Thursday, December 21, 2006

Celebrity Cruises Quest

Celebrity Cruises announced today that they have acquired a second new ship for the Celebrity Fleet, named Celebrity Quest. Celebrity Quest will join the fleet on October 19, 2007.

The ship, formerly known as the Blue Moon from Pullmantur, and prior to that the R7, from Renaissance Cruises is scheduled to visit unique Caribbean ports, such as Grand Turk, St. Barts, St. John, and Santa Marta, Columbia, and many more. The itineraries will vary from 12-14 nights.

The Celebrity Quest, joins Celebrity Cruises as the 2nd addition after the Celebrity Journey, which joins Celebrity’s fleet in May 2007 sailing to Bermuda, and then is scheduled to sail to unique ports in South America ports for the winter.

These two new Celebrity Cruise ships (Quest & Journey) will both offer these following amenities:
  • Open seating in the restaurant
  • No formal nights, casually elegant
  • Butler Service with every stateroom
  • Upgraded Concierge Class amenities in every stateroom
  • Two Specialty Restaurants

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Happy Holidays from Royal Caribbean

In this season of gift-giving, Royal Caribbean introduces a holiday promotion sure to delight any special recipient. Throughout the month of December, when a Royal Caribbean gift certificate ($250 or higher) is purchased, and the recipient uses the certificate toward a cruise vacation taken before April 15, 2007, the recipient will also receive an additional bonus onboard credit of $25 as a holiday gift from Royal Caribbean International. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Royal Caribbean Enhancements for Future Booking Onboard Program

Royal Caribbean has now made it easier than ever to plan your next cruise vacation while onboard anyone of Royal Caribbean’s magnificent ships. For the cruise line’s loyal cruisers, Royal Caribbean has introduced the NextCruise option to ease the planning of a guest’s next cruise. The new program allows vacationers enjoying a Royal Caribbean cruise to book their next cruise vacation without having to commit to a specific date or itinerary. By paying a nominal, non-refundable deposit, guests are eligible to receive an onboard credit to use on their next cruise. Royal Caribbean will notify the guest’s travel agent when a NextCruise booking has been made and once the guest has decided on a sail date and ship, they can work with their preferred travel partner to process the booking. Deposits have no expiration date.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Celebrity Cruises Introduces the Journey

Celebrity Cruises has announced today that they have finalized their plans for a ship swapping involving Pullmantur’s Blue Dream and Celebrity’s Zenith. The Blue Dream will be renamed Celebrity Journey and will join Celebrity Cruises fleet in April 2007, sailing to Bermuda round-trip from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey beginning May 5, 2007.

Before officially switching brands, the new Journey will undergo a one-month revitalization and drydock to incorporate many of Celebrity’s signature elements such as two specialty restaurants, expanded spa services, including in-room offerings, expanded concierge service, including butlers and additional guest suites. The restyled ship will then sail the same Bermuda itineraries originally scheduled for the Zenith.

The Celebrity Zenith will sail regularly scheduled Caribbean itineraries from Tampa until April 13, at which time she will sail a Caribbean and Bermuda itinerary from Tampa to Cape Liberty. The April 13 sailing will be the ship’s last sailing as part of the Celebrity fleet before she redeploys to the Pullmantur fleet in June 2007.

The Celebrity Journey was originally constructed in France and entered service in May 2000 as the R6 from Renaissance Cruise Line. Soon after, the R6 was purchased by Pullmantur and renamed the Blue Dream. With slightly more than 700 guests, the 30,000 ton Celebrity Journey will offer a traditional Celebrity cruise experience in a more intimate environment. With upgraded amenity packages and butler service in every stateroom, guests onboard the Journey will truly feel pampered every day of their cruise experience.

“Celebrity Journey will be an ideal ship for the Bermuda market,” said Celebrity Cruises President Dan Hanrahan. “Its smaller size and upscale style are perfect complements to premium destinations such as St. Georges & Hamilton.”

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas to Undergo Extensive Refurbishment

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line announced today that the Majesty of the Seas will be dry docked from January 12 through February 9, 2007 to begin renovations that will extend to every area of the ship. Once renovated, the Majesty of the Seas will provide guests with the following updated features:
  • Refurbished staterooms with new bedding and flat-screen TV's
  • Refurbished corridors
  • Remodeled Centrum, dining rooms and pool deck
  • Refurbished casino, theatre and entertainment areas
  • Remodeled Adventure Ocean Youth Program facilities
  • Expanded and redesigned ShipShape Day Spa and Fitness Center
  • New Windjammer Cafe with Sorrento's Pizza and Johnny Rockets
  • Royal Caribbean Boleros Latin Lounge
  • Latte-tudes coffee shop featuring Seattle's Best Coffee and an ice cream parlor
  • Expanded conference facilities
Once completed, the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas will resume it's 3 and 4-night Bahamas cruise itineraries round-trip from Miami, Florida.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Rosie O’Donnell Anointed Norwegian Pearl's Godmother

Following in the footsteps of Whoopi Goldberg, Gloria Estefan and Sophia Loren, Rosie O'Donnell was announced today as the godmother of the Norwegian Pearl. The poular talk show host of ABC's morning show "The View" will christen NCL’s newest cruise ship in a ceremony at the Port of Miami on Saturday, December 16 at 5 p.m. The Norwegian Pearl is the newest cruise ship offered by NCL and will be the first-ever ship to feature a bowling alley.

Norwegian Cruise Line has also donated the use of Norwegian Pearl to O’Donnell’s charity, Rosie’s For All Kids Foundation, for a one-night charity event on Friday, December 15. Guests onboard the one-night cruise will enjoy an evening of culinary delights, a Broadway-style show in the Stardust Theater with O’Donnell and guest entertainers direct from Broadway performing, a comedy show by popular comedy troupe Second City and a sail-away cocktail party on the pool deck.

“We are so pleased that Rosie will serve as Godmother of Norwegian Pearl,” said Colin Veitch, NCL Corporation’s president and CEO. “Rosie is a talented entertainer and dedicated philanthropist, and both these qualities will be front and center during the christening and charity event of Norwegian Pearl. We will raise a lot of money for her charitable foundation, which will allow her to expand on the broad range of work already undertaken to improve the quality of life for children all over America.”

NCL will donate the use of Norwegian Pearl, inclusive of all food, beverage and shipboard entertainment for the one-night event with 100 percent of the ticket revenue being given to the charity. “After chartering four ships with NCL, I have experienced the innovative product and exemplarily service of the crew first hand so I’m very proud to serve as Godmother of the company’s newest ship -- Norwegian Pearl,” O’Donnell said. “I’m also thrilled we will be using Norwegian Pearl for a cause that is very close to my heart – helping disadvantaged children. It is the perfect venue to raise money for children in need around the country.”

The 93,500-ton Norwegian Pearl, which will be delivered to NCL on November 28, is the ninth new ship in six years for NCL and continues the company’s plan to completely renew its fleet and by 2010, will feature the youngest fleet in the industry. Norwegian Pearl is the latest edition of the line’s innovative Jewel-class ships boasting an industry first – a four-lane ten-pin bowling alley; and two NCL firsts -- a rock-climbing wall and two top-of-the-ship Deluxe Owner’s Suites on deck 15.

Just like her sisters –Norwegian Star, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Jewel and Pride of Hawaii -- Norwegian Pearl will accommodate 2,400 guests, and features all the elements of NCL’s dynamic modern Freestyle Cruising fleet including multiple restaurants, lively public rooms, versatile, family-friendly accommodations and NCL’s sizzling new style of accommodations - Courtyard Villas - which along with each ship’s two Garden Villas make up the biggest, most luxurious and innovative suite complexes at sea.

After a series of inaugural events in Europe and Miami, the ship will sail two seven-day itineraries to the Caribbean (Eastern and Western) beginning Dec. 22, 2006. On January 5, 2007, Norwegian Pearl features its innovative five and nine-day Western and Southern Caribbean schedule. Ports of call on the five-day Western Caribbean itinerary include stops in Cozumel, Mexico and Belize City, Belize. The nine-day Southern Caribbean route includes calls in Roseau, Dominica; Bridgetown, Barbados; Castries, St. Lucia; St. John’s, Antigua and Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

I will have the opportunity to see the Norwegian Pearl first hand for a travel-agent only 2-night cruise on December 16 to the 18th. I will post a full report after I come back from this cruise.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Royal Caribbean Cruises to Australia

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line will now be offering guests a truly unique vacation experience. On October 16, 2006 Royal Caribbean officially announced that cruise passengers will have the opportunity to set sail to exotic Australia.

Royal Caribbean International is combining its signature active cruise experience with crocodiles, kangaroos and koala bears, when the cruise line returns to the land of 'down under' for the 2007/8 season. Rhapsody of the Seas will embark on a series of new cruise itineraries to the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand as she heads for her recently announced Far East adventure.

Three out of the five new cruise itineraries on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas, sailing September 28, October 15 and November 24, 2007, have been chartered by Cruiseco, a consortium of more than 120 cruise specialist travel agencies in Australia. On Sept. 28, Rhapsody departs Honolulu for Sydney on a 16-night sailing, stopping in Maui, Hawaii, before she visits the distinctive and captivating island destinations of Papeete, Moorea, and Bora Bora, French Polynesia; as well as Lautoka in the Fiji Islands. On Oct. 15, Rhapsody will sail on a 12-night South Pacific cruise from Sydney, Australia calling on the exotic ports of Noumea and Isle of Pines in New Caledonia; Suva in the Fiji Islands; and Vila in Vanuatu, where visitors can discover the quaint French and English colonial architecture. On Nov. 24, she will depart on a 15-night cruise to Singapore, and visiting the ports of Brisbane, Hamilton Island, Great Barrier Reef, Cairns and Darwin in Australia and Bali, Indonesia.

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 10, Rhapsody of the Seas will feature 14-night round-trip cruises from Sydney to New Zealand, cruising through Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound and visit the ports of Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Napier, Tauranga and Auckland. These cruises will be available for sale through travel agents in all global markets except for Australia where bookings for the New Zealand sailings will be sold exclusively through Cruiseco.

For passengers wanting to enhance their cruise vacation with a land-based experience, Royal Caribbean offers some exciting cruise-tour packages out of Sydney. Explorers can take a charter flight to Cairns - the best place to see crocodiles and native wildlife in Tropical North Queensland - and experience the "Quicksilver" boat tour, which enables guests to experience various marine adventures at the Great Barrier Reef, including swimming, snorkeling, diving or exploring the Reef from an underwater observatory. At the Olgas, vacationers have the opportunity to discover ancestral secrets of the desert land during the aboriginal Liru tour or visit the vividly colored dome rocks rising from the plains.

For more information on this Australia cruise vacation offered by Royal Caribbean, please reply to this post and I will provide you with details.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Royal Caribbean Sails to Exotic Asia

The following is a press release issued directly by Royal Caribbean International on September 15, 2006:

MIAMI, Sept. 15, 2006 - Royal Caribbean International announces its return to Asia in December 2007, bringing the active cruising experience to the region. The Vision-class ship, featuring the line's signature rock-climbing wall and indoor glass walls providing exotic views of Asian landscapes, will offer a series of exciting cruises out of Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai, visiting exotic ports of call in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.

"The introduction of Rhapsody of the Seas into Asia, together with our previously announced deployments of ships to South America and the Dominican Republic are all part of the company's strategy of international business development and expansion into emerging and high-growth markets," said Adam Goldstein, president of Royal Caribbean International. "We have had the pleasure of hosting thousands of satisfied Asian guests onboard our vessels over the past several years and intend to bring to Asia all of the elements and the characteristics of our style of cruising that have made our brand globally recognized as an award-winning vacation experience."

Rhapsody of the Seas will debut December 10, 2007, in Singapore offering a series of sailings that will call on Malaysia and Thailand. The ship's Asia tour continues on from Hong Kong, where she will arrive in time for the Chinese New Year holiday season, offering a series of itineraries calling at ports in Taiwan, Japan, and Sanya, Hainan Island. Then moving to Shanghai, China, Rhapsody will call on ports in Japan and Korea. Additional details of Rhapsody's itineraries will be available by mid-October 2006.

"We are confident that the Asian market and the Pan Asia regions, in general, have tremendous growth potential, and view this as a first step in a long-term plan that will define cruising in the region. In addition, there has been an increased level of awareness and interest in travel to Asia from India, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East which we predict will become strong secondary source markets," said Goldstein. "I would like to extend my gratitude to the various governmental authorities, port authorities and tourism boards in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai for their encouragement that helped us to make this exciting decision."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

NEW BRAND IDENTITY FOR NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

The following is a press release issued directly from Norwegian Cruise Line on September 19, 2006:

For the first time in 10 years, NCL Corporation Ltd, (“NCL”) today unveiled a new, all­encompassing brand identity created expressly to capture and articulate the company’s unique Freestyle Cruising—an approach to cruising unlike any other offered in the industry.
NCL’s Freestyle Cruising turns traditional cruising on its head and is characterized, in particular, by having no fixed dining times, no formal dress codes, relaxed disembarkation, up to 10 different restaurants and even more lounges, bars, theatres and other entertainment and activity options.

Spanning all consumer, travel agent and guest touch points, the comprehensive new brand identity captures the non­traditional, free­spirited attitude that is reflected throughout the NCL onboard experience. NCL’s innovative onboard experience offers vacationers freedom from the stress and demands of everyday life and freedom to enjoy a less structured, more relaxed, resort style experience than traditional cruising.

The marketing plan features national television, radio, print, newspaper, out­of­home and online advertising, along with a completely new Web site. NCL’s guests and travel agents will also see all new materials encompassing all cruise line correspondence, onboard and in­ cabin elements and even port signage and terminal d├ęcor.

Consumers and travel agents will get their first look at the new brand identity when it debuts on Oct. 2, 2006 in a variety of media and online at the company’s Web site, www.ncl.com.

The new brand identity breaks the mold of traditional cruise industry marketing with its light­hearted, experiential tone. One way the brand is characterized is with a graphic treatment
­­featuring a white fish swimming against the direction of a school of blue fish, depicting NCL’s innovative spirit in the cruise industry, as well as the type of guest that NCL is looking to attract, one who is a “non­conformist”. NCL’s research shows that the types of people who are attracted to Freestyle Cruising see themselves as individualists in a world in which increasingly
everyone else is doing what they are told and accepting what is offered. NCL guests want to enjoy their cruise on their terms without the structure and regimentation that is still the central feature of traditional cruises.

“With NCL set to have by far the youngest fleet in the industry by 2010, with all of our new ships purpose­built for Freestyle Cruising and deployed in all major cruise destinations and our NCL America fleet now fully in place, the time is right to build large scale consumer
awareness through a major brand identity initiative,” said Andy Stuart, NCL Corporation’s
executive vice president of sales, marketing and passenger services.

“We believe bringing the brand to life in one unified voice across everything we do will help NCL and our travel partners expand the cruising population,” said Scott Rogers, NCL Corporation’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Our travel partners have done a great job helping educate their clients on the benefits of Freestyle Cruising and selling NCL cruises, and now we are ready to bring the story to everyone, driving more guests into their offices.

“Our research shows that non­cruisers and even those who have cruised but were not ‘in­love’ with cruising, readily identified with the traditional, staid norms of cruising such as dining and dress code as key barriers to try cruising or repeat,” Rogers continued. “This all­ encompassing brand identity truly illustrates how we are different from other cruise lines and seeks to create demand not only among those who have cruised before, but also with non­
cruisers who are accustomed to more conventional, land­based vacations.”

Branding agency GSD&M of Austin, Texas, created the new brand identity and is handling the media planning and buying.

“Our challenge was to bring to life the feeling of complete freedom a guest feels on an NCL cruise in every aspect of the brand experience. We created one unified look and feel that extends beyond advertising and surrounds consumers before, during and after their cruise,”
said Roy Spence, president and founder of GSD&M.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Goodbye “Dot Com”, & hello “Dot Travel”

Looking for a travel agency online, but how do you distinguish reputable agencies from potential nightmares. I’ll admit it is a difficult task because there are virtually millions of travel websites at your disposal any day, but who can be trusted. For instance, you can do a Google search for “Royal Caribbean Cruises” and over 16 million web-sites will show up.

Since the travel industry has become one of the largest industries on the Internet, consumers will soon be introduced to the world of dot travel. Yes, you heard correctly. Say goodbye to the “old-fashioned” dot com and embrace dot travel.

The dot travel domain is supported by the global travel and tourism industry through sponsorship by the Travel Partnership Corporation. What does this all mean to the innocent consumer? Only authenticated travel companies are permitted to hold a dot travel domain name. This will provide consumers with complete assurance that they are dealing with a reputable travel company. Essentially if a website has a dot travel at the end of it’s name, then you know you are dealing with a certified travel agency.

Consumers may now visit the www.search.travel directory to find a list of authenticated dot travel websites. The search.travel site has been created and will be maintained by the Tralliance Corporation. I am personally expecting big things from Tralliance and the dot travel industry within the next year or two. They have just begun their consumer awareness campaign in late August and they will continue to educate consumers about dot travel throughout 2007.

If you have any questions about dot travel, please feel free to reply to this post.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Norwegian Cruise Line to Build up to Three NEW Ships


The following is a press release issued directly from Norwegian Cruise Line on September 7, 2006:

NCL announced today that it has entered into a contract with Aker Yards S.A. of France to build up to three new cruise ships, totaling 12,600 berths for delivery between 2009 and 2011. The contract price, comprising two firm ships and one option, is €2.17 billion, or approximately $2.8 billion at today's exchange rate

The ships will be built for the company's Norwegian Cruise Line brand (NCL) and will each be approximately 150,000 Gross Tons and 4,200 passenger berths. The order is firm for two ships for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2009 and the second quarter of 2010, and there is an option for a third sister ship for delivery in the first quarter of 2011. The contract price for each of the first two ships is €735 million, and for the optional third ship is €700 million.

At today's exchange rate, the contract price on the two firm ships translates to approximately $224,000 per passenger lower berth. The contracts are being placed in Euro, equivalent to €175,000 per lower berth. The option ship is priced at €166,667 per berth, or approximately $213,000 per berth at today's exchange rate.

The new ships, with the project name "F3", will incorporate a world of new features and will represent NCL's third generation of Freestyle Cruising ships, a further evolution of NCL's progressive dismantling of the structure, regimentation, and constraints of the traditional cruise experience. Details of the ship's design will be released closer to delivery. The cabin mix will be the richest of any NCL ship to date, and will include the feature that 100% of outside staterooms will have private balconies. In total, the ship will have 1,415 balcony staterooms and suites.

NCL's unique Freestyle Cruising offers vacationers a less structured, more relaxed, more resort-style experience than traditional cruising. It is characterized, in particular, by having no fixed dining times, no formal dress codes, up to ten different restaurants and even more lounges, bars, theatres and other entertainment and activity options. The new ship design will offer 60% more passenger space than the largest ships built so far by NCL, and will use that space to introduce a major leap forward in the flexibility and variety of the cruise experience, entirely in keeping with the Freestyle Cruising philosophy already established.

The unique use of space on these new ships is designed for optimal cost efficiency per capacity day, as well as being highly attractive in terms of cabin revenue mix and onboard revenue generation. The design is a unique blend of cruise industry best practice, offering both an exciting, high quality product, and a space efficient, cost efficient framework in which to deliver that product.

The company is currently undergoing a complete renewal of its fleet and these new orders, when delivered, are projected to take the combined Norwegian Cruise Line and NCL America fleets, in 2010, to a position of being by far the youngest fleet amongst the major North American lines, with an average ship size, fleet wide, of over 2,500 passenger lower berths, and with over 50% of all staterooms fleet wide offering private balconies. Commenting on the order, Tan Sri K T Lim, chairman of NCL and Star Cruises, said: "This order, placed in NCL's 40th anniversary year, marks the culmination of our plans to transform this great company. By 2010 there will be almost nothing left of the NCL we bought in 2000 except the name and the people, and in place of the old, mixed fleet we inherited, there will be the youngest, most innovative and exciting fleet in the industry."

NCL's President and CEO, Colin Veitch, said: "This order is a strong statement of our confidence in the North American cruise industry and NCL's leading role in it. Our U.S. flag start-up costs have obscured, for the past two years, the attractive financial returns on the international fleet of ships that we have built since Star Cruises bought NCL. All our growth from now on will be in this strongly profitable sector of our fleet, and will take us well past the goal we set ourselves of having the youngest fleet in the industry and a transformed financial profile by 2010."

The contract has been placed with Aker Yards S.A., formerly Chantiers de l'Atlantique, in St. Nazaire, France. Since the spring of this year, Aker Yards S.A. has been a subsidiary of the Norwegian shipbuilding group Aker Yards ASA and a sister company to the Finnish shipyard Aker Yards Finland. With this order, these two yards between them have built, or are building, all ten of the largest cruise ships in the world.

Commenting on the choice of yard, Veitch said: "We have successfully built exclusively in Germany for the last ten years but, with our expanding new build program, we have felt the need to work with an additional yard. With this new order we are, in fact, re-connecting with not one but two yards that we know well from prior times." The French yard and the Finnish yard have both built for NCL's earlier generation of ships in the 1980's and 1990's.

The new order is conditional on financing, completion of the design specification, and Star Cruises shareholder approval.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Royal Caribbean “Freedom” Experience




So, practically every travel agent within the cruise industry had been eagerly anticipating the introduction of the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas. After all, we have heard the hype and rumors for over the last two or three years. The question is: Does this cruise ship live up to the hype?

Before introducing the Freedom of the Seas to the consumer market in early June 2006, travel agents like myself were privileged to a sneak peek of the cruise ship in May. My wife and a few of my colleagues boarded the ship for a 2-Night cruise from May 16 through May 18, 2006. The ship departed from Royal Caribbean’s new cruise port, Cape Liberty. For those of you who don’t know, Cape Liberty is located in Bayonne, New Jersey.

Immediately upon arriving into the port of Cape Liberty, you couldn’t help but be blown away by the sheer size of this cruise ship. The Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas is approximately 160,000 gross tons, which currently makes it the largest cruise ship in the industry. My question: What is the fuel cost to make this ship move?

Anyway, once inside the cruise ship, I immediately recognized a familiar theme from Royal Caribbean’s Voyager class cruise ships. Just like the Voyager class, the Freedom of the Seas boasted a Royal Promenade, ice skating rink, rock climbing wall, Johnny rockets, basketball courts and a mini-golf course. Make no mistake about it; this brand new cruise ship has a very similar design to the Voyager class. If you have been on a Voyager class cruise ship, then you should have no problem finding your way around this ship. They are laid out in a very similar fashion.

Now, just because the Freedom of the Seas layout is similar to the Voyager class, doesn’t mean this ship has nothing new to offer. While the Royal Promenade looks the same and maybe is just a little longer, Royal Caribbean has added some nice new touches. The Freedom’s Royal Promenade features two eateries, one on each side of the ship. One side of the promenade features an Italian pizzeria and the other side has a coffee shop / delicatessen. I was very glad about the two eateries featured in the promenade because it’s quite a long walk to the other side of the ship and I feared I would starve to death. The new promenade also featured a barbershop, which was a new and interesting idea. Personally, I think I would be a little embarrassed getting a shave while my fellow vacationers passed me by. But hey, that’s just me….

The newest addition that really stood out for me was the H20 Zone water park. While there were barely any children on our cruise (just travel agents), I could really see children and their parents having a blast in this amazing water park. The water park features multiple pools, obstacle courses and colorful statues spitting water out in every direction. My wife and I lounged out near the H20 zone just to soak in all of the great eye candy. Parents can lounge out in the sun while their children have a blast running and swimming for hours. In my opinion, this was the best new addition!

Two other new additions were the FlowRider and the Boxing Ring. I must admit I was skeptical about both of these additions. They had several Royal Caribbean crewmembers demonstrating the Flow Rider surf simulator and it was nice to watch them do some neat tricks. Although, I couldn’t see myself doing this and it did get a little dull to watch after awhile. Now, the Boxing Ring really surprised me. Before, I got onto the cruise ship, I asked myself, “Who would want to fight on their vacation?” Once aboard, I was really impressed and convinced this was a neat idea. The boxing ring was featured in Royal Caribbean’s state of the art gym, which is the largest gym on any cruise ship. While I was exercising, I watched an instructor teach a couple how to spar in the ring. It really looked interesting and they seemed to be getting a great work out. If you get a chance to cruise on the Freedom of the Seas, you must see the gym. It’s even better than most gyms I have used in my hometown. I would cruise on this ship just to use the gym.

So how would I summarize my experience onboard the Freedom? Well, if you have been lucky enough to sail on anyone of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager class ships, then you probably won’t be blown away by the Freedom. However, I believe Royal Caribbean has done a fine job addressing some issues with the Voyager class and have implemented some welcome new additions to the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas. Again, in my opinion the H20 Zone water park is the best new addition. If you are planning a family vacation, you should really consider this cruise ship because it offers just so much to do for all ages. If you have any questions regarding the Freedom, please feel free to reply to this post and I will get back to you ASAP.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Romance is possible on a family vacation

I was speaking with a friend of mine who has a young family and he was telling me that because he has a one-year-old and a five-year-old, holiday vacations have pretty much become null for them lately. They can’t seem to keep up with the five-year-old as much as they’d like because of the baby, and even though they want to have the whole family for their vacations, they would also love to have some alone time when they go away.

I had suggested they consider cruising for obvious reasons such as the price, the different destinations, etc… but the thing we talked about most was what I considered the most ‘family friendly’ ships which are the Royal Caribbean Voyager Class Ships, such as The Explorer of the Seas, which leaves out of Bayonne, New Jersey.

The forte of the Voyager class ships is that the ships are so large it includes tons of activities to keep the whole family entertained. But actually, what we hit upon wasn’t that the whole family was being entertained “together”. It was actually more that they could still enjoy vacationing together as a family – going to the shows, enjoying meals, lounging by the pool, scaling the rock climbing wall… and that they also have the option to be able to enjoy their vacation alone as husband and wife.

You see, because the Voyager Class ships have so many activities for kids, mom and dad are still free to drop the five-year-old off at the Adventure Ocean Kid's Center and schedule a babysitter for their one-year-old. So even though they are very much on vacation with the entire family, they don’t have to feel guilty when they want to have a nice romantic dinner for two, or simply just have a ‘grown-up’ guilt-free-kid-free evening.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Know a good travel agent?

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has announced that their brand new cruise ship, "Liberty of the Seas" will have a travel agent as it's godmother. In the past, we have been accustom to seeing the likes of Gloria Estefan, Whoopi Goldberg, Sophia Loren and many other popular celebrities appointed as cruise ship godmothers, but it looks like things are changing.....

This past May, Katherine Louise Calder was anointed the godmother of the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas. Katherine was selected because of her outstanding work in the community as she is a foster mother to over 400 children.

Royal Caribbean is looking for the Liberty of the Seas godmother to be a travel agent who has demonstrated excellent work in his or her community. Entries are now being accepted by consumers and travel agents at http://www.cruisingpower.com/libertygodmother/. The deadline for entry submission is on December 9, 2006. The Liberty of the Seas godmother will be announced at the Cruise Lines International Association's cruise3sixty conference, which takes place March 30 to April 1, 2007.

The Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas along with the Freedom of the Seas will be the largest cruise ship in the industry, when she debuts in May 2007. This 160,000 ton ship will boast many of the same innovations found on the Freedom of the Seas, such as the FlowRider, H20 Zone Aqua Park, cantilevered whirlpools suspended 112 feet above the ocean, boxing ring and much more. Liberty of the Seas will sail alternating seven-night Western and Eastern Caribbean cruises round-trip from Miami, Florida.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

My Honeymoon Cruise Vacation

I have to be quite honest with you, I am no stranger to cruising. But let me start at the beginning.

Just a few years ago I had never been on a cruise. One day my mother decided on a whim to join some friends on this cruise vacation that they had found at an “incredible deal”. After she realized the food and entertainment were also included in the price of the cruise, we were sold.

Since then I can’t tell you how many cruises I’ve been on. I have sailed mostly on the Royal Caribbean Voyager class ships, quite often from New York and New Jersey ports, and more often than not to the Caribbean. Some trips were family reunions, some were just the boyfriend and myself, another one was myself with my mom.

My then boyfriend now husband and I just got married in December 2005. When we were planning our honeymoon, we, not surprisingly, decided to go on a cruise. Actually, we went on both a cruise and a land based honeymoon. I wanted to go on a completely land based vacation, and my husband wanted to go on yet another cruise. I felt that we had been on a few cruises already so we should try to do something new. He felt that (and still feels that) cruising is the best deal we could find and of course, after having spent so much for our wedding, we should try to save where we can. So we compromised and did a few days at a 5star resort in Puerto Rico, and left from the San Juan port to take a 7 night Southern Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Cruises Constellation.

I enjoyed both aspects of my honeymoon. The resort was beautiful, there was a private beach you could take a ferry out to every day and enjoy. The sun was strong and there were many pools that you could lay out by. The grounds were beautiful – definitely picturesque…we even saw a bride and groom posing for the perfect “getting married on the beach” style wedding. But there were a few things I didn’t like too much. First of all, the rooms weren’t nearly as clean as we were used to seeing on the different cruise ships I had been on. Granted I’m sure that Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines all make it their jobs, their number one priority to have those cabins spic and span for people…but then shouldn’t every hotel? Compared to the cabins on one of the cruise ships, the rooms at the land based resort were no where near as impeccable.

Another thing I had started to take for granted while on cruise ships was the fact that the entertainment was included in the price. While we were there, there wasn’t much entertainment offered at the resort – it was much more of a lay by the pool and have a few cocktails at night kind of place. One night they actually had booked a lounge act – a magician I believe, but you still had to pay for each ticket. I know, I realize that if I was at home I would have to pay for a ticket to see any kind of live entertainment as well, but the point is that I wasn’t home – I was on vacation and I had been spoiled with the cruise ships and their ability to give not only entertainment included in the price, but quality entertainment. In the defense of the resort, it easily could have been the time of year and that’s why they didn’t have a whole lot going on. Or maybe it was the day of thee week, I can’t remember. But I know now that on a cruise, it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, what month of thee year or season…the entertainment is always provided, there’s always a wide variety, and it’s always included in the price of the cruise.

The last thing that I really took home with me from my honeymoon was that cruise food really is good- and a good value. There we were at a 5 star resort among the palm trees and miles and miles of beautiful landscape and vegetation… and I thought the food was just okay. Actually, the food was okay, but what made it ‘just okay’ and not better was that it also wasn’t included in the price.

In the end I think my avid cruising hasn’t helped my outlook on other types of vacations. I just feel like cruising is such a good value for your money. You get a nice, very clean, room… you get a cabin steward who cleans your room and bathroom for you everyday. You get your meals included – and seriously, everyone always jokes about how people always gain weight on cruises, well, they don’t gain all that weight because the food tastes bad!

You also get free entertainment, and a variety at that. With some of the entertainers on the different cruise ships, we would sit back and seriously be amazed at their talents. While on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas, they had a trio that my family would enjoy sitting around and listening to for hours – seriously every day the dads would congregate with their gin and tonics and listen to those guys play, and the rest of us would use them as a meeting place because we always knew where they would be. When we were on the Celebrity Constellation I was convinced that was the best entertainment I had seen – ever. Growing up in New York, I have always been a fan of Broadway and grew up appreciating the dancing, singing, lighting, background art, costume design…all aspects of theatre. For our honeymoon, when we got off the Celebrity Constellation I was so sold on the Celebrity Singers & Dancers, that I told my mom to book that ship just so she could go and see the same performers I saw. Then a few months later my husband and I took a two day tour of the new ship by Royal Caribbean, the Freedom of the Seas. And then I was even more floored by the entertainment. I had thought for a new ship the cast was probably going to have a few things they needed to work out, maybe their dance routines would be off, maybe they wouldn’t harmonize correctly…but they were phenomonial. They sounded great, they looked great, they were always on point, on key… even the backdrops were impressive. I remember one act they had a Pinnochio theme, and they opened the curtain and the stage literally looked like you were in Ghepettos workshop. All the dancers were dressed up like little marionettes, and they started the song with all the dancers lying on the bookshelves fast asleep. Then as the music kept going, all the marrionettes started coming to life. It was the first time since the barricade of Les Miserables started moving that I was completely amazed – and I could tell that everyone else was too, because as the curtain opened there was a uniform sigh of appreciation and amazement from the crowd. It was actually quite inspring, because you could tell that your fellow cruisers actually appreciated the effort that went into the making and creating, and the lighting of that backdrop. And it made me happy that the background crew had their work appreciated. I work in television so I always feel for the guys behind the scenes who always get overlooked.

What I think is ironic is that I actually learned about my vacationing style from my honeymoon. We did both a land based resort and a cruise – and now I appreciate the art of cruising so much more. I appreciate the price, the food and entertainment being included, the cleanliness of the cabins – and at the same time being able to wake up and have a whole new place to explore. Don’t get me wrong, I know I can have a good time at a hotel or resort – but for me, I guess I just appreciate the value of each dollar and personally feel that cruising makes my dollar go farther.

Friday, August 18, 2006

My Hawaii Cruise Vacation onboard the Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Hawaii

I recently returned from the Norwegian Cruise Line Pride of Hawaii. My family and I wanted to visit Hawaii so we did some research. We found the Pride of Hawaii offered the best itinerary of the options we looked into. We made 4 stops and had overnights in both Maui and Kauai’i. We had the option of going to a hotel for an evening Luau or to check out Hawaiian nightlife.

The ship was beautifully decorated and very clean. Food quality exceeded our expectations. We were able to eat in 5 different restaurants. My advice: Book your dinner reservations as soon as you board. Otherwise you will likely get locked out of the specialty restaurants. On our sailing all restaurants were booked solid by the 2nd day of the cruise. So, as soon as you board see the maitre’d and make your reservations. The nice part, you can get a table for just your family – they have many tables for 2, 4 & 6. The service in the main dining room was slower than we are used to but we later found out it’s due to an understaffing issue. We spoke with one of our waiters and they said NCL is actively working on this situation. Since it is an American registered ship it carries an all American crew.

All public areas were colorful and happy. Palm trees surround the pool and spray a light mist every ten minutes. She has a spiral slide into the kiddie pool. Next to it is an adult pool with a waterfall. Nice idea but they didn’t actively keep the kids out of the adult pool. The crew didn’t push drinks on us, a very relaxing atmosphere. If you wanted to stay busy they had a lot going on. The afternoon hula and lei making classes were very popular. The evening shows were excellent. I especially enjoyed the magic acts. NCL brought on 2 guys from Vegas to perform 2 evenings.

The captain altered our itinerary so we were able to sail past the Napali coastline in daylight. We sailed past sea cliffs, waterfalls and rainbows. One evening we were due to sail past Mt. Kilawea to see the lava flow into the ocean. We had just finished dinner and came upon the viewing. Our waiter suggested we go outside to view it. He held our table while we went outside and had dessert for us when we came back: Great treatment in my book. If you’re thinking of doing a Hawaii cruise, book the Pride of Hawaii. There are 3 ships that do the same itinerary. I didn’t hear as much positive feedback from friends who sailed on the other 2 NCL ships (Pride of Aloha and America).