Sunday, November 30, 2014

Celebrity Cruises River and Ocean Cruise Vacations

Ocean cruise or river cruise? Nothing beats the luxury, entertainment and pampering guests experience on an ocean cruise vacation.   However, river cruises can take you to the very heart of some of the world’s most exciting cities and enchanting towns!   Can’t decide? Now you don’t have to. Introducing Celebrity’s European river-and-ocean cruise vacation packages!

An industry first, these one-of-a-kind vacations combine an immersive Amras Cruise river journey with a Celebrity luxury ocean sailing. The 11 new river-and-ocean cruise packages offer guests the opportunity to explore Europe inside and out by way of four well-known rivers – the Danube, Rhine, Rhône and Seine, and then continue on by sea around the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, Russia, Turkey and other destinations.

Lets take a closer look at one such voyage, the 16 Night Seine Symphony, & the Med.

 Guests will fly into Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world, to board the Amadeus Diamond. Following the Seine north from Paris, the ship will stop at the fairytale towns and landscapes that inspired many a great artist; van Gogh, Cézanne, Pissarro, and Monet! Every bend is a feast for the eyes: cathedrals, chateaux, fishing villages, gardens and Gothic masterpieces. Venture to the beaches of Normandy, where Western Allies landed not so long ago. Returning south, guests will spend a day and night docked in the City of Lights.

Then fly from Paris to Barcelona, where guests will spend 2 days exploring this exciting city before embarking on a 7-night Celebrity Equinox cruise. Luxurious accommodations, award-winning cuisine, impeccable service and amazing entertainment await. Ports of call include Cannes, France; Genoa, Italy; Rome, Italy; the Amalfi Coast and Crete, Greece before disembarking in Athens!

 Celebrity’s European river-and-ocean cruise package offers a unique vacation experience. Ranging from 16 to 24 nights, Celebrity Explorations’ river-and-ocean cruise packages include:
  • Seven-night Amras Cruises River cruise, including gourmet dining; regional wine and beer and fully guided tours and excursions.
  • Dedicated Celebrity Cruises Destination Concierge to ensure a seamless and personalized river cruise experience.
  • Flights to a major European city near the ocean cruise port.
  • One- to two-night luxury hotel accommodations before embarking on the ocean cruise.
  • Convenient transfers from the airport to the hotel and the ocean cruise port.
  • Celebrity Cruises Classic Beverage Package, including wine and spirits.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

2015 Carnival LIVE Concert Series

The first season of the “Carnival LIVE Concert Series” is winding down and was a smashing success with one sold-out onboard show after another! And it’s no wonder…these were no amateur performers! The artists that played onboard the Carnival ships were Grammy Award and CMA Award winners and nominees. These musicians have played in major concert venues all over the world, and maybe you’ve even paid a pretty penny to see one of them in a hall that holds 20,000 people. Now imagine seeing them a theater that has a cabin capacity of 1000! That’s the experience you’ll have if you book a Carnival Live Concert Series cruise.

Coming on board in the first part of 2015 will be Journey, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Smokey Robinson, and Styx, back by popular demand for the second season. Carnival LIVE tickets for 2015 range from $35 to $60 for general admission (in addition to cruise fare), significantly less than land-based concerts. VIP tickets are available for $125 to $250, offering fans seating in the first four rows, an artist meet and greet, a souvenir photo with the artist and a commemorative concert pass.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quantum of the Seas Sneak Preview

My time on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas was short. I was invited onboard along with other travel agents and the media for a 2-night cruise to nowhere to view her cabins, eat and drink in her restaurants, amuse myself in her play areas, and enjoy the entertainment onboard. So I did, and less than 48 hours later I walked off the ship completely and thoroughly WOWED!

Thank goodness no time was wasted on long lines at the cruise terminal. It was truly 10 minutes from sidewalk to ship! I had completed my guest registration, uploaded my security photo (so simple even someone as technically challenged as myself did it without a glitch), and printed my Set Sail pass several weeks before embarkation. Upon arrival at the pier my Set Sail pass and passport was scanned by personnel roaming the terminal with i-Pads, my luggage was x-rayed and I headed up the gang plank, easy peasy!

My Sea Pass card was waiting for me in my cabin but went unused, as I opted for the RFID Wow Band, which I immediately strapped to my wrist. The wristband opened my cabin door, checked me into restaurants and shows, and was used in the shops to make purchases. It was so nice not having to fumble around looking for the Sea Pass card in my pocketbook!

Quantum of the Seas has done away with the mammoth dining room and traditional early and late seating times. Instead, there are 18 different dining venues; some complimentary and others with a cover charge. There is casual dining, formal dining, eat-in, take-out, buffet, elegant decor, whimsical decor as well as several celebrity chef restaurants. I had dinner at Chic (contemporary food served in a glitzy room of white and gold décor) on one evening and Grande (classic dishes served in an elegant restaurant where every night is formal night) the second evening. The food was delicious with each meal ending with a decadent chocolate dessert!

After dinner I enjoy nothing better that a good show, and Quantum of the Seas did not disappoint! “Mama Mia”, the smash hit based on the songs of Swedish pop sensation ABBA was the musical onboard. It was every bit as good as when I saw it on Broadway! The Music Hall is the spot for live music onboard the Quantum…bands, musicians and DJs.   There was a Led Zeppelin cover band and a Journey cover band on my cruise.  Be sure to look for the self-leveling billiard tables on the 2nd floor.

The multifunction “living room” known as “Two 70” gets its name from the sweeping 270 degree views of the ocean by day. It’s a great place to hang out and read, or sit with a snack from the Café @ Two 70. In the evening it’s transformed into a multimedia theater and multiuse venue. On one evening I saw a show called StarWater featuring singing, dancing, aerialists, robotics, and projections. On another evening it was transformed into a comedy club.

There are so many places to “play” on Quantum of the Seas, for both the young and young at heart! The Sea Plex is an indoor play area that hosts basketball, roller-skating, circus school and bumper cars! The last time I sat in a bumper car was some 15 years ago with my then 5-year old son beside me at the wheel, looking to crash into everything and anything! This time I had the car to myself and I was really surprised by how much fun it was!

Rip Cord is a first for a cruise ship…it gives guests a sky diving experience in a safe, controlled, simulated environment. Before taking flight participants must take a training class and are then suited up in a jumpsuit, goggles and helmet. They are then ready for two flights accompanied by an instructor. Even if you choose not “sky dive” (I did not, but some of my co-workers did), it’s almost as much fun to just watch! I feel the same way about the Flow Rider, which incidentally is also onboard the Quantum. For people like me that would prefer a more passive experience in the sky, the North Star offers breathtaking views of the ocean, the ship, and scenery below in a capsule attached to an arm that ascends over 300 feet above sea level.

If you would like to experience Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas you’d better hurry. She sails from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey until May 2015. After that she will homeport in China and that would be one heck of an airfare expense!