Friday, April 29, 2016

Oceania Cruises Celebrates Christening of Sirena

Oceania Cruises officially welcomed its newest ship, Sirena, into the fleet this week on Wednesday evening with a majestic christening ceremony at the Port of Barcelona. After the ship’s godmother, Claudine Pépin, delivered the traditional blessing, a bottle of Moët & Chandon’s finest champagne shattered against ship’s hull and a flurry of confetti filled the sky in celebration of Sirena’s inaugural voyage.

Joining Pépin for the signature bottle-breaking moment were Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO, Frank Del Rio; President and COO for Oceania Cruises, Jason Montague; and Claudine’s father, legendary master chef Jacques Pépin. The Pépin family and Oceania Cruises have enjoyed a long and treasured relationship, with Jacques Pépin serving as the line’s Executive Culinary Director since its inception.

“We launched Oceania Cruises with a visionary belief that we could create something special. With an unwavering commitment to serve our guests the finest cuisine at sea, we established a culinary reputation that to this day defines the Oceania Cruises brand,” said Del Rio. “That culinary tradition continues, as we welcome Sirena to the family. Sirena builds upon our epicurean heritage with new gourmet dining experiences, and in godmother Claudine Pépin who is a noted chef and member of the culinary world’s royal family.”

The 684-passenger Sirena follows the award-winning design blueprint of its sister ships Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica, with amenities such as four gourmet restaurants, six elegant lounges and bars, the renowned Canyon Ranch SpaClub, and 342 lavish suites and luxurious staterooms. Before entering service, the ship underwent a 35-day, nearly $50 million refurbishment that renovated all public spaces and accommodations to Oceania Cruises’ standard of elegance, and added several new amenities for guests to enjoy.

The ship debuts with two new specialty restaurants, providing guests with new culinary indulgences to explore. Tuscan Steak, a completely new restaurant concept, is inspired by both Oceania Cruises’ traditional steak house, Polo Grill, and the line’s authentic Italian restaurant, Toscana. Red Ginger, the beloved contemporary Asian-inspired restaurant currently available on Marina and Riviera, will offer culinary delights such as Miso Glazed Sea Bass and Lobster Pad Thai. Another new dining option awaits Sirena guests at the Grand Dining Room. During lunch the restaurant will transform into Jacques Bistro, offering an exclusive menu featuring some of legendary chef Jacques Pépin’s signature dishes.

“The expansion of our culinary offerings on Sirena with Tuscan Steak, Red Ginger and Jacques Bistro further exemplifies our commitment to epicurean excellence,” shared Montague. “We’ve given our guests three new gourmet dining options, and more opportunities to enjoy the finest cuisine at sea.”

In addition to the new dining options, Sirena’s most prestigious accommodations—the Owner’s and Vista Suites—debut with an elegant new design that features a crisp and modern motif. Sirena is also the first ship in the Oceania Cruises’ fleet to showcase the enhanced entertainment offerings being developed for the line. Guests will be treated to a full range of world-class musical, theatrical, and comedic productions in the Sirena Lounge.

Images Courtesy Mark Ashman, Oceania Cruises

Thursday, April 28, 2016

New Cruise Review: Top Tens Of The 2016 Amsterdam World Cruise Voyage

An amazing voyage circumnavigating the planet during 115 days on board the 62,735-ton, 1,380-guest Amsterdam from Holland America Line, the 2016 Amsterdam World Cruise transited two legendary canals (Panama and Suez) and stopped at more than 40 ports (including a three-day stay in Hong Kong and several overnights). It was filled with adventures. World traveler Georgina Cruz shares the top 10 experiences that she and her husband Humberto were privileged to enjoy, and the top 10 things they learned.

Image: Amsterdam in Sydney, Australia

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Carnival Extends Time In Port in Cozumel

With all there is see and do in Cozumel, Mexico, Carnival Cruise Line has extended the length of time its ships spend in port there on more than 750 voyages, providing guests with even more opportunities to experience and explore one of the Caribbean’s most diverse vacation destinations.

On “Cozumel Plus” itineraries, guests now have access to a variety of new excursions, many taking place on Mexico’s mainland—with tours like swimming with whale sharks, visiting centuries-old ruins, and swimming in hidden caverns, just to name a few, complementing nearly 50 existing tours already available. Designated by a special notation on Carnival’s web site, Cozumel Plus itineraries are operated by 17 different Carnival ships offering more than 750 four- to 8-day cruises from six U.S. homeports along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. Carnival Cruise Line offers the greatest variety of cruises to Cozumel than any other cruise operator, providing guests with unparalleled choice and convenience in their shore excursion options. The additional time in port has enabled Carnival’s shore excursion experts to partner with local tour operators to create one-of-a-kind excursion offerings that allow guests to fully immerse themselves in Mexican culture and participate in truly unique landside experiences.

Cozumel Plus tours are up to eight hours in duration and include everything from extended, day-long tours visiting ancient Mayan ruins, including Chichen Itza—one of the Seven Wonders of the World dating back to 750 AD—to snorkeling the exquisite turquoise waters of Xel-Ha, a magnificent group of lagoons connected by a series of bridges. On other excursions, guests can explore Mexico’s famed “secret river,” subterranean caverns connected by underground waterways with stunning natural rock formations that are millions of years old or participate in a seasonal excursion of swimming in open waters with whale sharks—gentle sea creatures measuring up to 40 feet in length and weighing up to 47,000 pounds.

Of course, the additional time in port provides guests with more time to check out Cozumel’s legendary white-sand beaches, excellent fishing, snorkeling, and water sports, and unique shopping and dining opportunities. Cruises visiting Cozumel dock at Puerta Maya—pictured above—Carnival’s modern three-berth facility in Cozumel which, in addition to offering easy access to the various tours via an on-site transportation center, includes a variety of retail shops, boutiques, and restaurants.

“With magnificent beaches and interesting landmarks and historical sites, Cozumel is the Caribbean’s premier cruising region and our ‘Cozumel Plus’ itineraries provide our guests with a seemingly endless variety of new ways to explore this fascinating destination,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “These new itineraries provide our guests with the opportunity to create wonderful vacation memories and our travel agent partners an exciting cruise option to market to their clients.”

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Monday, April 25, 2016

Carnival Corp & Cuba Reach Detente

Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest leisure travel company, announced last week that the company's Fathom cruise brand will sail as planned from the U.S. to Cuba with all travelers, including naturalized American citizens born in Cuba, for the company’s week-long voyages to the island nation. Carnival Corporation worked closely with Cuba to allow its cruise ships to operate in a similar manner as current air charter operations to Cuba, starting with its historic inaugural voyage on May 1, 2016. In anticipation of this positive outcome, Carnival Corporation previously announced that Fathom was accepting bookings to Cuba from all travelers, including individuals born in Cuba. Fathom’s 704-passenger Adonia cruise ship will begin sailing to Cuba every other week, marking the first time in over 50 years that a cruise ship has been able to sail from the U.S. to Cuba, as well as the first time in decades that Cuban-born individuals will be able to sail to and from Cuba.

"We made history in March, and we are a part of making history again today," said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. "More importantly, we are contributing to a positive future. This is a positive outcome and we are extremely pleased. We want to extend our sincere appreciation to Cuba and to our team who worked so hard to help make this happen."

"We have already seen tremendous interest in the incredible Cuba journey we have put together, and we are ecstatic that this historic opportunity is open to everyone who wants to travel to Cuba," said Tara Russell, president of Fathom and global impact lead for Carnival Corporation. Russell added: “Our guests will visit three beautiful and unique destinations on the island all in one week, with the convenience of only having to unpack once while we sail on the Fathom Adonia, our premium small ship with its excellent and diverse dining, service and accommodations. We are looking forward to treating Fathom travelers to an unforgettable experience.”

Image Courtesy of Fathom

Friday, April 22, 2016

Only A Year to Go for Silver Muse

The christening of the ultimate boutique ship at sea—Silversea's new flagship Silver Muse—is just a year away. To mark this milestone, commemorative events took place on board all eight of Silversea's ships around the world. Guests were invited to a special dinner showcasing culinary specialties that will be featured on board Silver Muse, including specially created dishes from all regions of the world.

Due for completion in April 2017, Silver Muse will showcase world-class locations to those who sail during her inaugural season. A remarkable 52 UNESCO World Heritage Sites feature in Silver Muse's 2017 itinerary, from ancient Greek temples through to historic Caribbean fortresses. Launching from Monte Carlo, Silver Muse will spend the sublime European spring and summer months in and around the Mediterranean. Thirteen of her European ports of call boast UNESCO sites, including the Cinque Terre in Liguria, the Historic Center of Rome, the Archaeological Site of Olympia, and the Tower of Belém in Lisbon. Following her Mediterranean tour, Silver Muse will make her very first transatlantic crossing, with North American UNESCO highlights including the historic district of Old Québec in Canada and the iconic Statue of Liberty in New York City.

Even while she is on the move, Silver Muse's UNESCO adventures don't stop as she passes through the Panama Canal on October 18. Central Panama stretches out from the canal across three provinces and into two oceans, comprising everything from the lush mountains of the Cordillera Central to the beautiful beaches of the Pearl Islands in the Bahía de Panamá. As Silver Muse reaches South America, World Heritage Sites in Valparaiso and Rio de Janeiro are certain to delight, with an intoxicating kaleidoscope of color thrilling the senses with man-made and natural wonders.

Calling at 34 countries and over 130 ports in 2017 alone, Silver Muse will redefine ocean travel, enhancing the small-ship intimacy with spacious all-suite accommodations that are the hallmarks of the Silversea experience. The addition of Silver Muse will expand Silversea's fleet to nine ships, once again significantly raising the bar in the ultra-luxury cruise market.

"We are incredibly proud to celebrate this wonderful milestone in the development of Silver Muse as we enter the final one-year-to-go countdown," said Massimo De Caro, Silversea global head of marketing. With eight restaurants, state-of-the-art technology, and bespoke open-air public areas, guests on board Silver Muse are set to enjoy world-class levels of luxury as they explore some of Earth's greatest treasures."

Image Courtesy Silversea Cruises

Thursday, April 21, 2016

MSC Cruises Introduces New High-Speed Internet Packages

Speed and competitive pricing is what cruise travelers want in order to stay connected when at sea. MSC Cruises—the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line—listened and has announced next-generation connectivity across its entire fleet and new internet packages designed to accommodate the various needs of today’s vacationers. The enhancements will provide MSC Cruises guests with fast, reliable access to the web and simple, easy to use packages.

Working with Marlink—a pioneer of business critical communication solutions for customers operating in remote environments—MSC Cruises will provide dynamic bandwidth to its 12 existing ships, as well as its next-generation ships currently under construction, including MSC Meraviglia and MSC Seaside. No matter where in the world MSC Cruises’ guests are sailing—MSC Cruises’ ships sail to more than 180 ports across five continents—they will receive continuous high-bandwidth global access.

“We are constantly seeking new ways to innovate and enhance guest experience aboard what is already the most modern fleet at sea,” said Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises CEO. “We know that staying connected while on vacation is increasingly more important to our guests, hence we are rolling out state-of-the-art technology to allow them to stay connected, whether they are looking to share experiences and memorable moments, stay in touch with friends and family, stay on top of work emails or simply catch up with daily news.”

MSC Cruises’ new offering allows guests to select from three different affordable internet packages based on their specific web and social media needs. All packages can be purchased either on a “per day” or “per cruise” basis, allowing guests maximum flexibility when selecting their internet needs.
• Option 1: The Social Package is aimed at guests that are interested in connecting to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, in order to post pictures and chat with friends while on vacation. Guests selecting this package will have 24/7 access to social networks on one device. Pricing is $4.50 per day or $16.50 for a 7-night cruise.
• Option 2: The Surfer Package is designed for moderate internet users who want to access social media platforms, be updated on what’s hot, surf the web for news or sports scores and catch up on emails during their cruise. Guests selecting this package will have access to internet on up to two devices. Pricing is $11 per day or $33 for a 7-night cruise.
• Option 3: The Streamer Package has been created for users who are interested in full internet access either for work or fun and want to be connected without any limitations at the fastest speed. This package gives guests full internet and social media access, including audio and video streaming, with access for up to four devices. Pricing is $22 per day or $66 for a 7-night cruise.
Internet packages can be booked prior to sailing or once on board. In addition, it will be easy for guests to upgrade or recharge their package while managing the consumption of each device. The new services are now live on board MSC Divina in the Caribbean and MSC Preziosa, currently deployed in the Western Mediterranean, and will roll-out across the entire fleet over the coming months.

By offering one of the most advanced guest connectivity services available at sea, MSC Cruises continues to position itself as an innovative and forward-thinking cruise line. With several hundred Mbit/s (megabits per second) available in the Marlink Sealink cloud, MSC Cruises will deliver a whole new web and social media accessibility experience for guests that are hungrier than ever for cost-effective, reliable internet access while enjoying their vacations at sea.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fathom Now Accepting Bookings for Cuba Voyages from ALL Travelers

After some confusion when it was learned that regulations prevented Cuba-born Americans from traveling to Cuba by ship, Carnival Corporation is continuing discussions with Cuba to allow cruise ships to operate in the same manner as current air charter operations, which transport Cuba-born individuals to and from Cuba. Fathom is scheduled to begin sailing its 704-passenger Adonia cruise ship to Cuba every other week starting on May 1, marking the first time in over 50 years that a cruise ship has sailed from the U.S. to Cuba.

Carnival Corporation has announced that it is accepting bookings on its 10th and newest brand, Fathom, from all travelers to Cuba, regardless of their country of origin, and is looking forward to its historic inaugural voyage to Cuba on May 1, 2016. While optimistic that Cuba will treat travelers with Fathom the same as air charters today, should that decision by Cuba be delayed past May 1, Carnival Corporation will delay the start of its voyages to Cuba accordingly. Carnival Corporation continues active discussions with Cuba, asking that travel on Fathom be on a level playing field with air charter travel to Cuba and remains confident its discussions with Cuba will result in a positive outcome for everyone who wants to travel there, including those who are Cuba-born. Fathom has updated its reservations process and all travelers can book its cruises to Cuba, including Cuban-born individuals, in anticipation of Cuba allowing travel on a similar basis as they would if they were traveling by air.

"We want everyone to be able to go to Cuba with us," said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. "We remain excited about this historic opportunity to give our guests an extraordinary vacation experience in Cuba."

During each sailing, Fathom will visit Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba, three ports of call for which Carnival Corporation has obtained berthing approval. As part of this historic sailing in this inaugural year, travelers will enjoy an exciting Cuban experience and will sail aboard the Adonia, where they can choose to partake in onboard experiences, including Cuban- and Caribbean-inspired food and films, music and dancing, and much more. Special onboard programming will include a wide variety of activities covering an array of interests, ranging from an orientation to Cuba's history, customs and culture, to geographic-inspired entertainment, to casual and fun personal enrichment activities, along with conversational Spanish lessons.

Seven-day itineraries on Carnival Corporation's Fathom brand depart from PortMiami on Sundays at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time (ET). The ship will arrive at its first destination, Havana, the following morning (Monday) at 11 a.m. ET. The Adonia returns to its homeport, PortMiami, at 7:30 a.m. ET on Sunday. Prices for 7-day itineraries to Cuba start at $1,800 per person, excluding Cuban visas, taxes, fees, and port expenses and including all meals on the ship, onboard experiences and several on-the ground activities. Prices will vary by season. To secure a spot on future sailings, a $600 per person deposit is required for all cabin categories and occupancy levels. Final payment is due 90 days prior to departure. To reserve a spot on future sailings, travelers may contact their travel professional or call 1-855-9Fathom. Visit Fathom's "Cruise to Cuba" page at Fathom to learn more about the brand's weeklong itineraries to Cuba.

Image Courtesy of Fathom

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Holland America Line's Koningsdam Gets A Royal Godmother

Holland America Line's tradition of royal godmothers will continue when Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands christens the line's new Pinnacle-class ship, ms Koningsdam, in a ceremony in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, May 20, 2016, on board the ship. The 2,650-guest ship is the first in a new class of vessel for the line.

Members of the Dutch Royal Family have launched 11 Holland America Line ships. Most recently, then-Princess Máxima christened ms Nieuw Amsterdam in 2010 and then-Queen Beatrix served as ms Eurodam's godmother in 2008. Statendam III in 1929 was launched by Prince Hendrik and Nieuw Amsterdam II in 1937 by Queen Wilhelmina. Then-Princess Beatrix named Statendam IV in 1957 and Prinses Margriet in 1960. Rotterdam V was launched in 1958 by Queen Juliana. Princess Margriet dedicated Prinsendam in 1972, Nieuw Amsterdam II in 1983, ms Rotterdam VI in 1997 and ms Oosterdam in 2003.

"We are incredibly honored that Her Majesty Queen Máxima will carry on the tradition of Dutch Royalty christening Holland America Line ships, which began 87 years ago," said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. "We chose Rotterdam as the location for the official ceremony because of the deep historic connection between Holland America Line, the city and the people of the Netherlands. May 20 will be a very special day in our company's 143-year history as we officially dedicate ms Koningsdam."

The official ceremony will take place in Rotterdam onboard the ship during a special 13-day Christening Cruise departing Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, May 9. Following that voyage Koningsdam will spend the summer sailing from the port of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on itineraries to Norway, the Baltic and Iceland. Following its Europe season, Koningsdam will sail to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for winter and spring Caribbean cruises.

Follow along as Cruise Diva travels to Rotterdam to attend the christening event next month.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Monday, April 18, 2016

Carnival Vista Completes Sea Trials

Last week Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, the 133,500-ton Carnival Vista, successfully completed its final sea trials in the Adriatic Sea in anticipation of its inaugural cruise from Trieste, Italy, May 1, 2016.

Presently in the final stages of construction at Italy’s Fincantieri shipyard, the 3,954-passenger vessel had a full contingent of officers, technicians and engineers on board who thoroughly tested Carnival Vista’s navigation, technical, and mechanical systems.

Carnival Vista will offer a number of innovative features, including a unique suspended cycling attraction called SkyRide, the RedFrog Pub & Brewery, the Family Harbor staterooms and suites, the first IMAX Theatre at sea, and the 455-foot-long Kaleid-o-slide, the longest water slide in the fleet.

Following its May 1st inaugural sailing from Trieste, Carnival Vista will operate a schedule of 8- to 13-day Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona and Athens. The ship will then reposition to New York in November for a pair of 11-day voyages before launching year-round Caribbean service from Miami later that month.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Friday, April 15, 2016

Princess Cruises Reveals 8th Cruise Wonder of the World

How many worldwide cruise wonders have you seen? I was surprised that I only need to add two to my bucket list in order to have seen them all when Princess Cruises, in partnership with CondéNast Traveler, revealed that The Grand Canal of Venice was selected the "8th Cruise Wonder of the World" as voted by their guests. The announcement follows the 2015 "7 Cruise Wonders of the World," which identified seven intriguing destinations, each spectacular in its own way, especially when arriving by cruise ship. With more than 38,000 submissions, The Grand Canal of Venice received the most votes and of those who submitted this destination.

"Of all the remarkable destinations on the planet, some of the most captivating are especially suited to visit while on a cruise," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. "We were honored to partner with Condé Nast Traveler to present the '7 Cruise Wonders of the World' showcasing some of the world's most iconic destinations. From its piazzas to its palaces, Venice's beauty is fully revealed through an arrival by cruise ship, offering a perfectly fitting introduction to the '8th Cruise Wonder of the World'—the Grand Canal."

There is no more memorable way to arrive in Venice than cruising through the Guidecca Canal on Princess' small ship, Pacific Princess. Guests take in the sites of the entire city linked by meandering canals of waterways beckoning for immersive exploration. The landmarks of this UNESCO World Heritage Centre come into view, from the Byzantine spires of St. Mark's Basilica to the mouth of the Grand Canal itself.

The Grand Canal of Venice joins the other Cruise Wonders of the World destinations including:
1. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand: Sail into a world of surreal beauty, where the verdant flanks of snowcapped peaks plunge into the crystalline waters of ice-carved fjords.
2. Panama Canal: Traverse the waterway that shaped the course of history by linking the two mightiest oceans on the planet in an engineering feat that remains breathtaking to this day.
3. Shiretoko Peninsula, Japan: Embark on a magical tour that leads you through the wilds of Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaido, where a variety of whales make their home and the verdant coastline is nothing short of spectacular.
4. Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska: Stunning glaciers, pristine waterways and watching for wildlife are a few of the things you experience while slowly cruising through dazzling Glacier Bay National Park.
5. Christ the Redeemer, Rio do Janeiro, Brazil: A South American icon high above the city with arms outstretched embracing all of the city's citizens and visitors.
6. Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands: White powder sand beaches, perfect clear water, and sunny climes—it's the island idyll we all long for.
7. Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey: This beautiful Byzantine cathedral (from 532 AD) hovers silently over its surroundings, as it has for the last 1500 years.
More information about the "8 Cruise Wonders of the World" can be found at

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Regent Seven Seas Cruises Adds Included Business Class Air Travel to International Voyages

Getting there is not “half the fun” when it means flying to meet your cruise ship in a foreign embarkation port. Recognizing that, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which offers the most inclusive luxury voyages at sea, is expanding with the addition of free, intercontinental round-trip Business Class air for all guests.

 Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the first cruise line to offer free Business Class air to guests, complementing other inclusive elements such as free unlimited shore excursions, fine wine and spirits, unlimited internet access, prepaid gratuities, ground transfers, and luxury pre-cruise hotel stays.

This unprecedented luxury inclusion is available on all European, Asian, and South American voyages where a guest would need to travel on an intercontinental flight in order to board, or return home from as Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ ship. The free Business Class air is available from 26 U.S. and Canadian gateway cities and offered to all guests, no matter what category of suite booked.

“The upcoming launch of Seven Seas Explorer and our $125 million fleet-wide refurbishment program will ensure our ships are the most luxurious sailing the oceans of the world, and with this new inclusion of Business Class air we are furthering our position as the most inclusive luxury experience available,” said Jason Montague, president and chief operating officer for Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Photo: Seven Seas Mariner © Linda Coffman,

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Texas “Mom’s Dash to the Splash” With Carnival

Carnival Cruise Line, Texas’ largest cruise operator, has inked a multi-year partnership with the NFL’s Houston Texans, making Carnival the Official Cruise Line of the NFL franchise and expanding the line’s presence in the fast-growing Texas market. To celebrate the partnership and the arrival of Galveston’s newest cruise ship, Carnival and the Houston Texans are hosting the “Mom’s Dash to the Splash” aboard Carnival Breeze when it debuts in Texas on Mother’s Day, May 8.

Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and linebacker Brian Cushing will lead two teams of local Texas moms selected via an online contest in an exciting head-to-head water slide race for charity. The five-member teams will race to the finish on Carnival Breeze’s massive 312-foot-long Twister slide and exhilarating DrainPipe water slide attraction. Hopkins will be competing for the Houston Food Bank and Cushing for the Brian Cushing Foundation with the winning team earning $10,000 and the runner-up $5,000 for their respective charity.

“Mom’s Dash to the Splash” will kick off with a pre-race pep rally with appearances by the Houston Texans cheerleaders and the Deep Steel Thunder Band. Moms who want be a part of #MomsDashSplash and get a chance to zip down Carnival Breeze’s heart-pounding water slides can enter a contest hosted on that runs through April 25, 2016.

To enter, contestants simply tell their story in 250 words or less why their mom (or themselves) deserve the opportunity to be a member of Team Hopkins or Team Cushing. Eight lucky moms will be selected by a team of judges based on their entry’s creativity and originality. Contest winners will enjoy a delicious Mother’s Day brunch on board Carnival Breeze prior to the water slide race and a chance to win a free Carnival Breeze cruise for two. The winning race team will also receive an MVP Game Day package to an upcoming Houston Texans home game. For additional information, as well as full contest rules and regulations, visit the link above.

As the Official Cruise Line of the Houston Texans, Carnival will bring even more fun to the Lone Star State with unique experiences both on board and ashore planned for the coming year. Additionally, in keeping with its longstanding tradition of supporting its homeport communities, Carnival will team up with the Houston Texans on various community service initiatives to be announced at a later date. The partnership with the Houston Texans reinforces Carnival Cruise Line’s position as Texas’ most popular cruise line with three year-round ships carrying more than 650,000 passengers annually. In addition to Carnival Breeze, which launches 7-day Caribbean service from Galveston beginning May 8, Carnival Liberty and Carnival Freedom offer 4- to 7-day voyages visiting popular ports in the Caribbean, The Bahamas, and Mexico.

Images Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

MSC Cruises Plans to Build Four New Ships

Last week MSC Cruises announced that it has signed a letter of intent (LOI) with STX France for the construction of up to four new LNG-powered cruise ships that will be more than 200,000 GRT. The four ships, the first one of which will be delivered in 2022, will be based on a new advanced next-generation prototype and will form what will be known as the “World Class” of MSC Cruises’ ships. The announcement was made at the Élysée Palace in the presence of the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, as well as MSC Group’s Founder and Executive Chairman, Gianluigi Aponte, and STX France’s CEO Laurent Castaing.

MSC Cruises is the first cruise line brand to develop an investment plan of this length and magnitude, spanning a horizon of more than ten years—from 2014 through 2026—and introducing a total of up to eleven next-generation ships. The new orders would reflect an additional nearly $4.5 billion investment, which will bring the total value of the Company’s 10-plus years investment plan to nearly $10.2 billion.

“In yet another industry-first, the new MSC Cruises’ World Class prototype will feature—amongst other highly innovative elements—a record-breaking, futuristically-conceived design that will make the ship a truly unique place to be at sea, whilst maximizing the open air space available to guests,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises Executive Chairman.

The four ships provided under the LOI—two firm orders and two further options—will be delivered in 2022, 2024, 2025 and in 2026. They will feature a GRT in excess of 200,000 tons, more than 2,700 staterooms and approx. 5,400 lower berths occupancy capacity.

MSC Cruises’ investment plan includes orders with STX France for two Meraviglia and two further Meraviglia-Plus Class ships as well as orders with Fincantieri in Italy for up to three next-generation Seaside Class ships. Additionally, the plan encompassed the $227 million Renaissance Program, in which four ships out of 12 of the Company’s fleet, already the most modern at sea, were enhanced and enlarged at the Fincantieri shipyards.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Royal Caribbean Unveils Multi-Day Adventures

In order for culture-seeking travelers to delve deep into a destination some distance from a typical port-of-call, they have historically had to book their voyages with high end cruise lines. However, Royal Caribbean International has uncovered experiences in some of the world’s most remarkable places and is bringing them to mainstream cruise travelers. The experiences are part of the cruise line’s new Multi-Day Adventures program, which offers immersive two-day overnight explorations that include even more adventure and provide guests with the chance to go further, stay longer, and discover more.

From the Caribbean and Europe to Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, Multi-Day Adventures have been specially designed to take care of all the details for travelers. These rich adventures include fully guided tours of the destinations’ most iconic and inspiring places, dining, airfare (where applicable), highly rated hotel accommodations and transportation. Guests embarking on a Multi-Day Adventure will begin their experience as they depart the ship mid-cruise and then spend the extended time immersing in the local culture before rejoining their Royal Caribbean ship at the next port of call.

Some highlights of the Multi-Day Adventures include:
• Tikal & Ceremonial Show – Beginning with a flight from Belize to Guatemala (or from Honduras to Guatemala), guests will discover the ancient Mayan capital on an overnight tour; embark on an expedition into the jungle to walk the ruins of the Mayan empire at Tikal National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and enjoy an authentic Mayan ceremonial experience, all before boarding their return flight to meet their Royal Caribbean ship.
• Agrolida Region & Katakolon – This two-day excursion takes travelers back in time to Greece’s famous citadels. Culture-seekers will discover the Acropolis of Athens and the Ancient Mycenae site of Argolida; stay the evening in the Mediterranean nation’s first capital, Nafpolio; and travel to Ancient Olympia, where the first Ancient Olympic Games took place.
• Bangkok – This experience in the “City of Angels” brings the sights, sounds and flavors of Thailand’s historic capital to vacationers’ fingertips. The two-day itinerary features adventures into the city’s canals and river tributaries via motor launch and inspiring visits to iconic monuments and sites including the Wat Traimit, also known as the “Temple of the Golden Buddha”, the Asiatique riverfront, Wat Arun—the “Temple of Dawn”, and the Grand Palace, adorned with murals, gilded spires and unique architectural design.
Royal Caribbean’s adventures are designed for the traveler that enjoys deep, intimate experiences combined with the comfort of knowing every detail has been taken care of.

Image Courtesy Royal Caribbean International

Friday, April 8, 2016

Celebrating Norwegian Joy's Keel Laying

Blessing the Coin
Norwegian Cruise Line 诺唯真 and executives at MEYER WERFT, celebrated the keel laying ceremony this week in Papenburg, Germany for Norwegian Joy 喜悦号 (Xǐ Yuè Hào), Norwegian’s first ever ship styled exclusively for Chinese guests. During the ceremony, the first of 80 blocks that will comprise the 168,800 gross ton vessel was lifted into the covered building hall, officially marking the start of the ship’s assembly. Cruise line executives were present in the hall and laid the traditional “lucky coin,” before the first block, weighing 680 tons, was placed by a massive crane.

A special commemorative coin featuring the ship was created to celebrate the day’s activities. In a ceremony (pictured above) held at the XingTian Temple at Fang Ta Park in Shanghai on March 31, 2016, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings China executives gathered for a traditional prayer and pledge ceremony to the Chinese Goddess of the sea, Mazu 媽祖, to bring blessings to the coins, the ship and all of the guests who sail on her. The same coin was then placed under the block during the ceremony.

“We are absolutely thrilled to celebrate the Keel Laying for Norwegian Joy today with our partners at MEYER WERFT,” said Norwegian Cruise Line President and Chief Operating Officer Andy Stuart. “Norwegian Joy is yet another evolution for Norwegian Cruise Line and we know the outstanding work of the teams at MEYER WERFT will truly make her a first class vessel.”

Home porting in Shanghai & Tianjin (Beijing), Norwegian Joy was designed by the team at NCL to provide First Class at Sea experiences specifically for the Chinese traveler, with onboard amenities that cater to the unique vacation desires of Chinese guests. Built at MEYER WERFT in Papenburg, Germany, the ship features German precision engineering to the highest possible standard, all while offering superior customization for the culture and preferences of Chinese guests along with the exciting and innovative features found on Norwegian’s most recent vessels.

Set to launch in summer 2017, Norwegian Joy’s experiences include a multitude of VIP accommodations, from exclusive suite complex The Haven by Norwegian®, an all-new Concierge category and the most family-friendly stateroom options in the fleet; along with a technology-driven interactive Galaxy Pavilion outfitted with bumper cars, Oculus Rift virtual reality; car racing simulators and much more. The ship’s top decks will feature the only race track at sea and laser tag, along with two waterslides and a serene open space for relaxation and renewal. Norwegian Joy will also offer international luxury shopping boutiques with renowned global luxury brands, in fashion, jewelry and electronics.

Photo Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Carnival's Honor. Family. Fun. Program Surprise with Superstar Carrie Underwood

Carnival Cruise Line has released the first in a new video series featuring heartwarming meet-and-greet opportunities between seven-time GRAMMY-award winning country superstar Carrie Underwood and U.S. military families recognized through the Honor. Family. Fun. program benefiting Operation Homefront. In the first video, Underwood surprises the Vaughn family, whose patriarch Phillip served in the U.S. Army, at a pre-concert event in Washington, D.C, during her Storyteller Tour. Underwood thanked Vaughn for his service to our country and invited his family, which includes his wife Jung Sun and kids Tara and Jeremy, to her special private concert for military families pierside aboard Carnival Vista in New York on Nov. 4, 2016. Carnival Cruise Director Butch Begovich then awarded the Vaughn family a free Carnival cruise.

“This initiative with Carrie and Operation Homefront has been extremely rewarding and this first video in the series featuring the Vaughn family shows how Honor. Family. Fun. is positively affecting so many people,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “The men and women of our military deserve our respect and admiration and we hope that Carnival’s small role in their lives will show them how much we value what they do for our country,” she added.

