Monday, August 31, 2009

Cruise Travel: Going North, To Alaska

It may be a bit late in the season to be talking about a cruise to Alaska, but that is exactly where Cruise Diva is headed later this week. My cruise, aboard Holland America Line's Westerdam will be spending a day in Glacier Bay, the highlight of any Alaska cruise. Naturally, there will be a Cruise Diva “Blog From The Bay” that you can catch here next week.

In the meantime, if you are planning an Alaska cruise of your own for next year, Holland America Line has announced an enhancement to their 2010 Alaska program aboard Amsterdam with the addition of Glacier Bay to the 14-day Alaskan Adventurer itinerary. A day of cruising spectacular Glacier Bay National Park, always a great favorite, has been added to eight of the nine 14-day Alaskan Adventurer cruises in 2010. On those cruises, you will enjoy a double glacier experience with visits to Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier. One departure on July 12 will visit the twin Sawyer Glaciers in picturesque Tracy Arm fjord along with Hubbard Glacier.

“We recently acquired additional permits to visit Glacier Bay,” said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales, and guest programs. “By adding them into the Amsterdam’s new 14-day itinerary—which already contains the exciting new ports of Homer, Kodiak and Anchorage—we’re offering the best of the best in southeast Alaska.”

The 14-day Alaskan Adventurer cruise departs on nine round-trip sailings from Seattle May 17 through Sept 6, 2010. Historic ports of call include Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka, Victoria, British Columbia, and new for 2010, Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak and Juneau.

Cruise Diva will be pre-cruising for two days in Seattle before sailing to the ports of Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria (British Columbia), as well as Glacier Bay and you're invited to follow her progress. For a taste of what to see and do, we share Alaska Ports of Call on

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cruise Travel: To Fit Your Lifestyle

So many ships, so little time... how do you decide which cruise line and ship to choose?

The first step is to answer the question, "What are your expectations?"

Cruise lines fall into loose categories that are generally termed Mainstream, Premium, and Luxury. Learn what distinguishes them from one another and which fits your style:
Cruise Diva shares the information you need to find the perfect cruise vacation to suit your lifestyle in Cruise Line Profiles.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Reservations Now Open For 98 New Balcony Staterooms Being Added During Carnival Fascination's Upcoming Refurb

It’s a “how did they do that?” and “why didn’t they do it sooner?” puzzle. What I mean is the addition of balconies—one of the hottest accommodations amenities afloat—to several of Carnival Cruise Lines’ popular Fantasy-class vessels. Every time Cruise Diva has sailed on one, she longed for a private balcony, which, until recently, were limited to those passengers who booked suites.

However, when Carnival Fascination enters a 28-day dry dock in January 2010 for refurbishment, continuing the extensive makeovers to the line’s eight 70,000-ton Fantasy-class vessels, the ship will emerge with 98 new balconies. The third ship to be retrofitted with them, Carnival Fascination joins two sister-ships in a balcony bonanza. Carnival Ecstasy, which will receive new balconies during its dry dock in September, and Carnival Sensation, which had similar work completed earlier this year.

Yesterday marked the opening of reservations for the 98 new balcony staterooms aboard Carnival Fascination, which sails a 4- and 5-day cruising schedule from Jacksonville, Florida, the only cruise ship deployed year-round from that port. On this popular route, 4-day cruises depart Thursdays and visit Freeport and Nassau, The Bahamas. Five-day voyages departing Mondays visit Key West, Fla., and Nassau, while 5-day sailings departing Saturdays call at the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay and Nassau.

The new balconies are only part of what is scheduled to transform Carnival Fascination during her multimillion-dollar makeover. To get a good look at the other enhancements in store for her, Cruise Diva introduces the “Evolutions of Fun” features already on board Carnival Imagination.

Will all eight Fantasy-class ships eventually be retrofitted with balconies? We don’t know, but we will keep you posted!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Comedy Club Concept to Debut on New Carnival Dream

Building upon its reputation for offering the most diverse entertainment choices at sea, Carnival Cruise Lines will introduce the line’s first comedy club on its new 130,000-ton Carnival Dream. The club will feature six comedy shows on four different nights during each voyage. The new 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream—the line’s largest ship—is set to debut Sept. 21, 2009.

Presented in the 425-seat Burgundy Lounge, Carnival Dream’s comedy club will highlight a wide variety of comedians offering both family-friendly and adult-only performances each night. Six 35-minute shows will be presented nightly, with show times at 6, 7:15, 8:30, 9:45, and 11 pm, and 12:15 am. The last two performances will be R-rated adult-only shows. Carnival Dream’s comedy club will showcase the talents of both the line’s established comedians and up-and-coming performers, many of whom have appeared on television specials and in comedy venues throughout the country.

Carnival Dream’s comedy club is one of several entertainment options aboard the spectacular “Fun Ship” that will offer guests an unparalleled mix of entertainment and activity choices from early in the morning to late at night. These include three high-energy revues—“Dancin’ in the Street,” “Get Ready,” and “X-Treme Country”—each of which will feature elaborate sets and costumes, state-of-the-art video technology, and sophisticated special effects.

Offered for the first time on Carnival Dream, Ocean Plaza is a stunning indoor/outdoor café/live music venue with activities and entertainment planned from 9 am until 1 am. Here, guests can relax with specialty coffees and sweets while enjoying a variety of live music, from rock and roll bands to a Latin trio, classical pianists, solo singers, and more. Located on Promenade Deck 5, Ocean Plaza will also serve as the venue for activities ranging from scrapbooking classes and trivia contests to karaoke, and art, spa, and photo seminars. Jugglers and magic shows also will be presented, while the Fun Force, Carnival’s energetic acrobatic troupe, will amaze guests with their high-flying antics.

Other diversions on Carnival Dream will include solo entertainers along the Dream Street Promenade, a karaoke lounge, rollicking sing-a-longs in Sam’s Piano Bar, steel drum and Calypso bands on Lido Deck and live bands playing everything from rock to Latin to disco. Carnival Dream will also feature Carnival’s Seaside Theatre, a massive LED screen on Lido Deck showing movies, concerts, sporting events and other programming.

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

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Disney Dream Begins Taking Shape With Keel-Laying

Beneath a sprinkling of pixie dust, Disney Cruise Line celebrated the keel laying of the Disney Dream yesterday at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Disney Dream is the first of two newly-designed ships destined to expand family cruise options to more people in more places around the world.

“Since our inception, families have come to know and love Disney Cruise Line, and they are looking for additional ways to enjoy all that we have to offer,” Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz said during the ceremony. “Our fleet expansion will allow us to satisfy demand on both the East and West coasts of the United States while also giving us the flexibility to explore additional global destinations for our Guests.”

The keel laying ceremony is the first time the Disney Dream will begin to take shape after many years of design work. In the maritime industry, the ceremony marks a momentous occasion when the first block—or section—of the ship is lowered into the building dock and a coin is placed under the keel for good fortune.

Doing the honors of placing the coin (and getting a little help from one of our favorite Disney characters) was Captain Tom Forberg, pictured above. With a distinguished maritime career aboard Disney Cruise Line, Forberg was the first crew member hired and the captain who launched the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder. Recently, Forberg was named as the future Master of the Disney Dream.

The ship will continue to take its form through a block construction process in which pre-fabricated complete hull sections are joined together in block units and are then brought together to form the ship. The Disney Dream will be made up of 80 blocks, with the first block weighing in at approximately 380 tons.

Designing the Disney Dream
The Disney Dream is scheduled to join the current fleet in 2011, followed by Disney’s second new ship, the Disney Fantasy in 2012. Together the two new ocean liners will more than double the capacity of Disney Cruise Line, each having 1,250 staterooms and a tonnage of 128,000. Synonymous with its name, the Disney Dream will evoke the heritage of the company’s ideals in creating enchanting places and stories where families’ vacation dreams come true.

Bringing together innovation in superb shipbuilding and creativity in imaginative storytelling, Disney Cruise Line and Walt Disney Imagineering, along with the Meyer Werft shipyard have created a truly distinctive design. Like the existing ships, these ocean liners were designed to deliver a unique vacation that every member of the family believes was created just for them. Design details will be revealed later this fall.

Both new ocean liners will call Port Canaveral, Florida, their home, where expansion efforts are underway to accommodate the larger ships and additional guests. In addition to an extension of the dock and enlargements to the one-of-a-kind Disney terminal building, a new multi-level parking structure will be built, complementing the design and storytelling elements of the ships. The new enhancements will provide guests an even more seamless transition from land to sea during their vacation experience.

Based in Celebration, Florida, Disney Cruise Line established the family cruise market when it launched its business in 1998. To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a vacation, guests can contact their travel agent, visit or call Disney Cruise Line at (888) DCL-2500 or (407) 566-7000.

For a peek at a week-long Caribbean cruise aboard Disney Cruise Line, check out Cruise Diva's Disney Magic Blog.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Southern California Airport Transfers Just Got an Affordable Business Class Option for Cruise Passengers

Airport Transportation to and from Southern California's airports and cruise and train terminals just got a new affordable business class option for passengers who don't want a limousine or town car, but would prefer a non-stop airport transfer without the hassle of a taxi or shared-ride shuttle. Express by ExecuCar (formerly Express Shuttle LA) introduces a new 24-hour non-stop service available from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Burbank Airport (BUR), John Wayne Airport (SNA), Ontario Airport (ONT) and Long Beach Airport (LGB). For Cruise or Amtrak passengers Express will also be available to and from the cruise terminals of Los Angeles and Long Beach and local Amtrak stations.

This Express airport transportation service is also eligible for earning airline miles on Delta Airlines SkyMiles , Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns , Northwest Airlines WorldPerks , United Airlines Mileage Plus, or US Airways Dividend Miles programs when reservations are booked online.

For more information on Express by ExecuCar airport transportation go to or call 1-800-I-ARRIVE (1-800-427-7483).

ExecuCar is a division of SuperShuttle International, based in Phoenix, AZ. SuperShuttle serves 33 airports, carrying more than eight million passengers a year. Airports served by SuperShuttle include some of the largest in the country including Los Angeles, New York, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Washington, D.C. and Miami. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Waitlist Opens For Norwegian Epic’s First Transatlantic Sailing

Norwegian Cruise Line announces it is now offering guests the opportunity to book a waitlist reservation on Norwegian Epic’s first transatlantic cruise. Guests on the waitlist will have first priority to secure their booking once the sailing date, itinerary, and pricing are announced. Guests can call their travel agent or Norwegian at 866-234-7350 to be put on the waitlist.

Norwegian Epic’s 2010 inaugural sailings to the Eastern and Western Caribbean from Miami are open for sale. The first Eastern Caribbean sailing from Miami is scheduled for July 17, 2010 and the ship’s alternating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries are available 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

Originally known by its project name “F3” Cruise Diva covers Norwegian Epic’s progress:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cruise Travel: Your First Aid Kit

Before I could fully explain how I scraped my knee aboard Holland America Line's Veendam, the ship's nurse smiled and pointed to several baskets of supplies on her desk when I appeared in the infirmary. I left with several adhesive bandages, a packet of Neosporin cream, and the advice that swimming in one of the ship's salt water pools would promote healing.

Over the years, I've stubbed my toes, toppled down stairs, and experienced any number of other clumsy little accidents, not to mention nasty cuts while swimming over coral reefs, and the ultimate indignity—blisters from 'stylish' shoes.

With the exception of the time I broke my leg, fortunately most of my injuries were minor. Unfortunately, they didn't all happen within close proximity of the ships' medical centers. As a result, I've learned to be prepared at all times with basic items for first aid. My tote bag always contains a few adhesive bandages and a small bottle of waterless antibacterial hand sanitizer, which can also be used to clean small cuts.

For all around care for minor bumps, bruises, and cuts, here are Cruise Diva's suggestions for a Cruising First Aid Kit.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Win a Caribbean Cruise for Two On MSC Poesia with ‘Poetry in Motion’ Sweepstakes

Become a fan of MSC Cruises on Facebook, for a chance to win a balcony stateroom for two aboard a 7-night MSC Poesia Inaugural Caribbean Season Cruise during the “‘Poetry in Motion” Sweepstakes.

Guests interested in cruising the Caribbean have an opportunity to follow MSC Cruises while utilizing the social networking tool, Facebook, during the sweepstakes which runs through Nov 10. Entering is fast, free, and easy. Become a fan of MSC Cruises, click on the “Win a Cruise” tab, and then click on the “Enter Now” button to complete the sweepstakes registration form. If you’re already a fan on Facebook, look for the sweepstakes box on the MSC Cruises page in order to enter.

Limit one entry per person, per e-mail address regardless of method of entry. The sweepstakes is open to all legal residents of the 50 states in the U.S. and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years of age or older as of Aug 21, 2009. The Grand Prize winner will be randomly selected from all eligible entries on or about Nov 20, 2009. The winner receives a balcony stateroom for two onboard the MSC Poesia for a Caribbean cruise valued at about $3,600, including cruise fare, port charges and government taxes.

After you become a fan on Facebook you can follow MSC Cruises on Twitter and watch them on You Tube. Sweepstakes registration is also available online at

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Holland America Offers Pampering Packages

Promoting relaxation and well-being enhancements, three pampering packages provide Holland America Line guests with more ways to customize their cruise vacation. The Well-Being Package, Suite Amenities Package, and Suite Elite Package feature select combinations for fitness, luxury and revitalization. Bundled together, the packages are a cost effective way to receive additional services and amenities while on board.

“As the needs and expectations of our guests continue to diversify, we, in turn, continue to vary our offerings that entertain, educate and energize,” said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest services. “These packages further enhance luxury cruising for our guests that are wanting an exclusive and personal experience.”

Well-Being Package
The Well-Being Package promotes rejuvenation through the Greenhouse Spa and fitness center. One fitness session is included which guests can choose from a class schedule while on board. Guests select either a fifty minute facial or massage treatment from a collection comprised of a La Therapie Facial, an Elemis Aromapure Facial and a Swedish or an Elemis Deep Tissue Massage.

Guests will also enjoy an advanced revitalization treatment with an Alpha Capsule session which combines dry-heat sauna, vibratory massage and soothing aromatherapy. Unlimited access to the hydro pool and thermal suite is added with a souvenir monogrammed bathrobe for each guest. At a preferred time, a platter of sliced fresh fruit is delivered daily. The Well-Being package starts at $299 per person on seven-day sailings.

