Friday, December 21, 2007


Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) invited members of some travel agencies, including the entire Direct Line Cruises staff, to sail on the Gem from December 18 – 20 and attend the christening of the ship. Of course, I knew full well that this was not only NCL’s way of thanking some of its travel agencies for their continued support, but also a way of giving the agents full-blown exposure to this ship, which over the last few months, has been billed as “hot”, “hip” and “it”. As excited as I was to simply be getting away for a few days, I was very eager to see whether the adjectives being used by NCL in their promotions were accurate. I was even more eager because being that I only started working for Direct Line Cruises a few months ago, I never had the opportunity to sail on an NCL ship.

Upon arriving at the port on the 18th, our entire staff and their guests were greeted by extremely friendly and helpful people who quickly processed our boarding passes. Before I could even turn away from the woman who provided me with my boarding pass, there was a gentlemen waiting for me who took my bag and proceeded to escort me to the ship. Fresh out of a scene from the pre-Oscar or Grammy festivities, there was a red carpet lined up with cameras and people on microphones to speak to travel agents as if they were the “stars”.

I boarded the ship and was immediately greeted with a glass of fine bubbly. Now, before I go any further, I am certain there are certain things which I will describe in this blog that were unique to this particular sailing. The bubbly was not one of them. In fact, it was announced later on that in the near future, all guests who board an NCL ship will be greeted with a glass of bubbly to start of their cruise. Once I gladly took my champagne, I was escorted to my room – a Penthouse Suite. This suite had two bedrooms, two bathrooms (one of which was tremendous), a living room area, a dining area, three flat screen televisions, a Jacuzzi, a stylish coffee/tea maker, a very large balcony and if that was not enough, butler service.

After taking in the absolute beauty of my room, I had lunch in the Garden Café which is where the buffet is located. The stations were immaculate, you could see the food being freshly prepared and displayed right before your eyes, there was more than ample seating available and let me tell you, the food was great. I had a hamburger that was perfectly cooked and was extremely meaty. This was by far not your typical “buffet” hamburger.

Once I finished lunch, I decided it was time to explore and explore I did. I visited the seven specialty restaurants, each one of them having a different theme including Italian, Asian, Southwestern, French, Steakhouse (to name a few). Now let me stop here one second to repeat something in case you missed it. I said SEVEN specialty restaurants whose décor were so perfectly appropriate for each restaurant. That means that on any given evening of your cruise, if you decide you do not want to eat in the main dining room, you can choose from seven different options and have a full course meal more appropriate to the style of food you are interested in. And with seven different restaurants, reservations I am sure should be very easy to come by. Unfortunately, being that the cruise was only two days, I did not have the opportunity to eat at every one of the restaurants. But if they were anything like the ones I did eat at (which I will discuss later), then I am certain they are fantastic.

While exploring, I also tried to find all of the bars/clubs/lounges on the ship. To be honest, I am still not certain that I saw every one of them. There are TEN of them plus an enclosed cigar lounge. They range from a nice and relaxing piano lounge, to the more upbeat Spinnaker Lounge (a large lounge with a very big dance floor and a band that was simply unbelievable) to the quite interesting Bliss Ultra Lounge, which featured great disco and techno music for dancing. Now I use the words “quite interesting” mainly because of the décor, which among other things, includes a couple of beds. Now do not get the wrong idea. There were no shenanigans going on in these beds. This was not a swinger’s cruise. What was going on is that people were having the time of their lives laying down or sitting on these relaxing beds with cocktails in their hands and the option at any given time of getting up and hitting the dance floor or if they preferred, and I can not believe I am saying this, walking over to the four bowling lanes inside the lounge. Yes, you can actually go bowling while on this ship.

We then attended the Christening Ceremony, which was so well put together. Colin Veitch, the President and CEO of NCL, introduced the five finalists for “godmother” of the Gem and played the finalists respective short videos, which although not professionally done, were entertaining. In between the showing of the short videos, we were entertained by Dem Boyz Step Team who performed a great choreographed step number and Luminescence Choir who beautifully sang holiday songs. We then watched Mr. Veitch in the action packed movie “License to Thrill” in which he plays a very good James Bondish type character who is searching the world for the “It” girl which he ultimately found in New York City. When the movie concluded, Mr. Veitch came back on stage and he announced that Cindy Cardella of New Jersey was the winner. Mrs. Cardella had the distinct honor of pulling the lever, which officially activated the mechanism that broke the bottle against the ship and officially christened the ship. Norwegian also awarded her a free garden villa for a future cruise which is over 5,000 square feet, features three bedrooms, a living room area with a grand piano, your own personal outdoor area with a hot tub, a private dining area and so much more.

I then went to Tequila for dinner, which is the Southwestern styled restaurant. Well, as much as I enjoyed my nachos, quesadillas, burritos and margaritas, the ambiance was even better. Tequila hangs over the Crystal Atrium, which includes a floor to ceiling LED screen and stunning color changing fiber optic lights. What made this even more special is while we were eating, we left port at about 7:30PM and were treated to a close up view of a lit up Statute of Liberty, which just made you sit and stare for a few minutes.

After dinner we enjoyed some more drinks at a few of the lounges, pool and darts in the Spinnaker Lounge and then I made my way into the casino. The casino included numerous blackjack tables, Let it Ride, Texas Hold’em, two Three Card Poker tables, two roulette tables (including one which was not manually operated and seemed to be the more popular of the two tables), Craps, Pai-Gow Poker, Pai-Gow Tiles, Mini Baccarat and even a poker table which was being used for a no-limit Texas Hold’em game. Plus, it seemed as if the slot machines were endless. The minimum bet on the tables was extremely reasonable (most tables started at $10.00 although they had a more private area with much higher limits) and the dealers were very friendly. There were also plenty of people walking around eager to take your drink orders.

I returned to my room at about 1:00AM to find a little platter of desserts waiting for me, my little towel animal sitting on the bed (no matter how many cruises you take, I just always seem to look forward to seeing what creative animals are waiting for me), my luggage neatly put away by my stateroom attendant and my bed turned down. After such a rough day (well I did have to unpack my suitcase) I ordered a BLT from room service and before I could even finish getting undressed, there was a knock on my door and my BLT had arrived. And although I do realize it is quite difficult to mess up a BLT, it was very good.

After a great night sleep, I took a shower in the massaging shower, attended a few meetings and then went to lunch at La Cucina, the Italian restaurant. We were greeted with a person walking around with a cart of numerous little dishes and from those dishes, he fixed us two very fresh antipasti platters. I then enjoyed a Caesar salad, chicken parmegian and tiramisu. Other options included pizza, pasta, eggplant, to name a few. There were also private tables right outside the restaurant, which allow you to enjoy your meal outside. Of course, being that it was mid December we did not take advantage of this but I have to bet it is quite nice on a sunny day. And one thing that I found interesting about both the Southwestern and Italian restaurants – despite the fact that they are specialty restaurants, they do not have a specialty fee like some of the other specialty restaurants. In other words, you can eat there whenever it is open and not have to pay an additional fee for those restaurants.

Shortly after lunch we attended the Q&A (question and answer) session of the cruise, which allows all of the agents to listen to some upcoming news about NCL. Well, despite the fact that the Q&A session did not actually have any Q&A opportunities, it was about two hours of extremely interesting information and many laughs. Andy Stuart, the Vice-President of NCL, informed us of all of the new and exciting things coming to NCL in only a way that Andy Stuart knows how. He was very entertaining in his presentation and let us know about some of the new things coming to NCL ships including lobster available every night for dinner, upgrades in bedding and towels, separate check in for balcony and suite guests, drink flags on all chairs, quiet zones and times, to name a few. Once Andy was done, we played a very entertaining quiz game with some of the upper management of NCL and the cast of the onboard show Second City (I still can not believe Topaz lost it at the very end) and then we were entertained with clips of the new commercials coming out by NCL which were some of the funniest commercials I had ever seen. They focus on freestyle cruising (which I discuss later) and they really make it quite clear why free styling is great. Now for the part of the evening that really made this cruise special. Five distinct awards were given out for travel partners and I am happy to say that Direct Line Cruises was given the first ever “Freestyle Agency of the Year” award. In Oscar style fashion we were brought up on stage, handed two beautiful awards and my father (who along with my mother are the founders of Direct Line Cruises) gave a brief thank you speech. The blog above this one goes into more detail regarding this honor.

After the show, I did some more exploring and saw the unbelievable spa and beauty salon, which for only $20.00 a day, you get to use a good portion of what the spa has to offer. Then there is the large LCD screen I mentioned earlier which at certain times allows you to play Wii in a way you have never seen Wii played before, the Kid’s Crew facility which had a tremendous playroom for the real little ones as well as the Leopard Lounge for older kids which includes the arcade, plasma TVs hooked up to Wii video game systems, a non-alcoholic bar, dance floor, juke box and more. The fitness center has extremely hi-tech machines as well as a separate room for free weight use and another room for classes including yoga and spin. There is a library (which Andy Stuart announced that libraries on all ships will eventually be turned into more of a book store theme where people can sit and read while enjoying a cup of coffee), a card room, a sports deck which includes two golf driving nets volleyball/basketball court and paddle tennis and a rock climbing wall.

My entire staff was then invited to dinner by our sales rep (Thank you Sara) at the Grand Pacific, which is one of the main dining areas. As expected, the dining room was very classy and the food (I went with the steak) was excellent. Of course, in NCL style, the greatest part of it was that we as a group decided what time we wanted to eat and we did not have to get dressed up to enjoy our meal. As I said earlier, this was my first NCL experience and I have to be honest, the option to “freestyle” by eating whenever I want and wearing whatever I want (within reason of course) was one of the best parts of the cruise. Knowing how I hate to leave a hot blackjack table to make sure I do not miss dinner, knowing how my wife hates to leave poolside and miss out on her tan to eat dinner, knowing how my 8 month old would hate to be waken up from her nap to make dinner and knowing how I just feel more comfortable in a pair of khakis and a polo shirt as opposed to slacks, shirt, tie and jacket, I just know freestyle cruising is for us.

After a night of continued lounge hopping and blackjack, I decided that I needed to take full advantage of the cruising experience. Therefore, at about 2:00AM, a bunch of us decided to go to the Blue Lagoon and have a sit down meal. And it was just so great to be able to find a good sit down meal at that hour of the day. I had another great hamburger, some others had potato skins, Buffalo wings, soup. And once again, no extra charge for this meal.

Now despite the fact that this ship went to nowhere (it stayed out at sea for the entire trip) which also meant there was no opportunity to use the outdoor facilities (including the two pools and extremely large water slide), the Gem proved to be everything NCL billed it to be, and then some. The ship has just an absolute perfect blend of entertainment and décor, which I believe people of all ages can enjoy. The food was great, accommodations were wonderful and the employees were very nice. I can very honestly say that if you are regular cruiser, you do not want to miss an opportunity to see and sail on this ship. If you are a first timer looking for a true cruising experience, then this ship will give you just that.

Thank you NCL for an absolutely wonderful time but more importantly, thank you for giving us New Yorkers an absolutely wonderful ship. I look forward to my next time aboard.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thank You to Norwegian Cruise Line

Within the past two weeks, a majority of the big cruise lines have implemented a fuel surcharge to supplement the increased cost of fuel over the last couple years. Although many of the cruise lines utilized similar fuel surcharge policies, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) has stepped up to the plate by taking a huge risk, all for the benefit of its customers and travel agents.

NCL’s fuel surcharge policy differed in many ways from the policies of other cruise lines but there are two differences which stand out the most for me. The first difference is that NCL’s policy is not a retroactive policy. The majority of the cruise lines have implemented a fuel surcharge that not only applies to new bookings, but also to bookings which have already been made. In other words, travel agencies like Direct Line Cruises are now forced to contact each and every client who has booked on other cruise lines and advise them that they will be charged an additional sum of money despite the fact that the customer has already agreed to pay a set price. Needless to say, this creates a lot of tedious administrative work for the travel agent as well as a great deal of anger, disgust and frustration from customers who are now being told they must spend in excess of $100.00 per cabin booked or as an alternative, cancel their cruise.

NCL, on the other hand, after requesting the opinion of some of its travel agents at a recent event, elected to forgo the additional income it could generate by making the surcharge retroactive and decided that it did not want to burden its agents with the additional administrative work. This was an extremely bold statement by NCL in that it unselfishly looked out for the best interests of its customers and agents at a great expense to NCL.

The second difference is that unlike many of the cruise lines who made their surcharge effective immediately for new bookings, NCL’s surcharge is not in effect until December 1, 2007. By doing so, NCL has given all of its agents an opportunity to sit down and figure out the best way possible to implement the surcharge. Many of the other cruise lines did not afford agencies that luxury which made it extremely difficult for agencies to properly accept bookings with the surcharge included. Thanks to NCL, we were able to alter our computer systems to allow for the fuel surcharge with plenty of time to spare.

On behalf of Direct Line Cruises, its owners, IT personnel, staff and its customers who have already booked an NCL cruise, we thank you for looking out for our best interests at what I am sure is a large cost to you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Celebrity Millennium Mediterranean Cruise Review

Celebrity Millennium Mediterranean Cruise Review & Photos Below:

On October 21, 2007 my wife, Helen, and I embarked on a 14-night Mediterranean cruise aboard the Celebrity Millennium. The last time we saw the Millennium was in the year 2000 when she was first introduced to the travel agent community in New York City. Although she no longer had that “brand spanking new” look as she did seven years ago, she still had a very “fresh” look, with the notable exception of some scratches on the stateroom furniture. But, other than that, she was every bit as beautiful as when we first laid eyes on her before her inaugural sailing in 2000.

The Mediterranean itinerary for this ship is fabulous. Being of Italian-American ancestry, Helen and I both wanted to see a lot of Italy…and we did. But, we also visited several non-Italian ports that further enhanced this cruise experience.

Our cruise started in Venice which is located in the Northeastern part of Italy. It is a magical city that is like no other place on Earth. Our 1-hour gondola ride was followed by a visit to St. Marks Square. Typical “tourist stuff” for sure but truly amazing because, along with the throngs of tourists (mostly cruise ship passengers like us), we were somewhat surprised to see that the locals actually used the gondolas (and water taxis) to get around in their daily lives. In fact, you can’t walk from one place to another without “zig-zagging” around a maze of canals that runs through the entire city.

From Venice, we sailed south to Dubrovnic, Croatia. This was one of the non-Italian ports that Helen and I assumed would just be “filler” until our cruise continued on to other places that we really wanted to see. Boy, were we surprised! Our shore excursion took us to “Old Dubrovnic” which is a self-contained city that was built in medieval times and still thrives today (with a mixture of tourists and locals). It turned out to be one of the most fascinating ports on the cruise.

From Dubrovnic, we then cruise further south to Athens, Greece. Although our visit to the Acropolis was enjoyable, we thought the city of Athens was nothing special (from a tourist’s perspective) and the Acropolis itself paled in comparison to the ruins of Ephesus which we explored while at our next port in Kudasi, Turkey. Unlike the Acropolis which is basically the partially restored remains of three ancient Greek temples (complete with modern construction cranes and scaffolding for the restoration crew), Ephesus contains the remains of an entire city that enables the visitor to sense what day-to-day living might have been like in this ancient civilization.

After a relaxing day at sea, our next stop was Naples (on the west coast of Italy) where we took a shore excursion that included Capri, Sorrento and Pompeii. The isle of Capri was upscale and charming at the same time, particularly riding in the cable-drawn trolley (“funicular”) car up the mountain to reach the city and to witness the spectacular view. Sorrento was also charming but otherwise unremarkable except for the best cannelloni and tiramisu I’ve ever had in my life. The volcanic ruins of Pompeii were interesting but I would have rather spent less time there (perhaps about an hour) and more time in Capri. But, all in all, it was one of the most diverse and exciting days of my life.

We then sailed south again from Naples to Palermo, Italy. (that island just off the tip of the Italian “boot”). In a word, Palermo (which is the capital city of Sicily) is congested. In fact, our bus driver couldn’t complete our scheduled tour because traffic was at a standstill on so many streets of the city. As tourists often say about the island of Manhattan, “…it’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there”.

Following our brief visit to Palermo, we sailed north for a 2-night stay in Rome (actually the port city of Civitavecchia which is about 60 miles away from Rome). Because we wanted to see so much, we made advance reservations with a private car service called “Driver In Rome”, which was recommended to us by one of the travel agents on staff at Direct Line Cruises. This enabled us to see the main tourist attractions such as the Coliseum, St. Peter’s, the Vatican, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps as well as giving us time to “do as the Romans do” by mixing with the locals in several of the beautiful piazzas that are located throughout this spectacular city. Rome is an unforgettable place that cannot easily be described in words (…and certainly not in a few sentences). But perhaps the most surprising thing about it is the fact that the Coliseum (as remarkable as it is) is just one of the many remnants of this great ancient civilization that can be found throughout the city. The Roman Forum, the Temple of Hadrian, the Roman Pantheon (which is still in use as a church), Circus Maximus and many other structures are all incredibly well-preserved from over 2,000 years ago.

After saying “arrivadeci” to Rome, we sailed further north along the west coast of Italy to the port of Livorno, from whch we visited Florence and Pisa. Florence is another one of those Italian cities that must be seen to be believed. As one of the main centers of the Renaissance, some of the buildings (especially the cathedrals) are so breathtakingly beautiful that they almost appear to be “fake”. Then, there is the infamous Leaning Tower of Pisa which is even more splendid “in person” than I could ever have imagined.

Just when I thought that this cruise could not possibly get any better, we visited the French Riviera, including the Villefranche, Nice, Eze and Monaco. The French Riviera is probably as close to Paradise as anyone can get without leaving this planet. Each of its idyllic cities has it’s own unique character. Monaco may be the second smallest independent nation in the world (next to the Vatican) but I doubt that you’ll find as many “rich people” in one place. Bentleys, Ferraris and other super-expensive cars literally line the streets of Monte Carlo (which is the home of Monaco’s world-renowned Grand Casino). This place makes Manhattan’s 5th Avenue look “middle-class”.

After another relaxing day at sea, our cruise ended in Barcelona, Spain where we did a brief tour of the city before transferring to the airport for our long plane ride home.

In retrospect, here are some of general thoughts about our first visit to Italy. Contrary to a lot of negative things that I heard, nobody in Italy tried to pick my pocket or pinch my wife’s backside. In fact, nearly everyone we met in Italy was very polite, except when behind the wheel of a car. Most Italian drivers, it seems, regard red lights a mere suggestion to stop, rather than a rule, and people driving motorbikes are generally referred to as “organ donors”. But, other than that, my wife and I left Italy with a great sense of pride in the Italian history and culture.

Now, here’s a word about Celebrity Cruises. Everything that you’ve heard about the superior quality of the food is true (although, ironically, we found the optional extra-cost specialty restaurant to be a bit disappointing). The service throughout the ship was great. The entertainment was well above average and some of the performers were truly spectacular. In short, it was the cruise of a lifetime.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Norwegian Gem Pre-Inaugural Sailing Review

Photos and Personal Review of NCL's Brand New Gem Below:
NCL GEM Bowling Alley
NCL Gem Balcony Stateroom
NCL Gem Lounge NCL Gem Courtyard Villa NCL Gem Lobby

As owners of Direct Line Cruises, my wife, Helen, and I were among the privileged few travel agents onboard the very first sailing of the Norwegian Gem. Following the official delivery of the ship to Andy Stuart, Executive Vice President of Norwegian Cruise Line, we departed on October 1 from Eemshaven, Netherlands (where the ship was built) en route to the city of Rotterdam. I must admit that it was a rather unusual experience to be on a ship of this size (i.e., nearly 1,000 feet long and weighing in at 93,000 tons) with only 70 passengers (45 travel agents plus about 25 executives from NCL) and a full crew. With more than 10 crew members for every passenger, there were literally more dining room attendants than people eating.

Upon our arrival in Rotterdam the following day, we were joined by several hundred Dutch and German travel agents, as well as some European “cruise buffs” who were honored to be among the first “paying passengers” on this new ship as she made her way from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Dover, England. Photographers were also in abundance, which made my wife and I feel like celebrities as we (along with other travel agents and guests) were interviewed and had our pictures taken for several travel publications.

But the undisputed star of the show was NCL’s new “It Girl”, the beautiful Norwegian Gem. As a sister ship of the NCL Jewel, Jade and Pearl, the Gem has the same well-planned, spacious layout and signature onboard features, including 12 “free-style” restaurants, enormous Garden Villas, exclusive Courtyard Villas, and even a 4-lane bowling alley. But, although the Gem is very similar to her three sisters, we thought that the décor on the Gem was just a little bit more elegant while still retaining the warm, colorful character that we found on the Jewel and the Pearl.

Despite the fact that it was the Gem’s first sailing, the dining and housekeeping staff were surprisingly well-organized and efficient (something you don’t always experience until a ship’s crew has had some time to become acclimated to the vessel and to each other). We did notice, however, a few minor timing flaws in the first night’s entertainment as the talented singers and dancers premiered a lively new stage production show for us. As always, practice makes perfect.
Of course, no review of a cruise ship would be complete without a critique of the food. To be perfectly honest, my wife and I have generally preferred the food on some of NCL’s competing cruise lines (such as Celebrity and Royal Caribbean). But, the food on the Norwegian Gem far exceeded our expectations. In particular, the Gem’s streak house (Cagney’s) and Japanese restaurant prepared two of the best meals we’ve ever had at sea (or anyplace else for that matter). And, although we had heard that NCL totally upgraded the quality of their regular breakfast and lunch buffets throughout their fleet, we were still very pleasantly surprised at just how good they were.

So, all in all, we think that the Norwegian Gem is going to be very well received by cruise lovers everywhere.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Norwegian Cruise Line and Bermuda Announce Long-Term Agreement

Hot off the Press! The following is a press release issued today by Norwegian Cruise Line regarding their future deployment plans in Bermuda through 2018. Everyone here at Direct Line Cruises is very excited to see NCL's future commitment to this great cruise destination. Enjoy the read:

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and the Bermuda Government announced today that they have reached a comprehensive, long-term agreement that calls for two of NCL’s newest and largest ships to be deployed to Bermuda for the next 10 years, commencing 2009 and running through 2018. These ships will predominantly depart from New York and Boston and will each sail at least 22 cruises per season, making extended calls in Bermuda. The combined itineraries of the two vessels will provide for overnights in Bermuda from Sunday through Friday. The agreement also calls for NCL to continue through the 10-year term its tradition of being the exclusive line to sail from Boston to Bermuda.

“Since NCL first began sailing to Bermuda, it has been one of our most popular itineraries, and we have developed a truly unique relationship with the community and government of our host destination,” said Colin Veitch, NCL’s president and CEO. “Over the past 15 years, we have deployed ships from more US homeports to meet the growing demand from US travelers to visit Bermuda. Our new 10-year agreement with Bermuda confirms NCL’s position as the leader in Bermuda cruising, plus we now have a solid basis on which to commit two of our fleet of brand new purpose-built Freestyle Cruising ships long term – a significant upgrade from our perspective and from Bermuda’s.”

In 2009, Norwegian Spirit, with a double occupancy capacity of 2,000 guests, will sail from Boston to Bermuda, departing on Fridays, calling in Bermuda from Sunday through Wednesday. Norwegian Dawn, with a guest capacity of more than 2,200, will sail from New York on Sundays, calling in Bermuda from Wednesday through Friday. Also in 2009, Norwegian Majesty (the ship which has served NCL’s Boston-Bermuda business for 15 years) will sail to St. George’s, Bermuda from Charleston, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

“NCL has been a loyal and productive partner in helping us rebuild the reputation of our tourism product. I am proud to say this ongoing partnership will continue now for at least another ten years,” said Bermuda’s Premier, Dr. the Hon. Ewart F. Brown. “This proves once again that major players in the global tourism industry are bullish on Bermuda – and they are bullish for the long term.”

As part of the agreement, NCL will partner with Bermuda’s Department of Tourism and Chamber of Commerce to contribute to the Bermuda experience. This includes becoming one of the sponsors for the annual Bermuda Music Festival, supporting the St. George’s Foundation and the Bermudian Heritage Association, and developing a new program to continue encouraging cruise guests to dine in restaurants ashore.

This 10-year agreement follows NCL’s announcement In May 2007 of its largest deployment to Bermuda in the company’s history with its 2008 itineraries from five East Coast cities. The 2008 Bermuda itineraries include: Norwegian Dawn sailing from New York, featuring the city’s only seven-day cruise to Bermuda; Norwegian Dream replacing Norwegian Majesty sailing from Boston offering Boston’s only Bermuda cruise; and Norwegian Majesty sailing to Bermuda from three cities: Philadelphia, Baltimore and Charleston.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

World's Largest Cruise Sale is Here!

The World's Largest Cruise Sale (sponsored by CLIA) has arrived with unbelievable cruise line promotions. Starting today October 17 through October 19, 2007, practically every cruise line is offering unbelievable SAVINGS such as 50% reduced deposits, discounted pricing and onboard credits up to $300.00!

This sale ends on Friday October 19, 2007 for the majority of cruise lines such as Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line. In-fact Royal Caribbean's offer is so lucrative, they have limited it to one day only on 10/17/07. So, if you were planning on booking a cruise vacation, TODAY is the day to do it!

For a complete list of offers, CLICK HERE or call us directly at 1-800 352-8088. Please do not wait or you will miss out on the BIGGEST cruise sale ever!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Norwegian Cruise Line invites Tom Coiro of Direct Line Cruises to participate in steel cutting ceremony

Jacques Hardelay, general manaer, Aker Yards Andy Stuart, NCL's executive vice president of marketing, sales and passenger services,
hold the first piece of steel for NCL's first F3 class ship.
With them are Brad Anderson of America's Vacation Center and Tom Coiro of Direct Line Cruises.

It’s a pretty auspicious occasion when a cruise line takes delivery of its next ship and cuts the first steel for another on the same day. And Norwegian Cruise Line has just celebrated that special occasion in Europe with its Elite President Club members.

The day began early with Andy Stuart presiding over the first steel cutting of the next generation of NCL ships… F3. However today represented another industry first (Terri Burke’s revolutionary idea), as two agents were invited to share the button pushing honor with Andy Stuart; Tom Coiro of Direct Line Cruises & Brad Anderson of America’s Vacation Center. Not only are these agents Elite, but they also represent the highest incremental growth of any other Elite member. After the steel cutting the group had the opportunity to individually sign a piece of steel that will be built into the vessel. Followed by a tour of the yard and lunch.
The entire group is now en route from St. Nazaire to Nantes to catch a flight to Groningen and ultimately arrive Eemshaven, where President’s Club will be the very first guests aboard Norwegian Gem.

“Today’s steel cutting marks a major milestone in NCL’s history as we begin the construction of our first F3 ship in conjunction with Aker Yards,” said Colin Veitch, president and CEO of NCL Corporation. “Travel partners have been instrumental to our success over the past 40 years, so we invited our President’s Club members to join us in this historic event. We are pleased that they could be in attendance to witness the beginnings of the first ship which will further signify NCL’s progressive dismantling of the structure, regimentation and constraints of the traditional cruise experience.”

The F3 ships are the next phase in NCL’s unique Freestyle Cruising, which offers vacationers a less structured, more relaxed, more resort-style experience than traditional cruising and is characterized by no fixed dining times, no formal dress codes and up to 10 different restaurants.
The 150,000-ton ships will each total 4,200 passenger berths, representing the largest ships in NCL’s fleet. The first ship is scheduled for delivery in January 2010.

The new ship design will offer 60 percent more guest space than NCL’s largest ships to date, which will be used to provide guests an even wider range of on-board activities, amenities and stateroom options. The ships’ cabin mix will be the richest of any NCL ship with 100 percent of outside staterooms featuring private balconies. In total, each ship will have 1,415 balcony staterooms. Details of the ships’ design will be released closer to delivery.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Celebrity Cruises Solstice is coming.....

Celebrity Cruises announced today that their brand new ship, Solstice will open up for sale exclusively to Captains Club Members. This booking window (June 21 through July 5, 2007) will allow Captain Club members to ensure they get the best ticket available on this exciting new cruise ship.

Beginning with December 2008 sailings to the Caribbean, Celebrity Solstice will provide each of her 2,850 guests a vacation experience of distinctive style and elegance, utilizing design elements that are inspired, innovative and finely crafted.

Below are highlights of this exciting new Celebrity Cruise Ship:

  • Gross Tons – 122,000 tons
  • Average Stateroom Size – 215 square feet

  • All staterooms will be equipped with 32” flat-screen TVs, spacious bathrooms and plush European bedding.

  • Wireless Internet access throughout ship

  • Brand New Aqua Class – Celebrity Solstice will include a new contemporary class of veranda staterooms called AquaClass that blends rejuvenating, multi-sensory experience of spa vacation with restorative powers of the sea. Guests in AquaClass will enjoy unlimited access to the AquaSpa relaxation room, Persian Garden, and Blu – the AquaClass exclusive specialty restaurant offering fresh, flavorful cuisine that’s a true step above the ordinary.

More information to follow soon. To book onboard this new ship, call 1-800 DLC-8088.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Alaska Cruise Family Adventure

Alaska cruises used to conjure up images of sedate itineraries aboard stuffy ships, favored by seniors and retirees. Today, that is the furthest thing from the truth! Alaska cruises are one of the fastest growing markets for families, my own included, looking to explore and photograph the spectacular scenery, and embark on adventurous activities that go beyond that of a typical tourist. The cruise lines have responded by deploying their newer ships to the area, and with shore excursions that provide active, safe adventure for the whole family.

My Alaska vacation was a 7 night Hubbard Glacier cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Sea. Coined by cruising aficionados as a “glass class” ship, she was built with Alaska in mind. With such large expanses of glass, including outside elevators, you are never sequestered from the resplendent beauty of the landscape. Family pleasing amenities include a rock climbing wall, pools and waterslide, mini golf, and the wonderful Adventure Ocean children’s program. Our balcony cabin was a private retreat where we could watch dolphins frolic, seemingly, for us alone.

The long and varied list of shore excursions offered by Royal Caribbean satisfied our requisite for soft adventure. In Juneau, Alaska’s state capital, we took a whale watching tour. The sight of a breaching orca is not one we will forget anytime soon. In the afternoon we signed up for a helicopter tour of the Juneau Ice Fields. Touching down on a glacier was a scary, but exhilarating experience. Then on to Skagway, gateway to the Klondike. In the morning we traveled the White Pass & Yukon Route narrow gauge railroad. The precipitous climb is not for the faint of heart, although the magnificent views are enough of a reward for such a daring feat. That same afternoon we participated in the quintessence of Alaskan adventure…dogsledding! Try doing that in the Caribbean! In our last port of call, Ketchikan, we had plans to take a flight to the Anan Creek Bear Observatory. I was told that the observation platform provides a great photo op of black bears catching salmon. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, and the tour was cancelled. Instead, we grabbed umbrellas and walked around the Saxman Native Village for totem pole viewing and took in the local Lumberjack Show. It was a pleasant way to wind down our Alaskan adventure.

Our Alaskan cruise was more than a year ago, but the memories of the experiences we shared together are still fresh in our minds. When my family travels, we want more than to follow the green flag of some tour guide. To quote Royal Caribbean, we want to “get out there.” And we did.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My Review of the Azamara Journey

Below are pictures and my review of the brand new Azamara Journey. Enjoy!

This past Friday I was one of the privileged travel agents to be allowed the first viewing of the Azamara Journey. In case you haven’t already heard, Celebrity Cruises announced a new deluxe cruise brand entitled “Azamara Cruises”. And, guess what? The Journey is now the first ship from the Azamara fleet. The second ship will be the Azamara Quest, which will enter service this October. If you would like more information on this new ultra luxury brand, please see my previous blog posting.

Now, back to my review of the Journey. As I pulled up to the Cape Liberty (Bayonne), NJ pier, I noticed two ships were docked. Royal Caribbean was also in the process of introducing their newest member of their fleet, the Liberty of the Seas. The Liberty of the Seas is the sister ship to the Freedom of the Seas, which is currently the largest cruise ship in the industry. The Liberty is approximately 160,000 gross tons. Right next to the Liberty was the 30,000-ton Journey. It was quite a funny site comparing the size difference of these two ships. But, really these two ships should never be compared. They are in completely different leagues and are meant to attract a completely opposite type of clientele. If you were looking for the family-fun cruise ship with endless onboard activities, then the Liberty would be your perfect choice. However, if you are looking for a unique, luxury cruise experience, then you may want to consider the Journey. The reason I say “unique” is because of the exotic destinations and onboard service amenities the Journey offers. The size of the Journey allows this ship to travel to new cruise ports such as Asia, Africa, Antarctica, Panama Canal, Mediterranean and even South America. In addition to great destinations, the Journey immediately differentiates itself from the mass-market cruise lines by offering butler service in every stateroom.

After marveling over the size differences of these ships, I focused my attention on the Journey. Celebrity Cruises had the travel agents and press wait outside in a nicely decorated tent before we could board the ship. I quickly noticed the logo was conveniently concealed on this ship. Before this past Friday, I was still under the impression that the Journey would be part of the Celebrity Cruise Fleet. However, I was advised that Celebrity would be making a big announcement onboard the Journey. Once I saw the concealment of the logo, I had a pretty good idea what that surprise might be.

Anyway, back to the exciting stuff. Soon after, we were quickly ushered onboard the ship. I believe the first room we entered was on deck 5 and it was their entertainment lounge. We were quickly greeted with waiters and waitresses serving finger food and champagne. As we settled in, Richard Fain (Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited) and Dan Hanrahan (President of Celebrity Cruises) quickly announced the Celebrity Journey will be the 1st ship of the new Azamara fleet. After the announcement we received a small sample of the onboard entertainment. It was a 5-piece singing and dancing group that was absolutely phenomenal. I’ve come to expect great entertainment from Celebrity Cruises, but this show was different. Since we were in an intimate lounge, the entertainers were right up-close to us. There was no elaborate stage settings or sound equipment. The show was based purely on talent. And, wow was this was quite a talented act. You couldn’t help but be drawn into the show and appreciate how tight they sounded together. I was truly impressed. I am not quite sure if Azamara plans on using this lounge for all of their entertainment, but I thought it was truly a unique and intimate show.

Now to my favorite part; the food of-course. Those of you who don’t know me, I am an average size man who just loves to eat all the time. Probably the number # 1 thing I look forward to on a cruise is the food. My wife and I took the Celebrity Constellation for our honeymoon and every day I woke up excited to see the lunch and dinner menus. I guess I’m just strange that way. The Azamara Journey has three different restaurants onboard. The “Discoveries” is the ship’s main dining room and has open seating. I personally think this is a huge positive for this ship. For a cruise that visits such unique destinations, it would be ashamed if you always found yourself rushing back to the ship to make your dinner arrangements. In addition to “Discoveries”, the two specialty restaurants onboard are “Prime C” and “Aqualina”. Prime C serves steak and seafood dishes. Aqualina serves Mediterranean styled dishes that are inspired and based purely on the ports of call you visit. All three restaurants do not require formal attire.

We were invited to eat lunch in Aqualina. Now before I go any further, you may interpret this next sentence as a biased endorsement for Azamara Cruises, but I am purely just stating my opinion. THIS WAS THE BEST FOOD I HAVE EVER HAD ON A CRUISE SHIP. I think that gets my point across. I can’t express how good my meal was. I started off with a buffalo mozzarella salad that left me wanting seconds. Actually, I’m sure if we had more time they would have gladly offered me another serving. Next came a tuna wonton that I quickly devoured. As for the main course, I had a filet mignon served with popcorn shrimp and macaroni & cheese. While the macaroni & cheese may not sound very upscale, it really nicely complimented the whole meal. My only complaint with the main course was there was not enough of it. The steak was excellent, but a little too small for my liking. That may have actually been a good thing because desert was still coming. We were given a choice of Chocolate assortments or Chocolate Fondue. While I am not a big sweet person, I must say I did a nice job cleaning up my Chocolate Fondue. The desert was incredible and too good to resist. To top the whole meal off, the service was outstanding. Every meal was served precisely at the same time as all of my other dining companions. I really felt spoiled and a little undeserving of all this great treatment.

After lunch we had about 15 minutes to see the entire ship. Unfortunately because of various coast guard restrictions and the fact that the ship was still not finished, we were not able see the entire ship. Every corridor we turned, crews were feverishly running around to get the ship prepared for it’s first sailing to Bermuda. I quickly peeked my head into as many public rooms and staterooms as possible. Prime C featured dark rich woods with a beautiful glass enclosed wine cellar. The Discoveries restaurant had a nice bar / lounge waiting area before you prepare to dine. It was a nice touch that I have never seen done before on any cruise ship. The Windows Café (where Sushi is served during the evening) featured marble covered counters all around. I will admit that I am not a gambling man, but the Casino was a tad small. However, keep in mind this ship only occupies 700 passengers compared to the typical 2,000 passenger cruise ship.

I only had the opportunity to see two types of staterooms, which were a standard balcony and the Penthouse Suite. The balcony stateroom (1A or 2A) was quite spacious and nicely decorated. Everything looked and smelled so clean. I loved the flat screen televisions. The standard balcony staterooms are 215 square feet with a 38 square foot balcony. As for the other stateroom, my jaw dropped when I entered the Penthouse Suite.
This room featured a separate living room area with its own master bedroom and walk-in closets. The master bath featured a whirlpool tub and every counter was in a beautiful marble finish. I personally don’t like seeing these cabins on tours because it is one BIG tease. I am always jealous of the person staying in these cabins and wished it were me.

So how would I conclude my review of the Azamara Journey? Would I suggest the Azamara Journey to my clients, friends or family? The answer depends on what they are looking for in a cruise experience. I must stress this is really not a family-oriented cruise ship. This is a LUXURY ship that focuses on excellent food, impeccable service and unique cruise destinations. If you are the type of person that wants to be on the ship with the rock-climbing wall and ice-skating rink, then this ship is not for you. I will never knock those mega ships because they are quite possibly my favorite, but the Journey is just simply a different type of cruise experience all together. If you want to be completely pampered and take the road far less traveled, then I recommend the Azamara Journey.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Celebrity Cruises Introduces Azamara Cruises

Well, this past Friday (05/04/07) was quite a surprising and exciting day for me. Celebrity Cruises was scheduled to introduce their brand new ship, the Journey to a select group of travel agents. Luckily, I was one of those select few. Over the last week, there was quite a buzz that Celebrity Cruises would be announcing something BIG on this special day. So, in addition to eagerly anticipating the unveiling of the Journey, I could not wait to hear this BIG announcement.

Soon after we were ushered onto this brand new ship, President of Celebrity Cruises (Dan Hanrahan) had announced the launch of a new cruise brand called “Azamara Cruises”. The Journey is now the official first ship of this new deluxe cruise brand. The Azamara Quest will be the second ship in this fleet when she is introduced in October 2007.

Don’t miss my next blog posting in which I will provide an in-depth review of the Azamara Journey. And, who knows maybe I will share some photos of my experience as a walked around this brand new ship.
Below is a press release issued directly from Celebrity Cruises regarding the announcement of Azamara Cruises:

The launch of a new ship is a momentous occasion for any cruise line, but Celebrity Cruises has made the introduction of their latest liner especially significant. Today, Celebrity not only marked the launch of a 710-guest ship which sets sail tomorrow, but also introduced an entirely new, deluxe cruise brand: "Azamara Cruises."Designed to offer exotic destination-driven travel experiences, Azamara Cruises - consisting of Azamara Journey, which sets sail May 5, and sister ship, Azamara Quest, which enters service in October-will present a more intimate onboard experience, while allowing access to the less-traveled ports of call experienced travelers want to visit.

"We created Azamara Cruises to target an area of the market that we believe is underserved, and an area this product is ideally suited to fill," said Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, parent company of Azamara Cruises. "This new line falls into what we consider the deluxe category - a category between premium and luxury."

According to Azamara Cruises President Dan Hanrahan, who also is president of Celebrity Cruises, "Azamara Cruises is expressly designed for travel enthusiasts who appreciate what a cruise vacation has to offer, but are looking for something a little different, and a little more special. And what's special about Azamara Cruises is its distinctive combination of impeccable service, exceptional cuisine and off-the-beaten-path destinations, with truly immersive excursions."

Complementing the exotic Caribbean and Europe itineraries for Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, previously announced under the former "Celebrity Expeditions" banner, Hanrahan today announced that Azamara Cruises' itineraries will not only take travelers to some of the most desirable locations in the Caribbean, but will immerse them in Asia, and even transport them around the world. Itinerary details for Azamara Cruises' Asia and world cruises are yet to be announced, but once finalized, the line expects to visit more than 200 ports - most of them new to cruise travelers-in over 70 countries.

While delving deep into the history and culture of remote destinations larger ships can't reach, guests sailing with Azamara Cruises also will enjoy a more exclusive guest experience. Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest offer butler service in every stateroom and suite, as well as concierge-style amenities, including fresh-cut flowers, fresh fruit, Elemis toiletries, complimentary use of Frette cotton robes, two complimentary pairs of slippers, plasma TVs and plush European bedding.

Despite the ships' smaller size, each offers two specialty restaurants: On Azamara Journey, the Mediterranean-influenced "Aqualina" and the stylish steak and seafood restaurant, "Prime C." Guests staying in suites will receive two nights of complimentary dining in one of the two specialty restaurants, while guests in staterooms will receive one. The ships will not require formal attire for dining, and will feature open seating in the main dining room.

Azamara Cruises also presents a wine bar with a spectacular wine cellar offering wine and champagne tastings, seminars, and mini-pairings of food and wine, in addition to its standard menu of fine wines by the glass or bottle.

Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest offer an enhanced emphasis on spa and relaxation, with treatments many cruise travelers have never experienced. Guests in suites can enjoy certain spa services in the privacy of their room. Both ships also will offer an outdoor spa relaxation lounge and an aesthetics suite offering acupuncture, laser hair removal and microdermabrasion.

An onboard "excursion expert" will not only help guests select shore excursions based on their personal interests, but also will serve as a destination guide, offering information about the culture and history of each port of call.The Azamara retail experience onboard also will be enticing to most experienced travelers, with its focus on fine art, sculpture, photography, jewelry, and upscale resort wear. Just prior to setting sail on its maiden voyage May 5, Azamara Journey completed a four-week, approximately $19-million makeover, highlighted by the conversion of 48 staterooms into 32 suites, a complete refurbishment of the dining areas to create the two new specialty restaurants, an expansion of the spa area to include an aesthetics suite, a new Sunset Bar on the aft deck, a new art collection, Cova Café, entirely new carpets and flooring throughout, new exterior decking, new paint schemes, new walls, and entirely new "soft goods," ranging from plush European bedding to cushions, drapes and table linens.

The name "Azamara" is a coined term, rooted in Romance language references to blue ("aza"), the sea ("mar"), and a lesser-known word, "acamar," which, in Classical times, was the southernmost bright star that could be seen from the latitude of Greece. Hanrahan said the company views the new brand as "a bright star on the deep blue sea." Azamara Cruises unlocks the hidden corners of the world for those who desire to immerse themselves in the rich details of every voyage. The deluxe ships - Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest - offer an intimate experience, while allowing access to exotic destinations experienced travelers long to reach. For the 710 guests on each Azamara Cruises ship, every moment at sea embodies the pinnacle of luxury, and each footstep on shore accentuates the difference between visiting a place and getting a true sense of place. Azamara Cruises presents the best of Bermuda and Panama Canal/South America in 2007, elite Asia and the most captivating Caribbean, South America and Europe in 2008, and around-the-world voyages in 2010.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Norwegian Cruise Line Announces Largest Ever European Deployment

The following is a summarized press release issued directly from Norwegian Cruise Line in regards to the announcement of their new European 2008 deployment schedule. In addition, this press release also covers the announcment of their newly reflagged ship, the NCL Jade:

Today, NCL Corporation announced that it will place three of its newest Jewel-class ships in Europe beginning in March 2008 in response to increased consumer demand for European cruises. The company will re-flag Pride of Hawai`i into the Bahamas registry and re-name her Norwegian Jade after a short wet dock in Honolulu in February 2008. Norwegian Jade will join her sister ships Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Jewel in Europe in 2008 offering NCL's largest and most varied European cruise deployment ever. Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Jewel itineraries will go on sale April 17 and Norwegian Jade's itineraries will go on sale April 24.

"The combination of our new and varied itineraries, the choice of three new sister ships, along with an extended season, will make for an unforgettable Freestyle Cruising experience for guests who explore Europe with us in 2008," said Colin Veitch, president and CEO of NCL Corporation. "In particular, Freestyle Cruising gives them the freedom and flexibility to explore and make the most of the culture-rich European destinations without worrying about returning to the ship for a set dining time."

Norwegian Jade will be the first to arrive in Europe at the end of March 2008, staying through the end of November. The ship will sail a unique mix of 12-, 13- and 14-day Eastern and Western Mediterranean cruises, beginning with a number of 12-day cruises departing from Barcelona, Istanbul, and Athens (Piraeus) with a variety of ports including Rome (Civitavecchia), Naples, and Venice, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Ephesus, Turkey; Mykonos, Santorini, Iraklion, Crete, Corfu and Katakolon, Greece; and Alexandria, Egypt.

Norwegian Jade will then reposition from her spring Mediterranean base to Southampton in the UK for a series of cruises to the Mediterranean, North Cape, Western Europe and British Isles.

In an NCL first, Norwegian Jade will offer several sailings out of the UK designed specifically for the local UK market, departing roundtrip from London (Southampton). These include a pair of two-day sampler cruises and four 14-day Western Mediterranean cruises roundtrip from London (Southampton) with stops in Malaga (Cordoba), Spain; an overnight in Barcelona; Nice (Villefranche), France; Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy; Gibraltar; Lisbon, Portugal; and Vigo, Spain.

Norwegian Jade's 12-day North Cape itinerary roundtrip from London (Southampton) will cruise the North Sea with several stops in Norway, cross the Arctic Circle and cruise by the Svartisen Glacier. The ship's 13-day Around the British Isles and Northern Europe itinerary roundtrip from London (Southampton) will visit France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Two 13-day Western Europe itineraries will depart from London (Southampton) to Barcelona or Barcelona to London (Southampton) and visit Nice (Villefranche), France; Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Rome (Civitavecchia), Naples, and Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy; Granada (Malaga), Spain; Gibraltar; Seville (Cadiz), Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; and Vigo, Spain.

Norwegian Gem, NCL's newest ship, complete with bowling alley, arrives in Europe in early May after her winter season in New York and will sail seven-day Western Mediterranean cruises roundtrip from Barcelona through November 9, 2008. The Western Mediterranean itinerary includes stops in Valletta, Malta; Naples, Rome (Civitavecchia), and Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy; and Nice (Villefranche), France.

Returning for her third season in Europe in early May, Norwegian Jewel will replace Norwegian Dream, sailing a Baltic Capitals itinerary roundtrip from London (Dover) through mid-September. The 12-day sailings will run from May 5 through August 23 with stops in Copenhagen, Denmark; Berlin (Warnemunde), Germany; Tallinn, Estonia; two days in St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden. On August 9, the ship will offer a two-day sampler cruise from London (Dover) specifically designed for the UK market. A final 13-day sailing departing on September 4 will include a stop in Oslo, Norway.

Detailed information on these new European itineraries will be available within the next week. For more information, click here or call 1-800 DLC-8088.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Norwegian Pride of Hawaii says goodbye to Hawaii

This past Wednesday, Norwegian Cruise Line announced their brand new ship; Pride of Hawaii will be withdrawn from the Hawaii market effective February 2008. The ship will be reflagged into the Bahamas registry and renamed the NCL Jade. The NCL Jade will then be deployed to Europe for the summer of 2008. More details to come…..

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


The following is a press release issued directly by Norwegian Cruise Line regarding their brand new partnership with Nintendo to feature their Wii gaming system onboard their fleet:

NCL just announced that it is the first cruise line to offer guests a chance to experience Nintendo's red-hot Wii™ video game system on board its ships. Since its launch in November 2006, the Wii system from Nintendo has become one of the fastest-selling game systems in the world. With an easy-to-use motion-sensitive controller, Wii draws new players into the world of video games in a very 'real' way.

Wii systems are currently on NCL's newest ship - Norwegian Pearl - and all NCL America ships. Wii will be rolled out on the rest of the NCL fleet by next month. The systems are equipped with Wii Sports™, offering five distinct sports experiences: tennis, golf, baseball, boxing and bowling. Other games available on the ships include Wii Play™, WarioWare™: Smooth Moves and Excite Truck™.

"With its active, engaging and inviting game experiences appealing to every age from kids to parents to grandparents, the Wii from Nintendo is a natural fit for Freestyle Cruising," said Colin Veitch, NCL's president and CEO. "With the addition of Wii to our on-board activities, we can now offer bowling, boxing, golf, tennis and baseball across the entire fleet. Cheering, yelling and high-fives will be highly encouraged."

"Millions of people around the world continue to discover the fun of playing Wii with their friends and families," says George Harrison, Nintendo of America's senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications. "Norwegian Cruise Line is a great partner, as they offer us direct access to non-traditional gamers. Our partnership reinforces how Wii's social phenomenon continues to grow, from the centerpiece of gaming parties, to a workout supplement, to a fun facet of vacation cruises."

On each ship, Wii systems/setups will be located in the atrium and other public rooms allowing guests to gather and play against each other while viewing the game on large video screens. Each ship's Kid's Crew facility will also feature two Wii kiosks providing kids-only fun. The ships will also host tournaments and other activities around the games.

"This partnership with Nintendo is an industry first and another innovation for NCL," Veitch said. "This continues our mission to dismantle the traditional cruise experience and deliver the most exciting and most customizable experience at sea."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Norwegian Gem is Coming to Life

The following is a press release issued directly from Norwegian Cruise Line in regards to the building of their brand new cruise ship (Norwegian Gem). Personally, I am very excited about the Norwegian Gem because it will be sailing round-trip from New York City beginning late 2007 and all of 2008. I was just recently on NCL's Pearl, which is the sister ship to the Gem and was truly impressed by everything this ship had to offer including it's unbelievable bowling alley. Wow! I will be posting my review of the Norwegian Pearl within the coming weeks. Until then, I hope you enjoy this article updating the progress of the Gem.

On March 5, Norwegian Gem's main superstructure was completed as block numbers 62 and 63, weighing 600 tons, were lowered onto the ship's aft at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, where the ship is currently under construction. Once this section is welded to the ship's hull, the final outfitting work in the accommodations area will begin.

On Thursday, March 8, the ship will be moved backwards in the dock so that the final block at the ship's nose and funnel can be installed. With these final blocks in place, Norwegian Gem, NCL's fourth Jewel-class ship, will have its complete form.

Built specifically for Freestyle Cruising, Norwegian Gem is designed to provide guests the most customizable experience at sea. She features multiple restaurants, vibrant public rooms, versatile, family-friendly accommodations; and NCL's popular style of accommodations, Courtyard Villas, which along with the ship's two Garden Villas make up the biggest, most luxurious, most innovative suite complexes at sea. Additionally, Norwegian Gem will feature the industry's second on board bowling alley -another NCL industry first, which debuted in late 2006 on her sister ship, Norwegian Pearl.

Norwegian Gem is currently scheduled for delivery in October following which she will sail five new Mediterranean itineraries. After a series of inaugural events on the east coast, Norwegian Gem will be home ported year-round in New York featuring a seven-day Bahamas & Florida itinerary in December 2007, February, March and April 2008. In January and February 2008, she will sail a series of 10- and 11-day Exotic Southern Caribbean itineraries roundtrip from New York.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Norwegian Cruise Line Announces Military Appreciation Program

The following is a press release issued from Norwegian Cruise Line on February 26, 2007:

Showing its support for U.S. service men and women and their families, NCL Corporation today announced a new military appreciation program that provides special reduced rates to members of the U.S. military on all NCL and NCL America sailings.

"We are pleased to offer a special rate to those who serve in our armed forces," said Andy Stuart, executive vice president of marketing, sales and passenger services for NCL. "From rock climbing walls and bowling alleys, to connecting staterooms and youth and teen facilities and programs, NCL's signature Freestyle Cruising ships provide the ideal getaway for military families to relax and spend quality time together."

NCL's military appreciation program offers qualifying active military personnel, retired personnel and veterans a reduced rate, based on sailing date and itinerary, on one stateroom per sailing. Spouses of active military members serving duty overseas are also eligible. The military appreciation program rates apply to new reservations only.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Onboard the christening of the brand new Norwegian Pearl a few weeks ago, our agency was honored with the prestigious award of being named NCL's fastest growing agency of the year for 2006. In addition, we were inducted into their President's Club Elite program. All of the staff at Direct Line Cruises are so delighted to receive this award and we look forward to a great relationship with Norwegian Cruise Line for many years to come. Below is the press release issued directly from Norwegian Cruise Line:

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has named Direct Line Cruises as its 2006 Fastest Growing Agency of the Year. The award was presented to Direct Line Cruises on board Norwegian Pearl during the ship’s inaugural cruise.

NCL chose New York-based Direct Line Cruises as its 2006 Fastest Growing Agency of the Year based on the company achieving the highest percentage growth of any NCL travel partner. In light of the growth, Direct Line Cruises was inducted into the exclusive NCL President's Club Elite. President’s Club Elite members represent the top 10 producers overall in North America, as well as five additional agencies who meet the President’s Club revenue threshold and demonstrate the highest percentage growth year over year. Direct Line Cruises was already a Silver Captain’s Club Member with NCL; however, their incredible growth in 2006 took them to the highest growth level within President’s Club.

"In a short time, Direct Line Cruises has achieved significant growth selling NCL, and we are honored to name them our Fastest Growing Agency of the Year," said Andy Stuart, NCL’s executive vice president of marketing, sales and passenger services. "In addition to phenomenal sales in their first year, Direct Line Cruises has done an excellent job of understanding and communicating the genuine differentiation offered by NCL with Freestyle Cruising."

Since its beginning in 1995, Direct Line Cruises ( has grown to become one of the largest official agencies for the cruise industry. From its corporate headquarters in Hauppauge, New York, Direct Line Cruises now handles reservations for more than 25,000 cruise passengers throughout the United States and the number is rapidly increasing every year."

We are thrilled to receive NCL’s Fastest Growing Agency of the Year," said Greg Coiro, CEO of Direct Line Cruises. "Over the past year, we worked very closely with NCL to learn how to successfully sell NCL and Freestyle Cruising to our clients. The response from our clients has been overwhelmingly positive, so we look forward to an even more successful 2007."