Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Refreshed Queen Victoria Sets Out To Conquer The World

When Queen Victoria set out on her 2015 World Voyage last week she revealed a stunning new look as she sailed past a fusillade of fireworks. The ship left Southampton in top drawer form having just returned from an intensive 20 day refurbishment at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg.

Nine brand new single staterooms were installed as part of the refurbishment. In addition to refreshing existing furnishings, enhancements were made to the outdoor spaces, beverage provision in the ship’s informal Lido restaurant, and eight brand new internet stations have been installed on the upper floor of the library.

“The results of Queen Victoria’s refit are a true testament to Cunard’s ability to respond to passenger input. We are delighted to incorporate their wish for more outdoor space with enhancements to the Upper Grill Terrace and additional areas for sunbathing. We also provided more single staterooms for our single travelers. It’s this commitment to our passengers that keeps Cunard’s 175 year heritage going strong,” commented Rick Meadows, President of Cunard, North America.

For such a large undertaking, 2,000 contractors representing thirty different nationalities worked a total of 600,000 man hours around the clock to replace all 215,278 square feet of carpet in the passenger areas. They also renewed all 3,167 mattresses on board and replaced over 19,685 square feet—3.75 miles—of pipe work insulation. 2,695 gallons of paint were used inside and out, enough to paint 54 Boeing 737's.

Such a successful refit depended on a great working partnership between the ship and the shipyard and throughout the refit, Cunard’s shipboard White Star service standards were observed. To sustain the workforce over its tea-breaks for example, over 317 gallons of soup—served in true Cunard style, with croutons—and 2,000 cookies were consumed daily. 80,000 teas and coffees were consumed over the 20 days.

In honor of the company’s anniversary, Queen Victoria welcomed her World Voyage passengers aboard with a commemorative flag-raising ceremony which took place at the ship’s mast. This was to hoist the signature flag for the first time on board and as is traditional, was performed by the youngest crew member, 20 year-old deck cadet Fraser Browne. The flag will be flown at iconic landmarks across the world during all three of the fleet’s World Voyages and will be auctioned at their conclusion with all proceeds going to The Prince’s Trust, Cunard’s official charity.

Queen Victoria’s first call was Ponta Delgada in the Azores and she is now sailing to the Caribbean, will transit the Panama Canal, and then make her way to Hawaii and Australia.

Images Courtesy Cunard Line

Monday, January 26, 2015

New Cruise Review: Oceania Cruises’ Riviera

Georgina Cruz shares a “Goldilocks” style voyage: neither too short that it ended too quickly and called at few ports, nor too long that it required two weeks or more of vacation time.

Set sail with Georgina on Oceania Cruises’ Riviera for a 10-day “Mayan Mystique” voyage roundtrip from Miami.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Carnival Cruise Line Reveals New Carnival Vista Features with Connections to the Sea

Carnival Vista Atrium
In a splashy New York-style reveal, yesterday Carnival Cruise Line announced the details of its most innovative ship ever, Carnival Vista, set to launch in spring 2016. Designed to connect guests to the ocean with sweeping ocean views and plenty to do both outdoors and inside, Carnival Vista will introduce an array of new features including: SkyRide, a breakthrough suspended open-air cycling experience; the world’s first IMAX® Theatre on a ship; an expanded water park featuring the colorful Kaleid-O-Slide, the line’s first raft-riding water tube slide; Seafood Shack, a New England-inspired eatery; RedFrog Pub, including the line’s first onboard brewery, and other enhanced dining, bar, and entertainment options; as well as new scenic and family-friendly accommodation types. The ship’s inaugural Mediterranean itineraries will mark the line’s return to Europe.

High-Powered Outdoor Fun
Carnival Vista SportSquare
With SkyRide, the cruise industry’s first pedal-powered open-air aerial attraction, Carnival is creating some of the highest outdoor vistas at sea. Adventurous riders can climb aboard hanging recumbent-like bikes to cycle their way around the 800-foot suspended track with views from 150 feet above the sea. Nearby will be SkyCourse, a suspended ropes course. Both are part of the expanded outdoor activity park that also includes a new indoor sports hangout, The Clubhouse at SportSquare¸ featuring mini-bowling, ping-pong, arcade basketball, sports video gaming and more.

In the largest WaterWorks water park in the fleet, kids and kids at heart will find an array of splash-tastic fun including Kaleid-O-Slide, the line’s first-ever water tube attraction. Riders will hop on inflatable one or two-person rafts taking them on a fun-filled 455-foot adventure of exhilarating twists and turns with stunning kaleidoscopic visual effects.

Big-Time Entertainment at the Multiplex
Carnival Vista’s inside views are truly spectacular as well. Carnival is partnering with entertainment innovator IMAX® to bring the world’s most immersive cinematic experience to sea with the first-ever IMAX® Theatre on a ship. Guests will take in the latest Hollywood blockbusters, IMAX classics, and IMAX documentary content on a screen that’s three decks high. Next door at the Thrill Theater, moviegoers can enjoy a multi-dimensional special effects experience. Both are part of the Carnival Multiplex, a first at sea for film fans, complete with concession stand offering popcorn and movie snacks. No word yet on whether there is a charge. The Warehouse, featuring a variety of video and arcade games, is located adjacent to the Carnival Multiplex.

Fresh New Dining & Bar Options
Featured on Carnival Vista and a first for the fleet will be a New England-inspired Seafood Shack, a casual indoor/outdoor dining venue near the Lido Marketplace eateries. The seafood-lovers’ spot will feature a menu full of fresh favorites available for purchase, including lobster rolls, steamed lobster, fried shrimp, crab cakes, fried clams, and more.

RedFrog Pub
At the RedFrog Pub, Carnival will brew up great beer for good times in its first ever brewery. During each sailing two giant copper-topped glass kettles will create ales and lagers that can be enjoyed on tap from the bar and through unique tabletop taps that allow guests to pour their own beer. The full bar will also offer an array of Caribbean-inspired cocktails, beers, and rums. Indoor/outdoor seating, live music, and brewing tours and tastings will also be offered in this fun venue.

Carnival is expanding the line’s popular Latin-infused Havana experience inside and out on Carnival Vista. Celebrating Cuba’s gloried past, Havana Bar serves traditional cocktails and bites during the day and transforms into a sizzling Latin dance club at night. The fun also extends outdoors with a new Havana Pool located aft offering views of the ocean, whirlpools, and a relaxation area, complete with colorful umbrellas, faux palm trees, thatched patio huts, and comfy seating, perfect for soaking up the sun while enjoying a mojito.

Carnival Vista Havana Cabana Patio
More Accommodation Options
Carnival Vista will offer a wide variety of well-appointed staterooms and suites including two new accommodation classes. Tropics-inspired Havana Cabanas feature accommodations with private outdoor patios, complete with lounge chairs and hammock, that face the expanded Lanai ocean-air outdoor promenade and offer expansive sea views in addition to easy access to the Havana Bar and Pool.

Located within a new dedicated family zone on Deck 2, the new Family Harbor accommodations offer an array of ocean-view, balcony, and interior staterooms that accommodate up to five family members. Parents and kids will have even more room to relax at the new, exclusive Family Harbor Lounge, a secluded space designed as a family hang out with large-screen TVs, games, and complimentary breakfast and snacks. A family concierge desk will be available to assist families in making this their best vacation ever.

Carnival Vista Family Harbor Suite
Carnival Vista celebrates the connection to the oceans on which we sail and gives our guests amazing seascapes around every corner and more ways to enjoy every moment of sun and fun during their cruise vacation,” said Mark Tamis, Carnival’s senior vice president of guest operations. “From our exhilarating new high-altitude SkyRide to the Kaleid-O-Slide water tube slide to our IMAX anchored Carnival Multiplex to the multitude of dining and bar options, we are thrilled to share the details about our largest and most innovative ship with our guests.”

Fahrenheit 555
New Meaning to Dining Out
Thanks to an expanded Lanai on Deck 5 guests can stroll or sit and enjoy a beverage at one of the many dining and bar venues that will now feature outdoor areas.
• The line will offer its first-ever outdoor seating options at specialty eateries including Fahrenheit 555, a classic American steakhouse, and Japanese-style Bonsai Sushi restaurant where diners will enjoy sea views as delicious as their meals. Cherry on Top will be the sweetest spot at sea, with a new premium mixed-to-order custom ice cream creation bar, outdoor seating and more than 80 bulk candy options.
• The intimate Library Bar will also offer guests indoor/outdoor options, in addition to the hoppin’ RedFrog Pub and stylish Havana Bar.
Vacationers will find Fun Ship 2.0 favorite poolside eateries and bars including Guy’s Burger Joint, serving burgers and fries created by chef and author Guy Fieri, and BlueIguana Cantina, featuring made-to-order tacos and burritos. Poolside bars BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar will also provide cocktail options, as will the mixologists at the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar.

Horizons Dining Room
The ship’s main dining rooms, Reflections and Horizons, offer an array of menu items for guests who want to enjoy a full-service breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The striking modern interiors created by award-winning designer BigTime Design Studios offer decidedly different décor than previous Carnival ships. The Horizons dining room will also feature a unique bar that’s the perfect spot for meeting friends and enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail or an after-meal aperitif.

The Vista Atrium will set a festive mood with its multi-deck-high centerpiece that will delight guests with its LED screens and changing visuals to create the right atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to welcome guests boarding the ship, meet friends at the bar or enjoy live entertainment and dancing.

Serenity Deck
Relax & Recharge
For those who wish to unwind and relax, Carnival Vista has a two-level Cloud 9 Spa featuring an array of amenities, including a thalassotherapy pool, four steam chambers, the line’s first infrared sauna and hamam, and special “experience showers” that provide a soothing fragrance element, along with a high-tech indoor cycling studio. Guests can get away from it all at the adults-only Serenity retreat, where there’s breathtaking views, tranquility, and even more lounging options to relax including the line’s first outdoor massage huts.

Family Fun for All
As the family cruise leader, carrying more than 700,000 children on board each year, the company designed Carnival Vista with even more fun for families day and night.
• The indoor/outdoor Camp Ocean for children under age 12 is a dedicated undersea-themed play space with more than 200 fun and educational ocean-inspired activities.
• Carnival Vista will be the second ship in the fleet to feature Dr. Seuss Bookville, a special reading and play space inspired by the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. Here kids and their families can read beloved Dr. Seuss books, make arts and crafts and stretch their imagination with toys and games. Also part of the line’s Seuss at Sea program, Carnival Vista guests can enjoy Green Eggs and Ham with The Cat in the Hat and Friends character breakfast, the Seuss-a-palooza Story Time and Parade and more.
• Carnival Vista will also introduce four new games at the family-centric HASBRO the Game Show, as well as special family-friendly comedy performances at Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez.
Carnival’s Return to Europe
The largest ship in the fleet, Carnival Vista will measure 133,500 tons, 1,055 feet long, and have a guest capacity of 3,936 (based on two per cabin). The new vessel will debut May 1, 2016, with a 13-day cruise departing from Trieste, Italy, the first European voyage for Carnival in three years. A variety of Mediterranean itineraries will be offered with port calls throughout Italy, France, Spain, Croatia and Turkey, as well as several new destinations for Carnival such as Crete (Heraklion), and Corfu, Greece; Valletta, Malta; Palermo, Sicily; Cagliari, Sardinia; and Gibraltar. On Oct 21, 2016, Carnival Vista will embark on a special 13-day transatlantic crossing and arrive in New York Nov 3, 2016, then operate a series of voyages from the Big Apple. Carnival Vista’s European cruises are currently available for reservations. Additional information on the New York departures will be available next month.

Images Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Princess Cruises Goes North to Alaska! with Local Experiences

Crabs, Lumberjacks, Wolves & More
Adding to its long-standing recognition as a leader in Alaska cruise vacations, Princess Cruises is launching North to Alaska!—a series of new onboard offerings that fully immerse guests in the Great Alaska experience. Created in partnership with local experts, North to Alaska! features a variety of authentic Alaska culinary, educational, and entertainment experiences designed to delve deeper into the fascinating frontier guests are exploring around them. The program includes expanded Alaska seafood offerings, with signature dishes from local chefs and restaurants; unique interactions with Alaskans; and onboard festivals to allow guests to eat like a local, learn from the locals, and celebrate like a local. North to Alaska! debuts in May 2015 on Princess cruises to Alaska.

"From world-famous Alaska seafood, to learning about life as a lumberjack, to Midnight Sun deck parties and more, we're bringing the last frontier onboard Princess ships to make the #1 vacation experience in Alaska even better," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. "The new program also demonstrates Princess' ongoing innovation in cruise vacations and our commitment to super-serving our guests with highly engaging and memorable experiences for the vacation of a lifetime."

North to Alaska! highlights include:

Eat Like A Local
Providing a culinary journey to savor, Princess has partnered with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to feature nightly a variety of authentic Alaska cuisine—including King Crab, King Salmon, and fresh Halibut, among others—prepared by Princess chefs who were trained by Alaska seafood chefs to capture a true taste of the North. Specialty restaurants will also offer a regional Alaska cuisine menu on select evenings.

In addition, Princess has partnered with some of the best Alaska area joints to provide local favorites and signature dishes onboard including crab cakes from Tracy's King Crab Shack in Juneau; fish tacos from Ketchikan's Alaska Fish House; and the Mermaid Burger from the Skagway Fish Company. The winning dish from the 2014 Great Alaska Seafood Cook-off, pan-seared Alaska salmon with root vegetable hash and mushroom tea, created by local chef Travis Haugen of Southside Bistro, will be featured in the main dining rooms.

Learn From the Locals
With Alaska cruises all about discovery and exploration, Princess is bringing the variety of Alaska cultures onboard to regale guests with stories of life in Alaska and "a day in the life" hands-on interactive activities:
-- From the popular Discovery Channel program, "The Deadliest Catch," Captain David Lethin and his shipmates from the Aleutian Ballad will relate their true-life adventures and experiences in the Bering Sea in pursuit of crab.
-- Guests will live like a "logger head," learning the history of logging from a local lumberjack and participating in an axe-throwing competition.
-- New York Times best-selling author and renowned storyteller Nick Jans will tell his compelling, emotional story of Romeo, the wolf, and the effect he had on the people of Juneau, as told in his book, "A Wolf Called Romeo."
-- Kids and teens will explore their adventurous side with activities including a Jr. Ranger program, panning for gold, "The Deadliest Catch" crab-sorting game, an interactive green screen game, and more.
Celebrate Like a Local
Guests will experience the thrill of the Klondike, harkening back to the glory days of gold rush fever. Fun for the whole family, the Klondike festival onboard activities will include Alaska icon and sled-racing presentations, penny whistle classes, traditional dance performances, an arts and crafts show, and more. The festival day will culminate with a celebration of the natural phenomenon of a visible sun at night during the Midnight Sun top-deck party, complete with entertainment, games and specialty drinks.

In total, seven Princess ships offer more than 120 Alaska cruise departures during the summer season, May-September, originating from San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver BC, and Whittier (Anchorage), Alaska.

For passengers interested in experiencing even more of the Great Land, Princess cruisetours offer a variety of itinerary options for a complete land and sea Alaska experience ranging from 10 to 15 nights. All cruisetours include a 7-day Voyage of the Glaciers sailing including a visit to Glacier Bay National Park, plus up to four nights in the Denali National Park area with stays at Princess' riverside wilderness lodges.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Carnival Cruise Line To Honor Military Families At The Carnival Freedom Arrival In Texas

When Carnival Freedom arrives in its new year-round homeport of Galveston, Texas, on Saturday, Feb 14, U.S. military families will get more than a simple Valentine card from Carnival Cruise Line. Through a partnership with Operation Homefront, a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial and other assistance to military families, Carnival will provide a day of onboard fun and activities for service members and their families.

As part of the festivities, 14-time GRAMMY® nominee Martina McBride will perform that afternoon outdoors on one of the ship’s top decks. The country singer has previously performed as part of the line’s breakthrough onboard concert series, Carnival LIVE, which offers guests the best live music at sea from some of the most popular and highly requested music acts.

“The arrival of Carnival Freedom to its new Galveston homeport is historic as it marks the first time a cruise line has based three year-round ships in Texas,” said Jim Berra, chief marketing officer for Carnival Cruise Line. “We’re thrilled to celebrate this occasion by giving back to the great state of Texas and welcoming aboard military families who make our freedom possible.”

Military families who have registered through Operation Homefront will enjoy a full day and evening of fun aboard the 110,000-ton Carnival Freedom while it is in port, including overnight accommodations, meals, entertainment, and activities, all compliments of Carnival Cruise Line. Prior to the concert, Carnival will conduct a special check presentation to Operation Homefront providing $100,000 to the organization.

Carnival Freedom recently underwent a $70 million makeover which added an array of Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancements. Event attendees will have access to the ship’s new family entertainment programming including Seuss at Sea, as well as the new Camp Ocean kids facilities. The latest updates also incorporated a number of bar, dining and entertainment innovations including complimentary eateries such as BlueIguana Cantina and Guy’s Burger Joint, developed in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, poolside bars serving up delicious frozen drinks and cocktails including BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar, as well as the pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar and the line’s Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub.

To kick off year-round sailings from Galveston, Carnival Freedom will depart on Feb. 15th for a special 6-day voyage to Mexico followed by the launch of 4- to 7-day cruises that visit ports throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Florida. Together with Carnival Triumph and Carnival Magic, the line will carry more than 600,000 passengers annually from Texas.

Image: Carnival Freedom in Key West © CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Escape At Sea With New Sights, Sounds & Tastes

Norwegian Cruise Line has revealed numerous new partnerships with leaders in the fields of dining, beverage, and entertainment to feature all-new branded experiences onboard Norwegian Escape. The line’s newest ship will feature several new culinary experiences, along with two Tony Award-winning musicals, and a unique Supper Club, when she begins sailing from her homeport of Miami in November 2015.

Norwegian Escape’s ultimate culinary experiences will be helmed by James Beard Award-winning Iron Chef Jose Garces and Miami restaurateurs Jose Mendin, Andreas Schreiner, and Sergio Navarro of The Pubbelly Restaurant Group; in addition to new beverage concepts The District Brewhouse, featuring craft beers from Wynwood Brewing Company, and The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar. Three new shows, including Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals After Midnight and Million Dollar Quartet, along with a new supper club concept will be exclusive to Norwegian Escape.

“With Norwegian Escape, we are transforming culinary experiences at sea and continuing our legacy of innovation that has revolutionized dining in the cruise industry,” said Drew Madsen, Norwegian Cruise Line’s President & COO. “We are building on our solid foundation of branded partnerships, including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and welcoming new ideas and flavors from award-winning chefs. Norwegian also continues to pave the way as a leader in entertainment, as we bring two Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals and a post-modern cabaret direct from Los Angeles to Norwegian Escape.”

New Concepts by Jose Garces
James Beard Award-winning Iron Chef Jose Garces will launch two specialty restaurants onboard Norwegian Escape, his first at sea. Known for his dining concepts, Chef Jose Garces brings Latin-inspired culinary expertise, ranging from classic Mexican dishes to Cuban specialties. On board Norwegian Escape, Bayamo by Jose Garces will highlight Latin dishes with a Cuban-influence in a chic dining room and al fresco on The Waterfront. Dishes will feature the flavors of Latin America with Spanish influences.

Pincho Tapas Bar by Jose Garces will offer traditional Spanish tapas à la carte in a lively, casual setting. Plates will be prepared on an authentic la plancha grill right at the bar in front of guests and feature Latin dishes.

Sugarcane Mojito Bar, a Norwegian signature favorite, will complete the space and serve as an entry to Bayamo. Guests who wish to have a cocktail before dinner can settle into the tropical setting, enjoy live Latin music, and select from more than 10 different mojitos and rum-based cocktails and can even select a “flight” of mojitos to sample.

Food Republic
A brand new concept for Norwegian, the Food Republic will be a modern, upscale food emporium from The Pubbelly Restaurant Group featuring global cuisine for sampling and sharing. Guests dining in the Food Republic will experience a culinary journey via small plates, with flavors ranging from Asia to Central Europe and the Mediterranean, all available à la carte.

Open for lunch through dinner, The Food Republic offers guests the freedom and flexibility to choose what they want, when they want it, with convenient iPad ordering. With a simple swipe of their key card, food is prepared to order and brought directly to the guest’s table.

The District Brew House
A concept never before done at sea, the District Brew House is a hip, urban craft beer hall featuring an exclusive partnership with Miami’s Wynwood Brewing Company. Complete with a keg room, 24 draft beers on tap and more than 50 different bottled beers, the District Brew House will also offer a menu of gastropub-style plates for snacking that will complement the beer and beverage offerings, including cocktails from Bar Lab’s James Beard Award-nominated mixologists Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi. Guests sampling the District’s many offerings will also be entertained, with interactive nightlife and sing-alongs of everyone’s favorite tunes, as well as a traditional photo booth, where guests can add their photo to the District’s pin board and leave their mark on this cool new space.

The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar
Norwegian Escape will also be home to the line’s first wine bar in partnership with the Michael Mondavi Family—The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar. From the novice to the enthusiast, The Cellars features an array of immersive wine experiences, focusing on tasting, education, and the enjoyment of wine, all accompanied by small plates and tapas, available à la carte.

Carlo’s Bake Shop
Guests will also enjoy treats from Carlo’s Bake Shop by Buddy Valastro, star of TLC’s “Cake Boss” and “Next Great Baker.” The decadent confections that the original Carlo’s bakery is known for will all be available à la carte for guests who wish to indulge their sweet tooth.

New Entertainment Offerings
Continuing with Norwegian’s commitment to excellence in entertainment, Norwegian Escape will feature two Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals headlining in the Escape Theater. The smash-hit musical After Midnight, which recently completed its run on Broadway, combines the big-band songs of Duke Ellington, a roof-raising onstage jazz band, and the best dancing from Broadway. A cast of megawatt singers, dancers and tappers will bring Harlem's Cotton Club to life.

Also showing in the Escape Theater following a successful run on Broadway, Million Dollar Quartet is the smash-hit musical inspired by the famed recording session that brought together rock 'n' roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. On December 4, 1956, these four young musicians gathered at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions ever. Million Dollar Quartet brings that legendary night to life, featuring a score of rock hits. This musical will bring guests inside the recording studio with four major talents who came together as a red-hot rock 'n' roll band for one unforgettable night.

In a new concept exclusive to Norwegian Escape, the Supper Club has been re-imagined for a unique dinner and show. For The Record is a critically acclaimed Hollywood night that celebrates classic soundtracks of motion picture masters in a one-of-a kind 360° post-modern cabaret. Guests will spend an evening with a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal in this mashed-up retrospective of the John Hughes' coming of age 1980's teen films. Audiences will relive the classic new wave sounds from Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty In Pink, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Expanding a successful run that began on Norwegian Getaway, Headliners Comedy Club will include top comedians through the line’s expanded partnership with Levity Entertainment Group, the world’s largest producer of live comedy.

Currently being built at Meyer Werft in Germany, Norwegian Escape will sail weekly 7-day cruises from her year-round homeport of Miami to the Eastern Caribbean beginning on Nov 14, 2015. The 164,600 gross ton ship will be the largest ever to home port year-round in Miami, carrying 4,200 guests to tropical Caribbean destinations including St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Tortola, British Virgin Islands and Nassau, Bahamas.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Monday, January 19, 2015

Silversea: Always Exclusive & Now More Inclusive in the Med

Silversea Cruises has kick started 2015 with more bang for your buck. The luxury line has introduced a new program that includes shore excursions and WiFi for new bookings on any of the line's 52 Mediterranean cruises this year.

"We're delighted to enhance the value proposition for our guests with the launch of this new ultra-inclusive pricing initiative," said Kristian Anderson, Silversea's senior vice president and general manager for the Americas. "Our company is known for pioneering the concept of all-inclusive voyaging. By including shore excursions and WiFi in the cruise fare, we're making the Silversea vacation experience more indulgent and relevant for today's active luxury traveler."

Guests may enrich their travel experience with a choice of included Silver Shore Select excursions offered in every port of call. Whether it's exploring the ancient Acropolis of Athens, strolling back through time along the marbled lanes of Ephesus, or discovering the Renaissance treasures of Florence, these small-group excursions present a destination's art, history, and culture in an intimate, authentic way, utilizing comfortable transportation and expert local guides.

The special all-inclusive fares also include two hours of complimentary WiFi per guest, per day, and unlimited complimentary WiFi for the line's larger suites (Medallion and higher categories).

The new perks join an array of included amenities that already features: open-seating gourmet dining; butler service for all suites; select wines, champagnes, premium spirits, specialty coffees, bottled water, juices and soft drinks; in-suite bar stocked with guests' preferences; in-suite dining and 24-hour dining service (from a formal dinner ordered from The Restaurant menu and served in-suite, to lighter fare served in attended lounges); lecture and enrichment programs; roundtrip transportation into town (in most ports); and onboard gratuities (exclusive of spa treatments).

In addition to the included Silver Shore Select excursions, guests may purchase tours from a variety of land programs offering exceptional value, including the more-immersive Silver Shore Collection tours, as well as Silver Shore Privato, which provides a private car and driver for independent exploring.

For further details and a full list of the Mediterranean cruises, visit Silversea.com/exclusive-offers.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Add a City Stay to Your Celebrity Cruise

When cruise travelers embark on their ship in a far-flung locale they often head straight to the port from the airport and miss a great opportunity to explore the embarkation city. Now they can begin their cruise vacation earlier with Celebrity Cruises’ new “Celebrity City Stay” vacation packages and let the experts take the hassle out of planning and preparation. Combining destination expertise with unbeatable value, the newly curated pre-cruise experiences will be available in 16 intriguing and dynamic places. Celebrity City Stay packages bring vacationers even closer to the world’s must-see cities, such as Athens, Abu Dhabi, Barcelona, Hong Kong, London, Singapore, and Sydney. The one-of-a-kind packages are available in nearly every port city the cruise vacation company sails from.

Enhancing guests’ Celebrity vacations, City Stay vacation packages include:
• Three nights in four-star, luxury hotel accommodations, with complimentary breakfast
• Transfers to and from the airport, hotel and the booked Celebrity cruise
• Full day of an in-depth fully guided City Highlights Tour and lunch
• Half day with an in-depth fully guided tour and a farewell dinner
• Dedicated Celebrity Cruises Hospitality Desk at the luxury hotel, to provide personalized service
• Classic Beverage Package for two, including wine and spirits, while sailing with Celebrity
• Families and friends in a stateroom as additional guests can receive a Classic non-alcoholic beverage package and a 40-minute internet package
“Our destination experts have specially curated each Celebrity City Stay so that vacationers can get even more up close and personal with the destination before departing on their cruise. Our guests can enjoy upscale and immersive three-night experiences in some of the world’s most beautiful and captivating cities,” said Bernardo Carrillo, Managing Director, Celebrity Vacations, Celebrity Cruises. “From authentic dining, in-depth tours hosted by local experts, free time to go off the beaten path, and four-star accommodations to come back to, there’s no better start to a modern luxury vacation than an early one.”

For full details about the new Celebrity City Stay vacation packages, visit CelebrityCruises.com/VacationPackages.

Photo © CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Kathie Lee’s Back With The Fun & The Wine!

Kathie Lee Gifford hosts a GIFFT wine tasting
aboard Carnival Breeze
Remember the ’80s when Kathie Lee Gifford became closely associated with the Fun Ship brand as spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line? That was when Carnival launched the first national television ad campaigns in the cruise industry and Kathie Lee appeared in such memorable campaigns as: “If You Could See Me Now” and “Ain’t We Got Fun?”

Gifford, now a host of the “Today” show, returned to “The World's Most Popular Cruise Line®” last Sunday when she surprised guests embarking on a 6-day western Caribbean cruise on Carnival Breeze at PortMiami with an onboard tasting event to introduce her GIFFT Collection of wines.

Created in consultation with California-based Scheid Family Wines—one of the largest vineyard owners in Monterey County—the GIFFT Collection consists of a Red Blend and a Chardonnay, both estate-grown. In September 2014, Wine Enthusiast magazine gave the red 91 of a possible 100 points and the Chardonnay 88 points in its tasting rating. The GIFFT Red Blend combines Merlot (42 percent), Petite Sirah (25%), Syrah (12%) and Petit Verdot (10%); while the Chardonnay is a flavorful estate-grown Coastal California dry white. Carnival is the only cruise line to feature GIFFT wines, and both varietals are now available at a wide array of bars and in the main dining rooms on all Carnival ships.

“I can’t tell you how exciting it is for me to be back on board with Carnival!” said Gifford. “It’s like coming home again—this time bearing great wines!”

Image by Andy Newman Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Regent Seven Seas Cruises Reveals Seven Seas Explorer

With a one-of-a-kind, opulent 3,875-square-foot suite, extravagantly designed lounges and showplaces, and lavish gourmet restaurants, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is setting a new standard for luxury Cruise vacations with the launch of Seven Seas Explorer.

At 56,000 gross-registered tons and carrying just 750-guests, the all-suite, all-balcony ship will boast the highest space ratio in the cruise industry, with every inch of the vessel evoking elegance and grace. With its debut in summer of 2016, Seven Seas Explorer will offer guests another exciting option to explore the world with Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ signature brand of all-inclusive luxury.

The meticulous level of craftsmanship and lavish detail is what guests will first notice upon boarding the ship through the main atrium lobby. A beautiful, circular inlaid marble floor marks the heart of the ship. Steps away and anchoring the lobby are twin, elegantly etched glass staircases that draw the eye upward towards a magnificent cascading crystal chandelier. After walking through the lobby, it will be evident to guests that Seven Seas Explorer is truly in a category of its own, and that promise of a high luxury standard continues throughout the vessel.

Suites
Regent Seven Seas Cruises will introduce a new category of luxury suite exclusively for Seven Seas Explorer that sets the tone for the well-appointed and spacious all-suite accommodations found throughout the ship. Pictured here, the Regent Suite is a plush two-bedroom, 3,875-square foot suite complete with an in-room spa retreat, with personal sauna, steam room and treatment area. The suite also features an outdoor, glass-enclosed sitting area aptly named the Vista Garden, where guests can enjoy unobstructed 270-degree views over the ship’s bow and toward the horizon. The design and artistry found in the Regent Suite is evident in every suite throughout the ship. Each suite category features its own unique layout and design elements, ranging from the warm and welcoming island manor appeal of the Deluxe Suite to the sumptuous sapphire jewel inspired Penthouse Suite. The spacious interiors are complemented by the largest verandas in the cruise industry, providing guests ample space to enjoy fresh ocean breezes without leaving their suites.

Dining
Seven Seas Explorer will feature an unrivaled collection of specialty, casual and main dining options. Each restaurant exhibits its own intricate and elegant design, providing a dining atmosphere that complements the high service level and diverse menu offerings.

Catering to guests’ culinary desires, the ship will offer three distinct specialty restaurants, including Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ fleet-wide signature steakhouse, Prime 7. Aboard Seven Seas Explorer, Prime 7 will feature a new décor highlighted by dark purple hues, silver accents and plush leather seating, reminiscent of a London private member club. Intimate seating alcoves specifically for couples looking to enjoy a secluded, romantic meal are sure to be a highlight.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ hallmark main dining room, Compass Rose (pictured above), will receive a new, contemporary look with the debut of Seven Seas Explorer. The restaurant’s look features a sophisticated and airy design motif with a cascading aqua-blue chandelier that conveys a whimsical grotto feel throughout the restaurant. Guests can enjoy casual indoor and al fresco dining in the effortlessly chic Italian Riviera-inspired La Veranda on deck 11. With 270-degree ocean views, La Veranda offers a delectable buffet for breakfast and lunch, and transforms into an elegant fine dining restaurant, Sette Mari at La Veranda, each evening for dinner.

Lounges
Within the luxuriously appointed lounges aboard Seven Seas Explorer, guests can enjoy a wide variety of complimentary libations while being entertained by live musical performances or production shows. The ship’s primary showplace, the two-tiered Constellation Theater, pays homage to the glamour of Hollywood’s golden age. The ornate 694-seat theater features cabaret-style seating intermixed with cocktail tables that feature hand-blown Murano glass lamps. Subtly woven into the theater’s design is the motif of a swan. Abstract and not-so-abstract aspects of this elegant creature are found in theater’s seating banquettes, ceiling architecture, and entry-way mosaic.

The Observation Lounge (illustrated above) brings to life the opulence of the Roaring Twenties. A folded metal canopy surrounds the lounge’s signature bar and a delicate crystal chandelier hovers over the dance floor. The lounge’s design features a color palate of rich silver, gold, black, and white hues. Floor to ceiling windows surround the room, providing guests with incredible ocean vistas. Just off the ship’s atrium lobby, the Explorer Lounge provides more of a country club vibe with rich mahogany wood columns, comfortable leather chairs, deep blue fabrics, and sumptuous flooring. On one side of the lounge, a golden proscenium outlines a small stage where live musical performances will take place, and anchoring the opposite end, a polished black marble bar ringed by plush, deep opal blue bar stools stands ready to serve guests.

“We set a high benchmark for Seven Seas Explorer, not only to build a ship that far surpasses the current standard in luxury cruising, but to design a ship that will be recognized industry-wide as the most luxurious ship ever,” said Jason Montague, president and chief operating officer for Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “This ship will offer our guests a new level of grandeur throughout, from its lavish suites to its elegant public spaces and gourmet restaurants. We cannot wait to share this ship with the world when she joins our fleet in the summer of 2016.”

The maiden voyage for Seven Seas Explorer will be a 14-night sailing from Monte Carlo to Venice on July 20, 2016. The ship will remain in Europe for its inaugural season, sailing 11 voyages that crisscross the Mediterranean and visit sought-after destinations such as Barcelona, Ibiza, St. Tropez, Venice, Istanbul, Alexandria (Egypt) and Jerusalem.

Images Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises