Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Princess Cruises Introduces New Mobile App Feature on Regal Princess

It seems that everyone wants to remain “connected” at all times these days, even while on a cruise vacation. Princess Cruises is high on the list of cruise lines that have introduced smartphone/tablet apps for that purpose and theirs is now even more useful.

Princess Cruises initially introduced the Princess@Sea mobile app aboard Royal Princess in 2013 giving guests the ability to check the day’s events and activities, review the ship’s itinerary and port guides, browse restaurant menus, and even access their stateroom account. Moving forward, Regal Princess guests will also have the opportunity to connect with their fellow cruisers with the debut of Princess@Sea Messenger, a free mobile messenger feature offering guests an easy way to share updates and make plans during their cruise vacation.

The Princess@Sea Messenger is integrated in the complimentary Princess@Sea mobile app, accessed with Apple- or Android-enabled smartphone or tablet browsers. After it debuts on Regal Princess in November it will be rolled out to all ships in the fleet by the end of 2015. Guests will be able to download Princess@Sea Messenger for free before sailing at the Apple or Android App Store or on board with the purchase of an internet package.

The best news is that once the app is downloaded, there is no charge to use the Princess@Sea Messenger service while on board because you access it via the ship’s free WiFi zone! Limited messaging functionality will also be available in Princess@Sea without downloading the app.

“We know it’s important for our guests to be able to stay in touch with their fellow cruisers,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president. “With the new Princess@Sea Messenger we’re making it even easier for them to share their experiences, stay in touch and even make new friends.”

While I’m a long-time BlackBerry smartphone user myself (and, sadly, there is no Princess app for those of us stuck in the world of BlackBerry), my husband Mel has recently upgraded to an iPhone and my next upgrade will be to one as well. I appreciate Apple’s devices and that’s my iPod Touch pictured here. Since I’ve found that it does nearly everything Mel’s iPhone and my iPad Mini does, it should work for on board messaging as well until my phone upgrade happens. We can now leave those annoying two-way radios where they belong—in a drawer at home.

Regal Princess begins her Caribbean cruise season on November 6th with a short preview sailing, followed by a schedule of 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruises to ports including St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Princess Cays in the Bahamas.

Photo © Linda Coffman, CruiseDiva.com

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New Cruise Review: Carnival Conquest

As the old saying goes, "Good things come to those who wait."

In this case, a desired ship came to our cruise review contributors Mary and Vincent Finelli. They had long wanted to sail on Carnival Conquest; however, her homeports prior to this season had been either Galveston or New Orleans, not very convenient for those South Floridians who are accustomed to driving to nearby embarkation ports.

When the Finellis learned the ship would be sailing from Miami, they finally booked their cruise and have generously shared their Carnival Conquest Review with us.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Seabourn Partners With UNESCO & Brings World Heritage Experts Onboard

Our travels have taken us to many interesting and historic places around the world and in some cases we were unaware of their designation as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), or why they were chosen to be designated as such. Some are obvious—such as the Alhambra in Spain and the Acropolis in Athens, Greece—but others are not entirely clear.

To answer those questions and more, in conjunction with its newly-formed partnership with UNESCO, Seabourn is making insight into those designations available to guests by hosting prominent world heritage experts for its Seabourn Conversations enrichment and special guest entertainment program. Conversation topics will include culture, heritage, history, and the importance of sustainable tourism in preserving World Heritage Sites. Sharing their insights onboard Seabourn vessels over the next year-and-a-half will be a host of UNESCO advisors and consultants. UNESCO seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.

More than a dozen UNESCO speakers are scheduled to take part in Seabourn Conversations on voyages around the world through fall and the year ahead. A sampling includes: Jacinta Nzioka, (Seabourn Sojourn, Dec 13, 2014) the Director of Marketing at the Kenya Tourist Board; Dr. Carol Westrik, author of "The Future of World Heritage" for UNESCO's 40th anniversary, and Dr. Juan Jose Negro, an internationally renowned speaker on natural heritage and director of the Doñana Biological Station in Spain (Seabourn Quest, May 12, 2015); and Dr. Ray Bondin (Seabourn Sojourn, May 31, 2015), who has extensive experience in the rehabilitation of heritage sites and served as Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Malta to UNESCO. The full list of scheduled UNESCO guest speakers is available at Seabourn.com/luxury-cruise-vacation-onboard/Seabourn-Conversations.action.

Seabourn's ships circle the globe throughout the year and include more than 150 designated World Heritage Sites in its itineraries. In addition to the deeper insight guests receive on board their ships, the line has created special World Heritage Discovery Tours with exclusive enhanced content developed in cooperation with UNESCO World Heritage site managers and tour experts. Fares for Seabourn optional excursions that include UNESCO World Heritage Sites will include a small donation to UNESCO's World Heritage Fund.

"UNESCO's vital role in encouraging cultural understanding and preservation will make for fascinating conversation on Seabourn vessels around the world," said John Delaney, Seabourn's senior vice president, marketing and sales. "The significance of cultural experiences only continues to grow, and we're excited to welcome those who lend their expertise to UNESCO to engage our guests about such important topics as sustainable tourism, culture and heritage."

Image Courtesy of Seabourn

Friday, September 26, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines, The Dallas Cowboys & Rascal Flatts Are A Winning Combination

Carnival Cruise Lines, which recently announced that it is the Official Cruise Line of the Dallas Cowboys, is turning up the music as part of its multi-year partnership with "America's Team." Texas' largest cruise operator revealed that it will bring country music superstars Rascal Flatts to town for a special pre-game Carnival LIVE concert for Cowboys fans attending the October 19 game against archrival New York Giants. Rascal Flatts is the most-awarded country group of the past decade with 22.5 million albums sold and 15 number-one singles.

Carnival's major sponsorship of the Dallas Cowboys is adding fun and memorable fan experiences to Dallas Cowboys home games throughout the season. In addition to the Rascal Flatts performance, at each game at AT&T Stadium, Carnival's "Fun Crew" is touring the lots on branded golf carts and offering exciting prizes to fans, including the chance to win one of many cruise vacation giveaways.

On a related note, Carnival also announced that Rascal Flatts—which is one of the hottest selling acts on tour—will be among multiple artists entertaining guests as part of the Carnival LIVE Concert Series in 2015 (next year's concert dates go on sale in October).

A first-of-its-kind in the cruise industry, Carnival LIVE debuted earlier this year and offers Carnival guests the opportunity to enjoy an intimate on-board performance by a diverse roster of popular music artists while ships are docked at select ports of call. Artists performing as part of the inaugural 2014 lineup include Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride, Trace Adkins, LeAnn Rimes, Jewel, Styx, Kansas, REO Speedwagon, Daughtry and more.

"We are thrilled to have Rascal Flatts join all of the great gameday fun Carnival has planned for Dallas Cowboys fans at AT&T Stadium on October 19 and throughout the season," said Jim Berra, chief marketing officer for Carnival Cruise Lines. "We also look forward to welcoming Jay, Joe Don and Gary on board our 'Fun Ships' in 2015 as we extend the fan-favorite Carnival LIVE Concert Series into its second year of great shows."

Carnival, Texas' number one cruise operator, will deploy a third year-round ship in Galveston, Carnival Freedom, in February 2015. Together with Carnival Triumph and Carnival Magic, the line will carry more than 600,000 passengers annually from Texas, more than any other cruise line. Learn more about Carnival LIVE at Carnival.com/CarnivalLive.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Conveying Quantum of the Seas

A drive through the Lower Saxony region of Germany along the banks of the River Ems reveals pastures, wetlands, and farmland dotted with small towns and villages. But there was a lot of excitement in this northwestern district as one of the world’s largest cruise ships made its journey, or conveyance on Tuesday, from the shipbuilding town of Papenburg out to the North Sea.

The fuss is about Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International’s newest and most technologically advanced cruise ship, which was constructed at Meyer Werft, a family owned Papenburg-based shipyard. The conveyance is a unique process for ships built here, as Meyer Werft is unconventionally situated inland, along the banks of the River Ems, to avoid the impact of storms on the North Sea. This makes it necessary for ships to travel down the river to get to the sea.

“For hours we are actually taking the ship along this very, very tight channel where there is only about two to three feet of distance on each side between the ship and the river bank,” said Patrik Dahlgren, Vice President for Marine Operation at Royal Caribbean International. “We can’t set a firm date or time for the conveyance because it’s all timed with the tides and weather conditions to help balance the movements of the ship along the river.”

While the conveyance of ships is not new for Meyer Werft–the shipyard has been doing this since 1795–there are plenty of challenges to having a successful conveyance, and Quantum of the Seas will be especially demanding due to the size of the ship. At 348 meters long (1,141.73 feet long), 41.4 meters wide (135.8 feet wide) and weighing in at 168,666 gross tons, this ship is the largest ever to go through conveyance.

“With Quantum being the largest ship that has ever been built at Meyer Werft, there are some power lines that need to be rerouted, and some bridges along the river actually have to be lifted out of the way with a crane to allow the ship to pass, including one that is used by one of the main railways into Holland,” continued Dahlgren.

Making the process even more of a spectacle, ships are conveyed backwards because it’s usually easier to maneuver them in reverse, and Quantum’s journey will be managed the same way. Thousands of residents from the surrounding local villages along the 26 mile route typically gather at the river bank to watch and celebrate each ship’s distinct journey.

What happens once the ship completes the conveyance? Quantum of the Seas will dock in Eemshaven, The Netherlands, where she will begin a series of tests, called sea trials, to measure the vessel’s seaworthiness, as well as test things like speed, maneuverability, equipment and safety features.

From shipbuilder Meyer Werft, we have a video perspective of the conveyance.


Come November, crowds will once again line a river bank to catch a glimpse as Quantum passes by, only this time it will be as she sails through the New York harbor… when she’ll be sailing forward instead of in reverse.

Image Courtesy Royal Caribbean International; Video Courtesy of Meyer Werft

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ovation of the Seas to Join Quantum Class

Although the first in a new generation of technologically advanced cruise ships for Royal Caribbean International hasn’t made its debut yet, the line marked an important milestone last week when the first piece of steel was cut marking the official construction start on Ovation of the Seas, the third Quantum class ship that is scheduled to be delivered in the autumn of 2016.

The steel cutting for Ovation of the Seas (pictured here) took place at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, where Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas and now Ovation of the Seas are being built.

The Quantum class ships will debut new unprecedented features, such as dancing Roboscreens in the unique Two70 entertainment venue; robotic bartenders in Bionic Bar; RipCord by iFLY, the first skydiving experience at sea; the North Star, an engineering marvel that transports guests more than 300 feet above the ocean; transformative venues, such as Sea-Plex, the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with bumper cars, roller skating and more; and the cruise line’s largest and most advanced staterooms ever, including the industry’s first-ever Virtual Balcony staterooms, which offer expansive, real-time views of the ocean and exciting destinations for interior staterooms.

The Quantum class will debut in autumn 2014 with Quantum of the Seas sailing from the New York harbor, followed by her sister-ship Anthem of the Seas in spring 2015 sailing from Southampton in the UK. Quantum ships span 16 decks, encompass 167,800 gross registered tons, carry 4,180 guests at double occupancy and feature 2,090 staterooms.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Coming Soon Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2015

While Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2015 won’t be published until Nov. 1, 2014), we have a first look at some of the new content it will debut. In this latest 30th anniversary edition, author Douglas Ward introduces a broader focus on the star performers at sea. New categories in the seafaring equivalent of the Oscars include Best in Class for: families, teenagers, water slides, most luxurious suites, spas, child-free cruising, foodies and the longest swimming pools. These categories make the guide even more indispensable for veterans as well as first-time cruisers.

BEST IN CLASS 2015

5 Best Ships for Families – Chosen for family-friendly facilities, activities and entertainment: Allure of the Seas/Oasis of the Seas; Disney Dream/Disney Fantasy; Mein Schiff 3, MSC Preziosa, Norwegian Breakaway/Norwegian Getaway

5 Best Cruise Lines for Teenagers - Teenagers like space away from adults to hang out and meet others. Some ships get it, others don’t. These do: Disney Cruise Line (Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy); Norwegian Cruise Line (Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Getaway); Princess Cruises (Royal Princess, Regal Princess); Royal Caribbean International (Quantum of the Seas), TUI Cruises (Mein Schiff 3).

5 Best Water Slides - Children can’t wait to go for a ride once they are on board: DrainPipe (Carnival Cruise Lines); Aquaduck (Disney Cruise Line); Vertigo (MSC Cruises)
Epic Plunge (Norwegian Cruise Line); Parthenon Slide (Star Cruises).

5 Most Luxurious Suites - Suites are not just about size and space but also the furnishings, service and all the little details:
• Royal Loft on Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International - Their upstairs/downstairs layout, baby grand piano, and huge glass wall together hit the spot;
• Crystal Penthouse on Crystal Serenity (Crystal Cruises) - The master bathroom is wonderfully decadent, and, imagine, it’s possible to eat Nobu sashimi and sushi in your own dining room;
• Owner’s Suite on Europa 2 (Hapag-Lloyd Cruises) - The bathroom is simply stunning with a bath that could accommodate four, and a window-side day bed;
• Owner’s Suite on Marina, Riviera (Oceania Cruises) - Ralph Lauren décor and fine furnishings, a baby grand piano, and a delightful outdoor balcony deck;
• Sandringham Suite on Queen Mary 2 (Cunard Line – An Art-Deco apartment on two levels with a sweeping curved stairway, and an oversized balcony deck.
5 Best Cruise Ship Spas - Wellness and pampering on board have become major attractions for people who want to take care of their bodies, even when on holiday: AIDA Cruises (AIDAprima); Cunard Line (Queen Mary 2); Hapag-Lloyd Cruises (Europa 2); MSC Cruises (MSC Fantasia, MSC Preziosa, MSC Splendida); P&O Australia (Pacific Pearl);

5 Best ships for Child-free Cruising – One from each of five different cruise lines: Adonia (P&O Cruises); Grande Mariner (Blount Small Ship Adventures); Island Sky (Noble Caledonia); Minerva (Swan Hellenic Cruises); Saga Sapphire (SAGA Cruises);

5 Best Cruise Lines for Foodies - chosen for the quality and variety of ingredients, their creativity and presentation: Crystal Cruises; Hapag-Lloyd Cruises; Oceania Cruises; SeaDream Yacht Club; Silversea Cruises;

5 Longest Swimming Pools - Most cruise ship pools are small considering the size of the large resort ships today, but that’s because water can slosh around when the weather’s bad. Here are the longest: Mein Schiff 3 (25.0 meters); Europa (17.3 meters); Europa 2 (14.0 meters); Asuka II (13.5 meters); Crystal Serenity/Crystal Symphony (13.5 meters).

It isn’t too early to pre-order your copy at Amazon.com by clicking this link or the one above.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Norwegian Escape Keel Laying Held

Norwegian Cruise Line and MEYER WERFT celebrated the keel laying of Norwegian Escape at MEYER’s state of the art facility in Papenburg, Germany last Friday. During the ceremony, block 35/41, the first of 86 blocks that will comprise the 164,600 gross ton vessel, was lifted into the covered building dock, officially marking the start of the ship’s construction. Norwegian Escape will be Norwegian’s largest ship to date, carrying 4,200 passengers, set for delivery in October 2015.

Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer, was on hand in the dock and laid the traditional “lucky coin,” (pictured here) before the first block, weighing 400 tons, was placed by a massive crane. A special commemorative coin featuring the ship was created to celebrate the day’s activities. Sheehan said, “Norwegian Escape will be our largest and most innovative ship to date, building on the phenomenal success of Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway. We are looking forward to seeing this ship take shape over the next year and welcoming her to our fleet in October 2015.”

Norwegian Escape is the first ship in her class, and is being built by MEYER WERFT through a highly-efficient construction process that will deliver the ship of 164,600 gross tons in just over 19 months from steel cutting to delivery.

Norwegian Escape will begin weekly 7-day cruises from her year-round homeport of Miami to the Eastern Caribbean on Nov. 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.

The ship’s signature hull artwork is designed by marine wildlife artist and champion of ocean conservation, Guy Harvey, which features an underwater scene of marine wildlife. Norwegian’s newest ship is Harvey’s largest canvas to date, at 1065 feet in length, with his artwork spanning from the hull to the aft featuring two undersea scenes that blend seamlessly. Norwegian Escape will boast all of the exciting and innovative features found on Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, plus a number of new spaces and interactive experiences that are yet to be announced.

Image Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Friday, September 19, 2014

Leaf Peeping Update from Maine

Even this early in the season there is a hint of color in northern Maine as The Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry reports low 10-30% color change and very low leaf drop.

“We are right on target for a glorious fall foliage season, said Gale Ross, Fall Foliage Coordinator for Maine. “With the low leaf drop we anticipate that the northern part of the state will soon be a tapestry of beautiful colors,” she added.

From past experience we found many colorful scenes–such as the one here in Bar Harbor–on fall foliage cruises taken in mid-October. For more information on what you can expect to see on your cruise, visit the state’s official website Maine Foliage and sign up for weekly email reports. Peak fall foliage dates for the entire United States can be found at Farmers’ Almanac.

Image © CruiseDiva.com

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Carnival Cruise Lines Extends Its 'Great Vacation Guarantee' Through 2015

This scenario happens, but perhaps not as often as some may think: You’re unsure whether you’ll enjoy a cruise, but decide to take the plunge after weighing the pros and cons. Your vacation dollars are an important consideration, however your time is valuable as well. Once on board, you discover a cruise just isn’t for you. What then? If you are on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship, you have a decision to make because the line is renewing its groundbreaking Great Vacation Guarantee which provides consumers an opportunity to receive a 110 percent refund, complimentary transportation home, and a $100 shipboard credit on a future cruise if they are dissatisfied with their vacation for any reason.

Proof that the vast majority of passengers decide their cruise is a good choice for them is that in the year since Carnival originally introduced the guarantee, the line’s 24 ships have carried 4.5 million guests and the guarantee has been invoked only 47 times. Both consumers and travel agents have lauded the guarantee—the only one of its kind in the cruise industry. But did your travel agent tell you about it? If not, here’s the scoop.

To exercise the Great Vacation Guarantee, guests simply notify the ship’s guest services desk within the first 24 hours of the voyage to receive a full refund of their cruise fare plus an additional 10 percent, along with complimentary return air transportation from the next port of call, and complimentary ground transportation and hotel accommodations (if necessary), along with a $100 shipboard credit to be used on a future Carnival cruise. Carnival will fully handle all travel arrangements to make it a truly hassle-free experience.

The Great Vacation Guarantee is valid on all 3- to 8-day voyages to The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Bermuda, Canada and New England through Dec 31, 2015, including holiday sailings. The program applies to U.S. and Canadian residents only and guests must possess a valid passport to return to the U.S. by air. Additional information on the Great Vacation Guarantee can be obtained by visiting Carnival.com/VacationGuarantee.

Carnival’s chief marketing officer Jim Berra says, “You are statistically more likely to date a supermodel than you are to invoke the Great Vacation Guarantee. However, we believe it is important to keep the guarantee in place given its effectiveness in communicating to consumers that we stand behind our product and are extremely confident you will have an exceptional vacation experience when you sail with Carnival.”

Berra added that with more than 300 new spaces and experiences added to Carnival’s fleet under the company’s multi-million-dollar Fun Ship 2.0 enhancement program, guest satisfaction has increased considerably since the program was first introduced. Sadly, there are no supermodels on board to date.

Image Courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines