Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gardening in Central Park Aboard Oasis of the Seas

Every spring we examine out trees and shrubs at home and hope they've made it through the winter. Then we plant flowers and hope they don't succumb to the summer heat. I thought it was interesting that Royal Caribbean placed so much emphasis on the greenery aboard their newest ship Oasis of the Seas and wondered what it takes to keep it healthy. A new video helps to explain the role of the team that does just that.

Gardening in Central Park is a full time responsibility for Oasis of the Seas' crewmembers. Royal Caribbean's landscape specialist and horticulturalist team reveal the park's most interesting plant life from exotic tropical foliage to four-story living walls. Take a look in the video.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Norwegian Epic’s Ice Bar Will Serve SVEDKA Vodka IN Ice

What’s an ice bar? Forgive me for saying this, but it’s probably one of the coolest places I’ve ever enjoyed a drink. The one I’ve visited is in the Nordic Sea Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden, but in a couple weeks I’ll be sipping my vodka in the rocks aboard Norwegian Epic. Here’s just a peek.

Yes, it’s another first at sea and Norwegian Cruise Line has finally unveiled its vodka of choice for the ice bar. In an exclusive partnership, SVEDKA Vodka and Inniskillin ice wine are to be introduced on board Norwegian Epic, its largest and most innovative Freestyle Cruising ship ever. As part of the partnership, the unique frozen bar will be called the SVEDKA Ice Bar and will feature specialty SVEDKA and Inniskillin ice wine drinks.

Inspired by the original ice bars and ice hotels in Scandinavia, the cruise industry’s first true ice bar is the ultimate chill. This frozen chamber is set in changing hues of blue, green and purple LED lighting that simulates the Northern Lights and creates a distinctive arctic atmosphere. The SVEDKA Ice Bar features a bar, walls, tables, stools, glasses and life-size sculptures all made from ice. Guests are given hooded coats and gloves to keep them warm, since the room’s temperature does not rise above 17 degrees Fahrenheit.

The SVEDKA Ice Bar accommodates 25 people and can be reserved from 5:30 pm-10:30 pm nightly. The cost is $20 per person and includes two signature cocktails. (Incidentally, that’s less expensive than the Nordic Sea Hotel’s ice bar where you only get one drink.) There are six specialty drinks made from SVEDKA vodka and Inniskillin ice wine including:

· Polaris: SVEDKA Citron, Inniskillin ice wine, & lemon/lime soda
· Cobalt Blue: Inniskillin ice wine, SVEDKA vodka & Blue Curacao
· Nordic Apple Juice: SVEDKA vodka, Sour Apple Schnapps, Midori & a splash of fresh sour
· Caribbean Dreams: SVEDKA Citron, Triple Sec & lemon juice
· Sunburst Yellow: SVEDKA vodka, peach liquor & orange juice
· Northern Lights: SVEDKA Citron, Cointreau & Blue Curacao

Two non-alcoholic drinks area also featured: the Strawberry Eskimo Kiss made of strawberry puree, pineapple juice and lemon juice and the Creamsickle, with orange juice, vanilla ice cream and milk - in case children want to partake in the chilling fun. All drinks are served in specially-created glasses made entirely of ice.

Imported from Sweden, SVEDKA Vodka is premium vodka that is distilled five times. Inniskillin ice wine is made from grapes that are produced in the Niagara Peninsula. Pearl ice wine, which is used in the SVEDKA Ice Bar cocktails, is an intensely concentrated sweet wine made from grapes naturally frozen on the vine. Grapes for this ice wine are harvested at a temperature of 14ºF.

In addition to the SVEDKA Ice Bar, SVEDKA vodkas and Inniskillin ice wines are served throughout Norwegian Epic, in all bars and restaurants. Also starting in July, SVEDKA Vodka products will be served on other Norwegian ships in the fleet.

Norwegian Epic's inaugural festivities will take place from 2:00-3:00 pm on July 2 in New York, with legendary entertainer Reba McEntire christening the ship. Norwegian Epic will be the host venue for the 34th Annual Macy's 4th of July Fireworks event taking place on Sunday, July 4. The event includes a national, one-hour, live entertainment broadcast on NBC-TV beginning at 9 pm ET. Norwegian Epic arrives in Miami on Wednesday, July 7 where a welcome event will be held at Bicentennial Park from 2:00-4:00 pm. Cruise Diva will be in Miami, sailing and blogging from Norwegian Epic on July 8-10.

Following her inaugural activities, Norwegian Epic will sail alternating 7-day Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Miami from July 10 through April 30, 2011. Ports of call on the Eastern Caribbean itinerary include Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas. The Western Caribbean cruises visit Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. The 2011 cruise season from May-October will have Norwegian Epic sailing a series of 7-day Western Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona. When she returns to Miami on Nov 5, 2011, she will sail a series of 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruises through April 7, 2012.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Holland America Line Set To Launch Nieuw Amsterdam

The launch of Holland America Line's newest ship Nieuw Amsterdam is only a week away and the line has been counting down the days on the Holland America Line Blog.

If you're a fan like I am, you've followed the 100 Days--100 Reasons to Sail blog entries and anxiously awaited photos, such as those sent in from the shipyard by Nieuw Amsterdam’s 3rd Engineer, Rob Matthews, of the impressive LED-chandelier getting installed in the ship’s Atrium. I have to admit that I've especially looked forward to seeing the shots taken around the ship by my talented photographer friend Bert van Mackelenbergh, Statendam’s hotel manager, who currently is in Italy visiting Nieuw Amsterdam at the Fincantieri shipyard.

What will Holland America do for a grand finale? I guess we'll just have to keep watching the blog to see. In the meantime, if you'd like to win a a Nieuw Amsterdam Delft tile and commemorative plate (like those pictured above), be sure to watch the blog for the countdown quiz.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Carnival Cruise Lines Adds New Seven-Day Eastern Caribbean Options From Tampa

In addition to the new 7-day cruises from Jacksonville that we told you about yesterday, Carnival Cruise Lines will introduce new 7-day eastern Caribbean cruise itineraries from Tampa, Florida, in 2011. The cruises will be offered on the Carnival Legend from Tampa and Carnival Fascination from Jacksonville both of which are currently based at those ports but have never before offered these itineraries.

From Tampa, the 2,124-passenger Carnival Legend will add five new 7-day Exotic Eastern Caribbean cruises featuring Half Moon Cay, Nassau and Key West to its existing week-long western Caribbean cruise schedule. The new week-long Exotic Eastern Caribbean cruises will be offered May 1, June 26, July 24, Aug. 7 and Oct. 16, 2011.

As we reported earlier, the recently renovated 2,052-passenger Carnival Fascination will offer a series of six week-long Exotic Eastern Caribbean cruises from Jacksonville to Grand Turk, the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, and Nassau, complementing the ship’s popular 4- and 5-day Bahamas/Key West departures. Departure dates include April 30, May 7, July 23 and 30, and Sept. 17 and 24, 2011.

