Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chat, Find Friends & Book Services...MSC Divina Has An App For That

Dedicated to using the latest technological advancements to continually improve levels of service, MSC Cruises is making sure that travelers can connect effortlessly with the company at every stage, whether they’re in the process of booking their cruise or fine-tuning the details once on board. The latest example of this is the MSC Divina Traveler Web App, a new app designed to enhance the mobile experience of guests enjoying MSC Divina’s Caribbean itineraries.

Completely free to download and to use on board while the ship is sailing, the app is available in the company’s six official languages (English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish) and provides guests with up-to-date information about the ship, route, conditions at sea and in ports of call, promotions in the ship’s various shops and boutiques, as well as activities and special events on board. Travelers can even update their agendas with their preferred activities.

The app also allows users to reserve a wide range of services on board, from booking a table in the ship’s thematic restaurants, Eataly Steakhouse, Ristorante Italia and Galaxy, to saving a seat on popular shore excursions without having to wait in line at the excursion desk. Guests can use the app to chat with people they are traveling with, find new friends during their cruise, share their cruise experience with other connected passengers, and check-in and check-out of the various public spaces on board. For instant access to a world of information and new connections, and all for free, travelers on board can now connect to MSC Divina Traveler.

Over the coming months, this service will be rolled out across the majority of ships in the MSC Cruises fleet.

Image Courtesy of MSC Cruises

Friday, November 29, 2013

Disney Fantasy Presents The Royal Court Royal Tea for Young Princes & Princesses

Afternoon tea is a tradition on most cruise ships, but Disney Fantasy is taking it a bit further by celebrating the “Royal” in everyone, and whisking children and parents off to a magical affair during the Royal Court Royal Tea. This royal teatime provides families with classic Disney entertainment and exclusive meet and greet opportunities that evoke nostalgia in even the biggest “kids” who attend.

In the Royal Court restaurant aboard Disney Fantasy, children are greeted by Lady Chamomile, the Royal Tea Hostess, and are crowned as young princesses or dubbed as royal knights before they are escorted to their seats where more surprises await them. Lady Chamomile hosts the stately celebration with Chef Brule, the Royal Pastry Chef, and the pair presents the young princes and princesses with some of their most delightful culinary specialties during the merriment.

Of course, no royal celebration would be complete without a visit from classic (and modern) Disney Princesses, dubbing this fantastical affair an unforgettable family moment for all who attend. Each Princess will enter the Royal Court by invitation from Lady Chamomile and Chef Brule, with a little help from their royal guests. Escorted by a Royal Page, the Princesses will visit each table to meet guests and welcome them to the tea party. Lady Chamomile and Chef Brule prove to be welcoming and entertaining hosts of the event, telling stories, singing renditions of classic Disney tunes, and dancing—encouraging children to participate.

Served with tea sandwiches, pastries, cupcakes and tea, this courtly reception showcases some of Lady Chamomile’s and Chef Brule’s most delicious confections. Tea party guests soon discover that the Royal Court Royal Tea is full of surprises—young princesses receive a My Disney Girl doll dressed as their favorite princess, as well as a memory book, a jewelry box, and more, including very special gifts from each of the Princesses! Daring young princes complete their knightly fashions with a stately shield, seafaring Duffy bear, and more great surprises throughout the event. All royal guests also receive a memorable photograph and meet and greet opportunity with the Princesses, making this event a stand-out experience for both children and families. Now offered during 7-night itineraries onboard the Disney Fantasy, the Royal Court Royal Tea can be enjoyed by all.

The Royal Court Royal Tea party is available to young “princes and princesses” ages three and up. The cost is $279 for one adult and one child. An additional child is $210 and additional adult is $69.

Image & Video Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Before we sit down to dig into turkey, dressing, and all the other traditional dishes prepared for our Thanksgiving Day feast, we turn the television on to watch the iconic Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. This year, Royal Caribbean International has a float featuring some of the elements found aboard their cruise ships. One of the most recognizable is the rock climbing wall and their float has one too!

How'd they do that so that kids could actually climb it during the parade? Take a look...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Keep on “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Aboard Holland America Line

The “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” program has been such a hit that Holland America Line has extended it for another year. The experience brings the excitement of ABC’s hit show “Dancing with the Stars” to all 15 ships of Holland America Line throughout 2014. Once again the program will culminate with a Champions Cruise guest dance-off competition, which will take place on the Dec. 6, 2014, Caribbean sailing of ms Westerdam. Like 2013, the 2014 schedule will continue to feature “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” programming on all sailings throughout the year, in addition to six special “Dancing with the Stars” theme cruises featuring the show’s professional dancers and celebrities. Currently scheduled to sail on all six theme cruises in 2014 are professional dancers Tristan MacManus and Kym Johnson and television personality Carson Kressley and actress Sabrina Bryan.

Six Theme Cruises present the chance to sail with dance pros and celebrities from the hit ABC show. The “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” 2014 theme cruises are: June 14 and June 21 aboard ms Zuiderdam, 7-day Alaska roundtrip from Vancouver, British Columbia; July 26 and Aug. 2 aboard Westerdam, 7-day Alaska roundtrip from Seattle, Wash.; and Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 aboard Westerdam, 7-day eastern Caribbean roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Each theme cruise features guest performances from the dance pros and celebrities who dazzle the audience with routines from the television series. Additional events on theme cruises include dance lessons with the ship’s professional dancers, a special fashion show featuring glamorous show costumes and a chance to meet the dance pros and celebrities, ask questions and take photos with them.

Beginning with cruises that depart on or after Nov. 26, 2013, every sailing on all 15 ships in the Holland America Line fleet including the theme cruises will feature an exclusive “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” program. Included are complimentary dance lessons with the ship’s dance professionals and a dance-off competition for participating guests to compete for a chance to represent their ship on the 2014 Champions Cruise on Dec. 6, 2014. There will be a total of 15 winners on the Champions Cruise. Competitions held on sailings departing on or after Nov. 26, 2013 and ending no later than Oct. 22, 2014 are eligible.

Following preliminary rounds on each cruise, finalists will be paired with a Holland America Line dance professional to perform one of the show’s routines and compete against their fellow guests center stage in the ship’s main show lounge. A judging panel—senior ship officers, shipboard professional dancers and other cruise staff—will score participants’ performances and combine those scores with audience appreciation scores for a total tally to determine the winning guest Cruise Champion for each cruise. Judges onboard the six theme cruises may also include some of the “Dancing with the Stars” dance pros or celebrities onboard.

