Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Cruise Review: Oasis of the Seas, A Back-to-Back Maiden Voyage

The Final Cruise Review of 2009: There's no better way to end the year than with a back-to-back Maiden Voyage cruise review of Oasis of the Seas from CruiseDiva.com's most prolific and insightful contributors, Mary and Vincent Finelli. This is certainly a review we're happy to share and one you won't want to miss.

As Vincent says, "There is an old adage that goes something like this: It's not where you are going, but rather, how you get there. Well, in this case, the Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International has constructed the largest cruise ship afloat, which is a destination in itself."

Vincent and Mary conclude, "It was an extraordinary cruise, not because of the itinerary, food, service, or any other aspect, but for the Oasis herself, which offers to the passenger what other ships cannot offer: her grandiosity."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Seven Seas Navigator Emerges From Refit

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 490-guest Seven Seas Navigator debuted in Port Everglades yesterday fresh from a comprehensive, stem-to-stern 50-day transformation. Considered one of the most luxurious ships afloat, the intimate, all-suite vessel sports a sophisticated new décor, with rich fabrics and furnishings, much like those found in an elegant estate home.

“The makeover of Seven Seas Navigator gives the ship a stunning new look and feel,” stated Mark Conroy, the line’s president. “Along with the new Canyon Ranch SpaClub, I’m sure our loyal repeat guests will love the new dining options, including La Veranda, Prime 7, and the Patio Grill, as well as the redecorated main dining room.”

Highlights at a Glance:

· Prime 7, a new restaurant, features a rich palette of green and gold, with supple leather seating, granite and burnished woods. The menu features prime-aged steaks and chops as well as poultry and fresh seafood.
· Compass Rose, the ship’s main dining room, has undergone a dramatic update with new window treatments, carpets and plush cranberry and camel armchairs. New signature china, silver and glassware complete the redesign.
· La Veranda, with both indoor and al fresco seating, replaced Portofino’s restaurant. New furniture, carpeting and draperies create an elegant ambiance. Food stations have been redesigned and enhanced for guests to enjoy lavish breakfast and lunch buffets. In the evening diners select from a menu of regionally themed specialties.
· A new Pool Grill features a hot and cold buffet, panini sandwich station, and coffee and dessert area in addition to a state-of-the-art barbecue grill. The Pool Bar, at the other end of the pool deck, was expanded and enhanced with a new ice cream station, fully equipped with machines for milkshakes and frappes.
· Stars Lounge (pictured above) received a masterful makeover. A ruby-red carpet running the length of the entryway sets the stage for this glamorous club with furnishings that exude a classic Hollywood elegance.
· Galileo’s sports bold new interiors, window coverings and a sleek new bar area. An outdoor lounge has been added with stylish sofas and chaises overlooking the sea.
· Navigator Lounge features rich hues of cappuccino, camel and navy accented by apple-green. The card room and library were redecorated and all public spaces throughout the ship were refreshed.

Canyon Ranch SpaClub: Last, but certainly not least, the former health club and an observation lounge have been transformed into the ship’s new Canyon Ranch SpaClub. The serene and stylish wellness center has body and skin-care, massage and thalassotherapy treatment rooms, including a couples’ suite. Added is an aerobics studio and new gymnasium with cardio and strength-training machines, both affording forward-facing, panoramic ocean views. Locker rooms, including his and hers sauna and steam rooms, have been updated as has the full-service beauty salon, which features new wood cabinetry and granite accents. A juice bar and relaxation lounge are additional SpaClub amenities.

Seven Seas Navigator will operate 7- to 11-night cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America this winter, followed by a summer series of seven-night Alaska cruises between Vancouver and Anchorage. Upon completion of the Alaska season, the ship embarks on a 96-night Grand Asia Pacific cruise.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the world’s only cruise line that includes award-winning service, acclaimed cuisine, premium spirits and fine wine, gratuities, and sightseeing excursions in every port for the ultimate ultra-luxury vacation. A fleet of perennially praised and elegantly appointed, all-suite ships operate 7- to 119-night voyages to more than 300 destinations worldwide. To receive a brochure or for more information on Regent Seven Seas Cruises, see a professional travel agent, visit Regent Seven Seas Cruises' web site, or call 800-285-1835.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Airport & Cruise Terminal Security

Before you leave for the airport to fly to your next cruise, it might be a good idea to learn a little about airport and cruise terminal security procedures to prepare yourself for what could be a prolonged ordeal. Christmas Day's "underwear bomber" incident aboard a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit will surely result in more draconian airport security measures being set in motion by our pals at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Unlike the aftermath of the "shoe bomber," it's doubtful that airline passengers will have to remove their undies before clearing security, but there will be changes to make us all feel safer in the friendly skies. TSA says they will be enhancing security measures throughout the airport environment: more random screening of employees, additional canine patrols, stronger air cargo security measures, more rigorous identity verification, deploying more trained security officers in bomb appraisal, and screening by observation techniques.

CruiseDiva.com shares more information on the 3-1-1 of carry-on rules in Flying the Friendlier Skies to Your Cruise Port and the TSA offers the following suggestions:
  • To lessen inconvenience at airport security (according to the TSA), the secret to getting through security smoothly is to de-clutter your carry-on bag. TSA claims this lets their Security Officers get a clear, uncomplicated X-ray image of your carry-on. (Good idea. It might save you the indignity of having your belongings pawed through by gloved screeners.)
  • TSA also suggests that, when possible, pack all liquids in checked baggage. You will get through security faster if you limit carry-on quantities to what is needed for the duration of the flight. (Do they really think we pack shampoo to wash our hair in the lav on the plane? It's for use at our destination, guys!)
Thankfully, once you arrive at your embarkation port city, the worst is behind you, provided that the airline managed to get your luggage to the right place. At most cruise terminals, the security procedure appears similar to those at airports, but screeners are far more interested in finding contraband liquor in your carry-on than a tube containing more than 3 ounces of toothpaste. You probably won't have to take your laptop out of its case for screening, or remove your shoes, but you will have to pass through a metal detector.

Once on board your cruise ship, relax and enjoy yourself. Unfortunately, you'll have to fly home again all too soon.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cruise Travel Planning & Packing Tips

Duct tape... is it really a necessity? Judging by the number of people who ask to borrow it—the answer is a resounding YES!

For added luggage security, there's nothing like duct tape. Wrapped around suitcases, it keeps them relatively secure in worst case scenarios, such as zipper blow out or broken hinges and clasps. Tape also discourages random pilferage by baggage handlers. Why would anyone bother with your taped bag when others are not even locked? Plus, it gives your suitcases a bit of frequent traveler panache—"shabby chic," if you will. As the photo here illustrates, for an emergency repair, there's nothing as handy as duct tape.

Have DUCK Tape, Will Travel highlights the uses for this cruising travel necessity. It's NOT your father's duct tape (its generic name) and it no longer belongs in the garage.

CruiseDiva.com has dozens of handy hints to make your cruise travel easier and less stressful. Visit Cruise Travel Planning & Packing Tips to check out more of our favorites.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cruise Travel: Safety & Security in Ports of Call

Getting away from it all isn't supposed to mean getting into trouble. One advantage of cruise travel is the safety aspect—there is very little crime on board most ships.

However, all too often passengers are lulled into a false sense of security by the cocoon-like atmosphere of their vessel. The port cities they anticipate with such enthusiasm can sometimes be intimidating, if not downright unfriendly, places as recent crimes against tourists in Nassau, Bahamas have proven.

Fear of the unknown shouldn't discourage anyone from traveling. It's that very unknown that is most appealing. So, how can you accomplish both objectives—travel abroad and remain safe? Planning and awareness are primary.

Cruise Diva shares some considerations for Staying Safe in Ports of Call.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Silversea's New Silver Spirit Sails a "Holiday Spirit" Maiden Voyage

Silversea Cruises' newest ultra-luxury ship, Silver Spirit, welcomed guests aboard its maiden voyage, an 11-day "Holiday Spirit" cruise that departed Barcelona on Wednesday, Dec 23rd, and concludes in Lisbon after visiting Malaga, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Casablanca, and Tangier.

"The delivery of Silver Spirit is an important milestone for our company and represents our commitment to the development of the Silversea brand," said Amerigo Perasso, Silversea's president and chief executive officer. "With her Art Deco touches lending a timeless elegance, this new flagship of our fleet represents an important evolution in the design of our vessels. As guests step aboard Silver Spirit, they will find a ship that continues our legacy of innovation, offering all our signature luxury amenities, plus more space, more dining options, and more unique features. Although Silver Spirit is larger than her sister ships, she has the same intimate feel, relaxed ambiance, and sense of camaraderie so treasured by our international clientele. I'm sure guests sailing on this maiden voyage, many of whom are repeat guests of Silversea, will feel right at home."

At 36,000 tons, and accommodating just 540 guests, Silver Spirit has the largest suites in the Silversea fleet, with 95% featuring a private veranda, and one of the highest space-to-guest ratios at sea today. The onboard décor lends a sophisticated 1930s Art Deco ambiance to the public spaces, highlights of which include an indoor/outdoor spa measuring over 8,300 square feet, a resort-style pool, four whirlpools, and a choice of six dining venues including Seishin, showcasing Asian-fusion cuisine, and the innovative Stars Supper Club, offering trendsetting menus and all-night entertainment.

Silver Spirit will cross the Atlantic for her formal christening ceremony, to be held in Fort Lauderdale on Jan 21st, and will then depart on a gala World Cruise. For additional information about Silversea Cruises and a complimentary brochure, please call toll-free (877) 215-9986 or visit the line's web site.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cruising Into A Merry Christmas

From us here at Cruise Diva headquarters to all our valued readers, we wish you a joyous and very Merry Christmas.

And, from our friends at Celebrity Cruises, we'd like to share a holiday treat. Take a break from shoveling that white stuff outdoors, and enjoy a Snowflake Martini.

If you didn't get any special Martini glasses from Santa, you can order the Etched Martini Glass pictured above from Swank Martini Company in time for your New Year's celebration.

Snowflake Martini
Recipe courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Ingredients (serves one):
1.25 oz Grey Goose Vodka
0.75 oz Bacardi Coconut Rum
1.0 oz pomegranate juice
1.0 oz cranberry juice

Method: Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice and shake well. (Jingle bells and fur-trimmed red hat optional.)

To serve: Rim a chilled martini glass with fine coconut flakes. Pour mixture into glass. (And think about snowflakes in a whole new way.)

Christmas At Sea
To make the day a bit more festive, enjoy your Snowflake Martini while virtually touring Holland America Line's Eurodam, all decked out in her holiday finery.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

NEW Cruise Reviews: Two Antarctica Expeditions

Antarctica Expeditions: Insight On Two Very Different Experiences

Was one more satisfying than the other? Read what Joe Reynolds reports from his expedition aboard Professor Multanovskiy and compare it to the more well-known National Geographic Explorer as detailed by P Modo.

While both expeditions delivered on the promise of abundant wildlife sightings and scenic beauty, if you're looking for a similar adventure, you decide.

Happy Penguin photo courtesy of Dr. Joe Reynolds

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Celebrity Cruises Celebrates Winter Solstice by Revealing Name of Fourth Solstice Class Solstice-Class Ship

The word “silhouette” conjures up images of light and shadow, and sleek profiles in the world of design and fashion, so it’s fitting that Celebrity Cruises has named the fourth ship in its stylish Solstice-Class fleet Celebrity Silhouette. And what better time to make the announcement than during this week's winter solstice?

Like its widely acclaimed sister ships–Celebrity Solstice, launched in 2008; Celebrity Equinox, which set sail in July 2009; and Celebrity Eclipse, which will enter service in April 2010–the 122,000-ton Celebrity Silhouette will offer the series of brand-defining, industry-first attributes that guests, travel agents, and press have already praised about Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Equinox, including a half-acre Lawn Club with real grass, a glassblowing show and studio developed with The Corning Museum of Glass, unrivaled dining venues offering trendsetting cuisine and design, and widely varied entertainment. Like its sisters, the 2,850-guest Celebrity Silhouette will have larger staterooms–90 percent outside, and 85 percent with verandas–and spacious bathrooms, as well as several categories of accommodations, including Celebrity’s ConciergeClass and spa-inspired AquaClass staterooms.

“Countless guests and travel partners have asked us to reveal the ship’s name over the past few months, which is yet another indicator of the widespread interest in these stunningly designed ships,” said Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Dan Hanrahan. “The enormous response to our unique new sweepstakes is a powerful indicator, too.”

Cruise lovers interested in being among the very first to see Celebrity Silhouette while under construction in Germany actually have a chance. By entering Celebrity’s “Eclipse of a Lifetime” sweepstakes, running through Jan 14, 2010, ten winners and their guests will be the first individuals outside of the line’s employees to board Celebrity Eclipse when it sets sail for the very first time; the first to have exclusive, up-close-and-personal views of the construction process of Celebrity Silhouette at Meyer Werft, one of the world's most modern shipyards; first to be hosted and led throughout Celebrity Eclipse by Celebrity's Hanrahan; first to occupy the ship’s AquaClass staterooms; and first to sample the ship's innovative cuisine created by Celebrity’s VP of Culinary Operations and Chef Jacques Van Staden.

The sweepstakes runs through Jan 14, 2010, so there's still time to get your entry in. Just visit the Celebrity web site and click the “Eclipse of a Lifetime” tab to access the entry form and sweepstakes rules. Or, click on this direct sweepstakes link. Winners will be announced Jan 28, 2010. This sweepstakes is open only to residents of the US and Canada. See Official Rules on the site. For more information about Celebrity Cruises, call your travel agent, dial 1-800-437-3111 or visit the Celebrity web site.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Cruise Ships for 2010

It's nearly 2010 and the beginning of "Wave Season"—the time of year when winter doldrums set in and it's time to think of warm sea breezes and booking a cruise.

All New At Sea
2010 will see the introduction of ships that are first in their "classes" as well as some that follow a familiar profile. Cruise Diva is happy to preview the Class of 2010. Some are new designs, some are sister-ships to their current fleetmates. Find out which one is Cruise Diva's pick for most innovative in 2010's New Cruise Ship Launches.

Hint, that's the Norwegian Epic pictured here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Set Sail For Elvis' 75th Birthday

Elvis Presley Enterprises and Sixthman proudly announce The Elvis Cruise 2010, sailing Nov 4 through Nov 8, 2010, aboard Carnival Fascination from Jacksonville, Florida, to sunny Nassau, Bahamas. Similar to the most recent 2009 Elvis Cruise, the voyage will feature the best performers and personalities from the Elvis Presley world, as well as non-stop Elvis-themed activities. The Elvis Cruise 2010 is part of Graceland's yearlong celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Elvis' birthday.

The Elvis Cruise 2009, which sailed last month, was the first partnership between Sixthman and Elvis Presley Enterprises. The voyage featured live performances by Elvis' band mates, friends, and Elvis tribute artists; additionally, stars and others who worked with the King of Rock 'n' Roll reminisced during informative panels. Seventy-five cruisers were invited to participate in Sunday morning's gospel show choir, and on Monday morning, guests debarked with nothing but positive feedback for the event.

Hosted again by Elvis' friend Jerry Schilling, The Elvis Cruise 2010 features Elvis-themed entertainment, parties, and activities, including music and presentations by those who knew and performed with Elvis himself. Elvis' Imperials, Joe Guercio, The Memphis Boys with Bobo Moreno, Terry Mike Jeffrey, Andy Childs, and Larry Geller are just some of the artists scheduled to perform. Also, no Elvis Cruise would be complete without Elvis Tribute Artists: we will be joined by some of the most renowned in the world, including Mark Anthony, Brandon Bennett, Bill Cherry, Victor Trevino, and others. Supporting these entertainers once again will be The EAS Band. DJ Argo will also be featured, and more musicians, special guests and tribute artists will be announced soon.

Elvis fans can book their cabins for The Elvis Cruise 2010 beginning today, Dec 21, 2009 by visiting the official Elvis Cruise web site.

What's an Elvis Cruise like? Take a look at Cruise Diva's Memories of the Elvis Cruise.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oceania Cruises' Marina to Feature Lalique Grand Stairway

Oceania Cruises has only recently begun to unveil the design details about their new ship Marina, still under construction in Italy, and what we've seen and heard so far is truly exquisite. In addition to palatial Owner's Suites completely appointed with furniture, fabrics, lighting, and bedding from the acclaimed Ralph Lauren Home collection (see our earlier story), Oceania has commissioned Lalique, the fabled French artists of jewelry and crystal to design a grand stairway for the reception area.

The stunning Lalique Grand Staircase will feature double curved staircases and balcony with balustrades of crystal medallions and scrolled iron. Six crystal pillars rising from the landing adorn the two-story, glass elevator surround. A brass banister is complemented by a mahogany handrail. At the base–as a dramatic centerpiece–is Lalique’s highly prestigious Cactus table surrounded by etched crystal screens and flanked by newels capped with prominent crystal finials. An exquisite and striking Lalique vase, with fresh flower display, will sit atop the table.

“The Grand Staircase is an icon aboard all the ships of Oceania Cruises and a signature element of our brand. It is only fitting that Marina, being the design masterpiece that she is, will welcome her guests with this magnificent two-story display of the world’s finest artistry and craftsmanship,” stated Bob Binder, president of Oceania Cruises. He added, “We have designed Marina with the same superior craftsmanship and finite attention to detail that you would find in the finest designer homes and Lalique has been a fixture of timeless, elegant design for over a century.”

Lalique sculptures and crystal accessories will also be displayed throughout the ship as part of its multi-million dollar art collection. The 1,258-guest Marina has been purposefully designed to carry discerning travelers to the world’s most alluring ports in elegance and style. Crystal, rich woods, marble and granite, wool carpets and lustrous leathers adorn public rooms. Facilities include 10 dining venues–six of which are open-seating gourmet restaurants, an array of bars and lounges, a full-service Canyon Ranch SpaClub and fitness center, outdoor swimming pool and hot tubs. Additional design elements will be unveiled over the next month.

Where will Marina take you? Inaugural itineraries will be announced in the coming weeks and reservations open in Jan 2010. For more information or to order a brochure, contact a travel agent, visit Oceania Cruises web site, or call toll-free at 800-531-5658.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Cruise In' to Johnny Rockets & Win a 7-Night Royal Caribbean Cruise

Johnny Rockets, home of the Original Hamburger, has partnered with Royal Caribbean Intl for a "Cruise In and Win!" promotion that will grant five Grand Prize winners a 7-night cruise for two. The "Cruise In and Win!" promotion features sealed "guaranteed win" bounceback coupons, which will be distributed with guests' checks and dispersed outside of restaurants during events. Each bounceback also offers customers the chance to win $50 and $25 Johnny Rockets Gift Cards, free hamburgers, shakes, appetizers, and 20 percent off coupons. Guests can return to open and redeem their bounceback coupons between Dec. 26 and April 4, 2010.

Johnny Rockets and Royal Caribbean have a longstanding partnership. Most recently, guests aboard the world's largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's new Oasis of the Seas, can now take in a bit of Classic Americana with Johnny Rockets hamburgers, shakes, and timeless good times. Pictured above is the Johnny Rockets diner aboard Freedom of the Seas.

"Johnny Rockets has enjoyed an ongoing relationship with Royal Caribbean for nearly a decade, and we are excited to collaborate with them again for what we're sure will be another mutually beneficial promotion," said Johnny Rockets Communications Director Cozette Phifer. "We are very proud to now have 10 Johnny Rockets restaurants aboard Royal Caribbean's amazing cruise ships ... and we really appreciate the letters and videos we receive telling us how the Johnny Rockets experience adds an extra layer of fun to people's cruise vacations."

To learn more, visit Johnny Rockets web site.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cruises to Alaska: A Shrinking Fleet

Alaska is one of cruising's showcase itineraries with its abundance of wildlife, spectacular scenery, and ubiquitous glaciers. Cruises to Alaska have historically commanded a premium that reflected their appeal. So, why is it that cruise lines will deploy fewer ships in the region in 2010 and even fewer in 2011? For the answer to that you have to think back nearly a decade to the way Americans changed their travel habits after Sept 11, 2001. Many shied away from flying, especially flying overseas. As a result, fewer ships were deployed to Europe and the year-round Caribbean cruise fleet burgeoned. Alaska also saw an increase in the number of ships sailing there in summer months.

With more ships in the region, the state of Alaska saw an opportunity to cash in on the increase in passengers by levying higher fees and taxes on the cruise lines. Environmental alarmists also pushed through legislation containing regulations that the cruise industry found difficult, or impossible, to comply with. Higher fees and taxes and increased expenses came at a time when cruise lines had more berths to fill and fares were dropping to all-time lows.

Cruise industry leaders concur that it's become difficult to get the yields they require to make a profit from ships in Alaska. As a result, it came as no surprise when Holland America and Princess Cruises announced last week that each line is withdrawing a ship in 2011. Bear in mind those reductions come on top of decreases already made for 2010. As cruise ships depart the state for other more profitable cruising regions, Alaskans can't say they weren't warned. In fact, the wake up call should have been sounded when the Alaska Cruise Association, representing Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean Intl, and Silversea Cruises, filed a lawsuit to challenge the state's head tax on cruise ship tourists.

Other than Holland America and Princess, major cruise lines have not yet announced their itineraries for 2011, but we wouldn't be surprised at cut backs in capacity and corresponding fare increases. If an Alaska cruise is on your bucket list, you might want to look seriously at sailing in 2010.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Silversea's New Silver Spirit to Offer Unique Blend of Spa Luxury & Wellness Programs

When Silversea's elegant new Silver Spirit sets sail this month, guests will discover a spa experience that goes beyond the traditional pursuits of restoring inner peace and balance to offering the latest cutting-edge anti-aging beauty therapies.

"We designed The Spa aboard Silver Spirit to be the ultimate environment for relaxation and rejuvenation," said Christian Sauleau, Silversea's executive vice president of vessel operations. "It adds yet another dimension of luxury and personalized wellness options for our guests, who already enjoy an unmatched level of service and all-inclusive amenities."

Guests entering The Spa will discover a welcoming retreat from the pressures of today's hectic lifestyle. At 8,300 square feet (770 square meters), The Spa will be the largest in the Silversea fleet, featuring a beauty salon, fitness center, nine spa treatment rooms, two sauna rooms, and two steam rooms. Of special note is the debut of the ceramic-tiled Thermal Suite (pictured above), an exclusive spa area furnished with heated lounge chairs. With its connecting private Hammam—Turkish bath—Chamber, it serves as the setting for the Private Hammam Experience, one of several new treatments to be rolled out aboard Silver Spirit. In addition, an outdoor relaxation area will be open to all guests at no charge and will offer bar service so guests can enjoy a complimentary fruit smoothie, champagne or cocktail while soaking in its expansive whirlpool.

New Medi-Spa Program
Among the new spa treatments and services that will be introduced aboard Silver Spirit is a selection of physician-administered facial treatments using such popular wrinkle-reducing agents as BOTOX Cosmetic and the dermal fillers Restylane and Perlane. Guests can consult with the medi-spa physician on board to determine a personalized treatment plan. Medi-spa treatments are the perfect complement to traditional spa therapies, offering guests the added benefit of returning home looking as refreshed as they feel.

New Oriental Medicine Program
** Acupuncture Therapy: Experienced and fully accredited acupuncturists will offer programs designed to aid weight loss, relieve stress, manage pain and benefit many other physical and psychological conditions.
** Chinese Herbal Medicine Program: Almost all acupuncture programs utilize Chinese herbs. These herbs are termed "whole food" as they consist of dried bark, leaves and flowers of specific plant life that aid the body in its self-healing process.

Other spa highlights include these ALL NEW treatments:
** Private Hammam Experience: One of the most innovative treatment additions is the Private Hammam Experience, where guests can indulge with an ancient Arabian body scrub ritual performed by a therapist in their private Hammam Chamber.
** DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Scrub Bar: This fun and unique Scrub Bar Experience is a new spa feature that enables guests to choose their own exfoliating blend of scrub ingredients before they begin the DIY process with just a few easy steps to soothe sore muscles, slough away dead skin, and produce a smoother, more polished glow.
** Silversea Facial: Debuting aboard Silver Spirit, this signature Silversea Facial is designed to nourish, soothe and revitalize all skin types with its indulgent alchemy of expert touch, medicinal plants, rose quartz and a pure silver leaf mask.
** Bamboo Massage: The Spa aboard Silver Spirit also has the pleasure of introducing the Bamboo Massage, a warm, soothing massage that will awaken the senses. Imagine bamboo shoots of various sizes soaked in essential oil rolling, sliding and massaging the body's muscles.
** Thai Herbal Poultice Massage: This energizing, rhythmic massage utilizes scented herbal poultices that are heated and applied to the body at pressure points to relax the muscles and release tension.
** The Happy Couple: The Spa offers a relaxing and enjoyable opportunity for couples to reconnect in a stress-free environment. Whether it's a couples massage or customized package for two, The Spa can cater to all couples who need an escape.

All organized group fitness classes and seminars are complimentary. Personalized, one-on-one training programs, salon services, spa therapies, including medi-spa and Oriental Medicine programs, are offered at an additional charge. The Spa is operated by Steiner Leisure Limited, a provider of cruise ship spa services. For more information on Silversea Cruises, please contact a travel agent; to receive a complimentary brochure, please call toll-free (877) 215-9986, or visit the Silversea website.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Disney Villains Cast a Comical Spell on New Stage Spectacular Aboard Disney Cruise Line Ships

While you may have never noticed it, even the characters in the malevolent world of Disney villains have a smile to share with their fans. And now they take a comical spin in “Villains Tonight!,” a musical spectacular that Disney Cruise Line is premiering in spring 2010. The revue-style show will debut during the March 27 voyage aboard the Disney Magic and will delight guests aboard the new Disney Dream cruise ship in early 2011. “Villains Tonight!” is the first full-scale musical production dedicated to the Disney villains. The show is a family-friendly, fun-filled musical extravaganza that places these famous evil-doers in some irreverent funny moments.

“Villains Tonight!” begins as Hades and his faithful sidekicks, Pain and Panic (“Hercules”), welcome new souls (the audience) to the Underworld. But instead of a frightening realm, guests will discover that Hades has turned the Underworld into an upbeat and happier place. The lively fun comes to a halt when The Fates arrive and predict that Hades will lose his position as Lord of the Underworld if he doesn’t ramp up the evil factor. Worried by the news, Hades checks his Evil-O-Meter and discovers it is running dangerously low. So he comes up with a plan: He’ll conjure up the very best of the worst–the most powerful Disney villains–to help him replenish the world of evil. What ensues is a comical journey as Hades, Pain and Panic embark on a quest filled with wacky antics and amusing musical numbers featuring everyone’s favorite Disney villains and their sidekicks.

During “Villains Tonight!,” the 977-seat Walt Disney Theatre becomes a hilariously wicked world through the use of elaborate sets and special effects, extravagant costumes and a fun-filled, contemporary musical score. The show’s scenery takes guests on a dazzling journey through many villainous worlds, from the deck of Captain Hook’s ship to Scar’s Elephant Graveyard to Ursula’s Undersea Lounge. “Villains Tonight!” features irreverent versions of classic Disney villain tunes including a dance club version of “Cruella De Vil” (“101 Dalmatians”), a Copacabana-inspired take of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (“The Little Mermaid”) and an electrifying version of “Friends on the Other Side,” from Walt Disney Pictures’ newest animated feature, “The Princess and the Frog.” “Villains Tonight!” features a “Who’s Who” of the Disney villains, including Disney’s newest crook, Dr. Facilier from “The Princess and the Frog.” The show also features classic divas and scoundrels like Ursula (“The Little Mermaid”), the Evil Queen (“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”), Captain Hook (“Peter Pan”) and Scar (“The Lion King”).

“Villains Tonight!” joins the lineup of shipboard stage musicals as the Disney Magic gets ready to embark on a 5-month season of Mediterranean and Northern European cruises. Departing from Barcelona, Spain, Mediterranean cruises go from April 24 to May 26 and Aug. 7 to Sept. 8, visiting popular ports in Italy, France and North Africa. Departing out of Dover, England, the Northern European cruises will sail from June 12 to July 18, visiting St. Petersburg, Oslo, Copenhagen and other enchanting ports. To learn more about Disney Cruise Line or to book a vacation, visit the Disney Cruise website, call Disney Cruise Line at 888/DCL-2500, or contact your travel agent.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oceania Cruises' New Marina to Offer the Sweetest Suite Life at Sea

When she debuts in winter 2011, Oceania Cruises' new Marina will be the first ship to offer luxury suites completely appointed from furniture and fabrics to lighting and bedding using the acclaimed Ralph Lauren Home collection. To accomplish this industry first, the cruise line tapped New York-based Tocar Interior Design because of the award-winning partners' keen familiarity with the Polo Ralph Lauren esthetic. "To appeal to discerning travelers we wanted the best suites on Marina to feel like a luxurious estate home. We thought out-of-the box, insisted on the finest craftsmanship and sought out the most talented residential designers," stated Bob Binder, Oceania Cruises' president. "Tocar has designed the first suites at sea exclusively using furnishings from Ralph Lauren Home."

A Grand Entrance
The three Owner's Suites on board Marina are unlike any luxury suites at sea. Upon entering the foyer guests will be struck with a sense of awe, as though they have entered an opulent estate home. Walls of inset Georgian wood paneling are finished in an ivory gloss. The foyer contains a mahogany gloss bar with three ivory leather and chrome stools, stately burnished silver armchairs covered in faux crocodile and brown and white faux zebra skins and an oversized ivory brocade and black satin chaise in front of floor-to-ceiling windows offering sweeping ocean vistas. An ebony baby grand piano serves as the room's focal point while a brilliant alabaster and polished nickel chandelier hangs overhead.

Luxurious Living & Dining
Guests will spend most of their time in the spacious living and dining room, which exudes the rich, clubby and refined elegance of a world-class yacht. Macassar ebony-veneered chests with silver hardware topped by faux Zebra-framed mirrors flank the entrance. Walnut herringbone wood flooring rings a field of camel carpeting with an inset chocolate border. A full wall of windows affords uninterrupted aft views. A camel-colored, suede L-shaped Modern penthouse sectional is prominently positioned in the corner. A 42" flat-screen TV mounted atop a striking nickel and mahogany entertainment center is anchored by a black teak and nickel Aldgate etagere. An elegant mahogany Mayfair dining table with smooth caramel leather Clivedon dining chairs affords seating for six topped with a classic candelabra chandelier finished in nickel complete the dramatic dining area. Wraparound teak-covered verandas feature stylish pieces custom-crafted from Ralph Lauren in white marine lacquer suitable for outdoor living.

Sumptuous Sleeping Quarters
For restful nights at sea the Tocar designers used ivory wainscoting and plush silvery grey carpeting to set the stage for the high-style luxury bedrooms of the Owner's Suites. The bedroom's centerpiece is the distinctive, Bel Air bed in a deep, library mahogany - its headboard, footboard and side rails upholstered in steel-blue mohair with polished nickel nail-head accents. Across the room is the Ralph Lauren Highbridge desk featuring stainless steel sawhorse base with glass top and Noble Estate side chair

The finishing touch on this grand boudoir is a marble, six-fixture master bathroom with both a separate shower and large soaking tub. The whimsical mahogany double vanity is topped with double portholes and accented with nickel ceiling-mounted round pivoting mirrors and Ralph Lauren's classic small sconces with silk fabric shades.

Casual Elegance Meets High Style
Oceania Cruises' new Marina has been purposefully designed to carry 1,258 guests to the world's most alluring ports in elegance and style. Rich woods, marble and granite, fine wool carpets and lustrous leathers adorn public rooms. Facilities include 10 dining venues, six of which are open-seating gourmet restaurants, an array of bars and lounges, a full-service Canyon Ranch SpaClub and fitness center, swimming pool, and hot tubs. Information about Marina itineraries will be revealed in the coming weeks. Reservations can be made beginning in Jan 2010. For more information or to order a brochure, contact a travel agent, visit OceaniaCruises.com or call Oceania Cruises toll-free at 800-531-5658.

Today's stop on the Travel Blogger's Caravan is LuxurySafariExperts.com where Andrea M. Rotondo is giving away a set of folding noise-cancelling headphones courtesy of Magellan's Travel Supplies.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Norwegian Gem Homeports In New York For Winter Cruise Season

Last Saturday, the Big Apple welcomed the return of Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest Freestyle Cruising ship, as she began the winter cruise season, sailing 7-day Bahamas & Florida and 10-day Eastern Caribbean cruises direct from the Manhattan Cruise Terminal in the heart of New York City.

On Dec 12th, the 2,380-passenger Norwegian Gem set sail on the first of ten 7-day Bahamas & Florida cruises with stops in Orlando (Port Canaveral), Florida; Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian’s private island) and Nassau, Bahamas. The cruises sail on Dec 19, and 26, 2009; Feb 13, 20, and 27; March 6, 13, 20, and 27 and April 3, 2010. The ship will sail a 10-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary on Jan 3 and 24; and Feb 3, 2010 with stops in San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; St. John’s, Antigua; Philipsburg, St. Maarten and Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Norwegian Gem also offers two 1-night cruises, great for those who want a quick getaway or want to sample Norwegian’s signature Freestyle Cruising, on Jan 2 and 23.

“As a fellow New Yorker, I know how winters in the city can be, so what better way to escape the coats and cold weather then to hop on Norwegian Gem and head to warmer weather on a relaxing Freestyle cruise vacation,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer. “Norwegian Gem conveniently departs from the Manhattan Cruise Terminal making it an easy taxi or subway ride to your vacation destination.”

In 2010, Norwegian Gem will spend her summer in Europe sailing from Venice, for the first time in the company’s history, embarking on a series of 7-day Greek Isles and 7-day Adriatic, Greece & Turkey cruises. For more information or to book a sailing on Norwegian Gem, call Norwegian at 866-234-7350, visit NCL's website or call a travel professional.

Today's stop on the Travel Blogger's Caravan is EuropeUpClose.com where Terri Fogarty is giving away a Fujifilm FinePix J28 10MP digital camera with 3x optical zoom.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Top Ten Reasons to Cruise for the Holidays

Member cruise lines of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) are getting ready to celebrate the winter holidays all over the world with style and festive spirit. For anyone who needs a reason to pack up the family and take a Hanukkah, Christmas, or New Year’s cruise this holiday season, here are the top ten:
  1. Cruise lines offer holiday cruises of all lengths on all types of ships, including the world’s newest and largest, in all parts of the world, from Africa to the Caribbean to the Mediterranean to Antarctica.
  2. When quality family time counts the most, a holiday cruise offers flexibility and choice in recreational activities, entertainment, relaxed dining and fun for travelers of all ages.
  3. With special pricing, an abundance of diverse activities and plenty of entertainment, cruising for the holidays is the ideal choice for multigenerational groups or groups of families and friends.
  4. Holiday cruisers do not need to worry about planning and preparing menus, doing the dishes or cleaning the house. On a cruise, you can leave holiday chores behind and concentrate on enjoying time spent with loved ones.
  5. In times of stress, the chance to totally escape is just what the doctor ordered. Vacationing has been proven to be healthy and good for one’s well-being.
  6. With a caring ship’s staff doing all the work, including the entertaining, a holiday cruise means more time to celebrate and enjoy the festivities.
  7. With so many different cruises and cruise ships to choose from, there is a holiday cruise for every budget.
  8. Featuring inclusive pricing, incomparable comfort and convenience, and travel to some of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, no holiday celebration offers more value for money spent than a cruise.
  9. What better or more-appreciated gift could there be than the lifetime memories of a holiday cruise with family or friends?
  10. It’s not too late; many cruise lines are waiting to welcome last-minute cruise shoppers for the holidays.
Today's stop-of-the-day on the Travel Blogger's Caravan is MyItchyTravelFeet.com where Donna L. Hull is giving away a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card, which may be used at all Barnes & Noble stores and online at BarnesandNoble.com and a "Library Edition" of the most recent season of "Rudy Maxa's World," including six DVDs containing 13 shows on destinations in India, Turkey, Japan, Thailand, Estonia, St. Petersburg, and Argentina.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What to Expect on Your Holiday Cruise

Will there be decorations? How about a tree? Is Santa going to make a stop on board? Here's just a sampling of what major cruise lines are offering this year during the holidays:

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES: Throughout the Carnival fleet, the winter holidays are celebrated with Christmas trees, wreaths and mistletoe, seasonal music, holiday entertainment, Christmas-themed movies and more. Santa Claus always makes an appearance toting a bag of gifts and an elaborate production show enables children to participate onstage, showcasing decorations they have made in Camp Carnival. Holiday menus feature such traditional favorites as oven-roasted turkey and pecan pie. On New Year's Eve, guests are provided with party favors, noise makers and Champagne.
COSTA CRUISES: With Costa Fortuna and Costa Atlantica sailing the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale, Costa offers a warm and festive Italian style winter holiday experience. The ships are completely decorated with Christmas trees, twinkling lights and beautiful ornaments and, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Santa Claus makes special visits with keepsake gifts. Special holiday dinner and lunch menus offer a mix of the Italian cuisine and traditional favorites. A special New Year’s Eve “gala” night provides the opportunity to dress up for the holidays.
CRYSTAL CRUISES: This Christmas and New Year, Crystal Symphony will be cruising Antarctica and South America, allowing guests to experience both the South American spring and a white Christmas in Antarctica and Cape Horn. For a warm-weather Christmas, Crystal Serenity will be in the Caribbean for the holidays, sailing roundtrip from Miami on December 21. Ports include Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. Barts, Turks & Caicos, Bonaire and Miami. All Crystal Holiday voyages feature more than $100,000 in seasonal décor, handcrafted decorations, lavish feasts and parties and a black tie New Year’s Eve gala. They also offer the Crystal Family Memories program, with special savings, shipboard credits, free fares for children and more for groups.
CUNARD LINE: Imagine the winter holidays in picture-perfect Copenhagen and other Scandinavian capitals filled with antiquity and charm. Cunard Line is offering a special "complimentary double upgrade" promotion on Queen Victoria’s Dec 9, 2009 “Winter Wonderland” voyage. Roundtrip from Southampton, this Scandinavian itinerary includes overnight stays in Hamburg, Germany and Copenhagen, Denmark. Both Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 will hold Hanukkah services Dec 21-29 and will have kosher culinary offerings available to guests. The ships will also be festooned with greenery, including trees and wreaths, ornaments, nutcrackers, gingerbread cottages and twinkling lights for Christmas, and kids will be delighted to find Father Christmas handing out gifts.
DISNEY CRUISE LINE: The spirit of the season surrounds guests of Disney Cruise Line during the winter holidays. Starting with Disney characters in their finest holiday attire welcoming guests at the decorated cruise terminal in Port Canaveral, the festivities include: “King Triton’s Tree Lighting” ceremony; family crafts such as stocking decorating and building gingerbread houses; holiday storytellers sharing tales of Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwaanza; traditional holiday feasts in three themed dining rooms and “Til We Meet Again,” a special holiday edition of the line’s cheerful farewell on the final night of the voyage. Disney Magic sails on 7-night eastern and western Caribbean holiday cruises; Disney Wonder offers 3- and 4-night Bahamian holiday cruises.
HOLLAND AMERICA LINE: Holland America offers 20 holiday cruises between Dec 16 and Dec 28. The Caribbean beckons with 11 holiday sailings from Fort Lauderdale and Tampa that range from 7- to 14-days over one or two holidays. In a new offering for 2009, ms Maasdam will sail a 10-day Western Caribbean itinerary and an 11-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary. Most sailings feature a visit to Half Moon Cay, the line’s award-winning private Bahamian island. Holland America also offers roundtrip 7-day holiday cruises from San Diego to Mexico, three Panama Canal transits between Fort Lauderdale and California, a 15-day Circle Hawaii itinerary and longer cruises in Australia, New Zealand, South America and Antarctica.
MSC CRUISES: MSC celebrates the winter holidays with an international flair, with festivities and traditions practiced around the world. In the Caribbean, MSC Poesia will offer a 7-night “Happy Holidays, Caribbean-Style” Eastern Caribbean voyage from Fort Lauderdale departing on Dec 20, and a 7-night “Caribbean & Confetti NewYear’s” Western Caribbean cruise departing Dec 27. In the Mediterranean, from Genoa to Egypt, guests can celebrate on MSC’s two newest ships, the MSC Splendida and the MSC Fantasia, on Eastern Mediterranean and Western Mediterranean holiday itineraries. Children 17 and under sail free with MSC when sharing a stateroom with two adults paying full fare.
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE: Norwegian makes Christmas at sea an unforgettable experience. All ships are festively decorated, crew members stage an interactive holiday show in the ship's theater, cruise directors and staff sing carols and Santa takes time out of his busy schedule to hand out gifts on Christmas Day. Holiday-themed menus feature dishes such as honey-glazed black forest ham with sweet potato mash, roasted turkey with apple and apricot stuffing, pumpkin soufflé and a pear and chestnut torte. Hanukkah is celebrated with kosher menus and the lighting of a menorah each day to commemorate the eight-day celebration. While kids enjoy Norwegian's youth program, parents enjoy the high-energy, festive White Hot New Year's Eve party.
PRINCESS CRUISES: Princess’ 17-ship fleet offer a wide range of sailings in the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, South America, Hawaii and South Pacific for Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s. Whatever the destination, guests will find Yuletide carolers, waiters wearing Santa hats, festive décor, live seasonal music and films, and special holiday feasts featuring all the traditional favorites. Popular with families, the holiday voyages offer young travelers parties, sing-a-longs, arts and crafts, and the chance to help decorate the ship’s Christmas tree. They also may participate in a holiday theatrical production and, on Christmas Day, Santa Claus makes a surprise appearance, bringing gifts and joy for all.
REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES: The ships of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, beautifully decorated over the holidays with trees, garlands, bunting and ginger bread houses, will be in the Caribbean, French Polynesia, and transiting the Panama Canal over the winter holidays this year. A 10-night voyage roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale features many of the Caribbean “Saints”: St. Thomas, St. Barts, St. Kitts, and Saint Maarten as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands. The Panama Canal is the featured attraction of sailings between Fort Lauderdale and California and Papeete is the departure point for sailings in Polynesia. The voyages also offer an ecumenical religious service over the holidays for those guests wishing to attend, and a special Christmas dinner menu in the main dining room.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTL: Families will have the opportunity to sail the newest, biggest ship in the world this holiday season when the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas departs Dec 19 from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean. In addition to seasonal decorations, the entire RCI fleet will offer such holiday favorites as classic movie screenings, caroling, cookie decorating, festive music and readings of classic Christmas stories. The Dec 12 sailing of Independence of the Seas, also from Fort Lauderdale, will combine the Jewish Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah, with an 8-night Eastern Caribbean cruise. RCI offers holiday sailings from 10 domestic ports, including Bayonne, Baltimore, Port Canaveral, Miami, Port Everglades, Tampa, Galveston, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
SEABOURN CRUISE LINE: Seabourn Legend welcomes guests to a warm, sparkling Caribbean Holiday voyage this winter. Holiday revelers can choose from a 7-day "Legendary Christmas" voyage departing Fort Lauderdale on Dec 21 and ending at Barbados on Dec 28, or a "Legendary New Year's" cruise from Barbados on Dec 28 ending at Fort Lauderdale on Jan 4, 2010. Or, they may combine the two voyages and sail on a 14-day round trip voyage to enjoy both the holidays’ festivities and fun.
SEADREAM YACHT CLUB: SeaDream I and SeaDream II, the company’s twin luxury mega-yacht cruisers, will make four Caribbean holiday sailings this year. Offered as a roundtrip voyage from San Juan or one-way between St. Thomas and San Juan, the 5-, 7- and 9-day voyages all feature an overnight stay at St. Barts in the French West Indies. Late evening stays in several other Caribbean ports of call allow for holiday shoreside festivities. Ports of call include islands in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, the French West Indies, the Grenadines, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, depending on the cruise chosen. SeaDream fares include all meals, wine with lunch and dinner, open bar with selected premium brands, plus use of “water toys” from the vessel’s Marina, and gratuities.
SILVERSEA CRUISES: The six globe-trotting Silversea ships, including the brand new Silver Spirit, celebrate the holidays from Antarctica to Zanzibar on itineraries ranging from 8- to 17-days. Silver Spirit will holiday in the Mediterranean and North Africa, offering an 11-day maiden voyage from Barcelona to Lisbon. Silver Wind will spend 14 days in Africa and the Seychelle Islands, departing Dec 20 from Mahe. Prince Albert II departs Ushauaia on Dec 21 on a 17-day expedition to Antarctica. Silver Shadow departs Dec 11 from Barbados on a 9-day Caribbean itinerary, and on Dec 20 on a 15-day roundtrip voyage from Fort Lauderdale through the Caribbean. Other voyages over the holidays feature South America and the South Pacific.
WINDSTAR CRUISES: Windstar Cruises offers special rates on holiday and New Year's cruises in the Caribbean and Costa Rica. Wind Spirit's holiday sailings feature a new 7-day St. Martin itinerary that includes the British Virgin Islands, St. Barts and Jost Van Dyke. Wind Star offers an in-depth discovery of Costa Rica, and Wind Surf sails roundtrip from Barbados, calling on such islands as St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Iles Des Saintes, St. Kitts, Bequia and St. Barts. The ships are decorated with beautiful holiday decorations and feature a special holiday menu prepared by the executive chef. New Year's cruises include a festive New Year's Eve party including party favors, live music, an official countdown by the captain and a Champagne toast.

Today's stop on the Travel Blogger's Caravan is EllenBarone.com Visit Ellen and comment on her blog for the chance to win a day pack from First Ascent, a new extreme adventure line of gear and clothing by Eddie Bauer and partners; and the ultimate travel ensemble from ExOfficio, including 1 shirt, 1 pair of pants and a pair of ExOfficio underwear.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Travel Bloggers' Caravan "Stop of the Day": Cruise Diva

Despite the weather, the winter holiday season is one of my favorite times of year. It's when we can wind down a bit from the craziness and take stock of what's most important—family and friends. It's also the time we share memories of our travels and make plans for the upcoming year.

As a rule, we try to spend Christmas at home, although Thanksgiving is a favorite time to take a cruise (no cooking for this diva!). With all the tempting ways to celebrate at sea, we may spend a portion of Christmas day poring over cruise line brochures and web sites to plan for next year. While cruise fares for sailing dates that include the actual holidays are somewhat higher, the period after Thanksgiving and up to Christmas is usually available at bargain rates.

In addition to following cruise news and bargains, I've also been closely following the Travel Bloggers' Caravan. What's that? It's a group of top travel bloggers who've banded together to celebrate the season and bring our readers the opportunity to win some great prizes.

Today the Caravan stops right here at the Cruise Diva blog where I'll be giving away a copy of my latest cruising guidebook, Fodor's The Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises, and a World Grounding Adapter Plug Set from Magellan's. I've been using one of those adapter sets for years and it's an invaluable travel tool. Another handy gadget for the winner is a Solio Classic Hybrid Solar Charger designed to give you power whenever or wherever you need it by using solar energy or a computer USB to charge your mobile devices.
The winner can use The Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises to plan their next voyage, use the grounding set to plug dual-voltage electronics into those funny round-pronged European outlets in their stateroom, and charge up their iPod while sitting poolside in the sunshine.

How to Enter & Win
One lucky reader will be randomly chosen from all Comments on this blog entry between 12:00 am (midnight) and 11:59 pm today, December 11, 2009. You'll need to include your e-mail address so I can make contact if you are the winner. Good luck!

Win More Prizes This Month!
Don't forget to enter the daily Travel Bloggers' Caravan giveaway. The Caravan stops at EllenBarone.com tomorrow, where Ellen keeps travelers in the know and on the go. Visit, comment on the post of the day, and win a Day pack from First Ascent, a new extreme adventure line of gear and clothing by Eddie Bauer and partners, and the ultimate travel ensemble from ExOfficio, including 1 shirt, 1 pair of pants, and a pair of ExOfficio underwear.

If you missed it, see the entire Travel Bloggers' Caravan Schedule.

Good luck and happy holiday wishes to all from Linda the Cruise Diva, her husband Mel, and our attack cat Elvis.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Royal Princess to Leave Princess Cruises Fleet & Join British Sister Line P&O Cruises

One of the small ships of Princess Cruises, the 710-passenger Royal Princess, will depart the line’s fleet in spring 2011, transferring to sister company P&O Cruises in the U.K. The ship will be renamed Adonia. As a result, five sailings in April and May will be cancelled, and in place of these a 26-day South Pacific and Andes Explorer cruise will be offered prior to the transfer. The ship’s 2010 cruise program includes sailings to the Amazon, Caribbean, Panama Canal, Alaska, Hawaii and French Polynesia.

With the transfer of Royal Princess there will be one less Princess ship in Alaska for the 2011 season, though full details are not yet available. During summer 2010, the ship will sail on a 14-day roundtrip “Connoisseur” cruises from Seattle to Alaska.

The following 2011 sailings are being cancelled:

· April 6, 2011: 10-day Tahiti & Polynesia
· April 16, 2011: 10-day Tahiti & Polynesia
· April 26, 2011: 12-day Hawaii & Tahiti
· May 8, 2011: 10-day Hawaiian Islands
· May 18, 2011: 1-day coastal

The new 26-day cruise that replaces these sailings will depart April 6, 2011 and travel between Papeete, Tahiti and Fort Lauderdale. Ports of call will include Bora Bora, Moorea, Pitcairn Island (for scenic cruising), Easter Island, Pisco (San Martin), Lima (Callao for Machu Picchu overland excursion), Quito (Manta), Panama Canal Transit, San Blas, and Limón.

The ship will then go into a drydock in the Bahamas to change its livery prior to joining the P&O Cruises fleet in May 2011.

Royal Princess joined the Princess fleet in 2007, having originally been built in 2001. Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting the company's website.

Today's stop-of-the-day on the Travel Blogger's Caravan is JtheTravelAuthority.com. Visit Jeanine Barone for a chance to win a Mountainsmith Tour FX Camera Bag.

Tomorrow's Caravan stop is right here on the Cruise Diva Blog. Come back and enter to win Fodor's The Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises, a World Grounding Set (courtesy of Magellan's), and a Solio Hybrid Solar Charger designed to give you power whenever or wherever you need it by using solar energy or a computer USB to charge your mobile devices.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Azamara Cruises Slows the Pace To Become “Azamara Club Cruises”

Azamara Cruises, the two-ship brand launched in 2007 with the 694-guest Azamara Journey and sister ship Azamara Quest, is now “Azamara Club Cruises,” with a newly refined focus, and a series of new attributes designed for upmarket, experienced travelers. “This isn’t a strategy of going ‘from good to great’,” said Azamara Club Cruises President & CEO Larry Pimentel. “This is about taking an already great product and making it exceptional.”

Tapped to take the helm of Azamara Cruises in July of this year, Pimentel spent several weeks talking with travel agents, past guests and press to determine how to make his great-to-exceptional goal a reality. He also tapped a small new team focused 100 percent on Azamara. Together, Pimentel and team shaped the new Azamara Club Cruises, whose most distinguishing new attributes will be in effect by April 2010. “Today’s cruisers have incredible new vacation options, like Celebrity’s stunning Solstice Class, and Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas,” said Pimentel. “Azamara Club Cruises will distinguish itself by delivering the destination like no other line.”

Azamara Club Cruises will visit 140 ports in 50 countries in 2010, with itineraries featuring more overnight stays to allow guests to immerse themselves in communities and cultures. Among the overnight locations are Istanbul, Turkey; Sorrento, Italy, which offers a host of tour options along the Amalfi Coast and Capri; a full three days and two nights in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Azamara’s Scandinavia and Russia Itineraries; and multiple overnight stays in Azamara’s Southeast Asia region, including Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

“We’re going to slow down the tempo, and allow our guests to not just see the destination, but to live it,” said Pimentel. “Consider destinations like St. Tropez or St. Petersburg, Russia. If you’ve experienced them only by day, you haven’t really experienced them. With Azamara, through more overnight stays and late-night stays, you can.”

The destination focus of Azamara Club Cruises inspired the brand’s new tagline “You’ll love where we take you” and will extend to its shore excursions, too, an essential ingredient to allow guests to truly experience a community and its culture.

Azamara has created distinctive two-day packages tailored to the overnight destinations, to make it easy for guests to immerse themselves in each location, whether it’s Dubrovnik, Croatia; Odessa, Ukraine; Livorno (Florence), Italy, Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany, or London, in addition to Sorrento and St. Petersburg. Azamara also will offer experiences such as a two-night package from Bangkok to Laos; an overnight tour from Hiroshima to Osaka via bullet train; a three-night experience from Mumbai including a visit to the Taj Mahal; overnight tours in Israel between Ashdod and Cairo, and a Grand Egypt tour featuring the best of both Luxor and Cairo. Among Azamara’s specialty tours include a Ferrari driving tour in Civitavecchia, Italy; a walk down memory lane in Liverpool with the “In the steps of The Beatles” tour; a private demonstration of chocolate flavors in Dubrovnik; a “Theatre A La Carte” evening in London; Croatian liqueur tasting in Zadar; an Imperial Russian Court evening at Tsarskoye Selo in St. Petersburg; an evening gondola serenade in Venice; and high tea at the Burj al Arab Hotel in Dubai.

Praised for its dining experience since its founding, Azamara will continue to place a heavy emphasis on fine cuisine, and will expand its focus on wine to include vintages from boutique wineries around the world. Guests will have the opportunity to taste high quality wines that may be unavailable at home, because the selected vineyards produce a strictly limited quantity each year, distributed primarily locally. The featured wines will be offered complimentary at lunches and dinners on every sailing.

Wellness and vigor will be a core component of the Azamara Club Cruises experience, too, with onboard and land-based experiences designed to help guests feel and look healthier and more youthful. Azamara’s aim in wellness and vigor is to help guests balance their physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual needs through massages, facials and other spa treatments, as well as acupuncture, yoga, Pilates, and enrichment programs.

The newly refined brand also is intensely focused on offering an intangible attribute essential to a successful upmarket product: exceptional service. “Extraordinary service is paramount with Azamara Club Cruises,” said Pimentel. “We know every travel and hospitality organization proclaims it’s committed to great service, so what will make Azamara stand out? First, our butlers will be trained to be true English butlers, to offer that fine balance of anticipatory, pampering, yet non-intrusive service to guests in every suite.” Guests in staterooms will be served by the line’s host of experienced stateroom attendants.

Azamara Club Cruises also will offer many inclusive amenities, with the following included in the cruise fare beginning with the first voyages in April 2010 on Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest: a specific brand of bottled water offered at no charge throughout the voyage, whether in public venues or in staterooms; specialty coffees and teas; housekeeping and dining gratuities; shuttlebus service to/from port communities, where available; destination-influenced entertainment and enrichment programs; most meals and room service; house wine at lunches and dinners; and self-service laundry. Specialty dining in Azamara’s intimate Prime C steakhouse and the Mediterranean-influenced Aqualina will be complimentary for suite guests for the duration of their cruise.

Cruisers who can’t get enough of Azamara will be invited to join the line’s new loyalty program, “Le Club Voyage,” with specific features and benefits yet to be announced. For more information, call your travel agent, dial 1-877-999-9553, or visit Azamara Club Cruises online. If you're already considering an Azamara cruise, act quickly to lock in your fare at current levels. Prices are set to increase next Monday, Dec 14th.

Today's stop on the Travel Blogger's Caravan is What a Trip. Visit Nancy D. Brown for a chance to win these prizes: two Otterbox cell phone cases; one Briggs and Riley Baseline 20” Carry-On Expandable Wide-Body Upright.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Celebrity Cruises Launches Sweepstakes for “Eclipse of a Lifetime”

By the time most cruise enthusiasts go aboard a new ship it's totally fitted out and ready for guests. Celebrity Cruises, which caters to cruise lovers, has launched a sweepstakes for an experience that is the stuff of dreams for any cruise aficionado. Celebrity’s “Eclipse of a Lifetime” sweepstakes, running through Jan 14, 2010, will entitle 10 winners and their guests to be the first individuals outside of the line’s employees to board Celebrity Eclipse when it sets sail for the very first time; the first to have exclusive, up-close-and-personal views of the construction process of Celebrity’s fourth Solstice Class ship in Germany at Meyer Werft, one of the most modern shipyards in the world; first to be led and hosted throughout Celebrity Eclipse by Celebrity's President and CEO Dan Hanrahan; first to nestle into the ship’s AquaClass staterooms; first to sample the ship's innovative cuisine created by the line’s VP of Culinary Operations and Chef Jacques Van Staden, and the first to have the chance to interact with the ship’s senior officers.

All this will take place surrounding an experience that will occur only once in the ship’s life, and only once in the lives of the winners: the “conveyance” of Celebrity Eclipse. Scheduled for March 13, 2010, the conveyance marks the occasion when Celebrity Eclipse departs Meyer Werft shipyard for the first time, and navigates the narrow River Ems–backwards–from Papenburg, Germany, to Emshaven, Netherlands, prior to embarking on sea trials.

During the "conveyance" through Germany's River Ems, more than 75,000 residents are expected to line the river banks–in cars, on bikes, on horseback and in RVs–to watch and cheer as one of the largest ships ever to transit the river meanders past charming villages and quaint farmlands. An indisputable rarity in cruising, the conveyance takes the ship along a truly challenging course: At its tightest points along the way, there will be as few as two feet between each side of the 1,040-ft-long, 121-ft-wide Celebrity Eclipse and the locks. The depth of the river and the draft of the ship allow for mere inches–or less–beneath the ship. Celebrity and shipbuilder Meyer Werft have essentially created a science all their own, to closely and carefully monitor the position of the moon and tidal conditions to pinpoint the precise moment when the depth of the river is ideal for the ship to depart the shipyard.

“The science and precision of the process is actually more complex than transiting the Panama Canal,” said Hanrahan. A railway bridge must be completely dismantled, and normal train schedules adjusted, to allow for the ship’s passage at one point on the course, among other narrow passages. The journey will take between 12 to 15 hours to complete, and is likely to be the most challenging ride the ship will encounter in its life. Only one captain in the world, who sweepstakes winners will have the exclusive opportunity to meet, is licensed and qualified to take the helm during the conveyance. The limited space available for navigation, the nature of sailing in reverse, and the number of narrow passages and bridges to transit are factors cruise ship captains normally don’t have to deal with; but, it provides the chance for them to test the ship’s maneuverability at slow speeds.

In addition to the series of 'first-ever' experiences, Celebrity's “Eclipse of a Lifetime” prize package includes a night in Dusseldorf, one of the hippest cities in Germany, prior to boarding the ship, and a night in freewheeling Amsterdam after departing the ship. Each “Eclipse of a Lifetime” prize package also includes coach-class air for two from each winner’s nearest major gateway to Dusseldorf, Germany; hotel accommodations and meals prior to boarding Celebrity Eclipse; all meals and activities onboard the ship; all pertinent gratuities; ground transfers to and from airports, hotels, and Celebrity Eclipse; the exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of the Meyer Werft shipyard, and coach-class air from Amsterdam to the U.S.

Celebrity has made it a breeze to enter the sweepstakes. Simply visit the Celebrity web site, at CelebrityCruises.com and click the “Eclipse of a Lifetime” tab to access the entry form and sweepstakes rules. Or, click CelebrityCruises.com/EclipseSweepstakes. The sweepstakes runs through Jan 14, 2010. Winners will be announced Jan 28, 2010. This sweepstakes is open only to residents of the U.S. and Canada. See Official Rules on the site for complete information.

Don't let the Travel Bloggers' Caravan pass you by!

Today's Caravan stop is JohnnyJet.com where Johnny Jet, AKA John DiScala, is awarding Alaska and Seattle Toursaver books and a $50 Magellan's gift certificate to the lucky winner whose comment is drawn from entrants.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Seabourn Yachts Begin Refurbishment

To cap off a year that saw the launch of its first new yacht in over a decade, The Yachts of Seabourn has embarked upon a multi-million dollar renovation of the original trio of its small-luxury fleet. Seabourn Spirit has just completed a makeover, and Pride and Legend are planned to undergo extensive refurbishments during the coming year, transforming the look and feel of each vessel with open and airy interiors, modern embellishments, and richly colored contemporary on-deck furnishings. Overseen by RTKL Associates Inc. in Miami, an award-winning international design firm, the extensive work is being done during regularly scheduled periodic maintenance. With Spirit finished, Pride and Legend will head to dry dock in January 2010 and fall 2010, respectively.

Enhancements begin just steps into the Reception Lobby with honey-toned wood paneling, two-toned marble flooring and furnishings reupholstered in rich burgundy. Onboard entertainment spaces shine, with the main show lounge transformed with cut-velvet banquettes in muted blues and taupe chairs beneath glittering stars. In The Club, floral-motif carpeting plays off warm reds and burnt oranges while elegantly toned, matte stone panels invoke spaciousness throughout. That play of color and comfort continues in the observation lounge, where wrap-around windows illuminate new pale-green accents and soothing creams and beiges with the ever-changing light of sea and sky. New club chairs and sofas of creamy leather are inviting perches for taking it all in, accented with leaf-patterned throw pillows that echo the foliage theme in the carpeting.

In The Restaurant, celebrity Chef Charlie Palmer’s cuisine is presented in a rich, yet understated elegance realized in handsome toffee-toned woods, creamy caramel accents, dramatic sheer curtains striped horizontally in violet and gold interspersing muted purple drapes, and flooring finished in sumptuous golden stone with sage infusions. Meanwhile, the open decks are going modern with graceful new furniture of coffee-hued, powder-coated metal and chocolate-toned fabric.

“The renovation of Pride, Spirit and Legend ensures that guests will be enjoying the Seabourn experience on these unique vessels in a fresh, contemporary style,” said Conover. “With our original three yachts scheduled for refurbishment, Seabourn Odyssey enjoying a stellar maiden year, and Seabourn Sojourn scheduled to launch in June 2010, Seabourn can now offer travelers more beautiful yachts in more exciting destinations throughout the year.”

For more information, visit Seabourn.com.

Don't let the Travel Bloggers' Caravan pass you by!

Today's Caravan stop is CiaoBambino.com Amie O'Shaughnessy & Kristi Marcelle are offering the winner a Napa Valley Getaway (One-night stay at the Westin Verasa in Napa, California, plus gourmet lunch for two on the Napa Valley Wine Train). Visit, enter, and win.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Dos and Don'ts of Buying Travel Insurance

As reported by the American Automobile Association (AAA), holidays, school breaks and cabin fever make winter the busiest travel season of the year, but it doesn't have to be the most stressful. Travel insurance is the best defense against many of the most common risks affecting travel today, especially when flying to a cruise in winter months when inclement weather can cause airline delays. However, with the right insurance protection, you can enjoy carefree travel year round.

Become an educated travel insurance consumer with the following tips from InsureMyTrip.com, the leading online travel insurance comparison site:

  • Compare, Compare, Compare: Shop around to get the best plan for your needs at the right price. InsureMyTrip.com offers side-by-side comparisons of policies and prices to help you make smart purchasing decisions quickly and easily.
  • Plan Ahead: Trip Cancellation Package Policies offer the broadest protection, including coverage for trip cancellation, interruption, baggage and travel delay, as well as medical and emergency evacuation. To receive the most benefit from the travel insurance policy including financial default and terrorism protection as well as coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, the majority of the policies require that you purchase your policy within 10 to 30 days of your First Trip Payment.
  • Buy From a Third Party: Typically, if you purchase travel insurance directly through a travel supplier such as an airline, cruise line, or tour operator, you cannot protect yourself if that travel supplier goes bankrupt or becomes financially insolvent, so it is always best to purchase your travel insurance protection from a third-party source.
  • Understand the Details: Travel insurance coverage and premiums vary from policy to policy so it's important to know exactly how your plan works and the protection it provides. Work with one of our unbiased insurance specialists to help select the right policy for you and review the coverage details together.
  • Keep Your Receipts: In the event you ever have to file a claim, keep your receipts for everything from pre-paid non-refundable trip costs insured under your policy to doctor's notes, as well as any receipts incurred from a travel delay such as meals, hotel accommodations, and transportation to/from the airport.
  • Don't Forget to Call: Whether you simply need one question answered or would like step-by-step assistance selecting the best travel insurance policy for your needs, InsureMyTrip.com's expert Customer Care team can help. Visit InsureMyTrip.com or call (800) 487-4722 to speak with a licensed travel insurance representative, Monday through Friday 7am to midnight, Saturday 9am to 6pm and Sunday 11am to 6pm ET.
Don't let the Travel Bloggers' Caravan pass you by!

Today's Caravan stop is The Tranquilo Traveler, where Joshua Berman is giving away a copy of Moon Belize, accompanied with personal travel advice from the author about your trip.

At tomorrow's stop, CiaoBambino.com Amie O'Shaughnessy & Kristi Marcelle are offering the winner a Napa Valley Getaway (One-night stay at the Westin Verasa in Napa, California, plus gourmet lunch for two on the Napa Valley Wine Train).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mahogany Bay Cruise Center in Roatan Officially Opens

The $62 million Mahogany Bay Cruise Center at Roatan in the Bay Islands officially opened this week and began welcoming cruise ships. The Yachts of Seabourn’s’ 208-passenger Seabourn Legend arrived on Saturday, Nov. 28, followed by Princess Cruises’ 3,070-passenger Crown Princess and Carnival Cruise Lines’ 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor. Reaction from cruise guests to the new facility has been outstanding.

This week’s ship visits are the first of 200 annual ship calls at the new facility, which is expected to host more than 500,000 passengers each year. In addition to the Yachts of Seabourn, Carnival Cruise Lines, and Princess Cruises, vessels from Holland America, Costa Cruises, and P&O Cruises, as well as non-Carnival Corp brands, are expected to call at the new facility.

Similar to the facilities at the cruise center spearheaded by Carnival Corp in Grand Turk, the Mahogany Bay Cruise Center offers a welcome center along with a variety of retail outlets, including two themed bars, a restaurant and several shops in addition to a 2-ship cruise pier. A transportation hub with the ability to accommodate taxis, rental cars and tour buses, along with a wide range of shore excursion opportunities, which can be purchased on board the cruise vessels, are also available.

Unique to Mahogany Bay is a new chair lift system that takes cruise ship guests from the welcome center to beautiful Mahogany Beach, a 10-acre private island featuring an 825-foot-long white-sand beach with a beach volleyball court and myriad watersports opportunities. Eight exclusive cabanas are also available for rent. The “Magical Flying Beach Chair” takes guests on a six-minute ride across nearly 1,200 feet of suspended cables, providing not only convenient beach access but views of the lush countryside as well. All-day passes for the beach chair lift are $5 per person. An elevated path is also available for those who prefer to walk.

“The Mahogany Bay Cruise Center not only serves as a gateway to one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful islands but is also a destination unto itself, with a magnificent white-sand beach and a wide range of shops, restaurants and shore excursion opportunities,” said Giora Israel, senior vice president of port and destination development for Carnival Corporation.

More than five years in development, and two years under construction, Mahogany Bay Cruise Center encompasses 20 acres of waterfront property and includes a two-berth cruise terminal which can accommodate up to 8,000 passengers daily. It is a joint project of Carnival Corp and Roatan businessman Jerry Hynds. For more information, visit the Mahogany Bay Cruise Center online.

Don't let the Travel Bloggers' Caravan pass you by!

Today's Caravan stop is TheBrooklynNomad.com where Andrew Hickey will be awarding Imagine: A Vagabond Story by Grant Lingel and $50 Magellan's gift certificate to the lucky winner.

Tomorrow the Caravan visits The Tranquilo Traveler where Joshua Berman will give away a copy of Moon Belize, accompanied with personal travel advice from the author about your trip

Friday, December 4, 2009

Princess Cruises Invites You to Become a Godparent

It's quite an honor to be godmother to a cruise ship, one that is usually reserved for celebrities, sports luminaries, philanthropists, and even royalty. That usually leaves most of us out, at least until now. To celebrate the new name of its ship Ocean Princess (formerly Tahitian Princess), Princess Cruises is extending an open invitation to anyone wishing to become an honorary godparent for the vessel, with the first-ever virtual christening. Yes, even men are included.

In a new twist on the time-honored tradition, the naming ceremony will occur completely online, at the Virtual Christening website. Each new godparent will trigger a $1 donation from Princess to the New England Aquarium, a global leader in ocean exploration and marine conservation, up to $25,000. One of the small ships of Princess, Ocean Princess, fresh out of a 2-week drydock, departed Singapore this week on the first voyage with her new name. The virtual christening will run throughout the ship’s 16-day Southeast Asia cruise, ending on Dec. 18.

That's a potential 25,000 godparents for Ocean Princess, one of Princess’ fleet of small ships, which also includes Royal Princess and Pacific Princess. Offering a classic and intimate cruise experience, each small ship carries around 680 passengers and travels to more remote destinations around the world. That just proves you don’t have to be the world’s largest cruise ship to have the most godparents of any vessel afloat.

“At the end of her current cruise, we hope to have a huge group of honorary godparents for Ocean Princess,” said Jan Swartz, Princess executive vice president. “In this digital age, we wanted to design a way that all our fans worldwide could be part of the celebration. But not only do we want to entertain people with this fun approach, we also want people to think about our oceans, and in doing so support the important work of the New England Aquarium.”

In addition to virtually christening the ship and becoming an honorary godparent, participants will be able explore the following areas online:
  • Honorary Godparents: Names of Ocean Princess’ honorary godparents
  • Ocean Princess Webcam: Live web cam from the ship
  • Ocean Princess Itineraries: Link to Ocean Princess’ extensive list of itineraries
  • Ocean Princess Drydock Photo Journal: Pictorial of the ship’s drydock in Singapore
  • About Ocean Princess: Details about Ocean Princess and her offerings
  • The Small Ships of Princess: Information about the small ships of Princess
  • About the New England Aquarium: Information about the non-profit organization
During the ship’s recent drydock at the Keppel Shipyard in Singapore, the Ocean Princess name was placed on the bow and throughout the vessel. The ship also received new fuel-efficient silicone paint on its hull, and interior enhancements including new upholstery, carpet and flooring. The ship was renamed Ocean Princess to more accurately represent her global range of itineraries. Following its inaugural Treasures of the Southeast Asia cruise from Singapore to Shanghai, Ocean Princess will offer a season of unique Asia, India and Africa sailings, followed by a summer of European voyages. Further information about Princess is available through a professional travel agent, by visiting Princess Cruises.

Join Cruise Diva as a virtual godparent and enjoy the virtual bottle smash online as you sip a virtual toast of virtual champagne to Ocean Princess!

Don't let the Travel Bloggers' Caravan pass you by!

Today's Caravan stop is NovelDestinations.com, where Shannon McKenna Schmidt & Joni Rendon have a Literary Travel Prize Pack (a tote bag, book, travel kit, note cards, tea, bookmarks, and a keychain) for a lucky winner.

TheBrooklynNomad.com is tomorrow's Caravan stop. Andrew Hickey will be awarding Imagine: A Vagabond Story by Grant Lingel and $50 Magellan's gift certificate.