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."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Packing For Your Alaska Cruise

Alaska cruises offer travelers the opportunity to enjoy all the luxuries that today’s cruise ships offer, combined with the rugged beauty of Alaska itself. And while some people think they'll need to be bundled up in their down coats and snow boots for the duration, that’s just not true! Alaska's cruise season runs from May to September, and the weather fluctuates between 50 and 70 degrees, sometimes reaching the mid-80’s in the afternoon, while occasionally dropping to 30 or 40 degrees at night. There’s a good chance you’ll encounter some rain during your cruise (especially in August), but snow is highly unlikely. And therein lies the challenge.  What do you pack differently when going on an Alaska cruise?

When you pack for an Alaska cruise, think layering, taking light, medium and some heavy weight casual, comfortable clothing. Shirts that layer easily such as t-shirts, turtlenecks, fleece sweaters and sweatshirts will come in most handy. Moisture-wicking under-layers are a great choice for both men and women that are planning active outdoor activities such as hiking, glacier trekking, kayaking, etc.

Water-resistant or waterproof outerwear is a must. This could be a slicker, rain poncho, or gortex jacket, preferably hooded. Waterproof gloves will take up little space in your suitcase and you won’t regret having them while spending extended hours on deck watching for glaciers, whales and dolphins.

Bring comfortable walking or hiking shoes, depending on the activities you have planned. They need to have good traction for wet deck and ashore activities. Sneakers will do, but not for cold glacier tours (where you'll also need warm socks).

Backpacks or a nylon sling bag are a must for going ashore.  They easily store any extra clothing layers that are peeled off, rain ponchos, cameras or souvenirs bought in port.  And don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen.  It may not be a tropical destination, but the sun's UV rays are strong in Alaska and the sun off of the ice can be very intense.  Insect repellent, binoculars, a travel umbrella, and a spare memory card for your camera are other items you’ll be glad to have.

Sea days are casual on an Alaska cruise and even the formal evenings are a bit less formal than other itineraries. Pack the bathing suits because as I said earlier, afternoons can be warm and in addition, many ships have enclosed pool areas.

The bottom line is that southeast Alaska is not the frozen arctic that many presume it to be.  Temperatures fluctuate but it you bring clothes that can be easily layered, as well as a waterproof jacket, you’ll be all ready to explore America’s Last Frontier!"

Monday, June 03, 2013

Destination Immersive Experiences with Azamara Club Cruises

Imagine a cruise line that believed its guests wanted to spend more time in port and less time at sea!  Envision a cruise line that believes it can market itself to a sophisticated class of travelers who not only want to see the places they visit, but to live them…by interacting with local people, by enjoying the native food, and by becoming inspired by the culture.  What a radical idea!  Yet, it is those philosophies that are the foundation of Azamara Club Cruises.

Azamara Club Cruises specializes in destination immersion and goes about achieving this in various ways, the most obvious by spending more time in port than other cruise lines do. This allows guests more time to take in-depth tours or venture further away from the port city. In addition, when your ship is in port until 10 PM, midnight, or in many cases overnight, the opportunity arises for night touring!  Having that extra time to dine at a local trattoria, take in an evening at the opera or simply stroll around after all the tour busses have gone, adds so much to your overall port experience!  On my recent cruise aboard the Azamara Quest, an overnight stay in Barcelona allowed us to take in a late night flamenco show with dinner, that we otherwise would not have been able to schedule.  We feasted on gazpacho, paella, jamón ibérico, washing it all down with fruity sangria and cava!

Azamara is taking destination immersion to a whole new level with AzAmazing Evenings. These complimentary onshore events, not open to the general public, offer an up-close experience of local traditions—dance, music, theater and cuisine—in gorgeous private settings and landmarks.  For my cruise, it was the Royal Gibraltar Regiment Band and Corps of Drums in the magical setting of St. Michael’s Cave. During intermission guests nibbled on tapas and sipped wine.  The evening was enchanting and was certainly something I’ll remember forever!

Many Azamara voyages encompass a special event that will take you to the heart of local culture; an opportunity for a distinctive cultural experience. Such special events include the Chelsea Flower Show in London or Carnivale in Rio! The cruise I took included an overnight in Seville during La Feria de Abril (April Fair). This is not a fair created to entertain tourists, but a special yearly tradition the people of the city look forward to.  We  strolled through the fair grounds and watched a procession called the ‘Paseo de Caballos’ in which local girls in their full flamenco outfit are pulled through the city in beautiful carriages by splendid horses! Music filled the air, and people were dancing in the streets!  It was wonderful!

Even shore excursions, called Land Discoveries, offer so much more.  Reservations at exclusive local restaurants, visits to vineyards where guests can meet with the people who actually make the wine, or special shopping opportunities all emphasize the “cultural track” an Azamara voyage takes you on. For those that prefer to explore on their own, the Azamara staff is on hand to hand out maps as well as share their knowledge of “must sees”, and little known special spots!

Traveling with Azamara is a memorable, one of a kind cruise vacation.  Their philosophy of destination immersion allows guests to discover the essence of a place through its people, cuisine, and customs.  Indeed that was my experience.  Shouldn’t that be yours?