Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cunard’s Queen Victoria Welcomes Famed Boston Chef Todd English during Maiden Call to His Native City

As part of her Autumn Colours voyage, which features maiden calls through the New England and Canada coasts, Cunard’s Queen Victoria made her inaugural visit to Boston yesterday. Joining the festivities was celebrity chef Todd English, whose at-sea eponymously named restaurants are exclusively featured aboard both Queen Victoria and flagship Queen Mary 2. Local dignitaries, including British Consul-General Phil Budden, were among the guests who enjoyed a sumptuous lunch prepared by the native Boston chef in his onboard restaurant.

“It’s a privilege for me to welcome Queen Victoria to my city,” said English. “To have my Todd English restaurants–the only at sea–aboard Cunard’s legendary liners is truly an honor for me.”

“It is a pleasure to bring Queen Victoria into Boston for her inaugural visit, a city with which Cunard shares a great history – welcoming us and our guests so warmly for many years,” said Queen Victoria’s Master, Captain Ian McNaught. “We continue to provide our guests with legendary voyages and historic ports of call, and Boston is always a highlight,” he added.

For more information about Cunard and to book a voyage aboard Queen Victoria or Queen Mary 2, consult your Travel Professional, call toll-free 1-800-7-CUNARD or go to

Pictured above: Captain Ian McNaught, Master of Queen Victoria, and celebrity chef Todd English

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

MSC Cruises Offers Special ‘Winter Getaway’ Rates On Select Caribbean Sailings

With the arrival of autumn comes falling leaves, chilling temperatures, and thoughts of warm tropical sunshine. If you're looking for a getaway during the upcoming winter months, you can save more than 60 percent off retail rates on select 7-night sailings of MSC Poesia to the warm Caribbean. Special cruise-only “Winter Getaway” rates begin at $399 per person, double occupancy, on select sailings and stateroom types for residents of the U.S. and Canada. The limited-time “Winter Getaway” rates are available on the following itineraries, all sailing round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida:

“Eastern Caribbean Enchantment:” Jan. 9, 23 and 30; calling at San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas; rates begin at $399.

“Island Treasures & Ancient Temples” and “Baseball Greats:” Jan. 16 and Feb. 6; calling at Key West, Florida; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and Nassau; rates begin at $469.

The “Winter Getaway” offer is available on new bookings made by Oct 31. Kids under the age of 17 sail free when sharing a stateroom with two full-fare-paying adults (government fees and taxes for all guests are additional). All cruises offer just a $100 deposit on all sailings and itineraries. For more information about MSC Cruises, visit MSC Cruises USA or a local travel professional.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Holland America Line Launches New Mariner Society Loyalty Program

As a Holland America Line Mariner who just earned her first award--a lovely enameled pin--I've always been appreciative of Mariner Society perks. For those who have sailed even just once with Holland America Line, there's now more to enjoy on future cruises. The new Mariner Society Rewards Program provides past guests with exciting new benefits from generous onboard discounts while sailing and special rates on select cruises to reduced or free third and fourth rates when booking future cruises. Benefits are tiered and vary based on a guest's cruise history.

"We wanted to create a program that gives our loyal Mariner members fantastic perks, cruise values and enhances that sense of pride they feel after having sailed on several cruises with Holland America Line," said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. "We have one of the highest repeat guest ratios in the cruise industry and our loyal guests deserve the valuable benefits in our new Mariner Society Rewards Program."

The Mariner Society Rewards Program offers a 4-level progressive membership with a wide range of cruise and on-board savings and extra values. All guests who sail with Holland America Line are automatically welcomed into the Mariner Society where they receive special offers on upcoming cruises as well as advance information about new ships and the latest product enhancements. On my latest HAL cruise aboard Westerdam, Mariner Society members enjoyed a recognition brunch with the Captain and his senior officers.

Based on past cruises recorded as cruise days, members now enjoy Star memberships with four different levels offering an ever-widening range of cruise options and enhancements. Guests automatically collect additional "cruise days" or cruise day credits based on their onboard spending or through the purchase of one of the premium line's suite options.

Star Mariner: Guests who complete their initial cruise with Holland America Line are automatically enrolled in the Mariner Society's first level, earning cruise days towards future cruises and an exclusive collectable gift. Among the features of Star Mariner status: special offers on select sailings, 50 percent discount for third and fourth guests on select sailings, hosted sailings with Holland America Line Ambassadors, a relaxing Welcome Back Embarkation Brunch on future cruises, a subscription to the Mariner Magazine and a Mariner Champagne Brunch on future cruises.

Two-Star Mariner: After 30 cruise day credits earned, Two-Star guests receive all the amenities of a Star Mariner plus shopping discounts, featuring 15 percent off merchandise purchased from and 10 percent off logo apparel items onboard in the gift shops. Two-Star Mariners also will receive a complimentary ship photo and be sent an exclusive annual cruise planner and special recognition pin.

Three-Star Mariner: With 75 cruise days earned, Three-Star guests automatically are given all Two-Star amenities plus generous new discounts including 10 percent off on select spa treatments; a 25 percent discount on all wine packages, mini-bar purchases, Explorations Cafe drinks and alternative restaurant surcharges; special advanced notice of new itineraries; and a waiver of air deviation fees.

Four-Star Mariner: At the top of the tiers, with 200 cruise days earned, Four-Star guests enjoy the benefits of all Star levels below and the bonus of free fare for third and fourth guests on select sailings; complimentary wine tasting and laundry/pressing; a 50 percent discount on all wine packages, mini-bar purchases, Explorations Cafe drinks and alternative restaurant surcharges; a 15 percent discount on logo apparel items onboard in the gift shops; priority tender service and check-in; priority shore excursion pre-booking; and a free subscription to Food and Wine magazine or Travel + Leisure magazine.

The new Mariner Society Rewards Program will roll out to the entire fleet by Oct 18, 2009. For more information, consult a travel agent, call 1-877-SAIL-HAL (877-724-5425) or visit

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Guess the Name of Seabourn’s New Yacht and Win a Cruise

Are you good at guessing games? Do you have a heightened sense of intuition or clairvoyance? If so, you could win a complimentary 7-day cruise for two during the maiden year of Seabourn’s third new ultra luxury yacht, just by guessing the name the vessel will be given when she is launched in June 2011.

Use your imagination–or even a crystal ball–to win a free week-long cruise aboard the next generation of ultra luxury cruising vessel. Like the other yachts in the Seabourn fleet, their new sister will have the first name Seabourn. It’s the second half that you need to figure out in order to win.

Take as many opportunities to guess as you want, and submit your guesses by e-mail to Don’t forget to include your name and contact information. Entries must be received by Dec 4, 2009. In case of identical correct guesses, the winner will be drawn at random from among all correct guesses.

The award is a complimentary 7-day cruise in a minimum category suite anywhere the new ship sails between her second scheduled cruise in 2011 and June of 2012, and is subject to space availability. The prize cruise does not include airfare, ground transfers or on board purchases. All expenses not specifically stated are the sole responsibility of the winner. The award is not transferable and non-refundable. All terms and conditions of Seabourn Cruise Line’s standard Ticket Contract of Passage, as well as those stated in the General Information section of Seabourn’s brochure, shall be applicable to the cruise. In case the winner is unable to utilize available space during the maiden year, a 7-day cruise on another Seabourn yacht may be substituted.

Get thinking and submit your entries! (Where's Karnak The Magnificent when you really need him?!?)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Royal Caribbean Launches Military Appreciation Campaign With Arrival of Radiance of the Seas in San Diego

Royal Caribbean Intl’s Radiance of the Seas arrived yesterday in its new seasonal homeport of San Diego to offer West Coast vacationers more options for a memorable Mexican Riviera cruise.

Radiance of the Seas’ arrival also marks the launch of the cruise line’s military appreciation campaign. In recognition of the contributions made by members of the U.S. military and the amount of time they spend away from their families to serve their country, Royal Caribbean is making a donation of $10,000 to Wounded Warriors Families Support, an organization that provides support to the families of those who have been wounded, injured or killed during combat operations. In addition, the cruise line is offering special cruise pricing to active and retired U.S. and Canadian military personnel and their families to share a cruise vacation aboard Radiance of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas for sailings between Oct 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010.

“Royal Caribbean is appreciative of the contributions and sacrifices made by all members of our military services,” said Betsy O’Rourke, senior vice president of Marketing, Royal Caribbean International. “Our contribution to the Wounded Warriors Family Support organization is our way to help give back to those who have given up so much already. And we’d like to invite our heroes in the military to share a memorable vacation with their families by offering super-special fares on Mexican Riviera cruises aboard Mariner of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas.”

Radiance of the Seas will embark on a total of 29 Mexican Riviera cruises from San Diego, ranging from 4- to 12-night itineraries. In addition, vacationers also can choose a 13-night Ultimate Alaska itinerary sailing on May 8, 2010. Adding to Mariner of the Seas’ year-round sailings from Los Angeles, Radiance of the Seas offers vacationers a second choice of a Radiance-class ship from an alternative embarkation port, and a wider breadth of itinerary options sailing from the West Coast.

Radiance of the Seas begins the season with 12 short cruises from San Diego, 4- and 5-night itineraries with calls at Cabo San Lucas and, on the longer itinerary, Ensenada. Vacationers can choose among 15 longer sailings starting in Nov, ranging from 9- to 11-night round-trip itineraries that include ports of call such as Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Ensenada, Huatulco, Ixtapa (Zihuatanejo), Manzanillo, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. Vacationers also can avoid the stresses and messes this holiday season on Radiance of the Seas. A special 9-night Thanksgiving cruise, sailing on Nov 21, 2009, will feature a call at Manzanillo on Thanksgiving Day, the cruise line’s first return to the port since 1999. Holiday revelers also can choose a 12-night holiday cruise departing Dec 21, 2009, when guests will celebrate Christmas and herald in the New Year on board on the same cruise.

Deployed to Los Angeles in Feb 2009, Mariner of the Seas offers vacationers a 7-night Mexican Riviera itinerary year-round as the largest and most innovative cruise ship to be based in the Pacific Ocean. Ports of call include Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Mariner of the Seas is among Royal Caribbean’s Voyager class of ships, known for revolutionizing the cruise industry in the ‘90s by introducing an onboard rock-climbing wall, ice-skating rink, and the Royal Promenade – a boulevard running nearly the length of the ship that is lined with lounges, stores and restaurants, including a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Malt Shop Memories Cruise Brings the Best of the '50s & '60s to the High Seas

Remember the oldies, like "It's My Party" and “Save the Last Dance for Me”? Well, polish up those white bucks, get your poodle skirt out of the cedar chest, and prepare to stroll down memory lane. Affinity travel company Sixthman and Carnival Cruise Lines have announced the launch of the Malt Shop Memories Cruise, a 5-day, 4-night cruise offering music lovers a unique travel experience as they journey back to the birth of rock n' roll via live performances by some of the greatest artists of the '50s & '60s.

The full-ship charter cruise will set sail May 13-17, 2010 aboard the Carnival Inspiration, traveling from Tampa, Florida, and calling at Cozumel, Mexico. On board, guests will enjoy live performances from the era's top artists in an intimate and personal setting. Those appearing include Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Lesley Gore, The Original Drifters, The Platters, and Lou Christie. DJ Jerry Blavat, also known as the "Geator with the Heater," serves as host of the cruise and emcee of special events.

In addition to non-stop music and artist interactions, guests will enjoy other activities reminiscent of the era, including sock-hops, beach parties, dance contests, bingo, and more. Because the cruise is a full-ship charter, tickets to all the shows and admittance to every scheduled activity is open to all passengers. As Andy Levine, owner of Sixthman, says, "This music is the soundtrack for generations of peoples' lives, and we're excited for the opportunity to bring them together."

The setting for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise is the Carnival Inspiration, a 2,000 passenger floating resort boasting 2 pools, jacuzzis, a miniature golf course, state-of-the-art fitness center, spa, casino and multiple bars and restaurants. Guests will combine fine dining with themed leisure activities, while enjoying first-class service that is synonymous with the Carnival name.

Cabins for the Malt Shop Memories cruise are on sale now. For more information, or to book online, visit Get ready to party like it's 1960!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Royal Caribbean’s Best Price Guarantee

When I read yesterday's release (detailed below) regarding Royal Caribbean's Best Price Guarantee, I thought it sounded familiar. Not much has actually changed about the fare guarantee, but Royal Caribbean wants to be sure travelers know about it, as well as other advantages of booking their preferred cruise early.
Vacationers can enjoy the benefits of booking early and the peace of mind of receiving the best advertised prices with Royal Caribbean Intl’s Best Price Guarantee program. By booking early, vacationers have access to a much wider selection of staterooms and availability on their desired departure date. If the guest then finds a lower fare advertised by Royal Caribbean for the same ship, sail-date and stateroom category, they can receive the difference in price as an onboard credit to spend on cocktails, spa services, specialty dining, and other shipboard purchases. Any dollars not spent will be refunded at the conclusion of the cruise.

“Best Price Guarantee gives guests peace of mind, allowing them to plan ahead, book early and get the staterooms and excursions that they want with no worries that a better deal will come along after they’ve committed,” said Betsy O’Rourke, senior vice president of Marketing, Royal Caribbean Intl. “We want our guests to know that they received a good deal from us, which helps them enjoy their vacation with us even more.”

Guests can take advantage of Royal Caribbean’s Best Price Guarantee immediately from the time of booking to up to 72 hours prior to sailing. When guests booked with Royal Caribbean find a subsequent qualifying lower price advertised by the cruise line after they’ve booked, they simply contact Royal Caribbean or their travel agent, who will make the request to the cruise line. The difference in pricing will be provided in the form of an onboard credit. For reservations outside of the final payment period, onboard credit may be replaced, upon request, with a reduction to guests’ outstanding balance or a refund, as applicable.
A limited number of pricing programs are excluded from the Best Price Guarantee program and it does not apply to group bookings. Other terms and conditions may apply (to see them all, visit For instance, price protection will be available for most fare types with the exception of Royal Sales Event and Exciting Deals; Travel Agent, Interline or Industry Reduced Rates; Employee rate programs; and a select number of price programs and promotions for new bookings only, as specified in the price program detail.

Highlights of the program are:
• No forms to fill out
• Book any time and know you are protected up until 72 hours prior to departure
• Outside of final payment: Upgrade options, Onboard Credit, or price reduction (refund if applicable)
• Inside final payment: Upgrade options or Onboard Credit

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Visit Cunard Line's Next Royal: Queen Elizabeth

It's only been two months since her keel laying and Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth is taking shape at the Fincantieri yard in Monefalcone, Italy.

Join Entertainment Director Alistair Greener as he goes on board to follow her progress.

