Thursday, December 18, 2014

Princess Cruises Introduces Winner of 50th Anniversary “Inspiring Stories” Contest

 Paula & Nathan Abbott in Hiroshima
The experience of a World War II veteran’s Memorial Day return to the South Pacific has been selected as the grand-prize winner in Princess Cruises’ 50th Anniversary “Inspiring Stories” essay contest in which past guests were asked to share an inspirational experience that occurred on a Princess cruise vacation. Nearly 1,000 entries were submitted for the opportunity to ride on the line’s Rose Parade float on January 1.

The winning story was submitted by Paula Abbott, whose husband Nathan served as a US Navy Radarman 2/C in the Pacific Theater (1943-45). One of only seven survivors of the USS Monaghan which went down with two other ships during a typhoon off of the Philippines in 1944, the veteran of the Iwo Jima and Okinawa invasions had long desired to return to the islands where he had served. In 2004, a Princess cruise to the Islands of the Pacific Theater of War allowed him to fulfill that wish, and he was able to share important memories with other WWII veterans. The 91-year-old Bronze Star recipient resides in Whittier, Calif.

As the grand-prize winner, Paula and Nathan Abbott will join the cast members of The Love Boat to ride on Princess Cruises’ first-ever float in the 126th Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, officially kicking off the cruise line’s 50th anniversary year.

An additional four stories—an Alaskan cruise turned marriage proposal, a golden wedding anniversary cruise, a young family’s celebration of survival, and a mother and daughter’s life affirming encounter—were selected as runners up. The authors and guests also will cruise the five-and-a-half mile parade route on the float.

“We were truly inspired by the stories of love, family and the triumph of the human spirit we received from our guests and we want to thank everyone who shared their personal stories with us,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. “Each tale was unique, taking place in different destinations around the globe, but the unifying theme of this year’s Rose Parade gave us the opportunity to acknowledge the many forms of inspiration so many of our guests find while cruising with Princess. We are thrilled to feature these guests on our Rose Parade float.”

The Rose Parade has been a tradition since 1890 and is broadcast to approximately 80 million viewers around the world every New Year’s day. The Princess Cruises float is 60 feet long and 24 feet high, and will be covered by more than 24,000 flowers and natural materials. Depicting the line’s newest ship Regal Princess symbolically sailing through some of the world’s most interesting destinations and iconic landmarks, the float pays tribute to The Love Boat television show that made Princess Cruises one of the most famous names in cruising.

Image Courtesy Princess Cruises

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Don’t Be That Passenger

I think we’ve all met one—a fellow passenger who strikes up a conversation that borders on rude. No one seems to mind being asked where they are from or how many cruises they’ve been on, but other topics can range from mildly irritating to downright nosy. Consider the following situation.

While enjoying lunch during a break in a daylong shore excursion we encountered the height of rudeness. The passenger who brought up the topic of cruise fares had an agenda—he felt it was not “fair” that everyone hadn’t paid the same amount for identical accommodations on our ship. He whipped out a notepad and pen and pointedly indicated that he wanted to record what each of us at the table had paid for our cruise. It turned out his agenda was to “expose the unfairness” of the cruise line. Unfortunately (for him), I was the first to respond. I told him that we didn’t discuss personal financial matters. That shut down his “survey” on the spot and I was quietly congratulated later by other passengers who felt uncomfortable with his question, but weren’t quite sure what to say.

That fellow probably didn’t think he was being rude—he actually seemed to think that by gathering fare information from the group that his findings would somehow benefit us all in the future. He didn’t seem to understand that cruise fares vary in similar fashion to other travel pricing, for instance airfare and hotel rooms. A lot depends on when you book, whether there was a promotion being offered at the time, or a variety of other circumstances. For instance, a travel agent may have gotten a ‘group’ rate for your booking even if you weren’t a member of an organized group. Another travel agent may have been privy to ‘unpublished’ rates offered at the last minute—cruise lines sometimes offer them to their high volume agents to benefit their clients and to fill a ship that isn’t selling well. Past guest programs also offer discounts to loyal passengers.

The moral of this story… Some questions don’t deserve an answer. Don’t be that passenger who asks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tropicana Entertainment & Carnival Cruise Lines Form Casino Alliance

As a rule, the Cruise Diva crew consists of losers. We’ve been known to deposit a roll of quarters in a slot machine now and then, but seldom win. However, we celebrate our friends’ skill at the blackjack tables and are always happy to hear about their good fortune at sea or on land.

With an alliance formed between Tropicana Entertainment, Inc., one of the most respected names in the gaming industry, and Carnival Cruise Lines, the world’s most popular cruise line, our friends who are Trop Advantage® players club members at seven land based Tropicana-owned casinos in the United States will enjoy an array of cruise benefits to for 2015. Guests of Tropicana Entertainment’s Atlantic City, NJ; Evansville, IN; Greenville, MS; Laughlin, NJ; and Aruba properties, as well as Belle of Baton Rouge Casino and Montbleu Resort Casino Spa in Lake Tahoe, will be eligible to receive complimentary and discounted Carnival cruises throughout the year aboard Carnival’s fleet, based on their level of play.

“We take great pride in giving Trop Advantage players more fun, variety and value than our competitors,” said Tony Rodio, President & Chief Executive Officer of Tropicana Entertainment Inc. “Carnival Cruise Lines shares our commitment to attentive service, delicious food and drink, and exceptional experiences, making this a meaningful partnership that will greatly benefit our players.”

Trop Advantage players club is designed to allow players maximum flexibility in choosing their own rewards. Trop Advantage offers five reward tier levels and the ability to earn and spend comp dollars, receive invitations to special events and take advantage of generous free slot play programs and giveaways. Membership is free and players can join online or at any of Tropicana Entertainment Inc. casinos.

“We are excited to align our Carnival brand with such a progressive, entertainment-oriented organization such as Tropicana Entertainment, said Marty Goldman, Carnival’s Senior Vice President of Global Casino Operations. “We look forward to welcoming Trop Advantage players aboard our ships and providing them with a lifetime of wonderful vacation memories.” Goldman noted that the cruises can be booked through any of Carnival’s reservations channels, including its valued travel agent partners.

Carnival destinations include ports throughout the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexico, and other destinations.
Image Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines

Monday, December 15, 2014

Caribbean’s Newest Destination, Amber Cove to Open in October 2015

Are you tired of visiting the same Caribbean ports on your cruises? If so, Carnival Cruise Lines has a new one to tempt your inner explorer. It’s Amber Cove, a new cruise destination located in the heart of the Dominican Republic’s North Coast, known as the Amber Coast, just outside the historical town of Puerto Plata. The port will welcome its first cruise ship when Carnival Victory arrives Oct 6, 2015, for a day-long call. The visit by Carnival Victory is just the first of 37 calls by eight different Carnival ships that will take place between October 2015 and April 2016, accounting for more than 100,000 guests during this period.

Amber Cove will be a featured port on select sailings of Carnival Breeze, Carnival Glory, Carnival Splendor, and Carnival Victory sailing from Miami, Carnival Conquest from Fort Lauderdale, FL, Carnival Sunshine and Carnival Valor from Port Canaveral, FL, and Carnival Fantasy from Charleston, SC. The facility will offer two berths that can accommodate up to two large post-Panamax cruise ships simultaneously.

“Amber Cove is destined to become a cornerstone in creating new itineraries from several U.S. home ports,” said Terry Thornton, Carnival’s senior vice president of itinerary planning. “It will provide an unmatched combination of ‘fun in the sun’ activities and eco-tourism opportunities along with unique sightseeing, dining and cultural experiences to create a lifetime of wonderful vacation memories for our guests,” he added.

Designed to serve as the gateway to one of the world’s most beautiful cruising regions, Amber Cove features dramatic architectural elements that echo the area’s storied Colonial past. The port is situated in a picturesque cove that serves as the backdrop for soaring mountains and lush tropical landscape. Its cobblestone plazas will be lined with a wide variety of retail offerings, including themed restaurants and bars and a marketplace with locally sourced crafts and souvenirs, recreational amenities, and a transportation center for access to land and sea adventures.

Amber Cove will also feature one of the most extensive shore excursion programs available in the Caribbean, offering a wide array of landside experiences including beautiful beaches; water sports; and special culinary, cultural, and adventure options. Nearby Ocean World, which is one of the region’s largest marine adventure parks, will offer guests many great ways to experience and interact with a variety of marine animals.

Dozens of shore excursions will be available, from cross-country adventures in 4x4 Terracross buggies that traverse the rugged countryside and horseback riding on the beach to snorkeling in crystal-clear waters and swimming in a pristine natural river pool. Guests can also travel via speedboat to beautiful Paradise Island, one of the Caribbean’s top spots for snorkeling and scuba diving, or visit rural coffee plantations and sample traditional Dominican cuisine, rum and seasonal fruit. Or for the ultimate luxury experience, guests can reserve their own private beachside bungalow with the services of a personal chef, bartender and staff.

Amber Cove will also provide easy and convenient access to the nearby historic town of Puerto Plata, named by Christopher Columbus when he discovered the island in 1492. Puerto Plata is home to the first fort built by European settlers in the New World. Visitors to the city can shop in the bustling downtown area featuring numerous artist studios and rum and cigar factories or stroll along the famed Malecon, a three-mile-long open air beach-side boardwalk dotted with bars, restaurants and shops.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Festive Time for Cruising: Holidays at Sea

Snow at sea aboard
Princess Cruises’ ships!
With the holidays fast approaching, it isn't too late to swap home and hearth for staterooms and ocean views. A cruise for the holidays doesn't mean doing away with your favorite family traditions—cruise lines know how meaningful they are and plan accordingly. Plus, on a cruise you can forge new traditions while making memories with your loved ones. With an estimated 46.3 million Americans traveling 50-plus miles from home this holiday season, a holiday at sea is a great option for travelers. Cruise line are showing off their holiday spirit with festive holiday décor, special seasonal entertainment and traditional rituals for passengers to enjoy. Many holiday occasions are celebrated on cruise ships to cater to all passengers.

