Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

We aren't at sea this year, but we're celebrating with a water view nonetheless. Our party spot is the elegant Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center alongside the Savannah River.

Included in our festive New Year's Eve package are dinner, drinks, and dancing in the main ballroom, a nearby "game lounge" with television so we can pop in and check on how our Clemson Tigers are faring in their playoff game against Ohio State, a champagne toast at midnight, accommodations (so we don't have to drive home), and New Year's Day breakfast.

Party hats, leis, noisemakers, and champagne. The Marriott has those as well. And, as was routine more then two decades ago—illustrated in the photo here of Cruise Diva and Mel—so did cruise ships. In fact, that twenty-something-year old picture was not taken during a New Year's Eve celebration. Back then, there was a festive party atmosphere on the second formal night of every week-long cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's iconic SS Norway.

Here's wishing you a very happy and prosperous 2017 and smooth sailing no matter where your cruise travels take you!

Friday, December 30, 2016

New Cruise Review: Azamara Quest

Our friend and contributor Joe Reynolds has shared a unique voyage aboard Azamara Quest with us. Join him sailing from New Orleans to Miami.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Carrie Underwood To Perform in a Carnival LIVE Concert

Carnival Cruise Lines is enahncing its popular Carnival LIVE concert series with a shipboard concert by seven-time Grammy Award-winning country music superstar Carrie Underwood aboard the Carnival Imagination in April 2017. Tickets are on sale now at Carnival LIVE is a one-of-a-kind experience that brings the best in live entertainment to the seas, providing guests an opportunity to enjoy performances by top artists in a unique and memorable setting where there’s never a bad seat in the house. Performances are held in the ships’ main show lounges which range in capacity from 750 to 1,400—giving shows a more intimate and personal feel.

One of the most popular and best-selling artists in country music, Underwood will perform in Carnival Imagination’s Dynasty Lounge while the ship is docked in Catalina Island on April 4, 2017, during a 4-day cruise that departs from Long Beach, CA, April 2, 2017. The concert follows Underwood’s invitation-only concert for military families aboard Carnival Vista last month to celebrate the ship’s U.S. arrival and commemorate the line’s year-long Honor.Family.Fun program supporting Operation Homefront, an organization dedicated to building strong, stable and secure military families.

“Performing in such an intimate setting aboard the Carnival Vista, was a really special experience,” said Underwood. “I look forward to doing that again and connecting with fans aboard the Carnival Imagination next spring,” she added.

Underwood joins Carnival LIVE’s 2017 lineup which includes performances by best-selling country artists Tim McGraw and Little Big Town and comedians Jay Leno and Jeff Foxworthy who will perform on seven different ships departing from five convenient U.S. homeports. Tickets for Carrie Underwood range are $80 for general admission, significantly less than land-based venues, and Premier tickets are available for $150 and include seating in the first few rows, Carrie Underwood merchandise, an Honor.Family.Fun dog tag, and a commemorative concert pass.

Carrie Underwood Photo Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fathom Has Approval for Six Additional Voyages to Cuba

Before its single ship Adonia sails off to rejoin the P&O fleet, Fathom has received Cuba approval to add stops to Santiago de Cuba, the second largest city in Cuba, on six of its upcoming cruises to the Dominican Republic. Travelers will enjoy two distinct experiences during one journey. They can immerse themselves in the arts, history, culture, and everyday lives of Cuban people while in Santiago de Cuba, as well as participate in social impact experiences to make a meaningful difference in the Dominican Republic. These 7-day voyages will take place during the weeks of February 26, March 12 and 26, April 9 and 23, and May 7.

“We are delighted for our travelers to have the chance to visit such a unique and breathtaking Cuban city during such a historic time,” said Tara Russell, president of Fathom and global impact lead for Carnival Corporation. “Both Santiago de Cuba and the Dominican Republic are magnificent, lush and full of beauty. While in Santiago de Cuba, travelers can dive deep into its rich and colorful history. The city served as the capital of the Spanish colony of Cuba from 1522 to 1589, and the watchtowers and cannons used in the Spanish-American War still protect and guard this port city. Then, we will sail to the Dominican Republic and experience a place we love so dearly, all during one trip. Our travelers are hungry for ways to travel deep, connect richly and enter into the heart of our local partner community in the Dominican, as we explore meaningful people-to-people experiences that are tied to the local culture for them to playfully engage during unique life-changing adventures.”

This unique journey includes a full day exploring Santiago de Cuba where travelers will discover the sights unique to the eastern side of the island. As Cuba’s second largest city, it is home to the popular festivals of Carnaval and the Fiesta del Fuego, as well as to many of the country’s most famed musicians and artists and some of its most-visited historic sites. Travelers can tour the UNESCO World Heritage site of San Pedro de la Roca del Morro Castle, explore well-known areas such as San Juan Hill, Antonio Maceo Revolution Square, and the Plaza de Marte and enjoy lunch in a local Paladar.

After arriving in the early evening in the Dominican, travelers will have one and a half days to address the areas of economic, educational and environmental opportunities by participating alongside locals in meaningful activities like planting trees, helping a women's cooperative produce artisan chocolates and building water filters for Dominican homes. Their playful and engaging impact adventure will create new possibilities, while finding meaning, hope, grounded perspective and new ways to engage within communities and enrich their daily lives back home.

The new itinerary includes:
• Sunday – Depart from Port Miami at 4:30 p.m. ET
• Monday – At sea
• Tuesday – In Santiago de Cuba from 9 a.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET
• Wednesday – Arrive in the Dominican Republic at 7 p.m. ET
• Thursday – In the Dominican Republic
• Friday – Depart the Dominican Republic at 1 p.m. ET
• Saturday – At sea
• Sunday – Arrive in Port Miami at 7:30 a.m. ET
Onboard Adonia, travelers are accommodated with amenities of a modern hotel and convenience of unpacking their suitcases just once, with dining, localized entertainment, and specially designed programs about Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Prices for 7-day itineraries to the Dominican Republic and Santiago de Cuba start at $599, excluding taxes, fees, port expenses and gratuities, and Cuban visa. Included are all meals on the ship and lunch in Santiago de Cuba, lunch during Dominican Republic impact activities, onboard experiences and select on-the-ground activities. The required Cuban travel visa is $75 per person and gratuities are estimated at $80.50 per person. To secure a spot on future sailings, a fully refundable $300 per person deposit is required for all cabin categories and occupancy levels. Final payment is due 90 days prior to departure.

Image Courtesy of Fathom

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Silversea's Silver Whisper Sails Into The New Year With A Fresh New Look

Luxury cruise line Silversea Cruises has completed a major renovation of Silver Whisper, just in time for the intimate all-suite ship to host World Cruise 2017, an exclusive 116-day epic voyage from San Francisco to Monte Carlo that departs on January 6.

The gracefully reimagined ship features an array of enhancements from new carpeting in all the guest suites to new wall treatments and rejuvenated wood flooring in the restaurants, Connoisseur's Corner, Panorama Lounge, Spa and Beauty Salon. The Restaurant and La Terrazza have also been outfitted with newly upholstered chairs. A new marble-topped bar and stylish new wood display cases grace the Observation Lounge, which has been refreshed with rich new wood paneling and wood accents. The pool deck has been upgraded with the installation of two new whirlpools. Plus, beautiful new synthetic turf has been placed on the jogging and spa decks, creating an inviting setting for outdoor activities.

"Our goal with this refurbishment was to refresh Silver Whisper's signature style and honor her superb legacy of hosting our iconic world cruises by revitalizing the onboard experience for our guests," said Roberto Martinoli, Silversea's CEO. "Silver Whisper's enhancements are a perfect complement to the superior level of personalized service and warm hospitality that our guests receive on every voyage, whether it's a 7-day Mediterranean sailing or an around-the-world adventure."

The renovation, completed during Silver Whisper's dry dock in the Bahamas this month, represents the third phase of a $170 million fleet refurbishment program, the largest in the company's history. As part of the initiative, Silver Discoverer and Silver Wind have also received comprehensive makeovers this year. And Silver Cloud is scheduled for refurbishment in late 2017, which will include converting the vessel to an ice-class expedition ship.

Images Courtesy Silversea Cruises

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

One of our favorite traditions when we lived in Lousiana was to listen to The Night Before Christmas, Cajun-style. Cruise Diva would like to share it with you.

Merry Christmas To All!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Cunard Showcases Time, Space & A Life Less Ordinary

British cruise line, Cunard, has revealed the new brand video filmed to support its 2017 booking campaign—Everything you wanted, Nothing you expected. By taking viewers through the possibilities and experiences available on its luxurious voyages, the video highlights three key themes: time, space, and a life less ordinary, to elevate the experience of cruising with Cunard.

Shot over seven days by creative agency Alpha Century, the film transports viewers through a sensorial tour of the iconic Queen Mary 2. Following the journey of a dozen actual Cunard guests travelint between Southampton and New York City as they cross the Atlantic on Cunard’s Transatlantic Crossing, it highlights the much-loved traditions and new pursuits available to Cunard cruisers and challenging common misconceptions with its vast array of experiences.

Take a look at the highlights of a Queen Mary 2 crossing.

Video Courtesy Cunard Line

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Seabourn Offers New Alaska Shore Adventures

After an absence of fifteen years, Seabourn is headed back to Alaska next summer. To make their return more exciting, guests are guaranteed unique adventures with many new optional shore excursions and Ventures by Seabourn guided kayak and Zodiac tours exploring the natural beauty of The Last Frontier. The up-close explorations will be featured on Seabourn Sojourn's series of 11-, 12- and 14-day itineraries sailing from Vancouver, British Columbia, and Anchorage (Seward), Alaska starting June 2017.

"Exploring at sea level in the company of qualified guides and experts is a great way for guests to experience Alaska intimately, and we're pleased to offer many incredible and exclusive opportunities aboard Seabourn Sojourn over the season ahead," said Richard Meadows, president of Seabourn. "With the goal of providing the utmost enrichment for guests, each optional shore excursion and Ventures by Seabourn offering will present an authentic view of Alaska with guidance from experts in the field. Even travelers who have sailed in Alaska before will find something new to experience with Seabourn."

A variety of shore excursions will be available at ports and destinations along the way, including dog sledding, floatplane trips, wildlife viewing, and fishing for some of Alaska's abundant supply of salmon. Ventures by Seabourn is another optional for-charge program offering an informative and exhilarating way for guests to enhance the cruise experience through excursions guided by knowledgeable and articulate teams of scientists, scholars, and naturalists.

There will be a wealth of shore excursions and Ventures by Seabourn offered during the 2017 season of Seabourn Sojourn in Alaska. Highlights for the 2017 season ahead include:

Featured Shore Excursions
• Exclusive St. Lazaria Wildlife Cruise & Lunch at Dove Island Lodge (Sitka): Exclusively developed for Seabourn, guests will indulge in world-class bird- and wildlife-watching on a catamaran excursion to St. Lazaria National Wildlife. A heated cabin offers a comfortable boat ride to the summer home of thousands of seabirds from tufted puffins to rhinoceros auklets nesting on sheer volcanic cliffs surrounded by waters swimming with whales and sea otters.
• Dog Sledding on Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter (Juneau): Guests will have a ride to remember with the oldest operating dog sled tour company, following a flightseeing tour of Mendenhall Glacier. Professional mushers will help guests drive the team or let them relax in the sled amid awe-inspiring scenery. Guests will get to talk with the mushers and snap photos with the dogs before returning to the luxurious comforts of the ship from this authentic Alaskan experience.
• Alaska Fishing & Wilderness Dining (Ketchikan): Glide into breathtaking scenery aboard an open-air skiff and cast a line for the main dish of a gourmet campfire meal. After fishing, a wilderness campsite welcomes guests with a crackling fire surrounded by ancient cedar and spruce. The freshly caught seafood from the day will be served atop a saffron-infused, bouillabaisse-inspired stew with side dishes to satisfy Alaska-sized appetites.
• Burro Creek Waterfall Retreat & Crab Boil (Haines): Nestled along the mystical coastline of Lynn Canal—America's longest and deepest fjord—the Burro Creek Lodge Waterfall retreat beckons with breathtaking waterfalls, viewpoints, and an elegant off-the-grid wilderness dining experience. Following a boat transfer, guests can come face-to-face with Burro Creek's most spectacular waterfall or join the onsite naturalist for a moderate hike to more along a 1,400-foot pipeline that feeds the Lodge's hydroelectric system.

Featured Ventures by Seabourn
• Rudyerd Bay (Misty Fjords National Park): Misty Fjords inspired explorer, John Muir, proclaimed the national park among the most beautiful places he had ever seen. The Zodiac and flight adventure offers the chance to see remote parts of Misty Fjords at sea level, complete with the spray of the waterfalls. A short flight from the Misty Fjords showcases the best of this 2 million-acre national treasure, while naturalist/qualified Zodiac drivers lead each boat.
• Davidson Glacier Hike (Haines): A Zodiac ride from Letnikof Cove to Glacier Point leads to a guided hike through the temperate Alaskan rainforest, with the Ventures team and specialist local guides interpreting an incredible variety of fauna and flora. Upon reaching the base of Davidson Glacier, guides will help guests gear up with helmet, crampons, and more to step out onto the glacier.
• Kayak Exploration of Holgate Fjord (Holgate Glacier): Paddle along in a double kayak and discover the wildlife-rich environment of Holgate Fjord, amid backdrops of dramatic waterfalls, ice and glaciers. A Ventures kayak guide will lead this Alaskan experience with a Zodiac following just behind to enrich the experience.
• Scenic Cruising of Tracy Arm & Endicott Arm (Sawyer Glacier/Endicott Arm): Legendary scenery, abundant wildlife and boundless beauty await via Zodiac through Tracy Arm to Sawyer Glacier. Waterfalls and wildlife—including birdlife, mountain goats, sea lions and harbor seals—are everywhere, and the Zodiac allows guests to get in close proximity to view face of the glacier.

Seabourn Sojourn's season in Alaska launches with the 11-day Ultimate Alaskan Sojourn, departing from Vancouver, B.C., on Jun. 1, 2017.

Image Courtesy Seabourn

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Norwegian Cruise Line Celebrates Half a Century at Sea

It seems like it was only yesterday, but our first cruise on the ss Norway was more than 27 years ago. At that time, the iconic Norway was the largest and longest cruise ship at sea and Norwegian Cruise Line was praised as innovative for restoring the former-liner, the ss France, for cruising the Caribbean.

Launched in Miami as Norwegian Caribbean Line 50 years ago this week, the rechristened Norwegian Cruise Line continues to be an innovator. It was Norwegian that introduced large ships, "Freestyle" flexible dining, specialty restaurants, Broadway-style musicals, a private island, the availability of numerous single occupancy staterooms, as well as high-end suites in the Haven—the ship-within-a-concept—and more. Additionally, it was with the creation of Norwegian Caribbean Line that Miami came to be the world's busiest and most important cruise ship homeport.

We won't be around to celebrate a full century of "Cruising Like a Norwegian" but we look forward to following the line's innovations during the time we have left.

ss Norway Image: Norwegian Cruise Line Postcard

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Aboard Harmony of the Seas: Dinner & a Show

Royal Caribbean’s Izumi restaurant is noted for serving fresh sushi and sashimi and, now onboard Harmony of the Seas, guests can also experience a hibachi experience where chefs cook tableside on teppanyaki grills. Chefs show off their meticulous cooking skills entertaining guests with playful tricks, all while preparing an Asian-inspired meal to perfection. From taking their seats to the final bite, guests at Izumi are treated to a multisensory experience.

Video Courtesy Royal Caribbean Intl

Monday, December 19, 2016

Viking Ocean Cruises' Fourth Ship "Floats Out"

Viking Ocean Cruises' fourth ship—the 930-passenger Viking Sun—has been "floated out," marking the major construction milestone, and the first time that the new ship's hull touches water. The traditional ceremony took place on December 15 at Fincantieri's Ancona shipyard.

A float out ceremony is significant because it signals that a ship moving into its final stage of construction. In keeping with maritime tradition, a madrina—a special woman of honor—assisted with the ceremony, first welding coins under the ship mast. As Viking Sun will be the company's first ocean ship to call on China, Mrs. Yi Lou, Vice President of China Merchant Bank Financial Leasing (CMBFL), served as Viking Sun's madrina. She welded commemorative coins representing her birth year, as well as the birth years of her parents. A special coin, dated 1911, was also welded to represent mother Ragnhild "Mamsen" Hagen, the mother of Viking's Chairman and the woman after whom the onboard Norwegian deli Mamsen's is named. Mrs. Lou then cut a cord to allow water to begin flowing into the ship's building dock. Following the two-day process that set Viking Sun afloat, she was moved to a nearby outfitting dock for final construction and interior build-out.

"It is always a proud moment for the entire Viking family when a new ship meets water for the first time," Viking Cruises Chairman Torstein Hagen said at the ceremony. "CMBFL is an important partner, and we wanted to honor our relationship by naming one of their executives as madrina to our newest ship."

Viking Sun will debut in late 2017 and will be marketed to travelers in North America, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. The ship will begin her maiden season sailing voyages to Cuba and the Caribbean, before embarking on a 141-day World Cruise that spans 5 continents, 35 countries, and 66 ports.

Image Courtesy Viking Ocean Cruises

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Crow’s Nest is Now ‘Explorations Central’

The Crow’s Nest has always been a favorite spot aboard Holland America Line ships. With its 180-degree views of the sea, it is a haven of serenity and an ideal place to read or just watch the world pass by. The premium cruise line has announced it is expanding the lounge’s use along with amplifying the line’s destination immersion experiences with the launch of Explorations Central, or EXC, as it will be called. The multifaceted EXC experience combines a wide array of travel resources with enrichment opportunities for guests that make their travel experience more engaging and meaningful.

EXC will also feature the transformation of the Crow’s Nest on some ships to create a newly named venue, Explorations Central, as a comprehensive resource and engagement center. Programming for EXC begins in early 2017 and will roll out across the entire fleet by the end of the year. The EXC shipboard center will debut aboard ms Westerdam in April 2017 following a scheduled dry dock and is scheduled to expand across the rest of the fleet through 2018.

“Explorations Central is revolutionizing the way we deliver destinations to our guests, and it’s going to profoundly change how our guests are immersed in the history, culture and cuisine of the places we visit,” said Orlando Ashford, Holland America Line’s president. “Those who see the world better understand the world; and when we better understand the world we can gain insights into ourselves and personally experience the transformative effects of travel. EXC is going to show our guests the world in a whole new way and enable them to engage in truly meaningful experiences.”

As the centerpiece for interactive discovery, Explorations Central, in the space currently occupied by the Crow’s Nest, will be a hub of information redefining the way Holland America Line guests experience each destination. Through EXC, guests will be able to relax and immerse themselves, whether collecting information about a port or indulging in a cup of espresso or Sudoku at the coffee bar. In-depth content will showcase digital storytelling and interactive video experiences on subjects ranging from travel and food to the arts. In an industry first, EXC will feature a virtual ship’s bridge where real-time data from the ship’s actual bridge reveals the cruise experience to guests from a unique vantage point.

Also being introduced is a dedicated EXC Team that will bring local culture and history onboard with customized guidance for each destination. Guests can ask advice from the EXC Guides about the best tours, most popular sites and where to go to feel like a local so each destination can be explored to its fullest. These specially trained experts shape the story of each journey by providing informative talks, fielding questions and hosting local visitors in engaging encounters with guests. EXC Talks by the EXC Guides bring each locale to life by digging deeper, beyond facts and figures. Guests will learn some of the local customs, hear interesting tales and gain extensive insight into each port of call.

Through EXC Encounters, local cultural representatives come on board before the ship reaches the next destination to build anticipation for the adventures that await. Guests might learn how to play the steel drums from a Trinidadian, make a flower lei with a native Hawaiian or create a sense of balance and serenity every morning in a class led by a master tai chi instructor. EXC Encounters also include informal small-group gatherings hosted by the EXC Guides. These feature language and cultural etiquette lessons, hands-on discovery of local items and products, participatory programs covering music and dance and storytelling sessions.

To ensure guests are prepared to go ashore, online EXC Port Guides using tips and information from AFAR Media provide exclusive handbooks for each destination. Guests can create a personalized journey based on their interests in a variety of subjects. For guests who enjoy exploring on their own, printed EXC Port Maps present a simple view of the best each port has to offer by highlighting the key points in each port that are easily reachable during the stay in port. Tips and suggestions will be included from shipboard crew who have visited the port several times before. Completing the new on-board offerings, stateroom televisions also become a portal to the world through the EXC Channel featuring a selection of curated films, documentaries and TV shows exploring destinations on the ship’s itinerary.

Image Courtesy Holland America Line

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Costa Ships Produce Real Italian Mozzarella Cheese at Sea

You could call this news cheesy, but I call it deliziosa. Costa Cruises has announced the arrival of a new product on its ships that embodies the best of the Italian culinary tradition: authentic top-quality Italian mozzarella produced directly onboard.

"Thanks to the collaboration of Latteria del Curatino, Costa Cruises is the first company in the world to serve its guests mozzarella made onboard like in a real creamery. This new service is already available onboard our flagship Costa Diadema and on Costa Favolosa; in the next few months will also arrive on board six other ships," announced Giuseppe Carino, VP Guest Experience and Onboard Revenues at Costa Cruises.

"Latteria del Curatino" is an Italian brand created by the cooperation between two Campania-based dairy companies: Comat”, an international leader for dairy plants and machines; and Podere dei Leoni creamery, a leading producer of certified quality buffalo mozzarella.

Mozzarella is made onboard Costa ships using Comat's innovative steam- and electricity-powered machine. The key ingredient is the curd of cow and buffalo milk that comes from the Piana del Sele (Salerno) area and is of the utmost certified quality. The stretched curd produced by the machine is then rolled into a ball (mozzato) to create a mozzarella as tradition demands, or artfully shaped and moulded by the expert hands of the cheesemakers to become buffalo mozzarella, fiordilatte, burrata, stracciata, zizzona, sfoglia, and scamorza cheese. As well as providing guests with a fresh and tasty speciality, preventing storage at low temperatures from impairing its flavor and aroma, this new service will also make it possible to eliminate waste by producing only the exact quantity of mozzarella needed.

The mozzarella and other traditional Italian cheese specialities produced onboard are the stars of the special "Goccialatte" menu available in the onboard Pummid'oro pizzerias. The menu will comprise a mozzarella roll with salad, vegetables and smoked salmon; tomato and buffalo mozzarella done three different ways; tuna with Doganella oil, red onions and burrata; beef carpaccio with a chicory salad and smoked scamorza; warm focaccia, mortadella and stracciatella cheese served with pickled vegetables made on board; or Neapolitan peasant bread, porcini, fiordilatte cheese and guanciale.

Fiordilatte and buffalo mozzarella will also be used for the pizzas of the Pummid'oro pizzeria, prepared exclusively with sourdough and select ingredients, thanks to the support of the University of Food Science of Pollenzo. Over the following months the cheese specialities will also enrich the dishes of the regional menus served in the onboard restaurants.

The daily production of the mozzarella will be overseen on each ship by two specialist cheesemakers who have attended a specific training course held onboard by expert cheesemakers from Latteria del Curatino to teach them how to produce excellent mozzarella and other cheeses in accordance with the finest Italian traditions.

Image Courtesy Costa Cruises

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Oceania Cruises Introduces Evening Tapas Menus in the Terrace Café

Watermelon Sweet Thai Salad
Travelers with an appetite for global flavors will enjoy the introduction of Oceania Cruises’ new evening Tapas Menus. Offered each evening in the Terrace Café, the new menus comprise a distinct and different array of destination-inspired flavors. Guests can choose from an ever-changing selection of crostini, fruit- and vegetable-based salads, rolls, fresh fish, and seafood tapas, crudités and other small dishes artfully presented in tasting spoons and verrines.

With more than five-dozen dishes included in the 14 new menus, bon vivants will enjoy spending a relaxing evening in the Terrace Café, sharing small plates, toasting the day’s memories, engaging in sparkling conversation and sharing the breathtaking vistas all around. The Tapas dishes are available every evening of the cruise, in addition to the Terrace Café’s amazing assortment of starters, soups, salads, main courses, carving station, and desserts.

“Cuisine and the overall dining experience are such integral parts of the Oceania Cruises’ culture and the fabric of the destinations we visit. We are always looking to provide our guests with unexpected moments of surprise and delight,” stated Bob Binder, president and chief executive office of Oceania Cruises.

Crostini with Bresaola
Developed over the course of a year, these remarkable menus were crafted by Oceania Cruises’ culinary team and their passion for the Spanish tradition of sharing small plates crafted from the freshest ingredients that reflect the vibrancy of the destinations visited. For Culinary Directors Eric Barale and Franck Garanger, along with Senior Executive Chef Alban Gjoka, this was a very personal endeavor.

“The Boqueria market in Barcelona is one of my favorite markets in the world. Whenever I am in town I can spend several hours just walking the stalls and taking in all the scents, colors and flavors. Then I head to my favorite tapas restaurant, Papitu, where I found inspiration in this traditional aspect of Spanish culture which is always made better when shared with friends and family,” added Chef Alban.

Select Tapas Menu Highlights
- Crostini with bresaola (a very lean Italian air-cured beef aged up to 3 months), gorgonzola and fig compote
- Fresh caramelized shrimp with onions and spicy chili sauce presented in a tasting spoon
- Vegetarian summer rolls with fresh herbs, tofu, rice noodles and a tamarind and peanut sauce
- Watermelon sweet Thai salad with cashews, fresh herbs, cucumber and sweet chili
- Heirloom cherry tomato salad with Greek caper leaves
- Molten cheese soufflé with chive velouté
- Porcini and forest mushroom timbale with crema di grana padano
- Homemade vegetarian samosas with raita sauce
Informal and carefree, the Terrace Café is wonderfully inviting any time of day. First thing in the morning, the room is infused with natural sunlight from the floor-to-ceiling windows, stimulating the appetite for the breakfast selections. Come lunch, the expansive menu of international-inspired dishes changes entirely, complemented by flavorful roasted and rotisserie meats and the magic of the pizzeria’s oven. Feel free to dine inside or alfresco at one of the shaded teak tables on the terrace. In the evening, the wait staff shines, and the cuisine takes on a more sophisticated flair. Lobster tails and lamb chops are prepared to order, and freshly made hand-cut sushi and sashimi await selection. An entirely different series of menus awaits guests every day.

Images Courtesy Oceania Cruises

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cunard Line Offers First Wine & Spirit Education Trust Courses at Sea

For wine aficionados, one of the finest wine lists at sea is enough of a reason to book a voyage aboard Queen Mary 2, but there's about to be more on tap to appeal to them. Cunard Line has partnered with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), the world’s largest provider of wine and spirits qualifications, to launch the first ever WSET certified wine and spirit courses to be available on its flagship, Queen Mary 2. WSET works with Approved Program Providers in over 70 countries to offer its qualifications to interested enthusiasts and industry professionals, ranging from Level 1 Awards in Wines, Spirits and Sake to the prestigious Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits. The partnership with Cunard is the first time WSET courses will be available to guests on a transatlantic or round-world cruise line.

WSET courses will initially be available on Queen Mary 2’s Westbound Transatlantic Crossings and World Voyage trips with plans to extend courses to Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth later in 2017. Classes led by WSET Certified Educator Andrés Solís Lira who, having been born at the foothills of the Andes Mountains in what is now the Cachapoal wine country, has worked in the wine world for the past decade joining Cunard in 2009 as a sommelier on Queen Mary 2 and rising to the position of educator for the Cunard Wine Academy.

Guests aboard Westbound Transatlantic Crossings from Southampton to New York can embark on a five day course to achieve WSET Level 1 Award in Wines. The course gives a hands-on introduction to the world of wine in an interactive and relaxed atmosphere for beginners. The course covers the basics of wine types and styles through sight, smell, and taste, as well as how to store and serve wine and pairing food with wine.

Guests aboard Round World Voyages from Southampton to Cape Town, Cape Town to Fremantle, Hong Kong to Dubai and Dubai to Southampton, can participate in a 12-day course to achieve WSET Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits. The beginner to intermediate level course is for enthusiasts seeking a core understanding of wine and spirits. It explores the major grape varieties and the styles of wines they produce as well as important wine regions in which they are grown. Participants also learn about key classifications and labeling terminology and are given a basic overview of the key categories of spirits and liqueurs. Each of the courses finishes with a multiple choice exam, and, on passing, candidates receive a globally recognized WSET qualification certificate and lapel pin as proof of their new knowledge.

The debut voyage to offer WSET courses will be the Westbound Transatlantic Crossing departing Southampton in just two days on Dec 15, 2016. The first Round World Voyage offering WSET courses will set off on Jan 10, 2017 from Southampton to Cape Town. Guests can book a WSET course by calling Cunard ahead of their journey or speaking to the sommelier while on board.

The WSET courses are the latest addition to the cruise line’s extensive wine credentials. As noted, Queen Mary 2 is renowned for having one of the finest wine lists at sea while The Cunard Wine Academy offers an all sensory experience of food and wine pairings, tastings and producer master classes for guests.

Wine & Spirit Education Trust Courses:
WSET Level 1 Award in Wines:
• Five-day course of one hour morning sessions inclusive of revision day and multiple choice examination
• The price includes all study materials, examination fees, certificates, Champagne Reception and a four course lunch with matching wines in The Verandah Restaurant on the last day of the course
• During the course participants will have the opportunity to taste a minimum of 10 wines and will also be provided with a WSET study guide to make notes on and take home
• Examination on the last day with 30 multiple choice questions to be answered in 45 minutes. A mark of 70% required to pass
• Certification - all guests who pass will be issued a certificate suitable for framing and a lapel pin
• Price: $295 USD
WSET Level 2 Award in Wines and Spirits:
• 12-day course of two hour morning sessions inclusive of revision day and multiple choice examination
• The price includes all study materials, examination fees, certificates, Champagne Reception and a four course lunch with matching wines in The Verandah Restaurant on the last day of the course
• During the course participants will have the opportunity to taste up to 45 wines and four spirits and will also be provided with a WSET study guide for you to make notes on and take home
• Examination on the last day with 50 multiple choice questions to be answered in 60 minutes. A mark of 55% required to pass
• Certification - all guests who pass will be issued with a certificate suitable for framing and a lapel pin.
• Price: $595 USD
Image Courtesy Cunard Line

Monday, December 12, 2016

Seabourn Reveals First Images of Seabourn Encore

Seabourn has unveiled the first images (below) of its newest all-suite vessel, Seabourn Encore that launched in Marghera, Italy, on December 1st. Seabourn Encore will be officially christened at a ceremony in Singapore on January 7, 2017. She will go on to spend her maiden season sailing the Pacific Rim in Australia and New Zealand, before returning to Europe in April 2017 to spend summer along the Mediterranean.

Designed by hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany, the 40,350-GRT vessel features modern design elements and innovations in keeping with Seabourn's reputation for understated elegance. Guests of Seabourn Encore will be treated to the line's extraordinary levels of personalized service, with a high staff to guest ratio. The ship carries 600 guests who reside in 300 elegantly appointed suites each with a private verandah. A sister ship, Seabourn Ovation, will join the fleet in 2018.

The Atrium

Seabourn Square

The Colonnade

The Colonnade

The Restaurant

The Retreat

Pool Deck

Images Courtesy of Seabourn

Friday, December 9, 2016

More Cruise Lines are Cuba Bound

That's right, the mystique of a visit to Cuba is becoming more of a reality with the announcements this week by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. that they have received approval from the government of the Republic of Cuba to operate cruises to the island nation.

The cruise itineraries will comply with U.S. Department of Treasury rules that permit travel companies to transport approved travelers to Cuba to engage in people-to-people activities as defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.
All three of the company’s brands—Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises—will offer U.S. travelers the opportunity to visit Cuba on select sailings starting next year. The voyages will provide guests with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover not only the rich culture, history and natural beauty of Cuba, but more importantly experience the warmth and hospitality of its people.

The company’s first 14-day cruise to Cuba will set sail from PortMiami on Oceania Cruises’ Marina on March 7, 2017, followed by two 10-day sailings scheduled to depart on March 21 and March 31. Itineraries feature calls on Havana, including multiple-day calls to allow guests to explore the city and its environs. Seven Seas Mariner, of the Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet, will call on Havana during two cruises in April 2017. Norwegian Sky will also offer a selection of 4-day voyages that will overnight in Havana in May 2017.

“We are tremendously excited to have all three of our brands receive approval from the Cuban authorities to offer cruises to Cuba from the United States,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. “As a Cuban-American and founder of Oceania Cruises, I am incredibly proud that one of Oceania’s vessels will be our company’s first to sail to Cuba. This is truly a dream come true for me, and I cannot wait for our loyal guests to experience the sights and sounds of my hometown of Havana and get to know its rich culture and its warm and welcoming residents.”

Guests sailing on all three brands will have a selection of shore excursions to choose from, all of which offer an authentic Cuban experience that explores the people, art, history and culture of the island. Full itinerary details and on sale dates for voyages that call on Cuba are now available for Oceania Cruises, later this month for Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and on Dec 20 for Norwegian Cruise Line.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Brands
Two RCCL lines, Royal Caribbean Intl and Azamara Club Cruises, will provide guests with travel directly to Cuba for the purpose of providing people-to-people exchanges between guests and Cuban citizens and other travel permitted by current U.S. regulations. RCCL released fewer details, however, Empress of the Seas will homeport in Tampa for the 2017 summer season offering a series of 4- and 5-night sailings, including port calls to destinations in Cuba. Details of the summer itineraries will be released at a later date.

"Our guests have expressed real interest in having the opportunity to experience Cuba, and we look forward to bringing them there," said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "Our discussions with our travel partners indicate that Cuba is a destination that appeals to a new generation of travelers."

Marina Image Courtesy Oceania Cruises

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Princess Cruises Introduces Best Price Guarantee on Shore Excursions Fleetwide

While some passengers prefer to go it on their own in port, or contract with private tour operators to save money, they no longer have to do so on a Princess cruise. The premium line has announced its Shore Excursions Best Price Guarantee is available on thousands of award-winning tours in ports the cruise line visits worldwide. The program has launched fleetwide and guarantees if guests find the same shore excursion elsewhere at a lower price, they will receive 110 percent of the difference in the form of non-refundable onboard credit.

“Our new Best Price Guarantee on shore excursions gives guests satisfaction that they are receiving competitive and fair pricing while enjoying an exceptional experience ashore,” said Bruce Krumrine, vice president of shore excursions for Princess Cruises. “We find our guests rate their overall cruise vacation experience higher when they take our shore excursions because we handle every detail for them so they can easily explore the world and take home lifelong memories of the places they visit.”

The new Best Price Guarantee is being announced to Princess guests through pre-cruise e-mails and on and is available to guests who book their excursions with Princess pre-cruise. If guests find an equivalent shore excursion at a lower price, the request can be submitted at least seven days prior to the sailing date to for review by the Shore Excursion customer service team. Within two business days, guests will be notified if their request meets the Best Price Guarantee criteria. If it does, 110 percent of the price difference will be applied in the form of a non-refundable onboard credit.

The Best Price Guarantee only applies to shore excursions that are advertised with pricing and publicly available. It applies to all shore excursions, with the exception of Asia, Southeast Asia, and Japan ports, and excludes private vehicle and driver excursions in ports worldwide.

Princess Cruises offers guests more than 4,000 shore excursions in 360 destinations around the globe, on more than 150 itineraries. Discovery™ and Animal Planet™ shore excursions are available as part of the cruise line’s Discovery at Sea™ program, an exclusive partnership designed to create memorable vacation experiences for the whole family. Discovery and Animal Planet Exclusive Tours are unique tours that cannot be booked independently and are available only through Princess Cruises. Now more than 1,000 Discovery and Animal Planet tours are available worldwide.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Cruise Review: Norwegian Gem

Join the Hendersons as they sail Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Gem for the third time—this cruise embarking in San Juan.

Take a look at the ports of call—Grenada, St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, and Tortola in the British Virgin Islands—the dining, entertainment, and especially the upgrades they discovered on board.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Seven Seas Explorer Has Arrived in Miami

After its launch and inaugural season in the Mediterranean, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer arrived at PortMiami this week to spend the winter season sailing 10 cruises that crisscross the Caribbean Sea. This marks the North American debut for the all-suite, all-balcony, 750-guest luxury liner.

Seven Seas Explorer will begin its inaugural Caribbean season with a 14-night roundtrip Serene Islands cruise on Dec. 4 and 10-night Caribbean Dawn voyage on Dec. 14 that sail roundtrip from PortMiami. The ship then heads west as Seven Seas Explorer will ring in the New Year with a 16-night Grand Canal Crossing from Miami to Los Angeles with stops throughout the Caribbean and Central America. The ship returns to South Florida on Feb. 4 and will use PortMiami as its homeport for five back-to-back 10-night roundtrip voyages to islands of the Caribbean, Mexico, and Belize, including two voyages that call on the brand new, upscale resort-style destination in Belize called Harvest Caye—a destination developed by parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

“We’re excited to bring Seven Seas Explorer to PortMiami and provide guests with an incredible opportunity to experience the most luxurious ship ever built with the convenience of departing from a domestic homeport,” said Jason Montague, president and chief executive officer for Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “We are also pleased that Seven Seas Explorer will be the first ship in our fleet to call on Harvest Caye, an exciting new destination in southern Belize filled with stunning beaches, fascinating wildlife, and resort-style amenities, including a sprawling pool with swim-up bar and private luxury beach villas.”

Image Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Monday, December 5, 2016

Pigeon Forge Encourages Visitors

Yes, this is the Cruise Diva encouraging readers to consider a vacation in a land-locked state. Mel and I plan to visit Tennessee in the near future in a show of support to our fellow Americans who are recovering from serious wildfires in the area. Pigeon Forge officials have shared with us that the city's many attractions, theaters, restaurants, and lodging properties are once again operating as usual and Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner encouraged visitation to the area.

"Many of our city's 6,000 residents, as well as those of our friends and family in Gatlinburg, are dependent on the tourism industry for jobs to care for themselves and their families," said Leon Downey, Pigeon Forge executive director of tourism. "As our communities move forward, our industry has an obligation to our residents and employees to encourage visitation to the area and sustain our businesses."

Pigeon Forge is located next door to Great Smoky Mountains National Park where wildfires ignited Monday night, Nov. 28. Pigeon Forge businesses were not damaged during the fires, and businesses are operating as usual. The city's Winterfest festival continues, including several Christmas shows at various theaters. Dollywood theme park reopened on Friday, Dec. 2. Restaurants and lodging properties are operating on normal schedules.

Dolly Parton announced a new effort by The Dollywood Company and The Dollywood Foundation to establish a fund to assist the families affected by the Smoky Mountain wildfires. The new My People Fund will provide $1000 each month for six months to Sevier County families who lost their homes.

While it won't be a cruise, our next vacation will take us to a part of the country we've only passed through before. We look forward to exploring it more closely and hope you will consider doing so as well.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Holland America Celebrates Two Decades at Half Moon Cay

Next year Holland America Line will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Half Moon Cay, its award-winning private island paradise in the Bahamas.

To commemorate the event two decades in the making, the premium cruise line has introducing a new Lobster Shack eatery, as well as several island updates and upgrades that were in place for the first ship call in early November. The new Lobster Shack, which Cruise Diva had the pleasure of experiencing a couple weeks ago, will be permanently located near the “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever” bar and serve fresh grilled lobster with Caribbean coconut beans n’ rice and a rum-jerk butter glaze. Pineapple and Caribbean Sofrito salsas bring out the local flavors. The lobster barbecue will be available for a nominal fee of $20, and Rum punch and other beverages also are available for purchase at the Lobster Shack.

“For the past 20 years Half Moon Cay has been the recipient of numerous accolades ranking it the best private island in the Caribbean, and it continues to be the jewel in our Caribbean itineraries,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “We are renowned for providing top destination experiences, and all of our guests will enjoy the recent enhancements on Half Moon Cay, including the Lobster Shack that is a fantastic addition to our culinary offerings.”

Island Upgrades Introduce New Water Toys & Refreshed Retreats
During summer 2016, Half Moon Cay underwent several upgrades and welcomed new additions. Water sports are a central focus of any call at the idyllic island, and guests can now get out on the water with new Sunfish sailboats, Hobie catamarans, Aqua Cycle Trikes and Aqua Trax Wave Runners. These join paddleboats, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, snorkel gear and more.

The private beach-side cabanas and two-story villas also received facelifts with new paint, and some new furnishings. The Grand Cabana—the ultimate private retreat on Half Moon Cay—received new décor as well.

Guests looking for a drink on the beach now have three more satellite locations, and the Captain Morgan on the Rocks bar received new furniture.

The horseback riding tours are among the most popular, and 14 additional horses and two more grazing pastures were added, while the changing rooms at the Ranch were enhanced. Many guests visit the island’s Welcome Center, where new furniture adorns the facility.

All Roundtrip Fort Lauderdale Caribbean Cruises Call at Half Moon Cay
For the 2016-17 Caribbean season, all cruises that sail roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, make a call at Half Moon Cay. Guests on the new ms Koningsdam, ms Eurodam, ms Zuiderdam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Rotterdam, ms Veendam and ms Prinsendam will be able to visit Half Moon Cay on a variety of itineraries.

Images ©

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Seabourn Takes Delivery Of Seabourn Encore

Luxury cruise line Seabourn took delivery of its newest all-suite vessel Seabourn Encore yesterday during an official handover ceremony at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy.

"We have been looking forward to this day for over two years. Seabourn Encore has become a stunning ship that will set a new standard in ultra-luxury cruising," said Richard Meadows, president of Seabourn. "I am very proud of our partnership with Fincantieri, and it has been a great pleasure to work together to transform raw materials into this incredible vessel that will make a great addition to the Seabourn fleet."

Seabourn Encore will be officially christened in Singapore on Jan 7, 2017. International recording artist and world's best-selling Soprano, Sarah Brightman, will be godmother of Seabourn Encore and officially name the ship during the celebration. The vessel will then depart on its Inaugural Voyage, the 10-day Gems of the Java Sea cruise, bound for Indonesia.

Guests of Seabourn Encore will be treated to the line's extraordinary levels of personalized service, with a high staff to guest ratio. The ship carries 600 guests, based on double occupancy, who reside in 300 elegantly appointed suites each with a private verandah. Designed by hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany who intended Seabourn Encore "to feel more like a luxury yacht," the 40,350-GRT vessel features modern design elements and innovations in keeping with Seabourn's reputation for understated elegance, as well as one additional deck and new expanded public areas. The ship expands and builds on the line's award-winning and highly acclaimed Odyssey-class ships, which featured enhanced accommodations and innovative amenities when they were introduced between 2009 and 2011. New features include The Retreat, a sanctuary designed for guests to relax in private cabanas, with a Spa Treatment Cabana for personalized spa services.

In addition, guests will enjoy superb cuisine, including The Grill by Thomas Keller, the new signature restaurant from three-star Michelin chef Thomas Keller that was introduced on Seabourn Quest earlier this year and will be expanded to the entire Seabourn fleet. A new restaurant for Seabourn, Sushi, makes its debut as a destination for foodies, with a unique look and feel and high-quality dishes served throughout the day.

A new production show, 'An Evening with Tim Rice,' created exclusively for Seabourn in association with Belinda King Creative Productions, will open onboard Seabourn Encore in January 2017, when she sails from Singapore on her inaugural voyage. The new Spa and Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil mindful living program also debuts on Seabourn Encore in January. Both Tim Rice and Dr. Weil will sail on the inaugural voyage.

Following her inaugural sailing, Seabourn Encore will move onto a 16-day Great Barrier Reef & Gold Coast and back-to-back 16-day Australia & New Zealand voyages. The ship will then reverse the earlier 10-day Gems of the Java Sea cruise to Singapore, proceed on 16-day Jewels of India & Arabia cruise to Dubai, and finish her first season with a 19-day Arabian Gems & Holy Land voyage before ending her winter season at Athens on May 5.

Seabourn Encore will spend summer 2017 along the Mediterranean, with numerous itineraries including a 7-14-or 21-day Mediterranean cruise departing from Piraeus (Athens), Greece on May 6, the 22-day Adriatic & Mediterranean Isles cruise departing June 24, and the 20-Day Mediterranean Encore cruise departing from Barcelona on Aug. 5. The ship will finish summer with the 20-Day UNESCO Gems of the Western Mediterranean cruise on Sept.13 for the start of its autumn season.
Seabourn Encore Pool Deck Image Courtesy Seabourn