Saturday, August 31, 2013

Visit Mahogany Bay Cruise Center on the Web

It's time to re-visit the web site for the Mahogany Bay Cruise Center in Roatan, which has been redesigned with a brand new look and feel. Additional features include a wide variety of videos, images, and information showcasing the popular cruise destination that welcomes more than 500,000 passengers annually.

Designed to provide an at-a-glance look of the sprawling 20-acre facility, the enhanced user-friendly web site offers videos and images highlighting features such as the “Magical Flying Beach Chair”–an elevated chair lift that takes passengers on from the cruise terminal to beautiful Mahogany Beach–along with an listing of available shore excursions and overview of the many on-site dining and retail establishments. A monthly cruise ship schedule, a web cam with live streaming video of the center, and a frequently asked questions section are also included.

Opened in December 2009 at a cost of $62 million, the Mahogany Bay Cruise Center includes a two-berth cruise terminal that can accommodate up to 8,000 passengers daily, along with a welcoming center, and an 825-foot-long white-sand beach with a volleyball court and myriad watersports opportunities. Eight exclusive cabanas are also available for rent.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, August 30, 2013

Port of Tampa Expands With Second Royal Caribbean Ship

The Tampa Port Authority and Royal Caribbean International have announce that the cruise line will be deploying a second ship at the Port of Tampa beginning in the fall of 2014. Royal Caribbean has been operating one ship at the Port of Tampa, during winter cruise seasons, since January 2002. Brilliance of the Seas, which will sail seasonally 4- and 5-night Western Caribbean cruises, will now be joined by a second Royal Caribbean ship, Vision of the Seas, which will offer 7-night Western Caribbean cruises, sailing from Tampa throughout winter 2014-15. Vision of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas’ winter 2014-15 cruises from Tampa are now open for sale.

Vision of the Seas will sail a 9-night Southern Caribbean repositioning itinerary on Nov 6, 2014, from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, FL, to Tampa, with calls at Aruba, Curacao, Grand Cayman and Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private beach paradise on the north coast of Haiti. Beginning Nov 15, Vision of the Seas will sail every Saturday from Tampa to destinations in the Western Caribbean, including Grand Cayman, Cozumel (MX), Costa Maya (MX), Roatan (Honduras) or Belize. The 915-foot ship has a capacity of 2,000 guest, double occupancy, and a crew of 742. Previously announced, Brilliance of the Seas also will sail from Tampa in winter 2013-14 and 2014-15 on 4-night cruises to Cozumel, and 5-night Cozumel itineraries, which additionally call at Grand Cayman or Key West.

“We look forward to having two of our most recently revitalized ships, Brilliance of the Seas and Vision of the Seas sail from Tampa in 2014,” said Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. “The Port of Tampa has been a great partner for more than a decade and we look forward to continued growth with the Tampa Port Authority in the future.”

With Brilliance of the Seas having just undergone an extensive revitalization in May 2013 and Vision of the Seas to also be revitalized in September 2013, guests will enjoy more dining options, exciting entertainment and innovative amenities for which Royal Caribbean is known. In addition to Broadway-style musical revues in the main theater, guests also will be WOW’ed by the new aerial-acrobatic entertainment production, which spans throughout both ships’ multi-story Centrum. All staterooms and bathrooms will be completely refreshed and new Royal Family Suites will offer another stateroom choice to cater to every member of the adventurous family. Vision of the Seas’ guests will enjoy eight restaurants, including new Park Café gourmet deli, which is complimentary, and Chops Grille, Izumi Asian Cuisine, and the exclusive Chef’s Table experience for 16 guests, which include an additional charge. Brilliance of the Seas’ guests also have choices of Rita’s Cantina and Vintages Wine and Tapas Bar, as well as the King and Country Pub, for an additional charge.

Through the cruise line’s ongoing fleetwide revitalization program, Vision of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas offer guests some of the more popular concepts that were introduced aboard Royal Caribbean’s ground-breaking Oasis-class ships, such as new digital signage, bow-to-stern Wi-Fi service, new flat-panel televisions in every stateroom, an oversized LCD movie screen overlooking the main pool, Concierge and Diamond Lounges for suite and Crown & Anchor Society loyalty member guests, and the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery for the youngest guests ages six to 36 months.

There will now be six cruise ships that homeport in Tampa. The projected passenger throughput with the sixth ship will be just over 1 million passengers, the largest throughput in the port’s 31-year history as a cruise port. Port officials are excited to welcome an additional ship to Tampa, which has been home port to Royal Caribbean ships since the first ship, Rhapsody of the Seas, called in January 2002.

In addition to being a U.S. top ten cruise homeport, the Port of Tampa is one of the nation’s largest and most cargo-diverse seaports. The port handles a full array of cargoes, from building materials to petroleum products, for the entire west/central Florida region. The port is the largest economic engine in the region, supporting about 80,000 jobs and generating $15.1 billion in annual economic impact. For more information about the Port of Tampa, visit

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Celebrity Millennium On The Move

After propulsion problems caused Celebrity Cruises to cancel the remainder of Celebrity Millennium's Alaska season, the ship is on the move. Presently in the Pacific off the west coast of Mexico with only crew on board, Celebrity Millennium is bound for Freeport in the Bahamas where the propulsion pod that caused its problems will be replaced. Also headed to Grand Bahama Shipyard from Europe is a new 250-ton Rolls-Royce Mermaid pod to replace the defective one.

Scheduled to enter the shipyard's dock on Sept. 6th for what is expected to be a 78-hour process to replace the pod, Celebrity Millennium should be ready to leave on Sept. 11th and sail to San Diego, again with only crew on board. The ship will then embark passengers in San Diego on Sept 22nd to begin a Panama Canal Cruise that ends in Fort Lauderdale.

Image ©

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cunard Line Celebrates 175 Years in 2015

Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2 in Sydney, Australia
Did you know that Cunard invented the world voyage in 1922 when Laconia set off on the first-ever circumnavigation of the globe by a passenger ship? Since then Cunard ships have undertaken more world voyages, carried more passengers on world voyages, and visited more destinations during world voyages than any other line. In 2015, Cunard will commemorate the 175th year of the company’s founding, and the global voyages planned will celebrate this significant milestone in style. This festive time will herald several Cunard Royal Rendezvous events during the World Voyage itineraries: Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth will depart Southampton together on January 10; on March 12, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria will meet in Sydney; and on May 3rd, all three Queens will return from their World Voyages to Southampton.

Cunard’s 2015 World Voyages and Exotic Cruises Program will feature voyages ranging from eight to 127 days aboard Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth. Plus, passengers will have the option to combine itineraries into and out of Sydney, Australia across two ocean liners to create customized World Voyage options with a land portion in between. Passengers have the opportunity to visit South Africa or the South Pacific, to circumnavigate Australia, and to discover the excitement of Japan and Southeast Asia. Together, the ships will visit 82 unique destinations in 46 countries, from major cities to less frequented locales. The program has opened for pre-registration and opens for sale on Sept 5th at 5:00am PT.

Queen Mary 2
With four maiden calls and an enhanced East-West loop including New Zealand, flagship Queen Mary 2 kicks off her 113-night World Voyage from Southampton and will visit 38 ports of call in 21 countries. Destination highlights will include celebrating Chinese New Year in Sanya, China; travelling through the Suez Canal; extensive cruising of New Zealand’s Fjordland and iconic city waterfronts; Sydney Harbour; and an East-West loop that includes Auckland, Singapore and Hong Kong. Maiden calls will include Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei), Bitung (Indonesia), Sanya (China) and Sihanoukville (Cambodia). Overnight calls will include Sokhna, Dubai, Hong Kong, Auckland and Cape Town.

Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria’s 103-night Pacific Exploration itinerary will visit 33 ports in 21 countries, including two Panama Canal transits and two Transatlantic Crossings. Additional options include a South Pacific cruise starting in Los Angeles or San Francisco, visiting Sydney, and then returning to Los Angeles. Guests will also have the chance to view other iconic city waterfronts such as New York, Sydney Harbour and Auckland with one overnight call in Sydney. Queen Victoria will make five maiden calls during her World Voyage: Akaroa (New Zealand), Bora Bora, Puerto Limón (Costa Rica), Rarotonga (Cook Islands) and San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua).

Queen Elizabeth
In 2015, Queen Elizabeth will sail a captivating 112-night Western Circumnavigation itinerary that will visit 38 ports in 26 countries, including her sail past Gallipoli on 24 April 2015 to commemorate ANZAC Day and the 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign of World War One. In addition, passengers will travel through the Panama Canal and Suez Canal and under the Golden Gate Bridge, and visit the iconic city waterfronts of New York, San Francisco, Sydney Harbour, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Overnight calls include San Francisco, Sydney, Hong Kong and Instanbul. Queen Elizabeth will make one maiden call to Yorkeys Knob (Queensland).

World Voyage Land Tours include:
• The Wonders of Middle Earth: Three nights in New Zealand visiting the glow-worm caves of Waitomo and The Hobbit movie set
• Cape Town & Safari: Two nights including game drives in the Aquila Game reserve
• Hong Kong and a Taste of China: Three nights including a tour of The Peak and a glimpse of the Terracotta Warriors at Shennzhen
• San Francisco: Two nights including a Redwood tour, a visit to the artist district in Sausalito and the Golden Gate Bridge
• Traditional Singapore: Three nights including a city tour and afternoon tea at the Raffles Hotel
• Sydney, Tall ships and Beaches: Three nights including an 1850s tall ship harbor cruise and a wildlife park visit
Enhanced Benefits Program
Passengers who book their 2015 World Voyages and Exotic Cruises adventure before Feb 28, 2014 will receive an On Board Credit of up to $3,000 per stateroom on Full World and Liner Voyages, and will also receive a reduced deposit. In addition to On Board Credit, World Club members will receive additional savings of up to $2,000 per person for bookings made before Feb 28, 2014.

White Star Premier Package
Cunard introduces the White Star Premier Package for Full World Voyage guests and offers roundtrip Economy airfare credit, pre-cruise hotel, transfers, White Star Luggage service, additional On Board Credit, Internet and pre-cruise World Concierge Services. Princess Grill and Queens Grill Suite guests who purchase the White Star Premiere Package will be upgraded to Business Class airfare credit and executive car transfers.

To view the complete 2015 World Voyages and Exotic Cruises schedule, visit

Photo by James Morgan for Cunard Line

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

American Cruise Lines Goes Country With Grand Ole Opry Cruise Experience

With show tickets to the Grand Ole Opry and a week-long, music-filled itinerary on Queen of the Mississippi, American Cruise Lines offers fans the opportunity to visit the mecca of country music. The 7-night cruise on the Mississippi features various onboard musical performances on addition to complimentary tickets to the Grand Ole Opry of Nashville for Leroy Van Dyke’s September 27th show. Guests will begin or end their trip in Nashville, TN, at the Opry, where the heart of the country music industry comes to life. Best known for making country music famous and launching the careers of some of music’s finest, including Johnny Cash and The Everly Brothers, guests will be in for the show of a lifetime at the Opry. The limited offer cruise package is available on two sailings:
Memphis to Nashville – September 21, 2013
Nashville to St. Louis – September 28, 2013
Within his four decades as an entertainer, Leroy Van Dyke has recorded over 500 songs, including the well-known songs of “The Auctioneer” (1956) and “Walk on By” (1961), in addition to traveling a hundred thousand performing miles annually worldwide. The country music legend has not missed a performance in his over 30 years as an entertainer.

During the 8-day journey, guests enjoy magnificent views as they make their way up the Mississippi River through the American Heartland. Onboard, they’ll enjoy Queen of the Mississippi’s numerous and distinct amenities, such as oversized staterooms and private balconies with sliding glass doors; as well as personalized service, fine dining, daily educational events and evening entertainment. Featured musical performers aboard the Grand Ole Opry Experience cruises include:
— Dan Knowles and his Band
— Juggernaut Jug Band
— John Tomlin Band
— Beale Street Strutters
American Cruise Lines, the largest U.S. cruise company, operates the newest fleet of riverboats and small cruise ships on more than 35 itineraries around the country. Long established and deeply experienced in cruise travel, American Cruise Lines has most recently received world-wide recognition as the first to revive paddlewheel river cruising in America. The line is known for working closely with guests before, during, and after a cruise to create a highly personalized cruise experience. To learn more, visit American Cruise Lines.

Image Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Smurfs Go To Sea On Board MSC Divina

It isn't unusual to see blue-faced passengers on a cruise, but they are usually the ones suffering from seasickness. At the end of this month there will be a lot of blue-faced critters aboard MSC Crusises' MSC Divinia , but they won't be your usual fellow cruisers, nor will they be experiencing mal de mer. To celebrate the release of The Smurfs 2 this summer, MSC Cruises is treating MSC Divina's youngest guests to a truly Smurf-tastic adventure on the high seas. (Children 11 and under sail free year-round on MSC, making this an additional special treat for parents alike). As the only cruise ship to boast a Smurf-themed Mini and Junior Club, the release of the Smurfs' latest 3D adventures is the perfect opportunity for MSC Divina to take blue and white fun to exclusive new levels.

Kids will enjoy a series of uniquely tailored programs featuring fun-filled family activities with the ship's giant Smurf mascot as guest of honor. In November 2013, when MSC Divina starts her Caribbean season from Miami, Smurf activities will be extended all season long.

From DJ to sous-chef, the onboard mascot will take on a number of key roles during family events, from Smurfs Family Disco, Smurfs Live Talent Show, and Smurfs Master Chef, a special cooking demonstration with the head pastry chef, teaching children to make biscuits and cakes with a special hands-on experience. Arts and crafts sessions, utilizing official Smurf 2 materials will be another entertaining way to get creative. Guests will be able to sing along to their favorite tunes from The Smurfs 2 official soundtrack, including Britney Spears' "Ooh la la," during the Family Disco and Smurfs Parade.

Image Courtesy of MSC Cruises

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Royal Caribbean's Family of Brands & Bank of America Launch New Affinity Cards

There are numerous ways to show your loyalty to a particular brand and carrying "their" credit card is one of them. It's particularly rewarding when there's something in it for you as a consumer, so this offer sounds like a pretty good deal, particularly if you're a cruiser who likes to sample more than one line. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Bank of America have entered into a multi-year renewal of their affinity partnership and the launch of new credit cards that will offer unique benefits created for enthusiasts of the Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean International brands.

