Saturday, December 31, 2011

When Elephants Fly

"What's more 'Fantasy' than a flying elephant?" That's the thought that inspired Walt Disney Imagineering to select Dumbo and his pal, Timothy Q. Mouse, as the characters who will represent the new Disney Fantasy cruise ship. You may know that each Disney Cruise Line ship has Disney characters featured on the ships' sterns. Disney has now revealed that Dumbo will be flying just off the stern of Disney Fantasy with a paint can held in his trunk for Timothy to make any necessary "touch ups" to the ship's name while at sea.

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how they did it...

Video Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Vikings Are Coming

Noted as one of the world's leading river cruise companies (with a fleet of 23 river vessels in service and 8 more in the works), Viking River Cruises plans on going to sea with their newly christened Viking Ocean Cruises. To achieve that end, the new cruise line has placed an order with shipbuilder STX France in St Nazaire for two 41,000-ton, 888-passenger cruise ships to be delivered in spring 2014 and spring 2015.

Taking a cue from Viking's popular destination oriented river cruises, the two luxurious ocean-going cruise ships will launch with destination cruising in mind and primarily sail in the Mediterranean where they will appeal to North American, British, and Australian passengers. With a planned staffing of 444 crew members, we expect the service will be top drawer.

Sadly, we don't have an image to share and there's very little additional information available at this time. That should change when construction begins in fall 2012 and we'll keep you posted.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Cruise Ships Sailing Into 2012

Watch Throughout the Year for New Cruise Ship Launches

While the cruise ships scheduled for launch in 2012 are all new vessels, each one is almost identical to existing sister-ships. Brand-new ship classes won't be making an appearance until 2013 when Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line are set to launch Royal Princess and Norwegian Breakaway, respectively.

Despite that, there are always tweaks and new features on the latest ships in a class and the introduction of each new ship in every cruise line's fleet is always exciting. So, without further ado, Cruise Diva is happy to preview the Class of 2012, the new cruise ships set to launch in the upcoming year.

Image Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Celebrity Cruises Solsticizes the Millennium Class

If you're a fan of television's DIY Network you'll enjoy the video below. In it, executives from Celebrity Cruises explain how they are updating the popular Millennium-class ships in their fleet. They coined the term "Solsticizing" to name the ambitious, $140-million revitalization that takes the best modern venues and experiences from the Solstice-class ships and adds them to the Millennium-class ships. It isn't a simple process and you won't want to try it at home, but it's a fascinating look at the process and the thought that went into it.

Video Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mahogany Bay Cruise Center Welcomes One Millionth Cruise Passenger

Magical Flying Beach Chair
Mahogany Bay Cruise Center (MBCC) in Roatan reached a significant milestone this month when it welcomed its one millionth cruise passenger since opening nearly two years ago. The one millionth visitor to the MBCC was one of 4,268 passengers aboard the Carnival Dream, which makes year-round calls at the $62 million facility on alternating weeks.

“Achieving our one millionth visitor in less than two years of operation is a testament to the outstanding facilities and quality landside experience enjoyed by the thousands of guests who visit the Mahogany Bay Cruise Center each week,” said Mike Reimers, general manager of the facility.

The visit by the Carnival Dream is one of 280 annual cruise ship calls at the MBCC, which encompasses 20 acres of waterfront property and includes a two-berth cruise terminal that can accommodate up to 8,000 passengers daily. It is a joint project of Carnival Corporation and Roatan businessman Jerry Hynds. In addition to Carnival Cruise Lines, vessels from Seabourn, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Costa Cruises, and P-and-O Cruises, as well as non-Carnival Corporation brands, have called at the new facility since it opened in 2009.

Along with a two-ship cruise pier, the Mahogany Bay Cruise Center features a welcome center and a variety of retail outlets, including two themed bars, a restaurant, and several shops. A transportation hub with the ability to accommodate taxis, rental cars, and tour buses (along with a wide range of shore excursion opportunities that can be purchased on board the cruise ships) is also available.

Unique to Mahogany Bay is the Magical Flying Beach Chair lift system (pictured above) that takes visitors from the welcome center to beautiful Mahogany Beach, a 10-acre private island featuring an 825-foot-long white-sand beach with a volleyball court and myriad watersports options. The Magical Flying Beach Chair transports guests of all ages who are at least 32 inches tall from Mahogany Bay’s main plaza, through the treetops, across the turtle grass flats, and gently lets them off onto the warm white sand of Mahogany Beach. Cruisers can take advantage of the all day pass; $15 gets you unlimited rides on the chairlift. Not tall enough to ride the chairlift? Not to worry if your little ones are less than 32 inches tall. There is shaded walking path that will get you to the beach in a matter of minutes. Eight exclusive cabanas are also available for rent.

For more information on the Mahogany Bay Cruise Center, visit

Photo Courtesy of Mahogany Bay Cruise Center

Monday, December 26, 2011

It's All ‘About Rose’

While high-end hotels and luxury cruise lines have offered top name toiletries and bath amenities for some time, it’s taken a while for the trend to reach the deluxe level of the cruise market.

However, Azamara Club Cruises is raising the bar and adding an element of exclusivity for its guests by becoming the only cruise line to introduce the European ‘About Rose’ collection of toiletry products on Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey. The creation of famed-French, master-perfumer Olivier Decoster, ‘About Rose’ offers Azamara guests a new range of specially tailored toiletry products. The signature collection, available now, blends rich product formulations and unique fragrance compositions to offer spa-quality hair, bath, and body products for both men and women.

Aboard Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, guests will find About Rose foaming body wash, body lotion, shampoo and conditioner, plus a vanity set. The elegant collection, inspired by notes of tangerine, iris, and amber, will add to the upscale experience on board. The fragrance is an exotic blend of fruity, floral, and spicy scents and develops further with strong fusion of wood, amber, and iris essences. It sounds heavenly, but we wonder if it will be a tad ‘girly’ for male passengers.

For more information, visit online.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Whether you're on land or at sea, Cruise Diva wishes you peace and joy and a very Merry Christmas.

Linda and Mel

Image Aboard Renaissance Cruises R3

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Québec City: Queen of the St. Lawrence

Our contributor Pat Woods recently sailed on a Canada/New England Discovery cruise aboard Holland America Line’s ms Maasdam that called on four Canadian ports. Each had interesting attractions with fascinating learning experiences in Canada's rich blend of Native American, French, and English history, and culture. However, Pat relates that Québec City was the undisputed standout port.

Pat says, “It was easy to see why Holland America guests rate Québec City as No. 1 of the 300 ports HAL ships visit each year. Everyone on the Maasdam said the same thing, ‘Beautiful city; wish we could have stayed longer!’”

Find out what makes Québec City the Queen of the St. Lawrence in her port review.

Photo © Pat Woods

Friday, December 23, 2011

What to Expect: General Cruising Information & Debarkation Day

Sadly, all cruises come to an end eventually and it hardly seems fair that you have to leave when it feels like your vacation has just begun—days on a cruise fly by!

What to do... Well, first you have to pack for home. But there are numerous other tasks to take care of before you leave your cruise ship.

