Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Crew Makes the Cruise Line

When Royal Caribbean recently announced that they were increasing the suggested gratuity guidelines, it made me reflect upon my own experiences with the crew aboard the various Royal Caribbean ships I have cruised.  In the fifteen or so cruises I have taken with my family I don’t think I have ever left the suggested gratuity…the Royal Caribbean personnel I’ve encountered have always deserved so much more!

 My family has always felt that the interaction with our dining room wait staff was one of the things we loved most about cruising!  These men and women have always gone above and beyond anything we would expect of them!  Years ago we cruised with another family to Alaska on the Radiance of the Seas.  Although we were cross-referenced for dining, we were surprised to see that we had separate side-by-side tables in the dining room.  When the waiter came over to introduce himself we asked about pushing the tables together. He suggested putting the three children (age 8, 8 and 5) at one table under his care so the adults could dine together.  What an offer!  Our waiter taught them a new napkin fold each night and even insisted on cutting the 5-year old’s meat.  He chatted with them about whales and glaciers and seemed genuinely interested in all they had to say. Our gratefulness was expressed in our gratuity and in our guest satisfaction survey.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Evolution of Celebrity Silhouette & Celebrity Reflection

In 2008 Celebrity Cruise Line debuted the first ship in its new Solstice class and the reviews were unanimous…this was a job well done.  Accolades were given to her crisp modern design, use of space and innovation.  So why fix what’s not broken when rolling out her successors?   According to Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Dan Hanrahan, “We recognize that consumer’s vacation time is precious, and that’s what drives us to continually create new and unique experiences that enhance their rare time away.”  That is exactly what you will see aboard the two new Solstice class ships; Celebrity Silhouette and the Celebrity Reflection.

A significant change to the two new ships will be an update to what Mr. Hanrahan calls the “underutilized” Lawn Club. With the goal being to extend the frequency and length of visits to the area, new dining venues and experiences are being introduced.  “The Porch” will be an alternative to the Oceanview Café, serving up complimentary breakfast and lunch.  In addition there will be a bar that features specialty coffee, beer and wine for sale.  Its casually chic and comfortably modern design will have magnificent views of both the lawn and the sea. 

The Corning Glass Museum is being replaced with a multi purpose site called “The Lawn Club Grill” (the Corning Glass Museum and demonstrations will remain on the Solstice, Equinox, and Eclipse).  During the day this area will host fun, interactive demos and classes.  Scheduled activities may include hands on cooking like making a pizza, or chef-led demonstrations such as “marinade 101”.  By night “The Lawn Club Grill”, as the name suggests, celebrates the passion of grilling!  Gleaming stainless steel grills, an open kitchen, and a large glass door fridge where you can choose your own meat help to make this a highly social and interactive experience.  There will even be the option of grilling along side the chef!  Beverage features will include wine, buckets of beer and pitchers of sangria.  There is a $30 per person charge.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Single Occupancy Staterooms on Royal Caribbean

Often we hear in the cruise industry from solo travelers that have expressed their disappointment that they must pay a double-occupancy cruise fare. Up until recently, most modern cruise ships did not provide staterooms to accommodate just one passenger. Standard staterooms were made to accommodate 2 to 4 passengers and if a solo traveler chose to use one of these staterooms, they would be required to pay double the cruise fare.

This past July, the Norwegian Epic introduced single occupancy staterooms called Studio cabins. They have been a significant success and in high demand for solo travelers.

Rumors are now circulating that Royal Caribbean is considering single occupancy staterooms on some of their older ships such as the Radiance of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas and Freedom of the Seas. These ships are scheduled to be refurbished in the near future, so maybe there is a possibility we will see single occupancy cabins become available soon after. We will keep you posted on developments of this story.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fiona Named Godmother of Allure of the Seas

For weeks there has been heavy speculation regarding the next godmother for Royal Caribbean's newest ship, the Allure of the Seas. Would it be Oprah? Would it be Catherine Zeta Jones from the movie Chicago? We were all guessing until today.

Royal Caribbean chairman and CEO Richard Fain along with President and CEO of RCI, Adam Goldstein announced today that the godmother of the largest cruise ship in the world is Princess Fiona. In case you are not up to speed with your animated movies, Princess Fiona is the star of the very popular Dreamworks Shrek movies.

While personally I think this is the perfect fit for the Dreamworks and Royal Caribbean partnership, what do you think? Is Princess Fiona a worthy godmother?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Cruising

Maybe you’re looking to escape the kitchen, maybe you’re looking to avoid the in-laws, maybe you’re looking to flee the cold weather, or maybe it’s the only week everyone in your family is able to vacation together.  Whatever the reason, the December holidays are always prime cruising time!  But what’s it really like to be at sea for the holidays and is it worth the premium cost?  Absolutely!

 Spending Christmas or Hanukkah on a cruise is likely to be a holiday you will never forget. Ships are decorated from bow to stern with festively draped garland, extravagantly ornamented trees, and exquisite menorahs. Music fills the air as carolers sing about dreidels, decking the halls, and dashing through the snow.  Now’s your time to brush up on the words, because singing along is definitely encouraged!  Count on Santa and his elves to drop by too!

 The holidays are such a busy time of year that often the activities we’d like to share with our families, particularly our children, are often lost in the hustle and bustle of all there is to do!  But when you’re at sea for five or seven days with no “to do” list and there’s an itinerary of all sorts of planned activities available, the opportunity for quality family time abounds!  Imagine being able to sit with the kids and enjoy classic holiday movies on a big screen, or decorate crispy, buttery cookies to be enjoyed with rich hot chocolate.  Yum! Or huddle the family together for a holiday story of hope.  For some it may be the story of a baby being born in Bethlehem, and for others it could be the miracle of the oil that burnt for eight days in the holy Temple. The kids will enjoy creating themed arts and crafts which will make the perfect souvenir of your holiday at sea.

 Special meals and traditional foods are served in beautiful dining rooms and the best part is that you don’t have to clean the kitchen afterwards! Many ships have a priest or rabbi onboard to preside over traditional religious services.  If this is an important part of your holiday celebration, be sure to confirm with the cruise line you are considering.  All this and hot sun, warm waters, and balmy breezes too! Are you beginning to think this sounds pretty good?  There is still availability on select Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Celebrity ships.  Because nothing is quite like spending the holidays at sea!"

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Allure of the Seas

Several days ago Royal Caribbean took delivery of their newest addition, Allure of the Seas.  Departing Turku, Finland on October 29th, she has already begun her journey towards her homeport of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. She is expected to arrive on Thursday, November 11th.  There was a lot less fanfare to mark the occasion compared to a year ago, when her sister Oasis of the Seas made the same trip. Ah, but isn’t that always the case when a sibling comes along? So how does little sis distinguish herself from her much adored and popular big sister? Not to worry.  Allure of the Seas has charms all her own and will undoubtedly capture the hearts of everyone that gets the chance to step onboard!

Monday, October 18, 2010

What’s Going on With the Port in Falmouth, Jamaica?

Whatever happened to the development of the port in Falmouth?  The joint venture between Royal Caribbean and the Port Authority of Jamaica will eventually be a boon to both parties, but it’s certainly taking long enough!  The Falmouth port was being built specifically to accommodate Oasis of the Seas, as ships that large cannot pull into every port without tendering!   Unfortunately, construction delays caused the ship to temporarily substitute Costa Maya for Jamaica on its Western Caribbean itinerary.  For the island of Jamaica, the project means an influx of money to revitalize the terminal area and even the town itself.

 Falmouth is located midway between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios on Jamaica’s north coast.  Founded in 1769 it is one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved historic towns,noted for its English Georgian architecture.  During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Falmouth was one of the busiest ports in Jamaica, as nearly one hundred plantations were actively manufacturing sugar and rum for export to England. For cruise line passengers, walking tours of the historical town or plantations will surely be of interest to many.  For those looking for more action, Falmouth is a gateway to adventure tours including zip lining, spelunking, waterfall climbing, river rafting, and tubing.

  In order to minimize additional delays ships will soon be allowed to call on the new port in its incomplete state. Work zones will be fenced off and no construction will be done on days that ships are in port.  Ready or not Royal Caribbean ships will begin visiting the port of Falmouth beginning in January of 2011, however Oasis of the Seas will not glide into her berth until sometime in March."

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Repositioning Cruises

Not every ship has a year round home port.  Often a ship will spend a portion of the year in one part of the country…or the world for that matter, and then reposition to another region for the remainder of the year. For example, a ship will travel out of Vancouver and up to Alaska May through September but when that is no longer a viable itinerary due to climate changes, the ship moves south through the Panama Canal and will then journey to warm and wonderful islands out of Florida or San Juan.  In the late fall ships that have been cruising from European shores may make a transatlantic crossing as they reposition themselves for a winter of Caribbean sailings. Since it hardly makes economic sense to move an empty ship, cruise lines sell cabins on these “repositioning cruises.” Interested? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Since this type of cruise does not appeal to everyone, the cost of a repositioning cruise is often significantly less than a traditional cruise. However, before you count up all the money you’re saving on the voyage keep in mind you will most likely need to fly to the point of embarkation or from the port of disembarkation.

 There are fewer ports of call on this type of cruise since there is often far to travel in getting from point “A” to point “B”.  That being said, the ports included in the itinerary are often more exotic.  For example, as the Celebrity Eclipse repositions from Southampton to Miami, it will call on the ports of Paris (Le Havre), Cherbourg, Vigo, and Ponta Delgada.

 The length of a repositioning cruise often is prohibitive to many travelers. These days too few people have the luxury of time on their side!  Some of these cruises can last as long as 20 days!

 Of course longer cruises and fewer ports of call can mean only one thing….lots of sea days!  Hours upon hours to relax, read, and enjoy all the amenities the ship has to offer!  The library, gym, spa, casino, enrichment programs…

 April, May, September, October, and November are the most popular months for repositioning cruises, especially with ships moving between warm and cold climates.  Good deals and balcony cabins sell out quickly, so if you see something you like, don’t hesitate in booking it.  A well kept secret amongst seasoned travelers, repositioning cruises offer affordable, relaxing vacations worthy of exploration."

Monday, October 04, 2010

Fall Cruising

Summer has come and gone and children are back to school.  We are waking up to nippy mornings, shorter days and are beginning to think about the crazy holiday season that lies ahead. What few people realize, (and the one’s that do haven’t wanted to share the secret), is that the fall is an absolutely fabulous time to cruise!

 Have you checked out the price of a seven night Caribbean cruise during the time between Labor Day and Christmas?  Maybe you should because the prices are too good to be true!  With children back at school and young adults heading off to college campuses, many families have temporarily ceased traveling, leaving more berths for the cruise lines to fill.  Not only does that reflect in the price of a cruise, but also in the cost of a flight down to Florida, opening up an immense array of options! It may also provide a wonderful opportunity to upgrade to a cabin or suite you may not be able to afford during the “high” season. The onboard experience has a different feel to it, too.  Loungers by the pool are abundant, there is never a line at the breakfast buffet, and there is no dreaded search for an empty table with a plate in hand.  As fewer tourists descend on a particular port of call, strolling through the towns is more conducive to chatting with the locals and soaking in the laid back Caribbean vibe.  Shopping on the islands offers the wonderful prospect of being able hunt for unique gifts for family and friends and get some serious holiday shopping done.

 Celebrity Cruise Line and Direct Line Cruises have put together a promotion that will make fall cruising even more enticing!  Book a Celebrity Caribbean cruise sailing between October 1st and December 31st and receive a free onboard credit up to $100 per cabin!  That is in addition to the free travel insurance Direct Line Cruises offers on all cruises 5 nights or longer.  All that left for you to do is pack a bag!"

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cruising the Western Caribbean

Sun worshipping, snorkeling, shopping, sightseeing…a cruise to the Western Caribbean is all that and so much more! These ports of call include those islands that are west of (and including) Haiti and those along the Yucatan Peninsula.  Home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, nothing quite compares to strolling barefoot along an expanse of powdery white sand or splashing in the warm, crystal clear turquoise Caribbean Sea. Water sports of every type; jet skiing, kayaking, fishing, and sailing are readily available on all these islands. Diving amid the brilliant coral reefs in this area of the world is an extraordinary experience. History buffs can enjoy a day of discovering exotic cultures or exploring Mexico’s Mayan ruins. And who can resist a day of bargaining in the local markets for one of a kind crafts or shopping for duty free treasures? The air and sea temperature is warm year-round making it a perfect escape from Northeast winters!

 Each Western Caribbean island offers unique opportunities and divergent experiences.  Some of the more popular stops on a Western Caribbean cruise are as follows:

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Oasis of the Seas...a Teenager's Perspective

If you've been reading this blog then you know I recently returned from a family vacation aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.  I traveled with both my 17 year old son and my niece of the same age.  If you travel with teenagers, you know how tough it can be to find something the entire family will really love! Well this was it!  Here's my son's acoount....

     Having cruised with Royal Caribbean 10 times before, I have been on both Voyager and Freedom class ships.  I thought that they had everything that a cruise ship could possibly have, but boy, would Oasis  change that thought !  I had seen plenty of pictures of the ship before but nothing would compare to seeing it for myself.  When I first stepped on the ship, I noticed that the Promenade was bigger, wider. It really resembled a city street lined with shops, restaurants, and bars.  For years the Promenade has been my favorite feature on a ship.  The pizza they serve here is the best and now you can get personal pies too.  Its open really late so you will never go hungry.  Brand new features on the Oasis Promenade made it even better such as the Cupcake Shop and the Rising Tide bar.  The Cupcake Shop has cupcake flavors that I didn’t know existed such as orange creamsicle, banana, coca cola, red velvet and coconut.  They also have conventional varieties such as chocolate and vanilla cupcakes. Every one I tasted was great!   The Promenades on previous Royal Caribbean ships were spectacular, but this took it up a notch higher.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 7

Where did the week go?  How can seven days speed by so quickly? This has been an AMAZING week for me and my family. I want to finish up with my list of things “not to be missed” for your trip.

The shows!  If I had to pick a favorite, maybe the ice show inched out everything else, but honestly, they were all so good!  Book online and don’t be closed out!

Eat a cupcake!  I tried the triple chocolate, lemon, chocolate with vanilla icing, vanilla with chocolate icing and banana.  I didn’t want to eat them all, but I did it for you guys…research!  They were all very yummy!

Make a photo book! Let the ship photographer take family pictures EVERYWHERE.  Seek them out.  The photo shop sells a great hard cover photo book incorporating those pics with ship interiors. You can edit, add, and delete. The finished product is beautiful and a perfect souvenir of your week onboard.  On day one check out the sample at the photo gallery so you can see what I mean.

Try the zip line!  Nothing to fear!  They do multiple safety checks of your harness. And remember to keep your eyes open!

Be at the 70’s Disco Street Party!   It’s late one night on the Promenade and so much fun!  I loved it on the Voyager class ships.  Now bigger and better, if that’s possible!

Check out the new parades!  But check the Cruise Compass because they’re no longer late night!

Dazzles!  Live music almost every evening and such a lovely place.  This is where hubby and I went every evening after the shows to wind down a bit.

Rendez vous at Central Park!  On a warm evening amid the lighted trees with a glass of wine…how romantic!

Sleep Late!  No need to wake at 7 to reserve a deck chair.  There are plenty!  I found one by a pool every day after I finished breakfast, regardless of the time.

 So much has already been written about the Oasis of the Seas. The purpose of these posts has been to touch on some of the stuff that doesn’t get talked about as much.  I hope I have been able to give you some practical tips to help you plan your own trip.  Have fun!"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 6

Cozumel, Mexico's largest island is nestled just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cozumel itself was a sleepy little fishing community until 1961, when Jacques Cousteau declared it one of the most beautiful scuba diving areas of the world. Today it’s a mix of cosmopolitan restaurants, bars, hotels and shops set amidst astounding natural beauty.  It’s my favorite port of call.  On our last visit we did the excursion to the Mayan ruins at Tulum.  I have actually been there several times because it’s such a fascinating site.  If you want to visit Tulum take one of the several cruise line excursions that are offered as opposed to doing it on your own.  It’s quite a distance and you can include lunch and a beach break to mix up the itinerary a bit.

Since we went to the Mayan ruins at Costa Maya we chose a relaxing day at Passion Island. This too was a Royal Caribbean excursion and you can opt for getting there via catamaran or the Twister speed boat.  We went via catamaran and Alejandro was our “host” for the day, making sure our day on the beach was paradise.  It certainly was. Someone told me that the Coors beer commercial with the couple sitting between the palms was filmed here.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know it was the most beautiful beach I was ever at!  The trip includes full complimentary Mexican Buffet; complete with Mayan barbeque chicken, rice, deliciously grilled fish, salad, fresh vegetables, the guacamole, fresh fruits, sweet breads, chips, salsa, soft drinks, beer, tequila sunrise, rum punch, margaritas and so much more! Absolutely perfect! Returning to the ship with a couple hours to spare we decided to take a cab to the shops at San Miguel.  The cab stand is a three minute walk from the ship and cab fare is $7 for a carload. Finding a cab for the return trip is no problem, as they line the street.

Back on the ship we weren’t up to a second formal night so decided to eat at the Seafood Shack on the Boardwalk. Good decision.  It has an $8.95 per person charge but my goodness; there’s so much food! I was under the impression the entire menu was fried fish but there is so much more and that includes plenty of choices for those that do not eat seafood.  I had a bread bowl of clam chowder, the grilled catch of the day as an entrée, and fruit for dessert… a giant, yummy banana split!  I tasted my family’s food too.  The fried calamari was tender and golden brown, the ribs had a nice tangy barbecue sauce, and the seafood basket for two was huge!   If you have a chance to try the Seafood Shack I don't think you'll be disappointed.  It's a lot of food for lunch but it's a great casual dining option.  Maybe they should consider an a la carte option for those that just want a small lunch."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 5

This afternoon we pulled into the port of Costa Maya. Costa Maya is what Cancun was 25 years ago; a blip on the Yucatan peninsula that the Mexican government plans to eventually develop into the next hot resort area.  Over the past decade or so land has been purchased by private developers who sit back and wait until the government puts the infrastructure  in place and then the metamorphous will begin. For now Costa Maya is nothing more than a pier built to bring tourists in by cruise ship.  The Mayan Pavilion Park was built specifically for cruise line passengers and is a complex of shops, amphitheater, beach with loungers and umbrellas (but no ocean swimming) and a huge pool with a swim up bar. Many cruise line passengers never venture beyond this area! For many others, a port of call is only as good as the variety of excursions it can offer, and there were plenty of options for me to choose from for today’s visit.

 Having already done the “jungle tour and beach break” on a previous cruise, I booked a four hour excursion with a private tour company to Chacchoben.  This is a relatively new archeological site for tourists. It has only been open to the public since 2002.  The first people settled the area of Chacchoben around 1000 BC.  Evidence collected during excavations shows that most of the structures restored were built around 300-360 AD and were modified up to five times during the occupation period. A circular path of the area includes three excavated and restored pyramids, as well as many walls and staircases.  Excavation is continuing on several mounds which are known to contain more buildings.  The site was incredible; massive gray stone temple pyramids set amongst a lush green landscape of palms, banyan trees and draping Spanish moss.  With the right guide a site like this becomes a “live” history lesson!  Even the kids enjoyed it!"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 4

People are often surprised to hear that my son still vacations with my husband and myself.  Many have told me that their teens have begged to stay home from about the age of fifteen.  They don’t want to leave their friends for even a week because what would they do?  All I can say is that maybe those people have never taken a Royal Caribbean cruise!  And can you imagine them saying there is nothing to do on the Oasis of the Seas! For starters, the teen version of the Cruise Compass that was left in our stateroom had a fresh new look. This one was for the 15-17 age group and because it looked enticing it was actually looked at.  My niece has been consulting it several times a day and is forever dragging my son here or there for some activity. It all begins the very first evening with a “meet and greet” in the teens designated space, “The Living Room”. What a great way for kids traveling without companions their own age, to find others to hang out with! Each day there is a schedule of events, almost one every hour, that is perfectly age appropriate for this tough to please age group.  Dodgeball, soccer, scavenger hunts, Rockband, ice skating, Flow Rider sessions, rock climbing, pool games…and that’s just a sampling.  Scratch DJ Academy teaches the art of how to DJ and I heard it was pretty popular. There are a few nights when part of the Windjammer is reserved for teen dinners and I think this is a great idea.  I had to make it a rule that we would always dine together as a family, or I was afraid I would never see them for the week!  Every night there is a themed party at Fuel, the teen only night club.  Tonight there’s a pool party that starts at 11pm that my son and niece plan on going to.  That leaves the night free for hubby and me to check out the music at Dazzles.  So far this has been an amazing week for all of us!  Wish you were here!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 3

A day spent at Royal Caribbean’s private paradise, Labadee, is always something my family looks forward to.  Said to have been discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, I don’t quite understand why he would have ever left!  Today it was a hot and steamy day (close to 100 degrees!) perfect for renting a mat ($12 each) and just floating about.  Certain areas of the island have a very rocky entrance to the water so you might want to pack water shoes for the entire family. There are no umbrella rentals, but they do rent cabanas and there is plenty of shade to be found beneath the palms. Get off the ship early and spend the day.  There is no need to return for lunch, as a complimentary BBQ is provided at several spots around the island.  The special island drink, a Labadoozy (not sure exactly how you would spell it), is a delicious concoction; I tasted coconut, papaya, pineapple and of course rum is optional. We shopped at the Artisan’s Market for tye-dyed beach cover-ups, wood carvings, and a painting that will look stunning once I have it framed!  FYI…bring cash to shop here.  It’s the one area you cannot charge to your sea pass.  We finished the day with the kids zipping down the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line ($85 per person).  Participants are transported to the start point 500 feet above the beaches and then glide over 2600 feet of awe-inspiring views. That may have been the highlight of their entire trip! We all had lots of fun today, but the sizzling sun really wiped me out! Something tells me tonight will be an early night!

 Below is a list of other activities available at Labadee:

Dragon Tail Alpine Coaster ($15 for 2 participants)

Kayak Adventure ($38 for 1 ½ hours)

Aquapark ($15 for 1 hour)

Walking Tour ($18 for 1 hour tour, and is quite informative if you enjoy history)

Hydro Highlight Express ($42 for 1 hour tour; this is like a speed boat)

Snorkel Adventure ($79 for 1 ½ hour trip)"

Monday, August 23, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 2

Clients often ask us if it’s permissible to bring a bottle or two of their favorite booze onboard. Our agents reply with the cruise line policy that bringing liquor onboard is not permitted.  Will they really find it?  Will it be confiscated?  I truly didn’t know the answers to these questions…until now.  No, it’s not what you’re thinking!  Yesterday our bags made it to our cabin before we did!  Well, three out of four.  By 5pm the last bag still did not arrive and since it was my husband’s, he was not a happy cruiser! We alerted our cabin steward who immediately stated that if we had “accidently” packed booze or an iron it was probably down with security on deck two. Since we knew that was not the case my husband worried more. Where could it be?  I wasn’t really fazed because on past cruises our bags sometimes showed up as late as 6pm.  Truth be told, I didn’t care at all because it wasn’t my wardrobe that was missing and any excuse to revamp my husband’s closet was truly a blessing in disguise!  “Maybe they think we’re drug smugglers and they’re holding our bag”, he says.  I chuckled at such an absurd joke. “Did you count the pills we had packed?” he continued.  It looked like a pharmacy in my suitcase…men’s multi vitamins, woman’s multi vitamins, iron, calcium, CoQ10, veggie antioxidants, fruit antioxidants, 2 types of fish oil, and a prescription bottle of Lipitor!”  Hmmm…maybe he had a point.  So being a supportive spouse I followed him down to the “holding” room to see if his bag was held up there for some reason.  Well, our bag was not there but there were a staggering number of bags that were!  The room was divided into two sections; those with liquor bottles and those with irons. It should be noted that there was plenty that were labeled both! So in answer to the question, will it be found and confiscated, the answer is YES!  And if anyone is interested, by the time we made it back up to our cabin, the wayward suitcase was outside the cabin door waiting for us!

Last night’s production of Hairspray was amazing!  Very talented cast!  I saw the show on Broadway and have to say this rendition was every bit as good!  My husband said it was better, but he’s just saying that because it was shorter!  I have to say, plan ahead and book your tickets online instead of waiting until you board. You wouldn’t want to be disappointed if you could not get in to see it.  I pre-booked all my shows and My Time dining times.  They scan your Sea Pass card as you enter the theater instead of picking up tickets. Everything has gotten so high tech!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Day 1

When I was making our travel plans for this trip, almost a year ago, I was undecided as to whether we should fly in the day before.  If this was a winter trip I would not have hesitated but what was the chance of a hurricane in August?  Caution won out and we arrived in Fort Lauderdale a day early.  There are so many inexpensive, hotels available in the area that are convenient to both the airport and Port Everglades.  The one we stayed at included complimentary shuttle from the airport to hotel, hotel to ship and even breakfast in the morning. Best of all, the bathroom was immaculate!  All for under $100 for the night!  I would definitely recommend going in the night before as the small additional expense was worth not having to stress about flight delays and not having to wake up and begin traveling at some ungodly hour!

We were at the pier by 11am but couldn’t board until 12:00.  First on the “to do” list was rent the specially programmed iPhones for onboard use.  Wow, this phone is incredible!  I can’t believe that every cruise line out there hasn’t copied this idea! Not only does $17 per phone per week buy peace of mind in being able to track and contact friends and family, but it’s priceless when traveling with teenagers!  The front screen menu has options to “make a call”, “chat” (text) “guest finder” (tracks the location of the contacts you have in your phone) and “cruise compass” (the ship’s activity list).  As I sit in the quiet of the Solarium typing this, I occasionally take a peek to see where the “kids” are roaming or send a quick message to touch base.  This gadget makes the 2-way radios we used to travel with seem like dinosaurs!  You’ve got to try it. 

We had lunch at the Park Café on Central Park.  It’s the first time in 14 Royal Caribbean cruises that we haven’t had a Windjammer lunch!  I was dying to try the hot roast beef sandwich (with a bit of horseradish, please) and I’m so glad I did!  My husband loved the salad bar where you select the fixings and it’s tossed for you fresh.  The Panini list was better than the deli at home…turkey & avocado, vegetarian multigrain, tuna melt with muenster and Parma ham, brie & arugula! They had flavored water; sort of like those crystal lite drinks, or the old stand bys of lemonade and iced tea.  Desserts  too.  I hear the café serves a good breakfast so I’ll check that out later in the week.

Off to dinner and a show.  Don’t wait up.  There’s lots going on here and I don’t want to miss a thing.  See you tomorrow!"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Getting Reacquainted With Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas….never before has a cruise ship debuted under such a spot light!  And rightly so.  She would be the largest cruise ship in the world, a floating metropolis to be sure!  Distinct neighborhoods were planned in order to encompass all the exciting innovation the designers wanted to include. I was onboard along with other travel agents in late November for a 24 hour whirlwind tour. Afterwards, endless reviews were written, dozens of pictures were posted, and thumbs up were given by one and all! Fast forward nine months later and here I am, sitting at the airport with my family, getting ready to depart for Fort Lauderdale.  Beginning tomorrow I will have the opportunity to get reacquainted with the Oasis at a slower pace, and discover all I missed on my first brief visit. I’ll be joined by my husband, seventeen year old son, and my seventeen year old first time cruiser niece.  I’d love for you to come along too…vicariously if it’s too late for you to catch a flight!  Each day I hope to post from the ship, (if the internet connection will cooperate), in order to give you a glimpse of the less talked about aspects of the ship and share with you my adventures onboard. Oh, they’re calling my flight…see you tomorrow aboard the Oasis of the Seas!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Art Tours on iPads

I’ve never really had an “eye” for art.  Oh, I can certainly appreciate a pretty picture; when my son was little my refrigerator was covered with them! But I have to confess that I’m absolutely baffled when I hear about million dollar bidding wars for a particular artist’s work! It also came as a surprise to me to learn that cruise lines spend exorbitant dollars for the art work aboard their ships; paintings, drawings, sculptures and photography, with some pieces specifically commissioned for a particular area onboard.

 With more than 14,000 works of original, contemporary art on its three Solstice Class ships alone, Celebrity Cruise Line is the holder of one of the world’s largest corporate collections of contemporary art.  Pair that with Apple technology and what do you get?  The first self-guided art tours on an iPad, at sea!  Exclusively on Solstice class ships, the iPads are programmed with the ship’s deck plans and select works of art are highlighted.  A guest simply touches the screen to learn more about the piece.  Full details including the title of the work, artists name, medium used, description and image are presented.

 This is a natural extension of the way Celebrity as been utilizing Apple technology and adding to the already extensive “Celebrity Life” program.  Earlier this year Celebrity introduced its Celebrity iLounge where certified staff presents a variety of courses on Apple product usage.   Also, the Celebrity Equinox’s specialty restaurant Qsine features a menu and wine list on an iPad. Guests that had the opportunity to dine at Qsine positively received the concept. The iPad art tour is yet another way guests can experience the latest in technology in an entertaining and enriching way."

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

“Epicurean Discovery”

Food is your passion!  You demand great tasting meals prepared with the freshest ingredients. Cumin, cardamom, cilantro, coriander…I don’t know the difference but I bet you do!  Maybe you like to cook or maybe you just like to eat, but nevertheless, you love thumbing through a cookbook.  Food Network is your favorite station and nothing quite compares to the excitement of Iron Chef.  You, my friend are a “foodie”, and do I have a cruise for you!

 Royal Caribbean’s “Epicurean Discovery”, hosted aboard Freedom of the Seas, is a series of twelve Caribbean cruises dedicated to gastronomes like you.  Restricted to guests booking suite accommodations or higher, these are seven night cruises dedicated to cuisine and fine dining. Each sailing will have a renowned celebrity chef onboard for a variety of special events. Guests will be able to participate in exclusive culinary experiences such as a Q & A session, tapas & cocktail reception, and a private dinner with a celebrity chef.  Be a part of special wine tasting events, lectures and even a private galley tour. 

If you have an ardent interest in all things food related you would definitely want to be aboard Freedom of the Seas for one of these “Epicurean Discovery” cruises.  Sailings depart Port Canaveral, Florida on 9/19, 10/3, 10/17, 10/31, 11/7, 11/14, 12/5, 12/12, 1 /2, 1/9, 2/6 and 2/20.  Best of all, this unique experience is just one small part of all that is available on the incredible Freedom of the Sea!"

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Celebrity Cruise Line introduces the Personal Concierge

Always looking to raise the bar regarding customer service, Celebrity Cruise Line has announced a new “Personal Concierge” program.  A perfect compliment to the “Designed for You” tag line that represents what the cruise line is all about, the Personal Concierge will further emphasize customized onboard service.  Guests will have the opportunity to convey their personal preferences, tastes, and needs to the Personal Concierge who can then match Celebrity’s onboard offerings to enhance a particular event or experience.  It could be something as simple as booking a spa appointment or specialty dining experience, to coordinating the details of a special celebration such as a milestone birthday or maybe a marriage proposal.  The consultation with a Personal Concierge is free of charge and can be done online pre-cruise or in person once onboard.  The program will be implemented fleetwide by September 1st."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Norwegian Epic Review

"Not quite two days.  I would have just under 48 hours to explore this floating resort, otherwise known as the Norwegian Epic!  Would it be possible to investigate all she has to offer in such a short amount of time? How many of her exciting dining options would I be able to try, how many bars and lounges could I linger in, and would I like her contemporary “new wave” staterooms that are unlike anything else at sea?  This was a challenge I looked forward to conquering!

Stepping onboard I was immediately taken by the openness of the ship. A big airy atrium with lots of seating, a café, the reception desk, and the shore excursion desk still left enough open floor space to accommodate ballroom dancing if they so desired! The two-story screen, a familiar site on all recent NCL ships, is used for Wii and many other functions.  I passed through during the day to see a good size crowd cheering as they watched the World Cup semi finals on the giant screen, and then again one evening to see families munching on nachos and watching a movie. Decks six and seven are an entertainment mecca.  I like the fact that each show had its own dedicated lounge with the appropriate ambiance.  There is something for everybody.

“Headliners” was a great space, a bar in one corner, the stage in another and rows of chairs with small tables in between.  Perfect for comedy and for “Howl at the Moon”.  I enjoyed this talented rock ‘n roll dueling piano show so much I stopped by both evenings!  They take requests; in fact, there are slips for this purpose on all the tables that you complete and put in the request bowl on top of one of the pianos. So if you don’t like the music they’re playing you have no one but yourself to blame.  Singing along is encouraged even if you only know the refrain, and there was some friendly competition among patrons when they divided the place in half for certain songs!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Chat Aboard the Norwegian Epic

Disclosure: The following conversation was recently overheard aboard the Norwegian Epic.  The names have been omitted since it could very well have been you (or me)!

 Setting:  It’s a balmy Saturday afternoon. Reggae music plays in the background.  A man and woman are seated at a patio table, a plate of nachos between them. He is drinking a Corona while admiring the scenery…beautiful woman scantily clad, lounging around the pool.  She pretends not to notice his interest as she absently stirs her frosty pink strawberry colada.  As she stares out at the azure sea she “accidentally” kicks him in the shin… hard.  He’s momentarily startled but is smart enough to re-angle his chair so all his attention is focused on the lovely woman seated across from him.

 Him:  Do we have plans for this evening?

 Her: Mmmm…we’re meeting everyone in front of Shakers at 6.

 Him: The Martini Bar?  (he laughs)  You’re determined to try that sake martini,   aren’t you?

 Her:  It does sound exotic. Don’t worry, the Whisky Bar is practically next  door so you can order from there.  We’re thinking French for dinner.  I just   hope I have room for  the chocolate fondue after the mushroom soup  and  the coq au vin!

Him:  Oh.  I thought we were trying Moderno Churrascaria.  You know, Brazilian barbecue.  That’s my kind of exotic!

 Her:  That does sound good and I heard it has an extensive salad bar too.     But as a group of six it might be really fun to go to Teppanyaki.  It’s always pretty entertaining to watch them chop, flip and sauté right in front of you!

 Him:  Well if you want entertainment with dinner why don’t we go to the Cirque Dreams and Dinner Show?  What were your friends saying about the act with the guy in the bath tub?  (Her face turns bright red).

Her:   It is supposed to be amazing.  But after dinner there will be plenty of time for a show.  We missed seeing Blue Man Group when we were in Vegas last year, but we  can make tonight’s late show.

 Him: Yeah, but I hear Elvis is in the house. That celebrity impersonator show, Legends  in Concert is featuring Elvis and Madonna tonight.

 Her:  Thank goodness we have seven nights aboard this ship.  Do you think that’s even enough time?

 Him:  Hmm…22 restaurants, 17 bars and lounges, lots of world class entertainment, and only seven nights.  It’s not adding up!  What do you think, same time, same place, next year?"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So What Exactly is Facial Recognition Software?

"Facial recognition software…sounds like some kind of covert spying paraphernalia!  And maybe it is, but it has a pretty cool application onboard the Norwegian Epic too!  Seasoned cruisers know that when you board a ship, security snaps your picture and it’s embedded within your cruise key card. Now with this new software and its “proprietary indexing system” a computer can match a guest’s faces and identification details anytime they smile for the ship’s photographer, thereby linking guests to their photos!  When a guest wants to view their pictures taken onboard all they have to do is swipe their cruise key card at the photo shop kiosks and presto…the photos appear onscreen for viewing and purchasing!  Gone is the wasted time spent wandering among the rows and rows of thousands of passenger’s photos in order to find the one of the pirate holding his machete at your throat as you disembarked in the Bahamas…a cruise memory you can’t live without!  Now you can spend more time sunning instead of hunting through the multitude of pics on a search and destroy mission in order to find the photo that was snapped at dinner that you’re sure caught you with spinach stuck in your front teeth!  From what I understand, a guest can even purchase a CD of an entire week of photos!  Isn’t technology grand?"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

That is one BIG chandelier

"Guests sailing on the brand new Norwegian Epic will be treated with some incredible eye candy.  This past week, Norwegian Cruise Line announced they sucessfully installed the largest chandelier at sea.  This LED chandelier hangs from the NCL's Epic Casino and spans vertically to 3 decks down.  Even if guests are not making donations in the casino, they will be able to view this color changing chandelier in a variety of public spaces such as the Teppanyaki restaurant, Shaker's Martini Bar, Wasabi Sushi Bar and the grand atrium.

The entire staff of Direct Line Cruises will be onboard the Norwegian Epic this July when she is introduced to travel agents in New York City.  Be sure to check out our blog for our full review with photos."

Monday, June 07, 2010

Shrek Sailing the High Seas with Royal Caribbean

"Cruising has always been a family friendly vacation.  Pools, kid’s clubs, mini golf, round the clock ice cream…what more can a family ask for? How about adding a 10 foot green Ogre, the wild and wacky animals of Madagascar and a lovable panda that longs to be a martial arts champion? Well look no further!  You can have all of the above aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas!

Royal Caribbean has announced a partnership with Dream Works Animation that will bring a slew of exciting new family programming to Allure of the Seas!  Those inimitable parades found only on Royal Caribbean ships will be bigger, better and boisterous when Shrek and his cohorts boogie on down the Royal Promenade! Character meals promise to be a zany affair that nobody will want to miss!  What a great way to not only enjoy a yummy breakfast, but also get some one on one time with the characters.  And don’t worry if you’re not too good with a camera because there will be ship photographers there and everywhere to catch every precious moment!

These crazy characters have also found their way into favorite Royal Caribbean shows!  Details have not been released but I’m guessing the How to Train Your Dragon Ice Show will star Hiccup, the Viking teenager/dragon slayer and the fiery but friendly dragon too!  The Aqua Show is always amazing to watch, so the Madagascar Aqua Show, “Let You Entertain Me” is sure to make a splash with the entire family! But there’s even more!  Feature 3-D movies such as the newly released Shrek Forever After and Monsters vs. Aliens allows your family to be totally immersed in the story and its action!

 Allure of the Seas, along with Shrek, Donkey, Fiona, Po, Alex, Marty and Melman, will begin sailing in December 2010 out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  In 2011, the “Dream Works Experience” will begin rolling out on Oasis of the Sea, Freedom of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas.  Book today at Direct Line Cruises and make your next family vacation an absolutely unforgettable adventure!"

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor Enhancements

"Good news for all Crown & Anchor members! You spoke and Royal Caribbean listened!  In addition to the many perks that membership offers loyal Royal Caribbean cruisers, new enhancements went into effect June 1st.

Members will continue to enjoy first-to-know priority notice and access to new developments, special events and exclusive offers that reward their loyalty. In addition, the “Ultimate Value Booklet,” is being upgraded and filled with new onboard savings for beverages, internet packages, photo and logo merchandise, among others discounts.  How nice to have a coupon book we can actually use and receive value from!

Complimentary space available stateroom upgrades will be offered to Diamond and Diamond Plus guests on cruises of 5 nights or longer.  Two factors determine the upgrade priority; cruise credits and booking date.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Glimpse at the Celebrity Summit

Oh, those first impressions!  I was only invited for lunch; little time to look her over, yet I was impressed over the course of our short acquaintance.  She was not overdressed, but rather well appointed and refined.  The colors she wore did not assault; instead her soft hues came off as quite sophisticated.  I would not describe her as flashy, though she sported her share of glitz and glam in an understated and gracious manner.  One look was all it took before I knew… Celebrity Summit was a very special ship!

 The Celebrity Summit, which debuted in 2001, is a Millennium class ship.  More than once “Conde Nast Traveler” has named the Summit one of the top ten “best large ships.”  At  91,000 tons and with the ability to carry 2,038 passengers she is no match in size to today’s mega-ships.  No matter, there is no need for her to compete with ships that resemble floating cities, and you need only step onboard to discover where her true charm lies.

  The three- story Grand Foyer with its classic marble flooring, mahogany pillars and hints of Old World decor make you feel as if you’ve stepped into an elegant European hotel. Yet the exquisite translucent onyx staircase has an Art Deco flavor, liberating the area of any illusion of stuffiness. Public areas were stylishly done, my favorite being the eclectically furnished Michael’s Club.  The Martini Bar and Champagne Bar were contemporary and chic with groupings of intimate seating areas.  Lunch was simply sublime at the Cosmopolitan Restaurant with its sweeping staircase, stately columns and opulent décor. If only there was time to linger with a cappuccino at the Cova Café…

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Beautiful Bermuda Beaches

"Bright sunshine, crystal clear turquoise water and pink tinged sand.  The enchanting beaches of Bermuda are often the main reason for cruising to this paradise island.  There are so many lovely beaches to choose from and never enough time to experience them all.  So with the majority of cruise ships docking in Kings Wharf, lets take a look at the beaches you may want to explore from there.

 Snorkel Park is a relatively new area located in the northeast corner of the Royal Naval Dockyard.  The fact that it is so close to the ship and doesn’t require taking a cab, bus or ferry to get there makes it a perfect choice for families that may be looking for a hassle free way to spend a few hours making sand castles or wading in the calm water.  For those with young children, load up your stroller with towels and beach toys for the easy stroll. Unambiguous signage points the way to the limestone tunnel marking the entrance of this waterfront playground.  There is no charge to enter.  The beach here is small but you can rent chairs, umbrellas, paddleboats, kayaks, etc.  As the name implies, Snorkel Park is a great place to don a mask and fins and swim with the fish.  There are marked trails, a sunken cannon and other underwater features for you to explore. However, the highlight here is the Sea-Scooter Safari.  It’s a great way to zip around and observe parrotfish, angelfish, and gray snappers feeding on and around the coral reefs.  For those looking to frolic in the sea there are two slides that plunge into the ocean and a water trampoline fun for kids of all ages.  Food and drink is available at Hammerheads Bar & Grill.  At night it becomes a lively bar adults will want to return to for drinks, music and munchies!

 Glass Beach, although I doubt this is its real name but that's what I've always called it, is a fun place to visit!  I wouldn’t recommend the area for swimming and there are no facilities of any kind here, but for many this area is very special!  It is one of the best places on the island to comb for beach glass! The area is about a quarter of a mile from the main Dockyard entrance but not really walkable because there are no sidewalks.  Hop on any bus leaving the Dockyard and ask the bus driver to drop you off at the Military Cemetery on Malabar Road (also known as ‘The Glade,’ it has memorials to many Royal Navy personnel from warships stationed here during the mid-19th century).  Across the road you will see a cluster of bright blue apartment buildings called Albert’s Row. Walk between the buildings to a pathway in the back.  If you bear right you will come upon a patio (note the imbedded glass in the concrete) and a stairway that leads down to a small beach. The treasure hides here!  Loads of green and white beach glass, and if you’re lucky you may find some brown too! This is a fun way to hunt for a perfect Bermuda souvenir!  Climb back up the stairs, head for the main road, and wait at the pink pole for a bus to return you to the ship or elsewhere.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Celebrity Constellation becomes "Solsticized"

The Celebrity Constellation has officially become ""Solsticized"".  What does this mean exactly?  During a recent 15-day drydock , Celebrity Cruises added some of the most popular venues found on their new Solstice class ship onto the Constellation.  The newly renovated Constellation now features the Tuscan Grille steakhouse, Bistro on Five, the very popular Martini bar, Cafe al Bacio plus the Cellarmasters wine bar.  The Constellation's staterooms have received new carpeting, flat-screen televisions, new bedding plus much more.

The Celebrity Constellation is the first of the four Millennium class ships to be ""Solsticized"".  The Celebrity Infinity and Summit will be refurbished in 2011.  In 2012, the Celebrity Millennium will then be refurbished."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reba Mcentire to Christen the NCL Epic

Norwegian Cruise  Line announced that famous country singer, Reba Mcentire will christen the brand new NCL Epic.  This prestigious ceremony will take place on July 2, 2010 in New York City onboard the Epic.  Direct Line Cruises will be onboard during the ceremony, so we will be sure to take plenty of photos and video.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Chicago" Hits the High Seas

"Gorgeous colorful costumes, creative stage set designs, and young talented singers and dancers performing hundreds of miles out at sea!  The flashy production shows the cruise lines offer as part of the nightly entertainment schedule is always a highlight of any cruise vacation. Often a compilation of song and dance numbers made famous in past Broadway shows, Royal Caribbean changed that blueprint when Oasis of the Seas debuted “Hairspray”, one of the few legitimate Broadway productions offered on a cruise ship. Expect no less with the introduction of sister ship Allure of the Seas later this year.

“Chicago: The Musical” will become the second Tony Award-winning musical that Royal Caribbean presents at sea.  While the show will more than likely be trimmed a bit to fit within the average run time of a Royal Caribbean production show, you can expect that all the hottest, high energy musical numbers from this Kander & Ebb blockbuster will remain.  The story, set in roaring twenties Chicago, is about Roxie Hart, an ambitious chorus girl that murders her husband. Roxie goes to jail and joins another famous stage performer and murderess, Velma Kelly. Both Roxie and Velma are headline hunters seeking to capitalize on pre-trial publicity for the sake of acquittal and stage careers.  Even if you have not seen the show before you are likely to recognize the music.  Sexy numbers like “All That Jazz” and “Cell Block Tango” have been used before in past Broadway-esque revues on many cruise lines including Royal Caribbean.

  “Chicago; The Musical” will be performed several times during the week at the state-of-the-art Amber Theater aboard Allure of the Seas. Seats can be reserved approximately 45 days prior to sailing at Royal Caribbean’s web site. Of course, this is just one of the many entertainment venues this amazing ship will offer.  Allure of the Seas begins sailing alternate Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries from Fort Lauderdale beginning December 2010."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Norwegian Cruise Line Celebrates Earth Day

Norwegian Cruise Line announced they will make a donation of $5 for every NCL Epic cruise booking made on Earth Day, which is April 22, 2010.  In case you didn’t hear, the NCL Epic is Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest cruise ship scheduled to enter service in July of this year.  The Norwegian Epic will offer groundbreaking entertainment options such as the Blue Man Group, Legends in Concert, Nickelodeon at Sea, plus much more.  For more information on the Norwegian Epic, be sure to visit our archived postings of the Epic.

Celebrity Cruises Silhouette Open for Sale to the General Public

"On April 9th, Celebrity Cruises  announced their newest ship, the Silhouette was open for pre-booking to Captain’s Club members.  The pre-booking window was from 4/9 to 4/19/10.  We are pleased to announce the Celebrity Silhouette is NOW open for sale to the general public.  In cased you missed our previous posting, the Celebrity Silhouette is the 4th ship in the Solstice class fleet.  The Silhouette will enter service in July of 2011 and offer Mediterranean cruises round-trip from Rome.  The Silhouette redeploys to Cape Liberty, Newe Jersey in the Fall of 2011 and offers 12-night Caribbean cruises from November 2011 through April 2012.

Direct Line Cruises is offering a early booking incentive for ANY Silhouette cruises.  Book a Silhouette cruise before April 30, 2010 and receive a FREE $100.00 onboard credit for inside & ocean-view staterooms.  Better yet, book a balcony or a suite and receive a FREE $200.00 onboard credit."

NCL Debuts Nickelodeon at Sea

"The smiles and laughs were contagious aboard the Norwegian Jewel, which left from New York City this past week, as the cruise line debuted Nickelodeon at Sea!  Among the VIP passengers sited on deck were Dora the Explorer, her cousin Diego, SpongeBob and of course his best friend, Patrick. Nickelodeon at Sea offers the ultimate in family entertainment by offering a schedule of different activities throughout the week that the entire family can participate in.

What child wouldn’t want to share the first meal of the day with their favorite Nick buddies!  The Nickelodeon character breakfast will surely be the “hottest ticket” at sea! There will be time to eat, play, and snap pictures galore.   Thank goodness you can reserve a spot for your family 45 days prior to sailing (and I definitely recommend you doing so to avoid disappointment)!  There is an additional charge of $10 for kids 4-12 and $15 for adults. It’s free for the 3 and under crowd (and rightly so since those are the ones that will probably run away and cry when approached by a 6 foot yellow sponge)!

During the week there will be scheduled pool games and crazy activities your family won’t want to miss!  Nobody knows how to have fun in the sun better than Nickelodeon! Then spend an evening watching two lucky families compete in Nickelodeon’s signature game show “Slime Time Live.” Maybe it will be your family! I’m trying to remember; do you get slimed if you win or slimed if you lose? Does it matter? Probably not!

Norwegian Epic to host Macy’s annual 4th of July Fireworks

Norwegian Cruise Line announced their partnership with Macy’s for the 34th Annual 4th of July Fireworks event.  NCL’s newest ship, the Epic will be the host venue for this great show.  The fireworks show will take place on Sunday July 4, 2010 and the event will be broadcast on NBC-TV beginning at 9 PM.  For those eagerly anticipating the first preview of the NCL Epic, make sure to tune in.  Direct Line Cruises was chosen as one of the agencies to be onboard the NCL Epic during this event.  We will be sure to post plenty of reviews, photos and videos of this exciting new cruise ship.

Monday, May 03, 2010

NCL Debuts Nickelodeon at Sea

The smiles and laughs were contagious aboard the Norwegian Jewel, which left from New York City this past week, as the cruise line debuted Nickelodeon at Sea!  Among the VIP passengers sited on deck were Dora the Explorer, her cousin Diego, SpongeBob and of course his best friend, Patrick. Nickelodeon at Sea offers the ultimate in family entertainment by offering a schedule of different activities throughout the week that the entire family can participate in.

What child wouldn’t want to share the first meal of the day with their favorite Nick buddies!  The Nickelodeon character breakfast will surely be the “hottest ticket” at sea! There will be time to eat, play, and snap pictures galore.   Thank goodness you can reserve a spot for your family 45 days prior to sailing (and I definitely recommend you doing so to avoid disappointment)!  There is an additional charge of $10 for kids 4-12 and $15 for adults. It’s free for the 3 and under crowd (and rightly so since those are the ones that will probably run away and cry when approached by a 6 foot yellow sponge)!

During the week there will be scheduled pool games and crazy activities your family won’t want to miss!  Nobody knows how to have fun in the sun better than Nickelodeon! Then spend an evening watching two lucky families compete in Nickelodeon’s signature game show “Slime Time Live.” Maybe it will be your family! I’m trying to remember; do you get slimed if you win or slimed if you lose? Does it matter? Probably not!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Our Blog Has Moved

To Our Loyal Subscribers of Our Cruise Blog,

We have moved our cruise blog and will no longer be updating this blog URL & feed. Our new cruise blog is located at http://www.directlinecruises.com/cruiseblog. To subscribe to this new feed, please visit http://www.directlinecruises.com/cruiseblog/index.php/feed/.

We will be posting all new exciting cruise reviews, press releases and photos on this new blog. Thank you for being a loyal subscriber and we hope you subscribe to our new cruise blog!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Our Blog is Moving

To Our Loyal Cruise Blog Followers:

In an effort to deliver you the most up-to-date cruise information and provide you with cutting edge, interactive features, we are moving our blog page and feed.

Our new cruise blog page resides at: www.directlinecruises.com/cruiseblog
Our new cruise blog feed resides at: www.directlinecruises.com/cruiseblog/index.php/feed/

Please make sure to update your Blog feed subscription as we will no longer be updating this Blog.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Celebrity Cruises iLounge

Celebrity Cruises has announced a partnership with Apple to allow guests to use the latest MacBook Pros, iPods and other Apples applications while onboard their cruise vacation. This new concept is called the Celebrity iLounge.

The Celebrity iLounge will have a Apple Certified staff member assist guests in learning and using audio, video and web design applications. The Celebrity iLounge will be introduced on the Eclipse by April 26, Summit by May 16, on the Solstice by May 30. In addition, the iLounge will be featured on the Celebrity Silhouette when she enters service in 2011.

Monday, April 12, 2010

One Person's Tacky is Another Person's Treasure

As you wander through the countless shops and kiosks of a foreign city or national landmark have you ever wondered who actually buys those tasteless, useless knick-knacks and bric-a-brac? And more importantly, why? Souvenir shopping is an important part of many a traveler’s vacation. The word “souvenir” comes from the French, meaning memory, and bringing back something special from a vacations means bringing home the wonderful memories associated with it…regardless of how tacky it may be!

As I sit at my desk typing this I glance down at my Grand Teton Moose Pad and can almost smell the fragrant pine forests we hiked through, and see the rocky peaks of the Tetons towering above a tranquil Jenny Lake. Nearby sits the Golden Gate Bridge pencil sharpener that I picked up on a trip to California. It’s a memento of a morning spent biking across its 1.7 mile span in a spooky fog, then warming up with a bowl of clam chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf. My replica light house collection, though in its infancy stage, is a remembrance of the relaxing coastal vacations I have enjoyed. Leisurely hours spent laying on the beach with a good book and long barefoot walks searching for seashells. What can I say? One person’s tacky is another person’s treasure!

Do I really need a tawdry looking red, white and blue sequin T-shirt to remind me of the pride I felt as an American while visiting the monuments along the National Mall? Nah! Would I still recall my awe of the sunrise as I sat in the clouds, wrapped in a blanket 12,000 feet above the ocean near the summit of Haleakala, if I didn’t purchase the bobble-head hula girl? Of course I would! Could my mind conjure up the amazing architecture of Antoni Gaudi that I admired when I strolled the streets of Barcelona if I didn’t purchase the Sagrada Familia napkin holder? Without a doubt! But I buy them anyway! I have purchased monkey head cup holders from vendors in lush, hot Caribbean islands and snow globes from exotic countries that haven’t seen frozen precipitation since the Ice Age. All of these keepsakes, regardless of how corny, are reminders of special times spent in extraordinary places with my family.

Whether it be the obligatory T-shirt to the ubiquitous fridge magnets, key rings, miniature sized monuments, or shot glasses, we've all succumbed to buying a tacky souvenir or two. Don’t deny it! The vast amount of vendors out there pedaling such wares tells me I’m not the only one purchasing them! But whether you admit to sharing my passion for kitschy souvenirs or not, I wish you a future of happy travels, and warm memories of vacations past.

Last Minute Deals on Oasis of the Seas

Direct Line Cruises is now offering up to $200 in FREE onboard credits on last minute May sailings onboard the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. Rates start from $899 per person. To check availability, CLICK HERE.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Celebrity Cruises Newest Ship (Silhouette) will sail from NJ

Celebrity Cruises announced today that their newest ship, the Silhouette will offer 12-night Eastern and Southern Caribbean cruises round-trip from Cape Liberty, NJ from November 2011 through April 2012.

The Celebrity Silhouette is the fourth ship among the highly praised Solstice class fleet. The Silhouette will enter service in July 2011 and do a series of Mediterranean cruises and then reposition to Bayonne, New Jersey.

Direct Line Cruises is now offering a early booking promotion for the Silhouette. Book NOW and receive up to $200 in FREE onboard credits. CLICK HERE for details regarding this promotion.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Sushi Lollipops, Chitinis, Crunchy Munchies…what are we talking about here? Would you believe that they’re items off the menu of “Qsine”, the restaurant brainchild of Jacques Van Staden, Vice President of Culinary Operations at Celebrity Cruise Line? “Qsine” will make its exciting debut on the Celebrity Eclipse, which is scheduled to set sail this month.

The menu at "Qsine" consists of familiar dishes and comfort food artfully and whimsically presented. So unusual is the presentation that Van Staden worked with manufacturers for several years in designing the serving dishes and stands he would use. So lets backtrack to those sushi lollipops. They’re created with soy sauce centers, and wasabi served not in the traditional ball, but as a mousse. Pickled ginger pops up in a radish salad, rather than as a condiment on the side. Chitinis are Chinese savories served in a martini glass and crunchy munchies are an assortment French fries, potato croquets, sweet potato fries etc. served in paper cones along with complimentary condiments. Painter’s mignon is filet mignon served on a painter’s palette with a variety of sauces representing the paints. And if you order the Black Angus tacos, (rectangular in shape), they’re accompanied with a mortar, pestle and the ingredients to make your own guacamole! I could go on and on, but better to leave you with some element of surprise when you visit the restaurant yourself!

Expect the unexpected at "Qsine". The menu is presented with disregard to the typical course offerings of appetizers, entrees and desserts. Instead it reads like a continuous script and the selections are prepared and intended for sharing. And speaking of the actual menu, that’s not conventional either. The main menu will be a large, backlit square filled with phrases designed to engage guests in the "Qsine" experience. The dessert menu is in the form of a “magic cube” that needs to be unfolded to reveal the offerings (but don’t worry, you can request a printed menu if this seems too intricate). Choosing wine is a totally interactive experience in which you are handed a modified Apple iPod Touch that allows you to view pairing options, watch related videos, test your knowledge against their wine quiz, and of course, order your wine!
Quirky, playful, unpredictable…out of the sea of sameness emerges "Qsine". It will be open nightly on the Celebrity Eclipse from 6pm to 11pm. There is no age restriction and the cover charge is $30pp. I recommend reservations, as this will probably be a “not to be missed” dining hot spot!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Norwegian Epic

She’s beautiful, she’s hip, she’s revolutionary and she’s trendy! She’s the next generation of freestyle cruising! The Norwegian Epic will make waves beginning this July by taking cruising to a whole new level. But who will this stylish and innovative ship appeal to? The answers easy…EVERYONE!

The Norwegian Epic is perfect for families! It starts with accommodations that give families of every size the space they need. Balcony cabins comfortably sleep four, but maybe you want more room. This ship offers more choices of connecting staterooms than any other cruise line giving you the space to spread out and more importantly, the advantage of a second bathroom! Luxurious villas can hold up to six and offer amenities you’d never believe were possible on a cruise ship!

Imagine cruising with Dora the Explorer or SpongeBob and his sidekick, Patrick! Well, they’re here, exclusively on select NCL ships including the Epic! “Nickelodeon at Sea” is a unique family cruise vacation experience that includes character meet and greets, character breakfasts, story hours, Nick-themed dance parties and interactive game shows such as “Slime Time Live.” What could be more fun for a kid than to be cruising and to have the opportunity to be covered with oozy goozy green slime!

Maybe your family wants a wet and wild cruise vacation. The Epic will debut NCL’s first ever Aqua Park! Imagine three multi-story water slides with varying degrees of “thrill factor”, culminating with the “Epic Plunge”, the only tube slide at sea with a thrilling drop through a 200-foot long tube! Yikes! The Aqua Park also includes two main pools with arching water effects which illuminate at night, five whirlpools, a wading pool and a kid’s pool in the children’s Splash and Play Zone which features whimsical sculptures, water sprays and effects, along with a kiddy slide.

If that is not enough reason for you to want to bring the family aboard, how about a complimentary kids program that delivers fun day and night? The youth staff at “Recess” is carefully selected from university education and recreational programs and are experts in providing enjoyable, engaging activities for every age group. A designated area for “tweens” includes a Wii and Playstation gaming area, a karaoke stage and a surround sound cinema.

“Entourage” is Norwegian Epic’s high energy, exclusive teen zone for ages 13 through 17. This funky space includes air hockey, pinball, foosball, a video jukebox, and nine large flat screen televisions, five of which are located around a central video game console featuring PlayStation 3. In the evening, “Entourage” transitions into a hip nightclub with a space for dancing or just hanging out on comfy couches.

The Norwegian Epic is perfect for both singles and couples! Regardless if you’re on your own, traveling with friends, or with that special someone, adults will find cruising aboard the Epic the ideal vacation!

For those that like to travel alone, accommodation innovations include hip urban flats designed for single occupancy…with single occupancy pricing! Studio guests have access to an exclusive keycard-access-only Studio Living Room complete with large screen TVs, a jukebox, and lots of comfy seating. What a great place to meet fellow travelers!

Or maybe you and that special someone are looking to retreat to your own private paradise. New Wave staterooms have sexy curved walls and concealed contour lighting. Every oceanview stateroom has a private balcony. And the romantic and secluded Spa Suites have their very own hot tubs! Find them in a private access area with direct entry to the spa.

Looking for the amenities of an upscale, glamorous and private resort? Head up to POSH Beach Club. Adult guests take a private glass elevator to enter this exclusive outdoor entertainment complex styled with a panache and excitement that’s half South Beach, half Costa del Sol. During the day, you can lounge on thickly padded Balinese day beds and in private cabanas. When it gets too hot, cool off beneath a 35-foot long cascading waterfall. The POSH VIP Host and crew are at hand to cater to your every wish. At night, the scene heat up as POSH Beach Club becomes an open air night club.

Spice H20, another adult only area is infused with Latin and Asian influences. It features a massive LED screen playing eccentric video images paired with vibrant music to create a truly unique and sensory experience. During the day, soak up the sun in lounge beds around the pool while enjoying Asian-inspired cuisine in those little white to-go containers. As the sun sets, Spice H20 morphs into an Ibiza-inspired beach club with live entertainment and dinner served tableside or directly on plush sun beds. At night, the mood is red-hot with Latin music, dancing, and unique entertainment atop the covered pool.

If sophisticated and cosmopolitan dining is part of your ultimate vacation experience then the Epic has just what you’re looking for! With 21 dining options, 11 of them complimentary, seven nights at sea is hardly long enough to experience them all! One evening you could do French at Le Bistro and feast on coq au vin. On another evening try Brazilian barbecue served by the passadores (meat waiters) at Moderno Churrascaria. Or maybe you’ll want to sample the sushi at Wasabi; just enough to hold off hunger pangs until you’re ready to head for the classy Manhattan Room and an evening of dinner and dancing. Of course you can begin another evening with a pre-dinner cocktail at the Ice Bar. One of fourteen authentic ice bars in the world, it’s kept at a frigid 17 degrees. Don’t worry, between the vodka and the faux fur they lend you upon entering, you’ll be toasty in no time. But don’t get too comfortable because it’s off to Cirque Dreams and Dinner, a dinner show that combines European cirque-style artistry with American circus and Broadway theatrics. So many choices!

The Norwegian Epic is perfect for those seeking an active vacation! The sports complex, yes, I said complex, is incredible! Two deck of multifarious activities that can put any land resort to shame! The full sized basketball court offers much more than just a game of hoops. How about hockey, dodge ball and soccer too? Or maybe you’ll want to spend some time working on your swing…baseball swing that is… in the full size batting cage. Not to worry, you can work on your golf swing too!

The climbing wall is incredible. Part rock and part vertical building, the climbing wall is accessible on two levels with varying degrees of difficulty, rated according to official U.S. climbing grades. At 33 feet high and 64 feet wide, the climbing wall includes a water tube weaving right through the middle and the first-ever rappelling wall at sea. There’s also a 24-foot tall enclosed climbing cage called the Spider Web. Now that’s extreme!

Norwegian Epic features not one, but two of their signature, industry-first bowling alleys at sea. There’s O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill where the whole gang (including the kids) can head on over to the lanes and test their skills. Then there’s the three lanes at Bliss Ultra Lounge where during the day all ages are welcome.

The Fitness Center, open 24/7, is state of the art. It has 25 treadmills with their own TVs and cross trainers too. It features a TRX Suspension trainer, a complete total-body training tool built around a set of nylon straps that create resistance from two sources always at your disposal: your body weight and gravity. If you need the latest in workout routines the Epic has them all. Case in point; Kettle ball training is exploding on the exercise scene and the Epic has it. There are also more diverse fitness classes than any other ship at sea including yoga, Pilates, Activio group cycling and body sculpting boot camp.

Then head to the Mandara Spa to give those achy muscles some TLC. The spa is every bit as high-tech and high-end as any on land. Twenty-four well appointed rooms offer every type of luxurious therapy imaginable. Among the many sumptuous treatments for you to indulge in is the couple Rasul Rooms. Enter into the exotic chamber together to take part in a traditional cleansing ritual. Apply different colored medicinal muds to specific areas of the body, while gently inhaling the steam infused by pure herbs. To complete the ritual, a warm tropical rain pours down from the dome of the room and the muds are gently washed away …

The menu of spa treatments is vast and they no longer cater to only women. There is an enriching diversity of therapies that are designed for men and the Epic also has special treatments for moms and daughters or fathers and sons. Several relatively new services available are acupuncture, teeth whitening and even Botox!

Can one cruise ship be everything to everyone? Regardless of the experience you are looking for and despite your uncompromising expectations, a cruise aboard the Norwegian Epic can and will be whatever you want it to be. After all, that’s what freestyle cruising has always been about. But now, it’s just gotten better!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Innovative NEW Cruise Ships

There has been a lot of excitement in the cruise industry as of late, and it's no wonder when you consider the inspiring and innovative vessels that are being built! It's fair to say that in the last year or so, the ships that have joined the fleets Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian Cruise Lines have revolutionized the cruise industry. These ships are like resorts in and of themselves with amenities and features that surpass their land based counterparts. Let's take a closer look:

Never before did a cruise ship receive as much pre-inaugural hype as Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas did (inaugural sailing December 2009)! Well deserved? Oh yes! It wasn't just that the Oasis made its debut as the "worlds largest cruise ship" weighing in at a whopping 225,282 tons. It was the whole pioneering "neighborhood" concept, which made all this extra space so manageable. Imagine a Central Park at sea, in which the center of the ship is open to the sky and provides guests with a lush landscape of seasonal flower gardens, canopy trees, and peaceful winding pathways. Or a Boardwalk neighborhood reminiscent of seaside piers like Coney Island complete with a hand carved, hand painted carousel. In total there are seven distinct areas that allowed Royal Caribbean to focus on unique experiences and then create a corresponding ambiance for each. Other neighborhoods include a bigger and better Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sport Zone, Vitality Spa and Fitness Area, Entertainment Place, and the Youth Zone. All this and it floats too!

The sister ship of the Oasis, Allure of the Seas will make her debut in December of 2010. While many people would come to expect the same onboard amenities as the Oasis, the Internet chat boards have been buzzing about some new and exciting changes possibly coming exclusively to the Allure. Ah, the suspense is killing me!

Not to be outdone when it comes to radical new design ideas, Norwegian Cruise Line has some original thoughts of their own for the soon to sail Norwegian Epic (July 2010). Coined "the next generation of freestyle cruising" the Epic will premier world-class entertainment never before available on a cruise ship! Blue Man Group, known for their zany and outrageous performances that combine percussion, comedy, and multimedia theatrics, will be the headline entertainment onboard. In addition, "Cirque Dreams and Dinner" will provide guests with a dinner show that combines European cirque-style artistry with American circus and Broadway theatrics. The specially designed theatre-in-the-round brings the big top to sea for a unique dining experience. Wait-staff and performers are one in the same here, so watch for aerialists drop down from the ceiling to fill your water glass! That's just a sample of what you can expect. There are 17 extraordinary dining options and an astounding 18 bar/lounges, including the first ice bar at sea! It's one of 14 authentic ice bars in the world and kept at a chilly 17 degrees so pack your mittens! Accommodation innovations include hip urban flats designed for single occupancy...with single occupancy pricing!

When Celebrity Cruise Line debuted the Celebrity Solstice at the end of 2008 the International Interior Design Association recognized it for establishing "a new benchmark in cruise ship design". The second ship within that class, Equinox, quickly followed in the summer of 2009 and shares that same airy, upscale sophisticated look. Celebrity's contribution to the growing list of industry firsts? The Lawn Club, a half-acre of plush green grass perfect for a game of croquet, bocce, or even a picnic! The area also features the Hot Glass Show, another first in the industry, developed in collaboration with The Corning Museum of Glass. Despite all of this, I'm most impressed by the new AquaClass stateroom category. Booking this type of cabin allows unlimited access to the AquaSpa relaxation room and the Persian Garden, an exotic aromatherapy and steam room. Guests may also enjoy an exclusive restaurant, Blu, which serves healthy fare in a sophisticated and soothing atmosphere. Staying in an AquaClass balcony cabin is like going on a spa destination vacation...only at sea!

Sister ships within this Solstice class are currently being built. The Celebrity Eclipse will begin sailing out of Southampton, England in April 2010 followed by Silhouette in 2011 (home port not yet determined). On these ships the specialty restaurant Silk Harvest will be replaced by an exciting new dining venue called Qsine. Unlike any restaurant on land or sea, Qsine takes a modern and playful approach in interpreting familiar dishes from around the world. This dining experience plays out as one continuous script. No appetizers, salads, entrees or course dividers. Just good food cooked and delivered tableside as it becomes ready and intended to be shared, family style. No traditional serving plates either. Food is served in custom made tableware designed for each particular dish. Think spring rolls served in well, springs...vertically mounted on a slab of granite! It is in these ways that Chef Jacques Van Staden achieves his goal to "make the ordinary, unordinary."

I'm in awe of the brilliant minds and imagination that goes into the designs of these new ships! Each one has something unique and exciting to offer and I'd like to cruise on every one! With all the choices available I'm sure you too will find a new cruise ship on your horizon!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

NCL Balcony & Suite SALE

Direct Line Cruises is now offering great cruise perks for balcony & suite bookings made on Norwegian Cruise Line. Book between 3/12 & 4/12/10 and receive up to $250.00 in FREE onboard credits. Here are the details:
  • Balcony & Mini-Suites Receive a FREE $100 Onboard Credit per stateroom

  • Suites Receive a FREE $200 Onboard Credit per stateroom

  • Garden Villas Receive a FREE $250 Onboard Credit per stateroom

For complete details regarding this NCL Cruise promotion, CLICK HERE.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Royal Caribbean 1-Week Cruise Sale

Don't miss out on our Royal Caribbean 1-week cruise SALE. Book a Royal Caribbean cruise between March 15 and March 21, 2010 and receive a 50% reduced deposit per person. In addition, book now and receive a FREE onboard savings booklet (valued at up to $200.00) plus FREE travel insurance on cruises 5-nights or longer.

Want more? Book a select Fall or Winter 2010 Royal Caribbean cruise and receive up to $100.00 in FREE onboard credits.

For complete details regarding this promotion, CLICK HERE.