Holiday Highlights include:
-- Traditional holiday décor is on display across North American-based fleets, with cruise ships decked out with Christmas trees, poinsettias, twinkling lights, wreaths, mistletoe, and extravagant gingerbread houses.
-- Most ships have regular visits from Santa who presents gifts to children.
-- Holiday-themed shows and theater performances are planned, including traditional carol singing.
-- On many ships, vacationers can enjoy Christmas Eve midnight and Christmas Day masses.
-- Holiday-themed menus for travelers to feast on are served featuring traditional oven-roasted turkey, honey baked ham, and all the fixings.
-- For cruisers celebrating Hanukkah, many lines offer traditional celebrations and festive food such as potato latkes, seasonal games like Spin the Dreidel, and Menorah lighting services.
-- On select fleets, storytellers share tales of Hanukkah and Kwanza, as part of their seasonal festivities.
Designed for Holiday Non-Traditionalists & Explorers
For those travelers looking for new adventures this holiday season, many lines are turning their attention to more exotic ports of call to jump start traveler's 2015 bucket list. Highlights include:
-- To celebrate a European Christmas in festive elegance, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise's River Beatric, takes guests on an 11- day river voyage through four countries—Austria, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia. Celebrate holiday musical heritage listening to the largest organ in Europe, lift your voice and sing "Silent Night" in Oberndorf, the birthplace of the beloved Christmas carol, and spend Christmas Day in Salzburg where guests will enjoy a holiday lunch within the walls of St. Peter's Abbey.
-- Windstar Cruises ships will sail to destinations including Southeast Asia, the Caribbean's Windward Islands, and Panama. Guests can celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah while sailing from Singapore to Hong Kong on the line's new ship Star Pride. Highlights include Vietnam, where guests can explore the ancient imperial temples and pagodas of Hue, ride bicycles down the back streets of old Hoi An, and enjoy the countryside.
-- Silversea Cruises' new expedition vessel, Silver Discoverer, will spend the holidays cruising New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic, with an itinerary in a remote area described by the United Nations' Environment Program as "the most diverse and extensive of all Sub-Antarctic archipelagos."
New Year, New Adventures
There is no better way to kick off the new year than visiting off-the-map destinations, cruise lines are offering more exciting itineraries than ever before. Count down to 2015 with these offerings:
-- Crystal Cruises is enticing travelers to fulfill holiday bucket lists with exotic itineraries that include sailing round-trip from Singapore. Embarking Dec 21, the 15-day holiday itinerary includes ringing in the New Year with the Crystal Symphony berthed at Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour. Cruisers will enjoy a stunning view of the city's fireworks countdown celebration, specially-illuminated skyscrapers, musical pyrotechnics, and the Symphony of Lights, the world's largest permanent light show. The itinerary also includes Christmas day and night in Ho Chi Minh City, and calls in Sihanoukville, Cambodia (for Angor Wat) and Nha Trang, Vietnam. Shorter 6- and 9-day Christmas/Hanukkah or New Year's "Getaways" segments are also available to/from Ho Chi Minh City.
-- Princess Cruises' Golden Princess Holiday 2014 cruise is a 27-day adventure (shorter segments also available) as the ship repositions from Los Angeles to South America, embarking Dec 23. Guests will celebrate New Year's Eve with a stopover in Montevideo, Uruguay. Other highlights include port calls in Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, the Falkland Islands and Argentina.
-- Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Solstice will spend the holidays sailing Australia and New Zealand 14-day cruises between Sydney and Auckland that begin Dec 21. Destinations include Melbourne, Tasmania, Fjordland and Wellington.
-- Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America will spend New Year's Eve on the Big Island of Hawaii, with potential spottings of natural fireworks courtesy of Kilauea volcano. From Dec 27 to Jan 3, guests can soak up all four Hawaiian Islands including Honolulu, Hawaii; Kahului, Maui; Hilo, Hawaii; and Nawiliwili, Kauai.
-- Royal Caribbean International's Mariner of the Seas will make its way to Asia for a unique and adventurous holiday celebration. Guests can enjoy a 5-night Phuket & Malayasia cruise, including holiday-inspired menus and a stunning New Year's celebration complete with champagne and party favors.
-- Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Freedom will sail to the Caribbean for a family friendly holiday that begins on Dec 28. Families will not only enjoy festive holiday decorations and activities, but Carnival Freedom is the only ship in the fleet to feature the new, marine-themed Camp Ocean children's facility and a Dr. Seuss Bookville family reading venue for the younger set of travelers. Destinations include Aruba, Curacao, Grand Turk and La Romana, Dominican Republic.
Image Courtesy of Princess Cruises

Thursday, December 11, 2014

MSC Divina’s 2015 Theme Cruises Announced

In addition to their wildly popular Baseball Greats cruises, MSC Cruises’ MSC Divina—one of the most elegant ships sailing from Miami to the Caribbean—is offering cruise travelers a series of diverse themed cruises in Winter/Spring 2015.

“MSC works hard to create the best vacation experience possible,” said Hans Hesselberg, senior vice president of hotel operations for MSC Cruises. “These special themed cruises add an extra layer of fun and excitement and promise to make the cruise even more memorable for our guests.”

