Friday, August 29, 2014

SeaDream Yacht Club Highlights Shore Side Casuals

“It’s yachting, not cruising”
With a tagline like “It’s yachting, not cruising” you would naturally expect more personalized tours ashore and SeaDream Yacht Club delivers them with crew-led excursions for the fall and winter 2014/2015 season in the Caribbean’s most beautiful islands. Known as “shore side casuals” among past guests, the veteran crews onboard the 112-guest twin mega-yachts lead complimentary shore tours to their favorite spots in the islands. The 1:1 crew-to-guest ratio of SeaDream and casual elegance onboard SeaDream I and SeaDream II affords flexibility to explore where large ships and formal tours seldom venture.

“The intimate size and casually elegant service onboard SeaDream gives guests a true yachting experience in the Caribbean,” shares Bob Lepisto, president of SeaDream Yacht Club. “That experience is equally delivered shore side as our the crew shares their favorite activities in the islands through one-of-a-kind shore excursions.”

With 10 mountain bikes on board each mega-yacht, guests can bike to secluded beaches including Flamenco Beach in Culebra, the intimate coves in Esperanza and Shoal Bay in Anguilla. Nature preserves like the Turtle Sanctuary in Bequia and watching the dolphins at Soper’s Hole are led by crew. For the most ambitious, a tour circumnavigating the island of Nevis or mountain biking to the bottom of Saba are popular ways to work off a delicious lunch. Guests on SeaDream this season can enjoy crew-led hikes on many of the smaller islands in the Caribbean.

One of the many highlights of shore side casuals includes a hike on the tiny island of Culebrita. Part of a wildlife refuge and located approximately one mile east of the island of Culebra, this tiny island is a nature lover’s paradise. Led by a knowledgeable crewmember, guests will hike to the only remaining Spanish-era structure in the Culebra archipelago, which is also the only permanent structure on the island. After taking in the views, guests will head to Playa Tortuga (Turtle Beach), which is named for the many sea turtles that use the beach for breeding grounds and surrounding waters for grazing.

SeaDream Yacht Club offers a myriad of crew-led, complementary shore excursions in numerous destinations giving guests many opportunities to explore their surroundings. For instance, a walk through Old San Juan to the El Morro Fortress offers the chance to explore the region’s rich history, while a circumnavigation bike ride on the tiny island paradise of Nevis is one of many ways for guests to enjoy the unspoiled serenity of natural Caribbean settings.

SeaDream II docked alongside
a megaship. SIZE matters.
Both SeaDream I and SeaDream II are also equipped with wave runners, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and many other watersports activities, all of which can be launched directly from the yachts’ Marina. With an emphasis on relaxed luxury, guests can take advantage of the SeaDream Spa, with the highest therapist-to-guest ratio at sea.

While passengers sailing with other lines fight the crowds in larger ports, guests sailing with SeaDream Yacht Club enjoy an experience like none other, visiting ports that only they can access. After all, isn’t that what yachting is all about?

Images Courtesy of SeaDream Yacht Club & CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Princess Cruises Introduces Hip Night Sky Lounge Aboard Regal Princess

The allure of the club scene in Miami is a good enough reason for many passengers to spend a night or two in South Beach before a cruise. Sadly, getting past the velvet rope at the hottest clubs can be a challenge. There’s no need to dwell on your disappointment if you didn't get in at your favored So-Be club before embarking on a Regal Princess cruise—a new club on board is set to rival those ashore.

The Night Sky Lounge, a new, chic nighttime experience is set to debut on Princess Cruises’ newest ship in November, enabling guests to enjoy a contemporary outdoor nightclub under the stars. When the Night Sky Lounge debuts as the ship begins her inaugural Caribbean season, the top-deck Retreat Pool will transform into the new Night Sky Lounge one night during each cruise. Guests can enjoy an upbeat and modern, Miami South Beach-style nightclub vibe, including atmospheric pool and furniture lighting, glowing drinks, and a DJ spinning tunes on a state-of-the-art audio system. Guests can sip sophisticated cocktails, even in the two Jacuzzis, enjoy a flair bartending demonstration, dance the night away, and can even reserve a cabana with hosted bottle service. Guests will pay a nominal cover charge, which is yet to be determined, to enter the Night Sky Lounge.

“The Retreat Pool aboard Regal Princess is such an inviting space, and so transforming it into a cool lounge that offers an entirely new evening experience will be sure to delight our guests,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. “We think the lounge’s great location, beautiful lighting, specialty cocktails, and music will be a winning entertainment experience.”

Regal Princess begins her Caribbean cruise season on Nov 6 with a short preview sailing, followed by a schedule of 7-day cruises to ports in the Eastern Caribbean including St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Princess Cays in the Bahamas.

The new club sounds like a winner and we only hope that Princess decides to open it on additional nights if it’s so popular that they have to turn guests away.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Holland America Line Reaches a Pinnacle With Keel in Place

It’s always exciting to see a new ship begin to take shape—particularly when it’s the first in a brand new ship class. For Holland America Line, it was a time to celebrate the keel laying of its new 2,650-guest Pinnacle Class ship on Aug. 22 at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy. A 680-ton block was lowered by crane into the yard’s building dock, marking the official beginning of construction.

“The keel laying of our new Pinnacle Class vessel heightens the anticipation for delivery because very soon we’ll see the ship begin to take shape,” said Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America Line. “As the largest ship ever built for Holland America Line, the vessel features many innovations and new features, and we’re excited to see it all come together over the next year and a half.”

The ship will showcase decors by leading hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany, based in New York City, and designer and architect Bjorn Storbraaten, based in Oslo, Norway. The 99,500-gross-ton ship is scheduled for delivery in February 2016.

Image Courtesy of Holland America Line

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

High Tech Meets the High Seas Aboard Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas

Royal Caribbean has revealed that its newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, will incorporate unprecedented levels of technology to amp up the vacation experience for tech-savvy travelers. Boatloads of bandwidth will keep guests connected; easy-to-use systems will expand their choices and simplify schedules; and RFID technology speeds the boarding process and allows embarking passengers to keep track of their luggage every step of the way.

Altogether, passenger-centered technology makes Quantum of the Seas six kinds of SMART:

SMART Check-In: A Quantum vacation begins at home, where guests can generate boarding documents online, upload their own ID photo, and receive digital boarding confirmation. By the time they arrive at the cruise terminal for departure, Royal Caribbean guests can go from "sidewalk to ship" in 10 minutes with no check-in counter, no forms to fill out, and no lines to stand in.

Guests will be able to track luggage in real time on their smartphones. Luggage will be tagged curbside with RFID technology at drop-off, and guests can monitor their bags' progress through key points en route to the stateroom. On departure, the process is reversed.

SMART Concierge: Quantum of the Seas will offer new RFID WOWband wristbands, which require only a simple tap to quickly navigate the ship, make onboard purchases, serve as the room key, and more.

Simplicity and efficiency are also at the heart of two new apps that put guests in charge of their cruise choices: Cruise Planner, which allows guests to research and book dining reservations, shore excursions, spa appointments and more before their vacation begins; and Royal iQ, available as a downloadable app and provided at freestanding iQ stations around the ship. Royal iQ allows guests to manage details during the cruise, includes a convenient calendar that provides at-a-glance views of their program, and keep in touch with one another and home via phone and text capabilities.

SMART Connect: Quantum of the Seas will operate with unprecedented bandwidth using satellites launched by tech partner O3b Networks. With speeds that match fast broadband connections onshore, guests can be online 24/7, no matter what personal device they bring onboard. Guests can watch streaming video, check email, share images on social media, and enjoy face-to-face video conversations—even in the middle of the ocean. In addition, Quantum's connectivity makes it possible for one of the SeaPods in SeaPlex to become a live global video gaming suite where guests can enjoy Xbox Live and compete with other gamers worldwide.

SMART Experiences: Technology also powers surprise-and-delight elements on Quantum of the Seas. A brand new venue, Bionic Bar, is set to make waves with robots at center stage. Guests place orders via tablets and then have fun watching robotic bartenders hard at work mixing cocktails. Robots drive another entertaining feature on Quantum of the Seas. Two70 is home to a playful and agile troupe of six Roboscreens that stage surprise performances during every cruise, creating scenes while soaring and twisting solo, or uniting as one. Guests will also experience Vistarama, floor-to-ceiling glass walls that transform into an expansive ambient surface that projects any scene, real or imagined, including the multidimensional performance spectacle, Starwater.

Quantum of the Seas will take advantage of technology in functional forms as well. Guest staterooms are equipped with device-charging USB outlets, as well as energy efficient and environmentally friendly lighting systems. Interior accommodations are outfitted with Virtual Balconies that display real-time sights and sounds of the sea through 80-inch LED screens, ensuring every stateroom has a view.

SMART Service: Crew can connect better with guests—and with home The technology benefits of Quantum of the Seas extend to the ship's crew. Custom apps will allow crew members to keep better track of guests' tastes and preferences, allowing staff to tailor their already remarkably personalized service to an even higher degree. Whether a guest prefers gluten-free dining, early show seating, or shiatsu massage, the features of the smart ship allow crew members to anticipate every need.

And the ship's remarkable capabilities give the company an opportunity to make life better for crew members too, since Royal Caribbean will present every crew member on Quantum of the Seas with a free, personal Microsoft Windows tablet featuring a suite of services and apps that is theirs to keep. And as technology upgrades are made across the company's fleet, every shipboard employee in the entire Royal Caribbean International fleet will also receive their own tablet—a total of 40,000 tablets.

SMART Sustainability: Cleaner and greener Technology has even played a part in making the ship more environmentally friendly. Sophisticated computer modeling was used to reduce the vessel's energy consumption with efficient hull configuration, engine design and energy saving devices. The ship has eliminated the use of incandescent bulbs; all lighting will be provided by low-energy LED or fluorescents. Motion sensors even dim hallway lighting when no one is present.

Images Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tropical Storm Cristobal Shuffles Cruise Ship Itineraries

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says strengthening is expected and Tropical Storm Cristobal could become a hurricane on Wednesday.

So far, these ships' itineraries have been altered:

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Splendor: The ship bypassed Half Moon Cay and called at Nassau instead on August 24 and visited at Port Canaveral on August 25.

Carnival Liberty: All ports remain on the itinerary, but the order of the calls has been changed.

Carnival Pride: Instead of Grand Turk the ship will call at Port Canaveral on August 27 and substitute Nassau for a call at Half Moon Cay on August 28.

Carnival Sensation: Nassau will be replaced by Key West on August 26.

Royal Caribbean

Freedom of the Seas: A day at sea replaced a call in CocoCay on August 25.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Fantasy: on August 26 the ship will visit San Juan instead of St. Marteen.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Dawn: will depart Bermuda at 6 am on Tuesday, August 26.

Norwegian Gem: If conditions prevent from the ship anchoring at Great Stirrup Cay on Tuesday, August 26, the ship will proceed to Nassau and stay overnight through 6pm on Wednesday, August 27.

Norwegian Breakaway: Will modify her Bermuda itinerary and sail south to arrive in Port Canaveral, Florida on Wednesday, August 27 and will call in Nassau on Thursday, August 28.

Take a Caribbean Culinary Discovery Tour on Oceania Cruises’ Riviera

Oceania Cruises has expanded its popular Culinary Discovery Tours to include new experiences for St. Lucia and Antigua that are set to debut during the upcoming Caribbean season aboard Riviera. Already widely recognized as the cruise line for foodies, Culinary Discovery Tours provide Oceania Cruises guests with epicurean interests a unique opportunity to explore local food markets, vineyards, farms, and restaurants with a knowledgeable chef from the Bon App├ętit Culinary Center.

The new Culinary Discovery Tours will be offered during the “Holidays In The Tropics” sailing that departs Miami on Dec. 23 and on two “Island Paradise” voyages embarking in early 2015. Highlights from the new Culinary Discovery Tours include:

St. Lucia – Spices Cooking Studio
Guests begin the tour with a scenic drive through Rodney Bay Village to a private estate situated on the grounds of a former sugar cane plantation on the Atlantic side of the island. They explore an expansive herb garden at the estate before heading inside the home for some hands-on cooking instruction. Using fresh, local ingredients, guests will prepare a menu of authentic Saint Lucian cuisine while learning about the subtleties of flavor and historical influences from the chef. Once the cooking process is complete, guests will enjoy their creations while taking in the natural vistas surrounding the property. On the return drive to the pier, guests will stop at the bustling open-air Castries Market, where farmers have brought locally grown fruits, vegetables, and spices to market for nearly 100 years.
Antigua – Market Visit & Cooking Demo
After a short ride to the center of downtown St. John’s, guest will walk the local market with their Bon App├ętit Culinary Center chef, who will show them a wide variety of typical local fruits such as breadfruit, mangoes, sour sap, and dasheen. Afterwards, they will make the short, but scenic, journey through the city to the charming Villas at Sunset Lane boutique hotel and cooking school owned by renowned Chef Jacquie, who will invite the guests into her kitchen to help prepare lunch. Chef Jacquie shops daily from local organic farmers and will share her secrets for shopping and eating seasonally. Following a hands-on cooking demonstration, guests will enjoy local, seasonal favorites for lunch while overlooking the beachfront property. After lunch, guests can stroll on the private beach or relax at the property and perhaps peruse a book from Jacquie’s extensive library.
“Culinary traditions are often at the heart of many cultures and with our Culinary Discover Tours, we’re able to provide our guests with unique opportunities to share in those traditions firsthand,” explained Kathryn Kelly, Director of Culinary Enrichment for Oceania Cruises. “With our new tours in St. Lucia and Antigua, guests spend time in the kitchen with local culinary experts learning about the spices, fruits, vegetables and cooking customs that have influenced Caribbean cuisine for centuries. Our goal is for guests to leave the tour with new culinary skills, satisfied taste buds, and a deeper appreciation for the vibrant culinary traditions found in the Caribbean”

Image Courtesy Oceania Cruises

Friday, August 22, 2014

Carnival Pride To Offer Special Caribbean & Bermuda Cruises From Baltimore & San Juan In 2015-16

Baltimore is a homeport that most travelers planning a cruise don’t immediately think of as an embarkation city. However, it’s been popular with Northeasterners for many years. Over those years the passengers who’ve sailed from there numerous times are bound to be looking for different itinerary options and Carnival Cruise Lines is now offering something brand new to entice them to sail again. Beginning in October 2015, Carnival Pride will operate a series of 10- to 14-day Caribbean cruises round-trip from Baltimore and one-way between Baltimore and San Juan that feature some of the region’s most desirable destinations, as well as new 5-day Bermuda cruises and unique 6- and 8-day Caribbean/Bahamas voyages.

One-of-a-Kind 10- to 14-Day Caribbean Cruises
Carnival Pride will operate a series of 10-, 11- and 14-day cruises either round-trip from Baltimore or one-way between Baltimore and San Juan in 2015 and 2016. The voyages include an 11-day exotic southern Caribbean cruise from Baltimore to San Juan departing Jan. 17, 2016, with stops at Grand Turk, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, and St. Croix; a 10-day exotic eastern Caribbean cruise from San Juan to Baltimore departing Jan. 28, 2016, calling at St. Thomas, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia; St. Kitts and St. Maarten; and a 14-day eastern Caribbean cruise round-trip from Baltimore March 13, 2016, featuring eight different island destinations: Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, Dominica, St. Lucia, Martinique, Antigua and St. Maarten.

New Five-Day Bermuda Cruises, Six- and Eight-Day Sailings
Carnival Pride will also sail two 5-day Bermuda cruises in 2015-16: one departing Oct. 26, 2015, and another April 10, 2016. These cruises spend two full days at Heritage Wharf, where guests can enjoy the island’s legendary pink sand beaches, enjoy a variety of watersports and visit historic sites such as the Royal Naval Dockyard and Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse, the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere.