"MyCruise Rewards," one of the most unique new features of the cards, gives cardmembers the ability to redeem points not only with the cruise brand that they choose for their affinity card, but also across the other two brands in the Royal Caribbean corporate family. Through MyCruise Rewards, cardholders can earn discounts on cruise-related packages and redeem points for cruises, stateroom upgrades, specialty gifts, and onboard credit across all three cruise lines. The new cards provide double points for purchases on Azamara, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean Intl, and one point for every dollar spent on all other purchases.

Consumers can choose from a variety of benefits, as each of the new cards offers special features. More information on the features of each brand's cards, including rates and fees, is available on the following sites:
-- Azamaa Club Cruises
-- Celebrity Cruises
-- Royal Caribbean International
Whichever card you choose to apply for, they all offer cool images of cruise ships.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Norwegian Getaway Maiden Voyage Postponed

Maiden voyages area big deal and some avid cruise fans take being the first passengers to experience a new ship very seriously. Last year we reported that Norwegian Getaway, currently under construction, would be delivered earlier than expected and arrive early in its Miami homeport after inaugural events in Europe. Norwegian Getaway was expected to then debut in Miami in late January 2014 and begin her first Eastern Caribbean sailing on Saturday, February 1, 2014.

For passengers who booked the the transatlantic crossing to position the ship in Miami, plus those looking forward to the maiden sailing from Miami, things have changed. We have received word that Norwegian Getaway has been chartered by a private company for accommodations and events surrounding the 2014 Super Bowl. Instead of a 16-night transatlantic voyage in January from Rotterdam to sunny Miami, the ship will depart Southampton on January 16, 2014 for a 10-day crossing and head for chilly New York.

The National Football League is scheduled to play the 48th Super Bowl on On February 2, 2014 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. Norwegian Getaway's charter runs from January 29 to February 5, 2014, after which she will head for Miami and make her maiden sailing on February 8.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sun Princess' First Cruise Following Drydock Is Canceled

Did you follow along as Princess Cruises chronicled the Sun Princess drydock transformation this month? For $30 million, the line added some Asian-inspired elements to appeal to their passengers from Asia, as well as signature Princess features, including a redesigned atrium with the line's popular International Café, a new sushi and seafood venue, an updated Horizon Court restaurant with "action" stations instead of buffet lines, and a refreshed Lotus Spa.

Unfortunately, even as passengers were arriving at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Singapore on Tuesday ready to sail to Fremantle, Australia, Princess realized they had a problem. Due to a main switchboard malfunction, Sun Princess had limited power and could not operate all hotel services. Without full resources to provide necessities like cabin lighting, air conditioning, vacuum toilet systems, and galley functions, Princess had no alternative other than to cancel the cruise.

Most of the 954 passengers set to embark were Australians who had flown in for the 14-day cruise back to their homeland. In addition to the cost of return flights to their point of origin and other miscellaneous incidentals, all passengers will receive a full refund and a 100% future cruise credit.

Sun Princess is now scheduled to depart Sept. 3rd a 12-day cruise from Fremantle to Singapore, to be followed by a season of Asia and Australia cruises before returning to Japan next April for a second season of cruises based there.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Celebrity Millennium Propulsion Problems Continue to Plague Alaska Cruises

As you may know, after an electrical problem was encountered in one of Celebrity Millennium's motors on August 8th, the ship limped into Seward, Alaska at the end of the voyage it was just completing. Repairs were made while Celebrity Millennium remained in Seward from August 9-12, at which time the ship departed for Vancouver, BC, where it arrived last Friday. That sailing was virtually a "cruise to nowhere" as it stopped at no ports of calls.

Passengers who chose to sail on that non-stop cruise to Vancouver received a full refund plus a future cruise certificate for 100% of the fare they had paid. According to Celebrity reports, fewer than 100 of the passengers who had already arrived to embark in Seward chose to cancel and they received a full refund and a 50% future cruise credit, along with air and hotel costs.

With no known issues, the subsequent Celebrity Millennium cruise embarked in Vancouver on Friday, August 16, but was forced to returned to Ketchikan, Alaska on Sunday night, August 18th (after making a port call there that day), due to mechanical problems that surfaced in one of the ship's two propulsion units.

Celebrity Cruises issued the following statement regarding the situation:
"Our engineers, along with expert consultants from the motor's manufacturer, and our Marine Operations team in Miami, have continued working around the clock to resolve the mechanical issue onboard Celebrity Millennium. Together, they have been doing everything they can to fully determine the root cause of the problem.
Regrettably, as of this time, they have been unable to find a satisfactory solution that would enable the ship to continue with its sailing. Because of this, it will be necessary to cancel the remainder of Celebrity Millennium's current sailing. We are offering guests currently onboard Celebrity Millennium with compensation and assistance with travel arrangements.
We realize how disappointing this cancelled sailing is to our guests, and we share in their disappointment.
Updates and additional information for travel agents or others with contacts sailing on the August 16 cruise can call  1.888.829.4050. Those calling from outside the U.S. can call 1.305.539.6000 ext. 48155."
Late last night Celebrity issued another statement, this one more dire for booked passengers hoping to see Alaska's wonders aboard Celebrity Millennium on upcoming sailings:
We have important news for guests who are booked to sail on upcoming cruises on Celebrity Millennium. Please read this update.
"A mechanical issue has made it necessary for us to perform unscheduled repairs on Celebrity Millennium. As a result, we are sorry to inform guests that we have had to cancel the following sailings:
• August 23, 2013 – cancelled
• August 30, 2013 – cancelled
• September 6, 2013 – cancelled
• September 13, 2013 – cancelled
We are deeply sorry for this unexpected and disappointing development in our guests’ upcoming vacation.
If you are booked on one of the cancelled sailings, Celebrity Cruises will provide you with a full, 100% refund. For your convenience, all monies paid will automatically be processed back to the original form of payment within the next three weeks. Celebrity Cruises will also provide you with a future cruise certificate. This certificate may be used for a future cruise on Celebrity Cruises.
Guests booked on the August 23 sailing may call 1-888-829-4050 for additional information. Those calling from outside the U.S. can call 1-305-539-6000 ext. 48846.
Guests booked on the August 30, September 6 and September 13 sailing may call 1-888-281-9343 for additional information. Those calling from outside the U.S. can call 1-305-539-6000 ext. 48155."
With that announcement, the Alaska cruise season has officially come to a premature end for Celebrity Millennium.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Smoking On Board Just Got More Difficult

Non-smokers have waged a serious campaign for some years now to cut out smoking on cruise ships and they are succeeding for the most part.

The latest restrictions come from Disney Cruise Line, Cunard Line, and Seabourn.

Disney Cruise Line has announced that smoking will be banned on stateroom balconies beginning November 15, 2013. Passengers caught smoking on balconies, or in their staterooms, face a $250 cleaning fee. Smoking areas are provided outdoors in adults-only areas on all four ships.

Cunard Line will also ban cigarette smoking on balconies, which they say is due to feedback from their past passengers as well as customer research. The new policy is effective on April 28, 2014 on Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 and on May 9, 2014 on Queen Elizabeth.

Seabourn, which was one of the last cruise lines that permitted passengers to smoke in accommodations, has altered their policy and will ban that practice as indicated in the schedule below:
Seabourn Pride: February 2, 2014
Seabourn Spirit: February 1, 2014
Seabourn Legend: February 3, 2014
Seabourn Odyssey: February 11, 2014
Seabourn Sojourn: May 1, 2014
Seabourn Quest: March 22, 2014
Seabourn will ban smoking on certain balconies on their trio of smaller ships as well, namely those that are "Juliet balconies" with sliding doors that open within the cabin (not the kind that you can step out onto and close the door behind you). For instance, passengers in category B suites on Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit, and Seabourn Legend will not be allowed to smoke on their balconies. However, passengers in category CS and OW suites will continue to be allowed to smoke. Aboard Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn, and Seabourn Quest, smoking on all balconies will be permitted. Designated indoor and outdoor smoking areas will continue to be provided throughout the fleet and smoking of electronic cigarettes is permitted in guest suites.

Cruise Diva outlines the cruise lines' updated smoking policies in Smoke on the Water. We would just like to add that we have never understood the violent reaction of non-smokers to passengers smoking out of doors and even objecting to electronic cigarettes, which emit vapor and not smoke. The faux coughing and hand waving seem pretty unnecessary in the open air where smoke only lingers for seconds, even on adjacent balconies and especially on a moving ship when there is a breeze.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Elvis Has Left The Ship, But Not Our Hearts

Joseph E. Hall, 2007 Finalist in the 
Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest 
Not unlike many baby boomers, I don't remember a time when there was no television. And, like many families in the 1950s, on any given Sunday night mine could be counted on to gather around the television for the iconic "Ed Sullivan Show." September 9, 1956 was no different, except that my mother was excited to see a young up-and-coming singer, Elvis Presley. Mom's anticipation (Elvis was reputed to be somewhat "naughty") wore off on me and I've been a fan ever since.

Since I had the good fortune to attend one of Elvis' extraordinary concerts in Las Vegas many years ago, the opportunity to once again experience all things Elvis was simply irresistible. So, without hesitation, I signed up for the maiden sailing of The Elvis Cruise on board Carnival Cruise Lines' "Funship" Celebration out of Jacksonville, Florida. The sailing—the first ever cruise gathering sanctioned by Elvis Presley Enterprises—promised to be a truly special and spectacular event. Produced by the experts in full-ship music charters, Jazz Cruises LLC (now Entertainment Cruise Productions), it was everything I expected and more.

Drake Milligan, (at left), performing on the 
Elvis Cruise with the Jordanaires in 2007
Elvis Tribute Artists were abundant on Carnival Celebration, ranging from finalists in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest 2007 held in Memphis, to passengers who participated in an onboard challenge of their own. My favorite was Drake Milligan, then a 9-year old who had the looks, the moves, and even (temporarily) the finest back up singers possible... he ran across The Jordanaires at the pool and they appeared with him on stage as he performed "Blue Suede Shoes" (in the photo at right and in the video below) for an appreciative audience who gave him a standing ovation. Drake didn't win the contest on the cruise, but he's certainly the voice of the future and a really nice young man.

Now, six years later, Drake is a teenager and an accomplished Elvis Tribute Artist with many awards for his performances and a wide following. Last week he performed at a Candlelight Vigil at the Fort Worth Science and History Museum to celebrate the memory of Elvis on the 36th anniversary of The King's death. I hope you enjoy it in the video below (as well as his performance at the Collingwood 2013 Festival that follows) as much as I do.

Sadly, there are no more Elvis Cruises scheduled on a major cruise line in the Caribbean. The King may have left the ship, but he will always remain in our hearts.

Happily, the annual Malt shop Memories Cruise, scheduled to sail from Fort Lauderdale on Holland America Line's Eurodam every year in November, features numerous Elvis Tribute Artists. I think Drake would put some of them to shame!

For his many fans, here's Drake performing "Blue Suede Shoes" in Toronto this year. Enjoy!

Images ©, Videos Courtesy of Angela Milligan

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Get in on Royal Caribbean’s Super Saturday Sale Today

Wow, where has the summer gone? August is more than half over and children are already back in school in some parts of the country.

Royal Caribbean International says that just because summer is coming to an end that doesn’t mean that the spirit of the season comes to a close. The cruise line has announced a Super Saturday Sale for Saturday, August 17, 2013 (that’s today!), offering U.S. and Canadian vacationers up to $100 onboard credit per stateroom when they make a new individual booking on any sailing, departing August 23 to October 31, 2013. With a choice among 21 of the world’s most innovative cruise ships sailing exciting itineraries in The Bahamas and the Caribbean, and Europe, vacationers can take advantage of the Super Saturday Sale to enjoy $25 onboard credit per stateroom for interior and ocean view stateroom and $50 onboard credit per stateroom for a balcony- and suite-category stateroom. Furthermore, bookings aboard the world’s largest and most innovative ships Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas will enjoy double the offer of $50 per interior, ocean view, Central Park view and Boardwalk view stateroom and $100 per balcony- and suite-category stateroom. For more information, visit

Just a sample of the bargains are Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas fares starting at $749 per guest, double occupancy. The Super Saturday Sale offers vacationers unprecedented value to try or return on a world-acclaimed Oasis-class vacation. Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas feature the widest range of exclusive, first-at-sea amenities such as Central Park, an idyllic and expansive space open to the air with more than 12,000 plants and trees; Boardwalk, featuring a hand-crafted carousel and the AquaTheater that overlooks the aft of the ship; a zip line; and the first fully-licensed Broadway musicals, with ‘Chicago: The Musical’ headlining aboard Allure of the Seas and ‘Hairspray’ aboard Oasis of the Seas. On both ships, guests can join in the DreamWorks Experience, featuring themed entertainment and activities starring some of the studio’s most lovable characters from popular films Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and How to Train Your Dragon.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Norwegian Cruise Line Plans Eco-Friendly Destination in Belize

What could possibly be better than one private island? How about at Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamian chain and another off the coast of Belize in the Western Caribbean. That’s what Norwegian Cruise Line has in the works with the purchase of approximately 75 acres in Southern Belize for the planned development of an eco-friendly cruise destination. The land, called Harvest Caye, is made up of two adjoining islands in the Stann Creek and Toledo districts that had previously been approved for a resort development with an air strip. Norwegian plans to invest $50 million in the project.

“As our fleet continues to grow to 15 ships by 2017, we expect that we will double the number of guests sailing on our Western Caribbean itineraries and, once this new destination is complete, bring four times as many guests to Belize than we do today,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s president and CEO. “In our quest to continuously look for new and exciting destinations for our guests, we plan to develop a cruise destination focused on sustainable design and eco-friendly principles that will retain the natural beauty and local culture of this tropical paradise.”

Norwegian has retained IDEA Inc. of Orlando, Florida to design the destination and bring the project to fruition. IDEA is an industry leading designer of branded ports of call and branded destinations for the hospitality, entertainment and tourism industries. IDEA has worked with private developers, government ministries, and independent agencies to create branded destinations in Alaska; Florida; St. Lucia; St. Maarten; Mexico; St. Kitts; Honduras; Bahamas; and Jamaica.

“This project will set a new standard in the development of an eco-friendly destination. Rather than an imposed plan, we are focused on a design approach that is determined by the local environment to ensure that the unique surroundings and features of the area will be protected and showcased for all to enjoy,” said Hugh Darley, president of IDEA, Inc.

While the master plan for the 75 acres is still under development, the vision is to create a world-class cruise destination, consisting of two locations: an island destination with docking/tendering facilities and a mainland connection point for inland tours. Major components of the project are anticipated to include a floating pier, island village with open-air structures on raised platforms, marina, transportation hub for tours to the mainland, a lagoon for a variety of water sports and a relaxing beach area. The goal is to design an authentic experience grounded in the storyline of nature, ancient culture, art, adventure and music that celebrates Belizean, Mayan and Garifuna history and culture.