Beginning Sept. 21, 2014, winners of the guest competitions with the highest scores from each of Holland America Line’s 15 ships will be notified they have won a free ocean view stateroom on the Dec. 6, 2014, Champions Cruise to compete for the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy and title of Holland America Line’s “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Champion.

Image Courtesy of Holland America Line

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Celebrity Cruises To Kick Off 10th Anniversary Of Galapagos Vacations

The sentiment expressed by nearly every guest who experiences Celebrity Cruises' Galapagos Islands vacations comes down to a few simple adjectives: unforgettable, transformative, magnificent. As a result, Celebrity Cruises has announced that it is curating a guest-driven commemorative book that will debut next year to celebrate the cruise line's 10 years in the Galapagos Islands.

Past Celebrity Xpedition guests are being invited to be part of this storytelling collective, by way of sharing photos and stories of their Celebrity Xpedition memories on Celebrity's Facebook page. Guests whose content is selected for inclusion in the book will receive a free copy.

"We are pleased to have been providing thousands of vacationers with once-in-a-lifetime holidays in one of the world's most compelling and biodiverse regions for 10 years," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Celebrity Cruises. "We also are proud of the ways our guests and crew have helped us make a difference in the communities and ecosystems of the region. This book is the first of many ways we will commemorate that, as we enter our 10th year in this extraordinary destination."

Celebrity Xpedition's official 10th anniversary sailing will take place in June 2014 and all guests on board for the sailing will receive a complimentary copy of the book. The celebration will continue on every sailing through December 2015.

The state-of-the art, 100-guest Celebrity Xpedition has evolved Celebrity Cruises' signature vacation experience to meet the needs of the modern explorer. While guests enjoy an all-inclusive experience with hassle-free travel logistics—including privately chartered luxury air transfers and creature comforts such as gourmet cuisine, room service, in-suite dining, complimentary cocktails, plush bathrobes, and more—Celebrity's Galapagos vacations are focused on exploring unmatched natural wonders through naturalist-led experiences, including lectures and two tours and excursions daily. Celebrity's commitment to supporting and empowering the communities of the Galapagos Islands extends to a variety of initiatives, including a medical clinic, a fishing cooperative, agricultural cooperatives, and a partnership with the Galapagos Conservancy.

Image Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wii Have More Fun With Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line and Nintendo of America are expanding their partnership to offer the popular Wii U™ video game systems and Wii U games fleet wide. As part of the partnership expansion, the line will feature Nintendo’s newest video game console in all ships’ atriums and youth and teen centers. In addition, the new HD Wii U systems will be featured at various competitions and events on board each ship. Norwegian first partnered with Nintendo in March 2007, when Wii™ systems were introduced fleet wide. Now, with the introduction of Wii U, the successor to Wii, the gaming experience is being elevated to new levels. The interactive Wii U gaming system complements Norwegian’s Freestyle Cruising® by offering gaming opportunities to guests of all ages.

The new consoles give guests the chance to experience a variety of new action, adventure, party, racing, strategy, puzzle and sports games. Upcoming game rollouts will include The Legend of Zelda™: The Wind Waker HD, a high-definition re-release of one of the greatest Nintendo games of all time; Super Mario™ 3D World, the first multiplayer 3D Mario game for Wii U; New Super Luigi U™, starring Mario’s green-clad brother; Pikmin™ 3, which asks players to command an army of colorful creatures; and The Wonderful 101™, which puts players in control of a band of superheroes fighting off an alien invasion. Wii U delivers great video game experiences with exclusive Nintendo characters in HD. Wii U also features the GamePad controller, which removes the traditional barriers between players, their favorite games and the television by giving one player a second touch screen, while other players use traditional controllers. That lets different players experience the same game in different ways. It’s perfect for the kinds of multiplayer game-playing parties found on board cruise ships.

“The Wii consoles have always been extremely popular among our guests,” said Richard Ambrose, Norwegian Cruise Line’s vice president of entertainment. “The new Wii U systems are guaranteed to take gaming on board to the next level, and will surely be a hit.”

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brunch At Sea Aboard Carnival Sunshine

Sea days are a good time to sleep in and then enjoy a leisurely brunch. Aboard Carnival Sunshine we decided to do just that.

Along with the usual breakfast items you’d expect, such as steak and eggs, omelets, eggs benedict with either ham or salmon, pancakes, toast, croissants, coffee, and juice, there are also early morning starters such as fruit and cottage cheese, and midday-style selections like Caesar salad, mac and cheese, flaming tomato soup, pappardelle “Princie di Napoli” pasta, grilled salmon filet, hen ala diavola—chicken grilled with lemon and hot pepper, and a “hey” pork chop—a double cut pork chop topped with carmelized onion, and gorgonzola cream with sides of fries and blistered beans in BBQ sauce. A favorite with kids is the funnest French Toast, crusted with either Honey Nut Cheerios, Raisin Bran, or Frosted Flakes.

Ending with desserts—if you still have room—choices include ice cream, carmelized cheesecake, a double chocolate brownie, or banana cream pie just like grandma used to make.

The Bloody Mary Bar offers the traditional drink with vodka, or the bartender will mix up your own creation with rum, gin, or tequila—a “Bloody Maria.”

Brunch—a great way to start the day on Carnival Sunshine or her fleetmates—served from 8:30am until 1pm on sea days.

Images ©

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Carnival Sunshine Is So Entertaining

Studio VIP
With its launch this year, Carnival Sunshine introduced two brand new production shows—Epic Rock and Studio VIP, along with two other high-tech “Playlist Productions” shows—Latin Nights and Motor City, both of which debuted on Carnival Breeze last year.

In place of traditional stage scenery, Carnival’s “Playlist Productions” revues utilize towering LED screens that blend video, photographs, and special effects with the live on stage action of the singers and dancers to deliver engaging performances as the artists interact with automated movements of the screens, stage, lifts and scenic elements.

My personal favorite show is Motor City, which celebrates the R&B Motown sound of the 1960s and ’70s, with classic hits from Martha and the Vandellas, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and The Supremes to the more contemporary Stevie Wonder, Jackson Five, Lionel Richie, and the Commodores. The performers on the stage drew gasps from the audience when they perfectly synchronized their movements with those of the original artists projected on the screens behind them.

Hint: The shows are wildly popular so arrive early to get a seat. You won’t be sorry.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, November 22, 2013

Carnival Sunshine Dining Options

JiJi Asian Restaurant
A cruise wouldn’t be a cruise without food and Carnival Sunshine has no shortage of dining options, both complimentary and for nominal additional charges.

Two main dining rooms serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner with either set seating times or the increasingly popular open seating option. On sea days a morning brunch is served in the dining room at no additional cost.

Of course there’s the Lido Marketplace buffet that is nearly always open—and surprisingly uncrowded with its new setup of island stations that replace the usual lengthy buffet lines. Available 24-hours is hand-tossed pizza at Pizzeria del Capitano and, naturally, room service.

On the specialty restaurant front, traditionalists will find their favorite Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse on board for a leisurely upscale meal ideal for celebrating a special occasion. Reservations are required and the charge is $35 per person. Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, a new specialty option that has been introduced on Carnival Sunshine, features cuisine from the Far East with a $12 per person charge for adults, and $5 for children 11 and under. Selections at lunch include complimentary custom-made noodle dishes with a choice of noodles, vegetables, spices, and meats. Cucina del Capitano is the family-style Italian restaurant serving classic Italian dishes and new favorites for a nominal $12 per person charge at dinner. At lunch-time the restaurant is a complimentary pasta bar. In the evening Bonsai Sushi is a full-service sushi restaurant offering sushi, sashimi, rolls and more at al la carte pricing.

Taste Bar
Casual and complimentary poolside choices include BlueIguana Cantina where tacos and burritos can be personalized at a salsa and toppings bar and Guy’s Burger Joint for fresh-off-the-grill burgers, hand-cut fries, and innovative toppings. Aft in the SportSquare recreation area is Sea Dogs, a hot dog-shaped cart that serves up complimentary franks and toppings.

Still hungry? In the Ocean Plaza promenade you’ll find JavaBlue Café where cappuccinos, lattes, espressos, as well as coffees made with liqueurs, can be accompanied by pastries and sweet treats at a la carte pricing. Right next to JavaBlue is the Shake Spot that features individually priced classic milkshakes and floats, as well as adult versions spiked with bourbon, rum, and various liqueurs.

Finally, in Ocean Plaza The Taste Bar serves up a continental breakfast and offers complimentary sample tastings inspired by Carnival Sunshine’s dining venues, along with a signature cocktail tied to each eatery’s theme that are available for purchase.

The only thing missing is the Red Frog Pub’s “pub grub”… sadly, there’s no galley nearby.

Images ©

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fun & Games Aboard Carnival Sunshine

Cruise Director Jaime and her energetic staff are moving at warp speed to ensure that everyone has a good time here aboard Carnival Sunshine.

For competitive passengers, there are trivia contests on topics ranging from television shows and name-that-tune music to sports and mixed bag subjects. Bingo is another popular option—yesterday during a session in which the game was to fill the B and O lines on the cards, the winner shouted out, “I have BO!” and won $500.

Gaming of a more individual nature is naturally found in the casino and right next door is The Warehouse, an arcade with games to entice the entire family to play together.

Family fun is also found outdoors where miniature golf, basketball, pool, foosball, corn hole, shuffleboard, and a variety of other games are found in the SportSquare—there’s even a Twister game permanently painted on the deck. High above is the challenging ropes course and aft is the huge Water Works park with three water slides—including one that extends over the side of the ship—for splashtastic excitement.

Excitement of another sort is on stage in the main show lounge when it’s time to play Hasbro The Game Show, which places passengers in the middle of the action to play six life-size versions of Hasbro games and compete to win prizes. The competition to be selected as a player is as fierce as the games themselves.

Watching sports and keeping up with favorite teams is also a cinch aboard Carnival Sunshine in the EA Sports Bar—just keep your fingers crossed that the ship’s satellite system includes the channel you want to watch. If not, the scores are displayed on digital signage.

Image ©

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A More Spacious Carnival Sunshine

With the addition of a partial deck and the expansion of two more, Carnival Sunshine contains all the Fun Ship 2.0 innovations that have been added to other ships in the fleet as well as a few unique areas such as the Havana Bar and JiJi Asian Restaurant. More space and an increased passenger capacity of 14% meant that Carnival Cruise Lines’ designers made passenger flow throughout the ship a top consideration to lessen the chance of what could have potentially been overcrowding and bottlenecks. Some areas are even designed for double duty in the reconfigured layout of public spaces. For instance, seating is available in the Havana Bar when tables fill up in the adjacent casual buffet restaurant, the new Ocean Plaza takes some of the stress off the Atrium as a gathering place, and the Library Bar is a quiet spot for reading and enjoying a cocktail or glass of wine.

Planning for the increase in passenger capacity aboard Carnival Sunshine resulted in other “increases”—including 14% more deck chairs than previously found on the ship, as well as a 19% increase in dining capacity and 32% more bar seats. In the fitness center, 58% more equipment is available for passengers’ healthier lifestyles. More than 700,000 children sail on Carnival ships per year and they weren’t overlooked during the Carnival Sunshine transformation. Their facilities are 25% larger than before.

For a ship that once was the world’s largest, Carnival Sunshine feels surprisingly intimate with its fresh new public rooms and sunny atmosphere.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

At Home Aboard Carnival Sunshine

Balcony Stateroom 8275
When Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Sunshine received a $155 million transformation earlier this year no spot on the ship (formerly the Carnival Destiny) went untouched.

While the public areas inside and out were literally gutted and rebuilt, the accommodations also received attention in the form of new soft goods and art with a tropical flavor. In addition, 182 new staterooms were added to bring the total to 1,503 in various configurations to satisfy the needs—and budgets—of 3,006 passengers in double occupancy (or 3,758 when every berth is occupied).

As the ship was originally launched in 1996, the cabinetry in our balcony stateroom 8275 is a bit different than the furnishings in similar accommodations on Carnival’s newer ships, but the room is no less spacious and comfortable. Differences we noticed include the lack of a mini-fridge, no shaving mirror in the bathroom, and, oddly, no nightstands. Those things aside, we found the storage abundant with two closets for hanging garments and plenty of drawers and shelving units for storing folded clothing. Open shelves provide space for all the miscellaneous items we pack for a cruise vacation—cameras and so on. Lighting in both the cabin and bathroom is actually superior to what we are accustomed to on newer ships.

Speaking of bathrooms, the shower is huge—it actually takes up nearly half the bathroom. Although the remaining floor space is a bit tight, once again there is plenty of storage for toiletries on the glass shelves found on both sides of the mirror. Naturally there is a hairdryer in a drawer next to the desk/vanity table and bathrobes for our use during the cruise are hanging in the closet.

We’ve settled in nicely here aboard Carnival Sunshine for her maiden cruise from New Orleans and are looking forward to our 6-night Western Caribbean sailing that includes port calls in Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

Images ©

Monday, November 18, 2013

Carnival Cruise Lines’ “Battle of the High School Marching Bands” Contest Winner Is...

The search has ended for the Most Spirited High School band in Greater New Orleans! The Pride of Destrehan Marching Band was named the grand prize winner in the “Battle of the High School Marching Bands” following a month-long competition sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines and New Orleans’ WDSU-TV that included nearly two dozen local bands and more than 11,000 votes cast by friends, family and the community.

Carnival Cruise Lines and WDSU-TV representatives surprised the marching band students, faculty and the administration at Destrehan High School in Destrehan, LA, to share the great news. Jim Berra, Carnival’s chief marketing officer, presented the school with a giant check for $10,000 to support its music program and invited the band to perform as part of the welcoming festivities aboard Carnival Sunshine, the line’s latest ship to call the Big Easy home.

“As we prepare to bring our newest ship to New Orleans this month, we wanted to do something truly special for the community that would benefit young people and celebrate the spirit of this great city and its rich music history,” said Berra. “We were truly impressed by the tremendous show of talent from all of the participating bands and congratulate the Pride of Destrehan Marching Band on their big win. We look forward to welcoming the band members aboard Carnival Sunshine on November 17 for what we’re sure will be an unforgettable performance.”

Celebrating local spirit and skill, area schools were asked to record a three-minute video of their band performing their school fight song. Nearly two dozen schools submitted over the course of the three-week entry period, and five finalists were selected by Carnival Cruise Lines and WDSU-TV based on music ability, style and sound. From Oct 21 through Nov 1, more than 11,000 votes were cast online for the five finalists, resulting in Destrehan’s win. Other finalists included Bonnabel Magnet Academy, Miller-McCoy Academy, Riverside Academy, and Salmen High School. Carnival awarded each school a $1,000 cash prize for their music program.

Carnival Sunshine made her North American debut yesterday in her new homeport of New Orleans and was named by Lin Arison—wife of the late Ted Arison, founder of Carnival Cruise Lines. Today the 3,006-passenger “Fun Ship” will sail on its inaugural voyage from New Orleans—a 6-day cruise that kicks off a winter schedule of cruises to destinations throughout The Bahamas and Western Caribbean. Earlier this year, the ship underwent an unprecedented 75-day, $155 million transformation, incorporating all of the line’s “Fun Ship 2.0” dining, bar and entertainment features, as well as a variety of exciting innovations unique to the vessel and 182 new staterooms. For highlights of Carnival Sunshine’s features, follow Cruise Diva's blog as we sail from New Orleans this week.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Silversea Expands Complimentary Media Options for Personal Mobile Devices

It seems that no one leaves home without at least one personal mobile device these days and Silversea Cruises is making them more useful on cruises. In another cruise industry first, the ultra-luxury line has added newspapers and lifestyle magazines to its complimentary onboard digital service that provides streaming movies and live television news broadcasts to guests' mobile devices aboard Silver Cloud and the recently launched Silver Galapagos.

The additional media options can be accessed on any smartphone or tablet, giving guests access to hundreds of daily newspapers and lifestyle magazines from 100 countries and in 56 languages. Publications are refreshed every night so that guests receive the most up-to-date issues while traveling at sea.

"Thanks to technology from NewspaperDirect and other strategic partners, our guests are now able to enjoy their favorite newspapers and magazines on their personal mobile devices while sailing aboard Silver Cloud and Silver Galapagos," said Jason Cohn, Silversea's director of IT infrastructure.

The digital service will also be available on Silver Shadow by the end of November, to be followed by Silver Wind and Silver Whisper later in the year.

Silver Galapagos Image Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Norwegian & Costa Ships Reach Construction Milestones

Norwegian Getaway, under construction at MEYER WERFT shipbuilders in Papenburg, Germany, departed the yard late Thursday night for her approximately 24-hour long conveyance along the Ems River. Norwegian Getaway’s river conveyance marks another key milestone in the ship’s highly anticipated delivery.

Sailing backwards, Norwegian Getaway got underway at approximately 10pm (local time in Germany), and made a narrow passage through the ship yard’s locks, with only 1.6 meters clearance separating the ship from the “bumpers” that were specially installed along the starboard side of the locks. This very tedious maneuver took approximately 1.5 hours at a maximum speed of only 0.2 knots. The precise navigation was led by a team of two located on the bridge, with one navigation officer in charge of overseeing the bow maneuvers and the other overseeing the movement of the stern. It was extremely important that not too much force was placed on the bumpers, which can only support a light touch by the ship, which measures 1063 feet long and 130 feet wide; therefore, minimum speed and minimum pressure on the bumpers was essential.

After passing through the locks, Norwegian Getaway continued along the river, stern first. Due to the strong propulsion in the aft section of the vessel, traveling stern first helps with maneuverability which is a key component when navigating the vessel through such narrow passages. Before reaching her final destination in Eemshaven, Germany at 5pm (local time in Germany) Friday, heading toward the North Sea, Norwegian Getaway passed through additional narrow passages including the locks in Papenburg, which allow only 1.5 meter clearance on either side; Weener Bridge in Weener; Jann-Berghaus Bridge in Leer; and Ems-Barrier in Gandersum.

Meanwhile in Italy, Costa Cruises' future flagship, the US$739 million Costa Diadema, was floated out Friday during a technical launch ceremony at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy. The 132,500-ton, 3,724-passenger ship is scheduled for delivery Oct. 30, 2014.

Costa Diadema's technical launch ceremony followed a long-established seafaring tradition, beginning with the welding of a coin at the base of what was once the mainmast, a custom thought to bring good luck to the ship. The ship’s madrina or godmother, Franca Grasso, a member of CostaClub chosen from among more than 12,000 guests who sailed on Costa ships in the Mediterranean during October and November 2013, cut the ribbon to break a bottle of champagne against the bow of the ship. The dry-dock basin was filled with water, and the ship was floated for the first time.

Among many innovations on Costa Diadema will be food and wine venues Vinoteca, Birreria (beer house), Japanese Teppanyaki, Piazza Pizza and Gelateria. New entertainment offerings include Country Rock Club, featuring "classic rock" music, and the Star Laser room, offering interactive laser games including Laser Maze. Portobello Market Piazza is an 11,840-square-foot area with designer stores and retail outlets.

In winter 2014-15 Costa Diadema will be deployed on a seven-night itinerary departing Savona and calling at Marseille, France; Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Civitavecchia (Rome) and La Spezia (Florence), Italy.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Friday, November 15, 2013

Royal Caribbean Announces Allure of the Seas Will Undergo Repairs in February 2014

Royal Caribbean International has announced that a mechanical issue has made it necessary to perform unscheduled repairs to Allure of the Seas. The repairs will take place at Grand Bahama Shipyard, in Freeport, Bahamas, the week of Feb 24, 2014. As a result, it will be necessary to cancel the Feb 23, 2014, sailing of Allure of the Seas.

"We sincerely regret that we will be unable to deliver the Royal Caribbean cruise vacation that our guests were looking forward to," said Adam Goldstein, president and chief executive officer, Royal Caribbean International. "We understand that our guests' vacation time is very precious and can assure you that we did not take this decision lightly. But it was very important to us that we bring Allure back up to speed so that she could continue to deliver the amazing cruise vacations our guests expect."

Allure of the Seas has been experiencing unanticipated bearing wear in one of its three propulsion motors. All three motors are fully operational, and there is no impact on the maneuverability of the ship or on the safety of guests and crew. However, since the rate of bearing wear is directly related to ship speed, the ship's top speed has been limited. This has reduced the rate of bearing wear, and will ensure that all three propulsion motors are fully available for maneuvering and emergencies until repairs can be completed.

"While Allure could have continued to sail at a reduced rate of speed, we felt it was important to fix the problem as soon as possible," said William D. Baumgartner, senior vice president of Marine Operations, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "We explored numerous repair options. Unfortunately, there was no satisfactory solution that did not involve taking the ship temporarily out of service."

The company said guests currently booked on the Feb 23, 2014, sailing of Allure of the Seas will receive a full, 100 percent refund, or the option to sail on select itineraries at the same rate. Additionally, until the repairs can be made, it will be necessary to make minor adjustments to Allure of the Seas' eastern Caribbean itineraries. Allure of the Seas will now call on Nassau, Bahamas, from 7:00am to 1:00pm and on Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, from 11:00am to 5:00pm. There is no need to modify Allure of the Seas' western Caribbean itineraries.

So where will the displaced Allure of the Seas passengers go in February? Because a full refund has been offered to them, other cruise lines are standing by and ready to welcome them aboard. Norwegian Cruise Line says they would love to support the booked passengers whose cruise has been cancelled and the line says they might even be able to get a better cabin for the same or less money. Their newest ship, Norwegian Getaway sails from Miami doing an eastern Caribbean itinerary on Feb 22nd. Additionally, award-winning Norwegian Epic is sailing a western Caribbean itinerary. Travel agents can also offer "perks" because Norwegian's Cruise Event sale is on.

Bobby Rydell Gets Cooking on The Malt Shop Memories Cruise

As promised last week, I'm sharing the recipe from Bobby Rydell's cooking demonstration aboard Holland America Line's Eurodam during The Malt Shop Memories Cruise. I actually got his permission to do so when Mel and I happened to meet him and his wife Linda at the aft pool bar one evening.

It was fun to sit and chat casually with one of my teen idols and I had one burning question: "Do you really cook?" He confessed that the following recipe is actually Linda's. On a side note, Mel is known for aways having his camera on hand. That night he didn't carry it with him so I didn't get a photo with Bobby, but he graciously autographed my Malt Shop Memories program.

Bobby Rydell's
Dijon Garlic Pork Chope

  • 6 Boneless Pork Chops (Regular or Country Style)
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Dried Minced Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Foil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Rub the pork chops with Dijon mustard until they are completely covered. Encrust one side with the dried minced garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Coat a roasting pan with a minimum amount of olive oil, place the chops encrusted side up in the pan and cover with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Serve with asparagus, au gratin potatoes, and apple sauce.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Malt Shop Memories Cruise, See You Next Year

It’s only been a few days since the last thing we saw on board was the elevator carpet as we disembarked Holland America Line’s Eurodam and left this year’s Malt Shop Memories Cruise with songs in our hearts and plans to return next year. As our master of ceremonies Jerry Blavat said before the last show the previous night, he would like the cruise to go on forever. We make new friends year to year and we agree with Blavat that you never grow old as long as you love rock and roll.

Little Anthony & The Imperials closed our cruise with a show that was certainly one worth remembering. We first saw them perform in person on the maiden Malt Shop Memories Cruise and despite the retirement of Clarence Collins—a founder of The Imperials—they still have that wonderful groove and sound we can’t get enough of. To the strains of All By Myself, Little Anthony took the stage alone and wowed the audience with his high notes and distinctive clear voice. He became emotional when The Imperials joined him onstage and they began singing their hits—Tears On My Pillow; Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko Ko Bop; I'm On The Outside (Looking In); Goin' Out Of My Head; Take Me Back; and Hurt So Bad, which Little Anthony revealed is his favorite. A standard written for the group, he also said their recording of Hurt So Bad sold over four million copies and he feels it was the ticket for their 2009 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The group also displayed their diversity by singing I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Do You Think I’m Sexy, Lucille, and the more contemporary Every Breath You Take. They simply took our breath away and we were sad when the show ended and it was time to pack for home.

It has been a privilege to sail with and enjoy so many artists. Happily, as long as they can perform, classic rock and roll will never fade away.

The 2014 Malt Shop Memories Cruise features the return of Dion to the line-up of stars, along with The Temptations, Brenda Lee, Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone, Jan & Dean's Beach Party starring Dean Torrence, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Ricky Nelson Remembered with Matthew & Gunnar Nelson, and much, much more. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Norwegian Getaway Floats Out From Building Dock

While I was away at sea last week on The Malt Shop Memories Cruise (and there will be more about that coming up this week) other events took place in the cruise industry, such as the float out of Norwegian Getaway at MEYER WERFT’s covered building dock II on Saturday, Nov 2nd in Papenburg, Germany. The 146,600-ton ship has been under construction since November 2012 when the ship’s keel was laid. Beginning at approximately 3:30 pm local time, the massive 4,000 passenger ship with her signature hull artwork designed by Miami artist David “LEBO” Le Batard, which features a whimsical mermaid holding the sun above the waves, departed building dock II bow first. Norwegian Getaway, sister ship to Norwegian Breakaway, has an overall length of 324 meters, and is 39.70 meters wide. The ship’s float out represents a major milestone in the vessel’s construction as it denotes that the ship has now moved into the final phase of construction with delivery taking place on Jan 10, 2014.

“Hats off once again to the team at MEYER WERFT for building an absolutely spectacular vessel in record time,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “We are now in the home stretch and looking forward to the launch of Miami’s ultimate ship.”

“This new vessel, built in merely 12 months, is one of the largest and most technologically advanced ships in the world,” said Bernard Meyer, Managing Partner of MEYER WERFT. “We are thrilled to see her leaving the building dock and getting ready for her sea trials.”

Following the float out, which is chronicled in the video below courtesy of shipbuilder MEYER WERFT, tests were carried out in the harbor and the ship was berthed alongside the yard's outfitting pier. Last week, the first crew members moved into their staterooms on board, and began to familiarize themselves with the ship, readying her for guests. Norwegian Getaway's conveyance down the river Ems towards the North Sea, where she will prove her seaworthiness, is scheduled for mid-November (weather permitting).

Following inaugural events in Europe, New York, and Miami, Norwegian Getaway will sail 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruises departing every Saturday from Miami beginning on Feb 8, 2014. Additional information on Norwegian Getaway can be found at

Image Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Malt Shop Memories Cruise Reaches Nassau

Before arriving at our final port of Nassau, The Malt Shop Memories Cruise had a lot on tap—Sports Trivia, a presentation about the cars of yesteryear, and an interview session with ‘The Ladies of Rock and Roll’ featuring Lesley Gore and The Crystals. Before that got underway, Mel got a shot of the ladies in the ‘Green Room’ staging area in Eurodam’s Crow’s Nest (at right).

While they were discussing the music of yesterday and today, our host and extraordinary Malt Shop Cruise Director, Dane Butcher asked the ladies what they thought of current popular music. DeeDee, the remaining member of the original Crystals, said today’s music has no recognizable ‘signature’ melody such as the songs we all remember from the Malt Shop era. Everyone agreed.

That signature was obvious when we made our way later to the Lido Deck Pool Party where The Happenings (below) were performing—and the best seats for the show were in the hot tubs. Who wouldn’t recognize the opening notes of Go Away Little Girl, which was a hit for the group written by Carole King, and the refrain I Love You More Today Than Yesterday?

We’ll all still love the music tomorrow and be singing along for (hopefully) many years to come at home and on future Malt Shop Memories Cruises.

Stay tuned, there is another show tonight starring Little Anthony & The Imperials and more stories to share in the days to come.

Images ©

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Malt Shop Memories Cruise Spends A Day At Sea

A day at sea is usually a good time to sleep in, but had we done so we’d have missed Music Trivia, ballroom dance lessons with Jay Siegel, a twist party on deck, and a Q&A session with the gracious Petula Clark, who revealed that she began her career in the movies in 1944 as a child actor. She didn’t sing with her, but shared the same stages in live shows with another icon, Julie Andrews, before Ms. Clark became a part of the ‘British invasion’ with her hit Downtown. Mel and I had the opportunity to chat with her and found we have something in common—our sons are both golfers.

Prom Night, the formal evening on The Malt Shop Memories Cruise, began with shows in the Vista Lounge. First on the stage was Lesley Gore who charmed the audience with a bit of her history—she started out at age 16 with It’s My Party, which became a big hit. Moving forward, her producer—the great Quincy Jones—brought her a follow-up, It’s Judy’s Turn To Cry. At the time Ms. Gore felt was a bit mean spirited. However, she’s grown proud to have the ‘bitchiest’ song of the 60s. She doesn’t like to call her music ‘oldies’—she prefers the term ‘classic hits.’ Naturally, she sang both of those as well as That’s The Way Boys Are; Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows; Baby I Know; California Nights; and her favorite, You Don’t Own Me.

Next up was the incomparable Bobby Rydell who took the stage with the upbeat Wild One and his last million selling record, Forget Him. His career also included the movie “Bye Bye Birdie” in which he starred as Ann Margret’s boyfriend, Hugo Peabody. As he sang the title song and others from the movie score a montage of scenes from the film took us back to a simpler time. Performing That’s Why The Lady Is A Tramp, as well as Mack the Knife, Dream Lover, and Beyond The Sea as a tribute to his good friend Bobby Darin, Rydell demonstrated that he’s truly a showman in the spirit of the great Frank Sinatra. Here’s a bit of trivia… did you realize the high school in the movie “Grease”—Rydell High—was named for Bobby?

The second show opened with The Crystals, one of the hottest of the ‘girl groups’—who haven’t slowed down and are still recording. They led off with Da Doo Run Run and followed up with more of the hits we all remember—And Then He Kissed Me, He’s Sure The Boy I Love, and their number one hit He’s A Rebel. Their newest album will include Rescue Me, which brought the audience to their feet.

Also bringing everyone out of their chairs was The Four Tops. Like The Crystals, today’s group only includes one original member, but who cares when they perform such memorable hits as 1964’s Baby I Need Your Loving and dedicate their show to their fallen brother Tops. They had us dancing in the aisles to My Girl, Ain’t No Woman Like The One I Got, Reach Out And I’ll Be There, Standing In The Shadows of Love, and of course I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch). It’s not just Malt Shop Memories Cruise guests on board who enjoyed the show—even Petula Clark was in the audience and one of The Four Tops sang out a bit of I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love in her honor.

What a day! And it wasn’t over until the King and Queen were crowned at the prom poolside!

Images ©

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Malt Shop Memories Cruise Accessible Stars

Linda with Gary Lewis
In addition to the shows, the music, and the camaraderie of our fellow passengers, one of the key aspects of The Malt Shop Memories Cruise is meeting the stars who are so giving of their time.

Not only are there formal interview sessions with the key artists that are live and replayed on television onboard, but the stars also host cocktails, a wine tasting session, and even a renewal of vows ceremony will be held with Little Anthony doing the honors.

While we are out and about on Eurodam, the music-makers are as well and, as you can see here, they are very approachable to sign autographs and pose for snapshots. We’ve ridden in an elevator with Chris Montez and just passed one of the Imperials at the pool.

We’re making memories to take home and share with friends and family. These shots will definitely be added to the digital photo frame in our den.

Mel & Gary U.S. Bonds
Linda with Elvis Tribute Artists
Images ©

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Malt Shop Memories Cruise Hits The Beach

Earlier in the week we missed our call at Half Moon Cay due to weather. That was the bad news. The good news is that Eurodam was able to arrive in St. Martin earlier than scheduled. Once off the ship Malt Shop Memories Cruisers scattered to town and the beaches for a fun—and long—day ashore.

Back on board, the main showlounge took on a West Coast flavor with Chris Montez, who has appeared with the Beach Boys, performing the most popular hit of his idol Richie Valens—La Bamba—as well as Let’s Go Little Darlin’, Call Me, and other standards from There Will Never Be Another You and The More I See You to You Look wonderful Tonight.

Looking wonderful was the next artist all the way from Great Britain, Petula Clark. Everyone remembered and sang along with her hits—I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love, I know A Place, Don’t Sleep in the Subway, and Downtown. In addition, Ms. Clark has had a diverse career including the West End stage in London where she performed as Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” and Hollywood where she appeared on the silver screen as Finian’s daughter in “Finian’s Rainbow” with Fred Astaire playing the title role and she sang some of the numbers from those performances. Sitting at the piano, she accompanied herself on a soulful rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine and played tribute to Elvis with Love Me Tender.

After the show we headed for the Lido Deck where Holland America’s chefs had been busy preparing quite a spread for our Back to the Beach BBQ. We feasted on shrimp, Mahi Mahi, burgers, hot dogs, ribs, and all the trimmings before heading to the Ocean Bar for a tribute to Buddy Holly, followed by a Luau Under The Stars presented by the Elvis Tribute Artists.

Such a full and fun day in port and at sea on The Malt Shop Memories Cruise… and we plan to keep it going again tomorrow.

Image ©

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Malt Shop Memories Cruise Rocks at Sea

Things really got rocking with the Malt Memories Cruise signature tee-shirt party. Before sailing everyone received a shirt with their bon voyage package to wear at the pool party where the drinks are free and the music and dancing are the hottest two hours afloat.

Then we were treated to two Q&A sessions with Shirley Alston Reeves and Bill Medley, during which they shared a little insight into what it was like on the road back in the early days of rock ‘n roll, as well as what they are up to today. For instance, Shirley related that while on tour with Dick Clark, he always said the Shirelles were the most punctual act on the bill. One night the zipper broke on one singer’s dress and since they always dressed alike on stage they all had to change. That took a while and when their intro music began playing and they were late making their entrance, Dick Clark thought they were playing a joke on him.

Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers now appears often at Branson after being invited to perform there by Paul Revere and The Raiders when his son was singing lead for the group. Medley also revealed that he lost his voice at one point and had surgery to remove nodules on his vocal chords. Told he’d never sing again, he was able to regain his voice after daily vocal lessons with his high school choir teacher. Interestingly, he quit school at 16 and now the school’s auditorium is named for him. When he spoke of his long-time singing partner, Bobby Hatfield, who died ten years ago, he became quite emotional. Medley dedicates his shows to his missing Righteous Brother.

By the time we entered the showlounge for performances by those two artists we felt like we had a connection with them. And then Shirley Reeves, the last remaining Shirelle, took the stage with her current singing partners right on time and blew us away with Going To The Chapel, Mama Said, Baby It’s You, Tonight’s The Night (which she wrote), Foolish Little Girl, and Everybody Loves A Lover. Shirley nearly brought the house down with the Shirelles’ number one hit, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (written by Carole King). That was followed up by their greatest hit, Soldier Boy. Shirley and the group’s interaction with the audience on those two numbers got everyone singing along.

Their set concluded with a medley of rock ‘n roll hits—very appropriate as the next star to take the stage was Bill Medley, who began with Unchained Melody, which became a hit all over again when it was featured in the movie “Ghost.” Another of his songs that gained almost cult status was I’ve Had the Time of My Life, which he recorded with Jennifer Warnes for the movie “Dirty Dancing.” On stage aboard Eurodam Bill Medley sang it with his lovely and talented daughter McKenna. He continued with You’re My Soul and Inspiration and a new song that will be on an album to be released next year—This Will Be The Last Time—emotional and powerful, it will be a must-have for his fans. After a medley of his favorite rock ‘n Roll hits, he closed his show with You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling to a standing ovation.

The night was young so we put on our poodle skirts and bobby sox before heading to the pool for the Sock Hop Dance Party with our Malt Shop friends, both old and new. As Bill Medley said earlier,”Life is about friends and family—everything else you can get at WalMart.”

Image ©

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Malt Shop Memories Cruise Rocks at Sea

Despite the 50 knot winds that prevented us from tendering ashore at Holland America Line’s private island, it was a day of fun and activities for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise aboard Eurodam.

One of the most popular activities was Bobby Rydell’s cooking class (pictured here). After explaining why he had to miss last year’s cruise (he’d had a double organ transplant—liver and kidney—as well as a double heart bypass), Bobby demonstrated how to prepare Dijon Garlic Pork Chops to a standing room only crowd. The dish sounds yummy and I’ll share his recipe later.

For now, let’s move on to a full evening of music. Our show in the main showlounge was the incomparable Neil Sedaka, who’s been a creator and innovator in show business for sixty years. He began performing with The Tokens and went on to make other artists stars. Those who’ve recorded his songs are too numerous to list, but among the notable—and perhaps surprising—they include Abba, Johnny Mathis, Patsy Cline, Elton John, Clay Aiken, Rosemary Clooney, Carole King, Neil Diamond, Elvis, and many others. As he took the stage, Neil received a standing ovation, just one of many during his show as he sang the songs we know him for, such as Happy Birthday Sweet 16, Calendar Girl, and Living Right Next Door To An Angel, as well as some he wrote for others. For instance, Sedaka put Fort Lauderdale on the map with his song Where The Boys Are, performed by Connie Francis in the movie of the same name.

Sedaka went on to explain that he studied to be a concert pianist and his parents weren’t too happy with his detour to rock and roll. However, they were pleased when 50 million copies of his records sold from 1958 to 1963, at which time he stopped recoding when the British music “invasion” landed. Happily, he picked up right where he left off ten years later and even rewrote the words to some of his songs for children—for instance Where The Toys Are. Near the end of his show he brought an old friend on stage for a duet—Jay Siegel who he got together with in high school to sing doo wop and form the group The Tokens (also performing here on the Malt Shop Memories Cruise). Truly one of the stars who makes up feel young again, Sedaka closed his show with a slow version of Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. It was hard to leave the showlounge after an incredible performance like his.

With the night still young we made our way to the Jungle Room for the Elvis Comeback Special, featuring four talented Elvis Tribute Artists and then completed our musical evening with A Night At B.B. King’s Club, a Holland America staple.

As Neil Sedaka pointed out, our music reflects a happy, carefree time and we went to sleep thinking happy, carefree thoughts and dreaming of more music and good times to come here at sea.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Getting Underway: The Malt Shop Memories Cruise

Gary Lewis
Here on board Holland America Line’s Eurodam we’re getting into the groove of the music we grew up listening and dancing to.

To open the Malt Shop Memories Cruise with a bang, Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon—who’s been making music since 1959—was the first artist on the main stage in the show lounge. He took us on a musical tour, starting with a song he wrote with his mother—Tallahassee Lassie—and continued with another southern favorite Way Down Yonder in New Orleans. Then we traveled in time and up north to Palisades Park.

In an unusual move, and in order to better interact with (and see) the audience, Cannon kept the house lights on. We were dancing in the aisles to Shake Rattle and Roll as Eurodam rocked and rolled in some rough seas. Freddy also paid tribute to other great artists like Joe Turner and Chuck Berry and received a standing ovation as he concluded his set with Roll Over Beethoven.

Next up Gary U.S. Bonds, whose lovely back-up singers are his wife and daughter. He also took us on a musical journey Down the Mississippi Down to New Orleans and relived the good old days with a ‘60s medley—Twist, Twist Senora, School is Out—and urged us to get up out of our chairs with the Dear Lady Twist. A special treat was his song Caught in a ‘50s Kind of Mood, which he wrote after visiting a club he hadn’t been to for twenty-five years. He never recorded that song, but he should have. Something I didn’t know is that Gary performed with Bruce Springsteen in the early ‘80s and Springsteen wrote This Little Girl Of Mine for him. After he urged us to Dance ‘Till Quarter of Three, he received the second standing ovation of the night and came back on stage for an encore—Chuck Berry’s Johnny Be Good and Hound Dog.

The Malt Shop Memories Cruise was off to a great start, but the evening was still young so we headed to the Queen’s Lounge for a set featuring Gary Lewis and the Playboys. You may know that Gary’s father is an icon of comedy, Jerry Lewis. A few songs into his set, Gary shared with us that he wrote a “novelty” song for his father—Everybody Loves A Clown. Naturally he performed it, in addition to some of his biggest hits—Count Me In, This Diamond Ring, I’m Sure Gonna Miss Her, and She’s Just My Style. That last one was written for him by Leon Russell. After appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show to sing This Diamond Ring, he got great pleasure in hitting number one on the charts—as well as bumping a Beatles hit from that spot. Multi-talented, Gary also plays the drums and took the sticks for Wooly Bully and another standing ovation.

Unlike a lot of today’s music, you can understand the words to the tunes we grew up with and most of us remember them. In fact, most of us were singing along and looking forward to more as the week progresses.

Monday, November 4, 2013

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

Boarding Eurodam is like coming home and, in this case, it’s going to be a blast from the past. We’re on board for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2013, hosted by Entertainment Cruise Productions. As alumni of previous Malt Shop Memories cruises, we not only had the opportunity to reserve the same stateroom that we had last year, we also received reserved seating for the nightly shows.

Once on board we quickly settled in and made ourselves comfortable in 7026, our deluxe oceanview stateroom with verandah. Although there aren’t many drawers for storing folded garments, each closet features drop-down shelves and we found plenty of room to stow everything, including in the deep drawers at the foot of the bed.

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

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

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

Our 7-night Caribbean cruise includes port calls at Tortola, Sr. Maarten, Nassau, and one of our favorite destinations—Holland American’s private island, Half Moon Cay. Oh yes, and we’ll have days at sea to simply relax and enjoy the shows and camaraderie of our Malt Shop peers. We hope you’ll follow along here in the Cruise Diva Blog as we enjoy the music of Neil Sedaka, Bobby Rydell, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Lesley Gore, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, and much more.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Get Onboard The Soul Train Cruise

While we're getting ready to embark on the Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2013, we got word that the Soul Train Cruise, West Coast Edition just returned from a fabulous maiden sailing, and by all accounts, it was an unbelievable time. From the amazing performances by The Ohio Players, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Whispers, Freddie Jackson, Regina Belle, Jennifer Holliday, Jeffrey Osborne, and the one and only Gladys Knight, to hanging out with Tony Cornelius, the Soul Train Dancers and all the other performers during the week, it was a stone cold gas. Just take a look at the experience in the video here.

If you're a fan and you missed it, you can still board the Soul Train Cruise 2014 when it sets sail for the Caribbean Feb. 23 through March 2 on one of Cruise Diva's favorites ships, Holland America Line's m/s Eurodam. Hang out with the Isley Brothers, Charlie Wilson, Roberta Flack, Jeffrey Osborne, The Commodores, Stephanie Mills and many more of the greatest performers in classic R&B.

Enjoy seven days of nonstop Love, Peace and Soul while you groove to more than 30 unforgettable live performances, and rub elbows with R&B royalty as you share in more than 25 interactive celebrity experiences. You'll also explore beautiful tropical destinations in St. Barths, St. Maarten, and the private island of Half Moon Cay and enjoy fantastic cruising, fine dining, deluxe accommodations, a beautiful spa, and world-class service from Holland America.

Hosted by Entertainment Cruise Productions, there's still room aboard the Soul Train Cruise 2014, but it's filling up fast. To get on board, check out

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Royal Caribbean Offers a Peek at The Line’s Float For Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Royal Caribbean International and Macy’s revealed the first look at the cruise line’s new float, which will set sail down the streets of New York as part of the 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® lineup. Dubbed “A World at Sea,” the float was designed by the creative artists of the Macy’s Parade Studio and will bring the cruise vacation experience to midtown Manhattan and beyond via three distinct postcard scenes which take place onboard a Royal Caribbean ship. The rotating scenes depict three “WOW” moments found only on Royal Caribbean, including the cruise line’s signature FlowRider surf simulator, thrilling zip line, and iconic rock climbing wall.

The float will also celebrate the November 2014 debut of Quantum of the Seas, the first ship in Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class, and will feature a special, surprise performance. Quantum of the Seas will sail out of the New York area to destinations in the Caribbean, including Royal Caribbean’s highly-rated, private beach getaways in Labadee, Haiti and CocoCay, The Bahamas.

Set your DVR if you plan on sleeping in late... the 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade airs nationwide on NBC-TV on Thursday, Nov 28, 2013 from 9 a.m. to noon in all time zones.

Friday, November 1, 2013

“This Is Your Captain Speaking”

You probably know him as Captain Steubing, the master of television’s iconic “Love Boat” or perhaps as Murray on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”—but from the theater to the silver screen, Gavin MacLeod’s career has included many more roles and accomplishments.

In addition to his other activities, MacLeod has served as an ambassador for Princess Cruises for nearly thirty years and it’s alwaya a delight for his fans to meet him on board their ships. Just this week he sailed on Royal Princess and appeared in the Princess Theater for a question-and-answer session with passengers before spending hours posing for photos with them at a book signing in the Piazza.

You can read all about his life’s voyage in “This Is Your Captain Speaking”—Gavin MacLeod’s new autobiography. I’ve just started reading it and it’s as charming and interesting as the author.