Cruise Diva explains the process and other things you'll want to know in General Cruising Information and Wrapping Things up on Debarkation Day

Finally, we hope you've enjoyed our "What to Expect" series this week and we wish you Smooth Sailing and Bon Voyage!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What To Expect: Port Days on A Cruise

Arriving in port
The Captain deftly inches his vessel alongside the pier as line handlers scurry to grab the ropes and secure them. The gangway appears and everyone is anxious to proceed ashore. But first there is a delay until the announcement that the ship has "cleared."

What's that all about? And what is there to do ashore? Should you sign up for a shore excursion or tour on your own?

Cruise Diva answers those and other frequently asked questions in Port Days on A Cruise.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What to Expect: Cruising Sea Days

At sea—an afternoon on the Pool Deck
All days at sea aren't identical, but they do have a lot in common. Most ships schedule activities, port talks, lectures, games, and fitness programs on a non-stop basis. This is the time to personalize your cruise experience—you can participate in any or all the activities scheduled or do nothing more strenuous than lift an umbrella drink while reading a book poolside.

Whether you want to do it all, or do nothing at all, the ship's daily program is your schedule of activities. Some passengers like to have a highlighter handy to mark the events they don't want to miss.

Cruise Diva takes a look at the variety of things to do and shares What to Expect: Sea Days on A Cruise.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What to Expect: Cruise Embarkation Day

Smile for the birdie--an embarkation photo op
Once the planning, packing, and anticipation are behind them, veteran cruise passengers sometimes view embarkation day as anticlimactic. However, for first-time cruise travelers, embarking on their first ship can be more than exhilarating—it can be downright intimidating. What exactly can you expect?

First of all, keep in mind that your embarkation day cannot officially begin until the ship is clear of departing guests and their luggage. Then the process of loading stores and embarking passengers' luggage begins.

The vessel's entire turn-around procedure is as carefully choreographed as the most intricate ballet and can be confusing for a first-time passenger. Finally, it's your turn to board. What then?

Cruise Diva shares What to Expect On Day One of A Cruise.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Cruise Review! Celebrity Equinox in the Med and Crossing the Atlantic

Our reviewer Ed Schlenk welcomes us aboard Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Equinox for a Mediterranean cruise and transatlantic crossing.

Ed says, "It is difficult to imagine a cruise that comes closer to ideal than our Equinox transatlantic cruise (Nov 28 - Dec 12, 2011), which sailed from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Ft. Lauderdale, spending a week in the western Mediterranean and a week crossing the Atlantic."

For independent (and inexpensive) shore excursion alternatives, Ed offers a treasure chest of useful information. And, as a bonus, in his review he shares a link to his online album of ship and port photos!

Photo Courtesy of Ed Schlenk

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Windstar's Wind Surf Debuts New Luxe Décor

Wind Surf Stateroom
Windstar Cruises has revealed the first phase of Wind Surf's refurbishment encompassing the yacht's staterooms, suites, bridge suites, and corridors. The heavy, almost dreary colors previously found in accommodations were gone when Wind Surf welcomed guests on Dec 10th in Philipsburg, St. Maarten. In their place was a new luxurious, classic, stylish yacht look and a fresher color palette for its accommodations and corridors when the ship set sail at the start of its Caribbean season.

Wind Surf's staterooms now feature leather headboards, stately arm chairs, linen wall coverings, new lighting features, elegant window coverings, plush wool carpeting, art work, and stylish bed cushions. In addition, suites were outfitted with new furniture that converts easily to lounging, dining, or accommodating a third occupant. Corridors were completely renovated from floor to ceiling with new wall coverings, carpeting, ceiling finishes, lighting, and art work.

"The new look enables us to provide an unparalleled guest experience and dramatizes Windstar's brand position of providing a unique, boutique yacht vacation that is 180 Degrees from Ordinary," said Hans Birkholz, President and CEO of Windstar Cruises.

Additional images of Wind Surf's accommodations and corridors, along with updates and behind-the-scenes coverage of Windstar's $18 million fleet refurbishment, can be viewed on the Windstar Cruises Blog.

The second phase of Wind Surf's refurbishment will take place in the fall of 2012 and focuses on the yacht's public spaces including the Lounge, The Restaurant, Degrees, Veranda, Compass Rose, WindSpa, Yacht Club and Pool Bar.

-- In the Lounge, wall-to-wall carpeting will be replaced with hard flooring accented with inset rugs, a contemporary mix of furniture, lighter color palette and improved sound insulation around the casino.
The Restaurant will be completed with a new seating layout, all new soft goods, and state-of-the art wine display and storage.
-- Degrees Restaurant will be transformed into a Mediterranean bistro, anchored by a central wine bar for counter dining as well as an inviting area to relax before and after dinner. Wine tastings and cooking demonstrations will also be conducted here.
-- The Veranda's outdoor seating will be significantly expanded, creating an ideal mid-ship area for enjoying breakfast and lunch alfresco. The interior will include a new buffet, new lighting, and epicurean style display counters.
-- The Compass Rose will be reconfigured to open up expansively to the adjoining outdoor deck, and its interior completely renovated to reflect the sophisticated elegance of a private club.
The Pool Bar will sport new awnings for additional shade, new deck furniture, and improved outdoor dining layout for Candles Grill.
Windstar's smaller sister-ships Wind Star and Wind Spirit will undergo complete refurbishments of staterooms, owner's suite, and corridors along with public spaces including The Restaurant, Veranda, Lounge, WindSpa, Library, Reception, and Pool Bar following their respective Costa Rica and Caribbean seasons.

Image Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Douglas Ward, Your Go-To Cruise Guide

For more than a quarter of a century (27 years to be exact), Douglas Ward has been sharing his knowledge about cruise travel and cruise ships with readers in Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships. The 2012 edition, now available in bookstores and on (the link provided above), continues the tradition of being known as "the cruise industry Bible" for its detailed description of 285 ocean-going cruise vessels.

Ward has spent over 5,700 days at sea, beginning when he worked for Cunard Line, and has taken over 1,000 cruises and completed 157 transatlantic crossings. However, his isn't the usual cruise experience. Cruise Diva has traveled on several sailings where Ward was busy at work and he seldom relaxes. His sharp eye catches nearly every detail, like accessibility for the disabled, the softness of towels and linens, the temperature of the buffet food, and even the proper height of toilets for comfort.

The Berlitz guidebook is divided into three sections. The first combines Ward's authoritative text with color photographs to illustrate the cruise experience and help readers make their desicions about what style of cruise, cruise line, and ship size is most appealing for them. The second section contains reviews of every major cruise ship, from the smallest yacht-like vessels to the world's largest, from ships for budget minded travelers to the most luxurious and expensive. Details include specifications on size, number of cabins, passengers, and crewmembers, as well as an overview of what features to expect on board. Section three shares practical information on subjest such as booking, costs and budgeting, on board etiquette, and travel insurace, plus a listing of where to find the cruise lines on the Internet.

If you want to take your cruise research with you in digital form on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, the Berlitz Cruise Ships 2012 app is available to download from the iTunes App Store.

With holiday gift-giving just around the corner, either the guidebook or app would put a smile on any avid cruise traveler's face.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Norwegian Cruise Line Reveals Winter 2013/14 Fleet Deployment

The really big news in the Norwegian Cruise Line announcement of its winter deployment for the 2013/2014 season is that the line is bringing Norwegian Star back to the West Coast to sail from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera. After a two-year hiatus, it's a limited engagement, but certainly one that will please tourism officials in the beleaguered Mexican ports.

