Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Carnival Vista Launches Year-Round Service From Miami

The Port of Miami welcomed Carnival Cruise Line’s newest and largest ship, Carnival Vista, when it arrived earlier this week to kick off a year-round schedule of 6- and 8-day cruises to the Caribbean. To officially welcome Carnival Vista to its Miami homeport, Carnival Vista Captain Stefano Battinelli and PortMiami Assistant Director Fred Wong participated in a traditional maritime plaque exchange prior to the ship’s inaugural departure.

As the line’s newest ship, Carnival Vista takes cruising to new heights, introducing features such as SkyRide, a suspended open-air cycling experience; the world’s first IMAX® Theatre on a ship; Kaleid-O-Slide, the line’s first water tube slide, part of the ship’s massive WaterWorks aqua park; and the RedFrog Pub & Brewery featuring the first brewery on a North American-based cruise ship.

“Miami has been our home since our company’s inception in 1972 and homeporting the new Carnival Vista here not only provides consumers with a convenient homeport with renovated facilities and numerous operational enhancements but speaks volumes about our confidence in growing this important market,” and said Christine Duffy, Carnival’s president.

Island-Intensive Caribbean Cruises from Miami
Carnival Vista kicked off its new schedule from PortMiami with a special 6-day cruise to Grand Turk, Ocho Rios and Nassau that departed last Sunday. The ship will then launch a year-round schedule of 6- and 8-day cruises beginning with an 8-day voyage departing Dec. 3, 2016. Six-day cruises feature Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, while a mix of different 8-day itineraries visit some of the Caribbean’s most popular destinations, including Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, and La Romana (Dominican Republic). The ship will also offer a combination of one-time voyages, including a 5-day cruise departing Dec. 11 and 7-day voyages departing Dec. 17 and 24, 2016, that offer an exciting selection of ports including the Caribbean’s newest destination, Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic, as well as Mahogany Bay, Grand Turk, Belize, San Juan, St. Thomas, and Cozumel, depending on the itinerary.

In addition to visiting Caribbean destinations, guests can experience all the Carnival Vista has to offer—from the colorful Havana area with tropics-inspired staterooms and suites and Family Harbor with special accommodations and a new family concierge to delicious choices like Seafood Shack and new al fresco options at the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Bonsai Sushi and Cherry On Top, featuring a mixed-to-order premium ice cream bar.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Make Your Own Warm Chocolate Melting Cake

A story I enjoy telling Carnival Cruise Line executives is about the lady who complained to me that she was served the worst cake ever on a Carnival cruise. It didn't take long to discover that what she described as cake that "wasn't baked" was actually Carnival's signature Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.

One of Cruise Diva's favorite desserts, and one that is available every night on Carnival Cruise Lines' ships, is Warm Chocolate Melting Cake. It's a serious chocolate lover's delight—firm around the edges and gooey chocolate heaven in the middle.

Carnival's latest "Recipe of the Month" is Warm Chocolate Melting Cake and Cruise Diva is happy to pass it along to those of you who love it as much as I do!

Warm Chocolate Melting Cake
• 16 oz dark chocolate
• 16 oz butter
• 10 eggs, divided
• 10 ounces sugar
• 6 ounces flour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
• Melt the chocolate and butter. Mix the eggs with the sugar and whisk for a few minutes;  add the flour. Combine the egg mixture with the melted chocolate and mix. Then pour into individual greased molds. Bake directly in the oven at 400°F for 14 minutes.
• Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar and garnish with fresh fruit. Serve warm with ice cream.
• Serves 12

Recipe Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines
Image © Linda Coffman,

Monday, November 28, 2016

MSC Cruises Celebrates MSC Seaside Float Out

MSC Cruises and Fincantieri, one of the largest shipbuilding groups in the world, have celebrated the float out of MSC Seaside, one of two new groundbreaking mega-ships that MSC Cruises is bringing into service between June and December 2017. The float out is an important milestone in the construction of a cruise ship as it is the moment where the ship first floats on water when the dry dock is flooded and the ship is moved to a wet dock for the final phase of her construction. The exterior of the ship is complete and work moves to complete interiors.

MSC Seaside will homeport in PortMiami as of December 2017 and will sail year round in the Caribbean—further enriching the company’s offering in the region with MSC Cruises having a total of five of the most modern cruise ships serving the Caribbean once MSC Seaside debuts.

“This is another exciting milestone in our ambitious expansion plans as we see the second of our 11 next-generation cruise ships entering the final stages of her construction,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman. “MSC Seaside has been specifically designed to provide our guests with a unique onboard experience in warmer regions and boasts one the highest ratios of outdoor space in the industry so that guests can enjoy a range of open-air activities such as dining and drinking al fresco, strolling along the promenade, or simply taking in the beautiful sea views from the privacy of one of the many balcony staterooms.”

