Friday, February 27, 2015

The Vikings Are Coming to America

On Tuesday, February 24th, Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal and Viking River Cruises Chairman Torstein Hagen announced that Viking has selected the Port of New Orleans as the homeport for its first North American river cruise voyages. Tentative initial itineraries will include calls in St. James, East Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana parishes in Louisiana, as well as destinations further north along the Mississippi River such as Memphis, Tennessee, St. Louis, Missouri, and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Viking, the world's largest high end river cruise company, will invest more than $100 million per ship to build six ships over the next three years and, in accordance with U.S. maritime law, employ Americans on their made-in-America vessels. Their launch on the Mississippi is expected in late 2017.

Founded in 1997 with the purchase and launch of four ships in Russia, Viking now operates 60 vessels on rivers in Europe, Egypt, China, and southeast Asia and this spring is starting to offer ocean cruises as well. Their entry into the United States river cruising market has been rumored for years, but there is no word yet on how large the river boats will be or whether they will be similar in style to the very popular Viking "Longship" pictured here.

Image Courtesy Viking River Cruises

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Royal Caribbean Debuts "Harmony of the Seas" Details

When the third ship in the Oasis Class joins sister ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas in the Royal Caribbean International fleet, the newly named Harmony of the Seas will capture the title of world’s largest cruise ship. As expected, Harmony of the Seas will feature the design of seven distinct neighborhoods for which the Oasis Class is known, in addition to offering an amazing collection of experiences, amenities, and activities at sea.

In something of an unexpected move, the latest Oasis Class ship will also introduce the first waterslides on Royal Caribbean with a splash. Three thrilling waterslides will bring brand new adventures to the ship’s Pool and Sports Zone, dipping, diving, and swirling three decks down through a series of twists and turns over Central Park 10 decks below. One of the slides also will feature a champagne bowl that swirls guests around as they make their approach to the end of the ride.

Harmony of the Seas also will feature a new Bionic Bar on the Royal Promenade. The Bionic Bar was first introduced aboard Quantum of the Seas, and feature robot bartenders serving up one-of-a-kind crafted cocktails while dancing to a fluid beat. Guests on board Harmony of the Seas will also utilize RFID technology with Royal WOWBands that provide them access to their staterooms as well as make onboard purchases and reservations. Like her sisters, Harmony also will feature high speed Internet connections allowing guests to stream video; Skype with family and friends back at home; and share vacation memories through social media instantly while at sea.

While Oasis and Allure offered some of the largest staterooms in the fleet, on Harmony of the Seas the company has made some stateroom categories even larger. Interior accommodations also will be outfitted with Royal Caribbean’s exclusive Virtual Balconies which offer a view in every stateroom, while single travelers will have studio stateroom choices. Suite guests also will have exclusive new areas to enjoy, from a well-appointed suite lounge and a private suites-only restaurant called Coastal Kitchen to an exclusive full-service Suite Sun Zone sun deck.

Younger and young-at-heart guests can take a spin on the handcrafted carousel or enjoy a new classic games arcade on the ship’s Boardwalk neighborhood. While parents enjoy the newly relocated Starbucks café on the Boardwalk, kids can meet new friends at a new climbing play area.

Royal Caribbean’s Dynamic Dining will give Harmony of the Seas’ guests a culinary experience with more choice and flexibility than ever before. Those preferring a more traditional cruise dining style may select the “Classic” option which will offer two set seating times. Dynamic Dining’s “Classic” option allows guests to rotate through each of the main complimentary restaurants at an early- or a late-seating time throughout their cruise with their dining group and the same assigned waiter each evening.

New specialty restaurant concepts will provide even more variety, including Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, with a new teppanyaki menu, and the Sabor Modern Mexican restaurant. The new Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine will give guests the chance to experience a unique culinary adventure for the senses when Royal Caribbean chefs twist their culinary kaleidoscopes in a whimsical setting that challenges the imagination.

Harmony of the Seas will span 16 decks, encompass 227,000 gross registered tons, carry 5,479 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,747 staterooms. The Oasis class is an architectural marvel touting Royal Caribbean’s exclusive seven neighborhood concept, including Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone.

Renderings Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Have You Discovered Your "CRUISE-A-NALITY"?

If you used Carnival Corporation's unique "CRUISE-A-NALITY" tool to determine what type of cruise vacation and brand experience is right for you—then you were one of nearly a quarter of a million who did.

Of the thousands of people who completed the "CRUISE-A-NALITY" quiz, a total of 65 percent were women. Additionally, when combining both male and female respondents, nearly 40 percent of consumers who completed the quiz qualified as a "Captain Spontaneous" (male) or "The Free Spirit" (female) cruise personality—meaning they are up for whatever experience is thrown their way and always looking for a good time. The results were based on a six personality-focused questions that generate a cruise "persona" for all types of travelers.

The "CRUISE-A-NALITY" tool, available on Carnival Corporation's World's Leading Cruise Lines website, combines onboard experience-based questions with destination-based questions to provide cruise brand recommendations for each participant. For instance, if a male answered questions about what kind of onboard experience he was looking for that led him to the "Captain Spontaneous" persona and chose that he is looking for a tropical getaway, he might be provided with recommendations to travel on the company's Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, or Costa Cruises brands.

"The CRUISE-A-NALITY tool is a fun way for travelers to look for the cruise vacation experience that is best for them," said Ken Jones, vice president of group marketing and insights for Carnival Corporation. "It is easy to do, and it is helping our current and potential guests get a better understanding of their cruise personas. The more we can help get the right people on the right ship for the right occasion, the more we are able to ensure we exceed guest expectations. And of course, we always encourage our guests to work with their travel agent, who can provide excellent insight into how to make the most of a cruise vacation."

The quiz has been an engaging tool for consumers, with people spending on average more than two and a half minutes on the site per visit. When that amount of time is combined with the more than 200,000 visits to the tool, it accounts for 445 days, or more than a year of time, exploring their cruise personality. When taking the quiz, there are 30 possible "CRUISE-A-NALITY" personas available. Find yours at World's Leading Cruise Lines.

Grand Princess Bridge Photo ©

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Anthem of the Seas Floats Out

Anthem of the Seas, the latest cruise ship under construction at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany left the covered building dock of the shipyard on Saturday, February 21st.

The 168.600-gt cruise ship, one of the world's largest cruise ships is being built for Royal Caribbean International.

This ethereal image really says it all.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oceania Cruises Introduces Innovative New Classes For Culinary Arts Center

Guests get cooking on Oceania Cruises
Noted by foodies for the dining experience and on board cooking demonstrations and classes, Oceania Cruises is expanding its reputation with a new innovative culinary curriculum featuring 20 new classes for the Culinary Center. Included is a special two-day culinary immersion program,a session focused on the life and legacy of Chef Jacques Pépin, and additions to the Gourmet Explorer Series that showcases cooking styles from a variety of international destinations.

Developed by longtime Director of Culinary Enrichment, Chef Kathryn Kelly, the new programs will debut on Marina and Riviera in April 2015. The Culinary Center at sea is equipped with individual induction cook top work stations where classes range from 45 minutes to three hours, depending on the itinerary. “In our Culinary Center, guests cook under the instruction of faculty members who are CIA graduates and have apprenticed under a who’s who of renowned chefs,” shares Kelly. “We continue to add new topics to keep things fresh for past guests and this year we’re proud to honor our consummate teacher, Jacques Pepin, with a special class.”

Culinary Center Immersion Program
In response to guest requests, the Oceania Cruises Culinary Center will offer a special Culinary School Immersion Program on select itineraries. The curriculum is designed to improve the skills of a home chef by focusing on the essential techniques for creating basic sauces, grilling, preparing vegetables, and other culinary skills. The in-depth instruction is spread over a morning and afternoon session and extends for two days—or four sessions in total. The highlight of the culinary immersion program is a friendly competition where teams of four guests are paired together to prepare a dish that is judged by the faculty and executives from the shipboard culinary team. All participants receive a special certificate at the end of the program, while the winning team can claim culinary bragging rights for the remainder of the cruise.

Celebrate Jacques Pépin
In collaboration with Chef Pépin, Oceania Cruises is creating an exclusive class that includes recipes from Jacques’ cookbooks and family favorites. The new class “La Technique: A Celebration of Jacques Pépin’s 80th Birthday” covers techniques written in his early book “La Technique,” which remains an indispensable source of culinary knowledge for modern chefs, as well as “Essential Pépin,” a collection of over 700 technique-based favorite recipes that stretches over his six decades in the kitchen. Guests will learn five basic techniques around eggs, proteins, vegetables, sauces, and desserts. At the conclusion of each class, guests pose for a photo that will be incorporated into a special birthday card for Chef Pépin.

New Regional Classes
With an abundance of guests seeking new educational epicurean experiences, the Culinary Center is introducing 20 new classes as part of its Gourmet Explorer Series. These classes will showcase regional cuisine from Morocco, Peru, the Pacific Northwest and more. The curriculum of the Culinary Center continues to appeal to a wide range of tastes and culinary skill levels by incorporating techniques inspired by the cultures and regions the ship visits with classes such as Planet Veggie, Viva Tapas, At Home in Sicily, Rock Your Wok, What Mermaids Know, Global Gourmet, and the Pizza Master Class.

Image Courtesy Oceania Cruises

Friday, February 20, 2015

Norwegian To Increase Onboard Service Charge

Norwegian Cruise Line is adjusting its daily service charges, effective for all sailings that begin on March 1, 2015. The new rates are:
• $12.95 per guest per day for any category up to a Mini-Suite stateroom.
• $14.95 per guest per day for any suite category.
Guests who have previously booked a cruise and are sailing after March 1, 2015, or who are planning to book a cruise now through Feb 28, 2015, can choose to pre–pay their service charges at the current rate by Feb 28, 2015.

Guests with existing cruise reservations who have already pre–paid their service charges at the current rate will not be affected.

Norwegian’s daily service charges, which were last adjusted in 2009, make it easy for guests to provide gratuities to key onboard staff who provide superior service during the cruise, including their room steward, restaurant servers, and behind–the–scenes support staff. Guests who are sailing in Suite categories also receive the services of a concierge, butler and dedicated wait staff.

Photo (c)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Carnival Freedom’s Arrival In Galveston Honors Military Families

Carnival Cruise Line marked the arrival of Carnival Freedom at its new year-round homeport of Galveston on Valentine's Day in a big way. The celebration honored U.S. military personnel and their families. In partnership with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit organization that supports military families, service members and their families were treated to an overnight event featuring a variety of activities. Included was an exclusive outdoor Carnival LIVE performance by country music superstar Martina McBride, along with dinner and a full evening of entertainment, all compliments of Carnival. Prior to McBride’s concert, Carnival presented a check in the amount of $100,000 to Operation Homefront.

“We’re excited to kick off Carnival Freedom’s year-round deployment from Galveston with a donation to an organization that touches so many lives and a special event for the brave men and women who serve our country,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line.

McBride, a 14-time GRAMMY® nominee, performed on Carnival Freedom’s upper deck in the first Carnival LIVE show staged outdoors. It was her second time participating in the Carnival LIVE concert series that offers guests the best live music at sea from popular acts spanning a variety of musical genres.

“Performing for these military families was an incredible honor. And everyone really enjoyed the outdoor setting on the ship’s deck,” said McBride. “I hope that everyone who was there had a special Valentine’s Day experience; I’m so glad I was asked to be part of it.”

Carnival Freedom then kicked off year-round departures from Galveston the next day with a special 6-day voyage to Mexico and will launch 4- to 7-day cruises calling at ports throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, Bahamas and Florida beginning Feb. 21. Carnival Freedom joins Carnival Triumph and Carnival Magic in Galveston. Together these three ships will carry more than 600,000 passengers annually from Texas—more than any other cruise line.

Carnival Freedom recently underwent a $70 million makeover that added an array of Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancements, and attendees at Saturday’s event had full access to the ship’s many on-board innovations, including new family entertainment programming such as Seuss at Sea and Camp Ocean featuring 200 marine-themed activities. The renovation also included complimentary eateries such as BlueIguana Cantina, and Guy’s Burger Joint, developed in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, along with exciting new bar concepts BlueIguana Tequila Bar, RedFrog Rum Bar, the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar and the Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub. Four new high-tech Playlist Productions shows were added, as well.

Image: Carnival Freedom in Key West ©

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Enjoy an “Isaac” at Home & on Princess Cruises

He was your favorite bartender on television and now you can enjoy one of his “Isaac” cocktails at home as well as at sea. Princess Cruises, famous as the backdrop of the iconic Love Boat television series, debuted a new cocktail to sweeten your celebrations on the high seas. Original Love Boat cast member Ted Lange, who played Isaac the bartender, created the amorous concoction, drawing inspiration from his character’s signature grin-and-point move and bright red jacket. The new drink debuted on all Princess cruise ships in time for Valentine’s Day, but any day would be a good time to enjoy it.

Fittingly called, “The Isaac,” the refreshing love potion includes white rum – a nod to Lange’s favorite cruise destination, the Caribbean; pomegranate syrup – channeling the famous red jacket his character wore and also an aphrodisiac; two pineapple leaves as garnish – tribute to his character’s two-finger signature point; lime juice; and club soda, to add some sparkle.

Lange recently visited Crown Princess to demonstrate how to make his new creation for the ship’s bartenders and here’s a video of his lighthearted demonstration. You don’t need to grab a pencil to jot down the ingredients, the instructions are below.

“Most people don’t know that while I was serving up drinks on the Love Boat, I also became a licensed bartender in real life,” said Lange. “If a bartender recognizes me, he or she always wants me to try their special drink. Now, I’m excited for everyone to try my special drink and I know they are going to love it. Like the song says, “come aboard, the Isaac’s waiting for you!”

To mix up “The Isaac” at home, here’s the cocktail recipe:

2 oz white rum
2 oz pomegranate syrup
½ oz fresh lime juice
splash of club soda
lime slice(s)
2 pineapple leaf spears

Preparation: Fill a highball glass with 2/3 ice or desired amount of ice. Into a cocktail shaker, add ice, white rum, pomegranate syrup and lime juice. Shake and strain into highball glass, filling just to the top of the ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with a fresh lime slice and two pineapple spears.

Image & Video Courtesy Princess Cruises

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Two Vacations For Three Generations

In years past, Georgian and Humberto Cruz's family has fully enjoyed three-generational vacations, both at sea and on land. But every once in a while two vacations for three generations is the way to go.

As Georgina explains, "Our daughter Veronica and son-in-law Kyle wanted a romantic anniversary voyage and booked a cruise to the South Seas on Princess Cruises’ Ocean Princess this winter. They asked if we would stay with their boys, Aidan, 14 and Julian, 11, while they sailed. We readily agreed, but so everyone could enjoy a vacation, rather than staying at home with the grandkids while the middle generation sailed to French Polynesia, we took our grandsons to Walt Disney World, booking a log cabin at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground in Orlando."

How did it go? Two Vacations For Three Generations were a delight for the entire family.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cunard Royal Rendezvous Between Queen Elizabeth & the Queen Mary

When two Cunard "queens" meet up at sea or in port they celebrate a "royal rendezvous" and the most recent was particularly special. On February 5th, Cunard kicked off the company's 175th Anniversary celebrations in the U.S. by paying homage to the historic Queen Mary when Queen Elizabeth docked in the port of Long Beach, California for the first time. While the current Cunard fleet has saluted Queen Mary in recent years during brief visits to the harbor, this was the first time a Cunard ship had berthed in Long Beach since Queen Mary arrived at her retirement home in October 1967. Queen Mary will celebrate the 80th anniversary of her Maiden Voyage in May 2016.

Enthusiastic well-wishers turned out for the festivities which featured an emotional speech read by the Queen Mary's Commodore Everette Hoard to the gathered crowd about the history of the Queen Mary, currently celebrating her 80th year in public life. Whistle salutes between the two ships followed, and a dazzling fireworks display finished the day as the ship pulled away from her berth. Cunard Line has shared the following video with us to take you aboard.

"During our 175-year history, the Queen Mary has been one of our most beloved ships," said Richard Meadows, President, Cunard, North America. "This meeting of the Queens was especially memorable for our passengers, as this maiden call offered them the opportunity to disembark in Long Beach and experience the Queen Mary, an integral part of our history and tradition."

Earlier that day, the Queen Mary debuted their new Ship Model Gallery, featuring Cunard models of Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth 2, along with the original Bassett-Lowke shipbuilder's model of the Queen Mary—a spectacular and historically significant ship model measuring over 20 feet in length.

Video Courtesy Cunard Line

Friday, February 13, 2015

Star Wars to Make Disney Cruise Line Appearances

Polish up your lightsaber and get ready for a Force-ful experience. It won't happen until next year, but Disney Cruise Line guests can look forward to celebrating the legendary adventures and iconic characters from the Star Wars saga during a brand-new, day-long celebration aboard eight special sailings on the Disney Fantasy: Star Wars Day at Sea. Occurring one day during each of eight Disney Fantasy sailings in 2016, Star Wars Day at Sea will transport guests to a galaxy far, far away—that would be the Western Caribbean. The event features a full day of Star Wars celebrations, including a deck party, meet-and-greets with favorite characters, Star Wars-themed youth activities, unique food and beverage offerings, and special merchandise. Also featured will be exclusive at-sea screenings of the Star Wars films and the new Disney XD animated series, Star Wars Rebels.

Throughout the day, Star Wars Younglings, Padawans, and Jedi Masters alike will enjoy the immersive entertainment. Intergalactic highlights include:

Force-filled Fun for Everyone
-- Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Boba Fett, Stormtroopers and other characters from across the Star Wars galaxy will be onboard for scheduled meet and greets, as well as roaming on deck and elsewhere around the ship. Guests also are encouraged to dress up in their own stellar costumes.
-- A shipboard version of the popular Jedi Training Academy experience invites young Jedi hopefuls—known as "Padawans"—to learn lightsaber moves from a Jedi Master. They can then use the Force and face off in a final test against the evil Darth Vader.
-- Kids and families enjoy friendly competition during Star Wars trivia games, covering fun facts from the film and television sagas.
-- For Younglings, Star Wars-themed arts and crafts, games and activities will be offered throughout the day in Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab youth clubs.
-- In the evening, adults entering the night club will feel like they stepped into the Mos Eisley cantina scene. Characters and cantina music set the mood as Star Wars-themed specialty cocktails are served.
Film Screenings and Celebrities
-- Guests can watch the first six Star Wars films and follow Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke and Leia along their epic journey.
-- Also showing will be episodes of the new Disney XD animated series, Star Wars Rebels.
-- On each of the special sailings, celebrities and insiders from the Star Wars galaxy will share their experiences, meet fans and sign autographs.
Star Wars Deck Party & Fireworks
-- There's intergalactic fun when the Star Wars deck party blasts off to an exciting evening filled with music, dancing and games.
-- Star Wars characters converge on the deck stage for a celebration of the Star Wars saga in a show featuring special effects and guest participation.
-- The deck party culminates in a spectacular display of themed pyrotechnics, lighting, sound effects, lasers and Star Wars music.
Star Wars Day at Sea will be on Disney Fantasy cruises sailing on Jan. 9, 23; Feb. 6, 20; March 5, 19; April 2 and 16, 2016. Departing from Port Canaveral, the 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary includes Cozumel, Mexico; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands and Disney's private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay.

Image Courtesy Disney Cruise Line

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Holland America Line Adds New Culinary Options To Koningsdam

Dinner at the Culinary Arts Center
Holland America Line is planning an evolution in the line's culinary vision with new dining and eatery concepts, reimagined venues, and innovative features that will debut when ms Koningsdam joins the fleet in February 2016.

Guests will have the opportunity to embark on a culinary journey that features cuisine from around the world in several alternative restaurants; an immersive dining experience in the reimagined Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine; a re-designed casual Lido Market with themed serving stations; relaxing cafes; and an exciting, interactive culinary-themed walkway, all in addition to the main dining room. All menus are developed by award-winning Holland America Line's Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, working closely with the line's team of highly regarded international chefs.

The Heart of Koningsdam's Culinary Experience on Deck 2 will showcase several of the ship's dining venues along one central promenade. In addition to the Main Dining Room, guests will find the Culinary Arts Center, alternative venues the Pinnacle Grill and Sel de Mer, the new French seafood brasserie, and interactive displays presenting icons of the food and wine world. A central bar area overlooking the atrium enables guests to check in for their alternative-dining reservation at a hosted central podium, relax with a pre-dinner cocktail, and peruse the menu before being escorted and seated at the restaurant.

Perhaps the most intriguing venue for foodies will be the reimagined Culinary Arts Center, which also becomes a dining option. Lining the entry to the Culinary Arts Center are nine interactive displays that allow guests to explore the lives of food and wine luminaries, their culinary secrets, recipe tips, favorite dishes, and more. Additionally, on Koningsdam, the center features a dramatic show kitchen and individual cooking stations that will be used exclusively for Culinary Arts Center activities, such as cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes by visiting celebrity chefs and the ship's own experts. Regionally inspired workshops, as well as kids' and teens' cooking classes, also will be featured.

So far the center sounds much like those found on the fleet's other ships...that is, until the sun goes down. In the evening, the room transforms into a new dining concept called Dinner at the Culinary Arts Center, an immersive farm-to-table experience where the chefs prepare simple, artisanal dishes in the show kitchen and guests enjoy each course as it's freshly prepared. Large mirrors, viewing screens, and an open kitchen make it possible for everyone to watch the food preparation and learn from the comfort of their table. Every meal will emphasize fresh, thoughtfully sourced selections while incorporating select ingredients harvested from a glass-enclosed growing area just off the kitchen.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Place Your Bets on Crystal Cruises

Not being much of a gambler, I was unaware that shipboard credits were not usable in cruise ship casinos. For those guest who enjoy wagering at the table games or playing slot machines, luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises is expanding its onboard options by allowing them to convert shipboard credits in the form of non-cashable slot vouchers or special table game chips in the casinos.

Effective with Crystal Symphony's March 9 Singapore to Hong Kong sailing and Crystal Serenity's March 13 Perth to Cape Town voyage, guests can convert shipboard credit in denominations of $5, $10, or $25 vouchers for slots; and $5 or $25 for table games, with no maximum limit. While the slot vouchers or special table game chips used from shipboard credits are not redeemable for cash themselves, winning wagers will be paid in cashable vouchers and chips. Any remaining table games chips or unused slot vouchers can be re-deposited to the guest's shipboard credit account for use toward any other applicable Crystal amenity or experience, including indulgent spa treatments or thrilling Crystal Adventures ashore. Shipboard credit vouchers in the casino are not refundable once they are used and lost.

"Our guests are savvy travelers who relish a multitude of thrills, including trying their hands at the tables and slots," says Crystal president, Edie Rodriguez. "The new use of shipboard credit in our casinos is another benefit to Crystal's all-inclusive experience and further enhances our onboard enrichment."

Crystal's lavish onboard casinos on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity are elegantly stylish venues offering Nevada-style gaming and glittering excitement. Thrilling games of Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, 3 Card Poker(TM), Ultimate Texas Hold'em(TM) and Mini-Baccarat (on request), as well as slot and video poker machines are available. Casinos are open to all guests age 18 and over, and are subject to closure in various ports.

Sounds like a winning move to us!

Image Courtesy Crystal Cruises

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2015 to See Robust Growth for the Cruise Industry

Travel business growth is good, especially when it offers consumers more options in the cruising segment of the industry. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world's largest cruise industry trade association, has released its annual State of the Cruise Industry Report and is once again projecting strong growth for the cruise industry in 2015.

A record 23 million passengers are expected to sail this year, with 61 percent of North American CLIA-certified travel agents reporting an increase in 2015 travel bookings over this time last year. Cruise lines are enticing travelers with nearly 1,000 ports of call in new, exotic locations. The fast-growing Asian market has been a driver in that expansion. CLIA also revealed that member cruise lines are scheduled to debut 22 new ocean, river, and specialty ships in 2015 for a total investment of more than $4 billion.

Using several research studies, CLIA identified seven 2015 cruise industry outlooks:
1. Travelers Will Continue to Set Sail: Cruise travelers intend to continue to set sail and are highly satisfied with prior cruise experiences. In fact, 62 percent are return cruisers and 69 percent ranked cruising as a better value than a land-based vacation. Overall, CLIA member ocean passenger volume is projected to increase to 23 million in 2015, a four-percent increase over 2014 estimates of 22.1 million.
2. Size Doesn’t Matter: Five years ago, the largest cruise ship in the world was introduced with a 6,300-passenger capacity. With 22 new ocean, river and specialty cruise ships scheduled for debut this year, the focus is less on size and more on unique design and amenities.
3. Specialty Cruises Continue to Thrive: CLIA’s specialty segments, which includes sophisticated ships, luxury yachts, elegant ocean liners and the newest river cruises, continue to experience double digit passenger growth. In fact, specialty cruises grew by 21 percent annually from 2009 to 2014 estimates.
4. Caribbean Continues to Be Queen: The Caribbean remains queen for the cruise industry with more than a third of the global deployment capacity market share in 2015. At the same time, cruise travelers are expanding horizons. The Mediterranean continues to grow as a destination, as well as other regions including Asia and Australia. In 2015, 52 ships will provide 1,065 Asian cruises with capacity for 2.17 million passengers.
5. Oh, the New Places We Will Go: The cruise industry is seeing an increase in passengers looking for global experiences. As a result, cruising has made the world more accessible than ever. CLIA’s member cruise lines offer nearly 1,000 ports around the globe, including many areas that fall within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
6. Travel Agents Are Key to Cruise Travel: While the Internet and mobile devices have overtaken how consumers make purchases, travel agents continue to be the most popular and best way to book a cruise. In fact, seven out of ten cruise travelers (70 percent) use a travel agent to plan and book cruise vacations.
7. Passengers Are at the Helm: When it comes to travel, consumers are in control more than ever before. The cruise industry is excited, motivated and responding with key innovations that are meeting the needs of today’s passengers, such as bow-to-stern Wi-Fi and phone connectivity, multigenerational appeal, themed cruises, and “foodcations.”
“From new ports around the globe to the investment by CLIA’s member cruise lines in new, innovative ships, it’s an exciting time for the cruise industry and cruise passengers,” said Adam M. Goldstein, CLIA Chairman and President/COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “This year will prove to be another step forward for the entire industry as our members continue to strive to make cruising the best overall vacation experience.”

About the Research
The Travel Agent Pulse Survey was conducted among 482 North American CLIA-certified travel agents via an online survey between November 7-23, 2014. The 2014 North American Cruise Market Profile Survey was conducted in partnership with market research firm TNS and cruise industry consultancy Bob Sharak & Associates. Drawn from a panel of more than 1 million households, an online survey was conducted between August 12-26, 2014, which collected cruise and travel opinion data among 1,600 U.S. and Canadian residents. This report presents data on travelers who are 25 or older with an annual household income of more than $40,000.

Other sources include:
• CLIA Passenger, Capacity and Deployment Surveys
• Global Economic Contribution of Cruise Tourism 2013 for CLIA by Business Research & Economic Advisors, September 2014
• Asia Cruise Trends, 2014 Analysis, Assessment, Appreciation Summary of Capacity & Deployment, CHART Management Consultant, CLIA Southeast Asia
Image Courtesy Cunard Line

Monday, February 9, 2015

Viking Star Goes To Sea

New cruise ships are always of interest here on Cruise Diva's blog, as well as on our web site When the new ship is the first in a brand new cruise line, to us that's a win-win. We've kept a close eye on Viking Ocean Cruises® since the "Vikings"—noted for river cruising—first indicated their intention to go to sea and have happily shared their their fleet-building progress for nearly two years. The new ocean-going line has announced the recent successful sea trials of its first ship, the 930-passenger Viking Star, which is set to launch to debut in April.

During nearly a week of intense diagnostics, maritime experts executed more than 80 different tests designed to evaluate everything from Viking Star's engine and propulsion performance to her navigation systems and cabin acoustics. Following the trials, Captain Gulleik Svalastog deemed her "one of the most agile, state-of-the-art and seaworthy ships on the water, destined to exceed the expectations of the most well-traveled guest." Those trials, which took place in the Aegean Sea in mid-December, represented the vessel's first voyage in open water. Not only did Viking Ocean Cruises announce the success of the sea trials, they also shared the following video that we're sure you will find as interesting as we did.

"Following six months of nonstop construction since her float out, this was a major milestone for Viking Star, and we are proud to be another step closer to launch," said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises. "Now we can focus on the finishing touches, and we look forward to welcoming guests onboard in two months' time."

Currently back at Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard for final outfitting and interior decorating, Viking Star will welcome her first guests aboard on April 11. She will then set sail from Istanbul, making her way through the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic on her way to be officially christened in the homeland of the Vikings. On May 17 in Bergen, Norway, guests will be treated to a celebration that will be seen throughout the world. One of the most important days of the year in Norway—Norwegian Constitution Day—dignitaries from around the country and thousands of Bergen residents will gather along the waterfront to welcome Viking Star to port and to share in the festivities. Bergen Mayor Trude Drevland will serve as godmother to Viking Star and will officially "name" the ship during its christening ceremony.

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

Friday, February 6, 2015

Holland America Gets “On Deck” to Beat Cancer

You may have seen your fellow guests walking in a group onboard during your last Holland America cruise and wondered what it was all about. They were “On Deck for a Cause,” a program in which the cruise line invites guests to participate in a noncompetitive 5k fundraising walk on every sailing aboard each of the line’s 15 ships. Proceeds are distributed among the American Cancer Society, Canadian Cancer Society, Cancer Council Australia, Cancer Research UK, Deutsche Krebshilfe (German Cancer Aid) and KWF Kankerbestrijding (Dutch Cancer Society).

In recognition of World Cancer Day, this week Holland America Line proudly announced that to date, the guests and employees of the company have raised more than $4.3 million for cancer support through “On Deck” programming that began in 2006. Currently, the “On Deck for a Cause” program benefits six international cancer organizations located in the United States, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, and United Kingdom.

“Giving back is part of our corporate culture at Holland America Line, and On Deck for a Cause allows our guests and employees to join together for and make an impact for an important cause that touches us all,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “To have surpassed $4.3 million is a huge milestone for our On Deck program, and with fundraising walks happening every cruise—more than 500 cruises a year—we are looking forward to raising even more to help fight cancer.”

Guests of all ages are invited to donate $20 to the Holland America Line Foundation. On a day at sea, participants join in a 5k walk around the ship’s decks. Guests may walk less or not at all, as they prefer. Participants also receive an On Deck for a Cause T-shirt, wristband, and a reception following the walk. Depending on the ship, the distance to reach 5k ranges from nine to 12 laps.

In 2015, more than five hundred On Deck for a Cause events will be held across the Holland America Line fleet, with walks taking place globally on cruises to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, South Pacific, Alaska’s Inside Passage, Mexico, Asia, the Baltic, Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, and South America.

Additionally, Holland America Line hosts more than 25 shipboard charity luncheons for nearly 5,000 guests in its homeport cities each year. Holland America Line and its corporate foundation’s charitable-giving programs also include cash sponsorships, in-kind donations, free- and reduced-fare cruise donations for nonprofit fundraising events, donations of usable shipboard items around the world, employee volunteerism, and other philanthropic activities.

Image courtesy Holland America Line

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A New "How-To" Video Series Kicks Off The Redesign Of Carnival's YouTube Channel

Professional traveler Samantha Brown is the host of a new video series on Carnival's YouTube channel designed to provide "cruise rookies" with what they need to know about the seagoing vacation experience. The videos below offer helpful information on everything from on-board dining and activity choices to cruising with kids and frequently asked questions. The "How to Cruise With Travel Pro Samantha Brown" series is part of a revamp of the line's YouTube channel which, in addition to new content and a brand new look and feel, offers streamlined playlists and an optimized mobile experience while allowing consumers to more easily search for topics they're most interested in.

The breezy and insightful "How to Cruise" videos are designed to serve as a one-stop shop to educate viewers about cruising and debunk many of the myths associated with oceangoing vacations. Shot on board Carnival Breeze, the video series consists of five videos, each featuring three to five individual segments with topics ranging from what to pack and choosing an itinerary to getting your money's worth and "hacks" that every cruiser should know. Each video encourages viewers to select the next cruising topic which is displayed on screen with quick links to specific videos in the series.

"While cruising is certainly fun and affordable, not everyone has sailed before so this new series is designed to answer questions and offer some tips for making the most of your time once you're on board, all in a fun, entertaining and lighthearted way," said Brown. "And Carnival provides the perfect vehicle for 'getting your feet wet' so to speak, with ships offering so many different choices on board, as well as a wide variety of cruise durations, itinerary choices, and embarkation ports," she added.

Videos Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Regent Seven Seas Reveals Seven Seas Explorer Suites

Master Suite
With bookings opening today, Regent Seven Seas Cruises revealed details on all ten categories of suites that will be available on Seven Seas Explorer. While each category of suite provides a unique luxurious look, all exhibit the same level of elegance, design and comfort as the ship’s premier suite, the highly acclaimed, 3,875 square-foot Regent Suite.

Seven Seas Explorer will feature 375 spacious suites, all with the largest verandas in the cruise industry. Each suite is designed with details to provide guests with an ambiance that exudes luxury while also offering a warm and comfortable respite. European king-sized Suite Slumber Beds with sumptuous linens adorn the bedrooms, and oversized bathrooms are highlighted by rich marble and decorative tile.

All suites onboard Seven Seas Explorer include a private balcony, with a whopping 93 percent of the verandas extending beyond 83 square-feet, offering a spacious outdoor oasis for guests to enjoy ocean vistas and breezes in comfort. Catering to the varied vacation needs of sophisticated world travelers, the all-suite ship features accommodations that range from the 307 square-foot entry-level Veranda Suite, to the exquisite and lavish 3,875 square-foot Regent Suite. The selection of the suites on Seven Seas Explorer include:

Top Tier Suites
Grand Suite
The Master, Grand, Explorer, Seven Seas and Penthouse Suites represent the 85 named suites aboard Seven Seas Explorer. In addition to all the amenities currently included on Regent Seven Seas Cruises, guests booked in a named suite for the inaugural Mediterranean season are entitled to complimentary business class air, one-night pre-cruise five-star hotel package, free unlimited internet access, and personal butler service.
Master Suite: With its chic Park Avenue style, replete with rosewood polished furniture and crystal chandeliers, this two-bedroom suite features a modern sophisticated and elegant design. Located at the bow of the ship on decks seven and eight, the four Master Suites measure between 1,900 and 2,100 square-feet and boast a spacious living area with a bar for entertaining and balconies up to 1,000 square-feet. Adjacent to each bedroom, guests will find ornate marble and stone bathrooms with shower and tub.
Grand Suite & Explorer Suite: Sister suites, the Grand and Explorer Suites share a common design element with striking high-contrast emerald accents blended perfectly with the rich grey, brown and cream décor elements. Both suites feature two full baths, and living areas with rich marble mosaics, exotic woods and unique furniture pieces based on haute couture fashion. The Grand Suite ranges up to 1,800 square-feet and offers an expansive private balcony, while the Explorer Suite stretches to 1,350 square-feet and features a slightly larger living space.
Seven Seas Suite
Seven Seas Suite: Famed designer Dakota Jackson created the glamorous look for the Seven Seas Suite. This suite offers between 825 and 925square-feet of luxurious space, and exudes a cosmopolitan apartment feel with vibrant golden colored ceiling accents that reflect on the plush and tony furnishings. The room flows effortlessly from living room to dining area to bedroom, with sliding glass doorways leading to the spacious private balcony throughout. A magnificent white marble bathroom sits adjacent to the oversized bedroom.
Penthouse Suite
Penthouse Suite: The sumptuous and alluring sapphire jewel inspired Penthouse Suites range up to 625 square-feet with a stylish entertainment center that separates the living room and bedroom. A marble-topped bar and intimate dining area welcomes guests upon entering the suite, as the sumptuous living room beckons them to move further into the suite. Sliding glass doorways in both the bedroom and living room lead to an oversized balcony with chic outdoor furnishings.
Concierge Suite
Concierge Suites
The Concierge suites account for a majority of the accommodations aboard Seven Seas Explorer, with a total of 140 suites in this category. In addition to all the amenities currently included on Regent Seven Seas Cruises, guests booked in a Concierge suite are entitled to one-night pre-cruise luxury hotel package, complimentary internet packages, and priority access to book shore excursions and specialty dining.

The Concierge suite provides guests with a spacious floor plan, measuring up to 460 square-feet, with a unique layout featuring a European king-sized Suite Slumber Bed that faces outwards towards the veranda. The expansive balcony stretches the entire width of the room and comes appointed with plush outdoor furnishings. A decorative vanity sits adjacent to the bed and the living area provides ample space to refresh and relax.

Superior Suites
The 415 square-foot Superior Suites were inspired by the beachfront estate homes found in the Hamptons with cool blue, brown and white color palate. This suite shares the same design and layout as the Concierge suites with the bed facing towards outdoor veranda and looking over the spacious living area.

Deluxe Veranda Suite
Veranda Suites
The Deluxe Veranda and Veranda Suites on Seven Seas Explorer are 340 and 310 square feet respectively, placing them among the most spacious entry-level staterooms at sea. The Veranda Suites feature a warm and welcoming island manor feel and boasts a separate sitting area with a couch, coffee table, and a marble-top vanity.

More About Seven Seas Explorer
At 56,000 gross-registered tons and carrying just 750 guests, Seven Seas Explorer will boast one of the highest space ratios in the cruise industry and an exceptionally high staff-to-guest ratio. World-renowned architectural interior design firms Tillberg Design AB, RTKL Associates and ICRAVE are designing the vessel. Seven Seas Explorer will join the rest of the award-winning Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet in the summer of 2016. Reservations for Seven Seas Explorer’s July 20, 2016 maiden voyage and inaugural season opened on Jan. 19, 2015 exclusively for Seven Seas Society members and will become widely available starting Feb. 4, 2015.

Images Courtesy Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Check Your Passport Expiration Date

A couple months ago as Mel and I were preparing to leave for Fort Lauderdale and two back-to-back Caribbean cruises, I noticed that my passport was set to expire in six months. That six month threshold actually passed while we were on the second ship and, just to be safe, I dug out my certified birth certificate as a back-up proof of citizenship.

Why was I concerned? After all, my US passport was valid. While it wasn't a problem for our Caribbean sailings, in some instances it would have stopped me from traveling to certain foreign countries. For instance, Russia. The required amount of time you have to have remaining before your passport expires varies by country so it's a good idea to check when you are planning any trip. You can get that information from the US Department of State website.

According to the US Department of State:
"If possible, you should renew your passport approximately nine months before it expires. Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six months beyond the dates of your trip. Some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met."
After our cruises, one of the first things I did when we got home was renew my passport.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Paul Gauguin Cruises Offers "Take Your Sweetie To Tahiti" Valentine's Gift Package

"I don't want to go to heaven when I die. I want to go to Tahiti!" That was my husband's wish over twenty-five years ago and it came true when we cruised through the clear, tranquil waters of Tahiti. With a special promotion you too can find romance on one of Cruise Diva's picks for most romantic cruise destinations.

Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the highest-rated and longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific, the m/s Paul Gauguin, is celebrating Valentine's Day by offering an exclusive gift package to guests on any 2015 sailing aboard the Paul Gauguin who book between January 26 and February 14, 2015.*

The Valentine's Gift Package includes a $200 per-stateroom credit at the ship's Deep Nature Spa by Algotherm, a box of chocolates, and a bottle of sparkling wine (total package valued at $250). As with all 2015 sailings aboard Paul Gauguin, guests also receive 50% off standard all-inclusive cruise fares and included roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles.

At the Deep Nature Spa by Algotherm, therapists and aestheticians offer an extensive menu of massages, skin care, facials, and authentic Polynesian treatments including Bora Bora Deep Blue Massages, Black Sand Body Scrubs, and Monoi Tradition Massages by Hei Poa, among a variety of other signature therapies and tropical treats.

Designed to sail the seas of the South Pacific, Paul Gauguin offers the perfect setting to celebrate a wedding, renewal of vows, anniversary—or simply each other. Couples can take in the beauty of the islands of French Polynesia from the privacy of their suite or stateroom, sway to the sounds of a chanteuse at La Palette Lounge, explore paradise on land excursions, dine al fresco under a starry sky, and enjoy a Polynesian blessing ceremony performed by members of Les Gauguines and Les Gauguins—the ship's own troupe of Polynesian entertainers. With one of the highest crew-to-guest ratios at sea, The Gauguin is renowned for the extra touches and attention to detail that make every occasion special.

Paul Gauguin Cruises also offers a Gift Registry, where guests celebrating their honeymoon, anniversary, or other milestone event can choose a "wish list" of gifts, ranging from shore excursions to spa options. Friends and family can visit the gift registry quickly and conveniently to select the gift (or gifts) they would like to give, and Paul Gauguin Cruises takes care of the rest. For more information on Paul Gauguin Cruises, visit
*One Valentine's Day gift package per booking. New bookings only. Please refer to promotion code: VALENTINES2015. Not combinable with Groups, Two-Week Sales, and other select reduced-rate offers. Hurry! This offer expires February 14, 2015.