Additionally, three 6-day Bahamas cruises operating round-trip from Baltimore and featuring visits to Freeport and Nassau will be offered. These cruises, which depart Nov. 30 and Dec. 20, 2015, and Feb. 14, 2016, provide consumers with a new short duration cruise option from Baltimore at an incredible value.

Carnival Pride will also offer a new series of 8-day exotic eastern Caribbean voyages departing from Baltimore and featuring Grand Turk, the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, and Nassau, each featuring beautiful beaches and excellent watersports. Departure dates for these voyages include Oct. 18 & 31, Dec. 26, 2015, Feb. 20, and April 15 & 23, 2016.

A special 6-day East Coast U.S. and Bahamas cruise from Baltimore featuring the line’s first-ever scheduled in-transit call to Charleston, SC, as well as Port Canaveral, FL, Nassau, and Freeport, will be offered Nov. 22, 2015.

Fun Ship 2.0 Innovations Coming Soon to Carnival Pride
This fall, Carnival Pride will undergo a multi-million-dollar makeover that will add a variety of dining, bar, and entertainment innovations that are part of the line’s Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement initiative. New features will include Guy’s Burger Joint, developed in tandem with Food Network’s Guy Fieri; the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar; BlueIguana Cantina serving authentic Mexican fare; EA SPORTS Bar with a 16-monitor video wall and 24/7 sports ticker; and two poolside watering holes–RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar.

Sure to be a hit with guests of all ages will be WaterWorks featuring Green Thunder, the fastest and steepest slide at sea, as well as the line’s signature Twister slide and a water spray park. Also added will be Bonsai Sushi, serving authentic Asian specialties; RedFrog Pub, serving Carnival’s own private label draft beer, ThirstyFrog Red; Library Bar with self-service wine dispensers; and Cherry On Top, offering bulk candy, apparel and other items. New entertainment options such as Hasbro, The Game Show, with larger-than-life adaptations of the company’s iconic games, and Playlist Productions, where talented performers interact with spectacular staging and special effects, will be added, as well.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Regional Menus Showcase Destination Specialties on Princess Cruises

One of the things most travelers look forward to on a cruise is the food, not only on their ship, but also in the ports of call. However, it isn’t always possible to get a taste of a destination with so much to do and see in port and with a limited amount of time ashore. To make up for that, when the new Regal Princess arrives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this November to begin her maiden Caribbean cruise season, she will debut a new Princess Cruises dining program showcasing regional culinary specialties.

Designed to reflect the worldwide destinations visited by Princess ships, the new program will enable guests to enjoy regional menu items created with local produce, spices, and seafood. In keeping with Regal Princess’ fall itineraries, the first special menus are inspired by the Caribbean. The regional cruise ship menus will eventually roll out across the fleet, and will include culinary specialties from an array of vacation destinations including the Mediterranean, Alaska, and Hawaii.

“One of the joys of travel is experiencing the culinary specialties for which a destination is known,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. “So now when our guests cruise with Princess around the world, they’ll be able to enjoy some of the most celebrated local dishes on board as well as ashore.”

Beginning with Regal Princess, regional cruise menus will introduce guests to the exotic fusion of flavors found in island cuisine, including such offerings as:
Arawak’s Caribbean-Style Pork Chop – Prepared with traditional Jamaican jerk spice and curry, and served with red beans, rice, and rum sauce, this extraordinary dish earned Princess Cruises Corporate Executive Chef Alfredo Marzi the top prize at the 8th Annual Bacardi Bartender and Chef Cruise Competition.

Red Snapper Mojito – Featuring ceviche accented with fresh mint, mango, and avocado, and finished with a splash of rum, this was the winning dish created by Princess Cruises Executive Chef Antonio Cortese at the 6th Annual Bacardi Bartender and Chef Cruise Competition

Island-Spiced Jerk Chicken – A marinade of rum, molasses, tangy lime juice and thyme, plus sweet-and-fiery Scotch Bonnet peppers, infuses this tender chicken dish with the spirit of the islands.

Caribbean Cocktails – The Caribbean Cooler is the perfect poolside cocktail, with coconut rum, melon liqueur, banana liqueur, citrus mix, and pineapple juice. The West Indies Yellow Bird offers a classic taste of the region, featuring a shaken melody of rum, galliano, and banana liqueur with orange and pineapple juice. The Cool Runnings cocktail, a favorite of the Caribbean Islands, features a delicious combination of rum, banana liqueur, blackberry brandy, and grenadine, blended with coconut and pineapple.
Regal Princess begins her Caribbean cruise season on Nov 6 with a short preview sailing, followed by a schedule of 7-day cruises to ports in the Eastern Caribbean including St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Princess Cays in the Bahamas.

Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Norovirus, Not Just For Cruise Passengers

After seeing news reports of Norovirus sickening hundreds of passengers and even cutting cruises short so that ships could be deep cleaned to avoid spreading the virus to passengers on subsequent sailings, back in February we looked at the question, Is Your Cruise Ship Sick?

From personal experience I can relate that having Norovirus is no fun. I've come down with it twice, but wasn't near a cruise ship either time. In both instances, I had been shopping and probably touched a surface, such as a counter or the handle on a grocery cart, that had been touched by someone who was infected. For more information on Norovirus—what it is and how to avoid it—follow the link above.

Christine Duffy, President and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), explains it even further in the following statement that puts Nororvirus in perspective relative to it being called "the cruise ship disease":
"The recent release of a report on norovirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores what the cruise industry has known and communicated for a long time: The occurrence of norovirus on cruise ships is rare and it is dramatically lower than the number of incidents of this common illness on land.

Norovirus is often referred to as a "stomach bug" and the symptoms typically last between 24 and 48 hours. It is second only to the common cold in terms of its prevalence and is generally not considered a serious illness. According to the CDC, there are about 20 million cases of norovirus annually on land in the U.S. Americans have about a 1 in 15 chance of getting norovirus even if they never step foot on a cruise ship.

Now, let's look at the record of the cruise industry. In 2013, 10.1 million people embarked on a cruise from a U.S. port. There were four norovirus outbreaks involving about 834 total passengers. That amounts to approximately 1 in 12,000 passengers, compared to 1 in 15 people who get norovirus on land every year.

In my opinion, the CDC report confirms that the cruise industry's relentless focus on keeping ships clean and safe is working to keep passengers healthy. The process starts even before a ship leaves port with the screening of passengers for any illnesses they may have contracted on land. Passengers are also reminded to wash hands regularly, just as people should do on land, and hand sanitizers are located throughout a ship for convenience. If someone does become ill, cruise ships have physicians and nurses on hand to treat them.

Cruising is the only sector of the hospitality industry that works directly with the CDC to proactively monitor and report cases of norovirus, even though incidents are rare on cruise ships. The industry does this in order to collaborate with the CDC on how to continuously improve prevention and response.

Sensationalized news stories about norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships simply do not line up with the facts. The latest CDC report provides strong evidence that cruise lines are going to great lengths to protect the health of passengers—and succeeding."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Princess Releases Annual Relaxation Report

As it has done for the past four years, Princess Cruises released the results from its fifth annual Relaxation Report, conducted in celebration of National Relaxation Day, which was last Friday, August 15th.

Despite that an overwhelming 99% of Americans agree that relaxation is essential for their overall health and well-being, on average Americans spend only an hour a day dedicated to unwinding. In honor of National Relaxation Day, Princess Cruises encouraged all Americans to observe the day with dedicated time spent relaxing. If you were unable to do it on the 15th of this month, which was after all a weekday, try to take a day this coming weekend to relax and recharge. Sunday is a good choice as it is traditionally a day of rest and you’ll have the rest of this week to look forward to it. Then repeat it as often as possible in the coming weeks.

The national survey also revealed other insights including that 38% frequently feel guilty about relaxing, and that more than one-quarter (28%) of those polled feel stressed out by the mere thought of trying to relax. That figure increases to 39% for parents and 41% among Americans under 40.

“It’s not surprising that almost all Americans see relaxation as key to improving their health, however, our survey found that the demands of our daily lives have made only 60 minutes attainable,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. “In honor of National Relaxation Day, we’re asking Americans to make a concerted effort to take a break today to relax and decompress, which we all know is good for both our mind and body.” She added that for those who looking for the ultimate chance to unwind, Princess Cruises offers an array of options for any traveler looking for a relaxing vacation escape.

Princess Cruises, which helps more than 1.7 million travelers each year “come back new” aboard its worldwide fleet of ships, commissioned the annual report to uncover consumer attitudes towards vacation and relaxation habits.

Relax, Just Do It
An overwhelming 85% of those surveyed say sex is better when they’re relaxed and can just go with it. Interestingly enough, 16% report that sex is better when they’re stressed. For those looking for a relaxing couple’s getaway (wink, wink), consider a cruise vacation.

Going Off the Grid in 3, 2, 1
Two-thirds of Americans (67%) reported they would feel completely relaxed if they were entirely “off the grid” (without any electronics or Internet access). And on an average day, 42% of men and women feel completely or mostly relaxed. Additionally, over half (52%) of Americans say that having a smart phone makes it harder to relax. I can personally attest to that!

Let the Music Soothe You
More Americans would prefer to use sound over sight when trying to relax. Two in five Americans (40%) of Americans choose music to help decompress and, now in 2014, reading has been shelved with only 5% naming it the best relaxation tool.

Who has it Harder?
Of those with significant others, 52% share they’re more stressed than their partner. However, among men, 62% say their significant other is more stressed out.
The Princess Cruises Relaxation Report survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18+, between August 8th and August 12th, 2014, using an online omnibus survey. Quotas have been set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the U.S. adult population 18+. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 3.1 percent.
Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Monday, August 18, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines Takes the #IceBucketChallenge

Leave it to Carnival Cruise Lines to take the #IceBucketChallenge up a notch! Here's the way the #IceBucketChallenge works: participants are encouraged to pour a bucket of ice water over their head and then challenge others to do the same or make a donation to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease within 24 hours.

The popular cruise line enlisted all twenty-four of its “Fun Ships,” as well as President and CEO Gerry Cahill, to participate in the #IceBucketChallenge, designed to raise much-needed awareness and funds for ALS. Carnival is also making a $100,000 donation to the ALS Association. Additionally, Carnival’s Chairman Micky Arison was challenged, accepted it—his video is on Instagram—and he will match the cruise line’s donation to the ALS Association with a $100,000 donation of his own.

Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Breeze, was the first ship to rise to the challenge with Cruise Director Matt Mitcham throwing down the gauntlet by dumping the entire contents of the 150-gallon PowerDrencher tipping bucket and then challenging the line’s other 23 ships to take up the cause.

Team members from the 23 ships, which are sailing in regions spanning the Caribbean, Alaska, the West Coast, and Australia, were up to the task, with shipboard personnel undergoing their own below-freezing drenching to support ALS research, treatment and education efforts. Finally, President and CEO Gerry Cahill, pictured above surrounded by dozens of the company’s employees, underwent his own frigid encounter at the company’s Miami headquarters.

And just to keep the momentum going, Cahill challenged popular comedian and TV personality George Lopez—the line’s “curator of comedy” who helped create the fleetwide Punchliner Comedy Clubs—along with Food Network star Guy Fieri whose namesake Guy’s Burger Joints are on several ships, and DJ IRIE, the line’s official DJ whose Spin’Iversity trains Carnival DJs fleetwide. All three gentlemen gladly accepted the challenge and I know Fieri completed it because I saw his video online.

Take a look below to see the chilling challenge aboard the Carnival fleet and in Miami—where I bet the water was more refreshing than in Alaska.


Image & Video Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quantum of the Seas Floats Out A Surprise

When locals line up on the banks of the River Ems to see Royal Caribbean International's newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, make her conveyance to the sea they will also witness something unexpected—a 30-foot-tall magenta polar bear situated prominently on the exterior deck of the ship.

The bear, a sculpture created by Denver-based artist Lawrence Argent, is the first glimpse of the 2,980 piece, multi-million art collection themed "What Makes Life Worth Living" that has been curated for Quantum of the Seas. As seen in the images below, the innovative ship left the enclosed building hall at the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, on August 13th to make way for the continuing construction of sister-ship Anthem of the Seas.

"Royal Caribbean has a long history of showcasing original art at sea; in fact, we boast one of the world's largest private art collections across our fleet, " said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Executive Vice President, Operations, Royal Caribbean International. "The pieces we have commissioned for Quantum of the Seas are stunning, engaging and in some cases completely unexpected, and we are so thrilled that our guests have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of exceptionally brilliant works from some of the world's most talented artists such as Lawrence Argent."

The bear titled "From Afar" is comprised of 1,340 stainless steel triangles, weighs approximately eight-tons and is intended to incite wonder among guests, encouraging them to admire the bear from afar, as well as interact with it on a more intimate, yet whimsical level. The piece helps guests explore the ship's art theme by showcasing intangible qualities of what makes life worth living, such as peace, love, joy, gratitude, and passion, which is what Quantum's art pieces are meant to evoke.

In addition to Lawrence Argent, an impressive portfolio of artists have created art works for Quantum of the Seas, including Paul Villinski, who created a monumental installation called "Crossing" which encompasses a wall of 210 butterflies representing 30 species, each made of aluminum, stainless steel, acrylic, and enamel; sculptor Soo Sunny Park, whose sprawling, undulating structure titled "Waves of Light," explores the light's potential as a structural element. Pieces by these artists and others span size, art forms, and mediums, and can be enjoyed both inside and outside the ship. The art planned for sister-ship, Anthem of the Seas, which is scheduled to debut April 2015, uncovers tangible aspects of Quantum of the Seas' theme such as adventure, entertainment, and nature.

The groundbreaking Quantum-class ships, Quantum of the Seas and sister-ship Anthem of the Seas will introduce a new set of first-at-sea onboard experiences, such as Ripcord by iFLY, a heart-pounding skydiving experience; North Star, a thrilling adventure that transports guests more than 300 feet in the air; cutting-edge venues including SeaPlex, the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with bumper cars, roller skating, and more; and the cruise line's largest and most advanced staterooms ever.

The Quantum Class spans 18 decks, encompasses 167,800 gross registered tons, carries 4,180 guests at double occupancy, and features 2,090 staterooms. Quantum of the Seas will sail out of New York Harbor from her homeport of Cape Liberty for her inaugural season before departing to her new homeport of Shanghai (Baoshan), China. Anthem of the Seas will debut in Southampton, U.K. in April 2015 sailing Mediterranean itineraries.

Images Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International & Meyer Werft

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Regal Princess Naming Ceremony Will Launch Princess Cruises’ 50th Anniversary Celebrations

The original Love Boat cast will serve as 
godparents for Regal Princess
Can you believe it’s been nearly forty years since the iconic television show The Love Boat went on the air and introduced viewers to modern day cruising and, in the process, made Princess Cruises and its ships synonymous with vacations at sea? As Princess prepares to celebrate its milestone 50th anniversary year in 2015, the company is honoring the role that The Love Boat played in its history by selecting the original Love Boat cast members to serve as godparents for its new cruise ship Regal Princess. All six Love Boat cast members-who played the roles of Captain Stubing, Gopher, Isaac, Doc, Julie and Vicki–will reunite to christen the new ship on Nov 5 in Fort Lauderdale.

The ceremony will officially launch the golden year anniversary celebrations for Princess Cruises, which will celebrate five decades of operation throughout 2015.

Pictured above, the actors include Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing) Fred Grandy (Gopher, the chief purser), Ted Lange (Isaac, the bartender), Bernie Kopell (Doc, the ship’s doctor), Lauren Tewes (cruise director Julie) and Jill Whelan (Vicki, the captain’s daughter).

“We can think of no more suitable godparents for our newest ship than the cast of the show that put Princess Cruises on the map,” said Jan Swartz, the line’s president. “The show has been such a visible part of our company’s history, it made sense to kick off our anniversary celebrations with this special tribute.”

The pilot episode of The Love Boat, shot aboard Princess’ 730-passenger original Sun Princess in 1977, began the relationship between Princess Cruises and the show, which for ten seasons eventually became one of the highest rated and longest-running shows on television. The Pacific Princess and Island Princess were the primary floating stars of the show, while later episodes and specials were filmed aboard many of Princess’ other cruise ships in destinations around the globe.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that my former cast mates and I will be part of Regal Princess’ U.S. debut,” said Gavin MacLeod, who has been Princess Cruises’ ambassador since the show ended in 1986. “The fact that The Love Boat continues to air in international syndication around the globe is a testament to the show’s longevity and the world’s fascination with romance on the high seas.”

The 3,560-guest Regal Princess, which entered service in May of this year, is arriving in Fort Lauderdale to begin her maiden season of Caribbean cruise vacations. Among the special features found on board is a dramatic multi-story atrium serving as the social hub of the ship, offering a host of dining and entertainment options; an over-water SeaWalk, a top-deck glass-bottomed walkway extending 28 feet beyond the edge of the ship; plush private poolside cabanas that appear to be floating on water; the Princess Live! television studio; the largest pastry shop at sea; a special Chef’s Table Lumiere, a private dining experience that surrounds diners in a curtain of light; and balconies on all outside staterooms.

“The ship’s naming ceremony is just the beginning of the celebrations that will mark our company’s golden anniversary,” said Swartz. She added that beyond the Regal Princess festivities, guests sailing on any of the line’s fleet of 18 cruise ships during 2015 will enjoy a wide range of anniversary experiences.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Regent Seven Seas Cruises Expands Unlimited Free Internet Offerings

Already the most all-inclusive cruise lines afloat, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ luxury amenities are expanding to include unlimited internet access for upper level suites. For all the line’s voyages setting sail after Jan 1, 2015, guests booked in Master, Grand, Seven Seas, Horizon, Mariner, Navigator, and Voyager suites will receive unlimited complimentary internet access. The free internet access is available for the duration of the cruise and is accessible in all public spaces and suites via the ship-wide Wi-Fi system.

The addition of free unlimited internet access for upper suites coincides with the completion of a multimillion-dollar upgrade to internet systems on all Regent Seven Seas Cruises ships. The upgrades entail a doubling of available bandwidth to increase internet speed and reliability, and an expansion of the Wi-Fi system to provide connectivity throughout the entire ship, including all public spaces, outdoor decks and suites.

While top tier suites will enjoy unlimited internet access, guests booked in Penthouse and Concierge suites will continue to receive complimentary internet time based on cruise length. For example, guests sailing on a 7-night voyage receive 200-minutes free and the amount of gratis internet time extends to 500-minutes for voyages over 16-nights. Members of the Regent Seven Seas Cruises loyalty program, Seven Seas Society, who achieved gold status or higher will continue to receive unlimited complimentary internet access onboard, regardless of suite selection.

“By introducing the industry’s only unlimited complimentary internet program onboard our ships, we continue to fulfill our guest promise to deliver the most inclusive experience available, at sea or on land,” shared Kunal S. Kamlani, president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “The expansion of our free internet program, coupled with widespread enhancements made to the ships during recent dry docks, strengthens the luxury proposition found on Regent Seven Seas Cruises and better prepares us for the arrival of Seven Seas Explorer, which will be the most luxurious ship ever built.”

The expansion of the unlimited internet program adds to the most comprehensive list of included amenities in the vacation industry, including round-trip air, a pre-cruise hotel night stay, fine wine and spirits, unlimited shore excursions in every port, specialty dining, ground transfers, and gratuities. Fares for the world’s most inclusive luxury cruise line also include all-suite accommodations and highly personalized service. The three all-suite vessels in the fleet, Seven Seas Navigator, Seven Seas Mariner, and Seven Seas Voyager, are among the most spacious at sea and visit more than 250 destinations around the globe. The line is currently building the 750-guest Seven Seas Explorer, which will be delivered in summer of 2016.

Photo: Seven Seas Mariner © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

American Cruise Lines Plans Holiday Cruises With An Old Fashioned Twist

There’s nothing like an old fashioned holiday in America’s historic deep south. If you haven’t made your plans yet, American Cruise Lines has some tempting southern-style festivities planned for its 2014 holiday cruises that are worth your consideration. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve cruises will offer seasonal activities that showcase the beautiful regions cruised, as well as the spirit of the holidays.

Thanksgiving, Nov. 22 Sailings
Offered on the Mississippi River and Historic South & Golden Isles cruises which depart on Nov 22, American Cruise Lines has again partnered with Connecticut Food Bank to help feed the hungry by donating $50 per ticket sold on the designated Thanksgiving sailings. Last year, the line raised over $10,000 for Connecticut Food Bank through the program. The money raised will help put food on the tables of needy Connecticut residents and spread joy this holiday season. In addition to the rewarding feeling of knowing their bookings will help those in need this holiday season, guests will enjoy Thanksgiving in some of the most spectacular areas of the country. Onboard, a team of world class chefs will prepare a special feast with everything that could be expected at a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Guests will enjoy turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, apple pie and more. The day before, guests may even join the head chef to learn how he makes the cornucopia.

Christmas, Dec. 20 Sailings
Offered on Mississippi River and Historic South & Golden Isles cruises which depart on Dec 20, American Cruise Lines is offering two unique ways to celebrate the Christmas holiday.

New Orleans Roundtrip: This year’s special events include a tour of Oak Alley Plantation in its holiday splendor, along with a holiday concert in the music room of the beautifully preserved J.N. Stone House in the Historic Natchez. Onboard, guests will join a traditional Reveillon-style feast with mouth-watering regional favorites prepared by expert chefs. Gingerbread house and ornament making workshops will also be offered, as well as Christmas carol sing-alongs. This cruise also features a complimentary pre-night celebration on Dec 19, including dinner at Antoine's, one of New Orleans’ most historic and famous restaurants.

Historic South & Golden Isles: Guests will explore the holiday traditions of the Historic South as they celebrate Christmas on the Intracoastal Waterway aboard the beautiful Independence. Holiday-themed events include a tour of the Amelia Island Gingerbread house, Charleston's Holiday Festival of Lights and a private dockside Oyster Roast on the gorgeous Sapelo Island. This cruise also features a complimentary pre-night celebration on Dec 19, including dinner at the elegant Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.

New Year’s Eve, Dec. 28 Sailings
Offered on Historic South & Golden Isles and Mississippi River cruises departing on Dec 28, American Cruise Lines offers one of the best and most memorable ways to ring in the New Year, including a fireworks display over Savannah (Historic South) or lights tours at Oak Alley and Houmas House Plantations (New Orleans roundtrip). Onboard, Guests will enjoy a specially-themed New Year’s Eve cocktail hour, dinner and evening entertainment, as well as a midnight countdown and champagne toast. A festive and sumptuous New Year’s Day brunch will also be featured. New Year’s Eve cruises also feature a complimentary pre-night celebration on Dec 27, which includes welcome festivities and exclusive dinners at the renowned McCradey’s Restaurant in Charleston (Historic South) and Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans (New Orleans Roundtrip).

American Cruise Lines is the largest U.S. flagged cruise company and operates the newest fleet of riverboats and small cruise ships on more than 35 itineraries around the country. The line is known for working closely with guests and travel agents before, during, and after a cruise to create a highly personalized cruise experience. Long established and deeply experienced in cruise travel, American Cruise Lines has most recently received world-wide recognition as the first line to revive paddlewheel river cruising in America.

Houmas House Image Courtesy American Cruise Lines

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cruise Line Cancellation & Refund Policies

In the news industry there’s a saying, “If it bleeds, it leads.“ That’s been the case in some recent news stories about cruise lines and their cancellation policies. In one instance a little boy was diagnosed with a deadly disease and another situation involved the death of a family member just prior to sailing. In both cases, the families had not purchased travel insurance and had to cancel their cruises within the penalty period. They lost the money they’d paid for a cruise vacation because, in their opinion, the evil cruise line was only interested in profits and would not give them a refund or reschedule them on a later sailing.

In one case reported in the Washington Post, the traveler said, “the cruise line never informed him of its refund procedure.” While it’s unfortunate that bad things happen to nice people, that excuse doesn’t hold water. I checked the websites of a half dozen major cruise lines and all publish their cancellation policies online. Additionally, those policies are spelled out in cruise line brochures, usually under a section called “Terms & Conditions” or “Things to Know.”

Cancellation and refund policies vary depending on the cruise line and length of the cruise—some are even different for holiday sailings. As a rule, depending on your booking, if you cancel at least 60 to 90 days before departure, you will get a full refund. As an example, using Royal Caribbean’s policy of cancelling at least 75 days before departure for a full refund on a weeklong cruise, if you cancel in the period of 74-57 days before departure, you will forfeit your deposit amount; 56-29 days, you forfeit 50% of the total fare (excluding taxes & fees); 28-15 days, forfeit 75% of total fare (excluding taxes & fees); and if you cancel 14 days or less before departure you will receive no refund except for taxes and fees.

Interestingly, the same people who complain that they shouldn’t have to purchase insurance to cover their vacations, probably don’t think twice about purchasing insurance to cover the loss of their vehicle in an accident or their home in the case of a fire or natural disaster. Do they expect the auto maker to replace their car or the home builder to construct them a new house? No, but they expect the cruise line to absorb the loss if they are uninsured and can’t sail.

I’m not unsympathetic to the losses of others, but I recognize life’s full of unexpected tragedies. That’s why I purchase travel insurance. We all have to take responsibility for our personal decisions.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Weather Alert for Pride of America 8/9 Sailing

Norwegian Cruise Line Statement: Friday, August 8, 2014 @ 10:15 am ET

At Norwegian Cruise Line, the safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance. Therefore, the company is closely monitoring the paths of Tropical Storm Iselle and Hurricane Julio in the Pacific.

Pride of America departed Nawiliwili, Kauai on Thursday at 7 pm and is spent the day at sea. The ship is expected to dock in Honolulu on Saturday morning.

At this time, we anticipate embarkation for Pride of America's August 9 sailing will take place as scheduled.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Holland America Line's 2015 Grand Voyages Sail Three Global Itineraries

Every voyage on a Holland Amereica Line ship is grand in its own way, but some voyages are just a bit grander than others. In 2015 there are three Grand Voyages options to choose from, as well as shorter segments of each voyage for those who are crunched for time.

When Holland America’s ms Prinsendam kicks off the new year on Jan 3, 2015, it will be with a 68-day Grand South America and Antarctica Voyage followed by a 55-day Grand Mediterranean Voyage. These two itineraries are designed as longer explorations that visit some of the most interesting and exciting ports in the world. This is an addition to ms Amsterdam’s 114-day Grand World Voyage that calls at 45 ports in 25 countries.

“A Grand Voyage is like no other cruise experience. We asked our guests and travel agent partners which destinations they would like to visit on a Grand Voyage to be sure we included what was important to them,” said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales, and guest programs for Holland America Line. “We took their suggestions and carefully crafted these three exceptional itineraries with more overnight visits and more ports of call, making these the most exciting and in-depth Grand Voyages we’ve ever offered.”

Holland America Line’s Grand Voyages make taking a longer vacation easier and more affordable—with little or no international air travel. Whether visiting one or several global destinations, the voyages feature famous landmarks, new destinations and extended time in port with late departures, overnight calls and overland tours.

Grand South America & Antarctica Voyage
Prinsendam returns to South America, Antarctica, and the Amazon in 2015 on a 68-day itinerary sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale that departs Jan. 3. After passing through the Panama Canal, the ship will reach South America’s Pacific coast and continue on to circumnavigate the continent. During the voyage, Prinsendam will call at 31 ports in 11 countries, including spending seven full days cruising the Amazon River and three days of dramatic scenic cruising in Antarctica. The 2015 itinerary also features overnight calls at Valparaiso (Santiago), Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Manaus, Brazil, in the heart of the Amazon; and two full nights at Callao (Lima), Peru. Guests sailing on this voyage also will enjoy scenic cruising past the Romanche and Alemania glaciers in Chile, Drake Passage, Cape Horn and Argentina’s Glacier Alley. Segments of 31 and 37 days between Fort Lauderdale and Buenos Aires are available.

Grand Mediterranean Voyage
Immediately following its Grand South America and Antarctica Voyage, Prinsendam departs March 12 on a 55-day Grand Mediterranean Voyage that sails from Fort Lauderdale to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, visiting 32 ports in 12 countries. The voyage features many “boutique” ports of call in the Mediterranean and Balkan Peninsula.

The ship visits Caribbean destinations before crossing over to the Canary Islands and spending the night alongside at Tenerife. Prinsendam then explores Spain with five calls, including overnights at Cadiz (Seville) and Barcelona. Following an overnight at Valletta, Malta, the ship makes way for Crete, Greece and the Holy Land of Israel. Prinsendam continues exploring the eastern Mediterranean with calls throughout Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Greece and Italy. Overnights at Istanbul, Turkey, and Piraeus (Athens), Greece, allow for ample time for shopping, exploring and experiencing the culture and history of the cities.

A 17-day segment Istanbul to Civitavecchia (Rome), 24-day segment from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona, 31-day segment from Barcelona to Civitavecchia (Rome), and a 38-day segment Ft. Lauderdale to Istanbul is available. Guests looking to explore both South America and the Mediterranean can combine the Grand South America and Antarctica Voyage with the Grand Mediterranean Voyage to form an extended 123-day exploration.

Grand World Voyage
When ms Amsterdam departs Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 5, 2015, the cruise will span 114 days and call at 45 ports in 25 countries on six continents. Offering a refined and elegant “home away from home,” the around the world journey is the pinnacle in travel, and this cruise truly is the grandest of the Grand Voyages.

A Grand Onboard Experience
On each Grand Voyage, Holland America Line ships provide gracious service, superior amenities, and unexpected experiences. Guests can relax during leisurely days at sea, taking advantage of the extra time to do many activities, including indulging in a massage at the Greenhouse Spa, watching a movie in the theater, taking in a lecture by a renowned expert, enjoying a cooking demonstration by a famous chef in the Culinary Arts Center, learning how to share photos at a class in the Digital Workshop, or simply lounging on deck and taking in the view.

Evening shipboard activities shine as well with local cultural entertainment and special guest headliners. Festive gala balls and formal nights create memorable moments, along with an exclusive Captain’s Grand Voyage Dinner for full-cruise guests. Dining is elevated to a new level on each Grand Voyage with menus that change daily and are seldom repeated, featuring local ingredients and regional cuisine.

Through the line’s “On Location” enrichment program, local traditions and culinary and cultural experiences come to life both onboard and ashore to deepen guests’ appreciation of the destinations. During a Grand Voyage, that might mean illuminating speakers, galas and local cultural and folkloric shows such as a didgeridoo player on deck while in Australia or belly dancing lessons in the Mediterranean.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Carnival Corp to Develop Port Facility in Tortuga, Haiti

Some of our fondest memories are of days ashore on cruise lines' idyllic "private islands" in the Caribbean. Swimming in the crystal clear water or just lounging on the powdery sand beach without the nuisance of hiring a taxi to get there (and back to the ship) are many passengers' idea of heaven and private islands are often cited as the 'best' port on Caribbean itineraries.

It looks like we will have a new one to look forward to visiting as Carnival Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding on July 31st that calls for the development of a new cruise port in Tortuga, an island just off the northern coast of Haiti. Per the Letter of Intent, the amount of investment is $70 million and represents the largest cruise industry investment ever made in Haiti, providing a new and exciting destination for ship itineraries traveling in the Caribbean. This also represents a major commitment to the people of Haiti by Carnival Corporation, the largest cruise company in the world, with nine brands and dozens of ships operating in the Caribbean, the world's most popular region for cruise vacations.

The development will create an opportunity for passengers to enjoy a new, secluded, and stunning destination on the island of Tortuga that the company expects will become a highly popular place for years to come. Additionally, this commitment will initially stimulate significant development and construction activities, and then tourism business once the port is open, that will create a tremendous economic impact for the people of Haiti. Initial estimates indicate that Carnival Corporation will employ more than 900 people directly and indirectly, and the project will be an anchor for further development on the island. The company is working with the Haitian people and government to build Tortuga into a popular and economically sustainable Caribbean destination.

This commitment to Haiti is part of Carnival Corporation's larger investment in the Caribbean as a whole. The Caribbean is a crucial market for the success of Carnival Corporation and the cruise industry in general and the company remains committed to creating new and exciting products in the region. The Caribbean is not only the most popular region for cruise vacations, but it is also where Carnival Corporation's roots are, and where the company's nine brands deploy a large number of ships that set sail with millions of guests every year.

As they work to develop more diverse itineraries in the region, this new port will complement other popular destinations in the area, including the other Carnival-owned ports of Mahogany Bay, Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk (pictured above), Puerta Maya, and Amber Cove—another new Carnival Corporation port being developed in Puerta Plata, founded by Christopher Columbus on the north coast of the Dominican Republic and scheduled to open in 2015.

No word yet on whether there will be docking facilities at Tortuga, but we would be surprised if they aren't in the plans!

Image: Carnival Liberty Docked at Grand Turk © Cruise.Diva.com

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Port of Miami Tunnel Opens

Ships docked in Government Cut
Cruisers arriving at the Port of Miami will notice a change in their route now that the construction of the access tunnel project is complete. We haven't had the opportunity to try it out yet, but look forward to the convenience when driving to the port in the future.

The Port of Miami Tunnel Project was a complex undertaking consisting of three components: the tunnel connection between Watson Island and Port of Miami; linkages to the Port of Miami roadway system; and a widening of the MacArthur Causeway Bridge. The tunnel structure is comprised of two tubes with a diameter of 36 feet, each containing two traffic lanes, curbs, walkways, ventilation fans, and additional safety features. Through connecting Watson Island and the Port of Miami beneath Government Cut, which is the main shipping channel in Biscayne Bay, it will help move traffic eastbound to and westbound from the Port. Further, by connecting MacArthur Causeway to the Port of Miami, this project will serve as a dedicated roadway linking Port facilities with Florida's Interstate System. The tunnel is expected to divert 16,000 vehicles daily from downtown Miami by providing a direct link to Interstate 95 and State Road 836, which connects to Miami International Airport. Before the construction of the tunnel, the only accessible entryway to the port was through Port Boulevard, which caused heavy traffic and congestion for cargo trucks and cruise ships.

The completion of the project is tied to strong economic benefits to the community. Since the project started in May 2010, Florida's economy has strengthened due to the hiring of 968 people, with more than 80% of those employees being Miami-Dade residents. Going forward, in addition to traffic decongestion, inefficiencies will be reduced as there are now two dedicated lanes connecting Miami International Airport and Interstate 95 to the Port. The tunnel will make downtown streets safer, reduce traffic and will aid ongoing and future development in and around downtown Miami. As part of the project's sustainability initiative, the tunnel will reduce idle vehicle time as well as cut the amount of vehicle emissions by allowing for more efficient travel to and from the port.

The creation of the tunnel also provides another entry point besides the existing Port Bridge, which will maintain Port of Miami as the community's second largest economic generator, with more opportunities for national and global growth. As a result, Miami will become an even more attractive destination by which to exit or enter the U.S. market.

Image (c) CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Azamara Club Cruises Offers “Buy One, Get One Half Off” Fares for 2015/16 Voyages

Azamara Club Cruises® took to social media channels to ask community members what travel bonus they would appreciate most when booking a voyage. During the survey period held the week of June 2, Azamara Club Cruises’ Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram fans were invited to weigh in on “what promotion they would like to see next.” Participants were given four choices, “double stateroom upgrade,” “onboard spending credit,” “free shore excursion,” or “50 percent off second guest cruise fare.” The offering of 50 percent off was the overwhelming favorite.

With results from that survey in hand, Azamara Club Cruises has announced its limited “Buy One, Get One Half Off” fare offer. Available for all stateroom categories booked starting Aug 4 through Sept 30, travelers can can receive up to 50 percent off their second guest’s fare for most sailings* visiting ports of call in South America, the Mediterranean, Northern and Western Europe, Asia, and Australia in 2015 and 2016.

“We put our guests at the heart and soul of all we do and spend a tremendous amount of time building a community with them, both while on our ships and after they have returned home. We believe this is why we have such a high percentage of repeat guests. We want to know what they want; we listen and then develop or change programs, policies and special offers that deliver on their wishes. This promotion is just one example,” says Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises. “We anticipate this offering to be a significant value to our guests. As we don’t repeat itineraries in a calendar year, we have seen a growing trend of travelers booking consecutive voyages and expect this offering to entice even more guests to take advantage of back to back sailings.”

Azamara Club Cruises recently enhanced its Azamara Insider AccessSM and Nights and Cool PlacesSM and Land Discoveries® programs. Azamara's ships stay in ports late or for multiple days which affords guests a substantial destination immersive experience. Voyagers can use the new fare savings to take advantage of the behind the scenes style shore excursions that are not usually experienced by most travelers that embark on a cruise vacation. For more information, visit AzamaraClubCruises.com.
* This offer is valid for most sailings on or after Jan 1, 2015, and is applicable to all stateroom categories. Bookings must be purchased between Aug 4, 2014 and Sept 30, 2014. Excluded sailings: Azamara Journey Feb. 19 and March 9, 2015, and Dec. 23, 2016 and Azamara Quest July 4, 2015, and May 25, July 3, Dec. 19 and Dec. 27, 2016. Limit one offer per stateroom and not applicable to 3rd and 4th guests in a stateroom. Offer is combinable with Onboard Booking savings and Back to Back savings. Offer is subject to availability and changes without notice and may be withdrawn at any time. This offer is applicable to U.S. and Canada only.
Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Monday, August 4, 2014

Go “Hands-Free” on Your Cruise

There was a time—about 25 years ago—when going “hands-free” while on a cruise ship or a tour ashore meant wearing a bulky belt bag, more commonly called a fanny pack. I remember those days well and even still have one of them that I ‘earned’ on a Royal Caribbean cruise while participating in the Ship Shape fitness program. But, let’s face it, those fanny packs are so clunky and so 90s. The only people you see wearing them these days are (ahem) geezers.

How then to carry your necessities on a cruise ship without being weighted down with a tote bag? Your key card could be carried on a lanyard, but that looks rather childish, like when mom made you keep your house key on a chain around your neck.

Leave it to the Cruise Diva to find you something better—and very girly. It’s the hipS-sister® and it’s perfect for those of us who want our hands free for other tasks, like taking photos and selecting food items from the buffet. No more do we have to juggle a bag containing our things while wearing a hipS-sister!

This ingenious product slips over your hips and has pockets—a zippered pocket in back and two in front, one that is zippered and the other is an open ‘secret’ pocket. The pockets are sized to fit a cell phone and just about any other small items you want at hand, like a keycard, lipstick, iPod, some cash, or small camera. Snug and stylish, the hipS-sister looks like a chic sash when worn over slim pants and a tee-shirt as illustrated above. When going ashore, you can wear it under a roomier top for total security—even your passport will fit in a pocket of the Global Sister style if you need to carry it.

Created by Sonia Kanner, the hipS-sister was based upon the concept of the dreaded fanny pack. Sonia’s goal was to create a fashionable and functional alternative option. While on a hike with her friends, she was frustrated because they were all holding their precious iPhones in one hand and car keys in the other. She said out loud, “there has to be something out there to hold all this stuff, that is cute and flattering.” Sonia then spent hours on the computer and found nothing that she would buy until thinking, “A simple piece of fabric with pockets! A-ha, I knew I was on to something. What started as one basic ‘left coast’ design has now turned into a fashion frenzy.”

Mine is basic black, but the hipS-sister comes in a wide range of colors, fabrics, and sizes for a perfect fit. To find out more and to order yours, visit hipS-sister online.

I hope you’ll love it as much as I do!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Tropical Storm Bertha Cruise Ship Itinerary Updates

Tropical Storm Bertha, which is currently west-southwest of Puerto Rico, has thus far only affected one cruise line's itineraries.

Statement from Norwegian Cruise Line

At Norwegian Cruise Line, the safety and security of our guests and crew is of the utmost importance. Therefore, the company is closely monitoring the path of Tropical Storm Bertha. At this time, all of our ships are sailing as scheduled. Should there be any updates, they will be immediately posted on the company website at NCL.com.

Statement from Carnival Cruise Lines

We continue to closely monitor the track of Tropical Storm Bertha in the Caribbean. Below is the most updated information.

Carnival Valor

Departure Sunday 8/3/14: The Port of San Juan is reopened to all inbound traffic. Therefore, check-in is still scheduled for Sunday from 3:30PM to 8:30PM.

Carnival Liberty
Original Itinerary
08/01/2014 Fri Port Canaveral (Orlando), FL 7:00am-4:00pm
08/02/2014 Sat "Fun Day" at Sea
08/03/2014 Sun Grand Turk 7:00am-2:00pm
08/04/2014 Mon San Juan, Puerto Rico 12:00pm-10:00pm
08/05/2014 Tue St. Thomas, USVI 8:00am-6:00pm
08/06/2014 Wed St. Maarten, NA 8:00am-4:00pm
08/07/2014 Thu "Fun Day" at Sea
08/08/2014 Fri "Fun Day" at Sea
08/09/2014 Sat Port Canaveral (Orlando), FL 7:00am-4:00pm 
New Itinerary
08/01/2014 Fri Port Canaveral (Orlando), FL 7:00am-4:00pm
08/02/2014 Sat "Fun Day" at Sea
08/03/2014 Sun "Fun Day" at Sea
08/04/2014 Mon St. Thomas, USVI 10:00am-8:00pm
08/05/2014 Tue St. Maarten, NA 7:00 16:00
08/06/2014 Wed San Juan, Puerto Rico 8:00am-4:00pm
08/07/2014 Thu "Fun Day" at Sea
08/08/2014 Fri Nassau, The Bahamas 8:00am-3:00pm
08/09/2014 Sat Port Canaveral (Orlando), FL 7:00am-4:00pm
Carnival Breeze
Original Itinerary
08/02/2014 Sat Miami, FL 6:00am-4:00pm
08/03/2014 Sun "Fun Day" at Sea
08/04/2014 Mon Grand Turk 7:00am-2:00pm
08/05/2014 Tue La Romana, 9:00am-4:00pm
08/06/2014 Wed Curacao 1:00pm-10:00pm
08/07/2014 Thu Aruba 8:00am-4:00pm
08/08/2014 Fri "Fun Day" at Sea
08/09/2014 Sat "Fun Day" at Sea
08/10/2014 Sun Miami, FL 6:00am-4:00pm
New Itinerary
08/02/2014 Sat Miami, FL 6:00am-4:00pm
08/03/2014 Sun "Fun Day" at Sea
08/04/2014 Mon "Fun Day" at Sea
08/05/2014 Tue Curacao 1:00pm-10:00pm
08/06/2014 Wed Aruba 8:00am-4:00pm
08/07/2014 Thu La Romana, 11:00am-6:00pm
08/08/2014 Fri Grand Turk 12:00pm-7:00pm
08/09/2014 Sat "Fun Day" at Sea
08/10/2014 Sun Miami, FL 6:00am-4:00pm

Royal Caribbean

At this time no itineraries have been changed for ships in the area.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Princess Cruises Debuts "Chocolate Journeys"—the Most Delectable Chocolate Experience at Sea

In a recent national survey conducted by Princess Cruises about people's passion for chocolate, the line found that 58 percent of women would choose chocolate over sex; 69 percent surveyed have frequent chocolate cravings; 53 percent surveyed would turn to chocolate over a friend when feeling sad; two thirds surveyed (67 percent) eat chocolate more often when they're happy than when they're stressed; 81 percent agree that chocolate improves their mood; and 84 percent would like to receive chocolate as a gift.

Raise your hand if you don't like chocolate. I was right—I don't see any hands! From their survey, Princess Cruises knows how much we love it and they intend to satisfy our chocolate craving in partnership with internationally acclaimed master chocolatier and pastry designer Norman Love. "Chocolate Journeys," the line's new onboard chocolate experience will entice guests with an impressive array of onboard chocolate offerings among which are custom-crafted desserts, chocolate and wine pairings, and exquisite chocolate bites created by one of the top names in artisan chocolate.

Since debuting Norman Love Confections in 2001 after a notable career as a pastry chef for luxury resorts, Love has received wide-spread recognition for his hand-crafted, chocolate-making artistry. His sea-going chocolate creations will debut this fall aboard the new Regal Princess for her inaugural Caribbean season, and will continue to roll out to the rest of the Princess fleet throughout the next year. Love has personally trained Princess Cruises' pastry team to deliver this unprecedented chocolate experience across the company's fleet of ships.

"Chocolate Journeys" will offer Princess' guests the following sweet experiences:
Decadent Desserts: Norman Love has produced 15 chocolate desserts for Princess Cruises that will be offered on a rotational basis in the ships' main dining rooms, specialty restaurants, and Chef's Table experience. Examples of the desserts include a Chocolate Tart with Vanilla Mousse and Flourless Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Pistachio Dome with Almond and Pistachio Nougatine, and a unique Chocolate Tiramisu with Mascarpone Cream and Espresso Gelato. (Complimentary in main dining rooms. Specialty restaurants carry a cover charge.)

Chocolate & Wine Pairings: In Vines, Princess' signature wine bar, wine and chocolate enthusiasts alike can sample Norman Love's exquisite Black(TM) Single Origin Dark chocolates paired with specific wine varietals designed to enhance the tasting experience, all selected by Love. (Extra charge)

Captain's Welcome Reception Treats: Guests will be able to toast the start of their cruise with a glass of bubbly along with "Chocolate Love Pop" truffles created by Love, at the signature welcome reception hosted by the Captain. (Complimentary)

Chocolate Libations: Throughout the ships' lounges and bars, guests can splurge on a number of decadent chocolate drinks including a Chocolate Salted Caramel Hard Shake, Chocolate Bacon Bourbon Bliss, or a Chocolate Chile Margarita. (Extra charge)

Chocolate Dessert Demonstrations: Princess pastry chefs will treat guests to entertaining and informative demonstrations so they can learn some simple tips for creating tasty chocolate treats for their family and friends back home. (Complimentary)

Chocolate Petits Fours at Formal Night: Chocolate bites designed by Love will accompany the dessert menu presented to guests following the formal night dinner, for guests to enjoy as they peruse the evening's sweet endings.

Norman Love Boxed Chocolates for Purchase: Passengers wishing to bring some of Norman Love's exquisite chocolate confections home to family or friends (or to enjoy themselves during the cruise) will be able to purchase the creations in the onboard shops.

Chocolate Spa Treatments: Because chocolate is not only for eating, the ship's Lotus Spa will offer guests the opportunity to relax with the aroma of pure bliss by offering a Chocolate Indulgence Body Treatment combining a chocolate renewal scrub, whipped chocolate body mask, and chocolate massage oil. (Extra charge)
Additional information about Princess' new Chocolate Journeys experience can be found at chocolatejourneys.com.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises