Sunday, December 30, 2012

Royal Caribbean Orders a Third Oasis-Class Ship

At 225,282-tons and over 1,000-feet long, the Oasis and Allure of the Seas are two of the most revolutionary cruise ships in the world. Are two of these “cities at sea” enough?  Obviously, not!  After months of denying the rumor, Royal Caribbean just signed a contract for a third Oasis-class ship, due for delivery mid-2016.  In addition, there is an option for a second ship that could be built by 2018.

“The Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas have fundamentally transformed the cruise experience for our guests,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.  “These ships have consistently generated outstanding guest satisfaction ratings and continue to produce superior financial results.  We are thrilled to be adding a sister to this extraordinary class of vessels at a compelling price.  Being back building in France just adds to the pleasure.”

So now the excitement and anticipation begins!  What thrilling new restaurants and entertainment venues will be included in this new-build? It’s way to early to speculate, but stay tuned for future postings and we’ll be sure to share whatever we find out!"

Monday, December 17, 2012

Royal Caribbean “Revitalizes” Serenade of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas, has just emerged from a $29 million makeover, and I must say, I didn’t think it was possible to make this lovely ship more perfect than it already was!  However, Royal Caribbean has been making strides in adding additional dining venues to all their ships during scheduled revitalizations, and Serenade’s makeover includes the addition of five new dining options!

The restaurants that have been added originally debuted on Oasis-class ships, and were so well received by guests, it became a “must” to include them on as many ships as possible.  They are:

-- Giovanni's Table, a casual Italian trattoria. Your very first bite will instantly transport you to the Tuscan coastline!  It's open for lunch ($15 per person flat charge) and dinner ($20 per person).

-- Izumi Asian Cuisine, a pan-Asian restaurant. Diners can choose from sushi rolls, sashimi, or the fun and popular Hot Rock (Ishiyaki) Plates. It has a cover charge of $3 per person for lunch and $5 per person for dinner, in addition to a la carte pricing for menu items.

-- Park Café, an indoor/outdoor gourmet market serving made-to-order salads, sandwiches, soups and pastries and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I find myself constantly telling guests to try the roast beef sandwiches, with a smear of horseradish! It's available to passengers at no extra charge.

-- Rita's Cantina, a casual Mexican eatery. It's open for lunch and dinner. Menu items are available at a la carte pricing. Great margaritas perfectly paired with party nachos and fiesta guacamole!

-- Chef's Table, a private, five-course dinner experience with wine pairings co-hosted by the ship's executive chef and sommelier. This is an amazing dining experience and a perfect way to celebrate a special occasion! It costs $95 per person.

Serenade of the Seas passengers also can book a new dining package that includes dinner at the ship's Chops Grille steakhouse, Giovanni's Table and Izumi for $55 per person. A second dining package that also includes the Chef's Table costs $130 per person. Having personally done the dining package that includes the Chef’s Table on a previous cruise (Splendour of the Seas), I highly recommend it!

As part of Serenade's overhaul, the ship's centrally located, five-story Centrum was revamped to include a '60s-inspired bar.  That entire area has become an activity hub of the ship, both day and night! In addition, the vessel also received a new Concierge Club for passengers staying in suites and a Diamond Club for Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program members. Families will appreciate the addition of the Royal Caribbean' signature Royal Babies and Tots nurseries.

Serenade of the Seas is the eighth of Royal Caribbean's 22 ships to get an overhaul since the line announced a fleet-wide revitalization in 2011. The ship is sailing in the Mediterranean through January, when it moves to Dubai for a series of Middle East voyages. It will return to the Mediterranean in April for the summer season."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cruising Solo

Cruising solo. Whereas some feel it’s an opportunity to unwind without being encumbered by the needs of others, the majority of people I’ve spoken to say it’s a downright terrifying idea! So what do you do if you have the vacation time, and your friends or family aren’t inclined to join you?  Do you deprive yourself of a much needed relaxing cruise vacation?  Here are some tips on cruising solo that won’t make you feel that ""one is the loneliest number""!

Before you cruise, check out all the “Roll Calls” on the different cruise message boards. A roll call is where people that are on the same ship and sailing date meet virtually before the cruise.  It’s a great place to share your excitement, say hello, and meet people to share the cost of shore excursions.  People have met lifetime travel buddies through roll calls!

Opt for late dining and a large table.  A table of ten or twelve increases your chances of meeting other solo travelers, or somebody that shares your interests. Late dining eliminates a lot of families.  Don’t underestimate the cruise line’s uncanny ability of putting “like” groups together.  Families with children close in age, seniors, honeymooners, and yes, solo travelers.

Be sure to always check the daily activity newsletter left in your cabin for a listing of special events geared to single and solo travelers. I’ve seen meet and mingles, trivia challenges, deck parties and cocktail hours for singles only, listed on every cruise I’ve been on.

Often there is a “community board” near Guest Services where cruisers, independent of the cruise line, can post their own “meet and mingles”.  Sometimes they are posted by people looking for a group to play bridge or poker with. Other times it can be something as simple as a single cruisers looking for other single cruisers.

Hang out in areas of the ship where other solo travelers are likely to be.  The fitness center is a good choice. I don’t mean that only singles go to the gym, but working out is generally an activity one does on their own, so solo travelers feel very comfortable spending time here.

Consider cruising on the Norwegian Epic.  This is the only ship that has a private keycard-access complex of staterooms designed (and priced) for solo travelers.  The shared living room serves coffee, snacks, has a TV…the perfect set up for meeting others booked in this area.

There are plenty of people who would relish the thought of cruising by themselves, doing what they want, when they want, with nobody to answer to.  For the rest of us, it may not be that easy. I hope these suggestions encourage you to give solo cruising a chance, should the opportunity arise."

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Sabrett Hot Dogs to be Served on the Norwegian Breakaway

When you think of food in the Big Apple, the hot dog and a cold beer is about as New York as it gets!  Norwegian Cruise Lines agrees. It recently announced Sabrett Hot Dogs and Brooklyn Lager beer will be offered onboard the soon to sail Norwegian Breakaway, further enhancing the ship’s ties to New York City.

Complimentary all-beef Sabrett hot dogs will be served from the same carts as found on the streets of the Big Apple, with those familiar blue and yellow umbrellas. The carts can be found in three different areas of the ship (on the Waterfront, pool deck and forward deck). They will include the Sabrett’s famous condiments, including mustard, sauerkraut, relish, and onions in a delicious tomato sauce.

Guests will be able to wash down the dogs with another local product, Brooklyn Lager. New York’s award-winning Brooklyn Brewery’s Brooklyn Lager beer will be offered on Norwegian Breakaway’s Uptown Bar & Grill. The amber-gold lager is a wonderfully flavorful beer, smooth, refreshing and very versatile with food.

“As a New Yorker, I’ve been a fan of Sabrett’s. Since we are launching New York’s ship, it made complete sense to bring New York’s favorite hot dog to Norwegian Breakaway,” said Kevin Sheehan, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line. “With Sabrett hot dogs and Brooklyn Lager beer, our guests will truly get a real taste of the city as a part of their whole New York experience while onboard.”

The Norwegian Breakaway will be the largest ship ever to homeport in New York City. The 4,000-passenger vessel will debut in early May 2013, when she will begin weekly summer seven-day cruises to Bermuda.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Norwegian Breakaway Exhibit Debuts at Radio City

This past weekend, Norwegian Cruise Line unveiled a Norwegian Breakaway interactive exhibit in the Grand Lounge of New York’s Radio City Music Hall, featuring a 1:100 scale model of the 4,000-passenger ship. Visitors have the opportunity to tour the exhibit to view the model and learn about Norwegian Breakaway’s features.

 Norwegian Cruise Line is the designated  “Official Cruise Line” of the Rockettes, Radio City Music Hall and the “Official Partner” of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.  In one very special scene of the Christmas Spectacular, The Rockettes dance in front of the backdrop of Times Square, featuring a conspicuous “Cruise like a Norwegian” billboard!

The Rockettes, one of New York’s most illustrious and beloved icons, will christen Norwegian Breakaway as the official Godmothers on May 8, 2013, further strengthening the ship’s strong ties to New York.  Following that she will begin weekly summer seven-day cruises to Bermuda.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Norwegian Breakaway’s Ice Bar; So Cool, It’s Hot!

The nights are hot, but the vodka is cold…at Norwegian Breakaway’s Ice Bar! What a “cool” place this will be (sorry, I couldn’t resist)! The bar was designed with a bar, seating, and glasses made entirely from ice, and the room will feature ice sculptures of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and the Chrysler Building.

The bar will be kept at a constant 17 degrees Fahrenheit, but don’t worry; the cover charge includes use of a hooded parka and gloves, as well as two specialty drinks.And speaking of those drinks, they all have New York-themed name. Maybe you’d like to try a “Yellow Cab” (made from vodka, peach schnapps, and orange juice), a ""Rock Center"" (ice wine, vodka, blue Curaçao, and club soda), or the ""Central Park"" (citron vodka, ice wine, and lemon/lime soda).

The Ice Bar will also serve two non-alcoholic beverages – the “Lady Liberty”, made of strawberry puree, pineapple juice and lemon juice, and the “Coney Island”, made with orange juice, vanilla ice cream and milk. Twenty-five guests will be able to chill at the ice bar at any one time, with entrance by reservation only. Even if you don’t want to stay and drink, stopping by for the photo ops is a must!

The Norwegian Breakaway will begin weekly summer seven-day cruises to Bermuda on May 12. From October 2013 through April 2014, it will offer voyages from New York City to the Bahamas, Florida and the Southern Caribbean.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Our Thoughts are with You

We at Direct Line Cruises would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the families that have been affected by the destruction of Hurricane Sandy.  This horrible storm ravished the Northeast, including Long Island, our home.  At this time, our employees, as well as our friends and family, join other storm victims in trying to put order back in our lives.  As you begin repairing, rebuilding and recovering, we hope that you all remain safe and sound. You will be in our thoughts and prayers during these trying times.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Norwegian Cruise Line’s "Fate of the Fancy Snorkel Adventure"

The late 1600s through the early 1700s were the notorious age of the pirates. The Bahamas were the ideal locale for these notorious buccaneers to lurk about, due to the numerous islands and islets with complex shoals and channels, providing places for them to hide while waiting to plunder ships. Legend has it that while sailing from the island of Nassau in 1696, pirate captain Lord Chevalle encountered a vicious, half-shark, half-octopus man-eating creature named Lusca. It is believed that Lusca was responsible for the ship disappearing near the Berry Islands, the location of Great Stirrup Cay!

Playing off this story line, Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced the ""Fate of the Fancy Snorkel Adventure,"" for guests to enjoy during their time on their private island of Great Stirrup Cay. Guests can explore and hunt for clues underwater that lead to the treasure that the Fancy was carrying.  The trail is highlighted by 17 different underwater scenes that depict the shipwreck and Lusca's legend, including cannons, a sunken piano, treasure chests, swords and more.  The route features some authentic artifacts that are more than 300 years old! In addition, the artifacts are eco-friendly and are expected to stimulate additional marine life.

Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities on the island and Norwegian Cruise Line has now enhanced that experience with this exciting snorkel trail! To experience it, guests can rent snorkel equipment at a rate of $29 per adult or $15 per child for the entire day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Norwegian Cruise Line Announces Breakaway Plus

Norwegian Cruise Line announced today that it has reached an agreement with Meyer Werft of Germany (the same place the Breakaway & Getaway were constructed) to build a new ship, for delivery in October 2015.  The project name is Breakaway Plus. In addition, Norwegian is maintaining the option for a fourth ship, for delivery in spring 2017.

The new ship, at 163,000 gross tons and approximately 4,200 passenger berths, will be larger than the Company’s Breakaway class ships, currently under construction. In fact, it will be the largest in Norwegian’s fleet! Many of the Breakaway class’ unique design elements and innovations will be incorporated into the new build.

“Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway have garnered significant attention in the marketplace with their innovative design, rich stateroom mix and world-class amenities.  Building on that momentum, along with Meyer Werft’s expertise and efficiency in the design and construction process, we are extending the excitement and anticipation with a new, larger edition Breakaway Plus class ship to further distinguish the Norwegian brand,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Royal Caribbean Debuts Dining Room Enhancements

Over the past few years, cruise lines have invested a lot of money into including a mixture of specialty restaurants in their new builds, as well as reconfiguring space on older ships to add them. Many cruisers embrace having the choice of dining in restaurants that are dedicated to Asian fusion cuisine, regional Italian, Brazilian churrascaria, French bistro, or whatever, regardless of the added cost.  That positive feedback, however, is not unanimous!  Guests that choose not to pay additional surcharges for alternative dining venues counter that since the inception of the specialty restaurant, the selection and quality of the food in the “free” main dining room has deteriorated.

Those critics may now stand and applaud Royal Caribbean, for actually “putting their money where their guest’s mouth is!” In an announcement made last week, the cruise line stated that they’ll make a multi-million dollar investment to culinary enhancements in the main dining room, fleet-wide. Guests can look forward to seeing an increased variety of menu options, a focus on the authenticity of international flavors, and improved choices for guests with dietary restrictions.

The chef’s of Royal Caribbean can boast of serving a variety of classic favorites that guests would order each and every, evening if possible. Well, now it is possible! Escargot (lots of garlic, please), shrimp cocktail (make mine jumbo, with a tangy sauce), an aged hand-cut Manhattan steak (I eat mine medium rare), crème brulee (ah, the juxtaposition of the crispy/creamy texture)...  I just have one question. Why didn’t my absolute favorite, the Vadalia onion tart, make the list?

Monday, October 08, 2012

Azamara Club Cruises Adds Amenities

Azamara Club Cruises has always been a very inclusive cruise line, but beginning with the 2013 Europe Season, it will be more so.  The onboard Azamara guest experience will soon include the new AzAmazing Evening, along with complimentary standard spirits, wines and international beers throughout the ship during the bars’ opening hours.

 With all of Azamara’s 2013 itineraries featuring late-night departures and overnight port stays, offering guests the opportunity of an exclusive evening experience is a natural extension of the cruise line’s philosophy in giving guests the experience of discovery. ""AzAmazing Evening"", a complimentary and unique evening ashore, is customized to highlights a region’s culture and distinct personality.

 One such evening in Israel, on an Eastern Mediterranean itinerary, invites guests to a classical concert at the Roman theater at Shoni Fortress. A lively Klezmer band welcomes everyone as they arrive at this ancient arena. Stands offering typical Israeli food and beverages will be scattered around. A symphony orchestra will add drama to an already striking setting.

 On a different Mediterranean voyage, guests may find themselves sampling Jerez, Spain’s, famous sherry wine at Gonzalez Byass and later enjoying a private equestrian ballet at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art.

“Azamara Club Cruises’ guests have an unquenchable desire to immerse themselves in the history, culture and night life of the destinations we visit, which is why we offer them longer stays, more overnights and night touring,” said Larry Pimentel, President and Chief Executive. “This new concept is an evolution of Azamara Club Cruises’ core differentiator that resonates with our guests, who love their time onboard, but have made it clear that the cruise experience extends to their time ashore. With these new amenities added to Azamara Club Cruises, guests are offered an unmatched holiday experience at tremendous value.”

Also new, is the expansion of Azamara’s complimentary beverage offerings. In addition to Azamara Club Cruises’ existing selection of complimentary boutique wines, served at lunch and dinner, guests will enjoy a wider complimentary selection that includes a selection of standard spirits, wines and international beers throughout the day at any of the ships’ bars and lounges.

 Both offerings will begin with Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey’s next Europe season, March 27 and May 15, 2013, respectively.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Norwegian Breakaway’s Cutting Edge Spa and Fitness Center

The Norwegian Breakaway, launching in the spring of 2013, will feature an expansive spa and fitness center that spans two decks, and encompasses more than 23,000 square feet! This impressive wellness center will be dedicated to providing guests with everything they need to reach their personal health and wellness goals by offering the finest in fitness services, skin and body care.

The Mandara Spa aboard the Norwegian Breakaway will prove to be an oasis of serenity and comfort, offering peaceful pampering and superior service in an environment that encourages relaxation and rejuvenation. The tranquil thermal suite provides guests spectacular unobstructed views of the ocean, the opportunity to melt away on one of the 13 heated loungers, a vitality pool, whirlpools, sauna, solarium and steam room.

One of the most exciting features is the first-ever salt room at sea. The use of salt for medical purposes goes back to the ancient Greeks. The healing methods of Hippocrates, (460 BC) made frequent use of salt and specifically mentions the inhalation of steam from salt-water for the relief of respiratory symptoms. Popular in top spas around the world, salt room therapy has also been proven to alleviate skin ailments, strengthen the immune system, promote better sleep and have a long-term positive impact on overall lung function.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Norovirus Vaccine Showing Promise

Listen up cruisers… this is something worth taking note of! Scientists are getting closer to producing a vaccine against norovirus- a traveler’s worst nightmare! And although cruise ship outbreaks get most of the publicity, in actuality, most cases (around 60 percent) occur in long-term care facilities, such as homes for the elderly.

Because norovirus evolves rapidly, a vaccine may need to be administered every year, similar to the flu vaccine. Lab tests show it might be most effective when given as a nasal spray.  The first available vaccines, although still years away, would likely be targeted toward at-risk populations, including children in daycare, the elderly, and thankfully, travelers.

According to the CDC, until the time when the vaccine becomes readily available, the best way to prevent norovirus infection is to wash your hands with soap and water before eating or preparing food.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Radio City Rockettes to Christen the Norwegian Breakaway

This week at a press conference held on the Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Cruise Line named the Rockettes as the godmothers of its newest cruise ship, the Norwegian Breakaway. The christening ceremony will take place May 8 in New York City. In addition, Norwegian Cruise Line will be the official cruise line of the Rockettes and Radio City Music Hall, and an official partner of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. There will be an 11-foot model of the Breakaway on display at Radio City.

But the Rockettes involvement in the Breakaway does not end there. Two dancers from the celebrated ensemble will sail aboard each of the first six sailings of Norwegian Breakaway, and the first sailing of each month thereafter. Onboard, the two Rockettes will lead exclusive Rockette-themed fitness classes and will participate in photo ops, as well as meet and greets with passengers. An historical retrospective of the Rockettes can be viewed in the ship's library.

""I strongly believe that the Rockettes, one of the most beloved and recognizable New York icons, are the perfect choice to serve as the ship's godmothers,"" Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian's CEO, said in a prepared statement.

Norwegian Breakaway will home port in New York City, sailing to Bermuda in the summer and the Bahamas, Florida and the Caribbean in the winter.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Azamara Club Cruises Gets Ready For A Fleet Wide Renovation

Azamara Club Cruises, announced plans for the renovation of its two European boutique hotel-style ships, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest. Both ships are scheduled separately to enter drydock. Azamara Quest will spend eight nights in drydock at Navantia Shipyard in Cadiz, Spain, starting Nov. 7, 2012. Azamara Journey will enter Singapore’s Sembawang Shipyard on Jan. 6, 2013, for a 7-night renovation drydock.

The renovations of the 694-guest ships will include new carpets, upholstery, and a new color palette in public spaces. Suites and staterooms will receive new mattresses and upgraded veranda furniture. A resurfaced pool, new sun loungers and new pool towels are part of the plans for the outer decks. The Casino Bar will be expanded and enhanced with new furniture, while the Spa and fitness center will be refreshed with a new steam room, showers, and state-of-the-art Life Fitness cardio equipment. Furthermore, a range of enhancements will be made behind the scenes in the staff and crew area to add to their comfort. In addition, each ship will receive a newly painted dark-blue hull.

On the culinary front, guests onboard will soon enjoy a new caviar and champagne bar within Aqualina, one of the ships’ two specialty dining venues, as well as a new Chef’s Table concept featuring three wine degustation (tasting) menus – Italian, French, and Californian. At Mosaic Café, the ships’ central gathering spot, guests will be able to purchase a freshly brewed cup of bespoke coffee.

“Azamara Club Cruises is offering up-market travelers more of what they love about our brand,” said Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises. “Our distinctive destination-immersion proposition and the warm and authentic personal service from every staff and crew member have really resonated with up-market travelers. Guest satisfaction has consistently pushed 100 percent, and we are going to continue to deliver travel in a way that will surmount all guest expectations – on land and on board.”"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NCL Pride of America Slated For Refurbishment

Next March 23rd, NCL’s Pride of America will undergo a 14-day refurbishment in dry dock that will bring its features and amenities more in line with NCL’s more recent vessels.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer, Kevin Sheehan stated, ""We want to ensure that we are continuing to enhance the guest experience on this one-of-a-kind vessel. Therefore, we are making a major investment — over $30 million — in enhancing this ship with beautiful new suites, studios for solo travelers, new restaurants and more.""

The new accommodations being added include two 566-square-foot Deluxe Owners Suites and 22 Family Suites ranging from 363 to 416 square feet, most sleeping up to six guests. The four new Studio Staterooms designed (and priced) for solo travelers will certainly be appreciated by those that prefer a cabin to themselves! In addition, four new inside staterooms have been added in underused space on Deck 13.

Upgraded flat screen TVs are being installed in all guest and crew staterooms. Broadcast on a digital signal Pervasive WiFi throughout the ship, including crew areas will be appreciated by everyone that needs to stay “connected” to the mainland. They will also be replacing the carpet in all guest staterooms and public areas. Video, sound, and light enhancements will be made throughout the ship.

Upgrades to fitness center equipment will bring it up to par with the newer NCL ships. Decor updates in the Aloha Cafe, the ship’s buffet restaurant and the transformation of Lazy J’s Steakhouse into NCL’s signature Cagney’s steakhouse are long overdue and welcome. There will also be renovations to photo and art gallery. Updated signage throughout the ship will also be added.

As the only large U.S.-flagged cruise ship, Pride of America offers a unique and extraordinary vacation to four of Hawaii's most popular islands. Ports of call include an overnight in Kahului, Maui; Hilo and Kona (on the Big Island); an overnight in Nawiliwili, Kauai; and an afternoon cruise past Kauai’s Napali Coast.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Royal Caribbean Gives Little Girls “The Barbie Experience”

Next March 23rd, NCL’s Pride of America will undergo a 14-day refurbishment in dry dock that will bring its features and amenities more in line with NCL’s more recent vessels.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer, Kevin Sheehan stated, ""We want to ensure that we are continuing to enhance the guest experience on this one-of-a-kind vessel. Therefore, we are making a major investment — over $30 million — in enhancing this ship with beautiful new suites, studios for solo travelers, new restaurants and more.""

The new accommodations being added include two 566-square-foot Deluxe Owners Suites and 22 Family Suites ranging from 363 to 416 square feet, most sleeping up to six guests. The four new Studio Staterooms designed (and priced) for solo travelers will certainly be appreciated by those that prefer a cabin to themselves! In addition, four new inside staterooms have been added in underused space on Deck 13.

Upgraded flat screen TVs are being installed in all guest and crew staterooms. Broadcast on a digital signal Pervasive WiFi throughout the ship, including crew areas will be appreciated by everyone that needs to stay “connected” to the mainland. They will also be replacing the carpet in all guest staterooms and public areas. Video, sound, and light enhancements will be made throughout the ship.

Upgrades to fitness center equipment will bring it up to par with the newer NCL ships. Decor updates in the Aloha Cafe, the ship’s buffet restaurant and the transformation of Lazy J’s Steakhouse into NCL’s signature Cagney’s steakhouse are long overdue and welcome. There will also be renovations to photo and art gallery. Updated signage throughout the ship will also be added.

As the only large U.S.-flagged cruise ship, Pride of America offers a unique and extraordinary vacation to four of Hawaii's most popular islands. Ports of call include an overnight in Kahului, Maui; Hilo and Kona (on the Big Island); an overnight in Nawiliwili, Kauai; and an afternoon cruise past Kauai’s Napali Coast."

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Norwegian Breakaway's Hull Artwork Revealed

Norwegian Cruise Line has distinguished its ships by colorful artwork in the past, but never before has the line commissioned a famous artist to create it. However, when the Norwegian Breakaway launches in April of 2013,  pop artist Peter Max’s artwork will cover the approximately 40,000 square feet of the Norwegian Breakaway’s hull.

The Norwegian Breakaway will homeport in New York City, and the vibrant hull design depicts cartoonish images of the city.  “The artwork is a composite of New York City and cosmic imagery— the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline, a giant sunburst, planets, stars, and musical notes. That’s my New York! And now Norwegian Breakaway is my New York cruise ship canvas”, said Peter Max of his work.

Norwegian Breakaway is New York’s ship and this colorful artwork by Peter Max will make the ship an instant icon,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “The Big Apple is known for its love of art and its many galleries – and now, Norwegian Breakaway becomes a floating piece of art that will cruise in and dock every Saturday on New York’s West Side. With this distinctive design, unlike anything else on the water, the ship will be recognizable to the millions of New Yorkers who will see her as she journeys up and down the Hudson River each week.”

The Breakaway will begin weekly summer  seven-day cruises to Bermuda on Sunday, May 12, 2013. From October 2013 through April 2014, New York’s ship will offer voyages from the heart of Manhattan to the Bahamas & Florida and the Southern Caribbean.

The Cabanas on Labadee

Royal Caribbean is adding more of their fabulous cabanas on their private island, Labadee.  As if the island wasn’t already a perfect haven for rest and relaxation, the cabanas let you unwind and take in the beauty of the island in style!

“The Labadee cabanas have been a huge hit and so we have increased the number,” Adam Goldstein, President & CEO of Royal Caribbean, wrote in his blog. “Our initial offering at Barefoot Beach Club was 20 cabanas, and we are in the process of completing four more over-the-water cabanas there. In addition to regular and over-the-water cabanas, we now offer three cabanas that are wheelchair accessible, using our beach wheelchairs. In addition, there are 16 new cabanas at Nellie’s Beach. So there are now 40 cabanas available for rental at Labadee.

Each cabana can accommodate four to five guests. While each cabana is the same in size, amenities and services offered, there are four types with prices depending on location. The daily rental fee includes a dedicated cabana attendant, complimentary bottled water, complimentary floating mats and snorkeling equipment, a beverage menu (prices charged accordingly), and an upgraded lunch menu at the private BBQ facility.

The cabanas are available for reservation onboard through the concierge or guest services manager on a first-come, first-serve basis. The daily rental fee for cabanas on Nellie’s Beach is $175-200, depending on location. On Barefoot Beach, the daily fee is $150-200.  Labadee is a popular port of call on most Royal Caribbean Western Caribbean cruise itineraries.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Norwegian Cruise Line Introduces A Specialty Dining Package

The specialty restaurants aboard Norwegian Cruise Line have become such an integral part of the freestyle dining experience that the line wanted to encourage passengers to use them, while keeping the surcharge very affordable. They have done so by introducing a new Specialty Dining Package, “Signature Trio,” that gives guests the unique opportunity to pre-purchase three specialty restaurants prior to sailing at a special rate.

The steakhouse is part of the trio, (depending on the ship, it could be Cagney's or Lazy J) and is as good as any you may have eaten at in a big city. Begin your meal with Oysters Rockefeller, Colossal Shrimp Cocktail, or one of the many other tempting starters. Then face the tough decision of choosing an entrée.  Maybe a succulent grilled steak, a perfectly cooked double cut lamb chops or another delectable steakhouse favorite.

Also included in the group is Norwegian’s signature French bistro (Le Bistro or Jefferson's Bistro). With signature dishes such as coq au vin, bouillabaisse or homard rotis aux beurre, you’ll feel like your dining in Paris!

The third specialty restaurant included in the trio is Norwegian’s traditional Italian restaurant, (La Cucina, Papa's Italian Kitchen, Mama's Italian Kitchen or La Trattoria) , where you can feast on a variety of pastas, made-to-order specialty pizzas, and other Italian favorites such as chicken parmesan and osso bucco in a casual atmosphere.

Guests who take advantage of Norwegian’s Specialty Dining Package can do so at a special package rate of $47 per person. That a savings of $8 pp over booking these same three restaurants individually. The offer is currently available on all ships fleet wide.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Celebrity Reflection Aqua Spa

Spa vacations are the perfect choice for those that are looking for rest, relaxation and recharging. The best facilities usually provide a program that includes state of the art spa treatments, physical fitness activities, wellness education, as well as healthy cuisine.

A spa vacation aboard a Celebrity cruise can be every bit as comprehensive as a land-based spa vacation. The spas aboard Celebrity ships are some of the most all encompassing and luxurious, afloat!

The Celebrity Reflection, launching in the fall of 2012 boasts expanded facililities, which promises to give guests an ultimate spa experience! The AquaSpa's 883-square-foot Persian Garden has 15 of the in-demand curved, heated tile beds with soothing sea views, and six entirely new experiences:

The Hammam:  A modern twist on a traditional experience, the Hammam is a cool, calm and quiet space designed to loosen muscles and joints while relaxing on a heated stone slab. The relaxing, regenerating experience can be enhanced with a massage or a soothing, custom salt scrub.

Infrared Sauna:  Infrared heat offers distinct advantages over traditional steam heat saunas, as it provides many of the health benefits of natural sunlight without the dangerous effects of solar radiation. The heat within the infrared sauna penetrates deep into guests' joints and surrounding tissue to increase blood flow, reduce inflammation and decrease pain versus purely heat the skin, as in a traditional sauna.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Royal Caribbean 5K Run

The participation was so good for the last Royal Caribbean 5K run, that the cruise line is bringing it back again. Those wanting to take part in the event will have two opportunities to do so. The first race will take place in Philipsburg, St. Maarten in December 2012 (Oasis of the Seas 12/1/12) and the second in Falmouth, Jamaica in March 2013 (Allure of the Seas 3/10/13).

Guests of either sailing can sign up for the run by booking the race as a shore excursion on the Royal Caribbean website.  The fee for the package is $25 for adults and $15 for children. In addition to the race and the awards ceremony that follows, the entire week will be full of additional related activities. A package highlight is the scheduled seminars and lectures, as well as the private meet and greets with high-profile racing athletes. Experts will be on hand throughout the week to share training tips and give advice. Participants will also have the chance to push their personal best time at speed tests onboard the track of the ship.

Non-racers don’t despair!  The Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas features seven incredible neighborhoods packed with shows and activities the whole family will enjoy.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Jimmy Buffet Performs on the Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Epic returns to Miami on November 3rd after a season in the Mediterranean. With her she brings a new line-up of performers scheduled for the popular onboard show, “Legends in Concert”. Guests aboard any of the Epic’s weekly Eastern Caribbean cruises can look forward to new and exciting shows by tribute artists Michael Jackson, Donna Summer and Jimmy Buffet.

“Legends in Concert” on the Norwegian Epic features the three celebrity tribute artists in the Epic Theater, for six 45-minute shows over three days during a seven-day cruise.  In addition, a “Legend Unplugged” show is performed on three nights in the Manhattan Room, the ships chic supper club."

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Carnival Cruise Line is Hunting For Chair Hogs

Ah, nothing like a sea day. After finishing your breakfast a little after 9, you head out to the pool deck, and there seems to be only a handful of people who made it there before you.  But wait…as you begin scouting out where you’ll park yourself for the next few hours, you notice that things aren’t exactly what they seem!  Each lounger, all 1200 in fact, are draped with a towel or possessively marked with a book!  How can that be?  And where are all the people?  Well, they’re at the gym, eating breakfast, watching the napkin folding demonstration, on line at the shore excursion desk, or very possibly, back in bed!  You see, these “chair hogs” were up on deck hours before you, claimed their spot, and left to do …whatever.  They’ll be back…maybe. Tough luck for you?  Not necessarily.

Carnival Cruise Line is now testing a new program aimed at hunting down chair hogs. Top Carnival cruise director John Herald recently announced that staffers on the line's new Carnival Breeze have begun policing seat saving by placing stickers with the current time on any deck chairs that are being saved with towels, books, shoes and other passenger items. After 40 minutes, if the chair still is reserved but unoccupied, the staff will remove the items and take them to the towel station by the main pool. The staff will leave a note explaining what they have done.  In time the program will be rolled out to the rest of the Carnival fleet. Hopefully, the other lines will take notice!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Celebrity Reflection Shows Off It’s Cantilevered Shower

Not long ago I remodeled my master bath, adding a shower that included a rain head and four body sprays.  I thought that was innovative…and then I saw what Celebrity Cruise Line is adding to the Celebrity Reflection suite! In your widest dreams, could you have imagined this?  Its a cantilevered shower featuring see-through glass on its floor and ceiling as well as its sides, that is coated with a reflective material that Celebrity promises will keep outsiders from looking in during the day. How’s that for maximizing the stunning views of the sea?

Celebrity's Senior VP of Hotel Operations Lisa Lutoff-Perlo explains how the brand will preserve the privacy of guests using the unique glass shower: ""We made a big investment in ensuring our guests can enjoy the shower entirely free of any concerns of being seen,"" said Lutoff-Perlo. ""They can enjoy breathtaking sea views while discreetly showering, courtesy of the shower's special reflective glass. But, if they seek even further privacy, the shower also features 'smart glass.' At the flick of a switch, guests can activate an electrochromatic technology which instantly transforms the glass from transparent to translucent. We even went so far as to install a special sensor, so if guests prefer, the glass can be automatically transformed for them. It's yet another example of the modern luxury experience that only Celebrity delivers.""

The Reflection Suite will be the first suite on a Celebrity ship with two bedrooms.  The 194 square foot wrap around balcony is larger than some basic cabins on the vessel!  Lutoff-Perlo says there's growing demand from Celebrity's customers for elaborate suites, even at high prices, and the line has realized it needs more of them.

The Celebrity Reflection enters service Oct. 12 with a nine-night sailing from Amsterdam to Barcelona followed by two more Europe sailings and a trans-Atlantic voyage from Europe to the States. It then will spend the coming winter sailing to the Caribbean out of Miami before heading to the Mediterranean for the summer of 2013."

Monday, July 23, 2012

Travel Apps For Your Next Cruise

I often wonder how I kept my life running smoothly before the invention of the “smart phone.” I can now read the paper, check the weather, set my DVR, turn on my porch light, check baseball scores, calculate gratuities & divide them up for a party of 7, rent a movie, download a book, and do my holiday shopping, as long as I have my phone with me. It has also been a tremendous help whenever I travel.  Below are a few of my “can’t live without” travel apps. I hope you find them as useful as I do.

Packing Pro:  This app has countless pre-populated, travel-specific checklist items to choose from but is completely customizable and allows travelers to build checklists from the existing catalog. I have separate packing lists for weekend trips, Caribbean cruises, Mediterranean cruise, and road trips. Make a list once and it’s always there for reference.

TripIt:  This app organizes all my travel plans into an itinerary that stores every detail in one place.  I enter flights, hotel info, cruise details, daily shore excursion, and car rental data, which is then automatically formatted into a day by day itinerary that I can access from my iPad or phone. It’s comforting to have every necessary phone number and confirmation number with me at all times.

XE Currency:  This app lets me track live exchange rates for every world currency.  OK, maybe my only concern was the Euro on my Mediterranean cruise, but I still liked checking what I was actually spending in all those wonderful shops so I would not die of sticker shock when the bill came in!

Google Translator:  I love being able to say a few polite words in the native language of all the countries I visit on a cruise. Or being able to look up words found on a menu (I hate having to eat at a restaurant that caters to tourists, and has pictures on the menu). And being able to ask for directions can be a lifesaver!  With this app you can translate words and phrases between more than 60 languages and for most languages, you can speak your phrases and hear the corresponding translations.

City Maps 2 Go: Actually, this app covers not just cities, but the tiniest towns in just about every country you can think of. Google maps are great, but you must have access to Wi-Fi, which is super inconvenient when touring most places in the world. Once you have purchased this app for $1.99, you can download an unlimited number of maps, and use them to navigate according to street address or name. I loved it on my last cruise.  It worked perfect in Venice and in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona.  If you don’t find the map you are looking for, you can send an e-mail to the app developers, and they promise to have the map available for download within 24 hours."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Royal Caribbean Introduces the Freestyle Coke Machine

Where can you find the Coke machine of the future? Try looking for it on your next Royal Caribbean cruise! Instead of levers for different sodas, the Freestyle Coke Machine has a touch screen, slick as an iPad. It presents the user with 20 different options at the press of a button: Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Powerade, etc.  But wait, there's more... Maybe you’d like to try Vanilla Coke, Peach Fanta Zero, or Grape Sprite. Coke flavors that don't even exist in bottles are available from this machine!

The “Freestyle Coke Machine” is about the same size of a standard vending machine, yet it is able to create 125 different soft drink combos! Royal Caribbean guests can purchase a beverage package that includes a souvenir cup with an imbedded RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip in it, allowing the guests to serve themselves for the duration of their cruise.

The first Coca-Cola Freestyle Machine “at sea” was recently installed on Majesty of the Seas (although it made a trial run on several Allure of the Seas inaugural sailings).  Freestyle Machines are scheduled to be installed on other Royal Caribbean ships later this year, and throughout 2013.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What's Brewing at Carnival's Alchemy Bar?

Alchemy is a medieval chemical science whose ambition, amongst other equally benevolent intentions, was the discovery of a universal cure for diseases, and the discovery of a means of indefinitely prolonging life. So knowing this, who wouldn’t be lured into discovering what potions await at the Alchemy Bar aboard the Carnival Liberty?

The Alchemy Bar resembles an antique pharmacy shop, complete with wooden cabinets, marble counters and bottles of enticing colorful fluids sitting on top, with the staff dressed in lab coats and taking orders on prescription pads. The menu, displayed inside leather bound notebooks that light up when you open them, hold the promise that a concoction mixed here, could be a panacea for nearly everything!

A variety of remedies are available, including “Relief for What Ails”, “Passion Potions”,  “The Medicine Cabinet”, “Cocktail Therapy”, “Energizing Elixirs”, and “Fountain of Youth”. They may be on to something here. After all, who wouldn’t be prone to acting young and foolish after kicking back a few “Youthful and Bold Berritinis” (buck the currents of time with Finlandia cranberry vodka and St. Germain elderflower liqueur, strawberries, fresh lime juice and a splash of soda complete this martini to enliven the throes of youth)?

Look for the Alchemy Bar on the Carnival Conquest (October 2012), Carnival Glory (November 2012) and the Carnival Sunshine (April 2013)."

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Norwegian Breakaway's Ocean Blue

Geoffrey Zakarian, an accomplished chef who has presided over some of the country's top kitchens, was chosen to create and oversee the hottest seafood dining experience at sea…Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian.  The restaurant, which will open on the Norwegian Breakaway when the ship launches in May, will utilize all of the same ingredients and techniques that Zakarian would employ in any of his renowned land based establishments.

Zakarian’s taste, style and passion for fine cuisine will be reflected in the dining room of Ocean Blue, as well as The Raw Bar, an adjacent bar highlighting crustaceans and wines by the glass. A more casual area, Ocean Blue on The Waterfront, will serve a simple, unfussy fare.  Zakarian will take charge not only the menus, but also every aspect of his dining areas, from the uniforms to the glassware. On select sailings, Zakarian will also host meet-and-greets with Norwegian Breakaway guests, along with in-person cooking demonstrations and intimate cooking experiences for smaller groups.

“It is an unbelievably exciting prospect to create a concept for such a groundbreaking ship. I am nostalgic at heart, so the thought of making a modern experience that harkens to the age of steamship travel is just terrific,” said Geoffrey Zakarian.  “I am planning, preparing and recruiting for this restaurant the same as if I were opening on land, and truly, I have been humbled and inspired by Norwegian's vision to elevate hospitality on the seas.”

For those of you that may be unfamiliar with Zakarian, his rise to culinary prominence began at Le Cirque, some 30 years ago, where he took his first job in the kitchen. Since those early days, Zakarian’s name has been linked to legendary restaurants around the world. Recently, he emerged victorious in the 4th season of Food Network’s  “The Next Iron Chef, Super Chefs”. He now appears regularly on “Iron Chef America”, demonstrating a razor-sharp knowledge of culinary techniques in this fast-paced cooking competition. The Norwegian Breakaway will be the largest ship ever to homeport in New York City. The 4,000 passenger vessel will debut in early May 2013, when she will begin weekly summer seven-day cruises to Bermuda."

Friday, June 29, 2012

Norwegian Breakaway Entertainment Lineup

New York City has long been known as one of the premiere entertainment destinations of the world. So where does one find the Big Apple’s newest and hottest entertainment district? The Norwegian Breakaway, with its exciting mixture of singers, dancers, comics, Broadway shows and aerialist circus!

As a lifelong New Yorker, it's critically important to me that Norwegian Breakaway becomes New York's ship,"" Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian's president and CEO said. ""Our goal is to bring elements of New York on board so that guests will feel a real connection to the ship as New York's true flagship.""

“Rock of Ages”, the 5-time Tony Award nominated famed musical, heads up the entertainment lineup. The show tells the story of small town girl and city boy, who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their romance is told through some of the 80’s greatest hits including “Don’t Stop Believin,” ""We Built This City,” “The Final Countdown,” “Here We Go Again” and much more.

Another Broadway adapted show, “Burn the Floor”, serves as a melting pot of styles, energy and excitement for today’s generation of dancers. The choreography includes new twists on the full range of ballroom dance styles: mambo, rumba, cha cha, foxtrot, tango and the waltz. Offering shows in both the 800-seat Breakaway Theater and more intimate performances in The Manhattan Room, dance sensation “Burn the Floor” will dazzle guests with their re-invented ballroom dancing. And if you want to try out your own moves, dance and exercise classes are offered throughout the cruise by the amazing dancers.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mediterranean Cruise and the Port of Bari, Italy

My vacation this year was a Mediterranean cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas.  I had already been to several of the ports on previous cruises, but I was ok with that, since there is always something new to see and do on a return trip. However, Bari, Italy, a small city situated on the Adriatic Sea, was one that I knew little about. It didn’t take me long to discover that one day in port would be hardly enough time to explore this intriguing area.

The city of Bari itself, offers much to see and do. Charming Old Town is walking distant from the port and holds several treasures worth visiting. There is the beautiful, ornate Basilica di San Nicola, located in the heart of the historic city. Its history is full of legends, and the story of St. Nick adds to the visit for those of us who grew up with stories of Santa Claus. Another interesting sight is the Castello Svevo, built in the 13th century and later adapted into a fortified palace in the 16th Century. At the entrance to the castle you can view a short video in English that explains more about its history and past inhabitants. Of course there are those with little interest in the historic sights.  For those, Bari boasts a long seafront promenade, perfect for leisurely strolls, which is as popular with the locals as it is with the tourists. For sun and sand, Pane e Pomodoro Beach is just 10 minutes from the town center of Bari. It is well equipped with showers, bars, a place to eat, volleyball areas and soccer fields.

Another option for a day in the port of Bari is an excursion to Alberobello. This small town has been made a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unusual districts of trulli, the fairytale like, whitewashed conical-roofed houses of the area. The story behind Alberobello is that it was designed to purposely fool the authorities. The local feudal lord, Count Acquaviva, moved his peasant workers into the area to clear woodland and cultivate the land. To wiggle around laws, it was important that Alberobello wasn’t considered an inhabited settlement.  To do that, the Count had the peasants live in the trulli, because they were built using dry stone masonry, (without any mortar or cement). The stacked stone homes could then be dismantled in a when the tax collector came around! It wasn’t until 1797 that Alberobello was finally given “town” status. Today, the trulli of Alberobello are still inhabited (though the buildings have been modernized) and are actually considered expensive real estate.  And although many of the streets are now lined with touristy gift shops, it is still an enchanting place to visit.

Matera, a 45-minute drive from Bari, has another interesting type of of abode worth visiting. Spread over one side of a gorge, alongside the modern town, is the sassi. The sassi is an area of extraordinary dwellings, half-carved and half-built from the surrounding tufo rock, in which people have been living since Palaeolithic times. By the early twentieth-century the area was an embodiment for poverty, and until the 1950’s, hundreds of families were still living there in horrendous conditions. The filthy and foul conditions became such a national scandal that finally, the cave residents were moved by law, to modern buildings on the plateau above. Fast forward to the 1980’s, when well-to-do residents moved back into the sassi to clean up the area and renovate the old cave houses. In 1993 the town was made a UNESCO World Heritage site, for being ""the most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem"".

I look forward to returning to Bari, as there was too much to do and too little time to do it in! I suppose that’s the case with every port of call on almost every cruise. I’ve always contended that cruising is a perfect way to sample the world. Afterwards, one may choose to revisit an area for longer periods of time, or in the case of us die-hard cruisers like myself,  simply return on the next year's Mediterranean cruise!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What is a VIFP?

The Very Important Fun Person Club! That’s the new name of Carnival Cruise Line’s revamped Loyalty Program. But there’s a bigger change then just the name. Like another cruise line did about a year ago, Carnival will now base the tiers of the new program on the number of cruise days sailed rather than the number of cruises. Cruisers receive 1 VIFP point per cruise night. On a 7 night cruise, you earn 7 points, an 8 night cruise, 8 points and so on. So, what do your points get you?

Benefits for ""Blue"" VIFP members (0 points, first-time with Carnival):
Members-only offers and the Member eNewsLetter.

Benefits for ""Red"" VIFP members (on your 2nd cruise with Carnival, 1 to 24 points):
A complimentary beverage at ""Punchliner Comedy Brunch"" (in Main Dining Rooms).

Benefits for ""Gold"" VIFP members (25-74 points):
· All of the above plus an invitation to the Gold-Platinum-Diamond VIFP cocktail party (available on 5+ day sailings, with free drinks and appetizers.
· A Gold VIFP pin (given to you upon entry into the Gold level).

Benefits for ""Platinum"" VIFP members (75-199 points):
· All of the above plus the ""Chocolate Delight"" surprise of 4 chocolate-dipped Carnival strawberries (delivered in the cabin, on 5+ day sailings).
· Priority check-in, tender boarding (ship to shore only), embarkation and debarkation, Priority Spa reservations and priority line at Guest Services desk.
· Collectible ship- and year-specific pins.
· A Carnival logo-gift on each sailing.
· Casino benefits (for guests 18+) - buy one get one free tournament entry.
· Complimentary arcade play credit (valued $5, for guests under 18).
· Complimentary laundry services (wash and fold service, 2 bags on 3-5 day sailings, 3 bags on 7+ days).

Benefits for ""Diamond"" VIFP members (200+ points):
· All of the above plus guaranteed reservations for specialty restaurants and in the main dining rooms.
· One time complimentary dinner for 2 at a Specialty Restaurant on board.
· A special invitation from the captain (with free drinks).
· One time free cabin upgrade (or 3rd and 4th guests cruise for free).
· Unlimited complimentary laundry services.
· VIFP Club luggage tag and a passport holder
· Dedicated toll free cruise number for sales and services
· One time $100 contribution to the St Jude Research Hospital.

Additionally, the line rolled out a program called Milestone Cruise Rewards.  VIFP members sailing on their 25th, 50th, and 75th cruise will receive a shipboard credit equal to 25%, 50% or 75% of their cruise fare, respectively, for that voyage. On a member’s 100th voyage they will receive a complimentary Carnival cruise to Caribbean,  Alaska or Mexico Riviera (up to 8 days in length)."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cabanas on the Cay

Just when you thought there was no possible way a cruise line could pamper you any more than they already do, Norwegian Cruise Line unveils the ""Cabanas on the Cay!”  This elite beach experience is part of the $25 million dollar enhancement to the cruise line's private island, Great Stirrup Cay. Guests willing to pay the $249 daily rate for one of the ten luxurious cabanas will feel like they're lounging on the French Riviera!

Each cabana can accommodate six guests and is fully furnished with lounge chairs, tables, cooler, beach towels and even a shower!  A large float and passes to the Hippo Waterslide are included as part of the package. The six complimentary water bottles and fruit basket that await you will fend off a case of the munchies until lunch is served.

A $50 food and beverage credit is also included, and can be used to purchase items off the newly developed lunch menu prepared exclusively for Cabana guests. Choices consist of seafood, charcuterie, sushi and fruit platters.  Of course if the guest would prefer to dine at the island’s BBQ, the credit can instead be used for drinks.

Cabanas can be pre-booked as a shore excursion or reserved onboard at the Shore Excursion Desk. The Norwegian Gem and the Norwegian Jewel visit Great Stirrup Cay during select seven-day voyages out of New York.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Royal Caribbean Plays on Broadway

As the only cruise line to feature fully licensed Broadway productions, Royal Caribbean has been named an official partner of the 66th Annual Tony Awards. The televised awards show will include a live broadcast from the Opal Theatre of the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas. As the liner cruises around the Caribbean, the cast of the ship’s production of Hairspray will perform a show-stopping number, which will be transmitted to living rooms throughout the country.

""We couldn't be more excited to partner with the Tony Awards to give the audience a taste of our genuine Broadway productions, which include Saturday Night Fever, as well as the Tony award-winning musicals Hairspray and Chicago: The Musical,"" stated Adam Goldstein, President & CEO, Royal Caribbean International. ""These amazing performances, along with a host of other entertainment options including our unparalleled DreamWorks Experience, our dive and aqua shows, plus ice skating performances, afford our guests an unparalleled vacation that is second to none”.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast in a live three-hour ceremony from the Beacon Theatre in New York City on the CBS television network, Sunday, June 10, 2012."

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Grandeur of the Seas gets Revitalized

After a $48 million, 5 week stint in dry dock, Grandeur of the Seas has emerged refreshed, rejuvenated and sporting an array of Oasis-class amenities.  Grandeur of the Seas is the third of six Vision-class ships to undergo extensive revitalization. The bow-to-stern restoration includes a host of new dining venues, technological upgrades and new entertainment offerings, as well as a refresh of all furniture, carpet, upholstery and staterooms. Cabins now have flat-screen TVs and iPads.

The beautifully updated Centrum will prove to be the heart of the ship, with ongoing activities from morning to night, including exciting aerial entertainment.  A pool-side movie screen will feature movies, sporting events and music videos.

“Foodies” will rejoice in the new dining options that have been added: The Park Café, Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table and Izumi Asian Cuisine. The Chef’s Table, an extraordinary dining experience will also be available.

A Diamond Club, for elite Royal Caribbean Crown & Anchor cruisers, and a Concierge Club, for suite guests was added.  Families traveling with babies will appreciate the addition of a nursery.  Digital Signage was installed around the ship, as was pervasive Wi-Fi.

If you’d like to check out the Grandeur of the Seas, she is currently cruising in the Mediterranean.  She will cruise from Baltimore,  Maryland in the spring of 2013."

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Sushi and BBQ on the Carnival Breeze

Just reading about the two new dining venues aboard the Carnival Breeze makes me hungry!  Bonsai Sushi will be Carnival’s first full-service sushi restaurant.  The menu will present Asian-inspired cuisine, and the restaurant itself will be quite unique. The décor will feature artwork by contemporary urban artist, Erni Vales, best known for his development of the 3D graffiti style.  Prices range from $1 for appetizers to $15 for sushi for two.

Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ is everything you want good BBQ to be. Come hungry because the choices include barbecued chicken breasts, kielbasa, Italian sausages and pulled pork sandwiches, along with traditional sides including baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw and mini-corn muffins.  The dining at this venue will be free for all guests to enjoy.

The 3,600 passenger Carnival Breeze will enter service in June 2012 debuting with a summer schedule of 12-day Mediterranean voyages before repositioning to Miami in November for year-round six- and eight-day Caribbean departures."

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Return of the "Solsticized" Summit

Have you dismissed the thought of cruising on the Celebrity Summit this year because “you’ve been there, done that?”  Well let me tell you, if you were to board her today, you wouldn’t recognize her!  The Celebrity Summit returned to Cape Liberty on May 6th having been completely “solsticized”, in other words, renovated from bow to stern.  All those wonderful and innovative features inherent to the Solstice-class ships have now been added to those aspects of the Millenium-class Summit that you’ve always loved!  The end result…a Stupendous Summit!

Of course, you would expect new bedding, carpet, window treatments and even a flat-screen TV in a newly renovated cabin.  But the transformations to the Celebrity Summit are so much more extensive! Aqua Class cabins were added, spa-inspired staterooms featuring indulgent amenities to help you unwind.  Booking into this cabin class gives guests complimentary access to the Persian Gardens, complimentary infused teas and bottled water, a spa concierge to arrange spa treatments, and exclusive access to Blu restaurant.

Speaking of restaurants, “solsticizing” provided wonderful new dining options for the Summit, with the addition of four signature eateries. Qsine is the quirky restaurant where you quickly learn to expect the unexpected! The menu at Qsine consists of familiar dishes and comfort food artfully and whimsically presented. Blu offers a lighter, cleaner menu, serving inventive dishes with fresh, crisp flavors in a sophisticated atmosphere. Bistro on Five is a delightful creperie open all-day and late into the evening. The crepes are made to order, and the variety is both exceptional and interesting. Last but not least, Café al Bacio and Gelateria is a coffee house serving specialty coffees, teas, and pastries.  In addition, the cafe has a nice gelateria with gelati and Italian ices.

Several bar and lounge areas that are incredibly popular on Solstice-class ships can now be found on the Summit.  The ice topped Martini Bar and Crush is a favorite evening hang-out spot, as is Cellar Master, a refined wine bar complete with an Enomatic wine dispenser. Michael’s Club has also evolved into a sophisticated lounge serving fine whiskeys, scotches and cognacs, as well as craft beers.

The Celebrity iLounge is dedicated to all things Apple and is the perfect place to learn about all their electronic gadgets. If you’d rather spend your time in the fresh ocean air, the outdoor upper deck has been remodeled and is wonderfully conducive to rest and relaxation.

The Celebrity Summit departs from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, heading to beautiful Bermuda through September.  After that she’ll help you escape the chilly northeast weather as she cruises to the Caribbean. So, if you’ve already cruised aboard the Celebrity Summit, maybe it’s time for a second go around.  If you haven’t yet been on the Summit, what are you waiting for?"

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Punchliner Comedy Clubs Presented by George Lopez

Carnival Cruise Line has teamed up with legendary comedian and TV personality George Lopez, who will become the cruise line’s director for comedy. The newly launched venue, Punchliner Comedy Clubs Presented by George Lopez, recently made its debut on the Carnival Miracle, and will eventually be expanded throughout the fleet. Lopez will take an active role in the vetting and hiring of comedic talent, as well as advise on décor, lighting and music.  The club will have five 35-minute performances on multiple nights during each cruise. The two earliest shows will be family friendly, but the later ones will be more adult-oriented. There will also be a Punchliner Comedy Brunch Presented by George Lopez, which will be held in the main dining room.  The menu was inspired by Lopez’s Mexican heritage, and includes two of his own creations! There is no additional fee for the Comedy Club or brunch."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Norwegian Breakaway Reveals

Exciting features were revealed today regarding the Norwegian Breakaway, set to sail from New York City in the spring of 2013.  While last month’s announcements focused on the Waterfront area, this month’s reveals were more “action packed”. The Norwegian Breakaway will feature a three-story Sports Complex and multiple water features that the entire family can enjoy.  The only question is, will seven days be long enough to experience it all?

 It starts with the largest ropes course at sea.  Thrill-seekers of all ages can navigate a challenging maze of beams, swinging ropes and ladders.  The truly brave at heart can try walking The Plank, a beam that extends 8 feet over the side of the ship! Neither climbing techniques nor physical fitness experience is necessary to experience the 40 elements of this multi-level structure.  And yes, guests must be tethered to a safety harness!

 Then there’s the Spider Web, a 24-foot tall enclosed climbing cage, complete with a spiral slide.  This is probably a great way for little ones to practice before tackling the ropes course!

 If you think a backyard trampoline is fun, wait till you try a bungee trampoline!  Participants wear a harness that is hooked to several bungee cords.  This allows higher jumps, and the ability to do flips and other maneuvers that would otherwise be impossible on a regular trampoline.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Olympic Games to be Shown on Celebrity Cruise Line Ships

Wow, has it been four years since the last summer Olympic games?  On July 27th the torch of the XXX Olympiad, carried from Olympia, Greece, will reach the final destination of its relay when the Olympic cauldron is ignited in London, England. The event will be broadcast worldwide.  Among those that will be able to view the extravagant opening ceremonies, the dazzling closing ceremonies, and everything in between, will be guests aboard the ships of Celebrity Cruise Line. Viewing will be available in both the comfort of the guest’s stateroom, or in one of the bars or lounges onboard. Sounds like lots of fun to me!"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Tour of the Azamara Journey

Last Wednesday the Azamara Journey pulled into New York City for an overnight stay, before heading out for a transatlantic voyage. A small group of travel agents, myself included, were invited aboard for a ship tour followed by dinner in one of the specialty restaurants. What follows is a review of our visit, with pictures courtesy of my co-worker, Leslie.

I cruise often, always on large contemporary vessels that resemble floating cities. Walking onto the Azamara Journey was a totally different experience. Dubbed as a boutique cruise line, the Journey carries 694 guests and is a mere 30,277 tons. There was no multi-storied atrium, no wide sweeping staircase, and no mega-sized chandelier tossing the light off it's crystal facets from above. Instead, I immediately felt embraced by her cozy ambience, much like an intimate European hotel.  Warm and welcoming, I was charmed by her relaxed atmosphere.

The public rooms are all decorated in a chic but conservative style, and you could say the décor is a bit of a throwback to ship decor of the ocean liners of the 1920s and ’30s. I boarded the ship at the entrance of the Mosaic Café, a quaint spot serving coffee or alcoholic beverages depending on the time of day. My eyes were immediately drawn to the glass jars of cookies on the bar and the large, multi-tiered cart filled with small ""tapas""-style plates of delicious savory and sweet items. A piano player was performing in the corner.  I could envision myself sitting at one of the small tables enjoying a pastry, while checking email on my iPad (I should mention the ship is fully wi-fi), before heading out for the day. Well, I can dream, can’t I?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where will the Norwegian Getaway Call Home?

Those of us in the Northeast were jumping for joy when we received the news that the soon to sail Norwegian Breakaway (debuting in May 2013) would call New York City her year-round home.  So, that left us questioning where her sister, the Norwegian Getaway (arriving in 2014) would cruise from. Today it was announced that the 144,000-ton, 4,000-passenger Norwegian Getaway will homeport year-round in Miami!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dining at the Chef's Table

If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience while on your next cruise, consider booking the Chef’s Table.  On this special evening you can look forward to a multi-course gourmet meal, not offered anywhere else on the ship, prepared by the master chef.  Each course is accompanied by an explanation of ingredients, preparation methods, and tasting suggestions.  The menu might focus on regional cuisine to highlight indigenous ingredients from a recent port, or may just be a specialty created by the chef himself. The meal generally includes wines expertly paired by the Master Sommelier.

On Carnival Cruise Line, the Chef’s Table is limited to 12 guests.  Depending on the ship, the meal may take place in an intimate, non-dining venue such as the ship’s library, conference room, or inside the galley itself.  The evening starts with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a galley tour. Then, one of the master chefs hosts a sumptuous multi-course dinner served with wine pairings.  The cost is $75 per person, is available fleet-wide, but only offered once per voyage.

Norwegian Cruise Line offers a two-and-a-half hour experience that begins with a champagne reception. Guests have the opportunity to mingle with the ship’s executive chef as well as the food and beverage manager, restaurant manager, assistant maitre d’ and head wine steward. A multi-course meal follows, with wines selected by the Master Sommelier. The Chef’s Table is limited to 12 guests and is only offered once per voyage. The $75 per person charge includes gratuities, a behind the scenes galley tour, and two photos to commemorate the evening. The experience is available fleet-wide.

On select Royal Caribbean ships, 12-16 guests will enjoy a five-course menu of gourmet selections specially prepared and personally presented by the Chef de Cuisine.  Every course is accompanied by wine pairings chosen to enhance the enjoyment of each dish.  The cost of $95 per person includes gratuities.  The Chef’s Table is featured on Oasis class ships, Radiance of the Seas, and Splendour of the Seas.

Although there is an extra fee for booking the Chef’s Table, that certainly does not deter guests wanting to experience this gastronomical event. If this is something you would like to try on your next cruise, be sure to book it pre-cruise if the cruise line allows you to do so, or immediately book it upon boarding.  Bon Appetite!"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cruising With Baby

Vacationing with a baby can be a challenge. However, choosing a cruise is often a smart choice, because your accommodations, restaurants and entertainment are all in one general spot, like a floating resort!  Here are some tips from the cruising moms at Direct Line Cruises that will hopefully, make your cruise vacation even easier and more carefree...

If you will need a crib in your stateroom be sure to let your cruise consultant know in advance so that it can requested well in advance. You don't have to reserve high chairs ahead of time.

Bringing that much loved “blankie” from home is always a good idea. Same goes for a favorite bedtime story and stuffed animal.  Nothing can replace familiarity and routine.

You will have to pack baby food, formula, diapers, and wipes, however if you’re cruising with Royal Caribbean, you have the option of ordering these items on their website and they’ll be waiting for you in your cabin.

Along those same lines; if you packed diapers, food and formula be sure to have an ample supply in your carry-on bag.  Luggage is sometimes not delivered until the early evening.

Generally, staterooms have showers only.  If you prefer to bathe little ones in a tub, on many cruise lines that may mean upgrading to a suite.

Don’t forget your umbrella stroller.  It’s so handy to have both on and off the ship! You can wheel a sleeping baby into the theater so you can watch the show, or into a lounge while you enjoy a glass of wine.

Many cruise lines offer private babysitting, but make sure you confirm availability in advance.

Ask your cruise consultant if the ship you’re booking has an age appropriate children’s program.  Not every cruise line has nursery facilities or programs for children that are not yet potty trained.

All ships provide laundry service for a price, but ships with self-service facilities are not the norm.

In accordance with Center for Disease Control's sanitary codes, not all cruise lines allow swim diapers in their pools. Check with your cruise consultant for ships with splash zones for little ones.

Consider booking a balcony cabin.  While your child is napping in the cabin you can sit in the fresh sea air with a good book and a glass of iced tea! Now that’s what cruising with baby is all about!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

“Love for Sail”

Set you DVR’s for the April 10th premier of the new dating reality series “Love for Sail” (10pm E.T. Lifetime channel).  The show features three Norwegian Cruise Line ships- Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Star.

In each episode, four women will set sail hoping to meet “Mr. Right” onboard. The singles will participate in a variety of mixer parties to begin the matchmaking process. Romantic dates and excursions in exotic Caribbean ports of call follow.

The women participants are hosted in the luxurious Haven suite complex, giving viewers a glimpse of this ritzy, exclusive area, as well as other venues onboard. Look for scenes filmed in the Mandara Spa, Posh, Bliss Ultra Lounge, Spice H2O and the various incredible restaurants.

While “The Love Boat”, the romantic comedy series popular in the late 70’s / early 80’s, usually had an idyllic ending, reality does not always guarantee such a happily ever after. Whether it does or it doesn’t, viewers will enjoy the fun and drama taking place aboard these NCL ships."

Monday, April 02, 2012

There's An App For That!

If you’re a techie you’ll appreciate this! Norwegian Cruise Line has created an app that enables iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows7 users to connect with Norwegian Epic’s onboard guest information and service system during their cruise. It also enables passengers to communicate with each other via voice and text messaging. The app is free, although there is a fee to use the calling / messaging feature while on board. At this time the introductory rate of $7.95 covers unlimited calls and messaging for the entire sailing. Fleet-wide expansion is expected in the future. This sure beats carrying walkie-talkies and trying to find an open channel!"

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Celebrity Cruise Line Wants to Excite Your Senses

Celebrity Cruises' new lifestyle book, ""Excite the Senses"", has inspired a new series of food-and-wine-themed cruises that will offer guests a unique, behind-the-scenes experience and a rare opportunity to get to know the Celebrity culinary team through intimate demonstrations, tastings and dinners.

Celebrity's Master Chef and Vice President of Culinary Operations, Jacques van Staden says, ""Every Celebrity cruise is a modern luxury vacation, and a large part of that is the culinary experience. The culinary-themed activities at the heart of Celebrity's Excite the Senses cruises are designed to appeal to everyone from the novice to the sophisticated oenophile.”

Each sailing will be led by a member of the Celebrity culinary team, along with partners from the cruise lines’ wine and spirits program. Jack Daniel’s, Jackson Family Wines, St. Francis Vineyards and Marchesi Antinori. Enjoy a Meet & Greet event, a book signing, two demonstrations of recipes from the book, two hands-on classes, and a Food & Wine Pairing Dinner. Each expert will also incorporate elements of the sailing's ports of call.

The programming promises to be fun, interactive and memorable, providing an enriching experience that will extend beyond your cruise vacation. 2012 dates are as follows:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

NCL Enhances Kids Club Fleetwide and Debut’s Spectacular Youth Area Aboard the Breakaway

As a parent I quickly discovered that my vacation experience would always be directly tied to my son’s vacation experience. That is to say, whether he was three years old or thirteen years old, if he was kept busy, engaged in age appropriate activities, and having fun with new friends, then it would be a great vacation for all of us!  These days, children’s programs no longer concern me personally, as my son is now a young adult.  However, as a cruise consultant, I am always happy to see cruise lines improving their programs for children, and that’s why I’m so excited about the enhanced youth and teen curriculum aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, particularly the soon to sail Norwegian Breakaway.

Splash Academy, the name for the Norwegian Cruise Line youth program, is divided into four age groups.  Guppies are age 2 and under, 3-5 year olds are called Turtles, Seals are 6-9 and Dolphins are 10-12. Entourage is the name of the new teen program for the 13-17 year old crowd. The program concentrates on creative and unique activities that focus on team building and assisting in developing children’s interpersonal and confidence building skills.

Both Splash Academy and Entourage will feature a different theme every day. It could be ocean-related, pirates, space, or jungle fever, to name a few. Creative arts, theater, improvisational acting classes, and participation in puppet shows are all available. Through the partnership with Hilario Productions Cirque du Jour (established by a team of performers from the famed Ringling Brothers), Norwegian is offering circus workshops for the whole family teaching a variety of skills such as balancing feathers, juggling, plate spinning and even stilt walking. There is also a family circus school performed in a circus ring, hosted by a ringmaster!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Monarch Steps Down From Her Throne

It’s been 20 years since I stepped aboard the regal Monarch of the Seas, my first Royal Caribbean cruise.  It was a trip that would change the way I would vacation in the future, and unknowingly influence my future career path. I remember being in awe of the glitzy and glamorous Centrum and elegant dining room. At 73,941 gross tons, Monarch was one of the largest and most innovative cruise ships in the world at time of its completion, but today she is considered merely mid-size!  So I was a bit sad to hear that on April 1, 2013, Monarch of the Seas will be transferred to Royal Caribbean's Madrid-based sister company, Pullmantur Cruises.  She will join her sister Sovereign of the Seas and the Empress of the Seas, leaving her home in Port Canaveral for the Mediterranean shores. Bon Voyage, lovely lady.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Norwegian Breakaway Reveals

Nothing causes as much of a buzz in the cruise industry as the “reveals” of exciting innovations in the design of a new ship.  The Norwegian Breakaway, launching in April 2013, will debut with a unique design that will add a whole new element to the line’s signature Freestyle Cruising concept.  Picture this…

Located on deck 8 of the ship will be The Waterfront, a quarter-mile-long ocean facing ""boardwalk."" The area will span both sides of the ship and feature eight outdoor dining and lounging options, including Moderno Churrascaria, Cagney's Steakhouse, La Cucina, Shaker's Cocktail Bar, Malting's Beer & Whiskey Bar, a gelato bar, as well as Ocean Blu, the cruise line’s first seafood restaurant.

The area will also include a yet-to-be-named entertainment venue. Although the Waterfront area is partly exposed to the elements, the ship's designers have determined that the location should not be particularly windy even when the ship is sailing at cruising speed.

The Waterfront will connect to the indoor entertainment hub of the ship called 678 Ocean Place, (as in deck 6, 7, and 8). The three-deck-high indoor complex will be home to additional restaurants, bars, entertainment and the casino. Indoor on deck 8 guests will find retail outlets, the photo gallery and Humidor Cigar Lounge.
 Deck 7 is home to the lavish Breakaway Casino with 300 of the latest slot machines, along with 26 gaming tables featuring poker, blackjack, roulette and craps. Also on Deck 7 will be Bar 21 (featuring video poker) and the two-story, New York supper club-inspired Manhattan Room restaurant.
 Favorites like O'Sheehan's Neighborhood Bar & Grill, Shanghai's Noodle Bar, Bliss Ultra Lounge, main dining rooms Savor and Taste, Mixx Bar, Teppanyaki and Le Bistro round out 678 Ocean Place. A three-story open atrium with an LED chandelier with light changing effects will serve as the centerpiece. The two-story video wall along with the Café and Bar at The Atrium adds to the mix.

Additional dining options and bars not located within 678 Ocean Place will be announced in late April. Entertainment venues located within 678 Ocean Place will be revealed later this spring.

Norwegian Breakaway will home port in New York City, sailing to Bermuda in the summer and the Bahamas, Florida and the Caribbean in the winter.  For rates and availability visit the Direct Line Cruises site dedicated to the Norwegian Breakaway.

Monday, March 05, 2012

NCL Expands Moderno Churrascaria Fleet-Wide

Due to popular demand and rave reviews, Norwegian Cruise Line is adding its signature Brazilian-style steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria, throughout the fleet. So maybe you’re asking, what exactly is a Churrascaria?

In the early 1800's, European immigrants settled in the Rio Grande do Sul area of Brazil and became ranchers.  At mealtime they would gather together and start a wood burning fire. Once the fire burned down to golden embers they would skewer and slow cook large portions of prime meat to perfection. Using conventional knives, which they wore on their belts, they sliced thin and juicy pieces of meat onto each person's plate. This unique type of cooking is called churrasco.

Moderno Churrascaria has a long delicious salad bar filled with appetizers, gourmet vegetables, soups, and salads. Passadors (the name for these meat-wielding waiters) go from table to table serving generous amounts of various beef, lamb, pork, chicken and Brazilian sausage, tableside. For a cover charge of $20 per person, guests can enjoy the salad bar, as well as an unlimited amount of the mouth-watering meats."

NCL Expands Moderno Churrascaria Fleet-Wide

Due to popular demand and rave reviews, Norwegian Cruise Line is adding its signature Brazilian-style steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria, throughout the fleet. So maybe you’re asking, what exactly is a Churrascaria?

In the early 1800's, European immigrants settled in the Rio Grande do Sul area of Brazil and became ranchers.  At mealtime they would gather together and start a wood burning fire. Once the fire burned down to golden embers they would skewer and slow cook large portions of prime meat to perfection. Using conventional knives, which they wore on their belts, they sliced thin and juicy pieces of meat onto each person's plate. This unique type of cooking is called churrasco.

Moderno Churrascaria has a long delicious salad bar filled with appetizers, gourmet vegetables, soups, and salads. Passadors (the name for these meat-wielding waiters) go from table to table serving generous amounts of various beef, lamb, pork, chicken and Brazilian sausage, tableside. For a cover charge of $20 per person, guests can enjoy the salad bar, as well as an unlimited amount of the mouth-watering meats."

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Direct Line Cruises Will Be At The NY Times Travel Show

Looking for something to do this weekend?  How about spending a day at the 2012 New York Times Travel Show, which will be held at the Javits Convention Center at 11th Avenue & West 34th Street in NYC! There will be almost 500 exhibitors, representing all segments of the travel industry, including Direct Line Cruises!  We’ll be partnering with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line at the event  (Booth 415) and we’d love it if you stopped by to say hello!

At one of the many scheduled stage events, Royal Caribbean and Direct Line Cruises will host a  “jeopardy” style trivia challenge with contestants randomly selected from the audience.  One of them could be you!  We’ll have prizes for the winners and we’ll be throwing t-shirts to the crowd!  Best of all, book ANY 5-Night or longer Royal Caribbean Cruise with Direct Line Cruises at the NY Times Travel Show and receive a FREE $100 onboard credit, FREE onboard savings booklet plus Travel Insurance!  It’s going to be lots of fun, so try to join us.

The New York Times Travel Show, the largest consumer event of its kind in the United States, will be held on Saturday, March 3rd from 10 am to 6 pm and Sunday, March 4th between 10 am and 4 pm.  See you there!"

Monday, February 27, 2012

SpongeBob Boards the Norwegian Gem

Welcome to the newest crew members that recently boarded the Norwegian Gem; SpongeBob, Patrick, and Dora the Explorer!  The Gem is now the third ship in the fleet to offer little cruisers and their families the Nickelodeon experience.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO, Kevin Sheehan, stated, “We’ve had tremendous success with the Nickelodeon-themed entertainment and programming to date on Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Jewel. Families are flocking to these ships for the unique experience available to them through Nickelodeon.  Based on this success, we wanted to give more families the opportunity to experience sailing with their favorite Nickelodeon characters, so we are pleased to roll out this programming on Norwegian Gem.”

Lots of Nick family fun has been scheduled into the Gem’s 7-night itinerary! The all new “Pajama Jam Character Breakfast” encourages guests to show up in their jammies for a morning meal full of laughs and surprises. Each cruise features a live Nickelodeon-themed interactive show in the main theater and “Nick Live Poolside” activities and games. “Dora’s Dance Party”, where children, ages six and younger have the chance to sing and dance to their favorite songs with Dora the Explorer and Team Nick is a cruise highlight. Families can also look forward to Nickelodeon Character Meet and Greets, Nick Jr. Story Time, and Nickelodeon arts and crafts.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Introducing the NEW

Have you been on the Direct Line Cruises website lately?  There’s a lot of new and exciting additions that we think you’re going to like! We’ve created comprehensive travel center dedicated solely to cruising! Let me tell you about some of its exciting new features!

One of the things we’re most excited about is the newly created customer service center! You’ve told us you wanted access to your booking 24/7 with the ability to make modifications without having to call us.  I think we’ve achieved that! For those of you already booked, take some time to log in to your reservation and mosey around a bit. Name corrections, dining changes, credit card changes, adding loyalty numbers, requesting rate adjustment and prepaying gratuities can all be done in a few keystrokes. Then we’ve added links that lead you effortlessly through the mandatory guest registration process as well as the printing of electronic boarding passes. Did you notice how you can conveniently pull up driving directions that are integrated with Google maps! Now there’s no way you can get lost driving to the pier!   And my favorite addition, an animated cruise line purser that is there to advise you on every page!

We added an extensive collection of indispensable travel information tailored specifically to cruising, making the website a resourceful way for you to research your cruise vacation.  There’s practical info regarding embarkation ports, parking fees, transfer options and even some ideas on how to spend the day pre or post cruise! Direct Line Cruises’ ongoing effort to enhance the quality and availability of relevant information includes all-inclusive overviews of cruise lines and cruise destinations as well as ship reviews!  Be sure to check out our photo galleries and exciting video tours. Our travel partners Azamara Club Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line are all well represented.  In addition, we’ve created a database of your most frequently asked questions, cruise line specific, where you can go to as a reliable source of cruise line policy and amenities. I’m so excited about our new cruise forum! It’s my hope we’ll be able to chat and share tips about our favorite past time, cruising!