Monday, September 30, 2013

The Starvista Signature Cruise On Seabourn Set For 2014

Entertainment Cruise Holdings, LLC announces the launch of a new, ultra-sophisticated and luxury travel experience, the StarVista Signature Cruise on Seabourn. Adding to the culture and the majestic beauty of the voyage will be a spectacular special guest; the internationally acclaimed and honored Diana Krall. A multiple Grammy® Award winning jazz vocalist, Ms. Krall will be performing a series of intimate concerts for guests during the 10 day world class vacation aboard the Seabourn Sojourn, renowned throughout the world for unparalleled excellence and service.

The cruise sets sail on September 30, 2014 from Monte Carlo, Monaco, escorting travelers on elite daily excursions in breathtaking Mediterranean ports of call including Sanary-sur-Mer, St. Tropez, Portovenere, Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Rome, San Remo, Marseille, Palamos and Palma de Mallorca before landing in Barcelona on October 10th. A culinary expert will create a program to guide guests through the region's gastronomy during the days, while jazz concerts fill the nights. The luxury vacation is available to only 450 passengers, all of whom will travel in the Sojourn's opulent suites, attended to by their white glove service, cuisine and premier amenities.

Ms. Krall will perform throughout the second half of the voyage in a series of intimate concert settings spanning four nights, with an all-star band of internationally recognized jazz artists holding concerts during the first five nights of the journey. Vocalist Karrin Allyson, pianist Shelly Berg, trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist John Clayton, reed player Anat Cohen, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and drummer Jeff Hamilton represent the finest in contemporary jazz and will perform as a band each of those nights as well as breaking into different combos for additional afternoon and late night shows.

The extraordinary cruise, from Sept 30 to Oct 10, 2014, combines world class jazz, the finest ship, a dream itinerary and the exclusivity of sharing this experience with only 450 passengers for the ultimate cultural and vacation experience.

"Developing new cruise programs that deliver an exceptional experience in luxury travel is a natural extension of our overall mission, which is to produce the most exciting music cruises in the world," says StarVista Entertainment/Time Life President Christopher Hearing.

An international leader in full-service travel events including their trademark 2,000 passenger music cruise programs, Entertainment Cruise Holdings, LLC created the StarVista Signature Cruise series to fulfill the dreams of guests seeking a more luxurious, exclusive and intimate experience by combining exceptional travel and superb entertainment. Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director of Entertainment Cruise Productions, LLC says, "Being able to present extraordinary talent onboard such as Diana Krall is a dream come true for our jazz fans and for our company. We have produced over 30 of the world's greatest jazz cruises over the years, but this is the most exciting program we have ever offered."

The extraordinary cruise, from Sept 30 to Oct 10, 2014, combines world class jazz, the finest ship, a dream itinerary and the exclusivity of sharing this experience with only 450 passengers for the ultimate cultural and vacation experience. For additional information, see

Image Courtesy of StarVista Cruises

Saturday, September 28, 2013

See Belgium With Local Greeters For Free

The best way to see the sights while ashore isn't necessarily on an organized tour. In Belgium, local Greeters can ensure you get the best “Bien Venue” in Brussels, Mons, Namur, and more. Book your own personal Greeter and explore the city with them. The Greeter tour guide service is provided free of charge by local volunteers who are passionate about their city and generous with their time.

Sign up here and get ready to see the sights like a local. While they offer their services freely, you might consider paying for lunch and refreshments as a courtesy.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Construction Begins on Third Royal Caribbean Oasis-class Ship in France

Royal Caribbean International cut the first piece of steel earlier this week for its third Oasis-class ship, marking the first construction milestone for a vessel that, at approximately 227,700 GRT, will be the world’s largest and most innovative cruise ship. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard D. Fain and Royal Caribbean International President and CEO, Adam Goldstein together with Laurent Castaing, chief executive officer, STX France, attended the event at the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, where the ship will be built. The cruise line’s third Oasis-class ship is expected to be delivered in mid-2016.

The as-yet unnamed Oasis 3 joins sister-ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas that took the cruise industry by storm with their introduction in 2009 and 2010, respectively, featuring a revolutionary design with a split superstructure and the cruise line’s neighborhood concept of seven distinct themed areas. At 225,282 GRT and spanning 16 decks with 2,700 staterooms, the Oasis class ships also introduced extraordinary “firsts” at sea such as an 82 foot-long zip line, a handcrafted carousel, the Rising Tide elevating bar, the AquaTheater high-diving performance venue, and the Central Park with more than 12,000 live trees and plants. The Oasis class also offers amenities that can only be found on Royal Caribbean, such as twin FlowRider surf simulators, cantilevered whirlpools, an ice-skating rink, the H2O Zone kids aquapark, and the Royal Promenade, an interior boulevard that stretches nearly the length of the ship and flanked by restaurants, lounges and boutiques, among many others.

“Our Oasis-class ships have led the charge in delivering the WOW for which Royal Caribbean is known,” said Goldstein. “We are delighted to get the building process underway and look forward to the next chapter of this amazing class of ships.”

Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas sail weekly, alternating 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In October 2014, Oasis of the Seas will sail a short autumn season in Europe from Barcelona, Spain before entering drydock for routine maintenance at the Képpel Verolme shipyard in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Details of the third Oasis-class ship will be revealed in the coming months.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Luxurious Special Celebrations at Sea

A Crystal Celebration
Most mainstream and premium cruise lines have offered packages and other special opportunities to celebrate a special event at sea. From weddings and anniversaries to birthdays and family reunions, there are numerous offerings from which to choose. Now two luxury lines have launched even more extravagant celebrations.

With Crystal Cruises' new Crystal Celebrations soiree service, almost anything is possible just about anywhere Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity sail. Already known for an uber-personalized approach to unforgettable travel experiences, Crystal has teamed with premier global event company Imagine VIP to create a first-of-its-kind bespoke event-planning service only available with Crystal's worldwide cruises.