MSC Seaside is the first of a completely new and innovative generation of cruise ships being built by MSC Cruises leading Italian shipyard Fincantieri. With this new prototype inspired by an elegant beach condo, MSC Cruises is pushing the boundaries with its bold design concept and demonstrates the Company’s continued commitment to put the guest experience at the center of all innovation and product development. Every element of the ship is designed to bring guests closer to the sea with special design features such as a unique 360° ocean level promenade, panoramic glass elevators, and a breathtaking 98 foot bridge on the top deck. In addition, with 73 percent of the staterooms featuring balconies, guests will never be far from a view of the ocean.

MSC Seaside highlights the key distinguishing elements of an MSC Cruises’ experience. An extensive range of comfortable accommodations will meet the various needs of a wide range of cruise guests, including chic aft corner suites as part of the unique beach condo design, clever modular connected staterooms designed for families and groups of up to ten people, and a collection of balcony staterooms with a private terrace overlooking the promenade.

In addition, MSC Cruises has taken its MSC Yacht Club—the ship-within-a-ship concept—to the next level. Located on the prestigious foredecks of the ship and offering a private sun deck, a private lounge and private restaurant, the MSC Yacht Club has been expanded on MSC Seaside to now be over five decks. The MSC Yacht Club will also feature two coveted apartment suites that include a living room and a large balcony with a dining area and private whirlpool.

On board MSC Seaside, the dining experience has been designed to delight with a huge choice of Mediterranean and international cuisines served in 11 different dining venues, including five specialty restaurants. Of these, one is a Pan-Asian specialty restaurant created in partnership with world renowned chef Roy Yamaguchi and two are buffets serving food 20 hours a day, with one designed specifically for families.

The onboard entertainment, another award-winning feature of the MSC Cruises offering, will cater to all age groups and includes a stunning 934 seat theater offering four performances every night. Meanwhile, the interactive aqua park with its four exhilarating slides will provide hours of fun for the entire family, the 394 foot long zip line will appeal to thrill-seekers, and the aft pool will be the perfect spot for those looking for complete relaxation.

In addition to all of the fun that will be had while on board, MSC Seaside will enable guests to experience the Caribbean Sea like never before, while calling at exotic and stunning ports such as George Town in the Cayman Islands, Cozumel in Mexico, and Nassau in the Bahamas. From October 2018, MSC Seaside will also call at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, the stunning marine reserve private island in the Bahamas, exclusively available for MSC Cruises guests.

At 1059 feet long with a GRT of 160,000 tons, the ship will feature a maximum capacity of 5,179 guests (4,140 guests at double occupancy). MSC Seaside is the first of two identical ships in the Seaside generation. Her sister ship—MSC Seaview—is set to enter service in the Spring 2018 and will be based in the Western Mediterranean, while a third one—reflecting an existing option for one additional Seaside generation ship—would be delivered by 2021.

Image Courtesy MSC Cruises

Friday, November 25, 2016

Chef Rudi Sodamin’s Chocolate Pecan Pie

I really appreciate recipes from Holland America Line’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin because even a kitchen klutz like me can follow them and get good results.

While it’s too late to prepare Chef Rudi’s Chocolate Pecan Pie for your Thanksgiving feast, Christmas is only a month away and this delicious treat sure to be a big hit with your friends and family throughout the holiday season.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Pie Crust:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into pieces
A few ice cubes

2 cups pecan halves
7 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup molasses
1.5 tablespoons Cointreau
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving


Pie Crust:
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Using your fingertips, a pastry blender, or two knives, work the butter and shortening in to the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a food processor, using short pulses.)
2. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup water with a few cubes of ice. Using a fork, stir the water into the flour mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, using only as much as needed to gather the mixture into a soft ball. Pat the dough into a disk, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a round about 1/8 inch thick. Drape the dough over a rolling pin and fit it into a 10-inch pie pan. Fold the edge under and crimp. Place the pie shell in the freezer for 20 minutes.
4. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork to prevent bubbling during baking. Place a piece of foil over it and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Place the pie shell in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and continue baking for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Place it on a wire rack and let it cool completely.

1. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool, roughly chop, and place them in a medium mixing bowl. Add the chopped chocolate and flour, and stir to mix. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time, stopping two or three times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the corn syrup, molasses, Cointreau, vanilla, and salt until fully incorporated.
3. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and stir until well combined. Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and bake for 1 hour, or until lightly set in the center. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

NOTE: This pie can be kept in the refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap, for up to one day. Serve it at room temperature, topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Yield: 12 servings

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year we're home for Thanksgiving with family and friends, but there's nothing quite like a holiday feast at sea when someone else does the cooking and cleaning up. Pictured here is Cruise Diva's traditional turkey being carved aboard Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow on a previous Thanksgiving cruise from Rio to Buenos Aires. It tasted as good as it looked.

Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Royal Caribbean’s 150 Central Park Introduces New Menu

In partnership with James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, Royal Caribbean has introduced a new menu highlighting artisanal ingredients at 150 Central Park on board Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas. Guests can enjoy Schwartz’s simple, elegant approach to American dining with a signature cocktail, the Central Park Martini, and choose from a variety of appetizers, entrées, and dessert including a tableside cheese cart ($45 cover charge, all inclusive).

Set in the ship’s tropical Central Park neighborhood, the restaurant showcases the Chef’s fresh, simple and pure approach to food and wine established at Miami flagship Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, with a focus on thoughtful service and the importance of details to complete the onboard dining experience.

Highlights include:
• A straightforward multi-course which allows the guest to explore the restaurant on multiple visits and try something new each time. Selections include lobster gnocchi with carrot butter sauce, herb salad or Bittersweet Chocolate Bourbon Tart with salted caramel, spiced pecans, cranberry chutney and chantilly cream.
• A world-class cheese cart, tuna tartare or an 18-ounce tenderloin prepared tableside.
• Chef Schwartz along with Michael’s Genuine sommelier Eric Larkee has crafted a dynamic wine program that makes for an upscale and intimate gastronomic experience
Harmony of the Seas is the world’s largest cruise ship with a bold lineup of experiences found nowhere else on land or at sea. Harmony combines the seven-neighborhood concept that sister-ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas are known for, with some of the most modern and groundbreaking amenities, including imaginative dining, unparalleled entertainment, and the latest technology, such as VOOM, the fastest internet at sea. From the Ultimate Abyss, a 10-story tall slide, to entertainment including Broadway’s hit musical Grease and high-diving, acrobatic performances in the AquaTheater, dining in venues ranging from Jamie’s Italian Cuisine by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to Wonderland, a whimsical culinary adventure for the senses; and robot bartenders, there is an adventure for guests of all ages on board. Harmony of the Seas spans 16 guest decks, encompasses 226,963 gross registered tons, carries 5,479 guests at double occupancy, and features 2,747 staterooms. For more information about Harmony, visit .

150 Central Park Image Courtesy Royal Caribbean Intl.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Celebrity Cruises has the Edge With a Single Cut of Steel

With Celebrity Cruises and STX France shipyard executives on hand, the next generation of the premium cruise line's ships moves from concept to construction with the cutting of the first piece of steel. Celebrity Cruises' newest—and boldest—ship will be named Celebrity Edge, befitting the many daring design advances and innovations of Celebrity's first new ship class since 2008.

The cruise line also announced the name of Celebrity Edge's sister ship, Celebrity Beyond, signaling the incredible experience guests can expect onboard Celebrity Edge and the entire Edge Class, changing the way travelers see the world.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Celebrity's President and CEO, said, "We set the bar high for the architects and designers on Edge class, and we were rewarded with a stunning design. Cutting the ship's first piece of steel is the traditional first step in the shipbuilding process, and I'm excited to see our dreams turn into reality over the next 24 months." She added, "We are excited to reveal more details soon, and travelers, trade partners and enthusiasts alike will not be disappointed—this ship is going to be amazing."

The company expects delivery of Celebrity Edge in Fall 2018. Celebrity Beyond is scheduled for delivery in Spring 2020, and the third and fourth Edge Class ships in Fall 2021 and Fall 2022, respectively.

Image Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

Monday, November 21, 2016

Ahoy! Spidey On Board Disney Wonder!

In addition to the most famous rodent couple in the world—Mickey & Minnie Mouse—being on board, Disney Wonder now also has a spider—Spider-Man, that is! Georgina Cruz recently joined Disney Wonder sailing from Galveston to take a look at the ship’s enhancements and to sail with Spider-Man and other Marvel Super Heroes.

Georgina shares with us that “Spidey has been welcomed aboard the 83,000-ton, 2,713-passenger Disney Wonder, which was launched in 1999 as the line’s second vessel, and has just been transformed with new magical spaces during a Sept. 9-Oct. 23, 2016 dry dock in Cadiz, Spain.”

Get the details about the latest Disney ship makeover with new entertainment and fun stuff for the entire family at Ahoy! Spidey On Board!

Image Courtesy Disney Cruise Line

Friday, November 18, 2016

Mixology Mastered Aboard Holland America Line's Koningsdam

Friends, the Bloody Mary pictured here is one of the tastiest and most innovative I've ever been served on land or at sea. Poolside on Holland America Line's Koningsdam, the spicy Bloody Mary included a shrimp, three olives with a different stuffing in each, a pearl onion, lemon wedge, and a celery stick in a tall glass rimmed with celery salt. From what I was told, while sailing in Alaska, the Bloody Mary on Holland America's ships comes with a crap claw instead of a shrimp.

Every cocktail I enjoyed on Koningsdam last week was well prepared and, additionally, the drinks were reasonably priced. Fellow cruisers mentioned how pleased they were that mixed drinks, fruity Island cocktails, wine, and even specialty coffees and teas on Koningsdam were priced lower than those found on the ship of another cruise line they recently sailed with.

CHEERS to Holland America!