The Government of Belize and Norwegian have signed a memorandum of understanding on the development that calls for adherence to Belize’s environmental standards, creation of jobs for Belizeans, as well as significant economic impact, among other items. Belize’s Prime Minister Dean Barrow has said that Belize needs to decentralize cruise tourism in an effort to reduce overcrowding and improve the visitor experience. Prime Minister Barrow also expressed confidence in Norwegian Cruise Line’s commitment to responsible development that will have a positive economic impact while maintaining the integrity of natural resources.

The new destination is expected to benefit Belize directly with significantly increased head tax revenues, and at a local level with up to 1,000 new jobs. The creation of the new destination will also help relieve cruise tourism pressures in Belize City which has been called for in Belize’s National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan. Norwegian plans to employ a majority of Belizeans in the construction and operation of the destination in Belize. The company has also created a hiring program specifically for Belizeans who want to work in the immediate future on its vessels while the project is under development. Once the destination is ready to open, those Belizeans will have priority preference for the numerous staff positions needed to run the day-to-day operations.

Rendering of the Development Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Seabourn Launches Video Series: "Seabourn InSights"

Newly introduced "Seabourn InSights" is a series of online videos that offer an inside look at luxury cruise line Seabourn's intimate ships, the appealing destinations they visit, and the dedicated men and women who work on board. From captains and executive chefs to waiters and suite stewardesses, the short video vignettes feature interviews with staff members that showcase their engaging personalities and favorite onboard moments. The videos also offer behind-the-scenes looks at various guest experiences, both on ship and ashore, demonstrating the staff's commitment and dedication to delivering sincere, personalized service to their guests.

The Seabourn InSights video below features Seabourn's signature "Evening at Ephesus," a complimentary shore side event in the Greco-Roman ruins near Kusadasi, Turkey, beginning with how the crew prepares for it. The video also highlights the actual event, with guests enjoying a candle-lit concert.

Another video showcases a time-lapse sequence of Seabourn Sojourn sailing into the scenic Trollfjord in Norway, surrounded by snow-capped peaks. A third video features charismatic Norwegian Captain Dag Dvergastein introducing himself and talking about his family history and his job, as well as exploring the Iles des Saintes in the Caribbean by Zodiac, for possible landing sites for Seabourn guests.

Those Seabourn InSights are available for viewing online at, as well as on the line's YouTube channel. Additional InSights videos will be released in the upcoming weeks.

"We have such a wonderful group of hard-working men and women who bring our ships to life every day, and our new Seabourn InSights videos show why our staff is among the best in the industry," said John Delaney, Seabourn's senior vice president of marketing and sales. "The videos reveal some of the magic that occurs behind the scenes that guests don't normally see."

Video Courtesy of Seabourn

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Are Viking River Cruises Coming to the Mississippi River?

The Miami Herald has reported that the Vikings may becoming to America. The story said that tourism officials for the town of Red Wing, Minnesota claim that Viking River Cruises will begin sailing the Mississippi River in 2015. How do they know? The city fathers of the small town in Minnesota, located approximately 50 miles downriver from Minneapolis, are apparently looking forward to being one of the stops on the cruises.

In a news release issued recently by the Red Wing Visitors and Convention Bureau, it was reported that Viking has plans to build a 340-passenger ship to offer cruises on the Mississippi beginning in the fall of 2015, for which they will begin taking reservations in the spring of 2014. The five-deck ship described in the Red Wing release would be considerably larger than the longships Viking has launched for European rivers. Those carry 190 passengers and are designed for transit through Europe's smaller locks and lower bridges.

Viking River Cruises has greatly expanded its presence on European waterways in recent years and has announced the introduction of an ocean cruise line scheduled to launch in 2014. While Viking Chairman Tor Hagen has expressed a desire to sail the Mississippi River some day, a Viking spokesman could not confirm a 2015 launch date. Until an official Viking announcement is made, we'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, we hope those Red Wing officials haven't spoiled their chances on being a port-of-call by making their unofficial prediction.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Royal Caribbean Welcomed 50 Millionth Passenger

Royal Caribbean International reached an important milestone in its 45-year company history yesterday as it welcomed its 50 millionth passenger onboard its fleet of 21 ships.

“For more than 45 years, Royal Caribbean’s guiding principle has been to deliver the WOW to our guests, providing them with experiences, services and amenities that can only be found on Royal Caribbean,” said Adam Goldstein, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “The men and women on our ships who deliver these WOW moments are what inspire our loyal guests to return to sail with us again and again.”

The milestone occasion kicks off a year-long celebration honoring the cruise line’s guests, business partners, employees, and crew. Spreading across the globe like a New Year’s Eve-style party, each of Royal Caribbean’s ships will recognize the milestone with shipboard festivities. The onboard events will mark the start of a year-long campaign where consumers are encouraged to share their favorite WOW moments with Royal Caribbean over the years by posting photos, videos, and memorable stories on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #RoyalWOW.

Royal Caribbean’s Gold Anchor Service is one of the factors that has helped the cruise line achieve this significant milestone and why the line was ranked among the top cruise lines in a recently released cruise line satisfaction report. The line is an award-winning global cruise brand with a legacy of innovation and introducing industry firsts never-before-seen at sea. The cruise line features an expansive and unmatched array of features and amenities found only on Royal Caribbean including Broadway-style entertainment and industry-acclaimed programming that appeals to families and adventurous vacationers alike. Owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the cruise line sails 21 cruise ships to the most popular destinations in the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, South America, the Far East, and Australia and New Zealand.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Follow Along As Sun Princess Gets A Dramatic Drydock Transformation

From this photo of the atrium aboard Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess, it’s pretty obvious the ship has that “dated” look that we recognize as oh-so 90’s. That’s no surprise as she was introduced in 1995, the first of Princess’ Sun-class vessels.

While she has been refurbished and received upgrades over the years, Sun Princess has now begun an extensive $30 million transformation that will enhance the ship and bring her up-to-date for the 21st century. During the two-week makeover, the vessel will receive a sparkling new atrium with Princess’ signature International Café, a new sushi and seafood venue, an updated Horizon Court buffet, and a refreshed Lotus Spa.

You’re invited to follow the drydock progress while the ship is at the Sembawang shipyard in Singapore with regular photo updates offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse each day through August 20. Beginning with some “before” shots, the online drydock journal will offer a rare “insider’s” look at the work required to transform the ship with new interior furnishings and finishes, fresh hull paint and exterior refurbishment, and its new contemporary and Asian-style touches.

Sun Princess debuted our first Japan-based cruise program earlier this year, and now the vessel will benefit from its time there with some new Asia-inspired elements as well as signature Princess features,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “We know from past projects that there is a great deal of interest in a drydock such as this, so we’re again inviting the public to follow along as the ship is transformed.”

When Sun Princess emerges from drydock, the ship’s new atrium will feature Princess’ signature International Café with expanded seating and new décor. A new dining venue, Kai Sushi, will serve up sushi and seafood. The Horizon Court will feature contemporary food service areas and action stations for live a la carte cooking as well as a special pastry shop and coffee bar, refreshed décor and expanded seating. A sophisticated space designed especially for the ship’s Sterling Steakhouse experience will also debut. The ship’s top deck hamburger grill will be transformed into an al fresco barbeque venue, and the ice cream bar will add specialty coffee options. The Lotus Spa will also get a thorough makeover, with new décor.

The new features aboard Sun Princess add to the ship’s current impressive array of dining and entertainment options plus signature innovations such as the popular Movies Under the Stars poolside theater and The Sanctuary, an exclusive top-deck retreat. The 77,000-ton Sun Princess carries 2,022 passengers and features a high number of staterooms with private balconies, a steakhouse, pizzeria, boutiques, and Internet café among other amenities.

Once out of drydock, Sun Princess will set sail on a season of Asia and Australia cruises, before beginning a second season of Japan-based cruising in April 2014.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Getting Away From It All At Sea

Even the largest megaships offer intimate spaces for relaxation these days. Take the clamshell-style shaded lounger pictured here in the adults-only Serenity area aboard Carnival Magic. Just by adding my iPod and a good book, I was set for hours of serene enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy the entertainment and socializing that cruises offer, but there are times when I just want to be alone.

Suggested by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), following is a sampling of some of the features created by cruise lines for passengers seeking a tranquil retreat or exclusive enclave.

Balconies are among the most popular privacy features, and ships, from luxury to mega, are upping the percentage of cabins with balconies. One line has even figured out a way to provide balconies for inside cabins. For example:
• Disney Cruise Line’s newest ships have private verandahs on 70 percent of staterooms and suites.
• Princess Cruises’ new Royal Princess and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic have balconies on all outside cabins.
• Royal Caribbean International’s refurbished Navigator of the Seas will emerge next year with “virtual” balconies for interior cabins–LED projection screens showing live images taken by exterior cameras.
Club sections take exclusivity and pampering to new levels. Similar to luxury hotel concierge floors, many ships have club or concierge level cabins with upgraded services and intimate lounges. For example:
• Holland America Line’s Neptune Lounge, open to guests in a Neptune or Pinnacle Suite, is a private lounge with a wide screen TV, continental breakfast and coffee, tea and snacks throughout the day as well as concierge service.
• Oceania Cruises’ Executive Lounge, available to guests in Owners, Vista, Oceania and Penthouse Suites, features complimentary soft drinks, coffees and snacks throughout the day and a dedicated concierge; a separate Concierge Lounge is provided for guests in Concierge Level Veranda Staterooms.
Cabanas, usually rentable by the day or for the whole cruise, put guests in the heart of the action while indulging them with special services. For example:
• Celebrity Cruises’ “The Alcoves,” on Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection come with fresh fruit, chilled towels, use of a pre-loaded iPad and more. An attendant is also on hand to arrange for spa treatments, food and other services.
• Holland America Line’s “Cabana Club” on Eurodam and Nieuw Amsterdam offers airy, tented cabanas with plush upholstered seating where guests receive extras such as bathrobes, chocolate-covered strawberries, champagne and a pre-loaded iPod.

Adults-only areas are becoming increasingly popular, especially on kid-friendly sailings. While spas have long been serene retreats, adults-only spaces for everything from dining to swimming and sunning are now popping on a wide array of ships. For example:
• Disney Cruise Line’s Quiet Cove Pool and Cove Bar invites adults to sunbathe, swim, sip a cool drink or soak in a hot tub overlooking the ocean.
• Royal Caribbean International’s glass-canopied Solarium pool area and café, with cantilevered whirlpools that jut out over the sea, are popular adults-only spots.
• Carnival Cruises Lines’ Serenity adult-only area, offered on many of its ships, features plush lounge chairs, bar and food service, whirlpools and soothing music.
Hidden hot tubs, tree houses and more are also adding fun, new twists on serenity on many ships. For example:
• Celebrity Cruises’ “The Hideaway,” available on Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection, resembles an avant-garde tree house with cozy suspended “nests” and pods where guests can try out Apple products from the Celebrity iLounge or cuddle up with a good book.
• Seabourn’s newest ships, Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn, and Seabourn Quest, offer tucked away nooks such as the top deck Sun Terrace, with double sun-beds nestled behind a clear windscreen. And all Seabourn ships feature a secluded whirlpool spa on the open foredeck, ideal for a celebratory glass of champagne as the ship leaves port.
The cocooning concept goes one step further with the creation of the new wave of elite sections on some ships. Here, guests find everything they need in their own private retreat. For example:
• MSC Cruises’ MSC Yacht Club, called a “ship within a ship,” wraps guests in a private pool, solarium, restaurant and butler-serviced suites.
• Norwegian Cruise Line’s “The Haven” has butler-serviced cabins that surround a private two-story courtyard with pools, whirlpools, a massage room, private restaurant, cocktail bar and concierge lounge.
Libraries aren’t just about books any more, either. Large or small, ship libraries offer quiet yet sociable spots for reading, writing and board games. For example:
• Azamara Club Cruises’ Drawing Room by Assouline is a quiet spot to relax with its collection of lifestyle and travel books by Assouline.
• Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 has a huge library which displays more than 9,500 books, audio books, and publications in a relaxing setting for readers.
• Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest ships, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Sunshine, feature The Library Bar, where self-serve wine dispensers and bartenders set the mood for quiet conversation, board games, and yes, reading.
Exotic dining spaces set the scene for personal evenings. These very private areas can be ideal for special anniversaries or other occasions. For example:
• Paul Gauguin Cruises’ m/s Paul Gauguin offers private dining on the water sports marina for up to four guests to enjoy gourmet cuisine at a table set with white linen, fine china and crystal glasses along with live Polynesian entertainment.
• Oceania Cruises’ Riviera and Marina both offer Privée, a dining room that can be reserved for up to 10 guests, where the plush décor features a white Venini glass chandelier, white baby crocodile throne chairs and backlit onyx-clad walls.
Cozy dining rooms with special wine and food pairings are another way ships are creating distinctive, intimate dining experiences. For example:
• Crystal Cruises’ Vintage Room seats up to 14 for multi-course wine and food pairings at its private tasting table.
• Oceania Cruises’ Riviera and Marina offer seven-course wine and food pairings for up to 24 guests in its La Reserve by Wine Spectator room.
After dinner lounges, piano bars and jazz clubs provide a tranquil oasis on a wide array of ships, but on some, cigar bars and original designs add to the sense of exclusivity. For example:
• Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 provides Churchill’s, a 12-seat salon for cigar and pipe smokers.
• Crystal Cruises’ Connoisseur Club offers a clubby Old World ambience for cigar smokers, while Pulse on the Crystal Serenity and Luxe on the Crystal Symphony are designed for quiet dancing, karaoke and relaxed conversation.
• Disney Cruise Line’s intimate lounges include Disney Fantasy’s Ooh La La, a French boudoir-style club, and Disney Dream’s Pink, a small, upscale cocktail lounge.

Photo ©

Friday, August 9, 2013

Silversea Introduces the Line's First Female Captain

For the first time in its nearly 20-year history, a female captain is at the helm of a Silversea Cruises vessel.

Silversea, the luxury line that operates a fleet of six ships, has promoted Margrith Ettlin to the position of captain. A Swiss national with extensive maritime experience in remote regions, including the Arctic and Antarctica, Captain Ettlin assumed control of the 132-guest expedition ship Silver Explorer on August 7 in Reykjavik. Her first tour of duty as captain will extend into October. Prior to joining Silversea as a staff captain in March 2010, Captain Ettlin worked for Germany's F. Laeisz shipping group. Her maritime career also includes nearly nine years as a staff captain with the German shipping company Hapag Lloyd.