What makes Crystal's program distinctive? It's not just for weddings, the comprehensive event program can be created to celebrate any event, from graduation parties to golden wedding anniversaries, and all important milestones in between. Celebrations can be organized on board or ashore throughout the world. Decor packages are exceptionally elegant, chic and upscale. Events are completely customizable.

The process starts before the cruise embarks. Via Imagine VIP, a Crystal Celebrations consultant works with guests to select the perfect location on the ship or an extraordinary venue in or near a port of call. Party elements can be arranged on an a la carte basis or as part of a more elaborate package, as needed, including a personalized website, save-the-date cards, invitations, ceremony, legal documentation, catering, specialty cakes, flowers, photography packages, live music or DJ, and themed event decor options. On board, a Crystal host works with guests to arrange final details and ensure all runs smoothly. Special note: At this time, legal onboard wedding ceremonies can only be held in port; symbolic ceremonies can be arranged at sea.

A range of different, pre-planned Crystal Celebrations packages can be previewed at, starting at $2,095 for a Crystal Vow Renewal Celebration and $3,795 for a Crystal Celebration Ashore, in addition to cruise fares.

For a truly private celebratory affair, full charters with SeaDream Yacht Club, offer the ultimate gift of lifetime memories, rather than material possessions, to guests interested in celebrating important milestones with family and friends. Fifty-six well-appointed staterooms, including 10 suites, accommodate a maximum of 112 guests in an intimate, elegantly casual setting.

Birthdays, anniversaries, and family reunions are among the special occasions guests are choosing to celebrate with fully-inclusive, private charters aboard the mega-yachts SeaDream I and SeaDream II. Examples include a tandem celebration, in which both a husband and wife celebrated their 60th birthdays with loved ones on a voyage of their choosing. Surprise parties are also a hit, when guests know they are taking a SeaDream voyage, but later discover it will be on a private charter shared only with their friends and family.

When planning a private celebration aboard SeaDream, their Charter Coordinators assist in every aspect, from the custom itinerary to onboard activities to special dining preferences and entertainment options. Custom shore excursions in locations seldom visited by larger ships may be arranged, such as guided expeditions through the remote islands of Southeast Asia or secluded coastal towns of the Mediterranean. With a 1-to-1 crew to guest ratio, no detail is too small and no request goes unheeded when planning a SeaDream charter.

With an emphasis on outdoor living, friends and families can take advantage of a fleet of water toys including wave runners, kayaks, water skis and wake boards. The only Thai-certified spa at sea, SeaDream’s Spa includes treatments in the private, open-air massage area. Lounging on deck in the yacht’s signature Balinese Dream Beds is the perfect place for couples to take in ocean views during the day, or star-gaze at night with full turn-down service upon request.

Culinary excellence is just another facet that makes a SeaDream charter so memorable. Guests can join the chef for a trip to the local market, sourcing only the freshest, indigenous ingredients for their dishes. For a special toast, the Dining Salon accommodates all 112 guests to enjoy an unforgettable meal together. Dining al fresco is also an option and highly encouraged. Menus tailored specifically to each charter, combined with anticipatory service make epicurean experiences aboard SeaDream ones to remember. For more information on SeaDream charters, visit

Image courtesy Crystal Cruises

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Carnival Cruise Lines Debuts Passenger 'Moments That Matter' in National Marketing Campaign

Carnival Cruise Lines has launched a new national advertising campaign this week that features the unforgettable and memorable vacation moments experienced every day by the cruise line’s millions of guests, as captured through their own lenses. The “Moments That Matter” campaign includes thousands of real vacation photos and videos from past Carnival cruisers, collected through social media. When Carnival put out the call, past guests submitted more than 30,000 pieces of “cruiser generated content,” ranging from small moments like lounging poolside to larger-than-life moments like marriage proposals, each reflecting people’s most treasured vacation memories.

The new TV spots debuted on Monday, Sept 23, 2013, and are airing on major primetime network shows and leading cable networks and online on Yahoo! and YouTube. If you're like me and record your favorite shows to watch them by fast-forwarding through commercials, you can see the new TV spot below.

The campaign is part of a fall marketing push by Carnival Cruise Lines to stimulate consumer interest in the brand. More than $25 million in total will be invested across broadcast, radio, digital and direct mail between September and December 2013, and, while that does not represent the brand’s total annual advertising spend, it is substantially higher than what the company normally invests during the fall time period. The campaign will continue during first quarter 2014, which is a critical reservations period for the cruise industry known as “wave season.”

“For more than 41 years, Carnival has been creating the backdrop for lasting vacation memories for more than 60 million guests and we know there is no one more qualified than them to tell the authentic story of what a Carnival cruise is truly like,” said Jim Berra, chief marketing officer for Carnival Cruise Lines. “This campaign features real guests of all backgrounds and ages having fun and making great memories together.”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Power Outage Hits Royal Princess

Launched just this summer, Princess Cruises’ 141,000-ton Royal Princess experienced a power failure on Sunday while sailing from Mykonos, Greece to Naples, Italy.

According to reports, there was no danger to the ship, which carried 3,594 passengers and 1,336 crew members; however, Princess has canceled the rest of the ship’s 12-day cruise from Venice to Barcelona.

The line issued this statement: “The ship’s technical team continued to evaluate the problem overnight and, upon further assessment, it became apparent that repairs need to be made to fully resolve the situation. We sincerely regret this means the remainder of the current cruise will be canceled. The impact of the repairs on the next Royal Princess cruise, scheduled to depart from Barcelona on September 27th, is not yet known and we will keep passengers fully advised as details become known.”

Royal Princess is expected to arrive today in Naples, a day later than scheduled due to the ship’s reduced speed. Princess is arranging flights to assist passengers on their return home. They will spend the night onboard and depart tomorrow.

UPDATE Tuesday evening: It appears that the Sept 27 cruise from Barcelona will be a GO!

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Monday, September 23, 2013

Won’t You Take Me On A Sea Cruise?

Not so very long ago fares for repositioning voyages were relatively inexpensive. That was before they became a popular option for experienced cruisers for whom the ship is the thing. Royal Caribbean recognizes that there is no better way to span two continents in one vacation than aboard a cruise. The cruise line known for the industry’s most innovative cruise ships has announced Ocean Voyages, a collection of special sailings that offer unique onboard programming, new shore excursion packages, and unbeatable value on 2014 sailings between Europe and the Americas. Vacationers can choose among 11 Royal Caribbean ships that call at more than 35 exciting destinations on Ocean Voyages, which also include late-2014 sailings aboard the world’s largest and most innovative cruise ship Oasis of the Seas, and the next-generation Quantum of the Seas, introducing its panoply of new at-sea firsts to the industry.

“Royal Caribbean’s collection of Ocean Voyages offers unique and enriching WOWs,” said Carol Schuster, senior vice president of Marketing for Royal Caribbean International. “Our ships are world-renowned for their wide range of exclusive and innovative onboard amenities and our friendly and engaging Gold Anchor Service. Combined with exciting onboard enrichment and interesting itineraries, guests on these sailings will enjoy a distinctive experience that can only be found on Royal Caribbean.”

Delivering the Royal Caribbean WOW in a whole new way, each Ocean Voyage will feature a guest expert, who will lead a line-up of entertainment programming and engaging activities, which feature spotlight topics such as culture, dance, film, visual arts, photography, and wines and cuisine. A highlight of every Ocean Voyage will be the Black & White Masquerade Party, so guests are encouraged to bring along a special outfit for the occasion.

Guest also can sign up for new shore excursion packages at the exciting ports of call for even more memorable experiences along the way. Ocean Voyages shore excursion packages include a choice of three options from a prix fix menu of some of Royal Caribbean’s most popular shore excursions at each port of call. Each ship’s shore excursion package is customized to its specific itinerary; start at $99 per guest; and offers a great value on shoreside adventures. Options include visiting side-by-side caldera lakes, one green and the other blue, on “Sete Cidades Crater Lakes” at Ponta Delgada, The Azores; or explore Mt. Teide National Park in Tenerife, the Canary Islands, on “Canadas del Tiede” for one of the best examples of alpine volcanic ecosystems. At Funchal, Madeira, guests can choose “Emblematic Madeira & Ribeira Brava” to enjoy an incomparable view from Cabo Girao, Europe’s highest sea cliff, and sample Poncha, a local drink made with rum and honey.

On board, guests will finally have the opportunity to fully enjoy Royal Caribbean’s innovative and exclusive amenities, including surfing to their hearts content on the FlowRider surf simulator on Liberty of the Seas and Independence of the Seas; ice skating their way across the Atlantic in the Studio B ice rinks aboard Adventure of the Seas; and becoming a billiards expert on the self-leveling pool tables aboard Brilliance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas.

All Royal Caribbean ships to sail Ocean Voyages also will have completed revitalization by early 2014. Guests will not only enjoy the special Ocean Voyages program, but more breathtaking entertainment, delectable dining experiences and technology upgrades. On Radiance- and Vision-class ships, guests will be WOW’ed by the award-winning aerial-acrobatic entertainment production, which spans throughout the ship’s multi-story Centrum. Guests also can savor each of the many new or signature restaurants, up to 10 per ship, such as the exclusive Chef’s Table, Chops Grille Steakhouse, Izumi Asian Cruise, Giovanni’s Table, and Rita’s Cantina for an additional charge, and complimentary restaurants, such as the Park Café gourmet deli and Boardwalk Dog House.

As part of the collection launch, Royal Caribbean is offering a complimentary premium beverage package for all new individual bookings made in balcony- and suite-category staterooms on 13 select 2014 Trans-Atlantic Ocean Voyages. Eligible guests will enjoy a wide selection of call and premium brand cocktails, beers and house wines by the glass, as well as non-alcoholic cocktails and fountain soda, on their passage across the ocean. The complimentary premium beverage package offer is available from Sept. 11 through Oct. 15, 2013 and vacationers must ask for option code SPV3 to receive the offer. Eligible sailings and offer details also can be found at

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ice Cream Bar Concept Debuts on Norwegian Breakaway

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream...and someone has paid attention. Norwegian Cruise Line has a special treat coming your way—a brand new Ice Cream Bar concept that has debuted on board the line’s newest ship, Norwegian Breakaway and will also be available on Norwegian Getaway upon her arrival to Miami in February 2014.

Guests sailing on board Norwegian Breakaway’s 7-day Bermuda or Bahamas and Florida cruises from New York City or on Norwegian Getaway’s 7-day Eastern Caribbean sailings from Miami, can indulge in a variety of specialty sundaes, floats, shakes and other ice cream treats during their cruise.

Located inside O’Sheehan’s, the ships’ 24-hour neighborhood bars, Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway’s Ice Cream Bars serve up the most delectable classic ice cream parlor creations, from floats, milkshakes, and malted shakes, to egg creams and a variety of spectacular ice cream sundaes. The signature item on the Ice Cream Bar menu is the enormously delicious Breakaway or Getaway Sundae. This massive ice cream creation serves from three to four guests, includes a whopping nine scoops of ice cream in up to three different flavors and is topped with “everything but the kitchen sink,” from chocolate fudge, butterscotch and raspberry sauces to chocolate shavings, sprinkles, crumbled Oreos, sliced almonds, marshmallows, gummy bears, whipped cream and cherries.

The over-the-top menu also features an assortment of mouth-watering ice cream sundae creations, including classic Hot Fudge Sundaes, Hot Caramel Sundaes, and Banana Splits. The menu also features other sundae favorites such as classic Peach Melba, with peaches, vanilla ice cream, raspberry sauce, and whipped cream; and Pear William, made with pears, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. A la carte pricing applies. Sundaes range from $2.50-4.75 and $12.75 for the Breakaway/Getaway Sundae.

“We’ve recreated a classic ice cream parlor on Norwegian Breakaway adding yet another exciting innovation to our newest ship,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “The launch of the Ice Cream Bar on board has been extremely well received and we look forward to debuting it on Norwegian Getaway in February 2014. Our guests are delighted by the variety of ice cream creations, especially the runaway fan favorite, the Breakaway Sundae.”

For more information on the incredible features and accommodations on Norwegian Breakaway, visit or Norwegian Getaway, visit

Images Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Norwegian's Pride of America Debuts New Suites & Studio Staterooms

Earlier this year Norwegian Cruise Line’s Hawaii-based vessel, Pride of America entered a 14-day dry dock in Honolulu where the 2,186-passenger ship received major renovations including the addition of Moderno Churrascaria, the line’s signature Brazilian-style steakhouse, and Cagney’s, the line’s traditional steakhouse; ship wide wireless internet connectivity; new carpeting throughout; flat screen televisions in all staterooms; updated décor; upgrades to the fitness center; new directional signage; renovations to the gift shop, photo gallery and art gallery; and much more.

But that wasn’t all the ship got in upgrades. Norwegian unveiled 32 brand-new staterooms this week that have been added to Pride of America. They were the final elements in a $30 million enhancement project that began in March, the addition of the new luxurious suites, studios for solo travelers and inside staterooms offers guests a new way to experience a spectacular inter-island cruise in Hawai`i.

The 24 new suites on Deck 13 are outfitted with premium custom furnishings, fabrics, carpets and ultra-luxurious bathrooms. Two of the 24 suites are Owner’s Suites. These 566 square foot suites, sleeping up to four guests, feature a large bedroom, separate living area and a state of the art bathroom featuring custom mosaic tiles.

The remaining suites are Penthouse Suites, including two Deluxe Penthouse Suites with Large Balcony, ranging from 363 to 459 square feet, most sleeping up to six guests. The two Owner’s Suites will have connecting doors to the adjacent Penthouse Suites, sleeping up to 10 guests when combined, the perfect option for families or groups who wish to travel in luxury together. One of the many highlights of the suites is their expansive balconies, ranging from 150 square feet for Penthouse Suites up to 1200 square feet for the Owner’s Suites, giving Pride of America’s suite guests the largest balconies in the fleet, perfect for taking in the jaw-dropping Hawai`i scenery.

In addition to all of the incredible features in the suites, guests will enjoy pampering service from dedicated butlers and concierge, plus an array of exclusive amenities such as luxurious Tranquility mattresses from the Bliss Collection by Norwegian, Lavazza Espresso Makers, Elemis bath products, private dining for breakfast and lunch, and more.

Guests wishing to travel solo in Hawai`i can now do so in one of four new Studio staterooms on board Pride of America. Designed and priced for the solo traveler, these staterooms feature a full-size bed, along with a separate bathroom area. Four new inside staterooms were also added to the area on Deck 13.

Pride of America offers a unique and extraordinary vacation to four of Hawai`i’s most popular islands, and these new suites elevate the guest experience on this one-of-a-kind vessel to a whole new level,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer.

Pride of America is the only US-flagged large cruise ship sailing a 7-day Hawaii itinerary departing from Honolulu every Saturday. Ports of call include an overnight in Kahului, Maui; Hilo, Hawai`i; Kona, Hawai`i; an overnight in Nãwiliwili, Kaua`i; and an afternoon cruise past the breathtaking Nãpali Coast. For additional information, visit

Images Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Carnival Cruise Lines “Guarantees” Your Great Cruise Vacation

For some time Carnival Cruise Lines has offered a satisfaction guarantee for passengers who weren’t totally happy with their choice of a cruise vacation. Now the line has unveiled an unprecedented new program that offers consumers a one-of-a-kind, hassle-free money-back guarantee when booking a Carnival cruise vacation.

Designed to provide consumers with complete peace of mind, the “Great Vacation Guarantee” allows guests to end their voyage early and receive a 110 percent refund plus complimentary transportation home, along with a $100 shipboard credit for a future cruise, should they be dissatisfied with their cruise for any reason.

To exercise the “Great Vacation Guarantee,” guests simply notify the ship’s guest services desk within the first 24 hours of the voyage to receive a full refund of their cruise fare plus an additional 10 percent, along with complimentary return air transportation from the next port of call, and complimentary ground transportation and hotel accommodations (if necessary), along with a $100 shipboard credit to be used on a future Carnival cruise. Carnival will fully handle all the necessary travel arrangements to make it a truly hassle-free experience.

The “Great Vacation Guarantee” is valid on all 3- to 8-day voyages to The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Canada and New England departing through April 30, 2015. The program applies to U.S. and Canadian residents only and guests must possess a valid passport to return to the U.S. by air.

“We are proud to carry nearly 4.5 million satisfied guests each year and are very confident in the quality of the vacation experience we provide on board the 24 ships of Carnival Cruise Lines,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO. “The ‘Great Vacation Guarantee’ is designed to provide an assurance to those consumers who may be considering a cruise that we stand behind our product and, if they are dissatisfied for any reason, they have a simple and hassle-free means for receiving a full refund and more.”

For additional information, see

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Costa Concordia Upright Again

Yesterday, following a painstaking 19-hour procedure called "parbuckling," Costa Concordia is once again upright. The process took longer than estimated due to a weather delay the previous night, but began at 9am local time on Monday off the island of Giglio.

As you can see from the photo at left, the starboard side of the ship is covered in slime from being underwater. It also shows signs of deterioration from the full weight of the ship resting on it. After repairs are made and sponsons are attached to the starboard side, Costa Concordia will be ready to be floated when the sponsons on both sides of the vessel are filled with air. The final move will be to tow the ship away, possibly as early as next spring.

Holland America Line Expands Specialty Dining Option

Foodies are always looking for new and unique culinary experiences, so the announcement by Holland America Line about this Dutch treat should get their taste buds ready to give it a try. Last year the cruise line debuted a new alternative dining option exclusively aboard ms Rotterdam called "Taste of De Librije" featuring the cuisine of Culinary Council member and Michelin Three Star Chef Jonnie Boer. Given its popularity and success as an alternative dining selection, the line has extended the experience to ms Eurodam.

Named after Boer's restaurant in the Netherlands, the menu showcases a selection of starters, soups, entrees, and desserts from his land-based eatery. Once per cruise the Pinnacle Grill is transformed for dinner with service staff wearing the uniform livery from De Librije, the restaurant's table set-up is replicated, and the wine list highlights a selection of labels from the Lady De Librije collection. Reservations can be made for "Taste of De Librije" for a $69 surcharge per person including wine pairings.

"Taste of De Librije is being expanded because the experience has been so popular with not only our Dutch guests who know Jonnie well, but with all our of guests who have enjoyed the opportunity to sample his remarkable cuisine," said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America Line.

The five-course menu starts with North Sea Scallops served to all diners. From there, guests can select among three appetizers, two soups, four entrees and three desserts. The tantalizing dishes include Oysters on the Beach with micro greens; Torched Langoustine with green bean coulis; Potato Soup with lobster and chorizo; Seared North Sea Cod with Speck Ham; Beef Tenderloin with bulgur wheat and smoked olive oil foam; Deconstructed Apple Pie with vanilla gelato and Chantilly-style cream, and Rice Chocolate Stones with tuile and strawberries.

When guests return to their stateroom following the dining experience, they will find a special Jonnie Boer surprise gift. Boer is a rising star of the Dutch culinary scene and in addition to being a member of Holland America Line's esteemed Culinary Council composed of six international chefs, he is chef and co-owner of Michelin-rated De Librije Restaurant and De Librije Hotel in Zwolle, Netherlands. Boer holds the Relais & Chateaux grand chef designation.

On a related food note, Elizabeth Falkner, the spiky-haired blond who stepped into the national spotlight as a competitor on television shows like "Next Iron Chef" and "Top Chef Masters," has become the newest—and first female—member of Holland America Line's Culinary Council, a group of acclaimed chefs from around the world. Along with dishes created by other Culinary Council chefs, guests can sample Falkner's menu additions aboard the Holland America Line ships. The new dishes will be featured on the main dining room menu of the line's 15 ships.

Among the flavors that Falkner is working with, guests can count on a little spice, whether it is from the Cajun-inspired Shrimp, Andouille and Grits served with braised okra and roasted poblano peppers, or the Asian influences in the Vegetable Curry with Forbidden Rice and Soft Shell Crab Pad Thai. Not all of Falkner's dishes have heat. A taste of Piedmont surfaces in Falkner's Radicchio Salad with Warm Bagna Cauda, a play on the Italian regional dish served with toasted hazelnut and a warm dressing of anchovy, garlic and truffle oil. And best of all...there are no additional charges for her flavorful creations.

Image Courtesy of Holland America Line

Monday, September 16, 2013

Raising the Costa Concordia Live Video

It's pretty slow going, but Reuters is webcasting it live at Raising the Costa Concordia.

Giveaway Contest Ends Today: Comment to Win a Princess Cruises Relaxation Package

Have you left a comment here on the Cruise Diva Blog yet? Today is your last chance! You can't win the Princess Cruises Relaxation Package giveaway unless you enter.

Each comment you leave will be your entry in our Princess Cruises Relaxation Pack giveaway. Enter as often as you like through midnight tonight, Monday, Sept 16.

Get all the details by clicking here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Time's Running Short, So Comment & Win a Princess Cruises Relaxation Package

Have you left a comment here on the Cruise Diva Blog yet? You can't win the Princess Cruises Relaxation Package giveaway unless you enter.

Each comment you leave will be your entry in our Princess Cruises Relaxation Pack giveaway. Enter as often as you like through Monday, Sept 16.

Get all the details by clicking here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pre- & Post-Cruise Spa Options

Many of us don’t like to be rushed and we prefer to ease into our trips, including cruise vacations. While it’s always a good idea to arrive in the area of your embarkation port a day before sailing due to the perils of delayed and cancelled flights, there are other good reasons to do so as well. One of them is to simply unwind and relax. Board your ship refreshed and not hassled by airport security and surly taxi drivers.

Here’s how...join Georgina Cruz, who introduces us to some “Me Time” prior to setting sail on a cruise vacation from Port Canaveral. Check out these new Pre- & Post-Cruise Spa Options at Disney properties in Orlando before your next cruise.

Comment to Win a Princess Cruises Relaxation Package

Have you left a comment here on the Cruise Diva Blog yet? You can't win the Princess Cruises Relaxation Package giveaway unless you enter. Friday the 13th could be your lucky day!

Each comment you leave will be your entry in our Princess Cruises Relaxation Pack giveaway. Enter as often as you like through Monday, Sept 16.

Get all the details by clicking here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Royal Caribbean Enlists Celebrity Experts For New Quantum Experience Advisors Program

Genevieve Gorder collaborates with
the Royal Caribbean Design Team
Every now and then I notice a design element aboard a cruise ship that I would like to incorporate in my own home. I've done it on my deck by fashioning a curtained "cabana" and even in my dressing room by mounting a hairdryer and make-up mirror on the walls.

I'll be looking to Royal Caribbean for future inspiration because the cruise line is taking steps to ensure that its newest ship class, the Quantum-class, debuts with the hottest, most exciting lineup of offerings at sea. The cruise line has announced the introduction of the Quantum Experience Advisors program featuring a group of celebrity experts in fields such as design, sports & fitness, entertainment and others who will work hand-in-hand with Royal Caribbean's internal teams to provide their expertise to help shape interior design, key amenities and activities on the Quantum-class.

The Quantum Experience Advisors are lending their professional know-how to ensure every aspect of the guest experience has been maximized to the fullest extent. They are actively involved in making pivotal decisions that will make a lasting impression on the Quantum class of ships, and developing new programs and features for guests to enjoy. Royal Caribbean is documenting the process through a series of online videos allowing guests to follow along and get an inside glimpse of the Advisors in action.

Starting with design, Royal Caribbean has partnered with Genevieve Gorder, one of America's favorite interior designers and the most popular television personalities on HGTV, as the Quantum Experience Advisor for Design. Gorder is collaborating with Royal Caribbean's newbuild and design team to offer insights and opinions and influence the decor and furnishings of the loft and suite accommodations onboard Quantum of the Seas.

Since May 2013, Gorder has been participating in collaborative design sessions where she has had the opportunity to immerse herself in the ship's design process and has reviewed plans, fabrics, carpets and furnishings for the ship's luxurious accommodations. The sessions have allowed Gorder and the design team to provide a more cohesive look and feel to the onboard suites and lofts. Her soulful and whimsical style will be felt throughout the lofts and suites and many of her signature touches such as color, fabric and patterns will be incorporated throughout the design. The next few months will find the design team visiting Gorder's hometown of New York City to see what inspires her as well as a trip to the see the ship being built at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. The entire process will be documented and shared here.

"It's exhilarating to work with Royal Caribbean, a brand known for pushing the envelope in ship design and innovation," said Gorder. "This has been an incredible process, learning what it takes to make everything come together from hardware to soft goods to to little design details. This project has been like nothing I have ever worked on before and is giving me the chance to collaborate with a team of ship building experts to come up with designs that will work onboard a ship as well as inspire every guest that stays onboard. This is their home away from home and it needs to feel amazing."

In addition to Genevieve Gorder, Royal Caribbean will be revealing several other Quantum Experience Advisors in the coming months. The new Quantum class will debut in November 2014 with Quantum of the Seas, followed by her sister-ship Anthem of the Seas in April 2015. Quantum ships span 16 decks, encompass 167,800 gross registered tons, carry 4,180 guests at double occupancy and feature 2,090 staterooms.

Comment to Win a Princess Cruises Relaxation Package

Have you left a comment here on the Cruise Diva Blog yet? You can't win the Princess Cruises Relaxation Package giveaway unless you enter.

Each comment you leave will be your entry in our Princess Cruises Relaxation Pack giveaway. Enter as often as you like through Monday, Sept 16.

Get all the details by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fancy Dancing Aboard Holland America Line

Don’t forget to pack your dancing shoes for your next Holland America Line cruise. Dancing aficionados and fans of the hit ABC television show “Dancing with the Stars” can join professional dancers Kym Johnson and Tristan MacManus, along with actress and former celebrity participant Sabrina Bryan, on the Jan. 5, 2014, “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” theme cruise and the Jan. 12 Champions Cruise. Both 7-day Caribbean cruises are onboard ms Nieuw Amsterdam.

While onboard, the dancers will perform for guests, dazzling the audience with dance numbers from the television series. Additional events on the theme cruises include dance lessons with the shipboard professional dancers, a special fashion show featuring the glamorous show costumes, and a chance to meet the dance pros and celebrities, ask questions and take photos with them.

The Jan. 12, 2014 Champions Cruise will feature 15 winning guests (one from each ship) from the “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” competitions that are currently being held on all ships in the Holland America Line fleet. Holland America Line has also featured four “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” theme cruises already this year. The winning guests and their professional shipboard dance partners will perform in the main show lounge for guests, as well as Johnson, MacManus, and Bryan. The winning couple will walk away with the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy and title of Holland America Line’s “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Champion.

The Jan. 5 cruise sails to the eastern Caribbean with calls at Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the line’s award-winning private island, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. The Jan. 12 Champions Cruise visits the western Caribbean with calls at Half Moon Cay; George Town, Grand Cayman, and Key West, Fla.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

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Have you left a comment here on the Cruise Diva Blog yet? You can't win the Princess Cruises Relaxation Package giveaway unless you enter.

Each comment you leave will be your entry in our Princess Cruises Relaxation Pack giveaway. Enter as often as you like through Monday, Sept 16.

Get all the details by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Two More Cruise Lines Issue Stricter Smoking Policies

Non-smokers have waged a serious campaign for some years now to cut out smoking on cruise ships and two more cruise lines have issued new restrictions aboard their ships—MSC Cruises' MSC Divina and Royal Caribbean fleetwide.

With the upcoming arrival of MSC Divina in PortMiami to launch its year-round cruises from the U.S., MSC Cruises is expanding its smoke-free policy on that ship in order to accommodate the North American market. Effective Nov 2nd, when MSC Divina’s Grand Voyage departs Venice en route to Miami, smoking areas on board will be limited to two general areas: the Cigar Lounge and port side of designated outside decks (away from all bars and food areas).

The Top Sail Lounge, located in the private MSC Yacht Club, and the Black & White Lounge will also become 100% non-smoking. In addition, the casino has been designated as non-smoking. At the discretion of the casino manager, smoking will be occasionally allowed for playing guests, during certain hours and in limited areas that will be clearly designated as smoking permitted. As with all other MSC ships, smoking will continue to be prohibited in staterooms, on balconies, and in corridors, elevators, stairways, and public bathrooms.

Royal Caribbean has also added restrictions to their policy, outlined in a letter sent recently to travel agents. The major change is that smoking will no longer be allowed on stateroom balconies:
"In consideration of ongoing guest feedback and evolving industry standards, Royal Caribbean International is revising its onboard smoking policy, effective for all sailings departing on or after Jan 1, 2014. All indoor public spaces and private staterooms will be smoke free, with the exception of the Casino, the cigar clubs, on Freedom and Voyager Class ships, and one designated smoking venue on ships sailing from Chinese homeports. In the Casino, there will be designated smoking and non-smoking areas.

Additionally, smoking will not be permitted on stateroom balconies. Outdoor smoking areas will be designated on the starboard side of all ships. Guests in violation of the stateroom and balcony non-smoking policy may be assessed a stateroom cleaning fee. Indoor smoking areas permit tobacco cigarettes and electronic cigarettes. Cigars and pipe tobacco can be enjoyed in designated outdoor areas, or in the cigar club on the ships that offer this venue. Consult our Smoking Policy FAQ for more details. Royal Caribbean International is committed to continually enhancing the guest vacation experience. To find smoking venues and areas while onboard, passengers may consult their Cruise Compass, or visit Guest Services, where we will be happy to assist them."

Comment to Win a Princess Cruises Relaxation Package

Have you left a comment here on the Cruise Diva Blog yet? You can't win the Princess Cruises Relaxation Package giveaway unless you enter.

Each comment you leave will be your entry in our Princess Cruises Relaxation Pack giveaway. Enter as often as you like through Monday, Sept 16.

Get all the details by clicking here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Win a Princess Cruises Relaxation Package

Recently, Princess Cruises asked 1,000 adults across the U.S. about their relaxation styles and we share some of their noteworthy findings below. In addition to their polling, they would like to hear from you – the readers of Cruise Diva's Blog. How do you relax? What is your relaxation style? Maybe you have a fantasy relaxation wish. Share it by leaving your most relaxing comments here on the Cruise Diva Blog and you could be a winner.

Each comment will enter you in our Princess Cruises Relaxation Pack giveaway. Enter as often as you like. The contest will last through Monday, September 16, at which time all entries will go into a hat and the winner will be chosen at random. The more you comment, the better your chance of winning. The Princess Cruises Relaxation Pack (pictured above) is chock full of relaxation-inducing goodies, including: embroidered bath robe, bath slippers, body wash, body lotion, sugar scrub, candle, and more!

Before we begin relaxing, there are a few bits of busywork to mention. Comments should not be "anonymous" – your comment will only be considered an entry if you use your name or a screen name by which you can easily be identified. The winner will be announced here and on Facebook and Twitter on September 18. At that time, the winner will have to contact me by email with their name and address to claim their prize. Easy!

Relaxation Survey Results
· Silence or Sensory Delight? – More than a third of respondents consider themselves as "sensory relaxers," who like to recharge by soaking up the sights and sounds of events and activities around them, such as sporting events, movies or beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Whereas, another third of respondents consider themselves as "silent relaxers," who prefer quiet spaces, ceased conversations, and losing themselves in books or the soothing sounds of nature.

· Tried and True or New? – More than half (64%) of respondents prefer somewhere new when choosing a relaxing vacation, compared to only a third (36%) who prefer a tried and true destination.

· Relaxation Setting? – The most popular type of scenery found to be most relaxing when on vacation is ocean and waves (59%). Mountain scenery came in second (20%), followed by sunrises and sunsets (17%). 
· Play it by Ear? – Respondents were evenly split when asked if pre-planning every vacation activity (52%) or being completely spontaneous (48%) produced a more relaxing experience when planning a vacation.

· To Cook or Clean? – More than two-thirds (67%) of respondents agreed that having someone else cook for them was the most relaxing way to enjoy a meal on vacation.
Looking for vacation inspiration or just want to escape from work for a minute? Check out this Princess Cruises Relaxation Minute video for a momentary relax-cation! Then leave your comment below to enter the Relaxation Package Giveawy.

To learn more about Princess Cruises, visit their web site and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

*Survey findings are based on an online poll among 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and up, 
conducted July 29 – July 31, 2013, by ORC International.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Costa's New Flagship, Costa Diadema Reaches a Milestone

Earlier this week at Fincantieri's Marghera, Italy, shipyard, Costa Diadema reached a construction milestone as its 432 ton fore-end block hull section was laid. The fore-end block section is certainly impressive—measuring approximately 26 feet high, 111 feet long, and 118 feet wide at its maximum beam. The future flagship of Costa Cruises' Italian-flagged fleet is scheduled for delivery Oct. 30, 2014, when its entry into service will boost the Costa fleet—already Europe's largest—up to a whopping 45,000 guests.

Costa Cruises is investing approximately 550 million euros to build Costa Diadema. It is the 10th cruise ship built in Italy by Fincantieri for Costa Cruises since 2000, representing a total investment of almost 5 billion euros. Among the many innovations onboard Costa Diadema are new wine-tasting venues including the Vinoteca and Proseccheria, the Bavarian Bierkeller for a wide selection of beers, and new dining choices such as Japanese Teppanyaki, Piazza Pizza and Gelateria for desserts.

The new flagship's interiors will offer spacious, split-level public rooms overlooking the sea that are conveniently interconnected, evoking the atmosphere of a vibrant seaside resort. For sun, sea and spectacular ocean vistas, there is a 1,640-square-foot open-air promenade with cabanas.

New entertainment offerings include the Country Rock Club featuring American music and arcade-style interactive games including Laser Maze. Portobello Market Piazza will be the heart of an 11,840-square-foot area consisting of designer stores and retail outlets. The three-level Samsara Spa—located on the upper decks—features an exclusive outdoor area and privileged access. The full-service facility offers guests an opportunity to enjoy the holistic regenerating experience that is the epitome of a "wellness cruise."

Image Courtesy Costa Cruises

Friday, September 6, 2013

Legendary Stars “Captured” Aboard Cunard Line Queens

When you pose for the ship’s photographers during a cruise you are joining a long list of celebrity passengers who have happily done so in the past. For instance, illustrated at left is former-ship photographer Richard (“Dick”) Dawson in front of an image of Elizabeth Taylor that he captured during one of the legendary film star’s many travels aboard Cunard Line. When Dawson photographed Taylor in May 1950, she was traveling on her honeymoon with hotel magnate Conrad Hilton. Dawson recalled thinking at the time that the marriage would never last.

Last Monday, Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 was paid a special visit by the 89-year-old photographer Dawson, who captured several iconic luminaries who sailed during Cunard’s golden age of ocean travel—in addition to Elizabeth Taylor, he also snapped shots of Cary Grant and General Viscount Montgomery.

In 1949, Dawson joined the original Queen Mary as one of the photographers with Ocean Pictures. Many of these classic black-and-white images are dramatically displayed aboard Queen Mary 2 in “Stars Aboard,” a unique, self-guided exhibit which Dawson toured during his recent visit.

Image Courtesy Cunard Line

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Seabourn Pride's Farewell Season is Just Around the Corner

Earlier this year we learned that the trio of original Seabourn vessels would be leaving the fleet, with Seabourn Pride departing in April, 2014 and Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend transferring to new owner Windstar in April 2015 and May 2015, respectively.

With the ship's departure date fast approaching, Seabourn has announced a series of voyages aboard Seabourn Pride dedicated to celebrating the ship's 25-year history with the company. To send her off in memorable style, Seabourn has created a series of Caribbean voyages incorporating signature Seabourn events such as the iconic "Caviar in the Surf" beach barbecue and the water sports Marina Day that pioneered a new style of luxury small-ship cruising when Seabourn Pride was launched.

"Seabourn Pride was the ship that originally inspired one writer to exclaim that 'Seabourn is in a class by itself,'" said Seabourn President Richard Meadows. "It has won the hearts of an exceptionally loyal group of travelers over the years, and we want to give them a number of opportunities to recapture the magic and celebrate the unique family feeling, fun and fellowship they have enjoyed while sailing aboard the intimate Seabourn Pride."

The line has designated fifteen cruises from November 11, 2013 through the final transatlantic crossing as the Seabourn Pride's "Farewell Season" and has brought back many of its most veteran staff members, and other alumni who served on board over the years. The company has also gathered recipes from the past, including the popular "Presidential Dinners" that recreate ceremonial state dinners served in the U.S. White House. Special activities and themed events will be featured on board. The final voyage under the Seabourn banner will be a transatlantic voyage departing Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on March 30, 2014.

Image Courtesy of Seabourn Cruises

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

At the Halfway Mark in Hurricane Season

As we reported here on the Cruise Diva blog, at the beginning of the current "hurricane season" the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a grim prediction for 2013, with this statement appearing on the NOAA web site in May:
"In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year.

For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes."
So how's the accuracy of their 2013 forecast thus far? The Atlantic hurricane season is half over without a single hurricane forming. Undaunted, forecasters still warn of an active season through November when it officially ends. However, last month the NOAA scaled back its forecast to between six and nine expected hurricanes this year. The update also predicts that three to five of those will be major hurricanes, with winds topping more than 110 mph. Additionally, the update warns of 13 to 19 named storms this year and still assigns the odds that 2013 will be busier than normal at 70 percent. In a "normal" year, we experience 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major storms.

Simply because the season has reached its halfway point with little storm activity, don't let your guard down. Experts warn that peak hurricane season runs from mid-August to mid-October and last year's Hurricane Sandy proved how devastating a late season storm can be.

Image Courtesy NOAA/NASA

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Windstar Stateroom Renovations Revealed

Stateroom: After
Windstar Cruises continues to evolve its fleet with three million dollars of stateroom upgrades scheduled for Wind Star and Wind Spirit, the two smallest sister yachts of the fleet. Wind Star’s 72 guest staterooms will be renovated in a dry dock this November (the stateroom pictured at left was already completed as a model showcase room). Wind Spirit is scheduled to have its 73 staterooms completed in April of 2015.

“We have a company-wide commitment to ensuring our yachts are constantly evolving to give our guests the best luxury experience possible,” said Hans Birkholz, chief executive officer and president of Windstar Cruises. “These latest enhancements, along with the renovations done in early 2012, will make our staterooms some of the best in the luxury market.”

Stateroom: Before
The current layout (at right) will be transformed with a sofa where guests can relax, watch TV or catch a cat-nap to replace the previous desk and vanity set-up. When room service is ordered, or if guests want a place to write or use a laptop or tablet, the middle section of the sofa converts into a table, with seats at each end. Additionally, the center dresser located next to the bed will be exchanged for a new space saving dresser that will give guests more open area in the stateroom.

New Sofa
Staterooms on both yachts were previously enhanced as part of Windstar’s $18 million fleet-wide renovation project in 2012. Across the fleet, staterooms were updated with leather headboards, stately arm chairs, linen wall coverings, new lighting features, elegant window coverings, plush wool carpeting, art work, and stylish bed cushions. Corridors were completely renovated from floor to ceiling with new wall coverings, carpeting, ceiling finishes, lighting, and art work.

“Guests are staying in our model showcase stateroom on Wind Star, and the reviews so far have been outstanding,” said Birkholz. “The new layout really exemplifies yacht-style cruising.”

Sofa converted for dining

New Dresser

Images Courtesy of 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day on Land & at Sea

Here in the United States it's Labor Day, a nationwide holiday set aside to honor those who work for a living. Sadly, some of us lose sight of the importance of their labors and simply think of it as a three-day weekend for cookouts and other leisurely pursuits that signal an end to summer.

While you're enjoying burgers and hot dogs prepared on the grill today, take a moment to think about the hard working men and women who made your last cruise vacation so special and stress free. Those crewmembers work long hours seven days a week, often missing holidays in their homelands and the significant events with their families that we take for granted.

If you are celebrating Labor Day aboard a cruise ship, don't forget offer the crew your sincerest smiles and thank yous for jobs well-done.