Image © Linda Coffman,

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sarah Brightman to be Seabourn Encore's Godmother

My favorite recording artist—and the world's best-selling Soprano—Sarah Brightman will perform the duties as godmother of Seabourn's newest vessel, the intimate, all-suite Seabourn Encore, when the ship is named at the port of Singapore on Jan 7, 2017. Brightman will preside over a glittering evening ceremony and all-around festive occasion, attended by guests and crew departing on a 10-day maiden voyage bound for Indonesia.

"Sarah Brightman embodies the style and sophistication, the talent and innovation, the playfulness and inviting warmth that create the unique atmosphere guests enjoy onboard every Seabourn vessel," said Richard Meadows, president of Seabourn. "We're so grateful to have her officially name Seabourn Encore."

Brightman launched her career with the British dance troupe Hot Gossip in the late 1970s. In 1981, she made her West End musical theatre debut in Cats, and went on to star in several West End and Broadway musicals, including originating the role of Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera. Brightman furthered her musical career as a classical crossover artist, a genre she is often credited with creating and has sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Her 1996 duet with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli on "Time to Say Goodbye" became an international sensation and one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Brightman is the first artist to have been invited twice to perform the theme song at the Olympic Games—first at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where she sang "Amigos Para Siempre" with Spanish tenor José Carreras; and second at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, performing "You and Me" with Chinese singer Liu Huan.

Seabourn Encore is the fourth of five luxury ships that will eventually be part of the Seabourn fleet. The next, Seabourn Ovation, will join the fleet in spring 2018. Seabourn Encore is ushering in a new ultra-luxury style for Seabourn, with modern interior design elements by hospitality icon Adam D. Tihany. For more details about the award-winning Seabourn fleet, or to explore the worldwide selection of Seabourn cruising options, visit

Image Courtesy of Seabourn

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mobile Passport Control at Port Everglades... How Did It Work?

As promised for my first-hand review, I used the Mobile Passport Control app on my iPhone in preparation for disembarkation from Holland America Line’s Koningsdam in Port Everglades the other day.

The morning of debarkation, after entering the necessary information in the New Trip section of the app, instead of a “receipt” I got an “access denied” error message. Oops. I tried again and again and still didn’t get a receipt. While waiting to leave the ship, as a back-up I filled out the old standby blue and white paper form for Customs & Border Control. Then, in the terminal I saw another passenger receiving assistance from an agent with his phone so I asked for help with mine. Still, no success. The agent told me there are “about 60 reasons” why it wasn't working for us.

So much for technology. Thankfully, a ballpoint pen worked on the paper form just fine.

As an FYI, if you participate in CBP’s Global Entry program, in order to use that shorter line in the cruise port terminal you must have your card with you.
UPDATE: I heard from the folks at Port Everglades and they know what happened the day we disembarked. Hopefully, I will be able to give it a try in the future.
Photo © Linda Coffman,

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Koningsdam—So Entertaining!

Gone are the ho-hum song-and-dance shows in a typical ship’s theater aboard Holland America Line’s Koningsdam. In its place on the ship’s World Stage, which is similar to a theater in-the-round, are comedy and high energy production shows with contemporary themes—and on our sailing, Frozen Planet Live, featuring live music to accompany stunning footage from BBC’s Frozen Planet.

In Billboard Onboard on Koningsdam’s Music Walk we enjoyed a diverse selection of music from great standards, the British Invasion, hot country sounds, and hits from the 60s and 70s, to the Beatles Hits, a piano celebration featuring the pianist duo, and tunes that were “never #1.” Right down the Music Walk passageway, onstage at the Lincoln Center Stage were performances of Classic Favorites, La Música Latina, and Bernstein to Bublé.

With three shows a night, our favorite entertainers by far were B.B. King’s All Stars (pictured above). The dance floor filled when the band and singers rocked out with the Memphis sound of rhythm and blues, Motown hits, and more.

Holland America’s new Koningsdam comes alive after dark and has certainly hit the musical sweet spot with something for everyone.

Image © Linda Coffman,

Monday, November 14, 2016

What’s New at Half Moon Cay

Holland America Line’s Half Moon Cay private island is a favorite port for many passengers, especially since over the years numerous improvements and amenities have been added alongside the sugary sand beach. It hasn’t been too many years since two-story cabanas were added overlooking the crystal clear water and the “pirate ship” bar landed beachside.

After tendering ashore from Koningsdam, we followed our noses to the island’s latest innovation—the Lobster Shack, where for $20 you can dine on a Spiny Lobster with Caribbean Coconut Beans and Rice accompanied by Pineapple Salsa and Caribbean Sofrito Salasa. Created by Holland America’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, the perfectly prepared lobster tastes as good as it smells… and where else can you get such a great deal on a grilled lobster lunch?

Don’t worry, the complimentary beach barbecue is just as good as ever, but it’s nice to have such a delicious option.

Images ©

Friday, November 11, 2016

Holland America Line's Koningsdam Introduces Divine Dining in Sel de Mer

Exquisite. That’s what comes to mind after a meal in Sel de Mer—the new French seafood restaurant aboard Holland America Line’s newest flagship ms Koningsdam.

Sel de Mer, or “salt of the sea” in French, serves an exceptional selection of classic French seafood dishes with a contemporary twist. The intimate restaurant re-creates a setting reminiscent of the finest French brasseries where waiters are traditionally dressed and the food is exceptionally fresh. When the bouillabaisse arrived, I was so captured by its sight and scent that I forgot to get our my camera. Honestly, it was the best I’ve ever tasted, prepared with red mullet, a lobster claw, sole, shrimp, snapper, clams, mussels, tomatoes, saffron, potato, fennel, and orange zest and served with a baguette and rouille.

For a look at what else is cooking, I’d like to share…

A Trio of Seafood Salad with crab meat, North sea shrimp, and tuna.

Classic Baked Escargot, prepared with garlic, parsley, and Pernod butter.

Dover Sole Fillet Meunière, with potatoes, a blood orange, and brown shrimp in butter on the side. Accompaniments are ratatouille, cauliflower puree, and haricot verts.

For dessert, sinfully rich Profiterols with Chantilly cream are topped with hot chocolate sauce.

Images ©

Thursday, November 10, 2016

At Home Aboard Holland America Line’s Koningsdam

Embarking for a cruise on Holland America Line’s Koningsdam—the first ship in the new Pinnacle Class—is like entering a gracious, yet familiar, home. Once on board we quickly settled in and made ourselves comfortable in 8056, our oceanview stateroom with verandah. Ample drawers are available for storing folded garments, the closet features shelving and hanging space and we found plenty of room to stow everything, including in the deep drawers at the foot of the bed.

The décor is soothing in tones of grey and cream with jewel toned accents. One of my favorite features on Holland America ships has always the very useful vanity/desk, but sadly there is no lighted make-up mirror on Koningsdam as on older fleetmates. However, there is a magnifying mirror stowed away with a very functional handheld hairdryer. Beneath the wall mounted flat-screen television is a recessed ‘book’ rack to keep papers organized and out of the way.

A home at sea, our verandah adds real usable space. Furnished with two wicker-style chairs and a table, there is still plenty of room to move about. Like our accommodations, all categories are outfitted with amenities that include the Euro-top Mariner’s Dream Bed dressed with fine linens, deluxe bathrobes for use during the cruise, plush Egyptian cotton towels, flat panel televisions with video-on-demand, hand held hairdryers, massaging shower heads, personal safes, mini-refrigerators, and two closets configured for hanging and also with shelves close to the floor. Wall mounted bedside lamps and reading lights don’t take up space on the nightstands. We can also take advantage of complimentary fresh fruit upon request and complimentary shoeshine service. As we explored our space, we found there’s even more to like.

New features that are very handy and truly appreciated are 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. Also new, in the bathroom the shower curtain will no longer stick to you—the entire shower is glass enclosed with a door. No more clinging shower curtain is a big deal to us. In addition to shampoo and shower gel dispensers, ladies, there is a bar to prop you foot on when shaving your legs.

This is Holland America Line at its best. Someone has been listening to passenger wants and needs.

Images ©

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Port Everglades Launches Mobile Passport Control Program

As reported earlier this year, Broward County’s Port Everglades is launching the new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) approved Mobile Passport Control (MPC) program for cruise ship travel. On Friday, Nov. 4, it became the first U.S. seaport to use the new Smartphone technology. The MPC program is currently in use at a number of airports across the country, including Broward County’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), and has been highly anticipated for use at cruise ports.

The MPC program is the first Smartphone app authorized to expedite a traveler’s entry process into the United States. Developed in partnership with CBP, this first-of-its-kind app allows U.S. citizens with a passport debarking a cruise ship to complete their Customs declaration using their smart phones or other mobile devices, expediting their clearance process in the terminal. It is currently available for iOS phones and is expected to be available for Android phones later this month.

“Port Everglades purchased the required equipment earlier this summer in anticipation of the MPC program’s approval by CBP, and we are now the first and only seaport to offer this app.” said Steven Cernak, Port Everglades Chief Executive & Port Director. “An added bonus is that MPC will be in service in time for the arrivals of Royal Caribbean Line's Harmony of the Seas and Holland America Line's ms Koningsdam. Mobile Passport Control is another feature that will help us enhance the cruise guest experience.”

U.S. citizen travelers and family groups can use the MPC app to provide their biographic information prior to speaking with a CBP officer. The CBP officer is then able to complete the identity verification and admissibility processing of arriving passengers. Household members who are traveling together may be included in a single submission.

Mobile Passport allows travelers to submit their passport control and customs declaration information via their iPhone or iPad and effectively replaces the traditional blue-and-white paper declaration form required of all travelers entering the U.S. by air or sea. Submissions must be sent upon arrival at port of entry. Receipts are valid for 4 hours. Receipts may NOT be re-used or transferred. I’ll report back soon with some first-hand information about how it actually works.

To download the free Mobile Passport app, simply visit the App Store on your phone, search for Mobile Passport, then follow the instructions to install it and enter your personal information. The app requires that you take a photo of yourself, so be prepared.

By following the steps below, it's proven easy so far
1. Complete your profile with basic passport information.
2. Answer CBP’s questions about your trip in the New Trip portion of the app.
3. Submit your information UPON YOUR ARRIVAL and get a receipt from CBP.
4. Follow the signs to the dedicated Mobile Passport Control lane.
5. Scan your receipt and show your passport to the CBP officer.
Important to remember:
• You must enter your name as it appears on your passport.
• Mobile Passport is not a replacement for your passport.
• Don’t forget to BRING YOUR PASSPORT!
Port Everglades has participated in CBP’s Global Entry program since summer 2015, giving preferential processing to those guests who are Global Entry card holders. Port Everglades also recently completed pilot testing of the Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks in two of its cruise terminals, another CBP initiative to streamline the traveler inspection process.

Photo © Linda Coffman,

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Harmony of the Seas' Ultimate WOW

It's not your typical cruise ship water slide and it's not for sissies. Harmony of the Seas' Ultimate Abyss launches thrill seekers from over 150 feet above sea level into a serpentine of twists and turns on the world's biggest cruise ship. Riders climb to the slide's glass platform, taking in the view from the top of the tallest slide at sea. From there, they launch into 216 feet of tunnels, whizzing past multi-sensory effects and blast onto the Boardwalk 10 decks below. Get a behind-the-scenes perspective on the adventure that is the Ultimate Abyss in the video below.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Princess Cruises Partners with Chef Emmanuel Renaut

We predict this will be the best little bistro in the Far East as Princess Cruises welcomes three-Michelin star French Chef Emmanuel Renaut aboard to develop the cruise line’s next specialty restaurant concept. “La Mer—A French Bistro by Emmanuel Renaut” will debut aboard Majestic Princess in April 2017, the cruise line’s newest ship tailored for the China market. Followed by the partnership announcement with another Michelin star Chef Richard Chen, serving his interpretation of classic Cantonese dishes at Harmony, Majestic Princess will be the only cruise ship that offers two specialty dinner menus designed by Michelin star chefs at sea in China.

Emmanuel Renaut is the highly acclaimed Executive Chef of three Michelin star restaurant “Flocons de Sel,” located in the French Alps village of Megève. Flocons de Sel was awarded its coveted third Michelin star in 2012, having earned its first Michelin star in 2004 and a second in 2006. Before establishing the restaurant in 1998, Chef Renaut cooked in some of the finest kitchens in Paris and London.

“Adding Chef Renaut, another Michelin star chef, to Majestic Princess elevates the dining experience to an even higher level and reinforces our leading position as the best cruise line for foodies,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president.”

Offering an authentic yet updated Parisian bistro experience at La Mer, Chef Renaut is crafting a fine dining dinner menu featuring authentic French cuisine made unique with his modern twists—including both favorites from his Flocons Bistrot menu, as well as new concepts developed for La Mer. This specialty dinner experience will include a (to-be-determined) nominal cover charge. In addition, La Mer will offer complimentary lunch and breakfast options created by the Princess culinary teams.

Located in the lively atrium onboard Majestic Princess, La Mer has been exquisitely designed by Jeffrey Beers International (JBI), recognized as a leader in international hospitality architecture and design. This unique space combines French style and authentic Parisian details with breathtaking sea views through floor to ceiling windows, and offers the perfect vantage point to enjoy the activity and entertainment from the atrium Piazza below.

Departing April 4, 2017, the 143,000-ton Majestic Princess will sail on her inaugural voyage, a 5-day Adriatic Sea cruise roundtrip from Rome with stops in Kotor and Corfu. Following her maiden cruise, Majestic Princess will tour Europe, offering guests a chance to experience the ship on 7-, 14-, 21- and 28-day cruises departing from Rome, Barcelona, or Athens. A repositioning voyage will depart Rome on May 21, 2017, visiting Dubai and Singapore before arriving in Shanghai, her new home. Majestic Princess will begin her first cruise from its home-port in Shanghai on July 11, 2017, carrying 3,560 guests to a variety of destinations in Japan and Korea.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fathom Experience Will Expand to Additional Carnival Corporation Cruise Line Brands

Its social impact experiences have been so successful that Carnival Corporation has announced plans to expand its Fathom brand's Dominican Republic social impact excursions to its other cruise line brands sailing to its Amber Cove port of call. Beginning in November, guests sailing regularly on the six additional Carnival Corporation brands to Amber Cove will be able to purchase a social impact excursion— the new participatory and immersive travel category pioneered by Fathom that takes people into the heart of a destination to explore local communities and discover its people in unconventional ways. Guests can purchase a social impact excursion just as they do today with traditional shore excursions.

"The feedback from our travelers and our local Dominican partners who have participated in Fathom's social impact experiences in the Dominican Republic has been overwhelmingly positive and mutually beneficial," said Tara Russell, president of Fathom and global impact lead for Carnival Corporation. "Our travelers repeatedly tell us the activities and alongsided interaction with the local Dominican people is very fulfilling, rekindling their hope and passion and inspiring a whole new perspective on life. Additionally, the social impact experiences create enduring positive impact in the lives of children, families and communities, significantly affecting bright futures."

Since Fathom began its every-other-week voyages in May 2016 to Amber Cove—located on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic—its guests have been able to produce and install 730 water filters for local families, construct concrete floors for hundreds of people in 40 homes, plant nearly 16,000 seedlings and plants, and have provided approximately 17,500 hours of English conversational language skills training to adult and youth students.

Seven of the 10 Carnival Corporation brands make calls on Amber Cove—AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Fathom, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and P&O Cruises UK. By offering Fathom experiences to guests sailing on its other brands, the company expects to provide this unique, personally enriching experience to a much wider and growing number of guests with each additional sailing. In turn, this has the potential of significantly expanding the number of traveler impact days per month and broader collective impact story in the Dominican Republic.

To expand the Fathom experience, the company will provide the following new excursions:
Hands-On Chocolate Experience at a Women's Cooperative: Travelers will engage in an immersive cultural experience and make an impact in the Puerto Plata community during a hands-on visit to a chocolate cooperative founded by enterprising local women. Travelers visit the small community of Altamira where they discover Chocal, a tiny organic-chocolate factory run by a group of local women committed to earning an income while remaining close to their families. Travelers will have the opportunity to work alongside these women to participate in the chocolate production process from bean to bar, a truly rewarding experience.
Volunteer Experience at Recycled Paper & Crafts Entrepreneurship: For an experience that makes an impact on local communities, travelers may embark on an immersive cultural experience visiting artisans at a recycling micro-business. In the little village of El Javillar, travelers find the RePapel co-op, a Recycled Paper & Crafts initiative that has taught local women to repurpose natural, recycled paper into treasures. Travelers work side by side with these friendly women, discovering all aspects of the program, including creating new products for sale. Travelers may purchase keepsake products to take home as mementos of their day.
Featuring a two-berth port and a 25-acre landside development nestled in a picturesque cove, Amber Cove provides cruise guests from Carnival Corporation's brands with a convenient gateway to one of the newest Caribbean destinations—the Puerto Plata region on the island's north coast. Referred to as the "Amber Coast," the region is known for the friendliness of its people, its history and culture, and the beauty of its beaches, mountains, forests, waterfalls and rivers. In November 2015 the port also re-opened the spectacular Puerto Plata region to regular cruise ship visits for the first time in nearly 30 years, adding a new destination to the Caribbean, the world's most popular cruising region.

In total, there are more than 40 excursion options currently being offered to guests sailing to Amber Cove with the company's brands. This includes traditional recreational and sight-seeing cruise excursions, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, or simply a relaxing day at the beach. Our photo above—taken during an eco-tour—illustrates an unspoiled beach along the Dominican Republic coast.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Princess Cruises Announces Finalists for Entertainer of the Year Competition

It won't be long before Princess Cruises crowns the top guest entertainer for 2016 during the cruise line's sixth annual Entertainer of the Year competition. The four talented finalists pictured here have been carefully chosen from the vast array of onboard performers—including vocalists, comedians, magicians, tribute bands, and other specialty acts—who delight guests each year, and will compete for the title during Princess' upcoming Entertainer of the Year cruise. Guests aboard the Feb 25, 2017 Ruby Princess cruise to Mexico will be able to cast their vote for their favorite performer after viewing several live performances from each act during the cruise vacation. The nominees for the title of "Entertainer of the Year" are:
• Cheaza Figueroa: Vocalist Cheaza Figueroa is a multi-talented performer. Her performing career includes television appearances on NBC and hosting on the CW Network. Her dynamic talent has also been featured on MTV's "The X Factor," "Extra," and "South of Nowhere" on CBS. As an improvisation backup singer for Wayne Brady, Figueroa graced such stages as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Las Vegas where she performed as the lead singer and host of "Peepshow," at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. Figueroa was also voted "Best Singer of Las Vegas" in 2013 by The Las Vegas Review-Journal.
• John Bressler: Musician John Bressler is a multi-talented piano player and keyboardist known for his exuberant stage presence. His performances feature talent, passion, wit, and a genuine likeability. His unique blend of beautiful music and interactive comedy is one-of-kind, making his show a must see.
• Robbie Printz: Comedian Robbie Printz delivers a dynamic performance, serving as a reminder of childhood wonders and adulthood absurdities, delivered with high energy and a fast pace that keeps audiences of all ages laughing from start to finish. Printz's act has been seen on such networks as Comedy Central, NBC, MTV, and A&E.
• Steve Larkins: From his home in New Zealand, Musician Steve Larkins travels the world to perform his remarkably accurate impression of Freddie Mercury, as a tribute to the music of Queen. International appearances include Beijing, where he appeared at corporate events during The Olympics, South Africa, Australia, Europe, and The Legends Theatre in Las Vegas. With a strikingly similar physical appearance to Freddie and a vocal range of equal power—Larkins' hugely entertaining show regularly brings audiences of every age group and nationality to their feet.
"For a sixth year in a row, we are proud to unveil the fantastic talent found in the finalists of our Entertainer of the Year competition," said Rai Caluori, Princess Cruises executive vice president, hotel services. "Our guests will have quite the task determining the winner based on the high caliber of talent we have in our finalists."

The finalists have been established by the Princess Cruises entertainment department based on guest surveys and onboard audience response. The winner, who will hold the title of "2016 Princess Cruises Entertainer of the Year," will be announced on the final evening of the cruise at a celebratory event in the Piazza and will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

The sixth annual Entertainer of the Year voyage will depart on Feb 25, 2017 aboard Ruby Princess on a Mexican Riviera cruise, and port calls include Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas. It isn't too late to get on board—the 7-day sailing from Los Angeles is currently available for booking.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Carnival Cruise Line Offers Special Savings for Active & Retired Military Service Members in Honor of Veterans Day

In honor of Veterans Day—November 11th—Carnival Cruise Line is offering special savings, free upgrades, and shipboard credits during the entire month of November to active and retired members of the U.S. and Canadian Armed Forces.

The promotion, which provides a $50 onboard credit per cabin, a free two-category upgrade, and 50 percent reduced deposit, can be combined with Carnival’s highly attractive military rates. In addition, guests who qualify for the promotion can book up to two additional staterooms with the same bonuses and pricing.

The promotion can be booked from Nov. 1-14, 2016, and is applicable for a wide range of 3- to 15-day cruises departing between January 2017 and April 2018.

The military rates promotion continues Carnival’s ongoing efforts at recognizing and supporting the military. In January, Carnival launched Honor.Family.Fun.—a year-long partnership with seven-time GRAMMY Award–winning superstar Carrie Underwood and Operation Homefront, the national nonprofit that builds strong, stable, and secure military families.

The campaign helps raise funds for Operation Homefront and culminates with a special invitation-only concert for service men and women starring Underwood aboard the new Carnival Vista in New York later this week. Following the concert, Carnival Vista will officially be named by godmother Miss USA Deshauna Barber, the first woman serving in the U.S. military to hold the title.

The promotion is valid for individual bookings only. Military personnel must provide proof of service. Eligible military personnel must sail to take advantage of this offer. Upgrades are automatically assigned at the time of booking and are based on availability in similar categories only (interior to interior, ocean view to ocean view, balcony to balcony). Certain other restrictions apply.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Norwegian Cruise Line Celebrates the First Steel Cut for Norwegian Bliss

Now that the hull art has been revealed to us, Norwegian Cruise Line is moving forward quickly by celebrating the cutting of the first piece of steel for Norwegian Bliss, the line’s sixteenth vessel and the first one designed for the ultimate Alaska cruising experience.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and MEYER WERFT executives gathered at the MEYER WERFT Laser Center in Papenburg, Germany on October 28 to mark the ceremonial start of construction of Norwegian Bliss, which is set for delivery in Spring 2018 and will be the twelfth Norwegian ship built by MEYER WERFT. The first plate of steel was cut by a plasma torch in the yard’s state-of-the-art facility and will become part of the first of 81 blocks that will comprise the new vessel.

“As we close in on Norwegian Cruise Line’s 50th anniversary, we are thrilled to celebrate the start of construction for Norwegian Bliss, our latest and most innovative ship yet,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. “Norwegian Bliss will offer the ultimate in Alaska adventures, both on and off the ship, and we look forward to welcoming guests on board in June 2018.”

The third ship in the line’s Breakaway-Plus class, Norwegian Bliss will be the first cruise ship custom-built with features and amenities for the ultimate Alaska cruise experience and the first Norwegian Cruise Line ship to make its debut in Seattle. At approximately 167,800 gross tons and accommodating 4,000 guests, Norwegian Bliss will sail weekly 7-day Alaska cruises each Saturday from Pier 66 in Seattle, offering guests the premier way to see America’s last frontier, while also providing all of the innovative features, entertainment, signature dining and onboard experiences that Norwegian Cruise Line is known for. The ship’s itinerary will feature calls in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria, British Columbia, along with scenic glacier cruising. The ship’s artwork is designed by Wyland, one of the world’s premier marine life artists. Entitled “Cruising with the Whales,” the engaging art prominently features a stunning image of a mother humpback whale and her calf as the centerpiece of the design, signifying the beauty of Alaska and the importance of conservation. Norwegian Bliss will also come outfitted with exhaust gas scrubbers, which significantly decrease air emissions including the reduction up to 99 percent of sulfur into the atmosphere, furthering Norwegian’s commitment to protecting the unique ecosystems found throughout Alaska and across the world.

Additional details on the ship’s accommodations, dining and onboard offerings will be shared in the coming months. Norwegian Bliss will be available for reservations beginning January 2017. For more information on Norwegian Bliss, visit

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line