Monday, December 23, 2013

The Butler Did It…on Norwegian Cruise Line

The last time someone “drew my bath” I was about five years old and my mom made sure it included an overflowing capful of “Mr. Bubbles”!  I made the switch to showers shortly thereafter and never looked back.  However, after reading about Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Bath Butler Menu” featuring seven different luxury bath packages, I may be swayed to reconsider…at least when I’m cruising!

But first things first.  Before you may even consider indulging in this hedonistic pleasure, you would have to have booked accommodations that include a bathtub…specifically a suite.  Once you’ve got that covered, there a several options to choose from, each inspired by a different exotic locale visited by a Norwegian Cruise Line ship. In addition, every package also includes a specially selected beverage selection.

The “Mediterranean Soak” is truly extravagant at $499! Imagine soaking in French verbena bubbles, while sipping Dom Perignon champagne, poured from the bottle that sits beside you, and snacking on sturgeon caviar.  Pricey, but tempting if the tub comfortably seats two. If not, then maybe NCL should consider including a back scrubbing by the butler.

There are five other menu items more reasonably priced at $99 each.  What romantic honeymoon or anniversary gift to surprise your spouse with!

There's no need to cruise to Mexico to enjoy the “Mexican Riviera Retreat”.  It includes a lime exfoliating body scrub with loofah and a freshly made, margarita with 100% agave tequila, premium triple orange liqueur and fresh squeezed limes.

What's more relaxing then cruising to the Caribbean? The “Caribbean Calm” luxury bath! It consists of a passion fruit bath gel with exfoliator gloves, topped off with a hand-muddled Mojito prepared with Bacardi Superior, fresh mint and hand pressed limes.

Choose the “Hawaiian Bloom” and let the scent of pulmeria transport you to paradise as you soak in a milk bath with floating flowers. If you're not actually cruising to Hawaii, this is the next best thing! This bath is served with a coconut kiwi pineapple splash prepared with Bacardi Rock Coconut, pineapple juice, lemon lime soda with chunks of fresh pineapple and kiwi.

Conjure up images of the Alaskan wilderness while taking the The “Alaskan Plunge”.  This specialty bath invigorates body and soul with its refreshing pine bath salts and a back scratcher. After soaking, guests can enjoy a cold pitcher of strawberry lemonade with Stolichnaya vodka, fresh strawberries and hand pressed lemons.

Beware of the total relaxation effect of the “Great Island Oasis”! It consists of a seaweed eucalyptus bath, complete with bath pillow and passion punch made with passion fruit liqueur, vodka, fresh fruit juices and sparkling wine.

I’m not sure if Mr. Bubbles is still available on store shelves, but if not, parents can treat their kids to the “Wonder Waterfall”, for $49.  This includes kiwi fruit berry bath bombs and a yummy kid-friendly strawberry and banana smoothie, but even better than that, you don’t have to clean the tub when they’re through!"

Monday, December 16, 2013

Norwegian Cruise Line Announces the Bacardi Bar

A stop at Great Stirrup Cay has always been a highly anticipated port of call on a Norwegian Cruise Line itinerary, and now there’s something new on the island to experience! A first-of-its-kind Bacardi Bar has recently opened on Great Stirrup Cay, the cruise line’s private island. Inspired by Bacardi’s rich 150-year history and distinct Cuban heritage, the Bacardi Bar and terrace feature original Bacardi advertising artwork and Cuban-inspired fixtures including specially-designed tiles and shutters.

“We are excited to announce the grand opening of the Bacardi Bar,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s chief executive officer. “We are honored to partner with Bacardi for the launch of our island’s newest bar. Bacardi’s rich history and quality beverage products are the perfect complement to our private island experience. We know that our guests are going to love spending time here during their visit to Great Stirrup Cay.”

Guests who visit the Bacardi Bar during their island visit can experience some of Bacardi’s superior craft rums through freshly made specialty cocktails. Similar to a “wine tasting experience”, here guests can come and sample some of Bacardi’s most popular Mojito creations!  There will be exclusive events and entertainment on the patio, including live mixology, live DJ’s and a variety of interactive games.

Guests booked on the Norwegian Breakaway or the Norwegian Gem, cruising from New York City, can look forward to visiting the Bacardi Bar at Great Stirrup Cay on an upcoming sailing.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dancing with the Stars…at Sea

Good news for “Dancing With the Stars” fans! Holland America Line has extended its  “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” program for another year! The 2014 schedule will continue to feature “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” programming on all sailings throughout the year, in addition to six special “Dancing with the Stars” theme cruises featuring the show’s professional dancers and celebrities. Currently scheduled to sail on the six theme cruises in 2014 are professional dancers Tristan MacManus and Kym Johnson and television personality Carson Kressley and actress Sabrina Bryan.

“Our collaboration with ‘Dancing with the Stars’ has been one of our most successful partnerships ever and we’re excited to be able to continue the experience through 2014,” said Richard Meadows, Holland America Line’s executive vice president, sales, marketing and guest programs. “Dancing in all forms is among our most popular shipboard activities so it’s no wonder that the ‘Dancing with the Stars: At Sea’ experience is getting rave reviews from guests.”

Six theme cruises present the chance to sail with dance pros and celebrities from the hit ABC show.

June 14 and June 21 aboard ms Zuiderdam, 7-day Alaska roundtrip from Vancouver, British Columbia.
July 26 and Aug. 2 aboard Westerdam, 7-day Alaska roundtrip from Seattle, Washington.
Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 aboard Westerdam, 7-day eastern Caribbean roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Each theme cruise features guest performances from dance pros and celebrities. Additional events on theme cruises

include dance lessons with the ship’s professional dancers, a special fashion show featuring glamorous show costumes and a chance to meet the dance pros and celebrities, ask questions and take photos with them.

Beginning with cruises that depart on or after Nov. 26, 2013, every sailing on all 15 ships in the Holland America Line fleet including the theme cruises will feature an exclusive “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” program. Included are complimentary dance lessons with the ship’s dance professionals and a dance-off competition for participating guests to compete for a chance to represent their ship on the 2014 Champions Cruise on Dec. 6, 2014. There will be a total of 15 winners on the Champions Cruise. Competitions held on sailings departing on or after Nov. 26, 2013 and ending no later than Oct. 22, 2014 are eligible.

Winners of the guest competitions with the highest scores from each of Holland America Line’s 15 ships will be notified they have won a free ocean view stateroom on the Dec. 6, 2014, Champions Cruise to compete for the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy and title of Holland America Line’s “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Champion.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Celebrity's New Captain's Club

This months Celebrity Cruise Line announced major changes to its Captain's Club loyalty club.  At the core of the changes is a new system for earning points that puts far more emphasis on the type of cabin a customer books.  It looks like this:

2 club points for an inside or ocean view cabin.

3 club points for a veranda.

5 club points for a Concierge or Aqua Class cabin.

8 club points for a ""smaller"" suite (up to Sky Suites).

12 club points for suites larger than Sky Suites up to Royal Suites.

18 club points for Reflection and Penthouse suites.

Members’ previous cruise credits will be automatically converted to club points, and members will retain all of the benefits they earned in the program to date. The overhauled program will have six tiers — two more than before. Below is a brief summary of the amenities at each level.

As a Preview Member, you'll receive complimentary access to the Captain's Club Loyalty Desk service center and a Captain's Club newsletter with the latest program news and information.

As a Classic member (2-149 club points), you'll receive complimentary access to our Captain's Club Celebration event. You'll also enjoy great ways to save with exclusive onboard premium offers.

As a Select member (150 – 299 club points), you'll enjoy all the benefits of a Classic member, plus discounted Internet and laundry service specials.

Elite members (300 – 749 club points) know that loyalty yields great rewards, including complimentary Internet and laundry services and complimentary Captain's Club cocktail hour.

In recognition of the most devoted Elite members, they have created Elite Plus (750 – 2999 club points) - delivering a high level of recognition with greater benefits including; discounts on beverages and specialty dining, unlimited complimentary cappuccinos and lattes, 200 free internet minutes and much more.

The height of Captain's Club membership – Zenith (3000+ club points) - is designed exclusively for the most loyal guests, offering the quality benefits and perks befitting this ultimate level of membership, such as access to Michael's Club Concierge Lounge, a beverage package of your choice, complimentary laundry, and 1600 minute internet package.

“Guest loyalty is the cornerstone to any successful business, and that’s why, at Celebrity Cruises, we make our guests the center of our attention"", said Celebrity’s Director of Loyalty Lee Moreau.  “We hope this reinvigorated program will even more vividly show our guests how much we appreciate their loyalty, and allow us to welcome them back onboard even more frequently.”"