In another show of confidence, Norwegian Jewel will homeport in New Orleans. When she debuts there on to offer 7-day Western Caribbean itineraries in 2013/2014, she'll be the first Jewel-class ship to call the Big Easy home and, in addition to offering increased capacity, her features include The Haven by Norwegian, a deluxe enclave of suites, pool, and other amenities in a private access area on the top of the ship, along with Nickelodeon programming.

Caribbean and Bahamas and Florida Deployment
Norwegian will have three ships sailing from Miami in the winter of 2013/14. Norwegian Epic returns for her fourth season, sailing a series of 25 seven-day Easter Caribbean cruises from Nov 2, 2013 to April 19, 2014 departing on Saturdays. Norwegian Pearl is set to embark on a series of 26 seven-day Western Caribbean cruises from Oct 20, 2013 through April 13, 2014. Offering a longer cruise option, Norwegian Sun will sail 10 and 11-day Southern Caribbean cruises with Sunday and Wednesday departures from Oct 9, 2013 through April 16, 2014.

In New Orleans, Norwegian Jewel's series of 26 seven-day Western Caribbean cruises sail from Oct 13, 2013 through April 13, 2014. New for 2013 are Norwegian Jewel's alternating Western Caribbean itineraries in Nov and Dec. The first itinerary features Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Bay Islands Honduras; and Belize City, Belize. The second itinerary includes Ocho Rios or Falmouth, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico

Norwegian Dawn will return to Tampa and sail a series of 22 seven-day Western Caribbean sailings from Nov 17, 2013 through April 20, 2014. The ship will also offer a 2-night cruise on Nov 15, 2013.

From New York, Norwegian Gem will continue her year-round sailings offering 7-day Bahamas and Florida cruises from April 27, 2013 through Sept 7, 2013. The port order of the Bahamas and Florida sailings has been changed to include more port time in Orlando and the Beaches (Port Canaveral). Beginning Oct 19, 2013, Norwegian Gem will sail 21 nine-day Eastern Caribbean cruises through April 23, 2014. The ship will also offer a series of six one-night cruises from New York offering a quick getaway on Nov 15 and Dec 13, 2013, along with Jan 10, Feb 7, March 7 and April 4, 2014.

Panama Canal and Mexican Riviera Deployment
For the first time since April 2011, Norwegian will seasonally base a ship in Los Angeles, sailing a series of both 14-day Panama Canal and 7-day Mexican Riviera voyages. Beginning on Oct 13, 2013, Norwegian Star is scheduled for eight Panama Canal cruises between Los Angeles and Miami. The nine 7-day Mexican Riviera sailings are interspersed in Dec 2013 and March and April 2014.

Canada and New England
For fall foliage viewing at its peak, Norwegian Dawn will embark on four Canada and New England itineraries between Boston and Quebec from Sept 13 through Oct 4, 2013. These sailings can also be combined for an ultimate 14-day Canada and New England experience. Norwegian Gem offers a series of five 7-day Canada and New England cruises from New York from Sept 9 through Oct 12, 2013.

Norwegian Epic will make two transatlantic voyages: an 11-day sailing on April 20, 2013 from Miami to Barcelona and a 13-day cruise Oct 20, 2013 from Barcelona to Miami. Norwegian Star will also make two transatlantic crossings: a 16-day from New Orleans to Copenhagen on April 21, 2013 and a 12-day voyage from Copenhagen to Miami on Oct 1, 2013.

There are also a number of repositioning cruises available between various departure ports that visit destinations in the Southern Caribbean and Panama Canal. Norwegian Dawn will set sail on a 12-day Caribbean Escape from Tampa to Boston on April 21, 2013. The ship will return to Tampa from Boston on Nov 1, 2013 on a 14-day Caribbean Escape. Norwegian Jewel, Pearl, and Sun will also offer a number of Panama Canal repositioning cruises between Miami and Los Angeles varying in length from 14 to 17 days.

More itinerary details can be found in Cruise Diva's Cruise News.

Norwegian Star Photo Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Crystal Serenity: A Welcome Sight To Capsized Rowers

While Tom Fancett from the U.K. and Tom Sauer from the Netherlands were competing with 16 other boats in the 2011 Atlantic Challenge Race to row across the Atlantic to Barbados, a large wave sunk their 26-foot-long rowboat 480 miles west of the Canary Islands. They were in luck, even though they spent 10 hours in a tiny life raft. The luxury cruise ship Crystal Serenity was only 120 nautical miles north of the rowers, on her own Transatlantic cruise en route to St. Maarten, when it received the rescue assist call from the Falmouth Coast Guard.

Crystal Serenity picked up the men at 6:00 am yesterday morning. Captain Okland sailed full speed to the stranded boaters, through worsening weather and very small crafts of other contest participants. With lookouts posted throughout the night, Crystal Serenity located the boaters' flare five hours later.

Captain Okland carefully maneuvered close to the raft, and the shipwrecked men were rescued directly onto Crystal Serenity. After a checkup in the ship's medical center, both 23-year old survivors pictured here appear to be in good health and are probably pretty thankful, not to mention pleased, to have been plucked into the lap of luxury following their harrowing experience. Crystal Serenity expects to arrive on schedule in St. Maarten on Sunday, giving the men a few days to rest and recoup on board. You could say they got the ultimate upgrade on their Atlantic crossing.

"Both individuals are in good spirits and, of course, very happy to be alive," says Crystal's President Gregg Michel. "We are so proud of the quick reaction and skilled seamanship of our crew that enabled them to save these brave men. While these young men hoped to cross the Atlantic in a most basic fashion, they are certainly experiencing the crossing in the most luxurious environment—an ironic, and heartwarming, turn of events."

Crystal Cruises' ships, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, have been recognized for decades as among the most luxurious and hospitable at sea. Crystal's passion for taking care of guests in an inviting environment of extraordinary space, quality and choices has earned the company more "World's Best" awards than any other cruise line, resort, or hotel in history.

Photos Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quick! Answer That Shell!

Should you be walking down the street and hear a ringing, it might not be your cell phone. It might be a conch shell as a phone—dubbed the "Shellphone" by Royal Caribbean—and its mission is to communicate the message of the cruise line's new brand campaign: "The Sea is Calling. Answer it Royally."

Royal Caribbean has left "The Nation of Why Not" behind (we always thought it was confusing) in favor of the new campaign that embodies the most inspirational element at the very core of the global cruise line's offering ... the sea. The campaign is aimed at reawakening you to the sights and sounds of the sea and conveys the relaxation, romance, and adventure that only can be had on the open waters aboard a cruise vacation. The playful imagery of the shellphone speaks to the universal connection people feel to the sea—where, at sea, one can feel detached from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and the responsibilities of taking care of everyone else; and that the Royal Caribbean brand conveys a sense of quality and best in class. Throughout, "The Sea is Calling. Answer it Royally." is more easily relatable to cruise vactioning in general and Royal Caribbean in particular.

The Shellphone will begin appearing on Dec 19 in a series of postings in major cities including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Boston, and Miami. Headlines incorporated in the teaser campaign, such as "Not 3G, Sea G" and "Our Rollover Plan: Tan Front, Then Back," center on the Shellphone. The official kick-off will be the airing of aspirational television commercials of everyday people interacting with the "Shellphone" (30-second and 60-second versions) beginning Jan 9, 2012. Here's a peek at the new brand campaign's concept video that reminds us of the call of the sea and invites us to answer it with Royal Caribbean.

