Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Silver Spirit: Reception at the Guggenheim

Each segment of Silver Spirit’s 119-day World Cruise included a complimentary Silversea Experience—cultural events to which each guest is invited. On our segment, from Barcelona to Southampton, the Silversea Experience was an evening at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa, Spain.

Normally closed on Monday, Silversea arranged for the museum to open for their guests for an evening showing and reception. While contemporary art isn’t my thing (my taste runs more to Impressionists) and I really didn’t “get” the exhibits, the building itself is stunning. Located on the site of what was formerly a shipyard, Frank O. Gehry’s structure is the highlight of a riverfront center of culture and community. Shaped to resemble a silvery flower, or the prow of a ship—depending on how you look at it—the structure, covered with over 35,000 titanium tiles and glass, glows in the evening light.

After a tour through some of the displays inside, we enjoyed after-dinner drinks and sweet canapés in the atrium until it was time to return to Silver Spirit. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a “Welcome Home” message and handed flutes of champagne. Truly, it was a Silversea Experience to remember.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Monday, May 30, 2011

Princess Welcomes Guide Dogs for the Blind Group

A group of 25 new graduates from Guide Dogs for the Blind and their owners were recently hosted for the day aboard Sea Princess in San Francisco. While on board they learned how Princess Cruises can accommodate visually impaired travelers and their canine companions.

The group enjoyed a tour of the ship and lunch in the dining room, while experiencing first-hand how Princess can provide for their needs and those of their dogs. The event was hosted in association with Dimensions in Travel, a travel agency that regularly organizes travel for Guide Dogs for the Blind clients, to give new guide dog users a feel for what to expect if they join one of the agency’s group cruises, or travel independently. Since 2004, Princess has hosted 11 Guide Dogs for the Blind groups on cruises to destinations such as Mexico and Alaska.

“Working with these clients has changed the way we travel,” said Diana Saint James, owner of Dimensions in Travel. “It’s not all about what we see when we travel anymore, it’s all of our senses. That’s what our relationship with our blind travelers has taught us. It’s a different way to see the world.”

Aboard Sea Princess the special guests were able to test out many of the features offered for visually impaired travelers and their dogs. For the dogs, the ships provide canine life jackets, bowls of water in the dining room, and relieving boxes with favored cedar chips. Passengers also have specially translated menus and can enjoy reserved seating in the Princess Theater with room for their dogs. During a cruise, passengers and crew are also invited to meet the dogs during a designated play time.

“These dogs are canine heroes,” said Brian Rademacher, Princess Cruises district sales manager. “It’s truly a labor of love for us to work with this wonderful organization.”

Following is a detailed video of the guide dog familiarization day.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available by visiting the company's website at Princess.com.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Xanterra Parks & Resorts Completes the Purchase of Windstar Cruises

As expected, Xanterra Parks and Resorts completed the purchase of Windstar Cruises on Wednesday, May 25, after approval was granted by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware on May 19, 2011 for the sale of the assets of Ambassadors International, Inc. Windstar was Ambassadors’ principal operating unit. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Windstar Cruises will sail all published 2011 and 2012 voyages, maintain its customer programs and policies, and honor Windstar fares and reservations, including charter contracts.

“The first order of business for Windstar Cruises is that it is full sail ahead,” said Andrew N. Todd, President and CEO of Xanterra Parks and Resorts. “Going forward, we intend to maintain Windstar’s business and operations and invest in Windstar’s growth for the long term. We are very excited to have Windstar Cruises become part of Xanterra’s 135-year legacy in hospitality.”

Windstar Cruises operates a three-ship fleet of luxury yachts that cruise to nearly 50 nations, calling at 100 ports throughout Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. The company sails two ships that carry just 148 guests each (Wind Spirit and Wind Star) and a third ship that carries 312 guests (Wind Surf, pictured above). For more information, visit Windstar Cruises online at WindstarCruises.com.

Hans Birkholz, CEO of Windstar announced, “Now that the sale of Windstar Cruises has closed successfully, Windstar will be financially stronger and well-positioned for long-term profitability and success under new ownership. Windstar’s 2012 collection of luxury voyages was just announced, and we will continue to provide our guests exceptional luxury travel experiences and the highest level of service. We will also continue to strive to exceed our guests’ expectations aboard our luxury yachts for many years to come.”

So, you may be wondering just who and what is Xanterra and what qualifies them to run a cruise line? The company traces its history in the hospitality industry back to 1876 with the Fred Harvey Company, known throughout the West for its pioneering efforts to develop and operate first-class hotels and restaurants along the route of the Santa Fe Railroad, including the world-famous El Tovar on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Harvey devised a system of alerting his restaurant kitchen staff of the imminent arrival of train passengers via the telegraph wire, thus allowing his dining room and hotel staffs to anticipate the needs of countless travelers prior to their arrival. His innovations and expertise led to first-class and luxury travel service standards that were ahead of their time. In 1968, the Fred Harvey Company was purchased by Xanterra Parks and Resorts, then called Amfac Parks and Resorts.

Sounds to us like they know what they are doing.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Carnival Glory to Operate Series of Voyages from Boston, New York City & Norfolk

Northeasterners have some new cruise opportunities from close-to-home embarkation ports to look forward to as Carnival Cruise Lines plans to operate an extended schedule of voyages from Boston. With a series of round-trip 4- and 5-day eastern Canada cruises aboard the 2,974-passenger Carnival Glory beginning in June 2012, Carnival will be the only cruise line offering short cruises from Boston to the Canadian Maritimes. On the all-new program, Carnival Glory will sail from the recently refurbished Black Falcon Cruise Terminal on 4-day “long weekend” cruises departing Thursdays to Saint John, New Brunswick, and 5-day voyages departing Mondays and Saturdays to Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Saint John. The program will operate June 10 to July 26, 2012. A special 7-day cruise will be offered June 3-10, 2012, with visits to Portland, Maine; Saint John, Halifax; and Sydney, Nova Scotia.

“We are thrilled to offer these 4- and 5-day cruises from Boston which is not only a world-class destination but also provides a convenient and affordable drive-to homeport for millions of Northeastern U.S. residents,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO. “Carnival Glory is a fantastic ‘Fun Ship’ with so much to offer and on these cruises guests can visit charming and historic cities in eastern Canadian Maritimes while enjoying all the fun and excitement that Carnival is known for.”

Saint John is a nature lover’s paradise, highlighted by such landmarks as Reversing Falls, where the highest tides in the world intersect with the St. John River and force it to flow backwards twice daily, and the Bay of Fundy, with its gorgeous backdrop of rugged rock formations. Also popular is Saint John’s Historic District, lined with stately Victorian homes, elegant churches and quaint boutiques and eateries.

Founded in 1749 and known as the “Gateway to the Canadian Atlantic,” Halifax is a charming yet cosmopolitan city with outstanding restaurants, shops, and museums and unique cultural experiences. Here, guests can visit Peggy’s Cove, a fishing village famous for its granite coastline, tour the city’s many lighthouses, or observe the changing of the guard at The Citadel, a centuries-old fortress. Other on-shore activities such as kayaking and hiking are also available.

Passengers can also enjoy the many on-board facilities and features of the Carnival Glory, including a 270-square-foot Seaside Theatre poolside LED screen displaying movies, concerts and other programming; a 13,300-square foot spa; four swimming pools (one with the line’s signature Twister Waterslide); spacious and modern play areas for children, ’tweens and teens; and Serenity, an exclusive adults-only retreat. A wide range of dining venues, from twin full-service dining rooms and a two-level casual poolside eatery featuring a 24-hour pizzeria to a sushi bar and a classic American steakhouse are available as well.

Following up on its cruises from Boston, Carnival Glory will reposition to New York for a series of 4-day voyages to Saint John and 5-day voyages to Saint John and Halifax from Aug 1 through Sept 3, 2012. Carnival Glory will also offer five week-long fall foliage cruises round-trip from New York to Halifax, Saint John, Boston, and Portland, Maine. Departure dates include Sept 8, 15, 22, and 29 and Oct 6, 2012.

The ship will also operate a series of cruises round-trip from Norfolk, Va., in the spring and fall. Spring 6-day Bahamas departures will be available on May 15, 21 and 27. In the fall, there will be a 6-day Bahamas cruise on Oct 14 and 22; a 5-day Bahamas cruise on Oct 28; and a special 2-day cruise on Oct 20, 2012.

Reservations are currently being accepted for the Carnival Glory’s voyages from Boston, New York, and Norfolk. For additional information, visit carnival.com.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Holland America Line's ms Maasdam Completes Upgrades

Holland America Line's ms Maasdam is better than ever after recently completing a stem-to-stern, multimillion-dollar Signature of Excellence dry dock at Freeport, Bahamas.

Canaletto, a casual Italian restaurant serving dishes such as putanesca and penne alla vodka, comes to life for dinner when a section of the Lido Restaurant is transformed with glass partitions and an Italian ambiance. Although there is no charge to dine in Canaletto, reservations are suggested.

Maasdam's piano bar and casino bar were reconfigured into Mix, a multi-themed area with three separate bars: Martinis, Champagne and Spirits & Ales, each serving its namesake libations. The casino was redesigned and the main show lounge was transformed into the Showroom at Sea with nightclub ambiance.

The upscale Merabella luxury jewelry shop was added to the completely renovated mid-ship shopping area with its signature jewelry and watch boutiques. Other public areas around the ship also were refurbished and received new carpeting.

To complete the enhancements, Maasdam's staterooms received new carpeting, soft goods, and completely renovated bathrooms with new vanities and cabinetry. Sixteen staterooms near the Greenhouse Spa on Verandah Deck were converted to "spa staterooms" featuring a variety of spa-style amenities such as organic cotton bathrobes and slippers, a yoga mat, a soothing water feature, special room-service menus and treatments, and more.

In addition to Maasdam, the extensive public area Signature of Excellence enhancements can also be found on Veendam, ms Statendam, ms Rotterdam, and ms Ryndam. The industry-leading Signature of Excellence initiative is an ongoing and comprehensive program that touches every aspect of the Holland America Line experience and the investment now exceeds $566 million. Signature of Excellence features and amenities offer more luxurious accommodations, enhanced dining experiences, more enriching activities, and exceptional levels of service. For more information, visit HollandAmerica.com.

Norwegian Cruise Line Proves “The Price Is Right”

Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest and most innovative ship, Norwegian Epic, will be a featured prize on the longest-running game show in television history, “The Price Is Right,” hosted by Drew Carey. As part of Travel + Leisure’s Travel Week, the episode will air today (Friday, May 27, 2011 at 11:00 AM-12:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television network.

Two contestants will compete for the once-in-a-lifetime cruise vacation as one of the grand prizes during the show’s closing segment the “Showcase Showdown.” The lucky winner and three guests will receive a roundtrip flight from Los Angeles, California and embark on a 13-day Transatlantic sailing on Oct 23, 2011 from Barcelona, Spain to Miami. Ports of call on the Atlantic crossing include Ponta Delgada, Azores and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Norwegian Epic offers the ultimate in Freestyle Cruising with more than 20 dining options; the largest suite complex at sea; award-winning staterooms for solo travelers; world-class entertainment featuring Blue Man Group, Legends in Concert, Nickelodeon and Cirque Dreams® and Dinner; along with the first ice bar at sea; and much more.

No word on what category of accommodations the winner will receive, but all outside staterooms on Norwegian Epic feature a balcony so we are certain they will be pleased.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas Begins Her Drydock

Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas recently entered the Victoria Shipyards in Victoria, British Colombia, Canada, to begin an intense 22-day dry dock before she begins her Alaska cruise season.

The ship will receive a variety of enhancements, including specialty restaurants—Samba Grill, Giovanni’s Table and Izumi—as well as the casual Park Café and Boardwalk Dog House. In addition, the Sports Bar will be transformed into a Pub and 15 new staterooms will be added.

For a first hand look at what is happening on board, we are happy to share the following video.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Crystal Serenity Super-Redesign Complete After Line's Longest-Ever Dry Dock

One Hamburg shipyard, two weeks, several talented designers, 500+ international staffers, 606 crew, and $25 million. Those were the ingredients for the ultra-luxurious redesign of Crystal Cruises' largest ship, Crystal Serenity. Just completed after a round-the-clock remodel at Germany's Blohm + Voss shipyard, the dry dock was the company's longest ever. All 535 staterooms, retail centers, outdoor pool deck, corridors and other spaces received a dazzling facelift, in addition to general sprucing of the entire outside and inside of the vessel.

"In the past year and a half, we have invested well over $50 million in our ships," says Crystal Cruises' President Gregg Michel. "The striking new spaces serve as a stunning backdrop to the incomparable service and choices that always characterize a Crystal vacation."

Interior designer, Keith Rushbrook, principal at the Toronto-based II BY IV Design Associates summarizes the vision, "We wanted modern classic elegance. We wanted Fifth Avenue, creme de la creme New York-inspired living and retail spaces that people love and look forward to spending time in."

Sophisticated Stateroom Remodel
All of Crystal Serenity's luxury accommodations received new appointments. While Crystal Penthouses were refreshed with new soft goods, Deluxe Staterooms, Penthouses, and Penthouse Suites (pictured here) were completely transformed with new, floor-to-ceiling tufted headboards, bedside cabinets, sofas, curtains, pillows and custom carpets in contemporary lines and classic stone, silk, velvet, leather and crisp linen textures. The new sofas also offer more third berths, a nice feature for Crystal's growing family clientele. Blu-ray players and flat-screen televisions were added, and new modern lighting features, plus an electronic "do not disturb" and doorbell system throughout the ship, allow guests greater personalization of their chic accommodations.