"We're very pleased and proud to extend this promotion to Captain Ettlin," said Christian Sauleau, Silversea's executive vice president of fleet operations. "Although we're not the first cruise company to have a female captain, we hope Captain Ettlin's achievement will inspire other women to pursue careers at sea."

Images Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Renovation & Repositioning Planned for Carnival Legend

While making her way to Australia in fall 2014, Carnival Legend will operate two unique cruises—a 13-day Panama Canal cruise and a 23-day trans-Pacific voyage—that will serve to position her for a new seasonal schedule from Down Under.

But, first things first. Prior to those voyages, Carnival Legend will undergo a multi-million dollar renovation that will add an array of innovations that are part of the line’s Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement program. These include a massive WaterWorks aqua park highlighted by Green Thunder, the steepest and fastest waterslide at sea; the tropics-inspired RedFrog Pub; a full-service sushi restaurant called Bonsai Sushi; and Cherry On Top, a “candy and more store” with confections, apparel, and novelty items. These new offerings complement such popular options as the Serenity adults-only retreat, an expansive health and wellness center, and fun activities and spacious play areas for kids in three age groups.

“This is an incredible opportunity for guests to visit some of the world’s most majestic and awe-inspiring destinations, from breathtaking beaches in Mexico and the Caribbean to tropical Polynesian paradises, as well as the unforgettable experiences of transiting the Panama Canal and crossing the equator,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO. “These two voyages also provide guests a chance to be among the first to check out all the fantastic additions that are being added to Carnival Legend as part of our fleetwide Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement initiative,” he added.
The 13-day Panama Canal cruise will depart Tampa, Fla., Aug. 17 and arrive in Long Beach, Calif., Aug. 30, 2014. Carnival Legend will visit George Town, Grand Cayman and Cartagena, Colombia prior to the Panama Canal transit, followed by day-long calls to Puntarenas, Costa Rica and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Carnival Legend will then operate a 23-day trans-Pacific voyage that departs from Long Beach Aug. 30, arrives in Sydney, Australia, Sept. 22, 2014. In addition to the unforgettable crossing of the equator that includes all the traditional maritime celebrations, the voyage will feature extended visits to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Papeete (Tahiti), Bora Bora and Moorea, French Polynesia; Suva, Fiji Islands; and Noumea, New Caledonia.

The trans-Pacific crossing will position Carnival Legend for a seasonal program from Australia that kicks off Sept. 24, 2014, and encompasses 8- to 12-day cruises from Sydney calling at a variety of destinations within the Pacific, including New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji. The two voyages can be combined to create a one-of-a-kind 36-day cruise that features 10 scenic destinations across three continents.
Reservations are currently being accepted for all of these Carnival Legend’s departures. For additional information, visit

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Celebrity Offers “Cruise Lingo”

It isn’t often that I can get “an app for that” when offered a useful tool for cell phone and tablet users. I am a loyal BlackBerry user with a new Q10 and the latest applications are seldom compatible with even my brand-new (and fabulous!) phone. However, I do have an iPod Touch and, thankfully, this new app introduced by Celebrity Cruises can be used on it.

Celebrity recognizes that English is the universal language and is the most widely spoken language on board their vessels; however, to feel truly immersed in the culture of a far-flung destination, there’s nothing quite as authentic as speaking like the locals (or at least trying to). So,the line—with vacations visiting all seven continents and a focus on enhancing the destination experience for its guests—has made it easy for passengers to speak local languages with its new, industry-first app, “Cruise Lingo.” An interactive language and culture guide, and a customized version of the award-winning mobile app from TripLingo, Cruise Lingo allows travelers easy access to authentic local phrases and relevant information to enhance their destination experience.

Even a newcomer to the app world like me can download and use Cruise Lingo. With my iPod Touch I connected to my home WiFi and found it by searching the App Store. It downloaded quickly and I began learning phrases in no time with a touch of the screen. By simply selecting a phrase—such as, “How much does it cost?”—the translated language of the local destination appears on-screen. An interactive feature offers multiple versions of each phrase, including formal, casual, and slang options that you can listen to and mimic. Or, if you are more comfortable, just play the phrase to the person you are attempting to communicate with—in my experience from growing up in Germany, you will often find the locals in foreign lands will then respond in English.

Other free features of Cruise Lingo include voice-to-voice translation and a limited “flashcard” learning system, which are available even when you are not online. Also included in the free version of the app are 80 standard phrases in 11 languages; 56 cruise-specific phrases; 20 free uses of the voice translator; access to 2,000 dictionary words translated into all 11 languages, and the culture crash course that contains information including general etiquette, safety information, doing business, country information, travel tips, dining guide, music, and local pop culture. Some features are only accessible if you have an Internet connection and upgrade through an in-app purchase which unlocks more content, including a full-featured library of the 11 languages.

The free, new Cruise Lingo app can be downloaded onto Android and iOS smartphones and tablets from or, as I discovered, from the App Store on your device.

Images Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Regatta, Insignia & Nautica to be Transformed in 2014

Oceania Cruises’ trio of R-Class ships—Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica—will undergo a significant transformation starting early next year in the largest refurbishment program in the company’s history. The ships will receive a $50 million upgrade in a six-week timeframe that includes the refurbishment of suites, staterooms, and select public rooms, some in the colors and décor-style found on the line’s newest ships—Marina and Riviera. The ships’ top accommodations, the Owner’s and Vista suites, will receive new bathrooms including the addition of oversized showers and new vanities. Original artwork, in line with the celebrated collection on Marina and Riviera, will be commissioned for all suites and staterooms.

The Terrace Café, which offers casual dining, will also be completely refurbished including the addition of a state-of-the-art grill allowing for grilled dinner specialties such as lobster tails, steaks and lamb chops made famous onboard Marina and Riviera. The company is also adding to Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica the popular Baristas coffee bar found on its newest ships. Guests will enjoy complimentary gourmet and specialty illy™ coffees including espressos, cappuccinos and lattes as well as homemade croissants, biscotti, and finger sandwiches throughout the day.

Horizons, the line’s observation lounge, will also be refurbished with a new color scheme and décor. In a move sure to be appreciated by all passengers, the company will completely enclose the ships’ only indoor smoking area, located in Horizons, with glass and install a state-of-the-art air filtration system.

Oceania Cruises’ flagship restaurant, the Grand Dining Room as well as Toscana, the line’s Italian restaurant will be expanded with more tables for two. Lastly, the ships’ show lounges will be refurbished, Martinis will be outfitted with new furniture, and the Canyon Ranch SpaClub® will receive new steam and changing rooms.

"This refurbishment program is an incredible undertaking but we are excited by the opportunity to bring some of the best features of our O-Class ships to Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica," said Kunal S. Kamlani, president of Oceania Cruises. "We will preserve the personality, elegance and comfort of these vessels while furnishing certain areas with the updated décor and amenities that are found on Marina and Riviera. This will ensure a consistent experience across the fleet that we know our guests will love and appreciate."

The dry docks are scheduled from April 24 to June 6, 2014 with Insignia and Nautica being refurbished in Marseilles, France and Regatta in Vancouver, BC. The renovated Insignia will debut on May 8, 2014 in Barcelona for her 7-day Jewels of Europe cruise. This will be Insignia’s first cruise after her two-year charter. Nautica will debut on May 16, 2014 in Civitavecchia for her 10-day Cliffs & Coves cruise and Regatta on June 7, 2014 in Vancouver for her 10-day Majesty of Alaska cruise.

Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica are noted for their open-seating dining, luxurious public rooms, spacious accommodations, and warm and attentive service. The 684-guest ships sail to exotic destinations around the world offering experientially rich excursions and extended time in port so guests can truly immerse themselves. For more information, visit

Image Courtesy of Oceania Cruises

Monday, August 5, 2013

Royal Caribbean Reaches Dual Milestones for Quantum of the Seas & Anthem of the Seas

Last Friday was an exciting day at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, when Royal Caribbean Intl marked two important milestones in the development of its Quantum class of ships. Quantum of the Seas, which will be delivered in the autumn of 2014, received its first block as the keel was officially lowered and put into place. In addition, the first piece of steel was cut for Anthem of the Seas, Quantum’s sister-ship, which signaled the first step in the ship’s construction.

“Today is a very special day in the development of our new Quantum class, as we are now two steps closer to delighting guests around the world with Quantum cruising,” said Adam Goldstein, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean Intl. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas coming together so well, and today we not only honor these two very important milestones, but also recognize the years of hard work and dedication from the team developing these ships.”

The keel laying marks an important milestone in the development of Quantum of the Seas as it signifies the beginning of the ship’s physical construction. During the ceremony, a 430-ton block measuring 59-ft by 75-ft (18 x 23 meters) was lifted into the building dock with an 800-ton crane. Newly minted coins were placed under the keel which then stays in place until the end of construction. Once the ship is nearing completion the coins are retrieved and presented to the ship’s Captain and crew to be placed onboard the ship. According to maritime tradition, the coins are said to bring luck to the ship during its construction and then to its Captain and crew when she is at sea.

The groundbreaking Quantum class ships will debut new unprecedented features, such as RipCord by iFLY, the first skydiving experience at sea; the North Star, an engineering marvel that transports guests more than 300 feet above the ocean; transformative venues, such as The Sea-Plex, the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with bumper cars, roller skating and more; and the cruise line’s largest and most advanced staterooms ever, including the industry’s first-ever Virtual Balcony staterooms, which offers expansive, real-time views of the ocean and destinations for interior staterooms.

The Quantum class is scheduled debut in autumn 2014 with Quantum of the Seas, followed by her sister-ship Anthem of the Seas in spring 2015. Quantum ships span 16 decks, encompass 167,800 gross registered tons, carry 4,180 guests at double occupancy and feature 2,090 staterooms. More information on Quantum of the Seas is available at

Image Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Intl

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Holland America Line's Statendam Assists Sightseers & Ranger In Glacier Bay, Alaska

While leaving from Margerie Glacier to depart Glacier Bay, Alaska, Holland America Line's ms Statendam assisted 103 persons on a disabled sightseeing boat Friday, Aug. 2. Statendam responded to a call for aid at approximately 1:45 p.m. local time to stand by to possibly assist the 79-foot sightseeing vessel Baranof Wind, which was experiencing mechanical troubles and had lost power in the ice near John Hopkins Glacier.

The ship lowered two tenders, which collected 102 tourists and one Glacier Bay National Park ranger and returned to Statendam. A Glacier Bay National Park ranger aboard Statendam assisted in coordinating the assistance from the ship's bridge. The sightseers were brought to Bartlett Cove, where the Baranof Wind's excursion originated, at approximately 7:30 p.m. local time. The ship then sailed for Seward, Alaska, where it is expected to arrive on schedule today.

"Statendam's Captain Jochem Bakker and his crew responded quickly and professionally to assist the passengers of Baranof Wind," said Richard Meadows, executive vice president marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America Line. "We are proud of our officers and crew."

Image Courtesy of Holland America Line

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cunard Line Announces August 2-For-1 Adventure Month

Receive up to 2-for-1 Fares on select 2014 voyages to exotic regions worldwide this month only!

Book exotic adventures on select 2014 voyages to such intriguing regions as South Africa, the Canaries, Panama Canal, the Mediterranean and Red Sea, the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea during Cunard Line’s 2-For-1 Adventure Month in August and save up to 50 percent off the original fares.

Examples of 2-For-1 Adventure Month voyages available August 1 through September 1:
South America: Fort Lauderdale to Rio de Janeiro aboard Queen Victoria, 12 days, 12 January 2014. Visits Bridgetown, Barbados and Fortaleza, Brazil (maiden call). Fares start from $1,549. 
Panama Canal: New York to San Francisco aboard Queen Elizabeth, 19 days, 18 January 2014. Visits Ft Lauderdale, Florida; Oranjestad, Aruba; and Limón, Costa Rica, before traversing the Panama Canal; and then continues on to Puntarenas, Costa Rica, with an overnight stay in San Francisco. Fares start from $1,899. 
Australia to Asia: Sydney to Hong Kong aboard Queen Mary 2, 19 days, 14 March 2014. Visits Brisbane and Cairns, Australia; Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia; and Shanghai, China, with an overnight stay in Hong Kong. Fares start from $1,849.
All voyage fares are per person, based on double occupancy, and exclude government fees and taxes. Fares for other dates will vary. Offer is for new bookings only, is capacity-controlled, subject to change, and may not be combinable with any other public, group or past passenger discount. Reference promo code RWA-RWF. For more information or to book a voyage, visit

Photo: Courtesty of Len Kaufman for Cunard Line

Friday, August 2, 2013

Azamara Visits the Arctic Circle Globe & Rolls Out an Upgrade Deal

Azamara Club Cruises prides themselves on offering guests unique experiences, such as the one enjoyed by guests aboard Azamara Quest’s current Norwegian Fjords and The North Cape voyage. Azamara Quest’s Captain Stig took advantage of the day at sea to provide guests with the opportunity to see the Arctic Circle Globe on Vikingen Island in Norway, which marks a crossing into the Arctic Ocean.

On behalf of Azamara Club Cruises, Azamara Quest, and Captain Stig and his Officers and Crew, Chief Engineer Ole Pederson had the privilege to present a commemorative plaque to local officials and mark the ship’s crossing of the Arctic Circle.

The 14-night destination-immersive voyage includes some of the most stunning scenery of Norway, the Land of the Midnight Sun, and visits the northernmost point of Europe. To enjoy a similar itinerary, you can book Azamara Journey’s June 14, 2014 Norwegian Fjords and The North Cape voyage.

In addition to being immersed in vibrant histories, heralded traditions, and colorful cultures, for a limited time you can receive a double-category upgrade when booking a 2014 Azamara Club Cruises voyage to worldwide destinations. Until Sept 30, 2013, travelers making a new booking will enjoy a Club Veranda Stateroom for the price of a Club Interior Stateroom aboard select Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest Europe and Central America voyages in 2014. More information about Azamara’s Double Upgrade offer can be found at the Azamara Club Cruises website.

Image Courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A New Cruise Terminal in Bayonne for Royal Caribbean

When Royal Caribbean's brand new 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas sails out of Bayonne, New Jersey's Cape Liberty in November 2014 it will have an all new terminal to call home.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has approved Royal Caribbean's plans to build new cruise terminal facilities at Cape Liberty. The $70 million project will include a 36,000-square-foot arrivals terminal, a 60,000-square-foot luggage area, and a parking deck.

To be completed by October 2014—in plenty of time for Quantum of the Seas' arrival—construction is scheduled to begin this summer.