrohe shower panel with rain shower head, dining in the exclusive Blu Restaurant, and complimentary access to the sensory pleasures of the spa’s Persian Garden (pictured here). After a delightful hour enjoying the herbal steam room, aromatic sauna, and heated loungers, my cares had drifted away on the passing waves. For even more pampering, there’s a relaxation room with thick padded lounges one deck below the spa where our AquaClass balcony accommodations are located. With access to the spa via a circular “secret” staircase, it’s possible for AquaClass occupants to go to the relaxation room and Persian Garden in their bathrobes without entering public spaces.

If you haven’t booked an AquaClass stateroom, you don’t have to miss out on the Persian Garden’s delights. The fee for unlimited access is $99 per cruise. Or, if you prefer, the men’s and women’s changing rooms have dry saunas with a view of the sea—one wall is glass.

Aboard Celebrity Equinox you’ll find signature spaces that define the identity of Celebrity Cruises as well as some “California” style elements, such as the Galleria Tastings, that integrate nicely with the South Beach vibe of the draped alcoves in the trendy Martini Bar. An intriguing design element of the Solstice-class ships, and one that adds to their intimacy, is that from any spot in accommodations passageways you can see no more than a third of the length of the ship.

You could spend a month on board Celebrity Equinox and still be discovering new elements. I wish I could stay that long, but as I sit by the pool listening to a Flamenco guitarist, my time aboard is coming to an end. There’s lots more information to share, so watch for a full ship review next week.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Celebrity Equinox: “Here Comes The Sun”

It’s official, Celebrity Equinox has been christened by Godmother, Nina Barough (pictured here) who surprised everyone, including Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd Chairman & CEO Richard D. Fain, by saying “no one knows I’m doing this” (which Fain admitted sent a shiver of fear down his spine).

With that warning, Ms. Barough blessed not only the ship, but also the show lounge where guests were invited to hold hands and think of something meaningful in order to leave lasting good karma for those who will sail after us. As the founder of “Walk the Walk,” she electrified those in attendance with her personal story as a breast cancer survivor who works tirelessly to raise funds (almost 50 million pounds to date) for vital breast cancer causes.

By cutting a pink ribbon—symbolic of breast cancer awareness—Ms. Barough sent a champagne bottle created by Corning Museum of Glass smashing against Celebrity Equinox’s funnel in an updated twist to the time-honored tradition.

Did the day reveal any other surprises? I would say that if you liked Celebrity Solstice, you’ll love her younger fleetmate. After boarding at about noon yesterday, a walk around confirmed that Celebrity Cruises took the best of Solstice and made it better on Equinox. There are some décor changes—mostly in terms of color schemes and splendid works of modern art. Some of the art may look familiar to Celebrity Cruises past passengers. Much of the collection that formerly graced Celebrity Mercury made its way to Celebrity Equinox when the older ship left the fleet.

While the art is special, so far the crew has also proven to be just as outstanding. We enjoyed a made-to-order pasta for lunch in the Oceanview Café and a celebratory dinner in the Silhouette Dining Room. As the evening winds down, it’s showtime in the newly “christened” Equinox Theater.

Tomorrow promises to be a full day at sea and there’s some Italian gelato calling my name, so it might be a good time to hit a treadmill in the fitness center first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Living the “Celebrity Life” Aboard Celebrity Equinox

Cruise Diva is boarding Celebrity Equinox here in Southampton today for the naming ceremony and other inaugural events, but there's something new rolling out on board that's just about as exciting as the formal gala scheduled for tonight. Something we’ll be hearing a lot more about is “Celebrity Life,” a new series of palate-pleasing, intellectually-enriching, and life-enhancing programs designed to deliver the most unique and sophisticated onboard experience in premium cruising. Built on long-established pillars of the Celebrity brand—dining, enrichment, and wellness—Celebrity Life encompasses three distinct program categories: “Savor,” “Discover,” and “Renew.”

“Savor” takes an already stellar culinary experience to new heights, with eight new wine enrichment events designed to expand your understanding and appreciation of the fascinating world of wine, six spirits and mixology tastings to bring out your inner bartender, and more than seven different interactive culinary arts programs hosted by the ship’s Executive Chef and his team (as well as a special lineup of guest chefs who will set sail with Celebrity over the course of the year).

“Discover” presents an opportunity to do or learn what you have always wanted to try, but can never find the time to do at home. Whether it’s ordering a bottle of Chianti in Italian, or exploring the universe in 40 minutes, you can delve into a wide variety of interests. Highlighted by Celebrity’s new association with Smithsonian Journeys, the educational travel program of the renowned Smithsonian Institution, the “Beyond the Podium” enrichment series will offer far more than the typical enrichment lecture. Or you might prefer to learn a new language through Celebrity’s alliance with Rosetta Stone®, enhance your iPod listening experience by discovering new iTunes tips and tricks, or boost your technological prowess through Celebrity’s “digITal” series, with courses ranging from Photoshop and Windows primers, to BlackBerry and blog creation tips. Other enhancements to the edu-tainment program range from astronomy and celestial navigation to sharing the stage with Celebrity’s professional dancers during itinerary-influenced, interactive productions. In addition to participating in cultural, world, and ballroom dance classes, you’ll also have the opportunity to compete in the “Everybody Dance” competition, culminating in a vote for “star” dance champions on every sailing.

“Renew” offers an improved, more goal-oriented approach to classes, seminars, and treatments designed to help you on a journey to looking younger, feeling better, and living longer. Redefining the spa experience with an innovative range of beauty and wellness options, Renew offers three areas of enrichment within the program: “Ageless,” “Energy,” and “Longevity,” each with its own slate of treatment selections, seminars, and workshops. You can participate in motivating classes and also experience results-driven spa or fitness treatments created for each series within the program. How does a a 24-karat gold facial to target fine lines and wrinkles sound? To promote self-awareness and healthier living, you can take home nutritional information, wellness assessments, and realistic “Life” prescriptions to incorporate into your everyday routine.

Celebrity Life “goes live” when Celebrity Equinox leaves Southampton and enters service on July 31st and the program will be introduced across the balance of the fleet by the end of November.

To get you in the mood to come aboard and explore Celebrity Equinox with me as I begin a two-night preview sailing, here is her “live” arrival in Southampton last week.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Where's Cruise Diva? Ready to Board Celebrity Equinox

Many US-based cruise lines plan the gala naming ceremonies for new ships upon their arrival in US ports, but Celebrity Cruises is doing something a bit different this year. And that's why my husband dropped me off at the airport yesterday to make my way to London and then Southampton. I won't be among the first guests on board Celebrity Cruises' 122,000-ton Celebrity Equinox, but I will be there for her naming and christening to share the excitement when founder of the breast cancer charity Walk the Walk, Great Britain's Nina Barough, smashes the bottle as part of her Godmother duties tomorrow.

The only cruise ship celebrating its launch in the UK this year, Celebrity Equinox actually arrived in Southampton on July 19th for nearly two weeks of introductory events. Pre-inaugural highlights included the first ever Pro-Am croquet tournament to take place on the high seas with ten of the world’s best players participating on July 25th. On the same day, female classical super-group All Angels were slated to perform for VIP guests on board as well.

Celebrity Cruises is giving UK cruisers a taste of what's to come by launching the new 2,850-passenger Celebrity Equinox in Southampton ahead of basing its sister ship Celebrity Eclipse, which is currently under construction, from the port in the summer 2010. The newest Solstice-class ship, Celebrity Equinox features a real grass lawn on board that is larger than eight tennis courts for boules, bocca, putting, and outdoor events. Built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany the first Celebrity Equinox sailing for paying passengers will depart Southampton on July 31st for an 8-night Norwegian Fjords cruise. Sadly, that's the day I disembark.

However, I'll be reporting daily during my 2-day sailing and from London afterward, so watch for more details as I get on board tomorrow!

What's a Solstice-class ship like? Get the inside story from Cruise Diva's inaugural season preview cruise aboard Celebrity Solstice.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cruise Ship Spas: Stay Fit & Feel Great At Sea

With all the usual pampering and service in luxurious surroundings, simply being on a cruise can be a stress-reducing experience. Add to that the menu of spa and salon services at your fingertips and you have a recipe for total sensory pleasure.

Cruise Diva takes a look at Cruise Ship Spas and, believe it or not, some items on the spa "menu" sound good enough to eat. After indulging in a treatment, wouldn't it be heavenly to have the relaxation room aboard Celebrity Solstice (pictured here) as a haven?

A popular Cruise Directors' quip during debarkation briefings is, "You came on as passengers, you'll be leaving as cargo." While it's meant as a joke, it does contain a ring of truth. Food, tasty and plentiful, is available 24-hours a day on most cruise ships. Vacations, especially cruise vacations, can be hazardous to your waistline if you aren't careful.

After all that relaxing, not to mention the abundant food, will you be "buff" or "buffet" at the end of your cruise? Maintaining an exercise regimen at sea is no sweat in your ship's Fitness Center.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Carnival Cruise Lines' Owen (The Brontosaurus) Hits The “Towel Animal Big Time”

Have you ever met a Towel Animal? No? Here’s your opportunity to get up close and personal with one of Carnival Cruise Lines’ feisty critters.

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Owen. Classically trained as a cabana hand towel, he first gained popularity in the Triassic period for his role in the comedy troop T-Rex and the Vertebrates. His signature catchphrase, “Meteorite schmeteorite,” played well with audiences and soon Owen grew tired of playing second fiddle to T-Rex. It wasn’t long until one night when Owen finally let loose on T-Rex saying, “You, sir, have silly short arms. And I’m through with you!” That final contact with T-Rex and the Vertebrates was the beginning of his solo career.

After a brief stint in Las Vegas opening for Tony Orlando, Owen returned to the sea and found work with Carnival. “It is here that I have found true happiness,” he said recently. “Days cruising the open water and evenings entertaining guests of all ages. What more could a giant lizard ask for?”

Towel Animals are the ultimate bedtime pals. Learn the “history” behind your cabin steward’s creations and how they have evolved as a cruising tradition.

And now you can also download folding instructions to create your own Brontosaurus at home (a pdf file).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sapphire Princess Statement

This morning at 6:30 am as Sapphire Princess was preparing to dock in Vancouver, a dead whale was discovered on top of the bulbous bow, the part of the bow that goes through the water. We were shocked and saddened by this discovery, and sincerely regret the circumstances which led to the whale's death. It is unknown how or when this could have happened, as we have strict whale avoidance procedures in place when our ships are in the vicinity of marine life. We are not aware that any whales were sighted as the ship sailed through the Inside Passage to Vancouver yesterday.

Upon discovering the whale, we notified the Canadian Coast Guard, and they have asked for the assistance of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We will cooperate with any investigation into the circumstances of the whale's death.

We take our responsibility to be good stewards of the marine environment very seriously, and have clear guidelines for our ships on how to operate if whales are sighted nearby, which include altering course and reducing speed as required.

Cruise Travel Cost Control: Save Money On Your Cruise

Those boarding passes/room keys pictured here... ultimately, they are "Sail 'n Spend" cards. Use them wisely and your cruise vacation budget won't skyrocket. How?

Cruise Diva offers Money Saving Tips that you can use when planning your cruise and once you are on board.

We also clear up the confusion about What's Included In Your Cruise Fare (and what isn't).

You have to get to port before sailing, so we take a look at Air & Sea Programs and how you can save time, money, and aggravation on flights.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Costa Cruises Introduces Web Check-In for Guests

Getting set to sail on a Costa cruise is as simple as the one-two-three steps at—guests sailing with Europe's Number One Cruise Line may now check-in online for their cruise vacation. Cruise Diva used the Internet check-in system earlier this year before sailing on Costa Fortuna from Port Everglades and found it was easy to navigate the process via Costa's web site. The good news is that it's now available to guests sailing on all of Costa's itineraries worldwide, including departures from the Caribbean, South America, Northern Europe, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, Dubai, and the Far East.

To begin the online check-in process, guests first enter their seven-digit booking number and last name. From there, they may access their boarding form, which they may then fill in with pertinent information needed for sailing. This includes the names and travel documentation information for all guests that are part of the booking. Once all information is filled in, guests simply need to check that the boarding form is complete. If so, their boarding documents are ready to print. The service is available from the time guests have booked and paid for their cruise in full up until the day prior to departure.

"Our web check-in system offers guests an additional ease of travel by allowing them to conveniently check-in from the comfort of their home," said Ruben Perez, senior vice president of guest services and revenue management for Costa North America.

To make things even easier at the pier, Costa also offers electronic check-in kiosks for guests departing from Port Everglades on Caribbean routes. It was the first cruise line at Port Everglades to offer this service, beginning in spring 2008 and it works like a charm.

For the past 60 years Costa Cruises' ships have sailed the world, offering the best in Italian style, hospitality and cuisine and providing dream vacations with the best in fun and relaxation. In 2008, 1.2 million guests chose to cruise with Costa, a record for the European cruise industry. The company's 14 fleet members, each with her own distinctive characteristics and unique style, all fly the Italian flag and are scheduled to be joined by three additional ships through 2012. For reservations or more information regarding Costa Cruises, guests may contact a travel agent, call (800) GO-COSTA, or visit Costa Cruises web site.

For a first-hand look at Costa Fortuna, read Cruising Italian Style and see a preview slide show. Then join us on board through these past blog entries:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

MSC Cruises' Theme Sailings: Rock Around The Clock, Experience A Piece Of Italy, or Tickle Your Funny Bone

Theme cruises are alive and well aboard MSC Cruises' ships in the Caribbean next year. They've already announced numerous sailings with a theme and now there are even more. From rocking to the oldies to laughing the night away, they've got a whole lot of fun on tap.

Rock-and-roll to the sounds of the oldies featuring The Lettermen and The Fabulous Stingrays while enjoying the sunny skies and balmy breezes of Caribbean ports onboard MSC Poesia for her March 20, 2010 7-night Oldies cruise.

Tony Butala, Donovan Tea, and Mark Preston comprise The Lettermen, who are one of the most popular vocal groups in history. Scheduled for one performance during this rock-and-roll festival at sea, their 45-year career spans big band and the early rhythm and blues music.Take a walk down memory lane with The Fabulous Stingrays, joining in the festivities with performances covering songs from the '50s, '60s and '70s all week long. Participate in an Elvis look-alike contest, dance competitions, trivia games, and lectures about the rock-and-roll era while listening to music throughout the cruise.

The "Eastern Caribbean Dream" itinerary for this unique Oldies Music theme cruise sails roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale and calls at ports in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas.

Experience a piece of Italy with a celebration at sea onboard MSC Poesia's April 10, 2010 7-night "Festa Italiana" cruise. The sailing features opera singers and contemporary Italian vocal artists as well as the diverse ports in the Western Caribbean. Dance the night away or sit back and enjoy performances by bands playing Italian and Italian-American favorites throughout the cruise. Participate in Venetian-mask making, a pizza-throwing contest, and tarantella dancing--a southern Italian folk dance for couples that is among the most recognized of traditional Italian music. Taste the delicious Mediterranean dishes and learn the secrets to preparing them during cooking demonstrations by top Italian chefs. Other opportunities available to guests include lectures on Italian art and architecture, Italian automobiles, or Italian fashion and design.

The "Island Treasures and Ancient Temples" itinerary for this unique "Festa Italiana" theme cruise sails roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale and calls at ports in Key West, Florida; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Nassau, Bahamas.

Laughter can be the best medicine to cure the winter blues. Experience humor that will tickle your funny bone during a fun-filled celebration at sea onboard MSC Poesia’s Jan 30, 2010 7-night Comedy Cruise. Scott Record’s melodious voice and cavalcade of character impressions will have guests rolling in the aisles. Variety calls Record, “the true definition of ‘multi-talented’…a must see!” The laughter continues later each evening in the MSC Poesia onboard comedy club with performances by the ship’s featured comedians. Guests can also participate in Bonk! an interactive, live game show showcasing general knowledge and physical mayhem while being full of comedy.

The “Eastern Island Treasures and Ancient Temples” Caribbean itinerary for this Comedy theme cruise sails roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale and calls at ports in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas.

As on all MSC Cruises’ sailings, kids ages 17 and younger sail free when sharing a stateroom with two full-fare-paying adults. For more information about this and MSC Cruises' other theme cruises, visit MSC Cruises USA or a local travel professional.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Happy Ending To A Medical Emergency On Silver Shadow, Courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

Late Monday night the U.S. Coast Guard received an urgent request to medevac a 27-year-old woman from Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow.

Silver Shadow departed from San Francisco Monday afternoon and was en route to Ketchikan, Alaska when it called the Coast Guard at approximately 11 pm. The Coast Guard initially launched a 47-foot motor lifeboat from Station Golden Gate. However, on scene conditions required a helicopter, so a rescue helicopter crew from Air Station San Francisco was launched to complete the medevac, which was conducted approximately 50 miles west of Point Reyes, California.

The patient was taken to the Coast Guard air station, where she was then transferred to a waiting ambulance and taken to Mills-Peninsula Health Services Hospital. She is awaiting surgery. We wish her a speedy recovery and tip our hats to the men and women of Coast Guard Station Golden Gate and Air Station San Francisco.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Carnival Cruise Lines Unveils New Carnival Dream Micro-Site and “Fun Hub”

Carnival Cruise Lines has created a new micro site highlighting the many on-board innovations of its newest and largest “Fun Ship,” the new 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, set to debut in September. Featured within the informative site are exclusive images, video, interviews, and blogs which showcase Carnival Dream’s wide-ranging facilities and features exclusive to the 3,646-passenger vessel. Other areas highlighted include the Carnival Dream’s youth programs, stateroom categories, and entertainment options. The Carnival Dream micro site will be updated as new features are announced.

Meanwhile, when out to sea the new Carnival Dream will take high tech surfing to an entirely new level with the introduction of the FunHub, a comprehensive shipboard intranet portal featuring the cruise industry’s first on-board social network. Designed as a convenient resource for wide-ranging information specific to the Carnival Dream, the intranet portal details the ship’s numerous on-board activities, including entertainment options, daily events, and youth programs. Carnival Dream’s extensive food and beverage offerings are showcased with sample menus, hours of operation, and more. A filtering application is available to assist guests in planning their day.

Access to the FunHub will be available via 36 state-of-the-art stations located on decks 3, 4 and 5, including 12 within Ocean Plaza, Carnival Dream’s spectacular indoor/outdoor café and entertainment venue. The FunHub locations will provide guests with complimentary and convenient access to an informative ship-specific intranet portal, and an exclusive shipboard social network, both of which will be available on a 24/7 basis. Guests may also access the sites via their personal laptops or via 10-inch netbooks which are available for rent and can be used anywhere on board. A year-long collaboration involving Carnival’s hotel operations, marketing, IT and guest experience departments, the Carnival Dream’s on-board social network and intranet portal are available on any guest computer or Wi-Fi enabled device free of charge.

Users will find that Carnival Dream’s on-board social network mirrors the experience they find on other social networking sites. In addition, guests can create a personal profile and use the application to meet and interact with others on board, send and receive private messages, create groups based on interests, and invite friends to attend shows or participate in on-board events. They can also create their own private or public discussion group, inviting others in their traveling party or friends they meet on board to participate.

The portal also includes weather updates for that day and the next port of call; the latest news and sports scores; biographies of key shipboard personnel; ship and cruise director announcements; fun, interactive polls; helpful three-dimensional ship maps; and a frequently asked questions section.

Internet access to sites outside the FunHub also is available through all FunHub locations. Netbooks are available free of charge when purchasing a special Internet package on board. Cell phone service, along with bow-to-stern wireless access where guests can check e-mail and surf the Web from any shipboard location, including their staterooms, will be available, as well.

Carnival Dream is slated to debut Sept. 21, 2009, with the first of three 12-day Grand Mediterranean cruises operating round-trip from Rome (Civitavecchia), followed by a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Rome (Civitavecchia) to New York Oct. 27–Nov. 12. From New York, Carnival Dream will operate two 8-day Bahamas/Florida cruises departing Nov. 15 and 23, then reposition to Port Canaveral, FL, for a special one-time 9-day Caribbean cruise departing Dec. 3. Carnival Dream will then launch year-round 7-day service from Port Canaveral, Dec. 12, offering week long voyages to the eastern and western Caribbean.

For more info from, get a sneak peek at Carnival Cruise Line's largest “Fun Ship” ever, Carnival Dream.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Oasis of the Seas: Take A Photo Tour With The Chairman

On his Chairman's Blog, Richard D. Fain, Chairman & CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. says of Oasis of the Seas, "I’ve gotten a lot of requests for pictures from the construction. Here is a sampling of some of my favorites along with my description."

The images range from technical aspects of Oasis of the Seas to the area where passengers will fly across the ship on a zipline. You'll also see the pool decks, a view of the Crown Lofts, and other elements on display for the first time. To see Fain's photos, use this link to the slideshow or view them one-by-one at Either way, it's amazing to see the huge ship under construction and get an idea of what's in store on board for future passengers.

In addition to the Oasis of the Seas photo set, there are dozens more images of Royal Caribbean ships on the site—enough to keep you entertained for hours.

You can also track the progress of Oasis of the Seas with

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Husband Admits Killing His Wife Aboard Carnival Elation

Earlier this week we passed along the gruesome story of a murder aboard Carnival Elation during a cruise to Mexico. Unlike in past cases, where it was unclear whether a passenger accidentally or intentionally went overboard and was assumed dead after a search, a passenger, Robert McGill admitted to the FBI that he was responsible for his wife Shirley's death. The medical examiner's office for San Diego County said she died of strangulation and blunt force injury to the head and torso. Her body was discovered in the bathroom of the couple's stateroom.

Until yesterday, the accounts Cruise Diva has read and seen on television have been objective. Most are the result of Associated Press reports appearing in newspapers and cable and network televised news (online, in print, and on air). The McGill's had each celebrated their 55th birthdays within the past week and were, apparently a happy couple—childhood sweethearts who'd lost touch and reconnected with one another and married four years ago. The case has all the intriguing elements of a mystery. Details are trickling out. McGill admitted he killed his wife"with his bare hands" and the medical examiner's report apparently confirms that. We don't know why he did it or what the domestic dispute, obviously overheard by other passengers, was about.

What we do know is that McGill snapped and it happened on a cruise ship. It could have happened anywhere, but it seems more "newsworthy" that it occurred out to sea on a cruise vacation. The most sensational item reported until yesterday was the statement by an unidentified passenger that McGill went to dinner after leaving his wife's lifeless body in their bathroom. That's why yesterday's account of the murder at AOL News online bothers me. The text seemed straightforward enough and it was accompanied by photos of the accused, his deceased wife, and the crime scene (a shot of the cruise ship). All of that was appropriate. Unfortunately, AOL News just couldn't resist including a set of "Lost At Sea" photographs that had absolutely nothing to do with the incident at hand. It's unfortunate when passengers go missing from cruise ships, but we don't see any relationship between them and this week's story about an incident of domestic violence.

Some "news" outlets just can't help sensationalizing anything that goes wrong on cruise ships.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

SeaDream Yacht Club: Plan Now For Year-End Holiday Sailings

How Does St. Barts at New Year’s Sound?

In the virtual reality world of shopping, the month of July is a bit early to think about the year-end holiday season. But, in the real world of “What shall we do to celebrate the year-end holidays this year?” SeaDream Yacht Club suggests that now’s the time to make the move.

“We’ve some great 2009-2010 Caribbean holiday voyages with fares for example on the December 13th, 5-night Hanukkah voyage for those who are planning ahead,” says Bob Lepisto, SeaDream’s President.

Consider these year-end holiday choices:

SeaDream I
· December 13-20, roundtrip San Juan – 7 night
· December 20-27, roundtrip San Juan – 7 night
· December 27-January 3, roundtrip San Juan – 7 night (St. Barts overnight, New Year’s Eve)

SeaDream II
· December 13-18, St. Thomas-San Juan – 5 night
· December 18-27, roundtrip San Juan – 9 night
· December 27-January 3, roundtrip San Juan – 7 night (St. Barts overnight, New Year’s Eve)

Lepisto points out that the twin mega-yacht cruisers SeaDream I and SeaDream II accommodate only 56 couples served in casual elegance by 95 crewmembers. Voyages on highly-rated SeaDream are all inclusive. There is limited space available, it is capacity controlled and offers may be withdrawn at any time. SeaDream suggests calling a travel professional or SeaDream Yacht Club 800 707-4911. For details go to SeaDream’s website:

For a taste of the SeaDream yachting life, join Cruise Diva aboard SeaDream II for a virtual cruise.

Friday, July 17, 2009

From Sea to Your TV, Real Guests & Their ‘Why Not’ Moments Star in Royal Caribbean Commercials

With summer in full swing and consumers carefully weighing possible vacation options, Royal Caribbean Intl is not just asking travelers “Why Not?” – they are showing them. Beginning July 13, 2009, the cruise line will film and debut an unprecedented series of television spots starring real guests enjoying a variety of “Why Not” experiences onboard Liberty of the Seas during a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise.

Dubbed “Postcards from the Nation of Why Not,” this series of “ship to air” commercials will air in select markets during the week of July 13, and nationally begin the week of July 20. From July 13-17, consumers also can visit to watch the new daily commercial spot and enter a daily drawing to win a cruise, and pursue their very own “Why Not” moments on a Royal Caribbean vacation. “Postcards from the Nation of Why Not” also can be viewed at Royal Caribbean’s Facebook page at

“There really is nobody that can better express the “Why Not” philosophy of a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation than a guest who is experiencing it at that very moment,” said Betsy O’Rourke, senior vice president of Marketing, Royal Caribbean Intl. “The content of these TV spots is real and genuine, and not only illustrates the many types of people and activities that can be found throughout The Nation of Why Not, but also showcases the great value of taking a Royal Caribbean cruise.”

The “Postcards from the Nation of Why Not” commercials will mark the first time television viewers on land can experience an actual cruise while it is happening. On the July 11-18 cruise, a production crew will shoot, edit, deliver and air these commercials while the ship is still at sea. Using Royal Caribbean’s “Why Not?” brand messaging as the premise, the commercials will feature a variety of guests either stepping out of their normal comfort zone to try something new for the first time or reporting the “News of the Day,” recapping events and “Why Not?” moments that happened on Liberty of the Seas that day. Spots will be aired within 24 hours of being filmed, giving guests the extraordinary opportunity to star in their very own commercial and showcase their vacation to friends and family before they even step foot back on land.

The Nation of Why Not is Royal Caribbean’s current marketing campaign, which highlights the cruise line’s spirit of providing experiences undreamed of on other vacations and delivering innovative activities that challenge guests’ imagination. As part of the Nation of Why Not, guests (also known as citizens) have access to do, learn and enjoy activities that are not readily accessible in day-to-day life or found in one land-based vacation destination.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Husband Accused In Wife's Death Aboard Carnival Elation

UPDATED 10:00 pm: A passenger was arrested today for allegedly killing his wife during an argument in their cabin while on a Carnival Elation cruise to Mexico, according to an Associated Press report on Fox News. After the 2,052-passenger cruise ship docked at its San Diego homeport following a 5-night cruise to Cabo San Lucas, the man, Robert McGill of Los Angeles, was arrested by FBI agents.

McGill and his 55-year-old wife, Shirley, were involved in a domestic dispute in their cabin on Tuesday evening, which resulted in her death, according to Carnival Cruise Lines and an FBI spokesman. Her body was discovered by crew members when they entered the cabin, according to the FBI's spokeman Darrell Foxworth. He would not say how she died. The man was taken into custody by security and kept in the brig aboard the vessel while it sailed home. A U.S. Coast Guard vessel out of San Diego delivered 20 FBI agents to the cruise ship to begin their investigation before it reached land. The ship docked at 6:30 am and the San Diego County medical examiner removed the woman's body about three hours later.

Carnival Elation departed San Diego last Saturday.

Follow-up on Cruise Diva's Blog here.

Severe Weather? Job Loss? Finally, There's Cruise Travel Insurance Protection You Can Count On

Your long awaited and well planned cruise vacation can suffer a real set back for any number of reasons, but Carnival Cruise Lines has you covered in case of two dreaded instances. Carnival has enhanced its Cruise Vacation Protection Plan (VPP) to include severe weather watch/warning protection, as well as job loss protection. The enhanced features apply to plan purchases made July 15, 2009 and after.

  • The severe weather watch/warning protection provides reimbursement in the event the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and/or National Weather Service issues or maintains a severe weather watch or warning within 48 hours of a cruise departure. Should the watch or warning affect either the cruise departure city or the guest’s route to that city, the plan will allow for cancellation and reimbursement up to the full amount of the cruise cost. Another new weather protection feature provides that if a guest is traveling to the cruise departure port via a common carrier (airplane, bus, train, etc.) and inclement weather ultimately causes the guest to miss 50 percent or more of the cruise vacation, the guest may receive reimbursement up to the total cost of the cruise.
  • The new job loss protection will provide reimbursement up to the total cruise cost if individuals who have booked a cruise and purchased the plan are subsequently terminated by their employer and have worked for that employer for at least one continuous year.
These enhancements further strengthen the current plan which offers a variety of other benefits, including trip cancellation/interruption, trip delay, emergency medical evacuation, medical, baggage loss, and baggage delay. The program also provides a 24-hour emergency assistance hotline.

The Carnival Cruise Vacation Protection Plan is administered by BerkelyCare, a recognized leader in travel insurance. The plan must be purchased at least 14 days prior to the cruise departure date. Prices begin at $49 per person and vary by cruise length.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

MSC Splendida Christened As the Newest Member of MSC Cruises' Fleet

MSC Splendida, the second in MSC Cruises’ luxurious “Fantasia” class of cruise ships and the newest addition to the most modern fleet in the industry, was christened in Barcelona last Sunday. This latest ship brings the MSC Cruises’ fleet total to 10 ships.

The event featured a Flamenco performance by Joaquín Cortés and a spectacular display of castells, the Catalan tradition of human towers, in addition to a special concert by world famous tenor José Carreras. Performing in his hometown, the maestro was accompanied by the 60 musicians of the Orquestra Simfònica del Vallès.

The celebration was complete with a traditional ribbon cutting by the godmother of the MSC Cruises fleet, Italian icon Sophia Loren, and a spectacular fireworks display culminated the christening ceremony.

MSC Splendida – at 137,936 gross registered tons and 1,092 feet long, 124 feet wide and 219 feet tall – ranks in the top tier of Post-Panamax megaships in the world’s cruise fleet and, with a top cruising speed of 23 knots, is capable of sailing extensive itineraries to offer her guests truly outstanding experiences. As on the MSC Fantasia, MSC Splendida features an Aqua Park main pool with 150 fountains and water jets, and North Pole-themed children’s play center. MSC Splendida’s unique amenities include two mini-bowling alleys in her high-tech Sports Bar and the signature L’Olivo restaurant, serving exciting Mediterranean cuisine from couscous to paella. She offers 1,637 staterooms (43 accommodate special needs guests) with 80 percent of them, including the ship’s 107 suites, providing an ocean view. The staterooms range from 193 to 571 square feet.

Additionally, MSC Splendida features the company’s newest private club concept, MSC Yacht Club. Designed for discriminating vacationers and originally introduced on MSC Fantasia, MSC Yacht Club offers an exclusive six-star experience at sea unique to MSC Cruises. The 99 suites and luxurious private facilities in the club area allow guests to enjoy the comfort and convenience of a personal Butler trained to the rigorous standards of the International Butler Academy, 24-hour concierge service, private pool and bar, exclusive retail services, and complimentary beverages. Selections include quality Italian wines from the MSC Cruises wine cellar, beer and cocktails at the exclusive MSC Yacht Club lounge. The MSC Yacht Club also features private elevator access to the Aurea Spa and a staircase sparkling with Swarovski crystals.

Designed by De Joro Design Studio, MSC Splendida’s interiors complement these famous sites of history with exuberant modern and classically refined Italian designs featuring many natural and traditional materials. Sailing the heart of the Mediterranean and the adjacent European Atlantic seaboard, MSC Splendida is set to embark on a series of inspiring itineraries to many of history’s most famous sites. Alexandria, Ashdod, Athens, Barcelona, Casablanca, Crete, Genoa, Madeira, Malta, Malaga, Naples, Olympia, Rhodes, Rome, Taormina, Tenerife, and Tunis are among the destinations. For more information about MSC Cruises, visit or a local travel professional.

Cruise Diva shares the MSC Cruises experience from a Caribbean cruise aboard MSC Orchestra.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Norwegian Epic Completes Her Float Out

In the early morning hours of Saturday, July 11, Norwegian Epic made her first journey on water, cruising out of her construction quay at STX Europe in Saint-Nazaire, France where the 153,000-ton ship has been under construction since October 2007. Beginning at approximately 7 am, the massive 4,200 passenger ship was accompanied by a fleet of six tugboats and taken a short distance down the Loire Estuary. Within about one and a half hours, the ship was moored at the outfitting dock. Norwegian Epic’s float out represented a major milestone in the vessel’s construction as it indicates that the ship has now moved into the final phase of construction and work will begin immediately on the vessel’s interiors.

“Watching Norwegian Epic make her first journey on the water was a very moving experience,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “Norwegian Epic epitomizes our continued commitment to innovation and represents the next generation of Freestyle Cruising, so we are thrilled to be celebrating her float out and looking forward to her delivery in less than a year.”

Norwegian Epic is scheduled to be delivered in late May 2010, and will take part in inaugural events before beginning her Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings from her year-round homeport in Miami. The first Eastern Caribbean sailing from Miami is scheduled for July 17, 2010 and the ship’s alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries are scheduled through April 2011.

Norwegian Epic’s Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes calls in Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas. The ship’s Western Caribbean itinerary includes calls in Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. Guests can make a reservation by contacting their travel professional or Norwegian Cruise Line at 866-234-7350. More information about the ship, her itineraries and offerings can be found at

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cruise Ship Designing Men & Women: Make Their Decor Elements Work At Home

A lot of thought goes into the decor and design accessories that you find aboard cruise ships. If you're like me, you'd like to take some of it with you when your cruise is over. And you can!

Pictured here is a stylish decor element that's sweeping through the cruise industry—the draped cabana. Found mostly on premium to high-end cruise lines such as Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, and Oceania Cruises, my favorite cabanas are located near the swimming pool on Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Seven Seas Mariner. They offer comfortable areas of privacy and serenity for quiet conversation, reading, or simply watching the sea. I wanted that feeling on my deck at home, even though I don't have a sea view.

Take a look at how I created a draped cabana effect and how you can adapt other appealing Cruise Ship Decor to your personal environment.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What's In A Ship's Name?

When we were kids my brothers and I played a "name that car" game during road trips. We'd shout out Chevy! Ford! Cadillac! and back in those days it was even easy to differentiate the model year (think tail fins). Today my husband and I play a similar game during cruise vacations called "name that ship" and I always win. It's particularly interesting in Europe where many of our aging Caribbean favorites have found new lives sailing for European cruise lines.

So, when Carnival Corporation announced that the 1,488-passenger Costa Europa, currently operated by their Costa Cruises brand, will join British travel company Thomson Cruises under a 10-year bareboat charter beginning in April 2010, I got to thinking about the ship's history. Originally launched in 1986 as Homeric, she sailed for Home Lines until being purchased by Holland America Line in 1988. Re-christened Westerdam (the second HAL ship to bear that name), she was "stretched" with a new mid-section that added length and passenger capacity. Although you can't tell by the photo above, it's relatively easy to spot where the newer section was inserted—the windows fore and aft are smaller in the original ship.

A bit of Hollywood glamour rubbed off on Westerdam when the 1997 movie "Out to Sea" was filmed on board. The film paired grumpy old men, played by Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, on a cruise headed to the Bahamas. Matthau tells Lemmon that the trip is free and will be a good way to meet rich widows, but once aboard Lemmon discovers his friend has signed them on as dance hosts (hence the free passage). Good thing one of them (Lemmon's character) could actually dance.

Five years later Westerdam departed the HAL fleet and emerged from an overhaul in 2002 as Costa Europa, one of the first ships to operate on regular cruises in the Arabian Gulf, with departures from Dubai, and the Indian Ocean out of Mauritius.

Under the agreement with Carnival Corp, Thomson Cruises, which has announced the new name of the former Costa Europa will be the Thomson Dream, has an option to purchase the ship any time after five years. The name may have changed, but it's not likely the ship's profile will so it won't be difficult to "name that ship" in her new Thomson livery after April 2010.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sweet Baby James & Queen Mary 2

Most Baby Boomers recognize him as “Sweet Baby James,” the legendary singer/songwriter James Taylor. Who knew that a transatlantic crossing aboard Queen Mary 2 would fulfill his lifelong dream and that his favorite place to be is in the middle of the North Atlantic? While aboard Queen Mary 2’s June 19 eastbound Transatlantic Crossing, he performed two Cunard Command Performances to standing-room-only audiences in the ship’s 1150-seat Royal Court Theatre. Taylor said,“It is such a civilized way to go, and Queen Mary 2 is the last word in first class travel.”

Before the evening concerts, where he received standing ovations, guests got an intimate glimpse inside the life of the American music icon during a live Q&A interview with Entertainment Director Ray Rouse. Taylor graciously greeted, signed autographs for and took photographs with hundreds of fans, some wearing special t-shirts in his honor. On the day of his last performance, James Taylor also posed for photographs and signed autographs for more than two hours with hundreds of Queen Mary 2 crew members.

With Taylor on this special voyage were his wife Kim, twin sons Rufus and Henry, his mother Trudy Taylor, and of course his band. After rehearsing during the 6-day voyage from New York, Taylor began a 10-week, 22-concert tour visiting nine European countries.

I've always been a fan and if I had to pick only one, my favorite James Taylor song is Carolina in the Morning. How cool was it to have Taylor as a cruise mate? The following videos courtesy of We Are Cunard tell the story. And one of the best parts? As he says in Part 2, disembarkation with “no jet lag” and ready to hit the road.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Plane Truth About Your Veins

There's something I have to plan for every time I travel to embark on a cruise. No, it's not my wardrobe, although that does matter. It's my veins.

You see, after breaking my leg and taking a flight home from Florida last year, I developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It's an insidious condition that, in my case, was nearly deadly. The blood clot in my leg threw off smaller clots that lodged in my lungs. After three days in Intensive Care and a series of painful shots of heparin at home, I've been on a regimen of anti-clotting medication (warfarin) for the past nine months. For me, the end of the monthly trips to a clinic to check the level of medicine in my bloodstream is almost over, but I have a lifetime of concern ahead of me.

Why am I mentioning this now? To help spread the word. Just this week Reuters issued the warning that "People who travel have nearly triple the normal risk of developing a dangerous blood clot, with a measurable increase for every two hours spent sitting in a car or wedged into an airline seat, researchers reported on Monday. They said the risk is serious enough to merit research into better ways to keep travelers healthy, although not severe enough to justify giving airline passengers anti-clotting drugs."

In that report, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. Divay Chandra and his colleagues at Harvard University in Boston combined the results of 14 studies involving 4,000 patients and concluded, "Our findings demonstrate for the first time a clear association between travel and VTE. "

VTE is venous thromboembolism, the development of a blood clot in a vein, usually in the legs. The Cleveland Clinic defines it thus, "Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) represent different manifestations of the same clinical entity referred to as a venous thromboembolism (VTE)."

The Harvard study also finds the risk of developing DVT is one case in every 4,600 airline trips. That doesn't sound very dire, unless you are, like me, that one case. With a history of DVT, I'm at an even higher risk of developing it again.

Whether traveling by car or plane, my personal travel routine includes drinking a lot of water and getting up to move around every hour. That adds a lot of time to road trips, but it's essential. While I'm seated, I flex my ankles to keep the blood in my legs moving. I also wear compression stockings (aside from my pink cast, there is a wardrobe component here).

The next time you're planning a cruise, take a few moments to think about that long plane flight or car ride to get to port. Staying hydrated and moving around frequently are small steps to staying healthy. You don't have to break your leg to develop DVT.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Celebrity Cruises Perks Up Captain’s Club Benefits For Past Passengers

Perks for past passenger members of Celebrity Cruises’ Captain’s Club have just gotten an upgrade. The three-tiered recognition and benefits program designed exclusively for Celebrity Cruises’ most loyal guests has been redesigned and relaunched based on a series of member-inspired improvements. Several new features are rolling out across the fleet on sailings beginning this month, while others will be introduced in intervals over the course of the year.

“Our most loyal guests deserve our loyalty in return, so we’re thrilled to offer them a vastly improved program,” said Celebrity Cruises President & CEO Dan Hanrahan. “Our new Captain’s Club gives them greater recognition, exclusive benefits, and a number of new features designed to make them feel like the center of our attention every time they sail with us.”

New features launching this month include the Captain’s Club Celebration, a one-of-a-kind social and entertainment event available to all members; significantly improved Internet and laundry benefits for Select and Elite tier members; and a new onboard lounge exclusively for Elite members. The brand has even introduced a new theme for the club, which doubles as its ongoing commitment to members: “The center of our attention.”

For Celebrity Cruises past passengers, those improvements are only the beginning. During the second half of this year, Celebrity will expand the Captain’s Club with a variety of other new features, all of which will be announced prior to taking effect.

“Our new Captain’s Club was designed based on a tremendous amount of research, feedback from our members, and advice from our travel partners,” said Hanrahan. “We want to ensure that we deliver every aspect to our guests’ utmost satisfaction, so we’re choosing to roll out the enhancements in intervals, beginning with improvements to the member experience onboard.”

Celebrity also is extending its pledge to make members the center of attention by engaging many in the entirely new Captain’s Club Advisory Board, to ensure its most loyal guests always have a voice in shaping the program. Participation on the Advisory Board will be offered online on a rotating basis to a selection of members across all tiers. In addition to focusing on effectively delivering the new features of the Captain’s Club, Celebrity will continue to ensure that members enjoy all the program benefits currently available and that they continue to have more opportunities to achieve higher-tier status.

“We will continue to provide members in every tier of the Captain’s Club with the recognition and rewards they’ve come to expect, while adding several new enhancements over the course of this year,” said Hanrahan. “We also want to ensure that our members have the opportunity to quickly advance to the next tier. That’s why we count tier credits versus purely counting cruises. Tier credits are earned simply by sailing with us, but we also award additional credits for cruises of 12 or more nights, and for booking certain stateroom and suite categories. As a result, members can more quickly advance to the next tier. What we’re rolling out today, combined with everything we’ll be adding to the program over the course of this year, will add up to what I’m confident will be the best loyalty program at sea.”

What if your membership status was in the Founder Classic category, which was established several years ago to denote someone who had paid to join Captain’s Club before the program became free to join? Our source at Celebrity Cruises says, “Most of our Founder’s Classic members have now graduated to the Select and Elite tiers. The remaining members are now part of the Classic tier (1-4 credits) and will receive Classic tier benefits.” The only perks to which Founder Classic Members are no longer entitled are priority embarkation and preferential debarkation. Although we thought those were great benefits, we think the Captain’s Club Celebration will more than make up for the loss.

For details about membership, benefits, new enhancements, and how to earn tier credits, see Captain's Club Past Passenger Benefits at

For more information about Celebrity Cruises, call your travel agent, dial 1-800-437-3111, or visit

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Carnival Introduces Self-Service Check-In Kiosks at Port of Miami

As part of an ongoing effort to streamline the embarkation process, Carnival Cruise Lines has installed self-service check-in kiosks at its Port of Miami cruise terminal. The state-of-the-art kiosks provide guests with a fast and convenient way to check in for their “Fun Ship” cruise.

To use Carnival’s self-service kiosks, guests must have pre-registered online and be a U.S. or Canadian citizen, or from a Visa waiver country. To access their booking information and check in via the kiosk, guests simply swipe their passport or the credit card used to pre-register online. In addition, the kiosks accept cash deposits for guests’ shipboard Sail & Sign accounts. Once guests have successfully checked in, the station prints a receipt confirming that their registration process is completed and directs them to pick up their stateroom keys at a nearby desk.

The kiosks are part of a pilot program at the Port of Miami and, if met with positive response from guests, will be expanded to the line’s other year-round homeports.

How easy are they to use? Earlier this year Cruise Diva had a first-hand encounter with a self-serve kiosk at check-in for a Costa Fortuna cruise in Port Everglades. It was simple and fast. Don't be concerned if you’re techno-challenged, though. There will be cruise line reps nearby to lend a hand.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Silversea Rolls Out Unprecedented 60% Savings For Voyages In 2010

Has a luxury cruise always seemed just a bit beyond what your budget will bear? Try crunching the numbers with Silversea Cruises' new, simpler pricing structure that provides the biggest savings incentive in its history—60% off—plus free airfare on virtually all voyages in 2010. The company's best-available, capacity-controlled prices are being offered for guests who book early. The new Silver Savings pricing program will introduce the most generous savings opportunities first, and the discount will be lowered significantly as the sailing date approaches—offering a compelling incentive to firm up your vacation plans well in advance of the date you wish to sail.

Here's how it works. For a limited time, and to coincide with the publication of its new Voyage Atlas (due for release shortly), Silversea is offering a 60% Silver Savings discount off the published fare for all sailings next year aboard Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper, and Silver Spirit. The line's expedition ship, Prince Albert II, is also offering Silver Savings of up to 50% in 2010. Effective for new 2010 bookings made on or after July 6, the new Silver Savings incentive will be available, eliminating early-booking and advance-payment programs. Other savings options, such as Venetian Society Savings (for past guests), Onboard Savings (available during the cruise), Extended Voyage Savings (when combining two or more consecutive voyages) and the Solo Travelers fare, will continue to be offered next year.

"There has never been a better time to sail with Silversea," said Steve Tucker, Silversea's vice president of field sales for North America. "Without a doubt, this is our best offer ever and booking early is key. When you combine 60% savings—offered months ahead of sailing—with free airfare and our signature all-inclusive amenities, the result is an incomparable value proposition that travelers cannot afford to pass up."

Free Air Offer: The introduction of Silver Savings is complemented by the offer of a free roundtrip air package that includes transfers between airport and pier on the day of embarkation and disembarkation. The free air package is available from 22 gateway cities in the U.S. and Canada on most voyages in 2010 (excluding expedition cruises). It is also a capacity-controlled program and is valid only for new bookings made by Dec 31, 2009. Additionally, there are specially priced air programs available from another 50 cities.

Having compared the bottom line with what you would spend on other cruises, it makes dollars-and-sense to book a nearly all-inclusive voyage on Silversea. For a complimentary brochure, call toll-free (877) 215-9986 or visit Time's a-wasting!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Princess Brings Rare Original Copy of the Declaration of Independence to Juneau

Celebrating America's Independence Day and Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood, Princess Cruises showcased a rare, original copy of the United States of America’s founding document aboard Coral Princess last Thursday during an onboard reception with local dignitaries and special guests. Pictured with the historic document from left to right include:

Coral Princess Captain Justin Lawes
● Win Gruening, senior vice president of Key Bank and grandson of Ernest Gruening who was territorial governor of Alaska from 1939-1953 and U.S.senator from 1959-1969
● Senator Dennis Egan, state senator and past mayor of Juneau. His father William Egan was the first governor of the state of Alaska from 1959-1966
● Bruce Bustamante, vice president of community and government affairs, Princess Cruises and Tours.

The document was aboard Coral Princess to give passengers the unique opportunity to view the only traveling copy of the Declaration of Independence. This rare document is being showcased to more than 17,000 passengers aboard all eight Princess ships visiting Juneau during Independence week, July 1-8. Hosted in partnership with Declare Yourself, a non-profit organization founded by legendary television producer Norman Lear, this unique opportunity marks the first time the copy of the Declaration has visited Alaska, and the first time a cruise line has shown the famous document.

The only touring copy of the Declaration of Independence, Declare Yourself’s historic document is one of an estimated 200 original broadside copies (about the size of a sheet of newspaper) printed by John Dunlap in Philadelphia in 1776 after it was drafted by Thomas Jefferson, to distribute across the colonies and to King George in England. This copy’s current journey began in 1989 when a Pennsylvania shopper bought a frame at a flea market for $4.00. Later, while inspecting a tear in the back of the painting, he discovered a piece of paper wedged between the frame and painting. He pulled it out and uncovered what would soon be authenticated as the 25th remaining copy of the Declaration of Independence. The document changed hands several times and was purchased in 2000 by Lyn and Norman Lear for $8.14 million, with the goal of bringing the document directly to the American people.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ride The Communications Wave On Your Cruise Vacation

I love my BlackBerry and have it at hand at all time. Even on cruises! Now there's no need to leave behind the gadgets that make life so easy at home when you embark on your next cruise.

The Internet, WiFi-enabled laptop computers, and cell phones deliver Tech Savvy Cruise Travel. Cruise Diva looks at the services offered by major cruise lines.

Check out what's available on board your favorite cruise line and see if you can answer's two part techno-trivia question:
"What was the name of the first cruise ship to feature an Internet cafe and what year was it launched?"

Click here for the answer.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Carnival Dream's A Vision At Sea

The 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, Carnival Cruise Lines’ largest ship, has concluded sea trials in the Adriatic Sea in preparation for its Sept. 21 debut from Europe. Of the home video above (posted on You Tube), the folks at Carnival Cruise Lines offer, “And we while have no idea who these people are or what they are saying, we do know that this footage shows the Carnival Dream in the Adriatic on her sea trials which run through July 2. We only wish that these folks could have held their camera a little steadier! And while we’re unclear on their narration of the video, we only have one word to describe the massive 3,646-passenger ship – FABULOSO!

The largest “Fun Ship” ever constructed, Carnival Dream carried a full complement of technicians and engineers during her sea trials and these highly skilled individuals put the 3,646-passenger cruise ship through a variety of exercises to check the engines and other machinery on board. Following sea trials, Carnival Dream returned to Monfalcone, Italy to undergo final interior outfitting.

With Carnival Dream, Carnival Cruise Lines will usher in an exciting new era of “Fun Ship” cruising and offer a host of innovations, including Ocean Plaza, an indoor/outdoor café and entertainment venue, cantilevered whirlpools that extend out over the ship’s sides, and a variety of accommodation categories, including cove balconies that are closer to the water line and five-berth, two-bathroom staterooms that will be ideal for families.

When Carnival Dream enters service in Europe Sept. 21, it will operate a series of Mediterranean cruises before repositioning to New York for 8-day cruises Nov. 15 and 23. The ship will operate a special 9-day cruise from Port Canaveral Dec. 3 then launch year-round 7-day Caribbean cruises from that port Dec. 12.

Your Carnival Dream Is About To Come True — Get a sneak peek at Carnival Cruise Line's largest “Fun Ship” ever, Carnival Dream from

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Royal Caribbean Culinary Experiences Evolve Aboard Oasis of the Seas

When cruise competitor Norwegian Cruise Line introduced Freestyle Dining (and even before that when each of their ships featured a single extra-charge restaurant), the conventional wisdom was that no one would actually pay for food on a cruise ship. Raising the bar–and setting conventional wisdom on its ear–Oasis of the Seas will set the stage for Royal Caribbean Intl’s culinary innovations when it launches in Dec 2009. Thanks to nearly two dozen distinct dining experiences, ranging from an exclusive signature restaurant, to neighborhood-specific themed venues and new twists on the global brand’s traditions, the world’s most revolutionary cruise ship will offer more variety and flexibility than ever before.

Oasis of the Seas showcases the evolution of Royal Caribbean dining,” said Adam Goldstein, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean Intl. “Both the new concepts and the established Royal Caribbean offerings found throughout the neighborhoods are designed to meet contemporary dining standards, cater to individual preferences and schedules, and foster epicurean curiosity. With so many options, guests could choose a new place to dine for every meal.”

As passenger expectations continue to rise, Royal Caribbean has introduced new elements of variety and flexibility, such as My Time Dining and My Family Time Dining. From breakfast to late night snacks, passengers aboard Oasis of the Seas will find an extensive variety of food and beverage offerings, available at no extra charge, to satisfy any craving, providing more options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner than ever before on a Royal Caribbean ship. The culinary festival includes plenty of choices throughout the ship that are included in your fare and ten extra-charge venues with either set pricing or food items offered á la carte:

In Central Park
· 150 Central Park: The most exclusive dining venue on Oasis of the Seas will provide an intimate dining experience combining leading-edge cuisine with modern design, creating a trendy upscale ambiance. Signature features will include a tasting menu with customized wine pairings. Open for dinner; $35 cover charge.
· Giovanni’s Table: This Tuscan countryside influenced trattoria will be a more-accessible, casual Italian restaurant featuring both indoor and al fresco seating. Rustic dishes with a contemporary flair, including toasted herbal breads, pizzas, salads, pastas, Italian sandwiches, braised meat dishes and stews, will all be served family-style. Open for lunch and dinner; $10 lunch and $15 dinner cover charge.
· Park Café: This casual dining choice providing a high level of variety and flexibility will be an indoor/outdoor gourmet market with walk-up counters. From freshly prepared salads and made-to-order sandwiches, to paninis, crepes and hearty soups, orders will be taken directly by the chefs behind food stations. European pastries, sublime chocolates and decadent fudge will round out the offerings. Open for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and late night treats.
· Vintages: Always a popular hot spot for Royal Caribbean guests on Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, the Vintages wine bar will evolve into a larger space on Oasis of the Seas. Great for a pre-dinner rendezvous, a selection of cheeses and a broad tapas menu to accompany a robust selection of fine wines will be on the menu. Open for lunch and dinner; á la carte pricing.
· Chops Grille: Continuing the tradition, Royal Caribbean’s popular signature steakhouse will offer premium cut, quality meatsin an upscale, contemporary setting indoors with views of Central Park or al fresco. Open for dinner; $25 cover charge.

On The Boardwalk
· Seafood Shack: The indoor/outdoor casual family restaurant will bring the surf style of beach side amusement parks to the Boardwalk, serving a variety of seafood, as well an extensive beverage menu of non-alcoholic cocktails and over-sized desserts. Open for lunch and dinner; $7.95 lunch and $9.95 dinner cover charge.
· Boardwalk Bar: The main bar in the Boardwalk will offer on-the-go snacks and a variety of pre-packaged sandwiches, fruit and salads. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
· Donut Shop: You can stop into the classically styled shop for a casual snack any time of day. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
· Ice Cream Parlor :The 1950’s styled ice cream venue will display classic sundaes and a variety of ice cream flavors and toppings to choose from and then mixed-to-order on a frozen slab. Open throughout the day; á la carte pricing.
· Johnny Rockets: Extending the signature “eat-ertainment” hours, a diner breakfast menu will be introduced. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; $3.95 breakfast and $4.95 lunch and dinner cover charge.

Along The Royal Promenade
· Mondo Cafe: This addition to the Royal Promenade will feature coffee, sandwiches and pastries native to countries such as Italy, Spain and Cuba. Steps from Boleros and open around the clock, it is sure to be popular after an evening on the dance floor. Open for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and late night treats.
· Sorrento’s Pizzeria: The New York style pizzeria will feature a more extensive menu with made-to-order pizza pies and slices, in addition to the ready-made selections introduced with the Freedom-class ships. Open for lunch, dinner and late night snacks.
· Café Promenade: Located on the opposite end of the Royal Promenade from the Mondo Cafe, the popular café will continue serving Seattle’s Best Coffee, fruit shakes, pastries and sandwiches throughout the day and night. Open 24 hours; á la carte pricing.

Beside The Pool and In The Sports Zone
· Solarium Bistro: The contemporary bistro located in the Solarium will offer health-conscious dining for breakfast and lunch in a casual setting. In the evenings, Solarium Bistro will transform into a romantic and intimate dining setting for specialty healthy-fare dinner and dancing under the stars. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; dinner has a $20 cover charge.
· The Wipe Out Café: The casual self-service buffet will offer a variety of options from pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches and fresh salads to quick snacks and desserts, for young cruisers on-the-go. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In The Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center
· The Vitality Café: At the entrance of the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, the café will feature healthy snacks, sandwiches, wraps and fruit, in addition to refreshing juices and smoothies from the Vitality spa menu for the calorie conscious guest. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

New Twists on Fleet Fixtures
· Opus Dining Room: The 3-level main dining room will revive the grandeur of the 1920s and feature French art deco design. Catering to varying preferences, the newly introduced My Time Dining and My Family Time Dining, as well as the traditional main and late seating options will be offered. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
· Windjammer Marketplace: Offering the utmost flexibility for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this next generation of the brand staple will feature multiple islands, each serving a variety casual buffet fare.
· Izumi: The new Asian cuisine restaurant will feature a sushi bar and hot rock cooking, as well as other Asian fare in a more formal setting. Open for lunch and dinner; á la carte pricing.
· In-Stateroom Service: Should you want to enjoy a meal in the comfort of your stateroom, you will be able to choose from the complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, as well as the recently introduced Dine in Delights menu, which offers name-brand culinary options ranging from the Original Johnny Rockets hamburger to Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookies. Available 24 hours; á la carte pricing for Dine In Delights and $3.95 service charge for in-room deliveries between 12:00 am and 5:00 am.

Upon announcing the dining options last week, Goldstein hosted a live chat focusing on Oasis of the Seas’ dining offerings. Afterwards he said, “There was a lot of interest in understanding which dining opportunities will be free and which will be for a charge and how much of a charge. Our goal is to offer a wider range of opportunities to eat ‘for free’ than ever before and also provide numerous additional choices at a range of price points that we would only offer for a charge.”

The day after the chat Goldstein was joined by other executives to have lunch in Royal Caribbean’s test kitchen to taste some of the menu items from 150 Central Park, the new fine dining concept that will carry the highest per person charge aboard Oasis of the Seas. According to Goldstein, “It was outrageously delicious. Anyone who has dinner there will be very happy they did.”

Happily, I might add, at $35 the extra charge is only $5 more than fine dining options aboard many other cruise ships.

In just a few days, on July 7th, in addition to booking shore excursions, wine packages, etc, you will also be able to book Oasis of the Seas specialty dining meals at

More about Oasis of the Seas from

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lanai Staterooms Are A Hit On Holland America's Veendam

Holland America Line's latest Signature of Excellence innovation has received rave reviews by guests on ms Veendam. Similar in size to the premium line's spacious outside-view staterooms, the new, unique lanai accommodations were recently added to the ship and feature large sliding glass doors covered with a one-way mirrored coating to ensure privacy. Why is privacy so important? Because the "lanai" is the Lower promenade wrap-around teak walking deck. In addition to direct access to the outdoor deck, the staterooms also feature reserved deck chairs right outside. Lanai staterooms will be added to ms Rotterdam this year and three other ships by 2013.

"We are very pleased with the lanai staterooms and the enthusiastic response from our guests," said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. "They have a nice layout and direct deck access and enhanced views are a major benefit. On the Statendam-class ships we have fewer verandah options than on our Vista or Signature ships. So lanai staterooms offer a great value with outside deck access."

The addition of 38 lanai staterooms on Veendam are a key feature in the latest round of Signature of Excellence enhancements at Holland America Line. Thirty-two new verandah staterooms also were built on the aft portion of the ship, along with eight new inside staterooms. All staterooms aboard Veendam received new decor, modern wall sconces, carpeting, drapes, pillows and bed runners and resurfaced desks and vanities. Bathrooms saw an "extreme" makeover with new vanities and cabinetry.

A final stateroom enhancement was the creation of 15 spa staterooms--12 outside converted to verandah in drydock and three other inside--featuring a variety of exclusive spa amenities. The rooms offer their own ambiance with a decor reflecting natural elements and soft earth-tones. A counter-top water feature in each stateroom provides a natural, ambient background sound and artwork reflects serene images in nature. Exclusive spa treatments and a spa room service menu are offered only in these staterooms.

Completion in Two Phases on Five Ships: Except for Veendam, completed at the end of April 2009, and Rotterdam, to be completed in December 2009, stateroom enhancements will be completed in two phases. First, in a series of drydocks in 2010 and 2011, Maasdam, Statendam, and Ryndam will receive stateroom upgrades. The second series of drydocks in 2012 and 2013 will add lanai staterooms and new accommodations on the aft portion of the ships, as well as forward verandah and spa staterooms.Veendam's capacity increased to 1,350 as a result of the stateroom additions. Guest capacity on Rotterdam will be 1,404. Capacity on Statendam, Maasdam, and Ryndam will increase to 1,350 during future drydocks.

This next phase in the Signature of Excellence commitment brings the latest innovations at sea to Holland America Line's Statendam, Maasdam, Ryndam, Veendam, and Rotterdam. Additional highlights include the resort pool feature called The Retreat, the Showroom at Sea, and the new Mix, three specialty lounges midship. Completing projects will be the addition of Canaletto, Holland America Line's popular and complimentary casual Italian restaurant, introduced on ms Eurodam in summer 2008. Overall, Holland America Line has committed $525 million to its Signature of Excellence program that redefines premium cruising.

For additional information, visit