Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Legendary Rock Band Styx Goes LIVE With Carnival

Carnival officially launched their one-of-a-kind Carnival LIVE Concert Series last week with sold-out performances by world-renowned rock band Styx. Fans packed the show lounges on Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Fascination for live performances that brought audiences to their feet.

Tommy Shaw, guitarist for Styx, commented, “All I know is our boats were rockin’. We had a great time and it looked like our fans loved it, too. Can’t wait to do it again in the fall in Nassau and then in Catalina Island and Cozumel.”

Take a look at the excitement on board...


The Carnival LIVE Concert Series offers guests sailing on select Carnival Cruise Lines ships the opportunity to enjoy an exclusive onboard performance by a diverse roster of popular music artists while ships are docked at a port of call. Carnival has booked 49 performance dates for the 2014 concert series with the following artists:
• 38 Special
• Chicago
• Daughtry
• Foreigner
• Gavin DeGraw
• Jennifer Hudson
• Jewel
• Kansas
• Lady Antebellum
• LeAnn Rimes
• Martina McBride
• Olivia Newton-John
• REO Speedwagon
• STYX
• Trace Adkins
Performances are scheduled on board eight Carnival ships that call in the following ports: Cozumel, Mexico; Nassau, the Bahamas; and Catalina Island, California. Artists join the ship while in port, perform in the main show lounge that evening, and debark following their show.

Tickets cost $20-40 each and a limited number of VIP tickets are also available for each show for $100-$150 each. The VIP experience includes an artist meet and greet, complimentary photo with the band, seating in the first three rows and a commemorative laminated concert pass. All tickets can be purchased through Carnival’s online shore excursion system prior to sailing, or on board participating ships at the shore excursion desk based on availability.

For a preliminary list of ships, sailings, and concert dates, see 'Carnival LIVE Concert Series' here on Cruise Diva’s Blog. To view full list of 2014 Carnival LIVE concert dates, visit Carnival.com/CarnivalLive. When planning, take note that the dates are subject to change and are the dates when the concert itself takes place, not the date the sailing begins.

Video Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Carnival Dream Sails On Inaugural Cruise From The Big Easy

The 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream, the largest cruise ship to homeport in New Orleans year-round, departed on its inaugural 6-day cruise yesterday afternoon from the newly refurbished Erato Street Cruise Terminal, which underwent a $2.3 million upgrade to accommodate a ship as large as the 130,000-ton vessel. Solidifying the line's distinction as New Orleans' largest cruise operator, Carnival Cruise Lines now bases two ships carrying more than 400,000 passengers annually from the port. Carnival Dream joins Carnival Elation, which sails year-round 4- and 5-day cruises to Mexico from New Orleans, the sixth largest cruise port in the U.S. as ranked by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

The special inaugural voyage is set to visit Costa Maya, Mahogany Bay (Isla Roatan), and Cozumel. Carnival Dream's next move is to launch year-round 7-day service from New Orleans beginning April 20th by offering three distinctly different itineraries: western Caribbean cruises visiting Montego Bay, Cozumel, and Grand Cayman; or Mahogany Bay (Isla Roatan), Belize and Cozumel; and a Bahamas/Florida route calling at Key West, Freeport, and Nassau.

"New Orleans is one of our most popular homeports and Carnival Dream provides vacationers with a spectacular 'Fun Ship' cruise option from the Big Easy offering an incredible array of on-board innovations," said Gerry Cahill, Carnival's president and CEO.

The 1,004-foot-long Carnival Dream offers a host of on-board features, including WaterWorks with a 303-foot-long Twister water slide, among the longest at sea, as well as a 23,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa, a half-mile outdoor promenade with whirlpools that extend out over the ship's sides, and more than two dozen bars, restaurants, and lounges, including the poolside RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar. Carnival Dream also includes an indoor/outdoor cafe/live entertainment venue called Ocean Plaza as well as the Seaside Theatre, a 270-square-foot LED screen displaying concerts, sporting events, and nightly Dive-In Movies.

Also featured is a Punchliner Comedy Club with nearly two dozen family-friendly and adult-oriented comedy shows per voyage. Carnival Dream also offers fun, supervised activities for children in three age groups and later this year will add Seuss at Sea, part of a fleetwide partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises featuring exciting youth, family, dining, and entertainment experiences inspired by the world of Dr. Seuss.

A variety of spacious accommodations are also available, with dozens of suites and a wide selection of balcony staterooms, including unique cove balconies located closer to the water that offer outstanding sea views. There are also ocean view staterooms with a full bath plus separate wash room and five-berth staterooms, which are ideal for families.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Monday, April 14, 2014

Quantum of the Seas Floats Out



It wasn't that long ago that the final building block was moved into position, making it possible for Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship to have water beneath her hull for the first time just last week. As you can see from the photo above, Quantum of the Seas was floated out in the building dock at the MEYER WERFT shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.

In November of this year the 167,800-ton, 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas—the first of the Quantum-class vessels—is scheduled to launch her maiden season from Cape Liberty, located in Bayonne, New Jersey.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cruise Diva Talks About River Venture

If a picture is worth a thousand words—as my mother used to say—then video must be worth a million or more.

You may recall that the Cruise Diva and Mel were aboard Vantage Deluxe Travel's ms River Venture for the Inaugural Seine Sailing a month ago. While on board, I was asked to talk about the experience and I'm happy to share the journey here.


For an in-depth look at River Venture, Cruise Diva shares Rolling on the River Seine.

Video Courtesy of Vantage Deluxe World Travel


Friday, April 11, 2014

More World Cup Soccer At Sea With Costa

With the popularity of World Cup soccer, it's no surprise that another cruise line will be televising it for their passengers. During the 2014 FIFA World Cup soccer championships taking place in Brazil June 12 to July 13, Costa Cruises plans to show live television broadcasts of matches onboard its fleet of 14 ships around the world. The line also has designed a variety of themed activities to celebrate the festive atmosphere surrounding the world's most popular sporting event. Depending on the timing of matches and the nationalities playing, games will be broadcast in different shipboard venues, such as the big screen located on the Magrodome pool deck and in the main show lounge.

Costa Cruises also has planned a range of themed activities to engage football fans and guests who want to support their national team and enjoy championship soccer in the company of friends and new acquaintances from around the world. During the day, creative guests will be encouraged to customize T-shirts or create banners with their favorite team's colors and slogans. There also will be group activities like soccer tournaments. Sports enthusiasts also can enjoy a game of freestyle soccer ball dribbling or take samba lessons with a Brazilian dance teacher to learn how celebrate their team's goals with an enthusiastic gesture. For those who prefer to cheer while sitting by the pool, Costa Cruises has created a series of fun World Cup trivia quizzes with exclusive prizes.

Costa Cruises' rich entertainment program includes flash-mob Brazilian dances to the tune of the official World Cup anthem, Brazilian-style appetizers with a Caipirinha—Brazil's national cocktail—and election of "Mister World Cup 2014." For more information, visit CostaCruises.com.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

FIFA World Cup Goes To Sea This Summer Aboard Norwegian’s Fleet

In partnership with the TV channel SPORT 24, Norwegian Cruise Line is providing soccer fans with the chance to follow the FIFA World Cup™ while on board Norwegian ships this summer.

World football’s flagship event will be held in Brazil from June 12 to July 13, 2014 and Norwegian will be screening the biggest matches fleet-wide. The partnership with the SPORT 24 will ensure that key games from the tournament matches will be available on board throughout the competition. This means that football fans can have the best of both worlds, a relaxing cruise vacation without missing one of the most exciting sporting events of the year. Norwegian will be showcasing key matches in multiple venues onboard each ship, so guests will have plenty of options to relax and enjoy their vacation, while experiencing a great sporting atmosphere onboard.

Fans can enjoy the games onboard all of Norwegian’s purpose-built Freestyle Cruising ships, including Miami’s Ultimate Ship, Norwegian Getaway, sailing 7-day cruises to the Eastern Caribbean from Miami, or onboard Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway’s sister-ship and the ship that brings the best of NYC to Sea, setting sail from the Big Apple to Bermuda.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Carnival Plans Longer Cruises Between Galveston & San Juan in 2015-16

Cruises from Galveston, Texas usually follow a familiar route to nearby ports of call in Mexico, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman, which can become monotonous for repeat passengers who prefer to sail from that homeport. To mix things up and add variety to their itineraries, Carnival Cruise Lines is offering 10- and 11-day cruises between Galveston and San Juan featuring visits to six different Caribbean destinations on one itinerary. Two 11-day cruises sail from Galveston to San Juan Oct. 24, 2015, and Jan. 16, 2016, and two 10-day cruises from San Juan to Galveston depart Nov. 4, 2015, and Jan. 27, 2016.

These longer-length tropical itineraries feature an array of interesting Caribbean ports and are a first in terms of Carnival’s Texas-based cruise program, which also includes year-round 4-and 5-day Mexico cruises and 7-day Caribbean itineraries. A number of the ports featured on the 10- and 11-day voyages are among the most pristine, unique, and less visited islands in the Caribbean. Those are combined with several of the region’s most popular destinations to create attractive and diverse itineraries that provide the opportunity to enjoy a multitude of islands featuring gorgeous beaches, turquoise waters, and endless sightseeing, shopping, and water sports activities.

Also offered for the first time on a Carnival itinerary is Bonaire, which is featured on 11-day cruises. An island nestled in the Dutch Antilles, Bonaire is known for its brightly colored scenery and some of the best diving in the world. Other islands on these new itineraries rarely visited by Carnival ships include Antigua, Grenada, and Martinique—all known for stunning scenery and a relaxing Caribbean ambiance.

“These 10- and 11-day cruises on Carnival Triumph provide vacationers even more opportunities to explore tropical destinations, relax on beautiful white-sand beaches and enjoy world-class snorkeling, scuba diving and watersports,” said Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill. “Plus, at our Carnival Conversations events travel agents have indicated that they would like to see a greater variety of itinerary choices, particularly longer cruises from the Gulf region, so these new voyages from Galveston are a great new option for agents to market to their clients,” he added.
The 11-day voyages on Carnival Triumph originate in Galveston and include stops at Grand Cayman, Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada, Martinique, and St. Maarten with the voyage ending in San Juan.

The 10-day San Juan-to-Galveston itinerary calls at St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Antigua, Grand Turk, and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay.
With non-repeating ports on the two different itineraries, guests who wish to take an even longer Carnival getaway can book back-to-back cruises and experience a memorable three-week voyage roundtrip from Galveston that visits all of these magnificent destinations. For more information, visit Carnival.com.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Lucky MSC Divina Passenger Will Win a Fiat 500c Pop Vehicle

MSC Cruises has teamed up with FIAT once again to bring Italian style to North American cruisers with the announcement of a first-ever joint promotion where one lucky guest will win a brand new FIAT 500c POP, with a retail value of more than $21,000. This chic and fun-to-drive small convertible blends Italian design with precision engineering, creating one of the hottest cars on the market.

Guests are automatically entered in the giveaway when they book a 7-night Caribbean cruise on board MSC Divina during the promotional period of April 7 to May 18, 2014, and sail between Aug 2, 2014 and Dec 27, 2014. One grand prize winner will be selected at random and announced as part of a holiday celebration in mid-December of this year.

“The FIAT partnership has been so much fun, especially when the fleet of FIAT 500 watercrafts escorted the MSC Divina to her new home at the port of Miami last fall,” said Richard E. Sasso, president of MSC Cruises USA. “Now, MSC Cruises and FIAT are delighted to give our passengers the opportunity to continue to enjoy the ‘Mediterranean Way of Life’ after their cruise in a new FIAT 500c POP.”

When MSC Divina arrived in PortMiami on Nov 20, 2013, she become the first Fantasia class ship to sail from North America and the first MSC Cruises ship to offer year-round Caribbean sailings. Divinely inspired by Sophia Loren, the godmother of the MSC fleet, MSC Divina offers stunning new features, such as two Eataly restaurants—the upscale Ristorante Italia and spectacular regional Eataly Steakhouse fashioned after the famed restaurant in Eataly’s Manhattan location—and artisanal marketplace, and is the first ship to offer Aqua Cycling at sea. The 1,751-cabin ship boasts 322,900 square feet of public spaces including 18 bars and lounges, five swimming pools, a bowling alley, gym and exotic Aurea Spa, 4D Theater, a Formula 1 racecar simulator, and a new Segafredo Zanetti gourmet coffee bar.

MSC Divina also features the MSC Yacht Club, an innovative “ship-within-a-ship” concept with 69 suites on board. MSC Yacht Club guests can indulge in comfort and convenience, from their own personal Butler and 24-hour concierge service to complimentary wines and spirits available any time of the day throughout MSC Yacht Club’s exclusive lounges and pool area. For a first-hand look at MSC Divina, see Cruise Diva’s report at MSC Divina, So Divine.

One entry will be awarded for each new cruise booking made between April 7 and May 18, 2014, with a limit of two entries per household. Consumers must be 18 years or older and a legal resident of the 50 United States (D.C.) or Canada (except Quebec) to enter. For official rules and entry information, visit MSCCruisesUSA.com/us_en/FiatGiveaway.

Image © CruiseDiva.com

Monday, April 7, 2014

CATS Takes To The Sea

Successful Broadway shows often spin off touring companies that take the shows to audiences in far-flung cities and now they are taking their “road” companies even further—to the sea.

When Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas launched in 2009, the ship also launched the line’s introduction of Broadway shows to the fleet with Hairspray. As a successor to that popular show, Royal Caribbean is bringing aboard one that is even more acclaimed—the Tony Award-winning Broadway production of CATS. Based on T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” CATS was one of the longest running productions on Broadway and is the winner of numerous awards including seven Tonys, two Oliviers, and a Grammy. The show has been seen in over 20 countries and translated into more than 10 languages. It also happens to be a favorite with the Cruise Diva crew, who has seen it twice. The fully licensed production of CATS will join Oasis of the Seas once it completes its drydock in fall 2014.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Really Useful Group to bring one of the world’s most beloved musicals to Oasis of the Seas,” said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Executive Vice President, Operations, Royal Caribbean International. “Adding CATS to our already amazing line up of Broadway musicals such as Hairspray, Chicago: The Musical, Saturday Night Fever, and Mamma Mia exemplify our commitment to bringing top quality entertainment to our guests at no extra cost.”

Oasis of the Seas features exclusive amenities and concepts throughout its seven themed neighborhoods, such as an 82 foot-long zip line, a handcrafted carousel, the Rising Tide elevating bar, the Aquatheater high-diving performance venue, and Central Park with more than 12,000 live trees and plants. Oasis of the Seas also offers amenities that can only be found on Royal Caribbean, such as twin FlowRider surf simulators, cantilevered whirlpools, an ice-skating rink, the H20 Zone kids aquapark, and the Royal Promenade, an interior boulevard that stretches nearly the length of the ship and flanked by restaurants, lounges and boutiques, among many others. For additional information, visit RoyalCaribbean.com.

Friday, April 4, 2014

“Vaping” Afloat

Cruise lines and their passengers are accustomed to controversy. Among some of the most heated topics of conversation in regard to cruise travel is the preference of some for “traditional” dining seatings versus the open seating or “anytime” dining option that appeals to many others. However, that topic pales by comparison to the one that rages between smokers and non-smokers.

In a nod to a cleaner, safer, and healthier atmosphere on board, most cruise lines have severely curtailed smoking on their vessels. Ships have caught up to the rest of the hospitality industry and the smoking lamp has gone out in all restaurants and showrooms at sea, as well as many of their bars and lounges. Nearly all accommodations and most private balconies are also smoke-free zones. While casinos are one of the last bastions of smokers, some have a “smoke-free” night to clear the air or restrict smoking to certain areas. We detail those policies in “Smoke on the Water.”

While cigarette smokers find it’s more difficult to locate a place to light up during a cruise, a new wrinkle has been added—“electronic cigarettes” that are now in wide use by smokers who don’t want to offend others or who are trying to cut back on or quit smoking traditional tobacco filled cigarettes. If you aren’t familiar with them, electronic cigarettes—also known as a personal vaporizer, an e-cig, or e-cigarette—are battery powered devices that heat a liquid containing various strengths of nicotine to produce vapor. The vapor is inhaled by the user and acts as a nicotine delivery system. E-cig enthusiasts enjoy the act of “smoking” without the smoke, ash, combustion, or odor of traditional tobacco cigarettes.

Some personal vaporizers look like a traditional cigarette, but others have a unique appearance—they have been likened to a “sharpie” type marker with a cigarette holder at one end (illustrated above). They remind me of the old-fashioned cigarette holders once so prominently used by actresses in black-and-white movies (think Bette Davis). The act of “vaping,” or inhaling the vapor, allows the user to get a small hit of nicotine in smoke-free places. The amount of nicotine contained in an e-cigarette can be controlled by the user who can buy it in varying strengths, which makes the e-cig an effective method to stop smoking.

From what I’ve seen recently online, there is a lot of misinformation about e-cigs and vaping in public. The inhaled vapor does contain a small amount of nicotine, but the exhaled vapor is not second-hand smoke. In fact, it isn’t smoke at all. What it is is a liquid vapor that is often flavored like coffee, chocolate, spices, and fruits. If any scent is detected at all, it is that flavoring. For users who’ve gradually cut their nicotine use to nothing, but haven’t eliminated the physical hand-to-mouth habit associated with smoking, there are flavored liquids that contain no nicotine at all.

The jury is still out in terms of whether or not vaping an e-cig is harmful to others, but Russell Wilder, owner of Top Shelf Cigar & Tobacco Shoppe, who vapes when he doesn’t have time to enjoy a cigar, advises that e-cigs are far less harmful to the user than actual cigarettes. Although the liquid added to a personal vaporizer contains nicotine, it does not contain the other chemicals commonly found in tobacco cigarettes.

For our fellow passengers who are sniping that the vapor from an e-cig disturbs their breathing, that children should not see e-cigs in use because they ‘mimic’ actual smoking, and a variety of other complaints, I say hold on a moment and educate yourselves. Cigarette smoke has been eliminated for the most part on cruise ships and non-smokers should be pleased. They should also use some common sense when rallying to ban what offends them—sooner or later something they enjoy could be considered offensive. And those who choose to vape? They should be considerate of the rules. Some cruise lines are paying attention to their passengers’ comments and taking the position that e-cigs should be treated the same as traditional cigarettes. In fact, Norwegian Cruise Line states, “Electronic cigarettes cannot be used in public areas where there is a No Smoking policy in force; simply because these cigarettes look so realistic and therefore other guests’ perception is that we are not enforcing the No Smoking rule.”

Of note and in fairness, I must disclose that I’m not personally bothered by smokers. My husband Mel usually relaxes with a cigar after dinner while I go to the showlounge and I often join him when the show is over. We personally prefer ships with comfortable cigar lounges that suit our lifestyle. Mel’s favorites are aboard Silversea and MSC Cruises ships.