Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bravo to Celebrity Cruises!

Foodies who have always flocked to Celebrity Cruises will continue to enjoy the line's partnership with Bravo Media, which has extended the popular “Top Chef at Sea” program through 2016.

Setting sail November 14, 2015 aboard Celebrity Reflection with a new lineup of cheftestants on the exclusive “Top Chef Signature Sailing,” the one-of-a-kind Eastern Caribbean cruise vacation will give guests an up-close-and-personal culinary experience with six former “Top Chef” competitors, including:
• Nina Compton: Top Chef New Orleans runner-up
• Tiffany Derry: Top Chef D.C. and Top Chef All-Stars contestant; Owner of TD Concepts, Inc.
• Ash Fulk: Top Chef Las Vegas contestant; Culinary Director at Hill Country Hospitality in NYC
• Gregory Gourdet: Top Chef Boston runner-up; Executive Chef at Departure Restaurant + Lounge in Portland, Oregon
• Doug Adams: Top Chef Boston finalist; Chef de Cuisine of Imperial and Portland Penny Diner
• Chris Crary: Top Chef Texas contestant; Executive Chef of Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails in Los Angeles
New during this year’s Top Chef Signature Sailing, vacationers can choose from an array of local destination experiences hosted by a featured cheftestant, making these excursions a unique way to explore the Caribbean. The exclusive chef-hosted shore excursions will be available for purchase soon. The signature sailing also will feature new duel-style cooking demonstrations onboard where cheftestants will battle each other while answering fans’ questions, with the winning dish chosen by the audience. Also onboard and back by popular demand, foodies can enjoy exclusive and intimate experiences with the chefs by booking private cooking classes and private dinners to hone their skills and get advice on preparing sumptuous dishes at home.

In addition to the Top Chef Signature Sailing with alums, Celebrity will continue to offer interactive Quickfire Challenges and “Top Chef”-inspired menu evenings on all sailings departing through June 2016 aboard its nine ships. Quickfire Challenges will put guests in the spotlight to get a taste of the pressure the cheftestants experience on the show. Plus, guests can indulge in a selection of the dishes the judges raved about on the series at “Top Chef Night” in the main restaurant.

Celebrity originally partnered with “Top Chef” in November 2014 to launch the exclusive Top Chef at Sea experience. The extension of Top Chef at Sea allows for guests to sail with Celebrity on cruise vacation with endless culinary possibilities. For more details about Top Chef at Sea, visit CelebrityCruises.com/TopChef.

Image © CruiseDiva.com

Monday, March 30, 2015

Nine Next-Generation Cruise Ships On Order For Carnival Corporation Brands

Carnival Corporation may not build the world's largest cruise ships for the brands in their World's Leading Cruise Lines portfolio, but when they place an order for new vessels it's a biggie. The world's largest travel and leisure company has announced the signing of two strategic memorandums of agreement that will add a total of nine new cruise ships to the company's fleet over a four-year period from 2019-2022.

Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, the world's largest cruise ship building company, will develop and construct five ships at its shipyards in Monfalcone and Marghera, Italy, and German shipbuilder Meyer Werft, a leading global shipbuilder founded in Germany in 1795, will build its four ships at its shipyards in Papenburg, Germany, and Turku, Finland. Meyer Werft has become well known for constructing large, modern and sophisticated cruise ships, including 39 luxury ships the company has built for its customers around the world. Each shipbuilder will construct the new ships based on Carnival Corporation's next-generation ship designs, which will produce the most efficient ships in the company's history. The new ships are expected to serve established cruise markets in North America and Europe, as well as newer markets, including China. Each new ship will be specifically designed and developed for the brand and guests it will serve.

"We're excited to take this next step in our fleet enhancement plan with these two new agreements that are consistent with our long-term strategy of measured capacity growth over time," said Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation. "Our goal as a company is to exceed the expectations of every guest on every ship every day, and these new ships will further enable us to do just that. These will be the most efficient ships we have ever built and the great guest experience will create even more excitement around cruising, helping new cruisers realize the superior vacation experience and value that cruising offers versus land-based vacations."

As part of each shipbuilder's long-term strategic partnership with Carnival Corporation, additional new ship orders are being explored over the coming decade. More information about Carnival Corporation's cruise ship design, and which of the company's nine global brands will add these next-generation vessels to their fleets will be made available at a later date.

Carnival Corporation's fleet enhancement strategy will add two new ships to its fleet in 2015 and remove four ships from the fleet. P&O Cruises UK officially launched Britannia, the largest ship ever designed exclusively for Britain, earlier this month. Later this year, the AIDA Cruises fleet will welcome AIDAprima, which is expected to be one of the most technically advanced and sustainable cruise ships ever built. In addition to these new ships, Carnival Corporation continues to enhance its guest experience on existing ships. The overall fleet enhancement strategy combines new ship builds with an ongoing program to further elevate guest experience across the company's existing fleet and nine brands.

As noted, the only thing missing from this announcement is for which brands the new ships are specifically being designed.

Friday, March 27, 2015

An Ovation For China & Harmony in North America

Furthering Royal Caribbean International’s commitment to growing the China vacation market,  the line has announced that Tianjin, China, will be the new home for its third Quantum-class ship, Ovation of the Seas. Currently under construction and launching in April 2016, Ovation of the Seas will be the cruise line’s fifth cruise ship based in the region, joining Quantum of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, and Legend of the Seas. The five ships will comprise the largest fleet deployment for any cruise brand in China, homeporting in four metropolitan Chinese cities—Shanghai, Tianjin, Hong Kong and Xiamen—and primarily sailing 3- to 12-night itineraries to destinations in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.

“Cruising has become very popular for Chinese consumers and Royal Caribbean is already capturing their imaginations with our industry-leading cruise ships,” said Royal Caribbean’s President and CEO, Michael Bayley. “We are furthering our commitment by bringing two of the world’s newest and most advanced Quantum-class cruise ships to the region. In addition, we are significantly expanding our investment in the training and employment of Chinese talent so they can join us in delivering our amazing and distinctive vacations to Chinese travelers.”

In addition to committing ships to the region, Royal Caribbean is investing in people shoreside. The cruise line created a curriculum with the Tianjin Maritime College in August 2014 in order to attract, train and employ more Chinese talent. In the 13,000 sq. ft. school, students are instructed in the skills needed for a successful culinary or restaurant service career with Royal Caribbean. The cruise line has already hired more than 3,000 graduates and hopes to expand the program to accept more students and work with colleges in other Chinese cities. Royal Caribbean also is exploring new ways to engage the Chinese economy and help create more Chinese jobs. The cruise line is investigating potential Chinese drydock facilities to revitalize Legend of the Seas as early as 2018; logistics centers in China to supply its ships deployed in the region; and an inbound-tourism business model to bring thousands of North American vacationers to experience China.

