Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Malt Shop Memories Cruise, Elvis Tribute

To celebrate the music of the 50s and 60s—the Malt Shop Era—and the King of Rock ‘n Roll, one of the most highly competitive groups of Elvis Tribute Artists is aboard the Malt Shop Memories cruise. Some were invited to participate to compete in the richest Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in the World, with a $5,000 grand prize, but the contest is open to any passenger on board who wishes to enter.

To get into the mood, we’ve enjoyed Gino Monopoli’s show in the Jungle Room (pictured here). Dwight Icenhower, winner of the 2011 Malt Shop Memories Elvis Tribute Artist Contest has also taken the stage. So far, we’ve also seen a number of Elvis artists mingling on board. Yes, they are easy to spot and they are generous with their time, posing for photos and chatting. Just like the real King would be if he were on board.

The contest has started and is taking place all week long, with panel of judges making eliminations after each round. Each night’s competition features a theme, so the Tribute Artists must be well-rounded musically and creative in their presentation. Vocal quality and likeness are highly scored.

On the final night of the cruise, the King of Elvis Tribute Artists will be chosen right here aboard Eurodam. As Elvis himself would say, “thank you…thank you very much.”

Here’s how the contest works:

The contest is for the “Best in Show” Elvis Tribute Artist. All phases of Elvis Tribute themes will compete together with the finalists being deemed the very best in their respective categories. The finalists may all come from one category or they may reflect several categories. The winner will be the person who is the very best in show regardless of category.

Elvis Tribute Artists are all judged using the same scoring sheet. Each of the judging criteria is scored on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest score. Vocals count for 40% of the score. Appearance, stage presence, and overall performance each count as 20%.

The judging criteria are as follows:
• Vocals - Overall singing ability
• Appearance - Ability to create a look and style that well represents Elvis
• Stage Presence - Ability to re-create the charisma Elvis created when performing on stage
• Overall Performance - Quality of the overall performance as a whole
There are three rounds of competition. Round 1 features each contestant performing two songs. Those who are selected for the semi-finals will also be required to perform another two songs for the semi final round. For the finals each remaining contestant will perform three songs. No contestant may repeat a song during the competition. It is within the judge’s purview to determine the number of contestants who qualify for the semi-finals and the finals.

The contest will provide the audio equipment and will present the music, but the actual music to be played must be provided by the contestant.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Malt Shop Memories Cruise, At Sea

While we were scheduled to call at Grand Turk Monday, our late departure from Jacksonville and the increased distance from north Florida nixed our port day. Instead the Malt Shop Memories Cruise aboard Eurodam bypassed Grand Turk and spent another day at sea in order to make our visit to San Juan today.

We hated missing Grand Turk, but we used the time to put up our door decorations. When the creative gene was being distributed, my mom must have been asleep and I didn’t get one. I gave it a try with a “Beach Music” theme, but fellow Malt Shop Memories cruisers have really shown me up. One of them will win a much-deserved prize for the most inventive door decorations.

Because we arrived in Jacksonville so late for our departure Saturday night, the mainstage show featuring The Chiffons and The Platters was canceled. Both groups made an appearance at Sunday night’s Sock Hop poolside and since we had an extra sea day, they performed matinee shows on the big stage in the afternoon.

Our show for the night headlines The Drifters and Dion. We plan to take an afternoon nap so we’ll be able to stay up late for the comedy show with David Brenner and Round 1 of the Elvis Tribute Artist contest.

Images (c)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Malt Shop Memories Cruise, The Hurricane Edition

Let’s back up a bit to Saturday when we were scheduled to board Holland America Line’s Eurodam in Fort Lauderdale. At the pre-cruise party on Friday night we learned our ship was diverted to Jacksonville due to Hurricane Sandy. As a result, instead of boarding Eurodam at Port Everglades, we boarded coaches to Jacksonville where we finally embarked hours later than planned. No problem… For those of us on board early enough, a full evening of musical events were on tap, including the opening of the “Jungle Room” and the introduction of Elvis Tribute Artists hosted by Gino Monopoli (one of my personal favorite “Elvi”) and Dwight Icenhower. As a courtesy for the inconvenience, Holland America hosted open bars and all drinks were on them for the night.

Luggage arrived during the night and we were able to get settled in before our delayed boat drill at 9am on Sunday morning. In our pre-cruise package for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise we received official tee-shirts to wear at the Malt Shop Memories Cruise T-shirt party where the music was provided by DJ Jerry Blavat and complimentary drinks were served poolside. Afterwards, Chubby Checker was on hand to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Twist. Gosh, we don’t feel that old.

Everyone has color coded key cards (either red or blue), which determine show times and dinner seatings. Our shows are at 6pm and our first showtime featured The Tymes and Darlene Love (He’s A Rebel”). To wrap up the night, the Sock Hop Dance Party was held poolside with The Chiffons and The Platters.

By and large the hurricane is behind us and the ocean has settled down, but we are on board the most rockin’ ship at sea.
Image (c)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

At Home on Holland America Line's Eurodam for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise

To board a Holland America ship is to enter a floating bit of maritime history with a modern twist. For over 135 years, the line has remained true to its mission, “Through excellence, we create once-in-a-lifetime experiences every time.” Quite simply, Holland America offers premium cruising at its classic best.Embarking upon Eurodam is like coming home and, in this case, it’s going to be even more fun than usual. We're on board for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2012, hosted by Entertainment Cruise Productions.

Once on board we quickly settled in and made ourselves comfortable in our deluxe oceanview stateroom with verandah. Although there aren’t many drawers for storing folded garments, each closet features drop-down shelves and we found plenty of room to stow everything, including in the deep drawers at the foot of the bed.

The décor is soothing in tones of grey and cream with jewel toned accents. One of my favorite features is the vanity/desk with its lighted magnifying mirror. It’s perfect for those of us who crave lighting and need a bit of magnification to apply mascara.

A home at sea, our Verandah Outside stateroom is similar in design to outside standards, including most bathrooms with tubs, but the verandahs add real usable space. Furnished with two wicker-style chairs and a table, there is still plenty of room to move about; standard staterooms, either inside or outside are functional and comfortable. For budget accommodations with a bit more room, book an inside on Main Deck.

All categories are outfitted with "Signature of Excellence" amenities that include the plush Euro-top Mariner's Dream Bed, deluxe waffle weave/terry cloth robes, Egyptian cotton towels, flat panel televisions, DVD players, lighted make-up mirrors, hand held hairdryers, massaging shower heads, personal safes, refrigerators, and closets configured for hanging and/or drop down shelves. This is Holland America Line and a full ship music theme charter at its best..

Our 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise includes port calls at San Juan, St. Thomas, and one of our favorite destinations—Holland American’s private island, Half Moon Cay. Oh yes, and we’ll have days at sea to simply relax and enjoy the shows and camaraderie of our Malt Shop peers. We hope you’ll follow along here in the Cruise Diva Blog.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Princess Cruises “The Campaign to Escape Completely” Update: Cruise Vacation Side Effects

Some passengers apparently have trouble adjusting to life on land after a cruise vacation, as was hilariously illustrated by Princess Cruises in their first “Side Effects of Cruising” video, which focused on The Sanctuary.

The video proved so successful that Princess Cruises has released a follow up highlighting the Movies Under the Stars onboard experience as part of The Campaign to Escape Completely. In mockumentary style, this new video further explores the withdrawal symptoms Princess Cruises passengers may face when returning from vacation. Shown is a husband attempting, without much success, to recreate the popular Movies Under the Stars experience, which includes comfortable chaise lounges, complimentary popcorn, and cozy blankets in the evening.

The Campaign to Escape Completely, which will continue through Nov 6, 2012, gives consumers a chance to win free cruises and gifts by finding a Princess Cruise Golden Ticket in their emails and by playing the “Ballot Box Trivia Challenges.” The latest challenge launched on Friday, Oct 19 at 3pm PST.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Carnival Corporation Orders New Ships for Its Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Lines Brands

Carnival Corporation announced today it has reached an agreement for the construction of two new cruise ships - a 99,000-ton ship for its Holland America Line brand and a 135,000-ton vessel for its Carnival Cruise Lines brand.

A memorandum of agreement has been signed with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri for the construction of a 2,660-passenger ship for Holland America Line scheduled for delivery in fall 2015 and a 4,000-passenger ship for Carnival Cruise Lines scheduled for delivery in winter 2016. The total cost for the two vessels combined, which includes the U.S. dollar denominated contract price and all owner's costs, will be approximately $195,000 per lower berth. The memorandum of agreement is subject to customary closing conditions, including execution of shipbuilding contracts and financing.

The Holland America ship, which will be a new class of vessel for the line, will enter service five years after the last Holland America ship, the ms Nieuw Amsterdam, delivered in 2010. The Carnival Cruise Lines vessel, also a new class of ship, will be launched four years after the introduction of Carnival Breeze, which debuted in spring 2012. The timing of capacity additions for these brands is similar to the five year span between upcoming new ship introductions for both Princess Cruises and P-and-O Cruises (UK), as previously announced.

"Today's order continues the company's strategy of introducing two to three ships per year across the corporation's 10 brands. We have strategically timed the introduction of these new ships to allow ample time for those brands to further grow their passenger base and absorb the new capacity while minimizing revenue yield dilution in the remainder of their existing fleets," said Micky Arison, chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation & plc.

Including the newbuilds announced today, Carnival Corporation currently has nine new ships scheduled for delivery - two for 2013, two for 2014, three for 2015 and two for 2016. Arison also noted that the addition of new tonnage is expected, to some extent, to replace existing capacity reductions from possible sales of older ships.

Silversea's Second Expedition Ship Will Set Sail As Silver Galapagos

Luxury expedition cruise specialist Silversea has announced Silver Galapagos as the name for its second small-sized expedition ship, which is currently sailing as the Galapagos Explorer II. The new name signals the company's intent to maintain a consistent level of elegance throughout its fleet, and will take effect after the all-suite, 100-guest vessel undergoes a major refurbishment in September 2013. In a related move, the hull of the Galapagos Explorer II has already been painted the same dark blue as Silver Explorer, the company's other expedition ship.

Silver Galapagos will be the only luxury expedition ship offering socially and environmentally responsible ecotourism to the Galápagos archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This important distinction enables Silversea to broaden its portfolio of expedition cruises tailored to tap into the rising interest in green tourism.

Silversea has also revealed that it will start selling its 2013 Galápagos program in mid-November of this year, offering two exciting new 7-day itineraries that will begin operating in late September 2013 as follows:
-- Sailing Saturday to Saturday roundtrip from Baltra Island, Silver Galapagos will trace a path across the western, southern and eastern islands, including Santiago, Bartolomé, Isabela, Fernandina, Floreana, San Cristóbal, and Santa Cruz.
-- Sailing Saturday to Saturday roundtrip from Baltra Island, this itinerary encompasses the northeast, central and southeast islands of Santa Cruz, Genovesa, Seymour Norte, San Cristóbal, Española, and Plazas Sur.
The 2013 Galápagos schedule offers adventurous travelers the life-enriching chance to discover a wild, pristine paradise that has long been regarded as a natural laboratory of evolution. On complimentary expeditions ashore guided by an experienced expedition team (certified by the Galápagos National Park Service), Silversea's guests may experience up-close encounters with an abundance of wildlife that includes sun-basking land iguanas, giant tortoises, blue- and red-footed boobies, colorful marine iguanas, sea lions, penguins and Darwin's famous finches. Above itineraries are subject to change.

The program also offers opportunities to swim and snorkel in tranquil clear waters, witness unique highland ecosystems, hike through lush mangrove forests and across volcanic fields, explore natural lava tunnels, watch for wild flamingos (in season), read cave inscriptions from the 1800s, and learn about conservation efforts at the Charles Darwin Research Station.

In true Silversea Expeditions style, the guests of Silver Galapagos will enjoy full-scale exploring from an enclave of luxury at sea that includes spacious, ocean-view accommodations, sumptuous gourmet cuisine, the personalized service of a butler, and a generous selection of all-inclusive shipboard amenities, including complimentary beverages, wines and spirits served throughout the ship, stocked in-suite beverage cabinet, and all gratuities. For more information on Silversea Cruises, visit

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Get Your Halloween Cruise “Fun” Here

Halloween is just around the corner and to celebrate, Carnival Cruise Lines has created a massive, 70-foot-long “Fun Ship”-shaped display comprised of more than 500 carved jack-o-lanterns at Boo at the Zoo, which is taking place this month in New Orleans. If you are in the area, you can still take part on Friday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 27.

The creative display is part of the line’s sponsorship of the annual “spooktacular” event, which attracts thousands of families who will enjoy trick-or-treat houses, a Ghost Train, haunted houses, fun games with prizes and entertainment, children’s decoration stations, and more.

Carnival’s sponsorship of the event underscores the line’s commitment to the New Orleans community and the company’s role as the city’s number one cruise operator. Carnival carries 340,000 passengers annually on its two ships based year-round in New Orleans. Carnival Elation offers 4- and 5-day Mexico cruises, and Carnival Conquest operates 7-day Caribbean voyages. Carnival Conquest is currently undergoing a two-week dry dock in The Bahamas that will add a variety of dining, bar and entertainment innovations as part of the “Fun Ship 2.0” product enhancement initiative.

Many of the pumpkins included within the Boo at the Zoo display feature designs showcasing various elements of “Fun Ship 2.0” with depictions of the RedFrog Rum Bar, the EA SPORTS Bar, and Guy’s Burger Joint developed in tandem with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, as well as the iconic winged funnel that adorns all Carnival ships. Interested in carving your own “Fun Ship 2.0” jack-o-lanterns? Get your templates here!

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Royal Caribbean Continues to Monitor Hurricane Sandy

Royal Caribbean has issued the following statement at 6:00pm eastern time:
Royal Caribbean International is closely monitoring the path and progress of Hurricane Sandy to ensure guests enjoy safe and comfortable cruises, and to make certain our ships steer clear of the storm. The safety of our guests and crew is always our foremost concern.
At this time, given Hurricane Sandy's current location and projected path, Royal Caribbean has not altered the itineraries of any ship that departs this Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. However, we encourage guests sailing on Majesty of the Seas, Monarch of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas to monitor this website for any additional updates.
If you have not done so already, we strongly suggest guests complete their online check-in as soon as possible, including the section on your preferred method of contact while traveling. Royal Caribbean will continue to closely monitor weather conditions and will update this information again tomorrow.

Tropical Storm Sandy Alters More Cruise Ship Itineraries

The National Hurricane Center warns that Tropical Storm Sandy is likely to strengthen into a hurricane today and hurricane warnings have been issued for Jamaica and portions of Cuba. Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Haiti and islands in the central and northwestern Bahamas chain.

In addition to the Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines ships with itinerary alterations reported on earlier, Norwegian Cruise Line has issued these itinerary changes:
Norwegian Pearl called at Cozumel today and will visit Costa Maya tomorrow. Scheduled port calls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Grand Cayman are cancelled. 
Norwegian Jewel is in Freeport, Bahamas today instead of at Norwegian's private island, Great Stirrup Cay, which is a tender port, and will visit Charleston, SC instead of Nassau, Bahamas on Friday. 
Norwegian Sky will remain at sea on Friday, bypassing its scheduled call at Great Stirrup Cay.

Tropical Storm Sandy Alters Cruise Ship Itineraries

As Cruise Diva packs in anticipation of boarding Holland America Line's Eurodam on Saturday for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise, we note that Tropical Storm Sandy is picking up strength in the Caribbean as it moves south of Jamaica. Also taking note, cruise lines are altering Caribbean itineraries to avoid the wind and rain. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says this late season storm is expected to become a hurricane as it nears Jamaica today.

Thus far, Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas and Carnival Cruise Lines'Carnival Valor, Carnival Pride and Carnival Glory are making these itinerary changes:
Allure of the Seas is canceling its call at Falmouth, Jamaica today and will instead spend a day at sea. 
Carnival Valor will not visit Montego Bay, Jamaica and Grand Cayman as planned. Instead, the ship will call at Costa Maya, Mexico today and head to Cozumel, Mexico on Thursday. 
Carnival Pride will not stop at Half Moon Cay and Freeport in the Bahamas today and tomorrow, but will make a port call at Port Canaveral, Florida on Friday. 
Carnival Glory will not stop in in Freeport, but will offer a short call in Nassau, Bahamas tomorrow and head to Port Canaveral, Florida on Friday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

MSC’s ‘Fall into Winter Wonderland’ Rates Extended

The deals just keep coming during this, the last week of National Cruise Vacation Month. Are you ready for an unforgettable winter getaway? MSC Cruises is making the Mediterranean sizzle this winter with special savings on select fall and winter sailings on two of its newest ships. “Fall into Winter Wonderland” rates are available through November 15th for residents of the U.S. and Canada, beginning at $399 for 7-night cruises and $599 for 11-night cruises on select sailings of MSC Splendida and MSC Divina. Inaugurated in May by screen legend and diva Sophia Loren, MSC Divina will soon be sailing Caribbean itineraries from PortMiami during the 2013-14 winter season.