While the voice of the sea is kind of Valley-girlish, we think you'll agree that the ad is very clever and effective. It made us smile as much as the people who answered the Shellphone's ring.

Royal Caribbean has been committed to answering the call of the sea for the past 40 years, sailing every major sea in the world. With its history of creativity and innovation—delivering many at-sea industry firsts, such as ice rinks, rock climbing walls, zip lines and Broadway shows—the cruise line continues to strive to deliver an unforgettable and rejuvenating experience that appeals to vacationers of all ages.

Video Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Intl.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Get Your Motor Runnin' at 'Grand Prix de Monaco' on a Silversea Adventure

Silversea Cruises proves once again that they deliver the WOW in luxury and style. Guests sailing on the nearly sold-out Silver Spirit voyage of May 24, 2012 are in for a special treat. Silversea is offering an optional 2-day "70th Grand Prix de Monaco" land package. Silver Spirit guests will have the opportunity to experience the thrill of a Formula One race at the Monaco Grand Prix during the ship's overnight visit on May 26.

On Saturday, participants will witness the time trials (practice runs for the drivers and their cars) from Tribune K reserved seats. From this section of the grandstand, they will have a birds-eye view of cars racing towards them at tremendous speed, slow down, and then accelerate, before making the next turn. In the evening, they will attend an invitation-only cocktail reception hosted by the ship's captain and a former Grand Prix driver, followed by a themed dinner of Mediterranean and Monegasque cuisine served on board in La Terrazza. On Sunday, they return to their same reserved seats for the exciting final race.

The tour includes escorted transfers and a gift package of spectator essentials featuring Bushnell binoculars, an official "70th Grand Prix de Monaco" program, souvenir drawstring bag, hat, seat cushion, and protective earplugs. Priced at $1,799 per person, the exclusive 2-day, mid-voyage land adventure is only offered on Silver Spirit's May 24 voyage, sailing from Barcelona to Rome. It requires advance booking through Silversea's reservations department by Jan 24, 2012. However, act fast. Since space is limited, the tour may sell out before the booking deadline.

"This is an amazing opportunity for our guests to experience the thrill and excitement of the world's most renowned Formula One race," said Darius Mehta, Silversea's vice president of air and land programs.

For more information, call toll-free (877) 215-9986, or visit

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Cruise Review: Crown Princess

When frequent cruisers and Cruise Diva contributors, Mary and Vincent Finelli returned to Princess Cruises' Crown Princess to sail the Southern Caribbean they concluded that "This was a great cruise, even better than the one we had last year on this ship."

This was the Finelli's sixteenth cruise on Princess ships and their second on the Crown Princess, thus they became Elite members of the Captain's Circle and learned that it really pays to be "Frequent Floaters."

Get the details about benefits offered to Princess Cruises' most elite frequent cruisers and learn what made the cruise so successful in the Finelli's complete Crown Princess review.

Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Just In Time For Christmas: The Chipmunks Go Cruisin’

Most of us probably remember the song “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” sung by Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, the infamous Chipmunks. I can’t recall the first time I heard it, but I’ll never forget how annoying it was when my younger brothers sang along.

And now they’re back (the Chipmunks, not my brothers) with another holiday treat. Mark your calendar for the Dec 16 release date of ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED! Produced by Fox 2000 Pictures, it was shot aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Dream.

Filming took place primarily on Carnival Dream’s open decks with scenes featuring actor Jason Lee (reprising his role as Dave Seville) and the antics of the three chipmunks shot within the ship’s outdoor recreation areas. The film preview below provides a peek at their “Fun Ship” adventures.

Tropical ports on the Carnival Dream’s western Caribbean itinerary, including Cozumel, Roatan, Belize, and Costa Maya, also provided a stunning backdrop for many of the movie’s shipboard scenes.

The movie looks cute and should be a hit with little cruisers. It’s also the ultimate product placement for Carnival... don’t be surprised if your kids beg for a cruise in their Christmas stockings after seeing the film. A hula hoop just won’t measure up.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Refit For A Queen

Golden Lion Pub
After a major refurbishment that will prepare her to welcome guests for a luxury cruise vacation on her upcoming Transatlantic Crossings and Europe and World Voyages, Cunard Line’s flagship Queen Mary 2 has proudly returned to her homeport of Southampton to show off her new look. Engaged by Cunard Line to develop the new designs was Tillberg Design Company, who were involved in Queen Mary 2’s original concept.

The refurbishment, which took place at the Blohm and Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany from Nov 24 to Dec 6, encompassed work in all staterooms and suites, the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, the Queens Grill and Princess Grill Restaurants, the Commodore Club, the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar, Sir Samuel’s Bar and Lounge, and the children’s Play Zone. The popular Golden Lion Pub also was completely redesigned.

Left to Right: Cunard President Peter Shanks,
artist Gail Graham and Captain Kevin Oprey
unveil the portrait of Her Majesty The Queen which
will be permanently displayed aboard Queen Mary 2.
A special new portrait of Her Majesty The Queen was unveiled in honor of her role in launching Queen Mary 2 in 2004. The oil painting, which will be displayed in the Grand Lobby, depicts The Queen during her final visit to Queen Elizabeth 2 in Southampton on June 2, 2008, and was painted by Gail Graham, an art director of The European magazine. This will be the second portrait of Her Majesty on board a Cunard ship. A specially-commissioned portrait of Her Majesty also hangs in the Grand Lobby of the Line’s newest ship, Queen Elizabeth, which she also launched in October 2010.

“Her Majesty has named four Cunard ships: Caronia (1947), Queen Elizabeth 2 (1967), Queen Mary 2 (2004) and Queen Elizabeth (2010),” said Shanks. “We had a magnificent Cunard-commissioned portrait of her by Sir Oswald Birley which originally hung on Caronia and then aboard QE2, and we have the celebrated official portrait of Her Majesty on board Queen Elizabeth which was painted last year by Isabel Peachey. So, it is with great pleasure that we extend this tradition to our flagship, Queen Mary 2.”

But, back to the refit details. The 14 days of work required a team of thousands of workers replacing the equivalent of almost ten football fields of carpet and manufacturing about 18 miles of fabric into over 6,000 individual items. Specific details of her refurbishments include:

Princess Grill Suite
-- Staterooms: All 1,310 staterooms and suites aboard Queen Mary 2 received a fresh look with new carpeting, curtains, bedspreads and some received new furniture.
-- Golden Lion Pub: The new design retains the British pub atmosphere with warm colors and plush seating in keeping with the same venues aboard sister ships Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. Upgraded plasma television screens have been added to show popular sporting events.
-- Canyon Ranch SpaClub: An extensive refurbishment of the first Canyon Ranch SpaClub at sea included reconditioning the teak surrounds of the hydrotherapy pool and adjacent wet areas and a general upgrade of all the facilities. In addition, new exercise machines in the fitness centre and new and improved features in the Beauty Salon have been installed.
-- Queens Grill and Princess Grill Restaurants: A new, lighter carpet design for both of Queen Mary 2’s exclusive Grill restaurants enhances the existing ambience.
-- Commodore Club: One of the most popular public rooms on board, this lounge overlooking the ship’s bow has been refreshed with a new carpet design and additions to the white leather furnishings of chairs, sofas, and bar stools.
Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar
-- Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar: This venue featuring the exquisite Veuve Clicquot brand of champagne has a new carpet and new soft furnishings.
-- Sir Samuel’s: This busy venue, which features specialty coffees during the day and an impressive menu of wines at night, received new carpeting and furniture coverings.
-- The Play Zone: These facilities for younger guests underwent a complete refurbishment, including new soft play areas, plus upgrades including the very latest in electronic gaming technology and entertainment.

Photos Courtesy of Cunard Line

Friday, December 9, 2011

Celebrity’s Suite Reflection

Earlier this year when Celebrity Cruises launched Celebrity Silhouette, their latest Solstice-class ship, a look at the deck plan for Celebrity Refection, the next ship in the class (which sets sail in the Fall of 2012), revealed significant changes. Most notably, Celebrity Reflection has an additional deck and higher passenger capacity. We pondered what the line had on the drawing board for the added space and the word is out that a host of entirely new features, including a significantly expanded array of luxury suites, will be highlights of the last ship in the Solstice-class. Celebrity focused on what could make their best even better and has announced plans to add additional staterooms and the line’s first AquaClass Suites, inspired by guest demand. Additionally, their plans include the introduction of Celebrity’s first “Signature Suites,” and the impressive new “Reflection Suite.”

Celebrity’s President and CEO Dan Hanrahan said, “On Celebrity Reflection, we’ve taken the opportunity to further elevate our onboard offerings, with entirely new ‘Signature Suites’ and our first ‘Reflection Suite,’ in addition to our first-ever AquaClass Suites, collectively creating the most vivid examples yet of the modern luxury that defines Celebrity”

Celebrity’s ‘Signature Suites’ Make Their Mark
Located in a private area of the ship’s 14th deck, Celebrity Reflection’s five Signature Suites each offer a 441-square-foot stateroom area and 118-square foot veranda, with floor-to-ceiling windows and veranda doors designed to maximize stunning sea views. Signature Suites can accommodate up to four guests, and will offer the 24/7 butler service that is a hallmark of every suite across the Celebrity fleet.

Reflecting on the New ‘Reflection Suite’
Nestled in the highly desirable corner location near Celebrity’s new Signature Suites, the Reflection Suite will be the brand’s first two-bedroom suite, complete with a distinctive sea view bathroom that extends out over the edge of the ship, a veranda tub with rain shower, and panoramic views from the wraparound veranda. The 1,636-square-foot Reflection Suite with 194-square-foot veranda, complete with 24/7 butler service, can accommodate up to six guests.

While Celebrity hasn’t embraced the ship-within-a-ship concept offered by other cruise lines to occupants of their top-tier accommodations, the entire area, including Signature Suites and the Reflection Suite, features cardkey access exclusively for guests booked in the elite group of suites, offering the possibility that a family or group of up to 26 guests traveling together can enjoy a private, six-suite modern upscale vacation experience.

High-Touch, High-Tech New Suite Bedding
To provide an entirely new sleep experience for guests booked in Celebrity’s Reflection Suite, Signature Suites, and Penthouse Suite, Celebrity has partnered with Reverie®, an innovator in luxury bedding, to deliver the Reverie® Dream Sleep System™. The patented sleep system features a premium Reverie mattress that allows guests, with the assistance of their butler, to customize the softness of their bed.

Additionally, Reverie's exclusive technology enables the iPod Touch (third and fourth generation), iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, iPad 2, iPad, and Reverie Remote app to act as a remote control for the Reverie Sleep System, allowing guests to easily operate massage features and adjust the elevation of the mattress. Pressing “zero gravity” on the remote will take guests to a position in which the feet and head are raised slightly to improve circulation and relieve lower back pressure, creating the ultimate sensation of “weightlessness,” similar to the sensation felt in a zero-gravity chamber.

Reverie has also integrated remote control technology into the Sleep System so that guests can turn appliances around the room on or off with the touch of the screen on an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad. Guests can access this technology through an iPad provided in each of the new suites. To complete the dreamy sleep experience, Celebrity’s suite guests also will enjoy the custom-embroidered, 100% Egyptian cotton linens featured in Celebrity’s new “eXhale” bedding program, which was introduced on the newly-Solsticized Celebrity Infinity on Dec 3rd.

Celebrity’s First AquaClass Suites: By Popular Demand
Driven by high demand for Celebrity’s AquaClass category of spa-inspired accommodations, and by way of an additional deck being added to Celebrity Reflection Celebrity will introduce the line’s first AquaClass Suites on Celebrity Reflection. Each will offer 300 square feet of interior space and 79-square-foot verandas, paired with all the amenities associated with Celebrity’s AquaClass accommodations, including exclusive and complimentary access to “Blu,” the specialty restaurant noted for its inviting, modern design and healthy cuisine. The new suites also will offer 24/7 butler service.

In addition to the 34 new AquaClass Suites, Celebrity Reflection will also offer an additional eight new Sky Suites, 19 additional plush ConciergeClass staterooms, and 11 additional inside staterooms, bringing the stateroom/suite total to 1,515.

“We gave a great deal of thought to how to ideally accommodate everything we’re adding,” added Hanrahan. “We’re widening the ship slightly, enabling us to introduce each of these exceptional new venues without compromising an inch of Celebrity’s premium space ratio and traffic flow.”

To accommodate the increased guest capacity, Celebrity Reflection will have 245 more loungers on its expanded pool deck, as well as 45 additional seats in the Celebrity Theater, 118 in Oceanview Café, 24 additional seats each in Blu and in Tuscan Grille, four more in Qsine, and 40 additional seats in the main dining room, where Celebrity offers Celebrity Select DiningSM, the flexible dining option allowing guests to choose when they wish to dine on a flexible, day-by-day basis.

Celebrity Reflection will enter service Oct 12, 2012, on a 9-night European cruise from Amsterdam to Barcelona. For more information, visit

Photo © Linda Coffman,

Thursday, December 8, 2011

“Wishes” Take Center Stage In A New Show Aboard Disney Fantasy in 2012

It’s Show Time!

Some of the most entertaining musical extravaganzas at sea are staged on Disney Cruise Line ships and every night is show time in the Walt Disney Theatre, a 1,340-seat entertainment palace that blends classic design with ultra-modern features. Spanning three decks with orchestra and balcony seating, the theater’ art deco styling recalls luxurious show places of a bygone era. At the same time, it is equipped with theatrical technology that makes it one of the most advanced venues on land or sea, bringing original productions and Disney stories to life in a whole new way.

“A Fantasy Come True”
Leading up to the musicals presented in the Disney Fantasy’s Walt Disney Theatre, that include “Wishes,” “Disney’s Aladdin–A Musical Spectacular,” and “Disney’s Believe,” is the welcome aboard show. Most ships have those, but aboard Disney Fantasy “A Fantasy Come True” is a high-energy, multimedia musical production. Like all Disney shows, there is a plot and this one follows one family’s journey as they discover the amazing experiences and surprises that await them aboard the Disney Fantasy. Ultimately, they learn the greatest experience the ship has to offer is the opportunity to make memories together as a family that will last a lifetime.

A new Disney ship means new main stage entertainment and “Wishes” is the spectacular production debuting on the Disney Fantasy. This signature show is a 45-minute musical journey about three best friends who discover the secret to being a grown-up is staying connected to their inner child.

