Monday, June 30, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines Launches “How To” Video Series

After your cruise vacation have you ever wondered, “How’d they do that?” Did you want to recreate some aspects of the experience at home? Me too. Recognizing that we’d like to keep the fun going, Carnival Cruise Lines has launched an engaging new “How To” video series to give us an inside look at the line’s signature recipes, fun-filled tips, special guests, and vacation-inspired ideas that extend some of the most popular elements of the Carnival vacation experience to computer screens, tablets, and mobile devices everywhere.

The first segment in the biweekly series is entitled “How to Make a Texas-Style Burger” and was inspired by Carnival’s close relationship with the Lone Star state and features Carnival partner and Food Network personality Guy Fieri. Guy shows viewers how to create a mouthwatering, fresh-off-the-grill Texas-Style Burger with its double-patty burger, roasted green chili salsa, and tortilla strips that can be special-ordered aboard the Texas-based Carnival Triumph, as well as Carnival Freedom, once that ship repositions to Galveston in February 2015.

Fieri mentions in the video that the burger prep begins by spreading his signature “Donkey” Sauce on the bun, but doesn’t say what’s in it. Cruise Diva has that covered with the “secret” recipe for it here:

“Donkey” Sauce
1 cup prepared mayonnaise
1/4 cup roasted garlic butter
1 teaspoon regular yellow mustard
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 pinches ground black pepper

Mix the mayonnaise, roasted garlic, mustard, Worcestershire, salt and pepper together until smooth. Yield: about 1 cup
Upcoming “How To” videos will demonstrate how to master a myriad of shipboard specialties, including recipes from the popular BlueIguana Cantina, cocktails from the vintage-themed cocktail “pharmacy” Alchemy Bar, and, of course, creating the line’s legendary towel animals.

You’ll find those and more on Carnival’s popular YouTube channel.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Beach Boys Join The Malt Shop Memories Cruise Entertainment Line-up

Every year we look forward to boarding Holland America Line’s beautiful ms Eurodam for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise and this year’s sailing will be even more exciting with a late addition to the entertainment line-up. We just learned that The Beach Boys are joining the cruise this November and we’ll have another night of “Fun, Fun, Fun” when they perform on our last night of the rocking’ voyage as we sail from Key West back to Fort Lauderdale.

“We are very excited to be back on the Malt Shop Memories Cruise,” said Beach Boys frontman Mike Love. “We tour for the fans and will bring all of our classic hits to the stage.”

Formed in California, The Beach Boys popularized the surf rock and car craze across the country during the 1960s with hits like “Surfin’ Safari,” “Good Vibrations,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “I Get Around,” to name a few.

“The Beach Boys’ sound encapsulates that indescribable feeling that everyone experiences on this cruise,” added Chris Hearing, President, StarVista/Time Life. “We love providing our guests with the absolute best entertainment, wonderful memories, and a chance to feel like a teenager again. We know The Beach Boys will have everyone up and dancing!”

Naturally, we’re still excited about the other artists on the roster, including Dion, Brenda Lee, The Temptations, Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, The Drifters, Matthew & Gunnar Nelson remembering their father Ricky Nelson, and another of Cruise Diva’s “beach music” favorites—Jan & Dean’s Beach Party starring Dean Torrence. Everyone asks the Cruise Diva what her favorite cruise is and I can honestly say it’s the Malt Shop Memories Cruise.

The Malt Shop Memories Cruise is nearly 80% sold out, so don’t hesitate if you plan to sail with us on November 2-9, 2014, departing from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. Get additional information at the Malt Shop Memories Cruise website or call 877-700-MALT. See you in November!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A New Star on the Water

Viking Ocean Cruises' first ship, the 930-passenger Viking Star, was "floated out," on Monday, June 23—marking the latest major construction milestone, and the first time that the new ship's hull touched water. A traditional float out ceremony took place at Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard outside Venice, Italy.

According to Italian shipbuilding tradition, the ceremony is significant because it denotes a ship moving into its final stage of construction. Viking Star's float out began at approximately 10:30 a.m. local time, when a "madrina"—a woman of honor—cut a cord to allow water to begin flowing into the ship's building dock. After the two-day process that set Viking Star afloat, she was moved to a nearby outfitting dock for final construction and interior build-out. With a total of three sister ships now under construction, Viking Star will be the first to debut in early 2015 with maiden voyages in Scandinavia and the Baltic; and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.

"Today is a proud day for our entire Viking family, as we are one step closer to launching a new era of ocean cruising," Viking Cruises Chairman Torstein Hagen said at the ceremony. "Viking Star's maiden season was sold out before she even touched water, which just demonstrates how enthusiastic our guests are for destination-focused ocean cruises. It is this enthusiasm that has led us to place orders for two additional sister ships, Viking Sea and Viking Sky."

Viking developed its ocean cruises with experienced travelers in mind and extensive feedback and input from Viking River Cruises passengers. Itineraries are designed for maximum time in port, often with late evenings or overnights, so guests can experience local nightlife or evening performances. Ports include both cosmopolitan cities and "collector ports," and appeal to those with an interest in history, art, and culture. In addition, Viking Inclusive Cruising provides unparalleled value—with every cruise fare including a veranda stateroom, shore excursions in each port of call, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Guests also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of their fare, including: beer and wine with lunch and dinner service; Wi-Fi; self-service laundry, and 24-hour room service—a value of more than $2,400 per couple for an average cruise.

