Thursday, December 31, 2015

Carnival Corporation Agrees to Build Four Cruise Ships

Carnival Corporation is ending the year on a high note with the announcement that it has signed a memo of agreement with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to build four new cruise ships with final contracts expected to be executed in 2016. Two of the four new ships will be built for Costa Asia for deployment in China, and one will be built each for P&O Cruises Australia and Princess Cruises. With the new agreement, Carnival Corporation has 17 new ships scheduled to be delivered between 2016 and 2020.

The four new ships will be built by one of the world's largest cruise ship building companies, Fincantieri, at the company's shipyards in Monfalcone and Marghera, Italy, with deliveries expected in 2019 and 2020. The two new 135,500-ton ships for Costa Asia and one new ship for P&O Cruises Australia will carry 4,200 passengers. Additionally, Princess Cruises' new 143,700-ton ship will carry 3,560 passengers and will be its fourth "Royal Princess" class vessel, featuring the successful design platform used on Royal Princess, Regal Princess, and Majestic Princess scheduled for delivery in 2017. Each of the four new ships will be specifically designed and developed for the brand and guests it will serve, and support the company's overall goal of providing exceptional vacation experiences for its guests.

"We will deliver on our fleet enhancement plan with the construction of these four new, exciting ships that are consistent with our long-term strategy of measured capacity growth over time," said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. "These ships will be great additions to our fleet that support our goal to exceed guest expectations and create great vacation memories for each guest onboard our ships. These strategic investments in new ships that wow our guests are an important part of our measured growth strategy, which includes replacing less efficient ships with newer, larger and more efficient vessels over a very specific period of time."

The new Costa Cruises Asia ships will prominently feature the brand's "Italy's finest" experience, with the new ship design serving to enhance the overall onboard immersion Italy's unique style, hospitality, entertainment and culinary excellence. The new ship order will also strengthen Costa Asia's leadership and position in the region, as well as its commitment and confidence to continuously develop Asia Pacific and China to be one of the leading cruise markets in the world. In the past nine years, Costa Asia has created a multitude of industry firsts and has been widely recognized as the industry leader in the region.

The new P&O Cruises Australia ship will join the leading cruise line's fleet that was recently expanded with the addition of Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden in November 2015 and will reach six total with the introduction of Pacific Explorer in 2017 to meet growing demand for cruises in Australia. Australia is one of the top performing cruise markets in the world, with an average annual passenger growth rate of 20 percent over the past decade. The new 4,200-passenger ship will have the largest passenger capacity from the line, with the next largest ship, Pacific Explorer, carrying 2,250 passengers, and will continue the brand's tradition of innovative ships that reflect modern Australia.

The new Princess Cruises ship will include the signature elements that have become synonymous with the Princess guest experience such as a soaring central atrium hub with multiple dining, entertainment and retail venues; Movies Under the Stars outdoor cinema experience, and 80 percent of all staterooms with balconies. The ship will also include some brand-new innovations to enhance the guest experience even further.

In March 2015 Carnival entered into a strategic partnership with Fincantieri under which these four ships have been developed. Specific features and amenities for the ships, along with deployment details, will be revealed in the coming months.

Happy New Year!!

Royal Princess Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Festive Drinks to Ring in the New Year from Holland America Line

It's traditional to toast the New Year with champagne at midnight, but earlier in the evening you might want to try one, or all, of these drinks with friends.


2 oz Vanilla Absolut Vodka
.75 oz Crème de Cacao White
.5 oz Peppermint Schnapps
3 Drops of Cherry Juice

Glass: Martini

Garnish: 3 drops of Cherry Juice poured in the center, Powdered Candy Cane rimmer glass, 1 Candy Cane hung on the rim

Directions: Mix Vanilla Absolut Vodka, Crème de Cacao White, and Peppermint Schnapps, shake and strain. Garnish with cherry juice and hang one candy cane on the rim of the glass.


1.5 oz Vodka
0.5 oz Monin Passion Fruit Syrup
0.75 oz Cranberry Juice
1 Lemon Wedge

Glass: Martini Glass

Garnish: Sprinkles of Coconut Flakes, Sugar Rim (Full)

Directions: Mix vodka, Monin passion fruit syrup and cranberry juice, shake and strain. Garnish with lemon wedge, coconut flakes, and sugar.


Fresh mint leaves
1 oz Maker’s Mark Bourbon
0.5 oz Chambord
0.5 oz Tripple Sec

Glass: Rock

Garnish: Mint sprig

Directions: Pour all ingredients in a mixing glass. Fill glass with crushed ice. Shake and pour. Garnish with mint sprig.
Recipes & Image Courtesy Holland America Line 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Fun With Fathom in the Dominican Republic

Fathom, the pioneer in social impact travel and Carnival Corporation's 10th and newest brand, won't be all work and no play for travelers. In addition to the features and activities on board the MV Adonia, the line has announced an array of fun and memorable recreation, leisure, and sightseeing pursuits available to Fathom travelers to experience in the Dominican Republic when not participating in social impact projects.

Whether exploring ancient ruins, interacting with the abundant marine life in the crystal clear water, lounging along the sun-soaked stretches of surf and sand, or participating in social impact activities, travelers will have the opportunity to make the most of their experiences in the Dominican Republic. Fathom travelers can customize their trip to include a variety of recreational activities and social impact experiences—including projects focused on educational, environmental and economic development - that perfectly match their interests and desired activity levels. In addition, travelers who prefer to break from scheduled activities during their stay may simply relax and enjoy the island's rugged mystical terrain and fertile valleys, its breathtaking turquoise waters, enchanting waterfalls and tropical rainforests, as well as its predictable weather and scenic beauty.

"At Fathom we are creating purpose-driven impact experiences for our travelers that will make a lasting difference in the lives and the communities in the in the Dominican Republic," said Tara Russell, president of Fathom and global impact lead for Carnival Corporation. "While at the same time, we want our travelers to know there also are many opportunities for them to explore, unwind and recharge during their free time."

Top recreational activities recommended for Fathom travelers include:
-- Traditions & Local Flavors: Puerto Plata is home to the first fort built by European settlers in the New World and is one of the many scenic areas on the island. Travelers can explore the city's historical features and shop in the bustling downtown area, which boasts numerous artist studios, rum and cigar factories, and the famed Malecon, a three-mile-long open air beach-side boardwalk with numerous restaurants and shops. Fathom travelers can also stroll through the historical city and visit the San Felipe Fortress, Cathedral San Felipe, Vrugal rum factory, Plaza Independencia and other museum attractions.
-- La Isabela, Columbus History & Folklore: The historic town of La Isabela, one of the first European towns in the Americas, gives travelers the opportunity go back in time and walk through nearby ancient ruins to learn about the history of the island and its first inhabitants.
-- Beginner Scuba Diving: The country's ample marine life and warm waters make it a prime location for those curious to explore the island's lush underwater world. Whether swimming alongside sea turtles and schools of colorful fish or exploring world-class reefs, a beginner scuba diving course will introduce travelers to the basic safety guidelines required to do a dive with an instructor.
-- Two-Reef Snorkel by Catamaran: A day onboard a modern and luxurious Catamaran is the perfect way to discover the beauty of Sosua Bay. Calm waters, diverse species of fish and intricate reef formations make this a great place to put on the flippers and go for dip.
-- Countryside Zipline Adventure: Crisscross from platform to platform soaring through the treetops to gain a new perspective on the Dominican Republic and its breathtaking views from the island canopy.
Fathom's MV Adonia will dock at the recently opened Amber Cove located in the Puerto Plata region where travelers will have access to select Amber Cove shore excursions. The port will offer numerous sea and landside experiences, including several beach getaways, kayak, paddle board and snorkeling tours, ATV-like terracross buggy expeditions, Puerto Plata tours, helicopter rides, fishing trips, horseback riding, deep sea fishing tours and catamaran sailings.

Sailing aboard the MV Adonia, a 704-passenger vessel redeployed from Carnival Corporation's P&O Cruises (UK), Fathom will mobilize, educate and equip travelers on every trip allowing for thousands of impact activity days per week—and tens of thousands of travelers a year to communities of promise, providing unprecedented scale for impact.

Image Courtesy of Fathom

Monday, December 28, 2015

Carnival Cruise Line Built World's Largest Cruise Ship Made Of Canned Food

Cruise lines are good corporate stewards in their headquarter cities and home ports and often help out charities behind the scenes. This effort was more visible as Carnival Cruise Line capped off a Holiday Food & Fund drive in New Orleans benefiting the Second Harvest Food Bank by constructing the world’s largest cruise ship made of canned food which was displayed last Monday night at the New Orleans Saints game. Carnival is the “Official Cruise Line of the New Orleans Saints” and the 30-foot-long cruise ship built from more than 17,000 cans of food was the culmination of a Holiday Food & Fund drive involving New Orleans-area schools that was sponsored by Carnival and the Saints.

The can structure was built in consultation with the New Orleans chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and required more than 100 volunteers who expertly positioned the cans—one at a time—to create a reproduction of a Carnival cruise ship featuring such design elements as the line’s signature winged funnel, running lights and more. Both Carnival and the New Orleans Saints provided incentives to students in New Orleans-area schools to participate in the food drive by awarding classroom prizes including free pizza parties, Saints lithograph footballs and free cruises to schools who collected the most cans of food. The winning schools were announced during half-time at the game. The joint initiative will provide more than 75,000 meals for those in need in the greater New Orleans area this holiday season.

“Carnival has been a part of New Orleans for more than two decades and we greatly value the opportunity to give back to our homeport communities,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “This Holiday Food & Fund drive in partnership with the New Orleans Saints and Second Harvest was a fun and rewarding way to provide tens of thousands of meals to those in need this holiday season,” said Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Whether you are on land or at sea, the Cruise Diva Crew wishes you a very Merry Christmas!

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Holiday Baking With Holland America Line

Which will you serve on Christmas... pumpkin or pecan pie? No need to choose—here’s a pie to please everyone who craves traditional desserts—brought to us by Holland America Line's Master Chef Rudi Sodamin.

If, like me, you aren't much of a baker, this one isn't as difficult as you might think. There are a lot of ingredients, but you could cheat and used a store bought pie shell. Just don't tell anyone I suggested that! I'd also use double the pecans—and skip the walnuts—in the topping and prepare the topping in a saucepan, drizzle it on top of the pie, and skip the broiler step. In addition, you'll notice the pie illustration has a whipped cream layer, but the recipe doesn't mention it. I'm not sure what was up with that, however I would top my slice with a dollop of freshly whipped cream before serving. (I hope Chef Rudi doesn't follow my blog!)


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chilled vegetable shortening

2 cups pureed pumpkin, canned or fresh made
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 (13-ounce) can evaporated milk

Crunchy Pecan & Walnut Topping
3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Pie Shell
1. In a cup, mix 6 tablespoons water with ice and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the flour and salt together. Using your fingertips, a pastry blender or two knives, work the shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a food processor, using short pulses.)

2. With a fork, stir in the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, using only as much as needed to gather the mixture into a soft ball. Pat the dough into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to three days.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a round about 1/8 inch thick. Drape the dough over a rolling pin and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. Fold the edge under and crimp. Place the pie shell in the freezer for 20 minutes.

1. Heat the oven to 425°F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sugar, spices, and salt. With an electric mixer, beat in the eggs and evaporated milk until thoroughly combined.

2. Pour the pumpkin filling into the prepared pie shell and jiggle the pan gently to level out the top. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted halfway between the center and edges comes out clean. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let it cool completely.

Crunchy Pecan & Walnut Topping
Heat the broiler. In a small bowl, combine all the topping ingredients. Mix with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over the pie and place it under broiler about 5 inches from the heat source until the mixture begins to bubble, about one minute. Let the pie cool to room temperature before serving.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Windstar Cruises' Star Pride Grounded & Voyages Cancelled

Statement From Windstar Cruises:

On December 22, at approximately 6:15 am CST, Windstar Cruises’ Star Pride experienced a grounding while coming into anchor at Isla de Coiba, Panama. All guests and crew are safe. Guests were disembarked as scheduled for the day’s private island event. Windstar’s technical team inspected the ship and identified some areas of the hull that are damaged, making the ship unable to sail.

As the safety and security of guests and crew is of the utmost priority, the current Star Pride cruise is canceled. Because of Isla de Coiba’s remote location (an island off the coast of Panama), the lack of infrastructure in the area, and the lack of other support vessels, Windstar arranged for sister ship, Star Breeze, along with the Tere Moana (also sailing nearby) to transfer the guests to the mainland. We are grateful and appreciative for the support of the Tere Moana in this time of need.

Star Pride guests are currently en route to Golfito, Costa Rica. From there they will be transferred to San Jose, Costa Rica where they have the option to stay in Costa Rica for the remainder of their vacation, or to fly home early. Star Pride guests were refunded 100% of their voyage, as well as a 100% of cruise fare paid for future cruise credit. The crew of the Star Pride will join the Star Breeze on Wednesday, December 23rd.

The ship will be towed to the port of Balboa in Panama for further inspections and repairs. At this time we are also cancelling the December 26th Star Pride voyage. Letters and call outs will start going out when our Vacation Planning department opens at 6:00 am PT.

Crystal Esprit Christened & Ready To Set Sail

Crystal Cruises officially welcomed Crystal Esprit to its fleet of ultra-luxury vessels Sunday, as the sleek yacht was christened in an elegant ceremony held at Eden Island Marina in Mahe, Victoria, Seychelles. Crystal's president and CEO, Edie Rodriguez, welcomed a distinguished audience of local dignitaries, yacht guests, travel partners and professionals, and executives from the line's new parent company, Genting Hong Kong (GHK), for a day of celebration, as Crystal Esprit marks the beginning of one of the most significant brand expansions in luxury travel and hospitality history.

On hand to christen Crystal Esprit was the yacht's godmother, Lady Gaenor Anne Meakes, fiance of Mark Richards, one of the world's most awarded and recognized yachtsmen. Richards serves as chief executive of Grand Banks yachts, based in Australia, and is an eight-time champion skipper of the 628-mile Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race. Lady Meakes christened the yacht with the traditional breaking of Champagne against the hull—specifically a bottle of Louis Roederer, Cristal Brut, 2004. The evening culminated with an elaborate fireworks display at sea.

"To say today is a special day is an understatement," said Rodriguez. "Since joining Crystal just over two years ago, a personal goal of mine has been to see Crystal realize the next step in continuing to pioneer luxury travel and hospitality; and today I am seeing that dream fulfilled."

Whether guests are seeking underwater adventures, high-speed adrenaline-inducing experiences or physically challenging and athletic pursuits, they need look no further than Crystal Esprit’s retractable marina. Tucked sleekly inside this extravagant yacht is an arsenal of water toys, beckoning Crystal guests—discerning travelers who seek unexpected, uncommon and truly memorable experiences—to come and play.

Water skis, a wakeboard, two types of ocean kayaks (tandem or solo-paddle); Skidoo jet skis, two 10-person zodiacs, contained in-ocean pool…plus, fishing and snorkel equipment at the ready—all for complimentary use on a first come, first served basis. Additionally, a 12-passenger Wider 32-foot super yacht tender will take guests on special boating adventures.

For those with deep pockets who are ready to dive deeper, literally, a C Explorer U Boat Submarine will be available for subaquatic quests. Offering approximately 30-minute expeditions for $599 per person, the sub seats two guests and the vessel’s operator, creating an especially exclusive atmosphere.

Images Courtesy Crystal Cruises

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Most Exclusive All-Inclusive Packages From Silversea

One of the advantages of an ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises voyage is that you rarely have to use your keycard for more than opening your suite door. To add more value, the already highly inclusive line is now offering a choice of the most exclusive all-inclusive fares available, as well as cruise-only fares on featured Mediterranean and Africa voyages in 2016. From the monuments of ancient Rome to the golden beaches of Cape Town, a multitude of ports with unique cultures and stunning scenery are available for the luxury cruise guests of Silversea to conveniently explore with the following all-inclusive package amenities:
--Roundtrip economy air travel and transfers
--2-night pre-cruise hotel stay (for Mediterranean sailings)
--3-night Safari (for Africa sailings)
--Free Silver Shore Select excursions
--Free Wi-Fi (for all 2016 sailings to all regions of the globe)
The all-inclusive air, land, and sea packages are available for new bookings made after Dec 16, 2015 on a trio of Silver Cloud voyages to Africa and the Indian Ocean, plus 30 Mediterranean cruises aboard Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, and Silver Spirit. They join the previously announced Silver Shadow Asia cruises, which also offer the all-inclusive package amenities on all sailings in 2016.

The most exclusive all-inclusive packages include a two-night pre-cruise stay at a deluxe hotel in the Mediterranean with transfers between airport, hotel and the ship (or for Africa voyages, a three-night safari in Kenya or South Africa), and roundtrip international economy airfare from over 50 gateways in the U.S. and Canada. Plus, a business class air upgrade is also available from $999 for transoceanic flights each way for Mediterranean voyages and from $2,749 each way for Africa.

The Silver Cloud Africa and Indian Ocean voyages, departing Nov 18, Dec 6, and Dec 21, 2016, also include a 3-night, pre- or post-cruise safari. From Mombasa, the safari includes air travel between Mombasa and Nairobi, one night at the Fairmont Norfolk hotel in Nairobi, and two nights at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club. From Cape Town, the safari includes one night at a deluxe hotel, two nights at a Kruger National Park lodge, and flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Game drives with safari guide, ground transfers, and some meals are also included. The all-inclusive package fare for the 18-day sailing from Dubai to Mombasa, departing Nov 18 also includes a post-cruise safari.

Guests may also take advantage of the flexibility of choosing their own airline and schedule with cruise-only fares on new bookings for these select voyages—and they will enjoy free Silver Shore Select excursions and free Wi-Fi.

"We want our guests to enjoy the flexibility of choice and Silversea is the only ultra-luxury line offering such an array of options," said Kristian Anderson, Silversea's senior vice president and general manager for the Americas. "Whether guests book cruise-only or opt for a seamless, tailor-made all-inclusive vacation, they will experience the highest levels of comfort, convenience, and value."

Guests who choose the most exclusive all-inclusive package option, as well as those booking cruise-only on these featured voyages, may enrich their travel experience with a choice of free Silver Shore Select excursions offered in every port of call. Whether it's discovering the architectural treasures of Barcelona, strolling back through time along the marbled lanes of Ephesus, or marveling at the magnificent sand dunes of Namibia, these small-group excursions present a destination's art, history, and culture in an intimate, authentic way, utilizing comfortable transportation and expert local guides. In addition to the free Silver Shore Select excursions, guests may purchase tours from a variety of land programs offering exceptional value, including the more-immersive Silver Shore Collection tours, as well as Silver Shore Privato, which provides a private car and driver for independent exploring.

The new air and land benefits join an array of included amenities that already features: open-seating gourmet dining; butler service for all suites; Champagne, select wines, premium spirits, specialty coffees, bottled water, juices and soft drinks; in-suite bar stocked with guests' preferences; in-suite dining and 24-hour dining service (from a formal dinner ordered from The Restaurant menu and served in-suite, to lighter fare served in attended lounges); lecture and enrichment programs; roundtrip transportation into town (in most ports); onboard gratuities (exclusive of spa treatments), and free Wi-Fi for each guest. For further details and a complete list of the Mediterranean and Africa cruises offering the most exclusive all-inclusive program, visit

Photo above: Silversea in Cape Town, South Africa

Monday, December 21, 2015

Royal Caribbean Shares a Look at the Tallest Slide at Sea

Look, Ma, no elevator needed! Royal Caribbean International has shared the first look at The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide on the high seas, which will challenge guests to prove their courage on board Harmony of the Seas when she debuts in May 2016. Towering more than 150 feet above sea level, overlooking the AquaTheater at the aft of the ship, the pair of side-by-side slides will release the bravest of passengers into a chilling 100 foot drop that twists and turns in a serpentine-like movement as they slide nine miles an hour, approximately, from the Pool and Sports Zone on Deck 16 to the Boardwalk on Deck 6 below. Yes, that's ten decks.

The Ultimate Abyss is designed to incite and maintain a sense of heart-pumping excitement. Launching from a glass platform, guests can take one last look at the Boardwalk 10 decks below before climbing onto a customized mat and taking the plunge into the depths of the daunting slides. Spontaneous audio effects within each tunnel create a multi-sensory thrill for daring guests willing to test their mettle while traversing 216 feet through the one-of-a-kind slide duo. The Ultimate Abyss is made up of two separate cylinders, a reflection of one-another, each with a diameter of approximately 2.6 feet and constructed of stainless steel.

Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, will span 16 guest decks, encompass 227,000 gross registered tons, carry 5,497 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,747 staterooms. The Oasis class is an architectural marvel touting Royal Caribbean's exclusive seven neighborhood concept, including Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone.

Harmony of the Seas Image Courtesy Royal Caribbean International

Friday, December 18, 2015

MSC Cruises to Launch Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve

One of the best-loved ports of call on many Caribbean cruises is a day spent at a cruise line’s private island and to satisfy their guests’ desire for that experience MSC Cruises has unveiled ambitious plans to create an unprecedented exclusive marine reserve island in the Bahamas. Over the next two years, MSC Cruises will work hand-in-hand with the Bahamian Government and ecologists to develop the cay, a onetime sand extraction station, into a thriving marine reserve that will harmoniously coexist with the local ecosystem. This is a project that will transform the local economy base from resource exploitation to resource conservation. In keeping with the company’s commitment to providing absolutely authentic cruise vacations, the island will offer some of the finest beaches in the world, amid an array of Caribbean-inspired experiences.

The family that owns MSC Cruises has more than 300 years of seafaring heritage, which has engendered a deep respect for the ocean that underpins the company’s operations today. MSC Cruises is committed to protecting the waters it navigates. The company will invest approximately $200 million in creating a flourishing natural haven from a desert island. At 95-acres in size and with 11,400 feet of pristine beach front spread across six distinct beaches, Ocean Cay Marine Reserve will be—by a large margin—the biggest island development by any cruise company in the Caribbean. In addition, as the only marine reserve island experience, it will offer a multitude of key distinguishing features. For example, a purpose-built berth and pier right on the seafront means that MSC Cruises guests will be able to step off the ship straight onto the island. Since a unique part of their visit will be the island’s night life in particular live music and entertainment at the 2,000-seat amphitheatre, and many restaurants and bars, guests moving at leisure between ship and island will be especially convenient. In addition, the ship and all on board services—including the casino—will stay open while berthed at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve.

All installations and experiences on the island, which lies 20 miles south of Bimini and just 65 miles east of Miami, Florida, will be fully sympathetic to the culture and traditions of the Bahamas. A comprehensive landscaping plan will see more than 80 indigenous Caribbean trees, grasses, flowers and shrubs, such as Jamaica Dogwood, Red, Black, and White Mangroves, and Beach Morning Glory, expertly planted across the island. There will be an architecturally faithful Bahamian village, plentiful restaurants and bars offering local specialties, a variety of shops and an inviting arrival center with island-themed music gazebo.

For MSC Yacht Club guests, an exclusive spa and wellness sanctuary with private bungalows and massage huts has been designated to the northwest corner of the island. Also, getting around the island will be a breeze, thanks to a network of walking and running paths, bicycle rentals and other stress-free transport options.

Other highlights such as must-have water sports and beach games include:
• A family beach with kids’ restaurant, play areas and other useful facilities
• A charming inland lagoon for absolute tranquility
• A thrilling zip wire crossing the island
• A pavilion for weddings and celebrations
MSC Cruises plans to break ground on the development in March 2016 and Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will open to guests in December 2017. The Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve project will offer a permanent MSC Cruises presence in the Bahamas, for which the company plans to recruit 240 Bahamians in various roles over 2016 and 2017. The cay will be ideal for all MSC Cruises ships serving the Caribbean region, notably MSC Divina and the under-construction next generation ship MSC Seaside (launching December 2017), both sailing from Miami, plus MSC Opera and MSC Armonia, sailing from Havana, Cuba. In addition, the company will open a crew training school in Nassau to provide local manpower for the growing number of MSC Cruises ships sailing the Caribbean.

Image Courtesy MSC Cruises

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Windstar Cruises Launches Sailings From Puerto Rico

Windstar Cruises recently completed its inaugural voyage from Puerto Rico after Star Legend set sail from San Juan on Dec. 5th, marking the first time Windstar has launched from a US port of call in recent history. Windstar’s San Juan & the Virgin Islands and Caribbean Hideaway itineraries, both new for 2016, offer guests the chance to experience Little Bay, Montserrat, where Windstar is the first cruise line to make regular calls to the port since the 1995 eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano that buried the island’s capital city. Often called the “Pompeii in the Caribbean”, Montserrat returns to the tourism business with the recent completion of the new Little Bay port, a starting point for guests to drive through the Buried City, experience the deep water harbor, and view the majesty of what is now the tallest mountain on Montserrat, still growing out of the old city.

New 2016 itineraries with a stop in Montserrat include:
• San Juan & the Virgin Islands—7 Days: Explore hidden harbors and legendary islands as you cruise from historic San Juan to the pristine Virgin Islands. Cruising round trip from San Juan, Puerto Rico highlights include Isla Culebra, Puerto Rico, and Montserrat.
• Caribbean Hideaways—7 Days: Spend pampered days in the secret hideaways of the Caribbean, kayaking off the Watersports Platform and walking on uncrowded beaches. Cruising from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Bridgetown, Barbados (or reverse), highlights include Montserrat and St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

2016 itineraries with stops in San Juan, Puerto Rico include:
• Gems of the Leeward Islands—10 Days: Discover the breadth and depth of the Eastern Caribbean at nine distinctly different ports round trip from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Highlights include an overnight in Virgin Gorda.
• San Juan & the Virgin Islands—7 Days: Explore hidden harbors and legendary islands as you cruise from historic San Juan to the pristine Virgin Islands. Round trip from San Juan, Puerto Rico highlights include Isla Culebra, Puerto Rico, and Montserrat.
• Caribbean Hideaways—7 Days: Spend pampered days in the secret hideaways of the Caribbean, kayaking off the Watersports Platform and walking on uncrowded beaches. Cruising from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Bridgetown, Barbados (or reverse), highlights include Montserrat and St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
“Montserrat is truly an amazing community filled with strength, courage, compassion, and kindness; the true meaning of human dignity,” says Michele Hanson, Windstar Cruises Product Manager. “It is incredible how this community survived something most of us can only imagine. This community learned to depend on each other to begin a recovery that somehow became their way of life. While we wish we could keep Montserrat a secret only for our guests, everyone in the world should come here and see what it means to go through such devastation and come through it stronger, wiser, and kinder.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Princess Cruises Introduces New Princess Luxury Bed

Dr Breus & Candice Olson
Sometimes I feel like Goldilocks when I get to my cruise ship cabin. Will the mattress on the bed be too hard or too soft? Princess Cruises is making sure it’s “just right” with the new Princess Luxury Bed, specially designed to deliver the ultimate night of sleep at sea. Developed in collaboration with experts in both the science and beauty of sleep—Dr. Michael Breus, “The Sleep Doctor,” and highly acclaimed designer, Candice Olson, star of the hit HGTV shows “Candice Tells All” and “Divine Design”—Princess is rolling out more than 44,000 new beds, to every stateroom, across the fleet through 2018.

Developed exclusively for Princess Cruises by the manufacturer of some of the most well-known and comfortable hotel beds in the world, the new Princess Luxury Bed will envelop guests in opulent style, and pure blissful comfort. The bed features a plush, two-inch thick pillow top, a nine-inch, single-sided medium firm mattress for enhanced support, individually wrapped coils for less partner disturbance, a European-inspired duvet and 100% luxurious Jacquard-woven cotton linens.

“We’re committed to ensuring that our guests come back from their cruise vacation feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and renewed,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises’ president. “With our guests’ overall wellness in mind, we’ve invested in the design and development of our new Princess Luxury Bed with leading experts in both the science of sleep and design to offer the most comfortable and rejuvenating sleep at sea.”

Princess worked closely with board-certified sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus, “The Sleep Doctor” and clinical psychologist, bridging his scientific knowledge of sleep with the latest technology in comfort to design the optimal mattress for guests to experience true relaxation. He is the best-selling author of two sleep books and served as the official sleep representative of WebMD and regularly appears on “Dr. Oz.”

“It’s important to remember that above all, sleep is a sensory experience and all five of your senses must be prepared for slumber in order for sleep to come easily and last all night long,” said Dr. Breus. “I’m thrilled to share my expertise with Princess Cruises and believe we’ve come up with some really unique aspects for not just the bed itself, but the entire experience that will allow guests to sleep really well.”

The new Princess Luxury Bed features:
• Luxurious Pillow-Top Mattress – two-inch pillow top offers maximum comfort atop a medium firm, nine-inch single-sided mattress providing superior support.
• Individually Wrapped Coils – reduces sleep-surface sway and motion transfer, resulting in less bed-partner disturbance.
• Circular-Knitted Mattress Ticking – provides increased support for all sleeping positions, conforming to guests’ bodies for greater comfort and deeper sleep.
• Electronically Tempered Springs – enhanced support under compression for all body types.
• Full Foam Casing – provides greater edge support, increasing usable sleep surface.
Candice’s Sketch: Princess Luxury Bed
Princess also enlisted the help of renowned HGTV design star Candice Olson to ensure the bed makes an immediate visual impact as guests enter their stateroom, encouraging them to relax, unwind and come back from their cruise vacation feeling well-rested and renewed.

“As part of the new Princess Luxury Bed I want to ensure Princess guests can experience just how beautiful sleep can feel,” said Olson. “The goal in creating this linen set for Princess Cruises is to create a bed that is calm, and soothing, and tranquil.”

Candice Olson selected various bedding elements to deliver the Princess Luxury Bed, including:
• Fine Bed Linens – constructed from 100% luxurious, long staple cotton and woven on Jacquard looms for the highest quality of production.
• European-Inspired Duvet – with a continuous-filament fiberfill of hypoallergenic, 100% virgin polyester to maximize loft without compromising climate comfort.
• King-sized Down Pillow* – deluxe pillow options (down fill or non-allergenic microfiber)

*Guests in full suites may select from an expanded Dr. Breus pillow menu.
I look forward to enjoying a good night’s sleep on a Princess Luxury Bed in the future.

Images Courtesy Princess Cruises

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Jewel of the Seas’ Makeover to be Unveiled in April 2016

Royal Caribbean International’s Jewel of the Seas will sail out for the summer 2016 Mediterranean season boasting an updated style. Ready to explore the ‘old world,’ the 90,090 gross-registered-ton Radiance-class ship that features nearly three acres of exterior glass will receive a complete makeover from bow-to-stern, unveiling a fresh and thoroughly contemporary style. With ocean-facing glass elevators and floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the ship, Jewel’s superior combination of shipboard experience, convenience, and value will make it a natural option for family summer travel in Europe, particularly for discovery-driven travelers. From May through October, Jewel of the Seas will be the only ship in its category sailing round-trip from the marquee city of Rome, Italy on an array of Eastern Mediterranean itineraries.

With new staterooms, new restaurants, technology upgrades, and exciting entertainment, Jewel will be the most contemporary ship to sail from Rome this summer. Additions include a two-bedroom family suite and 24 new outside and balcony accommodations that showcase the picturesque coastlines of the Eastern Mediterranean. Giovanni’s Table, Vintages, and Izumi, some of Royal Caribbean’s most popular dining venues, will join the diverse menu of dining options. Chops Grille, the spa, and retail areas also will be refreshed with a new modern design and in addition a new poolside movie screen will offer guests nights of animated and classic cinema under the stars. Most exciting for selfie-snapping, hyper-connected travelers is the addition of VOOM, the fastest internet at sea throughout the ship.

Jewel of the Seas will deliver the ultimate collection of Mediterranean experiences from historical European cities to idyllic island towns—all woven together by the rich life, art and tradition of this cultural cradle—and of course, the active adventures and innovations for which Royal Caribbean is known.

“When the rejuvenated Jewel of the Seas arrives to Rome in April 2016, she will boast a perfect blend of design, amenities, services and technology that modern world travelers expect, while immersing them in some of the most sought-after-cities in the Mediterranean,” said Michael Bayley, president & CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “These adventures will appeal to both our loyal, seasoned guests and young, experience-seekers that we are speaking to with our new ‘Come Seek’ campaign.”

“Come Seek,” the new brand campaign from Royal Caribbean, is a call to travelers who want more than to sightsee along the beaten path. It’s for adventurers who don’t just want, but require, immersive, culturally rich travel. Royal Caribbean delivers adventure both onboard and with exciting and culturally rich experiences in destinations around the world.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Keel is Laid for the New Silversea Cruises Ship, the Divine Silver Muse

Silversea CEO Enzo Visone &
Fincantieri shipyard director
Raffaele Davassi prepare to weld
the coins
Luxury line Silversea Cruises celebrated the milestone keel-laying ceremony of its newest ship, Silver Muse, at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy last Thursday. Attended by Silversea CEO Enzo Visone and Fincantieri shipyard director Raffaele Davassi, the ceremony is a long-standing maritime tradition celebrating the start of a ship's construction. The action of welding a coin into the keel of the ship is said to bring good luck during the build and to the captain and crew during her later life. Silversea has taken this one step further by welding eight coins into the keel of Silver Muse. Each coin represents one of the seven continents that Silversea ships sail to, along with a specially designed commemorative Silver Muse coin. The coins are:

--A South African rand
--An Australian dollar
--A U.S. half dollar
--A Brazilian real
--An Italian euro
--A Singapore dollar
--A commemorative Antarctica trust coin
--A Silversea Silver Muse commemorative coin

From April 2017 Silver Muse will sail throughout Europe, Canada, North and South America, as well as the Caribbean, taking in over 130 destinations in 34 countries. Weighing 40,700 GRT, Silver Muse has 298 suites on board which can accommodate up to 596 guests. Silver Muse is destined to showcase the highest expression of Silversea excellence when she launches. Silversea guests can find detailed information and plans on suites and restaurants, as well as many other luxurious elements, on

Image Courtesy Silversea Cruises

Friday, December 11, 2015

Holland America Line "Countdown" Video Details Inaugural Season of Koningsdam

Holland America Line has debuted its second "Countdown to Koningsdam" video with details about the ship's inaugural season Europe and Caribbean itineraries. The video series was created to share product and construction updates as anticipation builds for ms Koningsdam delivery in April 2016.

Hosted by Jonathan Rogers, Koningsdam's inaugural cruise director, the second video, "Countdown to Koningsdam Episode 2," features Holland America Line's Vice President Deployment and Tour Marketing Linda Springmann talking about the ship's inaugural year itineraries. Springmann details Koningsdam's cruises in the Mediterranean, northern Europe and Caribbean, offering itinerary highlights and fun facts about the ship's maiden sailing season.

"Fans keep asking for more Koningsdam details, and these short videos are a great way for us to communicate the latest updates and provide a glimpse into the ship's progress," said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line's president. "The newest video outlines the inaugural season itineraries which have been very popular. So for those interested in sailing on Koningsdam next year, we recommend booking now."

Each "Countdown to Koningsdam" video features one of the ship's officers or a Holland America Line executive who shares ongoing developments onboard the line's newest vessel, currently being built at Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard in Italy.

"Countdown to Koningsdam Episode 1" featured Hotel Director Stan Kuppens, who showed off the progress of ship's atrium, spoke about his move to the yard, and what's coming next for his team. Future videos include Deputy Director of Interior Operations My Nguyen chatting about the ship's staterooms, including the new family and single options; Senior Vice President of Guest Experience Product Development Michael Smith, who will reveal details about The Dining Room; Director, Mariner Society Gerald Bernhoft speaking about the perks of Holland America Line's loyalty program; and Director of Entertainment Bill Prince, who takes guests on an entertainment extravaganza at World Stage, the ship's theater that surrounds the audience with a 270-degree LED projection.

When Koningsdam 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. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy fine dining in several alternative restaurants including Sel de Mer, a new French seafood brasserie; a new immersive farm-to-table dinner experience in the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine magazine; a redesigned casual Lido Market with themed serving stations; a stunning main dining room; and favorites such as Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto Italian restaurant and pan-Asian Tamarind. The ship also will feature Holland America Line's first purpose-built staterooms for families and single staterooms among its 1,331 guest accommodations.

Onboard entertainment will be taken to a new level with the energetic Music Walk area featuring all genres of music showcased in venues including Lincoln Center Stage, offering 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. World Stage brings 270-degree LED projection to the main show lounge, enabling new concepts for show-time performances and immersing the audience in panoramic visual and sound effects.

Video Courtesy Holland America Line

Thursday, December 10, 2015

English Is Out, the Verandah Is In Aboard Queen Mary 2

Exactly 80 years after the first Verandah Grill went to sea on Queen Mary in 1936, Cunard Line will launch the Verandah restaurant on board its flagship, Queen Mary 2. The Verandah, a favorite among guests on Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, will replace Queen Mary 2's Todd English restaurant in June 2016 after the ship receives a significant refit.

"We are proud to continue the legacy of our earlier ships while adapting for today's discerning luxury traveler," says Richard Meadows, president, Cunard, North America. "Today's Verandah concept will be a must-experience culinary event on every voyage."

Set within light and elegant dining rooms and and evoking the special personality and flavor of French regional cooking with seasonal influences, impeccable service with attention to every detail will make this an unforgettable dining experience. Available at a surcharge for lunch and dinner, an adjacent bar will be available for pre- and post-meal drinks. The original Verandah Grills were exclusively reserved for First Class guests and were considered the most exclusive dining rooms at sea, on par with esteemed private clubs in London, New York and Paris. The restaurants offered a truly exclusive experience, as well as extra privacy for the rich and famous, including frequent Hollywood stars and royal visitors such as Winston Churchill, Fred Astaire, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Image Courtesy Cunard Line

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Perfect Pillow For Travel

Over the years my husband Mel and I have used a number of different travel pillows on planes. From inflatable to memory foam, none have been ideal. The air-filled pillows tend to deflate during flight and their plastic-y material shell has always irritated my skin. Purchased in an airport shop, my memory foam pillow flattened out after a couple uses—its "memory" was too good to last over the long haul. Then there was a pillow I got free from Delta. While its cover was kind to my skin, it was filled with something, actually too much of something.

Enter Myllow, an ingenious fully adjustable travel neck pillow filled with micro-beads. It's comfy as is, with a plush covering on one side and silky cover on the other. But if you want a firmer feel, just pull the drawstrings on either side in opposite directions to adjust it to your comfort level and snap it together to keep it cecurely in place. There is even a pocket to hold your iPod, phone, or reading glasses. Very nice to have your devices secured and at hand while you sleep.

But wait—unzip the opening in the back, pull out the fabric inside, and transfer the beads to create a square pillow. Like I said, it's really an ingenious design. Use Myllow as a neck pillow or tuck it behind you as a back pillow. Then relax and have a comfortable flight. Or drive—I can see using it on road trips as well.

Buy Myllow at

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Carnival Live 2016 Lineup To Feature Popular Music & Comedy Acts

For 2016, Carnival Cruise Line has announced its initial Carnival LIVE lineup with popular acts Journey, Trace Adkins, Gladys Knight (pictured here), and KC & The Sunshine Band to entertain guests on 11 different ships next year.

Expanding on its entertainment concept to comedy, Carnival LIVE will also include two performances by controversial comedian Kathy Griffin—one aboard Carnival Fantasy, Feb 24 and another aboard Carnival Breeze, Feb 25.

Bringing the best in live music to the seas, Carnival LIVE is a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience that provides guests an opportunity to enjoy captivating performances by major artists for a bargain price. Performances are held in the ships’ main theaters—ranging in guest capacity from 900 to 1,300—meaning there’s never a bad seat in the house. Carnival LIVE performances will be offered on cruises departing from eight U.S. homeports with concerts taking place while vessels are docked in Cozumel, Nassau, and St. Thomas.

Carnival LIVE tickets for 2016 range from $40 to $75 for general admission, significantly less than land-based venues. VIP tickets are available for $150 to $250 and offer seating in the first four rows, a photo opportunity with the artist and a commemorative concert pass. A full listing of the 2016 Carnival LIVE concert series is available by visiting

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Monday, December 7, 2015

Claudine Pépin Named Godmother of Sirena

Longtime member of the Oceania Cruises family, Claudine Pépin will serve as godmother for Sirena at the ship’s christening ceremony in Barcelona on April 27, 2016. Claudine’s father, legendary master chef Jacques Pépin, has been Oceania Cruises’ Executive Culinary Director since the line’s inception. Jacques’ involvement with the line has blossomed into a family affair, with Claudine joining him on Oceania Cruises’ annual Jacques Pépin Cruise to co-host special culinary events and cooking demonstrations.

A cookbook author and regular co-host on Jacques’ PBS show “Heart and Soul in the Kitchen,” Claudine will officially christen Sirena by breaking a bottle of champagne against the ship’s hull during an intimate pier-side celebration in Barcelona. Following the ceremony, she will sail on Sirena’s maiden voyage with her father, mother, husband, and 12-year-old daughter, Shorey. During the maiden voyage, Claudine will interact with guests at cooking demonstrations and book signing events which will take place throughout the cruise. All guests booked on the maiden voyage will receive a complimentary copy of Claudine’s cookbook, Let’s Cook French, which was published earlier this year and pays homage to French-style family home cooking.

“It’s truly an honor to be Sirena’s godmother, and to celebrate its christening and maiden voyage with my entire family,” said Claudine. “We’ll be cooking together, enjoying delicious food—and, of course, laughing as much as possible. It will be a pleasure to share this special experience with all guests aboard Sirena.”

Many culinary fans have watched Claudine and her father prepare classic French dishes on the James Beard award-winning series “Jacques Pépin’s Kitchen: Cooking With Claudine,” “Jacques Pépin’s Kitchen: Encore with Claudine,” and “Jacques Pépin Celebrates.” Earlier in her career, Claudine served as brand ambassador for Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon Champagne in New York while teaching food and wine pairing at the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) and the Sommelier Society in New York. In 2002, Claudine was named Woman of the Year by the Académie Culinaire de France—Filiale des Etats-Unis.

Offering the finest cuisine at sea, the 684-passenger Sirena will offer diverse and destination-rich itineraries appealing to both seasoned world travelers and passionate cruisers who crave a more intimate and luxurious cruise experience. Before entering service on April 27, 2016, the ship will be elevated to Oceania Cruises’ standard of elegance by undergoing a 35-day, $40 million refurbishment, using the recent makeover of Insignia as a blueprint. The maiden voyage for Sirena will be a 14-night cruise from Barcelona to Venice. During its inaugural season, the ship will sail on Mediterranean and Caribbean itineraries featuring a mix of classic destinations and exotic new ports of call.

Among its elegant offerings are two specialty restaurants, a brand new concept restaurant called Tuscan Steak and the beloved guest favorite from Marina and Riviera, Red Ginger. Also debuting on Sirena is Jacques Bistro, a new gourmet lunch experience at the Grand Dining Room which features some of legendary chef Jacques Pépin’s signature dishes. Sirena will also feature more recent additions to the Oceania Cruises fleet such as Baristas and the cook-to-order grill at Terrace Café.

Image Courtesy Oceania Cruises

Friday, December 4, 2015

Princess Cruises Reunited "The Love Boat" Cast to Celebrate 50th Anniversary

It's hard to believe it's been that long ago, but it all began on December 3rd in 1965 with a cruise to Mexico on a single cruise ship, Princess Patricia.

Yesterday, Princess Cruises celebrated its 50th anniversary aboard Pacific Princess in the Port of Los Angeles with a special appearance by the original "Love Boat" cast before setting sail on a throwback cruise, recreating the very first itinerary to the iconic Mexican Riviera. Now, 50 years later, Princess Cruises is the third largest cruise line in the world with a fleet of 18 cruise ships and a recognized leader in taking 1.7 million travelers each year to some of the most fascinating cruise destinations around the globe.

The original "Love Boat" cast pictured left to right above—Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing), Fred Grandy (Gopher, the chief purser), Ted Lange (Isaac, the bartender), Bernie Kopell (Doc, the ship's doctor), Lauren Tewes (cruise director, Julie) and Jill Whelan (Vicki, the captain's daughter)—celebrated the role the show played in Princess Cruises' five-decades-long history introducing the cruise line—and cruise vacations—to millions of people around the world.

The pilot episode of "The Love Boat" was shot aboard the 730-passenger Sun Princess, with Pacific Princess and Island Princess then becoming the primary floating stars of the show. Later episodes and specials were filmed aboard many other Princess cruise ships in destinations around the globe. The show, which aired from 1977 to 1986, went on to become one of the highest-rated and longest-running and beloved shows on television, introducing viewers to modern day cruising and, in the process, making Princess Cruises and its ships synonymous with vacations at sea.

"People always ask us why 'The Love Boat' was so popular and I always say it's because it gave people something to dream about," said Gavin MacLeod. "They could dream about being out on the open seas on a cruise and discovering the world's greatest destinations, dreaming about love and of course happy endings since the shows always ended on a high note. I'm proud to have played a role in the growth of the cruise industry—to see where these ships have come from the days we filmed aboard the original Pacific Princess to now experiencing the 18 magnificent ships in the fleet."

Today more than 30,000 employees both ashore and at sea continue to offer guests enriching vacation experiences by connecting them with each other, different cultures and nature in a brand new way.

"We celebrate our successes over the last 50 years and I know our future is bright as we chart a course for the next 50 years," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president.

Princess Cruises has been celebrating its 50th anniversary all year long with an incredible lineup of new dining, shopping, and entertainment aboard its ships. The festivities will continue through April 2016.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Grease is the Word on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas & Independence of the Seas

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John won’t be making an appearance, but the beloved teenage musical set at Rydell High is heading to Royal Caribbean International. The cruise line that features fully licensed, Tony Award-winning Broadway productions has announced that Broadway’s hit musical Grease will take the stage on board Harmony of the Seas, the most anticipated addition to the fleet yet, sailing across Europe as of May 2016, and Independence of the Seas, which returns to her homeport in Southampton, England for the summer. The all-new stage production, specially adapted by Royal Caribbean Productions, will boast a soundtrack of favorites such as “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightnin’,” “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” “Born to Hand-Jive,” “Beauty School Dropout” and more.

“Grease is a show that speaks to families of all ages and is sure to get guests out of their seats, singing and dancing, which is why we made the unprecedented decision to have it debut on Harmony and premiere it onboard Independence immediately, starting in July,” said Nick Weir, Vice President, Entertainment, Royal Caribbean International. “As the first cruise line to bring Broadway performances onboard its ships, it’s only fitting that we would also be the first to bring Grease to the hospitality industry.”*

In Grease, Sandy Dumbrowski, the new girl in town, and Danny Zuko, the school’s coolest greaser, have a secret summertime romance—but when they return to school, everything is different. Sandy attempts to navigate tricky Rydell High School social waters and catch Danny’s attention again, but Danny is chiefly concerned with maintaining his tough-guy reputation. In the end, the Pink Ladies help Sandy figure out how to win back the leader of the T-Birds.

As part of Royal Caribbean’s award-winning Broadway offerings, guests of the cruise line can take in performances featuring the greatest hits of legendary rock group Queen with We Will Rock You on Anthem of the Seas; the storytelling of ABBA’s timeless songs in MAMMA MIA! on Allure of the Seas; one of the world’s most beloved musicals CATS on Oasis of the Seas; the toe-tapping disco beats of Saturday Night Fever on Liberty of the Seas, and now, Grease on Harmony of the Seas and Independence of the Seas.
*On a personal note, I’ve already seen Grease on a cruise ship—it was in 1992 aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Seaward on a Western Caribbean sailing. Maybe it wasn’t a “fully licensed” show? No matter, it was fast paced and fun. That’s just a bit of trivia, as is the fact that Rydell High was named to honor my good friend Bobby Rydell.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Vikings Are Coming To North America & The Caribbean

Viking Star
They're on the way here and foe a limited time travelers won't have to fly to Europe to experience cruising like a Viking next year. Viking Ocean Cruises® has announced that the line will expand its destination-focused cruising to North America and the Caribbean with five new itineraries launching in September 2016. As a nod to the most famous Viking explorer, Leif Eriksson, who set foot on North American soil 500 years before Columbus, Viking Star will also cross the North Atlantic—with a new itinerary that sails from Bergen to Montreal, with stops in the Shetland Islands, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland. From Montreal, the award-winning ship will cruise the St. Lawrence River and down the coast of New England to New York, during the peak period of fall foliage in October. Viking Star will then make her way down the Eastern seaboard to San Juan, Puerto Rico, which will serve as her homeport for winter Caribbean itineraries. The ship will return to Europe in February 2017, with a transatlantic sailing from San Juan to Barcelona.

"We have always had a vision to reinvent ocean cruising—to bring destinations back to the forefront of the itinerary and to build ships that are designed to help our guests better explore their destinations," said Torstein Hagen, founder and chairman of Viking Cruises. "We launched our ocean cruises in Europe earlier this year, and just as the Viking explorers before us, we are now looking across the Atlantic for new discoveries. Our new itineraries in North America and the Caribbean will offer travelers experiences that broaden their horizons both on and off the ship."

New North America & Caribbean Itineraries
Created in part to honor early Viking trade routes beyond Scandinavia, Viking's new North American itineraries will allow guests to sail the North Atlantic and visit original Norse settlement sites that date back more than 1,000 years. Viking's Caribbean itineraries will provide an alternative to the cruises typically offered in the region—with more time in port and experiences that go beyond the iconic and expected. Highlights from the new program include:
In the Wake of the Vikings (15 days; Bergen to Montreal): Trace the route of Viking Leif Eriksson, setting off from his homeland, Norway, sailing from the old mercantile city of Bergen to the rustic Shetland Islands of Scotland the Faroe Islands, once home to the Viking Parliament. Witness the magnificent natural beauty of Iceland and Greenland; then, as Eriksson before you, land at Newfoundland, where L'Anse aux Meadows reveals evidence of Norse settlements. Sail on to Quebec, with explorations of Saguenay and Quebec City, before arriving in Montreal.Sailing Date: Sept 18, 2016.
Eastern Seaboard Explorer (13 days; Montreal to New York): Witness the shores of Canada and New England come alive with fall's vibrant hues during this once-annual sailing. From cosmopolitan Montreal, cruise the St. Lawrence River to French-flavored Quebec City. Learn about Canada's colonial past in Saguenay and about its Scottish and Acadian heritage on Prince Edward Island and in Halifax. An overnight in Boston gives you ample time to visit its historic treasures. Then, enjoy a rare crossing of the Cape Cod Canal en route to New York City, where you'll experience the highlights of Manhattan. Sailing Date: Oct 2, 2016.
Eastern Seaboard to the West Indies (15 days; New York to San Juan): Trace the Atlantic seaboard of the United States into the Caribbean, calling on an array of vibrant capitals and lush islands. An overnight in exhilarating New York City lets you take in its dazzling sights. Then explore Newport's grand mansions and Baltimore's historic riches. Immerse yourself in colonial Jamestown from our port in Norfolk, and enjoy an overnight stay amid the coastal beauty of Port Everglades. Then explore the lush and lively Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos, Antigua and St. Thomas. Sailing Date: Oct 14, 2016.
West Indies Explorer (11 days; San Juan to San Juan): After time to explore the colonial treasures of San Juan, Puerto Rico, immerse yourself in the British, French and Dutch cultures of the Lesser Antilles. Take in the steep green hills of Tortola and Antigua. Explore settlement towns on St. Lucia and Barbados. Witness the rainforest beauty of Guadeloupe and the rich past of St. Kitts. And marvel at the French and Dutch sides of St. Martin and the splendid vistas of St. Thomas. Sailing Dates: Oct 28, Nov 7, Dec 17 and Dec 27, 2016; Jan 6, 16, & 26, Feb 5 & 15, 2017.
West Indies to Iberia (18 days; San Juan to Barcelona): Embark in colonial San Juan, and call upon the Dutch side of St. Martin. Then, enjoy a leisurely six-day trans-Atlantic crossing, savoring the offerings onboard Viking Star. You'll make landfall on the garden-draped Portuguese island of Madeira and visit the French-inflected Moroccan city of Casablanca before exploring Spain in Cadiz, Valencia and finally, Barcelona. Sailing Date: Feb 25, 2017.
Viking Star
Christened in May 2015 in Bergen, Norway, the 930-guest all-veranda Viking Star is considered a "small ship," and is engineered at a scale that allows direct access into most ports, so guests have easy and efficient embarkation and disembarkation. The small size of Viking's ocean ships provides greater maneuverability, allowing them to dock where mega-liners that dominate the world's ports today cannot. From prime, central berths in the world's great cities, cuch as Venice and Monte Carlo and in smaller, seldom-visited ports like Kotor, Montenegro, and Scotland's Shetland Islands, enriching cultural discoveries are just a short walk away from the ship.

Viking Ocean Cruises
Viking developed its ocean cruises by leveraging extensive feedback and input from Viking River Cruises® passengers, and with experienced travelers in mind. Itineraries are designed to spend more time in port, with fewer days at sea and more overnight stays, so guests can have ample time to immerse themselves more fully in each destination. Ports include both cosmopolitan cities and "collector ports," and appeal to those with an interest in history, art and culture. In addition, Viking Inclusive Cruising provides unparalleled value—with every cruise fare including a veranda stateroom, shore excursions in each port of call, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Guests also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of their fare, including: beer and wine with lunch and dinner service; premium dining reservations; Wi-Fi; self-service laundry; access to the Thermal Suite in the LivNordic Spa; and 24-hour room service—a value of more than $2,400 per couple for an average cruise.

Image Courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Crystal River Cruises' Luxury Lineup Opens For Booking

Poised to bring "true luxury" to the European river cruising experience, Crystal Cruises has unveiled the itineraries for its five new luxury river yachts and announced that voyages from 2016 through 2018 are now open for booking. The newly acquired and redesigned Crystal Mozart will sail in July 2016, and the four newly built vessels, Crystal Bach, Crystal Debussy, Crystal Mahler, and Crystal Ravel will launch in June and August 2017.

"It's truly thrilling for us, as well as our loyal guests and new-to-Crystal travelers, as more details of what's in store for Crystal River Cruises unfold," said Edie Rodriguez, president and CEO of Crystal Cruises. "We are going to deliver the most luxurious river experience in the industry with a combination of innovative vessel designs, unmatched guest service and fascinating itineraries."

The river yachts will maintain the luxurious Crystal Experience, featuring all-inclusive amenities, elegantly-appointed suites, and six-star service for which the cruise line is known. Crystal River Cruises' itineraries will offer a fresh take on traditional river cruising, focusing on longer and overnight stays and daytime cruising, in addition to sailing less-traveled routes to avoid congestion of other vessels in port.

Crystal Mozart (The Danube River), maiden voyage July 13, 2016—The queen of European river cruises is currently being redesigned and will emerge in 2016 boasting Crystal's signature style and public spaces, accommodations (160 guest capacity), and special touches. Keeping close to the Austrian roots of its namesake, the river yacht will sail two distinct itineraries of 10 and 11 nights along the Danube, plus a special 10 to 13 night Christmas and New Year's Eve voyage.
• Danube's Capital & Wachau Valley—Taking travelers through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Austria's Wachau Valley, lined with picturesque towns, terraced vineyards, and the stunning charm and architecture of Durnstein, Melk, Linz and Vienna, Austria; Passau, Germany; and Bratislava, Slovakia.
• Countries of Eastern Danube—Exploring the eastern realms of the river and the treasures of Vienna, Austria; Esztergorm, Kalocsa, Budapest, and Mohacs, Hungary; Vukovar, Croatia; the Iron Gate; Belgrade and Novi Sad, Serbia; and Bratislava, Slovakia.
• Christmas Markets Along the Danube—Celebrating the holiday season in the quintessential winter wonderland of Austria, Germany and Slovakia. Guests can get in a festive mood in exploring the traditional Christmas marketplaces and town squares famous for their holiday singing and dancing, cuisine, shopping and holiday cheer, from Munich's Christkindlmarkt that dates back to the 14th century to the age-old Viennese Christmas Market at City Hall and Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace.
Crystal Debussy (The Seine River), maiden voyage June 4, 2017—As Paris is a year-round dream destination, 5-, 7- and 10-night voyages will explore the City of Light with multiple overnights. The ship's sleek design and smaller size (84 guest capacity) will allow the opportunity to conveniently access berths near the Eiffel Tower for guests to extend their stay in Paris.
• Best of Paris, Seine River & Normandy—An itinerary that highlights the quaint villages and lush valleys that inspired impressionists like Monet and Van Gogh, including the garden at Giverny and the charms of Auvers-Sur-Oise and traces the historic footsteps in the gardens of Versailles. A double overnight will leave guests within walking distance of charming Honfleur and position travelers closer to the surrounding areas' popular attractions including the beaches of Normandy and Deauville.
• Paris & The Arts—An in-depth immersion into the priceless masterpieces housed in this great city, from the Musee d'Orsay and d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris to the famed Louvre; then venturing to Rouen in the heart of Normandy before returning to Paris.
• Pre-Christmas Shopping in Paris—The magic of the season is the focus of this enchanting voyage, replete with indulgent culinary delights and plenty of holiday shopping and fantasy window shopping. Guests can immerse themselves in the Marche de Noel outdoor bazaar and enjoy street performances along the Rue du Gros Horloge in Rouen.
Crystal Bach (The Rhine River), maiden voyage June 18, 2017—The vessel's 14-night itinerary boasts overnight stays in fascinating and enchanting cities including Amsterdam, Netherlands; Basel, Switzerland; and Ruedesheim, Germany as it travels along the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. A special 10-night voyage again explores the quaint Christmas markets that are synonymous with the region.
• Classic Rhine—Visiting the aforementioned overnight ports, as well as Antwerp, Belgium; Nijmegen, Cologne, Cochem, Koblenz, Mainz, Speyer, Kehl, and Breisach, Germany, and this voyage also allows for additional stays in Frankfurt to explore the 2,000-year-old metropolis and get a birds-eye view from atop the Main Tower, one of the city's tallest buildings.
• Christmas Markets along the Rhine—The snow-flecked towns along the Rhine River will bring storybook holidays to life, inviting travelers aboard the 110-guest capacity Crystal Bach to visit two of Switzerland's loveliest markets—Barfusserplatz and Munsterplatz in Basel—plus historical abbeys and cathedrals. An overnight in Cologne sets the stage to feel the magic of the holidays in the festively decorated city which is known to have one of the largest Christmas markets in all of Europe.
Crystal Ravel (The Garonne & Dordogne Rivers, & Gironde Estuary), maiden voyage August 8, 2017—Delving into the heart of France's most renowned wine region beloved by, both, connoisseurs and novice oenophiles, the 84-guest capacity Crystal Ravel explores the UNESCO-designated cultural site of Bordeaux, which boasts more protected buildings than any other French city outside of Paris.
• Bordeaux, the Wine Region & Beyond—The 7-night itinerary spends two nights in Bordeaux, before cruising on to Cadillac (overnight), Pauillac (overnight), Blaye and Libourne (overnight), France, then back to Bordeaux (overnight). The extra nights in Bordeaux afford guests to visit Arachon in southwestern France for the city's oysters, white wine and the popular Dune du Pilat which is Europe's tallest sand dune.
Crystal Mahler (The Rhine, Main & Danube Rivers), maiden voyage August 29, 2017—The 16-night "Grand Europe" itinerary is the longest offered by the Crystal river fleet; also two nights longer than most other lines sailing the same route, to provide guests more time to explore this iconic route at a more leisurely place than currently offered.
• Grand Europe—The 110-guest capacity Crystal Mahler will transit the Rhine-Main-Danube with its many locks that connect the continent's two mightiest rivers (the Rhine and the Danube), to explore the treasures of each. From the iconic windmills of Holland to the fairytale villages of Germany's countryside, guests will have ample opportunity to immerse themselves in the charm of the destinations, with overnights in Budapest, Vienna, Passau and Amsterdam.
Fares for Crystal River Cruises collection from 2016 through 2018 are now open for booking and are subject to change without notice. Inaugural voyages for Crystal Mozart (July 13, 2016), Crystal Debussy (June 4, 2017), Crystal Bach (June 18, 2017), Crystal Ravel (August 8, 2017) and Crystal Mahler (August 29, 2017) will be exclusively available to members of the Crystal Society—the line's repeat guest program—from Nov 30 through Dec 15, 2015.

Image Courtesy Crystal Cruises