2015 themed cruises on MSC Divina include:
Post-New Year Extravaganza (2-night): Jan. 11 departure to Nassau, Bahamas
MSC Divina is continuing the New Year’s celebrations and helping guests start 2015 off right. The ship’s festivities will include a New Year’s Party on the pool deck, complete with a countdown to midnight, and New Year’s themed decorations and noisemakers.

Valentine’s Day/Mardi Gras Celebration (4-night): Feb. 14 departure to Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
MSC Divina’s Valentine’s Day cruise is the perfect getaway for couples and singles looking for romance. The cruise will feature a special Valentine’s Day party where guests can send secret messages to their Valentine; Valentine’s Day-themed couple competitions; special arts and crafts activities for kids; a special ‘Tulip of Love’ dessert and dedicated list of Love Potions; and a Valentine’s Day package that guests can purchase for their significant other. In addition, for those looking for love, MSC will host a fun “singles mingle” party and is offering a special single occupancy rate. Adding to the fun, on Feb. 17 MSC will celebrate Fat Tuesday with a festive Mardi Gras themed party.

Songs of the 60s: (4-night): April 22 departure to Cozumel, Mexico
Guests sailing aboard MSC Divina will be transported back in time, with groovy 60’s and 70’s music from the Mellow Yellow band. The band will pay tribute to the 60’s and 70’s with truly authentic renditions of some of the genre’s greatest songs during an immersive musical theater show. In addition, throughout the 4 nights, guests will participate in 60’s and 70’s themed activities including a Saturday Night Fever Disco & Costume Party; Mellow Yellow Deck Concert and Deck Party; Summer of Love Prom Formal; 60’s/70’s trivia; and 60’s/70’s karaoke.

Baseball Greats (7-nights): Feb 7, Feb. 21, & March 7 departures to Philipsburg, St. Maarten; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
MSC’s 7-night Baseball Greats cruises feature instructional clinics, Q&As, story-telling sessions, passenger pitching contests, baseball trivia games, and a complimentary autograph session with the baseball stars on board. Hosted by former Yankee star Stan Bahnsen, 2015 itineraries will feature former baseball pros such as Art Shamsky (New York Mets), Gorman Thomas (Milwaukee Brewers), Randy Hundley (Chicago Cubs), and Ken Griffey (Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine”).
Visit MSC Cruises for additional information.

Image ©

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Quantum of the Seas Gets Christened

Last month I was unable to attend Royal Caribbean's naming event for Quantum of the Seas due to a scheduling conflict—I was on another ship and sadly couldn't be in two places at once. Thankfully, Royal Caribbean has shared video highlights of the naming ceremony, including the traditional 'bottle break' and a performance of "Over The Rainbow" by actress and godmother Kristin Chenoweth accompanied by Earth Harp musician, William Close.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines Offers Series of Unique Longer Length Voyages in 2015-16

If a week just isn’t enough time to enjoy your next cruise and you have something more on your bucket list, Carnival Cruise Lines has paid attention. The world’s largest cruise line will offer a series of 10- to 14-day voyages on six different ships in 2015-16 that feature extended calls at destinations throughout the Caribbean, Bermuda, Mexican Riviera and The Bahamas. Reservations are open for 11 different voyages offered on Carnival Miracle, Carnival Dream, Carnival Glory, and Carnival Sunshine, which depart from five convenient U.S. homeports and visit more than two dozen tropical destinations, including less traveled ports like Bonaire, Martinique, Dominica, Grenada, and, for the first time on a Carnival ship, Trinidad & Tobago. Several of the 10- and 11-day voyages can be combined into three-week-long Caribbean adventures providing an unmatched combination of ports of call, amazing experiences ashore, and fun-filled sea days, all at an incredible value. These new voyages are in addition to a previously announced series of nine 10- to 14-day departures to the Caribbean and Bermuda offered on Carnival Triumph and Carnival Pride in 2015-16.

“Based on feedback from our guests and travel agent partners, we’re delighted to offer these longer length voyages which provide vacationers an opportunity to visit some of the world’s most breathtaking destinations while enjoying all the wonderful on-board innovations and features found aboard Carnival’s ships,” said Terry Thornton, Carnival’s senior vice president of itinerary planning and revenue development.

The new voyages include:

Carnival Miracle
· Jan. 31-Feb. 12, 2015: 13-day Mexican Riviera voyage round-trip from Long Beach, Calif., calling at Cabo San Lucas (two-day call), La Paz, Mazatlán, Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, Manzanillo, and Puerto Vallarta (overnight call).

Carnival Dream
· Oct. 4-15, 2015: 11-day Caribbean/Bermuda cruise from New Orleans to San Juan featuring Nassau, King’s Wharf, Bermuda (overnight call), St. Maarten and St. Thomas.
· Oct. 15-25, 2015: 10-day Caribbean cruise from San Juan to New Orleans with calls at St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Grand Turk, and Falmouth, Jamaica (the above two cruises can be combined to create a 21-day round-trip voyage from New Orleans).
· Jan. 3-14, 2016: 11-day southern Caribbean cruise from New Orleans to San Juan with stops at Grand Turk, Aruba, Bonaire, St. Kitts, Antigua and St. Maarten.
· Jan. 14-25, 2016: a 10-day Caribbean cruise from San Juan to New Orleans calling at St. Thomas, Dominica, St. Kitts, Grand Turk and Falmouth (the above two cruises can be combined to create a 21-day round-trip voyage from New Orleans).

Carnival Glory
· Oct. 31–Nov. 13, 2015: 14-day Caribbean cruise round-trip from Miami visiting Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.
· Jan. 23-Feb. 2, 2016: 10-day cruise from Miami to San Juan calling at the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Antigua, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Thomas.
· Feb. 2-13, 2016: 11-day cruise from San Juan to Miami visiting St. Croix, St. Maarten, Dominica, Grenada, Bonaire, Aruba, and Curacao (the above two cruises can be combined to create a 21-day round-trip voyage from Miami).

Carnival Sunshine
· Nov. 28-Dec. 2, 2015: 11-day Caribbean/Bahamas voyage from Port Canaveral, Fla., to San Juan visiting Grand Turk, St. Thomas, Tortola, St. Kitts, Dominica, St. Lucia, Antigua and St. Croix.
· Dec. 9-19, 2015: 10-day Caribbean cruise from San Juan to Port Canaveral featuring St. Thomas, Antigua, Dominica, Martinique, St. Croix, and Grand Turk (the above two cruises can be combined to create a 21-day voyage round-trip from Port Canaveral).
· Feb. 21-March 5, 2016: 13-day southern Caribbean cruise round-trip from Port Canaveral calling at St. Maarten, Dominica, Barbados, Scarborough (Trinidad & Tobago), Grenada, Martinique, St. Kitts and St. Thomas.

In addition to numerous dining, entertainment, and activity options available on board, each of these destinations offers beautiful beaches, interesting historical attractions and natural landmarks, and unique sightseeing, dining and shopping opportunities. During these cruises, guests can zipline across the countryside, view centuries-old architectural structures, visit world-class museums, and snorkel and scuba dive in crystal-clear waters teeming with tropical fish and other sea life.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Monday, December 8, 2014

Norwegian Cruise Line & Margaritaville: It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere!

One of the best concerts Mel and I ever attended was in Charlotte, North Carolina featuring Jimmy Buffett & his Coral Reefer Band. If we hadn’t been big fans before, we’d have become instant Parrot Heads. As a result, we are ready to get our Fins Up and shakers of salt ready, as the first-ever floating Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant and 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar will soon set sail onboard the all-new Norwegian Escape.

News of the partnership was announced last week at a company-wide event with the assistance of a very special guest—the legendary Jimmy Buffett himself, who performed for the crowd (pictured below). Norwegian’s exclusive partnership with Margaritaville Holdings LLC extends to Norwegian’s island destinations to include Margaritaville branded food and beverage locations on Norwegian’s new island destination in Harvest Caye, Belize, set to open in fall 2015 and a 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar on Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas, planned to also debut in 2015. Additionally, the partnership will extend to other ships in the fleet in the future.

“Jimmy Buffett is an icon who embodies the island lifestyle and his Margaritaville lifestyle brand which includes restaurants and bars in its portfolio is a perfect fit for Norwegian Cruise Line and the incredible new Norwegian Escape, that will sail the Caribbean and offer our guests the first and only Margaritaville experience at sea,” said Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Kevin Sheehan. “We are more than thrilled to form this exclusive partnership with Jimmy and his talented team and we know our guests are going to love the new tropical experiences.”

The Margaritaville name brings to mind the desire in everyone to kick back and escape the everyday, if only for a short time. Norwegian Escape’s Margaritaville restaurant and bar will embody that essence of escapism with a laid back atmosphere inspired by the lyrics and lifestyle of Jimmy Buffett. The restaurant menu will invite guests to take a bite out of paradise with signature items like the Cheeseburger in Paradise and Who's to Blame Margarita. This venue will be one of Norwegian Escape’s numerous complimentary dining outlets. In addition to the restaurant, Norwegian Escape will feature the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, a music venue and outdoor bar on The Waterfront. The 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar will feature live nightly performances so guests can enjoy the sounds of the tropics while sipping a signature margarita or “boat drink” and gazing out to the Caribbean Sea. Sorry, those drinks won’t be complimentary.

Norwegian Escape will begin weekly 7-day cruises from her year-round homeport of Miami to the Eastern Caribbean beginning on November 14, 2015. The ship will be the largest 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.

Here at Cruise Diva’s headquarters we’re excited about the news and have just one question, “What took so long for a cruise line to figure out what a great idea this is?”

Images Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Friday, December 5, 2014

Cruising "Like A Virgin" Takes On A New Meaning

Although Madonna is probably best know for doing things "like a virgin," serial entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson runs a close second to the pop singing sensation. The newest venture by Branson's Virgin Group, the family-owned branded investment group, is the announcement of the formation of Virgin Cruises, its new cruise line business. Financial terms of the transaction are not being disclosed, but a CEO has been appointed and Bain Capital is its lead investment partner.

Proven industry leader Tom McAlpin will join Virgin Cruises as CEO and will head the management team. Most recently, Tom has been President and CEO of The World, Residences at Sea. Tom also served as President of Disney Cruise Line having joined as part of the founding management team. Virgin Cruises will be headquartered in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area and plans to design and construct two new world class cruise ships. At this time, the company has not disclosed when it will start operating for competitive reasons. As part of one of the world's most recognized and respected brands, Virgin Cruises plans to offer guests an outstanding experience and service aimed at broadening consumer targets for the cruise market.

"We plan to shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love. They'll be sailing on the latest ships offering great quality, a real sense of fun, and many exciting activities all delivered with the famed Virgin service," Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson said.

CEO Tom McAlpin added, "Cruise guests deserve something better and different to what is being offered today, and Virgin Cruises is committed to creating breathtaking experiences for them and a new generation of guests. Opportunities like this do not come often, so I am very excited to lead this business and introduce the Virgin brand to the cruise industry, as it has always put customers at the heart of what it does."

Virgin Group, conceived in 1970 by Sir Richard Branson, has gone on to grow successful businesses in sectors including mobile telephony, travel and transportation, financial services, leisure and entertainment, health and wellness, and space tourism. The partnership with Bain Capital, one of the world's leading private investment firms, is committed to exploring the creation of a global cruise business and setting new industry standards.

After years of rumors that Sir Richard would be going to sea, the Virgin Cruises announcement is seen as a positive by cruise industry insiders. It also gives a new meaning to the term "cruise virgin."

Image: Courtesy Virgin Group