Friday, November 28, 2014

Oceana Cruises Expands With Another “R-Ship”

Oceania Cruises’ fleet is about to grow with the acquisition of a a fourth “R-class” ship to join the sister-ships that originally launched the line. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, parent company of Oceania, has announced an agreement with Princess Cruises, Ltd. to purchase Ocean Princess for the Oceania Cruises brand. The 684-passenger ship, which was built for the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises, joins Oceania Cruises’ trio of sister ships Insignia, Regatta, and Nautica. The new addition will be christened Sirena.

Upon delivery in March 2016, Sirena will undergo a 35-day, $40 million refurbishment in Marseille, France to revamp the ship in line with Oceania Cruises’ other vessels. Drawing on the recent transformation of Insignia as inspiration, the ship will feature Oceania Cruises’ specialty dining restaurants, Toscana and Polo Grill, along with more recent additions to the fleet such as Baristas and the cook-to-order grill at Terrace Café. The ship will welcome her first guests in late April 2016. The addition of Sirena, along with the recently completed refurbishment of Insignia, Nautica, and Regatta, demonstrates Oceania Cruises’ unwavering commitment to mid-size ships and destination orientated cruising.

“The acquisition of Sirena provides measured capacity growth based on the proven platform of Oceania Cruises’ highly regarded mid-size ships,” said Kevin Sheehan, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. “Our belief in the Oceania Cruises brand and our commitment to its growing base of loyal guests were the rationale behind our decision to bring Sirena into the fleet.”

With Sirena, Oceania Cruises will expand the number and diversity of itineraries offered, appealing to both seasoned world travelers and passionate cruisers. The inaugural season for Sirena will be released in late February 2015 with reservations opening on March 4, 2015.

In a side note, we wonder if Royal Caribbean, whose Azmara Cruises brand competes directly with Oceania Cruises with two former R-ships, will attempt to purchase the other remaining ships from Carnival Corporation’s Princess Cruises and P&O brands (respectively sailing as Pacific Princess and Adonia).

Image Courtesy of Oceania Cruises

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year we're home for Thanksgiving with family and friends, but there's nothing quite like a holiday feast at sea when someone else does the cooking and cleaning up. Pictured here is Cruise Diva's traditional turkey being carved aboard Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow on a previous Thanksgiving cruise from Rio to Buenos Aires. It tasted as good as it looked.

Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holland America Line’s ms Koningsdam to be Single- & Family-Friendly with New Stateroom Catgories

Family Ocean-view Stateroom
When ms Koningsdam debuts for her Mediterranean Season 2016, the ship’s innovative design will feature Holland America Line’s first-ever purpose-built staterooms for families as well as single staterooms among its 1,331 guest accommodations (total capacity is 2,650). In addition, many familiar stateroom categories such as Neptune, Signature, and Vista suites will be available in a wider range of sizes and different configurations to choose from.

The 32 new specially designed family ocean-view staterooms will range from 222 to 231 square feet and feature special amenities such as two bathrooms and accommodations for five people. The 12 single ocean-view cabins will range from 127 to 172 square feet in size and will be available on multiple decks at a variety of forward, mid-ship and aft locations.

“A cruise is one of the most popular ways to travel as a family, and we continue to welcome more multigenerational groups each year. To help us better serve families, we are pleased to be able to offer these tailored staterooms on ms Koningsdam,” said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, sales, marketing and guest programs. “And the new one-person staterooms enable us to serve the growing market of solo travelers.”

Interior Stateroom
With a sophisticated color palette and the freedom to design from the ground up based on guest feedback, ms Koningsdam’s staterooms and suites feature a host of modern functional details such as bedside USB ports, custom casework, and frameless glass shower doors that feel elegant and luxurious. Additional amenities found in all suites and staterooms include Holland America Line’s signature Mariner's Dream bed with finely woven cotton linens, plush bathrobes for use during the voyage, a premium massage showerhead, flat-panel TV with video-on-demand, mini fridge, complimentary fresh fruit on request, and fragrant soaps, lotions, shampoo, and other bath amenities from Elemis Aromapure.

On ms Koningsdam, the “suite life” gets sweeter with larger, more luxurious quarters. A grand Pinnacle Suite is an expansive 1,290 square feet with a bedroom, living room, dining area, dressing room and private verandah with whirlpool. The two Neptune Spa Suites and 43 Neptune Suites range from a generous 465 to a huge 855 square feet. Neptune and Pinnacle Suite guests have access to the exclusive Neptune Lounge, a private place to relax, socialize with other suite guests and enjoy the personalized service of a concierge. The fleetwide lounges provide worktables, a large screen television, library, sofas and chairs, and complimentary refreshments throughout the day. Pinnacle and Neptune Suite amenities also include corsages and boutonnieres for the first formal night, a cocktail party with the ship’s officers, priority dining and seating requests, binoculars and umbrellas for use during the cruise, a wall-unit bar, cold hors d’oeuvres served before dinner each evening on request and complimentary laundry, pressing and dry cleaning throughout the cruise and more.