Half Moon Cay is a crescent-shaped island offering magnificent beaches, a children’s water park, private cabanas and a variety of shore excursion opportunities. Grand Turk is an eight-square-mile island paradise with beautiful white-sand beaches, the Caribbean’s largest Margaritaville restaurant and centuries-old historical sites. Known for its perpetually laid back ambiance, Key West has a character all its own, with numerous bars and lounges lining historic Duval Street and myriad watersports opportunities. The Bahamian capital of Nassau offers gorgeous beaches and a host of shops, restaurants and boutiques.

Like other “Fun Ships,” Carnival Fascination and Carnival Legend offer a variety of on-board facilities and features: myriad formal and casual dining options, expansive facilities and programming for children in three age groups, full casino gambling, and a host of live music and entertainment venues. Both ships also offer acres of open deck space and the line’s signature Twister Water Slide. Reservations are currently being accepted for the new week-long Caribbean programs aboard the Carnival Fascination and Carnival Legend.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jacksonville Adds 7-day Cruises to Its Portfolio

Carnival Cruise Lines has announced the addition of a new 7-day eastern Caribbean cruise itinerary aboard the Carnival Fascination from the Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) Cruise Terminal. The recently renovated 2,052-passenger Carnival Fascination will offer a series of six week-long cruises to Grand Turk, the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, and Nassau, complementing the ship’s popular 4- and 5-day Bahamas/Key West departures.

Half Moon Cay is a crescent-shaped island offering magnificent beaches, a children’s water park, private cabanas, and a variety of shore excursion opportunities. Grand Turk is an eight-square-mile island with beautiful white-sand beaches, the Caribbean’s largest Margaritaville restaurant, and centuries-old historical sites.

“Jacksonville has already proven to be a successful homeport based on the convenient cruise options that we offer to consumers from across the Southeastern US,” said Rick Ferrin, JAXPORT Chief Executive Officer. “We thank Carnival for this clear sign of its commitment to the bright future of JAXPORT’s cruise business.”

Added Gerry Cahill, Carnival President and CEO, “Guest feedback indicates a strong desire for more eastern Caribbean ports, particularly more intimate destinations such as Half Moon Cay and Grand Turk, and these new itineraries provide guests with an exciting new vacation option.”

Reservations are currently being accepted for the new week-long Caribbean programs aboard the Carnival Fascination. Departure dates include April 30, May 7, July 23 and 30, and Sept. 17 and 24, 2011. For additional information and reservations, contact any travel agent, head to, call 1-800-CARNIVAL, or visit

A ‘Flawless’ Maiden Voyage For Seabourn Sojourn

Brand new cruise ships often reveal their quirks and, yes, even their flaws, during their earliest sailings. Just the opposite seems to be the case for Seabourn Sojourn, the second of three new ultra luxury cruising yachts being built for The Yachts of Seabourn. When the luxe vessel returned to Dover on June 20th from its maiden voyage, it admirably upheld the line’s outstanding reputation in its initial outing. The consensus of emotions among guests and crew was a mix of elation and pride. At the end of the cruise, guests rated their overall impression 9.56 out of a possible 10 and added some overall comments.
  • Fabulous ship. Outstanding service throughout. Best cruise ever. (Norman & Sharon)
  • More than exceeded expectations (Craig)
  • Sojourn is a beautiful ship. The décor is outstanding. (Joel & Linda)
  • This is a beautiful + perfectly sized ship! (Roderick & Deborah)
  • Our second cruise on Seabourn and we have already booked our 3rd for next year. We are sold on the quality, service, planning, etc. Was a little apprehensive about the larger ship, but LOVE IT! (Patrick & Marla)
  • Elegant + spacious, light + airy (Jeorg & Beatrix)

And about the service:

  • The ship is impeccable. The service exquisite. The staff are the best we’ve had in our years of sailing. (Derham & Joy)
  • Loved our two weeks aboard. Ship was fabulous and staff + crew even better! (Gary & Peggy)
  • Very impressed! Especially on a maiden voyage. (Colin & Jane)

“A maiden voyage is the focus of a tremendous amount of preparation and anticipation,” admitted Seabourn’s President and CEO, Pamela C. Conover. “Everyone worked so hard to prepare every detail, and Sojourn paid it off with a flawless, perfectly orchestrated triumph. The Seabourn yardstick is to meet or exceed each guest’s expectations,” she added, “and I am very proud to say that is exactly what Sojourn and her crew did.”

In this case, those expectations were largely set by Seabourn itself; since almost three-quarters of the guests on board were repeat Seabourn cruisers. They were pretty much unanimous in their appraisals:

  • Best Seabourn experience after many many cruises. (Paul & Carolyn)

Here at we're really impressed with those testimonials and Pam Conover is surely bursting with pride.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Carnival is Bringing the Magic to Galveston

It's official, Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest ship, the 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic, will operate 7-day Caribbean cruises from Galveston beginning Nov. 14, 2011, becoming the largest cruise ship based at the port year-round. In addition, the 2,758-passenger Carnival Triumph will reposition from New Orleans to Galveston to operate year-round 4- and 5-day Caribbean cruises from that port beginning Oct. 6, 2011. Homeporting the Carnival Magic and Carnival Triumph in Galveston represents the largest-ever capacity commitment by a cruise line to Texas. With these deployments, Carnival expects to carry more than 450,000 guests annually from Galveston, a 28 percent increase over the current year.

In turn, the 2,974-passenger Carnival Conquest and 2,052-passenger Carnival Ecstasy, both of which are currently based in Galveston, will reposition to New Orleans to operate year-round departures from that port, returning the line to pre-Katrina capacity levels there. With Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy, the line is expected to carry nearly 340,000 passengers annually from New Orleans, the most of any cruise operator.

“Deploying the new Carnival Magic to Galveston and increasing capacity on our popular short cruise program with the Carnival Triumph is a clear indication of the tremendous appeal and growth of this key homeport, which consistently earns high marks from our guests,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO. “At the same time, we are very pleased to return to pre-Katrina capacity levels in New Orleans with the Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy–a wonderfully positive indicator of the city’s continued growth and recovery,” he added.

Carnival Magic, Carnival Triumph from Galveston
Carnival Magic, which is slated to debut in Europe in May 2011 with a host of innovative facilities and features, will offer two different week-long itineraries from Galveston, including 7-day western Caribbean voyages to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, and week-long eastern Caribbean cruises to Nassau, Freeport, and Key West. Carnival Magic will offer many exciting amenities including a spectacular water park, an exclusive adults-only retreat, a wrap-around promenade with whirlpools that extend out over the ship’s sides, and expansive spa and children’s facilities. Also featured will be a variety of stateroom choices, including deluxe ocean view accommodations with two bathrooms, some of which feature five berths and hold particular appeal for families; cove balcony cabins located closer to the water line; and spa staterooms that provide special access and benefits. A number of new innovations are scheduled to be announced in the near future.

Also being deployed to Galveston is the Carnival Triumph which will operate year-round 4- and 5-day western Caribbean cruises beginning Oct. 6, 2011, becoming the newest and largest ship to operate a year-round short cruise program from that port. Four-day cruises depart Thursdays to Cozumel, while 5-day voyages depart Mondays and Saturdays and visit Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico. Carnival Triumph offers many guest-pleasing features and amenities, including nearly 500 balcony staterooms which are very popular among consumers and typically not available on short cruises.

Expanded Capacity from New Orleans
Carnival Conquest will reposition to New Orleans for year-round 7-day Caribbean cruises beginning Nov. 13, 2011. The ship will offer three different week-long Caribbean options from New Orleans: a new western Caribbean program featuring Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, an eastern Caribbean itinerary to Key West, Freeport and Nassau, and exotic western Caribbean cruises to Belize, Roatan and Cozumel.

Carnival Ecstasy will operate year-round 4- and 5-day western Caribbean voyages from New Orleans beginning Sept. 22, 2011. The ship underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation last year that added an expansive water park, tropical-style main pool area, adults-only retreat and 98 balconies to existing staterooms. On the Carnival Ecstasy’s new itinerary, 4-day cruises departing Thursdays visit Cozumel, while 5-day cruises departing Mondays and Saturdays call at Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico.

Reservations are currently being accepted for Carnival’s various 4- to 7-day departures from Galveston and New Orleans. For additional information and reservations, call 1-800-327-9501.

Pictured above, Carnival Magic's sister-ship, Carnival Dream

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Epic" Moments

As a part of the celebratation of the launch of their newest "freestyle cruising" ship Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Cruise Line has been launching a series of 'Epic Moments' videos on YouTube.

To give you an idea of what they are like, here's Norwegian Epic arriving in Southampton yesterday...

For a one-stop link to see them all, get your popcorn and visit

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Norwegian Epic Wants To Recognize You

High tech advances are to be expected on every new ship to launch and Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Cruise Line's largest Freestyle Cruising ship to date, is no exception. One Epic "innovation" that we've a seen on other ships is an in-room interactive television capability that I don't view as particularly exciting, but another captured my attention. It's Youfinder®, a cutting edge facial recognition system that links all guests' onboard photographs.

How does it work?. When guests board Norwegian Epic, their picture is taken and linked to their cruise card. This provides Image’s proprietary indexing system, YouFinder®, with the ability to match guests’ faces and identification details anytime a photo is taken afterwards. Using both facial recognition and patented indexing techniques, Youfinder® provides the most accurate linking of guests to their photos. When guests want to view and purchase their photos, they go to an on-board kiosk, swipe their cruise card and they can immediately view their cruise memories. From this, they can order select images and have them printed out by the ship's photo team or they can order a CD with all images and take it home.

That sounds like real innovation to me—no more fumbling through thousands of photos to find my own. However, in order to make it work it might not be a bad idea to primp up a bit before that first photo is shot. I know I'll have a comb handy and will be powdering my nose and freshening my lipstick when I get ready to board Norwegian Epic's gangway in Miami next month.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Regent Seven Seas’ ‘Prime 7’ Rivals Best Steakhouses Ashore

When cruising the world in six-star splendor, Regent Seven Seas’ guests can dine on dry-aged Prime beef and Maine lobster with all the traditional sides at Prime 7, a classic American steakhouse that opened last year aboard their ships as part of a multi-million-dollar fleet enhancement program. Prime 7 replaced Latitudes, a Pan-Asian restaurant, on Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner and was an additional dining option added to Seven Seas Navigator. The restaurant’s sophisticated décor features a rich palette of green and gold, with supple leather armchairs, a granite entry foyer and burnished wood accents.

“As lovely a venue as Prime 7 is, it’s the cuisine that shines,” stated Mark Conroy, the cruise line’s president. “Over the past year our guests have consistently raved about the new restaurant. In fact, many have told us that it rivals or surpasses the finest steakhouses ashore.”

- Singular Starters and Sides Complement Classic Cuts -
Seven tempting appetizers, including such favorites as Oysters Rockefeller and Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, as well as inventive delicacies like Foie Gras Slider with Rhubarb Chutney and Three-Steak Tartare, featuring classic, veal and Asian-spiced. For the next course, it’s French Onion Soup Gratinée or Clam Chowder or one of four salads that include Sea Salt Roasted Red Beets, Chop House, Beefsteak Tomato and Red Onion, and Caesar, prepared tableside.

The steaks at Prime 7 are USDA Prime that has been dry-aged a minimum of 28 days. Cuts available include 12-ounce New York Strip, 18-ounce Bone-in Rib Steak, Filet Mignon (6 or 10 ounces), Prime Rib, American Wagyu Chopped Steak and a 36-ounce Porterhouse, which is carved tableside. Carnivores can also choose New Zealand Double-cut Lamb Chops (10 ounces), Center-cut Milk-fed Veal Rib Chop (16 ounces), Double-cut Kurobuta Berkshire Pork Chop (14 ounces) or Oven-roasted Half Chicken – the restaurant’s pork and poultry are all-natural and hormone-free.

Seafood lovers’ selections include Day Boat Specials (fresh catch), Alaskan King Crab Legs and Whole Maine Lobster – the server happily removes the meat and discards the shell. Salad Monte Cristo, made with lobster, is a lighter option. For the best of both worlds, the Prime 7 signature Surf and Turf pairs a 6-ounce filet mignon with either a Canadian cold-water lobster tail or Alaskan king crab legs.

Twelve side dishes complement the main courses, including steakhouse staples like onion rings, steamed asparagus and broccoli, sautéed wild mushrooms, creamed spinach, string beans, twice-baked potato, plus Truffle Fries, Sautéed Fingerling Potatoes Lyonnaise, Sweet Corn Casserole, Cheddar Yukon Gold Mash and Vegetable Rice. The complete Prime 7 menu can be found on the Regent Seven Seas Cruises website. For more information, see a travel professional, visit or call toll-free 800-285-1835.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Enchantment of the Seas Begins Year-Round Service From Port of Baltimore

Enchantment of the Seas sailed into Baltimore harbor this week to inaugurate a second year-round Northeast U.S. port for vacationers to embark on a Royal Caribbean cruise. The 2,252-guest, double occupancy, Enchantment of Seas offers a variety of onboard amenities that cater to families, coupled with delectable dining options and compelling itineraries to make for a memorable cruise vacation.

In the 2010-2011 summer and autumn seasons, vacationers can choose among 5-night Bermuda, 9-night Eastern Caribbean, and 9-night New England and Canada itineraries aboard Enchantment of the Seas. In winter and spring 2010-2012, vacationers can choose among 9-night Bahamas and 12-night Southern Caribbean itineraries. Enchantment of the Seas and voyager-class Explorer of the Seas’ year-round sailings from the Port of Baltimore and Cape Liberty in Bayonne, NJ, respectively, now offer Northeast vacationers two convenient Royal Caribbean home-ports.

“Royal Caribbean is delighted to bring Enchantment of the Seas to historic Baltimore to offer year-round cruises,” said Ken Muskat, vice president of Sales, Royal Caribbean Intl. “Enchantment of the Seas offers so many ways for guests of all ages to enjoy an exciting family vacation or romantic cruise getaway, conveniently accessible by car.”