Once launched, Ovation of the Seas’ maiden sailings will include a 52-night Global Odyssey from Southampton, U.K. to Tianjin. Vacationers can be among the first to experience the new ship on the 2016 Ovation Global Odyssey, which opened for sale on Thursday, March 26, 2015. Five itineraries will take guests to some of the world’s most iconic cities:
- A 7-night England to Barcelona cruise, departing May 3, 2016 from Southampton
- 16-night Barcelona to Dubai cruise, via the Suez Canal, departing May 10
- 14-night India and Southeast Asia cruise, departing May 26 from Dubai to Singapore
- 3-night Malaysia cruise, departing June 9 on a roundtrip sailing from Singapore
- And 12-night Exotic Asia cruise, from Singapore to Tianjin.
Royal Caribbean is the leading cruise line in China, shown by business growth, consumer and trade preference, and industry and consumer recognitions and awards. For its inaugural season, Ovation of the Seas will homeport in Tianjin, approximately 70 miles southeast of Beijing, while Quantum of the Seas will complete a full year of sailings from Shanghai. Mariner of the Seas will join Quantum of the Seas in Shanghai, while Voyager of the Seas will sail regularly from Hong Kong’s new Kai Tak Cruise Port. In addition to Japan and Korea itineraries, Voyager of the Seas will offer 4- and 5-night Taiwan and Vietnam cruises. For its part, Legend of the Seas will offer a set of sailings from Tianjin and then reposition to its new homeport of Xiamen for the remainder of the season.

Ovation of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, and Quantum of the Seas are among the Quantum Class, the world’s most advanced cruise ships. While Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas will sail the China seas, Anthem of the Seas will make Cape Liberty in Bayonne, N.J. its long-term home, and offer New York metropolitan vacationers a range of Bermuda, Caribbean, and Canada and New England adventures.

“While China gets the newest Quantum Class, North America is getting the newest Oasis Class, Harmony of the Seas. There will be three Oasis-class ships sailing from two Florida ports starting in 2016, in addition to Anthem of the Seas from Cape Liberty, giving vacationers plenty of options for a truly memorable Royal Caribbean cruise.” added Bayley.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's Always Five O’Clock Aboard Norwegian Star

Last week Norwegian Cruise Line welcomed Norwegian Star back into the fleet following a two-week dry dock where the ship received numerous enhancements and new dining and entertainment venues as she readies for her busy summer season sailing the Baltic Capitals and Norwegian fjords from Copenhagen.

As a part of Norwegian Cruise Line’s NEXT Program, bringing new enhancements and experiences to the cruise industry’s youngest fleet among major North American cruise lines, Norwegian Star follows Norwegian Jewel as the third ship in the Norwegian fleet to receive updates since the program launched in 2014. Highlights of the ship’s new features include two complimentary dining outlets, enhanced offerings in the popular Ginza Asian restaurant and Norwegian’s first Five o’Clock Somewhere Bar.

“Our guests can dine like nowhere else at sea with Norwegian’s Freestyle Dining and these exciting new venues on Norwegian Star make it even easier, more exciting and more fun for guests to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that only a Norwegian cruise can offer,” said Andy Stuart, president and chief operating officer of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Parrotheads and patrons looking to unwind can enjoy the fleet’s first Five o’Clock Somewhere Bar, in an exclusive partnership with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville®. The newest watering hole will serve up signature margaritas and “boat drinks” such as the “Who’s to Blame® Margarita,” ice cold LandShark Lagers and more, coupled with nightly live musical performances.

Norwegian Star’s popular Asian fusion restaurant, Ginza, can now be enjoyed on a complimentary basis, as the previous $15 cover charge has been eliminated. In addition to a full complimentary menu that now includes dishes from a dedicated Noodle Bar such as traditional Chinese noodles, wok-fried specialties, and dim sum favorites, Ginza Asian Restaurant will now also feature new à la carte offerings such as Japanese Hot Rock Ishiyaki for a nominal fee and a sushi menu developed by expert Sushi Chef Yuki Ieto. The new sushi and sashimi pieces such as the Sashimi Hamachi Poblano, Ten Shades of Grey Roll and more will be served at the restaurant’s sushi bar or guests can also choose from four specialty rolls directly from a moving sushi belt.

Norwegian Star has also been retrofitted with the popular O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, a 24-hour complimentary restaurant that serves up local traditional pub fare in a friendly neighborhood-pub setting. In addition, the ship’s Moderno Churrascaria, the Brazilian-style steakhouse, was relocated to a more intimate setting on Deck 13 and Sugarcane Mojito Bar, first introduced on Norwegian Getaway, was added adjacent to the new restaurant.

A number of additional guest area enhancements included: updates to the Casino and Photo Gallery, new carpets and flooring throughout guest areas, window replacements, upgrades in galley areas and updates to the pool deck. Norwegian’s innovative digital signage, first introduced on Norwegian Breakaway, has also been added to the ship. The interactive touch screen signs allow guests to order specialty items, get directions, and reserve dining and shore excursions simply with a scan of their stateroom key, providing even more freedom and flexibility for guests to personalize their ideal vacation experience.

Technical modernizations also took place during the dry dock, with the ship is being outfitted with Green Tech Marine Scrubbers, in order to reduce fuel emissions, overall energy consumption, and the company’s environmental footprint. In addition, the ship received an Azipod hydrodynamic upgrade and state-of-the-art silicone paint on the hull, in order to further improve fuel efficiency. Norwegian Star will also benefit from the installation of shore power connectivity. Additional significant technical and safety updates include: lifeboat and tender boat release systems upgrade; thrusters and stabilizer maintenance; and ballast and bilge piping replacement.

Norwegian Star will spend her summer season sailing from Copenhagen with a number of 7- to 14-day itineraries through the Baltic Capitals and Norwegian fjords. Norwegian Star’s 9-day sailing through the Baltic Capitals will feature culture-rich ports of call including Berlin, Germany; Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; and Stockholm, Sweden.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Princess Cruises Passengers Select the Line's Entertainer of the Year

Results of Princess Cruises’ fourth annual Entertainer of the Year program, which was created to recognize the high caliber and diversity of guest entertainers that perform on each Princess cruise, were determined last week by guests aboard the March 14 Crown Princess Mexico cruise. Four finalists were selected from the hundreds of talented performers—comedians, magicians, vocalists, tribute bands and novelty performers—that perform for guests on Princess’ stages each year. These top artists performed to enthusiastic audiences during the cruise who then cast their ballot to select the winner. When the votes were tallied, Comedic Magician Ben Seidman received the honor of being selected as Princess Cruises Entertainer of the Year.

“Congratulations to Ben Seidman for being chosen as Princess Cruises Entertainer of the Year,” said Adrian Fischer, vice president, entertainment experience, Princess Cruises. “We were so proud to showcase the immense talents of all our finalists to our guests, who were thoroughly riveted by their dynamic performances and certainly had a difficult time choosing among such charismatic entertainers.”

The finalists were determined by the Princess Cruises entertainment department based on guest surveys and onboard audience response. Along with Seidman the finalists included Vocalist Lovena Fox, Comedian Steve Caouette, and violinist and entertainer Christopher Watkins. Seidman was announced as the winner on the final night of the cruise at a celebratory event in Princess’ signature venue, The Piazza.

Wisconsin native and Los Angeles resident Seidman is the only person in history to be named the Resident Magician at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas and currently stars in Magic Outlaws on Travel Channel. His energetic and playful performances combine stand-up comedy and world-renowned sleight-of-hand. As the new holder of the line’s “Entertainer of the Year” title, Seidman received a cash prize of $5,000.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Princess Cruises & Oscar-Winning Composer Stephen Schwartz Are A Winning Combination

Stephen Schwartz
Cruise ship entertainment has often unfairly received black marks in the past for being amateurish, predictable, or even dull. However, as we reported yesterday, with the wealth of partnerships being forged between cruise lines and highly-rated entertainment entities, that's no longer the case. While we can't all live in close proximity to Broadway, we can enjoy high caliber shows at sea thanks to Princess Cruises and their new first-of-its-kind cruise industry partnership with three-time Oscar winner and composer of Wicked, Pippin, and Godspell—Stephen Schwartz. The cruise line's new relationship with such a major creative talent from Broadway and Hollywood includes a multi-year agreement to oversee the creative development of four new musicals to debut across the fleet over the next several years.

During his 40-year career, Schwartz has won four Grammys, three Academy Awards for "Best Song" and "Best Score" for Pocahontas and "Best Song" for The Prince of Egypt, and has been nominated for six Tony Awards. He is the only songwriter in Broadway history to ever have three shows run more than 1,900 performances. His first musical for Princess Cruises will celebrate Schwartz's lifelong fascination with magic. Called Magic to Do, the show will combine thrilling magic with some of Schwartz's most famous songs and a brand new song written exclusively for Princess. The show will debut aboard Crown Princess in the fall.

"Stephen is hands down one of the most talented and accomplished Broadway composers of all time and we couldn't be more honored to partner with him to ideate and bring fresh talent together to create memorable entertainment experiences for our guests," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president.

Schwartz will oversee the creative development for all four shows, bringing together a cadre of Broadway talent to support the productions through direction and design.

"I'm excited about the possibility of using the enormous resources available with Princess to create new and innovative theatrical entertainment," said Schwartz. "Their onboard theatres are Broadway-caliber venues with state-of-the-art technical capability, and coupled with their access to first-rate performers, I see it as an extraordinary and almost irresistible opportunity. I have already received overwhelming and enthusiastic interest from talented colleagues—writers, directors, and designers to whom I have spoken—and I hope together we will create new kinds of cruise ship shows to entertain and inspire Princess guests unlike any other productions at sea."

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Monday, March 23, 2015

Holland America Line's Got The Beat

Aboard Holland America Line’s new ms Koningsdam, entertainment will meet innovation with a new main theater design that surrounds the audience with a 270-degree LED screen. Breaking from the line’s traditionally styled theaters, The World Stage (pictured here) is a flexible space that can have multiple stage configurations, ranging from in-the-round to the more conventional proscenium staging. The theater will initially host five new productions performed in repertory by a cast sourced from around the world.

At two stories high and 250 feet long, the high-definition LED screens will make The World Stage a trend-setting theater at sea capable of showcasing an array of performances and productions. Enhanced by state-of-the-art lighting, projection, and sound systems, the screens enable the environment of The World Stage to change throughout the day to present anything the designers can imagine. For example, the room can evolve effortlessly from an Italian palazzo for a concert performance to an imaginary world for innovative production numbers.

“The World Stage on Koningsdam will enable us to debut new entertainment concepts to delight our guests with shows they’ve never seen before,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “Having the flexibility to configure the room into many different and vibrant settings enables us to set new heights for cruise entertainment in this extraordinary theater at sea.”

Music Walk
Musical entertainment is taken to a new level with the energetic Music Walk area featuring all genres of music showcased in venues including Lincoln Center Stage, performing chamber music nightly; Billboard Onboard where live musicians rock the crowd with chart-topping hits; and the popular B.B. King's Blues Club in the Queen's Lounge bringing the best of Memphis music to sea.

Guests will be able to let the good times roll in B.B. King's Blues Club, making it the eighth ship in the fleet to feature the Memphis music experience. Direct from Beale Street, the B.B. King All-Star Band, an eight-piece group featuring two vocalists backed by rhythm and horn sections, brings the best of the city's music to sea. From funky and fast to soulful and smooth, the band performs six nights a week in the Queen's Lounge. During performances, the venue evokes the atmosphere of their namesake clubs on land with images of the legendary blues guitar legend. Exclusive specialty cocktails from the land-based clubs also are served, featuring the tasty, rum-based Lucille and Rock Me Baby concoctions.

Holland America Line is using 50 years of chart-topping hits as the framework for a new live interactive music experience called Billboard Onboard that will debut as part of the Music Walk complex on the line's first Pinnacle-class ship, ms Koningsdam. The new programming is in partnership with Billboard, the leading global destination for charts, news, trends and innovations in music. Billboard Onboard will showcase the talents of live musicians, including two pianists, a guitarist and a DJ, who will take turns performing dynamic shows centered around the interesting facts and figures of the music industry as chronicled by Billboard. Between the nightly sets and songs, guests can sing and play along with trivia questions presented on screens throughout the room.

Holland America Line has also announced the launch of Lincoln Center Stage, a new onboard live music venue created in an exclusive partnership with Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, a leader in artistic programming, arts and education and community relations. Under the exclusive partnership, each Lincoln Center Stage will showcase an ensemble performing chamber music. These world-class musicians will perform multiple programs nightly. On those occasions when guests are enjoying a leisurely day at sea aboard ship, the ensemble also will play afternoon recitals. Lincoln Center Stage will debut on ms Eurodam in January 2016 and on ms Koningsdam as part of the Music Walk complex and on ms Oosterdam in April 2016. Programming on additional ships will be announced at a later date.

Image & Video Courtesy Holland America Line

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cruise Passengers Killed in Tunisia Tourist Attack

UPDATE 9:30am

Not all the news related to cruising was good this week. Reports from Tunisia indicate that seventeen cruise passengers were killed on Wednesday during a terrorist attack at the Bardo Museum in the nation's capital during a tour ashore. The gunmen attacked foreign tourists, who just happened to be from cruise ships, as they arrived in buses at the museum.
Five passengers from Costa Fascinosa were killed and eight were injured by the terrorists.

Twelve passengers from MSC Splendida were also killed, thirteen were injured, and two that were previously unaccounted for were found taking refuge inside the museum.
Those figures are subject to change.

Upon learning of the attack, both cruise lines immediately ordered all excursion buses to return to the ships. While cruise passengers do not appear to have been specifically targeted, on-board security was raised to the highest level and security was tightened at the port. Before the ships sailed on delayed departures, care teams from the cruise lines arrived on board the vessels to provide assistance to the victims.

None of the dead or injured were from North America.

MSC and Costa have cancelled all future calls in Tunisia and other cruise lines are expected to follow suit.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cunard Line Continue 175-Years-At-Sea Celebration

As Cunard Line continues to celebrate 175 years of ocean travel, the company has shared with us a brand new timeline video showcasing the company’s most iconic moments, as well as looking forward to signature 175 anniversary events in 2015. The new video below features details of Cunard’s long and extraordinary history to bring the company’s story to life: from Charles Dickens declaiming his 1842 cabin as a ‘profoundly preposterous box,’ to Cunard’s carriage of all the horses which charged with the Light Brigade in 1853, to the first time that the monarch’s wife is heard on the radio when Queen Mary was launched in 1934.

The five minute video also explores Cunard’s impact on key moments in world history: From Cunard’s small ship, Carpathia, and her rescue of the survivors from the White Star Line’s Titanic, to Sir Winston Churchill’s words of esteem in thanking Cunard for the troops carried on Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, which, in his words, helped shorten World War II by at least a year.

In May 2015 Cunard will stage one of its most ambitious events to date, as all three Queens, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth will sail in formation into Liverpool, the spiritual home of Cunard, for the very first time. With over one million spectators expected to line the River Mersey, there are still limited opportunities to enjoy an unrivalled view of the unfolding event aboard one of the three Queens.
British Isles & Liverpool Salute
Queen Mary 2, 10 nights, May 17-27, 2015 (M506)
Southampton, Cobh, Dublin Bay, Greenock, Oban, Liverpool (overnight stay), St Peter Port (Guernsey), Southampton

Circling Britain over 10 nights, there’s the chance to visit Cork (from Ireland’s Cobh), Dublin (from Dun Laoghaire), Glasgow (from Greenock) and Guernsey, plus Oban, which will be Queen Mary 2’s maiden arrival into Scotland’s ‘Gateway to the Isles.’ With an overnight call in Liverpool, there will be a grandstand view of Cunard’s Three Queens on the Mersey event on 25 May.

Liverpool Salute
Queen Victoria, 6 nights, May 22- 28, 2015 (V512)
Southampton, St Peter Port, Liverpool (overnight stay), Southampton

This six-night cruise puts you at the heart of an historic moment. After St Peter Port, the cobbled capital of Guernsey, you’ll be taking part in history as you sail into Liverpool as one of Three Queens on the Mersey, as the Cunard fleet together salutes its spiritual home amidst spectacular celebration.

175th Anniversary Transatlantic Crossing
Queen Mary 2, 12 nights, July 2-14, 2015 (M511D)
Southampton, Liverpool, Halifax, Boston, New York

Want to join the recreation of the original Transatlantic Crossing made by Cunard’s first ship Britannia back in 1840? Boarding Queen Mary 2 in Southampton, you’ll reach Liverpool on July 4, 2015 in time for a celebratory concert telling Cunard’s story in words and music in the world’s fifth largest cathedral. That evening, 175 years to the day since Britannia first set sail from Liverpool, Cunard’s ‘spiritual home,' you’ll follow the same route across the Atlantic to Halifax and Boston, with specialist speakers on board to bring the heritage to life, concluding with the iconic arrival into New York.
Richard Meadows, President, Cunard, North America, says, “Our 175th anniversary Crossing will be a truly historic moment that is not to be missed.”

Video Courtesy of Cunard Line

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

MSC Cruises Reveals New Seaside Cruise Ship Details

MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line, has announced that the first of its next generation “Seaside” class of ships—set to debut in November 2017—will be named MSC Seaside and sail year-round from Miami to the Caribbean.

“The Seaside class of ships is part of MSC Cruises’ $5.3 billion fleet expansion plan that will allow the company to double its capacity by 2022,” said Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises. “Today is a very exciting day for the company as this is the first major announcement related to the company’s new builds and demonstrates our enthusiasm and long-term commitment to continuing to expand our presence in North America.” He added, “MSC Cruises has the unique opportunity to provide North American guests with a ‘Mediterranean Style Cruise’ experience that no other line is able to offer, and guests from around the world a unique setting as it sails to the most sought-after destinations in the Caribbean. Since bringing MSC Divina to Miami in November 2013, we’ve seen significant demand from consumers in the product, excellent support from our travel agent partners and the growing need for additional MSC Cruises’ ships in the market.”

With a gross tonnage of 154,000 tons and the ability to accommodate up to 4,140 guests at double occupancy, MSC Seaside will be the largest cruise ship ever built by Fincantieri shipyards. The ship will offer a vast range of popular itineraries from Miami to the Caribbean.

As part of a first look at what MSC Seaside will offer on board, the company also unveiled that the ship will boast the most interactive and originally-designed aqua park at sea with five water slides and attractions for all ages. The park is being built by WhiteWater West Industries of Canada, the award-winning designer and manufacturer of waterpark attractions globally. Highlights of the multi-story aqua park will include:
In an industry first, MSC Seaside will add to the thrills of traditional waterpark fun by offering guests the chance to participate in “Slideboarding™”—a unique waterslide and interactive video game all-in-one. Guests race down a two-story, 367 foot slide on a sleekly designed raft that includes an embedded game controller with colored buttons. The end goal—match the color of the flashing strobe lights seen on various sections of the slide with the colored buttons on the raft. The slide uses a smart gaming system that knows who riders are and tracks their progress and scores over the run down the waterslide.

Duelling High-Speed AquaTubes™
In a high energy competitive setting, guests race against other guests through a combined 525 feet of twists, turns and drops, on slides that partially extend over the side of the ship and give riders a look a quick look at the sea below.

AquaPlay™& AquaSpray™
To cater to its youngest guests, a portion of MSC Seaside’s aqua park will be designed specifically for tots, featuring an active and colorful water play structure that is an experience all on its own. The AquaPlay™ area will be complete with tipping buckets, various spray cannons, solid stream jets, a raintree and a mini-slide. In addition, various interactive AquaSpray™ activities, such as jets, falls, forts and more will be found throughout the water park for all ages to enjoy.

Adventure Trail
Directly connected to the aqua park is the Adventure Trail, a ropes course which allows guests to cross-cross between soaring towers, rope bridges, climbs, crawl-throughs and slides as they enjoy an amazing bird’s eye view of the water. Explorers on the trail will need to move quickly though as guests below will be able to use water spray cannons to soak their friends and family.
MSC Cruises also announced that its Miami-based cruise operations will benefit from a newly renovated and expanded dedicated berth and terminal at PortMiami—a testament to the company’s growing ambitions in the North American market and to providing guests with the best service possible. Following the first ship’s delivery from the shipyard, MSC Seaside will make her way to Miami for MSC Cruises’ first ever christening ceremony in the U.S. to take place in late 2017.

Image Courtesy of MSC Cruises

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Carnival Sunshine to Offer Unique Sailings in 2016 & 2017

Carnival Cruise Line is adding to its recently announced series of unique sailings with the announcement that Carnival Sunshine, the first ship to feature all of the line’s Fun Ship 2.0 dining, bar and entertainment enhancements, will also offer a unique schedule from New York in 2016 that encompasses twenty voyages departing between June and October 2016. This marks the first time that a Fun Ship 2.0-equipped ship will offer such a diverse itinerary schedule from the Big Apple with options ranging from value-packed 2-day cruises to 10-day Caribbean voyages.

