Monday, April 30, 2012

Carnival Liberty: Diamonds Steakhouse

After boarding Carnival Liberty in Miami we took a few minutes to acquaint ourselves with the schedule for the evening in the Fun Times daily program and we’re glad we did. Mel noticed that if we dined in Diamonds Steakhouse for our first dinner onboard that we would receive a complimentary bottle of wine with our meal. Since we planned to have dinner there at least once during our cruise, I immediately called and was able to secure a reservation for 8:00pm.

Our waiter Ruby started us off right with a traditional steakhouse presentation of the USDA Prime beef selections and we made our choices. For me, a surf ‘n turf combo of filet and lobster tails accompanied by a baked potato and mushrooms, and Mel’s favorite NY Strip with mashed potatoes.

Backing up a bit, we started with escargot for me and shrimp cocktail for him followed by a Caesar salad for us both. I’m a bread lover and have to make mention of the rolls served with our meal…seasoned and scented with rosemary, they were warm and delicious.

But after such a sumptuous meal, would we have room for dessert? Of course. Mel ordered simple vanilla ice cream with chocolate topping and I splurged on a medley of chocolate—four different tastes and flavors. Every dish was exceptional accompanied by a bottle of Santa Carolina Chilean Merlot.

Before leaving Diamonds, we made another reservation for later in the cruise. For $30 per person, it’s a thoroughly satisfying dining experience and we look forward to another fun evening with our waiter Ruby. We’ll meet our assigned table mates in the dining room eventually, but we couldn’t pass up the Carnival steakhouse as the perfect way to start our cruise.

By the way, if you have sailed on Carnival Liberty in the past you might remember the steakhouse as the supper club Harry’s, named after Harry Winston, the world-famous jewelry maker. Although the name has changed, the décor remains a tribute to his artistry with cases around the room displaying finely made jewelry of real gold and faux stones. Even the lighting in the room mimics diamond necklaces and the columns look like a stack of large gold rings set with rubies and sapphires.

NOTE: Shortly after our cruise the per person steakhouse charge was increased to $35. It's still an extremely good value.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Carnival Liberty: Home At Sea

It was November 10, 2005 when I first sailed on Carnival Liberty’s Inaugural Caribbean Cruise with my friend Amber and it’s good to be back on board with my husband Mel. I’m looking forward to discovering all the Fun Ship 2.0 Initiative upgrades, but one area that didn’t need improving is our accommodations.

I’ve always felt that Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships have some of the most comfortable standard accommodations at sea. Our starboard side ocean view stateroom 1057 with a balcony on Carnival Liberty’s Panorama Deck (Deck Ten) 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, stool and table, and a hairdryer in a vanity/desk drawer. A convenience is plenty of shelving for all the odds and ends we tend to bring along. Closet and drawer space, as well as bathroom shelves, are more than adequate. Happily, I saved room in our suitcases by not having to pack bathrobes—they are provided for use during the cruise.

Nothing can spoil 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 1,487 staterooms, Carnival Liberty 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 are outside and, of those, 60% have balconies. For families, the sitting area sofa converts to an additional sleeping area at night and connecting cabins are available. Passengers with physical challenges haven't been overlooked—staterooms have been designed that take their special needs into consideration. While smoking is allowed on private balconies, all cabin interiors are non-smoking.

With our home on Carnival Liberty conveniently located near the forward elevators and staircase, it’s only a short distance to the spa and gym and adults-only Serenity Deck above us and to the terraced lounging area of the Lido Deck aft of our location. We can pop down to the pool area with its RedFrog Rum Bar, BlueIguana Tequila Bar, Guy’s Burger Joint, and the buffet restaurant in a jiffy. My only complaint? I couldn’t bring along Elvis, Priscilla, and Lisa Marie, our trio of tabbies. They’re at home being pampered by their cat sitters while we’re preparing for pampering by our stateroom steward Su aboard Carnival Liberty.

Photo ©

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Meet The Guy Behind Carnival Cruise Lines’ Burger Joint

With a cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Liberty coming up, I did a bit of pre-sailing “research” on the Food Network when they recently aired the show Guy’s Big Bite starring culinary rock star Guy Fieri.

Guy is, of course, the guy behind Guy’s Burger Joint, one of the new features on board Carnival Liberty that was introduced last fall as part of the Fun Ship 2.0 Initiative. In the “Kids, Eat With Your Hands” episode, Fieri demonstrated step-by-step how he creates a Straight-Up with a Pig Patty Burger.

Now, you might be wondering if I’m going to wait to order one on Carnival Liberty or if I tried recreating the burger topped with a bacon patty and sauces myself at home. I do a few things well in the kitchen—brewing coffee and loading the dishwasher are my noteworthy skills—but my cooking prowess is limited to more basic dishes and I admit that Fieri’s complex burger creation is a bit of a stretch.

However, I made a batch of the Donkey Sauce that accompanies the Straight-Up with a Pig Patty Burger and served it with meatloaf topped with melted cheese. I know, I know… that’s not really much of an accomplishment, but Mel and I enjoyed the simple-to-prepare sauce that includes ingredients most of us have on hand, and we’re looking forward to sampling the real thing.

If you’re more at home in the kitchen and you’d like to give it a try, here’s the entire recipe, including both “secret” sauces, and detailed instructions.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cruise News:Princess Cruises Raises the Curtain on New Royal Princess Entertainment Venue

Princess Live!
Entertainment is a big part of every cruise, and even though it’s included in the fare, many shows are worthy of a box office tariff. Cruise lines put a lot of effort into the selection of entertainers and the content of their shows. And now Princess Cruises has announced they are raising the bar at sea to provide a new style of shipboard entertainment with the introduction of Princess Live!, a new type of cruise ship entertainment venue that passengers will enjoy aboard their new Royal Princess, set to launch in June 2013. Taking the audience behind the scenes to share the excitement of a working television studio, the high-tech Princess Live! will showcase live television broadcasts, intimate performances from musicians, and special events such as cooking shows.

Located on Royal Princess’ deck 7 just aft of the Piazza, Princess Live! will be a flexible, 280-seat venue based on a television broadcast studio. When the ship debuts, Princess Live! will serve as a venue for daily broadcasts of “The Wake Show” with a new twist—a daily live audience. This popular daily show, hosted by the cruise director and featuring special guests from around the ship, is a staple across the Princess fleet, but is rarely staged live. The colorful Princess Live! studio will also host a variety of events, including game shows, interactive cooking shows, art house films, enrichment classes, murder mysteries, trivia, and “Meet the Experts” presentations from the crew. Additionally, Princess Live! will serve as a more intimate performance venue for onboard musicians who will offer “unplugged” and “in-the-round” shows, providing an opportunity for entertainers to connect with the audience in a unique environment.

And that’s not all. Princess Live! will feature an adjacent café with interactive, wall-mounted screens showing the ship’s position, ports of call, points of interest and even international newspapers. The café will serve up specialty coffees, teas and freshly squeezed citrus juice, plus it will offer a selection of fresh-baked croissants and pastries in the morning.

Royal Princess will also feature the line’s largest Princess Theater ever, with unobstructed sight lines from every seat and passengers will enjoy the return of an updated Vista Lounge at the aft of the ship to serve as an alternate evening performance venue.

Princess Cruises Executive Vice President of Fleet Operations, Rai Caluori, and Vice President of Entertainment, Martin Hall, invite you to take a virtual tour of Royal Princess’ entertainment venues in the following video.

Currently under construction for Princess Cruises, the 3,600-passenger Royal Princess is a new-generation ship with an evolutionary design that builds on all the signature features passengers have grown to enjoy aboard the current Princess Cruises fleet. Among the new features found on board will be a greatly expanded atrium, the social hub of the ship; the dramatic over-water SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed enclosed walkway on the ship's starboard side extending more than 28 feet beyond the edge of the vessel; plush private poolside cabanas that appear to be floating on the water; a dazzling water and light show; more dining options including a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, wine cellar dining area and an expanded Horizon Court with pastry shop. Eighty percent of the ship’s staterooms will feature a balcony. More information about the ship is available on the Princess Cruises website and additional details about other ship features will be released in the coming months.

Image and Video Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cruise News: Celebrity Cruises Will Air Olympic Games On Fleet, 'Live' From London 2012

An estimated one-billion-plus people will settle in with popcorn and snacks in front of their televisions to watch this year's summer Olympic Games to be held in the host city of London, and Celebrity Cruises is the first cruise line to announce that it has arranged the rare opportunity for guests sailing on its fleet to be among them.

From the always popular Opening Ceremony July 27 to the celebratory Closing Ceremony August 12, Celebrity will broadcast 'live' via satellite the swimming, diving, gymnastics, rowing, cycling, athletics, and basketball events, in addition to airing daily compilations of highlights from all 26 sports featured in the Games of the XXX Olympiad. On Celebrity ships sailing in North America, the events initially airing live also will be re-broadcast during more convenient times of day for guests to enjoy.

Whether sailing on Celebrity Constellation in Scandinavia and Russia; in Iceland and the Fjords on Celebrity Eclipse; in the Eastern Mediterranean on Celebrity Equinox; in the Adriatic on Celebrity Silhouette; in the Mediterranean from Venice on Celebrity Solstice; in Bermuda on Celebrity Summit; or in Alaska on Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Infinity, or Celebrity Century, Celebrity's guests can stay on top of the Games while vacationing at sea.

Celebrity's guests will be able to view the Olympic Games within the comfort of their staterooms and suites, or in several bars and lounges on every Celebrity ship (with the exception of Celebrity Xpedition, which sails year-round in the Galapagos Islands). The specific locations and event times will be listed within each Celebrity ship's daily newsletter.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cruise News: Structural Integrity Key To Success Of Costa Concordia Salvage Operation

Removal of the wreck of the Costa Concordia from the coast of Giglio Island will be a long and costly venture soon to be undertaken by Titan Marine, the Pompano Beach, Florida company that was awarded the project along with the Italian marine contractor Micoperi.

To get an idea of the magnitude of the task they face, we turn to Joseph Farrell, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Resolve Marine Group, which has conducted hundreds of seafaring salvage and ship wreck removal operations over the past three decades. Farrell shares his knowledge about maritime emergency and disaster response, salvage, and ship wreck recovery.

"Removal of the capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship from the Tuscany coastline is one of the largest undertakings of its kind—this is a massive and complex operation which the entire world will be watching. Resolve Marine Group has worked with Titan Salvage on a number of important maritime ship wreck projects. The Costa Concordia is a massive, international assignment that will involve hundreds of personnel including naval architects and engineers, highly experienced salvage masters and a variety of specialists such as environmental consultants. Based on my experience, Titan and Micoperio are staffed with qualified teams for this mission, which, I suspect, will require dispatching equipment and crews from around the globe," explains Farrell.

Farrell continues, "The plan to upright the capsized craft; then slowly tow it to a port near Rome could take more than a year to complete. Because of the magnitude of this project, unlike other salvage operations—and because the cruise ship is so close to land—the Costa Concordia requires special attention to the environmental concerns and to limiting disruption to the community, which relies almost entirely on tourism for its economic livelihood. The salvage team has to be extremely careful not to cause adverse effects to the environment. Rolling and then refloating the ship in one piece rather than dismantling it piece-by-piece will be quite a feat. The main concern will be to not further compromise the ship's structural integrity, so that it can be maneuvered off the coast and to another port."

With that in mind, we have a better understanding of why the project will be so delicate and take such a long time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Diana: Legacy of a Princess Comes to Long Beach & the Queen Mary

The Pink Ribbons Crusade has been looking for the perfect venue to showcase their new world-class exhibit for developing breast cancer support funding
and they've found a fabulous location with a Royal connection—the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.

Queen Mary's Sun Deck level will soon be the setting for Diana: Legacy of a Princess. Opening in summer 2012, the exhibit will feature an extensive collection of Royal memorabilia, including evening gowns, personal accessories, photographs, heirlooms and other cherished personal items associated with Princess Diana and the Royal Family. The impressive collection will be presented in a new 13,000 sq. ft. exhibit space, now under construction on Queen Mary. When completed, the gallery area will include a gracious formal Tea Room, gift boutique, and other visitor conveniences.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cruise News: Cruise Season Kicks Off at Cruiseport Boston with a Boatload of New Itineraries

Cruiseport Boston’s 2012 season got underway on Saturday, April 21st when Norwegian Dawn set sail on a special 6-day cruise to Bermuda, the first of 22 weekly cruises to the island. This is the second year for the 2,224 passenger ship (picturd here) to sail the ever-popular weekly 7-day itinerary.

The season opener also brings with it a boatload of new itineraries giving vacationers many more cruising options from Boston. The main newcomer at Cruiseport Boston is Carnival Cruise Lines’ 2,974-passenger Carnival Glory, which will sail a series of 4-, 5- and 7-day itineraries to New England and Atlantic Canada during the months of June and July. The first Carnival cruise leaves Boston June 3 heading out for 7 days to Portland, Maine; Saint John, New Brunswick; and Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia. Thereafter Carnival Glory will sail a series of 4-day “long weekend” cruises to Saint John, New Brunswick, and 5-day cruises to Halifax, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick.

“We’re going to have a very busy season at Cruiseport Boston this year,” said David S. Mackey, Massport’s Interim CEO & Executive Director. “In 2010 we completed an $11 million renovation of the facility to bolster our appeal to the cruise lines, and that investment is paying off with all the new itineraries being offered from Boston.’’

Another indication of the popularity of the renovated Cruiseport Boston facility is that the number of passengers starting and ending their cruise vacation in Boston is now 60 percent, compared to the Port-of-Call passengers who visit the city for the day. That increase is helped by the entry of Carnival Glory. The 13-deck Carnival Glory was launched in 2003 and offers spacious accommodations, a 270 square foot poolside Seaside Theatre LED screen showing movies, concerts and other programming; a 13,300 square foot spa, four swimming pools—one with a 214-foot-long Twister Waterslide; expansive, modern play areas for children, ’tweens and teens; and Serenity, an exclusive adults-only retreat. Several dining options are also available such as a 24-hour pizzeria, a patisserie, and a classic American steakhouse.

In addition, Holland America Line’s Veendam, and three luxury cruise lines: Compagnie du Ponant’s LeBoreal, Seabourn’s Seabourn Soujourn, and Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony will all offer new itineraries to Canada & New England ports. As will Norwegian Dawn upon completion of regular weekly Bermuda cruises. Veendam will also offer an 18- and 31-day repositioning cruise to South America via the Panama Canal, and Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas will now sail weekly on Sundays to Canada and New England rather than on Saturdays.

This new season has the widest array of cruise options in the 26 year history of the Terminal, with something to appeal to all ages and every budget. In 2012, 112 ship calls are scheduled, and Massport anticipates a third consecutive year of more than 300,000 passengers traveling through its Black Falcon Cruise Terminal and an expectation to break the 2010 passenger record high of 322,161. The 2012 cruise season runs from April to November.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

And The "Crystal Award" for Innovative Ship Design Goes To... Crystal Cruises

When Crystal Cruises unveiled Crystal Serenity's $25 million redesign last year, it wasn't only her guests who offered accolades. The design world took notice as well. The ship's renovated Apropos boutique—a retail space for designer clothing and accessories—has won the prestigious Association for Retail Environments (A.R.E.) interior design "Crystal Award" for the shop's distinctive and dramatic aluminum interlocking circle screen. The design won the first-ever Wall Treatment Award in the new, Individual Element category for 2012.

"Due to marine requirements, we have more design restrictions than a space on land, so this is a huge honor for a cruise ship to have won," says Alexandra Don, Crystal's vice president hotel services and design. "Awards like this simply validate what we and our guests already know: that our ships are the ultimate of chic, anywhere on the globe."

Designed by II BY IV Design Associates, the walls of highly polished, thick aluminum, interlocking circles serve as separators for flanking vignettes within the boutique (pictured above). The design was inspired by antique nautical instruments and globe stands, with the reflective piece complementing the high-gloss fascia, wood veneer, and glass-and-mirror wall treatments surrounding them. All fixtures had to be securely bolted to fit marine building codes, yet maintain a graceful, slender appearance—a unique challenge for retail spaces at sea.

Crystal Serenity's sister ship, Crystal Symphony, will undergo her own renovations this June, completing a five-year plan to redesign all of the ship's public and private rooms.

Image Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cruise News: Costa Concordia To Be Refloated Intact For Removal

Wreck to be removed in one piece, refloated and towed away

Costa Crociere and the Costa Concordia Emergency Commissioner’s Office announced that the tender for the removal of the ship from Giglio Island has been awarded to Titan Salvage in partnership with the Italian firm Micoperi. The work will begin in early May subject to final approval from the Italian authorities and is expected to take about 12 months.

Titan Salvage is an American-owned specialist marine salvage and wreck removal company, part of the Crowley Group, and is a world leader in its field. Micoperi is a well-known Italian marine contractor with a long history as a specialist in underwater construction and engineering.

“We are very pleased to announce another important step toward salvaging the wreck from Giglio Island,” said Costa Crociere S.p.A. Chairman & CEO Pier Luigi Foschi. “As was the case with the removal of the fuel, we have sought to identify the best solution to safeguard the island and its marine environment and to protect its tourism. We would like also to thank Smit Salvage and Tito Neri for succeeding in defueling and caretaking operations.”

Throughout the salvage operation, environmental protection will have top priority. Once the main work is complete, the sea bottom will be cleaned and marine flora replanted. The plan also includes measures to safeguard the island of Giglio’s tourism and wider economy. Salvage workers’ presence will not have any significant impact on the availability of hotel accommodation on the island during the summer season. The main operating base will be located on the mainland at nearby Civitavecchia, where equipment and materials will be stored, thereby avoiding any impact on Giglio’s port activities.

Once floated, the wreck will be towed to an Italian port and dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Italian authorities. The removal will be the final step of the salvage. Fuel removal was completed successfully 24 March. “Caretaking" operations, which include cleaning up the seabed and removing debris caused by the incident, will continue until Titan Salvage and Micoperi commence operations.

The plan was selected by an evaluation team with specialist representatives from Costa Crociere, Carnival Corporation & plc, London Offshore Consultants, and the Standard P&I Club. All six tenders submitted by the March 3 deadline were of a very high standard, but the evaluation team decided that the Titan Salvage/Micoperi proposal best fulfilled the main objectives set out in the tender specifications: removal of the wreck in one piece, minimal risk, minimal environmental impact, protection of Giglio’s economy and tourism industry, and maximum safety of the work.

Cruise News: Minor Engine Room Fire Last Night On Allure of the Seas

CND's Cruiseblogger reports, "There was a minor engine room fire aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas last night (April 20, 2012)."

Get the full story here.

The Vikings Are Coming, Part Two

You may recall we shared the announcement that The Vikings Are Coming last December when STX France received an order to build two luxurious small cruise ships for Viking Ocean Cruises, the new sister company of Viking River Cruises. The vessels were scheduled to be delivered in spring 2014 and spring 2015.

That deal fell through earlier this month when Viking River Cruises withdraw from negotiations, apparently after financing details weren't ironed out. Not giving up on their plans, Viking Ocean Cruises has now announced they've inked a Memorandum of Agreement for the construction of two nearly identical luxury ocean cruise ships with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri. The memorandum also includes an option for a third vessel. The parties have reached an agreement on the financial and technical aspects of the deal and expect to sign the contract shortly, once the final documents and conditions are finalized.

In line with Viking's intimate, destination-focused approach to cruising, the new ocean ships will be small by today's standards at approximately 45,000 GRT and will host 998 passengers in 499 cabins. The first ship is scheduled for delivery in late 2014, the second one in late 2015.

Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking, commented, "We started Viking River Cruises to offer great destination experiences, and we are excited to bring this same destination focus back to ocean cruising. The ship designed by Fincantieri has a fresh and innovative design well suited to deliver the award-winning Viking experience."

We wish them luck and look forward to hearing additional details.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Princess Passengers Select Entertainer of the Year

Carlos Oscar is presented with the Entertainer of the Year
award at a party aboard Ruby Princess
Passengers aboard Ruby Princess voted and comedian Carlos Oscar was selected as the first-ever winner of the title Princess Cruises Entertainer of the Year.

In addition to performing aboard Princess ships, Oscar has appeared on “The Tonight Show,” HBO, Showtime, and Comedy Central. According to Bill Cosby, “Carlos is a comedy treasure…the only four letter words you’ll hear from Carlos are debt, kids, and help!” As the winner, Oscar received a cash prize of $5,000 and now holds the title of the line’s “2011 Entertainer of the Year.”

Five finalists performed aboard Ruby Princess during last week’s April 8-15 sailing and passengers cast their ballots after judging the live performance from each finalist during the Entertainer of the Year cruise. The Entertainer of the Year cruise will become an annual event, with another sailing for next year to be announced at a later date.

“Congratulations to Carlos on being voted our first-ever Entertainer of the Year,” said Martin Hall, vice president of entertainment. “All finalists did a fantastic job of entertaining Ruby Princess passengers, and they really showcased the variety and quality of the performers on Princess ships.”