This year the Port of Baltimore will have a record 91 home-ported cruises. The total economic value to the State of Maryland of cruising from the Port of Baltimore in 2010 is expected to be about $90 million, an increase of about $10 million from 2009. Last year, the Port of Baltimore handled a record 167,000 passengers on 81 home-ported cruises. The Port of Baltimore is the closest East Coast drive-to port from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Chicago. Baltimore is also within a 3-hour drive from the New York City metro area. The Cruise Maryland Terminal is only 2.5 miles from Baltimore’s world famous Inner Harbor, 10 miles from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, and within 90 minutes from three other major airports.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rolling on the Rivers with Cruise West

It’s been too long since a cruise line has offered cruises of America's historic “river roads,” but Cruise West is about to reverse that trend. A global leader in small-ship explorations, the line has announced two new itineraries sailing on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers, starting in March, 2011. These inaugural voyages will take place aboard the Spirit of America, formerly the Spirit of Glacier Bay. “This market has been underserved since 2008 with the departure of Majestic Cruise line,” commented Dietmar Wertanzl, Cruise West’s President & CEO. “We are proud to be the only cruise line offering overnight cruises on these great American Rivers.”

Known to many as America’s Great River Road, the Mississippi is North America’s longest river. For centuries, it has played a major role in commerce as a vital transit route for passengers and freight of every description–including cotton, timber, food, and Appalachian coal. The writings of Mark Twain turned the river into a cultural icon as well. So today, a cruise on the Mississippi is an adventure through history and literature, as well as spectacular vistas.

“Many of our loyal customers asked us to bring the Cruise West small-ship experience to the Mississippi and other “heartland” rivers… and we are delighted to be able to deliver an experience that will surprise and delight guests with a perspective of the South that can only be achieved by small-ship,” shared Dick West, Cruise West’s Chairman and Managing Director.

Guests will enjoy the iconic South, while sailing the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Memphis, taking in the sights of white mansions, lush gardens, historic plantations, and poignant civil war monuments. In addition to exceptional scenery around every bend, guests on this 7-night itinerary will enjoy all of the following:

• Stopping in Vacherie to visit Oak Alley Plantation, the most photographed plantation in the South.
• Visiting The Myrtles – “America’s Most Haunted House.”
• Discovering the spectacular antebellum and Victorian architecture of picturesque Natchez, Missouri.
• Touring Vicksburg National Military Park, scene of the Civil War battle that gave the North control of the Mississippi.
• Strolling through Helena, Arkansas – one-time home to no fewer than seven generals of the confederacy.
The second new river voyage – a 7-night excursion further up river – begins and ends with two hotbeds of American music, Memphis and Nashville. Guest will follow the Mississippi north to Cairo, at the confluence of the Ohio River. They will cruise on upriver to the Tennessee and the narrow Cumberland River. On this journey, guests will enjoy:
• Exploring the charming and historic town of New Madrid, Missouri.
• Taking in numerous galleries and the Center of Maritime Education in Paducah, Kentucky.
• Walking through Fort Smith – a Civil War staging area once occupied by Ulysses S. Grant.
• Touring Fort Donelson National Battlefield in Dover, Tennessee, site of the first major Union victory.
• Discovering Clarksville, Tennessee, one of the South’s most historic cities and home to memorable architecture and attractions.

Between these itineraries, guests may choose from 8 departure dates with fares that include all excursions and hotel nights as listed. The New Orleans to Memphis (reverse dates noted with asterisk) dates include March 19, April 9*April 16, and May 7*, 2011. The Memphis to Nashville dates include March 26 and April 2*, 23, 30*,2011. Guests can save $600 per person by paying in full by July 30, 2010. For further details, visit, call 800-296-8307, or contact a travel professional.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Norwegian Cruise Line Takes Delivery of Norwegian Epic

Yesterday Norwegian Cruise Line accepted delivery of Norwegian Epic, its largest and most innovative ship to date, from STX FRANCE SA.

Norwegian Epic represents the next level of Freestyle Cruising with branded entertainment, more than 20 dining options and a wide range of accommodations including the largest suite complex at sea,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s Chief Executive Officer. “Following more than four years of development and construction, we are pleased to take ownership of this beautiful ship and introduce her to the world. We are confident that Norwegian Epic will amaze our guests.”

The 153,000 gross tons Norwegian Epic departed St. Nazaire last evening en route to Rotterdam, the first port the ship will visit. Once there, she will welcome on board her first guests who will set sail on a 2-day inaugural cruise. On June 21, the ship will sail a 1-night preview cruise to Southampton, arriving on June 22 for a 2-day inaugural sailing. On June 24, the ship will depart Southampton on a sold-out 7-day transatlantic crossing to New York arriving on July 1.

Norwegian Epic will be christened by legendary entertainer Reba McEntire on July 2 followed by a 2-day inaugural cruise. Norwegian Epic will be the host venue for the 34th Annual Macy's 4th of July Fireworks event taking place on Sunday, July 4. The event includes a national, one-hour, live entertainment broadcast on NBC-TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET. Norwegian Epic arrives in Miami on Wed, July 7 where a welcome event will be held at Bicentennial Park from 2-4 pm. For more information on the event, head to Inaugural festivities conclude with a 2-day sailing that departs on July 8.

Beginning July 10, Norwegian Epic will sail alternating 7-day Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Miami through April 30, 2011. Ports of call on the Eastern Caribbean itinerary include Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas. The Western Caribbean cruises visit Costa Maya, Mexico; Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico. The 2011 cruise season from May-Oct will have Norwegian Epic sailing a series of 7-day Western Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona. When she returns to Miami on Nov 5, 2011, she will sail a series of 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruises through April 7, 2012. For more information on Norwegian Epic and to book a cruise, please call Norwegian at 888- NCL-CRUISE (625-2784), visit, or contact a travel professional.

Photo courtesy of Bernard Biger, STX Europe

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Holland America Line: Happy Hour Cocktail

Guests aboard Holland America Line's Zaandam recently tasted a cocktail called a Tropical Cable Car that they described as “very tasty and smooth.” They liked the drink so much they wrote to Holland America and asked for the recipe.

The instructions appeared last week on the Holland America Blog and I thought Cruise Diva Blog readers might enjoy it as well.

So, just in time for summer, here it is ...

Tropical Cable Car

1 ounce Captain Morgan
1 ounce Malibu Rum
1 ounce house-made sour
1 ounce pineapple juice
Dash Angostura Bitters
1/8th Grapefruit wedge

Mix ingredients together with ice and pour into a martini glass.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Carnival Fantasy: Final Sea Day

No cruise on Carnival Fantasy would be complete without towel animals to wish us sweet dreams each night and I believe our cabin steward Henrry (who says they don’t know how to spell in his native Guatemala) creates the very best towel animals afloat.

In fact, his creations are so well made that we now have a towel animal zoo lined up on the windowsill of our cabin. Unfortunately, we can’t take them home—stealing towels is really frowned upon and I’m afraid they wouldn’t make the trip without falling apart.

Happily, I am taking home a pink elephant “towel pal” for a friend who has just had a baby. The cute little terrycloth critters are available in the gift shop here aboard Carnival Fantasy for $7.50 apiece or two for $12.00. Pictured here are Henrry’s towel elephant and our little pink pal.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Carnival Fantasy: In Nassau

“Liquid sunshine” is how our taxi driver described the weather that greeted Carnival Fantasy’s arrival in Nassau. We could see it pouring rain across the harbor at Atlantis, but it merely drizzled on us as we walked through town and up the hill to Graycliff where Mel always buys cigars when we visit Nassau. The drizzle turned to a downpour soon after we arrived so we watched the rollers make cigars in the small factory and relaxed a bit in the comfy cigar smoking room until we decided it would be a good idea to take a taxi back to the pier.

Sadly, on the walk over to Graycliff we noticed our favorite coffee shop had closed and the rain precluded a trip back to the straw market where we’d seen some interesting carved wind chimes earlier. It’s a bit hard to tell how much progress has been made on the new straw market building, but construction is in progress.

Back aboard Carnival Fantasy and in dry clothes, we’re looking forward to a relaxing afternoon and tonight’s Guest Talent Show, which is always entertaining.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Carnival Fantasy: In Freeport, Grand Bahama Island

Today’s port of call is Freeport where the most popular shore excursions are all water related (snorkeling, kayaking, swimming with dolphins, lazing on a sandy beach). Of course there is the ever popular shopping experience as well, which is usually my choice. Carnival Fantasy docked early so we headed ashore to explore before the noon heat set in. Even so, it was still hot.

Back on board, I hit the gym to work off some of the calories from last night’s dinner. It was “cruise elegant” night aboard Carnival Fantasy and Captain Costi was on hand to greet his guests and introduce the ship’s officers in the atrium. We’re in late seating and our show was scheduled before dinner—“Nightclub Express” was a must-see journey through the world’s most famous clubs past and present. Very high energy song and dance numbers, exquisite costumes, and most enjoyable.

For the rest of today I’ve picked out the ideal spot to relax on a sun bed in the shade of a bright yellow umbrella on the adults-only Serenity Deck. There’s a nice breeze, my iPod is fully charged, and I have a trashy novel. This is my idea of heaven.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Carnival Fantasy: Day at Sea

Although we’ve sailed on Carnival Fantasy twice in the past, this is the first time we’ve been aboard since its “Evolutions of Fun” enhancements were completed. In addition to the huge Carnival Water Works that replaced the aft pool, the main lido pool has also undergone transformation. With the water slide gone and the addition of umbrellas and faux palm trees, it’s now a resort-style oasis of fun.

Pool games are de rigueur on cruise ships, but today’s event was unique—a Master Mixologist Competition. The call went out yesterday for contestants to produce their favorite concoction for a panel of expert judges. Five contestants selected to take the stage poolside and mix ‘em up. The winning cocktail will be the featured beverage for the rest of our Carnival Fantasy cruise. I’m looking forward to trying it.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Carnival Fantasy: Embarkation Day

You could describe driving the few blocks from our hotel to the pier as “Hurry Up & Wait,” and you’d be accurate at least part of the time. From the rooftop terrace at the Restoration on King we could see Carnival Fantasy’s red-white-and-blue funnel, but the most direct route through Charleston’s maze of narrow one-way streets isn’t the right way to get to the pier.

Fortunately, whenever Carnival Fantasy is making a turn-around, there are plenty of policemen directing traffic. Following their directions and the signs we made it to the beginning of the parking process in short order. Unfortunately, from the appearance of the line of cars snaking their way into the port, it seemed that everyone boarding our cruise had driven to Charleston. We prepared ourselves mentally for a long ordeal, but were happily surprised that it took no longer than 45 minutes. The first stop after entering the line up is to show your documents to officials, the next is to pay the parking attendants ($15 per day), and then you proceed to drop off checked luggage before finally rolling into the covered parking area—an old warehouse building.

Shuttles were on hand to take everyone from the parking garage to the terminal itself—walk ups are not allowed. Security and check-in were completed in short order. The entire process took less time than we expected when we arrived shortly after noon, usually one of the busiest times of the day. By 2pm when we were relaxing on board we could see there were no cars waiting in line and arriving passengers sped through the process.

All in all, we commend Charleston for devising a method to get as many cars and people into the port in as efficient a manner as possible. It took us almost an hour and a half from pulling into the port to boarding Carnival Fantasy.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Where's Cruise Diva? Boarding Carnival Fantasy in Charleston

It’s only been a few weeks since Carnival Cruise Lines officially launched its new, year-round cruise service from the gracious southern city of Charleston, South Carolina.

Carnival Fantasy is operating 5-, 6- and 7-day voyages to The Bahamas and Key West, FL from Charleston and Carnival will also offer a series of Bermuda cruises from Charleston on Carnival Fantasy in 2011.

Cruise Diva boarded Carnival Fantasy today to share a sailing from Charleston with you, including our pre-cruise options, so follow along on our “virtual cruise” with daily reports here on Cruise Diva's blog.

Celebrating Our Patriots in Charleston

To fortify ourselves for what we anticipated would be a full day, we had dinner at Jestine’s Kitchen last night. Only a short walk from our hotel, The Restoration on King, Jestine’s is where Charlestonians go for the best fried chicken, mac and cheese, and bread pudding.

Before heading out across the Cooper River this morning, we debated on whether to drive our car or take a rickshaw from the hotel to catch the water taxi at the Aquarium to Patriots Point. Driving ourselves won out and we arrived in time to get tickets for the early tour boat to Fort Sumter. The tour boats also depart from the Aquarium, but we wanted to visit the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point as well so we made a day of it.

After a forty minute ride we reached Fort Sumter National Monument where we had an hour to explore the grounds (photo above, inside the fort). It’s a matter of Southern pride that the opening shots of the Civil War were fired here in 1861, at the fort named for South Carolina Revolutionary War patriot Henry Sumter. More incredible though is that the Confederate soldiers at Fort Sumter were able to withstand siege and bombardment for twenty months until the fort was nearly pounded into rubble. They only evacuated the fort in 1865 when Sherman marched north from Savannah. While the fort no longer resembles the former structure—it was rebuilt after the Civil War—it’s possible to stand on the ramparts and marvel at its historic significance.

After lunch at the snack bar and a quick walk across the pier, we boarded the Aircraft Carrier USS Yorktown. There is an elevator, reserved for the mobility challenged and families with small children; however, in order to tour the ship and see most of the exhibits visitors must be able to ascend and descend steep and narrow stairs. In addition, there is only one spot on the ship with air conditioning (the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum), which could present problems for anyone with breathing difficulties in summer months.

We were fascinated as we walked from the hangar deck to see the living quarters, working areas, the flight deck, and bridge (pictured here). You could easily spend several hours or more just taking the six designated tours on board.

It was a long day of immersing ourselves in history. That’s what Charleston and the surrounding region is all about and we enjoyed every minute of it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On the Road to Charleson: Pre-Cruise

South Carolina’s “low country” is a history lover’s dream with Charleston as its star. From our home in east-central Georgia the plantations and gardens along the Ashley River north of the city are an easy two and a half hour drive and well worth the time and trouble of leaving the interstate to explore. We passed Middleton and made a note to come back another time, instead opting to tour Magnolia Plantation and Gardens (pictured above) and neighboring Drayton Hall.

Magnolia Plantation, the home of the Drayton family since 1676, has undergone numerous reconfigurations over the years following fires and the addition of rooms and verandahs. Today it stands as a stately example of plantation life, lovingly preserved and furnished in priceless antiques. While the house is beautiful, it is the gardens that are stunning. Pathways lined with flowering plants meander through dense stands of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. An old-fashioned maze is a delight for children. Also on the grounds is the Audubon Swamp Garden, a unique natural garden and wildlife preserve where turtles sunning themselves on a log and egrets feeding their young in the rookery posed for our cameras.

Our next stop was Drayton Hall (yes, the same extended family), built in 1738 and standing today as the oldest example of Georgian-Palladian architecture of its kind in the American South (pictured left, the Palladian facade). Without electricity or running water, it is also unfurnished. For those of us who enjoy house museums, this is a rarity—a house that extends a sense of timelessness based on architecture alone. The setting on the Ashley River is an oasis of peace and tranquility and also offers cooling breezes throughout the house. No electricity means no air conditioning inside, but we found the interiors surprisingly pleasant on a hot afternoon in June. Scenic marsh and river walks are also open for exploration

Touring two large plantations and gardens in a single afternoon is tiring so we’re happy to be resting up in The Restoration on King, our pre-cruise home until sailing on Carnival Fantasy later this week.

Information for Princess Cruises Passengers Sailing on Asia Cruises in 2010 and 2011

Important Message from Princess Cruises: Due to the continuing political unrest in Thailand, port of arrival or departure for the following voyages have been changed. We will no longer embark or disembark passengers at the port of Laem Chabang, Thailand (the port for Bangkok), replacing it with Singapore. Laem Chabang will, however, continue to be a port of call on many of these voyages. Additional itinerary changes include some new ports and changes to the dates for some ports of call.

Voyages with revised itineraries are:

Diamond Princess
So. East Asia & China -- November 19, 2010 -- Beijing/Singapore
Eastern Australia & Asia -- December 5, 2010 -- Singapore/Sydney
Grand Adventure -- December 5, 2010 -- Singapore/Auckland
Grand Adventure -- February 8, 2011 -- Sydney/Singapore
Far East -- March 3, 2011 -- Beijing/Singapore
Far East -- March 19, 2011 -- Singapore/Beijing
Far East -- April 4, 2011 -- Beijing/Singapore
Far East -- April 20, 2011 -- Singapore/Beijing
Grand Adventure -- April 20, 2011 -- Singapore/Anchorage

Ocean Princess
Grand Adventure -- November 21, 2010 -- Capetown/Singapore
South China Sea -- December 22, 2010 -- Singapore/Singapore
South China Sea -- January 7, 2011 -- Singapore/Shanghai
South China Sea -- January 23, 2011 -- Shanghai/Singapore
South China Sea -- February 8, 2011 -- Singapore/Shanghai
South China Sea & Japan -- February 8, 2011 -- Singapore/Osaka

Full details of the new itineraries will be available Friday June 11 in the Cruise Personalizer or online at Notification of this change has been sent to travel agents.

Questions and Answers About These Itinerary Changes:

1. I want to cancel my booking. Are there any fees?
A: Bookings may be cancelled and any applicable cancellation fees will be waived.

2. I booked my own air to/from Bangkok. Will you cover my air change or cancellation fees?
A: If you can provide us with documentation showing the fees paid, we will reimburse you for those fees. We will not cover additional air costs for new flights.

3. I booked my own hotel pre/post cruise in Bangkok. Will you cover my hotel cancellation fees?
A: If you can provide us with documentation showing the fees paid, we will reimburse you for those fees.

4. I had other expenses, like travel insurance or pre-paid tours. Will you cover those cancellation fees?
A: If you can provide us with documentation showing the fees paid, we will reimburse you for those fees.

5. I have Princess restricted eZAir booked. How do I rebook my flights and will you cover the cancellation fees on the original flights booked?
A: Since new flights only need to be booked one-way, the Princess eZAir Desk will work with you to arrange your new flights. Do not try to rebook flights using the eZAir tool. Please contact Princess for assistance. There will be no cancellation fees for the original flights. The Princess eZAir Desk will attempt to rebook your flights at no additional air cost, but it is possible that an additional air add-on may apply. You will be advised of any additional air add-on or refund. If you wish to shop for all new flights in the eZAir tool you will have to rebook your flights round trip and you may incur air cancellation penalties and additional air add on costs. The tool will be available for you to use beginning Friday, June 11th.

6. I have Princess flexible eZAir booked. How do I rebook my flights?
A: Since new flights only need to be booked one-way, Princess eZAir Desk will work with you to arrange your new flights. Do not try to rebook flights using the eZAir tool. Please contact Princess for assistance. The Princess eZAir Desk will attempt to rebook your flights at no additional air cost, but it is possible that an additional air add-on may apply. You will be advised of any additional air add-on cost or refund. Your air add-on is still not guaranteed outside of full payment on the booking. If you wish to shop for all new flights in the eZAir tool you will have to rebook your flights round trip and additional air add-on costs may apply. The tool will be available for you to use beginning Friday, June 11th.

Please send all requests for reimbursement with receipts to:

Princess Cruises
Customer Relations
24844 Avenue Rockefeller
Santa Clarita, CA. 91355

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Carnival Has A “Cash Back” Deal For You

It's a good feeling to have your cruise vacation plans wrapped up, especially if you feel you got a good deal on the fare. Carnival Cruise Lines is making it even sweeter by offering a promotion providing “cash back” of up to $160 per stateroom for a wide range of “Fun Ship” departures through Feb 2011. The promotion is available in conjunction with virtually all of the line’s 3- to 8-day “Fun Ship” cruises, including voyages to the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Mexico, departing from a variety of convenient North American homeports. You'll have to hurry, though, as bookings must be made between June 7–30, 2010, to be eligible for the cash back promotion.

The cash back option is provided in the form of a shipboard credit that can be redeemed once on board. Guests will receive a shipboard credit of up to $80 per stateroom on 3-, 4- and 5-day cruises and up to $160 per stateroom on voyages of six days or longer. The promotion is valid only with the line’s “Fun Select” fares. The shipboard credit is automatically applied to guests’ on-board accounts when they board their cruise and can be redeemed toward a wide range of shipboard purchases, including shore excursions, spa treatments, steakhouse reservations, gift shop items and more. Any unused funds at the end of the cruise will be returned to guests on debarkation day in the form of a check.

“This promotion makes a Carnival cruise an even greater value for consumers by providing extra cash that can be used toward a wide variety of shipboard purchases,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO.

For additional information and reservations on the “Fun Ship” vacation experience, call 1-800-327-9501.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Princess Statement on Cruise Calls to Israel

From Princess Cruises on June 8, 2010: In response to recent inquiries, we would like to clarify why we cancelled the Pacific Princess' call to Ashdod, Israel on June 2. The ship did call at Haifa, Israel the previous day on June 1.

Just two days prior to our scheduled call to Ashdod, a violent incident occurred between the Israeli Defense Forces and a flotilla of ships carrying aid to the Gaza Strip. This unfortunate event resulted in several fatalities.

Upon careful review of the situation and information provided by the US State Dept and other sources, we were concerned about potential violence in reaction to the incident. Our decision, which was not politically motivated, was made in the best interest of the safety and security of our passengers and crew.

Pacific Princess is scheduled to call in Israel at the end of June, and we expect to maintain the published itinerary. However as with all of our ports of call, we continuously monitor information that may affect our ships' routings. Should a decision be made to make any adjustments, affected passengers would be advised as soon as possible.

Celebrity Cruises Makes Europe More Accessible

Cruise passengers with mobility issues often find it difficult, if not impossible, to book shore tours they can easily manage. That is especially true in European cities with their cobblestone streets and uneven walking surfaces. Recognizing their needs, Celebrity Cruises has designed expanded shore excursion offerings in Europe, to make it simple for cruisers who face mobility challenges to enjoy the region. In its 2010 summer Europe season, Celebrity will offer at least 35 “easy” shore excursions–15 of them brand-new–catering to guests who have walking difficulties and are not able to handle steps or extended periods of walking or standing, or for guests who are full-time wheelchair users.

One of these new tours, offered in Dubrovnik, Croatia, is “Easy Seaside Resort of Cavtat and Dubrovnik.” During this tour, guests will visit the quaint seaside town of Cavtat and explore the fascinating walled city of Dubrovnik. In Helsinki, Finland, “Easy Helsinki” offers guests the opportunity to experience the Finnish capital’s highlights, including Embassy Park, Mannerheim Street, and the Olympic Stadium. Because Celebrity’s “easy” shore excursions utilize special equipment such as access ramps and lifts on vehicles and space is limited, guests are encouraged to book Celebrity’s “easy” shore excursions by contacting in advance of their cruise.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Disney Dream Takes A “Bow”

The final building block of the newest Disney Cruise Line ship, the Disney Dream, was lowered into place last week at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, signaling completion of a major milestone in the ship’s overall construction. On Jan 26, 2011, the Disney Dream will set sail from Port Canaveral, Florida on her maiden voyage and take family cruising to all-new heights, embracing the spirit of innovation, magical family entertainment and immersive experiences that have made Disney Cruise Line the preeminent choice for families since 1998.

The final block placed was a 260-ton portion of the ship’s bow, complete with the signature Disney Cruise Line golden filigree. With all 80 building blocks for the Disney Dream now in place, the focus shifts to outfitting the interiors spaces that include the whimsical, Disney-infused children’s spaces, dynamically chic adult nightclubs, spectacular restaurants and elaborate theatres. Captain Mickey Mouse joined Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz at the Meyer Werft shipyard to commemorate this important milestone.

“With the steel construction process complete, we’re now looking forward to exciting new milestones such as the installation of AquaDuck, the first water coaster at sea,” said Holz. “Each day, the ship gets closer to its Maiden Voyage, and it is clear that the Disney Dream is destined to be one of the most spectacular ships afloat.”

The Disney Dream will expand the one-of-a-kind family experience guests enjoy while on a Disney Cruise Line vacation. Some of the highlights:

• The ship will feature a first-of-its-kind water coaster that will send guests racing above and around the upper decks of the ship.
• Animator’s Palate restaurant will magically transform into an undersea wonderland with live, impromptu interactions with Crush, the animated sea turtle from Disney•Pixar’s “Finding Nemo.”
• Elaborately themed children’s spaces will immerse children in their favorite Disney stories and feature some of today’s most innovative technology.
• A nighttime entertainment district just for adults will be filled with sophisticated, trendy, fanciful and fun-filled venues.
• Inside staterooms will have a “special” view thanks to a cruise industry first virtual porthole concept.

Disney Dream will sail alternating 3- and 4-night cruises to the Bahamas and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. During summer 2011, the ship will sail 4- and 5-night itineraries with two stops at Castaway Cay. To learn more about Disney Cruise Line and Disney Dream, visit

Sunday, June 6, 2010

New Cruise Review: Emerald Princess

Mother's Day, what a lovely day to start a cruise. Join Cruise Diva's regular contributors Mary & Vincent Finelli as they did just that aboard Princess Cruises' Emerald Princess.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Largest Chandelier at Sea Installed on Norwegian Epic

Just because something is bigger doesn't mean it's better. So, when we heard that another "first" for Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic, is the largest LED chandelier at sea, now installed in the ship's Epic Casino, we weren't that impressed until we saw this photo. While the image is somewhat small, the design is absolutely stunning.

The chandelier, which will change colors to all in the spectrum—up to 255 possible variations—is 21 feet in height with a diameter of nearly 11 feet and weighs two metric tons. Built in Vienna, Austria by Kalmar, a leading glass crystal maker who has designed some of the largest chandeliers for hotels and palaces around the world, and designed by UK-based SMC Architects and Lighting Design, it is fitted with approximately 40,000 crystal glass pieces of various shapes and sizes and spans vertically to three decks, with vantage points from the casino, Teppanyanki restaurant, Wasabi Sushi Bar, Malting's Whiskey Bar, Shaker's Martini Bar, and the Atrium. The design is of spiraling oval discs, each up to 30 feet in circumference, and 112 suspended crystal encrusted balls of up to one foot in diameter, which orbit the main structure at varying heights.

The chandelier is also the most energy efficient at sea. It is completely illuminated by LED technology, using over 10,000 diodes. It is fully dimmable to most effectively enhance the lead crystals and is currently being programmed by UK-based Project International. The impressive structure, which will be the focal point of the ship's Atrium, took a team of people three weeks to install it. No word yet on who will be responsible for cleaning it and how long that will take! For more information on Norwegian Epic, visit

Norwegian Epic will sail alternating 7-day Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Miami beginning July 10, 2010 through April 2011. From May through Oct 2011, Norwegian Epic will sail a 7-day Western Mediterranean itinerary from Barcelona, Spain. To book a cruise on Norwegian Epic, call Norwegian Cruise Line at 888-NCL-CRUISE (625-2784), visit, or contact a travel professional.

Photo courtesy of B. Biger/STX France Cruise SA

Friday, June 4, 2010

Not-To-Be-Missed Theme Cruises

As Mel and I learned last month while sailing on the Malt Shop Memories Cruise (follow that link to read about it), we had a great time during the cruise because we'd been sharing the experience with an entire ship full of like-minded people. We were a community of passengers who had a lot in common and were fun to be around. That's the beauty of a theme cruise aboard a full-ship charter. Hosting the Malt Shop Memories Cruise was Sixthman, the affinity travel company that develops musically-driven lifestyle events with an emphasis on themed cruises. While revisiting the 50s and 60s was fun and we hope they'll repeat it next year, Sixthman has announced a great line up of other theme cruises ready to sail in upcoming months. Check out what they have planned and get ready to make your plans--they are booking up fast.

SIMPLE MAN CRUISE (Jan 20-24, 2011)
Sixthman is very proud to add Little Feat to the Simple Man 2011 lineup! As American as apple pie--and rock 'n roll itself--Feat's music transcends boundaries, a freewheeling fusion of California rock and Dixie-inflected funk-boogie. In the mix as well are strains of folk, blues, rockabilly, country and jazz, inventing a hybrid sound that is truly Little Feat's own. Also added to the lineup are cherished Sixthman family members Blackberry Smoke. Cabins are almost sold out! Read more at

CAYAMO (Feb 13-20, 2011)
Frequent collaborators Loudon Wainwright III and Richard Thompson have had a busy year of touring as "Loud & Rich," and now they'll both be joining Cayamo in February 2011! Also joining us for the first time are Colin Hay and Dar Williams. Returning to the ship are Works Progress Administration, Keith Sewell, and Roddie Romero and the Hub City All Stars. Last but not least, longtime Cayamo favorite Brandi Carlile will join the festival once again as the fifth ticketed artist in the main lounge. See the full lineup at

Now on sale to the public! Prices start at $649 per person. Each guest will receive a photo with Jillian, attend a group workout with Jillian and her super team of trainers, and enjoy speaking engagements on how to eat healthier, exercise better, and improve all aspects of their lives. And that's not all! With team sports, high-energy dancing, great comedians, fitness fun for kids and more, the Jillian Michaels Ultimate Wellness Cruise 2010 will be a family friendly, exciting way to get on the road to a healthier, balanced life.

KID ROCK'S CHILLIN' THE MOST CRUISE 2011 (April 7-11, 2011)
As promised, in April 2010 Kid Rock few a flag that said "Chillin' the Most" and rocked the cruise "up and down the coast"...In 2011, the ship is leaving from New Orleans, so you know the party is going up a level! Prices start at $899 and the cruise will be on sale to the public this summer; fans can learn more at

SHIPS AND DIP 4 (Feb 6-11, 2011)
Sixthman is happy to announce Ships and Dip 4, hosted by the Barenaked Ladies, with their good friends Guster and more to be announced soon! We'll be cruising February 6-11, 2011, from Miami to Costa Maya and Belize City on the Norwegian Dawn. The cruise goes on sale to the public on June 30; starting price for double-occupancy, interior cabin is $799 per person. See more at

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sea Princess Stars in National Geographic Channel’s “World’s Toughest Fixes”

Did you follow the action in photos on the Princess Cruises web site when Sea Princess was in drydock last year? If you missed it, the immense job of drydocking Sea Princess will be featured in tonight’s (June 3) episode of National Geographic Channel’s (NGC) top-rated show, World’s Toughest Fixes at 9 p.m. ET/PT. TV viewers can go behind the scenes as host Sean Riley follows the entire process from the time the Princess Cruises ship enters the drydock to the final sea trials. The show was filmed while Sea Princess was in a regularly scheduled drydock at BAE Systems San Francisco Ship Repair in Sept 2009. The episode focuses on the enormous task of completing a multitude of drydock projects in just 15 days, with emphasis on several technical “fixes” on the bottom of the ship that could only be accessed when the ship is out of the water.

“This is a unique opportunity for audiences to really appreciate the amazing around-the-clock effort needed to keep our ships in top shape to deliver the experience our passengers expect,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “We’re excited that the National Geographic Channel was interested in featuring this rare behind-the-scenes project.”

One of the network’s most popular shows, World's Toughest Fixes takes viewers inside some of the most daunting repair jobs with Riley, a professional master rigger, as he works with many of the world's top mechanics to show how they tackle these challenging fixes. Riley joins the Sea Princess drydock crew on a number of tasks, adding his own elbow grease and expertise along the way and tries out several drydock jobs. He helps strip and power wash the hull, tries his hand at upholstery work and joins the team working high up on the ship to seal the windows. He even gives viewers an up-close view inside the tail shaft housing as he crawls in to show the audience the work being done. Throughout the episode viewers will get a glimpse of the buzz of activity on a ship in drydock, including a look at installation of carpet and floors, the stripping of wooden decks, and even a glimpse of the ship’s new adults-only Sanctuary which was constructed during the drydock.

More photos of last fall’s Sea Princess drydock are available in the Sea Princess Drydock Journal. Behind-the-scenes photos of the World’s Toughest Fixes crew at work during the shoot are available on the Princess Flickr photostream.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Celebrity Cruises Adds 'Savor Your Destination' Program to Onboard Culinary Line-Up

Celebrity Cruises is taking its Celebrity Life programming to a new level. "Savor," the popular culinary-and-wine/spirits-focused pillar of Celebrity Life, is expanding to include a line-up of special interest cruises aimed at celebrating Celebrity's already outstanding onboard culinary experience by inviting guest chefs and other food and wine experts to enhance select sailings. Celebrity's new "Savor Your Destination" themed cruises kicked off yesterday when Celebrity's newest ship, Celebrity Eclipse, set sail with Australian chef Benjamin Christie onboard for an 11-night Canary Islands cruise roundtrip out of Southampton, England. Christie is an acclaimed television host, author, online food personality, and unofficial culinary ambassador based in Sydney, Australia.

"Our guests are always looking for new ways to celebrate their love of great cuisine, which is why an outstanding culinary experience is one of the key aspects of a Celebrity Cruises vacation," said Jacques Van Staden, Celebrity's Vice President, Culinary Operations. "By expanding the already robust 'Savor' series of our Celebrity Life program to include the 'Savor Your Destination' themed cruises, we are not only giving our guests a unique opportunity to interact with exceptionally talented chefs, but also celebrating the fact that, from a culinary perspective, our ships and the restaurants onboard are destinations in themselves."

During each Savor Your Destination cruise, guests will have the opportunity to attend a meet-and-greet-style cocktail hour where they will be able to interact with the chef and even enjoy side-by-side photo opportunities. Each guest chef will lead a cooking demonstration in the ship's largest venue, the theatre, where he or she will highlight the techniques, ingredients and flair specific to their individual style. Guest chefs who have published cookbooks may hold book signing events. On every Celebrity Cruises sailing (with the exception of Celebrity Xpedition, the 90-guest mega-yacht that sails year-round in the Galapagos Islands), the Celebrity Life Savor series includes a "Star Chefs" competition in the ship's theatre. During the event, guests are selected from the audience, then guided by the ship's own highest-ranking chefs to compete in a cook-off judged by a panel of spontaneously selected guests. When possible, guest chefs participating in Celebrity's Savor Your Destination chef-focused cruises will take part in the Star Chefs competition. Most of the events are complimentary; the hands-on cooking class and food-and-wine-pairing dinner will require reservation fees, and space is limited. Guests who attend the class or dinner will receive a special recipe booklet featuring the chef's own creations.

During Celebrity's Savor Your Destination cruises, guests will have several opportunities to engage their taste buds and their minds. Guests who wish to elevate their own culinary knowledge can participate in hands-on cooking classes led by the chef in the ship's main galley. There, under the tutelage of the guest chef, with assistance from Celebrity's own award-winning culinary operations team, guests can gain invaluable hands-on experience that will help them gain new insight into the joy of cooking, while experiencing the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes into the galley. Each guest chef also will design and present an exclusive food-and-wine-pairing dinner in Murano, Celebrity's spectacular gourmet specialty restaurant, sharing insights into the inspiration behind the ingredients, the menu, and the specific pairings.

Celebrity also is folding its popular wine cruises along the Pacific Coast into the Celebrity Life Savor Your Destination program. In the coming weeks and months, Celebrity will announce additional Savor Your Destination events designed to give discerning cruisers the opportunity to expand their culinary horizons while at sea. To learn more about Celebrity's Savor Your Destination cruises or Celebrity Life, interested cruisers should call their travel agent, or visit