Carnival and Underwood have partnered on the year-long Honor. Family. Fun. initiative which is designed to support U.S. military families through Operation Homefront, the national nonprofit that builds strong, stable and secure military families. The Vaughns are among dozens of military families recognized during 10 stops on Underwood’s Storyteller Tour. During the pre-concert events, military families, chosen in partnership with Operation Homefront, were treated to a personal meet-and-greet with Underwood who then invited them to her exclusive concert aboard Carnival Vista.

“Meeting the Vaughn family was touching for me and I hope they are as excited to come to my concert in New York as I was to surprise them with the invitation,” said Underwood. “This program has afforded me the opportunity to personally thank these soldiers for all that they do, and I am grateful to be a part of something so positive and rewarding.”

Driving the effort to raise funds for Operation Homefront, supporters will have the opportunity to donate by clicking on the “Donate Now” button on Commemorative dog tags also are also available for purchase at merchandise stands at all The Storyteller Tour stops as well as throughout Carnival’s fleet with all proceeds going to Operation Homefront.

Carnival has also launched a new shipboard military appreciation program. Each ship is hosting a special event onboard to recognize active and retired military personnel and their families and kicks off with a welcome video featuring Underwood. The country music superstar also will join the Carnival LIVE! roster of artists in early 2017, with further details to be announced at a later date.

Carnival’s most family-friendly ship, Carnival Vista, will set sail in Europe in May 2016 and make her stateside debut in New York in November before repositioning to Miami for year-round service later that month.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Lugging my Luggage

Windstar Cruises Wind Surf
I have a confession. I’m a pack-aholic. I’m hopelessly addicted to overburdening my husband with suitcases that barely close and bulging garment bags. The overflow from my tote bag gets stashed in his pockets.

How did I get this way? It started on our first cruise when I forgot something. My fear of forgetfulness evolved into pages of packing lists and a day-by-day schedule of wardrobe requirements. It worked fine for me; until it didn’t. I packed too much. Airline restrictions on allowable carry on bags and overweight baggage charges trimmed my wings and lightened my pocketbook. What to do? It took drastic measures to cure me in time for future vacations.

We started by selecting a cruise that didn’t require formal wear. My husband suggested a laid-back sailing adventure where a clean golf shirt is de rigueur for the Captain’s Dinner. We decided a cruise line with a nightly dress code described as “country club casual” would make us both happy; informal dresses or pant outfits for me and sport shirts and slacks for him. Jacket and tie optional.

The next step was to devise a streamlined packing strategy...
~ Make a list and stick with it. Resist the urge to toss in something “just in case”—that’s the item you surely won’t need. Tuck a copy of your list in with your documents. If your luggage is waylaid, you’ll have a record of what it contains.

~ Color coordinate your wardrobe. Select one or two colors and mix and match items. Create different looks with accessories, either from home or purchased in port. Take only two pairs of shoes; comfortable all-purpose sandals for day and dressier shoes for evening. If you must have your big, clunky athletic shoes, wear them on the plane and pack the others.

~ Shop for clothing made of lightweight microfiber. It takes up less room, sheds wrinkles, and dries quickly. In terms of comfort, microfiber wicks moisture away from the body, keeping you cool and requiring fewer clothing changes. In a pinch, wash these items in your sink and hang to dry. A hairdryer speeds the process along in record time.

~ Pack small. Undergarments and knits take only a third of the suitcase space they normally occupy when they’re compressed. Simply fill the largest size zipper top storage bags with these articles and force all the air out before zipping them shut. Plan ahead and shop for sample or small size containers of your favorite toiletry items.

~ For wrinkle free garments, leave them on their hangers, cover them with dry cleaning bags, and fold over once before placing them in the suitcase. Unpacking is a snap. With this method, there’s no need to bring along a clothing steamer.

~ Make souvenir shirt purchases a part of your wardrobe plan. Tee shirts can also serve as a swimsuit cover up and nightshirt. Knit sport shirts can do double duty as well; a shirt worn a short time at dinner can easily be donned the next day for touring or lounging on the ship.

~ If the ship has self-service laundry facilities you can pack lighter and wash clothes mid-cruise. Remember, other passengers have the same idea and you might encounter long lines and surly tempers. Use the ship’s laundry service instead. It’s pricier but who wants to spend valuable cruise time washing clothes?

~ Use every bit of luggage space. Women’s shoes will fit inside men’s. Stuff socks and other small items inside larger space wasters. A tote bag that folds into its own zippered pocket is handy as a shopping or beach bag and invaluable when it’s time to pack the souvenirs that are preventing your suitcase from closing.

~ Cross-pack your luggage with your travel companion. Chances are if a suitcase is missing, it’ll turn up eventually. In the meantime you’ll both have fresh clothing until it does. It goes without saying, jewelry, medicine, cameras, and travel documents should never be packed in your checked luggage. Those items and a change of underclothes belong in your carry on tote.
Last, but not least, adhere to that old traveler’s adage, “Pack your suitcase and then remove half the contents before you close it.”

Did this work for me? Not entirely... it has taken more than twenty years, but I’m improving.

Photo © M. D. Coffman

(This story first appeared in the December 1999 issue of Cruise Travel Magazine)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Princess Cruises Continues Growth & Expansion with Orders for Two New Ships

Princess Cruises announced that it has reached an agreement with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri S.p.A. to build two new ships, entering into service in 2019 and 2020.

The finalization of the contract follows the announcement late last year of a memorandum of agreement between Princess Cruise's parent company, Carnival Corporation & plc and Fincantieri for five new ships including the two Princess Cruises new builds, as well as two for Costa Asia and one for P&O Cruises Australia. As the world's largest travel and leisure company, Carnival Corporation has an existing fleet of 100 cruise ships and a total of 16 new ships scheduled for delivery between 2016 and 2020.

The contract was signed on Saturday, April 2nd at a ceremony at Fincantieri's shipyard in Marghera attended by Italian Minister of Infrastructures and Transport Graziano Delrio, Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald, Fincantieri CEO Giuseppe Bono and Stein Kruse, CEO of Holland America Group, which includes Princess Cruises.

"We are incredibly proud and excited to add two new ships to our already formidable fleet," said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. "With this new ship commitment Princess Cruises will continue to grow and expand globally as the world's destination leader in premium cruising."

The unnamed 143,700-ton, 3,560-passenger ships will be the brand's fourth and fifth Royal-class vessels, featuring an evolution of the successful design platform used on Royal Princess, Regal Princess, and the new Majestic Princess coming in 2017. The new Princess ships will include the signature elements that have become synonymous with the brand's best-in-class guest experience featuring a soaring central atrium, multiple dining, entertainment and retail venues; outdoor theater experience; and 80 percent of all staterooms with balconies. The ships will also include new innovations to enhance the guest experience even further. Specific features and amenities for the ships, along with deployment details, will be revealed in the near future.

Regal Princess Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Monday, April 4, 2016

Holland America Line Gets the Keys to Koningsdam

On March 31st Holland America Line took delivery of ms Koningsdam, officially launching it as the first Pinnacle-Class ship in the fleet. The signing ceremony took place at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy, after which the Dutch flag was raised on the ship for the first time. Koningsdam will soon make its way to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, for its Premiere Voyage departing April 8. Following a series of premiere Mediterranean voyages, Koningsdam’s official naming ceremony will take place in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on May 20. Cruise Diva will be there to share the excitement with readers.

“Today is a day of celebration for the entire Holland America Line family, and a milestone in our company history. We all share in this proud moment as we welcome Koningsdam to our fleet,” said Orlando Ashford, president, Holland America Line. “Koningsdam looks spectacular, beyond our expectations, and we thank all those involved for their dedication and commitment in bringing our vision to life.”

Following the naming festivities in May, the ship will head to its summer home port of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and sail a series of northern Europe and Baltic cruises before returning to the Mediterranean in September. In the fall, the ship will head across the Atlantic Ocean to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where it will homeport at Port Everglades and spend the season exploring the Caribbean. Cruise Diva will also be on board then to delve further into the Pinnacle-Class experience.

The ultimate expression of Holland America Line’s brand evolution, the 99,500-ton vessel accommodates 2,650 guests and debuts several innovative concepts and new public spaces and venues while still featuring popular amenities guests associate with the cruise line. Koningsdam will feature Holland America Line’s first purpose-built staterooms for families and solo travelers among its 1,331 guest accommodations.

Guests will discover new fine-dining options at alternative restaurants Sel de Mer, a French seafood brasserie, and an immersive farm-to-table concept dinner experience in the Culinary Arts Center, presented by Food & Wine magazine. Grand Dutch Cafe debuts onboard with traditional Dutch treats and European beer, while a redesigned Lido Market with themed serving stations revolutionizes the buffet experience. A stunning main dining room is a focal point of the ship, and favorites return such as Pinnacle Grill, Canaletto Italian restaurant, and pan-Asian Tamarind.

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 (Cruise Diva’s personal favorite!), bringing the best of Memphis music to sea. With the 270-degree LED projection at World Stage, new concepts for show-time performances will immerse the audience in panoramic visual and sound effects.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Friday, April 1, 2016

Introducing The Observation Bar Aboard Seabourn Encore

With less than 10 months until the launch of Seabourn's newest luxury vessel, Seabourn Encore, the small-ship cruise line has shared design details of the ship's sophisticated Observation Bar. Located on Deck 11 and surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass walls, the Observation Bar will be the highest indoor viewing point on the ship—offering 270-degree forward-facing views for guests to enjoy at sea and in port. The centerpiece of the lounge will be a dramatic, semi-circular skylight to cast sunlight and moonlight over the bar area, while comfortable leather lounge chairs and handsome high-backed barstools surround the square bar.

The Observation Bar will feature a variety of culinary and beverage services every day from morning until night. In the morning, the Observation Bar will offer the Early Morning Riser continental breakfast, while afternoons will feature the line's popular daily white glove tea service. As the sun sets and well into the evening, the lounge will transform into a destination for cocktails, canapés, and piano entertainment before and after dinner.

"The Observation Bar is a stunning space that our guests will be able to enjoy throughout the day," said Richard Meadows, president of Seabourn. "It will be an ideal place to relax and share conversation with fellow guests while enjoying remarkable views."

When it is introduced in December 2016, Seabourn Encore will expand and build on the line's award-winning and highly acclaimed Odyssey-class ships with their enhanced accommodations and innovative amenities. Seabourn Encore will maintain the line's high ratio of space per guest, enabling highly personalized service. A sister ship, Seabourn Ovation, will join the fleet in 2018. Designed by hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany, Seabourn Encore will feature modern design elements and innovations consistent with the line's reputation for understated elegance. The 40,350-GRT ship will be configured with one additional deck and new expanded public areas, and is expected to carry just 600 guests, based on double occupancy. In addition, every suite will feature a private veranda.

Image Courtesy Seabourn