Remarkable Retail Space Re-Do
The Apropos boutique was redesigned into three dramatic shopping spaces, against a backdrop of rich Zebrano wood and herringbone rosewood, arresting black-plum-magenta carpeting and tufted leather seating. Massive sculptural aluminum screens graphically pop against gray smoked glass walls. A new area is dedicated to Christian Dior cosmetics. The Dior shop is exclusive to Crystal and is the largest of its kind that isn't land-based. Not be outshone, the Facets fine jewelry store also received a new, private sales area and a new, overall look mirroring a jewelry box, with mother-of-pearl feature wall and beveled chrome vitrines.

Perfectly Posh Pool Deck
Guests can now lounge poolside on bright lime green, azure and mango sofas , lounge chairs, and circular pod beds, a la those recently added to Crystal Symphony's pool area.

Mood Lighting and Retouched Passageways
Lighting played a major role in the Crystal Serenity redesign. Dramatic new mood lighting enhances the romance of spaces, showcases the drama of the headboards, and warms the ship corridors, which also received new, custom carpeting on the floors and engaging art work on newly-textured walls. Thoughtful attention was given to conservation as well as style.

"We were looking to balance the luxurious interiors of Crystal Serenity with saving energy," says Nick Hogget of DPA Lighting Consultants. "Like the Crystal product, even the lighting provides the guest with choices. We wanted to make sure the guest has a wonderful experience in all the different spaces."

Still to come...
Like all remodeling projects, not all materials arrived on schedule. By end of June, the spacious Penthouse and Penthouse Suite verandahs will sport new furnishings and the stateroom design will be augmented with decorative coverlets. Silk Road will also unveil new carpets and fabrics.

Giving to Those in Need
Furnishings, electronics, and accessories removed from Crystal Serenity were donated to needy communities around the world. Donations began during the ship's final, pre-dry dock voyage up the western coast of Africa when bedspreads were donated to Senegal during the ship's call there. An extensive donation plan was instituted in Hamburg, with hundreds of sofas and televisions loaded onto eight 40-foot containers, and shipped to the Salvation Army in New Jersey.

"We not only delivered a show-stopping new look for our guests' home-away-from-home, we delivered much-needed goods to those less fortunate," says Crystal Cruises' President, Gregg Michel.

Crystal Serenity emerged from dry dock to begin a series of Baltic, British Isles, and North Cape cruises. Come August, the ship sails to the Mediterranean for a variety of late summer and fall cruises.

Crystal Cruises' ethos of warm and friendly attentiveness, proffered by top-trained service staff from around the world, has earned the line a reputation for elevating hospitality to an art form with no guest request left untended. For more information, visit CrystalCruises.com.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Icelandic Volcanic Activity

Princess Cruises Statement

Iceland experienced a volcanic eruption over the weekend from the Grimsvotn volcano, and Princess Cruises is currently monitoring the impact of the resulting volcanic ash cloud. At this time there are no changes to their ships' itineraries in Europe. This is a fluid situation and if any itinerary changes become necessary they will be in contact with their passengers.

Because some flights have been affected by airport closures, Princess highly recommends passengers monitor their airlines website for the latest information on flight operations.

Norwegian Dawn Receives Major Enhancements

Norwegian Dawn is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar refurbishment while the ship is in dry dock in Freeport, Bahamas. The 2,224-passenger ship is receiving extensive renovations including the addition of 28 suites; Moderno Churrascaria, the popular Brazilian steakhouse restaurant introduced on Norwegian Epic; the relocation of the Spinnaker Lounge; and flat screen televisions in all guest and crew staterooms, along with many other updates. The ship will re-enter service on May 27, 2011 in Boston, her new seasonal homeport.

Norwegian Dawn’s refurbishment is very similar to those enhancements made to Norwegian Star last year,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “We have found Norwegian Star’s updates very well received and we expect our guests will appreciate the changes made to Norwegian Dawn as well.”

Norwegian Dawn’s refurbishment includes:

• 58 new suites and staterooms (available beginning on the Sept 16, 2011 sailing) including:
    o Four Deluxe Owner’s Suites ranging from 667-732 square feet;
    o 14 Family Suites from 408-452 square feet, most sleeping six;
    o 10 Family Suites with balcony from 409-495 square feet, most sleeping six;
    o 18 Inside staterooms.
• Moderno Churrascaria specialty restaurant (in the space previously occupied by Salsa, the Tex Mex restaurant) which features a large salad bar and tableside passadors serving a variety of skewered meats;
• Upgraded flat screen televisions in all guest and crew staterooms broadcast on a digital signal;
• Relocation and total renovation of the Gift Shop, Art Gallery, Photo Gallery, Conference Center, Spinnaker Lounge and Blue Lagoon Restaurant;
• Enhancements to the Dawn Club Casino including new layout, fixed furniture and carpet;
• Complete renovation of the Kid’s Crew and Teen Club to offer a more versatile layout and cater to the range of children’s ages and interests. Updates include new game systems, activities and sound and light. There will also be a room dedicated for the Under 2 Zoo where parents can accompany their children under two and enjoy age appropriate activities;
• Aesthetic improvements in the Fitness area and Garden Café;
• Atrium Lobby refresh including new furniture in Java Café and plant replacement;
• Complete refurbishment of crew dining and recreation areas.

Technical modifications include the replacement of one engine, as well as preventative maintenance, removal and replacing of both bearings on the port and starboard azipods; application of a new hull coating; and an upgrade to the hot temperature regulation which will reduce energy consumption.

Beginning on May 27, 2011, Norwegian Dawn will sail a series of 7-day Bermuda itineraries departing from Boston every Friday with three days in Bermuda through Oct 21, 2011, followed by a 2-night cruise on Oct 28, 2011. The ship will reposition to Miami and begin sailing 10 and 11-day Southern Caribbean itineraries through April 8, 2012.

Norwegian Dawn is the second of three Freestyle Cruising ships scheduled for improvements this year. Norwegian Sun completed her dry dock renovations in March and Norwegian Spirit will enter dry dock on Sept 26, 2011. For more information, visit NCL.com or contact Norwegian Cruise Line at 866-234-7350.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Review: Cruises on Crystal Still Sparkle

Robert W. Bone's affinity for Crystal Cruises began over two decades ago and he still feels that there's a special sparkle about a Crystal cruise, almost making it seem like a multifaceted jewel sailing the high seas.

Sail along on Crystal Symphony and see why.

Author of several guidebooks, Robert W. Bone now lives near San Francisco.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cruise News From Cruise News Daily

While Cruise Diva was on cruises in Europe the past three weeks we kept up with the cruise industry news via Cruise News Daily's You Tube channel. This week they have news about an electrical failure on MSC Opera, the sale of Windstar Cruises, Holland America's Rotterdam, NOAA's hurricane prediction, MSC Musica, P-and-O Cruises, and Disney Cruise Line's Disney Fantasy.

Additional headlines and links mentioned in the video are on the Cruise News Daily website.

Take a Look at Carnival Breeze’s Colorful New Staterooms

One of the first things we do when embarking on a new ship is stow our carry ons and grab a camera for a few shots of our stateroom. That’s what we did when we boarded Carnival Magic a couple weeks ago and we shared a photo here on the blog at Carnival Magic: Home Away From Home. Interestingly, the immediate feedback from a reader asked the question, "Is that your actual cabin?" Yes, it was, although the decor on Carnival Magic was essentially similar to her sister-ship Carnival Dream and some earlier fleetmates.

That’s a question that won’t be asked when Carnival’s newest “Fun Ship,” Carnival Breeze, debuts in June 2012. Carnival Breeze is introducing Caribbean-inspired interiors and staterooms that take their cue from the region’s cool island breezes and warm tropical sunsets. As illustrated in these images, Carnival Breeze’s staterooms offer a distinctive island-inspired design theme offering a dramatic combination of bright colors and soothing pastel hues, with iconic images of palm trees and other tropical elements adorning hallway corridors. Contemporary furnishings and light fixtures enhance the stylish atmosphere. Illustrations here are (from top to bottom) a Balcony Stateroom, Premium Vista Balcony Stateroom, and a Grand Suite.

Aside from a colorful new interior design, Carnival Breeze will sport popular “Fun Ship” features such as the Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub, the action-packed SportSquare recreation complex, Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant, a wrap-around open-air promenade called The Lanai with whirlpools that extend over the ship’s sides, the expansive WaterWorks aqua park, and Ocean Plaza, an indoor/outdoor café and live entertainment venue.

More stateroom renderings, as well as images of Carnival Breeze’s many features and facilities, are showcased on a special web page at Carnival.com/Breeze and even more features unique to Carnival Breeze will be announced in the near future. Carnival Breeze is scheduled to enter service June 3, 2012 with a special one-time voyage from Venice to Barcelona, positioning the vessel for a summer schedule of 12-day Mediterranean voyages through Oct 25, 2012. Following a 15-transatlantic crossing from Barcelona to Miami, Carnival Breeze will launch year-round 6- and 8-day Caribbean cruises from Miami Nov 24, 2012.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Disney Cruise Line Unveils New Disney Fantasy Guest Experiences

Disney Fantasy, the new Disney Cruise Line ship set to debut next spring, will bring to life many of the innovative features guests love on the recently launched Disney Dream including AquaDuck, the world’s first shipboard water coaster. But new design elements and guest experiences will give the Fantasy an identity all its own. That’s an artist rendering of the stunning atrium lobby pictured here.

The Disney Fantasy is the second of two newly designed Disney Cruise Line ships that take the family cruise experience to new heights. Sister ship to the Disney Dream, which entered service in January 2011, the 4,000-passenger Disney Fantasy will sail week-long Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral, Florida, with its maiden voyage scheduled for March 31, 2012.

“Animation Magic” at Animator’s Palate
Animator’s Palate on the Disney Fantasy brings the magic of Disney animation into the dining room with a new show called “Animation Magic.” The dinner show celebrates the magic of Disney animation and allows families to create and participate in a whole new way. As guests are seated at their tables, they are invited to draw a character of their own using a simple template on their placemat. Then, just before dinner, house lights dim and a sprinkling of pixie dust illuminates the room. Imagery is revealed on several large monitors showing animated, black and white drawings of Mickey Mouse. Mickey then places the Sorcerer’s hat upon his head which transforms him, as well as all of the other pencil drawings shown throughout the room, from black and white to color.

Europa Nighttime Entertainment District
Aboard Disney Fantasy, adult guests step into a world that’s all their own at Europa, a nighttime entertainment district exclusively for guests 18 and older that features sophisticated bars and trendy lounges inspired by the very best in European travel.

■ La Piazza is a lounge that draws inspiration from Italian cities and their decorative outdoor plazas. The bar is modeled after a colorful vintage carousel. Venetian masks, romantic couples’ booths and a classic Vespa with a sidecar add Italian flair.
■ Skyline is a chic bar that provides ever-changing birds-eye views of stunning European city skylines that transform from day to night. Skyline’s “windows to the world” give guests a glimpse of spectacular locales in panorama such as Paris, London, Barcelona, Athens and St. Petersburg.
■ O’Gill’s Pub is a rollicking Irish bar with modern-day twists. Dark woods, brass accents and a selection of Irish beers create the perfect pub atmosphere where guests can sip a pint while watching live sporting events on one of several high-definition televisions.
■ Ooh La La is inspired by an elegant French boudoir adorned with velvet tufted walls, Victorian furniture and Louis XIV-style chaise lounges. A sensuous color palette is accented with ornate framed mirrors, gold details and a “jewel box” feature bar backed with sparkling diamond-like facets.
■ The Tube transports guests to a vibrant metropolitan club via the London Underground. Guests “mind the gap” as they walk across a Tube route map, lounge among mod furniture, pose by a red English phone booth, dance atop an illuminated Union Jack dance floor and enjoy cocktails at a bar inspired by Big Ben and London’s many train stations.

“Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular”
A new ship means new main stage entertainment at the 1,340-seat Walt Disney Theatre. New to Disney Cruise Line, “Disney’s Aladdin, A Musical Spectacular” takes the stage on Disney Fantasy. During this Broadway-style production, guests laugh along with the wise-cracking Genie and the cast from the classic animated Disney film, “Aladdin.”

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
At Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on the Disney Fantasy, aspiring young princesses and pirates receive the full fairy tale treatment with pixie-dusted and piratical makeovers at this very special salon. When young princesses-to-be make their royal entrance at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, they are greeted by their very own Fairy Godmother-in-training who transform them with magical makeovers such as the Disney Diva (sounds like that one is ideal for the Cruise Diva), the Pop Princess, or the Fairy Tale Princess. A variety of royal treatment packages include combinations of hairstyle, shimmering makeup, and nails. Princess costumes, complete with crown, wand and shoes also are available. On pirate party nights aboard the Disney Fantasy, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique transforms into the Pirate’s League, where swashbuckling boys, girls and grownups can get ready for the pirate life.

To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a vacation, visit DisneyCruise.com or join Cruise Diva for a look around Disney Dream, where there's something for Mousketeers of all ages.

Image Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Friday, May 20, 2011

Where's Cruise Diva? Just Home From Silver Spirit

Six ships. Seven continents. Infinite possibilities. Come away with Silversea on a virtual voyage and discover an experience beyond the boundaries of traditional and expected. From uncompromising service to the luxurious freedom of an all-inclusive lifestyle, Silversea has perfected the art of travel. Savour multiple restaurants, the flexibility of open-seating dining, and exquisite gourmet meals with menu selections inspired by the Grands Chefs Relais & Châteaux. All accommodations are sumptuous ocean-view suites, most have private verandas, and all offer the ultimate travel luxury of professional butler service.

Silversea ships are exceptionally spacious with plenty of quiet corners and inviting lounges for socialising with like-minded fellow guests from around the globe who foster a convivial, cosmopolitan ambience. Upon arriving in each fascinating destination, Silversea truly shines with exclusive excursions and personalised touches for the most memorable of shoreside experiences.

