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 CafĂ©, 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.