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cruise to Bermuda With N.Y. Ranger Legends

Any New York Ranger fans out there?  If so, you might be interested to know that  Celebrity Cruise Line has become the official cruise line of the New York Rangers.  You're probably thinking ""big deal, what does that have to do with anything?"" I suppose being the ""official"" anything for anyone can be just a lot of marketing mumbo jumbo.  However, in this case, the partnership brings Ranger fans a very special cruise event!

The August 3rd 2014 Celebrity Summit cruise will be a ""Rangers Legend Cruise."" The seven-night Bermuda cruise leaving from Bayonne, New Jersey will feature Ranger legends Ron Duguay, Adam Graves, Ron Greschner and Stephane Matteau.  The vacation package includes a cocktail reception ""meet and greet"", a hockey clinic, a Q&A panel, and an autograph session.  Guests will enjoy an exclusive breakfast, as well as a sunset BBQ on the pool deck with the Rangers.  There's even a poker tournament with the Rangers that guests can participate in!

Fans of all ages can sign up for optional shore excursions hosted by the Rangers.  You can tee off with your favorite Ranger great at the Port Royal Golf Club, or take part in a Dolphin Experience!  There is also an excursions to the Crystal Caves and a sunset cocktail cruise on a glass bottom boat!  This cruise has so many opportunities for fans to mingle with these legendary hockey stars that no Ranger fan will want to miss it!

A cruise to Bermuda on the Celebrity Summit is always something to get excited about.  When you add this once in a lifetime experience of cruising with legendary New York Rangers, Celebrity is taking things to the next level!  Interested?  Give the cruise consultants  at Direct Line Cruises a call, and we'll make sure you get onboard!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Visiting San Juan on an Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles Islands, which include Cuba, Haiti and Dominicana (sharing an island), and Jamaica.  Although Christopher Columbus discovered Puerto Rico on his second voyage in 1493, it wasn’t until 1508 that Ponce de Leon was sent to conquer the island for Spain.  In the late 1800’s Puerto Ricans began to press for independence and Spain relented by granting the island broad powers of self-government. But during the Spanish-American War of 1898 American troops invaded the island and Spain ceded it to the U.S. Since then, Puerto Rico has remained a U.S. territory with its people granted American citizenship under the Jones Act in 1917.  Today, San Juan is one of the world’s busiest cruise ports and one of gems of an Eastern Caribbean cruise.  

Favorite Beaches: Beaches in the Eastern Caribbean are lovely.   The best beaches of San Juan can be found at the resort areas, but there’s nothing to worry about...all the beaches are open to the public!

Condado Beach is just a 10-minute drive from the pier. It’s a fusion of both the natural and urban environment that brings the best of both worlds to beachgoers. With the clear Caribbean water and fine grain sand of the beach, you have the backdrop of trendy shops and restaurants steps away on Ashford Avenue.  The waters are generally calm so it's an ideal beach for families. Condado may not be the beach for you if you are looking for wide open, quiet spaces.

Isla Verde is directly adjacent to Condado Beach. Plenty of shady palms, local restaurants, parking and shower facilities are just a few of the amenities that make this beach so popular with visitors and locals alike. Here you can rent beach chairs and lifeguards are usually on duty.

Favorite Attractions: There is always plenty to do in the ports of call of an Eastern Caribbean cruise, and San Juan is no exception!

Old San Juan: A leisurely walk through Old San Juan is one of the most pleasant experiences anyone could have here in Puerto Rico. The colonial architecture of hanging balconies and cobble stone streets make you feel like you have gone back in time.  You can also take advantage of the free trolleys. The one marked ""City Hall"" concentrates on the streets of Old Town while El Morro Fort takes a very scenic route by the sea up Calle Norzagaray, past the museums and eventually to the Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Castillo de San Felipe: Commonly known as ""El Morro” this stronghold is believed to be one of the oldest Spanish forts in the Caribbean. Built to deter invaders who sought to topple the Spanish Empire, this six level fortress has 140-foot walls (15-feet thick) some of them dating back to 1539, it is even topped by a lighthouse! You can take an enjoyable guided tour through the whole complex which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

El Yunque: Forty minutes outside of the city, this national rainforest which is protected and maintained by the US Forest Service, is definitely worth the visit!  Inside its misty, dense vegetation you’ll find rare Puerto Rican parrots, hear the constant cheep of the tiny coqui frog and come across small waterfalls with picturesque pools to take a dip in. There’s a road to the top of the mountain so you can drive in, or you can park below and try to hike up. The visitor’s center about mid-way up the mountain has useful information on the rainforest’s plant and animal life, plus maps, restrooms and a cafeteria.  

Bacardi Run Factory: The six-story pink tower, where rum is distilled, is called the “Cathedral of Rum.” There are free tours of the plant leaving every 30 minutes, which allow you to see all the inner workings of this factory, which pumps out over 100,000 gallons of rum daily.

Shopping: The streets of the Old City are where you need to head for great shopping. Native handicrafts can be good buys, including needlework, straw work, ceramics, hammocks, as well as paintings and sculptures by Puerto Rican artists.  Look for santos, carved religious figures that have been produced since the 1500s. If you’re looking for designer handbags, there is a Coach and Dooney & Bourke shop to check out.

Discerning shoppers will want to visit the designer shops in the Condado Area. Condado offers brand-name stores such as Gucci, Dior, and Salvatore Ferragamo."

Monday, November 04, 2013

Visiting St. Maarten on an Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Could an Eastern Caribbean island be so exquisite that conquering countries would refuse to give it up? Obviously, yes! St. Maarten / St. Martin history shows that in the 1600’s the French (that arrived from nearby St. Kitts) and Dutch (that sailed over from St. Eustatius) were both eager to gain control of this beautiful land. After a few battles both sides realized the other would never retreat. In 1648 the Treaty of Concordia was signed, which separated the island into two distinct countries; one side owned by the French (St. Martin) and the other by the Dutch (Sint Maarten).  The French control twenty square miles in the north and the capital, Marigot, is quintessentially French and cosmopolitan. The Dutch rule over sixteen square miles in the south. It’s capital, Phillipsburg, has rapidly gained a reputation for being the shopping capital for Eastern Caribbean cruisers!  The border is almost imperceptible and people cross back and forth without ever realizing they are entering a new country.

Favorite Beaches:

The beautiful beaches are the number one draw on an Eastern Caribbean cruise. On St. Maarten, Dawn Beach as the name suggests, is known for its stunning sunrises, but lovely any time of day! With reefs just off the shoreline it provides great snorkeling opportunities. The surf can sometimes be a little challenging, so for very young children or toddlers, Dawn Beach is not always an ideal. There are a couple of restaurants on the beach, which great options for lunch.

Orient Beach is St. Martin's flagship beach and is often referred to as the ""French Riviera of the Caribbean "". This expansive one mile beach is home to numerous beach bar/restaurants offering various menus, from formal French to pizzas, burgers and local fare. Known best for being 'au natural', stick to the north end of the beach if you'd rather keep your bathing suit on.

Pinel Island is protected nature reserve that boasts a calm and sheltered beach, perfect for families. Lunch, beach chairs and umbrellas are available, and there's also great hiking. There are three beach bars / restaurants right on the beach, next to the ferry. To get to Pinel Island you drive to French Cul the Cac. Follow the road till you arrive at the seaside / big sandy parking lot. From there ferryboats go over. They charge you $6 pp roundtrip. First boat leaves at 9:00 am and last boat brings you back at 4:00 pm.

 Favorite Attractions:

Butterfly Farm: Within large meshed enclosures you can see hundreds of exotic butterflies flying freely, with dozens of the most spectacular species from all over the world. You can also witness all stages of their life cycle from tiny egg to curious caterpillar and jewel like pupa. Early in the morning is the best opportunity to see a butterfly emerging from its pupa and watch newborn butterflies take their first flight! The Butterfly Farm is near Orient Beach so it’s convenient to visit both places in a day!

Maho Bay:  This strip of white sand beach is within yards of the runway at the Princess Juliana International Airport. To be honest, people do not go to Maho because it is one of the best beaches on the island. The planes are the big draw! They have chairs and umbrellas for rent if you like, or you can just hang out at the bar. Grab a burger and a cold beer and get your camera ready. Photo ops are unbelievable! The daily 747 and Airbus 340 flights touch down around 2 p.m. A taxi from the port to Maho should be $26 for 1 or 2, and down to $8 pp in a group of 6 or more.

Fort St. Louis: This is the largest historical monument in St.Martin. It was originally built in 1767 to protect the settlement at Marigot from foreign invaders. The plans were sent over directly from Versailles at the order of King Louis XVI. The steep climb up to the summit provides a panoramic view of the island and the sea surrounding it. The area is open 24/7 and there are signs explaining historical events.


Everyone likes to get in a bit of shopping on a Caribbean cruise. The picturesque bayside town of Philipsburg is very close to the cruise ship pier (within one mile). You can walk 15 to 20 minutes or hop aboard a water shuttle that makes stops at the east and west side of town. It may only be four streets deep and one mile long, but this downtown area contains everything worth shop for! Front Street which is closest to the bay is literally lined with gold, silver, diamonds and other precious gems found in shop after shop!

The capital city of Marigot is perhaps the most French in spirit of all the cities in the Caribbean. The entire city is only four streets wide, so it is very easy to get around. Colonial houses stand beside smart cafés and bistros, pastry shops and trendy boutiques. There’s a shopping center at the foot of Fort St. Louis, with luxurious boutiques such as Chanel and Lacoste. At the southern end of town down by the harbor is the Marina Port la Royale; elegant stores with the latest in European designer fashions and fine jewelry.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Visiting St. Thomas on an Eastern Caribbean Cruise

In 1493 Christopher Columbus visited the present day Virgin Islands while searching for a route to India.  He named the beautiful islands “The Virgins” in reference to the legendary beauty of St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins.  The Danish West India Company thought the same, and settled St. Thomas in 1665. In 1917 the United States purchased the islands from the Dutch for $25 million in gold in an effort to improve military positioning during the critical times of World War I.  Today St. Thomas, (along with St. Croix, and St. John), make up the US Virgin Islands; a much loved  port of call on an Eastern Caribbean cruise!

Favorite Beaches:

Magens Bay is St. Thomas's most popular beach and one of the prettiest in the Caribbean! The water is usually very calm in this heart-shaped protected bay. Beach chairs and floats are available for rent and burgers, pizzas and other snacks can be found at the snack bar. Lifeguards are on duty every day. Taxi from Havensight Pier is approx. $10.00 pp each way, plus $3.00 to get on the beach. Plenty of taxis will be waiting at Magens to return you to the ship.

Sapphire Beach is a great beach for relaxing and for enjoying water sports. There is a water sports booth that offers wind surfing, kayaks and snorkel gear rental (the snorkeling is great!), as well as chair rentals. At the nearby marina you can rent jet skis or go parasailing. Food and drinks are available from a small open-air grill. Taxi from Havensight Pier is approx. $9.00 pp each way.

Lindberg Bay, also known as Emerald Beach is the closest beach to the new Crown Bay Pier. Several restaurants are available for having a nice lunch or grabbing a quick snack. A water sports booth offers kayaks, snorkeling, diving, peddle boats & windsurfers among other fun activities. Taxi from Crown Bay Pier is approx. $4.00 pp each way.

Favorite Attractions:

Coral World Ocean Park:  Experience the beauty and magic of life under and above the Caribbean Sea! Swim with sea lions, Sea Trek along the ocean floor, snuba, encounter turtles, sharks, and stingrays.  Gaze into the ocean from 15 feet under in the underwater observatory. Twenty-one tanks provide stunning views of hundreds of marine species in their unique habitats.  Coki Beach is right next-door and is great for both snorkeling and diving (there is a dive shop on sight). There is a beach side eatery, and rentals of jet skis, snorkel gear, beach chairs, and floats.

Mountain Top:  1,542 feet above sea level, the summit of St. Peter Mountain is the highest point on St. Thomas. The scenic overlook houses shops, a dining area and bar and of course a balcony for taking in the breathtaking view of Drake's passage, the British Virgin Islands and beautiful Magens Bay. Mountain Top holds the title for having the original and best banana daiquiris on the island.

Skyride to Paradise Point:  A seven minute aerial cable car takes you 700 feet above sea level. Stay at the top for as long as you want and enjoy unique shops, a neat Bird Show (10:30am & 1:30pm), and a fun bar and grill for a nice lunch and fabulous panoramic views of cruise ships, the Charlotte Amalie harbor and neighboring Caribbean islands.

Best Shopping:

The shopping is amazing on an Eastern Caribbean cruise! Hundreds of duty free shops line the streets and alleys of the capital, Charlotte Amalie. The best buys on St. Thomas include jewelry, alcohol, china, crystal, perfumes, watches and cameras. There is an area called Vendors Plaza where vendors set up small booths, tables and tents from which they sell an assortment of souvenirs. There you will find silver jewelry, t-shirts, tropical print wrap skirts, shirts and dresses, imitation bags and watches, trinkets and more. There is also hair braiding.

 It’s shopping galore right at the dock at Havensight! There are more than 50 shops, many of which are outposts of Charlotte Amalie's better-known boutiques, such as A.H. Riese, H. Stern and Royal Caribbean (the electronics store, not the cruise line).

Yacht Haven Grande Marina is a wonderful upscale shopping area.  From clothing, boutiques and unique gift shops, to electronics, art galleries and fine jewelry.  It’s walking distance from Havensight Pier; just follow the dock around the harbor."

Monday, October 21, 2013

Items To Shop For On A Caribbean Cruise

No vacation is ever complete without a shopping trip and if you’re taking a Caribbean cruise, you’re in for a special treat! Many of the Caribbean islands are known for their duty-free and even tax-free shopping. Luxury goods, designer fashions, jewelry, cigars, and liquor are often sold for much less than you would pay at home. There is also the opportunity to buy items native to or handcrafted in the Caribbean islands. Below is a summary of what to look for on the various islands.


Most of Antigua's shops are clustered on St. Mary's Street or High Street in St. John's. Visitors will find duty-free shopping for British woolens and linens, as well as locally made products like beautiful pottery, ethnic dolls, steel and wooden sculpture, photography and paintings. The Antigua Artist's Exhibition and the Craft Fair are the main exhibitions that happen in November, so if you are cruising then, you may want to check out. 


Broad Street in Bridgetown has the island's greatest concentration of duty-free shops including Harrison's, the island's largest department store. Local shops seem to specialize in all things English. Merchandise includes bone china from British and Irish manufacturers, watches, jewelry, and perfumes.  Located on the main road near Deep Water Harbour, just outside the shopping district, is the Pelican Craft Center. Housing over 20 shops and workshops, it’s one of the largest craft centers in the Caribbean.  Barbados rum has a distinctive flavor and Mount Gay Rum is a well-known name and a favorite souvenir of visitors.

Curacao :

On Curacao, an island with ties to the Netherlands, shoppers will find bargains on Delftware, clogs, and cheeses. One of the islands most famous exports is Curacao liqueur made from the laraha citrus fruit. If you get the chance, visit the Floating Market. Vendors from Venezuela bring their boats filled with fruits, vegetables, fish, and handicrafts to the island and then sell their merchandise directly from their boats.

 Dominican Republic:

The Dominican Republic is one of the few places in the Western Hemisphere where amber can be found. Much of it is made into beautiful jewelry. You’ll also find jewelry that showcases the locally found stone, larimar, a blue stone similar to turquoise.  Fuente cigars, handmade in Santiago, and those from the Ciabo Valley are very sought after. Locally made products include embroidery, fabric dolls, leather goods, mahogany and cedar handicrafts, Dominican rum, and coffee.

Grand Cayman Island:

This island is duty-free and tax-free and visitors can select from luxury goods like jewelry, china, porcelain, Swiss watches, and other items. Some of the George Town duty-free shops are located within walking distances of the island's cruise terminal. Locally produced items you might want to bring home include woven straw baskets, hammocks, jewelry made of conch shells, black coral, or caymanite, a marble-like stone from the cliffs of Cayman Brac. Don't forget to bring home a famous Tortuga Rum Cake from the Grand Cayman factory store/distillery!


Visitors to Jamaica can choose from a variety of native foodstuffs as take-home treats such as Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee and Tia Maria, the coffee-flavored liqueur made on the islands. The famous jerk seasoning (a blend of Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, and other herbs) and Pickapeppa Hot Sauce are also very popular. Other common souvenirs include Jamaican rum, woodcarvings, woven baskets, and handmade sandals.

San Juan:

Truly traditional Puerto Rican handicrafts include papier-mâché masks called caretas, worn during Carnival and carvings of santos, which are religious figurines of patron saints carved out of wood, stone and gold. Puerto Rico is also famous for the quality of its handmade lace, which is called mundillo. The decorative lace is used for everything from home items like tablecloths to special creations such as customized wedding dresses.

  St. Maarten / St. Martin :

Because of the massive influx of cruise ships, shopping in Dutch St. Maarten is now about the finest in the Caribbean for deals in electronics, cameras, designer fashions, watches, and crystal, along with linens and jewelry. French St. Martin is especially good for fashion or perfumes imported from France.

  St. Thomas:

Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St. Thomas, is home to literally hundreds of duty-free shops, making it the top duty-free shopping destination in the Caribbean. Main Street, Back Street, and Waterfront Street and the alleys in between are homes to shops selling discounted jewelry, alcohol, cameras, clothing, and much more. Locally produced goods include shell jewelry, carved calabash bowls, straw brooms, woven baskets and handmade dolls."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Duty-Free Shopping On Your Caribbean Cruise

Beautiful white sand beaches are not the only reason for cruising to the Caribbean…. for many, duty-free shopping can be a pretty compelling reason! “Duty” refers to a tax levied on goods by a government. However, Caribbean shop owners can import goods and sell them to tourists who are leaving their country without import or export duty added to the price.  Duty-free shopping allows travelers to score extraordinary deals on cosmetics, fragrances, dinnerware, jewelry, watches, chocolates, candy, cigarettes, liquor and more…or does it?

The shopping talks offered onboard the cruise ship are often a good source of information on where to shop, including coupons and maps to the shopping districts. Quite frankly, the cruise line probably gets a kickback from the shops they recommend, but at least you can shop a bit more confidently in these establishments. Recommended merchants are vetted by the cruise lines and offer a guarantee should the purchase fail to live up to expectations.

It's important to know how much an item normally costs, because how else will you know if you’re getting a good deal?  Don’t take the store’s word that something is a bargain; do your homework before leaving home! That will allow you to quickly calculate just how much money you’re really saving. In addition, travelers should know that there are dollar limits on how much merchandise you can take into or out of a country.  Most cruise line-shopping consultants will be able to give you those numbers.

When shopping for designer handbags or jewelry, it's important to keep expectations in check. Often the price offered on luxury brands are tightly controlled by the designer, which means that labels like Chanel, David Yurman or Christian Dior have similar price points regardless of where they're sold. You will however, save U.S. sales tax if the item is purchased in the Caribbean.

Shopping for high-end watches and fine jewelry can be a bit trickier.  Quite often the warranties on those purchases aren't the same as similar items purchased in the U.S. For the best protection, shop only at an authorized dealer.  It may also be difficult to access the value of diamonds and gem stones, since the appraisals received may overstate the quality and value of the stone.

As far as electronics go, it's hard to get a price lower than at big-box stores like Best Buy. In addition, no matter where in the world you buy, prices on electronics such as cameras, GPS devices, and mobile phones, will be subject to fewer cost variations because they tend to be priced globally.  On the plus side, you may be able to pick up a gadget in the Caribbean that may not be readily available in the U.S.

So when it comes to duty-free shopping on your Caribbean cruise, the best advice I can give is “buyers beware!” There are deals to be had on the many islands you will visit but unless you’re a well-informed savvy shopper, you’re not going to recognize them!"

Monday, October 07, 2013

Miami’s Ultimate Ship, The Norwegian Getaway

Just like the Norwegian Breakaway has N.Y.City vibe, the soon to set sail Norwegian Getaway will comparably reflect its homeport city of Miami, Florida. The first thing that people will notice is the colorful, witty artwork painted across the front of the ship; a lovely mermaid that’s intended to look like she’s swimming in and out of the waves as the ship bobs up and down in the water.  It was designed by David Le Batard, the artist known as “LEBO”, who grew up and lives in Miami Beach and whose artwork adorns many of the city’s buildings. Guests onboard can find his paintings showcased in the atrium café and reception area, and the Art Gallery will feature a collection of his paintings for sale.

Once onboard, the theme continues in some of the bars and restaurants, designed to evoke the tropical feel of Miami and South Florida. The complimentary Tropicana Room (called the Manhattan Room on the Breakaway) is a supper club inspired by Miami Beach nightlife of the 1940s and ‘50s. Rich dark woods, luxurious purple and silver fabrics reflecting off of mirrored columns, along with nostalgic photos from Miami’s past, will make guests feel as if they are dining in a retro supper club. Featured menu items will represent the flavor of Miami with several Latin-inspired choices, including ceviche de camarón, churrasco con chimichurri (churrasco steak), and arroz con pollo (chicken with yellow rice).

The casual Flamingo Bar & Grill, an open-air eatery, will serve such traditional dishes such pierna asada (pulled pork), bistec con chimichurri (steak chimichurri), yuca frita (fried yucca), empanadas de espinaca (spinach empanadas), and pastelitos de guyaba (guava turnovers). Among the desserts are flan de leche (caramel custard), arroz con leche (rice pudding) and tres leches (three milks cake). A variety of regional drinks and Cuban coffee will also be available.

Up on the Waterfront, the Sugarcane Bar will serve mojitos and rum-based cocktails from an island-themed setting. The bronze bar features banana leaves made of bronze relief, which also circle the dual columns. The atmosphere is tropical and relaxed with leather and rattan furniture.

The Sunset Bar takes its inspiration from Ernest Hemingway’s Key West, with design elements that are eclectic, masculine and adventurous. A large Marlin mounted behind the bar serves as the space’s focal point, while leather furniture and animal prints round out the décor in this eclectic lounge."

Monday, September 30, 2013

Celebrity Cruise Line Introduces a Casino App

What happens when in the name of togetherness, your traveling companion suggests you both spend the day lounging by the pool, but you’d rather play the slots?  Or you want to head to the dining room for a long, leisurely dinner, but your traveling companion’s palm is itching, and it’s hard to ignore that old superstition that says when your palms itch it means money!  No problem… Celebrity Cruise Line passengers will soon be able to play casino games even when they are not in a ship's casino, by downloading a free application!

Celebrity Cruises has teamed with Las Vegas-based Cantor Gaming for a cruise industry first – mobile gaming you can access ship-wide. After creating a ""virtual wallet"" at the ship's casino desk to activate and fund their accounts, cruisers will be able to choose from games including slots, table games and video poker to play anywhere onboard. The app is only operational when the ship is in international waters.

The Cantor gaming app is compatible with Apple and Android devices. The new technology will be installed on Celebrity's five Solstice-class ships and four Millennium-class ships in coming months, Celebrity officials said.

Monday, September 23, 2013

10 Common Misconceptions About Cruising

I’m always surprised to hear that there are many people that have never experienced a cruise vacation!  How can that be, I wonder! Don’t they know what they’re missing? So, I asked them, “Why don’t you cruise?” After listening to their reasons I have to say, “I’m sorry, but I beg to differ…”

I don’t cruise because I’m afraid I’ll get seasick.                                                                   

A very small percentage of cruisers get seasick. Over the years, ships have gotten so large, that movement is often undectable. Most are built with stabilizers that allow a ship to practically glide across the sea. If however you are still afraid because you are prone to motion sickness, there are things you can do to alleviate or minimize your discomfort.

*Book a midship cabin on a lower deck. The closer you are to the ship's center of gravity, the less you will move around.

*A window or balcony helps because if you start to feel sick, looking out at the horizon helps reorient your sense of balance (and your stomach).

*Bonine, available over-the-counter at most drug stores and pharmacies, works well to relieve seasickness

 I don’t cruise because it’s too expensive.

While there are certainly a few select cruise lines that are very expensive, for the most part, a cruise is quite affordable. Remember, your cruise fare includes your accommodations, meals in main dining venues, activities, entertainment and children’s clubs.  Cruising gives you great value for your money!

I don’t cruise because I’ll gain too much weight.

You can’t blame your lack of self-control on a cruise! Every line offers healthy meal options as well as a gym to rival anything you may belong to on land. Plus, there are many amenities onboard to keep guests active, such as sport courts, jogging tracks, and rock climbing walls.

I don’t cruise because the ship is full of “old people.”

This was once true…about 40 years ago!  Now cruising is a popular vacation option for honeymooners, singles and particularly families!  Different cruise lines attract different demographics so choose wisely.

I don’t cruise because I don’t want to sit with strangers during meals.

Although traditional cruise line dining in which you sit with other passengers is still available on some lines, all lines now offer a flexible dining option that allows you to choose your dining time and a table for just your party.

I don’t cruise because it’s too regimented. 

It’s your vacation and nobody is going to tell you when to eat, when to go to bed,how to spend your day, or anything else.  Cruising offers an abundance of options so every person onboard can have a perfect vacation…perfect for them!

I don’t cruise because it’s not safe.

The cruise lines have been getting a lot of bad press lately, regarding safety. It’s a case of a few incidents that the media has been blown totally out of proportion. Ships have an extraordinary number of rules and regulations in place to protect passengers' safety onboard. The rules also require that within the first 24 hours of sailing a muster drill be held with the objective to familiarize guests where to assemble in the unlikely event of an emergency. During the drill, additional safety information is presented.

I don’t cruise because I’m afraid of getting the stomach virus you always hear about.

Norovirus is a contagious virus that may cause a person to have nausea, diarrhea and to throw up.  Outbreaks are not restricted to cruise ships.  As a matter of fact, Norovirus is second to the common cold in reported illnesses, impacting millions of people around the world each year! You can help prevent norovirus by using ship sanitizer stations, as well as frequently washing your hands, especially after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before eating.

I don’t cruise because I don’t want to get all dressed up.

Lots of people feel that way and the cruise lines are listening!  Norwegian Cruise Line invented “Freestyle Cruising” in response to this, meaning the dress code is relaxed and men never have to wear a suit and tie unless they want to!  Other cruise lines offer alterative dining venues on their “formal nights” giving guests the option of dressing up, or not.

I don’t cruise because I’ll be bored on a ship.

That’s unlikely!  With every new ship cruise lines add more and more amenities.  Today’s cruise ships are floating resorts and there is ALWAYS something happening on board. Rock walls, bowling, surf simulators, bumper cars, movies under the stars, sports courts, mini golf, kids clubs, bingo, ping pong, live entertainment, dancing……the list goes on and on.  I can assure you, you won’t be bored!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Norwegian Cruise Line Update

Pride Of America Update:

Norwegian Cruise Line completed the final elements in a $30 million enhancement project that began in March on the Pride of America. The cruise line added new luxurious suites, studios for solo travelers and some additional inside staterooms.

The 24 new suites on Deck 13 are a gorgeous contemporary design with premium custom furnishings, and ultra-luxurious bathrooms. Two of the 24 suites are 566 square foot Owner’s Suites, featuring a large bedroom, separate living area and a state of the art bathroom with custom mosaic tiles.

The remaining suites are Penthouse Suites. The two Deluxe Penthouse Suites with Large Balcony sleep up to six guests and are perfect for families that don’t want to trade luxury and comfort for space for the kids!

The two Owner’s Suites will have connecting doors to the adjacent Penthouse Suites, sleeping up to 10 guests when combined.  They’re the perfect option for extended families or groups who wish to travel in luxury together.

In addition to all of the incredible features in the suites, guests will enjoy pampering service from dedicated butlers and concierge, plus an array of exclusive amenities such as luxurious Tranquility mattresses from the Bliss Collection by Norwegian, Lavazza Espresso Makers, Elemis bath products, private dining for breakfast and lunch, and more.

Digital Signage:

With ships getting larger and dining and entertainment venues increasing, digital signage makes things a lot easier for Norwegian Cruise Line guests.

“The interactive signage has been such a big hit on Norwegian Breakaway that we decided to expand it to our fleet so that all of our guests can take advantage of this exciting technology,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “With the introduction of these screens, Norwegian’s Freestyle Cruising is taken to a whole new level, allowing guests to further customize their vacation on their time. It’s all about freedom and flexibility.”

Each Norwegian ship will have between 30 and 50 touch and static screens located in prominent areas around the vessel. The interactive touch screen signs will allow guests to order specialty items, get directions and reserve dining, shore excursions and entertainment simply with a scan of their stateroom key.

The entire Norwegian Cruise Line fleet will be equipped with the digital signage by Summer 2015.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Embarkation Day

You’ve been booked for months and have been eagerly anticipating your first cruise vacation. Finally, the day has arrived. In cruise lingo, we call it “Embarkation Day.”  Obviously you’re excited, but you may be a bit nervous too, not knowing what to expect.  No worries…we’re here to walk you through it!

Whether you’re driving or flying to the port, it’s a good idea to expect to arrive around noontime.  After all, this is officially the first day of your cruise vacation and you don’t want to miss a minute!  When you pull up to the cruise terminal there will be porters out front waiting to take your luggage.  If your bags aren’t yet tagged with your stateroom number, these are the people that will take care of that for you.  It will be several hours before these bags are delivered to your cabin, sometimes not until after dinner.  Therefore, it’s a good idea to take a carry-on with you containing any medications and valuables as well as swimsuits, sunscreen or change of clothes you may need for the day.

With your cruise line boarding pass and identification (passport or birth certificate and government issued id, depending on the cruise itinerary) in hand, enter the terminal and proceed to the security line. Beware if you’re trying to carry on wine or booze.  Each cruise line has limits and restrictions.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Who Wears Short Shorts, Disney Wears Short Shorts!

Disney Cruise Line has announced that they have begun allowing shorts in the main dining rooms of its four ships –a first for ANY cruise line!  The casual dress code applies to the three main restaurants on each Disney ship where the majority of passengers dine in the evening.

Most cruise lines allow shorts in the main dining rooms during breakfast and lunch, but request slacks be worn at dinner (and slacks, skirts or dresses for women).  Of course, there have always been, and will always be passengers that blatantly disregard dress codes, but that is not a topic I want to get into!  Shorts will still be forbidden at Palo, the small extra-charge, adults-only Italian restaurant found on all four Disney ships. Also remaining shorts-free is Remy, the upscale French restaurant on Disney's two newest ships, the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream.

Will this new policy be something that other cruise lines will adopt?  It will be interesting to wait and see.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Norwegian Cruise Line Develops Port in Southern Belize

Norwegian Cruise Line has confirmed its plans to design and develop a $50 Million Eco-Friendly cruise destination in Southern Belize. This new locale, Harvest Caye, will reduce overcrowding at the city port, and give visitors the best first impression a destination can give. The goal is to design an authentic experience grounded in the storyline of nature, ancient culture, art, adventure and music that celebrates Belizean history and culture.

For Belize to grow its tourism, an upgraded experience is necessary. While the master plan for the 75 acres is still under development, the vision is to create a world-class cruise destination, consisting of two locations: an island destination with docking/tendering facilities and a mainland connection point for inland tours. Major components of the project are anticipated to include a floating pier, island village with open-air structures on raised platforms, marina, transportation hub for tours to the mainland, a lagoon for a variety of water sports and a relaxing beach area.

Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan said the line expects to “bring four times as many guests to Belize” once Harvest Caye is complete. “In our quest to continuously look for new and exciting destinations for our guests, we plan to develop a cruise destination focused on sustainable design and eco-friendly principles that will retain the natural beauty and local culture of this tropical paradise,” he said."

Monday, August 19, 2013

When is the Best Time to Book a Cruise?

It’s an age-old question that has been discussed and debated to death…”When is the best time to book a cruise?”  Some swear it is best to capture the cruise lines “early booking” discount when itineraries are first released, while others wait until months or even weeks prior to sailing, hoping to snag the best deal. Lets face it, nobody wants to get onboard and find out the people they’re sitting next to at dinner paid hundreds of dollars less for the same vacation!  So with so much conflicting opinions, how does one determine the optimal time to book a cruise?

Cruise lines begin selling cabins roughly 12 to 18 months before a cruise departs, and there are many good reasons as to why you should consider booking this far in advance.

If you are considering an itinerary with a short sailing season, don’t wait.  For example, Scandinavia / Russia itineraries sell out quickly because there are a small number of ships that cruise to the area, and in addition, it’s a relatively short season.

If you need to cruise when school is out of session: Christmas break, President’s week, and the summer months, you’re best off booking early. And if you need a quad cabin during that time you should be booking as soon as that itinerary is available to book!

If you need an accessible cabin then you know that there is just a couple available in each category. Don’t wait and later be disappointed.

If you have to have connecting cabins, you only want cabin # 7096, or can’t imagine not cruising in an aft balcony, need I say more?

If having “early dining” is a deal breaker for you, and it seems to be so for many people, then you should book early. Don’t assume the Maitre d' will oblige you once you get onboard because it’s just not possible for him to accommodate everyone.

If you’re cruising with a large group and everyone has their own specific needs, or you want all your cabins in a row, save yourself the headaches and plan early.  Who wants to listen to cousin Claire complain for seven straight days because her cabin is on deck two, while everyone else is up on nine!

Of course, there are people that may benefit from playing the waiting game, willing to chance that the cruise line will slash pricing in order to fill the ship.

If you can cruise during shoulder season then sit back and take the “wait and see” attitude.  September, October, November and early December sailings do not fill up as quickly as other months so there may be deals to be had by procrastinating.

If your middle name is “Flexibility” then go ahead and wait.  You’re the type of person that doesn’t care which ship or sail date your book, and are not concerned with cabin location. Your motto is “every cruise is a great cruise…just get me aboard cheap!”"

Monday, August 12, 2013

Cruising to the Galapagos Islands on the Celebrity Xpedition

The Galapagos Islands are a small archipelago of islands belonging to Ecuador. The islands are quite remote, about 620 miles west of the South American continent. The Galapagos consists of 13 main islands and 6 smaller isles, the principals being Fernandina, Isabela, Baltra, James, Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. Appropriately ninety-seven percent is national park.

Made famous by Charles Darwin, the Galapagos Islands are no less enthralling now than they were a hundred years ago. The islands are home to an extraordinary number of unique species including approximately 29 migrant birds, 56 native birds, 29 land birds, 6 mammals, giant tortoises, 3 types of land iguanas, marine iguanas, several invertebrates, and more.

On a Galapagos Island cruise you can see everything from beloved penguins and boobies with bright blue feet to prehistoric looking marine iguanas and male frigate birds turning their wrinkled throat sacs into extraordinary, fully inflated red balloons. One day you could be snapping photos of giant tortoises, and the next you could be snorkeling with playful sea lions in crystal-clear water. A cruise to the Galapagos Islands is certainly a trip of a lifetime!

A great way to experience the Galapagos Islands is a cruise aboard the Celebrity Xpedition, as all naturalist guides onboard Celebrity Xpedition are certified by the Galapagos National Park. The 92- passenger Xpedition is filled with touches that are luxuriously familiar. The ship is designed to provide guests with many of the amenities they would expect from Celebrity, from gourmet cuisine to comfortable staterooms, to impeccable service. 

Celebrity Xpedition offers an all-inclusive experience in the Galapagos Islands including accommodations, meals, gratuities, all shore excursions, all lectures, alcoholic beverages, specialty coffees, soft drinks, fruit juices, and the use of snorkeling equipment, wet suits, binoculars and much more.

Celebrity Cruises offers 7-night, 10-night, 11-night and 13-night vacation packages in the Galapagos Islands, year round. The 13-night Celebrity Xpedition Galapagos package extends the guests all-inclusive vacation to Peru, including Lima, Cuzco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu."

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Cruising to Peggy's Cove

The season of Canada / New England cruises leaving from Northeast ports is underway. A favorite port of call on that particular itinerary is the Canadian city of Halifax.  While there are many wonderful things to do in the Halifax area, a trip to Peggy’s Cove is always a memorable way to spend the day.

Peggy's Cove, a picture postcard fishing village, is located 26 miles southwest of downtown Halifax. According to legend, Peggy's Cove was named after a woman named Margaret, the only survivor of a schooner that ran aground and sank in the year 1800. Local folk called her ""Peggy"" and her home came to be known as Peggy's Cove.

Set on rocky shores, Peggy’s Cove is known for its seasoned fish sheds, brightly painted boats, and colorful homes perched on wave-washed boulders.  It is this charming scene that has fascinated artists, photographers and tourists for years. Yet despite its popularity, the little village has been able maintain the same peaceful atmosphere that has made it famous.

Strolling around the Cove allows visitors a glimpse into maritime life. This is a working fishing community with all that accompanies that activity. Lobster traps and fishnets decorate the wharves and roadside, and fishing boats come and go from the piers. The geology and history of the village is told on storyboards scattered throughout the area.

The many small, locally owned gift stores, galleries and craft shops features the works of Canadian and Nova Scotian artists and crafts people. The restaurants and cafes in the area offer the freshest Nova Scotia seafood. Lobster is the specialty but don't miss a bowl of the famous fish chowder or a meal featuring the wonderful St Margaret's Bay haddock.

The community’s famous lighthouse, built in 1868 marks the eastern entrance of St. Margaret’s Bay. The lighthouse at Peggy's Cove is a hexagonal concrete tower, standing on solid rock above the crashing surf. It is a classic red and white lighthouse, retired from active service by the Canadian Coast Guard. The lighthouse is one of the most recognized, visited and photographed structures in the world.

From June through October you can cruise up to Canada and New England leaving from convenient ports in Baltimore, Bayonne, or Boston. If Halifax is on your chosen cruise itinerary, consider spending the day in the idyllic fishing village of Peggy’s Cove.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Visiting European Christmas Markets on a Viking River Cruise

The history of Christmas Markets goes way back to the late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe. The Bautzen Christmas market was first mentioned in records in 1384 when King Vaclav (that’s Wenzel in German) gave the townspeople the privilege to hold a market for meat. Through the years the market transformed itself into a Christmas Market… now known as “Wenzelsmarkt"" in honor of King Vaclav.  Today, the German Christmas markets remain some of the most popular markets in the world, although many countries have since adopted this old-world tradition.  A great way to experience several European Christmas Markets is by taking a Viking River Cruise.

Most Christmas Markets start the last week of November, ushering in the season of Advent, and run through to Christmas Eve. The markets are generally held in the Town Square and pedestrian zones, which are usually walking distance from where the ship docks. There’s nothing like wandering through a market of wooden stalls, covered in brightly colored Christmas lights and handmade decorations. The mouth-watering aroma of Bratwurst sausages cooking on the grill, the sweet smell of “Christstollen”, (an egg bread with candied fruit), the spices of hot mulled wine (Gluhwein) and the perfumes of fancy soaps fill the air! Visitors stroll the festive illuminated streets while munching on gingerbread cookies and other delectable treats. All of the markets have a stage set up for entertainers, mostly children who perform traditional folkloric songs and dances.  There are choirs singing carols, as well as orchestras and bands providing festive musical accompaniment.

Each market has a unique ambiance and a Viking River Cruise allows you to sample several. There are traditional handcrafted products such as intricate glassware and jewelry, embroidered lace, wooden toys, nutcrackers, metal-ware, ceramic plates and mugs, beautifully dressed puppets and dolls, and hats, gloves, socks and scarves.  Some stalls have spinning wheels right on the premises to make wool items to order! Fresh honey and scented bee’s wax candles are also plentiful. Locally made ornaments of exquisite hand-blown glass or whimsical carved wood are plentiful. Intricate crèche nativity scenes are unlike anything sold at the mall and would likely become a family heirloom.

There is no better way to discover the enchanting Christmas Markets of Europe than on a Viking River Cruise. Guests will travel along Europe's scenic rivers and visit the bustling holiday markets in cities such as Prague, Nuremberg (home to today’s most renown market), Vienna, Strasbourg and Budapest. Every destination is captivating and enjoyable. Aside from the free time available to shop at the markets, guests receive complimentary guided tours in each port, informative lectures, and interesting demonstrations. After an exhilarating day in port, guests return to the comfort and luxury of a beautifully appointed stateroom. The onboard dining experience features authentic regional dishes bursting with flavor from locally sourced ingredients. A Viking River cruise is always an immersive and enlightening experience.  It becomes even more extraordinary when the itinerary includes the European Christmas Markets."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Labadee...Royal Caribbean's Private Island

One of the most anticipated days on a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation (select itineraries only), is the day spent on Labadee. More like a private resort than a private island, Labadee is located on the northern coast of Hati, fenced off from the rest of the island. This exclusive destination offers multiple pristine beaches, each with its own distinct “vibe”. There are sunny and shady spots along the beaches, where local musicians and performers offer free entertainment. Plenty of beach lounge chairs are available, as well as some hammocks.

For an additional cost, guests can rent floating mats, kayaks, wave runners, snorkel equipment and lovely cabanas. For families with children, purchasing a pass for Arawak Aqua Park may be the best money they spend the entire week! The area consists of water trampolines, icebergs, rolling logs, water slides and a variety of other aquatic activities that will keep the kids occupied all day long!

 Looking for an adrenaline rush? Dragon's Tail Coaster, a high-speed alpine coaster ride, rises to 680 feet before descending at 30 miles per hour through dips and 360-degree turns. And for real daredevils, nothing can compare to Dragon’s Breath Flight Line. It’s the world’s largest over water zip line, soaring as high as 500 feet above the water, at speeds as fast as 50 miles per hour!

There are special excursions that can be booked on Labadee as well.  The “Adrenaline Coastal Tour” is a narrated sightseeing tour aboard a RIB, a small but powerful vessel that zips out from Labadee to cruise along the scenic shoreline of the island.

The “Discover Haiti Coastal Cruise” will take you on a journey onboard the “Discovery,” a specially designed motorized catamaran. Throughout the voyage you will view by sea breathtaking landscapes, beautiful reefs, a shipwreck, Amiga Island, coastal villages, handmade wooden fishing boats and the landmarks of the Arawak Indians and the early discoverers such as Christopher Columbus in the 15th century.

On the “Haitian Cultural Tour at Paradise Cove” guests will meet a local fisherman and visit a typical rural Haitian home where they can view their cooking techniques, handmade children's toys and natural materials used to build their homes. Many other exhibits onsite will give guests an understanding of the culture and people of Haiti.

 Royal Caribbean provides a complimentary buffet-style barbecue lunch on Labadee that includes non-alcoholic drinks and dessert. Three pavilions house the buffet, which is served at large community-style picnic tables to encourage socialization. Several bars are set up across the resort and visitors can charge specialty and alcoholic drinks to their ship accounts. I highly recommend a Labaduzee, the specialty frozen drink available only on Labadee. It’s made with dark rum, coconut rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, papaya juice and cream of coconut, and served in a tall souvenir cup.  Yum!"

Monday, July 15, 2013

AzAmazing Evenings Presented by Azamara Club Cruises

I’ve been home from my cruise aboard Azamara Quest for a couple of months now, but I still haven’t stopped talking about the incredible time I had.  Without a doubt, one of the most memorable events of my cruise was the complimentary AzAmazing evening, a concert by the Royal Gibraltar Regiment Band held in the depths of St. Michael’s Cave, Gibraltar. If you think this was just another shore excursion, you couldn’t be more wrong. This was a very special experience created exclusively for Azamara guests that could not be purchased at any price. AzAmazing evenings are events that immerse you in the local culture (in the form of dance, music, theater, food, etc) and take place in beautiful landmark venues (ancient palaces, private gardens, town squares, etc). There is one such event on every Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey cruise (with the exception of Transatlantic voyages), each one an extraordinary experience! These evenings clearly exemplify what Azamara Club Cruises means by “destination immersion”.  For that reason I thought I’d describe a few that are featured on upcoming fall sailings.

Tuscan Flavors and Three Tenors Concert  (October 1 / Azamara Journey)

From the port of Livorno guests will travel to Greve in Chianti, gateway to the centuries-old vineyards of Tuscany. Here you’ll savor an exquisite evening of hospitality, local foods and wines, and music at an historical hillside castle.  A performance by Three Tenors singing Italian opera favorites makes it an enchanting evening.

A Night at the Oceanographic Museum (October 16 / Azamara Quest)

The sounds of live jazz fills the rooms at the after hours party held at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.  Once directed by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, this exceptional museum is dedicated to all marine sciences. Canapés, Monegasque specialties, and the wines of Provence will be served as guests meander the facilities exploring the dazzling aquarium

Ephesus – Back to Roman Times  (October 19 / Azamara Journey)

Visit the Odeon in Ancient Ephesus, constructed in the 2nd Century AD and used for the meetings of the Senate, and sometimes, as a concert hall for performances. On this night, there will be see a classical ensemble playing the music of Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, and others. Wine and canapés will be served as guests sit back and enjoy the music, soft spotlights illuminating ancient columns and marble streets.

The Cultures and Traditions of Kerala  (November 9 / Azamara Journey)

A brightly painted elephant welcomes guests when they arrive at Vivanta by Taj Maliabar, one of India's most spectacular properties. Tonight guests will stroll the grounds where an assembled marketplace features tea and toddy shops, a mehndi artist skilled in henna tattoos, astrologers, potters and cane weavers. They may taste the local specialties at the many cooking stations that are set up and watch performances of Mohiniyattam (Indian classical dance) and Kalaripayattu (martial arts dance using spears, swords and daggers.

Anchors Away Party at the USS Yorktown (December 8 / Azamara Quest)

Commissioned in 1943, the Yorktown earned 11 battle stars for service in the Pacific Theater during WWII, and five more for service in Vietnam.  Tonight guests step aboard and begin their experience with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the flight deck. After a private tour of the aircraft carrier guests will be entertained on the hanger deck by the David Archers band."

Monday, July 08, 2013

Rolling Down the River With Viking River Cruises

Long before autobahns and autostrades, rivers were the super highways of Europe. Towns and cities sprung up all along the rivers of the world because being close to the water made the growth of trade and industry possible. Fast-forward to the present day and you’ll still find some of the most charming towns and exciting cities of the world…Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Budapest, amongst others, located along these waterways!  And what better way to explore them, than by taking a river cruise?

River cruising is the fastest growing segment of the cruise industry, and Viking River Cruises is the largest river cruise company in the world. One of the advantages of having a large fleet of vessels is the ability to take guests to the four corners of the world…or at least wherever there is a river! Imagine a laid back and relaxing cruise, meandering along spectacular rivers, whose banks and hillsides are lined with vineyards and medieval castles. It’s all about unwinding, enjoying food, learning, and taking in the culture and history of the places you are visiting. It is a supremely calming experience; an antidote to the pressures of life in a fast-paced world.

Unlike ocean cruises, passengers sail directly into the heart of every destination and dock in the middle of town. There’s no need to navigate railways or to waste time traveling on crowded city streets from the port to the ship. Shore excursions and culture enrichment programs, provided by local tour directors, are included in the price of the cruise. Imagine a stop at a local school in China during a Yangtze River Cruise, or learning about the life and works of Monet during a cruise on the Seine. River cruises also feature special events such as the world-famous Christmas markets of Eastern Europe or the tulips and windmills of Holland in the spring.

Viking River Cruises are a great value too, due to the all-inclusiveness of the experience. Spacious and airy, every stateroom is beautifully appointed… complimentary bottled water, wooden clothes hangers, premium bath products and comfortable slippers to slide into after a busy day exploring! Guests receive complimentary wine, beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner on board, and they can help themselves to tea, coffee and cappuccino at any time.

Dress onboard is relaxed and casual. Viking ships offer open seating for all meals, which means guests may sit when and with whom they’d like. Breakfast is usually a buffet, while lunch can be ordered from the menu, and passengers can choose to eat in areas such as the lounge or sun deck. When evening falls, the artistry in the kitchen transforms into a masterpiece of a five-course dinner, with a menu that incorporates traditional influences as well as contemporary cuisine.

Inspiring destinations, beautifully crafted itineraries, expert tour guides, luxurious ships, fine cuisine, excellent service, remarkable value…that’s what Viking River Cruises is all about."

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Free Things To Do On An Alaska Cruise

Alaska is America's last great frontier, a majestic wilderness of living blue ice, snow covered mountain peaks, dense green forests, and quaint, waterfront towns. For many, an Alaska cruise is a once in a lifetime, dream vacation. As a travel agent, one concern I hear from clients over and over again is the high cost of shore excursions associated with an Alaska cruise. Dog sledding, floatplanes, helicopter tours, salmon fishing and glacier trekking are expensive! What I usually suggest to my clients is to pick one amazing “must do” adventure and then scale back on the other ports.  There are many wonderful activities to enjoy in every Alaska port of call that allow you to immerse yourself in the beauty and culture that is uniquely Alaska.  And best of all….many are free!


Mendenhall Glacier: The Mendenhall Glacier is one of Southeast Alaska’s most popular attractions. The USDA Forest Service Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center ($3 pp) is located in the Mendenhall Valley, 12 miles from downtown Juneau. Visitors may reach the visitor center by city bus, taxi, or rental car. The city bus drops visitors a mile and a half from the visitor center. Hiking trails around the Mendenhall Glacier visitor center range from a short, 0.3-mile walk to a 6.8-mile hike with a 1,300-foot elevation gain. These trails will give great views of Mendenhall Glacier, but will not take you onto the ice. Walking on Mendenhall Glacier is dangerous, and should only be done if you have proper training.

Downtown Juneau Historical Walking Tour: Within easy walking distance of the cruise ship docks are many of Juneau’s main attractions, The lively downtown is compact, and easy to navigate on foot. Pick up a walking tour map from any visitors center and follow the path, which takes you by all the major locations that played a part in the history of Juneau, including the state capitol building, Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, several museums and historic South Franklin Street, where turn-of-the-century buildings today are gift shops, restaurants and pubs.

Salmon Spawning Streams: Between July and September, many of the natural salmon spawning streams in the Juneau area are filled with salmon completing their natural life cycle, and it is certainly a spectacle to behold. While some fish these streams, most people just go to watch this amazing annual event.


Walking tour of the Historic District with the National Park Service Ranger: Visit the Klondike Gold National Historical Park Visitor Center at 2nd Avenue and Broadway. Rangers answer questions, give talks, show films, and, five times a day, lead an excellent free guided walking tour. A seven-block corridor along Broadway Street features 15 restored buildings, false fronts and wooden sidewalks from Skagway, Alaska's golden era as a boomtown.

Walk out to the Gold Rush Cemetery and Reid Falls: The Gold Camp Cemetery is in easy walking distance of downtown (about 2 miles) and boasts the “Largest Nugget in the World”. The headstones and markers are not maintained, giving the cemetery an appropriately creepy, historic atmosphere. The monument to Frank Reid, who killed the villainous Soapy Smith reads, ""He died for the honor of Skagway."" Continue through the cemetery for 1/4 of a mile you can also see Reid Falls. The trail up to the falls starts out flat and slightly inclined, but became rougher and steeper closer to the falls. The falls are quite magnificent and there is a bench where you can rest and admire them.

Hike to Lower Dewey Lake: (0.9 mile to lake; 3.6 miles around lake) Go east on 2nd Ave. past the railroad depot. Where the railroad tracks cross the road turn left and follow the tracks 120 meters north to the trailhead. Plan on taking an hour round-trip for the easy but steep hike to Lower Dewey Lake, where there are picnic tables, and a trail circling the lake.


Totem Heritage Center ($5 pp):  View the largest collection of unrestored 19th century totem poles, but that's just the beginning of what it has to offer. Also displayed are baskets, masks, regalia, carvings, and my personal favorite, the incredible photographs of the old villages where the poles were retrieved. Not to mention the many carvings and totem poles outside the building.

Self-Guided Walking Tour: Pick up the official Ketchikan Walking Tour map at the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau’s visitor information center. Starting from downtown follow the numbered signs posted along two routes offered to learn about the history and culture of this quaint town. Routes can be walked in as little as 60 minutes, but plan extra time to appreciate the sights and for entering attractions or shops along the way. Be sure to stroll along Creek Street. Visited by thousands of visitors every year, historic Creek Street is one of the most popular things to do in Ketchikan. The antique boardwalk on wooden pilings over Ketchikan Creek is home to restaurants, unique curio shops, the Dolly’s House Museum’ & private dwellings, as well as some of the best salmon viewing areas in Ketchikan.

Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center ($12 pp): This nonprofit center combines one of Alaska's best hatchery tours and a place to see a bald eagle close up. The wooden buildings stand over Ketchikan Creek. You can see fish climbing against the current up into pools where they are sorted before being cut open to complete their biological purpose (salmon die when they spawn anyway). The hatchery tours let you get so close, right in the action, where you can feed the growing salmon fry yourself. The hatchery produces king and silver salmon and steelhead trout. Visitors can also walk right through the eagle enclosure. The eagles hunt salmon swimming naturally through their enclosure. No glass stands between you and this activity, only a few feet away."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Come Play Xbox on Celebrity

Have you been thinking about a family vacation aboard a Celebrity Cruise Line ship, but are afraid the kids won’t have enough to do? No worries! Celebrity Cruises has joined forces with Microsoft’s Xbox, bringing the video game entertainment onto its ships. Slated to introduce one of the industry’s largest Xbox experiences at sea, Celebrity’s alliance boasts entertaining Xbox-themed spaces across its fleet, offering families interactive Xbox Games experiences for all ages!

Guests can anticipate enhancements to existing venues and onboard programming as soon as this summer, with the inclusion of Xbox-featured activities and gaming areas in the youth program’s Fun Factory and X-Club facilities. For kids who have been registered to participate by their parents, the Celebrity Xbox experience will offer exciting age-appropriate games and themed nights ranging from sports and dance to adventure and racing on Xbox 360 and Kinect for Xbox 360.

Adults also have the opportunity to connect and enjoy the Xbox experience through free play and at scheduled themed events, including Zumba® parties and sports tournaments, available on traveling Kinect for Xbox 360 consoles in different venues throughout the ships.

“The newly “Solsticized” Celebrity Constellation is the first of Celebrity’s ten ships to introduce the complete onboard Xbox experience when it re-entered service on May 5, 2013, after completing its scheduled drydock – just in time for families planning their summer vacations. The remaining Celebrity ships will offer Xbox 360 and Kinect for Xbox 360 this summer, and will unfold the full Xbox experience by the end of 2013.

The addition of Xbox aboard Celebrity ships offers another engaging ways for the whole family to enjoy a Celebrity “modern luxury vacation”."

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Norwegian Breakaway's First Bride

A Direct Line Cruises' staff member was the first bride to be married aboard the  Norwegian Breakaway! And regardless of how beautiful the new ship is, it couldn't outshine Lisa, the lovely bride.  Here's her story, and who knows; it may inspire someone you know to get married onboard a cruise ship.

Hi Everyone! I just wanted to post a simple and short review of our wedding on the Norwegian Breakaway on June 2nd, 2013. We were the very first wedding on the Breakaway so it was a little scary not knowing what to expect. The reason we chose Breakaway is simply because it was the best option in the NY/NJ area. I love RCCL and Celebrity and have been on both of those ships, but the pier in NJ is not ideal. We thought it would be exciting to have our wedding on a brand new ship docked in Manhattan

We started planning back in November 2011, a few months after we got engaged. Wedding Experience advised me that the first date of the weddings on the new ship was June 2nd, 2013. I was a little apprehensive about being on of the first, but the date was perfect so we booked it. We knew our closest friends and family would cruise with us afterwards so instead of calling it our honeymoon, it was our week-long wedding cruise. (Our real honeymoon is in September).

One reason that I am happy we had our wedding on a cruise is because it was just so easy! We didn't have to worry about numerous vendors and such because everything was handled by one office. Ozzy, from Royal Ocean Events was the person who helped me through the last months of confirming everything. She was fantastic and really made me feel at ease. She would respond to my emails within 24 hours and would call me at a specific time if I requested her to. I still can't believe how easy everything was and how smoothly things went because of Royal Ocean Events.

Like I said earlier our wedding took place Sunday June 2nd, 2013 on the ship docked in Manhattan. We had a total of 107 guests at the reception with 22 of them cruising with us afterwards. We chose a sit-down lunch reception which took place in the Manhattan Room right after the ceremony in the same location. When we arrived Sunday morning I met with our main coordinator Tammi, and four other coordinators. They quickly took me and my sailing guests through security and check in. Our non-sailing guests checked in before going through security so I did not get to see most of them until the ceremony. At around 11am, as we were check in in, Tammi told me we got cleared for boarding! I was ecstatic that I would have almost an hour to get dressed and relax before the ceremony which was scheduled for 12:15pm.

When we boarded we entered right by the Manhattan Room which was perfect. Tammi, my mother, sister and I headed up to my stateroom to get dressed. I booked a category S7 suite which was a penthouse. I highly recommend booking a suite if you are planning a wedding in port as it allows you enough room to get ready. I had a separate living area and bedroom and a huge bathroom. My mom and sister were able to stay in the living room, while I had the whole bedroom to get dressed. If I booked a standard room it would have been extremely difficult and stressful to have my mom and sister help me get ready.

Around 11:45 my photographer, Carly, stopped by to introduce herself and ask what kind of photos I preferred. She was so sweet and helpful and our pictures came out amazing! So by 12:00pm we were heading back down to the Manhattan Room for the ceremony. Our officiate was Captain Arnold who delivered a beautiful ceremony.

Right after the ceremony Carly asked if I wanted to have some pictures taken around the ship and of course I said yes! Tammi said we had fifteen minutes, but we were probably gone for about a half an hour. We were already on deck 7 so I told Carly I wanted pictures by the chandelier and in O'Sheehans. She also suggested Shakers and Spice H20 (outside) The outside pictures were definitely my favorite and I am so happy she suggested it. I am so happy the way our pictures turned out. We have about 30 from around the ship and there really aren’t any bad ones. By the way, we added on the high resolution DVD of all images taken by our photographer. She took about 170 pictures in 2 hours so I am very happy we decided to do that.

I did not have time to eat anything but our guests seemed to enjoy the luncheon. We also had a DJ who played background and dance music. We didn't have much time to dance, but it was fun nevertheless. So, am I happy I chose a cruise wedding? ABSOLUTELY! It was an incredible day and I was beyond happy with the way it turned out. The Breakaway is an amazing ship and we had a great week with friends and family following the wedding.

By the way, I kept my dress on throughout sailaway and dinner. I am happy I did, but we got soooo much attention."