Friday, February 27, 2015

The Vikings Are Coming to America

On Tuesday, February 24th, Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal and Viking River Cruises Chairman Torstein Hagen announced that Viking has selected the Port of New Orleans as the homeport for its first North American river cruise voyages. Tentative initial itineraries will include calls in St. James, East Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana parishes in Louisiana, as well as destinations further north along the Mississippi River such as Memphis, Tennessee, St. Louis, Missouri, and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Viking, the world's largest high end river cruise company, will invest more than $100 million per ship to build six ships over the next three years and, in accordance with U.S. maritime law, employ Americans on their made-in-America vessels. Their launch on the Mississippi is expected in late 2017.

Founded in 1997 with the purchase and launch of four ships in Russia, Viking now operates 60 vessels on rivers in Europe, Egypt, China, and southeast Asia and this spring is starting to offer ocean cruises as well. Their entry into the United States river cruising market has been rumored for years, but there is no word yet on how large the river boats will be or whether they will be similar in style to the very popular Viking "Longship" pictured here.

Image Courtesy Viking River Cruises

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Royal Caribbean Debuts "Harmony of the Seas" Details

When the third ship in the Oasis Class joins sister ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas in the Royal Caribbean International fleet, the newly named Harmony of the Seas will capture the title of world’s largest cruise ship. As expected, Harmony of the Seas will feature the design of seven distinct neighborhoods for which the Oasis Class is known, in addition to offering an amazing collection of experiences, amenities, and activities at sea.

In something of an unexpected move, the latest Oasis Class ship will also introduce the first waterslides on Royal Caribbean with a splash. Three thrilling waterslides will bring brand new adventures to the ship’s Pool and Sports Zone, dipping, diving, and swirling three decks down through a series of twists and turns over Central Park 10 decks below. One of the slides also will feature a champagne bowl that swirls guests around as they make their approach to the end of the ride.

Harmony of the Seas also will feature a new Bionic Bar on the Royal Promenade. The Bionic Bar was first introduced aboard Quantum of the Seas, and feature robot bartenders serving up one-of-a-kind crafted cocktails while dancing to a fluid beat. Guests on board Harmony of the Seas will also utilize RFID technology with Royal WOWBands that provide them access to their staterooms as well as make onboard purchases and reservations. Like her sisters, Harmony also will feature high speed Internet connections allowing guests to stream video; Skype with family and friends back at home; and share vacation memories through social media instantly while at sea.

While Oasis and Allure offered some of the largest staterooms in the fleet, on Harmony of the Seas the company has made some stateroom categories even larger. Interior accommodations also will be outfitted with Royal Caribbean’s exclusive Virtual Balconies which offer a view in every stateroom, while single travelers will have studio stateroom choices. Suite guests also will have exclusive new areas to enjoy, from a well-appointed suite lounge and a private suites-only restaurant called Coastal Kitchen to an exclusive full-service Suite Sun Zone sun deck.

Younger and young-at-heart guests can take a spin on the handcrafted carousel or enjoy a new classic games arcade on the ship’s Boardwalk neighborhood. While parents enjoy the newly relocated Starbucks café on the Boardwalk, kids can meet new friends at a new climbing play area.

Royal Caribbean’s Dynamic Dining will give Harmony of the Seas’ guests a culinary experience with more choice and flexibility than ever before. Those preferring a more traditional cruise dining style may select the “Classic” option which will offer two set seating times. Dynamic Dining’s “Classic” option allows guests to rotate through each of the main complimentary restaurants at an early- or a late-seating time throughout their cruise with their dining group and the same assigned waiter each evening.

New specialty restaurant concepts will provide even more variety, including Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, with a new teppanyaki menu, and the Sabor Modern Mexican restaurant. The new Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine will give guests the chance to experience a unique culinary adventure for the senses when Royal Caribbean chefs twist their culinary kaleidoscopes in a whimsical setting that challenges the imagination.

Harmony of the Seas will span 16 decks, encompass 227,000 gross registered tons, carry 5,479 guests at double occupancy, and feature 2,747 staterooms. The Oasis class is an architectural marvel touting Royal Caribbean’s exclusive seven neighborhood concept, including Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone.

Renderings Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Have You Discovered Your "CRUISE-A-NALITY"?

If you used Carnival Corporation's unique "CRUISE-A-NALITY" tool to determine what type of cruise vacation and brand experience is right for you—then you were one of nearly a quarter of a million who did.

Of the thousands of people who completed the "CRUISE-A-NALITY" quiz, a total of 65 percent were women. Additionally, when combining both male and female respondents, nearly 40 percent of consumers who completed the quiz qualified as a "Captain Spontaneous" (male) or "The Free Spirit" (female) cruise personality—meaning they are up for whatever experience is thrown their way and always looking for a good time. The results were based on a six personality-focused questions that generate a cruise "persona" for all types of travelers.

The "CRUISE-A-NALITY" tool, available on Carnival Corporation's World's Leading Cruise Lines website, combines onboard experience-based questions with destination-based questions to provide cruise brand recommendations for each participant. For instance, if a male answered questions about what kind of onboard experience he was looking for that led him to the "Captain Spontaneous" persona and chose that he is looking for a tropical getaway, he might be provided with recommendations to travel on the company's Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, or Costa Cruises brands.

"The CRUISE-A-NALITY tool is a fun way for travelers to look for the cruise vacation experience that is best for them," said Ken Jones, vice president of group marketing and insights for Carnival Corporation. "It is easy to do, and it is helping our current and potential guests get a better understanding of their cruise personas. The more we can help get the right people on the right ship for the right occasion, the more we are able to ensure we exceed guest expectations. And of course, we always encourage our guests to work with their travel agent, who can provide excellent insight into how to make the most of a cruise vacation."

The quiz has been an engaging tool for consumers, with people spending on average more than two and a half minutes on the site per visit. When that amount of time is combined with the more than 200,000 visits to the tool, it accounts for 445 days, or more than a year of time, exploring their cruise personality. When taking the quiz, there are 30 possible "CRUISE-A-NALITY" personas available. Find yours at World's Leading Cruise Lines.

Grand Princess Bridge Photo ©

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Anthem of the Seas Floats Out

Anthem of the Seas, the latest cruise ship under construction at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany left the covered building dock of the shipyard on Saturday, February 21st.

The 168.600-gt cruise ship, one of the world's largest cruise ships is being built for Royal Caribbean International.

This ethereal image really says it all.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oceania Cruises Introduces Innovative New Classes For Culinary Arts Center

Guests get cooking on Oceania Cruises
Noted by foodies for the dining experience and on board cooking demonstrations and classes, Oceania Cruises is expanding its reputation with a new innovative culinary curriculum featuring 20 new classes for the Culinary Center. Included is a special two-day culinary immersion program,a session focused on the life and legacy of Chef Jacques Pépin, and additions to the Gourmet Explorer Series that showcases cooking styles from a variety of international destinations.

Developed by longtime Director of Culinary Enrichment, Chef Kathryn Kelly, the new programs will debut on Marina and Riviera in April 2015. The Culinary Center at sea is equipped with individual induction cook top work stations where classes range from 45 minutes to three hours, depending on the itinerary. “In our Culinary Center, guests cook under the instruction of faculty members who are CIA graduates and have apprenticed under a who’s who of renowned chefs,” shares Kelly. “We continue to add new topics to keep things fresh for past guests and this year we’re proud to honor our consummate teacher, Jacques Pepin, with a special class.”

Culinary Center Immersion Program
In response to guest requests, the Oceania Cruises Culinary Center will offer a special Culinary School Immersion Program on select itineraries. The curriculum is designed to improve the skills of a home chef by focusing on the essential techniques for creating basic sauces, grilling, preparing vegetables, and other culinary skills. The in-depth instruction is spread over a morning and afternoon session and extends for two days—or four sessions in total. The highlight of the culinary immersion program is a friendly competition where teams of four guests are paired together to prepare a dish that is judged by the faculty and executives from the shipboard culinary team. All participants receive a special certificate at the end of the program, while the winning team can claim culinary bragging rights for the remainder of the cruise.

Celebrate Jacques Pépin
In collaboration with Chef Pépin, Oceania Cruises is creating an exclusive class that includes recipes from Jacques’ cookbooks and family favorites. The new class “La Technique: A Celebration of Jacques Pépin’s 80th Birthday” covers techniques written in his early book “La Technique,” which remains an indispensable source of culinary knowledge for modern chefs, as well as “Essential Pépin,” a collection of over 700 technique-based favorite recipes that stretches over his six decades in the kitchen. Guests will learn five basic techniques around eggs, proteins, vegetables, sauces, and desserts. At the conclusion of each class, guests pose for a photo that will be incorporated into a special birthday card for Chef Pépin.

New Regional Classes
With an abundance of guests seeking new educational epicurean experiences, the Culinary Center is introducing 20 new classes as part of its Gourmet Explorer Series. These classes will showcase regional cuisine from Morocco, Peru, the Pacific Northwest and more. The curriculum of the Culinary Center continues to appeal to a wide range of tastes and culinary skill levels by incorporating techniques inspired by the cultures and regions the ship visits with classes such as Planet Veggie, Viva Tapas, At Home in Sicily, Rock Your Wok, What Mermaids Know, Global Gourmet, and the Pizza Master Class.

Image Courtesy Oceania Cruises

Friday, February 20, 2015

Norwegian To Increase Onboard Service Charge

Norwegian Cruise Line is adjusting its daily service charges, effective for all sailings that begin on March 1, 2015. The new rates are:
• $12.95 per guest per day for any category up to a Mini-Suite stateroom.
• $14.95 per guest per day for any suite category.
Guests who have previously booked a cruise and are sailing after March 1, 2015, or who are planning to book a cruise now through Feb 28, 2015, can choose to pre–pay their service charges at the current rate by Feb 28, 2015.

Guests with existing cruise reservations who have already pre–paid their service charges at the current rate will not be affected.

Norwegian’s daily service charges, which were last adjusted in 2009, make it easy for guests to provide gratuities to key onboard staff who provide superior service during the cruise, including their room steward, restaurant servers, and behind–the–scenes support staff. Guests who are sailing in Suite categories also receive the services of a concierge, butler and dedicated wait staff.

Photo (c)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Carnival Freedom’s Arrival In Galveston Honors Military Families

Carnival Cruise Line marked the arrival of Carnival Freedom at its new year-round homeport of Galveston on Valentine's Day in a big way. The celebration honored U.S. military personnel and their families. In partnership with Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit organization that supports military families, service members and their families were treated to an overnight event featuring a variety of activities. Included was an exclusive outdoor Carnival LIVE performance by country music superstar Martina McBride, along with dinner and a full evening of entertainment, all compliments of Carnival. Prior to McBride’s concert, Carnival presented a check in the amount of $100,000 to Operation Homefront.

“We’re excited to kick off Carnival Freedom’s year-round deployment from Galveston with a donation to an organization that touches so many lives and a special event for the brave men and women who serve our country,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line.

McBride, a 14-time GRAMMY® nominee, performed on Carnival Freedom’s upper deck in the first Carnival LIVE show staged outdoors. It was her second time participating in the Carnival LIVE concert series that offers guests the best live music at sea from popular acts spanning a variety of musical genres.

“Performing for these military families was an incredible honor. And everyone really enjoyed the outdoor setting on the ship’s deck,” said McBride. “I hope that everyone who was there had a special Valentine’s Day experience; I’m so glad I was asked to be part of it.”

Carnival Freedom then kicked off year-round departures from Galveston the next day with a special 6-day voyage to Mexico and will launch 4- to 7-day cruises calling at ports throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, Bahamas and Florida beginning Feb. 21. Carnival Freedom joins Carnival Triumph and Carnival Magic in Galveston. Together these three ships will carry more than 600,000 passengers annually from Texas—more than any other cruise line.

Carnival Freedom recently underwent a $70 million makeover that added an array of Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancements, and attendees at Saturday’s event had full access to the ship’s many on-board innovations, including new family entertainment programming such as Seuss at Sea and Camp Ocean featuring 200 marine-themed activities. The renovation also included complimentary eateries such as BlueIguana Cantina, and Guy’s Burger Joint, developed in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, along with exciting new bar concepts BlueIguana Tequila Bar, RedFrog Rum Bar, the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar and the Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub. Four new high-tech Playlist Productions shows were added, as well.

Image: Carnival Freedom in Key West ©

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Enjoy an “Isaac” at Home & on Princess Cruises

He was your favorite bartender on television and now you can enjoy one of his “Isaac” cocktails at home as well as at sea. Princess Cruises, famous as the backdrop of the iconic Love Boat television series, debuted a new cocktail to sweeten your celebrations on the high seas. Original Love Boat cast member Ted Lange, who played Isaac the bartender, created the amorous concoction, drawing inspiration from his character’s signature grin-and-point move and bright red jacket. The new drink debuted on all Princess cruise ships in time for Valentine’s Day, but any day would be a good time to enjoy it.

Fittingly called, “The Isaac,” the refreshing love potion includes white rum – a nod to Lange’s favorite cruise destination, the Caribbean; pomegranate syrup – channeling the famous red jacket his character wore and also an aphrodisiac; two pineapple leaves as garnish – tribute to his character’s two-finger signature point; lime juice; and club soda, to add some sparkle.

Lange recently visited Crown Princess to demonstrate how to make his new creation for the ship’s bartenders and here’s a video of his lighthearted demonstration. You don’t need to grab a pencil to jot down the ingredients, the instructions are below.

“Most people don’t know that while I was serving up drinks on the Love Boat, I also became a licensed bartender in real life,” said Lange. “If a bartender recognizes me, he or she always wants me to try their special drink. Now, I’m excited for everyone to try my special drink and I know they are going to love it. Like the song says, “come aboard, the Isaac’s waiting for you!”

To mix up “The Isaac” at home, here’s the cocktail recipe:

2 oz white rum
2 oz pomegranate syrup
½ oz fresh lime juice
splash of club soda
lime slice(s)
2 pineapple leaf spears

Preparation: Fill a highball glass with 2/3 ice or desired amount of ice. Into a cocktail shaker, add ice, white rum, pomegranate syrup and lime juice. Shake and strain into highball glass, filling just to the top of the ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with a fresh lime slice and two pineapple spears.

Image & Video Courtesy Princess Cruises

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Two Vacations For Three Generations

In years past, Georgian and Humberto Cruz's family has fully enjoyed three-generational vacations, both at sea and on land. But every once in a while two vacations for three generations is the way to go.

As Georgina explains, "Our daughter Veronica and son-in-law Kyle wanted a romantic anniversary voyage and booked a cruise to the South Seas on Princess Cruises’ Ocean Princess this winter. They asked if we would stay with their boys, Aidan, 14 and Julian, 11, while they sailed. We readily agreed, but so everyone could enjoy a vacation, rather than staying at home with the grandkids while the middle generation sailed to French Polynesia, we took our grandsons to Walt Disney World, booking a log cabin at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground in Orlando."

How did it go? Two Vacations For Three Generations were a delight for the entire family.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cunard Royal Rendezvous Between Queen Elizabeth & the Queen Mary

When two Cunard "queens" meet up at sea or in port they celebrate a "royal rendezvous" and the most recent was particularly special. On February 5th, Cunard kicked off the company's 175th Anniversary celebrations in the U.S. by paying homage to the historic Queen Mary when Queen Elizabeth docked in the port of Long Beach, California for the first time. While the current Cunard fleet has saluted Queen Mary in recent years during brief visits to the harbor, this was the first time a Cunard ship had berthed in Long Beach since Queen Mary arrived at her retirement home in October 1967. Queen Mary will celebrate the 80th anniversary of her Maiden Voyage in May 2016.

Enthusiastic well-wishers turned out for the festivities which featured an emotional speech read by the Queen Mary's Commodore Everette Hoard to the gathered crowd about the history of the Queen Mary, currently celebrating her 80th year in public life. Whistle salutes between the two ships followed, and a dazzling fireworks display finished the day as the ship pulled away from her berth. Cunard Line has shared the following video with us to take you aboard.

"During our 175-year history, the Queen Mary has been one of our most beloved ships," said Richard Meadows, President, Cunard, North America. "This meeting of the Queens was especially memorable for our passengers, as this maiden call offered them the opportunity to disembark in Long Beach and experience the Queen Mary, an integral part of our history and tradition."

Earlier that day, the Queen Mary debuted their new Ship Model Gallery, featuring Cunard models of Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth 2, along with the original Bassett-Lowke shipbuilder's model of the Queen Mary—a spectacular and historically significant ship model measuring over 20 feet in length.

Video Courtesy Cunard Line