Viking Star

Considered a "small ship," the 930-passenger Viking Star, as well as its two sister ships under construction, Viking Sea and Viking Sky, is engineered at a scale that allows direct access into most ports, so guests have easy and efficient embarkation and debarkation. Light-filled and intimate, the ship features understated elegance and modern Scandinavian design. Highlights include:
-- All Veranda Staterooms: Guests can choose from five stateroom categories, starting from a 270 sq. ft. veranda stateroom, all with king-size beds, large showers, and LCD TVs.
-- Explorer Suites: Viking Star features 14 two-room Explorer Suites, ranging from 757 to 1,163 sq. ft., that offer views from wrap-around verandas as well as the most amenities of any category onboard.
-- Two Pool Choices: In addition to the Main Pool with a retractable dome permitting any-season swimming, the ship features a glass-backed infinity pool, cantilevered off the stern, allowing passengers to swim surrounded by their destination.
-- The Spa: In keeping with Viking's Nordic heritage, The Spa onboard is designed with the holistic wellness philosophy of Scandinavia in mind—from the centuries-old tradition of the sauna to a "snow grotto" where snowflakes gently descend from the ceiling through chilled air.
-- Explorers' Lounge & Wintergarden: Spaces designed to facilitate mingling and storytelling, the two-deck Explorers' Lounge at the bow is the perfect spot for taking in scenery through double-height windows over a glass of aquavit or pint of local craft beer; and the Wintergarden is a serene environment in which to relax and enjoy afternoon tea service.
-- Dining Choices: Viking Star offers multiple restaurant locations and food choices—from The Restaurant and the World Cafe, serving a variety of global cuisines and regional specialties—to intimate dining experiences at The Chef's Table, Italian Grill, and The Kitchen Table, all serving meals prepared with fresh, local ingredients. With multiple choices for outdoor seating during meals, Viking's ocean ships offer more al fresco dining than any other ships.
-- Enriching Entertainment: Connecting passengers to their destinations through authentic experiences is central to Viking Cruises, and onboard venues include a dramatic three-deck atrium where passengers can enjoy musicians playing regional and classical music; the Star Theater, home of enrichment lectures from scholars and experts; an onboard cooking school where guests can learn local specialties; and the Viking Piano Lounge, where guests can relax and socialize.
-- Sustainable Features: Viking Star features energy-efficient hybrid engines, hydro-dynamically optimized streamlined hulls and bows for maximum fuel efficiency, onboard solar panels, and equipment that minimizes exhaust pollution and meets the strictest environmental regulations.
From now through June 30, 2014, Viking is offering U.S. residents an Early Booking Discount with 2-for-1 pricing on cruise departures and savings of up to $2,000 per couple on international air.

Image Courtesy Viking Ocean Cruises

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Costa Cruises Kicks Off Summer With "La Notte Bianca"

With the summer season comes the longest days of the year, and Costa Cruises is celebrating with "La Notte Bianca" (white party) throughout July on ships in the Mediterranean and northern Europe. This party is traditionally celebrated in many Italian cities and brings more of the country's culture onboard.

The white theme will be reflected in activities that go all day and last late into the night. Every ship will be "dressed up" for the special occasion—from the bars and lounges to the pool, the main hall, and restaurants—with unique all-white decorations, while ship staff will wear white outfits to get guests into the party mood.

Activities planned for the celebration are for all ages and nationalities, such as treasure hunts, trivia quizzes and many other events organized by the staff. Among the most exciting surprises will be a flash mob with guest participants dancing with Costa's Animation staff.

The celebration will continue with a white party at the pool starting at 10 p.m. that will welcome everyone who wants to dance and enjoy the entertainment of the ship's deejays and professional dancers who will perform on unique platforms. Special decorations, white glow necklaces and ice sculptures will be the ideal enhancements for the ultimate Costa summer party (pictured above). By the way, the "Lido" pool was an Italian innovation so it's a particularly fitting setting.

The La Notte Bianca theme extends into food and beverage, with a special white dessert and specially made white drinks served in the main dining room, while bar staff will perform a cocktail demonstration of popular white-theme drinks like an apricot daiquiri, piña colada, White Russian and White Lady.

Guests who want to dress in white and get into into the “La Notte Bianca” mood can visit the onboard apparel shops that will have an area dedicated to a “white collection.”

Image Courtesy Costa Cruises

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Carnival Unveils New Family-Friendly Features

The children are out of school and summer travel season is in full swing, so it's time to pack up the family and head out on vacation. With families on their mind, Carnival Cruise Lines continues to enhance its family-friendly offerings, introducing the new Dr. Seuss Bookville family reading venue and Camp Ocean marine-themed children's program on Carnival Freedom, along with highly attractive rates for families to make a summer cruise more affordable than ever.

After a multi-million-dollar makeover, Dr. Seuss Bookville and Camp Ocean have recently debuted on Carnival Freedom. Camp Ocean features more than 200 new ocean-inspired activities that are part of a fleetwide rollout of new children's programming designed to build upon Carnival's position as the family cruise leader. Carnival hosts more than 700,000 kids a year, the most of any cruise operator and roughly double what the line carried a decade ago. With low rates, along with special discounts for third and fourth guests in the same stateroom, this summer is a great time for families to take advantage of the value of a Carnival cruise.

"Families are an important market to us and with these new family-friendly enhancements, combined with highly attractive summer rates, we're making cruising on Carnival an even greater value while providing kids and their parents an opportunity to create a lifetime of vacation memories together," said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO. "Seuss at Sea and Camp Ocean are not only wonderful additions to our top-rated children's programs but also provide our valued travel agent partners with a highly effective tool for attracting more families to the 'Fun Ships,'" he added.

Part of an exclusive agreement with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Bookville (pictured above) features iconic decor, colors, shapes and funky furniture inspired by the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. Here, kids and their families can read beloved Dr. Seuss books or stretch their imagination through fun activities such as arts and crafts, toys and Dr. Seuss-inspired games. Bookville will also be featured on the new Carnival Vista when it debuts in 2016. Bookville is part of Seuss at Sea, a fleetwide family, dining and entertainment experience inspired by the amazing world of Dr. Seuss. The program also includes the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with the Cat in the Hat and Friends, an interactive reading event called Seuss-a-palooza Story Time, and the Seuss-a-palooza Character Parade along the ships' promenade.

Camp Ocean (pictured at right) is a fun-filled new children's program that immerses children ages 2-11 in the wonders of the sea through fun and engaging experiences, with underwater-colored spaces and energetic, highly trained staff. Three age-related categories each have their own identity: children ages 2-5 are dubbed "Penguins," those ages 6-8 are called "Stingrays" and 9-11-year-olds are "Sharks." In addition to fun new spaces, from miniature play igloos for the Penguins to interactive gaming stations for the Sharks, Carnival Freedom's new Camp Ocean facility includes Party Reef, a common area that brings each of the groups together, as well as a breakout room for arts and crafts activities called Creative Cove. Camp Ocean serves as the venue for a host of new activities, from educational games such as Under the Sea Mad Libs and Ocean Artifacts Memory Tray to creative arts opportunities like Design Your Own Aquarium and Make Your Own Sailboat.

Family friendly offerings are available throughout Carnival's "Fun Ship" fleet, which this summer will offer a wide range of 3- to 8-day departures from a variety of convenient homeports throughout North America. Carnival Freedom currently operates 5- to 8-day Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale then repositions to Galveston, Texas, for year-round 7-day Caribbean departures beginning in February 2015. Take care when selecting your cruise—amenities and facilities vary by ship with fleetwide implementation of Seuss at Sea expected to be completed by 2015 and Camp Ocean by 2016.

Images Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Monday, June 23, 2014

Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth Receives a Multi-Million Dollar Refit

Only four years old, Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth has a new look following her recent revitalization. For solo travelers, the most exciting feature will be the addition of single occupancy staterooms with no single supplement.

The new four-minute video below follows the progress of the multi-million dollar refit that took place aboard the ship, creating nine new single staterooms, laying more than 25,000 square meters of carpeting, replacing more than 3,000 mattresses, installing 1,200 flat screen TVs, adding new awnings on the sun decks, re-modeling the Lido restaurant and Royal Arcade shopping area, and on the technical side, replacing a 65 ton alternator.

Over 20 days in May and June, 950 contractors worked with ship’s staff around the clock to complete the work at the Blohm+Voss yard in Hamburg, Germany, drinking 54,300 cups of coffee, more than 35,000 cups of tea and 9,000 liter bottles of water, and consuming more than 80,000 meals—with 13,500 sachets of tomato sauce—over the duration of the 265,000 man-hour project.

Recognizing the increasing popularity of solo travel, eight outside and one inside staterooms were added to the ship and are on sale now, available for booking beginning with the December 16, 2014 sailing (voyage number Q422).

The single staterooms (pictured right) measure 159 to 162 square feet, with features including:

• Ideal central location, mid-ships in close proximity to the social areas of the Empire Casino, the Royal Court Theatre and the Queens Room
• Small double beds with generous width of more than 47”
• Large windows giving plenty of natural daylight and excellent views (outside staterooms only)
Other innovations made possible by the refit include waiters with insulated coffee and tea pots henceforth serving passengers with hot drinks at all meals, following the refurbishment of the ship’s informal Lido restaurant. The addition of recessed risers will improve the styling of this self-service area as well as passenger flows within it.

More generally, carpets have been renewed and large flat-screen TVs—mostly 32” or above—have been installed in all passenger staterooms. Sun awnings have been erected on the open area near the Lido pool at the stern on Deck 9 and on both sides of the Grills Upper Terrace area near the top of the ship to offer more shade out on deck. The creation of a dedicated studio enables the ship’s photographers to offer high-end portraiture, while the addition of touch screens in the photo gallery continues the development of a digital environment in which passengers can more easily find and select their photos taken by the team.

Shopping in the Royal Arcade on Deck 3 has been transformed with the addition of new Fine Jewelry and Watch shops and the layout, lighting, and overall shopping experience for passengers has been enhanced.

On the technical front, scrubber technology has been installed in line with the company’s commitment to minimizing its environmental impact. This involves the installation of a new filtration system for the exhaust gas from the ship’s engines. In addition, a new alternator has been installed.

Video & Image Courtesy Cunard Line

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How to Make Carnival Cruise Lines' Rum Jumper

It's summer, it's hot, and it's time for a refreshing foo-foo drink. This one, a Rum Jumper from Carnival Cruise Lines, sounds like just the ticket to quench your thirst.

While the bartender mixes it up pretty quickly and doesn't add each ingredient he mentions in the video, get a pen and paper to write down his instructions and enjoy.

Video Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, June 20, 2014

Costa Cruises' Costa Diadema to Feature a Spectacular Promenade & New Dining Venues

Costa Cruises has revealed more details about its latest vessel under construction and, when the Italian line's new flagship launches, we are told that the Costa Diadema will provide guests a new way to experience the Mediterranean Sea. Fondly nicknamed Regina del Mediterraneo (Queen of the Mediterranean), the ship will feature large, split-level public rooms directly overlooking the sea and conveniently interconnected to create an atmosphere similar to a lively seaside resort.

The outdoor promenade on Costa Diadema will provide a spectacular vista of the sea. As the longest promenade of Costa's fleet, it provides a 1,640-foot walk that will feel like a stroll on a gorgeous Italian shore or along Sanremo Passeggiata dell'Imperatrice, the seafront of Santa Maria di Leuca in Italy's Puglia region. Roberto Bixio's two large glass mosaics titled "Riviera Ligure" featuring imagery from the Mediterranean coasts embellish both the left and right side of the promenade and cover a total area of 440 square feet.

The spacious promenade measures 16 feet across and up to 26 feet wide where the six cabanas and two Jacuzzis are located. The cabanas and hot tubs extend out from the side of the ship, creating the sensation of being suspended over the sea. In the cabanas guests can relax over drinks or enjoy a romantic sunset dinner, comfortably sheltered from the wind.

Bars and restaurants overlook the promenade, re-creating the atmosphere of a summertime Mediterranean beach. Guests can order a glass of top-quality Italian regional wine at Vinoteca Gran Duca di Toscana or a beer from Birreria, which offers a selection of bottled beer from Italian and foreign brewers along with a range of beers on tap. Alternatively, for an aperitif, Bar Bollicine features a wide selection of the most prestigious Italian brands of Prosecco and Spritz aperitifs.

Costa Diadema also is introducing several new dining venues, including an authentic Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant. Guests who want authentic Italian food can enjoy a slice of pizza in the casual atmosphere of the Pizzeria or sample a delicious ice cream, Italian pastry, crepe, hot chocolate, or pralines at the Gelateria Amarillo. Gourmands can savor the delicacies of Italian and Mediterranean cuisine in the a la carte Club Restaurant or healthy spa dishes at the Samsara Restaurant. After having a drink with a view of the sea and a stroll along Costa Diadema's promenade, passengers will reach the elegant Teodora Bar at the stern.

The ship's christening ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 7, 2014, in Genoa, Italy. Starting Nov. 8 and for the rest of the 2014-15 winter season and the 2015 summer season, Costa Diadema will depart Savona on 7-night cruises to the western Mediterranean, calling at Marseille, France; Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, Spain; and Naples and La Spezia, Italy.

Images Courtesy Costa Cruises

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Jazz Cruise ’15 Has a New ‘Song’ to Sing

In the world of marketing, you know you have something special when you can mention one name and everyone in the world conjures up the same image. Coke, Pepsi, Google, and Amazon are just a few examples of the one-word wonders, the holy grail of identity.

There are certainly a few names in jazz that have this same impact—Miles, Dizzy, Ella, Frank—but for a business or a location to have that same power is really something. Birdland is one example of one-word name recognition. When you say “Birdland,” it can be only in reference to one thing... a truly amazing place to hear jazz, perhaps the very best jazz in the world, when you are in New York. Thanks to the generosity of owner Gianni Valenti, The Jazz Cruise can now tell their great fans that Eurodam’s Ocean Bar will be transformed into the home for Birdland for events each night of the cruise, including a farewell event on the last night.

For past guests wondering what will happen to Freddy Cole and Freddy’s Club, do not fret, as four of the nights will feature Freddy’s Club at Birdland. The remaining nights are being planned right now, and cruise hosts at Entertainment Cruise Productions can assure you that they will be very special. To make the Birdland transformation complete, Gianni Valenti himself will be sailing with on Jazz Cruise ’15 and will usher in the festivities every night starting at 11:45 p.m. How authentic can you get?

The Jazz Cruise ’15 — Cabin Inventory
Good verandah and outside cabins remain, so now is the time to complete your reservation and secure your place on The Greatest Festival at Sea... The Jazz Cruise, which sets sail from Fort Lauderdale on Jan 25, 2015. For online reservations or more information, please visit the website or speak with a reservationist anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CDT Monday through Friday (toll-free) at 888.852.9987.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Australia Ranks Number One as Cruise Passengers Hit New High

Look out, North America, the Aussies are taking to cruise vacations in a big way and that’s the reason some of our favorite ships are sailing away from local ports to make the land Down Under their new home.

Launched in Sydney last week, the 2013 Cruise Industry Source Market Report shows Australian cruise passenger numbers soared 20 per cent in 2013, more than double the growth rate of any other major cruise market. The Australian cruise industry is now ranked number one in the world for market growth and penetration, with latest industry figures revealing a record 833,348 Australians took a cruise last year. With the equivalent of 3.6 per cent of the Australian population taking a cruise in 2013, Australia has become the first nation to ever achieve a stronger penetration rate than the world’s largest passenger source market, North America. In 2013, the equivalent of 3.3 per cent of the North American population took a cruise.

Announcing the report findings, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia Chairman Gavin Smith said Australia was “punching well above its weight” in the international cruise industry. “Australia is still a relatively young cruise market, yet the number of Australians taking a cruise has grown by an enviable average 20 per cent a year for the last 11 years as a growing number of travelers discover the many joys of cruising,” Mr Smith said. “That’s a remarkable achievement, particularly when you consider we’re now leading the world in market penetration. With more ships being deployed in Australia in 2014 and 2015, we’ve set course for continued growth over the next few years, so the benchmark of one million annual cruise passengers should be reached by 2016, if not before.” Mr Smith said the continuing growth of the local cruise industry meant it was playing an increasingly important economic role in many Australian cities and towns, delivering valuable tourist dollars.

The latest CLIA Australasia figures build on the 2012 result which saw Australian passenger numbers rise 11 per cent to 694,062. Key findings of the 2013 CLIA Australasia Cruise Industry Source Market Report for Australia include:
• Australia’s passenger growth rate of 20 per cent was more than double other key markets including Germany and France, which grew 9 per cent, the USA (3 per cent) and the UK/Ireland (1 per cent).
• The Australian market penetration rate of 3.6 per cent led the world ahead of North America (3.3 per cent), UK/Ireland (2.5 per cent), Germany (2.1 per cent) and Italy (1.4 per cent).
• The South Pacific continues to dominate as a cruise destination, with almost 80,000 more Australians cruising the region in 2013, taking the total number to more than 330,000 (40 per cent of the market)
• River cruising numbers leapt 25 per cent as almost 50,000 Australians took to inland waterways
• Asian cruising is on the rise again with passenger numbers up 28 per cent to a record 44,382 as cruise ship capacity starts to expand
• The number of Australians cruising to New Zealand has almost reached 100,000
• Europe continues to dominate long-haul destinations with numbers surging 34 per cent to more than 77,000 Australian cruisers. While Mediterranean cruising remains the strongest draw card, Northern Europe numbers rose more than 50 per cent with the region attracting close to 20,000 passengers
• The number of passengers taking cruises of 8-14 days saw a massive spike, rising almost 35 per cent from 353,342 in 2012 to 475,154 in 2013
• Australians spent an estimated 8.7 million days at sea in 2013, up 22 per cent on 2012, with holidaymakers enjoying 10.25 days on average on an ocean cruise and 14.4 days on river cruises
• NSW remains the leading source of cruise passengers accounting for 41.1 per cent of the market
• Cruise passenger ages continue to be spread broadly across all age brackets, reflecting the diversity of product and itineraries available to Australian holidaymakers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Seabourn Partners with UNESCO to Protect World Heritage

Ultra-luxury cruise line Seabourn has signed a partnership agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a unique alliance to help protect World Heritage sites. The partnership is being created to foster wider support and understanding in the travel industry and among travelers for UNESCO's mission of identifying, safeguarding, and promoting unique cultural and natural features around the world deemed to possess universal value for all humankind.

Seabourn has committed to raising $1 million for UNESCO as part of this multi-year agreement. For Seabourn's guests, this alliance means that their travels on Seabourn's small all-suite ships will be enhanced by deeper insight and behind-the-scenes information about current and future World Heritage sites and projects. Speakers with special knowledge about World Heritage will sail on Seabourn's ships as a part of the line's Seabourn Conversations enrichment and entertainment program. In addition, fares for Seabourn optional excursions that include UNESCO World Heritage Sites will include a small donation to UNESCO's World Heritage Fund. The company will also create special World Heritage Discovery Tours at a number of ports worldwide, with exclusive enhanced content on World Heritage.

"Seabourn is proud to be partnering with UNESCO to promote and support sustainable tourism," said Seabourn President Richard D. Meadows. "Through this partnership we are committed to providing our guests with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the many World Heritage sites we visit around the world and the important work UNESCO is doing."

Seabourn shares with its guests a genuine passion for exploring the world's most exceptional destinations. Year after year, the company provides its guests opportunities to experience one-of-a-kind treasures such as the temple complex of Borobudur on Java, the excavated ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy, and the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. As completely different as these places are, they share a common attribute—they are all designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Since its founding, Seabourn has facilitated visits to hundreds of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and currently includes over 150 designated sites in its itineraries. Now it will also help to support UNESCO's efforts to expand, promote and preserve these precious global resources for future generations of travelers.

Image Courtesy of Seabourn

Monday, June 16, 2014

And The Best Bartender At Sea Is...

Earlier this month we reported in's Cruise News that four cruise line bartenders—one each from Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, and Celebrity Cruises—had battled it out on the high seas to secure a place at the semi-final of one of the world’s largest luxury mixology competitions. The final four, who were victorious over 5,500 cruise line mixologists, went head to head at the DIAGEO RESERVE WORLD CLASS™ Global Travel semi-final event, which was held last week in Miami.

And the winner is Shekhar Grover of Royal Caribbean International (pictured above), who was crowned Diageo Global Travel best cruise line bartender. Judged by a panel of industry elites, Shekhar, 27, from India, impressed with his incredible showmanship, inventive cocktail-making, and unrivalled flair. Shekhar and his fellow competitors were tested on different aspects of their craft, creativity, and bartending knowledge. Shekhar excelled in the bar arena and enthralled judges with his signature serve inspired by this year's Mediterranean theme: 'French Royale' featuring CIROC® Vodka. The mixologist master will go forward to the star-studded DIAGEO RESERVE WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year Global Final taking place July 28-August 1, 2014 in London, to battle it out against 50 of the world's best bartenders for the coveted 'Bartender of the Year' title.

Shekhar, who is one of the Lead Bartenders on the Oasis of Seas, said, "I'm thrilled to win the WORLD CLASS Global Travel Final and I'm very excited to be going forward to represent cruise-line bartenders at one of the industry's most prestigious and respected mixology competitions. I've been inspired and challenged by many talented bartenders over the last few weeks and I'm really looking forward to using the skills and knowledge that I've developed through the program to wow the judges."

If he is successful at the Global Final, securing the title of DIAGEO RESERVE WORLD CLASS Bartender of the Year, Shekhar will experience a life changing journey filled with new opportunities. Previous winners have become recognized industry leaders, travelling the globe as WORLD CLASS Ambassadors and participating in international high-profile events.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Experience Game of Thrones With Holland America

Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Then Holland America Line has an intriguing excursion designed just for you.

The new “Experience the Game of Thrones” shore excursion at Belfast, Northern Ireland, offers a behind-the-scenes look at many of the locations where the hit show is filmed. The tour begins at Castle Ward, which fans know as Winterfell, and travels to Audley’s Castle, a backdrop for many scenes and the site of Robb Stark’s camp. Throughout the tour, die-hard fans will learn about special effects and costuming, test their knowledge of show trivia and hone their archery skills. Participants also will have a photo opportunity with actual costumes from the series, making them feel like part of the cast.

For those unfamiliar with the show, the tour still is full of beauty and enchantment as the area has a rich history that long predates “Game of Thrones.” Audley's Castle was built in the 15th century and Castle Ward was finished in the 18th century.

Holland America Line offers a variety of itineraries visiting Belfast on ms Prinsendam and ms Rotterdam. The cruises vary in length from 14 to 35 days and depart Rotterdam or Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Travel Insurance For Hurricane Season

Last week we reported that the Atlantic Hurricane Season is officially underway, running from June 1 to November 30 each year. Due to the many possible disruptions bad weather can cause for travelers, we also mentioned that travel insurance is an important consideration to cover cruisers during this time period. Even travelers who aren't going to a hurricane-prone destination may need insurance to protect them from delays or damages.

Our partners at Insure My Trip have prepared some information to assist you if you are considering the purchase of travel insurance for your cruise.

Top Tips For Travel Preparedness During Hurricane Season
• Plan Ahead. If you're traveling during the official season, consider buying travel insurance as soon as you book your trip. This will give you access to the greatest number of options, as well as help you secure coverage before anything happens.
• Understand the "Unforeseen." Travel insurance generally only covers "unforeseen" events. In other words, if you see on the Weather Channel that a tropical storm is brewing near your destination, it's already too late to purchase travel insurance.
• Know Your Options. A Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) policy may be a good investment during hurricane season. CFAR offers greater flexibility to travelers in choosing to cancel their plans, which can be extremely helpful when there's unpredictable weather to content with.
What To Ask When Buying Travel Insurance For Hurricane Season
• What will happen if my destination is made uninhabitable by a storm?
• What if my own home is damaged by a storm, and I don't want to leave on a trip without repairing it?
• What about delays and cancellations on both ends of my itinerary?
• Is there any insurance policy available to me that will allow me to cancel my trip because of a hurricane warning?
• Can I get Cancel For Any Reason coverage? Would it be wise for me to do so?
• If I have to interrupt my trip because of bad weather, what kind of insurance will cover the cost of my missed travels?
Do I Need Travel Insurance For Hurricane Season?
• Because of the many possible disruptions bad weather can cause for travelers, it's always a good idea to consider whether or not you may need travel insurance coverage if you're planning a trip during this time of year.
Finally, consider the following questions to determine if you need travel insurance for hurricane season.
• Are you planning to travel between June 1 and November 30?
• Are you traveling to or through any destination on the East Coast of the United States, or in the Atlantic region?
• Do you live anywhere on the East Coast of the U.S., or in the Atlantic Region, or does your flight originate there?
Image Courtesy NOAA/NASA

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines Floats Out New Entertainment Directors

There was a time when cruise directors were more visible to passengers on most cruise ships. In addition to acting as the Master of Ceremonies before shows and hosting some of the fun activities on board, many cruise directors were talented entertainers themselves who often appeared on stage to the delight of audiences—they were singers, magicians, ventriloquists—a few even had notable animal acts. Cruise directors also often mingled among the passengers in the lounges throughout the day and evening, graciously chatting and answering questions.

As cruise ships grew increasingly larger, entertainment staffs grew proportionally and today’s cruise director is less and less likely to be a performer. On some ships the only time passengers “encounter” the cruise director is when he/she makes an announcement over the public address system. That’s about to change aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships.

Carnival has recognized that cruise directors’ increasingly varied administrative responsibilities tend to take time away from their role as the “face and voice” of the ship and to change that the line has created the important new on board position of entertainment director. The new entertainment director will be part of the senior shipboard management team and responsible for coordinating on board programming and scheduling and various administrative/back-of-house duties.

The ships’ cruise directors will report to the entertainment directors and this restructuring of the shipboard organization will allow cruise directors to heavily focus on guest interaction and their on-stage role.

Butch Begovich, Kevin Noonan, and James Charlton of the guest operations team will be responsible for rolling out this program which is expected to be fleetwide in approximately two years. Carnival will be hiring entertainment directors from both its existing workforce as well as through various recruitment efforts.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Princess Cruises Honors Dads & Grads with Cruise Savings

Dad probably has enough ties and power tools and your 2014 graduates, whether high school or college, could certainly use some down time following their big achievement, so why not surprise them with a cruise?

To help vacationers celebrate life's greatest occasions, from Father's Day to graduations, Princess Cruises is currently offering a Dads & Grads Celebration Sale, running through June 19. Book a Princess cruise and you can save up to 35 percent per person, plus receive up to $100 onboard spending money per stateroom.

Over 100 fall and winter cruises are featured in the sale to vacation destinations in Mexico, Canada and New England, the California Coast, and the Caribbean, including voyages on newest ship Regal Princess’ maiden Caribbean season. In addition to special fares, guests booking balcony staterooms or above will receive an onboard credit of $50 for 3- to 6-day cruises or $100 for cruises 7-days or longer. Those booking interior or oceanview staterooms will get credits of $25 for 3- to 6-day cruises or $50 for cruises 7-days or longer.

Sample cruise deals during the Dads & Grads Celebration Sale include:
• Caribbean cruise, 4 days: $279 interior (was $449); $449 balcony (was $699)
• Caribbean cruise, 7 days: $549 interior (was $599); $799 balcony (was $949)
• Mexico cruise, 7 days: $549 interior (was $599); $799 balcony (was $949)
• California Coastal cruise, 7 days: $599 interior (was $749); $899 balcony (was $1,099)
• Canada & New England cruise, 7 days: $899 interior (was $999); $1,399 balcony (was $1,449)
All cruise prices are per person, based on double occupancy. The Dads and Grads Celebration Sale runs from 12:01 a.m. PDT on June 5 through 11:59 p.m. PDT on June 19, 2014 and is available to residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. More information about the cruise sale and pricing can be found at Information about other cruise deals and promotions can be found at

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cunard Line History: The “Empress Incognito” and Her Most Daring Voyage

Cunard Line has generously given us the following article and images to share with our readers. Written by Michael Gallagher, public relations executive and historian for Cunard Line, it is part of an ongoing series of key moments in Cunard Line’s history.

Just after the outbreak of the Second World War, Queen Elizabeth, the pride of the British merchant fleet and the largest liner in the world, was still fitting out at the John Brown & Co. Shipyard on the Clyde with her Maiden Voyage set for April 1940. Suddenly everything changed. Work on Queen Elizabeth slowed as priority was given to naval contracts and the main concern for the shipyard being the September 16, 1939 scheduled launch of the battleship Duke of York.

The Government was concerned about Queen Elizabeth and it was decided she had to be completed as quickly as possible, but then what to do with her? Options included hiding her in a remote Scottish Loch for the duration of the war, moving her to Southampton or removing her from the British Isles. The latter option was in initially rejected, as her engines and equipment had not been tested.

In November 1939, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill ordered that Queen Elizabeth should be made ready to leave the yard. A special license allowed the yard to obtain valuable steel and additional labor and work began in earnest on getting Queen Elizabeth as ready for sea as quickly as possible. On top of preparing machinery and continuing basic fitting out, Queen Elizabeth was repainted in grey, losing her Cunard livery. In what was an experiment at that time, an electrically-charged rubber-coated copper cable was fitted around the hull to ensure she was immune from mines.

As 1940 dawned, most of the work getting Queen Elizabeth ready for sea was complete. In February, Cunard received a letter from Churchill ordering that the ship be removed from Britain as soon as possible and stay away for as long as the order was in force. Apart from construction considerations, there were only two tides in 1940 that would allow safe passage for the ship down the Clyde: one on February 26 and one in August. Queen Elizabeth had to be ready to leave in February, as the longer she remained static in the yard, the more likely an attack from the enemy.

To confuse people, particularly enemy agents, a deliberate false rumor was circulated prior to her setting sail that she was going to Southampton, as that was the only British port with the dry-dock capable of accommodating her and she would need to be dry-docked in order to remove the launch gear still attached to the ship after her launch by Her Majesty The Queen in September 1938. The Government made the rumor extremely convincing as the dry-dock was prepared, 500 crew were signed on Queen Elizabeth for the short coastal voyage from Scotland, the Southampton Pilot went aboard in the Clyde to take her to her new home, and crates of furniture and supplies were sent to Southampton in preparation for her arrival. So convincing were these rumors that, on the day she was supposed to arrive in Southampton, German bombers were seen hovering over Southampton!

On Monday, February 26, Queen Elizabeth began her journey from the yard and proceeded down the Clyde. The normal crowds were not present as no announcement had been made. The passage down river took five hours and was not without its problems.

What should have been a glorious occasion—the Handover Ceremony—for Cunard in the 100th anniversary year of the start of its transatlantic service, was very subdued and brief as Cunard took ownership of Queen Elizabeth after she anchored at the mouth of the Clyde. Three days of tests and compass adjustments followed—all taken while Queen Elizabeth was at anchor as proper sea trials would be too risky.

Then on March 2, 1940, a King’s Messenger arrived on board with a special sealed envelope. This contained the Captain’s orders and he was under strict instructions that they were not to be opened until Queen Elizabeth was at sea. The crew were assembled and given the option of leaving or staying for the journey. The few who chose to leave were kept in isolation until Queen Elizabeth was well on her way to her final destination. Later that day Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by four destroyers and several aircraft, headed to sea. Captain Townley opened up the sealed envelope. The orders were to head to New York!

The largest and newest liner in the world soon left her entourage in her wake and she headed to sea and began her perilous dash to New York: untried, untested, unfinished, unescorted and—with her launching gear still attached—unarmed!

Most of the 398 crew on board were unaware that their final destination was New York and expected to be back at home in Southampton after a few days. Instead of returning home after a few days, many did not return home for the duration of the war! All those on board formed a special club called “The Unruffled Elizabethans” (their aim being “...that true Twentieth Century Elizabethans are able to remain under all conditions completely unruffled”). They amused themselves at night with stories, songs, and musical recitals.

Radio silence had to be maintained and the totally blacked-out (at night) ship maintained a zig-zag course for the entire journey in order to confuse any U-Boats which may have spotted her. Her untried engines were able to make between 25 and 30 knots.

It was not long before New York was itself aware of the approaching Queen Elizabeth. She was first spotted when a TransWorld airplane flew over her on March 7th—the crew on the plane couldn’t recognize this speeding giant, as no one in America was expecting her. Even the New York offices of Cunard White Star were only made aware of her arrival after a Special Agent contacted them just prior to her arrival and advised them she was on her way.

The world’s largest liner made her maiden arrival into New York on March 7, 1940, and as news circulated around the city of this extraordinary event, crowds gathered to see the new superliner.

Queen Elizabeth berthed alongside her sister Queen Mary (also painted in wartime grey) and their great rival the French Normandie—the three greatest liners of all time together for the first and last time.

While in New York a message was received from Her Majesty The Queen: “I send you my heartfelt congratulations on the safe arrival in New York of the Queen Elizabeth. Ever since I launched her in the fateful days of 1938, I have watched her progress with interest and admiration. Please convey to Captain Townley my compliments on the safe conclusion of her hazardous maiden voyage. Elizabeth R.”

Queen Elizabeth was quickly dubbed the “Empress Incognito” by the press because of her drab wartime grey livery; but this Empress had survived the most grueling and strangest sea trials and maiden voyage in history!

Our thanks to Cunard Line for this fascinating glimpse back in time.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

SiriusXM & the Soul Train Cruise Celebrate Black Music Month

SiriusXM was on board Holland America Line's Eurodam for the Soul Train Cruise 2014, recording all the incredible moments from the fantastic voyage. This month, in celebration of Black Music Month, Soul Train Cruise has teamed up with SiriusXM to bring listeners the best of the best of those moments.

Don't miss the special SiriusXM programming this month, featuring the best in hip-hop, soul, gospel, classic hip-hop, R&B, funk, reggae, and more. See the complete schedule. And check out this schedule of exclusive SiriusXM Soul Train Cruise programming that features special interviews and live concerts from some of our favorite Artists during an unforgettable week at sea.

On the SOUL TOWN channel (49):
• June 13 at 6 p.m. EDT, Talking Soul with Jeff Foxx: Ray, Goodman & Brown
• June 20 at 6 p.m. EDT, Talking Soul with Jeff Foxx: Blue Magic/Ted Mills
On THE GROOVE channel (50):
• June 14 at 6 p.m. EDT, Stephanie Mills concert (recorded during Soul Train Cruise 2014)
• June 21 at 6 p.m. EDT, Peabo Bryson and The Isley Brothers concerts (recorded during Soul Train Cruise 2014)
• June 8 at 6 p.m. EDT, The Commodores
• June 15 at 6 p.m. EDT, Morris Day
• June 22 at 6 p.m. EDT, The Isley Brothers
• June 29 at 6 p.m. EDT, Charlie Wilson
It's not too late to get on board for more Love, Peace, and Soul during the Soul Train Cruise 2015, sailing Feb. 22-March 1, 2015, from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Joining the cruise will be Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Gladys Knight, KC & The Sunshine Band, The Spinners, Russell Thompkins Jr. & The New Stylistics, Harold Melvin's Blue Notes, Regina Belle and more. Check out the complete lineup and Artist bios. Now is the time to book your cabin before they are all sold out. Plus, you can take advantage of easy payment plans to get on aboard the Soul Train at sea.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Got Beer? Crystal Serenity Does!

It's long been known that the food alone is enough reason to take a Crystal cruise. The luxury line is now putting a twist on its popular "Wine & Food" Experiences of Discovery motif by replacing the "wine" with lagers, stouts, IPAs, and "cold ones" that are barrel-aged, made with bacon, have names like "Funky Old Time," and more—all for a new Microbrew-themed cruise.

New, beer-focused Boutique Adventures, expert presentations, cooking and cocktail classes, tasting sessions, and dinners will all be on tap for the Crystal Serenity voyage, which sails from New York to Miami, via the East Coast and Caribbean, starting Nov 5, 2014.

"We've recently seen the growing interest in microbrews, from crafting to drinking, reflected in our own guests' palates, leading us to add international specialty beers to our Connoisseur beverage menu in 2013," says Toni Neumeister, vice president, food and beverage operations and hotel procurement. "A microbrew theme in 2014 is a natural extension of that interest, utilizing the programming format of our successful 'Wine & Food'-cruises to expand travelers' palates and minds in new ways that can last well beyond their cruise."

Programming highlights include two new Boutique Adventures (intimate, exclusive Crystal Adventures) created just for this voyage. The shore-side excursions take guests to micro- and nano-breweries (the latest trend in ultra-local beer craftsmanship) in and around New York and Charleston for exclusive behind-the-scenes access, expert insight, and diverse sampling of innovative, historic, seasonal, and limited-run beers, complete with a souvenir "growler" swag bag in South Carolina.

Onboard, guests can glean complimentary expertise from:
-- Stephen Beaumont, writer and one of the world's top authorities on all things beer, from production to education, and Victoria Tonini, a certified cicerone (think wine sommelier, but for beer)/brewer at Tenth and Blake Beer Company, a specialist in craft and import ciders, pilsners, IPAs, and wheat beers. Both will lead tastings and microbrew presentations;
-- Anthony Caporale, Art of the Drink TV host and producer, who will teach guests how to make cocktails using beer, then serve them up as guest mixologist behind Crystal's bar; and
-- Jon Ashton, a cookbook author and Today/Tonight Show guest chef, who will lead hands-on cooking classes using beer as an ingredient, plus create special beer-themed dinners for all guests in the Crystal Dining Room and for just 14 guests in the Vintage Room, the latter featuring seven courses of rare beers from around the world.
The itinerary overnights in New York City before sailing down the U.S. East Coast to Baltimore, Maryland; Norfolk, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; Turks & Caicos/Grand Turk; Curacao/Willemstad; Oranjestad, Aruba; and Miami, Florida. A shorter, 11-day version of the cruise is also available departing from Baltimore. The limited-availability microbrew Boutique Adventures start at $179/person.

Image Courtesy Crystal Cruises

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cunard Line Welcomes Kim Novak Aboard Queen Mary 2 This July

Cunard Line has announced that legendary actress Kim Novak will join flagship Queen Mary 2 on her eastbound July 6, 2014 Transatlantic Crossing as a Cunard Insights speaker on board. Guests and fans aboard the 7-night voyage will be treated to an introduction and screening of her classic films “Vertigo” and “Bell, Book and Candle” in the Royal Court Theatre, with a special Q&A session lead by Hollywood expert Sue Cameron.

With a career spanning four decades, Novak is most well-known internationally for her starring dual role in Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller “Vertigo” (1958) as Madaline and Judy Barton. Other notable films include “Picnic” (1955), “The Man With the Golden Arm” (1955), “The Eddy Duchin Story” (1956), “Pal Joey” (1957), “Bell, Book and Candle” (1958) and “Middle of the Night” (1959). She won the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer—Female in 1955, and two years later won another Golden Globe for World Favorite Female Actress. In 2003, she was presented with the Eastman Kodak Archives Award for her major contribution to film. She also won a Golden Bear Award for Lifetime Achievement in Berlin in 1997. And doesn’t she look stunning in the photo above?

“I am overjoyed to sail with Queen Mary 2 in July,” Ms. Novak said. “I have sailed to Europe in the past and fondly remember the Transatlantic Crossing as a glamorous way to travel. I am excited to have this chance to relive history aboard such a magnificent ship, and I look forward to meeting my fans along the way.”

Kim Novak is part of Cunard’s illustrious history hosting famed entertainers with peerless cachet. Since the debut of Queen Mary 2 10 years ago, the ship has welcomed film notables such as George Lucas, Uma Thurman, John Cleese, and Angela Bassett. Joining the ship's June 13 Crossing will be film maker Wes Anderson and his frequent collaborators Academy Award® winner Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Roman Coppola; actor George Takei of Star Trek and social media fame will join Queen Mary 2 on her July 28 Transatlantic Crossing; and Grammy® award-winning singer-songwriter James Taylor and his band will perform on the grand ocean liner on her August 27 Transatlantic Crossing.

Stateroom and Grills Suites are still available for the July 6, 2014 Transatlantic Crossing. For more information, visit

Image Courtesy of Cunard Line

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Costa Concordia Soon To Be On The Move

It's something the people of Giglio island have been waiting for since January 2012 when Costa Concordia foundered off their coast. Tragically, 32 lives were lost and the hulking wreck has been an eyesore and reminder ever since.

In preparation for its removal, the vessel was raised and righted in a technically difficult parbuckling operation last September. Subsequently, a failed sponson (one of the devices holding the ship upright) delayed the process of towing it off to Genoa, Italy to be scrapped, but recent Italian news reports indicate that the tow could be accomplished as early as next month. Genoa isn't that far from Giglio; however, towing Costa Concordia will be a delicate operation taking up to five days. An official announcement of the towing schedule is expected this month.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Azamara Club Cruises Offers Complimentary Companion Airfare on More Than 100 Voyages

Travel is always more rewarding when you can share it with someone. And now Azamara Club Cruises is inviting travelers to share one of the line’s destination-immersive adventure with that special someone by offering complimentary companion airfare with bookings made in June and July 2014.*

Whether it’s reveling in the Sambadrome at Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival; enjoying the hospitality of charming European ports and towns that larger ships cannot reach; exploring the bustling metropolises of the Far East; or discovering Australia and New Zealand during Azamara’s inaugural season in the region, the line is extending a choice of more than 100 voyages aboard their boutique ships, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest.

With Azamara’s longer stays and more overnights in port, guests can enjoy night touring in some of the most intriguing destinations in Asia, Northern and Western Europe, the Mediterranean, and South America and the West Indies, as well as on trans-oceanic crossings. Azamara guests can fully immerse themselves in a destination’s nightlife and savor its authentic culture and flavors after other cruise ships have departed.
* For all new individual bookings and named group bookings made with full deposit from June 2 through July 31, 2014, U.S. and Canadian travelers who book a Club Oceanview or higher-category stateroom on voyages departing from December 2014 through 2016 will receive complimentary coach-class airfare for the second guest when the first guest purchases air through Azamara. Guests must register offer code “FreeAir2ndGuest” in their reservation at the time of booking and the offer is only applicable for select U.S. and Canadian international gateways. The complimentary companion airfare offer is subject to availability and additional restrictions may apply.
For more information and the complete list of applicable voyages, please visit

Photo ©

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hurricane Season 2014 Has Arrived

It’s officially summer and the weather has been so pleasant here at our home that it almost seems impossible that Hurricane Season started yesterday on the first of June. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hasn't forgotten and, thankfully, their prediction for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season isn’t as dire as last year’s. You may recall that 2013’s grim outlook didn't materialize. That’s why they are called predictions. However, we hope the prediction for this year turns out to be accurate.

In its 2014 Atlantic hurricane season outlook, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a near-normal or below-normal season. Key information from their report includes:

The main driver of this year’s outlook is the anticipated development of El Niño this summer. El Niño causes stronger wind shear, which reduces the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes. El Niño can also strengthen the trade winds and increase the atmospheric stability across the tropical Atlantic, making it more difficult for cloud systems coming off of Africa to intensify into tropical storms.

The outlook calls for a 50 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season. For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 8 to 13 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These numbers are near or below the seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, based on the average from 1981 to 2010. The Atlantic hurricane region includes the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.
Should you avoid a cruise from the first of June until the hurricane season ends on the 30th of November? Judging by my experience, I would say not necessarily. After more than two decades of covering the cruise industry and more than a hundred personal sailings, we have only encountered a cruise altering hurricane situation once. Our voyage on what we began to call the Hurricane Sandy Cruise began with a bus trip up I-95 from Fort Lauderdale to Jacksonville, Florida to board Holland America Line’s Eurodam for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise. We hadn't given hurricane season a thought because it had been a light storm year hurricane-wise and the official season was nearly over. We were well taken care of by Holland America Line and our Entertainment Cruise Productions hosts for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise in terms of getting us on board and enjoying our cruise; however, the weather is certainly something to think about. Hurricane Sandy (pictured above) could have sunk our trip.

Travel insurance is an important consideration to cover cruisers in such situations. For more information on what to expect, Cruise Diva takes an in-depth look at what’s in store if your vacation plans find you Cruising Into Hurricane Season.

Image Courtesy NOAA/NASA