Suite Amenities Package
The Suite Amenities Package offers special suite-like services for guests booked in staterooms other than suites. Either high tea or cold canapés are delivered to each stateroom daily as well as complimentary laundry and pressing through the length of a sailing. Guests also enjoy an Explorations Café coffee card for ten drinks and a daily DVD selection from the video library with hot popcorn. For an evening of fine dining, a dinner for two is provided at the Pinnacle Grill restaurant.

Fresh flowers, pillows à la carte and a beverage set-up with two bottles of wine and two bottles of liquor are prepared along with two souvenir monogrammed bathrobes in each stateroom. Special disembarkation including luggage pick-up and departure at leisure is offered with access to a disembarkation lounge with refreshments. The Suite Amenities Package starts at $285 per person on sailings up to 10 days.

Suite Elite Package
Exclusive to suite guests, the Suite Elite Package pampers guests even more with additional amenities for a deluxe cruise experience. An initial beverage set-up of two bottles of wine and two bottles of liquor are placed in each stateroom. A Culinary Arts Center cooking class is included along with a session of premium wine tasting and a dinner to share in the Pinnacle Grill.

For relaxation, unlimited access to the hydro pool and thermal suite is offered on all sailings. An internet card of 100 minutes, an Explorations Café coffee card for ten drinks, daily turndown truffles and a deluxe flower arrangement complete this package. The Suite Elite Package starts at $429 per person on sailings up to 10 days.

For additional information, consult a professional travel agent, call 1-877-SAIL HAL (877-724-5425), Ship Services at 1-800-541-1576 or visit

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ruby Princess Swimming Pool Becomes Latest Canvas for Famed Marine Life Artist Wyland

Princess Cruises has certainly come up with a new eco-friendly twist on the popular “dolphin swim” and it’s one that even PETA would approve of.

As Ruby Princess approached Venice this week, passengers aboard the Princess Cruises ship were treated to a special live art event as famed marine life artist Wyland painted an unusual canvas—the bottom of the ship’s Neptune Pool. Known worldwide for his unique works featuring sea animals, Wyland is aboard the ship for special art events and meet and greets with passengers. However, painting the ship’s pool was not on his original agenda. Ruby Princess Captain Tony Draper suggested the idea to the artist after being inspired by watching ship crew members painting the Princess “seawitch” logo on the bottom of the ship’s other main pool. A first for the cruise line, Wyland agreed to paint the mother dolphin and her baby as a way to increase awareness of his conservation message. Passengers were invited to follow along with a live top-deck event hosted by the ship’s cruise director, including live video of the painting in progress broadcast on the ship’s Movies Under the Stars screen.

“This is certainly one of the most unusual ways we’ve ever painted a pool,” said Jan Swartz, Princess executive vice president. “But it’s a wonderful way to work with Wyland to address our shared concern with the importance of marine conservation, and to give our passengers a unique experience as they witnessed a one-of-a-kind artwork taking shape.”

Marine life artist Wyland is an accomplished painter, sculptor, photographer, writer and SCUBA diver. His non-profit Wyland Foundation has supported numerous conservation programs since 1993, including the monumental Whaling Wall mural project—and epic series of more than 100 life-size marine life murals that spans 14 countries on four continents and is viewed by an estimated 1 billion people every year. Wyland and Princess Cruises have a long-time association. Many Princess ships incorporate his sculptures in the swimming pool areas, and are featured in his latest book “100 Whaling Walls.” Wyland’s artwork is also featured in the ships’ onboard art galleries.

Ruby Princess is currently sailing on 12-day Grand Mediterranean voyages between Barcelona and Venice, with calls at Monte Carlo, Florence/Pisa, Rome, Naples/Capri, Mykonos, Istanbul, Kusadasi, and Athens. Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company's website at

Sail along on an exclusive Cruise Diva ship preview of Ruby Princess.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Top 10 Need-To-Know Travel Insurance Terms

For many people, insurance can seem like a foreign language that only those fluent in 'insurance speak' can understand. To master the art of insurance appreciation however, you don't need instruction from RosettaStone or Berlitz, just a little help from

"Travel insurance like all insurance is complex," explains Jim Grace President and CEO of, "but a fundamental understanding of industry terms and phrases that commonly cause confusion, can clear up some of the mystery. At, one of our key goals is to help travelers understand travel insurance, and that means starting with the basics."

These are the top ten travel insurance terms that every consumer should know as they prepare to purchase trip protection for their upcoming travels:

1. A.M. Best Ratings: Industry watchdog A.M. Best rates and assesses insurance companies' financial strength and ability to meet their obligations to policyholders. features a user-friendly monitoring tool for consumers to check the A.M. Best Ratings of all the leading U.S. travel insurance companies before you purchase coverage.
2. Unforeseen: means not anticipated or expected and occurring after the effective date of the policy.
3. Primary: This section of the policy will pay FIRST, before any other collectible insurance.
4. Secondary: This section of the policy will pay you after any other Primary collectible insurance has paid the claim and the Primary policies' limits have been exhausted.
5. First Trip Payment Date: This is the date that money first exchanged hands for the trip you want to insure. This is the date the check is written, not the date it is cashed.
6. Pre-existing Medical Condition Waiver: Many policies have a pre-existing medical exclusion, meaning that coverage is not available for pre-existing medical conditions. A Pre-existing Medical Condition Waiver essentially deletes that exclusion and extends your policy to cover pre-existing condition-related risks. To be eligible for a Pre-Existing Medical Condition Waiver, the majority of travel insurance policies require that you purchase your policy within 10 to 21 days of your first trip payment date and insure for the full amount of your non-refundable travel arrangements.
7. Look Back Period: This is the number of days that the insurance company will 'look back' from the date the insurance was purchased to see if your claim is related to a pre-existing medical condition. The Look Back Period varies by company and plan and does not apply if you qualified for the Pre-existing Medical Condition Waiver offered by many plans.
8. Cancel For Any Reason: This is an optional benefit that empowers travelers to cancel trips for any reason including sudden unemployment, schedule conflicts, even bad weather, up to two days prior to departure. Cancel For Any Reason policies vary by company and must be purchased within 10-21 days of your first trip payment date.
9. Financial Default: This is a benefit that is part of Trip Cancellation/Interruption coverage. This protection applies if the airline, cruise line, or tour operator goes out of business and you are unable to travel as a result or suffer financial loss. Since this coverage is time sensitive, you must purchase a policy within 10-21 days (varies by company) of your first trip payment date. All of the plans that contain this benefit have a 7-30 day waiting period from the time of purchase before becoming effective. Typically, if you purchase travel insurance directly through a travel supplier such as an airline, cruise line, or tour operator, you cannot protect yourself should that travel supplier go bankrupt or become financially insolvent, so it is always best to purchase your travel insurance protection from a third-party source.
10. Travel agent vs. Tour Operator: A Travel Agent is someone who books flights, cruises and tours. A Tour Operator is a company which specializes in the organizing and operation of pre-planned vacations which are usually sold to the public through travel agents.

Established in 2000, is the leading, consumer-oriented online travel insurance aggregator worldwide. Featuring insurance comparisons from the top industry providers, is a unique, one-stop resource designed to meet consumers' comprehensive travel insurance needs all in a secure environment. also specializes in providing integrated technology solutions for the travel insurance industry, with over 2,000 private-labeled and co-branded travel-related websites around the globe. is headquartered in Warwick, RI with additional offices and data centers in Connecticut and Oregon.

The next time you plan a trip, Cruise Diva suggests you check out for your travel insurance and peace of mind.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Carnival Cruise Lines Encourages Children to Dream Big with the Virtual Book of Dreams Contest

In celebration of Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest and largest ship, the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, the company has announced the Virtual Book of Dreams™ contest, inviting residents in the U.S. and Canada to participate in a call for entries. Children between the ages of 7 to 12 have the opportunity to share their awesome dreams online at for a chance to become the world’s first-ever cruise ship waterslide Godchild, and travel to New York City to christen the spectacular Carnival WaterWorks aqua park on the Carnival Dream (pictured here). The winning family will also receive a cruise on the Carnival Dream when the ship makes its North American debut in November.

“At Carnival we value dreams and fun, and we know that no one excels at dreaming and having fun more than kids,” said Carnival Cruise Lines Chief Marketing Officer Jim Berra. “The Virtual Book of Dreams is a terrific way to capture and share the fantastic dreams of children as we introduce the Carnival Dream--our most spectacular ‘Fun Ship’ yet.”

In an effort to remind people why it’s important to dream, Carnival Cruise Lines also announced it will make a $2 donation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for every entry received and $1 for each vote on the Virtual Book of Dreams web site, with a maximum contribution of $25,000 donated to St. Jude. St. Jude is one of the world’s premier centers for the research and treatment of pediatric cancer and other catastrophic diseases.

Dream Big, Win Big: To enter the Virtual Book of Dreams™ contest, children must complete the thought “I’m always dreaming up fun stuff. Wouldn’t it be awesome if…” in 250 words or less. From Aug 17, 2009 until Sept 18, 2009, parents or legal guardians of children between the ages of 7 to 12 can submit their child’s written dream entry and corresponding hand-drawn illustration online at Dream submissions will be judged upon creativity and originality of the dream, expression, and emotional content. In late Sept 2009, Carnival will announce four finalists chosen by a panel of judges, in addition to one Wild Card finalist who will be selected via public online voting at Each of the finalists will be featured in a final round of public online voting that will run through the beginning of October.

The Virtual Book of Dreams Grand Prize Winner will be chosen via the voting process in mid-October, named the Godchild of the Carnival WaterWorks water slide aboard the Carnival Dream and invited to participate in a ship christening ceremony in New York City in mid-Nov 2009. The winning family will also receive a two-night cruise aboard Carnival Dream. All other finalists will receive digital cameras and other prizes from Carnival. No purchase is necessary to enter or win. Rules and details can be found at Remember, even if you are too old to enter, you can still vote and your participation will add to the contribution Carnival makes to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

About Carnival Dream: Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest and largest ship, the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, is a new class of vessel for the line and ushers in an exciting new era in “Fun Ship” cruising. The 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream will offer a host of innovations including a stunning indoor/outdoor café and entertainment venue called Ocean Plaza, a two-level Serenity adults-only retreat, a wrap-around promenade encircling the ship, the cruise industry’s largest water park that features the Carnival WaterWorks waterslide, and a 23,750-square-foot health spa–-Carnival’s largest to date. Several new accommodation categories, including five-berth, two-bathroom staterooms that will hold particular appeal for families, will also be offered on the Carnival Dream.

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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Princess Cruises Adds Some “Aloha” to 2010-11 Voyages

While they aren't bidding a permanent “adios” to the Mexican Riviera, Princess Cruises has mixed things up a bit on the west coast by adding seven new sailings to its fall 2010 to spring 2011 schedule. In addition to three two-week Hawaiian cruises Sapphire Princess, will offer two leisurely Pacific crossings between California and Sydney, plus a short northwestern repositioning cruise, and a longer-than-usual Mexican Riviera sailing.

“Due to the enthusiastic response to our 2009 Trans Pacific sailing we wanted to offer additional opportunities to experience this unique itinerary,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “The two new month-long sailings visiting 13 tropical ports of call will give cruisers a true taste of the idyllic South Pacific.” Swartz added that increased interest in roundtrip Hawaii sailings prompted Princess to add several more of these sailings to its west coast lineup as well.

The new Sapphire Princess voyages include:
  • 2-day Pacific Coastal (Vancouver to San Francisco) – Sept 20, 2010
  • 30-day Hawaii, Tahiti & South Pacific (San Francisco to Sydney) – Sept 22, 2010
  • 29-day Hawaii, Tahiti & South Pacific (Sydney to Los Angeles) – Oct 23, 2010
  • 10-day Mexican Riviera (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) – Jan 5, 2011
  • 14-day Hawaiian Islands (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) – Jan 29, 2011
  • 14-day Hawaiian Islands (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) – Feb 26, 2011
  • 14-day Hawaiian Islands (roundtrip out of Los Angeles) – March 26, 2011
To accommodate the new cruises, which were added as a result of shifting demand in the west coast cruise market, Princess has cancelled 15 previously scheduled Mexican Riviera sailings. However, an additional 17 Mexican Riviera cruises will still sail as scheduled during this time period. The new sailings are currently open for booking. Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company's website at

Monday, August 17, 2009

“Foodie” Phenom Named Chef For Oasis of the Seas’ Signature Restaurant

Big-name celebrity chefs have become the norm at sea in recent years and it should come as no surprise that the world’s largest ship will have a phenomenal chef at its helm. However, Royal Caribbean continues to deliver the unexpected for its much-anticipated Oasis of the Seas, including the choice of chef de cuisine for 150 Central Park, the ship’s signature restaurant in the Central Park neighborhood.

Keriann Von Raesfeld, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed chef will be heading up the most talked about restaurant aboard the world’s largest and most revolutionary cruise ship, slated to begin sailing in Dec 2009. After an extensive world wide search for the most up and coming talent, Royal Caribbean discovered Von Raesfeld at the prestigious 2008 World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) Congress in Dubai. Von Raesfeld’s extraordinary talents have earned her high profile accolades, which include being the first American and the first woman to win the honor of ‘Best Young Cook in the World’ at the 2008 WACS Congress. She also led Team USA to a first gold medal at the Scothot Competition in Scotland and was part of Team USA’s regional team that won the first ever gold medal at the Culinary Olympics held in Germany as well as part of the gold winning Team USA.

At the age of 23, Von Raesfeld will realize any chef’s lifetime goal to manage a restaurant of their own, leading a team of the best chefs in the industry. As chef de cuisine, Von Raesfeld will be a fixture in 150 Central Park, present in every aspect of the signature venue, from the day-to-day kitchen operations and the dining experience, to engaging and conversing with guests nightly.

“Keriann Von Raesfeld’s incredible talent and innovative vision for 150 Central Park is the perfect fit within the constellation of culinary offerings aboard Oasis of the Seas,” says Frank Weber, vice president, Food and Beverage Operations, Royal Caribbean Intl. “Keriann embodies Royal Caribbean’s culture of innovation. Rather than partner with a traditional celebrity chef to lend a name to our signature restaurant, we found one that is a true star in her own right who will focus all of her attention in making the 150 Central Park experience stellar. Royal Caribbean found an authentic, hidden gem with Keriann.”

Von Raesfeld’s modern American epicurean approach, established in formal training from the Professional Culinary Institute and continuously refined through various international competitions, is founded in familiar cuisine and brought to life in original and unique ways. The distinctive style exercises a play on temperatures and textures to create dishes such as a spicy “hot” gazpacho and a Kobe steak entrée served with shitake “bacon” and a celery root purée. Other signature presentations will include Von Raesfeld’s acclaimed banana split, which requires a day-and-a-half of preparation.

Chef Keriann Von Raesfeld says, “My experience in international culinary competitions–where time and food constraints are inherent–is a huge advantage in helping to prepare me for what will be one of the best restaurants at sea. 150 Central Park will be a refined and inviting restaurant, offering extreme attention to detail, from the china and stemware to our amazing wait staff and sommeliers.”

Completing the gastronomic experience at 150 Central Park will be the most dynamic wine program of any Royal Caribbean restaurant. The expansive wine list, created by Master Sommelier John Blazon, will feature wine recommendations paired with the evening’s menu and presented in three “tasting tiers” based on the bottles’ price points. Guests will be able to view the ship’s extensive wine collection in a uniquely designed wine cellar, visible from within the restaurant. Located in the lush and tropical grounds of the ship’s Central Park neighborhood, 150 Central Park will feature décor that will embrace the mellow earth tones, unique textiles, and fixtures inspired by nature’s four seasons. Inspired by the simple elegance concept of trend-setting restaurants in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, each detail of 150 Central Park will be dedicated to enhancing the dining ambiance, from the tabletops to the service team uniforms. The restaurant will feature two menus per sailing, each offering a 6- and 8-course option, and be open for dinner daily from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm with a cover charge of $35.

When it launches in Dec 2009, Oasis of the Seas will be the largest and most revolutionary cruise ship in the world. An architectural marvel at sea, it will span 16 decks, encompass 220,000 gross registered tons, carry 5,400 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,700 staterooms. Oasis of the Seas will be the first ship to tout the cruise line’s new neighborhood concept of seven distinct themed areas, which includes Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone. The ship will sail from her home port of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Additional information is available at

You can also follow the progress of Oasis of the Seas with at

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Seabourn Odyssey Attracting Younger, First-Time Cruisers

When Seabourn Odyssey debuted in Venice last month, the intimate, 450-guest vessel was hailed by one cruise expert as “…a game-changer.” And as its maiden season continues, one of the ways the first new luxury cruiser in over six years is actually changing the game is quickly becoming clear—by attracting younger, affluent travelers to cruise with them for the first time. Seabourn Odyssey’s first two sold-out, 7-day voyages, sailing among the Greek Isles and along the coast of Turkey, carried nearly 40 percent more first-time guests than Seabourn’s average. And those guests averaged 10 percent younger than the line’s long-time loyal following—the number of guests under 45 years of age exceeded the norm by 64 percent.

“From the very beginning, we designed our new class of yachts to appeal to a young, sophisticated traveler,” said Pamela Conover, Seabourn’s president and CEO. “We took the personalized service and attention to detail that Seabourn has always offered, and added features and amenities that younger guests appreciate. We are delighted to see our target audience flocking to Seabourn Odyssey.”

Odyssey is rich in details that appeal to a new breed of upscale travelers: expansive outdoor dining venues, a state-of-the-art gym and the largest spa facility on any luxury vessel; complimentary watersports from Odyssey’s own marina; the relaxed, club-like atmosphere created by all-inclusive beverage service and open-seating dining. And there are savvy touches that delight a hip, worldly crowd, such as the avant-garde tasting menus served in the intimate Restaurant 2, the pizza oven and gelateria by the pool and the European-style coffee bar in the comfy confines of Seabourn Square.

Another feature that attracts younger travelers is Odyssey’s ability to visit smaller ports such as Kotor in Montenegro or the Greek isle of Khyos that are off the usual tourist track, making for a more authentic travel experience.

There is also good news for those younger guests who love Seabourn Odyssey—it’s only the first of three. The second sister, Seabourn Sojourn, is already in the fitting-out stages at the T. Mariotti shipyard in Genoa, Italy, being prepared for a June 2010 debut at Greenwich, England, and a maiden season in Scandinavia and the Baltic. A third new yacht, yet to be named, will debut in 2011. Travelers eager to experience Seabourn Odyssey or any of the other Yachts of Seabourn can take advantage of Yachting Collection Savings up to 65% being offered on cruises through 2010. For details, consult a travel agent, call Seabourn at 1-800-929-9391 or visit

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cruise Travel: Have You Packed The DUCK Tape?

So, your bags are packed and you're ready to cruise? Haven't you forgotten something?

If you didn't slip a roll of Duck Tape into your tote bag, you are leaving your home port without one of a cruise traveler's handiest "necessities."

Yes, this is NOT your father's duct tape (its generic name) and it no longer belongs in the garage.

Duck Tape has literally hundreds of uses. Remember that old homeowners' adage, "If it's stuck and it's not supposed to, get out the WD-40. If it won't stick, and it should, it needs Duck Tape!" shares her top reasons for packing this useful tool in Have DUCK Tape, Will Travel.

PS—Ladies, just email me if you can't figure out how to create your own Wonder Duck Bra.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Norwegian Cruise Lines Invites You To Share Your Freestyle Cruising Experiences

Cruise passengers have always been free to share cruise reviews with Internet sites like, but now new user-generated content on empowers them to share their cruise experiences, answer each other’s questions, and rate shore excursions on the cruise line's own site.

Norwegian Cruise Line has launched Freestyle Voices,, an online social media forum enabling their guests to post personal experiences and opinions to Norwegian’s web site. The company is the first cruise line to directly post user-generated content, including reviews, on its main corporate web site. Freestyle Voices gives guests the ability to interact with each other by sharing their personal Freestyle Cruising stories, posting shore excursion reviews, along with asking and answering questions about the cruise line’s 11 ships and worldwide destinations.

Freestyle Voices showcases customer stories where guests can share their Freestyle Cruising experiences, post photos from their cruise vacation, and also link their story to their Facebook page to share with their friends. With the rate and review function, users can rate shore excursions and share their opinions with others by posting a full review including the ability to post photos and videos. In the ask and answer section, users can answer each other’s questions, rate the helpfulness of an answer or post new questions to be answered by the online community or in some instances by the cruise line itself.

To date, Freestyle Voices is engaging cruisers with more than 3,500 guest questions submitted via the ask and answer platform and approximately 200 past guests have shared their Freestyle Cruising stories. In addition, guests have given high marks to a number of shore excursions with more than 770 submitted reviews.

These social media tools on further enhance Norwegian’s online presence on Facebook (, Twitter ( @NCLFreestyle, YouTube (, and Flickr (

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cruises Are The Year's Hottest Gifts

A couple days ago Cruise Diva shared a deal alert for family Christmas cruising on MSC Cruises. But the values don't stop there. For families and friends who want to celebrate a memorable holiday, this may be the year to take a cruise together. With never-seen-before low fares, cruises offer something for everyone and the holidays provide an unforgettable festive atmosphere for guests of all ages.

“We all know the holidays can be especially stressful, so why not truly enjoy yourself with family and friends with the gift of a year-end vacation aboard a cruise ship,” said Bob Levinstein, CEO, CruiseCompete. “Holiday cruises feature virtually all of the festive amenities one would expect this time of year at all-inclusive prices that offer incredible values.”

The winter holidays are a great time to cruise; the following reasons should help motivate you to start packing for a vacation at sea this year:

1. Get in the spirit – To promote the spirit of the holidays, the cruise lines unpack their holiday decorations and transform their ships into floating wonderlands. Cruise lines like Princess spend thousands of dollars annually decorating their ships in high style, featuring enormous, ornate Christmas trees, menorahs, garlands, wreaths, light displays, falling snow and more. Many holiday travelers even bring their own decorations for their cabins (just remember, candles are not allowed). Don’t forget the mistletoe!
2. Relax while a professional staff creates the memories – There is a lot of stress involved in hosting the holidays for family and friends. Take a cruise this year and leave the cleaning and cooking to someone else. On board the ship, these responsibilities are handled by a professional culinary staff that prepares the chef’s bountiful holiday cuisine that almost assuredly beats anything one might prepare at home.
3. Celebrate in grand style – The holidays are a time for celebration on land and at sea. Imagine a New Year’s Eve where everyone can celebrate to their heart’s content, without having to worry about getting home. Not only do guests walk to the elaborate shipboard parties but, if traveling on Costa Cruises, they learn to countdown from ten in Italian to ring in the New Year. Many ships offer a decedent midnight buffet, the perfect way to end a night of revelry and start 2010 off right.
4. Family fun – With school-age children home on vacation, the holidays are a very popular time for family cruise travel. There are plenty of special holiday-themed activities on board most ships to help youngsters and adults alike remember what time of year it is. These include holiday craft sessions, gingerbread house-building contests, holiday sing-a-longs and more. Holland America guests enjoy Santa’s late-night milk and cookies. Most ships even receive a special visit from the big guy himself.
5. Experience the holidays abroad – Cruise guests can see how people in other parts of the world celebrate the holiday season. Lines like AMA Waterways offer European itineraries that explore the beautiful Danube and Rhine Rivers, which are especially spectacular in the wintertime. In Vienna, guests can visit the world-famous Christmas market, resplendent with a variety of old-world shops and light displays. While there, they can enjoy Gluhwein, a hot brew of red wine laced with cinnamon and cloves, or a little citrus and a large splash of brandy.
6. Enjoy new traditions – To experience a different kind of holiday, travelers can take a Carnival cruise to the Caribbean. The port stop at St. Kitts features the island’s national carnival, which runs from the end of December through early January and features parades, parties and street performances. Guests can also enjoy the Caribbean’s white sand beaches instead of snow. Maybe a pina colada instead of eggnog?
7. Express one’s Faith – While there is plenty of fun on a holiday voyage, the cruise lines are well aware of how important the religious aspects of the season are to many of their guests. Celebrity Cruises and other lines invite priests, reverends and rabbis on board to perform holiday religious services for cruisers. As a added bonus, many cruise lines visit ports of call featuring some of the most beautiful churches and synagogues found anywhere in the world, where holiday services also are held.

Virtually all of the major cruise lines are offering special deals on holiday cruises to a number of unforgettable destinations, from the Caribbean to Europe and even Antarctica, and CruiseCompete showcases many holiday specials. was named one of the "25 Best Value Travel Sites" on the Internet by Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine and one of 36 Web sites consumers "should know" when planning a vacation, according to The Washington Post. Since 2003, over 1,000 cruise experts have provided nearly 5 million quotes to over 1 million quote requests. For more information, visit

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Traveler's Special Tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver

A very nice lady died yesterday. Wealthy, and some would say aristocratic, Eunice Kennedy Shriver will long be remembered as the sister of a slain president, but I'll always remember her as the nice lady at the Special Olympics who was wearing ballerina-style bedroom slippers because she'd been on her feet all day.

It was in July 1983 when I first volunteered to be a "hugger" at the International Special Olympics Summer Games being held at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Every athlete in Special Olympics earned a medal for their effort, and for some, their efforts were heroic. In addition to the medal, each competitor was greeted with a hug at the end of their competition. That was my task as a hugger—to be there to offer a hug and a few words of encouragement whether they'd come in first or last. They all hugged back and some cried with pride. As volunteers, we shed a few tears as well. We also literally jumped for joy with the special athletes because they were so full of emotion. There are no losers in Special Olympics

As you can imagine, it was quite hot in Louisiana that summer. A tented area with water was provided for volunteers to rest between events and it was there that the distinguished lady in the slippers was making sure we were comfortable in the extreme heat. As she drew closer, I realized it was Mrs. Shriver herself. When she reached me, I extended my hand to shake hers. Instead, she hugged me. I'll never forget that hug. I was so in awe of what she had accomplished by founding the Special Olympics, yet she thanked me for being there.

Not only was she a nice lady with a great deal of empathy and a determination to make disabled children's' lives richer, Mrs. Shriver has been credited with being a driving force behind the Americans With Disabilities Act. Her efforts greatly expanded the rights of the disabled to fully participate in what most of us take for granted. Every traveler with a disability benefits from Mrs. Shriver's determination and dedication to making the world around them as accessible as possible.

We humbly extend our condolences to the Shriver family.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cruise Deal Alert: Ring in the Holidays Caribbean Style Aboard MSC Poesia

Why not ring in the holidays with the entire family, Caribbean style, on MSC Poesia’s Dec. 20, 2009 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise? Book it now, complete your holiday shopping, and score a bargain in the process. Your family will love you and you can skip the crowds at the mall.

The “Happy Holidays, Caribbean Style” itinerary includes Christmas Day at sea and port calls in San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. John’s, Antigua; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; and Nassau, Bahamas.

Adding to the appeal, MSC Cruises’ “The More the Merrier” offer on a roundtrip cruise from Fort Lauderdale allows you to pay the regular early booking rate on the first stateroom and 50 percent off the early booking rate on a second stateroom. The promotion is valid when four guests are booked in two staterooms. For example, rates for interior staterooms begin at $699 per person for guests in the first stateroom, while the two guests in the second stateroom pay $349.50 each. Rates for an oceanview stateroom begin at $899 per person for the two guests in the first stateroom and $499.50 each for two guests in the second stateroom. Rates for a balcony begin at $1,049 each for the first stateroom and $524.50 each for the second stateroom. In addition, you can be booked in the same category or in different categories; if you are booked in different categories, the 50 percent discount applies to the lower category.

“The More the Merrier” offer is valid on new bookings made by Aug. 31, 2009. All rates are cruise-only, per person. Government fees and taxes for all guests are additional. Both staterooms must be booked at the same time and with the same booking number. For more information about MSC Cruises, visit or a local travel professional.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cruise Industry Stats: US Cruises Down

A recent report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution quotes the Associated Press as saying, "Fewer Americans took cruises in 2008 than 2007, according to new industry data, showing that cruising's core constituency may be weakening despite continued growth in the pastime worldwide."

Citing statistics from the Cruise Lines Intl Association's (CLIA) annual economic impact statement, the AP continues, "fewer cruise ships set sail from U.S. ports in 2008 than the previous year." They also report that embarkations from American ports accounted for 77 percent of all cruises worldwide as recently as 2004. By 2008, that percentage fell to 69 percent as cruise travel burgeoned in Europe.