The 14 Signature Suites are up to 400 square feet in size and the 104 Vista Suites range from 260 to 356 square feet. Signature and Vista suite guests receive many special amenities, including personalized cruise stationery, oversized bath towels, fresh flowers, a pillow menu, mini bar and one-touch phone concierge service.

“Holland America Line is known in the cruise industry for providing well-appointed staterooms,” said My Nguyen, Holland America Line’s deputy director of interior design. “With ms Koningsdam we enhanced these qualities by including many thoughtful details that improve the functionality of the staterooms. We also adopted a color pallet that takes advantage of texture and quiet color combinations to achieve a feeling of serenity and luxuriousness in each category.”

The ship will have the most staterooms with verandahs in the Holland America Line fleet with 912 total from Verandah to Pinnacle Suite categories. Guests looking to focus on health and wellness during the cruise can book verandah spa accommodations, conveniently located near the Greenhouse Spa & Salon that come with yoga mats for use during the voyage and an iPod docking station. For guests looking for a more affordable option, the line is offering 266 standard or large interior accommodations up to 225 square feet.

Images Courtesy Holland America Line

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Join Cruise Diva for an Inside Look at Regal Princess

Cruise Diva recently returned from the maiden Caribbean sailing of Princess Cruises' newest "royal" ship, the stunning Regal Princess.

Welcome aboard for a preview of all the features we found during our cruise on Regal Princess and follow the included links to the blog stories written daily while at sea.

We hope you enjoy the journey as much as we did!

Image ©

Monday, November 24, 2014

Farewell, Majesty of the Seas

Majesty of the Seas, the last of the Sovereign-class vessels in the Royal Caribbean International fleet, will transfer to Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd's Pullmantur brand in 2016.

Majesty of the Seas' last 3-night sailing for Royal Caribbean International will depart on April 29, 2016. She will then enter dry dock before joining the Pullmantur fleet, allowing her to be tailored to fit Pullmantur's brand standards and offerings.

Although Majesty of the Seas was once one of the cruise industry's largest vessels, she has been overshadowed by larger and more feature rich fleetmates since her introduction. While her transfer won't affect the total capacity of Royal Caribbean International's fleet that much, Pullmantur's total guest capacity will increase in excess of a whopping 20 percent with her addition to their fleet.

"Majesty of the Seas has created wonderful memories for millions of guests, and we expect this record of success to continue as she transitions to Pullmantur," said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "The vessel's transfer is an excellent business opportunity for both Royal Caribbean and Pullmantur. We are fortunate that our mix of brands allows us the flexibility and opportunity to expand in key strategic markets."

Built at Chantiers de L'Atlantique (now STX France) in St. Nazaire, France, Majesty of the Seas sailed its maiden voyage on April 26, 1992. The 74,077-ton ship carries 2,350 guests (double occupancy) and 912 crew. Most recently, she was sailing year-round 3- and 4-night cruises from Miami, often visiting Royal Caribbean's private island of CocoCay, Bahamas. While Majesty of the Seas caters to all types of cruise passengers, she is known for her first-time cruisers, offering newcomers the opportunity to get a feel of the cruising experience. Following the transition, all three Sovereign class ships—Sovereign, Monarch, and Majesty—will be operated by Pullmantur Cruises.

Over the past 40 years, Pullmantur has built a position as the leader in the Spanish cruise market. Since 2006 it has belonged to U.S.based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Currently, Pullmantur's fleet of five ships has a daily capacity of more than 11,000 passengers. Since 2013, it has promoted a strategic growth plan in the Latin American cruise market, where more than half of its business is located.

Image: Royal Caribbean International

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Vow to WOW With This Royal Caribbean Deal

With winter already firmly entrenched in most parts of the country, families should take advantage of the upcoming holiday gatherings to plan their next adventure in warmer locales with Royal Caribbean Intl. The cruise line known for its innovative style s making it more enticing for cruise vacationers to seek out WOW moments on a Royal Caribbean ship with the Vow to WOW offer.

For a limited time, through Dec. 31, 2014, Vow to WOW offers vacationers half off of the cruise fare for a second guest, booked in the same stateroom with a full-fare guest. With a 50 percent-reduced deposit, travelers can reserve their room for as low as $50 per guest. Guests also will receive $100 onboard credit per interior and oceanview stateroom; $200 onboard credit per stateroom with balcony; and $300 onboard credit per suite-category stateroom. The Vow to WOW offer applies to all new U.S. and Canadian individual and named group bookings in all stateroom categories and open sailings, but excludes Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas and China sailings. For more details, visit

Image Courtesy Royal Caribbean Intl

Friday, November 21, 2014

Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2014

If you followed our daily stories here on the blog, you know what a great time the Cruise Diva crew was having on the Malt Shop Memories Cruise this month.

We've wrapped up all the fun, music, parties, and entertainment, as well as added even more photos to the Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2014 article on our website and we invite you to sail along.

Photo ©

Thursday, November 20, 2014

‘Premiere Sailings’ in the Med to Mark Holland America Line’s ms Koningsdam Maiden Season

It was just a few days ago that Holland America Line revealed that their new ms Koningsdam would debut an innovative design aboard the premium line’s largest ship to date and we didn’t expect additional information quite so soon. However, we have just learned that when ms Koningsdam sets sail in February 2016 for her maiden sailings, she will head to the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea to explore some of the region’s most popular capitals, culturally rich cities, charming villages, and beautiful beaches.

“Since we announced ms Koningsdam, guests have been anxiously awaiting itinerary details, so we’re pleased to share the spring Mediterranean season,” said Richard Meadows, Holland America Line’s executive vice president, sales, marketing and guest relations. “We have a very loyal following and we anticipate these cruises will fill up quickly, so I recommend booking early.”

Reservations for the Premiere Voyage and Sailings open Dec. 1, 2014. The 2,650-guest ship is scheduled for delivery by Fincantieri’s Marghera, Italy, shipyard Feb. 15, 2016. After its repositioning to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, ms Koningsdam will sail a 7-day Premiere Voyage roundtrip from Civitavecchia departing Feb. 20 to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kérkira (Corfu) and Katakolon (Olympia), Greece; and Naples, Italy.

Following the Premiere Voyage, from the end of February through early May ms Koningsdam will cruise a series of six 12-day Premiere Sailings on two alternating itineraries roundtrip from Civitavecchia. The first itinerary calls at Katakolon, Piraeus (Athens), Rhodes and Crete, Greece; Istanbul (overnight) and Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey; and Naples, Italy. The other itinerary visits Naples, Italy; Palermo, Sicily; Cagliari, Sardinia; Gibraltar, British Territory; and Cádiz, Málaga, Cartagena and Barcelona (overnight), Spain. Holland America Line is working to finalize details on the ship’s summer and fall 2016 cruises and information will be released in the coming months.

As previously reported, ms Koningsdam represents a new Pinnacle Class of ship for Holland America Line. The vessel will debut several innovative concepts and new public spaces and venues, while still featuring popular features that guests associate with Holland America Line.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Quantum of the Seas Sails Into New York

Last week the Cruise Diva crew was sailing the sunny and warm Caribbean aboard Regal Princess and missed the excitement surrounding the arrival of Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas for its season of cruises from the New York area before repositioning to its home in China. While we couldn't be there in person, we enjoyed the following video and wanted to share it with you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cruise Line Gift Cards For Holiday Giving

Just in time to make the holidays a bit brighter for cruise travelers, Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Lines are offering the ideal gift to make their next voyage memorable.

Princess Cruises has announced a brand new gift card program making it easy to give the gift of cruising. Princess Cruises gift cards can be applied as payment towards the purchase of a Princess cruise, as well as onboard products and services including specialty dining, drinks, Lotus Spa treatments, shore excursions and more.

“Our new gift card offering is customizable, easy to purchase, ideal for any celebration and is the perfect gift for holidays, birthdays and anniversaries,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. “We hope our new gift cards will inspire new travelers to take a Princess cruise and introduce them to the many worldwide destinations and memorable onboard experiences only a Princess cruise vacation can offer.”

Additional features of the Princess Cruises gift card program allow buyers to choose from various designs, schedule a delivery date to the recipient, and even personalize the notification by allowing buyers to record an audio message and add a digital photo.

Cruise gift cards are available in $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000 and $2,000 increments and can be customized for a specific dollar amount up to $2,000. Buyers purchasing a gift card for $100 or more will also receive free shipping. Gift cards can be sent electronically or via mail. Princess Cruises gift cards are available at The program is available to all U.S. and Canadian residents.

Carnival Cruise Lines’ popular gift card program, a prepaid card that can be used as payment toward a “Fun Ship” vacation or a variety of shipboard purchases, is now available in more than 9,000 retail outlets throughout the U.S. This marks the first time that a cruise line-specific gift card has been made available at retail establishments ashore. Carnival will offer its gift cards at such locations as Giant Eagle, Kroger, and Safeway beginning later this month.

“Based on feedback from consumers and our travel agent partners, we’re very pleased to enhance the availability of our gift card program and provide consumers with even greater convenience and flexibility,” said Gus Antorcha, senior vice president of guest commerce for Carnival Cruise Lines.

Also available online at or sold on board Carnival’s ships, the gift cards are ideal for any occasion, from weddings and graduations to birthdays and anniversaries, and offer consumers flexibility and convenience in their vacation purchases. The cards can be pre-loaded with funds ranging from a minimum of $25 to a maximum of $1,000. The Carnival Gift Card is simple to use and may be applied online via the dedicated web site using the 16-digit card number, redeemed by calling 1-800-CARNIVAL, or used like cash on board as payment toward guests’ “Sail & Sign” shipboard account.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Holland America Line's new ms Koningsdam to Debut an Innovative Design

ms Koningsdam Atrium
When Holland America Line welcomes ms Koningsdam to the fleet in February 2016, the ship will debut a new era in design approach for the line. As the first ship in the Pinnacle class, the 2,650-guest ship will have an interior that blends fresh, contemporary styling in harmony with the line's renowned classic elegance. The story of the ship will unfold online over the coming months through vibrant renderings, engaging videos, ship facts and more details about the interiors created by Adam D. Tihany and Bjorn Storbraaten.

"When guests come aboard ms Koningsdam they'll know they're on a Holland America Line ship, but they'll see we're taking a forward-thinking approach to many of the design elements," said Stein Kruse, CEO of Holland America Group.

At the helm of the interior conceptualization is Tihany, regarded as one of the world's pre-eminent hospitality designers. Tihany has approached ms Koningsdam with an eye toward creating public spaces that reflect the tradition and signature elegance for which Holland America Line is known, while elevating the design to strike a more modern balance of past, present and future. Focusing on fluid curves and graceful lines, light-filled spaces and the natural flow of public areas, Tihany's metaphorical approach to the interiors of ms Koningsdam was inspired by the "architecture of music."

"The idea was to tell a story that guests can connect with throughout their voyage," said Tihany. "I was inspired by the thought of what you might see from the inside of a musical instrument, what the architecture of the surfaces and the geometry look like."

Key to his concept is utilizing visual interaction, where guests actively engage with the architecture rather than passively moving through it.

"The design isn't a literal translation of music, but a conceptual approach where we seek to evoke the feeling and beauty of an instrument with graceful lines, dramatic textures, lighting effects and use of materials," said Tihany. "My inspirations were not only instruments, but also majestic spaces and exaggerating the feeling of height, so guests feel the grandeur of every room."

For example, at the heart of the ship Tihany is creating visual drama with the central atrium, pictured above. Soaring three decks high, the space is graced by an airy stainless-steel sculpture that represents the synthesis of a string quartet. Like music, the experience changes as guests move around and through it, so no two perspectives are the same. The atrium is capped by a ceiling "skylight" that serves as a backdrop for subtly changing high-definition projections. Guests will look up by day and see wispy cirrus clouds floating in an azure sky or perhaps soothing images of light in water. By evening, the atrium takes on dramatic lighting hues or reflects the starlit constellations of the night sky.

Hallmark Venues Reimagined with A Fresh Approach
The main Dining Room aboard ms Koningsdam will span two floors and be framed by views of the sea. A bright interior will be inspired by a modern, global design and sets the stage for the exceptional culinary experience to come. Strong, curved architectural pillars will accentuate the soaring ceiling. Chic, custom furnishings and modern glass lighting are being fabricated especially for the ship. The centerpiece is a curved copper sheath surrounding a two-story wine tower showcasing an impressive selection.

The Queens Lounge
The iconic Queen's Lounge pictured here has been completely reimagined as an elegant theater and entertainment venue that spans two floors. Tihany once again drew inspiration for the space from music, nodding to the sensual curves of a violin and featuring extensive use of wood, fluid waveforms and light. With state-of-the-art technology, the Queen's Lounge will showcase world-class musicians and the largest dance floor on the ship.

Architect and designer Bjorn Storbraaten joins Tihany in bringing the ship to life in a familiar yet innovative style. With his previous work on ms Eurodam and ms Nieuw Amsterdam, Storbraaten adds continuity of the brand to ms Koningsdam, while taking elegance to the next level.

"It's been fascinating to work on ms Koningsdam where we are introducing design elements never before seen on Holland America Line," said Storbraaten. "We were tasked with evolving the look and feel of the ship while keeping it true to the brand, making this an exciting and rewarding project."

Storbraaten's hand is clearly present in the design of the central pool area. The Magrodome, which typically is a single level on Holland America Line ships, has been expanded to two levels to create a vast glass-enclosed space. The lower level will have more traditional poolside elements, while the mezzanine level will be a new concept for the brand. In addition to other areas, Storbraaten is designing the exotic look of Tamarind, the line's Pan-Asian restaurant that emphasizes nature's basic elements: water, wood, fire and earth.

Across the ship, Tihany and Storbraaten are working together to make ms Koningsdam an evolution of the Holland America Line brand. Over the coming months, even more innovative features and detailed renderings of ms Koningsdam will be released on the company's website. Early season premier itineraries will be revealed in the coming weeks, in advance of these first ms Koningsdam sailings opening for booking on Dec. 1.

Images Courtesy Holland America Line

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Suite Life Aboard Regal Princess

While our balcony stateroom on Regal Princess isn’t a suite, I was afforded a peek into the Suite Life of those who are ensconced in the top accommodations on board. In addition to their posh suites with numerous upscale amenities, they have access to the Concierge Lounge, which is tucked away next to the Wedding Chapel on Deck 14.

Inside the private lounge accessed by keycard, the concierge can assist with arranging specialty dining reservations, spa appointments, and shore excursions, as well as answer any questions they might have.

Available around the clock, the lounge offers complimentary tea, coffee, juices, sweets, fruit and cheeses, and small sandwiches.

Images ©

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dining Aboard Regal Princess

International Café
At least once during every cruise I overhear a fellow passenger bemoan the expansion of their waistline and I’m experiencing the same situation aboard Regal Princess. Thank goodness for elastic waistbands—the food on board is just too good not to clean my plate at every meal and there seems to be food everywhere. One of the most popular spots for a quick bite is the International Café in the Piazza. There’s a variety of food available there around the clock—sandwiches, salads, desserts, and the ever popular cookies—most items are complimentary, but there is a charge for specialty coffees. Nearby, also in the Piazza is Gelato,* the source for Italian frozen treats. Also adjacent to the Piazza, while enjoying a glass of fine wine in Vines* you can sample a variety of tapas or head to the Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar* for sushi, sashimi, and caviar.

Other casual eateries in the Piazza area are Alfredo’s Pizza and the Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar*. Not far away, in the Crowne Grill, adjacent to the Wheelhouse Bar, a Pub Lunch is offered on select days at no additional charge. For quick snacks poolside, adjacent to the Fountain Pool are Prego Pizzeria and Trident Grill.

In the evening Crowne Grill* is Regal Princess’ upscale steak house serving premium seafood dishes and steaks and chops prepared to order. Another specialty dining option is Princess Cruises signature Sabatini’s* with menu choices inspired by the Tuscan region of Italy. Also found on Regal Princess on select evenings is the Crab Shack*—located in a quiet corner of the Horizon Court on select nights its menu features seafood favorites such as crab legs, shirimp, mussels, clams, and even the Louisiana “delicacy”—crawfish. On other select evenings, Fondues* features appetizers and a selection of sweet and savory fondue items.

Naturally there are traditional dining rooms on Regal Princess—one with two set seating times and the other two offering open seating. The Chef’s Table Lumiere* is a unique dining experience with an exquisite meal served at an intimate table surrounded by a curtain of light.

Horizon Court is Regal Princess’ buffet serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Adjacent, the Horizon Bistro also offers breakfast and lunch and at dinner offers carving stations and a hibachi grill. Next door is the Pastry Shop for yummy desserts and special treats throughout the day.

Room service is available twenty-four hours at no charge, with the exception of $3 for delivery of a hot, fresh pizza. However, there is a charge for the ultimate in room service—Ultimate Balcony Dining, which is available to most passengers on Regal Princess as all outside accommodations have a balcony. The Champagne Breakfast* at $32 per couple includes a half bottle of champagne along with pastries, smoked salmon, fresh fruit, and a specially prepared quiche. For a romantic evening meal for two, the Lobster Balcony Dinner* at $100 a couple features one cocktail per person, canapés, a flower bouquet, an 8x10 portrait, and half bottle of champagne. After starting with a crab cake appetizer and salas, main course selections are lobster, steak Diane, and surf ‘n turf. So divine.

* Extra charges apply

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Regal Princess: Art & Architecture

Princess Cruises’ Regal Princess—a beautiful vessel in her own right—has been filled with an extensive art collection and unique architectural elements, such as the Sea Walk (pictured at left), which extends beyond the hull and affords exceptional views of the water below.

Stateroom passageways are enlivened by enlargements of exceptional photographs taken by Princess Cruises’ past passengers on their voyages.

In order to fully appreciate the art on board, a QR code is located near each exhibit that can be scanned into a smart phone or tablet to learn interesting facts about the art, artist, or architectural design.

The twenty-nine stops on the art tour kept me busily occupied on a rainy sea day, but my favorite element wasn’t actually on the tour—I was fascinated by the columns in the Piazza that feature blown glass fish “swimming” the height of three decks (pictured right). I fell in love with their originality and sparkle.

Image ©

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Regal Princess: So Entertaining

Music and dancing are never far away aboard Regal Princess. Starting with a Welcome Aboard show, the Princess Theater has featured such entertainment as vocalist/instrumentalist Zach Winningham, Princess Cruises’ Entertainer of the Year and “Sweet Soul Music” with the Regal Princess Singers & Dancers who performed our favorite songs from artists such as Tina Turner, the Temptations, James Brown, and Lou Rawls. Accompanied by the Regal Showband, there isn’t a bad seat in the theater—there are no posts to spoil the sight lines.

Pianists entertain in Crooners (pictured here) and the Wheelhouse Bar and the Piazza features a variety of artists including concerts by a string quartet and a pianist as well as performances by adagio acrobats. The Piazza is also the site for music and dancing with party band Evolution.

DJ Nature hosts music from different eras in Club 6 and passengers are invited to show off their talents at Kareoke in Princess Live! Tickling our funny bones are comedy shows in the Vista Lounge. It goes without saying that films are even better when watched poolside on the Movies Under the Stars big screen.

A ballroom dance class was offered in the Piazza before the Kilburn Quartet began playing for us to show off our best moves. Well, maybe not our best moves—we won’t get an invitation to appear on Dancing With the Stars—but we gave it a try.

Image ©

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Regal Princess Calls At Princess Cays

Regal Princess’ first port of call on our week-long cruise was Princess Cays, Princess Cruises’ own private sanctuary on the island of Eleuthera, for a day at the beach with activities for all ages and interests.

Only 110 miles long, a scenic driving tour of the island was offered that featured a taste of what the scenery and lifestyle is like with its lush vegetation, ponds, and quaint villages with tiny churches. Another excursion included a visit to the Leon Levy Plant Preserve for a nature trail walk followed by exploring Governor’s Harbor with its Victorian homes.

More active adventures included snorkeling and kayaking and a coastal cruise along the shoreline that featured not only the cruise, but also use of a locker, snorkel gear, and a float for the time we were ashore.

For those who preferred a laid back day, loungers lined the white sand beach—either in the sun or the shade of several pavilions or beneath a clamshell, which were available for rent. The ultimate in beach chic were air conditioned rental cabanas with reserved lounge chairs and over-the-top amenities.

Pelican’s Perch provided children with an ideal setting complete with a play area, plenty of sand for creating sand castles, and even a swimming pool.

A day at the beach wouldn’t be complete without a barbeque—complimentary—and a few frosty beverages—extra charge. All served by Regal Princess’ staff.

At this time of year it isn’t as hot as in summer months and, although the day was somewhat overcast, it was delightfully comfortable with cooling breezes.

Images ©

Monday, November 10, 2014

At Home Aboard Regal Princess

Balcony Stateroom M433
One of the first things most people notice about any Princess ship is their abundance of balconies. As with sister-ship Royal Princess, the ‘Love Boat’ line has gone one step further with Regal Princess—all outside accommodations feature balconies, although they are not stepped out in wedding cake fashion as found on previous ship classes. Instead of the graceful curve of the Grand-class vessels, Regal Princess balconies march in a solid wall. Our Balcony Stateroom on Deck 15 (Marina Deck 433), featured a balcony with clear panels beneath the railing furnished with two chairs and a small table.

Princess standard accommodations have traditionally featured numerous amenities and the line continues to provide Regal Princess passengers with staples such as hairdryers, small refrigerators, television, telephone with voice mail, personal safe, large walk-in closet, and robes for use throughout the cruise—you just have to ask and they are delivered to you. In the bathroom the shower has dispensers filled with Lotus Spa conditioning shampoo and shower gel and there is a container of body lotion. Beds are dressed in European-style duvets and linens and have posh fluffy pillows. Real conveniences for passengers who must remain in touch with family or the office are ship-wide WiFi and cell phone connectivity.

A new category of stateroom introduced on Royal Princess and also found on Regal Princess is the Deluxe Balcony—an extra spacious balcony cabin with a comfortable sofa bed (in place of a side chair) and some of the upgraded amenities found in mini-suites, including enhanced bathroom amenities, waffle bathrobe, and an upgraded duvet.

More space and comforts are available to mini-suite and suite occupants, including separate sitting areas, luxury bedding and towels, a choice of pillow styles, and bathtubs in mini-suites. Additionally, mini-suites feature a decorative central lighting fixture, a privacy curtain between the bed and sitting area, and marble-topped counters. Suites offer larger televisions, two sinks in the bathroom, accent lighting and a glass-paneled shower. Suite passengers can also take advantage of Regal Princess’ Concierge Lounge, offering an exclusive space to enjoy refreshment and make reservations for dining, spa services, and shore excursions. Wheelchair accessible cabins are available in a variety of categories

Our Eastern Caribbean cruise this week will call at Princess Cays in Eleuthera; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; and Philipsburg, St. Marteen, as well as spend three days at sea. We hope you’ll follow along and get to know this beautiful ship from which we plan to return home refreshed, relaxed, and renewed.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Malt Shop Memories Cruise—A Lasting Memory

Dance Like a Vandella
One of the beauties of taking a cruise, especially one like the Malt Shop Memories Cruise is that unexpected events sometimes happen that make the voyage so memorable.

On this year’s cruise aboard Eurodam we were fortunate to meet one of the most delightful women on board. Lois Reeves Jackson is her name, but you might recognize her as Martha Reeves’ sister—she’s one of the Vandellas.

When we first ran across one another Lois was teaching Brenda Lee’s daughter and her friends how to dance like a Vandella.

After chatting for hours, Mel convinced Lois that she’d have a good time going ashore with us in Grand Cayman. We shopped, had lunch, shopped some more and over the course of the day we became family.

Cruise Diva’s Blog this week is dedicated to Lois—my “twin” sister who is exactly my age and with whom I have a lot in common. Mel and I hope our paths cross again someday with hers—meeting Lois was a gift and we’ll never forget her brilliant smile and sparkling personality.

Images ©

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Malt Shop Memories Up Close

Each year the Malt Shop Memories Cruise is hosted by radio personality Jerry Blavat—the ‘boss with the hot sauce’ who has been a part of the music industry for many years and who knows all the major artists and musicians. While Blavat is probably not a household name outside Philadelphia and the Northeast, no one will leave Eurodam without feeling that they know him personally—Jerry’s one of the most outgoing men you’ll ever meet and a great deal of fun on stage and up close.

That’s the beauty of the Malt Shop Memories Cruise. The artists, no matter how brightly their star still shines, are just folks on board—they mingle with guests and are very approachable. Jerry posed with the Cruise Diva during the Beach Party, as did George Trullinger, who brings Buddy Holly alive onstage (and he also does a mean Ed Sullivan imitation).

We have run across Brenda Lee several times on board and she’s very generous with her time, talking with fans and posing for photos. She seems to be having a great time and attends the concerts to enjoy her fellow artists when they take the stage. She’s adorable and so tiny!

One night at dinner in the Lido Buffet we happened to notice Martha Reeves and one of the Vandellas was seated at the next table. They also graciously posed for a photo with Cruise Diva. Such nice and funny ladies. Miss Reeves chatted with everyone who stopped by and spent a lot of time with guests to get just the right picture to remember her by.

Later, while having after-dinner drinks by the aft pool, we chatted at length with Brenda Lee’s personal hairdresser and had a great time laughing along as he and Miss Lee’s daughter learned to “dance like a Vandella.”

When we disembark Eurodam, we’ll have many, many memories to savor and share.

Images ©

Friday, November 7, 2014

Malt Shop Memories: Music, Music & More Music

Miss Brenda Lee
Every night there’s a concert here on the Malt Shop Memories cruise and every night they have been terrific. The week isn’t over so I invite you to watch for a wrap-up story about them on in the coming week.

Here’s how the concerts work: upon boarding, guests are issued either a blue or red keycard —the color determines their show time and dinner seating; early show, late seating or vice versa. Mel and I are in the blue group and so far we’ve enjoyed Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Lloyd Price, Dion, Jan & Deans Beach Party, Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, and Brenda Lee in the Mainstage Show Lounge. Coming up we’re looking forward to the Temptations, Little Peggy March, and the grand finale farewell show starring The Beach Boys.

Al "Lil Fats" Jackson
One thing that has impressed up is the versatility of the artists performing for us. In addition to their own hits, they pay tribute to fellow singers and musicians by featuring their music. For instance, we saw Dion on Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2012 and he remains a commanding presence on stage who pays tribute to his friend the late Buddy Holly, as well as Eddie Cochran. Lloyd Price also performed songs by his mentor Fats Domino and Dean Torrence reminded us that Brian Wilson was instrumental in co-writing some of Jan & Dean’s hits. He and his band covered several Beach Boys songs—sort of a ‘prelude’ to their upcoming appearance.

Matthew and Gunnar Nelson have taken the stage in the Queen’s Lounge in remembrance of their father, the late Rick Nelson and Al “Lil Fats” Jackson has performed there in addition to his appearance at the poolside Sock Hop.

Of course there are tribute artists on board—George Trullinger as Buddy Holly; Sheri Winkelman as Marilyn Monroe and Cher; and in the “Jungle Room” (also known as Eurodam’s Crows Nest) some of the top Elvis Tribute Artists have kept us rocking.

We’re rocking, we’re rolling, and we still have a couple days to go with more live music and what will be a compelling session hosted by Dion in which he presents The Winter Dance Party Documentary and answers questions about that fateful night.

Images ©

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Malt Shop Memories Cruise Rocks the Fun

It goes without saying that the top artists of the 50s and 60s who are on board Eurodam to entertain us are the biggest draw of the Malt Shop Memories Cruise, but there’s even more to our voyage. Activities on our schedule include the Sock Hop, Prom Night, and numerous parties, games, and competitions, as well as question-and-answer sessions and interviews with the stars.

In our pre-cruise information packages we received logo tee-shirts that we were invited to personalize and we saw some real creativity on display at the Tee-Shirt Beach Party. Our favorites were Santa and Mrs. Claus, who graciously posed for our camera. We learned that our Malt Shop Santa brings a lot of joy to youngsters during the holidays—he really is Santa Claus and that beard is real.

Also on tap during the cruise are a Hula Hoop Contest and the Gong Show for guests with a hidden talent they’d like to display. All new is Family Feud, which promises to be hilarious.

A favorite competition is once again taking place between guests who’ve decorated their stateroom doors. Again, there’s a lot of creativity on display, but our favorite is right down the hall from us. Pictured here, it’s a tribute to the great music television shows we enjoyed as teenagers—American Bandstand, Shindig, Hullabaloo—and was created by a guest who really did work in a malt shop—a child of the 60s who’s now turning 60.

How cool is that? We have young ‘uns who are still in their 50s on board. And there isn’t a single actual child sailing with us, which really makes our old hearts happy. No kiddies in the pools or hot tubs—more room for us!

Images ©

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Malt Shop Memories Cruise “Beach Party”

Before setting sail all Malt Shop Memories cruisers received a logo shirt to wear to the Tee-shirt deck party, which this year was pretty special with a performance by Jan & Dean’s Beach Party, featuring Dean Torrence. With complimentary drinks and canapés being served by Eurodam crewmembers we got into the west coast beach music vibe, starting with The Little Old Lady From Pasadena, then Dean moved on to some Jamaican tunes to get us set to arrive there tomorrow. He followed that up with Sea Cruise and introduced his band members who were formerly with the Eagles—we rocked to a bit of Take It Easy and Hotel California.

Later, Lloyd Price hosted a Cajun cooking demonstration, Peter Noone was available for a question-and-answer session, and Dean Torrence hosted a “Surf Craze” presentation.

Each day’s highlight is of course the evening concert and tonight our show was Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and Lloyd Price.

Martha’s Vandellas are her sisters and they got things off to a hot start with Heat Wave. After fifty-five years in the business Martha really knows how to put on a show and got the audience on their feet to do the “Temptation Walk” during Jimmy Mack. We stayed on our feet for their number one hit Dancing in the Street.

Lloyd Price cooks & rocks
Lloyd Price, who created the sound of rock ‘n Roll from New Orleans, followed Martha and the Vandellas on stage with a rousing Stagger Lee and Lawdy, Lawdy Miss Clawdy, which he recorded in 1952 and has been covered by many artists since then. His sound is a blend of rock ‘n roll, blues, and R&B and influenced by the great Fats Domino. After Price’s version of Blueberry Hill, he wrapped up the show with Personality, his smash hit that sold over ten million copies.

With the night still young, we headed to the Lido Pool where Al “Little Fats” Jackson provided more New Orleans rock ‘n roll sounds for dancing at the Sock Hop. As his name implies, Jackson is from the west bank of New Orleans and also a devotee of Fats Domino’s sound.

Images ©

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Malt Shop Memories Cruise—the British Invasion

Those of us who were teens in the 60s remember when groups from Great Britain burst onto the scene and changed the sound of rock and roll—at least temporarily. For me, the Beatles weren’t a big deal, but when I had the opportunity to attend a Herman’s Hermits concert, I jumped on it. Opening for them were the Righteous Brothers and their singing was terrific. Unfortunately, when Herman’s Hermits, led by Peter Noone, took the stage thousands of teenybopper girls began to scream. Loudly. And they kept it up the entire set.

Now, nearly fifty years later, I finally got to actually hear Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits on stage aboard the Malt Shop Memories Cruise. He’s just as cute as he was back in 1965—I wish I’d aged that well—and he’s quite a showman. Noone quipped that he often gets mistaken for Nick Nolte and that he’s the love child of Elton John and Mick Jagger. It’s all in fun and he obviously doesn’t take himself seriously. However, his band and especially his vocals were seriously good. Back in the day they sold 18 million records and even today it’s pretty obvious why.

Noone’s musical versatility ranged from covers of songs by Johnny Cash, the Monkees, the Rolling Stones, and Tom Jones to classics like Two Silhouettes on the Shade and Wonderful World. I particularly enjoyed, Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter, A Kind of Hush All Over the World, and the rousing I’m Henry the Eighth. That last tune brought the audience to their feet to sing along.

Moving from Great Britain to New Jersey, our first night on board ended with a Vegas-style show by former Saturday Night Live cast member Joe Piscopo, who does a mean Sinatra imitation. He opened by saluting our military and invited an Army veteran onstage to hold a flag that had flown in Iraq while he led the audience in The Star Spangled Banner as Sinatra would have performed it. After his serious start, he moved on to comedy and even showed a clip of himself as Sinatra and Eddie Murphy as Stevie Wonder in a Saturday Night Live skit.

It was a late ending to a very fulfilling—and most entertaining—day.

Image: Peter Noone ©

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2014 Sets Sail

Boarding Holland America Line’s Eurodam is like coming home and, in this case, it’s going to be a blast from the past. We’re on board for the Malt Shop Memories Cruise 2014, hosted by Entertainment Cruise Productions and StarVista Entertainment. This year is the 5th anniversary sailing of the Malt Shop Memories Cruise and the third on Eurodam.

As alumni of previous Malt Shop Memories cruises—this is our fourth—we received reserved seating for the nightly shows and had the opportunity to reserve the same stateroom that we had in past years. Instead of that stateroom, we are on Upper Promenade Deck 4, which is closer to the show lounge and other public rooms. In fact, we are right above the show lounge and, although the location could be noisy on occasion, we seldom spend time in our quarters with so much to do on board.

After boarding yesterday we quickly settled in and made ourselves comfortable in 4005, our deluxe oceanview stateroom with an extended verandah—it’s much deeper than those on other decks. Although there aren’t many drawers for storing folded garments, each closet features drop-down shelves and we found plenty of room to stow everything, including in the deep drawers at the foot of the bed and the cabinet over the sofa.

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

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

All categories are outfitted with “Signature of Excellence” amenities that include the plush Euro-top Mariner's Dream Bed, deluxe bathrobes for use during the cruise, Egyptian cotton towels, flat panel televisions, DVD player, lighted make-up mirror, hand held hairdryer, massaging shower head, personal safe, refrigerator, and closets configured for hanging and/or drop down shelves. This is Holland America Line and a full ship music theme charter at its best.

Our 7-night Caribbean cruise includes port calls at Cozumel, Mexico; Falmouth, Jamaica; Grand Cayman; and Key West. Oh yes, and we’ll have days at sea to simply relax and enjoy the shows and camaraderie of our Malt Shop peers. We hope you’ll follow along here in the Cruise Diva Blog as we enjoy the music, interviews, activities, and parties—especially the Prom and Sock Hop.
Just a little FYI: Eurodam received a perfect score of 100 on a recent routine United States Public Health inspection conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This achievement marks the seventh consecutive perfect score for the ship. The unannounced inspection of Eurodam was conducted Oct. 22nd, during a call at Boston, Massachusetts before the ship repositioned to Fort. Lauderdale, Florida for its Caribbean season.