I love this video, which includes a virtual "tour" of the Royal Suite we just enjoyed on Silver Spirit. We loved our cruise from Barcelona to Southampton and I hope you enjoy this peek into the suite life as much as we did while on board.

“Sea-lebrating” Special Occasions

Come along as Georgina Cruz and her husband Humberto mark the 40th anniversary of when they met by taking what they like to call a “sea-lebration” – a cruise instead of a big party or other way of celebrating. This time, for their “sea-lebration,” they selected two of their all-time favorite things in the world: Silversea’s Silver Spirit and a Mediterranean cruise itinerary sailing from Athens to Barcelona.

Unfortunately, when Cruise Diva and her husband Mel boarded Silver Spirit in Barcelona, our friends Georgina and Humberto had already disembarked for an early flight, but we’ve shared many of the same experiences on board and hope you will enjoy them as well.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Silver Spirit: Dining Delights

From the extensive room service breakfast menu to casual lunches at the pool grill and open seating dinner in The Restaurant, dining aboard Silver Spirit is an exceptional experience.

The day begins at the Coffee Corner in the Panorama Lounge and is followed by breakfast and lunch in The Restaurant and La Terrazza buffet. Afternoon tea is served in La Terrazza and canapés are offered before dinner in the Main Bar and the Panorama Lounge. In addition to dinner in The Restaurant, alternatives by reservation include regional Italian dinners in La Terrazza, Asian Degustation in Seishin, the Relais and Chateaux dining experience in Le Champagne, and “foodatainment” in Stars where bite-sized portions of dishes inspired by Silver Spirit’s ports are accompanied by cool jazz.

A final dinner option is my favorite—pictured above, The Grill Dinner is served al fresco on the pool deck where guests grill their own entrées on super heated volcanic rock, choosing from a variety of steak cuts, pork, veal, fish, or prawns. I’m not terribly talented in the kitchen, but one thing I do well is grill and this dining experience is now one of my favorites at sea.

While food is available at any time, I appreciate the portion sizes we’ve been served—none have been overwhelming—and the attention to preparation and service has been superb.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Silver Spirit: Days Ashore

For the most part I enjoy shore excursions on voyages such as this one on Silver Spirit from Barcelona to Southampton. With some ports of call that are new to me, I want to make the most of my time ashore and I select tours of interest to learn as much as possible about each destination.

While in ports I’ve visited before, I appreciate the complimentary shuttle buses into town that Silversea Cruises provides for their guests’ convenience. It’s enjoyable to revisit interesting cities without the hassle of searching out taxis or attempting to navigate public transportation. Plus, our Silversea Chronicles includes the useful information we need ashore, including where Silver Spirit is docked, the local currency exchange, and how to contact the ship’s agent in case of emergency.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Silver Spirit: Barbeque Under The Spanish Sky

Thankfully, my jinx on Silversea’s deck barbeques ended in Malaga, Spain. On every Silversea cruise I’ve taken in the past, bad weather forced the meal indoors.

However, as Silver Spirit remained docked in Malaga for the evening, the weather was as perfect as the setting. The barbeque spread included the suckling pig pictured here as well as barbeque ribs and chicken, steaks prepared on the spot and a variety of side dishes. For dessert, I chose Crepes Suzette.

As this is a World Cruise segment, guests were invited to dress in “Spanish” attire and some did with colorful fringed shawls on the ladies and matador finery for the men. A world cruiser told me that they were informed ahead of time of the “theme” nights and could pack accordingly or purchase items ashore, such as the lovely shawls and fans.

To end a beautiful evening, we were treated to a Flamenco Show featuring local performers. I’m so glad my deck party curse has lifted.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Monday, May 16, 2011

Silver Spirit: Getting Away From It All

Sometimes you just want to be alone, even if it’s only for a little while. I seldom leave home without my iPod and a book and often search for an out of the way spot to curl up and read. I found just the spot aboard Silver Spirit. I felt like an explorer as I looked for the Observation Lounge—through a passageway of suites and all the way forward on deck 11 (pictured here).

To my delight, I also found a telescope there, as well as refreshments—coffee, tea, water, and soft drinks are available all day long.

I only hope that if I nod off while reading, that someone will eventually notice I’m there and wake me up.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Silver Spirit: Social Spots

At our first dinner in Silver Spirit’s Restaurant we were fortunate to be seated next to a lovely couple—World Cruisers from the southern United States. Although we were each seated at tables for two, we chatted throughout dinner and look forward to seeing them again during this segment of the cruise. In fact, had they not been so friendly I wouldn’t have discovered a dessert I plan to order again—dates and nuts (in this case, pecans) with a glass of port wine.

We weren’t the only passengers to embark in Barcelona, but we were somewhat concerned that many others already on board would have forged friendships and we would be outsiders. That hasn’t turned out to be the case at all. Aside from the Restaurant, one of the most social spots aboard Silver Spirit is the Panorama Lounge where the seating is as comfortable as it looks in the photo here. It’s where the coffee corner is available for early risers in the morning, team trivia is played in the afternoon, canapés are served before dinner, and where we’ve danced away the night.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Silver Spirit at Sea

Sea days stretch before us every other day on this segment of Silver Spirit’s World Cruise. The itinerary is perfect for relaxation between days touring ashore, but what is there to do on board? Actually, there’s a lot on tap—fitness classes and seminars, games and competitions, dance and language lessons, and my favorite, enrichment lectures.

When I saw the lecture title “Buckingham Palace”—a guided tour of the most famous address in the world, I expected insights into the palace and how its public rooms are used. Happily, journalist and author Brian Hoey offered that and so much more in his presentation. For instance, he shared that the Queen does not like to see men in formal wear with a clip-on bow tie. Gentlemen invited to a formal occasion at Buckingham Palace should learn to tie a bow tie properly.

Hoey has enjoyed many interactions with the British royal family over the years and was once invited to present one of his books to Her Majesty. Before entering her apartment he was instructed that he should give a little bow and take a seat when the Queen offered it. But how would he know when it was time to leave? Easy. The Queen would have her handbag on the arm of her chair and when she picked it up it was time to go.

If I should happen to get busy with some other activity and miss one of the lectures I’m interested in, they are taped and shown later on the television in our suites. I love the idea of being in “two places at once” and not missing anything.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Friday, May 13, 2011

Silver Spirit Amenities

With security concerns at airports these days, packing for any trip that includes air travel can be fraught with frustration. Toiletry items in containers of over a mere three ounces must be packed in checked suitcases. Luggage weights are strictly adhered to and as little as a pound over the limit can result in a hefty charge. That must have been something of a problem for the world cruisers currently aboard Silver Spirit’s 119-day World Cruise voyage. I’m only aboard for the last segment and found the luggage security regulations annoying.

Silversea Cruises has at least a partial solution—an array of bath amenities you don’t have to worry about packing. And they aren’t just the generic kind. Aboard Silver Spirit are old favorites by Bvlgari and Neutrogena, as well as Salvatore Ferragamo, which is new to me. Each collection includes shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and shower gel, as well as soaps. While I lean toward the Bvlgari line up, I’m also giving the Ferragamo “Tuscan Soul” products a try.

A couple items I’ve been known to overlook while packing are Q-tips and cotton balls. Happily, those are supplied in my bathroom aboard Silver Spirit as well.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Royal Treatment Aboard Silver Spirit

At nearly 1,000 square feet, Silver Spirit’s Royal and Grand Suites are indeed fit for princes and princesses. While the Royal Suites’ teak verandahs don’t wrap around the bow as the Grand Suites’ verandahs do, all six of these exquisite accommodations have a living room with convertible sofa to sleep an additional guest, a dining table that can easily seat four to six, a separate bedroom with queen-size bed and comfy chair, and a walk-in closet as large as those in many homes. The dressing area features a vanity table with makeup mirror and more drawers and shelves than I could fill.

The marble bathroom with double sinks has a tub with whirlpool jets, a shower with rain shower and hand held shower heads, as well as a separate water closet with bidet. Oh yes, there is a fully stocked wet bar with mini-fridge and a guest bathroom for the parties world cruisers will surely host.

To round out the electronics there is a stereo with CD player, an iPod docking station with alarm clock, and two flat screen televisions with DVD players—in the living room and bedroom.

With a butler to handle just about anything, why would I want to go home?

Pictured here is Royal Suite 701
Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Solid Sterling Experience: Silver Spirit

There was a time not so long ago when cruise passengers looked forward to “document day”—that’s when their travel agents called to tell them their cruise documents had arrived. These days, most cruise lines offer online check-in and passengers can print their own documents, including boarding passes and even luggage tags. Some traditionalists don’t really care for the new process—especially those paper luggage tags—but it does mean that there are no worries about delayed documents. If you don’t have the ability to print out your own documents, your travel agent can usually do that for you and some routinely do, not only as a service to their clients, but to make sure all the paperwork is in order.

While some premium lines formerly delivered documents in bound booklet form or in fold-over pouches of varying quality, luxury cruise lines have always presented documents in holders worthy of the experience their guests could expect on board their ships. Additionally, the document holders usually contain extensive information about the voyage and ports of call.

Silversea Cruises’ current zip-around document holders are burgundy leather (pictured here) with the Silversea name embroidered in silver. In the pockets inside are individual folders with air and cruise tickets and a booklet with general voyage information. Also included in the silver box in which the documents and holder arrived was a leave-behind itinerary and a detailed shore excursion booklet. Luggage tags for the ship, in this case Silver Spirit, were preprinted with my name and suite number. All I had to do was attach them before boarding. Little touches like that mean a lot to busy people and Silversea routinely takes care of the details.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cruising: Hello, Silver Spirit

It's difficult to call this a back-to-back cruise because Cruise Diva is switching ships in Barcelona today.

After leaving Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Magic and a short taxi ride from one pier to another, I'll be boarding Silversea Cruises' still new Silver Spirit for a segment of her first World Cruise.

Stay tuned.

Carnival Magic Critters

Cabin stewards on all Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships are masters in the art of crafting towel animals and our steward aboard Carnival Magic has proven to not only be an expert at folding towels, but he is also sensitive to his guests’ feelings.

He must have overheard how much Cruise Diva is missing her cats and this cute kitty greeted me last night. Just the sight of it made me feel better.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Monday, May 9, 2011

Carnival Magic: I Love The Nightlife

Wow! There’s music everywhere aboard Carnival Magic. Every evening at 5 pm the RedFrog Pub (pictured here) is the place to be for a sunset party and the guitarist playing Caribbean sounds that continue through the night. For listening and dancing, the combo in Ocean Plaza has a diverse playlist and they’ve had the dance floor full at all hours of the afternoon and night. The piano bar is so popular that I have yet to find a seat inside, but there is seating nearby. Across the promenade, the dance club Vibe really gets rocking with the DJ spinning everything from 60s Motown to up-to-date hits. In the atrium, where the bandstand is elevated above the bar, the music carries throughout several decks.

For parents who want a night out, there’s the usual babysitting and something new—Camp Carnival NightOwls. The NightOwls program starts at 10 pm, carries a fee, and offers supervised activities in three age group ranges. Children 2-11 may participate until midnight and the fee is $13 per child. Children age 6-8 can stay up a bit later and are accommodated until 1 am for a $20 per child fee. For parents of older children in the age 9-11 range, the program ends at 3 am when the children are escorted to their staterooms and the fee is $33 per child. A 15% gratuity is also added to the fee.

While Camp Carnival NightOwls is presently available only on Carnival Magic, the program will roll out fleetwide in June.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Carnival Magic: Food For All Tastes

One of the best reasons to go on a Carnival Magic cruise is the dining experience. There are more cuisine choices than ever and everyone should find dishes to satisfy their taste, not to mention the opportunity to try something new. For me, that would be the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, a favorite that’s offered every night in the dining room, and a new presentation of escargot in the Prime Steakhouse.

The cruise line’s latest specialty restaurant, that debuted here aboard Carnival Magic, honors Carnival’s Italian heritage—their captains are all Italian and most of their ships, including Carnival Magic, are built in Italy. Cucina del Capitano is an option for lunch (complimentary) and dinner (which carries a $10 cover charge). At lunch the hostess gives you a listing of pasta types, sauces, and add-ins to select from when you arrive. After designing your own pasta dish, it’s prepared and served to your table. At dinner, the menu features made-to-order Italian favorites developed by the company’s executive chef and four chefs de cuisine who spent three weeks in Italy on a research trip where they trained and ate with some of Italy’s finest chefs. Many of the Italian specialties were selected by Carnival’s captains and are served in a relaxed family-style setting where framed photos of the captains, their families, and the line’s ships are displayed on the walls.

Carnival Magic’s 24-hour pizzeria deserves special mention and ranks with Cruise Diva as the best pizza at sea. A short (ten minute) wait delivers a fresh out of the oven personal pan pizza with your selection of toppings. In the Marketplace buffet restaurant you'll find everything from the Mongolian Wok to a huge salad bar to the deli where excellent paninnis are prepared on the spot.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Carnival’s Magic In All Sizes

Found on Carnival Magic’s sports deck, the signature winged funnel has a mini-me funnel on the two-deck miniature golf course.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Carnival Magic Has Watery Fun For All

It’s true. There’s fun for kids of all ages aboard Carnival Magic and the centerpiece of the fun is the incredible WaterWorks pictured here. The most mesmerizing feature is the Power Drencher—a “dump bucket” that fills with 300 gallons of water and dumps it into the area below every minute. There are water sprays, water jets, and a 312 foot long twister slide that looks like a lot of fun. No age groups get left out—twin racing slides are sized for younger cruisers. On the periphery, moms and dads can watch their children from the shade of seating areas, or they can join in.

Here in the Mediterranean the weather is a bit cool right now, but I can envision the WaterWorks on a hot day in the Caribbean when lines to take a watery plunge are sure to form.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Friday, May 6, 2011

Aboard Carnival Magic: Stromboli & Beer

No, Stromboli isn’t an Italian pub snack. However, I dined on coconut chicken (pictured here) in the RedFrog Pub early last night because I didn’t want to be at late seating dinner in the dining room when Carnival Magic sailed past the volcanic island of Stromboli.

We had quite a treat—although it was too dark to get a photo, Stromboli's volcanic glow suddenly erupted into an orange ball of flame that shot skyward. It was certainly a sight to remember forever.

Onboard Carnival Magic, the supply of ThirstyFrog Red beer has been replenished and it was well worth the wait.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Thirsty Aboard Carnival Magic

Inspired by the sights, sounds, and flavors of the Caribbean, Carnival Magic is home to RedFrog Pub, the first-ever pub in Carnival Cruise Lines’ fleet. The ambiance is decidedly British-West-Indies-meets-Key-West with a touch of nautical mixed in—wood details are accented with portholes and ships-at-sea artwork. It’s really the perfect spot to kick back with a piña colada, local island brews, and top-shelf Caribbean rums. The laidback island vibe of the pub’s décor is a nod to Carnival Magic’s Caribbean itineraries, which will begin when sailings from Galveston commence in November. Pub snacks, for which there is a charge, are Caribbean favorites, such as Bahamian conch salad, grouper fingers, and firecracker Jamaican chicken wings.

You can’t miss RedFrog Pub on Promenade Deck. In fact you may hear the Jimmy Buffett style music as you approach the tables on the promenade “patio.” It seems that some beer aficionados on board grew very fond of the private-label draught beer, Thirsty Frog Red, that’s brewed especially for Carnival Magic. It was thought there was enough Thirsty Frog Red brought on board Carnival Magic for the entire maiden cruise, but it ran out the very first night! That’s why I don’t have a photo of it. I hope the “slider” from the pub snack menu pictured here will suffice until more beer is air freighted to our next port.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Serene Relaxation Onboard Carnival Magic

The entire Serenity area on Carnival Magic is designed for just that—serene relaxation for adults only. There are hammocks for two, padded loungers, a bar for refreshments, hot tubs, and the really cool cabanas pictured here to chill out in shaded comfort. It’s the ideal location to relax.

The only quibble I could come up with is the location. Yes, it offers seclusion from the pool area, but it’s only one deck above the Waterworks where there’s a lot of noise on a sunny sea day. Get there early for a spot near the front of the deck (closest to the bow) where it’s quieter.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

News: Carnival Breeze, from Europe to Miami Itineraries

Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest ship, the 130,000-ton Carnival Breeze, will enter service in June 2012 debuting with a summer schedule of 12-day Mediterranean voyages before repositioning to Miami in November for year-round 6- and 8-day Caribbean departures.

As Carnival’s newest “Fun Ship,” Carnival Breeze will offer a host of exciting innovations, including expansive top-deck areas such as WaterWorks, an aqua park with exhilarating water slides and other attractions; SportSquare, an open-air recreation complex with a ropes course, mini-golf, and outdoor fitness area; The Lanai, a wraparound promenade with whirlpools extending over the ship’s sides, and a 270-square-foot poolside LED screen displaying movies, and other programming. In a nod to its upcoming Caribbean deployment, Carnival Breeze will also feature the RedFrog Pub, a lively spot for tasty island-inspired snacks and drinks, including its own private label beer. Other dining highlights will include Cucina del Capitano, a family-style Italian restaurant that brings the heritage of Carnival’s captains to the table, along with a casual two-level poolside eatery, and a classic American-style steakhouse. Dedicated play areas for children, ’tweens and teens, as well as a two-level health and wellness center, and a wide variety of accommodation options will be available, as well.

Carnival Breeze will also introduce colorful Caribbean-inspired interiors that take their cue from the region’s cool island breezes and warm tropical sunsets. Created by Germany-based Partner Ship Design, this striking new tropical design theme will be carried out in the ship’s public spaces, as well as staterooms which will offer a combination of bright colors and soothing pastel hues, with iconic images of palm trees and other island-inspired elements adorning hallway corridors.

“Not only will Carnival Breeze introduce exciting new features and a highly creative island-inspired interior design that pays homage to the world’s most popular cruising region, we’ve put together itineraries that provide our guests with the opportunity to visit a huge array of stunning ports of call throughout the Caribbean and Mediterranean,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO.

Exciting 12-Day Mediterranean Cruises

Carnival Breeze will kick off its inaugural 2012 season with a special 12-day maiden voyage that will depart Venice on June 3, and arrive in Barcelona June 15, 2012. Ports of call on this one-time voyage include Dubrovnik, Croatia; Athens, Greece; Izmir, Turkey; Messina (Sicily), Olbia (Sardinia), Rome (Civitavecchia), and Livorno (Florence & Pisa), Italy; Monaco, Monte Carlo; and Marseilles, France. Carnival Breeze will then commence a summer schedule of 12-day Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona, one of Europe’s most stunning and historic cities. The program will run from June 15 through Oct 25, 2012 (with the exception of the Aug 26, 2012, voyage which will sail from Venice). The 12-day Mediterranean cruises include stops at Marseilles or Monaco; Livorno; Naples; Dubrovnik; Venice; Civitavecchia (Rome), and Messina (the June 15 and Sept 7 departures add a stop in Palma de Mallorca, Spain; while the Aug 14 and 26 voyages also visit Olbia (Sardinia), Italy. Select voyages also overnight in Venice or Rome (Civitavecchia). Each of these ports offer a diverse array of sightseeing experiences, from world-class museums, shops and restaurants to famous historical landmarks, unique architecture and cultural opportunities not found anywhere else in the world.

Value-Packed 15-Day Trans-Atlantic Crossing

Following its European schedule, Carnival Breeze will sail on a 15-day trans-Atlantic crossing departing Barcelona Nov 6, arriving in Miami on November 21, 2012. Ports of call on this voyage will include Palma de Mallorca and Malaga, Spain; Las Palmas, Canary Islands; Antigua and St. Maarten. The combination of popular European and Caribbean ports with multiple sea days and a host of exciting and unique on-board events and activities will make this transatlantic crossing truly an unforgettable experience.

Convenient Six-Day Caribbean Schedule from Miami

As part of its innovative Miami-based cruise schedule, Carnival Breeze will offer a year-round three-port, 6-day cruise program operating Sundays-Saturdays beginning Dec 2, 2012. This schedule will be offered on alternating weeks and will feature visits to three popular ports of call: Grand Turk, B.W.I.; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and Nassau, The Bahamas.

Port-Intensive Eight-Day Itineraries From Miami

Expanding upon its role as the leader in Caribbean cruising, Carnival Breeze will offer two distinctly different four-port, 8-day itineraries year-round from the Port of Miami operating Saturday-Sunday beginning Nov 24, 2012. Each of the Carnival Breeze’s 8-day cruises from Miami will provide guests with ample opportunities to sample the best that the Caribbean has to offer, from sunning and relaxing on gorgeous beaches to shopping for duty-free bargains and savoring delectable island cuisine.

The Saturday-to-Sunday rotation is particularly attractive as it maximizes consumers’ vacation time, with eight full days of cruising across two weekends. The schedule includes an 8-day southern Caribbean itinerary that will feature Grand Turk, La Romana (Dominican Republic), Curacao, and Aruba, along with an 8-day eastern Caribbean route visiting St. Thomas/St. John, Antigua, Tortola and Nassau.

Combined with its 6-day cruises, Carnival Breeze guests are offered unprecedented opportunities to visit a diversity of sunny, tropical Caribbean’s destinations, with nearly a dozen ports of call featured among the various itineraries.

Reservations for Carnival Breeze’s new European and Caribbean itineraries open today, May 4, while the ship’s many features and colorful new stateroom designs are highlighted at www.carnival.com/breeze.

Carnival’s Build A Ship Contest Winner Receives A Free Carnival Magic Cruise

You may recall that leading into the launch of Carnival Cruise Lines' new Carnival Magic, the line challenged fans to enter their Build a Ship contest as part of their “Make the Magic Yours” campaign. By using any materials on hand, participants were encouraged to show their creativity and in the process to help raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, as Carnival donated $1 to St. Jude for each entry and vote, as well as for each Facebook fan who “liked” the contest.

In the end, Carrie Duwelius’ “Carnival Cardboard Cruiser” entry was judged the winner, earning the most online votes. Now that I'm on Carnival Magic, I can say that Carrie captured some of the popular on board features with the young folks appearing the the cut-out portholes, such as enjoying Chocolate Melting Cake and displaying a Build-A-Bear, with another on the top deck holding aloft a ship-on-a-stick trophy. Of course the signature Carnival waterslide and winged funnel are also represented. While her winning entry, fashioned from a huge six-foot-high piece of cardboard, is somewhat one-dimensional, the Naperville, Illinois, resident put a lot of thought into it and deserves the prize of a complimentary 7-day Caribbean cruise for four on the new Carnival Magic.

Where's Naperville you might wonder? It's a suburb of Chicago in DuPage County about 30 miles from the Windy City's Loop. I know it well because I lived there once. Congratulations, Carrie! I hope your cruise aboard Carnival Magic is as magical as mine is.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Carnival Magic: Home Away From Home

I’ve always felt that Carnival Cruise Lines ships have some of the most comfortable standard accommodations at sea. My ocean view stateroom with a balcony on Carnival Magic’s Deck Nine is no exception. Its features include light wood cabinetry, a soothing pastel decor, mirrored accents, small refrigerator, personal safe for valuables, a sitting area with sofa, chair and table, and a hairdryer in a vanity/desk drawer. A convenience is plenty of shelving for all the odds and ends I pack. Closet and drawer space, as well as bathroom shelves, are more than adequate. Terrycloth bathrobes are provided for use during the cruise in all Oceanview accommodations, so happily I didn’t have to pack one.

Nothing can ruin a vacation faster than a lumpy, bumpy bed with scratchy sheets and pancake thin pillow. To insure sweet dreams, the exclusive “Carnival Comfort Bed” systems are a delight. They start with plush mattresses and add soft and comfy duvets and upgraded pillows and linens for a good night’s sleep.

Bathroom amenities include shampoo and bath gel in shower mounted dispensers and an array of sample toiletries. The shower itself is roomy and has a pull-out clothesline for drying bathing suits or hand laundry. A real bonus is the two-sided (regular and magnifying) bathroom shaving/make up mirror.

With 1,845 staterooms, Carnival Magic offers a wide array of accommodation types, ranging from standard Interior and Oceanview staterooms to Oceanview staterooms with private balconies and Suites and Penthouse Suites with larger private balconies. More than 60% of all staterooms have an ocean view and, of those, more than a whopping 84% have balconies. Particularly appealing for families are accommodations with a two-bathroom, five-berth configuration, as well as staterooms with connecting doors. Cove balcony cabins are located closer to the water line and the no-smoking-allowed spa staterooms provide special spa access and benefits.

With my home on Carnival Magic conveniently located near the aft staircase, and just one deck down from the Lido Deck, I can pop up to the Marketplace buffet restaurant in a jiffy. A minor drawback with this location is that it can get noisy from up above at times. My only complaint? I couldn’t bring along Elvis and Priscilla, my tabbies who are at home being pampered by their cat sitters.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Monday, May 2, 2011

Do You Believe In Magic?

The naming of a cruise ship is a special event and everyone wants to get it right. Aboard Carnival Magic, a couple “glitches” cropped up during the naming ceremony as godmother Lindsey Wilkerson approached a replica of the ship’s “Fun Ship” funnel on stage in the Showtime Theater. Joined by Captain Giovanni Cutugno, as she readied to push the button and send a bottle of champagne smashing against the bow, it was noticed there was no bottle hanging on the apparatus! Oops. Fortunately, magician Jason Byrne was on hand to pull the lost bottle of bubbly out of a hat and make it reappear outside. Then the box containing the button was locked and no one had the key. Enter Jason to again conjure up the key.

All went well as the bottle dropped and broke with an impressive shower of champagne. With a huge smile Captain Cutugno proclaimed, “This is the place to be for magic.”

Almost as magical was our sailing from Venice—a city of magic—on a beautiful spring afternoon. Yes, I now believe in magic.

Photo of Lindsey Wilkerson & Captain Cutugno © CruiseDiva.com

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Carnival Magic Fun Facts

At Cruise Diva we love ship Fun Facts and share many on our web site. Now that Carnival Cruise Lines has launched their newest “Fun Ship” and we’re on board, we’d like to share some Fun Facts that our hosts have revealed to us.

In the first year of service alone, aboard the 130,000-ton, 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic, it is expected that:

Carnival Magic’s photographers will snap more than 1.5 million digital images and portraits
• Passengers will devour 242,000 servings of Carnival’s signature dessert, the Chocolate Melting Cake, along with 346,000 pizzas and 145,200 cappuccinos
• Approximately 26,600 meals will be served in the Prime Steakhouse
• Chefs in the vessel’s galley will use roughly 22,000 pounds of flour
• Nearly 100 metric tons of pineapples will be consumed, mostly in frothy tropical drinks!
• Stateroom stewards will place more than 2 million individual pieces of chocolate on guests’ pillows and create more than 663,000 of Carnival’s popular “towel animals”
• Guests will indulge in 18,000-plus massages, nearly 9,000 facials, more than 6,000 slimming treatments, and some 2,000 personal fitness consultations in the Carnival Magic’s “Cloud 9 Spa”

Chocolate and pizza...we won’t even hazard a guess as to the average passenger’s weight gain during a typical Carnival Magic cruise. Nor will we divulge ours!

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines