Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Music Festivals at Sea Set to Sail on Norwegian Pearl in Fall 2014 & Spring 2015

Norwegian Cruise Line and Sixthman, an industry leader in music festivals at sea, have announced the full line up of fall 2014 and spring 2015 festivals sailing from Miami onboard the beautiful Norwegian Pearl. Each of these unique, music-themed cruises are sure to give fans an intimate experience with their favorite artists, featuring outdoor performances, meet and greets, personal Q&A sessions and much more. With artists ranging from Heart to KISS, to 311 and Kid Rock, there is floating festival for every musical taste.

An ideal venue for festivals, Norwegian Pearl features a spectacular outdoor stage area and expansive pool deck. In addition, Norwegian Pearl features 13 bars and lounges, 19 dining experiences, one outdoor pool, four hot tubs, and a fitness center and spa. Guests looking for more active amenities can visit the outdoor climbing wall, bowl a few frames at the on board bowling alley, shoot hoops on the sports court, or tempt lady luck at The Pearl Club Casino.

The line up for the Fall ’14 season includes:
• KISS Kruise IV: Oct. 31-Nov. 4, 2014, thekisskruise.com Featuring KISS, Cheap Trick (pre-party only onboard ship Oct 30th), Leogun, Purson, Big Rock Show, Priss, Needeep
• GRAMMY Festival at Sea: Women Who Rock! Nov. 4-8, 2014, grammyfestivalatsea.com Featuring Heart, Emmylou Harris, Indigo Girls, Shawn Colvin, Estelle, Skylar Grey, Joan Osborne, Mindi Abair
• Florida Georgia Line Cruise: Nov. 8-12, 2014, fglcruise.com, Featuring Nelly, Thomas Rhett, Colt Ford, Tyler Farr, Cole Swindell, The Cadillac Tree, Black Stone Cherry, Canaan Smith, Chris Lane, Maggie Rose, Russell Dickerson, Clare Dunn, and Jacob Powell
• Mad Decent Boat: Nov. 12-16, 2014, maddecentboatparty.com, Featuring Diplo, Major Lazer, Flosstradamus, Dillon Francis, Zeds Dead, DJ Snake, Benny Benassi, Big Gigantic, and more.
• Simple Man Cruise VIII: Nov. 16-20, 2014, simplemancruise.com, Featuring Lynyrd Skynrd, Blackberry Smoke, Foghat, Starship featuring Mickey Thomas, Lukas Nelson and P.O.T.R., Drake White and the Big Fire and more.
The line up for Spring ’15 includes:
• Sandy Beaches Cruises: Jan 10-17, 2015, sandybeachescruise.com, Featuring Delbert McClinton, Marcia Bell, Paul Thorn, The Mavericks, Fred Eaglesmith, Wayne Toups and more.
• Cayamo 2015: Jan 17-24, 2015, cayamo.com, Featuring Lyle Lovett, John Prine, Brandi Carlile, Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson, Buddy Miller, Kacey Musgraves, Shawn Colvin, and more.
• The Rock Boat XV: Jan 24-28, 2015, therockboat.com, Featuring Barenaked Ladies, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Sister Hazel, Will Hoge, Red Wanting Blue, Kris Allen, and more.
• Sail Across the Sun 2015: Feb 13-17, 2015, sailacrossthesun.com, Hosted by Train along with The Wailers, Andy Grammer, A Great Big World, comedian Michael Ian Black, chefs Chris Cosentino and Ryan Scott and more to be added soon.
• Keeping the Blues Alive at Sea: Feb 17-21, 2015, bluesaliveatsea.com, Featuring Joe Bonamassa, John Hiatt, Robben Ford, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Ana Popovic, Joanne Shaw Taylor.
• 311 Caribbean Cruise, Sound System Jamaica: Feb 25-March 1, 311cruise.com, Featuring 311, Dirty Heads, Pepper and More.
• Kid Rock’s 6th Annual Chillin’ The Most Cruise: March 2-6, 2015, kidrockcruise.com, Featuring a host of surprise bands to be announced onboard.
Image (c) CruiseDiva.com

Monday, July 28, 2014

Beer + Football + Carnival Cruise Lines = Fun

Got Beer?

In recognition of the growing popularity of craft beer in the U.S., Carnival Cruise Lines has entered into an exclusive agreement to offer Tampa-based Cigar City Brewing’s craft beers on all of its Florida-based ships. Cigar City’s Florida Cracker Belgian-Style White Ale and Invasion Pale Ale is now available on 13 Carnival ships sailing from five Florida homeports. Combined, those ships carry more than two million guests each year.

“Carnival continues to seek high-quality brands to enhance our guests’ experience, and Cigar City Brewing has been rated among the top craft breweries in the world,” said Eddie Allen, Carnival’s vice president of beverage operations. Allen also noted that Carnival also offers its own private label draught beer, ThirstyFrog Red, which is available throughout the fleet.

Unlike most U.S. craft breweries, Cigar City Brewing packages most of its beverages in aluminum cans, the most widely recycled containers in the United States. From a beer drinker’s perspective, cans have zero light penetration to better preserve the integrity of the brew, they chill faster, are easier to store and have a longer shelf life than bottles. Cans also are shatterproof and therefore are allowed where bottles are not—such as poolside.

Are you ready for some Football?

Carnival, which is the largest cruise operator sailing from Texas, has entered into an exclusive, multi-year partnership with “America’s Team”—the Dallas Cowboys, making Carnival the Official Cruise Line of the legendary NFL franchise and expanding the cruise operator’s wide-ranging commitment to the Texas market. In its new role as the Official Cruise Line of the Dallas Cowboys, Carnival will add fun and memorable fan experiences to tailgaters at home games with its new “Fun Crew,” which tours the lots at AT&T Stadium on golf carts and offers prizes to Cowboys fans, including the chance to win one of many cruise vacation giveaways.

“We’re thrilled to bring Carnival Cruise Lines aboard as our Official Cruise Line,” said Jerry Jones Jr., chief marketing officer of the Dallas Cowboys. “We look forward to enhancing the game-day experience for every Cowboys fan with the unique brand of fun and entertaining activities Carnival will be bringing to our home games.”

The Dallas Cowboys partnership coincides with the line’s upcoming deployment of a third year-round ship, Carnival Freedom, to Galveston in February 2015. With the addition of Carnival Freedom, which recently underwent an extensive multi-million dollar makeover, Carnival expects to carry more than 600,000 guests a year from Texas, the most of any cruise operator. Carnival Freedom will join Carnival Magic in offering 7-day Caribbean cruises and Carnival Triumph, which sails on 4- and 5-day voyages to Mexico.

Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, July 25, 2014

Carnival Announces Longer & Shorter Cruise Itineraries

Consumer response to the announcement earlier this year of Carnival Triumph’s first-ever longer length voyages from Galveston and San Juan was so positive that the cruise line has added three new 10- to 12-day voyages. Set to depart in winter 2015, the longer sailings feature port calls on beautiful and exotic destinations throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America.

In addition, Carnival Magic will offer a series of 4- to 6-day voyages from Galveston in winter 2015, marking the first time that the 130,000-ton ship has offered a short cruise program from Texas.

“Based on feedback we’ve received from our guests and valued travel agent partners, we are pleased to be able to provide even more itinerary choices from Galveston,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO. “These new longer cruises on Carnival Triumph visit a variety of beautiful destinations while offering more time to enjoy the ship’s many fantastic and exciting features. At the same time, the 4- to 6-day sailings on Carnival Magic are the perfect choice for those looking for a shorter cruise featuring all the wonderful innovations aboard our newest class of ships,” he added.

The newly scheduled voyages on Carnival Triumph include three options, which can be combined to create a 33-day seagoing adventure visiting 15 ports across two continents:
• An 11-day southern Caribbean voyage from Galveston to San Juan: Feb. 9-20, 2015, calling at Grand Cayman, Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada, Dominica and St. Maarten.
• A 10-day exotic eastern Caribbean voyage from San Juan to Galveston: Feb. 20-March 2, 2015, with visits to St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Croix and Falmouth (Jamaica).
• A 12-day Journey of Discovery cruise round-trip from Galveston: March 2-14, 2015, featuring Grand Cayman, Limon (Costa Rica), Colon (Panama), and Cartagena and Santa Marta (Colombia). From Colon, guests will have the opportunity to take an optional excursion for an up-close view of the wonders of the Panama Canal. The call at Santa Marta will mark Carnival’s first-ever visit to this beautiful seaside city.
During these voyages, guests can relax on beautiful beaches, visit centuries-old historical landmarks and attractions, and enjoy a variety of shopping, dining and sightseeing opportunities, all while experiencing Carnival Triumph’s impressive array of Fun Ship 2.0 dining, bar, and entertainment options.

The three new voyages complement Carnival Triumph’s previously announced series of 10- and 11-day cruises from Galveston and San Juan in 2015 and 2016. Two 11-day cruises sail from Galveston to San Juan Oct. 24, 2015 and Jan. 16, 2016, and two 10-day cruises will operate from San Juan to Galveston Nov. 4, 2015 and Jan. 27, 2016.

While Carnival Triumph is sailing these longer length cruises, Carnival Magic will, for the first time, offer a series of 4- to 6-day voyages from Galveston in February and March 2015, providing consumers an opportunity to experience the ship’s many unique features on a short cruise program.

Carnival Magic’s short cruise program will encompass two 4-day cruises to Cozumel departing Feb. 19 and March 5, 2015; two 5-day cruises to Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico, departing Feb. 14 & 23, 2015; and two unique 6-day cruises to Cozumel, Progreso and Costa Maya departing Feb. 8 and March 9, 2015.

Reservations are currently being accepted for the new departures aboard both Carnival Triumph and Carnival Magic. For additional information, visit Carnival.com.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Everything You Want to Know About European River Cruising in One Place

We were novices when we embarked on our first river cruise last year to sail from Antwerp to Amsterdam. Sure, we’ve lost count on how many ocean cruises we have taken over the past two decades and we have sailed on Baltic and Mediterranean voyages, but we didn’t really know what to expect on European waterways inland. As it turned out we enjoyed river cruising and returned to Europe this year to sail again from Paris along the River Seine.

What we needed to know before that first trip has been compiled by my friend and colleague, the connoisseur of cruising himself—the Berliz guide to River Cruising in Europe by Douglas Ward is now available to help navigate the fastest growing segment of the worldwide cruise industry. With riverboats being launched at an astonishing rate, Ward takes an in-depth look at what they have to offer and what travelers can expect from each company and vessel, which he advises should be called “riverships.”

In the guidebook Ward reviews the major river cruise lines and offers reviews and ratings of each rivership in their fleets. The reviews don’t cover every feature, but do hit the important ones—for instance, what the accommodations and public rooms are like and whether there is an elevator on board.

In addition, there is information about the overall experience and what you can expect to see and do along Europe’s major rivers. Ward also anticipates the questions most frequently asked about river cruises and answers them in detail.

If you’re new to river cruises, this is your guide to making the best decisions before booking. Even if you have already reserved your sailing, take my word for it that the chapter on Europe’s Rivers and Waterways is worth the cost of the book. I wish I’d had it before my river cruises for that chapter alone.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Costa Concordia On The Move to Genoa

Assisted by two tugs, Costa Concordia left her anchored position near Giglio Island this morning at around 11 am. At an average speed of 2 knots, her arrival in Genoa is estimated to be between Saturday, July 26th and Sunday, July 27th.

For an in-depth, illustrated look at the day-by-day process to accomplish the removal of the Costa Concordia wreck, visit CND's CruiseBlogger, brought to you by Cruise News Daily.

Here's video of her on her way...



Grow Up A Bit, Baby Sailors

Since 1998, when Disney Cruise Line entered the vacation market at sea, it has been the cruising choice for many families, especially those with infants under six months of age. Until now, Disney was the only line that allowed babies as young as twelve weeks old to sail.

In an update to their minimum age policy that Disney stated was made to bring them in line with industry standards, Disney Cruise Line is increasing the minimum age to sail from twelve weeks to six months of age for most itineraries. The minimum age for the longer voyages, such as Transatlantic Crossings, Hawaii, and Panama Canal itineraries, will increase to one year of age. The new minimum age restrictions went into effect on July 18, 2014 for all new reservations being made for sailings after January 1, 2015.

The new policy does not apply to previously booked cruises that depart in 2015. Infants between twelve weeks and one year of age will be allowed to sail on those bookings.

This is the information Disney Cruise Line is providing to booked passengers with infants whose age is under the new minimum:
Thank you for selecting a Disney Cruise Line vacation for your family. We are glad that you will be joining us in 2015, and want to share with you some information about a change in the minimum age to sail. As a Guest currently scheduled to sail with an infant in 2015, we want to assure you that this change will not apply to your current reservation.

Effective July 18, 2014, for all new bookings on sailings commencing after January 1, 2015, the minimum age to sail aboard Disney Cruise Line ships will be 6 months of age on most itineraries. The minimum age for Transatlantic, Hawaii, and Panama Canal itineraries will increase to 1 year of age.

While this change will not apply to your current 2015 reservation, we wanted to advise you of the change and the exception that is being made for your existing reservation. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-939-2784.

It is also important to mention that the restrictions on the length of pregnancy have not changed. Women who have entered their 24th week of pregnancy as of their embarkation date or who will enter their 24th week of pregnancy during their cruise are not allowed to sail.
The new policy is outlined in the Planning Center of the Disney Cruise Line website under Frequently Asked Questions.

Image Courtesy Disney Cruise Line

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New Cruise Review: Caribbean Princess

Regular contributors Mary & Vincent Finelli recently sailed on Caribbean Princess once again to enjoy the remarkable cuisine of Executive Chef Antonio Cereda.

Welcome aboard Caribbean Princess for a culinary journey on the Finelli's 106th cruise—and their 21st cruise on Princess ships.

Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Monday, July 21, 2014

Crystal Cruises To Sail Elusive Northwest Passage In 2016

Crystal Cruises is introducing a new itinerary that is sure to draw the interest of their exploration minded past passengers. Expect this expedition-style voyage to sell out quickly. The route traverses the Arctic Ocean via the legendary Northwest Passage—one so mysterious and remote (500 miles north of the Arctic Circle), that explorers spent centuries seeking the passage, until it was first completed successfully by Roald Amundsen just over 100 years ago.

Crystal will be the first luxury cruise line to ever navigate the route, maneuvering through 900 miles of majestic waterways lined with spectacular glaciers, towering fjords, and vast unspoiled landscapes away from mainstream civilization and tourism, north of mainland Canada. Beginning August 16, 2016 in Anchorage/Seward, Alaska, the award-winning Crystal Serenity will sail for 32 days from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean/New York City.

"Crystal's inaugural Northwest Passage offers guests the opportunity to begin a new story of thrilling adventure, all the while indulging in the world's very best luxury vacation experience," said Crystal President Edie Rodriguez. "The voyage combines intrepid adventure, the great outdoors, and immersive cultural experiences with Six-Star service as only Crystal can deliver."

Following in the footsteps of intrepid explorers, the once-in-a-lifetime journey through once-unpassable waterways marks Crystal's maiden expedition-style itinerary and a break from many cruising traditions. Approaches to itinerary scheduling, destination visits, onboard offerings, and safety standards are all new or enhanced, with major changes including:
A flexible itinerary: Extra "surprise" days are built into the schedule to allow unplanned "calls of the wild" for polar bear-viewing, whale-watching, glacier-cruising, scenic helicopter flights, and/or seeking out the best wildlife and weather on the advice of local specialist guides.
New adventures ashore: Crystal will introduce "Wilderness Adventures" that take guests across polar tundra, up ice-strewn fjords, and into scenic coves to explore areas in and near maiden ports-of-call. Travelers will also be able to respectfully visit the small, remote communities and uninhabited, unscheduled spaces/lands/waterways en route, often with champagne waiting at the other end. Although some excursions will only be determined "in the moment" based on circumstances and environment, Crystal will spend the next two years planning a plethora of excursions and "Arctic safaris" involving kayaks, Zodiacs, a helicopter, ATVs, fishing, hiking, climbing, golfing at the world's northernmost nine-hole course, and even possible camping and/or overnighting away from the ship. Voluntourism opportunities to help local lands and communities will also be offered complimentarily to guests and crew via the line's "You Care. We Care." program.
New enrichment: A 14-person expedition team of experts in a variety of subjects—including a native Arctic guide, scientists, and accomplished wildlife and landscape photographers—will not only provide lectures on subjects such as the science and history of the area, but also offer hands-on seminars and workshops, host dinners with guests, guide wildlife watching from the ship, and accompany excursions, where appropriate.
Respect & understanding of the local culture: Guests will be given a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in the lifestyles of these small and remote communities during port visits, with activities created in partnership with the communities. Designed to show modern life today in the Arctic, as well as the rich cultural heritage of the region, visits will include demonstrations of local arts and crafts, Arctic sports, traditional drum dancing and throat singing, and tastings of local foods, such as Arctic char and bannock bread.
Onboard experience, expedition-style: Embracing the spirit of expedition, Crystal's usual onboard atmosphere of rest and relaxation will be relaxed even further with wardrobe (complimentary parkas, boot rentals, outfitter recommendations, and no "black tie optional" nights) and cuisine that, although still gourmet, is modified to reflect the locale and limited ability to re-supply goods and store waste during the month-long voyage.
Ports-of-Call: Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, and Nome*, Alaska; Ulukhaktok*, NW Territories; Cambridge Bay* and Pond Inlet, Nunavut; Ilulissat*, Sisimiut*, and Nuuk, Greenland; Bar Harbor, Maine; Boston, Massachusetts; Newport, Rhode Island, and New York, New York. (*=maiden call)
Waterways: North Pacific Ocean; Bering Sea & Bering Strait; Chukchi & Beaufort Seas; Amundsen Gulf; Dolphin & Union Strait; Coronation Gulf; Dease Strait; Queen Maud Gulf; Victoria Strait; Larsen Sound; Franklin & Bellot Straits; Peel Sound; Parry Channel; Barrow Strait; Prince Regent Inlet; Lancaster Sound; Croker Bay; Navy Board Inlet; Eclipse Sound; Baffin Bay; Davis Strait; Labrador Sea; North Atlantic Ocean.
Enhanced safety & environmental standards: Crystal Serenity and its escort vessel will be using low-sulphur Marine Gas oil fuel, exceeding environmental regulations. The escort vessel will carry additional safety and environmental protection equipment, as well as personnel specifically trained in its use. In addition, it will serve as a platform for a helicopter and zodiacs, and be manned by a crew highly experienced in all aspects of operating safely in this unique area.
As you might expect, this unique opportunity comes with a hefty fare. All-inclusive "Book Now" fares start at $19,755 per person, double occupancy, with an additional Crystal Society savings starting from $495/person and $3,000 included in savings if booked by August 29, 2014. Additionally, this cruise comes a new booking process. A 20% initial deposit will be required to secure all bookings, with $500 of the deposit being non-refundable. The initial booking window, which opened on July 17th, is only be available to guests who have sailed with Crystal before (i.e., Crystal Society members). Non-members may add their name to a waitlist, and remaining space, if any, will open to the public on Sept 2. Crystal Adventures will open for pre-reservation 18 months in advance of the cruise. For more information, visit CrystalCruises.com.

Image Courtesy Crystal Cruises

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lost Crewmembers

We've heard from several unofficial sources that three of the passengers who perished when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine were crewmembers from Celebrity Cruises who were on their way home to Indonesia. Please join us in a moment of silent reflection for them and their families.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Smooth Jazz Cruise: It's The Greatest Party at Sea

If a Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words, Then What Is a Video Worth? Those of us who have sailed on The Smooth Jazz Cruise know how difficult it is to describe to others. It is more than amazing wall-to-wall music. It is more than a luxurious cruise. It is The Greatest Party at Sea!

Capturing that spirit in photographs and words is very difficult, although we tried during The Smooth Jazz Cruise 2008. However, the real essence and excitement of the cruise can best be seen in the interaction between the Artists and the Guests, the staff and crew and the Guests, and the Guests with their fellow Guests. Depicting the interaction is very difficult, too, but video comes the closest to connecting the dots, which is why the hosts at Entertainment Cruise Productions have put together an amazing video of The Smooth Jazz Cruise ’14, together with a lot of information about The Smooth Jazz Cruise 15.1 and 15.2. Yes! For 2015, there are TWO sailings and special guest Natalie Cole will be unforgettable on both!

About 20 cabins have become available recently aboard Eurodam for The Smooth Jazz Cruise 15.1, which departs Fort Lauderdale on January 11, 2015, and just over 200 remain for The Smooth Jazz Cruise 15.2 that sails on March 1st. Both cruises will visit Nassau, Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Holland America Line’s private island Half Moon Cay. The second sailing is just under eight months away, but those cabins won’t be available for long, so now is the best time to secure a reservation. Book your cabin online with Entertainment Cruise Productions or call 888.852.9987.

There is only one cruise in this musical genre that has sailed 17 times and provided the smoothest entertainment for more than a decade! The Smooth Jazz Cruise ... the first, the best and the Greatest Party at Sea.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer is Officially Under Construction

With the crisp pop of a cork being freed from a Krug Grande Cuvée magnum, a laser cut the ceremonial first piece of steel this week to begin the construction of Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy. Incorporating a bottle of the world’s finest champagne to start the building process is symbolic of the high level of sophistication and design being developed for Seven Seas Explorer, which is scheduled to debut in summer 2016.

The ceremonial first piece of steel will serve as the foundation for an opulent, one-of-a-kind owner’s suite unlike any other at sea. The suite, with exquisite stonework and luscious fabrics, will serve as a hallmark for the superior level of elegance found throughout the ship. When it debuts, Seven Seas Explorer will establish a new benchmark for style and service and perfectly complement the all-inclusive luxury experience currently enjoyed by guests sailing with Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

During the ceremony, Kunal S. Kamlani, president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Gabriele Cocco, senior executive vice president of merchant ships for Fincantieri, began a countdown that culminated with Maison Krug Italy’s master sommelier, Michela Cimatoribus, releasing the cork from a magnum of Krug Grande Cuvée. As the cork soared and the champagne flowed, confetti cascaded down and the laser cut the first piece of steel for the 750-passenger ship.

“We’re one step closer to fulfilling our dream of building the most luxurious ship in the world and giving our guests another exciting option to explore inspired global destinations with our special brand of all-inclusive luxury,” noted Kamlani. “Seven Seas Explorer will surpass the current standard in luxury cruising, offering a new level of grandeur throughout the ship from its lavish suites to its elegant public spaces and gourmet restaurants.”

At 54,000 gross-registered tons and carrying only 750 guests, Seven Seas Explorer will boast the highest space ratios and staff-to-guest ratios in the cruise industry and further strengthen Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ widely recognized position as the most inclusive luxury cruise line. Seven Seas Explorer will join the rest of the award-winning Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet in the summer of 2016. Regent Seven Seas Cruises will begin taking reservations for the maiden voyage and inaugural season for Seven Seas Explorer in early 2015.

Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises: pictured above are Michela Cimatoribus (Master Sommelier Maison Krug Italy), Gabriele Cocco, (SEVP of Merchant Ships for Fincantieri), Kunal S. Kamlani, (President of Regent Seven Seas Cruises), and Raffele Davassi (SVP Ponente Shipyard)