Thursday, October 31, 2013

Designing the Royal Princess

When Princess Cruises executives set to work on designing a brand-new class of ships their focus is on their passengers’ interests. In terms of new features, they reach out to their loyal passengers to learn what is most important to them. Aboard Royal Princess this can be seen in several areas—particularly in an expanded Lotus Spa with its Enclave, a thermal suite so popular that weekly passes sell out and day passes are not available; the adults-only Retreat pool and Sanctuary with private cabanas; the Horizon Court buffet with “action” stations instead of long lines and servers offering tableside beverage service; and an enlarged Piazza, the atrium that is surrounded by lounges, bars, shops, and casual dining venues (pictured above).

With the trend toward more meaningful travel experiences, Princess strives to enrich their passengers’ lives by offering in-depth experiences. The range of ship sizes in the fleet adds itinerary flexibility and even Royal Princess, the largest Princess ship to date—can potentially visit every port that is most important to the line.

While on board Royal Princess, we found a lot to like. Nothing struck us as revolutionary and that was part of the Princess Cruises plan. Royal Princess is an evolution in design and all passengers—not only those who are returning to the line, but those who are new to Princess—will find intimate spaces on a human scale and a lot to like.

As we enjoyed lunch in the International Café on the lowest level of the stunning Piazza we remarked that not only is it bright and airy, but it is also one of the most beautiful and inviting spots at sea.

Image ©

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Royal Princess Makes Her Fort Lauderdale Debut

It isn’t every day that you get to meet a princess so Mel and I felt fortunate to be in Fort Lauderdale to greet Princess Cruises’ new ship Royal Princess and embark on a preview sailing before she set sail on her maiden Caribbean season.

As we made our way to the terminal Royal Princess’ most noticeable feature caught our eye—all outside accommodations have balconies. Of the 1,780 staterooms and suites, only 342 are located inside.

Once aboard, we made ourselves at home in a deluxe balcony stateroom—a new accommodation category that is larger than a standard balcony stateroom. With the additional space there is room for a plush sofa-bed for a third guest and the new category also has upgraded bathroom amenities and bed linens.

Deluxe Balcony D402
Other features include a desk/vanity with two sets of electric outlets; an adjacent drawer with hairdryer; mini-refrigerator; nightstands with two small drawers each; a generous walk-in closet; and an adjacent shelving unit with a personal safe. Bathrobes are provided for use during the cruise.

Initially, the bathroom seemed compact, but it functioned quite well with plenty of storage for personal toiletries. The shower has a narrow ledge that can be used by the ladies when shaving their legs or as a handy spot to keep personal shampoo, although the products provided in wall mounted dispensers—conditioning shampoo and body wash—are so nice that I didn’t use my own.

Also somewhat compact is the balcony when compared to previous classes of Princess ships. However, there is room for a small table and two chairs for relaxation and Ultimate Balcony Dining is on tap for a special treat. As with the rest of the Princess Cruises fleet, smoking is not allowed in accommodations or balconies. In fact, Royal Princess is a virtually smoke-free ship with smoking limited to two out-of-the-way areas outside, Churchill’s cigar lounge, and a section of the casino.

It was difficult to see everything in the two nights and a day that we were on board, but we did our best to experience as much as possible. Stay tuned, there’s more to share in the coming days.

Images ©

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Celebrate The Holidays On A Festive Cruise

Snow at sea aboard
Princess Cruises’ ships!
No matter where in the world you want to go, there’s no better way to enjoy seasonal merriment than getting away with family and friends for a celebration at sea.

Why stay at home when the cruise lines are bringing the holidays to you onboard? Each in its own way, cruise ships are incorporating the traditions and décor of Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve into décor, dining, and activities. For example: Carnival Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises have occasional “snowfalls” in the ships’ atriums, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is known for its magnificent gingerbread house displays, American Cruise Lines has ornament making as well as gift giving, and Celebrity Cruises will hold pre-Christmas trunk shows in its boutiques, which are tax-and duty-free. Starting with Nov 9 departures, Disney Cruise Line’s “Very Merrytime” Cruises feature a “deck the deck holiday party” with Disney friends. In addition to holiday themed entertainment, many cruise lines offer special concerts, caroling and festive receptions as well as religious services. Princess Cruises features a tree lighting ceremony and a holiday themed variety show. For families, most lines feature special holiday crafts sessions, parties for kids along with visits from Santa and surprise gifts.

Following is a sampling of cruises for Christmas and New Year’s sailings guaranteed to bring tidings of comfort and joy with familiar traditions in far-flung locations:
-- Go where few will ever venture. Have a winter wonderland Christmas as Seabourn sails to Antarctica for the first time this fall. On Dec 11, the Seabourn Quest 24-day cruise departs from Santiago, Chile, sailing to Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a Christmas Day landing on the “White Continent”; enjoy two days at South Georgia Island, with its vast rookeries of king penguins and other seabirds, as well as breeding elephant and fur seals. Crystal Cruises’ new 17-night Antarctica cruise on the Crystal Symphony, departs Dec 21, visiting Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Falkland Islands, Drake Passage, Cape Horn and the Chilean Fjords, offering chances to fly, hike and zodiac over and on the icy continent and to view the gorgeous glacial scenery of both King George and Ardley Island. 
-- Celebrate ancient traditions. Holiday markets, with hand-crafted toys, crafts and festive holiday food and drinks are a tradition dating back centuries and a special treat on many northern European cruises between November and January. Avalon Waterways invites travelers to spend Christmas in Prague and New Year’s in Vienna on its 9-day “Christmastime on the Danube” voyage departing Dec 25. Experience charming Christmas markets with AmaWaterways, which is offering four land-and-cruise itineraries on the Danube River, the Rhine and the legendary canals of Amsterdam. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is offering seven holiday cruises ranging from 8 to 13 days, taking travelers along Europe’s great rivers. And Hurtigruten offers itineraries with a chance to experience Norway’s natural beauty and holiday traditions such as indulging in local foods, visits from “Norway’s Father Christmas” and the chance to see “The Northern Lights” of the Aurora Borealis. 
-- Discover delightful regional differences. Experience the holiday spirit—southern or Cajun style with American Cruise Lines. The 7-night “Historic South & Golden Isles” cruise, departing from Jacksonville, Florida on Dec 21, features a holiday décor tour of Charleston’s famous mansions and a traditional Sapelo Island holiday oyster roast on the beach, while the Dec 28 New Year’s Eve sailing, departing from Charleston, South Carolina, features fireworks over Savannah. The 7-night “Cajun Christmas” cruise on the Lower Mississippi River, departing from New Orleans on Dec 21, features Oak Alley Plantation in its holiday finery, Christmas Eve bonfires along the levee lighting the way for Santa and a traditional Reveillon-style feast. Or celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in Hawaii with hula and ukuleles on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America 7-day Hawaii cruise, departing Dec 21 and Dec 28 from Honolulu.
-- Find serenity on the South Seas. A 7-night Tahiti & the Society Islands voyage with Paul Gauguin Cruises onboard the m/s Paul Gauguin departs on Dec 21 and features a holiday celebration while the New Year’s voyage, departing Dec 28, picks up the tempo with rock ’n’ roll classics, jazz and original compositions played by musician Robert Thomas as well as a lecture and wine tasting led by vintner Judy Jordan of J. Vineyards & Winery. Holland America Line features in-depth cultural experiences as part of its new fleet-wide “On Location” immersion program on a 28-day “New Zealand and Pacific Treasures Collector Holiday” cruise on the ms Oosterdam departing Dec 8 from Sydney that explores New Zealand, Fiji, and New Caledonia. 
-- Experience exotic Asia and beyond. A 14-night Myanmar, Malaysia and Sumatra voyage with Azamara Club Cruises departing Dec 23 from Singapore combines a festive Christmas at sea with exotic ports and a relaxing New Year's Day on the beaches of Phuket, Thailand. SeaDream Yacht Club offers a 7-night journey departing from Singapore on Dec 21 on its elegant mega-yacht SeaDream II, featuring golfing, diving and beach time. Oceania Cruises’ 30-day Lands of Grandeur sailing aboard Nautica departing on Dec 8 from Dubai visits ports in Oman, India, the Maldives and Seychelles as well as Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mozambique and South Africa.
‘Tis the season to book your cruise. Although the holidays are just around the corner, some cruise lines still offer booking specials and discounted pricing on select holiday cruises. For instance, for bookings through Dec 31, Oceania Cruises offers 2-for-1 cruise fares, free airfare from 26 North American gateways, and bonus savings up to $4,500 per stateroom. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is waiving or reducing its single supplement on select holiday cruises to make your Christmas vacation even merrier.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Monday, October 28, 2013

Quantum of the Seas Construction Highlights

Royal Caribbean shares an inside look at the progress made in the construction of Quantum of the Seas, which is taking shape at Meyer-Weft shipyard in Germany. Some of the ship's feature will be industry firsts—such as Ripcord by iFly and the North Star. The video below offers a sense of the progress being made as described by the cruise line's executives. With a year to go before launch, it sounds like they are on course and making headway.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Set Sail With Guy Fieri’s Family Cruise

Guy Fieri fans, take note (and set your DVRs!) to join the spiky-hair chef and his family at sea for fun, adventure, and killer food aboard the Carnival Breeze in a new television special—“Guy’s Family Cruise”—when it premiers on Food Network tomorrow night. That’s Monday, October 28 at 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT). Guy’s Family Cruise follows the Fieris during their Caribbean adventure, sailing from Miami and making stops in the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos Islands, and Jamaica aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ largest and newest ship.

In the hour-long Food Network special, Guy and his family experience many of the attractions available on Carnival Breeze. Guy, along with his two sons and nephew, work the line at his namesake eatery, Guy’s Burger Joint, a popular complimentary poolside dining spot featured on several Carnival ships that offers hand-crafted burgers, along with fresh-cut fries and special recipes the chef created exclusively for Carnival.

Join the family as they dine together at the ship’s Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse and indulge in Italian family-style favorites at Cucina del Capitano. While at sea, they have fun at WaterWorks, slipping down the 312-foot Twister slide and getting soaked by the 300-gallon PowerDrencher splash bucket. As the guys check out SkyCourse, a suspended ropes course with views to the sea 150 feet below, Guy’s wife spends time at Cloud 9 Spa and enjoys some much-deserved “me” time at Serenity, an adults-only retreat. When the ship docks at the picturesque Caribbean port of Ocho Rios, Jamaica the family heads ashore for sun-splashed activities and samples the local cuisine.

“Our family vacation on Carnival Breeze was awesome for the entire Fieri Krew,” said Fieri. “I’m stoked that we brought the cameras along so that everyone can see all of the off-the-hook food and cool things you can do on board and in port on a Carnival cruise.”

Get an exclusive behind-the-scenes preview of Guy’s Family Cruise aboard Carnival Breeze in the video below.

“Guy has been such a great partner to Carnival and we were excited to host the Fieris’ first-ever family cruise on Carnival Breeze, just as we have done for millions of families over the past 41 years,” said Jim Berra, Carnival’s chief marketing officer. “Whether you’re new to cruising, a Carnival veteran or big fans of Guy, this new special provides television viewers an authentic look at how one family can enjoy a multitude of delicious dishes, fun activities and exciting entertainment on a Carnival cruise vacation.”

Carnival carries some 4.5 million guests each year on approximately 1,500 voyages on board its 24 Fun Ships, including the 3,690-passenger Carnival Breeze which offers year-round 6- and 8-day Caribbean departures from Miami.

Image & Video Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Kids Sail Free On Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line has a present for parents: kids sail free on a range of sailings fleetwide in November and December 2013, offering incredible family fun. Available through Nov 8, 2013, Norwegian’s Kids Sail Free offer is applicable on new reservations and is combinable with most other offers, including the “Let’s Cruise” sales event, on now.

Norwegian’s newest ship, Norwegian Breakaway, offers families an array of family-fun opportunities including exclusive Nickelodeon programming; a massive five-slide Aqua Park, featuring the fastest waterslides at sea; and so much more. In addition, families can cruise comfortably in a variety of stateroom categories including Family Suites. Norwegian Breakaway sails 7-day cruises from New York City to the Bahamas & Florida, visiting Orlando and the Beaches (Port Canaveral), Florida; Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, Norwegian’s very own private Island.

Kids can sail free on Norwegian Epic, which features exclusive Nickelodeon-themed activities and entertainment, as well as the array of other exciting entertainment and dining options that guests of all ages will enjoy while cruising to the Eastern Caribbean on seven-day cruises from Miami. Families will love exploring tropical destinations including: Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Nassau, Bahamas, with fares starting at $339**.

Families who book a cruise on board the recently-enhanced Pride of America can explore Hawaii on the line’s 7-day inter-island cruises, setting sail year-round from Honolulu. This unparalleled itinerary offers families nearly 100 hours of port time and visits Hawaii’s four main islands, including an overnight in Kahului, Maui; an overnight in Nãwiliwili, Kaua`i; stops in Hilo, Hawaii and Kona, Hawaii; as well as an afternoon cruise by the jaw-dropping Nãpali Coast.

Norwegian’s Kids Sail Free is also available on a range of other ships and sailing dates from homeports around the US and Europe, including Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Sun from Miami; Norwegian Gem from New York, Norwegian Jewel from New Orleans, Norwegian Dawn from Tampa, and Norwegian Spirit from Barcelona. Select 3- and 4-day sailings on Norwegian Sky from Miami are also available for families who are looking for a shorter cruise vacation option.

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

To take advantage of the “Kids Sail Free” limited time offer and book by Nov 8, contact a travel professional, call Norwegian at 888-NCL-CRUISE (625-2784), or visit

Deal Alert: National Cruise Vacation Week Ends Tomorrow

If your bucket list includes circumnavigating the globe in luxury and style, elephant rides in Thailand, visiting a variety of UNESCO Heritage Sites, exploring the ancient ruins of Pompeii, whale watching in the Baja, or more, your dream cruise vacation may be an affordable reality during Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) National Cruise Vacation Week, Oct. 20–27, 2013.

Promoted as the “World’s Largest Cruise Sale,” National Cruise Vacation Week (NCVW) is the centerpiece of National Cruise Month, which has featured hundreds of exclusive cruise deals and incentives from CLIA’s 26 member cruise lines representing more than 200 of the world’s most popular ships. Thousands of CLIA travel agents and agencies have been participating in NCVW and
we’ve been seeing NCVW savings and special offers that include credits for shipboard spending up to $500, balcony upgrades, two-for-one fares, complimentary tours and free hotel nights in port cities on thousands of sailings worldwide.

With the end of the promotion fast approaching, you’ll have to act fast to score one of the deals this weekend. Information on National Cruise Vacation Week, where to find a CLIA travel agent and agency, and to examples of sample deals is available online.

Can’t get your plans together in time? Don’t fret. You still have a few days to get in on MSC Cruises’ promotion, which is available to residents of the US and Canada who book select sailings of MSC Divina that depart Miami from April 12 through October 11, 2014.

Shipboard credits are offered as follows:
-- Interior and Ocean View staterooms: $25 per person (maximum of $50 per stateroom);
-- Balcony and Suites: $50 per person (maximum of $100 per stateroom); and
-- MSC Yacht Club Suites: $100 per person (maximum of $200 per stateroom).
The MSC offer expires on Oct 31, 2013.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Friday, October 25, 2013

Princess Cruises Offers Special 50% Off Cruise Deal

Here’s an offer we just have to pass along... Princess Cruises is offering an unusual deal on the line’s brand new 3-day Princess Getaway Cruises from Los Angeles aboard Golden Princess. During the “100% Princess Getaways Up to 50% Off” promotion, passengers booking cruises from Los Angeles that depart between Nov 15 and Dec 1, 2013, will receive 50 percent of their cruise fare back as a credit toward a future cruise. The limited-time offer ends Nov 15, 2013.

“Our new Princess Getaway cruises are perfect for last-minute escape, and we’re so confident that passengers will love the Princess experience, that they’ll want to come back for more,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. “So we’re making it even easier to cruise again with this amazing offer.”

Onboard Golden Princess passengers will enjoy expertly prepared international cuisine, dazzling production shows, renowned comedians, a luxurious spa, and signature Princess features such as the poolside Movies Under the Stars giant screen.

This special deal is available on 3-day roundtrip cruises from Los Angeles with a call in Ensenada aboard Golden Princess: Nov 15, 2013, Nov 18, 2013, Nov 21, 2013, and Dec 1, 2013. Passengers sailing on one of these convenient roundtrip voyages from Southern California will receive half of whatever cruise fare they pay as a future cruise credit.

The future cruise credit passengers receive can be used toward any single published future cruise of seven days or longer, departing before Dec 31, 2014. The offer is available to residents of the 50 United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the District of Columbia who are 21 years of age or older.

More information about the “100% Princess Getaways Up to 50% Off” promotion is available online here.

Carnival Goes Back-to-Basics With Cruise Brochures

Back in the “good old days” (actually, not so long ago) frequent cruisers anticipated the arrival of updated print brochures in their travel agents’ offices almost as much as the arrival of their pre-cruise document package. It was a lot of fun to flip through the brightly colored brochures and they served a terrific purpose as well—they contained a wealth of information that answered questions we might not even know we had. Sadly, much like those highly prized document packages we used to get, the brochures faded away when so much of the information they contained became available online.

However, with a brochure in hand, many of us enjoyed dreaming about booking our next cruise and missed the ability to sit across the desk from our travel agent as he pointed out our stateroom selection on the deck plan. Let’s face it, a computer screen just doesn’t have the same appeal. Thankfully, for the first time in five years, Carnival Cruise Lines will offer travel agents a printed fleet brochure to use in their sales and marketing efforts and to share with clients. The new brochure, which will be available prior to the 2014 Wave Season, comes as a result of feedback from travel agents during various Carnival Conversations events, as well as more specific feedback received from the line’s recent Quarterly Travel Agent Survey.

“Travel agents have told us loud and clear that they want a printed brochure to use for sales and marketing purposes and we’re thrilled to introduce one that is customized with the information that matters most to them,” said Mike Julius, Carnival’s senior managing director of U.S. trade sales. “We greatly appreciate the valuable input we received from travel agents through our quarterly survey and we’re putting that feedback directly to work in the form of this new brochure.”

More than 1,700 travel agents responded to the on-line survey, which was comprised of 63 questions related to overall trade relations, pricing and specific needs in a brochure. Travel agents were asked to rank 31 items that they would be interested in seeing within a printed brochure. Items agents listed of top importance, in order of priority, included:
· Detailed itineraries by destination
· Message to consumers regarding the value of using a travel agent
· Deck plans
· Ship overviews and onboard highlights
· Stateroom descriptions and diagrams
· Information on family programming and activities
· Guest FAQ regarding dining, dress code, documentation and more
· Stateroom photos
· An At-a-Glance Ship Deployment Grid featuring information organized according to region, itinerary, and season
Along with the recent simplification of their fare structure, we see this back-to-basics move as a good one on Carnival’s part.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Celebrity Cruises Ramps Up the Entertainment & Activities On Caribbean Christmas Cruises

Every passenger expects a bit more cheer during their holiday cruise, but guests on Celebrity Cruises' Caribbean Christmas sailings can anticipate even merrier cruise vacations, highlighted by exclusive new performances and programs to appeal to all ages. Together with Nite Raiders Entertainment in Las Vegas, Celebrity will premiere "Finalists at Sea," a series of concerts, Q&A sessions, and autograph signings by finalists of past seasons of the popular television show, American Idol® on its Caribbean Christmas cruises. If Idol mania is your passion, this is the cruise for you.

Two artists will perform on each sailing. The almost-a-star-studded lineup includes:
-- Singer and musician Bo Bice, runner-up in the fourth season of American Idol®
-- Singer, actress and TV hostess Kimberly Caldwell, seventh-place finalist in season two, who released her debut album, Without Regret, in 2011
-- Melinda Doolittle, third-place finalist in season six, and previously backup singer for a series of top artists
-- Vocalist Matt Giraud, whose soulful performance of 'My Funny Valentine' landed him a fifth-place finish in season eight, followed by appearances on numerous talk shows
-- Singer Mikalah Gordon, a finalist on the show's fourth season, who went on to record and landed appearances on several national TV shows
-- Blake Lewis, singer-songwriter and beatboxer who was first runner-up in season six, and whose debut album, Audio Day Dream/A.D.D., was released through 19 Recordings/Arista Records
-- Elliot Yamin, who placed third in season five and whose self-titled album debuted at number one on the Billboard Independent Albums chart and number three on the Billboard 200
In addition to those performances, Celebrity's Caribbean Christmas cruises will allow kids and adults alike to be among the first to experience the revolutionary new Xbox One through Celebrity's exclusive partnership with Xbox. The new all-in-one gaming and entertainment system will allow guests to play the new game "Forza Motorsport 5," a cinematic, automotive journey starring the world's greatest cars and tracks. Celebrity's ships already are outfitted with dedicated Xbox spaces and mobile stations, allowing guests to enjoy one of the largest game and entertainment experiences afloat.

Celebrity Cruises' 2013 Caribbean Christmas sailings include:
-- 14-night Exotic Southern Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Eclipse departing Dec 14, roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale
-- 10-night Ultimate Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Equinox departing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale Dec 20
-- 7-night Caribbean Holiday Getaway cruise on Celebrity Reflection departing roundtrip from Miami, Dec 21
-- 7-night Southern Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Summit departing roundtrip from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dec 21
-- 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Silhouette departing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale Dec 22
-- 5-night Western Caribbean cruise on Celebrity Constellation departing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale Dec 23
NOTE: Any reference to American Idol® is descriptive only. American Idol® is a registered trademark of FremantleMedia North America, Inc. and is not affiliated with Nite Raider Entertainment, Inc. or Celebrity Cruises. The Finalists at Sea lineup is subject to change.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Windstar Cruises Launches New Loyalty Program

As a past passenger myself, I was very pleased by the announcement that Windstar Cruises is introducing a new enhanced guest loyalty program. Set to launch on November 1, 2013, the renamed Windstar Yacht Club (formerly Foremast Club) will better recognizes Windstar’s valued loyal guests. Yacht Club members will enjoy special benefits when they book, while they are on board, and every time they share the Windstar experience with friends and family. Yacht Club member benefits become effective on November 1, 2013.

“The satisfaction and loyalty of our guests is paramount to us,” said Hans Birkholz, Windstar’s chief executive officer. “Our new Yacht Club program demonstrates our commitment to delivering the highest levels of guest satisfaction while rewarding our loyal guests with enhanced benefits. We are dedicated to creating the world’s best small ship cruise experience; rewarding our loyal Yacht Club members is an integral part of that experience.”

Windstar Yacht Club members will receive these benefits:
-- Savings of 5% on standard cruise fares for most voyages, member discount may be combinable with -other special offers (excluding FLASH fares);
-- Upgrades to the next highest cabin category at no cost, or an upgrade from a standard stateroom or suite to a premium suite starting at $500 per person (based on availability during onboard check-in);
-- Private member cocktail party;
-- Dining with the Captain or other ship Officers;
-- Commemorative Welcome Aboard gift;
-- Savings of 10% on any purchase made in the onboard gift shop;
-- Referral rewards.
The referral rewards give Yacht Club members an opportunity for additional perks when they refer a friend to Windstar Cruises. For every new friend a member refers, they will receive a $100 shipboard credit when final payment is received for their friend’s first sailing. Additionally, each new guest who is referred to Windstar by a member will receive $100 shipboard credit on their first voyage.

Windstar guests are automatically enrolled in Windstar Yacht Club upon completion of their first Windstar cruise. New members will receive a Windstar Yacht Club Welcome package, including Member ID card, shortly following their first cruise. Current Foremast members will be automatically enrolled in the new program starting November 1, and will also be receiving a Welcome package. I’ll be watching the email for mine and you should as well.

For more information about the new Windstar Yacht Club, visit

Photo ©

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Seabourn Announces Fleet Expansion

Make that a fleet expansion after a contraction. Last February Seabourn announced the sale of the line's original three vessels to Xanterra Parks & Resorts(®), owner of Windstar Cruises. After Seabourn Pride is transferred to Windstar in April 2014, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend will leave the fleet in April 2015 and May 2015, respectively. With their passenger capacity lowered by more than 600 berths, the next logical step for Seabourn is to build a new ship to join its three newest vessels.

Therefore, it came as no surprise when Seabourn announced last week that it has signed a Letter of Intent for the construction of a new ultra-luxury cruise ship with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri. While the new ship will be modeled after Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn, and Seabourn Quest, no details have been revealed other than that it will encompass the features that have made these ships so successful. However, Seabourn has hinted that it will be a larger version of those ships, which each accommodate 450 passengers, as the line has stated it will replace the capacity that is leaving the brand. We predict the new ship will feature a capacity of 600-700 passengers, still on the small side by today's standards, but large enough to contain all the amenities expected on a luxury vessel.

With delivery of the new ship planned for the second half of 2016, that will leave the Seabourn fleet with a diminished capacity for just over a year and loyal past passengers will have plenty of time to anticipate a new addition to their favorite cruise line.

Seabourn Quest Image courtesy of Seabourn

Monday, October 21, 2013

Where in the World is Disney Magic?

When an overhaul of its atrium, restaurants, bars, spa, accommodations, and (most importantly) children's areas was complete, Disney Cruise Line's Disney Magic was set to return to service yesterday with a 5-night cruise from Miami. That was the plan. Unfortunately, that triumphant return has been postponed until October 25th due to Mother Nature.

Unexpectedly delaying the completion of the ship's major transformation was bad weather—not only in Cadiz, Spain, where Disney Magic was in dry dock, but also at sea where work was to continue. However, it is expected to be finished by the time of its rescheduled Miami arrival.

While we feel the disappointment of passengers booked on the canceled sailing, all is not lost. They will receive a full fare refund, as well as be reimbursed for any airline change fees they might incur, plus Disney will give them a free cruise on any 5-night Bahamas or Caribbean sailing aboard Disney Magic between October 25 and May 16, 2014. Any passengers who who are unable to reschedule their Disney cruise vacation before May 16, will receive a 35 percent discount on a future Bahamas or Caribbean cruise taken on any Disney ship within two years (with the exception of holiday sailings).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Carnival Cruise Lines Names Rear Admiral Roy A. Nash to the Company's Safety & Reliability Review Board

Carnival Cruise Lines has appointed Rear Adm. Roy A. Nash, who recently retired from the U.S. Coast Guard, to the company’s Safety & Reliability Review Board. The line announced the development of the board in April 2013 and Nash becomes the fifth external member of the board, joining experts with extensive leadership, operational and maintenance experience within the U.S. Navy and airline industry.

A part of Carnival’s comprehensive fleetwide technical enhancement program, the review board was created to provide independent third-party perspective and to drive continuous improvement across the line’s fleet. The core objectives of the board are to review Carnival Cruise Lines’ current policies, practices and performance, and to guide the company in incorporating best practices from other relevant fields and industries.

Rear Admiral Roy Nash recently completed his career as Commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District in New Orleans. He was responsible for port safety and security, commercial vessel safety, and response operations across the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. His duties included 10,300 miles of the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers. RADM Nash was previously assigned as Deputy Federal On Scene Coordinator for the nation's response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, impacting five Gulf Coast states.

He commanded field units, serving as Captain of the Port, advancing maritime safety, security and environmental protection. He commanded the Marine Safety Center, the Coast Guard's technical center reviewing design, engineering, and fire safety plans of commercial ships, tank barges and mobile offshore drilling units. Nash initially served in engineering positions afloat, on staff, and as marine inspector, investigator and environmental responder.

Rear Admiral Nash holds a master of science degree in Fire Protection Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a bachelor of science degree from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and Meritorious Service Medals, among other awards during his 34-year career.

"Rear Admiral Nash brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the board and will work together with other members to position Carnival Cruise Lines as an industry leader in operational best practices," said Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines. "Our new technical, safety and reliability initiative is designed to ensure we're going above and beyond in all areas of technical operations."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Norwegian Getaway Godmothers Named

Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders, acting as the official Godmothers, will christen Norwegian Getaway, the largest ship to homeport year-round in Miami at a Christening Ceremony on February 7, 2014, in the Port of Miami. The cruise line has also formed a partnership with the Miami Dolphins that designates Norwegian Cruise Line as the “Official Cruise Line” of the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium.

Norwegian Getaway is Miami’s ultimate ship, so the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders are a great fit with our brand as they are excellent role models and global representatives of South Florida,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s president and CEO. “There’s no better match here in Miami than to have these outstanding women christen our new ship.”

The Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders have been a visible aspect of Dolphins football history since 1966. These internationally known ambassadors for South Florida diligently rehearse every week to bring spirit and excitement to every game day and community event appearance. An ethnically diverse group of glamorous women, the cheerleaders wholeheartedly encompass what it means to be both beauty and brains, as they are all also well-respected professionals in their community. The Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders, just as the team they represent, exemplify teamwork, performance, the pursuit of perfection and an unrivaled passion for football.

“We are honored to be selected by Norwegian to be the Godmothers of their newest ship, Norwegian Getaway. Norwegian Cruise Line is a first class organization and a well-known brand in our community, making this an ideal partnership,” said Emily Snow, director of the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders. “It is truly a privilege to be named as the Godmothers of Norwegian Getaway and we are anxiously awaiting the christening celebration.”

Additionally, Norwegian is partnering with the Miami Dolphins throughout the football season at Sun Life Stadium as an official sponsor of the team. At each home game, ticket holders can picture how they would “Cruise Like a Norwegian” by having their photograph taken in front of a Norwegian Getaway backdrop and they can enter a sweepstakes to win a cruise for four on Norwegian Getaway. On-site ambassadors eill be available with information about Norwegian’s newest ship and overall fleet. During the Miami Dolphins “Salute to Service” in the third quarter at home games, a military hero is recognized with a cruise for two on Norwegian Getaway, courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line. Promotions for the cruise line will also appear on the stadium television network for all events at Sun Life Stadium year-round, along with permanent signage under the scoreboard. The partnership also extends onboard Norwegian Getaway, as the ship’s library will house Miami Dolphins memorabilia highlighting the team’s rich history.

To celebrate the announcement of the Dolphins Cheerleaders as Godmothers of Norwegian Getaway, the cheerleaders will make an appearance at Norwegian Cruise Line’s photo area on the Grand Plaza (across from the Dolphins store at Gate G) at Sun Life Stadium this Sunday, October 20, from 11 am to 12 pm. The cheerleaders will be available for photos and will be giving fans commemorative posters.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Etiquette at Sea From the Experts

Etiquette is more than just knowing which fork to use at dinner and no one wants to step out of line because they are unaware of what's expected on board, which is why one of our most popular articles is our outline of Cruise Ship Etiquette. It contains what we like to call Cruise Diva's "Guide to Good Manners" for passengers on cruise vacations.

Royal Caribbean International has just joined our effort to spread good manners afloat with even more tips to make your cruise a satisfying experience. For smooth sailing from a cruise line's point of view, they share Etiquette At Sea, Mind Your Cruise Vacation Ps and Qs.

If you're unsure about what is considered "proper" behavior, let our suggestions be your guide.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Carnival Cruise Lines Simplifies Its Fare Structure

For many consumers, particularly those who are new to cruise travel, booking a cruise vacation can be fraught with confusion. For instance, what deals are available and how do you know if you’re getting the best one? Without a travel agent who has a lot of experience with the industry, many times you can’t be sure.

However, Carnival Cruise Lines is taking some of the confusion out of booking by reducing the number of its core fare options from six to three, thus simplifying those elements of the line’s fare structure. The change is a result of travel agent and consumer feedback indicating that their previous fare structure was too complicated and made it difficult to book with Carnival. The revised fare structure becomes effective for all future sailings as of October 31st.

Moving forward, the core fare structure will be simplified to include three fares:
· Fun Select: This cruise option features a two category stateroom upgrade and guests choose their stateroom assignment. The fare is fully refundable before final payment, offering a premium and flexible choice for guests.
· Early Saver: Offers Carnival’s unique price protection guarantee and is the ideal fare for closing early business. This fare closes three months prior to sailing for cruises of 5-days or less and five months prior to sailing for cruises of 6-days or more. Guests choose their stateroom assignment with Early Saver. This fare includes a non-refundable deposit and $50 administrative fee for changes to the reservation.
· Super Saver: Generally opens when Early Saver closes. The deposit is non-refundable and the stateroom is assigned by Carnival. Super Saver is a good selection for close-in travelers.
As part of the simplification, options such as the Fun Select Plus, Easy Saver, and Instant Saver fares will no longer be available. However, qualifying fares such as past guest, resident, and military, as well as special promotional fares, will continue to be available. Even simpler, you can still book without any of the special codes.

“Based on input from our travel agents, we modified the core fare structure to include those fare codes that offered the customer value and choice,” said Brenda Yester, senior vice president of revenue management for Carnival Cruise Lines. “By offering three fare choices instead of six, it simplifies the decision-making process and makes the overall sales experience easier for our travel professionals and their clients.”

Many travel professionals have supported the pricing simplification project. “We want to thank our travel professionals who gave us invaluable input through our quarterly travel agent survey, focus groups and Carnival Conversations. Their feedback has helped us tremendously in finalizing this new structure,” said Joni Rein, vice president of worldwide sales for Carnival Cruise Lines. Carnival continues to gather travel agent feedback on its group program and will share updates in the coming weeks.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A "Legendary" Cruise Review: Carnival Legend Sails the British Isles

Image: Carnival Legend © Keith Henderson
More often than not if a cruise itinerary features the British Isles, the cruise line offering it is high end and fares are pricey. Not so with this Carnival Legend sailing out of Dover, England for a 12-day cruise to several ports around and near the British Isles. When our friend Keith Henderson saw the itinerary, which included stops in five countries that started with Norway (Stavanger), then Scotland (Invergordon, Edinburgh, and Glasgow), Northern Ireland (Belfast), Ireland (Dublin), and France (Le Havre) before returning to Dover. It was to be their first visit to Norway, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and he knew it was the cruise he and his wife were destined to take.

Upon embarkation, a weather related itinerary announcement was made by the cruise director. Keith relates that, "Due to a large fierce storm forecasted for the North Sea, a decision was made to change the itinerary of our cruise. They had been spending the last day finding cruise ports to switch with. They were competing with other cruise lines trying to do the same thing with their ships that needed to be diverted from Norway as well. He announced that instead of starting our cruise by heading north to spend a day crossing the North Sea before visiting Stavanger in Norway, we would now be heading south to go around England to visit Liverpool, England on the west coast. We would visit all of the same ports as originally planned except for the cancellation of Belfast in North Ireland, which Liverpool replaced."

Keith continued, "The order of the ports visited and dates would be changed though. We had not made any real plans for Belfast, so we did not miss seeing that port, but it would have been nice to visit as we have not been there before. We were actually really happy to hear the news about our visit to Liverpool as we are big Beatles and British Invasion music fans. Liverpool is the home to so many of those groups." The altered itinerary was a win-win in that regard and fortunately the Hendersons were able to reschedule the private tours they'd booked for other ports.

Keith has been kind enough to share the experience with us, so Welcome aboard Carnival Legend for a unique cruise.

Monday, October 14, 2013

New “AzAmazing” Cruise Review: Azamara Journey

Georgina Cruz shares her thoughts on a journey through the Med that begins with a pre-cruise exploration of the Roman sights and continues to delight with a cruise aboard Azamara Journey and an “AzAmazing Evening” when they were regaled with the sounds of Italy.

According to Georgina, the ancient Romans called the Mediterranean “Mare Nostrum” (Our Sea) but modern-day cruise passengers like her and her husband Humberto thought of it as their very own during a seven-night voyage on Azamara Club Cruises’ Azamara Journey, an intimate ship that felt like their home at sea from the first day.

Join them to Sail The Med With Azamara Club Cruises.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Experience “Nine Days of Sunshine” in the Med

The totally transformed Carnival Sunshine arrives in New Orleans next month and in anticipation, Carnival Cruise Lines is taking to online social media to engage its fans and showcase the latest addition to the “Fun Ship” fleet.

The “Nine Days of Sunshine” promotion is taking place through Oct. 19th during a 9-day Mediterranean cruise and integrates posts on a number of the line’s social media platforms—from Instagram and Facebook to Twitter, Flickr, and Pinterest—all highlighting the ship’s array of onboard features.

The Carnival Sunshine “social media takeover” includes daily Instagram posts where fans can enjoy colorful images of the ship’s spaces posted multiple times each day and participate in live interactive “Meet the Crew” chats where they can ask questions of Carnival Sunshine team members and receive on the spot responses.

Additionally, viewers can help direct content for the “Nine Days of Sunshine” promotion through interactive daily Instagram polls, while guests sailing on Carnival Sunshine’s Med cruise can offer Instgram “video shout outs” to their friends and family members back home.

Even after the “Nine Days of Sunshine” promotion period is over, the fun will continue with engaging videos highlighting Carnival Sunshine’s culinary choices such as Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, Cucina del Capitano, and Havana Bar, interviews with guests and crew, and a visit to the stunning three-level Serenity adults-only retreat.

Following a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Barcelona to New Orleans Nov. 1-17, Carnival Sunshine will operate a schedule of 7-day Caribbean cruises from the Big Easy through April 2014 before repositioning to Port Canaveral, Florida, for year-round 5- to 8-day Caribbean departures. For additional information, visit

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, October 11, 2013

Holland America Line Entertainer on “The Voice”

Cruise ship entertainers often get a bum rap in terms of their talent, as evidenced by the jokes on late night comedy shows, but that's changing. Holland America Line's own Stephanie Anne Johnson, a solo guitarist who has performed on several Holland America Line and Seabourn ships and who lives in Tacoma, Washington, recently auditioned on the hit program “The Voice” on NBC and made it through to further rounds.

Johnson has sailed as solo guitarist on ms Amsterdam, ms Westerdam, ms Zaandam, ms Zuiderdam, and Seabourn Quest.

If you missed her on board, see for yourself what a talented singer Stephanie is in this video of her audition for the show:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bermuda to Allow Cruise Ship Casinos to Open in Port

The Bermuda cruising season has come to an end this year, but there's good news for cruise lines returning in the future. Last week The Royal Gazette reported that cruise ships visiting Bermuda will be allowed to keep their casinos open when in port.

The concession, which allows onboard casinos to operate between 9pm and 5am, was made to ensure that Bermuda will remain competitive as a cruise destination, according to Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell. In a statement, Crockwell said the move would economically benefit both the cruise lines, by boosting their on board revenue, and the Island, which would collect license fees.

“The use of the casino is to be limited to passengers on board the ship only. No local residents or visitors to the ship will be allowed to participate in casino activities,” said Crockwell, who added that the key concern for many would be the impact on local retailers, restaurateurs, and entertainers, but he believes it would be “minimal.”

In order to qualify for the gaming license, ships would have to be in port for one night or more to gain permission and, of course, pay the fee. An exception to the licensing fee requirement is made for smaller ships with a passenger capacity not exceeding 2,000 and capable of docking in Hamilton and St George’s. Bermuda authorities recognize that the Island has failed to attract small, high-end ships to those ports in recent years and they hope the exemption will encourage more calls by cruise lines with such vessels in their fleets.

The Dockyard, Bermuda: Image (c)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Norwegian Cruise Line Reveals New Breakaway Plus Ship Names: Norwegian Escape & Norwegian Bliss

In an industry filled with Fantasies, Magics, Spirits, and Dreams, Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that thanks to its Facebook fans around the globe, the names of the line’s two new Breakaway Plus class ships are pretty unique—Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss.

The names for Norwegian’s newest ships are the two that received the highest number of votes—out of the line’s top ten name prospects—in the “Norwegians Name Their Ships” contest, which asked fans in five countries to help select the names for the line’s two new Breakaway Plus vessels. The contest, which ran from Sept 10 through Sept 24, 2013, garnered more than 100,000 votes from Norwegian fans located in five different countries, including the United States, Canada (excluding Quebec), Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Everyone who submitted a vote for their favorite Breakaway Plus ship names were entered into a random drawing to win a trip for two to the first Breakaway Plus ship’s inaugural festivities, including round-trip coach airfare for two, ground transportation, balcony stateroom accommodations (double occupancy), and on-board meals. Winners were announced yesterday on Norwegian’s Facebook Page at

“The response to our ‘Norwegians Name Their Ships’ contest was overwhelming,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer. “It reaffirms that we have a very engaged and passionate community of Norwegians and we are thrilled with the names they have selected for our two new Breakaway Plus Class Ships. Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss are two names that truly characterize our brand, Freestyle Cruising, and the experience guests will have on board these fantastic new vessels.”

Norwegian’s new Breakaway Plus ships will be the largest in the line’s fleet at approximately 163,000 gross tons and 4,200 passenger berths each and will be similar in design and innovation to the line’s current Breakaway class, the first of which, Norwegian Breakaway, launched in New York in early May and the second of which, Norwegian Getaway, will launch in January and arrive in her homeport of Miami in February.

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Viva Miami! Norwegian Getaway to Debut South Florida-Themed Restaurants, Bars

Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship set to debut in January, is being introduced as Miami’s ultimate ship that will embody the essence of her tropical homeport.

Along with hull artwork by Miami’s own David "LEBO” LeBatard, with its whimsical mermaid holding the sun above the waves, also featured aboard Norwegian Getaway are several restaurants and bars that evoke the tropical feel of Miami, South Beach, and South Florida icons. The Tropicana Room, Flamingo Bar & Grill, Sunset Bar, and Sugarcane Mojito Bar (pictured here) will be new and unique additions to the largest ship to homeport in Miami year-round.

The Tropicana Room, a complimentary restaurant on Deck 7 aft, is inspired by the glitz and glamour of the Miami Beach night life of the 1940s and 50s. Rich woods, dark purple and silver fabrics and mirrored columns, along with nostalgic photos from Miami Beach in her heyday, will make guests feel as if they are dining in a retro supper club. Menu items will represent the flavor of Miami with several Latin-inspired choices, including ceviche (ceviche de camarón), churrasco steak (churrasco con chimichurri) and chicken with yellow rice (arroz con pollo).

The Flamingo Bar & Grill, a complimentary restaurant on Deck 16, will serve food with a Latin flair throughout the day. An extensive menu is offered, including traditional favorites like pulled pork (pierna asada); steak chimichurri (bistec con chimichurri); fried yucca (yuca frita); spinach empanadas (empanadas de espinaca); and guava turnovers (pastelitos de guyaba). Desserts include caramel custard (flan de leche); rice pudding (arroz con leche) and three milks cake (tres leches). A variety of regional drinks and Cuban coffee will be available to complement the meal.

Sugarcane Mojito Bar will serve mojitos and rum-based cocktails from an island-themed setting on Deck 8 with both indoor and outdoor spaces. The bronze bar features banana leaves made of bronze relief which also circle the dual columns. The atmosphere is tropical and relaxed with leather and rattan furniture.

The Sunset Bar on Deck 8 takes its inspiration from Ernest Hemingway’s Key West, with design elements that are eclectic, masculine and adventurous. A large Marlin mounted behind the bar serves as the space’s focal point, while leather furniture and animal prints round out the décor in this eclectic lounge. Drinks include a Hemingway-inspired daiquiri, Key Largo’s Secret Chest, which includes Bacardi Superior rum infused with mixed herbs, sweet vermouth, Campari and fresh orange and lemon juice, topped with sparkling wine. Just next to the Sunset Bar is the Humidor Cigar Lounge offering a range of cigars for purchase.

Norwegian Getaway will also have the self-service wine dispensers first introduced on sister-ship Norwegian Breakaway. Located in the Garden Café and Studio Lounge, each dispenser offers a selection of four wines. Guests can sample a taste or a full glass. Prices range from $2.75 to $13 per glass, depending on the wine chosen.

Throughout the ship, guests will find murals and artwork inspired by her tropical homeport. On the Waterfront, there will be a collage of the flora, fauna, and architecture of Key West and the Southernmost point, along with the signature Miami skyline. On Deck 18, murals will highlight the famous lifeguard houses of Miami Beach and other elements of South Beach. For fans of hull artist David “LEBO” Le Batard, they can find his paintings showcased in the atrium café and reception area, with works that include several large original pieces of art. The Art Gallery will also feature a collection of his paintings for sale.

Norwegian Getaway is Miami’s ultimate ship, so her unique venues celebrate the heritage and culture of Miami and South Florida,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO. “With these themed venues, we want all of our guests to experience a taste of Miami with food and drinks that reflect what the city is known for.”

Additional information on Norwegian Getaway can be found at

Monday, October 7, 2013

Regent Seven Seas Cruises to Expand Its All-Inclusive Product With Free Wi-Fi

Regent Seven Seas Cruises has announced an expansion to its industry-leading all-inclusive product by offering free Wi-Fi across its fleet to certain categories of passengers. Beginning with the line’s Winter 2014-2015 sailings, concierge-level and higher guests will receive up to 500 minutes of free Wi-Fi.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises will also make a multi-million dollar investment to upgrade its fleet’s onboard Internet service. This will include:
-- Doubling the satellite bandwidth to provide considerable improvements in both the quality and speed of the guest’s online experience;
-- Expanding the Wi-Fi signal’s range, making Wi-Fi available throughout the entirety of the ships including all suites, public rooms, and outdoor decks;
-- Replacing all onboard hardware such as the modems, routers, and bandwidth compression equipment with advanced technology.
The upgrades will be completed by the end of this year, significantly enhancing the Internet experience for all guests.

Details on the availability of the free Wi-Fi program can be found here. Details of the 2014-2015 Winter Collection will be announced on Wednesday, Oct 9, 2013.

Image (c)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Update: Tropical Depression Karen Impacts Carnival Cruise Lines' New Orleans Homeport

Carnival Cruise Lines Tropical Depression Karen Update

While the tropical storm has been downgraded, Carnival Cruise Lines continue to closely monitor what is now Tropical Depression Karen in the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River opened early Sunday morning and the Carnival Elation and Carnival Conquest are expected to dock in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon. Guests from the current cruise have the option of debarking today or remaining on board until Monday morning. Check-in for the new voyage of Carnival Elation and Carnival Conquest will take place on Monday, October 7, 2013.

The Carnival Elation will operate a 3 day Fun Cruise @ Sea. Check-in will be on Monday, October 7, 2013, from 11:00AM to 3:00PM at the Julia Street Terminal (1350 Port of New Orleans Place) and sailing time is set for 4:00PM.

Given the shortened duration, guests will receive the following:
• 50% cruise fare refund
• 50% future cruise discount on a 3 to 5-day Carnival cruise
• Refund of the government fees and taxes
• Gratuity adjustment to reflect a 3-day voyage
• Automatic refund of all pre-purchased shore excursions
To stay in touch and up to date on any changes we encourage guests to sign up for text alerts by texting CCL1 to CRUISE (278473).

The Carnival Conquest will operate a 6-day cruise, cancelling Freeport. Check-in will be on Monday, October 7, 2013, from 10:00AM to 2:00PM at the Erato Street Terminal and sailing time is set for 4:00PM. Below is our tentative revised itinerary:
Day Port Arrive Depart
Mon New Orleans, LA 4:00PM
Tues Fun Day @ Sea
Wed Key West, FL 8:00 AM 4:00 PM
Thu Nassau, The Bahamas 12:00 PM (noon) 6:00 PM
Fri Fun Day @ Sea
Sat Fun Day @ Sea
Sun New Orleans, LA 8:00 AM
Given the shortened duration, guests will receive the following:
• One day pro-rated refund of their cruise fare
• Refund of the government fees and taxes for Freeport
• Gratuity adjustment to reflect a 6-day voyage
• Automatic refund of pre-purchased shore excursions for Freeport
To stay in touch and up to date on any changes we encourage guests to sign up for text alerts by texting CCL2 to CRUISE (278473).

We realize these are unexpected changes in the travel plans and should you wish to cancel or reschedule your Carnival Elation or Carnival Conquest cruise, please contact 1800 CARNIVAL to request a refund or future cruise credit.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Tropical Storm Karen Impacts Carnival Cruise Lines' New Orleans Homeport

Statement from Carnival Cruise Lines:

We continue to closely monitor the track of Tropical Storm Karen in the Gulf of Mexico. At this point, local authorities have informed us they have closed the Mississippi River to all ship traffic as of 6:00 AM on Friday. This means we will need to make changes to the Carnival Elation and Carnival Conquest's itineraries for sailings this weekend. Given the projected path of the storm, the Carnival Elation and Carnival Conquest are now expected to arrive on Monday, October 7, 2013 from the previous cruise. However, we will not have a definite time of arrival until the river re-opens.

As always, the safety of our guests and crew is our number one concern and our ships will maintain a safe distance from the storm.

Following are scheduled itinerary/embarkation alterations.

Given our estimated arrival on Monday, we have no other option but to shorten the cruise to a 3 day Fun Cruise @ Sea. Given the shortened duration, guests will receive the following:
• 50% cruise fare refund
• 50% future cruise discount on a 3 to 5-day Carnival cruise
• Refund of the government fees and taxes
• Gratuity adjustment to reflect a 3-day voyage
• Automatic refund of all pre-purchased shore excursions
Check-in is now scheduled on October 7, 2013 at the Julia Street Terminal (1350 Port of New Orleans Place). Since we know that storms and hurricanes can be very unpredictable, we ask guests not proceed to the terminal until our next update on Sunday. To stay in touch and up to date on any changes we encourage guests to sign up for text alerts by texting CCL1 to CRUISE (278473).

Given our estimated arrival on Monday, we have no other option but to shorten the cruise to a 6-day cruise and cancel our visit to Freeport. Below is our tentative revised itinerary:

Day Port Arrive Depart
Mon New Orleans, LA TBA TBA
Tues Fun Day @ Sea
Wed Key West, FL 8:00 AM 4:00 PM
Thu Nassau, The Bahamas 12:00 PM (noon) 6:00 PM
Fri Fun Day @ Sea
Sat Fun Day @ Sea
Sun New Orleans, LA 8:00 AM

Given the shortened duration, guests will receive the following:
• One day pro-rated refund of their cruise fare
• Refund of the government fees and taxes for Freeport
• Gratuity adjustment to reflect a 6-day voyage
• Automatic refund of pre-purchased shore excursions for Freeport
Check-in is now scheduled on October 7, 2013 at the Erato Street Terminal. Since we know that storms and hurricanes can be very unpredictable, we ask guests not proceed to the terminal until our next update on Sunday. To stay in touch and up to date on any changes we encourage guests to sign up for text alerts by texting CCL2 to CRUISE (278473).

We realize these are unexpected changes in the travel plans and should you wish to cancel or reschedule your Carnival Elation or Carnival Conquest cruise, please contact 1800 CARNIVAL to request a refund or future cruise credit.

Silversea's Silver Galapagos Sets Sail

Expedition cruisers looking for up-close encounters with an abundance of wildlife, including sun-basking land iguanas, giant tortoises, blue- and red-footed boobies, colorful marine iguanas, sea lions, penguins and Darwin's famous finches, need look no further. Luxury expedition cruise specialist Silversea has launched its second expedition ship. Fresh from a major refurbishment, the 100-guest ship (formerly named Galapagos Explorer II) embarked September 28th on her first-ever voyage as the stunning Silver Galapagos.

Prior to setting sail, a christening ceremony was held on board, attended by local dignitaries and company executives. Highlighting the occasion were speeches by Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio, Silversea's chairman; Santiago Dunn, vice president of Silversea, Ecuador; and Conrad Combrink, Silversea's director of expedition cruises. Following the traditional blessing by a priest, the chairman's daughter, Costanza Lefebvre d'Ovidio, the ship's godmother, officially welcomed Silver Galapagos into the Silversea fleet by cutting a ceremonial ribbon.

Aboard the all-suite Silver Galapagos, all public spaces and guest suites have been refreshed with new upholstery, carpeting, curtains, and wall treatments. Each suite is highlighted by a totally renovated bathroom, enhanced with rich marble detailing. Besides a new walk-in rainforest shower, each bathroom features a new vanity, shelving, mirrors, lighting fixtures, and wood flooring. Plus, all guest suites have been outfitted with new flat screen TVs, new mattresses (custom-made exclusively for Silversea), and luxurious Pratesi bed linens.

Other ship enhancements include the installation of Wi-Fi access throughout the ship (including all suites) and a new complimentary service providing streaming movies and live television news broadcasts for guests to enjoy on their portable devices. And rounding out the renovations are a new fitness center, massage room, beauty salon, outdoor Jacuzzi, outdoor furniture, and Silversea's signature outdoor dining venue, The Grill.

In his remarks at the christening ceremony, Lefebvre d'Ovidio stated, "It is our aim that this ship will not only offer our guests the highest level of comfort and service, but also enlighten them to the rarity and beauty of the Galápagos Islands."

Silver Galapagos sails Saturday to Saturday on 7-day roundtrip voyages from Baltra Island, following either a western or north central route. These expedition cruises offer adventurous travelers the life-enriching chance to discover a wild, pristine paradise that has long been regarded as a natural laboratory of evolution. Complimentary expeditions ashore are guided by an experienced expedition team certified by the Galápagos National Park Service.

Image Courtesy of Silversea Expeditions

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Crystal's New Complimentary Land Program Visits Angkor Wat & Other Sacred Sites

For travelers with exotic bucket lists, Crystal Cruises is offering a brand new, complimentary inclusive three-night Extended Land Program to Thailand and Cambodia with its March Asia-to-Africa World Cruise segment. Prior to sailing from Singapore to Cape Town aboard Crystal Serenity, guests will embark on an exciting overland journey, first exploring Bangkok's energetic markets, nightlife, and heavenward temple spires, and then flying to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where they will visit some of the world's most awe-inspiring spiritual monuments and landmarks, such as:
-- Angkor Wat - The world's largest religious monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 12(th) century.
-- The Grand Palace - A vast complex of buildings, pavilions and gardens, the palace has been the primary residence and official ceremonial site for Kings of Siam since 1782.
-- Temples of the Emerald, Golden and Reclining Buddhas - The most sacred temple in Thailand, the world's largest solid gold statue (nearly six tons!), and one of the largest overall Buddha statues in the world, respectively.
-- Angkor Night Market - Open until at least midnight with more than 100 shops and merchants, the market sets the perfect scene for post-dinner shopping.
-- Khmer Ruins - An array of ancient Cambodian architectural masterpieces, from Bayon Temple, known for its forest of heads and maze of dark rooms and galleries, to Ta Prohm, an Indiana Jones-like lost temple in the jungle, entwined in massive tree roots.
-- Apsara Dance Performance - Prima ballerinas from the Royal Ballet of Cambodia will perform this elaborate traditional dance, exclusively for Crystal guests.
Included for guests sailing on the single "Temples & Safaris" itinerary (the fourth segment of Crystal's 2014 World Cruise), the land program begins on March 7 and features meals, inter-Asia transportation, and a night at Peninsula Bangkok, followed by two nights at the five-star Sokha Angkor Wat Resort. The cruise voyage begins March 10 with an onboard overnight in Singapore, then sails to Jakarta, Indonesia; Mauritius/Port Louis, Republic of Mauritius; and Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town, South Africa (overnight).

Image Courtesy Crystal Cruises

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fast Facts About Royal Caribbean's “Virtual” Balconies

When Disney Cruise Line unveiled “virtual” portholes in the inside staterooms of its newest ships, they created a stir with underwater “views” of the sea and whimsical sea creatures floating by.

Now, Royal Caribbean has gone a step further with the introduction of an all-new stateroom category that will feature Virtual Balconies on their newest ships, Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas.

However you won't have to wait for the newest ships to launch in order to experience one because starting this November, Navigator of the Seas, sailing year round from Galveston, will be the first ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet to have a Virtual Balcony added to select staterooms when the ship is revitalized in February 2014. In order to better understand the concept, Royal Caribbean has compiled the following list of questions and answers to help their travel agent partners and passengers better understand how this industry-first feature will work.

Navigator of the Seas Virtual Balcony FAQs

• What is a Virtual Balcony stateroom? This new inside stateroom category features an 80-inch, high definition screen that spans nearly floor to ceiling. It offers expansive real time views, bringing guests closer to the sights and sounds of the sea and destinations on their itinerary.
• When is this feature coming to the fleet? The Virtual Balcony stateroom will make its debut onboard Navigator of the Seas after it is revitalized in February 2014.
• Is there sound? can the sound level be adjusted? The Virtual Balcony features real time, ambient sounds happening outside. The guest can adjust the volume level.
• Is there an “on/off” switch? Yes.
• Where is the screen in the room? How is the room laid out? The location of the Virtual Balcony differs according to the layout of each stateroom.
• Does the Virtual Balcony give off heat? The screens are extremely energy efficient and give off almost no heat.

• How many Virtual Balcony staterooms are on Navigator of the Seas? 98 total.
• What categories are they? Category J.
• Do all interior rooms have them? No; on Navigator, only the select 98 interior staterooms will feature Virtual Balconies.
• Are they in any staterooms that accommodate 3 to 4 guests? There are 17 quad staterooms included in this category as well as 81 double occupancy staterooms.
• Will there always be a premium added that makes them more expensive than some ocean View staterooms? Royal Caribbean prices accommodations at market level, however, it would be considered unusual to find a Virtual Balcony stateroom priced higher than an Ocean View stateroom.
• Are Virtual Balconies going fleet wide or on any other ships? At this time, there are plans for 98 Virtual Balcony staterooms on Navigator of the Seas as of February 2014, and Virtual Balconies in every interior stateroom onboard the new Quantum of the Seas debuting in Fall 2014.

• Will every Virtual Balcony show the same view? With this new innovation, Royal Caribbean plans to deliver a balcony experience that is as authentic and true-to-life as the real thing. With that in mind, the view from each Virtual Balcony will be relative to the position of the screen in the room. For example, a Virtual Balcony on the port side of the room will feature a live view from the port side of the ship.
• Is it actually the view outside? The view is being captured live via a camera mounted to the ship. It is the actual, real-time view of the world outside.
• Are the cameras on day and night? The cameras will operate 24/7, with the exception of very limited occasions when they are cleaned or otherwise maintained.
• What is the quality of the picture? The quality is full high definition.
• Can you switch between cameras and views? Not at this time.
• Can the view be blocked/obstructed? The Virtual Balcony staterooms will be as true to life as a real balcony view as possible. As such, there will be times (such as in port) when the view may be obstructed by a building or another docked ship, for example.
• What else can the Virtual Balcony be used for? At this time, real-time, scenic views will be featured.

• It instantly connects you to the sea, destinations, and real-time weather without leaving your stateroom
• Great value featuring an authentically simulated balcony experience for just a fraction of the price of an actual balcony
• Good value option for multi-generational families, with triples and quads available
• Adds ambiance, openness and a relaxing vibe to interior accommodations
• Overall, it creates a richer, more satisfying stateroom experience when compared to a typical interior stateroom.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Norwegian Cruise Line Expands Cruisetours

Experienced travelers know that a cruise is a great way to "sample" destinations, but some of us want to get a deeper appreciation of the places we visit. Recognizing that desire, Norwegian Cruise Line has added new Hawaii and Europe Cruisetours, which are available to book now for sailings beginning January 2014. These new offerings further expand the line’s Cruisetours and provide guests even more ways to enhance their cruise experience with a land vacation in Hawaii, Europe and Alaska.

For guests sailing a 7-day inter-island Hawaii cruise on the newly enhanced Pride of America, the 4-day, 3-night O’ahu Explorer Cruisetour showcases the beauty, history and culture of the islands, while providing guests with an opportunity to explore O’ahu in-depth prior to the cruise. Featuring three of the island’s top attractions, the O’ahu Explorer begins with a journey to the spectacular North Shore and the historic surfing town of Haleiwa. After a chance to view the famous Pipeline surfing destination, guests will then continue on to the Polynesian Cultural Center, which celebrates various cultures of the original inhabitants of Hawaii. Interactive experiences range from island games, to traditional dances and a leisurely canoe ride.

The following day, guests will visit historic Pearl Harbor. The tour includes time to explore the USS Arizona Memorial, Battleship Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island and includes a drive though the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. On the final day of their tour, guests will visit the Kualoa Ranch for a customized tour to celebrate the ecology and way of life of ancient islanders. Along the way, they’ll have the chance to visit the scenic Nu’uanu Pali Lookout, known for breathtaking views of the lush Windward Coast and strong, howling winds, along with the dramatic cliffs of the Ko’olau Mountain Range and cascading waterfalls. Once at the ranch, cultural practitioners will invite guests for hands-on experiences, including traditional island games, poi tasting, lei making and learning an authentic hula dance. Guests will then enjoy the ranch’s Tram ride, offering spectacular scenery, along with lunch and a catamaran cruise on the Bay.

The O’ahu Explorer tour includes a traditional fresh flower lei greeting at the airport; a personal escort to the hotel transfer; free time each evening to explore Waikiki; baggage collection and delivery to and from the hotel to the cruise ship; transfers to Pride of America on embarkation day; customized tours and park admissions with local tour guides; and hotel accommodations at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Rates for the Hawaii Cruisetours with ocean view accommodations begin at $939 per person.

In Europe, guests have three new Cruisetours to choose from to enhance their cruise vacation. Baltic cruisers can now start their adventure with a 3-day, 2-night Gardens & Castles of Copenhagen tour. Guests begin with a city sightseeing tour to view the National Museum, Christiansborg Palace, and the colorful 17th-century harbor district of Nyhavn, and finish their adventure with a classic Scandinavian smorgasbord lunch. Guests will also enjoy a special nighttime visit to Tivoli Gardens, as well as a visit to Kronborg Castle, the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Guests embarking in Barcelona can live like a Spaniard on the 4-day, 3-night Art & Architecture of Barcelona tour. Highlights include a city tour with visits to Park Guell, the Gothic Quarter, La Sagrada Familia Basilica and the 1992 Olympic Stadium on Montjuic Hill; and an excursion to the Catalonian countryside with stops at the Monastery of Poblet. For food and drink lovers, the tour includes an authentic tapas lunch and a cava tasting at a local wine estate.

For guests embarking in Venice, the 4-day, 3-night Canals & Palaces of Venice provides a chance to experience all of the top attractions the Floating City is known for, including Doge’s Palace and a boat tour with time to explore the Lagoon Islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. Guests will experience a memorable Gondola Ride on the Grand Canal with music and prosecco, and enjoy a tasting of traditional Italian gelato and local tapas-style specialties known as Cicchetti.

All European tours include hotel accommodations, breakfast, arrival transfers to hotel, and port transfers, an English-speaking local guide and entrance fees for all itinerary destinations. These new Europe Cruisetours complement Norwegian’s choice of existing Europe Cruisetours, including the 4-day, 3-night Rome & the Vatican cruisetour, available to guests sailing on Norwegian Epic, and the 11-day Classic Italy cruisetour, available for guests of Norwegian Jade and Norwegian Epic.

Norwegian’s Cruisetours program also includes four unique pre- or post-cruise adventures in Alaska, with experiences ranging from a ride on the Alaska Railroad to a private tour of an Iditarod musher’s home, a dogsled tour and much more.

For more information, see

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line