In addition, Carnival Sunshine will offer a series of sailings from Charleston, SC, and Norfolk, VA, in summer and fall 2016, providing new cruise choices in these markets. Following these departures from New York, Charleston, and Norfolk, Carnival Sunshine will return to its current homeport of Port Canaveral, FL, to offer a schedule of 5- to 8-day Caribbean voyages from the Space Coast beginning in November 2016. Guests sailing on these voyages can experience all that Carnival Sunshine has to offer, including a three-deck-high Serenity adults-only retreat with its own pool and waterfall. The ship also features one-of-a-kind dining experiences like JiJi Asian Kitchen, a massive WaterWorks aqua park featuring the longest slide in the fleet, a SportSquare outdoor recreation area with a suspended ropes course, and innovative bar concepts like Havana Bar, all of which were added during a groundbreaking $155 million makeover.

Carnival Sunshine has an extraordinary array of guest features and facilities and will provide consumers and our valued travel agent partners with a wide range of itinerary choices from these highly attractive East Coast homeports,” said Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president.

Carnival Sunshine’s 2016 schedule includes:
New York
• 2-day cruises departing June 18 and Oct. 8, 2016
• 4-day cruises to Saint John departing June 30 and July 28, 2016
• 5-day sailings to Saint John and Halifax departing June 20 and 25 and Oct. 10, 2016
• 7-day Canada/New England cruises to Boston, Portland, Saint John, and Halifax departing Sept. 3, 10, 17 & 24 and Oct. 15, 2016
• 7-day Bermuda cruise featuring a three-day stay in King’s Wharf departing Oct. 1
• 8-day Exotic eastern Caribbean voyages to San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk departing July 4 and 20 & Aug. 17, 2016
• 8-day Exotic eastern Caribbean voyages to Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay, and Nassau or Amber Cove (Dominican Republic) departing July 12 and Aug. 1 & 9, 2016
• 9-day Carnival Journeys voyage departing Aug. 25 and featuring San Juan, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk

• Two-day cruise departing Nov. 11, 2016
• Four-day voyage to Nassau departing May 26, 2016
• Five-day Bahamas cruises to Nassau and Freeport departing May 21 & Nov. 6, 2016
• 10-day Carnival Journeys cruise departing May 30, 2016, featuring St. Thomas, Antigua, Martinique, St. Kitts, and San Juan

• 2-day cruises departing June 10 and Oct. 28
• 5-day voyage to Nassau and Freeport June 12
• 5-day Bermuda cruise overnighting in King’s Wharf Oct. 23
• 6-day Bahamas cruise to Nassau, the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, and Freeport departing Oct. 30

Port Canaveral
• 5-day cruises to Freeport, Nassau and Half Moon Cay departing Nov. 14, 2016, Jan. 8, Feb. 19 and April 2 & 23, 2017
• 5-day cruises to Amber Cove and Grand Turk departing Dec. 26, 2016, Jan. 19 and March 12, 2017
• 7-day eastern Caribbean sailings to Amber Cove, St. Thomas, San Juan and Grand Turk departing Nov. 19 and Dec. 3, 2016
• 7-day western Caribbean cruise to Costa Maya, Mahogany Bay, Belize and Cozumel departing Nov. 26, 2016
• Eight-day southern Caribbean cruises visiting Aruba, Curacao and Grand Turk departing Dec. 31, 2016, Jan. 21, March 4 and 25, and April 28, 2017
• 8-day southern Caribbean voyages to Aruba, Bonaire and Grand Turk departing Dec. 10, 2016, Feb. 3 and April 15, 2017
• 8-day eastern Caribbean cruises to Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten departing Dec. 18, 2016, Jan. 13, Feb. 11 and 24, March 17 and April 7, 2017
• 9-day Carnival Journeys voyage visiting St. Kitts, Barbados, St. Lucia, and St. Maarten departing April 29, 2016
In 2015, Carnival Splendor will operate a series of 4- to 8-day voyages from New York to the Caribbean, New England, and eastern Canada and 2- to 7-day departures from Norfolk to The Bahamas and Bermuda. Carnival Sunshine replaces Carnival Splendor on the line’s departures from New York and Norfolk in 2016. Additional information on the future homeport of Carnival Splendor will be provided in the near future.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Girl on the Train—A Beach Read For Your Next Cruise

Beach Reads can be almost any literary genre, from romances and historic novels to non-fiction, biographies, and thrillers. As an avid reader, I enjoy them all and part of my packing routine before any trip is a search for books to load on my Kindle. Friends often share their favorite authors and titles, but my most recent read, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was sent to me by the author's publisher to review. A New York Times bestseller, it lived up to its hype on The Today Show that predicted it would be seen "on trains, planes, and automobiles." Let me add cruise ships to the list. It's a great Beach Read.

The Girl on the Train is a psychological thriller that takes the reader aboard the train that Rachel rides to London each day. From the window of the train that passes her former neighborhood she sees not only her old home that backs up to the tracks—where her ex-husband and his new wife and baby now live—but also observes the daily activities of a young couple who live down the street. She fantasizes about what she imagines the couples' lives are like and even gives this "perfect" duo imaginary names. When tragedy befalls them, Rachel gets off the train and inserts herself into the investigation to find out what happened. Sadly, Rachel's dependence on alcohol is her worst enemy as she runs into her ex and his wife who are suspicious of her motives for being in the neighborhood.

Not since Gone Girl have I been so riveted by a book that I couldn't put it down. While I could have saved it for my next cruise, when I opened The Girl on the Train, I was hooked and kept reading. As a rule I'm somewhat put off by stories that take place in London; however, this one doesn't use colloquialisms that an American would find confusing.

I don't want to give anything else about the plot away and ruin it for you. But I will share that it's the compelling story of three women whose paths cross—with a shocking ending that I honestly didn't see coming.

Interestingly, a friend who often recommends titles to me, told me I just had to read her latest favorite—The Girl on the Train—the day after I'd finished reading it. We both highly recommend it as the perfect Beach Read for your next cruise vacation.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Parisian Dining at Sea Aboard Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is bringing the lavish ambiance and epicurean delights found in Paris’ finest eateries to their newest ship, Seven Seas Explorer, with a tantalizing new gourmet French specialty restaurant called Chartreuse. Featuring a classic French menu with a modern twist, Chartreuse joins Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ signature steakhouse, Prime 7, as the second of three distinct specialty restaurants aboard Seven Seas Explorer, providing guests a range of gourmet dining options. Details about the third specialty restaurant will be released in June.

“A luxury cruise experience is incomplete without gourmet dining,” said Jason Montague, president and chief operating officer for Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “With our sights set on building the world’s most luxurious ship, we challenged our design and culinary teams to develop some extraordinary and exquisite dining options for our guests aboard Seven Seas Explorer. The team exceeded that high mark with Chartreuse, an extremely elegant restaurant where the ambiance and cuisine is sure to stir fond Parisian memories, and help create new ones.”

A Parisian Experience at Sea
Deriving its name from sultry chartreuse-colored glass panels that adorn the dining room walls, the ambiance of Chartreuse evokes memories of a chic Parisian fine dining restaurant discovered during an evening stroll along the Seine or just off the Champs-Élysées. Guests are greeted by a hostess upon arrival at the restaurant through a curved paneled entryway with flooring that resembles a cobblestoned Parisian street damped by a gentle rain, creating an environment that is warm and welcoming, yet mysterious.

Contemporary lounge chairs and embossed leather stools are assembled around Golden Kosmos Granite topped tables in an intimate bar area with scalloped marble Cosmati mosaic tiled flooring. This is the perfect respite for guests to enjoy an apéritif, including specialty cocktails infused with the French liqueur Chartreuse. A solid zinc bar top that is placed atop a softly illuminated frosted glass base sits near a backlit wine display filled with the finest French wines and selections from boutique vineyards of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhône and Loire Valleys. Decorative iron sculpting throughout the bar pays a graceful and subtle homage to Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower.

As guests transition to the dining room they are greeted by lush art nouveau décor with a feature wall lined with sculpted Chartreuse glass surrounded by metallic and crystalline frames on one side and floor-to-ceiling windows separated by metal filigree screens on the other. Whether seated at an intimate table for two or at one of the lavish white leather banquets, every guest will be treated to a succulent dinner while enjoying incredible ocean views. The design team at ICRAVE responsible for this sophisticated French restaurant left no detail unattended, including a silver-leafed ceiling that is interspersed with dramatic gold-bordered black lacquered lines to complete the elegant Parisian motif. The back portion of the restaurant seamlessly transitions from a regal dining room, to a whimsical Parisian courtyard, creating the illusion of al fresco dining. Separated from the main dining area by a metal lattice screen, this stylish garden area sits upon marble flooring with gold mosaic tile inlays and is illuminated by a wall of decorative lanterns and a centerpiece crystal chandelier.

The restaurant ambiance is complemented by a menu that features dishes expertly prepared using both classic and modern techniques for a multiple course celebration of French gastronomy. Using only the finest ingredients, the menu is highlighted by epicurean delights including hand-cut Charolais steak tartare in a hazelnut-Dijon emulsion topped with Perlita caviar d’Aquitaine, roasted Cévennes rack of lamb with rosemary-mint persillade and sugar snap pea sauce, and poached Brittany blue lobster tail glazed with caramelized lobster roe butter on a bed of Sologne white asparagus and Romanesco. Delectable desserts include a frozen Chartreuse parfait with almond crumble and classic savarin cake made with aged Martinique rum and topped with vanilla cream.

Designed as the most luxurious ship ever built, Seven Seas Explorer will cater to guests’ gastronomic desires with three distinct specialty restaurants, a signature grand dining room and multiple other options, such as outdoor dining with incredible cuisine and fresh ocean breezes. All restaurants will feature vintage wines and premium spirits at no additional charge, and each dish will be prepared à la minute and cooked to order.

Beginning in the summer of 2016 the Chartreuse menu will extend to the rest of the Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet, replacing Signatures on Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner, and with select dishes available at Compass Rose on Seven Seas Navigator.

Images Courtesy Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cruise Connections

Remember when the only way to connect with friends and family at home was by using your very expensive cabin phone while on a cruise? Some of us remember not even having a phone (or television) in our cabins. That was ancient history in today's high tech vernacular. It's not uncommon to see many, if not the majority, of passengers using electronic devices to connect over the Internet on modern cruise ships today. However, using those devices on ships could be frustrating. That is, until recently.

MTN Communications (MTN), a major provider of communications services to cruise ships—and the first to provide satellite services to a cruise ship in 1991—has shared statistical results of its two-year transformation of connectivity at sea and they are pretty interesting for industry watchers and passengers alike.

The statistics are the result of a customer toolset MTN rolled out starting in 2012:
-- The industry's first hybrid satellite and terrestrial broadband network for improved bandwidth delivery.
-- An Internet billing method akin to land-based resorts for increased revenue growth.
-- An Internet Cafe solution delivering seamless access at sea through any device and offering shared plans with improved management of data consumption.
"The cruise industry competes with the land-based resort industry," said Brent Horwitz, senior vice president and general manager, cruise and ferry services, MTN. "But when it came to communications, due to satellite technology limitations and costs, passengers and crew got slow Internet that was expensive compared to what they were used to at home."

MTN also saw a dramatic shift in devices used for connectivity on its customer ships. In 2010, the breakout of devices used to purchase and access the Internet were as follows:
-- 94% desktops or laptops
-- 5% tablets
-- 1% mobile phones
In 2014, the device split changed dramatically to:
-- 60% of those connected were on mobile phones
-- 20% on tablets
-- 20% on desktops or laptops
The industry's response to this and the exploding demand for data was to "increase the pipe" by adding bandwidth to ship service plans.

"Cruise passengers and crew have reported back that their connectivity experience at sea has improved significantly over the past two years," Horwitz added. "The cost of connectivity may never fully come down to where it is on land, but passengers demand—and deserve—more value for the amount of money they pay."

On our last cruise aboard Princess Cruises' Regal Princess we found the speed vastly improved while connecting with laptops as well as cell phones. Communicating from sea has come a long way from utilizing ship-to-shore telephones during our cruises nearly three decades ago, as well as the time we used the first Internet Cafe at sea while cruising aboard Norwegian Sky.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hail Britannia!

Queen Elizabeth II christens Britannia
P&O Cruises UK celebrated the launch of the line's newest ship, Britannia, in a naming ceremony held yesterday in Southampton, England, to commemorate its entry into the fleet.

Britannia embodies the spirit of modern Britain through the ship's elegant, yet contemporary, design, cutting-edge art collection, best of British chefs, state-of-the-art cooking school, and world-class spa. The biggest ship designed exclusively for British tastes also has the quintessential British godmother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

After the naming ceremony, the 3,657-passenger vessel departed on her maiden voyage to the Mediterranean and during her inaugural season will also sail to the Norwegian Fjords, Canary Islands, and the Baltic Sea, as well as offering a range of short breaks and a special "round-Britain" cruise. The 143,000-ton ship will then transfer to the Caribbean for the winter season offering 15-night fly/cruise itineraries from Barbados.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Crystal Cruises Are On The Move Worldwide

World cruises are so special that cruise lines painstakingly plan them far in advance to engage the imagination of avid travelers. In an unprecedented move, Crystal Cruises' Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity will each embark on World Cruises in 2018, offering four separate global itineraries aboard the luxury ships.

The concurrent world cruise routes for 2018 begin in January, with both ships simultaneously arriving in Sydney on February 17. This rare meeting allows the opportunity to combine the itineraries of the two ships, as guests can switch vessels for a new odyssey. Ranging from 97 to 129 days, the innovative voyages will travel to a combined 111 destinations in 45 countries, featuring 16 maiden calls and 50 overnights. During the ship's rendezvous in Sydney, full World Cruise guests will be treated to a spectacular gala celebration.

Crystal's 2018 World Cruise collection includes Crystal Symphony's first full World Cruise since 2003; Crystal Serenity's 15th global expedition; and the unprecedented ability to begin on Crystal Symphony then switch to Crystal Serenity in Sydney for a journey through Asia, India, and Holy Land; or set sail on Crystal Serenity before joining Crystal Symphony in Sydney for a South Pacific route to Miami.

"Crystal Cruises has long been celebrated for cultivating original, captivating itineraries throughout the world's most beloved destinations, as well as less visited gems," says Crystal's president, Edie Rodriguez. "The 2018 World Cruise voyages are a true testament to Crystal's continued innovation and creativity, and our commitment to guests in broadening their luxury travel experiences."

With the announcement of the four world cruises for 2018, Crystal becomes the first cruise line to have a collection of World Cruises printed and available for booking for the next three years (2016-2018).

2018 World Cruise Itineraries include:
World Cruise One/Cape Town to Miami/January 7 to April 30, 2018: Crystal Symphony departs Cape Town, South Africa on a 114-day sailing covering much of the Southern Hemisphere, including South Africa, Australia/New Zealand, the South Pacific/French Polynesia; and South America before exploring the Caribbean. The journey will make six maiden calls including: Geraldton, Bunbury, and Esperance Australia; Burnie, Tasmania; Fakarava, French Polynesia, and Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile.

World Cruise Two/Los Angeles to Rome/January 23 to May 16, 2018: Crystal Serenity embarks on a 112-day scenic exploration of the South Pacific, Australia, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, India, Dubai and the Mediterranean. The journey is highlighted by maiden calls and overnights in Manila, Philippines, and Mumbai, India. Other overnight highlights include Muscat, Oman; Dubai, UAE; and Safaga, Egypt, the gateway to the Temple of Luxor.

World Cruise Three/Cape Town to Rome/January 7 to May 16, 2018: Aboard the longest duration of the itineraries with 129-days, guests set sail on the first part of Crystal Symphony's World Cruise segments from South Africa through Australia before continuing their adventure aboard Crystal Serenity on a journey bound for Asia, India, Egypt, the Holy Lands and Italy.

World Cruise Four/Los Angeles to Miami/January 23 to April 30, 2018: Following 24 days of navigating the islands of Hawaii, Fiji and other exotic beach destinations aboard Crystal Serenity, guests can join Crystal Symphony for a unique West to East coast voyage. The full 97-day sailing will travel through the Milford Sound, French Polynesia, Easter Island for Easter and Panama Canal.
The ground-breaking World Cruise revelation comes on the heels of Crystal's parent company, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), announcing it entered into an agreement with Genting Hong Kong (GHK) on the sale of Crystal Cruises, Inc. (CCI). With the support of GHK's financial resources and expertise in ship design, Crystal Cruises' fleet size will expand with the build and delivery of a new ship in 2018, elevating the standard of luxury cruising and luxury cruise ships. The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of 2015.

As with each annual Crystal World Cruise, the epic 2018 voyages are also available for booking in shorter segments. The 2018 Full World Cruise program includes two exclusive shoreside events, $2,000 per person "As You Wish" shipboard credits, special onboard events, and complimentary chauffeured private car transfers between the airport to ship and ship to airport and more.

Image Courtesy Crystal Cruises

Monday, March 9, 2015

Holland America Line's New Koningsdam Is On The Move

While the still-under-construction ms Koningsdam didn't move far, Holland America Line celebrated a benchmark this week in the new ship's construction with the float-out and transfer from its dry dock to its outfitting dock at Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard in Italy. At the outfitting dock, final construction and interior furnishing will take place until the ship is delivered March 31, 2016.

"A ship's construction has many key milestones, and floating it out and moving it to the outfitting dock is especially symbolic," said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. "The float out represents that we are getting closer to welcoming Koningsdam to our fleet and seeing the ship in the water adds to the excitement among our loyal guests, travel agent partners and employees in anticipation of its arrival."

A coin ceremony also was held earlier on Feb. 26, when Tineke Schroder, wife of the founder of Dutch airline Martinair and a member of Holland America Line's Mariner Society, served as the ship's madrina. During the coin ceremony, observed as a tradition to bring good fortune, two gold coins were welded to the forward mast of the ship by Schroder; Antonio Quintano, director of Fincantieri Shipyard; and Keith Taylor, executive vice president, fleet operations, for Holland America Line, followed by speeches and a blessing by the shipyard chaplain. The gold coins bear the image of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands. The word koning means "king" in Dutch, and the ship's name pays honor to the first king of the Netherlands in over a century.

Currently under construction at Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard in Italy, Koningsdam represents a new Pinnacle Class of ship for Holland America Line. When it sets sail on its Premier Voyage April 8, 2016, the vessel will debut several innovative concepts and new public venues, while still featuring popular amenities guests associate with Holland America Line.

With the assistance of a tug, here's a brief look at Koningsdam's progress on the water.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Friday, March 6, 2015

Carnival Cruise Line Introduces Carnival Journeys

Here’s a situation that confronts many long-time cruise travelers—they love the Caribbean for its tropical weather, laid back ambiance, and beautiful beaches, but are getting a been-there-done-that feel after numerous voyages. Where to go and what to do next is their dilemma. To fulfill their desire for something different, Carnival Cruise Line has launched Carnival Journeys, a collection of 9- to 15-day seagoing adventures that kick off this fall.

Designed to provide guests with intriguing new itinerary choices that feature less traveled, more exotic ports of call, Carnival Journeys have been specifically designed for guests who are looking for a longer cruise vacation that will provide the opportunity to visit a wide variety of great destinations and more time to fully enjoy all of the features on a selection of the line's newest and most innovative ships. Unique shipboard experiences created especially for this one-of-a-kind cruise program will highlight itineraries featuring ports of call throughout the Caribbean, Central America, Hawaii, and Mexico. Set to debut with an 11-day cruise aboard Carnival Dream from New Orleans to San Juan departing on Oct. 4, 2015, Carnival Journeys cruises will also include fun and interesting shipboard activities to provide a special Carnival vacation experience.

"We have received a tremendous amount of feedback from our guests and travel agent partners about the importance of consistently offering new Carnival cruise experiences," said Christine Duffy, Carnival's president. "Carnival Journeys was created to offer our existing customers even more options while helping us to attract those guests who have not had the opportunity to sail with Carnival and may be enticed by these longer, more exotic itineraries.," she added.

Incredible Itineraries
The Carnival Journeys program will run through Nov. 27, 2016, encompassing 28 departures from eight North American homeports including Los Angeles, Galveston, New Orleans, Miami, Port Canaveral, New York, Baltimore, and San Juan. Cruises will operate either round-trip from these homeports or one-way between these ports and San Juan. The itineraries are unique and not available on any other cruise line. On Carnival Journeys, guests can experience and explore nearly 40 different tropical destinations, including less visited ports like Tobago, Grenada, La Paz, Martinique, Bonaire and Ixtapa, each home to diverse cultures, centuries-old landmarks and historical structures, and unforgettable natural attractions.

Memorable Activities
Carnival Journeys participants can also enjoy shipboard experiences that will be tailored to each itinerary in the areas of dining, entertainment, team member connections, and enrichment, all infused with the line’s spirited brand of fun. These experiences will include:
Authentic Eats: Partnering with local restaurants and chefs, Carnival Journeys participants can enjoy on-board cooking demonstrations where these culinary artists will recreate their signature dishes and traditional cuisines from their country. Participants will also have an opportunity to dine at the chef’s restaurant ashore for a nominal fee and accompany the chef on visits to local markets for regional specialties.
“Local”-tainment: From calypso, soca, and Goombay to colorful folkloric entertainment, Carnival Journeys participants will get an up close and personal look at their destination through local entertainment performances taking place outside the ship or on board.
Academy of Fun: Through these enrichment sessions, Carnival’s shipboard experts will instruct guests in topics ranging from cooking and arts and crafts to digital photography and social media, even celestial navigation. All of these activities will be performed with the fun and entertaining style that only Carnival can provide.
Throwback Sea Day: Carnival will set the “way back machine” to 1987 and recreate a fun day at sea with retro pool and deck games, old school dining options like Baked Alaska and the gala midnight buffet, a white glove Captain’s Celebration, popular movies from that era, a circa 1987 version of the Carnival Capers shipboard newsletter, and more.
Shipboard Team Member Connections: Carnival Journeys participants can learn more about shipboard life through informative question and answer sessions hosted by the ship’s captain, cruise director, hotel director, and others, held at different times throughout the voyage and providing an opportunity to engage and interact with the Carnival team in a fun and casual setting. There will also be an unforgettable show performed by the ship’s crew during the voyage.
Available now for booking, a detailed listing of all 28 Carnival Journeys sailings is found at carnival.com/journeys. Additional Carnival Journeys sailings will be announced in the near future.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Oceania Cruises to Expand Fleet & Explore New Destinations

For those of you planning ahead for next year’s cruise vacation with Oceania Cruises, the line has unveiled its summer and fall 2016 schedule. Included is the maiden voyage for Sirena, which enters service April 27, 2016. After undergoing an extensive bow-to-stern refurbishment, Sirena, the 684-passenger sister ship of Insignia, Regatta, and Nautica, will emerge with the same elegant style displayed throughout the Oceania Cruises fleet and feature popular amenities, such as specialty dining restaurants Toscana and Polo Grill, along with more recent additions to the fleet such as Baristas and the cook-to-order grill Terrace Café.

Sirena’s maiden voyage will be a 14-night cruise from Barcelona to Venice on April 27, 2016. The inaugural season features an entirely new lineup of 10- to 14-day voyages, blended with a mix of classic and new destinations throughout the Mediterranean, including two voyages venturing as far west as Seville and Lisbon. The ship will visit an impressive 11 new locales for Oceania Cruises, such as the famed beaches of Gaeta (Italy), pristine rainforest of Golfito (Costa Rica) and well-preserved provincial township of La Paz (Mexico).

The expanded six ship fleet provides Oceania Cruises even greater flexibility to create an unprecedented number of new itineraries for the upcoming season, offering a perfect fusion of classic and off-the-beaten-path ports. The new itineraries explore all corners of the world and will capture the imagination of even the most seasoned traveler. One thrilling new itinerary is a 17-night sailing aboard Marina from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso (Chile) traversing the southern tip of South America, while marveling at the magnificence of the Chilean Fjords.

The line has also introduced seven new Grand Voyages, ranging from a 90-night round-trip journey from Miami to a 40-night Vancouver to Montreal sailing. The 90-day Grand Voyage from Miami will explore destinations in North America, the magnificent fjords of Greenland, iconic locales in the Mediterranean, and exotic lands in Africa, including stops in less traveled ports La Goulette (Tunisia) and Algiers (Algeria). The 40-night Grand Voyage from Vancouver to Montreal will visit ports on both coasts of North America including stops in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia plus a fascinating Panama Canal crossing.

In total, Oceania Cruises’ 2016 summer and fall collection features 121 unique sailings, 90 new itineraries; 50 of which are extended journeys, and 20 intriguing ports not previously visited by the upscale line. With the summer and fall season alone, the six ships Oceania Cruises fleet will sail to more than 240 ports in over 70 different countries, including several overnight stays in some of the world’s most sought-after destinations. Visit Oceania Cruises for additional informaiton.

Image Courtesy of Oceania Cruises

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Crystal Cruises Gets A New Owner

Crystal Cruises, operator of two luxury ships—Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity—has been sold for $550 million by parent company Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha to Genting Hong Kong, owner of Star Cruises.

It’s been a long time since 2006 when Crystal Harmony transferred from the Crystal Cruises fleet to that of their parent company and entered service in Japan as ms Asuka II, leaving the luxury line with only two ships. With the acquisition of the line by Genting HK—and the new owner’s financial strength and expertise in ship design—Crystal Cruises’ fleet size will expand with a new ship

“After 25 successful years with NYK, we are excited to have Genting Hong Kong as the new owner of Crystal Cruises,” Edie Rodriguez, President and COO of Crystal Cruises said. “The proposed expansion of our fleet will present our loyal Crystal Society members and new luxury cruise guests with more itinerary options, accommodation choices and exceptional vacation experiences, as we continue to position Crystal as the innovative leader in global luxury cruising. Additionally, Crystal’s veteran leadership, management and crew will continue to focus on our award-winning guest service and our strong partnership with the travel agent community, which now has a greater opportunity to grow their business with a larger menu of Crystal product offerings.”

In addition to being the parent of Star Cruises, Asia’s largest cruise line, Genting HK is a major shareholder in Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which recently acquired Prestige Cruises. Prestige operates the high end brand Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, a competitor in the luxury segment that currently is building what they term “the most luxurious cruise ship ever built.”

Image Courtesy Crystal Cruises

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Splendour of the Seas to Leave the Royal Caribbean Fleet in April 2016

On the heels of the winds of March, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced that it has entered into an agreement to sell Splendour of the Seas to TUI Cruises in the second quarter of 2016. The ship will then be leased to Thomson Cruises, which will operate the vessel as the largest ship in their fleet.

Splendour of the Seas will complete all scheduled open deployment, and no sailings will be altered or disrupted due to the sale. Her final sailing will commence on April 4, 2016, and all officers and crew will remain with the company and will be transferred to other vessels worldwide after the ship leaves the Royal Caribbean International fleet.

"Splendour of the Seas has been a treasured member of the Royal Caribbean International family since she entered service," said Michael Bayley, president and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean International. "She has offered countless guests memorable vacation experiences and we look forward to continuing to provide the same Gold Anchor Service our brand is known for right up to the last sailing."

A Vision Class ship, Splendour of the Seas was built by Chantier's de L'Atlantique, now STX France, in St. Nazaire, France and joined the Royal Caribbean International fleet in 1996. The 69,130-ton ship carries 1,830 guests (double occupancy) and 760 crew.

Image Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Intl.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Anthem of the Seas Undocks

Royal Caribbean has shared a video of the undocking of Anthem of the Seas at Meyer Werft shipbuilders in Papenburg, Germany. Starting with filling the dock with water, the ship proceeds outside in time-lapse style along with informative captions explaining the process. It's an intriguing precision operation.

Video Courtesy Royal Caribbean International