Monday, December 29, 2014

Cruising the ABC Islands

The ABC islands, Aruba, Bonaire and CuraƧao, are the three western-most islands of the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean (off the coast of Venezuela). They are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, thus share a Dutch colonial history as well as a West Indian heritage. All are popular ports of call on a Southern Caribbean cruise.


The cruise port of Aruba is located in the capital city of Oranjestad. A state-of-the-art tram begins at the cruise terminal and meanders through the city making stops at monuments and museums, as well as at key shopping areas. The city’s streets and malls are dotted with international luxury retailers, diverse boutiques, and dazzling jewelry stores

The beaches in Aruba are world class and all beaches on Aruba are open to the public Eagle Beach with its sugar-like sand has been named the best beach in the Caribbean. There are shaded picnic areas, some huts, and a variety of motorized water sports.

But when you tire of soaking in the sun, there's scuba diving, snorkeling, great windsurfing, parasailing (thanks to those famous trade winds), sky diving, jet skis, many different types of boat cruises and all the other watersports you expect from a Caribbean island.

Aruba’s interior is not lush …its landscape is very desert like with scrub coral and cactus, iguanas, goats, donkeys, strange boulder formations and even the remains of a Spanish gold mine. The best way to see this side of the island is to book a jeep tour and they are offered through the cruise line or can be booked independently.


Cruise ships dock in Kralendijk, the sleepy capital of Bonaire. A newly constructed seaside promenade lined with shops, restaurants and bars leads downtown. Near the cruise ship pier is an outdoor market in nearby Wilhelmina Park which sells local wares and foods. Kaya Grandi, the main street in Kralendijk, also has shops with clothing, souvenirs, jewelry, snorkeling and diving equipment.

Just north of Kralendijk on Bonaire’s western coast, Eden Beach is perhaps best-suited for beachgoers who like to have easy access to food and drink. Serving the beach is a small restaurant and beach bar. Lac Bay, a sheltered lagoon off the Caribbean, lies along the southeastern coast of Bonaire. Although the vast majority of beaches on Bonaire’s eastern coast have rough surf, Lac Bay Beach is the exception, making it a relatively safe beach for families.

Bonaire is a diving and snorkeling paradise, surrounded by staggeringly diverse coral reefs that are part of a protected national marine park. Turtles, rays, sea horses and fish of every imaginable color abound in the pristine waters of the park.

Available shore excursions include visits to the Donkey Sanctuary, Flamingo Sanctuary and the original Spanish settlement of Rincon, founded in 1527.


The largest of the ABC islands is Curacao. The capital Willemstad, settled in 1634, might be the most photographed city in the Caribbean thanks to its well-preserved, cotton-candy-colored Dutch Colonial architecture and buildings like the Mikve Israel Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in use in the Western Hemisphere.

It’s a lovely walk along the Queen Emma pontoon bridge and if timed right, you may see it swing open to let ships in and out of the harbor. There’s also the famous floating market laden with produce, and even if you’re not buying, the photo opportunities are delightful!

Playa Port Marie is a gorgeous sandy beach a cab ride away. Spend the day enjoying the beautiful turquoise waters with very calm waves. It's very appropriate for small children. There is a snorkeling trail and it also features a great sea-side restaurant!

If you’d rather explore the rest of the island, jeep caravan shore excursions are a good choice.   Hato Caves, an elaborate network of stalactites and stalagmites with 1,500 year old drawings as well as the Christoffel National Park, 4,446 acres teeming with exotic wildlife and gardens are two of the most popular destinations."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The New 2015 Cruise Ships

There’s nothing like the excitement generated by the launching of a new cruise ship! What innovative changes can we look forward to?   Will there be Celebrity chefs and new restaurants? For those of you that like to be amongst the first to step onboard, here are the ships debuting in 2015.