As an example of shifts in the US market, they point out that Norwegian Cruise Lines re-christened and re-flagged Pride of Hawaii, which and now sails year-round in Europe as Norwegian Jade, and Pride of Aloha, that now sails from Miami as Norwegian Sky. The departure of Pride of Hawaii and Pride of Aloha accounted for a 59 percent drop in Honolulu embarkations. On the other hand, the Port of Miami saw an increase of 11 percent in its cruise traffic. That's hardly a picture of doom and gloom for the US, but it's only a part of the cruise industry story.

Despite the decline in US cruise embarkations, overall cruise traffic grew between 2007 and 2008, when more than 13 million people worldwide took a cruise. And, while American passenger numbers have increased annually, the percentages have been shrinking in recent years until they became negative in 2008. Posting a 1.7 percent decline, only about 9.3 million passengers embarked on cruises originating in US ports during 2008.

What that means for Americans in the short term is deep discounting of fares to fill cruise ships sailing from our ports and something a bit more disheartening—cruise lines are looking elsewhere for passengers to fill their ships. Just as drive-to "homeland" cruising is popular in the US, it's becoming increasingly important around the globe. Just last week Royal Caribbean Intl opened a Brazilian office in Sao Paulo to tap market demand there.

CLIA doesn't forecast that the American market is stagnating, but it may see less growth as cruise vacations experience a wave of popularity around the world.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Just the Cruise Travel FAQs

Cruise line web sites usually have a section of Frequently Asked Questions specific to their product that are very useful for passengers who've booked a cruise with them.

At, we recognize that every passenger goes on their very first cruise at least once and deciding to take the plunge can be daunting. With an array of decisions to make, and to insure the experience is as satisfying as possible, we’ve anticipated some first-timer concerns. Even past passengers who haven't taken a cruise for some time will find that things have changed over the years.

What's included in the fare? What isn't? What identification is necessary? How are gratuities handled? Those are just a few of the questions we are often asked.

To embark with confidence and learn more about cruising, shares Just the Cruising FAQs.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Accessibility and Cruise Travel

When I broke my leg last year I experienced first-hand the challenges mobility impaired travelers face on a daily basis. Confined to a wheelchair for more than two months, I then spent weeks walking with a boot/brace device and used a cane for balance after extensive physical therapy.

In the process, I gained a huge helping of humility and enormous respect for fellow cruisers who overcome personal challenges in their everyday lives. Even today, I evaluate "handicapped" facilities from a different perspective.

A mere dozen years 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.

Cruise Diva examines Accessible Cruise Travel and offers tips to plan ahead for your next cruise whether you use a wheelchair or scooter or need some other type of life support on board.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Carnival Dream: About to Become a Reality

With less than two months before delivery, final interior and exterior outfitting is taking place aboard the new 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, the line’s largest ship to date, which is slated to debut in Europe on Sept 21. Work continues at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard on the wide range of stunning public rooms and areas aboard the 3,646-passenger vessel, including a spectacular 11-deck-high atrium and a sprawling Carnival WaterWorks aqua park—the largest, most elaborate facility of its kind at sea—pictured here.

Other innovations aboard the Carnival Dream include Ocean Plaza, a magnificent indoor/outdoor café and live music venue; a half-mile wrap-around promenade; cantilevered whirlpools that extend out over the sides of the ship; a 23,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa—Carnival’s largest—and new five-berth, two-bathroom staterooms that should have particular appeal to families.

In the meantime, Carnival Dream’s talented cast of dancers are at the company’s Miami headquarters putting the finishing touches on three lavish production shows that will be featured aboard the new ship when it debuts this fall. The three high-energy revues—“Dancin’ in the Street,” “Get Ready,” and “Xtreme Country”—will be presented in the 1,400-seat Encore! show lounge and will feature elaborate sets and costumes, state-of-the-art video technology and sophisticated special effects

Carnival Dream’s production shows are just one of several entertainment choices available aboard the massive 3,646-passenger vessel. From comedy shows, a dedicated karaoke lounge, a piano bar, and an indoor/outdoor dance club to live music venues showcasing rock, country, and everything in between, Carnival Dream will offer something for every mood or taste.

Following a series of inaugural 12-day Mediterranean voyages from Rome (Civitavecchia), Carnival Dream will reposition to New York City for two 8-day Caribbean cruises followed by a special 9-day Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida. The ship launches year-round 7-day Caribbean service from Port Canaveral on Dec 12.

Cruise Diva will be on hand for Carnival Dream's christening in New York City on Nov 12th, followed by a 2-night preview cruise, so mark your calendar for a first look at this incredible new ship!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cruise Travel: No Lifejacket For You

When guests gathered at their muster stations aboard Celebrity Equinox last week they didn't have to go to their cabins to retrieve their lifejackets beforehand, nor did they have to return them after the drill was complete. In fact, they didn't have to put them on at all!

As Richard Fain, Chairman & CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd stated in his blog recently, the muster drill is “a royal pain in the ass—an important pain, but a pain nonetheless.” He explained, “Under our current system, the guests all have to go back to their staterooms, get their lifejackets, and walk through the hallways carrying or wearing their lifejackets. The lifejackets are uncomfortable and bulky and many guests leave the belt hanging. After the drill, they have to take their lifejackets back to their staterooms. It’s also a time consuming and difficult process for the crew. All in all, it’s a laborious, uncomfortable, manual process that can actually distract from the important safety purposes for which it was designed.”

The behind-the-scenes team at Royal Caribbean recognized that the biggest issue was making guests return to their staterooms to get the life jackets. But they also realized there would be no benefit to making them do that aboard Oasis of the Seas when it launches because the ship is large enough that lifejackets can be stored at the mustering stations instead of the staterooms. This takes up more space at the mustering stations (lifejackets are very bulky), but a bonus to storing them there is the ability to free up a bit more space in each stateroom.

Fain adds, “Just to make sure this is as big an improvement as it seems, we’ve been running extensive testing on other ships. The universal reaction is that this is a dramatically better system. Amongst other benefits, it is safer—the guests can go directly from wherever they are to their muster stations and we don’t have all of the cross traffic with guests wearing bulky lifejackets.”

And that’s why we had a no-jacket-required muster drill aboard Celebrity Equinox. As a “tester” of the system, my impression was that it was the most efficient, civilized, and (dare I say?) comfortable safety drill I have ever attended.

See what else I learned while on board Celebrity Equinox in the new ship review at

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Important Fraud Alert From Crystal Cruises

In these challenging financial times, crooks are coming up with imaginative ways to dupe the public and they are now apparently targeting cruise travelers. If you are a past passenger of Crystal Cruises, you may have received one of these warning emails. If not, take heed of the following.

It has come to the attention of Crystal Cruises that fraudulent checks are being issued to various individuals throughout the United States either randomly via mail or through other means including popular Internet websites featuring job postings, Mystery Shopper programs, Sweepstakes/Draw Winner and payment for items being sold. We do NOT believe that any of our customer personal information was used to generate these checks.

These checks look identical to, but are not, Crystal Cruises' corporate checks. These are NOT legitimate checks and this is NOT a Crystal Cruises' promotion. This is an illegal check scam.

The "check scam" is as follows:

1) The perpetrators advise the recipient to cash the alleged Crystal Cruises' check. (Note: They even explain the check is from a "financial sponsor" to try and assure the recipient that it is legitimate).
2) They then ask the recipient to deposit or send the same amount of money to a third party via Western Union under the guise of a Secret Shopper program (Note: at this time we do not have definitive information as to where the money is being sent).

Again, this is NOT a Crystal Cruises' promotion and we ask for your help in communicating this fraudulent check scam to others. If you have received one of these checks, do not cash or deposit it. These checks did not originate with Crystal Cruises.

Crystal Cruises has notified and is working with the appropriate authorities to investigate this matter. In order to provide the authorities with the additional information necessary to apprehend and prosecute the criminals behind this fraud, we ask that if you do receive a check, or have any information regarding this scam, please email us at, or fax to 1-310-277-8150, or call 1-310-785-9300 and ask to speak to our Fraud Alert Department.

We appreciate your cooperation in this very serious matter.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Celebrity Equinox: New Ship Review

"Here Comes The Sun" and it's shining on the glorious new Celebrity Equinox. Welcome aboard as Cruise Diva shows you around during her christening cruise from Southampton last week.

It's no surprise that the second "sister" ship in Celebrity Cruises' Solstice-class series is as impressive as the first. With a name like Equinox, you'd expect a ship with a certain harmony and you wouldn't be disappointed. The decor isn't theme driven, but the sun is celebrated as it streams through overhead skylights onto a real live ficus tree planted in an enormous vase studded with multi-colored Swarovsky crystals and suspended above the ship's lobby.

Get ready to experience the “yin-yang” (the existence of opposing elements to create equilibrium) that makes Celebrity Equinox a special balance of stylish and chic with a hip edgy twist. Celebrity Cruises took the best of Celebrity Solstice and made it even better.

Celebrity fans won't want to miss the illustrated preview on, as well as our live blogs from on board:

Monday, August 3, 2009

First Ever Cruise Dedicated to Divorcées

You may have noticed that the Cruise Diva Blog is a bit late today. There's a good reason. My dog didn't eat my column, but my husband did cut the underground cable while doing yard work yesterday. For the 24 hours that it took the cable company to replace it, he suffered television withdrawal pains and I played Solitaire. He'd be in the doghouse, but it was an accident and he felt very sheepish about it. Other couples have much worse problems. Problems that often end in separations and, ultimately, divorce.

With those now-singles in mind, national cruise retailer has announced a series of cruises dedicated to the 'divorced and single again' market. "These cruise groups were designed for divorced individuals to meet, party, and perhaps even connect with others who have shared similar relationship experiences," said Anthony Hamawy, President of

Special activities planned include private parties, games, prizes, and more. The divorcée cruises are currently scheduled for three sailings this year, including Oct. 16 on the Norwegian Sky for 3 nights to the Bahamas from Miami; Nov. 16 aboard the Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the seas for 5 days to Mexico from San Diego; and Dec. 18 aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas for 3 days to the Bahamas from Miami.

For additional information and reservations contact at 866-401-0895 or visit their web site.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"Jacques" to be Featured Aboard Oceania Cruises' Marina

You may know Jacques Pepin as the host of award-winning cooking shows and author of more than 20 cookbooks. He has even served as personal chef to numerous heads of state. As the Executive Culinary Director for Oceania Cruises, Pepin has brought his legendary cuisine and unique artistry to the gourmet restaurants onboard sister ships Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica. And now the world-renowned Master Chef will open Jacques, his first ever restaurant at sea, on board Oceania Cruises' new 1,258-guest Marina, scheduled to launch in late 2010.

Pepin's namesake restaurant will draw inspiration from bistros in his home town of Lyon and the fabled bistros of Paris. "The cornerstone of any great dining experience is freshly prepared, simple dishes that are as visually pleasing on the plate as they are on the palate," according to Pepin. Guests entering the restaurant will be greeted by the aroma of freshly roasted chicken, duck, and lamb wafting from the grand rotisserie. Custom Jacques Pepin signature china, antique flatware and Lalique glassware adorn the tables while chandeliers fashioned from crystal decanters add a whimsical shimmer to the room. An art collection comprised of some of Pepin's favorite personal pieces and original works Pepin created especially for Marina, grace the room and adds a warm, personal touch.

"As we designed the culinary experience aboard Marina, a restaurant by Jacques Pepin was at the top of our guests' wish lists. 'Jacques' will present a traditional French dining experience in a casually elegant fashion. Jacques Pepin has been a member of our team since the line's inception and we are honored that he is debuting his signature restaurant aboard our magnificent new Marina," stated Bob Binder, Oceania Cruises' president.

A Dining Experience to Be Savored: Dining in Jacques will be reminiscent of dining in a favorite bistro that is run by a long-time friend. The service, while professional and polished, is friendly and endearing and in the tradition of fine French dining, a leisurely pace is de rigueur, thus ensuring a relaxing dining experience. Upon arrival at the table, guests are greeted with a bread basket of "Les Trois Baguettes" with three different freshly baked French baguettes along with Country Petit Pate with gherkins and traditional Rillettes of salmon and foie de volaille.

Highlights of the menu include an appetizer of homemade Pumpkin Soup a l'Anglaise served in a pumpkin shell, fresh Mussels Mariniere, freshly roasted free range chicken, duck, lamb, and other specialty cuts of fine meat. In addition, the chef's "specialites de la maison" are presented each day, having been hand-selected from local markets in the ports that Marina visits. To cap off the evening, a choice of nine classic French desserts and a cheese tray with 12 AOC French cheeses that locally procured in the regions they are produced serve as a fitting finale to an unforgettable dining experience.

A Ship for Food Lovers: Oceania Cruises' new Marina has been purposefully designed for epicureans with 10 dining venues, including six open-seating, gourmet restaurants. Public spaces awash in rich woods, marble and granite, fine wool carpets and lustrous leather retain the intimacy and signature design elements of the line's three sister ships while affording an increased level of space, comfort, convenience and luxury amenities. Guests may choose to dine in any of the six distinctly different gourmet restaurants, including Jacques and Red Ginger, all at no additional charge.

Guest accommodations are comprised of 629 staterooms and suites, 96 percent of which have private verandas. Facilities include an array of elegant bars and lounges, a Canyon Ranch SpaClub , state-of-the-art fitness center, outdoor swimming pool, and hot tubs. Additional information about Jacques, including sample menus, will be uploaded to Oceania Cruises' Web site in the coming months. Reservations for Marina are scheduled to open in late 2009. For more information or to order a brochure, contact a travel agent, visit or call Oceania Cruises at 800-531-5658.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Make Your Own Warm Chocolate Melting Cake

A story that I love to tell Carnival Cruise Line executives is about the lady who complained to me that she was served the worst cake ever on a Carnival cruise. It didn't take long to discover that what she described as cake that "wasn't baked" was actually Carnival's signature Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.

One of Cruise Diva's favorite desserts, and one that is available every night on Carnival Cruise Lines' ships, is Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. It's a serious chocolate lover's delight—firm around the edges and gooey chocolate heaven in the middle.

The latest issue of Carnival's "Funville Times" included the recipe and Cruise Diva is happy to pass it along to those of you who love it as much as I do!

Warm Chocolate Melting Cake
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 7 eggs, divided use
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Melt chocolate and butter; cool 10 minutes.
In separate bowl, mix four eggs with sugar. Whisk.
Add flour and whisk.
Add remaining three eggs.
Add egg mixture to chocolate mixture.
Pour in individual ramekins.
Bake until just done, about 15-20 minutes (interior will be melting).

Serve with vanilla ice cream.