Wednesday, September 30, 2015

BLEND Your Own Wine Aboard Koningsdam

Whether you are a wine connoisseur or a novice like me, when it comes to "fruit of the vine" we all know what we like. To be certain that our taste buds are satisfied when Holland America Line's new ms Koningsdam debuts in April 2016, guests can experience the art of winemaking on board at BLEND. In collaboration with Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington State's oldest and most acclaimed winery, the intimate venue will enable guests to blend their own wine and enjoy it at dinner or in the privacy of their stateroom.

BLEND—the first of its kind for Holland America Line and the only purpose-built wine-blending venue at sea—will have a tasting table that accommodates 10 guests who can create their own blend from a selection of five barrels of single-vineyard red wine. In addition to participating in the blending process, guests also will learn about wine from the ship's wine expert, who leads the blending session.

"At the core of every Holland America Line cruise is our desire to offer unique, immersive and innovative experiences, and BLEND by Chateau Ste. Michelle is all of those things and more," said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. "The BLEND experience on Koningsdam is designed to appeal to everyone, and it will be exciting for our guests to create an exclusive wine tailored to their personal taste that they can enjoy on board with our exceptional cuisine."

After viewing a welcome video by Bob Bertheau, Chateau Ste. Michelle's winemaker, guests will learn interesting information about the history of Washington wines and winemaking, examine soil samples, and see how different vineyard sites impact the flavors and style of the wine. The Cellar Master also will instruct guests on what characteristics, flavors and nuances to look for in the wine from each barrel. Guests then sample the five unique wines, featuring such varietals as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot from the winery's Cold Creek and Canoe Ridge Estate vineyards, and make tasting notes on what they like about each. The blending begins in a graduated cylinder, with guests determining how much of each wine to include in their personal bottle.

After the personalized wine blend is put into the bottle with a stopper, guests will be able to create their own label to add a personalized touch. The wine will then be sent to The Dining Room or another restaurant, where it will be waiting for the guests to enjoy with their evening meal. Alternatively guests can take the wine blend to their stateroom to enjoy at their leisure. The wine blending sessions will be held daily for a fee, and reservations are required.

About Chateau Ste. Michelle
Founded in 1934, Chateau Ste. Michelle pioneered vinifera growing in Washington State and has been producing classic European varietal wines under the Ste. Michelle label since 1967. The winery combines an ongoing dedication to research with a commitment to classic winemaking traditions. The winery owns 3,500 acres of vineyards in the Columbia Valley of eastern Washington, including Canoe Ridge Estate and Cold Creek, which are LIVE and Salmon Safe certified as environmentally sustainable. Chateau Ste. Michelle enjoys winemaking partnerships with two of the world's most distinguished vintners—Col Solare is an alliance with Tuscany's Piero Antinori and Eroica Riesling is a partnership with the Mosel's Ernst Loosen.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New Cruise Review: Sailing on Carnival Splendor

Join Keith and Cathy Henderson for an enjoyable cruise from New York to New England and Canada aboard Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Splendor.

While Cruise Diva was aboard for Carnival Splendor's maiden voyage, that was seven years ago and my memory had dimmed somewhat about the ship's details. Not only did the Henderson's review bring it all back, but their photo album has fantastic shots of the ship inside and out. Don't miss it!

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Monday, September 28, 2015

SeaDream Yacht Club Plans 2016 Mediterranean Season

Not surprisingly, SeaDream Yacht Club’s 2016 season will sail to the Mediterranean’s most secluded destinations, visiting ports so small that only the 112-guest twin luxury mega-yachts, SeaDream I and SeaDream II can enter.

“Yachting with SeaDream Yacht Club in the Mediterranean is an experience unlike any other and we pride ourselves on the ability to intimately transport our guests to some of the world’s most exclusive destinations,” shares Bob Lepisto, president of SeaDream Yacht Club.

Ideal for travelers who wish to explore beyond popular ports of call such as St. Tropez, France, these itineraries transport guests to the beautiful and intimate ports of Patmos, Kotor, and Cassis among many others. SeaDream’s luxurious mega-yachts will arrive in the Mediterranean in May and the season features 40+ itineraries.

SeaDream Yacht Club’s 2016 Mediterranean sailing highlights include:
• Barcelona to Nice departs May 14-22, 2016. Ports include Barcelona and Roses, Spain; Sete, Cassis, St. Tropez, Cannes, Antibes and Nice, France; and Monte Carlo, Monaco.
• Istanbul to Athens (Piraeus) departs June 25–July 2, 2016. Ports include Istanbul, Kepez (Troy & Gallipoli) and Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey; Patmos, Parikia, Sifnos Island, Hydra and Athens (Piraeus), Greece.
• Venice to Dubrovnik departs August 20–27, 2016. Ports include Venice, Italy; Mali Losinj, Rab, Split, Hvar, Korcula and Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Kotor, Montenegro.
• Cannes Roundtrip departs October 8–15, 2016. Ports include Cannes, Saint Florent, Calvi and St. Tropez, France; Portofino and Portovenere (Cinque Terre), Italy; and Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Another highlight for the 2016 season will be SeaDream Yacht Club’s popular crew-led shore excursions available in numerous ports which many of the yacht’s staff call home. SeaDream continues to offer innovative dining, including an optional Raw Food menu and traditional Japanese menu. Additionally, the chef welcomes guests to the local market in select ports to assist him in collecting fresh local seafood and produce for the evening meal.

Defined by the statement, “It’s yachting, not cruising,” and ideal for the active traveler, both SeaDream I and SeaDream II are equipped with wave runners, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and many other watersports activities, all of which can be launched directly from the yachts’ Marina. With the highest therapist-to-guest ratio at sea, the SeaDream Spa ensures complete rejuvenation for its guests.

Image Courtesy SeaDream Yacht Club

Friday, September 25, 2015

Queen Mary 2 Refit Set for 2016

Queen Mary 2 Sails From New York City
For the upcoming major refit of their flagship in 2016, Cunard has appointed SMC Design to lead the development of Queen Mary 2's updated interior spaces. Cunard's largest ship will undergo a multi-million 25-day (May 27-June 21) extensive refurbishment that will see new interior designs and new guest experiences introduced as the iconic ship begins the next chapter in its illustrious career.

This announcement follows on from the recent well-received news that Queen Mary 2 will gain 15 new single cabins and an additional 30 Britannia Club cabins during the refit and that the very popular kennels will be expanded to cater for the high demand this unique facility already attracts.

The new Queen Mary 2 designs will focus on updating iconic art deco lines and subtly introducing classic Deco touches inspired by Cunard's rich heritage. The original Art Deco masterpiece Queen Mary has been one of the sources of this inspiration with the new interior designs bringing Cunard's decorative and glamorous past into the 21st Century. The new designs aim to give the interior spaces clear identity and character with some strong traditional Cunard colors introduced as features and off-set against more neutral Queen Mary 2 tones. With new signature color schemes, new carpets, new furniture, as well as more decorative fixtures and fittings installed throughout the largest ocean liner in the world, the design approach is set to ensure the flagship retains her leading position.

And it's not just design experts who are helping to shape the future of Queen Mary 2. Over the last eighteen months Cunard has been consulting and testing different ideas with thousands of past and future guests across the world. These ongoing consultations are an important element of the work being undertaken in preparation for refit and the valuable opinions from the people who know Cunard and Queen Mary 2 better than anyone is actively being incorporated into the exciting and extensive development plans that will be revealed over the coming months.

"Queen Mary 2 is the pride of the Cunard fleet. With SMC's proven maritime design expertise, invaluable input from thousands of Cunard's discerning, international guests, and 175 years of history as our foundation, we look forward to even more exciting design innovations on the already legendary Queen Mary 2," said Richard Meadows, president, Cunard North America.

SMC Design was founded in 1994 and is a London-based design consultancy that specializes in the maritime sector. The design team has worked on many ships from small luxury yachts to some of the largest ships ever built. SMC's Managing Director Andy Collier was in fact part of Queen Mary 2's launch design team at the beginning of the Century when she was the first Atlantic liner to be built for over 35 years.

Image Courtesy of Cunard Line

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Carnival Plans Return to Mobile

They’re back in the Deep South! Carnival Cruise Line and Mobile, Alabama have come together and the result is that Carnival Fantasy will operate a year-long schedule of 4- and 5-day cruises to Mexico from the Mobile Cruise Terminal beginning in fall 2016. Prior to its deployment to Mobile, the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy—the “granddaddy” of the Carnival fleet—will undergo a multi-million-dollar refurbishment to add several elements of the cruise line’s popular Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancement program.

“Carnival Fantasy’s 4- and 5-day cruises from Mobile provide consumers with an affordable way to visit stunning Mexican ports from a convenient homeport while offering our valued travel agent partners an exciting new short vacation option to market to their clients,” said Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president. “We’ve been working very closely with the port and city officials to make these cruises a reality and wish to thank Mayor Stimpson and his team for not only all their hard work but also for creating a welcoming and positive environment that makes these cruises an attractive option for today’s consumers,” she said.

Carnival Fantasy’s Mobile-based program kicks off Nov. 9, 2016 and will run through Nov. 27, 2017. On this route, the ship departs the Mobile Cruise Terminal Thursdays on 4-day “long weekend” cruises to Cozumel and on Mondays and Saturdays on 5-day voyages to Costa Maya or Progreso. Each of these destinations are popular for their white sand beaches, interesting historical sites and attractions, and excellent snorkeling, scuba diving, and water sports. During the day-long call in Progreso, guests have the opportunity to visit Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and while in Cozumel guests can visit ancient Mayan ruins or enjoy the destination’s wide range of shopping and dining experiences. At Costa Maya guests can explore the centuries-old Chacchoben ruins or visit the Lost Mayan Kingdom, a multi-million-dollar water-themed attraction currently under construction that will feature spectacular slides, an elaborate lazy river, a suspended ropes course that spans the property and more.

Wide Variety of On-Board Choices
Carnival Fantasy will undergo a multi-million-dollar refurbishment in early 2016 that will add a number of onboard options only found on newer and larger fleetmates. These include Guy’s Burger Joint, a complimentary poolside dining venue serving handcrafted burgers and fries created by chef and restaurateur Guy Fieri amidst lively interiors that celebrate his California roots and love of car culture.

Located adjacent to Guy’s Burger Joint, the BlueIguana Cantina offers authentic handmade burritos and tacos along with an elaborate toppings and salsa bar. Also located poolside is the Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Rum Bar offering the region’s top rums and beers as well as the BlueIguana Tequila Bar with margaritas, Mexican beers, and other frosty libations.

Carnival Fantasy also features a 12,000-square-foot spa, a WaterWorks aqua park featuring a 300-foot-long slide and a kiddie splash area, and a Serenity adults-only retreat, as well as fun, supervised programs for kids ages 2-17, full casino gambling, and a wide array of dining options, including a 24-hour pizzeria.

Reservations are currently being accepted for Carnival Fantasy’s departures from Mobile... but for how long? Note that the announcement is for a year-long schedule of departures. Will Mobile’s heart be broken at the end of 2017? Or has the city’s cruising “fantasy” come true for the long term? Stay tuned, y’all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Romantic Reads For Your Next Cruise

Aside from eating and shopping, perhaps one of the most popular activities at sea is reading. Walk around almost any ship and you'll find passengers immersed in a good book, or reading on a Kindle or other electronic device. Cruise Diva loves to read, in addition to writing travel books, and I often find a quiet corner to curl up with a good thriller or romantic story. The romance of the high seas has often been the backdrop for some of the most famous love stories and Princess Cruises is bringing some special romance stories to enjoy on board by teaming up with Amazon's online romance community Kindle Love Stories to offer three free, original stories to enjoy during their cruise vacations and special sailings with bestselling romance authors. The short love stories, written by well-known authors Carolyn Brown, Heather Burch, and Barbara Longley, were inspired by their own Princess cruise experiences sailing to the beautiful Caribbean. Princess guests and Kindle users, including those using a Kindle app on any device, can easily download the free stories at, beginning in October. Mark your calendar!

"We strive to provide engaging experiences for our guests and we know they love to read, especially while on vacation, so teaming up with Kindle Love Stories is a perfect match," said Adrian Fischer, Princess Cruises vice president, entertainment experience. "As part of our newly relaunched Princess Book Club, avid readers will be able to participate in exciting onboard events and enjoy great stories inspired by a Princess cruise."

The three romance stories inspired by Princess Cruises include:
-- Kiss Me Maybe by Heather Burch
-- To Catch a Bouquet by Carolyn Brown
-- Once Upon a Night at Sea by Barbara Longley
Additionally, Brown, Burch, and Longley, along with New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Linda Lael Miller, will be sailing aboard a 5-day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard Regal Princess, departing Ft. Lauderdale Nov 3, 2015. On board, the authors will participate in meet-and-greets, book club discussion,s and also offer book signings.

About the Participating Authors
Heather Burch writes full-time and lives in Florida. Her epic love story, One Lavender Ribbon, was an international bestseller and was one of the top 100 books on Amazon Kindle in 2014. Down the Hidden Path is the follow-up novel to Along the Broken Road, the first book in The Roads to River Rock series.

Carolyn Brown is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and a RITA finalist. Her books include contemporary romance and cowboy romance, with a penchant for country music, and historical romance. When she's not writing, she likes to sit in her gorgeous backyard in Davis, Oklahoma with her cats and watch them protect the yard.

Barbara Longley is an award winning, Amazon bestselling author. By day, Barbara is a teacher. She holds a Master's in Education, and has taught for many years. By night, she likes to explore things mythical, metaphysical, paranormal, and/or newsworthy. Much of what she learns makes its way into her stories, where all things are possible.

Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 100 historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, the "First Lady of the West" and self-confessed barn goddess lives on a horse property outside Spokane, where her rescued horses roam free.

For more information about the Kindle Love Stories events, visit

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Holland America's Koningsdam in a Revealing New Video

Welcome aboard Holland America Line's ms Koningsdam in a new video showcasing never before seen renderings of the line's latest Pinnacle-class ship set to debut April 2016.

Video Courtesy Holland America Line

Monday, September 21, 2015

Silver Cloud to Join Silversea's Expedition Fleet

Silver Cloud in Expedition Livery
With the increasing popularity of the luxury line's expedition cruises, Silversea Cruises will move Silver Cloud—the elite 296-guest ship that launched the ultra-luxury cruise line—to its luxury expedition fleet in November 2017. Destined mostly for polar waters, the ship will be converted into an ice-class ship during an extensive refurbishment scheduled to start in August 2017. As an expedition ship, the all-suite Silver Cloud will accommodate 260 guests and also sail on itineraries to non-polar regions. When sailing Arctic and Antarctic itineraries, the guest complement will be restricted to 200. Silversea is a member of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) and the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO), and adheres to each organization's guidelines to ensure sustainable tourism. These include such measures as limiting the number of guests going ashore in certain areas of the Arctic and allowing for a broader range of Antarctic landing sites for expedition ships with no more than 200 guests.

"Silver Explorer's polar expedition cruises have proven hugely popular with our guests," said Enzo Visone, Silversea's CEO. "By converting Silver Cloud into an ice-class ship for our expedition fleet, we will be better positioned to meet the increasing demand for comfortable adventure travel, particularly to the Arctic and Antarctica, places that are best explored by small ships specially equipped with ice-strengthened hulls."

Silver Cloud will be the only luxury ice-class expedition ship offering five dining options: The Dining Room, the Relais & Châteaux® restaurant, La Terrazza, The Grill, and in-suite dining. The ship will have the highest space ratio and highest staff-to-guest ratio (nearly one to one) among luxury ice-class expedition ships. For the expedition team alone, there will be on average one team member guiding no more than twelve guests each. Plus the ship will be augmented by a fleet of 18 Zodiac crafts for up-close explorations.

The luxury expedition line currently has three all-suite expedition ships, Silver Explorer, Silver Discoverer, and Silver Galapagos. Collectively, they explore over 500 far-flung destinations, from Africa, Australia's Kimberley Coast, and the Russian Far East, to the Galápagos Islands, the British Isles, and the polar realms.

Guests are enriched by an onboard program of destination lectures, photo presentations, and daily recaps. Exploratory excursions are complimentary, and led by a team of experts, including marine biologists, ornithologists, geologists, botanists, historians, and anthropologists. These expedition cruises offer a comfortable, intimate and convivial onboard lifestyle where guests can feel at home as they explore secluded lands. Guests enjoy ocean-view suites, gourmet cuisine, the personalized service of a butler, and a generous selection of all-inclusive shipboard amenities, including complimentary beverages, wines and spirits, a stocked in-suite beverage cabinet, and complimentary Wi-Fi for each guest. Silversea's 2017 schedule will be announced in the coming days.

Image Courtesy Silversea Cruises

Friday, September 18, 2015

Construction Begins on Norwegian Bliss

It might not look like much, but the steel being cut in the photo at left marks a historic week in ship building history for Norwegian Cruise Line. It was the first piece of steel cut at MEYER WERFT in Papenburg, Germany on Tuesday, Sept 15 to signal the construction of Norwegian Bliss the second ship in the line’s Breakaway Plus class, which is set for delivery in spring 2017. Andy Stuart, President of Norwegian Cruise Line, pushed the button to start the plasma torch during the steel cutting ceremony in the laser center.

‎"On behalf of the more than 20,000 Norwegian team members worldwide, we are thrilled to mark the start of construction of the second ship in our company’s Breakaway Plus class and the continued evolution of the Norwegian brand," said Stuart. "Not only will this ship fully embody the Norwegian brand and the freedom and flexibility that a Norwegian Cruise Line vacation means, but the combined expertise of the company’s new leadership team will create what is sure to be the epitome of contemporary cruising‎."

Norwegian Cruise Line executives, along with Meyer Werft's managing directors Bernard Meyer and Lambert Kruse and the yard's project manager Stephan Schmees, watched as the first plate of steel was cut by a plasma torch in the yard's state of the art facility. This plate will become part of Block 46, the first to be assembled for the new vessel.‎ It took the plasma torch in the yard's state-of-the-art laser center merely a couple of minutes to cut a silhouette of the new ship from the steel plate.

Having a tonnage of 165,600 gross tons and reaching more than 1,000 feet in length, the ship will carry 4,200 guests, reaching speeds of up to 23 knots.

On a related note, pictured here Norwegian Escape, the first Breakaway Plus class vessel, has left the Papenburg shipyard to make its way down the River Ems to the sea.

Images Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Royal Caribbean Expands Anthem’s Entertainment

In just 50 days, when Anthem of the Seas arrives into the New York harbor, a familiar cast of DreamWorks Animation characters will be on board. Po of “Kung Fu Panda;” Shrek, Fiona and Puss In Boots of “Shrek;” and Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, King Julien, and the Penguins from “Madagascar” will be joining Anthem of the Seas when the ship begins sailing from her homeport of Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, NJ.

Guests on Anthem can enjoy events and activities based on DreamWorks Animation’s popular feature-film characters, including a DreamWorks Character breakfast in the main dining room, ‘meet and greet’ experiences throughout the day. as well as photo ops that can be shared with family and friends back home thanks to VOOM, the fastest internet at sea. Royal Caribbean's younger guests can enjoy an exhilarating line-up of activities, games and adventures rooted in the popular DreamWorks Animation films at the complimentary, award-winning Adventure Ocean youth program. Additionally, guests can watch the latest DreamWorks Animation films at the ship’s movie theater or on a dedicated DreamWorks TV channel in their stateroom.

Anthem of the Seas already offers an unprecedented line-up of entertainment activities on board for our guests,” said Mark Tamis, senior vice president, hotel operations, Royal Caribbean International. “With the addition of the DreamWorks Experience guests of all ages will be even more wowed with everything Anthem has to offer.”

In addition to The DreamWorks Experience, guests on board Anthem of the Seas can enjoy an endless landscape of entertainment. In Two70, a multi-level great room that seamlessly fuses entertainment and technology, guests will be surprised by the immersive experiences created by the talented singers and dancers of Royal Caribbean Productions who meld music and special effects with Vistarama, the complex seamless video projections on floor to ceiling windows spanning across 270 degrees at the aft of the ship. Two70 also hosts a troupe of six, choreographed Roboscreens which soar, twist and spin solo or together as one to treat guests to stunningly visual, first-of-its-kind multi-media shows that can only be seen on Anthem of the Seas. In addition, the Royal Theater is home to Royal Caribbean’s two headlining shows, the smash hit musical “We Will Rock You” and an original production created exclusively for Anthem, “The Gift.”

Anthem of the Seas is setting sail on the next great adventure. Innovations in ship design, thrilling activities, game-changing technology, multidimensional entertainment, and robust, flexible dining opportunities come together on board Anthem to create a contemporary cruising experience found only on Royal Caribbean. She spans 18 decks, encompasses 168,666 gross registered tons, carries 4,180 guests at double occupancy and features 2,090 staterooms. Anthem of the Seas will sail out of New York Harbor from her new homeport of Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, N.J. from Nov 10, 2015.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Keel is Laid For Seabourn Cruise Line's Seabourn Encore

Yesterday, nearly eight and a half months after the first steel was cut, Seabourn celebrated the keel laying ceremony of its new luxury ship, Seabourn Encore, at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy. Set to launch in late 2016, yesterday's ceremony is the latest in a series of recent milestones and announcements made by Seabourn as the project continues to move forward.

The ceremony was attended, among others, by Holland America Group Executive Vice President Fleet Operations Keith Taylor and Antonio Quintano, director of Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard. Seabourn Encore is the first of two ultra-luxury cruise ships that Fincantieri will build for Seabourn over the next three years.

"Set to debut as the most modern and acclaimed ship in the ultra-luxury segment, the keel laying of Seabourn Encore represents another pivotal stage in the evolution of small-ship cruising," said Seabourn President Richard Meadows. "This is an important milestone and we look forward to revealing further progress and highlights of Seabourn Encore in the months ahead."

Modeled after the award-winning trio of Seabourn's Odyssey-class ships and designed by leading hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany, the all-suite 41,700-GRT ship will be configured with one additional deck, new expanded public areas and is expected to carry just 600 guests, maintaining Seabourn' s high ratio of space per guest. In addition, every suite will feature a private veranda. To follow the progress of Seabourn Encore, visit the ship's dedicated microsite:

Seabourn Encore Pool Deck Image Courtesy Seabourn

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

All Wrapped Up… Silversea Expedition Style

When packing for a cruise that includes cold, or particularly, warm-to-cold climates, travelers find that it can be difficult to get all the necessary gear into their suitcases. Let's face it, jackets and other heavy clothing just takes up more room than the lighter garments we'd pack for the tropics. Silversea Cruises has solved part of that problem for their Silversea Expedition guests by partnering with the renowned outdoor clothing brand Haglöfs. The ultra-luxury cruise line and clothier have created two new co-branded jackets that Silversea will have the pleasure to present to its guests on expedition cruises to Antarctica, the Arctic, Chilean Fjords, Russian Far East, and Sub-Antarctic New Zealand from June 2016 onwards. The jacket's inner layer features Haglöfs' trademark Quad+ Fusion TM technology and a soft-shell outer layer made of Pertex® Microlight technology bring warmth and insulation thanks to a perfect balance of lightweight softness, durability and water resistance.

Conrad Combrink, director of expedition planning and strategic development, said: "We pride ourselves on being able to honor our guests with industry leading expertise while on board our expedition voyages. The new complimentary Haglöfs jackets represent the finest outdoor wear available, allowing our guests to fully experience all weather environments in comfort and style. Our butlers will be pleased to help our guests to easily pack the jackets thanks to the self-folding mechanism, while the extra-light weight will not represent any obstacle in bringing them back home. The use of the jackets for outdoor activities will hold fond memories of discovery and adventure for our guests long after their voyage has ended."

Over a hundred years of research and development have contributed to the success of Haglöfs and its positioning among the most respected and prestigious brands of top quality adventure gear. Innovations stretching from back systems to choices in materials and original constructions made Haglöfs a leading player in the field of technical outdoor clothing and several successful product releases resulted in international awards and distinctions.

Silversea Expeditions is a leader in the expedition cruise industry, offering luxury all-inclusive voyages while visiting some of the most remote regions on the planet. The knowledge of the onboard expedition leaders, combined with the endorsement and enrichment of the onboard lectures by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), allows guests to experience the finest in adventure and expedition cruising.

Images Courtesy of Silversea

Monday, September 14, 2015

Norwegian Escape to Offer High End Retail Therapy

Cruising and shopping go together like cruising and food so when Norwegian Escape makes her maiden voyage in November, the ship will not only feature unprecedented dining options, it will also have luxurious shopping with two dazzling name-brand boutiques. The two boutiques—LACOSTE and Carolina Herrera—will be the first at sea for each brand, as well as the first boutiques to be designed specifically for a Norwegian Cruise Line ship. These new offerings are the latest of several that are shaping Norwegian Escape into one of the most sensational cruise ships at sea, with other alliances including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville; James Beard Award-winning Iron Chef Jose Garces; Michael Mondavi Family Wines; Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals After Midnight and Million Dollar Quartet; and more.

“These exclusive boutiques from two legendary fashion industry icons add further glamour to one of the most exciting cruise ships ever built,” said Andy Stuart, Norwegian Cruise Line’s president and chief operating officer. “LACOSTE and Carolina Herrera will offer Norwegian Escape guests a shopping experience unlike any at sea.”

More than 80 years after its founding, LACOSTE continues to be a sport inspired lifestyle brand renowned for elegance and comfort. Famous for its iconic polo shirt, LACOSTE offers sportswear apparel for men and women, as well as footwear, eyewear, watches, fragrances, leather goods, and other items. The LACOSTE boutique aboard Norwegian Escape will include a wide assortment of clothing items, including signature polos, t-shirts, dresses, skirts, footwear, and accessories.

Carolina Herrera is an international fashion house recognized for timeless elegance and refinement. From fashion and accessories to fragrances, the brand embodies the creative vision established by founder, Carolina Herrera, over three decades ago. The Carolina Herrera boutique aboard Norwegian Escape will include beautiful, hand-selected luxury products, including handbags, leather goods, pashminas, scarves, jewelry, footwear, and accessories.
In addition to dedicated boutiques, Norwegian Escape will feature further retail from widely-recognized brands including, but not limited to, Hublot, Bvlgari, Tissot and Uno de 50. The ship will be the first to introduce Ulysse Nardin watches, as well as a hand-picked collection of Columbian Emeralds, also exclusive to Norwegian Escape.

Norwegian Escape, soon to be the largest ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, will sail weekly 7-day cruises from her year-round homeport of Miami to the Eastern Caribbean beginning on Nov 14, 2015. The 164,600 gross ton ship will be the largest ever to home port year-round in Miami, carrying 4,200 guests to tropical Caribbean destinations including St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Queen and Cunard

HRH Princess Elizabeth looks on as Queen Elizabeth
 names the ship
Britain’s royal family has a long history of association with Cunard Line and Queen Elizabeth II has been an important part of it, starting even before her coronation. While the exact moment Princess Elizabeth became Queen in February 1952 is not known, at some point on September 9, 2015, Her Majesty The Queen became the longest reigning British Monarch in history surpassing the record held by Queen Victoria who reigned from 1837 to 1901.

That was an achievement to be acknowledged and celebrated and a Commemorative Dinner on each of Cunard’s three ships has paid tribute to The Queen as well as recalling the remarkable association she has had with the company—a relationship that dates back to 1934. During her reign The Queen has launched or named 23 ships—four of them Cunarders! And two of them for P&O!

It is a fact that The Queen’s association with Cunard dates back to September 26, 1934 when she was part of the royal party attending the launch of Queen Mary by Her Majesty Queen Mary. Just four years later Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret returned to the Clyde when they watched their mother launch the biggest ship in the world—Queen Elizabeth.

Before she became Queen in 1952, the Princess, on her last public engagement before her wedding, was back at Clydebank on October 20, 1947 to launch Cunard’s Caronia. She was greeted by 40,000 wellwishers that day.

The second Queen Elizabeth, perhaps better known as QE2 and also built at Clydebank, was launched by The Queen on September 20, 1967. In doing so Her Majesty revealed the biggest secret of the day—the actual name of the new liner. The Queen had her first view of the ship as she flew overhead prior to landing at Glasgow Airport. At precisely 1428 hours on a sunny afternoon, in front of 30,000 Clydesiders, Her Majesty stepped forward on the launching platform and said: ‘I name this ship Queen Elizabeth the Second. May God bless her and all who sail in her.’ She cut the ribbon using the same gold scissors that her mother had used to launch Queen Elizabeth in 1938 and her grandmother to launch Queen Mary in 1934. This released the bottle of wine that smashed onto the side of the newly named liner. She pressed the button that electrically released the launching trigger.

Then nothing happened. For 70 seconds it seemed as if the ship did not move. The Queen looked amazed; the smile slowly faded from Prince Philip’s face. Workmen high up on her deck leaned over and shouted ‘Give us a shove!’ Shipyard director George Parker joined in the spirit of the request and bowler-hatted, he sprang to the bows and pushed. He jubilantly waved his bowler when, by a coincidence, she began to move. A little over two minutes after the Queen had named her, the new Elizabeth had slid smoothly into the Clyde. Newspapers the next day claimed the Queen had wept as the new ship entered the Clyde, and that Prince Philip took a white handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to her. The Queen exclaimed ‘Oh, look at her, she’s beautiful.’

Aircraft from the 736 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm flew over the ship in an anchor formation as an aerial salute as six tugs manoeuvred her inch by inch into the fitting-out basin. The Queen and the royal party and guests then went to tea in the works canteen. There The Queen was presented with a small speedboat for the Royal Yacht Britannia—built on the same berth as QE2. A delighted Queen thanked the shipyard chairman Lord Aberconway and suggested it may be appropriate to call it John Brown and have it painted in Cunard colurs, to which Prince Philip retorted: ‘Why not call it Cunard and paint it brown?’ Almost two years later The Queen, accompanied by Prince Philip, visited QE2 on May 1, 1969 in Southampton on the eve of the ship’s Maiden Voyage.

Apart from the odd occasion when The Queen would view QE2 from the Royal Yacht Britannia she did not visit the Cunard flagship again until July 27, 1990—the day of a Royal Review as part of Cunard 150th Anniversary Celebrations. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh reviewed three Cunard ships (QE2, Vistafjord and Atlantic Conveyor) and Royal Navy ships at Spithead prior to transferring from Britannia to QE2 by Royal Barge and continued up Southampton Water while enjoying lunch on QE2. It was the first time a reigning Monarch had sailed on a commercial ship with other passengers.

Thirty-seven years after launching QE2, Her Majesty traveled to Southampton on January 8, 2004 to name Queen Mary 2—the largest, longest, tallest, widest, and grandest ocean liner ever built. That ceremony is still regarded as the most spectacular of its kind ever.

HM The Queen on board QE2 during
her farewell visit to the ship
A sad farewell occurred on June 2, 2008, the anniversary of her Coronation, when The Queen paid a farewell visit to QE2 in Southampton and enjoyed lunch on board. She unveiled a specially-commissioned portrait, ‘Coming Home’, depicting QE2’s forthcoming final Southampton arrival which was presented to Southampton by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh during his farewell visit on November 11, 2008—the last day QE2 spent in the UK.

It wasn’t long before a new Queen Elizabeth would join the Cunard fleet and Cunard was honored that Her Majesty agreed to name her, which she did on October 11, 2010 in Southampton.

The Queen could claim to be the only person to have been present at all three Queen Elizabeth christening ceremonies.

History and Images Courtesy Cunard Line

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Oceania Cruises Announces Two Special Voyages For November 2016

Whether you are a foodie or just a fan of Jacques Pépin’s PBS television cooking shows, take heed. Oceania Cruises has announced two very special Mediterranean voyages aboard the 1,250-passenger Marina that are guaranteed to appeal to culinary aficionados as well as long-standing fans of the upper-premium brand.

Jacques Pépin, the legendary master chef and longtime Executive Culinary Director for Oceania Cruises, will host the Jacques Pépin Cruise on Nov. 1, 2016. The Venice to Rome voyage will include book signings, meet-and-greets and a special culinary demonstration hosted by Pépin. During the 10-day cruise, guests will be treated to specially designed menus in the restaurants, epicurean-infused shore excursions and hands-on culinary instruction taking place in the state-of-the-art Culinary Center onboard; all focused on highlighting Pépin’s signature style.

“It’s such a joy sailing aboard Marina with guests who share the same passion for food, wine and overall enjoyment of life,” said Pépin. “This Mediterranean itinerary is a beautiful mix of long-established culinary destinations and some burgeoning epicurean hotspots.”

The very next sailing will host the 13th annual Oceania Cruises Reunion Cruise. Departing on Nov. 11 and highlighting the Magical Mediterranean, this Rome to Lisbon sailing will visit eight ports of call in Italy, Monaco, Spain, Gibraltar and the French Riviera. The voyage is open to all guests, but offers premium amenities for Oceania Club members, or past guests of Oceania Cruises. Extras for Oceania Club members include special cocktail parties, celebratory dinners, wine pairing events in La Reserve by Wine Spectator, exclusive shore excursions, a reunion cruise gift and other surprises.

Oceania Cruises also developed an Extended Journey option for guests looking to experience both the Jacques Pépin Cruise and Reunion Cruise. For more information about Oceania Cruises, the Jacques Pépin Cruise or the 13th Reunion Cruise, visit OceaniaCruises.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Crystal Yacht Cruises' Crystal Esprit to Feature New Culinary Concept

Crystal Esprit
We've always felt that the food alone was reason enough to take a Crystal cruise and now Crystal Yacht Cruises, the upcoming luxury yachting experience from Crystal Cruises, is sparing no measure of quality in the culinary offerings on their new vessel. Crystal has unveiled the culinary concept for the 62-guest Crystal Esprit, which focuses heavily on local ingredients of the Seychelles Islands and Mediterranean coast, and showcases many of the favorite dishes served on the line's large ships, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. The yacht will set sail in December 2015 with an eclectic menu of globally inspired Michelin starred cuisine for its guests, from extraordinary seafood cuisine on the al fresco terrace, to decadent pastries, snacks, espresso and wine in the quaint corner bar.

"The outstanding food and wine experience has always been a highlight of the Crystal Experience and will continue to be an integral part of the onboard experience aboard Crystal Yacht Cruises," says Crystal President & CEO Edie Rodriguez. "With public spaces and dining areas that are more intimate, our superior culinary team will maintain—and even exceed—the standard of world-class, creative cuisine that travelers expect from Crystal."

Crystal Esprit will offer guests an array of culinary choices at any time of day or night, from small bites and midnight snacks, to casual lunches al fresco and chic, multi-course dinners. "Local" versions of favorite Crystal dishes will also be served, using the freshest ingredients available in each destination and reflecting the local flavors. The onboard eateries include:
-- The Yacht Club and its outdoor extension, the Patio Cafe restaurants will serve a selection of Crystal's modern and classic specialties, with made-to-order omelets, waffles and pancakes and a health bar with fresh fruit and vegetable juices for breakfast; lunch options including made-to-order pastas and risottos, seafood and meat antipasti, and a raw and salad bar, plus an a la carte menu offering local dishes; dinner menus include a Modern Tasting menu and a Classic menu including local inspired dishes using the freshest ingredients found at the local markets, all served in a bright and immaculate setting with expansive windows and sea breezes;
-- The Sunset Bar & Grill menu will feature burgers, wraps and locally inspired "global street food," served tapas style and reflecting the destinations visited;
-- The Pantry will serve as the 24-hour "go-to" spot for freshly baked light snacks and pastries, coffee and a self-service wine bar;
-- Crystal Esprit Guest Suites also allow travelers to indulge in the plush privacy of their own staterooms, with available 24-hour stateroom dining.
For complete details on all itineraries, fares, and information, visit

Image Courtesy Crystal Cruises

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Holland America Line’s ‘On Stage Alaska’ Presentation Brings The Great Land to You

Several years ago we attended a Holland America Line complimentary “On Stage Alaska” presentation hosted by our local AAA travel agency. It was very impressive, with not only a film and Alaska native forlkloric dance group to inform and entertain attendees, but also a tour of one of the cruise line’s special coaches on hand to offer a glimpse of what to expect when touring Denali. Designed for travel partners to help their clients learn more about the cruise line’s award-winning Alaska Land+Sea Journeys, the line’s “On Stage Alaska” presentations will again be visiting cities across the United States and Canada this fall. Travel partners who are interested in showcasing Land + Sea Journeys to Alaska and the Yukon can offer their clients a glimpse into the region’s history, spectacular scenery, wildlife, and local hospitality. The live event is scheduled to visit cities throughout the United States and if you are interested, watch the travel section of your local newspaper for an announcement of it coming to your area.

“Our Land+Sea Journeys offer many wonderful options, and the On Stage Alaska presentation is the easiest and most informative way to be sure our travel partners have all of the information and tools they need to sell a Holland America Line Alaska vacation to their clients,” said Eva Jenner, vice president, North America Sales, Holland America Line. “The positive feedback we continue to receive from travel partners who arrange the On Stage Alaska presentations tells us that they are a valuable tool in helping our travel partners succeed.”

The program, which is produced by Holland America Line and is in its 33rd year, features the line’s 2016 Alaska Land+Sea Journeys destination film and includes an entertaining and informative performance by people who have lived and worked in the Great Land. On Stage Alaska also provides information about the Yukon Territory that is included on some Land+Sea Journeys, as well as details about Holland America Line’s Alaska cruise itineraries. A three-week incentive booking promotion provides travel professionals with another tool to complete bookings.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen increased attendance and a growth in Land+Sea Journeys bookings associated with On Stage Alaska events,” said Jenner. “With some 300 showings and nearly 20,000 people attending each year, it’s easy to see the potential for travel partners.”

Holland America Line has been Alaska’s leading tour operator for nearly 70 years. The line has seven premium ships in the region offering 130 Alaska cruises and more than 30 different Land+Sea Journeys programs in 2016. The Land+Sea Journeys combine an Alaska cruise with an overland exploration, and options for 2016 range from 10 to 20 days and are in two distinct series with cruise-first or land-first choices: Yukon and Denali Land+Sea Journeys and Denali Land+Sea Journeys.

Image: Courtesy of Holland America Line

Friday, September 4, 2015

Alaskan Dream Cruises Launches A New Vessel & ‘True Alaska Exploration’ in 2016

For travelers who want an up-close-and-personal cruise on a small ship in Alaska, a new vessel joins the Alaskan Dream Cruises fleet for the Native-owned company's 2016 season. Sailings on the Chichagof Dream will offer passengers a personalized Alaska adventure beginning with its inaugural voyage in June. The 207-foot Chichagof Dream will carry up to 74 passengers in no more than 37 staterooms in five room categories. The four-deck ship features expansive viewing areas on the bow and aft promenade decks and new carpets and furnishings in public spaces and staterooms. The hull is designed for optimal sailing and comfort in Alaska waters. The vessel was renovated in Alaskan Dream Cruises’ shipyard in Sitka, Alaska.

“We’re entering our sixth year and our sights are trained on growth,” Alaskan Dream Cruises CEO Russell Dick said. “The Chichagof Dream expands our capacity and at the same time we’re consolidating our itineraries to concentrate on what our guests have really responded to.”

The 2016 season will feature three cruise itineraries—8-, 9- and 11-day sailings—designed to allow active exploration of the local landscapes and culture. “True Alaska Exploration” is a new feature. These are unscripted days for adventures, often a hike, wildlife encounters or wilderness discovery that the Allen family, the company’s founders, experienced during their personal explorations and asked staff to share with guests.

“These itineraries are truly personal to the Allens,” Dick said. “When we say ‘True Alaska with True Alaskans’ we mean it. All of our itineraries highlight Alaskan Dream Cruises’ hometown, Sitka, and call on our exclusive Orca Point Lodge because it’s a home to us.”

The 2016 itineraries include:
Alaska’s Glacier Bay & Island Adventure is an 8-day cruise traveling between Sitka and Juneau, featuring wilderness days in remote bays for kayaking, wilderness hiking and exploration in shallow water expedition craft (DIBs). Cultural immersion in the small towns of Kake and Petersburg is balanced with scenic cruising through Glacier Bay National Park. The Admiralty Dream, Baranof Dream and Chichagof Dream will make a total of 22 sailings on this itinerary between May 12 and Sept. 11.
• The 9-day Alaska’s Inside Passage Sojourn travels between Sitka and Ketchikan taking guests to several unique towns: the Tsimshian community of Metlakatla; Thorne Bay, once the largest logging camp in the world; Wrangell, the only city in Alaska to have been under the jurisdiction of three flags and ruled by four nations; and Kasaan, home of the only remaining traditional Haida longhouse in the U.S. Guests spend time in Frederick Sound, a world-renowned site for whale watching, and sail through Tracy Arm Fjord, Misty Fjords National Monument and Glacier Bay National Park, offering some of the most spectacular scenery in Southeast Alaska. The Alaskan Dream will make 11 sailings on this itinerary between May 10 and Sept. 7.
Alaska’s Southeast Explorer expands the Sojourn itinerary into an 11-day journey, adding time in Skagway, a town steeped in Klondike Gold Rush history; the small fishing community of Haines; and Petersburg, Alaska’s “Little Norway.” The Baranof Dream and Alaskan Dream will make six sailings on this itinerary between May 18 and Aug. 28.
Naturalists and cultural heritage guides lend their expertise on each itinerary, sharing history and context with guests through presentations and informal conversations. In Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, guests learn from a park ranger and a Huna Tlingit cultural heritage guide as they share unique perspectives on the park’s natural wonders and history as an Alaska Native ancestral home.

On board the ships, guests find other ways to dive into Alaska culture. Books on Alaska history, flora and fauna can be found in the lounges. Onboard chefs give guests a taste of Alaska, highlighting local ingredients and wild Alaska seafood at meals. The ships’ bars are stocked with Alaska spirits, and even the soaps and shampoos in guest cabins are Alaska-made products.

Cruise fares include accommodations on the ship, all meals during the cruise, scheduled shore excursions, airport transfers, use of recreational equipment and standard onboard services. The Chichagof Dream joins four vessels in the Alaskan Dream Cruises fleet. The Alaskan Dream, Admiralty Dream and Baranof Dream carry anywhere from 40–58 guests and the Misty Fjord sails with no more than 10 guests.

Alaskan Dream Cruises was launched in 2011 by the Allen family, members of the Tlingit Kaagwaantaan clan. The Allen family also founded Allen Marine, Inc, a boat building company, in 1967, and Allen Marine Tours, which offers day cruise tours to travelers in Alaska’s Inside Passage. For more information and itineraries, visit

Image Courtesy Alaskan Dream Cruises

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Carnival To Offer A Diverse Collection Of Bermuda Cruises In 2016

With its famous pink-sand beaches, turquoise waters and picture-perfect weather, Bermuda is one of the world’s most popular cruising destinations and Carnival Cruise Line will provide its guests with a variety of opportunities to visit the island nation in 2016 with nine departures that feature at least one overnight docked alongside at historic King’s Wharf.

While Bermuda might be best known for its unique pink-tinged beaches, pastel architecture, and famous shorts, it’s also an island with an abundance of activities that enable guests to become immersed in its tropical ambiance and laid-back lifestyle. From world-class golf courses and beautiful beaches to UNESCO World Heritage Sites and underwater explorations by glass-bottom boat, snorkel or scuba, the longer calls make it possible to participate in a variety of activities throughout the day and into the evening. With overnight visits, guests are also able to experience the island’s local nightlife and dine ashore if they choose.

From April through November 2016, guests can embark on four different Carnival ships departing from five convenient U.S. homeports offering itineraries ranging from five to eight days—making 2016 one of the cruise line’s most robust Bermuda programs ever.

Carnival’s 2016 Bermuda schedule includes:
Carnival Pride: 5-day cruises from Baltimore departing April 10 & Oct 26, as well as 7-day voyages that depart on Sept 4 & 18.
Carnival Victory: an 8-day sailing from Port Canaveral departing May 19.
Carnival Ecstasy: 7-day cruises from Charleston departing May 12 & Nov 5.
Carnival Sunshine: a 7-day cruise from New York departing Oct 1 & a 5-day sailing from Norfolk departing Oct 23.
Five-day itineraries feature an overnight call at Bermuda; 7-day cruises spend two nights docked at King’s Wharf; and the 8-day voyage features three nights on the island.

“By offering Bermuda cruises from a variety of convenient drive-to homeports, we’re providing guests even more opportunities to experience and explore this incredible island paradise,” said Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president. “The island has tremendous tourist appeal and the wide range of cruises offer consumers maximum choice when planning their Bermuda vacation while providing travel agents with a sought-after destination to market to their clients,” she added.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Following in the Footsteps of the Vikings

Aboard Holland America Line's ms Veendam, Georgina & Humberto Cruz discover their inner-Vikings on a 35-day voyage to re-visit Iceland and check Greenland off their bucket list.

They have generously shared their experiences so we can follow along on the annual Voyage of the Vikings.