We're certainly anxious to see Part Two of the video series!

Keep up with all things Cunard at the We Are Cunard blog.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Royal Caribbean Makes Children's Wishes Come True

When Royal Caribbean International® officially launches the Oasis of the Seas–the world’s most revolutionary cruise ship–on Nov. 30 from Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the renowned cruise line will be doing more than making wishes come true for eager vacationers … they will be making more wishes come true for Make-A-Wish® children from across the country.

Royal Caribbean has donated 1,000 staterooms for this inaugural, once-in-a-lifetime event to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The proceeds from all sales will benefit the nonprofit organization, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Wish kids–some having their wishes granted onboard that evening–and their families will participate in the onboard festivities and enjoy the ship’s entertainment amenities.

The event symbolizes Royal Caribbean’s ongoing support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Since 2000, the cruise line has hosted more than 1,300 children who wished to go on a cruise to destinations around the world. Additionally, Royal Caribbean has contributed more than $2.8 million in in-kind services and $372,000 in discount savings through its Wishes at Sea program. Through employee and passenger fundraising efforts, it has also raised more than $480,000 and 460,000 frequent flier miles, used to secure airline tickets for children’s wish travel and help the Foundation conserve critical financial resources.

“The generosity of sponsors like Royal Caribbean has greatly enhanced our ability to grant life-affirming, world-class wishes and is critical to the mission of the Make-A-Wish Foundation to bring hope, strength and joy into the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions,” said David Williams, Make-A-Wish Foundation of America president and chief executive officer. “We hope that people across the nation will support the Foundation by joining us for this special inaugural cruise celebration and fundraising effort, enabling us to bring smiles to the faces of even more children–children who are waiting for wishes.”

A magical evening, the one-night cruise will not only share the power of a wish®, but be highlighted by the official christening and naming ceremony, hosted by the godmother of the ship (an honor reserved for heads of state, politicians, and celebrities, who give ships their names and serve as guiding spirits).

Oasis of the Seas’ exciting onboard amenities will be open for guests’ enjoyment, including two rock-climbing walls, the first zip line on a cruise ship, two FlowRider surf simulators, and four unique types of pools in the Pool and Sports Zone. Guests also can make an appointment for a rejuvenating session in the Vitality Spa, then go for a ride on the only carousel at sea in the Boardwalk neighborhood before taking in an acrobatic diving show in the AquaTheater. A special dinner menu will be featured in the Opus Dining Room and certain event packages will provide guests a chance to experience one of the ship’s specialty restaurants. After dinner, guests can enjoy a spectacular theatrical production in the Opal Theater; catch side-splitting comics in Comedy Live; relax in one of the ship’s many lounges; and join in world-class gaming in the Casino Royale.

Anyone interested in attending the Nov. 30 festivities can reserve a stateroom by contacting Cynthia Paez, Royal Caribbean Intl, at 877-202-1520, ext. 12751, or by e-mailing her at, Monday- Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Crystal Cruises Introduces A New Way of Walking

The latest fitness craze is finding new terrain at sea aboard Crystal Cruises' ships. Expanding its commitment to offering innovative wellness programs, the luxury cruise line is introducing Nordic Walking, fitness walking with lightweight poles. Through an exclusive new partnership with LEKI USA, a leading manufacturer of skiing, trekking, and Nordic Walking Poles, Crystal continues to break new ground in fitness options at sea. Specifically designed to engage the entire body, the Nordic Walking poles (pictured here) will be available complimentary to guests aboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity this October.

"We continually strive to stay a step ahead and offer our guests programs that benefit the mind and body," says Kristin Carlson, Crystal's manager of entertainment. "Besides the array of indoor gym activities, this program takes full advantage of the expansive 360-degree promenade decks aboard Crystal ships."

Featuring rubber tips to assist in push-off various surfaces, like Crystal's wide decks, Nordic Walking poles help to evenly distribute stress while walking, increase stability, and improve balance, and alleviate the steady impact of running and jogging, while offering similar benefits. Using the poles exercises the upper and lower body while walking, adding to the cardiovascular benefit and burning up to 46% more calories than walking without them.

Nordic Walking Poles specialist Rick Deutsch will be on board Crystal Serenity's October 8 cruise from Athens to Venice, and Crystal Symphony's October 19 cruise from New York to Montreal to teach the opening classes and train the ships' fitness instructors, who will lead demonstrations on following voyages.

Crystal has long been a trendsetter in sophisticated wellness programming. In addition to the 360-degree promenade decks - a rarity in luxury cruising - both ships boast well appointed fitness centers with state-of-the-art cardio and strength training equipment. Recently introduced indoor cycling classes and Kinesis(TM) machines join exclusive offerings like the Walk on Water program utilizing weighted Walkvests, complimentary yoga and Pilates mat classes, and lectures from Cleveland Clinic experts. Guests wishing to order a set of Nordic Walking Poles may do so through the fitness directors on board.

For terms and conditions or Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cruise Lines: "Graded" or Attacked?

When organizations want to prove a point, it seems they will go to almost any length to reach their desired conclusion. So it was no surprise that when the environmental organization Friends of the Earth recently issued their first-ever "Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card, an assessment of the environmental and human health footprint of cruise lines and ships operating in the United States," the cruise industry didn't fare very well. FOE's admitted mission in issuing the "report card" was to prove that "taking a cruise is more harmful to the environment and human health than many other forms of travel."

According to their release, "Friends of the Earth’s report card ranks 10 major lines—Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean Int’l, and Silversea Cruises—according to three environmental criteria: sewage treatment technology, air pollution reduction, and water quality compliance in Alaskan waters. Holland America, Norwegian and Princess come out on top, and Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney are rated the worst."

Something smelled fishy to me. For instance, why flunk Disney Cruise Lines when they haven't even entered the Alaska market yet? Within days the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), released the following statement in response to the “report” by the campaign group, Friends of the Earth:
The so-called ‘Report Card' released by Friends of the Earth is not based on science, law or the facts, but rather FOE's own arbitrary and flawed criteria. It reveals more about FOE's own agenda than it does the environmental practices of CLIA member cruise lines. Above all, the grades in the report card clearly ignore the fact that our cruise lines comply with and in most cases exceed all applicable environmental regulations set by the Federal government and other regulatory bodies around the world. Fortunately, Friends of the Earth has no authority in the matter. Regulatory compliance is not based on meeting Friends of the Earth's biased, unscientific interpretation of what the rules should be.

For instance, while some ships in the CLIA fleet are fitted to plug-in to shore power, this technology is only available at five berths in North America. Therefore to fail a ship for not using port-side technology that is not even available is emblematic of FOE's tactics and further discredits this so-called report card.

While many vessels in CLIA's oceangoing fleet are equipped with Advanced Wastewater Purification Systems (AWPS, which produces and effluent cleaner than most municipalities), those ships that do not have this new technology use federally required sewage treatment systems in accordance with industry practices and procedures. The wastewater effluent meets national clean water standards.

FOE's attack purposely omits many key facts that discredit its report. Any blackwater discharged in U.S. waters by CLIA's oceangoing fleet is treated by an AWPS. While international law states ships may discharge untreated blackwater at 12 nautical miles from shore while traveling at speed, beyond U.S. waters, and anywhere else our ships sail, in accordance with CLIA's Waste Management Practices and Procedures, member cruise lines treat all blackwater through a Type II Marine Sanitation Device (approved by the U.S. Coast Guard for all vessels in U.S. ports) or an AWPS.

The water pollution standards Friends of the Earth used to grade “Water Quality Compliance” are not standards at all. They are future wastewater targets in Alaska not yet in effect. In fact, these targets have been postponed until 2015.

With respect to Alaska, a December 2008 EPA report commended the industry for its solid waste management practices, which surpass the practices of most municipalities in the United States.

Air emissions are regulated at the international, federal, and state levels. CLIA ships in operation are issued an International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate attesting to the fact that they meet the standards. The cruise industry's emissions of carbon dioxide and other air emissions, on a per passenger basis, have been significantly and continue to be reduced in recent years. This has been the result of more fuel efficient ships coming into service and new technologies and energy management programs
that reduce emissions.
CLIA concludes that, “It is regrettable that Friends of the Earth authors such misinformation when in fact this industry has made tremendous progress in the past several years in advancing technology and developing programs that go a long way in protecting the environment.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cruise Travel: Laundry At Sea

While packing for our Alaska cruise aboard Holland America Line's Westerdam, one of my concerns was heavier than usual luggage. Jeans, sweaters, and other cold weather gear weigh more than shorts, tee-shirts, and bathing suits and each 26" suitcase was soon very close to the 50 pound limit imposed by the airline. So close, in fact, that we added a 22" suitcase for the shoes and toiletries that are real weight hogs.

To further compound our hefty suitcase woes, we were staying in Seattle for two pre-cruise days and one day after the cruise. So, we counted the days, figured out what we'd need for half of them and planned to use Westerdam's laundry service mid-way through our trip.

Unfortunately, with the introduction of Holland America's Vista-class ships, self-service passenger laundry facilities were dropped from the ships' features.

Fortunately, when our cabin steward left a laundry list and bag, I noticed that "Laundry By The Bag" was an available option. Rather than pay per item, which would have totaled $40, everything we could fit into the bag was washed and folded for $20. That included a pair of jeans, two knit turtleneck pullovers, and numerous pairs of socks and undergarments.

Not a bad deal at all. The Westerdam laundry did the work while I enjoyed my time on board without having to bother with a not-so-relaxing task. After all, who goes on a cruise to do laundry?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Carnival Cruise Lines to Launch Year-Round Cruises from Charleston in 2010

For those of us living in southeastern states north of Florida, our “fantasy” of having a closer-to-home drive to port is about to come true. Carnival Cruise Lines will introduce the first year-round cruise schedule from Charleston, S.C., with the deployment of the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy in May 2010. Carnival Fantasy will operate 5-, 6- and 7-day voyages to The Bahamas and Key West, Fla., from the Passenger Terminal in historic downtown Charleston beginning May 18, 2010.

Charleston’s centralized location within the southeastern U.S., as well as the city’s strong appeal as a tourist destination, were key factors in the decision to launch year-round service aboard the Carnival Fantasy. On Carnival Fantasy’s new Charleston-based cruises, Carnival is expected to carry more than 140,000 passengers annually from the port. Including Charleston, Carnival Cruise Lines will operate from 20 North American homeports in 2010, with 12 year-round departure points–the most in cruising.

The new year-round departures from Charleston dramatically expand upon Carnival’s decade-long relationship with the port. Previously, Carnival has operated seasonal voyages from Charleston, including two 5-day departures on the Carnival Triumph this year and two on the Carnival Glory next year.

New Year-Round Departures from Charleston: Five-day voyages will depart Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays call at Nassau and Freeport, The Bahamas. Six-day voyages departing Saturdays will visit Freeport, Nassau and Key West, Fla. Seven-day voyages depart Saturdays and will feature Grand Turk, the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, and Nassau. Each of these tropical destinations has a character all its own and offers a wide range of snorkeling, fishing, and water sports opportunities, as well as beautiful beaches and a distinctive island ambiance.

Carnival Elation to Mobile: Carnival Fantasy, currently based in New Orleans, is scheduled to transfer to Mobile for a program of 4- and 5-day cruises that will operate from that port from Nov. 10, 2009 through May 10, 2010. Replacing the Carnival Fantasy in Mobile will be its sister ship, the 2,052-passenger Carnival Elation, which will reposition from San Diego to launch year-round service from that port May 15, 2010. In addition to 4- and 5-day cruises from Mobile, Carnival Elation will operate a series of 7-day Western Caribbean voyages in spring, summer, and fall 2010. Prior to the start-up of its new Mobile-based program, Carnival Elation will sail on a 15-day Panama Canal cruise departing from San Diego April 30. Guests will have the option of debarking the vessel in Tampa on May 14 or in Mobile on May 15. Featured ports will include Cabo San Lucas and Acapulco, Mexico; and Puntarenas, Costa Rica; followed by a Panama Canal transit; and visits to Cartagena, Colombia; and George Town, Grand Cayman.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Only Five More ‘Fun Ships’ To Reach His Goal

When William Filomena boarded the Carnival Fascination at the Port of Jacksonville earlier this week, he inched closer to completing his mission of sailing on all 23 Carnival “Fun Ships” in approximately one year.

Since starting his journey last fall on the Carnival Spirit, Filomena has sailed on 18 different vessels, most recently the Carnival Conquest from Galveston just last week. Before disembarking on Sunday, the Washington state resident had his photo taken with the ship’s Hotel Director Marvin Barrantes (pictured here).

Filomena, who will sail on the Carnival Dream’s trans-Atlantic voyage in October, expects to reach his goal when he embarks on an 8-day Carnival Miracle cruise in December.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Norwegian Rewards Cruisers For Booking “NOW”

Norwegian Cruise Line is launching its 3-day NOW Sale today, Wednesday, Sept 16. The unbelievable cruise deals and special booking offers on select sailings run through Friday, Sept 18 for more than 300 popular cruises including those to Bahamas & Florida; Bermuda; the Caribbean; Europe; Hawaii; the Mexican Riviera; South America; Canada & New England; as well as repositionings. In addition to great cruise fares, Norwegian is offering up to $250 in on-board spending credit, and 50 percent off standard cruise deposits.

Norwegian’s NOW sale is offered on all new bookings for sailings taking place between Sept 18, 2009 and April 30, 2010 ranging in length from 3- to 29-day sailings with departures from Miami, New York, Vancouver, Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Quebec, Barcelona, Istanbul, Santiago, and Buenos Aires. The deposit required at time of booking is now half off and, depending on the length of the cruise, ranges from just $25 to $200 per person (excluding suites and villas).

The on-board credit can be used to purchase anything from shore excursions and spa treatments; to specialty fitness classes like yoga and spinning; gifts in the duty free shop and can even be used in the casino. The amount is based on the length of the cruise and the category of stateroom booked. Guests who book sailings of up to five days in a Garden Villa receive $100 per stateroom in spending credit; $75 for suites; $50 for mini-suites; $40 for balcony staterooms; $20 for oceanview and $15 for inside staterooms. For sailings of six days and longer, guests sailing in a Garden Villa receive $250 per stateroom in on-board spending credit; $150 for suites; $100 for mini-suites and deluxe balcony staterooms; $75 for balcony staterooms; $50 for oceanview and $25 for inside staterooms.

To book a sailing NOW, guests should contact a travel professional or Norwegian at 866-234-7350. Further information, including specific sailing dates, can be found online at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Westerdam to Alaska: Victoria, BC/Debarkation

For Westerdam’s evening port call to Victoria, BC, we chose a “pub” tour and sampled beers at three micro-breweries. The bus ride through the city with our knowledgeable and entertaining bus driver was almost more interesting. We’d like to come back to Victoria again for a daytime tour to Butchart Gardens, which we heard weren’t as impressive at night, even though they are softly illuminated.

Sadly, our cruise had come to an end, but the Holland America Line service didn’t stop. Based on post-cruise transportation plans, all Westerdam passengers were assigned specific debarkation times. Ours was 8:45am and that’s exactly when we walked off the ship. By 9:40 we had taken the Budget Rent-a-Car shuttle from the pier to downtown, picked up our car, and were pulling into the parking lot at The Museum of Flight where we spent several hours wandering through the exhibits, including Air Force One (that would be the plane that was used primarily by President Lyndon Johnson).

Seattle has so much to see and do that I heartily recommend spending several days pre- or post-cruise to explore the area. Our Seattle CityPass was good for nine days and served us well both before and after our Westerdam cruise. Included for $54 are six admission tickets, each with a little tip revealing a CityPass secret to skip main ticket lines for:

1. Space Needle: Day & Night admission: two visits to the top within 24 hours
2. Seattle Aquarium: general admission
3. Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour: one hour cruise
4. Pacific Science Center: general admission & one 2D or 3D IMAX® film
5. Woodland Park Zoo: general admission
6. The Museum of Flight: general admission
or Experience Music Project Science Fiction Museum: general admission

Here’s a bird’s eye view of what we saw today at The Museum of Flight…

Space Capsule

President Johnson’s Desk Aboard Air Force One

United States Navy Aircraft

Just a part of the 6-story glass and steel Great Gallery containing 43 historic aircraft tracing the history of the first 100 years of human flight.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Westerdam to Alaska: Sharing “Bert’s Beauty Shots”

Bert van Mackelenbergh is a man on the move with a camera. After leaving his native Holland and settling in Aruba, he was intrigued by the cruise ships that came and went to the island so he applied for a job with Holland America Line. Moving his way up the ranks for the past nine years, Bert presently serves as Hotel Manager aboard Westerdam and spends his free time pursuing his passion for nature photography. He loves the outdoors and animals and Alaska is his favorite place to photograph both.

While Westerdam was in Ketchikan last week, Bert took a floatplane and hiking tour where he encountered a bear and shot him (with his Canon) from about 15 feet away. To get the perfect picture of an eagle, Bert chartered a boat and spent five hours waiting patiently. He took 1000 photos that day. When the glaciers calved in Glacier Bay last week, Bert said he was in the right place at the right time. He's been known to glance out his office window, grab his camera, and head for Westerdam’s open decks.

Some of his “Beauty Shots” are taken right on the pier, as the day he photographed flowers when Westerdam was docked in Juneau. He recommends a whale watching tour from Juneau for maximum nature photo opportunities.

There’s beauty all around us and Bert van Mackelenbergh sees it and shares it in very special photos. Use the links above to view his enthusiasm for flowers, animals, and natural wonders.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Westerdam to Alaska: A Taste Of Holland America Line

Westerdam Bread Pudding

Holland America Line’s signature dessert is what many passengers consider the world’s best bread pudding. For your pleasure, Westerdam’s Executive Chef Franck Tieben shares the recipe below and a hearty BON APPETIT!


Bread Filling

White toast or sandwich bread, 1.5 lb
Melted butter, 3 oz
Raisins, 8 oz
Zest of one lemon
Rum & Grand Marnier to taste

Pudding for Filling

Milk, 1.3 quart
Eggs, 6
Egg yolks, 3
Sugar, 11 oz
Vanilla bean, 1
Cinnamon powder to taste

Vanilla Sauce

Milk, 1 quart
Egg yolks, 10
Sugar, 12 oz
Vanilla bean, 1

Pudding Preparation:

-- Cut bread in 1-inch cubes, sprinkle with melted butter and slightly toast in oven.
-- Boil milk with half the amount of sugar, add vanilla bean and lemon zests.
-- Whip eggs with the other half of sugar, slowly add hot milk while whisking and combine with the rest of the ingredients.
-- Place filling in a buttered mold, sprinkle with cinnamon.
-- Set mold in a “water bath” in the oven and bake at 330° for 40 minutes.

Vanilla Sauce:

-- Bring milk and sugar to boil, add cut vanilla bean and allow to cool down for a minute.
-- Beat egg yolks and slowly add hot milk while whipping the egg yolks.
-- Put in a hot water bath and constantly whip the sauce until it thickens. Do not allow it to boil.

Arrange the cut bread pudding on a mirror of vanilla sauce and enjoy!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Westerdam to Alaska: Ketchikan, “Salmon Capital of the World”

One of my favorite Alaska ports, Ketchikan is likely to also become a favorite of my cat Elvis as well. While placing my order for smoked salmon to be mailed home from Salmon Etc, Mel noticed fillet of salmon cat treats. The next time Elvis has a snack attack, he’s in for quite a happy surprise.

For shoppers interested in authentic Alaskan native art, Ketchikan is a treasure trove of shops and galleries. It’s also a very walkable town with colorful Creek Street (pictured here) just a short stroll from the piers. While the buildings are now home to shops, they were once a part of the infamous “red light” district. The creek that runs alongside was full of salmon today—many of them putting on quite a show as they leaped into the air.

Back aboard Westerdam we were treated to a Great Alaska Cook-Out poolside. And we just learned that the after dinner Dessert Extravaganza, which had to be cancelled last night due to rough seas, has been rescheduled for tonight.

With so many activities to choose from, it’s almost difficult to decide how to spend the rest of the day at sea… there’s a digital workshop featuring photo editing, a margarita mixology course, wine tasting, and a Cupcake Tea. One event I don’t want to miss is the Travel Guide Series lecture about Alaska’s Native People.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Westerdam to Alaska: Tracy Arm Fjord

Oops, what happened to Sitka? We’ve had good news and bad news aboard Westerdam.

First, the bad news. Before leaving Juneau yesterday, Captain Henk Keijer made the announcement that due to the weather forecast of hurricane force winds and rough seas we would be unable to call at Sitka today as planned. Sitka is a tender port and it would simply be too dangerous for the ship and passengers.

Instead, the good news. We sailed in the calmer Inside Passage to Tracy Arm Fjord and enjoyed scenic cruising from early morning until mid-afternoon. Even on a rainy day with low clouds, the scenery is stunning. Waterfalls rushing down the cliffs created a symphony of sights and sounds that more than made up for the missed port call.

And, just in case anyone on board is unhappy, they will receive a complimentary glass of wine or champagne at dinner. A nice touch from our Hotel Manager and Captain.

Tracy Arm was an unexpected pleasure and we still have Ketchikan to look forward to tomorrow.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Westerdam to Alaska: Juneau

It was no “fluke” that we saw an abundance of wildlife on our Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest tour this morning—the tour’s operators guarantee it and will hand each passenger a one-hundred dollar bill back at the dock if humpback whales are not spotted. No one has ever collected and we certainly didn’t have to today.

Although it was raining, the catamaran, which is specifically designed for wildlife viewing, was cozy inside and it was a simple matter to scoot outside to the observation deck when whales were spotted. In addition to the coffee, hot tea, and hot chocolate that were served, we also had a tasty smoked salmon snack.

The first sighting in Stephen’s Passage was a majestic bald eagle and it wasn’t long before a mama whale and her baby surfaced alongside our boat. We then passed an island populated by sea lions and harbor seals and also saw a sea otter swimming offshore. It’s somewhat unusual to see sea otters, so that was a rare treat for both the tour’s naturalist as well as us.

I had almost given up seeing a whale rise out of the water and show his tail when we spotted several spouts, the indication that there were numerous whales about to surface. And surface they did! A couple even “waved” their flukes in the air—something I’ve always longed to see. Altogether, the tour was informative, enjoyable, and delivered everything it promised.

Before we head to our next port of call, let’s back up to last night when we had dinner in the Chef’s Table, a gourmet meal with wines paired to each course. Aboard Westerdam, it’s a weekly gastronomic experience for a maximum of twenty-four diners. While still in the “testing” stage, the Chef’s Table is proving popular, so look for it to roll out fleetwide. will share complete menu details and photos in an upcoming article.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Westerdam to Alaska: Glacier Bay

Greeted by a pod of humpback whales, Westerdam entered Glacier Bay and we enjoyed some of the world’s most stunning sights. They really speak for themselves.

Our whale "hosts"

Lamplugh Glacier

John Hopkins Glacier
Margerie Glacier

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Westerdam to Alaska: Sea Day

One of the most appealing aspects of any cruise is the food. Another is learning about food and how the galley operates. So, we went behind the culinary curtain to tour the galley and watch some of Westerdam’s chefs in action. A big favorite was the pastry shop where cookies, pies, cakes, chocolates, and petit fours are created. The delicate artistry that goes into the making of marzipan cake decorations for High Tea proved to be mesmerizing.

Is it possible to cook at home like a Holland America chef? Probably not in my home, but that has nothing to do with the efforts that go into the cooking demonstrations and hands-on lessons presented in Westerdam’s Culinary Arts Center.

Today’s schedule in the Culinary Arts Center was highlighted by “The Flavors of Bali” with guest chef Chris Salans (pictured here). Originally from Washington, DC, Chef Salans attended the prestigious Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. After stints in Europe and New York, his appreciation of Asian cuisine led him to Bali, Indonesia where the Modern Balinese Cuisine served in his restaurant Mozaic has earned worldwide accolades.

Our class was introduced to exotic ingredients from Asia as Chef Salans prepared Sesame Crusted Tuna and Cherry Tomato, Carambola and Rosewater Apple Salad. With some of the traditional ingredients of Bali not available in the United States, Chef Salans encouraged us to experiment with substitutions. His recipes are only guidelines and he stressed that we should be creative with ingredients. The resulting dishes should be a medley of flavor, color, and texture. For dessert, we were treated to a Lemongrass Sorbet with strawberries and lime leaf that Chef Salans also prepared for us.

I may not be able to make the sorbet at home (sadly, my appliances don’t include a sorbet maker), but I do look forward to trying to prepare the tuna. Truthfully, not being talented in the kitchen, the afternoon’s Martini Mixology lessons were more my speed.

After tonight’s formal dinner and the production show featuring the Westerdam singers and dancers, we’ll be turning in early. Tomorrow morning we enter Glacier Bay.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Westerdam to Alaska: Embarkation Day

Here in Seattle, where Holland America Line is headquartered, the process for transferring from hotel to ship is seamless. After an early morning pre-boarding check in with the Holland America rep at the Fairmont Olympic, we had simply to call a bellman to pick up our luggage. The next time we saw it was in our cabin aboard Westerdam.

After a leisurely breakfast and relaxing in our room (we decided to hang out there because it was pouring rain outside), we gathered to board a motorcoach for the 15-minute ride to the new Smith Cove cruise facility at Terminal 91. Luck was with us and the rain stopped as we approached. It appeared that we arrived at exactly the peak boarding time and we eyed the line inside with some trepidation. However, it moved swiftly and we were past security, checked in, and on the gangway in short order. The process was extremely efficient and Holland America employees here in Seattle would put their counterparts in other embarkation ports to shame. From hotel to embarkation on Westerdam took less than an hour.

Here’s a hint for your future Holland America cruise. Be sure to complete the online check-in procedure before leaving home. Having done that, we didn’t even have to produce a credit card to establish our onboard account.

Unpacking was interrupted by the late-afternoon boat drill and we were on our way in what seemed to be record time. What would sailaway be like without pizza? And a chocolate chip cookie! Even with afternoon snacks beneath our belts, we look forward to what Westerdam’s chefs have in store for us. Since we’re in salmon country, that’s sure to be a favorite entree choice (as it was when we sailed on Westerdam in the Caribbean last year). And dinner? The first of what promises to be Alaska treats. Pecan encrusted salmon.

That’s the new cruise Terminal 91 in the photo above that I snapped while on a harbor tour yesterday. Did you notice that the ship isn’t ours? It’s Holland America Line’s Amsterdam, also making Seattle her summer home for the Alaska season.

Tomorrow’s installment is a day at sea and we have a lot to look forward to with a galley tour and cooking demonstration by a surprise guest chef.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pre-Cruise: Seattle Day Two

When I think back to today’s adventures in Seattle, two four-letter words will come to mind. The first is “rain” because that’s what the weather was like when we awoke. The second is “walk”—my sore feet attest to the fact that Seattle is a great walking city. We started the day with a cup of Seattle’s Best coffee. This is the center of the universe in terms of coffee shops and we’d have been remiss not to have stopped at one.

After making our way through Pike’s Market, we found the Pike Place Hillclimb stairway that leads under the highway and comes out in front of the Seattle Aquarium. Fortunately, some local residents pointed us in the right direction. The few signs in the market weren’t very clear.

Past the Aquarium and Miner’s Landing, we got our tickets at Argosy Cruises for the one-hour harbor cruise and were soon on our way aboard Royal Argosy. This is really the way to see the Seattle waterfront and especially the iconic Space Needle. Our guide pointed out major parks and buildings and explained how significant the shipping industry (both cargo and passenger) is to the region. We got a bit of history and humor and thoroughly enjoyed the brief cruise. Although the day began with rain, it cleared up and we spent most of our time in Elliott Bay on the open observation deck, but we could duck back into the interior and still see everything through floor-to-ceiling windows. Royal Argosy carries 800 people for cruises that include dining, but there were fewer on our 11 am cruise-only.

The Crab Pot Restaurant in Miner’s Landing caught our attention as we docked back at pier 56 so we headed straight there for lunch. We were seated right away, but by the time we left there was a long line of hungry folks waiting for a table.

Instead of going back up the Hillclimb, we walked toward Bell Street Pier, where Norwegian Star was docked today, and found the public elevator that is an easier “climb” back to the Pike Place Market level. Again, it could have been marked better—even our walking tour map only estimates its location.

Nearly six hours of walking and we’re really ready to board Holland America Line’s Westerdam tomorrow. Holland America Line and the Fairmont Olympic Hotel offer what appears to be a seamless transfer process. We'll share more about that later.

Thankfully, once Westerdam sails we’ll have some sea time to catch our breath before we reach Alaska and our first “stop” at scenic Glacier Bay.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Pre-Cruise: Seattle Day One

It’s been a long travel day for us, particularly with the three-hour time difference between our home and Seattle. After an early morning flight, we were pleased that we could check in at the gracious Fairmont Olympic Hotel shortly after noon. Naps were in order (we got up at 3am!) and then we set out to explore and make a few purchases—yes I did forget to pack an item.

In the heart of the Emerald City, the Fairmont Olympic Hotel is on the original site of the University of Washington and close to numerous downtown attractions—Pioneer Square, the Seattle Art Museum, and Pike’s Market are within walking distance and the Space Needle is a short monorail ride away.

In the tradition of our Florida neighbors, we set out to find dinner at 5pm. Rather early for locals, but we are on eastern time. In the quest for seafood, we found Cutter’s Bayhouse and were seated with a view overlooking the harbor. A three-course early bird special included a seafood bisque that was quite simply one of the best I’ve ever been served. Mel chose seafood pasta and I went with the battered cod for entrées. We barely had room for the dessert and I hated not to finish my cheesecake.

Unlike the last time I was here, when it rained constantly, today was sunny and warm and we've seen people with their dogs everywhere during our walks downtown. There is even an adorable little Yorkie here in the hotel. Our cat Elvis will surely be jealous when he hears that, but he’s already having a great time with his cat-sitter.

We have a lot to see tomorrow and have a harbor cruise-tour tentatively on our agenda. That will whet our appetites the real thing on Sunday when we board Holland America Line’s Westerdam for our cruise to Alaska.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cruises, the Social Network Way to Travel

When we boarded our first cruise ship there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Internet message boards. In fact there was no Internet as we now know it.

We—my husband Mel and I—crossed the gangway and began our first cruise vacation not knowing another soul. At the time, it actually didn't occur to us that we would ever want to "friend" a fellow passenger ahead of time, send a "tweet" out to potential cruise mates, or join a "roll call" in order to have a ready-made social circle on our cruise vacation.

The fact is, unlike a resort vacation, cruises are an inherently social form of travel and it didn't take us long to meet people after embarkation.

While a cruise is a great vacation for families & friends, it isn't necessary to have a ready-made group of acquaintances in order to feel comfortable on a cruise. In Cruises, the Social Network Way to Travel, Cruise Diva explores the pros and cons of meeting your fellow passengers online before your cruise.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

On-Line Video Offers Virtual Tour of New Carnival Dream

To showcase its newest and largest ship, the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, Carnival Cruise Lines has produced an informative video to provide a unique look at the 3,646-passenger vessel, which is currently under construction in Italy and set to debut this month. The video can be viewed on the Carnival Dream’s website here (be patient, it takes a moment to load on my cable broadband).

Featuring the latest production techniques and state-of-the-art animation, the video takes viewers on a virtual journey throughout Carnival Dream, utilizing fun, energetic narration and editing that is evocative of the Carnival brand.

The video highlights Carnival Dream’s wide variety of bars, lounges and nightspots, formal and casual dining areas, and open deck amenities, including the Carnival WaterWorks aqua park and the Seaside Theatre LED screen. Also showcased is Ocean Plaza, a stunning new indoor/outdoor café and live music venue, and The Lanai, an outdoor area featuring a wrap-around promenade and cantilevered whirlpools hanging over the side of the ship.

Carnival Dream is slated to debut Sept. 21, 2009, with the first of three 12-day Mediterranean voyages from Rome (Civitavecchia). Following a 16-day transatlantic crossing, Carnival Dream will operate two eight-day voyages from New York, then reposition to Port Canaveral, Florida, for a special nine-day voyage followed by the launch of year-round seven-day Caribbean service Dec. 12.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Celebrity Cruises Introduces “Celebrity Select” Flexible Dining Option

For many loyal past passengers, the food has always been a good enough reason to book a Celebrity cruise. Celebrity Cruises has long been an industry leader when it comes to putting guests at the center of attention and they also listen to what their guests want. As a result, Celebrity Cruises has introduced Celebrity Select Dining, a new flexible dining option that allows guests to choose when they dine in the main dining room onboard, on a day-by-day basis, which includes the industry’s first pre-cruise day-by-day flexible dining reservation system.

“Celebrity Select Dining gives our guests the flexibility to spend their days any way they like,” said Jacques Van Staden, Vice President of Culinary Operations, Celebrity Cruises. “Whether they wish to enjoy more time in a specific port of call one day and dine later that evening than another, or whether they wish to keep a traditional set dining time, they will receive the same amazing service and enjoy the same menu. It’s all about our guests, and it’s all about choice.”

No other cruise line that offers a flexible dining option also offers pre-cruise day-by-day reservations. Through this industry-leading technology, Celebrity’s guests can go online to choose their desired dining time–anytime between 6 and 9:30 pm–for each day of their cruise, up to four days prior to boarding. Reservations also can be made onboard with the main dining room’s Maitre d’. Pre-cruise reservations are strongly encouraged in order to ensure the best possible dining experience. Guests can pre-book their dining times online at All dining times are subject to availability, and guests who elect Celebrity Select Dining must pay gratuities.

During the booking process, guests will choose either Celebrity Select Dining or traditional dining. Guests will be accommodated on a first-come/first-served basis. Guests who choose to customize their onboard dining times through Celebrity Select Dining also will have the choice to either dine with only their own traveling companions or with other guests on the cruise, and Celebrity will work to accommodate this choice. Guests sailing on Celebrity’s newest ship, the 2,850-guest Celebrity Equinox, beginning with the Sept 26, 2009 sailing, will be the first to experience Celebrity Select Dining. Online booking for pre-cruise day-by-day dining reservations for this sailing has opened. Guests who are already booked on Celebrity Equinox’s sailings taking place on or after Sept 26 can choose to switch to Celebrity Select Dining.

With the exception of sailings on Celebrity Xpedition, the 92-guest mega-yacht sailing year-round in the Galapagos Islands, the option to choose Celebrity Select Dining is now available for all other participating ships beginning with the sailing dates noted below and continuing through all cruises currently open for sale. Celebrity Select Dining’s online day-by-day dining reservations will be available for all participating ships as of Oct 15, for sailings beginning with those noted below and continuing for at least two months from those sailing dates. For sailings not available for booking day-by-day online reservations as of Oct 15, guests will be able to place their day-by-day reservations no less than 30 days prior to their sail date.
  • Celebrity Solstice – Jan 10, 2010 sailing
  • Celebrity Constellation – Jan 17, 2010 sailing
  • Celebrity Century – Jan 23, 2010 sailing
  • Celebrity Millennium – Feb 1, 2010 sailing
  • Celebrity Summit – Feb 13, 2010 sailing
  • Celebrity Mercury – Feb 15, 2010 sailing
  • Celebrity Infinity – Feb 28, 2010 sailing
Guests planning to experience Celebrity Eclipse, the third ship in Celebrity’s new Solstice Class, which will enter service in April 2010, will be able to elect Celebrity Select Dining on a date that will be announced later. Guests can visit to see a more comprehensive list of sailings for which Celebrity Select Dining’s day-by-day reservations will be available for booking, and what the booking dates are.

Individuals who elect to take advantage of Celebrity Select Dining before cruising will be required to pre-pay (before the cruise) Celebrity’s recommended gratuity amounts for their waiter, assistant waiter, dining room management and stateroom attendants. If guests wish to choose to change from traditional dining to Celebrity Select Dining after they have boarded, they can do so within the first 24 hours of their cruise, on a space-available basis. Guests who choose Celebrity Select Dining while onboard or who are otherwise not eligible to be charged prior to sailing will automatically have gratuities added to their onboard portfolio account.

Celebrity Select Dining is subject to availability. Only groups of 20 or less can be seated at one time. Celebrity ships that offer specialty restaurants in addition to the main dining room already offer online pre-cruise reservations that can be made up to four days prior to boarding. Guests who dine in Celebrity’s specialty restaurants are charged a per-person reservation fee. For more information, call your travel agent, dial 1-800-437-3111 or visit

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Disney Cruise Line To Create More Magic at Castaway Cay

With two new, and larger ships on the horizon, Castaway Cay, Disney's private island paradise in the tropical waters of the Bahamas, is getting an extra dose of pixie dust. Expansion and enhancements will provide guests with more water-based family-fun, additional conveniences and a slice of beachside luxury all designed to complement the idyllic island setting.

The additional island amenities, described in the video below, are scheduled to be complete by summer 2010, in time for special 5-night cruises aboard the Disney Wonder with two stops at Castaway Cay, and the Disney Dream cruise ship which starts sailing in early 2011. Castaway Cay is consistently rated by Disney Cruise Line guests as their favorite port of call—the ultimate private island escape for adventure, relaxation and quality time with the family. It was certainly one of Cruise Diva's when she enjoyed biking, parasailing, and feeding the stingrays there a few years ago.

"The numerous enhancements and additions planned for Castaway Cay will take the already extraordinary guest experiences on our private island to the next level," said Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz. "Whether our guests are seeking recreation or leisure—or a combination of both—they will find it at Castaway Cay, all complemented by unparalleled Disney service."

Walt Disney Imagineers designed Castaway Cay with one-of-a-kind areas and activities for every member of the family, while celebrating the natural beauty of the 1,000-acre island. Among the crystal-clear turquoise waters, powdery white sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and lush landscapes, guests soon will find the following transformations.

Expanded Family Beach: The Castaway Family Beach will be extended by more than 700 feet for families to enjoy the pristine white sand, build sand castles, relax in the shade under an umbrella and take a dip in the warm azure waters of the lagoon. As an added convenience for guests, enhancements to this area of the island will include:
-- New Cookies Too family lunch buffet location serving all-you-care-to-eat barbeque, island spiced rotisserie chicken, burgers, grilled fish, fresh salads, flatbreads, ice cream,complimentary soda and more, in a covered pavilion just steps away from the expanded family beach.
-- New Sand Bar beach bar mixing up drinks like Castaway Cay's signature Konk Kooler, other tropical concoctions, cold beer, and non-alcoholic beverages.
-- New Flippers & Floats beach rentals providing inner tubes, snorkels, masks and fins.
-- New Buy the Sea Shore merchandise location selling a variety of Castaway Cay-exclusive items along with towels, sunscreen and other beach essentials—a complement to the island's other merchandise location, She Sells Sea Shells & everything else.

New Water Feature and Water Play Areas: Guests can slide and splash at a new water feature called Pelican Plunge. The 2,400-square-foot floating platform, located within swimming distance from shore, celebrates the island's native pelicans. Various flotsam and jetsam—such as nautical rope, cargo nets, buoys, signaling flags, and starfish-like ornamentation—adorn the platform. Two exciting water slides—an enclosed corkscrew slide and a 140-foot-long open slide—take guests on a twisting ride, ending with a splash into the lagoon. A giant "bucket dump" delivers hundreds of gallons of water, soaking eagerly awaiting guests. Four water cannons provide sharp-shooting fun with floating nautical targets approximately 20 feet away.

On the island, a brand-new, 2,400-square-foot water play area called Spring-a-Leak helps guests cool off while immersing them in what appears to be the remnants of a washed-away beach dwelling leaning in the direction of the prevailing winds. The watery fun begins as guests enter the storm-ravaged structure, greeted by dripping pipes, broken plumbing and hissing misters, exposed and twisted by the tropical tempest that wiped out the original structure. A "splash pad" is the focal point and gives the impression of water pooled on the ground. Water jets squirt, spray and saturate guests. Shade is provided by leftover pieces of the corrugated steel roof, aged and distressed fabric and the occasional palm tree growing up through the floor foundation. Parents can relax and have a seat—or, better yet, join in the fun—as kids frolic in the wet and whimsical setting.

The "hub" of youth activities on the island, Scuttle's Cove, will feature a new water play area for the youngest Disney Cruise Line guests to splash and enjoy as part of supervised youth activities on Castaway Cay. A 1,200-square-foot soft wet deck area provides fresh-water fun with an array of pop jets, geysers and bubblers. Overhead, shade sails circle the area like a compass and marine props—a captain's wheel, boat oars, life preservers and nautical rope—complete the castaway theme.

One of the coolest features about all the new water play facilities is that there will be no charge to enjoy them.

New Beach Cabanas: Guests can have a little piece of paradise all to themselves at one of 20 new private cabanas. The premium rental cabanas provide the privacy and luxury of a deluxe beach retreat with an option to add the personalized service of a cabana host. Sixteen of the exclusive 325-square-foot beach cabanas will dot the far side of Castaway Family Beach, giving guests more privacy along with a spectacular view of their Disney cruise ship from the cabana's large front patio deck. Four private cabanas will be located on Serenity Bay Beach, exclusively for adults, providing the ultimate in upscale seclusion.

Each well-appointed cabana is furnished with comfortable cushioned chairs, luxurious chaise lounge chairs, stylish side tables, and a dining table. Other convenient features include a refrigerator, lockable storage unit, outside fresh water shower, and sail cloth for shade on the deck. Amenities included with a beach cabana rental include non-alcoholic beverages, suntan lotion, and fluffy towels. A variety of a la carte services and packages will be offered, including special food and beverage options.

Other Enhancements & Additions
-- The popular Castaway Ray's Stingray Adventure will be moved to a different location in the lagoon, adjacent to the existing Gil's Fins & Boats beach rental. Once complete, guests will be able to swim and interact with stingrays in an even larger area within the private lagoon.
-- Teens will enjoy Hide Out, an all-new secluded area on the island just for them. Off the beaten path, but near everything, this teen retreat is a great place to hang out and soak up the sun just steps away from the beach, activities, food, ice cream, and refreshments. Multi-colored deck chairs and sail cloth shades create the ideal getaway to gather, kick back, listen to music, and watch the action at the nearby beach volleyball and soccer areas.
-- In Da Shade Game Pavilion provides guests who want to take a break out of the sun a place to play games such as table tennis, foosball, billiards, and basketball. The new shaded structure is centrally located, near Castaway Family Beach.
-- To provide additional adult pampering, three new massage cabanas will be added to the adults-only Serenity Bay Beach. For unparalleled relaxation, adults will be able to enjoy a therapeutic massage, or couples massage, at one of eight private cabanas overlooking the ocean.
-- Guest transportation is provided to and from various points on the island via tram. For greater convenience, additional tram paths will be created and a new Pelican Point Tram Stop will be located farther down Castaway Family Beach, near most of the new additions to the island.
-- Marge's Barges & Sea Charters Dock will be expanded to accommodate additional excursion boats for parasailing, fishing tours and more.
-- The cruise ship dock at Castaway Cay eliminates the need to tender, making the ship easily accessible throughout the day. To accommodate Disney Cruise Line's new ships, additional mooring dolphins will be installed to lengthen the dock.

Disney Cruise Line sails to Castaway Cay on all itineraries originating from Port Canaveral, Florida. Disney Cruise Line offers 3-, 4- and 7-night itineraries to the Bahamas and the Caribbean with special voyages to the Mediterranean and Northern Europe in 2010. Land/sea packages that include a stay at Walt Disney World Resort provide the ultimate Disney vacation. A leader in the family cruise segment, Disney Cruise Line delivers an experience that every member of the family feels was created especially for them. 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.