Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Royal Caribbean Cruises to Expand Oasis & Edge-Class

Always on the move, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has signed a memorandum of understanding with French Shipbuilder STX France to build a fifth Oasis-class ship for delivery in the Spring of 2021, and two additional Edge-class ships scheduled for delivery in the Fall of each of 2021 and 2022.

"The response to the arrival of Harmony of the Seas is staggering, eliciting excitement from eager cruisers from markets on both sides of the Atlantic," said Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "And Edge-class is one of the most highly anticipated new projects, following the high bar of design set by its predecessor, the Solstice-class."

"The Oasis-class ships have delivered beyond expectations each time," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. "Harmony of the Seas' warm reception is evidence that growing this class of ship will continue to drive exceptional performance for the brand."

"Although our first Edge-class vessel is still over two years away from delivery, there has been a tremendous amount of interest around the new standard of style Edge-class will introduce," said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO, Celebrity Cruises. "Solstice-class ushered in a new era of design for modern cruise ships, and Edge-class will not disappoint as the new generation of high style and design."

This order is contingent upon the completion of customary conditions, including documentation and financing. Final contracts, which include the definitive payment schedules, are expected to be completed within the quarter. Capacity increases for 2016 through 2020 remain unchanged.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Cruise Diva's Cruise Planner Receives 2016 Augusta Award

If I may, I'd like to take a little time out from cruise news to announce that Cruise Diva's Cruise Planner has been selected for the 2016 Augusta Award in the Travel category by the Augusta Award Program.

Each year, the Augusta Award Program identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Augusta, Georgia area a great place to live, work, and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2016 Augusta Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Augusta Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Augusta Award Program
The Augusta Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Augusta, Georgia area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Augusta Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community's contributions to the U.S. economy.

I'm honored as a small businesswoman and the creator of Cruise Diva's Cruise Planner to receive this award.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

H.S.H. Princess Charlene of Monaco Will Serve as Godmother for Seven Seas Explorer

Befitting their luxurious new ship, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer will enter service in royal fashion with Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco having kindly accepted the invitation to serve as the ship’s godmother at a gala christening event in Monte Carlo on the evening of July 13, 2016.

“It’s fitting to have the world’s most luxurious ship, Seven Seas Explorer, christened in one of the most glamorous cities in the world by H.S.H. Princess Charlene of Monaco, who is the definition of elegance, grace and passion,” said Jason Montague, president and COO, Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “Her Highness’ stature, Her career as a world class athlete and the charitable endeavors She pursues through the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation are inspiring. We are extremely proud and humbled that She agreed to serve as godmother for Seven Seas Explorer.”

Joining H.S.H. Princess Charlene at the christening ceremony for Seven Seas Explorer is world renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who will take the stage for a spectacular 40-minute performance during the event. Bocelli’s beautiful serenade will be a fitting send-off for a ship that sets a new benchmark for luxury.

“It’s such an honor to have Andrea Bocelli—a musical maestro with such an iconic and endearing voice—perform at the christening ceremony,” shared Montague. “We are making the christening ceremony for Seven Seas Explorer one for the ages, one that is truly befitting of the most luxurious ship ever built."

H.S.H. Princess Charlene of Monaco
Born in Zimbabwe, H.S.H Princess Charlene grew up in South Africa. A competitive swimmer, She represented South Africa during various world class competitions including the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. She married Albert II, the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, in July 2011. They are the parents of twins born in 2014, Crown Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella. In 2012, She launched The Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation whose mission is to teach children and adults basic water safety techniques and save lives. Drowning claims a reported 370,000 lives each year worldwide, however many cases go unreported, so the actual figure of drowning victims is sure to be higher.

As a world-renowned competitive swimmer, H.S.H. Princess Charlene spent years teaching underprivileged children basic water safety techniques for aquatic environments, using the approach that simple ideas often prove to be most effective. The Foundation sponsors a number of “Learn to Swim” and “Water Safety” programs in 27 countries throughout the world, including in the United States. H.S.H. Princess Charlene recently inaugurated the first U.S. chapter of the Foundation in Los Angeles on May 10, 2016. She is also Global Ambassador of Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Andrea Bocelli
Thrilling worldwide audiences for more than 20 years, Andrea Bocelli is a renowned Italian tenor and the most successful classical solo artist of all time. He has sold more than 80 million albums of both classical and pop music, and has performed for four U.S. presidents, three Popes, the British Royal Family, the Princely family of Monaco during the Princely wedding of HSH Prince Albert to HSH Princess Charlene, several Prime Ministers and at ceremonies for the Olympic Games, Shanghai World Expo and Expo Milan 2015. “Cinema,” his most recent album and 15th studio recording, was released in 75 countries and is dedicated to movie soundtracks. His Andrea Bocelli Foundation funds programs to overcome the barriers generated by poverty, disability and social exclusion.

Seven Seas Explorer
The newest member of the Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet, Seven Seas Explorer has been hailed as the most luxurious ship ever built. Carrying only 750 guests, it boasts one of the highest space ratios in the cruise industry and features extravagantly designed lounges and showplaces, and lavish gourmet restaurants. The all-suite ship is also home for the extravagant Regent Suite, a 3,875-square foot luxury suite with a cruise industry first in-suite spa retreat complete with unlimited complimentary spa treatments. The luxury liner’s maiden voyage is scheduled for July 20, 2016, and will spend its inaugural season in Europe before heading to Miami for a series of Caribbean voyages.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Harmony of the Seas: Why I Like It & Why I Don’t

Francesca Bandini of Ocean World Travel, a cruise specialist in the UK, has just returned from a short cruise aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas, which recently arrived in Southampton. Francesca has graciously shared her impressions of the largest ship in the world with us:

“Throughout the year news has been reported about the wonders of this incredibly exciting cruise ship, the only one of this kind: the attractions on board are endless and there is no time for boredom.