The story opens as long-time best friends Kayla and Nicole along with Nicole’s twin brother Brandon visit Disneyland to celebrate their high school graduation. Like most recent graduates, each is unsure of what the future holds, so they make a wish to go on the “Ride of Our Lives”—the show’s original opening number.

Their wish evokes an enchanted world where a cavalcade of Disney characters—including Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, Lilo, Stitch, Mulan, Hercules, Pinocchio, Timon and Pumbaa—materialize to guide the teens through their magical journey. Full-scale production numbers and special effects (pictured above) bring excitement to the stage as the cast of “Wishes” performs original songs and classic Disney tunes with a contemporary twist. Notable moments include:

• In an over-the-top musical comedy production number, the song “I’ve Got a Dream” from “Tangled” sets the scene as the Snuggly Duckling Tavern comes alive, with Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, and a tavern full of hilarious thugs.
• In the “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride” from “Lilo and Stitch” scene, the stage fills with giant windsurfing sails, kites and surf boards. The infectious music inspires Kayla as she rides a surfboard, flying atop a giant blue wave silk.
• King Louie and the Monkeys perform a high-energy swing band version of “I Wanna Be Like You” from the Jungle Book. In the final act, the trio celebrates their extraordinary journey at a graduation party as the pop tune “Breakthrough” from the Disney Channel original movie “Lemonade Mouth” keeps the revelry going.
“An Unforgettable Journey”
To wrap up the entertainment on a Disney Fantasy cruise, “An Unforgettable Journey” is a good-bye hug in the form of a musical farewell that invites guests to reflect upon and savor the experience they have had onboard. The farewell show connects the guests’ experiences to the man who started it all—Walt Disney—through audio and video clips that steep the memorable moments and distinctly Disney touches in Walt’s words and wisdom.

“Wishes” Concept Art Image Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dining Packages Offer Specialty Restaurant Variety To Royal Caribbean Passengers

One of the highlights of every cruise is dining out, whether it’s in the main dining room, the casual buffet, or a specialty restaurant, for which a cover charge and reservations are required. While they were somewhat slow to embrace the concept of specialty restaurants, Royal Caribbean has not only expanded them beyond the usual steakhouse or Italian offerings on their newest ships—the line is also retrofitting some of their older ships with the ones that have proved most popular.

Now that they offer so many varied onboard dining options, Royal Caribbean has announced seven dining packages for guests to enjoy the specialty restaurants available aboard select ships. Guests can take advantage of the new specialty dining packages, which range from $50 to $120 per guest, and save at least 25 percent compared to the sum of the individual restaurants’ cover charges. If your plans already include several of the different culinary experiences, it can be a welcome savings to your cruise budget. Additionally, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas are offering exclusive reservation-only, themed parties for guests to join in a special onboard celebration. The dining packages and special parties aboard Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, and Splendour of the Seas are ideal options to celebrate an anniversary, birthday, or a milestone occasion and can be booked immediately through, as well as aboard the select ships.

Dining Packages
Aboard Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, guests have a choice of three dining packages. The Central Park Dining Package, at $65 per guest, includes Giovanni’s Table Italian Trattoria, 150 Central Park fine-dining restaurant, and Chops Grille steakhouse. The Chef’s Dining Package, at $120 per guest, includes the five-course, gourmet Chef’s Table and wine pairing, 150 Central Park, and Chops Grille. The Choice Dining Package includes Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table, and a choice of Izumi Asian Cuisine or Solarium Bistro aboard Oasis of the Seas ($50 per guest) or Samba Grill Brazilian steakhouse aboard Allure of the Seas ($55 per guest.)

Guests aboard Radiance of the Seas may choose the Radiance Dining Package, which includes Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table, Izumi, and Samba Grill for $70 per guest. The Radiance Chef’s Dining Package adds the Chef’s Table, offering an opportunity to experience every onboard specialty dining venue at $120 per guest. Splendour of the Seas also offers a Chef’s Dining Package for $105 per guest, which includes the Chef’s Table, Chops Grille and Izumi.

Party Time
Additionally, guests can opt to join in special reservation-only parties aboard the two ships that share the title of the world’s largest cruise ships. In the evenings, guests can enjoy ‘Rita’s Fiesta’ in Rita’s Cantina on Allure of the Seas’ Boardwalk, which feature the restaurant’s most popular dishes and up to three non-alcoholic beverages for a $10 cover charge per guest, or for $20, up to three alcoholic beverages are included. The ‘Surf’s Up Party’ in the Seafood Shack on Oasis of the Seas’ Boardwalk also features the restaurant’s most popular dishes and three non-alcoholic beverages for a cover charge of $15 per guest, or $25 per guest for up to three alcoholic beverages.

Allure of the Seas also offers guests a 1920s-themed ‘Prohibition Party’ on every fifth night in the Jazz on 4 lounge in Entertainment Place. Guests are invited to don their favorite Jazz Age outfit and step back in time. This event is only open to guests ages 21 and older and has a cover charge of $35 per guest, which includes alcoholic beverages.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Get Your Latitudes Rewards With Norwegian Cruise Line

We’ve always thought Norwegian Cruise Line had a pretty good past passenger program and Cruise Diva has been a member since it was initially called “Embark” and later changed to “Latitudes.” So we were pretty excited to hear that Norwegian has made enhancements to the guest loyalty program.

Renamed Latitudes Rewards, the new program better recognizes Norwegian’s valued loyal guests. Key program changes include new ways for members to earn points, additional onboard recognition and benefits, and access to online account tracking. Current Latitudes members will automatically be enrolled in the new Latitudes Rewards program and will remain in the same tier or will be upgraded to the appropriate higher tier, depending on the total number of cruise nights and stateroom categories sailed.

Latitudes Rewards members will now earn rewards points in four different ways, making the move up to the next tier faster than before. Instead of accruing points per cruise, members will earn one point per cruise night, providing an opportunity to gain more points the longer you sail. Additional points can be earned when booking a suite or any accommodation in The Haven by Norwegian, booking nine months or more in advance, or when taking advantage of the exclusive monthly “Latitudes Rewards Insider” offers. Latitudes Rewards tiers are based on the total amount of points earned: Bronze members are classified as guests with one to 19 points; Silver members are 20 to 47 points; Gold members are 48 to75 points; and Platinum members are those with 76 or more points.

In addition to current member benefits such as priority check-in, members-only cocktail parties, access to an on-board program representative, and a complimentary online magazine, new benefits have been added to the program. For cruises departing on or after Dec 5, 2011 the new loyalty program includes special onboard perks, based on the guest’s tier level, such as chocolate covered strawberries, ship pins, nightly treats, and discounts on packages in the photo gallery. To get the complete details, visit Latitudes Rewards Past Passenger Benefits on

If you are already a Latitudes Rewards member, you can now see your total rewards points and view your cruise history and tier status, including how many points are needed to advance to the next tier, at We strongly suggest that you take a look to make sure your account is all in order. Unfortunately, Cruise Diva’s wasn’t, but there is an easy way to send a message to Customer Support on the NCL site and we’re sure it will be straightened out.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, December 5, 2011

Deck The Halls & Let It SNOW!

Snow flurries have set the stage for a festive holiday season aboard Princess Cruises ships at sea for the past five years and the “frozen” fantasy continues again this year. No matter where they are sailing, passengers won’t miss out on a white Christmas as snow magically falls in the ships’ multi-story atriums (on all ships except for the lines’ two small vessels Pacific Princess and Ocean Princess, which do not have large atriums), transforming them into winter wonderlands. The innovative snow-making process creates falling flakes that vanish on contact, letting cruise passengers enjoy the excitement of snow without the need to bundle up. We know a lot of homeowners who wish the real stuff would vanish that quickly from their driveways!

The shipboard snowfall is one of many ways Princess ships will surround passengers with a merry atmosphere. With the halls decked out in holiday décor, including a Christmas tree on the mast, and strolling carolers filling the air with the sounds of the season, Princess ships will offer a festive cruise experience from bow to stern.

The Christmas spirit will be found in activities throughout the ships as well. Passengers will be challenged with a gingerbread house-building competition to see who can construct the most creative structure. Or they can get creativite with holiday card making, sit back and enjoy the cheer of a Christmas variety show, and even pick up tips at a turkey-carving demonstration to prepare themselves to do the honors at their next holiday feast.

Passengers can join in the sounds of the season by participating in a special holiday-themed Pop Choir, and the ships’ Piazzas will feature seasonal entertainment. Movies Under the Stars screens will show favorite holiday films, as well as a virtual Yule log that will turn the giant screens into the “world’s largest holiday fireplace.” Stateroom televisions will also add the traditional burning Yule log broadcast for a warm and cozy touch inside the room. And of course Santa won’t forget to visit each ship. He’ll find them at sea (Santa’s sleigh has the most up-to-date GPS) so each passengers will receive their own stocking on Christmas Eve. Clergy will lead religious services and passengers can participate in Catholic mass or a non-denominational church service.

Here’s what else is in store:

Holiday Feasts: Each Princess ship’s culinary team will prepare spectacular holiday displays and serve up several traditional feasts. Christmas dinner features slow-roasted Vermont turkey with chestnut stuffing and cranberry chutney. Special desserts include English Christmas pudding and gingerbread soufflé, while freshly prepared stollen and Christmas cookies also make an appearance. Passengers can also try a taste of traditional holiday dishes from around the world as the Horizon Court serves up some favorites based on the cuisines of crew members’ home countries.

Christmas For Children: Younger cruisers can anticipate the big day with a full schedule of holiday activities. The youth centers will host holiday parties for each age group, and kids can make decorations to display on the center’s Christmas tree, or can try their hand at cookie decorating. Youngsters can get creative with holiday-themed arts and crafts projects throughout the cruise, and they will have an opportunity to sing Christmas carols for passengers. Naturally, Santa Claus makes an appearance with his sack full of toys, and, in what has become a holiday tradition, a senior officer will read “The Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve. For parents who want to stay up later to celebrate the holidays, free late-night group kid-sitting sessions will be available on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

Hanukkah: From Dec 20-28 passengers can celebrate the Festival of Lights onboard with special Hanukkah activities. Ships will organize services, and passengers will find menorahs and fresh flower arrangements in blue, silver and white on display. Kosher meals are available upon request, and kid’s centers will host activities for young cruisers, including a reading of “Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah.”

Happy New Year: Passengers will count down to 2012 with festive New Year's Eve parties, complete with music, confetti, noise-makers, and a balloon drop to ring in the new year. Earlier in the evening, the dinner menu will feature special treats just for New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day, football fans can follow the action of the day’s traditional college bowl games, as the telecasts will be shown (as available by satellite) on the giant Movies Under the Stars screens or in shipboard lounges.

Holiday Shopping: Passengers who love to shop will not miss out on the holiday sales just because they’re at sea. Princess will provide a wide array of holiday shopping and gift-giving opportunities on board including tax- and duty-free fine jewelry, watches, fragrance, cosmetics and fine art. New this year on the days after Christmas and New Year’s, the Princess boutiques will open early in the morning to offer shoppers "door-busters" and other holiday discounts and specials.
The 16-ship Princess fleet will cover the globe this holiday season, with voyages to the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, Australia/New Zealand, South America, Hawaii, and the South Pacific.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Disney Holiday Dream

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in my neighborhood with wreaths and lights adorning front doors and windows and Disney Cruise Line is getting into the spirit of the season as well.

Santa's elves created more than 300 custom designed pieces for the first holiday season on the Disney Dream, making the ship festive and decked to the "raft-ers" with holiday cheer! Get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the creation of a the décor, including decorating the atrium lobby's 30-foot tall tree. Can you spot the "Hidden Mickeys"?

Video Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Baby On Board: Packing For Little Cruisers

Over the years Cruise Diva has packed literally hundreds of suitcases. Some would say that makes me an expert, but they would be wrong. When it comes to packing for myself and my husband, yes I know the ins and outs, but I was clueless about packing for babies until I got some help from actual mommies.

I always welcome input, especially to the Packing Lists found on Here's one from Arlene Morgan that I think is fun and unique:
"Hello. Thank you for your tips on packing for a cruise! I will be using them all! Particularly loved the idea of the over the door hanger for the bathroom. I wanted to add an item to your baby painters tape. I know it's odd, but I have found it to be a source of amusement for the kids as well as practical. It can be used for fun and also safety, ie: taping over electrical outlets, tv buttons , taping up the days artwork. It is much less damaging than stronger silver tape. Hope you can use my tip!"
Thanks, Arlene! I hope moms with little ones can use your suggestion on their next cruise.

Do you have a favorite packing idea? Have I left something out that you feel is absolutely essential? Leave a comment here or write to me and let me know. Moms, please add your ideas and suggestions to the Cruise Packing List for Babies as well. You are the experts in that area!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Disney Fantasy’s Enchanted Art

One of the features we found most enchanting about Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream was the Enchanted Art we encountered throughout the ship. Whenever we paused to admire an individual art piece, it magically came alive. On the Disney Dream’s sister-ship, Disney Fantasy, which is set to launch in March 2012, more than 20 pieces of Enchanted Art—inspired by classic Disney characters and animations—will present Disney storytelling in a completely new way. Some examples of Enchanted Art new to Disney Fantasy are…

• Dual circus art posters featuring Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse flying from one frame into the other—a nod to the characters found on Disney Fantasy’s stern.
• Walt Disney animating three new clips that spring from his sketch pad featuring the “Fab Five” (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto).
•Scenes from Disney’s classic animated film “Fantasia” depicting dancing fairies set to “Nutcracker Suite” and a frolicking unicorn and satyr set to “The Pastoral Symphony.”
• Fanciful animations of “Alice in Wonderland” inspired by Disney Legend Mary Blair’s artwork.
• “Pinkie Daisy” inspired by Thomas Lawrence’s painting “Sarah Barrett Moulton: Pinkie.” We have a delightful peek at her below.

While Enchanted Art may not look different from other hanging art pieces around the ship, it is actually a framed LCD screen that utilizes technology to create special effects. Enchanted Art “recognizes” your presence and activates several seconds of animation for your enjoyment. You may even see new and different animation when you visit your favorite Enchanted Art piece another time.

Video Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Celebrities Take To The Sea

Cruise Diva has had the good fortune to meet a few celebrities on cruises—Suzanne Somers and Gavin McLeod come to mind because they both graciously and patiently posed for photos with their fellow passengers. However, you’re not always assured to see real big-time celebrities on a cruise, unless of course you are sailing on Disney Fantasy. Upon its launch in March 2012, the Muppets make their debut on Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship in an all-new adventure game, “The Case of the Stolen Show”

While playing, guests take an interactive adventure quest around the ship, uncovering clues via more than a dozen pieces of Enchanted Art and physical “evidence.” The adventure begins with Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Animal and a cast of more than 20 Muppets preparing to stage a big performance. But there’s a problem with their props. Oops. Kermit’s banjo is missing, Fozzie’s squirting flower has vanished, Gonzo’s crash helmet has gone astray, Animal’s drum sticks have disappeared, and the Swedish Chef can’t find his cleaver! All of the props for the big show have been stolen by a cunning thief (or more likely, another Muppet).

As the game progresses, Pepe the King Prawn offers to take on detective duties to help Kermit and the rest of the Muppet gang find their missing props. Kermit, not confident about Pepe’s detective skills, turns to the guests for help. Guided by a map and holding a unique game card in front of select pieces of Enchanted Art, guests unveil clues and find missing props. Elsewhere on the ship, guests may check a Muppets message board and find a Muppet-sized stateroom door to discover clues. Their mission is to identify the culprit and solve the crime before it’s time to raise the curtain and light the lights on the Muppets’ big show.

“The Case of the Stolen Show” is a self-paced adventure game designed for guests ages nine and older. There are several possible endings and multiple randomized events—so each time a guest plays, they have a different gaming experience.

Sounds like a lot of fun and I hope Miss Piggy will pose for a photo with me to add to my celebrity snapshot collection. I know she’s as gracious as Ms. Somers and, hopefully, as patient as the Captain of the Love Boat.

Image Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Norwegian Cruise Line Has “The Haven” Guests Covered From Shore to Ship

Some of the sweetest suite complexes at sea can be found on Norwegian Cruise Line ships and the line has just launched a new perk for their guests who book them. A shoreside concierge desk exclusively for guests with reservations in the line’s most luxurious accommodations, The Haven by Norwegian provides pre-cruise assistance enabling guests and their travel agents to pre-arrange a variety of services and amenities. The concierge desk provides support in booking reservations for all suite accommodations; arranging dining and entertainment; booking shore excursions; making spa and salon appointments; as well as taking special requests such as pillow preference and any other arrangements. The concierge desk will send an email confirmation to the travel agent or guest prior to their sailing reconfirming all of the requests made.

The Haven is currently featured on board Norwegian’s Jewel class ships (Norwegian Gem, Pearl, Jade, Jewel); and the line’s newest and most innovative ship, Norwegian Epic. Norwegian’s two new ships, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, will also feature The Haven by Norwegian when they launch in April 2013 and April 2014.

Suite guests are privy to an array of complimentary amenities, including 24-hour private butler service; priority embarkation and disembarkation; distinctive platinum keycard; priority boarding of tenders to shore; in-suite espresso/cappuccino machines; gourmet treats delivered each evening; Bliss Collection by Norwegian™ pillow-top mattress; fine linens, feather duvet and pillow menu; along with plush bathrobes, slippers, oversized towels; and much more.

Norwegian’s Jewel class ships include up to 18 suites as part of The Haven, including the largest suites at sea—the 5,000 square foot, three-bedroom Garden Villas. All of these suites surround The Haven Courtyard that includes a pool, sundeck, hot tub, fitness room and more. The Haven on Norwegian Epic is the largest suite complex at sea, comprising 60 suites on two private decks at the top of the ship. An additional 15 suites located throughout the ship also have access to The Haven which includes a private pool, two whirlpools, gym, saunas, sundeck, along with a private restaurant with indoor/outdoor dining, exclusive bar and concierge lounge.

The concierge desk is available Monday through Friday from 9 am to 9 pm ET and can be reached by calling 855.NCL.HAVEN (625.4283). For more information on The Haven by Norwegian, Cruise Diva shares details at Norwegian Cruise Line Introduces “The Haven.”

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Protesters Drive American Safari Explorer From Molokai

One of America's biggest tourist attractions just happens to be the island paradise of Hawaii. As a frequent vacationer there, Cruise Diva has done the island-hopping thing through the state by air and it's a real pain in the neck. Unless we planned to stay put on one island, we'd settle in and in a couple days have to pack up for a flight to the next island destination...and so on and so on. That's why a cruise is a great way to see the islands. Unfortunately, there are few cruise options, but the best are those that cruise within the islands. However, to offer that itinerary, a cruise line's ships must be U.S.-flagged and there aren't many of those these days. So we cheered when adventure cruise tour operator American Safari Cruises announced it would launch its inaugural season in Hawaii and on Oct 26, 2011 the 36-guest Safari Explorer began its first inter-island voyage. The upscale yacht is scheduled to sail 24 voyages between Maui/Lana’i and the Big Island through May 2012.

To kick the season off, a Hawaiian blessing for the yacht and crew took place on Oct 25 on Molokai. Hawaiian cultural advisers from Maui, Lanai, Molokai and the Big Island were invited to attend the blessing to celebrate the beginning of operations in Hawaii. Traditional Hawaiian protocols were also arranged at each island to ask permission for entry at that time.

Subsequently, something apparently went wrong on Molokai. Last Sunday, after two previous port calls, the small ship was met in the island's Kaunakakai Harbor by 14 protesters on boats and surf boards. The protesters claimed they blocked Safari Explorer's entry because the cruise line "never asked the community for their support."

The ship's two prior port visits were also greeted on land by protesters, which the protest organizers felt were ineffective. Taking a cue from the successful blockade of the Superferry on Kauai in August 2007, Molokai protesters took to the water and American Safari departed after a two-hour stand-off.

As reported by local news station KITV (there is a video of the blockade at that link), "Dan Blanchard, the owner of American Safari Cruises which operates the cruises around Maui, the Big Island, and Lanai, says the boat will simply continue on without the stops and services from Molokai, leaving Molokai's small businesses at a loss." Blanchard told KITV, "It's those vendors that really get hurt. Unfortunately that's where it lies, so it isn't as great to the small businesses of Molokai."

Blanchard also told reporters that American Safari had gone through the proper channels to coordinate arrivals, met with community members, and was even in attendance at one of the prior protests. He said, "They (the protesters) feel that they weren't brought into the loop. We had one community meeting already in addition to all the one-on-one meetings we had over the years. It appears to us that the large majority of the island is in favor of this." Blanchard hopes to discuss the protesters' concerns at a meeting with them tomorrow evening and it's hoped that cooler heads prevail.

Cruise Diva says, c'mon, folks. Be reasonable. It's a really small cruise ship with only three dozen passengers on board. American Safari advertises "flexible yacht itineraries" in order to alter the schedule when wildlife spottings are reported in the areas they sail, but this is ridiculous.

Image courtesy of American Safari Cruises

Monday, November 28, 2011

How Holland America's Oosterdam Expertly Handles Medical Emergencies

Holland America Line's Oosterdam Circle Hawaii cruise proved to be exciting in more ways than one.

Our contributor Karen Segboer relates the circumstances behind Oosterdam altering course for not one, but three medical evacuations in a single day. The route from Hawaii to disembark in San Diego presented an interesting situation for passengers. Karen shares the details and images of the evacuations.

Oosterdam image ©