Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Azamara Cruises 1 Year Anniversary

Wow, it has been 1 year since the introduction of Celebrity Cruises new brand, Azamara Cruises. In case you didn’t know, Azamara Cruises is offered as their “Deluxe” or “Premium” brand that offers even more upscale service and fine cuisine than Celebrity Cruises. I couldn’t imagine it getting even better than Celebrity Cruises, but Azamara Cruises delivers even more.

The other nice benefit of Azamara Cruises is the exotic destinations that their two ships visit. Since the ships are smaller, but more intimate ships they are able to navigate around lesser known cruise ports.

To help celebrate the 1 year anniversary of Azamara Cruises, they are now offering up to $750.00 in Onboard Credits for select European Cruises. All you have do to is book your cruise between April 29 & May 5, 2008. For details regarding this promotion, CLICK HERE.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My Norwegian Dawn Cruise Review

The following is a quick review of my recent cruise. We sailed on the NCL Dawn for a two night weekend cruise from New York City on April 18-20, 2008. We have sailed on Royal Caribbean, Princess and Celebrity Cruises before, all with the traditional dining format. We quickly became big fans of NCL’s Freestyle Cruising. It was very easy-going as well as relaxing. We arrived by 11:30 a.m. and were checked in and dining by 12 noon. Our cabin was very spacious and was ready by 1:00 p.m.

· Restaurants and Reservations – Reservations are necessary for the specialty restaurants so either stop by the reservation desk the day before dining or early in the morning for same day reservations.

· Blue Lagoon Café – Great potato skins, chicken strips with fries and chicken wings (spicy). Tea, coffee and dessert are served all day.

· Cagney’s Steakhouse – Cover charge $20. This service was wonderful with great food and atmosphere.

· Salsa – Tex-Mex cuisine with great appetizers. There is no cover charge but you must make reservations. You could also hear the music from the piano bar while dining here. A real treat was the folk music.

· Garden Café – This was the buffet area for breakfast, lunch and dinner with plenty of room and many tables and booths. There was an omelet and waffle chef in the morning. The deli area for sandwiches with fresh rolls and many types of bread was located behind the buffet. The kids café area had hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, mini burgers, chicken nuggets, fruit and chocolate chip cookies and was a big hit with the young ones.

· Aqua – This was one of two main dining rooms with great food and very fast service.

· Entertainment – The comedy show cannot be missed and the production show featured incredible vocals combined with high-energy dancing. In one late night pub, the crowd was singing along to show tunes from South Pacific and Oklahoma. In another pub, Billy Joel and the Beatles were played on the piano.

This ship was beautiful and easy to navigate. The main pool is large and surrounded by four hot tubs. The pool area was comfortable with plenty of lounge chairs. A poolside barbeque was set up each afternoon with burgers, hot dogs, pasta, fruit and desserts. The fitness center was open 24 hours. Upon arriving back in New York City, our only wish was to cruise to Bermuda for seven nights on the Dawn. Freestyle Cruising is a winning concept.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

New Wave Staterooms on Norwegian F3 Class Ships

Norwegian Cruise Line made their first big announcement regarding their upcoming F3 class cruise ships. Say goodbye to those standard and boring cruise ship staterooms and say hello to the NEW WAVE staterooms. New Wave staterooms will offer a completely fresh take on bathroom design and provide contemporary curved architecture with much more open living space. No more feeling cramped.

The New Wave stateroom promises to offer a sleek and totally outside the box view on consumer staterooms. Norwegian Cruise Line has maximized the living space with a bathroom that features its own separate shower stall, separate water closet and a modern vanity top sink. The staterooms will feature a sophisticated earth-tone palette accented with a splash of color and rich dark wood. Complimenting all of this will be LED lighting and back-lit domed ceilings to offer a relaxing mood.

New wave staterooms will be offered as New Wave Standard, New Wave Balcony & New Wave Deluxe. All of these staterooms will include upgraded bedding, linens and towels, Euro pillows, Elimis bathroom products, MP3 connectivity, Flat-screen televisions & mini-bar.

Norwegian Cruise Line has two F3 class chips on order. The two 150,000-tons cruise ships will offer a 4,200 passenger berth. The ship’s cabin mix will be the richest of any NCL ship with 100% of outside staterooms featuring private balconies. In total, each F3 ship will have 1,415 balcony staterooms.

The first F3 class ship is set to sail in 2010. As more details come in regarding this ground breaking cruise ship, we will be sure to post the information on our blog. Stay Tuned!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Royal Caribbean Genesis Cruise Ship - First Reveal Announced Today

Well, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line never ceases to amaze me. When they introduced the Voyager of the Seas in 1999, I thought nothing could ever get better than this. Who would have ever thought a cruise ship could have an ice-skating rink, rock climbing wall and a Royal Promenade boardwalk? Then, of-course came the Freedom class, which somehow managed to outdo the Voyager class ship with the FlowRider surf simulator, boxing ring and an enormous water park (H20 Zone) for children.

Well now comes “Project Genesis”. As promised, I just came back from New York City where Royal Caribbean did its first of many reveals of great features onboard the Genesis class cruise ship. And, all I can say is WOW! But, before I delve right into the first secret revealed onboard this mega ship, let me make sure you are familiar with the background and specifications of this great cruise ship.

The “Project Genesis” class cruise ship will embark on its maiden voyage sometime in late 2009. The Genesis class ship will be the largest and most innovative cruise ship in the world featuring 16 decks and encompassing 220,000 gross tons and carrying 5,400 cruise passengers. No, that is not a typo. This unbelievable cruise ship will carry 5,400 guests. FYI – The Voyager class ship, which is no small ship, carries 3,114 passengers. The Genesis class ship will sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and most likely embark on Caribbean type itineraries. Just in case you didn’t know. Genesis will not be the official name of this ship. Royal Caribbean is currently conducting a “Name that Ship” contest and the official name of the “Project Genesis” will be revealed soon.

Okay, now for the exciting part. The first brand new feature on the Genesis, which was just revealed today, will be Central Park. So, what is Central Park? If you have ever been on a Voyager or Freedom class ship, then you have most likely experienced the fabulous Royal Promenade interior boardwalk. The Genesis Central Park will be a significantly larger and more spacious boardwalk, but completely outdoors. Central Park will be located near the center of the ship and completely open to the sky. Central Park brings the outdoors in, with a completely open-air space. Lined with balcony staterooms and reaching six decks high, it is 62 feet wide and 328 feet long. Want a better perspective? Central Park is twice the width of the Royal Promenade featured on the Freedom Class ships.

Central Park will feature distinctive neighborhoods with shops, restaurants and lounges of all types to fit almost any mood of the typical cruise vacationer. Surrounding the Central Park neighborhood will be a wide variety of restaurants ranging from fine dining to casual. Guests will have the choice to dine at the new upscale “150 Central Park” or have a more casual picnic lunch at the Central Park Café. Other Central Park dining options will include Giovanni’s Table (Italian restaurant) and Chops Grille Steakhouse.

Several bars will also be scattered all along Central Park. Probably the most innovative and unusual bar is the “Rising Tide” bar. This is the first moving bar at sea. No, I am not kidding. The Rising Tide bar will elevate and descend three decks as guests enjoy a cocktail and enjoy the scenery surrounded by Central Park.

There is so much more to tell, but so little time. So, with that said, I leave you with some first-ever photos of the Royal Caribbean Genesis class cruise ship. Enjoy the photos and please keep a close eye on our blog over the next few weeks as I reveal more details and even more photos.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Royal Caribbean Project Genesis First Reveal Coming Soon!

Next week I am attending the first unveiling of Royal Caribbean’s top secret “Project Genesis”. Royal Caribbean will offer the first details of the Genesis class cruise ship on 04/15/08 to a select group of travel agents and press. Luckily, I am one of them!

If Royal Caribbean permits, I will post my details of this exciting event soon after. Keep a close eye on our blog within the next two weeks.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Norwegian Gem Cruise Ship Review

Recently, my husband and I took a 7 night cruise aboard the Norwegian Gem. It was not our first cruise, but our first out of New York and we’re from New York. The embarkation at the Port of New York was outstanding. We arrived at 12:30pm and boarded the ship by 1:15. We take at least two family vacations a year and I believe that set a record for us, from “curbside” to “on vacation.”

As we stepped on board the ship, we were immediately greeted with smile and a glass of champagne. The staff at the Orchid Garden was offering tastings from the Asian menu, so we stayed and sampled. When we inquired about reservations at the specialty restaurants, they immediately offered to set us up with our first and second night’s dinner reservations. We decided to start with Teppanyaki and try Cagney’s Steakhouse Sunday night. Teppanyaki was a “party” with great food and friends. Steak, chicken, lobster, and shrimp in any combination you choose. Sunday evening at Cagney’s, everything on the menu was “prime steakhouse venue” and do not miss the Bananas Foster Flambé.

We had high expectations knowing the ship was new, but we were still pleasantly surprised at all the little extras. Our oceanview room was clean, with more than enough storage space. We had a flat screen television, coffee maker and a small refrigerator. Our cabin steward was so friendly and accommodating I often felt as though we had our own butler and even though we did not take our daughters on this trip, he pleasantly surprised us with his towel animals each night. I hesitate to admit we even attended the towel folding class on the last day at sea in an attempt to master the craft (with no success).

The pool area is split with an adult only pool and two hot tubs on one side and a family pool with slide and two hot tubs on the other side. Both pools are surrounded by thick cushioned lounge chairs. Let me say, leaving from New York in 40 degree weather does not slow the “Sail away Party” down in any respect. The hot tubs were full and the reggae band was playing. There was also another party going on in the Spinnaker Lounge, an ultra modern lounge, forward on deck 13 with floor to ceiling windows from one side of the room to the other. The view of the Statue of Liberty or passing under the Verrazano Bridge was breathtaking from either location.

We spent most mornings dining at the Great Outdoors buffet for breakfast. All stations were cooked to order and cappuccino machines each morning were a delicious treat. There was also a hostess station for dinner reservations at the entrance and we easily made reservations daily in many of the specialty restaurants. Tequila for tex-mex, La Cucina for Italian and Orchid Garden for Asian. Blue Lagoon is great for a light lunch or late night snack. The buffalo wings and chili were great.

We also discovered queen sized, circular, cushioned lounge chairs one deck above the pool. “Wow”, you say, but so far away from the pool. Not to worry. The pool staff was so great, they were never far away and they had my drink order down perfect every day. Between noon and 2 pm staffers walked around serving cold refreshing towels in case I was too relaxed to walk the 20 feet to the pool. There were black jack tables around the pool, a different band each day and the Hagan Daaz ice cream cart came around about 1 pm.

We did decide to check out some of the shore excursions on Nassau and our Freestyle Daily said we could check everything out on our television. We were able to see a short preview video describing the different excursions and we even booked one from our room right on the interactive screen. When we returned from lunch our tickets for our excursion had already been delivered. This was a great added convenience from waiting on line at the excursion desk.

The entertainment each night was eclectic, something for everyone. Ross Bennet stand up or Second City comedy skits; Duck Cameron, magician or full on Las Vegas musical revues. We loved every show. We even had fun participating in the afternoon activities when we needed a break from the sun. Adult Wii on the giant two story screen in the main lobby on deck 7 was amazing. We had some of the staff take photos of us “boxing” so the kids would believe us. Bingo, martini tasting, magic workshop with Duck Cameron and Q&A with the Captain were some of the highlights.

We will definitely sail the Norwegian Gem again, next time with family and friends. This is one vacation too good not to share!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Final Identification Requirements Issued for Land & Sea Travel

Well its official. On March 27, the Department of Homeland Security and of State issued the final rulemaking regarding the ever confusing identification requirements for land and sea travel.

Effective June 1, 2009, the following rules will apply for cruise passengers:

U.S. citizens on cruises that begin and end at the same U.S. port must show proof of citizenship and government issued photo identification. Valid proof of citizenship may include original or certified copy (raised seal) birth certificate. Valid photo identification will include driver’s license.

While passports are not technically required, Direct Line Cruises STRONGLY recommends all of our clients to obtain a passport and use this as your primary source of identification.

All other passengers and / or itineraries (such as cruises which disembark from one U.S. port and return to a different U.S. port or any cruise that begins or ends in a foreign port) will require a passport for cruise travel.

For more information about this policy or to obtain info on how to apply for a passport, simply visit this website: www.travel.state.gov.