Norwegian Escape

Maiden voyage: October 29, 2015

Home Port: Miami, Florida

The Escape is a Breakaway Plus-class ship, meaning that she includes all of the revolutionary features of the Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, and then some! This ship is the ultimate family-friendly ship. Some feature to look for include:
  • The largest ropes course at sea, a three-story maze of challenges including two planks and five zip lines!
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Mini golf.
  • The largest Aqua Park at sea and feature four multi-story water slides, a dedicated Kids’ Aqua Park, two pools and four hot tubs.
  • Nickelodeon branded entertainment returns including SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star and Dora the Explorer, among other favorite Nickelodeon characters.
  • Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” restaurant and the “5 O'Clock Somewhere Bar”
  • The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place, an oceanfront boardwalk lined with restaurants, bars and shops, combined with three expansive, flowing decks of dining, bars, and entertainment.

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas

Maiden voyage: April 22, 2015

Home Port: Southampton, England and Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The Anthem is the second ships in the Royal Caribbean Quantum family so you can count once again on seeing all the same revolutionary features you loved on the Quantum!
  • RipCord, a skydiving simulator that lets you soar in a safe, controlled environment.
  • North Star the capsule that ascends over 300 feet above sea level offering breathtaking 360° views of the sea.
  • Bumper cars, roller-skating, basketball and other activities at the SeaPlex, an indoor activity center.
  • The return of the Dynamic Dining concept that gives guests 18 different dining options and the flexibility they demand!
  • Your favorite DreamWorks characters from Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon
  •  “We Will Rock You”, based on the music of Queen, will be the Broadway show available on the Anthem

Viking Star

Maiden voyage: April 11, 2015

The Star is the first ocean cruise ship operated by Viking, the river cruise giant. She is a small ship; 48,000 tons carrying 928-passengers. Some things that set this ship apart from the competition:
  • Every port-intensive itinerary will begin and end with overnights in port, and none will have more than one sea.
  • One complimentary shore excursion in each port.
  • Complimentary beer and wine.
  • Complimentary Internet access.
  • A beautiful glass-backed infinity pool.
  • The main dining room will have floor-to-ceiling windows that can slide open to provide al fresco dining.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Searchin' For My Lost Shaker Of Salt On The Norwegian Escape

I can’t claim to be a “Parrothead” or even part of the flock of fanatics that love Jimmy Buffett’s music. I am, however, a huge fan of a good hamburger and if I’m washing it down with a margarita (salt the rim of the glass, please), all the better! So I was pretty excited to hear that Jimmy Buffett is taking to the high seas by opening his   “Margaritaville” restaurant and “5 O’clock Somewhere Bar” on the Norwegian Escape.

“Margaritaville”, will be one of the Norwegian Escape's complimentary dining options. The “5 O’clock Somewhere Bar” will be one of the line's restaurants on the Waterfront, a row of indoor-outdoor dining options, complete with live music and seating for optimal ocean viewing. The brand will also have a presence on the line's two private resorts at Harvest Caye in Belize and Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. The partnership will eventually extend to the line's other vessels in the fleet as well.

The Norwegian Escape, as well as “Margaritaville” conjure up images of what the perfect Caribbean cruise vacation should be…. a family-friendly, laid back, sandal wearing, take life easy kind of atmosphere! Beginning November of 2015, the Escape will homeport in Miami year-round, sailing an Eastern Caribbean itinerary.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Carnival Introduces Spin U

It’s not always easy to cruise with older teens, those 15 –17 year old (I speak from experience)! Finding something for them to do onboard that’s interesting and engaging is not easy! However, Carnival Cruise Line is committed to fun for all ages and has come up with a new and exciting program…Spin U!

Spin U was developed as part of Carnival’s Club O2 teen program in partnership with legendary DJ Irie. The program is a great for kids that love music, the idea of sharing it with others and as a starting point in learning how to DJ. Whether they want to spin at a party, club, be the next DJ superstar, or just pick up a new hobby, Spin U teaches the fundamentals of mixing, blending, and scratching.

Different packages will be offered including a free 30-minute introductory session that includes an overview of equipment basics and spinning and mixing techniques. A 45-minute program called DJ 101 expands upon the intro class with a comprehensive overview of mixing and scratching ($20). Three DJ Master classes follow ($99 for all 3) that help participants master the art of mixing, mic skills and understanding song structure and transitions. One lucky student may even get to try out their new skills entertaining guests poolside on the Lido deck.

Spin U is currently being piloted on six and eight day cruises on the Carnival Freedom with fleetwide rollout expected by the end of 2015.