Here's a video showcasing the Entertainer of the Year finalists and the winning moment.

Photo and Video Courteay of Princess Cruises

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Princess Cruises Speaks Out

Statement on Star Princess

Princess Cruises deeply regrets that two Panamanian men perished at sea after their boat became disabled in early March. Since we became aware of this incident, we have been investigating circumstances surrounding the claim that Star Princess failed to come to the aid of the disabled boat, after a crew member was alerted by passengers.

The preliminary results of our investigation have shown that there appeared to be a breakdown in communication in relaying the passenger's concern. Neither Captain Edward Perrin nor the officer of the watch were notified. Understandably, Captain Perrin is devastated that he is being accused of knowingly turning his back on people in distress. Had the Captain received this information, he would have had the opportunity to respond.

We all understand that it is our responsibility and also the law of the sea to provide assistance to any vessel in distress, and it is not an uncommon occurrence for our ships to be involved in a rescue at sea. In fact, we have done so more than 30 times in the last ten years.

We deeply regret this incident and are continuing our investigation to fully understand the circumstances.

Cruise News: MSC Divina Completes Sea Trials

MSC Cruise’s newest Fantasia-class ship MSC Divina successfully completed her initial sea trials this week, returning to the Louis Joubert dock at STX Europe ship yard in Saint-Nazaire, France after 3 days on the open seas off the coast of Brittany, France.

The ship performed to the full satisfaction of the MSC Cruises team after rigorous trials involving around 360 people and more than 60 separate tests, which covered everything from speed and manageability to sound levels and vibration. Further testing will be performed continuously up until the next big event in MSC Divina’s busy schedule: the flag changing ceremony on May 19 in Saint-Nazaire.

A maiden cruise to Marseille will then bring the new ship to her grand christening on May 26. The spectacular evening of entertainment and celebration will be dedicated to the Mediterranean and the passion of its people, and will again see Italian screen legend Sophia Loren cutting the ribbon as the godmother of the MSC Cruises fleet.

Image Courtesy of MSC Cruises

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cruise News: Norwegian Getaway Will Make Miami Her Year-Round Homeport

It’s going to be a while before their next ship comes in... but when it does, Miami will be the spot to get away from it all. Norwegian Cruise Line haa announced that their new state-of-the-art 4,000 passenger ship, Norwegian Getaway, will make the Port of Miami her year-round home when she begins embarking on weekly cruises beginning in the spring of 2014.

“Miami has been the home of this Company since our beginning in 1966. Therefore, we are so excited to bring one of our two new Breakaway-class ships here to Miami to homeport year-round,” said Norwegian Cruise Line Chief Executive Officer Kevin Sheehan. “Norwegian Getaway will embrace all that the Magic City has to offer and will offer an extraordinary cruise experience to the more than 4,000 guests who will sail on her each week beginning in spring 2014.”

Norwegian Cruise Line was the first cruise brand to sail from Miami when the line was founded in 1966 and has been sailing its ships from Port of Miami longer than any other cruise brand. Norwegian currently has three ships sailing seasonally from Miami, including Norwegian Epic, the line’s largest vessel carrying more than 4,100 guests. Norwegian Sky has been sailing 3- and 4-day itineraries to the Bahamas year-round from Miami since 2007.

Being built at Meyer Werft in Germany, the 144,000 gross tons Norwegian Getaway is scheduled for delivery in spring 2014 when she will take her place as the largest ship ever to home port year-round in Miami. Norwegian will announce the ship’s inaugural itineraries and on-sale dates later this year. Norwegian Getaway’s sister ship, Norwegian Breakaway, will begin sailing from her year-round home port of New York City in May 2013. For additional information visit

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cruise News: Man Overboard Saved

Statement From Carnival Cruise Lines

Yesterday, while the Carnival Spirit was en route to Hawaii, a 28-year-old man was witnessed jumping overboard. Search and rescue operations were initiated and the guest was located and brought back on board where he was treated at the ship’s medical center.

Carnival’s CareTeam is providing its support to the guest and his family.

On Norwegian Cruise Line, Kids Get Free Shore Excursions For All 2012 Cruises

With just a few exceptions, your cruise vacation budget just got a break. Norwegian Cruise Line has launched a wallet friendly offer for families who book a 2012 cruise from now through May 13, 2012.

With the “Little Norwegian’s Explore For Free” offer, children 12 years and younger will receive complimentary Norwegian-sponsored shore excursions* and teens (13 to 17 years old) will receive half-off shore excursions* when in the same stateroom with a paying adult on the same excursion. This applies to all 2012 sailings fleet-wide for all ports of call. Families can whale watch in Alaska; explore ancient cities in Europe; or have fun in the sun on a snorkel excursion in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, or Hawai’i. See below for conditions and exceptions.

In conjunction with this offer, Norwegian has partnered with popular kid’s clothing retailer, The Children’s Place, on “A Place in the Sun Sweepstakes,” where participants can enter online at or in retail stores to win a 7-day cruise to the Caribbean or Bermuda for a family of four. In addition, those who qualify for the complimentary shore excursion promotion will receive an e-coupon for 20% off a purchase of $50 or more at The Children’s Place (valid in the U.S. and Canada).

Norwegian’s array of Freestyle Cruising options gives families the flexibility to experience the vacation they’ve always wanted including family-friendly accommodations and a variety of entertainment and dining options. Guests of all ages can enjoy Nickelodeon activities and shows on board Norwegian Jewel’s sailings to Alaska from Seattle; Norwegian Epic’s voyages to the Western Mediterranean from Barcelona or to the Caribbean from Miami; and Norwegian Gem’s sailings from New York to the Bahamas and Florida or the Caribbean.

The line recently announced enhancements to its youth and teen programs, Splash Academy and Entourage. Both Splash Academy and Entourage will feature a different theme every day. Whether it’s ocean-related, pirates, space cowboys, jungle fever or circus, every day will offer a new surprise that is tailored to the individual age groups—Guppies for ages up to 2; Turtles for ages 3 to 5; Seals for ages 6 to 9; and Dolphins for ages 10 to 12. The enhanced curriculum focuses on team building and assisting in developing children’s interpersonal and confidence-building skills. With activities that are tailored specifically to each age group, the new youth and teen programs focus on creative and unique activities, along with more sporting events, through a partnership with King’s Foundation and Camps. A highlight of the program is a circus school in partnership with Hilario Productions’ Cirque du Jour, a New York-based company that specializes in teaching children real circus skills. Splash Academy also offers activities for cruisers under three and their parents who can enjoy sensory play classes which include baby art featuring “Wee Can Too” organic art products.

All shore excursions for adults and children related to this offer must be pre-booked prior to sailing. Guests can reserve shore excursions using their MyNCL account ( for each member of the family online once a new reservation is made. The children and teen rates will automatically be deducted in the shopping cart upon checkout.To book a family cruise vacation with Norwegian during the “Little Norwegian’s Explore For Free” limited time promotion, contact a travel professional, call Norwegian at 866-NCL-CRUISE (625-2784), or visit

*Motorized flight tours, golf, Orlando theme parks, and Atlantis in the Bahamas excluded.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cruise News: New Dining, Entertainment Options Debut Aboard Carnival Miracle

Punchliner Comedy Brunch
When Carnival Miracle departed Jacksonville, Florida on her inaugural voyage in 2004, it was a festive—and traffic stopping—event. With pizza slices from the buffet in hand, a friend and I watched from the Lido deck as her stack cleared the Dames Point Bridge by a mere six feet as onlookers lined the bridge and waterfront waving and cheering. It was a thrill outside as well as inside where we discovered the features of the last of the ships to be introduced in Carnival Cruise Lines’ Spirit class of vessels.

We loved our pizza slices, but at the time those were about the only snack options available to us before dinner (sushi was available inside a bit later). With the passage of time and evolving passenger tastes and expectations, several new complimentary dining and entertainment choices, including The Taste Bar appetizer program, The Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez, and The Punchliner Comedy Brunch presented by George Lopez, have been introduced on Carnival Miracle to offer an even more appealing experience. Carnival Miracle has also launched the line’s first year-round schedule from New York, featuring three different 8-day itineraries, each visiting a diversity of tropical destinations throughout the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Florida.

Here’s what passengers now find on board:

The Taste Bar — New Complimentary Appetizer Program
Carnival’s newest casual dining option, The Taste Bar, has been introduced on Carnival Miracle. The Taste Bar features complimentary bite-size offerings inspired by the newest and most popular “Fun Ship 2.0” dining venues, along with a signature cocktail tied to that eatery’s particular theme available for purchase for $5. Sample offerings may include:

• Roasted pork tacos with green chili salsa and aged cotija cheese, and chicken, avocado, and lime tortilla soup, inspired by the BlueIguana Cantina that debuted on Carnival Liberty, with a refreshing Blue’s Blue Margarita as the accompanying drink.
• Nonna's meatballs and hand-whipped ricotta bruchetta, patterned after the family-style offerings at the Cucina del Capitano Italian restaurant introduced on Carnival Magic, with the eatery’s house Chianti served from an oversized barrel on wheels.
• Fried malanga (sweet potatoes) filled with ginger-scented pork and lime aioli, and pepper pot soup with cilantro sour cream, similar to what is served at Carnival Magic’s RedFrog Pub, with a Rum Jumper as the suggested beverage.
• Grilled ham and provolone cheese melt on buttermilk brioche and cream of tomato soup, from the new Comfort Kitchen option debuting on Carnival Breeze, served with Lynchburg Lemonade.
• Short rib croquettes with chipotle aioli and guava and tomato relish, served with pumpkin bisque with sour cream, available with a Manhattan.
The Taste Bar cuisine samples will be offered on a rotating basis from approximately 5 pm to 8 pm on sea days and select port days. Carnival Miracle’s Taste Bar selections are offered on Promenade Deck in a recently renovated venue that formerly housed the vessel’s sushi bar. Don’t worry about missing your sushi fix—sushi will be one of the featured Taste Bar themes and it will also be available at the Carnival Miracle’s poolside restaurant nightly during dinner service.

Debut of Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez
Also making its debut is the Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez, part of a recently announced partnership with the comedian who serves as the line’s “curator of comedy,” acting as a consultant on the vetting and hiring of both established and up-and-coming comedic talent. The Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez will offer five 35-minute shows on multiple nights during each voyage, with at least two comedians performing each night. Two early-evening shows are tailored for the entire family while the later performances feature R-rated adults-only comedy. Although Lopez won’t be on board himself, he has recorded a number of light-hearted greetings that will be shown on Carnival Miracle’s in-cabin televisions and played during introductions of comedy club performances.

Laughter, Pancakes and More Served Free at Punchliner Comedy Brunch
For those who prefer a little merriment in the morning, there’s the new Punchliner Comedy Brunch presented by George Lopez, which debuts on the Carnival Miracle and offers up heaping servings of laughter along with a new twist on the traditional culinary feast. Taking place on sea days in the main dining room, The Punchliner Comedy Brunch presented by George Lopez features five- to six-minute performances each hour by comedians who entertain guests as they enjoy a variety of mid-morning favorites prepared by Carnival’s master chefs.

Many items are inspired by Lopez’s Mexican heritage, including Carne y Huevos, filet mignon topped with two eggs and béarnaise sauce; Hen Alla Diavola, grilled chicken with lemon and pepper; and Mexican-style churros. Two special “George’s Recipes” dishes created by the comedian himself are also offered—his own take on Huevos Rancheros that features a chicken quesadilla topped with fried eggs and manchego cheese, and a breakfast burrito filled with scrambled eggs, beans and chorizo.

Appropriately enough, menu item descriptions have a comedic slant with playful interpretations of traditional brunch offerings listed under categories such as Opening Act with dishes that include Flamin’ Tomatoes Soup and Caesar Salad; Headliners featuring Funny French Toast, Pappardelle Pasta, and Mac and Cheese available with applewood smoked bacon, chicken or steak; and Punchline, a decadent dessert menu with caramelized cheesecake, banana crème pie and other confections. A variety of custom-made omeletes, as well as standards like Eggs Benedict and sides, are also available. The menu features a Bloody Mary Bar offering several variations of the traditional brunch-time favorite for purchase.

Eight-Day Cruise Itineraries
Carnival Miracle’s three distinctly different 8-day itineraries from New York are: eastern Caribbean departures to San Juan, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk; Bahamas sailings featuring stops at the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, and Nassau; and Bahamas/Florida cruises with port calls to Port Canaveral (Orlando), Nassau, and Freeport. Each itinerary offers beaches, shopping and dining experiences, world-famous landmarks, historical sites and attractions, and myriad sightseeing and shore excursion opportunities, including snorkeling, scuba-diving, and water sports.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Titanic, 100 Years Ago Today

Titanic, "Ship of Dreams"
The brand-new Titanic was the pride of the White Star fleet at the time she set out on her maiden voyage in April 1912. She was truly a ship of dreams until the nightmare of her sinking a century ago today. Most people pretty much know her story through numerous books and movies—the tale has been told and retold many times. Today we bow our heads to remember the souls who lost their lives that fateful night.

Little known, though, is the story of the ship that rushed to the site to rescue passengers fortunate enough to find a spot in Titanic's lifeboats. That would be Cunard Line's unsung Carpathia and her heroic captain and crew. In his story on the We Are Cunard blog, Guided by a greater hand…, Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Line relates,

"At Cunard we have chosen not to take part in any of the major events surrounding the 100th Anniversary. On 15 April on each of our ships, we will have a remembrance service and a remembrance dinner, with a specially prepared menu that will tell the story of the little Carpathia. The Carpathia was the first ship to arrive at the site of the sinking of the Titanic and rescued more than 700 survivors, taking them safely back to New York.

The story of the Carpathia is a fascinating one and one for Cunard Line to be proud of."
I found this story particularly compelling and admit to being a bit tearful after reading it. Follow the link above and have a tissue handy.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

iStudy Apples On The Cunard Line Fleet

The last time I was in London I was delighted that my hotel boasted a computer in every room with complimentary Internet access. Sadly, my delight faded when I sat down in front of a Mac. Like most users, my PC is powered by the world of Windows and, while I was able to figure out enough of the Apple system to use the hotel computer, it was confusing. It was also pretty frustrating, not to mention intimidating.

Even though I don’t encounter Mac computers very often, I could have used a class like Cunard Line’s extremely popular Apple iStudy courses. Now available fleetwide since the recent opening of the Apple Learning Center on board Queen Victoria, the centers offer the latest iMac machines for confidence-boosting seminars and workshops that aim to familiarize guests with the latest technology in a fun and interactive way. The iStudy program has been a feature of flagship Queen Mary 2 since October 2011, while Queen Elizabeth has had an Apple centre on board since her introduction in 2010. The workshops have proved a particularly strong draw on Queen Mary 2’s Transatlantic Crossings between New York and Southampton, with many guests bringing along their own iPads to use during the sessions.

The iStudy program on all three ships aims to take advantage of today's technology and present computer-based learning in an accessible and non-intimidating way. All Guest Computer Services Managers have been trained on the latest Apple technology to offer Apple courses to interested guests. In addition, the sessions offer a great way for Windows users to test-drive Apple programs and to compare Windows and Apple software side-by-side. That’s very appealing to Mac novices like me!

Designed exclusively for Cunard, the Apple iStudy program offers three levels of learning:

• First Steps provides hands-on learning for basic computer skills, both Mac and Windows, as well as an introduction to many of Apple’s iLife applications.
• Next Steps covers more creative or advanced topics. With workshops on photo editing, building a family tree, DVD and movie-making courses, guests are able to edit photos and videos of their voyage when they return home.
• iStudy Seminars provide a taster on all aspects of new technology, from Facebook to iPads.
In addition, the top Grand Duplex Suites in the Queens Grill accommodation category on all three ships have been fitted with iPads for their guests to download the newspaper of their choice and use to browse the Internet.

Course creator and trainer of iStudy Presenters Richie Litchfield tells us, “All the seminars and workshops are fronted by specially trained presenters to make learning fun, in a positive and relaxing environment. There is something for everyone, from the beginner to the more advanced, and our aim is for guests to walk out of the iStudy feeling enriched and more confident.”

Aboard Queen Elizabeth, Cunard also features an iRange store as an Authorized Apple Reseller at sea. Guests can experiment with the latest Apple devices at their leisure, and Apple trained staff are available to give specialist advice on all the products offered for sale on board, including iPods (Shuffle, Nano, and Touch), iPad 2, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, as well as accessories such as cases, bags, sleeves, and speakers. It is hoped that these iRange Stores will also be opened on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria in the future.

Image Courtesy of Cunard Line

Friday, April 13, 2012

Your Cruise Travel Identification Requirement: Don't Let This Happen To You

Sometimes when we travel we make mistakes. Maybe it’s because we’re in a hurry or excited or simply have a temporary brain freeze. We can misunderstand what’s required of us or forget things.

I recall waiting to board a ship at Port Everglades and overhearing a cruise line rep attempt to assist a passenger who had forgotten his passport. Fortunately he didn’t live far from port, unfortunately there was no one available at home to get the passport and bring it to him. The ship sailed without him. That even happened to one of my travel writer colleagues once—and she is a very experienced traveler. That’s why the first thing my husband asks me when we get in the car to leave home is, “Do you have the passports?” I double check before we’re out of the driveway.

I bring this up because I received an email from a reader the other day relating a refusal of boarding situation. She said, “My family was recently refused aboard our cruise ship because we only had a birth certificate for my 8-year old and not the ‘state-certified’ birth certificate.” She went on to say that the others in their family group of seven (three children, the parents, and grandparents) had the proper documentation—interestingly, each of those six had ‘state-certified’ birth certificates—yet they were all “turned away.” She continues, “As a result, we were stranded in Florida where we had to incur the expenses of a second vacation.” She says the cruise line was “and continue to be, without empathy and compassion for our situation. We have written letters and received no response.”

Well, there you have it. I’m surprised it wasn’t George Bush’s fault as well. Although I won’t mention which line it is, here is an explanation of the identification required from the cruise line’s web site:

For round-trip sailings (cruises that depart from and return to the same U.S. port), you may sail with either a valid passport, proof of citizenship and a valid government-issued photo I.D. (driver’s license with a photo*), or any other WHTI compliant document.

Proof of Citizenship examples include:
- State certified U.S. birth certificate (emphasis added)
I might also mention that the above quote is found in a very prominent section on that cruise line’s web site. While I feel badly for the disappointed family, I must point out that it is every traveler’s responsibility to have the proper identification and documentation. I was puzzled that the parents didn’t realize that one child’s supposed birth certificate was different from those of every other family member. I don’t know for certain, but a former travel agent told me the one that didn’t pass muster was probably a hospital-issued birth record, which is not a certified birth certificate. He said it’s a very common mistake that people without passports make.

There is nothing any cruise line can do when embarking passengers show up with inadequate citizenship identification. The requirement for it is not a policy made up by the cruise lines, it is United States law. The Department of Homeland Security’s Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires “all citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda to have a passport or other accepted document that establishes the bearer’s identity and nationality to enter or depart the United States from within the Western Hemisphere.” Cruise lines cannot make exceptions. Only a certified birth certificate is acceptable to the United States government officials. I’m certain that anyone disembarking a cruise ship without it would be thoroughly grilled by Immigration officers.

This is a lesson to anyone without a passport. You can sail on a cruise that leaves from and returns to the same U.S. port, but in lieu of a passport you must have the proper alternative. A certified birth certificate is one that contains the issuing state’s seal, either embossed/raised or stamped (in some states they now use an official stamp instead of a raised seal).

To avoid this unpleasant situation, the best recourse is to Identify Yourself With A Passport. Don’t leave home without it.

* Obviously children too young to drive do not need a license.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Boston Symphony Honors Titanic Musicians

In conjunction with this weekend's commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the Boston Symphony Orchesta will spotlight a memorial plaque in honor of the musicians who drowned while still playing (famously alleged as “Nearer, My God, to Thee”); the BSO tribute will take place during performances at Symphony Hall April 12-14.

Boston philanthropist and arts patron Isabella Stewart Gardner, a close friend of BSO founder Henry Lee Higginson, was so moved by the story of the musicians who continued to play while the ship was sinking that she commissioned a marble plaque in their memory. Though the musicians were not members of the BSO—nor were any of them connected to Boston (all Europeans, they were employed through a company out of Liverpool)—the poignant plaque was hung in the main hallway of Symphony Hall, where it remains today, in honor of their bravery.

A press clipping from the Boston Post dated September 23, 1912, describes the plaque, and states that the donor preferred to remain anonymous. It wasn't until many years later that her identity was revealed. The BSO is also presumed to be the first institution to do a musical tribute honoring the lives lost (this fact was referred to in a news clipping a day after the tribute), which took place on April 26, 1912. The BSO performed the Funeral March from Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, Symphony No. 3, under the direction of Max Fiedler.

From today through Saturday, the Boston Symphony will place flowers near the plaque, and a display case in the main hall of Symphony Hall will offer information about the installation of the plaque and the BSO's musical tribute.

The full text of the plaque is:

In Memory of the Devoted Musicians

Wallace Henry Hartley, bandmaster
John Frederick Preston Clark
Percy Cornelius Taylor
John Wesley Woodward
W. Theodore Brailey
John Law Hume
George Krins
Roger Bricoux

Who were drowned still playing as the Titanic went down April 15, 1912

Image Courtesy of The Boston Symphony Orchestra

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cruise News: Azamara Quest Repairs Under Way In Singapore

Azamara Club Cruises Statement
April 11, 2012; 10:30 am ET

Azamara Quest has arrived in Singapore ahead of schedule, and the repairs to the damage caused by the engine room fire are proceeding as planned. We continue to be pleased with the progress that has been made on the ship, and are on schedule to complete the necessary work before Azamara Quest’s next scheduled sailing from Mumbai (Bombay), India on Tuesday, April 24.

We encourage guests on the April 24 sailing of Azmara Quest to monitor Azamara Club Cruises’ website for additional updates on the repairs. Guests who have any additional questions regarding Azamara Quest may call toll free 1.888.829.4050 from the United States and Canada. Guests outside the United States may call direct or collect to 1.408.916.9001.

The condition of the Azamara Quest crew member that was more severely injured continues to improve. While he is still at the hospital in Manila, he is no longer in the Intensive Care Unit. His wife and sister are with him, which has greatly improved his spirits. They are all thankful for the opportunity to be together, and we will continue to do our very best to assist them. Our thoughts and prayers are with our crew member and his family.

Azamara Club Cruises would like to thank everyone for their thoughtfulness and concern regarding our injured crew member. Many of you have asked for a way to make a donation to assist him. If you would like to make a donation, please make the check payable to Azamara Club Cruises, write "Crew Donation/Azamara Quest” on the memo field, and mail to the address below. One hundred percent of all contributions will go directly to the fund we have set up for our injured crew member.

Nick Garcia
Manager-Financial Purser Operations-Systems and Projects
Accounting, Shipboard Financial Operations
Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises
1050 Caribbean Way
Miami, FL 33132

Azamara Journey Sails From New York On Titanic Memorial Voyage

Next Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the tragic Titanic disaster. While the greatest liner of her time didn't make it to New York, Azamara Club Cruises' Azamara Journey arrived at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal for the first time on Monday. After wrapping up its itinerary with an overnight in the heart of the Big Apple, guests embarked yesterday to set sail on a chartered Titanic Memorial Voyage, marking the 100th anniversary of that historic event.

Azamara Club Cruises is a destination-immersive cruise line for up-market travelers who want to not only see the places and cultures they visit, but to live them. Azamara’s two intimate, 694-guest ships, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, with a combination of 347 suites and staterooms, offer a European-boutique hotel ambience with extraordinary service, fine cuisine and wines from around the world, and wellness and vitality programs, all while sailing to a host of destinations larger ships cannot reach.

Image and Video courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Must-See TV: "Love For Sail" Tonight on Lifetime

If you enjoyed seeing Norwegian Cruise Line's chief executive officer Kevin Sheehan on TV in "Undercover Boss" then you'll love the new Lifetime series "Love For Sail." In the launch episode tonight—and each week that the program airs—four women board a spectacular Norwegian Cruise Line ship and set sail to exotic locations surrounded by a group of single men who are ready to embark on what they hope to be the voyage of their lives.

With the help of series' Cruise Directors Bucko and Carmen, the women meet their suitors at an opening mixer where the matchmaking begins. Throughout the cruise, the singles participate in a variety of romantic dates on board, mixer parties, and adventurous excursions in beautiful ports of call such as Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Nassau, Bahamas. Some will make love connections, but for others, it's not always smooth sailing. Either way, there's a lot of fun and drama behind the competitive courtship among the women and men, all of who are hoping to hook-in a mate on this once in a lifetime journey.

"Love for Sail" features three of Norwegian's Freestyle Cruising ships. Norwegian Epic, the line's newest and most innovative ship to date, hosted the women in The Haven by Norwegian, the line's exclusive suite complex on three private decks at the top of the ship. You'll catch an intimate glimpse of Posh, The Haven's luxurious beach club and The Haven Courtyard. Mandara Spa, the largest spa at sea; Bliss Ultra Lounge, Epic's hot nightclub; and Spice H20, the ship's adult-only pool area, will also be featured as the women search for love at sea. The women sailed on Norwegian Epic's cruise to the Eastern Caribbean, calling on St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Phillipsburg, St. Maarten and Nassau, Bahamas from Miami, Florida.

Norwegian Pearl also has a starring role in "Love for Sail," with the women staying in The Haven by Norwegian in the largest suite at sea: the luxurious 5,000 square foot, three-bedroom Garden Villa, complete with a private living and dining room, sundeck and hot tub. Various aspects of the ship will be highlighted including the Great Outdoors bar; La Cucina, the ship's Italian restaurant; the pool deck; Maltings Beer & Whiskey Bar; Summer Palace and Bliss Ultra Lounge, among others. Love was in the air as Norwegian Pearl sailed to the Western Caribbean from Miami, Florida, visiting Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico.

Norwegian Star also makes a cameo appearance. Four women board the ship in Los Angeles, California on a Mexican Riviera cruise that stops in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Granted that "reality" takes on an entirely different meaning when applied to "reality TV," but this show could offer a peek at the singles life at sea. It's all edited for maximum drama, but it's fun entertainment nonetheless. Set your DVR or watch Tuesdays at 10pm/9c on Lifetime.

Images Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pay Your Taxes, Or It's No Passport For You

As we reported in Pay Up Or It's No Passport For Your Cruise, the US State Department denies passports to noncustodial parents who owe more than $2,500 in child support. And now, Fox Business News has revealed that there is an amendment to a bill before Congress that could allow the federal government to prevent Americans with substantial unpaid back tax obligations from leaving the country.

While some experts view the provision contained in Senate Bill 1813 as overly harsh and possibly unconstitutionsl, Fox Business News says that according to Niels Lesniewski, Editor of CQ SenateWatch, that there is precedent for it. Lesniewski told them, “Existing law says that passports may not be reviewed for applicants owing child support in excess of $2,500. So I think supporters would say: ‘You can’t get a passport if you don’t pay child support, but you can get a passport if you don’t pay taxes?’”

The amendment, which has received little attention, would allow the State Department to revoke, deny, or limit passports for anyone the IRS certifies as having “a seriously delinquent tax debt in an amount in excess of $50,000.”

There are exceptions, of course. For instance, if the debt “is being paid in a timely manner” or “in emergency circumstances or for humanitarian reasons.” The delinquent person does not have be charged with tax evasion before having their passport revoked—the only requirement is that the IRS has filed a notice of lien or levy against them.

The bill containing the provision has made it through the Senate where it originated, but what about its chance of passing in the House where stronger opposition is expected? Fox reports that “it’s hard to tell if it will withstand Republican opposition, but he [Lesniewski] believes the passport provision has a good chance at becoming law for one reason: money.” The provision could haul in $750 million in the 10-year budget window and according to Lesniewski it’s likely to be passed at some point because “it seems like relatively low hanging fruit.”

Hey, what’s good enough for deadbeat dads (and moms) is certainly good enough for tax cheats. Either pay up or stay home. In fact, honest taxpayers would probably like to see that $50,000 delinquency limit even lower.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

More Sea Days on Queen Mary 2 Crossings

For cruise travelers who enjoy days at sea, nothing is more satisfying than a Transatlantic Crossing and Cunard Line’s grand ocean liner Queen Mary 2, will sail a total of 17 of those iconic voyages between New York and Southampton from May 2013 to Jan 2014.

In addition to their flagship’s popular 7-day Transatlantic sailings, Cunard will introduce two 8-day Crossings, providing guests with even more of Queen Mary 2’s exceptional travel experience and more time to enjoy the unique sense of timelessness that only a Transatlantic voyage provides. If that isn’t enough, extended 9- and 10-day Crossings between New York and Hamburg will also be available.

These longer Crossings offer additional time to explore the ship’s extensive on board amenities and activities, including lectures through the award-winning Cunard Insights program; stargazing in the only planetarium at sea; white-gloved afternoon tea served in the Queens Room or a spin around the dance floor during a Royal Nights themed ball; taking in a performance or workshop by members of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art; or perusing the 8,000 volumes in the largest library at sea.

Select Cunard Line European itineraries may be combined with Transatlantic Crossings on either side, creating a divine “Grand” voyage.

Take a look at what a Transatlantic Crossing aboard Queen Mary 2 is all about with Cruise Diva: Crossing the Atlantic in Royal Style. Before you ask... no, we didn’t encounter any icebergs.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

WestJet's Kid-Free Flights

Even though this was an April Fool's joke, we love the idea. Watch the video below and see if you agree.

Introducing Kargo Kids, an exciting new program allowing guests to travel on select child-free flights, creating a quieter and more relaxing inflight experience, while children travel in a "special VIP" area of the aircraft.

"This is a win-win situation for guests travelling on these flights," said Richard Bartrem, WestJet, Vice-President, Communications and Community Relations. "This new service offers little WestJetters an incredible travel experience while providing their guardians and our other guests with a quiet, child-free cabin."

"As Canada's low-cost airline, we are constantly looking for innovative and fun ways to enhance the guest experience," continued Richard Bartrem. "The initial feedback on Kargo Kids has been quite positive and we're looking forward to the peace and quiet while we get families where they need to be."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cruise News: Holland America Line Offers Passengers Free Access To Their Blog

Here’s some great (and cost saving!) news for fans of the Holland America Blog. When you’re on board one of their ships, access to the blog is now complimentary when using one of the ship’s computers.

Located in the “Free Internet Sites” area on the home page that pops up when you get on the computer, the link takes you right to the Holland America Blog so you won’t miss a single post while you’re on board. Happy browsing and happy cruising!

Image Courtesy of Holland America Line

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Viator Offers Shore Excursion Savings

Viator, Inc., the leading resource for researching and booking tours and activities around the world, has unveiled a new website specifically designed to help cruise passengers find and book shore excursions with savings up to 60% off typical rates offered by cruise lines. The new website,, features more than 500 shore excursions in over 80 of the most popular ports around the globe, including new destinations Juneau, Monaco and Mykonos.

The site has been designed for the complex nature of shore excursion bookings and will offer only relevant tours and activities, based on the specific itinerary of the cruise ship, with itineraries available from the world’s leading cruise companies including Carnival Cruises, Costa Cruises, Holland America, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean. All passengers need to do is select the cruise line, ship name and departure date, and Viator will instantly load the cruise ship’s itinerary and present only those excursions that can specifically work for each port of call based on arrival and departure times, and availability.

Some of the shore excursions travelers can book on the new Viator site are highlighted below with sample savings from cruise-sponsored excursions:

Shore Excursion
Cruise Lines
Mazatlan Shore Excursion: Estero Ecological Reserve Jungle Tour

Princess: $79

Hilo Shore Excursion: Volcanoes National Park and Rainbow Falls

Norwegian: $89

Naples Shore Excursion: Capri Day Trip with Lunch from Naples

Carnival: $200

Juneau Whale Watching Adventure and Mendenhall Glacier Tour

Princess: $179


*Note: All Viator prices listed are per person, represent the lowest available price for an excursion, and are subject to availability.

“The new Viator Shore Excursion platform builds on the increasing popularity of independent shore excursion bookings on  We’ve taken our great inventory and added innovative technology to create the new user experience and give cruise passengers direct access to the best excursions in their ports of call to help them make the most of their time and money in every port,” said Ms. Barrie Seidenberg, CEO and president of Viator, Inc. “For far too long cruise passengers have been beholden to the cruise lines for shore excursions that are often overpriced, over crowded and represent only a fraction of what’s available locally.”
Specific features of the Viator Shore Excursions website include:

· Easy search and booking, based on cruise ship’s itinerary. Just select a ship’s itinerary from thousands of options, and Viator will instantly sync and reveal only available shore excursions in their ports-of-call that match allowed shore times. For travelers who haven’t chosen their cruise yet, Viator enables searches by region and port as well.
· Unique and more personalized experiences. Small group and private options or skip-the-line rivileges, as well as exclusive, customizable tours led by Viator Private Guides let cruise travelers bypass large throngs of their shipmates and enjoy more private and customized experiences including:

Shore Excursion

Cruise Lines
Half-Day Private Tour of New York City by Limousine

Full Day Private Medoc Wine Tour in Bordeaux

Small group tour tasting the Greek cuisine in Athens

Dunns River Falls and Beach Horseback Riding in Montego Bay


· Multiple unique itineraries for a single group. Perhaps your parents would like a different experience than scuba diving–no problem. You can now create and book multiple itineraries for each member of your group–adults, kids, etc–tailored to their interests in one transaction.
· Viator’s Worry-Free bookings. Worried about missing your ship if you don’t book your excursion directly with the cruise line? Don’t be. If a passenger misses the ship because of a Viator excursion, Viator will transport them to the next port of call at no cost to the traveler.
· Guaranteed best prices in multiple currencies. In addition to savings up to 60% off, all shore excursions qualify for Viator's low price guarantee. If you find a lower price, Viator will refund the difference. All tours can be booked in AUD, CAD, USD, GBP, and EUR.
· Last minute availability. Whether from an estate room on an iPad or a mobile phone call to Viator’s call center, many of Viator’s excursions are available for purchase as late as the night before arrival in port.
· Unbiased cruise traveler reviews, photos and star ratings. Browse hundreds of cruise traveler reviews and photos from actual Viator users that provide valuable first-person insights like this one from Bo, Oct 2011, regarding the Civitavecchia Rome in One Day Private Tour, “People on our cruise couldn't believe all that we were able to do and see. Don't miss this tour!”

From now through April 30, 2012, all bookings through the new Viator shore excursions website will receive a 10% discount off the already low prices. Cruise passengers simply enter the code SHOREX10 at checkout for this special Viator value. For more information, travelers can follow Viator Shore Excursions on the Viator Travel Blog.