Monday, April 28, 2014

Take a Quantum Leap…Limited Time Only

Since the initial news that Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas would depart from Cape Liberty, New Jersey for her inaugural winter season, there has been suspicion from travel agents and consumers alike as to why the ships itinerary was only disclosed until the spring of 2015. Well, now we have an answer. In an astonishing announcement, Royal Caribbean revealed that the Quantum would make Shanghai, China its homeport beginning late June 2015. The Quantum of the Seas will sail three to eight-night itineraries year-round from Shanghai to Japan and Korea.

I suppose from a business standpoint the decision is a smart one for Royal Caribbean.  After all, it makes senses that the major cruise lines will begin to look to the rapidly growing Asian cruise market and the Chinese market is huge!  Of course, that fact does little to alleviate the disappointment of Northeast American cruisers that were so looking forward to having the new ship in their own backyard.

So, what can Cape Liberty cruisers look forward to after the departure of the Quantum of the Seas?  Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas will take her place to sail to Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Canada and New England for the 2015 summer and autumn seasons. And then, Quantum of the Seas' sister ship, Anthem of the Seas, which launches in April 2015, will complete her inaugural Europe season from Southampton, before arriving to Cape Liberty in November 2015 to continue Quantum-class cruising to the Bahamas and Caribbean for the winter 2015-16 season.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Azamara Immersion Programming Attracts Life-Long Learners

Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying, ""I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday."" Learning doesn't stop just because school does! Gaining new knowledge through experiences is a daily adventure that one carries and explores throughout life, including, or I should say, especially as you cruise to discover the world! Azamara Club Cruises acknowledges this way of life with new programs that compliment its destination immersion philosophy; a diverse lecture program, and two onshore experiences,” Insider Access”, and “Nights and Cool Places

Through a new partnership with Compass Speakers and Entertainment, Azamara Club Cruises will now present onboard lecturers covering subjects such as art history, environmental issues, sports, politics, destination information and more. Guests may have the opportunity hear a lecture on Royal History presented by Dr. Carolyn Harris, an expert in the history of European monarchy or listen to Dr. Christopher Whelan speak about World Affairs. Whatever the topic, these informative and enlightening seminars will entertain, while presenting guests with new perspectives and insights on various subjects.

“Insider Access” is an onshore program that takes small groups of guests to ancestral homes, workshops or places of business at a destination. For example, while visiting the Italian port city of Livorno, guests have the opportunity to explore the charming walled town of Lucca in a very unique way.  After strolling the ancient cobbled streets where the renowned composer Giacomo Puccini made his home, it’s off to the estate built by Count Cosimo Bernardini in the 1700s. One of the count's descendants will show visitors around the beautiful gardens while regaling them with stories of the family whose prominent role in Lucca dates to the 14th century.

Another new excursion program, “Nights and Cool Places”, offers after-dinner outings for small groups to places such as a tour at Malaga’s Picasso Museum after hours, drinks at Rio de Janeiro’s hot spot Scenarium, or a historic neighborhood for a guided architectural walk. This is a nice addition to the complimentary AzAmazing Evening tour that has become so popular! Both evening programs provide guests with exclusive activities on land that aren't normally available to cruisers.

There is great pleasure in learning for the sake of learning and there is nothing more rewarding then making the world your classroom.  Guests searching for a more in depth, personalized destination experience, one that will stimulate the mind and senses, will be pleased with the new Azamara Club Cruises programs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bicycle Adventures with Crystal Cruises

I love bicycling!  It’s a great way to get fresh air, enjoy a lovely day and maybe even burn some calories.  I particularly enjoy bike-riding tours with my family while on vacation.  We’ve done easy breezy pedaling atop the medieval walls of Lucca, Italy, mountain bike riding through the geological wonders of Yellowstone National Park, and exerted a significant amount of effort cycling up and down the hilly terrain of whitewashed towns in Andalusia. Biking is a unique way to explore a city or town up close and personal, something that cannot be said when touring from the window of a big bus.      

It seems that I’m not the only one who prefers pedaling through architectural treasures, historical landscapes and spectacular scenery.  Crystal Cruises has recently announced that they have added 16 bicycle Crystal Adventures in 2014 to their Northern and Western Europe trips, as well as their Mediterranean itineraries.

Crystal’s bicycle adventures vary in length and intensity, yet all promise an exceptional ride. For example… there’s a five-mile ride through the city of Barcelona and another of the same distance through a forest in Copenhagen. Guests may choose a nine-mile combination of flat and hilly roads as they cycle past the beautiful chateaus and vineyards of Bordeaux. Then there’s the 12.5-mile route through the countryside and then along the coastline in Malta…a route that no tour bus has access to!

Bicycle tours with Crystal Cruises are fun, good exercise, and an easy way to connect with fellow shipmates. They can give participants a novel approach to exploring an old city, or take them to out of the ordinary places few tourists ever see. I can’t imagine a better way to immerse oneself in a region!"

Monday, April 14, 2014

Consider an Alaska Cruise Tour

A seven-night Alaska cruise is one of the most spectacular vacations you can take! Exploring Alaska by sea allows passengers to behold the stunning coastal region of the Inside Passage, as well as the quaint port towns that dot the area, most of which aren't accessible by road. On an Alaska cruise the ship glides through icy blue waters as passengers look and listen for calving glaciers and scout the shoreline for Alaska's wildlife in its natural habitat. Guests have the opportunity to learn about Alaska's Native history through totem carving, traditional dancing, music, and crafts. And nothing is better than feasting on freshest seafood available…salmon, halibut and of course those famous Alaskan crab legs!

It’s hard to imagine that anything can surpass the experience of an Alaska cruise. However, for an even more comprehensive Alaska expedition, you must journey further than a cruise ship can take you. Alaska's largest cities, highest mountains, and grandest National Parks are all inland. The best way to see more of Alaska’s magnificence is to add a land tour, either before or after your cruise.

Itineraries that include an option for a land tour are sometimes called Gulf of Alaska cruises. The northbound cruises depart from either Seattle or Vancouver and end in Seward, Alaska.  The southbound cruises begin in Seward and end in Vancouver or Seattle. Ports of call are generally the same as the Inside Passage cruise.  The difference regarding this itinerary is the opportunity to explore the interior of Alaska.

Seward, Alaska is the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, home to some of most breathtaking vistas in North America. Surrounded by steep mountain walls, the Kenai Fjords provides the perfect habitat for Steller sea lions, sea otters, orcas, humpback whales, mountain goats, bald eagles and a vast number of sea birds. The colossal Harding Ice field feeds the 38 glaciers of the Park. There are many half and full-day glacier and wildlife cruises that explore Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park, a trip that is not possible if you choose the Inside Passage only.

Mention Alaska and the first thing most people think of is Denali National Park. A visit to the park and its crown jewel, Mount McKinley, is at the top of many Alaska visitors' ""must-do"" lists.  But most people do not realize that Denali National Park is not an excursion option on an Inside Passage cruise itinerary.  It’s just too far away!  Denali National Park is a stop on almost every cruise tour itinerary, many including a 2-night stay!  But it’s not just the mountain that makes the park such a special place. Denali is home to a variety of wildlife, with moose, caribou, wolves and bears being sought out by anyone with a camera!

The Alaska Railroad has been part of Alaska history for over 90 years and riding the rails, even for a short distance, is a must-do! The tracks span between Seward and Whittier in South Central Alaska, through Anchorage and Denali National Park, and up to Fairbanks. From inside the glass domed cars travelers are given a unique perspective for viewing the countryside, as the train rambles over rushing rivers and through the pristine wilderness. Many Alaska cruise tours include a spectacular rail journey through the heart of Alaska that you would otherwise miss if you opt for a cruise-only Alaska vacation.

Anchorage and Fairbanks are the two largest cities in Alaska. A visit to either or both is available on most Alaska cruise tours. There is no other urban area like Anchorage. It’s a city nestled between the mountains and the sea with the wilderness in its backyard. Fairbanks is a city of unique experiences. There are summer months in Fairbanks when the sun shines nearly 24 hours a day! However, if you hold off your visit until late August there’s a great chance to see the magical and mysterious light of the aurora borealis!  In addition, Fairbanks is only 198 miles from the Arctic Circle.  Make the trip by plane or car and you will receive an official Arctic Circle certificate presented in ceremonious fashion. Now that’s something not everyone will be able to check off on their bucket list!

To really appreciate all that Alaska has to offer, savvy travelers head inland, to places that cruise ships cannot go.  The beauty of interior Alaska is breathtaking, and there is so much to see and do!  Consider an Alaska cruise tour, as it can turn a great cruise into an extraordinary trip of a lifetime."

Sunday, April 06, 2014

CATS the Musical; Aboard Oasis of the Seas

Written by famed composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber and based on T.S. Eliot's ‘Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats,' CATS, the musical, premiered in London’s West End in May of 1981 to rave reviews.  The following year it lit up the Great White Way, taking Broadway by storm!  And coming this fall CATS will debut on the high seas aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas!

CATS tells the story of the Jellicles, a tribe of cats who assemble for their annual junkyard ball where they announce the cat that will be reborn. The audience is introduced to each cat as they step up to audition for this very special role. The enchanting musical score features the immortal ballad “Memory,” as well as a collection of other whimsical tunes enjoyed by audiences’ young and old.

This long running musical remains a favorite with theater lovers worldwide! CATS has won numerous awards including Best Musical at both the Tony Awards and the Laurence Olivier Awards. It is sure to thrill cruisers aboard the Oasis of the Seas!