I was one of the lucky guests who got the chance to embark on the pre-inaugural sailing of Harmony on May 18, 2016. Other cruise specialists like us were on board, as well as travel agents and a very limited number of VIP guests. Needless to say, that I enjoyed the whole experience very much—the sumptuousness of the ship cannot be described in words, it is something that needs to be experienced in first person. However, I am more than happy to share with you all what I like and dislike about the biggest ship of the world.

What do I like most about Harmony of the Seas? The first word which comes into my mind when replying to this question is “Everything.” I loved literally every single spot. A lot of thought have been put in the smallest details. Yet I decided to write a list of my favourite impressive things
• Décor: all the furnishing is of the highest quality both in the staterooms and in the various restaurants and bars.
• Food: I tested various venues, I must say that I enjoyed everything. Particularly, the choice at the buffet for breakfast is incredible, there is everything for any liking: cooked English breakfast, fresh pastries, freshly sliced meat and cheese, various compotes and sauces, muesli, yogurt, pancakes, omelettes, homemade biscuits, a lot of fruits, dried fruits, nuts, delicious sweet toppings… I don’t think I could wish for more.
• Entertainments: a theatre, an ice skating ring, a jazz club, live music in various venues, cabaret, there is a great deal of choice when it comes to spending your evenings on board. Harmony of the Seas is hosting the biggest cast of performers at sea.
• Cabins’ balconies: very spacious and fully equipped to enjoy the sunshine.
• “Escape the room” by Puzzle Break: this is the first time that a ship is hosting a puzzle game. I was one of the first to try out the whole game: we had to escape from a shuttle and we had only one hour to get all the clues.
What do I dislike of Harmony of the Seas?
• No covered pool: there is not a covered pool where you can relax in case the weather is bad. In fact, I could not try out any of the on board pools. We must say there are two small roofed hot tubs.
• Outdoor activities restrained by weather conditions: if it rains, all the magnificent outdoor activities are not functioning, such as the Ultimate Abyss slide or the Flowrider etc. This is a pity because people who have the bad luck of rain should have more activities inside.
However, we understand that Harmony of the Seas is a ship built to face only sunny cruising. I can recommend Harmony of the Seas to everyone who desire a high quality cruise with a bit of excitement.”

Thank you for your impressions, Francesca!

Image: Harmony of the Seas arrives in Southampton,
Courtesy of Royal Caribbean

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Racing Aboard Norwegian Joy

When Norwegian Cruise Line's next vessel Norwegian Joy reaches its home ports in Shanghai & Tianjin (Beijing), passengers can look forward to a unique attraction on board. A first at sea, Norwegian Joy will feature a fully equipped premium Go-Kart track.

The 230 meters long racetrack will be located on the ship's upper decks, 18 and 19, and will be equipped with 20 karts, a viewing platform, covered pit lane, workshop, storage room, timing system, and floodlights. Currently under construction at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, Norwegian Joy will accommodate 3,900 guests.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Koningsdam is Christened & Next New Ship Gets a Name

If you’ve been following Cruise Diva’s tweets, you know we were on board when Holland America Line held a Dedication Ceremony for ms Koningsdam last Friday in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands officially blessed the bell and named Koningsdam on board the ship in front of invited dignitaries, cruise guests, travel partners, and media.

The celebration began with Her Majesty Queen Máxima performing the ceremonial honors of blessing the ship’s bell in the Lido pool area by pouring a glass of champagne over the bell. The blessing of the bell is a hallowed Holland America Line tradition when welcoming a new ship to the fleet. Her Majesty also was the first to sign Koningsdam’s commemorative wall that will become a permanent installation on the ship. Next, the ship was officially christened during a ceremony in the World Stage theater when Her Majesty Queen Máxima pulled a rope to trigger the traditional champagne bottle break on Koningsdam’s hull.

“It’s an honor to have Her Majesty Queen Máxima as the godmother to Koningsdam, and May 20 was a truly special day with Her Majesty delivering the ceremonial traditions of welcoming our newest ship to the fleet,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “As our company was founded in Rotterdam more than 143 years ago, it was fitting to return to our roots for Koningsdam’s royal dedication.”

In the evening the ship set sail for Amsterdam and a stunning fireworks display lit up the sky as Koningsdam passed Hoek van Holland.

Additionally, during the Dedication Ceremony Orlando Ashford announced that the name of the next Pinnacle Class ship set for delivery in fall 2018 will be ms Nieuw Statendam. Honoring the company’s past while keeping its eyes on the future, Nieuw Statendam will be the sixth ship in Holland America Line’s history to bear the name Statendam. It will be built at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy, and construction will begin this summer.

Like sister-ship ms Koningsdam, Nieuw Statendam represents a new class of ship for the cruise line. Carrying 2,650 guests, the 99,500-gross-ton ship will feature several of the innovative venues that were introduced on Koningsdam as well as new concepts that will debut on the newbuild.

Renowned hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany’s designs will be featured on Nieuw Statendam, bringing his unique vision to this latest vessel as he did with Koningsdam. Also, several public areas will be designed by Bjorn Storbraaten, who successfully worked with Holland America Line on Koningsdam, ms Eurodam, and ms Nieuw Amsterdam in designing the ship’s public rooms.

It was quite an honor to be on board for the christening and to be invited to bless the bell and sign the commemorative wall. I look forward to sailing again on Koningsdam in November and looking for my signature.

Images Courtesy of Holland America Line
© Linda Coffman

Friday, May 20, 2016

At Home Aboard Koningsdam

As expected of a Holland America Line ship, our stateroom is well laid out and very comfortable with plenty of storage. A new feature that's very handy and much appreciated is the USB charging ports found at the desk alongside three electrical outlets. In addition, there's an electrical outlet and USB charging port above each nightstand. Someone has been listening to passenger wants and needs.

Well done, Holland America!

Image (c) Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Taste of De Librije

In addition to being offered on certain nights in the Pinnacle Grill aboard Holland America Line's ms Rotterdam and ms Eurodam, A Taste of De Librije will be available on ms Koningsdam.

Our dinner aboard Koningsdam tonight was a delight. Pictured here is Deconstructed Apple Pie with vanilla gelato and Chantilly-style cream. Accompanied by coffee and 2013 Errazuriz Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, it was an absolutely delicious end to the meal.

Watch for more details here and at CruiseDiva.com.

Holland America Line Presents A Taste of De Librije

Chef Jonnie Boer & ms Konigsdam, a delicious combination
While Holland America Line’s culinary offerings expanded with the debut of an alternative dining option called “Taste of De Librije,” it has thus far been featured exclusively aboard ms Rotterdam and ms Eurodam. Featuring the cuisine of Holland America’s Culinary Council member and Michelin Star Chef Jonnie Boer—and named after Boer’s restaurant in Zwolle, Netherlands—the menu showcases a selection of starters, soups, entrees and desserts from De Librije.

Once per cruise on ms Rotterdam and ms Eurodam, the Pinnacle Grill is transformed into De Librije. The service staff wear the livery uniforms, tables replicate that of the land-based restaurant, and he wine list highlights a selection of labels from the Lady De Librije collection. As a treat for those of us attending the ms Koningsdam naming event tomorrow, Chef Boer will be on hand to host a special “Taste of De Librije” dinner tonight, of which I will be able to share highlights later.

The five-course menu starts with North Sea Scallops served to all diners. From there, they can select among three appetizers, two soups, four entrees, and three desserts.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fathom Adds Voyages Through December 2017

Fathom, the social impact travel cruise brand that sails under Carnival Corporation's umbrella, has announced additional sailing dates that extend Fathom MV Adonia's stay in the Caribbean region through December 2017. The move comes as demand continues to grow for Fathom's unique style—a different kind of cruise that combines travel with the desire to make a difference in the world.

Tara Russell, president of Fathom and global impact lead for Carnival Corporation, said, "Fathom resonates with travelers as the best way to travel with intention, to culturally immerse, to experience and to see more. For example, Fathom visits three incredible, diverse locations in Cuba during its itinerary while having the convenience of unpacking once and savoring the comforts of premium accommodations aboard the intimate, small-ship, MV Adonia—not to mention its excellent and diverse dining, service, and onboard amenities."

According to Russell, Fathom also appeals to travelers as a meaningful way to experience personal growth while making purposeful and engaging contributions to the world, starting in the Dominican Republic. "There is genuine excitement about Fathom's ability to empower travelers to serve and immerse alongside locals in the Dominican Republic to create scalable and sustainable, transformative impact that will play an important role in helping the Caribbean region flourish," she said.

Fathom will depart on weekly 7-day voyages from PortMiami aboard the MV Adonia, a 704-passenger vessel redeployed from Carnival Corporation's P&O Cruises (UK) brand and ideal for delivering an intimate onboard experience. Dates for 7-day voyages departing on Sundays roundtrip from Miami during late-2016 and 2017 include the dates below. Fathom's reservations systems will be ready to take 2017 bookings by June 1, 2016.
-- Dominican Republic: Dec. 4, Dec. 18, Jan. 1, Jan. 15, Jan. 29, Feb. 12, Feb. 26, March 12, March 26, April 9, April 23, May 7, May 21, June 4, June 18, July 2, July 16, July 30, Aug. 13, Aug. 27, Sept. 10, Sept. 24, Oct. 8, Oct. 22, Nov. 5, Nov. 19, Dec. 3, Dec. 17, Dec. 31

-- Cuba: Nov. 27, Dec. 11, Dec. 25, Jan. 8, Jan. 22, Feb. 5, Feb. 19, March 5, March 19, April 2, April 16, April 30, May 14, May 28, June 11, June 25, July 9, July 23, Aug. 6, Aug. 20, Sept. 3, Sept. 17, Oct. 1, Oct. 15, Oct. 29, Nov. 12, Nov. 26, Dec. 10, Dec. 24
"The decision to add 2017 Fathom sailing dates underscores our enthusiasm for Fathom and our experience to date with the impact it is having," said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. "The feedback from travelers, travel professionals, community leaders, and our own employees has been extremely positive. Our travelers and trade partners are asking for additional sailing dates—and we are happy to oblige."

This announcement implies that Fathom was something of an experiment, initially launched for a limited time. With sailing dates extending through 2017, it appears that the experiment is a success.

Image Courtesy of Fathom

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Celebrity Cruises’ Millenium Completes Makeover

Movies viewed under the stars and paired with a specially curated menu of delectable food; freshly redecorated suites; a modernized, fully realized Italian steakhouse—these are just some of the features now found aboard Celebrity Millennium. This month, the 2,138-guest vessel emerged from a drydock refresh with the same lineup of enhancements that Celebrity Summit and Celebrity Infinity have received in recent months.

The new Rooftop Terrace, on the ship’s 12th deck—complete with its large screen, chaise lounges, cabanas, soundscape, and decorative lighting—is a modern relaxing backdrop for Celebrity’s new multisensory experience, “A Taste of Film,” which presents films that evoke a specific cultural, culinary or destination experience, paired with cuisine that brings the scenes on the screen to life through guests’ taste buds. The cruise brand’s culinary team, led by Michelin-starred chef Cornelius Gallagher, has specially crafted a multi-course tasting menu for each “A Taste of Film” selection. The Rooftop Terrace is .

Additional drydock enhancements included significant renovations of the ship’s Penthouse and Royal Suites. As part of the $8 million refresh plan, Celebrity is investing heavily in its Suite Class experience on Celebrity Millennium, as every Penthouse and Royal Suite received new glimmering fixtures, marble surfaces, and comfortable seats in the bathrooms. The rest of the suite got refreshing touches like new carpeting, drapes, and bed linens.

Conversion of Celebrity Millennium’s Olympic restaurant to Tuscan Grille, Celebrity’s popular, Italian-inspired steakhouse that debuted on its Solstice Class ships, includes complete refinishing of the space and the introduction of a refreshed menu, including fresh pasta made in-house; an Italian cocktail menu, a first for Tuscan Grille; a wine list focused on the wine-growing regions of Italy; and new foods like artisanal salami and cheeses; crispy crab arancini with lemon pepper aioli; grilled branzino with spinach and olive oil; swordfish with Castelvetrano olives, fennel and white wine; and oven-roasted USDA Prime dry-aged steak.

Although we are sad to lose the Olympic restaurant aboard Celebrity Millennium, the maritime artifacts in the Olympic will be featured in a special display area in the casino’s entry vestibule. Items include charts, maps, an original place setting, a ship model, and more.

Additional work on board included:
• The addition of an enclosed portrait studio similar to that found on Celebrity’s Solstice Class ships, Celebrity Eclipse and Celebrity Equinox
• The creation of a new future cruise sales office, where guests can take advantage of special offers
• A refresh of the Solarium, with new furniture, new floors, and refinished pool tops, and a refresh of finishes in the spa café
• The removal of the themed décor in the ship’s casino
Celebrity Millennium entered drydock on April 26, 2016 and emerged on May 12, 2016. Guests sailing on the ship in Alaska this summer will be among the first to enjoy her new spaces and experiences before she heads to Asia in September for her winter season there.

Image Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Monday, May 16, 2016

Royal Caribbean Honors Harmony Of The Seas' Crew

At a traditional delivery and flag changing ceremony last week in Saint Nazaire, France, Royal Caribbean International honored the crew and project team of the new Harmony of the Seas (pictured here). Following 32 months of construction at the STX France shipyard involving thousands of shipyard employees, sub-contractors and suppliers, the world's largest cruise ship is now home to 2,100 crew members from 77 different nationalities.

"Harmony is truly magnificent in every sense of the word, from her architecture and design to the level of care and attention to detail with which our incredible crew are taking to prepare for our first guests," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International. "The ship is the 'best of the best' of what our guests love most about Royal Caribbean, combined with new and thrilling experiences never before found in one place but it is the passion and dedication of our crew that will make everlasting memories for our guests."

Costing more than a $1billion, Harmony of the Seas will be the 25th ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet and boasts highly anticipated first-at-sea experiences, including:
• A 100-foot drop with The Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea, plunging courageous adrenaline seekers 10 stories down from deck 16 to the Boardwalk on deck 6
• 4,700,000 lbs. (2,150 tons) of water in 23 swimming pools, whirlpools, two FlowRider surf simulators and waterslides, including the Perfect Storm, a thrilling trio of waterslides, and the Splashaway Bay waterpark for young guests
• The first double-story Wonderland, the specialty restaurant concept first introduced onboard the global cruise line’s Quantum class of ships delivering an imaginative and whimsical feast for all the senses
• The debut of Broadway’s hit musical Grease in the Royal Theater and spectacular diving shows in the AquaTheater
• 11,252 works of art showcased throughout the ship and Central Park, a living park in the center of the ship which features a total of 10,587 plants, 48 vine plants and 52 trees, some over 20 feet (6.1 meters) high
• VOOM, the fastest internet at sea, available exclusively to Royal Caribbean guests, which allows travelers to seamlessly stay connected, stream their favorite entertainment, video chat and share their adventures with friends and family at home
Harmony of the Seas spans 16 guest decks, encompasses 227,000 gross registered tons, carries 5,479 guests at double occupancy, features 2,747 staterooms, and is the world's largest cruise ship with a bold lineup of experiences found nowhere else on land or sea. Additionally, Harmony of the Seas combines the distinct seven neighborhood concept that Royal Caribbean's Oasis class of ships are known for with some of the most modern and groundbreaking amenities. Innovative features include The Ultimate Abyss, a thrilling slide 10 stories high—the tallest at sea, robot bartenders, virtual balconies with real-time views of the destination for interior rooms, and VOOM—the fastest internet at sea—so that guests can stay connected, stream their favorite entertainment and share their adventures.

Entertainment in the air, in water, and on ice will keep guests dazzled with exciting high-diving, acrobatic and aquatic performances in the deepest pool at sea at the iconic AquaTheater; an ice show extravaganza and Broadway's hit musical Grease. Imaginative dining in the ship's 20 venues include the widest variety of cuisine from Wonderland, a whimsical culinary adventure for the senses, to the popular Jamie's Italian by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Harmony of the Seas will homeport in Barcelona, Spain and embark on the first of 34 seven-night sailings in the western Mediterranean on June 7, exploring some of Europe's most interesting locations. In November 2016, Harmony will arrive at her homeport of Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, FL, from where she will offer 7-night eastern and western Caribbean sailings. The newest member of the fleet will join sister-ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, sailing from Port Canaveral and Port Everglades respectively, on the east coast of Florida.

Image Courtesy Royal Caribbean

Friday, May 13, 2016

Royal Caribbean Revitalizes Six Ships

Royal Caribbean will revitalize six ships in its fleet this year: Liberty of the Seas, Empress of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, and Radiance of the Seas. The massive project will introduce some of the many features the cruise line is known for. Take a look at how these ships are transformed bringing the best of Royal Caribbean onboard.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

SeaDream Yacht Club Plans 2017 Wine Voyages

Wine aficionados who also love small ship yachting can start to make plans for a special sailing experience next year. Continuing its commitment to and enhancing the superbly established level of award-winning culinary experiences, SeaDream Yacht Club announces seven new Wine Voyages for the 2017 season. Showcasing the most picturesque yachting ports of the Mediterranean on 7- to 11-day sailings, each itinerary pairs the ultimate wine experience with the most scenic backdrops in the world. Whether a seasoned wine connoisseur or new to learning about and liking wine, these voyages are a perfect occasion for developing skills and passions regarding wine and cooking.

Guests onboard these vino-centric sailings will enjoy select premium tastings from celebrated wineries such as Château Gassier, Tenuta San Guido, and Taittinger Champagne. As an exclusive to the Taittinger Voyage, Clovis Taittinger will be onboard followed by Maison Louis Jadot showcasing two of France’s best qualities, champagne and the famous Burgundy region. At the popular Winemaker’s Dinner, SeaDream’s Executive Chef will prepare a distinctive menu to complement and enhance the expressive wines of guest winemakers such as Philipp Wittman, Marilisa Allegrini, and Francesco Mazzei. The Winemaker’s Dinner offers a wine-by-the-glass package, for an additional cost.

Exclusive shore excursions take guests off the beaten path to explore the different foods, wines and cultures of the Mediterranean. At each port of call, guests can choose from a variety of activities to enhance their onboard wine experience. Guests can explore the stunning Sorrentino Winery at the base of the volcanic Mount Vesuvius, attend a wine tasting and truffle hunt at Castello delle Regine, or learn the art of making classic paella and how to pair it with local wines in Cartagena.

“The best way to truly know a place is to experience it through its people, food and wine,” explains SeaDream Yacht Club President Bob Lepisto. “Through our innovative itineraries, high attention to detail, and impeccable service, we are constantly striving to provide the ultimate guest experience both at sea and ashore.”

Additional highlights of the SeaDream 2017 Wine Voyages include a high crew to guest ratio, personalized onboard entertainment, a state of the art fitness center, and cuisine that competes with the ever-changing views. Smaller ports make for memorable shoreside experiences away from the crowd and allow even the most seasoned travelers the opportunity to discover new favorite destinations.

Below is a full listing of SeaDream’s 2017 Wine Voyage itineraries:
• Lisbon to Barcelona, departing April 27–May 6, 2017. Nine days including boutique ports of Portimao, Gibraltar, Puerto Banus, Malaga, Cartagena, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca, and Menorca.
• Civitavecchia (Rome) round trip,departing June 10-17, 2017. Seven days including ports of Bonifacio (Corsica) overnight, Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento, and Capri.
• Civitavecchia (Rome) round trip, departing June 17–24, 2017. Seven days including ports of Portoferraio, Portovenere, Marina di Carrara (Florence, Lucca), Portofino, Saint Florent, and Porto Vecchio.
• Civitavecchia (Rome) to Venice, departing Aug 19–30, 2017. Eleven days calling on ports of Capri, Amalfi overnight, Positano, Taormina (Sicily), Kotor (Montenegro), Dubrovnik, Korcula, Hvar, and Rovinj.
• Piraeus (Athens) to Civitavecchia (Rome), departing Sept 23–30, 2017. Seven days calling on Hydra, Corinth Canal (Transit), Itea (Delphi), Taormina (Sicily), Amalfi overnight, and Capri.
• Civitavecchia (Rome) to Nice, departing Sept 30–Oct 7, 2017. Seven days calling on Porto Ercole, Portoferraio (Elba), Livorno (for Florence), Portovenere, Portofino, and Monte Carlo.
• Nice to Malaga, departing Oct 7–16, 2017. Nine days calling on St. Tropez, Sanary-sur-Mer, Cassis, Sète, Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, and Cartagena.
SeaDream's inclusive fare includes ocean view accommodations, gourmet meals, gratuities, wine with lunch and dinner and so much more.

Image Courtesy SeaDream Yacht Club

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Carnival Valor Gets A Makeover

In preparation for its new year-round program of 3- and 4-day voyages from Port Canaveral kicking off later this year—and to add Carnival 2.0 upgrades already in place on fleetmates—Carnival Valor has undergone an extensive renovation that added a variety of dining and bar concepts, including Guy’s Burger Joint, RedFrog Pub, SkyBox Sports Bar, RedFrog Rum Bar (pictured here), BlueIguana Tequila Bar, and Alchemy Bar. The new spaces were added during a dry dock that began April 23 and ran through May 8, 2016.

Carnival Valor offers a convenient and affordable choice from Port Canaveral, with a host of exciting new innovations as well as popular features like a reservations-only steakhouse and nearly 600 balcony staterooms—rare for a short cruise itinerary,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “We’re sure our guests are going to love all the new features and our travel agent partners will appreciate this exciting new cruise vacation option departing from the Space Coast,” she added.

Carnival Valor is one of four ships that sail from Port Canaveral which is also home to Carnival Magic and Carnival Victory offering year-round departures, as well as Carnival Sunshine operating seasonal sailings. Together, these four ships will carry more than 650,000 guests a year—more than any other cruise operator sailing from Port Canaveral.

New features being added to Carnival Valor include:
• Guy’s Burger Joint: a free-of-charge poolside venue developed in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri serving hand-crafted burgers and fresh-cut fries in an atmosphere that celebrates the chef’s California roots and love of car culture
• RedFrog Rum Bar: a poolside bar offering the quintessential Caribbean vacation vibe with refreshing Caribbean rum-based frozen drinks and beers, including Carnival’s own ThirstyFrog Red
• BlueIguana Tequila Bar: a fun and festive outdoor watering hole offering a laid-back Mexican-themed atmosphere and tequila-based frozen drinks and beers, perfect for chillin’ by the pool
• BlueIguana Cantina: a complimentary poolside Mexican eatery where guests can enjoy authentic, freshly made burritos and tacos on homemade tortillas, as well as an elaborate toppings and salsa bar
• RedFrog Pub: at this tropics-inspired watering hole, guests can enjoy the Caribbean’s best rums and beers—including, of course, Carnival’s own ThirstyFrog Red—while soaking up the distinct British-West-Indies-meets-Key-West ambiance
• Alchemy Bar: a vintage-themed cocktail “pharmacy” that’s the go-to spot for guests seeking a unique experience with mixologists who “prescribe” concoctions from different elixirs and ingredients or guests’ own custom-created cocktails
• SkyBox Sports Bar: a sports lovers’ paradise where guests can catch live sporting events and check out scores on the real-time 24/7 sports ticker
• Cherry On Top: the “sweetest spot on board” which celebrates simple indulgences with bins of bulk candy, fun fanciful gifts and novelties, custom apparel, and more
Carnival Valor kicks off its year-round 3- and 4-day Bahamas cruise schedule from Port Canaveral Oct. 30, 2016. On this route, 3-day cruises depart Thursdays and call at Nassau while 4-day voyages depart Sundays and feature Nassau and Freeport.

In the meantime, Carnival Valor will offer a series of 3- to 5-day cruises in May 2016, as well as a program of 5- and 8-day departures through October 2016. The 3- to 5-day sailings will take place throughout May, visiting popular ports like Grand Turk, Amber Cove, Half Moon Cay, Nassau and Freeport. The ship will also offer a one-time 6-day cruise departing May 15 featuring Nassau, Amber Cove and Grand Turk.

The 5- to 8-day voyages will run June 4 to Sept. 30, 2016. Five-day cruises visit Nassau, Half Moon Cay and Freeport. Eight-day eastern Caribbean cruises call at Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Kitts and St. Maarten and 8-day southern Caribbean sailings include Aruba, Grand Turk and Curaçao or Bonaire.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Carnival Cruise Line Offers Special Savings For Active & Retired Service Members During National Military Appreciation Month

In honor of the men and women who serve in the U.S. and Canadian military, Carnival Cruise Line is offering active and retired service members special savings and bonuses during May to mark National Military Appreciation Month.

The promotion, which provides a $50 onboard credit per cabin and a two-category upgrade, can be combined with Carnival’s highly attractive military rates. In addition, guests who qualify for the month-long promotion can book up to two additional staterooms with the same bonuses and pricing. The promotion can be booked throughout the month of May and is applicable for cruises departing between August 2016 and April 2018.

“Carnival has a long-established history of providing special consideration to our military men and women and we are pleased to offer these exclusive benefits during Military Appreciation Month,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “During every Carnival cruise, service members are also honored at a special military appreciation event we kicked off earlier this year in conjunction with our Honor.Family.Fun. program which is raising funds for Operation Homefront.”

Throughout the year-long Honor.Family.Fun. initiative, those wishing to support the cause can contribute by clicking on the “Donate Today” button at carnival.com/HonorFamilyFun. Commemorative dog tags are available for purchase on board Carnival ships, with all proceeds supporting Operation Homefront.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Monday, May 9, 2016

More High Speed WiFi Going To Sea

Hot on the heels of similar announcements by several other cruise lines, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings will quadruple the current bandwidth across its Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleets in the coming months to meet the rising internet expectations of cruise guests. The quadrupling of bandwidth is part of a long term strategic agreement with EMC to significantly enhance the internet experience onboard all 23 ships in the Company’s fleet. To support the new WiFi network, multi-million dollar bandwidth and performance-boosting technology upgrades will be installed fleet-wide before the end of June, including new state of the art satellite dishes, and EMC’s patented SpeedNet program. The SpeedNet program delivers popular websites at speeds that mimic high-speed fiber optic networks, similar to those available in homes and offices. The WiFi experience is further enhanced by the recent deployment of high speed shoreside connectivity in key ports of call.

“With the addition of new hardware, combined with the significant increase in satellite bandwidth, shoreside connectivity and EMC’s SpeedNet, we have moved beyond the decade old problem of slow data speeds from satellite to deliver a much more efficient and faster internet experience for our guests,” said Ross Henderson, vice president, onboard revenue, at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. “Our guests can consume content, post to social media, and stay in touch with family and friends on the ships’ network just as they are used to on land,” Henderson continued.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings selected EMC based on its priority software, maritime experience, and unparalleled network coverage to provide the highest quality of experience and satisfaction to cruise guests. Guests on all Norwegian, Oceania, and Regent ships can expect to experience the new, lightning-fast WiFi powered by SpeedNet by July 2016. Regent Seven Seas Cruises guests enjoy complimentary WiFi, as part of the line’s most inclusive luxury cruise experience. Oceania Cruise guests sailing under the current OLife Choice promotion and Norwegian Cruise Line guests who selected free WiFi as part of the company’s Free at Sea promotion will also enjoy the new internet experience on their cruise. For those purchasing a plan, per minute packages as well as unlimited access packages are available for pre-book or onboard.

Image © Cruise Diva

Friday, May 6, 2016

Hospitality Designer Reveals How Design Influences Travel

Holland America Line shares with us the final installment of the "Conversations with Adam D. Tihany" video series, in which internationally acclaimed hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany reflects on the reasons people travel and his goal of creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience when designing interior spaces for Holland America Line's ms Koningsdam. The new Pinnacle-Class cruise ship began service in early April in Europe.

Cruise Diva will be on board soon for the royal christening so it is particularly interesting to learn that when it came to a design vision for Koningsdam, Tihany wanted to create an experience that inspires guests to return. He believes that the art of design can influence the way a guest explores new places, and with Koningsdam it was about creating memorable experiences.

"Holland America Line guests are passionate about travel and the experience of the journey, and Adam's designs on Koningsdam perfectly reflect the romance of ocean-going travel and the enduring memories we strive to create," said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. "While every ship is incredible in its own way, Koningsdam truly stands out with its light-filled spaces and beautifully curved lines. Our guests will feel how special this ship is the moment they step on board."

The desire for a touch of glamour when traveling also influenced Tihany's aesthetics on board, which can be seen through unique touches and visually stunning architecture. Tihany's overall vision was the "Architecture of Music," and the curves of elegant instruments are reflected throughout the public areas on the ship. Spaces flow naturally into each other, allowing guests to connect not only with one another but with the environment of each venue as well.

"We need to do everything possible to surprise and delight our guests, and from my side it's the design," said Tihany. "The greatest thing people bring back from traveling the world is memories, and I want their memory of their experience on Koningsdam to be once-in-a-lifetime."

Video Courtesy Holland America Line

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Princess Introduces Club Class Mini-Suite Category

Mini-suites have never been sweeter now that Princess Cruises is introducing  a new premium stateroom category featuring VIP amenities with the new Club Class Mini-Suite. This elevated mini-suite category features select perks including new Club Class Dining, a reserved dining area with expedited seating and expanded menu options; priority embarkation and disembarkation; and Club Class guests will be among the first to sleep on the new Princess Luxury Bed.

Debuting on select ships beginning in December 2016, Club Class Mini-Suites will roll out through the fall of 2017 in association with the cruise line’s “Come Back New Promise,” which delivers a premium cruise vacation featuring innovative and desirable product enhancements. Club Class Mini-Suite will debut on board Ruby Princess (Dec 10, 2016) and Emerald Princess (Dec 12, 2016), followed by Island Princess (Jan 4, 2017), Sapphire Princess (Jan 7, 2017), Regal Princess (Jan 8, 2017), Grand Princess (Jan 9, 2017), Royal Princess (Jan 29, 2017), Coral Princess (Feb 6, 2017), Majestic Princess (Mar 30, 2017), Sun Princess (Apr 5 2017), Crown Princess (Apr 8, 2017), Star Princess (Apr 11, 2017), Caribbean Princess (Apr 6, 2017), Diamond Princess (Apr 20, 2017), Pacific Princess (Jun 9, 2017), Sea Princess (Sep 2, 2017) and Golden Princess (Oct 2, 2017).

“Club Class Mini-Suites provide Princess guests yet another elevated product enhancement to enjoy during their cruise vacation,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. “The VIP perks, including the new Club Class Dining, offers a premium and memorable onboard experience so our guests can completely relax, unwind and immerse themselves in worldwide destinations and ultimately ‘come back new.’”

Club Class Dining
Offering guests more convenience and tempting fares, Club Class Dining includes:
• Dedicated area of the Main Dining Room with expedited seating
• Dedicated wait staff and uniquely-styled table décor
• Exclusive menu options with daily chef’s special and table-side preparations
• Open every evening for dinner and for breakfast and lunch on sea days
Upgraded Amenities & Services
Club Class Mini-Suite guests will also enjoy the following additional VIP perks:
• The Princess Luxury Bed: Club Class guests will be among the first to experience the “Ultimate Sleep at Sea,” in the new bed designed in collaboration with board certified sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus and HGTV Designer Candice Olson
• Priority check-in and boarding at the beginning of the cruise and priority disembarkation at the end of the cruise
• One-time complimentary wine set-up on embarkation day (1/2 bottle of red and white)
• Evening canapés (upon request)
• Luxurious terry shawl bathrobes
In addition to Club Class Dining and upgraded amenities and services, Club Class Mini-Suites include all of the standard mini-suite benefits featuring spacious staterooms, up to 323 square feet with balcony, separate seating area with sofa bed and coffee table, bathroom with combination tub and shower and a welcome glass of champagne, among others.

Full Suite guests will also enjoy all the benefits of Club Class Mini-Suites including Club Class Dining, and be among the first to experience the new Princess Luxury Bed, in addition to the many other amenities offered with a Full Suite.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

New Cruise Review: Norwegian Star

Keith Henderson takes us along on a Western Caribbean sailing aboard Norwegian Star with a comprehensive review of the onboard experience—from dining and entertainment to activities and spa features—along with what to see and do in ports of call.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Holland America Line Launches Seattle’s Alaska Cruise Season

Holland America Line’s ms Nieuw Amsterdam arrived at the Port of Seattle Friday, April 29, 2016, marking the start of the city’s summer Alaska homeport cruise season. The line increased its Seattle calls this year to 55, and three Holland America Line ships will sail roundtrip Seattle routes in 2016: ms Westerdam arrives Saturday, May 7; ms Amsterdam arrives Sunday, May 22; and ms Maasdam arrives Monday, May 23, to begin their Alaska sailings from Seattle. New to Alaska cruising, Nieuw Amsterdam’s arrival at Seattle is the start of a one-day cruise to Vancouver, British Columbia, to reposition to its summer homeport.

In addition to the 48 roundtrip Seattle cruises to Alaska this season, three cruises to Australia/New Zealand or Hawaii/South Pacific will begin or end at Seattle, including Amsterdam’s 53-day Tales of the South Pacific voyage and Maasdam’s 23-day South Pacific Crossing. All of the options combined make a total of 55 calls by five ships—ms Zaandam makes one Seattle call—that will welcome more than 86,000 guests to Seattle.

“As Seattle’s hometown cruise line it’s fitting that one of our ships is kicking off the city’s Alaska season, a time we eagerly anticipate each year,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “Holland America Line is headquartered in Seattle, and we take great pride in being a significant contributor to the local economy and in actively giving back to our community.”

In the coming year, Holland America Line expects to contribute $389 million to the Seattle economy and $547 million across Washington State. The cruise line employs 1,170 people at its Elliott Avenue headquarters in Seattle. Provisioning costs each time a ship calls at Seattle average about $300,000 per visit. Holland America Line works with more than 600 Washington vendors, from food and beverage suppliers to piano tuners, office supply stores and marine suppliers, among many more. For example, Westerdam requires over 23,000 eggs and 1,375 gallons of milk each week—all of which come from local farmers. In addition, local growers supply 147,550 pounds of fresh produce a week.

Also contributing to Holland America Line’s economic impact is spending by passengers and crew in local shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, museums, attractions and taxis. Other expenditures include ship maintenance and port fees, charges and taxes. Holland America Line ships have been sailing from the Port of Seattle since the 1970s. In May 2002, Holland America Line began using Seattle as a home port for Alaska cruises.

Image © Cruise Diva

Monday, May 2, 2016

Carnival Cruise Line Takes Delivery of Carnival Vista

At a traditional maritime handover ceremony held last Thursday at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy, Carnival Cruise Line took delivery of its newest, largest and most innovative ship, the 133,500-ton Carnival Vista. The 3,954-passenger ship departed on its maiden voyage yesterday, kicking off a summer schedule in Europe that runs through October 2016. Following a 13-day trans-Atlantic crossing, Carnival Vista will operate a pair of 11-day cruises from New York in November 2016 then launch year-round Caribbean service from Miami later that month.

Carnival Vista offers a number of unique features, including a suspended cycling experience called SkyRide, the first IMAX Theatre at sea and the RedFrog Pub & Brewery offering three different kinds of beer brewed on board. Also new is Family Harbor with special family accommodations and a family concierge, along with the tropics-inspired Havana staterooms and suites featuring a dedicated pool area. The ship’s outdoor spaces include a massive WaterWorks aqua park, highlighted by the 455-foot-long Kaleid-o-slide, the longest slide in the fleet.

Carnival Vista is a spectacular addition to our fleet and we can’t wait for our guests to experience all of the ship’s exciting new features,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “Carnival Vista will provide our guests an opportunity to create a lifetime of wonderful vacation memories while offering our valued travel agent partners another exciting vacation option to market to their clients,” she added.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line