On each sailing, guests can experience the timeless beauty and ancient treasures of the region while enjoying the elegance, white-gloved service and Mediterranean heritage that are hallmarks of all MSC Cruises’ sailings.

“Fall into Winter Wonderland” is available for the following ships and itineraries:
-- MSC Splendida: select 7-night sailings through March 2013, calling at Genoa, Palermo and Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy; Marseille, France; Barcelona, Spain; and La Goulette (Tunis), Tunisia. Roundtrip Departures are available from Rome, Barcelona, Marseille, Genoa and Palermo. Rates begin at $399.
-- MSC Divina: 11-night itineraries in January through March 3, 2013 calling at Genoa and Rome, Italy; Barcelona, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and Malaga, Spain; Casablanca, Morocco; and Funchal, Portugal. Roundtrip departures are available from Rome and Barcelona; departures are also available from Genoa and Malaga on the January and February sailings. Rates begin at $599.
“Fall into Winter Wonderland” is also offered on select October-November 2012 sailings of MSC Orchestra, MSC Sinfonia, MSC Musica and MSC Lirica with rates beginning at $379 for 7-night sailings and $699 for 11-night itineraries.

Guests who wish to to indulge can choose from an array of experiences, whether relishing in a Balinese massage in the MSC Aurea Spa, savoring international cuisine from a variety of restaurants, sunbathing poolside, gambling in the casino, simulating Formula 1 race car driving or enjoying one of our highly acclaimed shows offered throughout our lounges and Pantheon Theater. Miniature golf, swimming, tennis, basketball, volleyball, and several children and teen areas are just some of the other options available to satisfy guests.

“Fall into Winter Wonderland” rates are per person, double occupancy; government fees and taxes are additional for all guests. Rates are not applicable to suites or MSC Yacht Club accommodations. Space is limited. For more information, visit, call 877-665-4655 or contact your local travel advisor and ask for this special offer.

Photo ©

Cruise Insurance Myth Busters

Despite a chilling start—Costa Concordia and norovirus outbreaks come to mind—cruise vacations in 2012 are climbing the popularity charts with travelers of all ages. From river cruises to cuisine cruises to the more familiar Caribbean cruise, there's no shortage of floating vacations to choose from. But whether you opt for spirited adventure on the high seas or restful and tranquil sailing, remember to protect your trip from things that go bump in the night with travel insurance.

"Statistically, cruises are considered one of the safest forms of travel, but oftentimes things can and do go wrong," says Jim Grace, President and CEO of InsureMyTrip. "For protection against the unexpected, travel insurance is truly a traveler's best friend." Just like cruises and friends however, there are different kinds of insurance and choosing which one is right for you can be daunting. To clear up some of the mystery, InsureMyTrip investigated the top five travel insurance myths and compiled a list of best practices for protecting all your nautical vacations:

1. I Don't Need It, Nothing Will Go Wrong: Though we hope never to use or need it, travel insurance can provide a tremendous amount of security and peace of mind for a small fraction of the cost of your trip. Travel insurance provides coverage for a wide-range of travel risks including:
— Trip cancellation (if you have to cancel)
— Trip interruption (if your travels are brought to an unexpected end while on your trip)
— Medical coverage (if you need emergency medical coverage or an augmentation of your current health benefits)
— Medical evacuation protection (air ambulance service)
2. All Insurance Plans Are the Same: There are hundreds of insurance policies to choose from and just like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. The key is to compare, compare, compare. Shop around to get the best plan for your needs at the right price. offers side-by-side comparisons of policies and prices to help you make smart purchasing decisions quickly and easily.

3. There's No Best Time to Buy Insurance: The early bird isn't the only one rewarded for his timely action.To receive the most benefit from your travel insurance policy and be eligible for optional benefits like Cancel For Any Reason and Pre-Existing Medical Conditions, purchase your policy within 10 to 30 days of your First Trip Payment.

4. I Get All the Protection I Need with Insurance from the Cruise Line: Insurance from a third-party source is easy to buy but more importantly, it offers 1) greater choice of plans, 2) enhanced protection coverage, including Financial Default protection and Missed Connection benefits and 3) better reimbursement benefits that provide financial reimbursement for canceled trips rather than a cruise voucher or credit.

5. All of My Medical Needs Can Be Managed Onboard: It's true that all cruise ships have fully equipped medical facilities and staff onboard to handle most emergencies, still, medical evacuations—transporting a passenger from the ship to a hospital on shore—occurs more often than we realize. The cost of a typical evacuation to the nearest, but not necessarily quality-care hospital, can quickly exceed the limited coverage offered by most cruise lines and leave you with a hefty balance to pay. Medical evacuation policies offering up to $2 million coverage can be purchased from InsureMyTrip as a stand alone policy or a benefit included in comprehensive travel policies. It provides evacuation to the nearest appropriate care facility or, in some cases, to your hospital of choice depending on the company and plan.

To learn more about the travel insurance protection plans that best suit your cruise travel needs, visit Insure My Trip online or call (800) 487-4722 to speak with a licensed travel insurance professional. Whether you simply need one question answered or want step-by-step assistance selecting a travel insurance policy, InsureMyTrip's Customer Care representatives are available to help seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Windstar Cruises Celebrates National Cruise Vacation Week with Special Offers

In celebration of the World’s Largest Cruise Sale, going on now until October 27th, as part of CLIA’s National Cruise Vacation Week, Windstar Cruises is offering two-for-one cruise fares on select voyages in both Europe and the Caribbean. As part of the offer, guests who want to explore Europe will also receive two free hotel nights at the beginning or the end of the cruise. For those looking to sail the Caribbean waters, up to $800 of bonus savings will be added to the reservation. In addition, all bookings made from Oct 21–27, 2012, during the World’s Largest Cruise Sale, will receive $100 per stateroom of shipboard credit.

To take advantage of the World’s Largest Cruise Sale, contact a travel professional, call Windstar Cruises at 800-258-7245, or visit their website at

Cruise With Norwegian’s Limited Time Offer

Norwegian Cruise Line celebrates the last week of National Cruise Vacation Month by launching a last chance “Let’s Cruise” limited time offer on all sailings fleet-wide, starting today. Guests who book any Norwegian cruise vacation by Wednesday, October 31, 2012, can receive up to $250 per stateroom to spend on board (based on cruise length and stateroom category), towards a pampering treatment in one of Norwegian’s award-winning spas; dinner in one of the line’s many delicious specialty restaurants or towards exciting shore excursions in amazing ports of call. Additional savings include reduced deposits on all of Norwegian’s sailings of three days or longer and an e-coupon booklet worth up to $300 in on board savings. Vacationers can save on any of Norwegian’s cruise vacations to popular destinations around the world.

This fall, explore the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean on board Norwegian Epic or Norwegian Pearl roundtrip from Miami, Florida. Norwegian Epic sets sail on a series of 7-day cruises to the Eastern Caribbean with stops in Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas, beginning Nov 3, 2012, with cruise fares from $499*. Norwegian Pearl returns to Miami from a summer season in Alaska and beginning Nov 4, 2012, will sail weekly to the Western Caribbean to ports of call including Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; and Cozumel, Mexico.

For the ultimate in Europe cruising, beginning Nov 6, 2012, Norwegian Spirit will sail 9-day Canary Islands cruises, departing from Barcelona, to exotic European ports including Funchal, Madeira; Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and Arrecife, Lanzarote, Canary Islands; and Granada (Malaga), Spain, with rates starting at $429*.

For a history-filled expedition, Norwegian Jade offers 10-day Eastern Mediterranean cruises from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Olympia (Katakolon) and Athens (Piraeus), Greece; Ephesus (Izmir), Turkey and an overnight in Alexandria, Egypt, with rates starting at $349*.

Families cruising from New York City can set sail to the Bahamas and Florida on board Norwegian Jewel with activities to suit the whole family including Nickelodeon programming for the kids. The 7-day escape includes the following ports of call: Orlando & Beaches (Port Canaveral); Great Stirrup Cay, and Nassau, Bahamas, with cruise fares starting at $329.

Guests in need of a quick weekend getaway can escape to the Bahamas on board Norwegian Sky on a three or four-day cruise with fares starting at $129*.

To take advantage of the Let’s Cruise limited time offer, contact a travel professional, call Norwegian at 888-NCL-CRUISE (625-2784), or visit

* All cruise fares are per person, based on double occupancy.

Cunard Line On Sale Starting Today

If the Norwegian Fjords or the ancient ruins of Seville call to your sense of adventure, then The Cunard Sale may offer the perfect opportunity to book your luxury cruise vacation.

With Cruise Lines International Association’s “World’s Largest Cruise Sale” starting today, Cunard Line’s week-long sale will offer a Reduced Deposit, On Board Credit of up to $300 per stateroom, and Complimentary Balcony Upgrades on 30 select voyages, including Cunard’s signature Transatlantic Crossings aboard flagship Queen Mary 2.

The Cunard Sale voyages aboard Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth include:
• Iberian Highlights, April 19, 2013: 12 days aboard Queen Elizabeth; Balcony fares from $2,599
• St. Petersburg and Baltic Explorer, May 1, 2013: 14 days aboard Queen Elizabeth; Balcony fares from $3,599
• Transatlantic Crossing (Westbound), April 26, 2013: 7 days aboard Queen Mary 2; Balcony fares from $1,345
• Fjords and Waterfalls, May 19, 2013: 7 days aboard Queen Elizabeth; Balcony fares from $1,799
• Mediterranean Delights, July 7, 2013: 13 days aboard Queen Victoria; Balcony fares from $3,499
Guests sailing a luxury cruise vacation aboard Cunard Line enjoy the experience of the voyage itself, not just the destination. By day, guests enjoy voluminous libraries, world class spas, white-gloved afternoon tea service and engaging award-winning Cunard Insights guest enrichment programs; and by night are entertained by Royal Nights themed balls, West End-style productions, and Veuve Clicquot champagne cocktails.

All fares and promotions are per person, based on double occupancy. The Cunard Sale runs through Oct 29th. For additional information, visit

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Royal Caribbean Announces National Cruise Vacation Week Offer

In conjunction with the Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) National Cruise Vacation Week, Royal Caribbean is offering up to $100 onboard credit to vacationers who choose a Europe cruise or or trans-Atlantic crossing with the line. Vacationers have incomparable choices among nine of the world’s most innovative ships, many of which have recently been revitalized to offer some of the successful and signature onboard amenities from the world-acclaimed Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

For all new individual U.S. and Canadian bookings, made with deposit from Oct 21 through Oct 28, 2012, for a 7-night or longer 2013 Europe cruise or trans-Atlantic sailing, guests will receive an onboard credit of $50 per inside or oceanview stateroom, and $100 per stateroom with balconies and suites.

Vacationers can choose among nine of the world’s largest and most innovative ships sailing European waters in 2013 from convenient homeports. Liberty of the Seas will continue to be the only ship in Europe to exclusively offer a West End musical, Saturday Night Fever, and the DreamWorks Experience. Every member of the family aboard Liberty of the Seas can delight in 3-D movies, parades, breakfasts, photo opportunities and activities starring the beloved characters of DreamWorks Animation SKG, including Shrek and Fiona; Kung Fu Panda Po; and Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo and the Penguins from Madagascar.

From Barcelona, Liberty of the Seas will sail the Western Mediterranean on 7-night itineraries, while Serenade of the Seas will offer a more comprehensive Mediterranean experience on longer, 12-night cruises. Serenade of the Seas will soon be revitalized in December 2012 to offer guests more delectable dining options; new onboard amenities such as the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery; and enhanced technology such as an oversized video screen overlooking the pool deck and bow-to-stern WiFi service.

Navigator of the Seas will sail a 7-night Eastern Mediterranean itinerary from Rome (Civitavecchia), while Splendour of the Seas sails 7-night Greek Isles and Turkey itineraries from Venice. Meanwhile, Legend of the Seas will return to Europe after two years in the Far East, to sail 7-night Western Mediterranean itineraries from Rome in summer and then 9- to 11-night Greece, Turkey and Mediterranean itineraries from Venice in the autumn months.

Vacationers also can choose a range of 7- to 14-night itineraries to the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean, North and Baltic seas aboard Independence of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas, departing from Southampton, U.K. Alternatively from Harwich, Brilliance of the Seas will sail 12-night North and Baltic Seas cruises while Vision of the Seas takes guests on 7- to 11-night Northern Europe itineraries from Copenhagen, Denmark, and Stockholm, Sweden.

Additional information from Royal Caribbean is available online.

Azamara Offers Onboard Credits for 2013 Europe Voyages During National Cruise Vacation Week

Tomorrow is the first day of the “World’s Largest Cruise Sale” during the Cruise Lines International Association’s second annual National Cruise Vacation Week and Azamara Club Cruises is celebrating by offering up-market travelers up to $500 onboard credit when they book a 2013 Europe voyage between Oct. 21 and 27, 2012. Travelers taking advantage of the National Cruise Vacation Week offer also will enjoy up to $2,000 ChoiceAir credit, when making an Azamara ship the destination of choice for a Europe voyage. The cruise line’s twin boutique ships, Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey, will sail European waters beginning March 27 and May 15, 2013, respectively, transporting travelers, aboard newly refreshed ships, to unique and culturally-rich destinations on voyages featuring late-night departures and overnight port stays. Savvy travelers can apply their onboard credit toward Land Discovery shore excursions or rejuvenate in the onboard spa after a long day exploring a newfound, favorite European port.

Azamara’s National Cruise Vacation Week offer is applicable for new individual bookings made with deposit from Oct. 21 through 27, 2012, in the U.S. and Canada. Travelers can enjoy $500 onboard credit per stateroom when booking a suite; $400 for a veranda stateroom; and $300 for an oceanview stateroom. More information on Azamara's National Cruise Vacation Week offer can be found at Azamara Club Cruises.

Travelers eager to start exploring sooner can take advantage of Azamara’s current offers, such as the Holiday Voyages airfare savings of up to $2,000 per stateroom, when guests choose between either Azamara Journey’s roundtrip 14-night voyage from Singapore departing Dec. 23, or Azamara Quest’s 9-night voyage, departing Dec. 18, from Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires.

Additionally, the cruise line recently announced that the guest experience will soon include the new AzAmazing Evening, an immersive complimentary destination event ashore featured on every voyage. The cruise line is also introducing a selection of complimentary standard spirits, wines and international beers in onboard bars and lounges during opening hours. Both offerings will begin with Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey’s 2013 Europe season. One-hundred percent of Azamara’s 2013 itineraries feature late-night departures or overnight port stays, some as long as two or three days. This concept of slowing the ships down to offer guests the opportunity to experience a city’s night life, is an almost unique concept in the cruise industry that will now be further showcased through AzAmazing Evenings, destination affairs to remember.

Guests aboard Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest enjoy more inclusive amenities, such as included gratuities for housekeeping, dining and bar staff; complimentary bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees, teas, and complimentary red and white boutique wines to accompany lunch and dinner, complimentary self-service laundry; English Butler service for suite guests; and shuttle transportation to city centers in ports, where available.

Photo ©

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Princess Cruises Celebrates National Cruise Vacation Week with Escape Completely Sale

Princess Cruises has announced their entry into the celebration of the Cruise Lines International Association’s second annual National Cruise Vacation Week by offering an Escape Completely Sale of cruise deals throughout the week of Oct 22-29. More than 200 cruise departures are on sale, and passengers can enjoy a free balcony upgrade as well as 50 percent off their cruise deposit.

Featured destinations include Caribbean cruises as well as cruises to Alaska, Europe, Hawaii, and the Panama Canal. Cruise departures run from January to July, 2013.

Examples of cruise deal itineraries include:
• Caribbean, 7 days: $784 balcony (was $1,184); $584 interior (was $784)
• Alaska, 7 days: $1,344 balcony (was $1,544); $894 interior (was $944)
• Greek Isles, 12 days: $2,479 balcony (was $3,029); $1,779 interior (was $2,129)
• Hawaiian Islands, 14 days: $1,694 balcony (was $2,690); $1,094 interior (was $1,790)
• Panama Canal, 14 days: $1,896 balcony (was $2,996); $1,296 interior (was $2,246)
All cruise prices are per person, based on double occupancy and now include government fees and taxes. The Escape Completely Sale runs from 12:01 a.m. PDT on Oct 22 through 11:59 p.m. PDT on Oct 29, 2012 and is available to residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.

Additional information about the sale details and pricing can be found at Mark your calendar!

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Friday, October 19, 2012

New Orleans-Based Carnival Conquest Receiving Multi-Million-Dollar Refurbishment

As you can see from this photo of Carnival Conquest’s pool deck, big changes are taking place on board.

The rollout of the cruise line’s $500 million “Fun Ship 2.0” fleetwide enhancement program continues with New Orleans’ largest year-round cruise ship, Carnival Conquest, which has departed her homeport for a two-week dry dock in Freeport, The Bahamas. The ship, which left New Orleans last Sunday, will undergo a major multi-million-dollar refurbishment to receive upgrades in dining, bar, and entertainment features.

To celebrate, Carnival is hosting a sweepstakes via its Web site awarding one lucky winner a free Carnival Conquest cruise for two to the Caribbean. Entering the contest is easy: participants simply complete an on-line registration form at between Oct. 15-28, 2012, and they are automatically entered into a random drawing for the 7-day cruise. Consumers can also view a series of fun videos documenting Carnival Conquest’s refurbishment progress on the web site throughout the two-week period.

When Carnival Conquest returns to service at the Port of New Orleans Oct 28, 2012, the ship will feature a host of enhancements, including:
• RedFrog Rum Bar, an open-air Caribbean-themed watering hole offering refreshing rum-based frozen drinks and beers, including Carnival’s private label draft brew, ThirstyFrog Red, all enjoyed in a laid-back island-infused atmosphere.
• BlueIguana Tequila Bar, a friendly rival just across the deck from the RedFrog Rum Bar, this Mexican-themed poolside bar specializes in frozen cocktails and Mexican beers.
• Alchemy Bar, a vintage-themed cocktail “pharmacy” featuring interesting drink flavors, and ingredients, with expert mixologists who “prescribe” concoctions from different fun categories. Guests can also try their hand at creating their own custom cocktails.
• EA SPORTS Bar, the ultimate hangout for sports fanatics where patrons can view live sporting events on large-screen televisions, play popular EA SPORTS video games and keep up with the latest scores on a 24/7 sports ticker.
• Guy’s Burger Joint, created in partnership with Food Network personality and chef Guy Fieri, this complimentary poolside venue serves the best burgers at sea and hand-cut fries with innovative toppings and condiments.
• BlueIguana Cantina, a free-of-charge Mexican cantina offering a variety of fresh tacos and burritos that can be personalized by diners at an extensive salsa and toppings bar.
• The Punchliner Comedy Club & The Punchliner Comedy Brunch presented by George Lopez brings even more laughs with a lineup of comedic talent, curated by the popular comedian and TV personality, along with a humorous twist on brunch.
• Cherry on Top celebrates the joys of simple indulgences with bins of bulk candy, fun-and-fanciful gifts, just-because novelties, colorful custom apparel and more.
New entertainment offerings are also on tap. By early December, Carnival Conquest will also feature Hasbro, The Game Show and Playlist Productions. Hasbro, The Game Show makes guests the stars of the show through larger-than-life adaptations of the company’s iconic board games, while Playlist Productions is a dramatic retooling of Carnival’s legendary revues that combines captivating live performances with high-tech LED staging and special effects that set a new standard in seagoing productions.

“The refurbishment of Carnival Conquest is the latest example of our continued investment in our New Orleans-based cruise program,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival’s president and CEO. “Carnival is New Orleans’ largest cruise operator with two year-round ships carrying nearly 340,000 passengers a year.”

In addition to Carnival Conquest, which operates 7-day Caribbean cruises, Carnival Elation offers 4- and 5-day cruises from New Orleans to Mexico.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cruise News! Norwegian Cruise Line Orders New Cruise Ship with Option for Second

Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that it has reached an agreement with MEYER WERFT GMBH of Germany to build a new cruise vessel, for delivery in October 2015, with the option for a second ship for delivery in spring 2017. The new ship, at 163,000 gross tons and approximately 4,200 passenger berths, will be larger than the Company’s Breakaway class ships currently under construction at MEYER WERFT and incorporate many of those vessels’ unique design elements and innovations. With the project name “Breakaway Plus,” this new vessel will be the largest in Norwegian’s fleet.

Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway have garnered significant attention in the marketplace with their innovative design, rich stateroom mix and world-class amenities. Building on that momentum, along with MEYER WERFT’s expertise and efficiency in the design and construction process, we are extending the excitement and anticipation with a new, larger edition Breakaway Plus class ship to further distinguish the Norwegian brand,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “This new order further solidifies our commitment to continued innovation in terms of the guest experience and will incorporate technical and environmental advances as well.”

Norwegian Cruise Line pioneered the concept of Freestyle Cruising. which offers guests the freedom and flexibility to enjoy their cruise vacation on their own terms, including multiple dining venues, relaxed attire, a variety of accommodations, and world-class entertainment. Norwegian took Freestyle Cruising to the next level with the introduction of Norwegian Epic in June 2010 and is continuing to innovate with the launch of “New York’s Ship” Norwegian Breakaway in late April 2013. The company has revealed the ship’s groundbreaking design, including The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place; a wide range of indoor and outdoor venues on three dynamic decks that will create a whole new complex at sea that enhances guests’ connection with the ocean.

As we take a look at those design features, we can picture them on an even more expansive Breakaway Plus ship...

Norwegian Breakaway’s entertainment will include three Broadway shows: five-time Tony nominated ROCK OF AGES; the dance sensation BURN THE FLOOR; and CIRQUE DREAMS and DINNER JUNGLE FANTASY. The famed comedy troupe The Second City, Howl at the Moon dueling pianos, and New York’s own Slam Allen will also perform on the vessel. Celebrity Chef and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian will also debut his first restaurant at sea on Norwegian Breakaway: Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian. The top decks of Norwegian Breakaway will feature the first Aqua Park at sea with five full-size water slides, including twin Free Fall slides, the first ever at sea, and a three-story sports complex that includes the largest ropes course at sea, a nine-hole miniature golf course, basketball court, rock climbing wall and more.

Norwegian Breakaway will also feature a rich mix of stateroom options including The Haven by Norwegian, comprised of 42 Suites at the top of the ship in an exclusive, private key-card enclave and 22 additional Suites located throughout the ship. The innovative Studios are designed and priced for solo travelers. Other accommodations include Oceanview and Balcony staterooms, and Mini-Suites; along with Spa Balcony, Mini-Suites and Suites in close proximity to the spa.

Norwegian Getaway, the second ship to launch in the Breakaway class and the largest ship to homeport year-round in Miami, will sail Eastern Caribbean voyages beginning in February 2014. Sailings for both vessels are now available for booking.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Paul Gauguin Cruises Announces Two-Week Sale

It's sale time throughout the cruise industry and for two weeks only, Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the highest-rated and longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific, the m/s Paul Gauguin, is offering incredible savings on select 2013 voyages in Tahiti, French Polynesia, and the South Pacific when booked between October 15 and 27, 2012.

Guests will benefit from exceptional savings of $800 to $4,300 per person off previously advertised rates while enjoying the highest standards of luxury, quality, and service in one of the most exquisite destinations in the world.

Sale: Book select sailings on the 7-night Tahiti and the Society Islands (March 2, 9, 2013 and May 4, 2013), the 11-night Cook Islands and Society Islands (January 12, 2013 and March 16, 2013), or the 14-night Marquesas, Tuamotus and Society Islands (February 2, 2013) and save $800 to $4,300 per person in addition to 50% off standard cruise fare and included airfare from Los Angeles.

For information, visit

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Princess Cruises Highlights Holiday Sailing Availability

If you’ve been to the mall, or even the grocery store lately, there’s no missing the fact that the holidays are fast approaching. With that in mind, Princess Cruises is getting ready for another festive season at sea, and is highlighting four tropical sailings where passengers still have an opportunity to experience Christmas cheer or ring in the New Year in the Caribbean or Panama Canal.

It’s not too late to book a holiday sailing, but with limited space available, you won’t want to wait too long to snap up a stateroom. These cruises offer a special opportunity to passengers who would like to spend their holidays in a warm tropical setting. Choices include two Christmas cruises–one through the marvel of the Panama Canal and the other to the Southern Caribbean.

Holidays aboard a Princess Cruises ship offer a festive atmosphere, complete with a daily snowfall–so you won’t even miss out on a white Christmas as snow magically falls in the ships’ multi-story atriums, transforming them into winter wonderlands. With the halls decked out in holiday décor–including a Christmas tree on the mast–and strolling carolers filling the air with the sounds of the season, Princess ships will offer a seasonal cruise experience from bow to stern.

Holiday cruises with availability include:
• Panama Canal with Two-Day Canal Experience – Dec 15
Coral Princess sails from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale for a full Panama Canal transit combined with a full day at Fuerte Amador on the Pacific side of Panama. The 14-day itinerary includes calls at Puntarenas (Costa Rica), Cartagena and Aruba in addition to the Two-Day Canal Experience. 
• Southern Caribbean Cruise – Dec 17
For Christmas in the Caribbean, passengers on Emerald Princess’ roundtrip sailing from Ft. Lauderdale will enjoy the festive season with 10 days in the Southern Caribbean. The cruise itinerary calls at Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada, Dominica, St. Thomas, and Princess Cays. 
• Panama Canal Cruises – Dec 29 and 30
Coral Princess (Dec 29) and Island Princess (Dec 30) each offer an opportunity to celebrate the New Year while enjoying this classic 10-day roundtrip itinerary from Ft. Lauderdale. Passengers will experience a partial Panama Canal transit to Gatun Lake followed by an evening a call in Colón, plus calls in the Caribbean ports of Aruba, Cartagena, Limón (Costa Rica), and Grand Cayman or Ocho Rios.
The 16-ship Princess Cruises fleet will cover the globe this holiday season, also sailing to destinations such as Australia/New Zealand, South America, Hawaii, and the South Pacific.

Additional information is available at the company's website,

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Monday, October 15, 2012

On Deck For The Cure: Holland America Line Supporting Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. I thought of that the other day when I received an email from Holland America Line reminding me that my cruise departure is coming up soon. In addition to packing and heading to the embarkation port, I plan to set aside some funds in order to participate in the On Deck For The Cure event during my cruise. In partnership with the Susan G Komen for the Cure organization, Holland America makes it possible to raise funds for breast cancer awareness and research.

Like me, you probably know women who've kicked this insidious disease. I'm fortunate that my friends were all diagnosed in time to be successfully treated and all are alive today.

You've also probably seen pink ribbons displayed this month around town and particularly at local medical facilities—they are the symbol of breast cancer awareness—and when I chose the color for the cast on my broken leg (pictured above) I selected what the physician's assistant called "breast cancer pink"—a special color available in October of the year I broke my leg.

As I was to discover, there was a life threatening disease hiding beneath that pink cast—Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism. Complications resulting from it kills more people annually than automobile accidents, AIDS, and breast cancer combined. Yet not enough people are aware of its symptoms. Why am I mentioning this now? To help spread the word. Nearly half of all DVT cases have no symptoms and nearly three-quarters of adults are unaware of DVT or its dangers. After my recovery, two of my friends had similar experiences. Neither of them suspected DVT either until they were as incapacitated as I was.

A First-Hand Look At Deep Vein Thrombosis
Pretty cast, right? Who knew the danger that lurked beneath its feminine pink surface? Certainly, not me. After breaking my leg and taking a flight home from Florida afterwards, I spent my days in a wheeled chair. Unknown and unnoticed until I experienced excruciating chest pains and could barely breathe, I had developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

In my case, DVT was nearly fatal. The blood clot in my leg threw off smaller clots that lodged in my lungs, a condition called pulmonary embolism. After three days in Intensive Care and a series of painful heparin shots at home, I was on a regimen of anti-clotting medication (warfarin) for a year. For me, monthly trips to the clinic to monitor medication levels in my bloodstream finally ended, but I have a lifetime of concern ahead of me.

I was fortunate that a family friend, the late Dr. George Cue—who was on staff at the Medical College of Georgia—recognized my symptoms and Mel got me to the Trauma Center there in time. I had twenty minutes to live when my treatment began and I will be forever grateful to Dr. Cue and the Medical College staff for the care I received. Sadly, most cases of pulmonary embolism as severe as mine are diagnosed in the morgue. The entire story, including how to take preventative measures is at The Plane Truth About Your Veins, What You Should Know About Travel and Deep Vein Thrombosis.

To learn more, visit The Coalition to Prevent Deep-Vein Thrombosis

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cruise Deal: Royal Caribbean Rolls Out the Final 3-Day WOW Sale of 2012

For bargain hunters and anyone who wants to get an early start to their holiday shopping, Royal Caribbean has announced that its final WOW Sale of the year will start on Monday and run for three days: Oct 15, 16, and 17, 2012. For all new individual bookings made for a 2013-14 Royal Caribbean sailing, you can receive $50 onboard credit per stateroom on 3- to 5-night itineraries; $100 per stateroom for 6- to 9-night itineraries; and $200 per stateroom for 10-night itineraries or longer. You can apply your onboard credit toward a shore excursion or spa session, or celebrate a special occasion during the cruise with a specialty dining experience. While the announcement doesn't specifically say so, we assume that the credit would apply to other onboard purchases as well. You can also enjoy 50 percent reduced deposits during the 3-day WOW Sale to lock in your 2013-14 Royal Caribbean cruise vacation anywhere around the world.

The WOW Sale onboard credit and 50 percent reduced deposit offers are applicable to all Royal Caribbean Intl cruises that sail on or after Jan 1, 2013 including cruisetours. Offer is available only in the U.S. and Canada and applies to new individual bookings with required deposit only and is not applicable to groups. Offer applies to all categories available. All bookings must be made and the required deposit must be paid by Oct 17, 2012, by 11:59 pm local time to qualify for the promotion. Onboard credit is in U.S. dollars, has no cash value, is not redeemable for cash, is not transferable and will expire if not used by 10:00 pm on the last evening of the cruise. For additional information, visit

Friday, October 12, 2012

Princess Cruises Announces Winners of 2011-12 Caribbean & Panama Canal Shore Excursion Awards

It’s possible to enjoy a Caribbean cruise without ever leaving the ship in port, but few passengers do that. To make your time ashore the best possible experience, it’s good to know which tours have been the most satisfying to others. With that in mind, as well as recognizing that the Caribbean and Panama Canal cruise season is about to kick off, Princess Cruises is celebrating last season’s favorite local tour operators with special shipboard ceremonies. The winners of the line’s 13th annual C.R.U.I.S.E. service awards have just been announced, honoring the best of the best shore excursion experiences and guides in ports on Caribbean and Panama Canal itineraries, based largely on passenger feedback.

The awards recognize the most popular tours and individual guides in the destinations where Princess ships call. Chosen from the extensive line-up of Caribbean and Panama Canal shore excursions offered to Princess passengers, the awards highlight the important role local tour operators play in each destination as part of a passenger’s overall cruise experience. Winners are determined largely by tour scores and comments made on passenger surveys. A number of tours have topped the list for several years, and five of them have been passenger favorites for five or more years in a row. One excursion—Americas Cup 12-Metre Yacht Regatta tour in St. Maarten—has now been voted ‘Shore Excursion of the Season’ for the 13th year in a row. Cruise Diva can highly recommend it—pictured above is the poster we brought home after participating in (and winning!) the race twenty years ago.

The C.R.U.I.S.E. (Courtesy, Respect, Unfailing In Service Excellence) program is the longest running customer service program in the cruise industry. The Caribbean and Panama Canal awards began in 1999 and cap off a season-long effort to recognize the role that local Caribbean and Panama Canal tour partners play in passengers' cruise experiences. Tour Guide of the Season award winners receive $100, a letter of commendation, a plaque, a ship tour and lunch on board with their family. Operators of the Shore Excursion of the Season receive a plaque and a letter of commendation, a tour of the ship, and lunch on board for company officials.

The 2011-2012 winners are:
-- Rainforest Zipline Adventure, Rendezvous Co
-- Champagne and Lobster Lunch, Scenic Cruise and Swim, Tropical Adventures
-- Mi Dushi Sail, Snorkel, Antilla Shipwreck and Lunch, Windfeather Charters
-- Countryside Horseback Ride, DePalm Tours
-- Harrison's Cave and Scenic Drive, Goddards Shipping and Tours
-- Five Star Sail, Turtle Encounter and Lunch, Attractions of Barbados
-- Jungle Zipline Adventure, Cave Tubing and Lunch, Chukka Caribbean Adventures
-- Klein Bonaire, Bonaire Marine Park and Snorkel, Bonaire Tours
-- Mangrove Eco-Cruise by Kayak and Lac Bay, Bonaire Tours
-- "Old City" and Folkloric Show, Compania Internacional de Excursiones Terrestres Seico Ltda
-- “America’s Cup 12-Metre” Yacht Race, Sand Dollar Sports
-- Dolphin and Manatee Swim and Sea Lion Show, Caribbean Interactive Adventures
-- Cooking Demonstration/Participation and Dinner, Funbini B.V.
-- Wacky Rollers 4WD Safari, Gardens and Titou Gorge, WRAVE Ltd.
-- Gorge Swim, Hot Springs and Scenic Drive, WRAVE Ltd.
-- Monkey and Wildlife Nature Cruise on Gatun Lake, Aventuras 2000
-- Authentic Embera Indian Village, Elite Shore Excursions Foundation
-- Dolphin Swim and Stingray Encounter, Dolphin Cove Cayman
-- Sea Trek Coral Canyon Helmet Dive, Sea Trek Cayman
-- Horseshoe Reef and Round Cay Snorkel Adventure, Oasis Divers
-- Horseback Beach Ride, Swim and Scenic Drive, Chukka Caribbean Adventures
-- Harbor Cruise, Grand Anse and Morne Rouge Beaches, Best of Grenada Ltd.
-- Original Canopy Zipline Tour at Veragua Rainforest, OCT Enterprises
-- Hacienda Tour, Fruit Cultivation, Lunch and Shopping, Swiss Travel Service
-- River Tubing Eco-Adventure, Chukka Caribbean Adventures
-- Dolphin Encounter and Dunn's River Falls, Dolphin Cove
-- Panama Canal Experience by Boat, Aventuras 2000
-- Authentic Embera Indian Village, Elite Shore Excursions Foundation
-- Aerial Tram, Tarcoles River and Lunch, Elite Shore Excursions
-- River-Raft Float, Scenic Drive and Lunch, Rios Tropicales
-- Eco-Hike and Pirates Bay Tourist Village, Fun and Sun Tours
-- Dolphin Encounter and Museum, Anthony's Key Resort
-- Hacienda Experience, Lake Nicaragua and Lunch, Gray Line
-- Scenic Railway Ride and Circle Island Drive, St. Kitts Scenic Railway, Ltd.
-- Cruise to Nevis, Pinney's Beach, Snorkel and Lunch, Kantours
-- Springs, the Pitons, Scenic Cruise and Lunch, Cox and Company Ltd.
-- Aerial Tram and Canopy Zipline Adventure, Elite Shore Excursions Foundation
-- "America’s Cup 12-Metre" Yacht Race, St. Maarten 12 Metre Enterprises N.V.
-- Segway Waterfront Boardwalk Adventure, Caribbean Segway Tours
-- Turtle Cove Catamaran Sail and Snorkel, Fun Water Tours, Inc.
-- Coral World, Sea Lion Swim and Scenic Drive, Coral World
Tour Guides of the Season Winners:
ARUBA – Maria Geerman and Angelique Lacle of Atlantis Submarines
CARTAGENA – Willy Gutierrez of CTG Margarita, C.A
LIMON – Erick Aguilar and Jose Romero of Swiss Travel Service
PANAMA CANAL – Arthur Wagner of Elite Shore Excursions Foundation
Additional information about Princess Cruises is available on the company's website at

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Regent Seven Seas Cruises Unveils 2013-2014 Winter Collection

It’s always a pleasure to look ahead and see what cruises are on the horizon, so we’re happy that Regent Seven Seas Cruises has announced its new Winter Collection, featuring voyages from November 2013 through May 2014 to South America, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Caribbean, and Alaska. All sailings include two-for-one cruise fares, free air, and bonus savings when booked by Dec 31, 2012.

As part of the introduction, the ultra-luxury line is offering a complimentary one-night, post-cruise luxury hotel package on all 2013-2014 Winter Collection itineraries booked by Dec 31, 2012. Additional collection highlights include three new ports, five Grand Voyages with exclusive amenities, and special offers on pre- and post-cruise land programs.

Recognized as The Most Inclusive Luxury Cruise Experience™, all Regent Seven Seas Cruises sailings also include all-suite accommodations, 97 percent with private balconies, gourmet cuisine, premium spirits and fine wines, free shore excursions, gratuities, and a pre-cruise luxury hotel stay, at no additional cost.

2012-2013 Winter Collection Highlights
From November 2013 through June 2014, the all-suite, all-balcony Seven Seas Voyager visits the South Pacific and Asia with stops in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Bali, Vietnam, China, Japan, and India offering guests a variety of itineraries ranging from 10- to 136-nights, including four Grand Voyages. Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers a specially priced 3-night pre-or post-cruise land program on select South Pacific and Asia itineraries. These include Angkor Wat, Beijing and the Great Wall of China, Hong Kong, Sydney, as well as Dubai and Kuala Lumpur, two new land programs.

Seven Seas Mariner returns to South America where guests can sail along the mighty Amazon, cruise around Cape Horn, explore the Panama Canal and visit the largest Magellanic Penguin colony in the world. Sailings range from 10- to 70-nights, including the coveted “Circle South America” Grand Voyage. In March, the 700-guest, all-suite, all-balcony ship heads back to the Mediterranean with a grand crossing from Rio de Janeiro to Barcelona featuring maiden calls in Dakar, Senegal and Tangier, Morocco.

The newly refurbished, all-suite Seven Seas Navigator explores the tropics from November 2013 to April 2014 with 16 departures roundtrip from Miami to the Eastern and Western Caribbean ranging from 7- to 24-nights including a maiden call in La Romana, Dominican Republic. The ship then departs Miami on April 21, 2014 for an 18-night voyage to San Francisco transiting the Panama Canal to begin its highly popular cruises through the natural beauty of Alaska.
“Our new winter collection offers travelers added opportunities to explore a specific region of the world in further depth with complimentary shore excursions in each port and enriching land programs,” said Mark Conroy, the line’s president. “It’s all included on Regent, from flights and a pre-cruise hotel stay to specialty restaurants, fine wine and even gratuities. Coupled with our hallmark personalized service and spacious all-suite accommodations, we provide an ultra-luxury cruise experience that is unmatched in the travel industry.”

All Grand Voyages offer an array of exclusive amenities such as free Business Class air, an upgraded pre-cruise hotel stay with ground transfers, visas, internet access, and more. To receive a brochure or for more information on Regent Seven Seas Cruises, visit

Photo: Seven Seas Mariner © Linda Coffman,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Celebrity Cruises Takes Delivery of Celebrity Reflection

The sleek new Celebrity Reflection officially became part of Celebrity Cruises’ modern luxury fleet yesterday. Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Michael Bayley and Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., joined Bernard Meyer of shipbuilder Meyer Werft in a celebratory handover ceremony onboard the ship.

Celebrity Reflection will host a 2-night promotional cruise for an invitation-only audience of European press and travel partners on October 10-12 that concludes in Amsterdam. The ship then sets sail on a series of Mediterranean sailings before crossing the Atlantic to begin the ship’s first Caribbean season. Celebrity Reflection will be named Dec 1st in Miami, with four Godmothers—all of them employees of the company whose lives have been touched by breast cancer—presiding over the ceremony. Cruise Diva will also be there, so bookmark this blog and stay tuned for more details.

Photo © Linda Coffman,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Windstar Cruises Has A New Experience in Scotland & Ireland Just "Fore" Golfers

"Fore" those travelers who never leave home without their clubs, Windstar Cruises is now offering an exclusive golf and land tour add-on package, Legendary Links, where guests can play five world-famous courses across Scotland and Ireland on the new Gaelic Explorers voyage. Guests on board the August 24, 2013 cruise of Wind Surf, the largest of Windstar's three sailing yachts, will have the opportunity to live out their golf fantasy on a 10-day vacation that spans from Edinburgh to Dublin.

The optional Legendary Links package, which also includes a two-night hotel stay in Edinburgh as well as two shore excursions, start at $2,995 per person in addition to cruise fare. Pricey, but look what you get...

The Legendary Links package will tee-off with a Welcome Dinner and 2-night stay at the beautiful Fairmont St. Andrews in Edinburgh. Throughout the cruise, golfers will also have the expertise and advice of an onboard golf pro. For days in port without a golf course, exclusive shore excursions are included. Other highlights of the package include a Gala Farewell and Awards Dinner the last night of the cruise, green fees, and golf trolleys at the five courses and all transfers and porterage fees between the airport, hotel, and port.

A true golfer's pilgrimage, players will enjoy the following courses:
-- St. Andrews Jubilee: the first course played is at the legendary Home of Golf in Edinburgh, Scotland.
-- Cruden Bay: a historical golf course that has been open since 1791 in Peterhead, Scotland.
-- Struie at Royal Dornoch: the third course showcases the beauty of Scotland with a white, sandy beach and views of Dornoch Firth to Tain in Invergordan, Scotland.
-- Dunluce at Royal Portush: Dunluce is overlooked by Dunlunce Castle and is laid out among giant sand dune, along the tops of cliffs and through valleys in Portrush, Ireland.
-- Castletown: the last course to be played was laid out by golfing legend Mackenzie Rose in the late 20s and early 30s in Isle of Man, UK.
The 312-passenger Wind Surf will sail through Northern Europe giving guests the chance to sample the spirits and pubs of Dublin, view the sweeping beauty of Loch Ness and explore the ancient Castle and Royal Mile of Edinburgh. For guests looking to experience an intimate look at the culture surrounding the magical islands of Ireland and Scotland, the Gaelic Explorers Premiere Package is the perfect option. A 10-day land and cruise vacation, the add-on package includes exclusive shore excursions for every port, a 2-night stay at the Fairmont St. Andrews and a Gala Farwell. Prices start at $1,995 per person. To book the Gaelic Explorer voyage, Legendary Links package or Gaelic Explorers Premiere Package, contact a travel professional or call Windstar Cruises at 800-258-7245.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cruise News: SeaDream Yacht Club Schedules Its Asia Debut For Late 2013

“It’s yachting, not cruising”
In a move prompted by demand from its very loyal Club members, SeaDream Yacht Club has released full details on its plans to sail a series of voyages in Asia and Northern Australia beginning in late 2013. The line reports that one of its twin mega-yachts, SeaDream II will sail to Asia after completing her 2013 Mediterranean season.

Sure to be a unique voyage, the “Passage to the Far East” will depart Athens, Greece in October 2013 and include a transit of the Suez Canal, excursions to Egypt’s fascinating archeological sites (accompanied by an Egyptologist) and calls to several other intriguing destinations before arriving in Mumbai, India. From Mumbai, the yacht will sail to Singapore and the Far East, planning to offer 18 unique voyages in the region. Voyages are 7 to 15 days long, but most may be combined as a back-to-back voyage for a lengthier holiday.

Scheduled to stay in Asia through April 2014, itineraries include numerous exotic ports in several different countries including Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar (Burma), East Timor, Northern Australia, Indonesia, New Guinea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Hong Kong. “Whether you crave the peace and tranquility of undiscovered beaches and islands or the exhilarating energy and buzz of foreign cities, Asia offers something for everyone” said SeaDream’s President, Bob Lepisto. Adding, “Virtually every country in the region is accessible by water and SeaDream’s yachting itineraries include an incredible mix of commercial cities, pristine beaches and impressive historical sites. We’ve planned very unique calls, such as the little-visited islands of the Burmese Mergui Archipelago in the Andaman Sea and Sanya, on Hainan Island in China.”

Each voyage offers unique ports of call, with highlights to include:
· Overnight, 2-day stay in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), site of The Shwedagon Pagoda. Optional full day excursions by air to Mandalay and Bagan; a valley covered with 2,000 pagodas and temples.
· Yachting the beautiful Langkawi Archipelago of Malaysia.
· Visiting “the beach” (made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie “The Beach”) in the Phi Phi Islands of Thailand.
· Diving the vibrant underwater paradise of Thailand’s, Similan Islands National Park.
· Playing great golf in Malaysia, Phuket and at the Andaman Club, a five star golf resort & casino on Thahtay Kyun Island, Burma.
· Spending New Year’s Eve in Patong Bay, Phuket, Thailand. A night of fireworks and thousands of floating, candlelit paper “magic lanterns”.
· Exploring the world heritage site of Halong Bay, Vietnam; one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
· Seeing giant monitor lizards on Komodo Island.
· From Singapore, pre and post voyage overland packages to Cambodia including Angkor Wat and the many famous temples. Also from Singapore, overland packages to Borobudur (UNESCO site) and Yogyakarta, site of the Prambanan Temple.
SeaDream first shared the news with their devoted past guests and their travel professionals, allowing their Club members to be the first to reserve space, on what are expected to be highly sought after voyages. SeaDream has these new itineraries and voyage information on their website,

Image Courtesy of SeaDream Yacht Club

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Grill" Dining, Setting The Record Straight

Black Rock Grill Dining on Silver Spirit
An email I received today reminded me of the Sesame Street song that goes, "One of these things is not like the others..."

Back up for a moment to earlier this week (on Tuesday, Oct 2nd) when Cruise Diva shared this information: Silversea's Silver Cloud Receives Extensive Make-Over. One item on the list of Silver Cloud's upgrades was the addition of a dinner option—The Grill, featuring Black Rock Grill cooking. Just as an FYI, Silver Cloud is the fifth of Silversea's luxury ships to be outfitted with this dining opportunity.

With that in mind, imagine my surprise when I received today's email from a reader with this quote copied from the Twitter post of a travel agent: "Lawn Club Grill so popular on #CelebrityCruises #Silhouette and new #Reflection @Silversea adding version on #SilverCloud." The email writer was confused and went on to ask if it were true? Was Silversea "copying" Celebrity? My response... "no, absolutely not." Silversea first introduced The Grill Dinner on Silver Spirit when it entered service in December 2009. On Silversea ships, the Black Rock Grill experience is enjoyed al fresco on the pool deck where guests grill their own entrées—at their own table—on super heated volcanic rock, choosing from a variety of steak cuts, pork, veal, fish, or prawns. It's fun, delicious, and requires reservations due to its popularity and limited seating. In addition, there is no extra charge for the meal and wine and alcoholic beverages are naturally included.

Celebrity Cruises' Lawn Club Grill Restaurant
On the other hand, Celebrity Cruises describes their Lawn Club Grill specialty restaurants on Celebrity Silhouette (launched in 2011) and Celebrity Reflection (launched in 2012) this way, "The highlight of dining at the Lawn Club Grill is the opportunity to serve as your party's 'Grill Master,' by being paired with a Celebrity chef to assist in preparing the menu for your table over custom-built, ventilated grills. Through one-on-one interaction with our chefs, you will experience a firsthand lesson in proper grilling techniques and other tricks of the grilling trade. Choose from a gourmet salad bar, à la carte "build your own" pizzas and more than 12 grilled specialties including USDA Choice Beef, poultry, seafood and vegetables. The Grill Master who wishes to demonstrate his grilling prowess—or learn a few tips—receives a complimentary apron as a memento." Reservations are required and there is a $40 per person charge. Wine and alcoholic beverages are not included.

The closest dining experience to Silversea's Black Rock Grill that you'll find at sea (albeit indoors) is the selection of Hot Rock (ishi-yaki) Plates on the menu in Izumi, an Asian specialty restaurant available on some Royal Caribbean ships. Menu items in Izuma are charged individually and depending on the choice of entrée, prices for the Hot Rock Plates range from $6.50 to $10.00. Reservations are required and a dining fee of $3 for lunch or $5 for dinner is also charged, which includes gratuities. Wine and alcoholic beverages are not included.

Maybe we should all keep that children's song in mind when regarding the veracity of what we read on Twitter, even if it was posted by a travel agent.

Black Rock Grill Photo ©;
Lawn Club Grill Image Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises