Monday, April 04, 2011

Cruising to Alaska The Port of Juneau

Situated on the upper Inside Passage, approximately 900 miles from Seattle, Juneau is often the first port of call on a cruise to Alaska.  Average summer temperatures are in the 60’s but the climate is wet, so pack your rain slicker.  Summer days are lengthy, 18 hours long on June 21st, so plan on spending every minute in port sightseeing!  There’s so much to see and do while enjoying the extraordinary scenery and wildlife that is Alaska!

 Shore excursions, whether cruise line sponsored or private vendor, span a broad spectrum in both selection and price. There are biking, rafting, and kayaking tours, all of which give you a chance to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. There are walking tours and bus tours or excursions that give you an extreme adrenaline rush! The more adventurous ones are quite costly, but well worth it, as they are a once in a lifetime experience.

 Mendenhall Glacier, the most popular attraction in Juneau, is the only drive-up road accessible glacier in the United States and located 13 miles from downtown Juneau.  At one point the glacier is more than a half a mile wide, with ice 300 to 1800 feet deep! The Visitor’s Center ($3) has some wonderful displays and an interesting short film. The huge windows that make up the curving wall of the center offer an unobstructed view of the glacier.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Alaska Cruise Primer

A cruise to Alaska is a voyage into America’s pristine wilderness!  From the icy blue glaciers and white snow-capped mountains, to the rich green forests just beyond the shore line, spectacular scenery will envelop you throughout the journey.  The deep fjords and densely wooded islands you cruise by are home to abundant wildlife including bald eagles, brown bears, dolphins, sea lions and whales.

 Alaska’s rich culture is diverse and has both Native American and Russian influences. Tlingit and Tsimshian Indian’s history is reflected in the towering intricately carved totem poles that dot Southeast Alaska. In addition, Russian settlers left a legacy of onion-domed churches, while village shops still sell traditional nesting dolls, wood carved St. Nicholas statues and gleaming lacquer boxes.

 There was once a time when the only people who cruised to Alaska were retirees and the sight of children on these ships was an anomaly. That is so far from present-day reality!  Today, an Alaskan cruise is a great family vacation, a romantic honeymoon destination, or an adventure trip for the courageous.  Let’s take a close look at what you need to know when planning your trip.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Royal Caribbean Updates

Itinerary Updates for 2012:  Royal Caribbean is shaking things up a bit with the 2012 sailings from the Northeast.  Now don’t get too excited…I’m not talking about a new ship coming into the area (I know, I know, that’s what we’re all really waiting for)!  But this is good too!

 Enchantment of the Seas, which home ports in Baltimore year round, currently sails a 5-night Bermuda / 9-night Eastern Caribbean schedule in the spring and summer.  During that same time of year in 2012 the rotation will be a 6-night Bermuda / 8-night Bermuda & Northeast itinerary.  What’s nice about the new Bermuda itinerary is that the ship is docked for three days in Kings Wharf, Bermuda.  I’ve always felt that two days on the island cuts things a bit short, despite how much I enjoy my sea days.  The new 8-night cruise will still have an overnight in Bermuda, but will also make stops in Boston and Newport.  Come the fall of 2012, the itinerary of the 8-night changes to a Canada & New England route.  Ports of call include Portland, Bar Harbor, St. John and Halifax.

 Explorer of the Seas, which leaves from Cape Liberty, New Jersey year round, will still alternate between a 5-night Bermuda / 9-night Bermuda & Caribbean in the spring and summer.  In the fall that changes to a 7-night Bermuda itinerary that includes three days on the lovely island.

Beverage Package Modifications:  Some new options have been announced for those guests that like the all inclusive beverage experience. There is the …
  •  Beer Package:  All beer brands plus 25% discount on cocktails and wine. Cost is $29 per guest /day.
  •  Classic Package:  Included in this package are all beer brands, as well as cocktails in the house and call brand categories. A 25% discount is offered on all premium and specialty brand liquors, as well as all wines.  Cost is $39 per guest /day.
  •  Premium Package: The Premium-brand liquors are included in this package, as well as champagne cocktails. All beer brands, and wines by the glass up to $10 are included as well. A 25% discount is offered on specialty liquor brands, as well as wines by the bottle and glasses of wine price over $10.  Cost is $49 per guest /day.
 These packages will only be available on three ships; ships which cater to non-American cruisers; Independence of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, and Legend of the Seas.  I suppose if these packages prove to be successful Royal Caribbean may consider rolling it out to other ships."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Guess Who's Coming To New York

I have exciting news for all you cruisers that like to sail out of the Northeast!  Beginning in October 2012 the Norwegian Pearl will call New York City her home!  The Pearl will join her sister, the Norwegian Gem, and together they will take Manhattan by storm!

 Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO, Kevin Sheehan, said, “With the arrival of the Norwegian Pearl in New York, we will have two of our newer and larger Freestyle Cruising ships sailing from this very popular homeport.  New Yorkers love Freestyle Cruising because it suits their needs.”

 The Pearl will make her New York debut October 14, 2012 sailing the popular seven-night Florida and Bahamas itinerary.  A stop at Port Canaveral puts the theme parks of Orlando practically at your doorstep!  Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World!  What family wouldn’t get excited over the choices that are available!

 Then it’s on to rest and relaxation in the beautiful Bahamas.  There are many beautiful beaches to lounge on and an abundance of water sports to enjoy. Nassau, home the famous Straw Market, is a shopper’s Nirvana.  Here you can find a plethora of faux designer handbags, shot glasses, t-shirts, beaded jewelry, and all kinds of kitschy tourist souvenirs. Look a bit harder and you can find wonderful baskets, bags and dolls made from dried palm and sisal plant leaves.

 The highlight of this cruise is the day the Pearl spends at Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island.  Renovations will be complete well before the Pearl’s first visit.  The island is a true oasis.  White sand, azure waters, and everything you might need to enjoy a day here.  A brand new dining pavilion serves a barbecue lunch so there’s no need to head back to the ship for lunch.  Hammocks, loungers, water sports, great snorkeling…you may never want to leave!

 To find out more information about the Norwegian Pearl’s New York sailings visit the Direct Line Cruises website or call our office (1-800-352-8088) to speak with a cruise consultant."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Updates from Norwegian Cruise Line

If you’re an NCL cruiser then here’s some news you may find interesting!

 The Norwegian Dawn is going into dry dock in May for a bit of updating.  She will emerge with 58 new staterooms, the most interesting being four deluxe owner suites.  These cabins will be in the very front of the ship, directly below the bridge (the area from which the ship is commanded).  The cabins will have floor to ceiling windows and looking out you will be privy to the same amazing view as the captain!

 Great news for families, too!  Fourteen family suites that sleep six are also being added, along with 10 family suites with balconies.  In addition there will be 30 more inside cabins.

 The Norwegian Sun recently finished her stint in dry dock with some really nice updates.  Twenty suites were modernized, carpet and wall coverings were replaced in many public areas, and the “Kids Crew” area received a face lift.

  The most exciting improvement to the Sun is the addition of Moderno Churrascaria, the Brazillian steak house.  This restaurant proved to be so popular on the Epic that its nice to see it introduced on other NCL ships.  Will the Dawn be so lucky?  Time alone will tell.

 The Murder Mystery Lunch with Second City that debuted on the Epic has also received rave reviews.  So much so that  it will soon be offered on the Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Spirit, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Star.  The “who dun-it” was written by Scott Turow, the author who wrote the best seller “Presumed Innocent.”

 Speaking of the Norwegian Epic, for those that felt the casino area reeked of cigarette smoke, the problem has been solved.  Built in air purifier / ionizer units have replaced the portable units and they seem to be working beautifully.

 Lastly, if you liked being able to pre-book your dining reservations online for the Norwegian Epic, you will soon be able to do it fleet wide.  Look for this enhancement to be rolled out ship by ship sometime this spring."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Celebrity Cruise Line 2011 Guest Chefs

Savor Your Destination” is part of the Celebrity Life program that gives food and wine enthusiasts the opportunity to enhance their cruise experience with a series of events that emphasize their passion for fine food. On select sail dates a celebrity chef is invited aboard to share their expertise.

 Planned events include:
  •  A meet and chat with the guest chef during a private cocktail party.
  •  Watch a chef-led cooking demo highlighting special techniques and / or ingredients.
  •  Book signings for those chefs that have published books.
  •  Hands-on cooking classes in the ship’s galley.
  •  Exclusive food and wine pairing dinners designed and presented by the chef. 
 This year’s “big star” is Sara Moulton of Food Network fame, though her impressive credentials exceed the numerous television shows that she has hosted.  She has authored several cookbooks, and was the executive chef of  ""Gourmet"" magazine for over 20 years.   She is also the food editor of ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America”.  Ms. Moulton will sail on the Celebrity Eclipse on March 26, 2011.

 Additional ""Savor Your Destination"" guest chef theme cruises will be led by:
  • Chef Dean James Max of 3030 Ocrean in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and five other restaurants, sailing on Celebrity Eclipse on March 12, 2011
  • Chef Timon Balloo of Sugarcane in Miami, sailing on Celebrity Equinox on April 1, 2011
  • Chef Govind Armstrong of 8 Oz. Burger Bar in Louisiana, Los Angeles, and Miami's South Beach, sailing on Celebrity Equinox on April 11, 2011
  • Chef John Suley of Gotham Steak at Miami's Fontainebleau Resort, sailing on Celebrity Equinox on April 22, 2011
  • Chef Angel Palacios of La Broche in Madrid, Spain, sailing on Celebrity Solstice on June 7, 2011
  • Chef Jordi Valles of The Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, Mexico, sailing on Celebrity Solstice on October 11, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Royal Caribbean announces Project Sunshine

Royal Caribbean is at it again!  Fresh off the arrival of the largest cruise ships in the industry (Allure & Oasis of the Seas), Royal Caribbean already has plans for a new class of ship.  While not much has been revealed about this new class, we can can tell you that Royal Caribbean has signed a letter of intent with the German shipyard Meyer Werft to build at a minimum one new RCCL cruise ship.  The new class of ship is currently referred to as ""Project Sunshine"" and will be approximately 158,000 gross tons and occupy 4,100 passengers.  Arrival of the new Royal Caribbean ship is scheduled in fall of 2014.

Already many are speculating about the new features onboard ""Project Sunshine"".  It is noticeably smaller than the Oasis & Allure of the Seas, so some believe this ship will more resemble the elegance and intimate design of the Radiance class.

More details to come."