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 CafĂ©, 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."