The Crown Princess in Grand Turk.

The Crown Princess in Grand Turk.

Princess Cruises is pairing gourmet small dishes inspired by pub favorites with craft beers, cocktails and wines with the debut of The Salty Dog Gastropub aboard Crown Princess. The menu offerings, including a signature burger, were developed in collaboration with former executive chef of Umami Burger and current chef of Plan Check Kitchen + Bar in Los Angeles, Ernesto Uchimura, who was recently awarded “Chef of the Year: The Comfort Master,” from Los Angeles Magazine.

Presented within the Wheelhouse Bar nightly, in refreshed surroundings and live entertainment, guests will choose three small plates from The Salty Dog Gastropub menu featuring new twists on classic pub dishes. Plates include Pale Ale Pork Cheeks, Spicy Stout Short Ribs, Wild Mushroom Saute, and Lobster Mac & Cheese, among other delicious options.

The piece de resistance is “The Ernesto” burger from Chef Uchimura – rib eye and short rib beef patty, grilled pork belly, caramelized kimchi, beer battered jalapeno, charred onion aioli, topped with cave aged gruyere cheese.

“The Salty Dog Gastropub is an enticing addition to our onboard culinary offerings and brings yet another unique dining option to our guests,” said Rai Caluori, executive vice president of guest experience for Princess Cruises. “Chef Uchimura’s signature burger is sure to be savored, along with pub favorites reinvented for a more upscale dining experience.”

“A gastropub at sea is an innovative concept and it inspired me to get creative in the galley,” said Chef Uchimura. “The Salty Dog Gastropub’s menu will not only satisfy comfort food cravings but also offer guests new pub food flavors and tastes perfectly paired with a craft beer or fine whiskey.”

Adjacent to The Salty Dog Gastropub, also in the Wheelhouse Bar, is an expansive new, international whiskey bar menu, featuring some of the best Scotch whiskeys, American Bourbons and international whiskeys from areas including Japan, Ireland and Australia. Offerings include Johnny Walker Blue, Bakery Hill Classic (Australia), Connemara Whiskey Irish Cask (Ireland) and Hakushu 12 year (Japan). The menu offers daily specialized whiskey flights, allowing guests the opportunity to taste and compare selections around the world.

The Salty Dog Gastropub and new international whiskey menu, both available in the Wheelhouse Bar, have just launched aboardCrown Princess, and will be onboard Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess in mid-December. A food charge of $19 per guest applies.

The whiskey menu will also be available in the Wheelhouse Bar aboard Dawn Princess, Sea Princess, Sun Princess, Diamond Princess and Golden Princess by the end of 2015, and aboard all ships with the exception of Pacific Princess by the summer of 2016.

About Chef Ernesto Uchimura
Born in Argentina, Chef Ernesto Uchimura is an award-winning chef who stepped into the spotlight as the opening corporate executive chef and partner for the mega brand, Umami Burger. He went on to become founding chef and partner with the opening of Plan Check Kitchen + Bar, where he garnered even more critical acclaim and recognition, including “Chef of the Year: The Comfort Master,” from Los Angeles Magazine and “Best Burger” in Los Angeles by LA Weekly. http://www.plancheck.com/

For more information about The Salty Dog Gastropub, including the full menu, visit http://www.princess.com/gastropub.

Avid traveler, and travel writer, Stephanie Bonilla returns to share her experiences from a recent Chicago visit. Many of our cruisers are from the Windy City, so we are delighted to share this contribution!

I finally booked my trip to Chicago after catching myself constantly looking up airfares from Miami to O’hare. It seemed I was on a subliminal mission to check the ‘windy city’ off my wanderlist. On a celestial Wednesday night, the stars aligned and I was able to find an extremely cheap flight just in time for Labor Day weekend.

Something about Chicago has always fascinated me. There’s something to say about a city whose endured so much (the Great Chicago Fire, every single winter ever) yet prevails year after year, never falling short of any “best cities to live in” list. Every Chicagoan I’ve ever talked with describes how miserable and brutal the weather can be, yet follows up his/her complaint with numerous ways the city blossoms during summer. For only three fleeting months of awesomeness, locals willfully withstand six months of snow storms and insanely cold temperatures. The only other city that comes to mind that houses such a loyal fanbase is NYC, where every winter becomes an obstacle of the spirit for its inhabitants. But why? What makes Chicago the outlier of the Midwest? I was determined to find out.

Friday

After taking the earliest flight out of Miami possible, we were checked in and ready to sight-see by noon. Chi-town is an extremely walkable city, allowing visitors to embark on their respective journeys via foot (or by purchasing a Ventra Card). We quickly made our way to Wild Berry, conveniently located on the outskirts of Millennium Park. The restaurant’s ‘Creamy Nutella’ crepe, which comes sprinkled and stuffed with chocolate drizzled banana goodness, is one of the many delectable dishes diners can choose from. Fall where you will on the brunch debate, this place won’t disappoint. We used our sugar buzz to take on Millennium Park, making it in and out of the park in about an hour and checking out its impressive amphitheatre and infamous Cloud Gate sculpture along the way. It seemed like everyone was out enjoying the summer’s heat, with herds of joggers and cyclists invading the park’s grounds. I started to see why Chicago’s residents are so bewitched by their city.

After wandering around the park’s surrounding area, we hopped on a train and headed to Goose Island Brewing Co., the masterminds behind one of my all-time favorite beers, 312. Although we didn’t make it to the walking tour, we sat in the brewery’s tap room for quite some time. Pint after pint, our buds were awakened with a mix of tasty ales. Already in the beer spirit, we took a train to Rock Bottom Brewery, a brewpub designed with beer enthusiasts in mind. Every craft-beer served at this pub is truly a labor of love. After trying a couple of brewskies and wallowing in the pub’s pungent hoppy aroma, we somehow stumbled back to our hotel to change in preparation for our evening plans. Volare was what was for dinner and marked the perfect ending to our eventful day. This gem should be on every restaurant list published about Chicago.  In fact, any lists printed prior to the opening of this restaurant should be required to be republished. If you like authentic Italian cuisine intertwined with a romantic ambiance, make sure you add this to your itinerary. Reservations are a must, unless you’re cool with waiting an hour or two for a table.

 

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Saturday

After having such a great first day in Chicago, Saturday had big shoes to fill. We started our morning by visiting the Willis Tower. There is so much to see here, particularly the sky deck that offers spectacular views of the city. If you’re brave enough, you can stand on one of the glass boxes that extend 4 feet from the deck, leaving you floating 1,353 feet up in the air. It’s truly a gnarly experience. After experiencing such an adrenaline rush we decided to indulge in some emotional eating. Fortunately, Giordano’s, Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza eatery, was just a few steps away. It takes around 45 minutes for the restaurant’s pizza artisans to work their magic, but the final masterpiece is worth the wait.

We embarked on a 75-minute Wendella Architecture Tour later that afternoon, learning about Chicago’s glittery skyscrapers and the history behind the city’s remarkable transformation. This tour is a must for design and architecture buffs, allowing passengers to see Chicago in a truly unique way. Once the tour was over, we treated ourselves to more food and drinks at a near-by gastropub called Public House. With a mixed crowd of yuppies and hipsters, this place has an awesome, laid back feel and some really good nachos.

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Sunday

Sunday started as quickly as it ended. Inspired by the city’s abundant energy, we decided to run to Lincoln Park, through the  Lincoln Park Zoo, over to Lake Michigan, stopping to gaze at beautiful brick houses along the way. We were famished by 11:30 a.m., making it back just in time for our brunch reservation at Hutch. From their pulled bacon Benedict to their jalapeno and garlic infused cocktails, this place knows how to fusion. Named on many of Chicago’s “boozy brunch” lists, seating at this restaurant comes much slower than it goes.

We rolled on over to Wrigley Field after brunch, the legendary home of the Chicago Cubs. If you’re visiting during baseball season, I encourage you to buy tickets to a game. Chicago fans are no joke, wearing their royal blue and red jerseys with pride.  Following a big win against the Arizona Diamondbacks, we made our way through the rowdy crowds, seeking shelter at Emporium Arcade Bar, an adult playground come to life.  If you could get your hands on any of the 400 machines found in this ‘barcade’, you can play Ms. Pac-Man while sippin’ on your PBR(s) and jammin’ to awesome tunes. The rest of the night is a little hazy, but I vaguely remember bar hopping and fireball shots being involved.

Monday

We attempted to cure our hangover with sunshine and the consumption of a lot of comfort food. Yolk offers a great food selection with more than just eggs on their menu. They’re known for pushing the envelope with creative breakfast and lunch items which include: scooped out pineapples filled with housemade Greek yogurt and fresh fruits or tasty Red Velvet FrenchToast.  Soon after eating and sipping on some much-needed coffee, we took Uber to Chicago’s landmark, Navy Pier. After taking a ride on the pier’s iconic Ferris wheel, our time left in Chicago was quickly approaching its end.

Our last stop on our trip was Lagunitas Brewing Company. Because why not get over a hangover at a brewery, right? Although the location is a bit rough around the edges, the facility’s size and interior more than make up for the sketchy locality. Be prepared to walk through many trippy hallways blasting Alice and Wonderland tunes.  Afterall, this is the headquarter of a beer-maker that believes the golden hued liquid they discharge out of a tap is the answer to social intercourse. My favorite part of Lagunitas, or any brewery for that matter, was their tap room. We sent our amazing long weekend off with lots of clinks of our Hop Stoopids and Sucks, a reference only true beer fans will understand.

‘Til next time, Chicago.

Contributor: Stephanie Bonilla

pic001Florida is a clever little sucker. Let me tell you why. As a self-proclaimed “weekender,” I regularly study maps of Florida in search of my next mini getaway. My eyes tend to gravitate towards the peninsula’s coasts, hoping to lay themselves on our next beach-town adventure. I have never seen Anna Maria Island (AMI) marked on any of the maps I’ve carefully analyzed, which is why I was caught off guard when my boyfriend gifted me with a weekend stay on the island for my birthday. Had my eyes failed me? Was this a premature sign of ageing hitting me in the wake of my 28th birthday? I quickly grabbed my laptop for validation. Although AMI was not listed on any map, I soon learned a lot about this hidden paradise and the state it resides in: they are both really good at keeping secrets.

Another Day In Paradise

Approximately 40 miles south of Tampa, tucked along the Gulf of Mexico, sits this subtropical nirvana. The teeny island houses less than 15,000 residents and 3 tiny communities: Anna Maria (north), Holmes Beach (middle) and Bradenton Beach (south). With only one main road running north to south of this 7-by-2 mile island, AMI is the epitome of a small town. It proves, however, that big things really do come in small packages.

Our journey to paradise began very early. I got out of bed as soon as the alarm went off at 4 a.m. Before allowing my mind to go to a really dark place, I quickly reminded it that in just a few hours, we (my mind and I) would be laid back on a beach adding color to that wonderful tan we work 104 days a year for.

Since we were extremely excited about exploring the island, it wasn’t long before we arrived. We didn’t even stop for coffee, a common occurrence in all of our road trips. Catching sight of the Cortez Bridge, we knew we had arrived. The bridge is the only thing that connects the real world to this magical oasis. An old, historical fishing village is sprinkled just outside the bridge’s entrance, as if it was left there to remind incoming visitors that remnants of old Florida still remain. We drove directly to our hotel as soon as we crossed the bridge, our eyes slowly adjusting to the colorful beach cottages that served as a backdrop.

Our place wasn’t ready when we arrived– apparently even housekeeping live on island time. It didn’t faze us. We were in no rush to take refuge in our hotel room anyway. The property manager and his buddy were taking a break from the island’s heat in the inn’s office. After finding out it was our first time visiting AMI, they excitedly advised us of local eateries, bars and shops to check out. For the remainder of our stay, we used their informal itinerary as a guide for our exploration of the island. I’ll be forever indebted to them for leading us to some of the most perfect places I’ve ever visited. I hope this article does the same for you. Here’s what you should do:

Ditch Your Cottage, Explore The Landscape

A mix of colorful cottages and shady palm trees dominate the island’s landscape. The most challenging part of your day will be deciding on your transportation. You can hop on the island’s FREE trolley, rent a bike or scooter from one of the local rental shops, or use your very own two feet. Whatever your choice is, you will find plenty to look at.  One thing you won’t see on the island is high-rises. This modest beach community has been successful at maintaining its true old Florida beach feel by keeping developers and chainy hotels OFF of the island. It’s as if time was paused here 30 years ago and never started up again.

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But don’t let my description confuse you. Not everything on the island is kitschy and old. Although they are no higher than 3 stories tall, jaw dropping cottages have been built around the island, serving as both residences and lodging for visitors. Though beautiful, these new and improved bungalows still fit the “quiet money” mold exhibited throughout the island. AMI got the memo. Upscale just doesn’t jibe with beachy.

Overload On Island Grub

Like most islands, seafood is the prominent food of choice on AMI. You will not find any golden arches here. Local eateries take pride in serving domestic meals to seafood lovers, delivering shrimp, fish and oysters fished directly out of Florida’s waters.

But AMI doesn’t only do seafood right. A popular gem known by every local can be found just off the main road on the north end of the island. The Donut Experiment, a tiny boutique donut shop, allows mad scientists of all ages to create their own cake-based dunker. From key lime glazes to maple bacon or Sriracha toppings to choose from, the world really is your oyster at this island shop.

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Favorite Breakfast Spot: The Donut Experiment

Favorite Breakfast Spot: The Donut Experiment

Best Oysters: Anna Maria Oyster Bar

Best Oysters: Anna Maria Oyster Bar

Favorite Lunch Spot: The Waterfront Restaurant

Favorite Lunch Spot: The Waterfront Restaurant

Drink Like A Local

Bars can be found all over the island, ranging from rustic beachside tiki bars, to laid back establishments nestled in-between eclectic art shops displaying tropical motifs. Best way to describe AMI’s nightlife:  A Key West feel sans the rowdy crowds. When deciding what to wear, think: “What Would Jack Johnson Do.” In a land where flip-flops and shorts are standard and overloading on piña coladas is expected, packing should never be a cause of panic. Always choose comfort.   

The main thing to look for when bar hopping is live music. Be prepared to nurse your beer as you sway to a live rendition of Brown-Eyed Girl or a funky version of Rapper’s Delight. Unlike Key West, the local musicians don’t just croon Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville for a buck–they truly get to know their audience. We went from nervously calling out requests, to taking shot after shot with our entertainers and fellow escapees. Definitely check out AMI’s popular Bridgewalk area. Some of our favorite bars were located there:  Bridge Tender Inn and Waterfront Bar.

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Experience A Golden Hour – West Coast-Style

Florida’s west coast is infamous for its spectacular sunsets. As long as you’re on the west side of the island, you can pretty much catch nature painting the sky “magic” from anywhere on the island. Establishments like Sandbar crowd up just as the sun is about to set, prizing lucky guessers with a complimentary drink should they predict the correct sunset time. If there were ever a photo opp on the island, it would be during sunset. After all, sunset lighting is the best lighting, right? I’ll let the pictures work their magic.

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Soak Up The Rays

The “wake up slow” mentality is alive and well on Anna Maria. You won’t find many beach goers catching rays earlier than 10 a.m. There is plenty of space on the sugary white sand, so don’t worry too much about reserving a spot. The translucent turquoise water is just the right temperature to refresh those in need of a cool down. Swooping pelicans plunge into the pristine water in hopes of catching their next meal, while bottlenose dolphins grace observant beach bums with impromptu cameos. Make sure to pack lots of sunscreen and yummy drinks to get you by, but be sure you leave all alcohol behind in your cottage. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted on AMI’s beaches, unless you’re sipping it while sitting at one of those cute oceanfront tiki bars.

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Anna Maria Island turned out to be a very special place. If you’re looking for a slower, simpler Key West, this is the place for you. Something else I learned from this vacation: I apparently can’t keep a secret.

Today, we are excited to present the first story from our new contributor, Stephanie Bonilla! Her enthusiasm and passions for travel are apparent in her writing and now our fellow cruisers and travelers will benefit, while getting to know her. You can also learn a bit more about Stephanie via our Contributors page!


 

Stephanie Bonilla

Contributor: Stephanie Bonilla

How many times do cruise takers hop on an aircraft, take a taxi (or Uber), making it just in time to board their ocean greyhound and embark on their next adventure? Countless. How many of those passengers consider exploring the backyard of the ports they originally depart from? Not many.

Port Canaveral, also known as the “turnaround” port, is home to Florida’s second busiest cruise port. With popular cruise lines such as Carnival, Disney, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian using it to dock their vessels, thousands of passengers pour over gangplanks daily. Although the port’s locality doesn’t have much to offer, there are plenty of hidden gems waiting to be explored near-by. Take heed of the following piece of travel wisdom: Disney World will be the top contender when asking the Internet for advice– but there is much more to see in Central Florida than the mouse! Rather than fall victim to the common tourist traps, I challenge you to overcome your Disney itch and travel a little farther north to a place many locals have labeled as Mother Nature’s playground.

Blue Spring State Park

Just under an hour and a half drive from the port and only thirty minutes farther than the greater Orlando-area, wedged between your typical Central Florida neighborhood and more live oak trees than you can count, lies a hidden oasis. Since you can easily obtain all the park’s facts from a simple Internet search, I will refrain from spewing them out at you. All you really need to know is Blue Spring State Park covers over 2,600 acres and serves as a Manatee Refuge to a growing population of buoyant sea cows. The park’s biggest attraction, respectively called Blue Springs, is one of Central Florida’s hidden treasures. For the low fare of $6 per vehicle, visitors can cannon ball into one of nature’s swimming pools, hike miles of unspoiled wilderness, enjoy a barbeque in one of the park’s numerous pavilions, or bait up and cast their fishing line near the river’s shore. No matter what you’re into, this park’s got you covered. Now more on my adventure…

Stephanie Bonilla at Blue Spring State Park

Stephanie Bonilla at Blue Spring State Park

Blue Spring State Park entrance

Blue Spring State Park entrance

 

 

 

 

 

 

Springin’ It
3-4 hours

After being greeted by friendly park staff, we quickly stumbled upon a tunnel of trees that lead us to the parking lot. Excited families with multicolored floats in arm caught my eyes as they disappeared behind oak trees, eagerly making their way towards the spring. I quickly got in my two-piece, kicked off my flip-flops and happily lugged my 4-foot hot pink donut float down a windy boardwalk. Arriving at the shore of the awe-inspiring turquoise waters, I could feel the explorer vibes flowing through my body. They were quickly stunned as my skin touched the 73-degree crystalline water. Man, was it cold! It took my body a couple of minutes to adjust to the chilly temperature. Although I’m a Miamian who prefers its lukewarm oceans, the excitement of exploring this swimming hole for the adventurous numbed any feeling of discomfort. You have the option of swimming, tubing, snorkeling or scuba diving down the spring. For those feeling a little more energetic, a thin rope serves as a divider for visitors who prefer to kayak or canoe. Forgot your raft? Equipment rentals for almost all of the water activities mentioned can be rented at the ground’s concession for a small fee—minus the scuba gear. We opted to bring our own floats and goggles in an effort to save a couple of bucks.

As we made our way down the spring, bathers congregated around the spring’s boil, watching jumpers leap off of trees and sandy banks into the clear blue water. This particular area is a magnet for scuba divers, housing an underwater cave and an abundance of marine life. Divers and snorkelers alike delve into the depth of this blue hole, attempting to unlock the cave’s mysteries. After spending a couple of hours soaking up the sun and investigating the spring, we decided to tap out and grab a quick snack.

The springs at Blue Spring Park

The springs at Blue Spring Park

Tubers and rafters at Blue Spring Park

Tubers and rafters at Blue Spring Park

 

 

 

 

 

Picnicking
1 hour

The park’s grounds have a variety of places visitors can use to kick back and dry off. Pavilions, BBQ pits, and grassy areas can be found just outside the spring’s boardwalk, with families migrating here to get their grub on. For the most part, these areas are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so keep that in mind when making lunch plans. Though the park offers both food and drinks for purchase, we opted to bring our own ham and cheese sandwiches and hung out on the grass. Beer drinkers beware: alcoholic beverages are not allowed on park grounds. As the first one to crave a refreshing IPA to quench my thirst, I must admit I was a little bummed.

The Boardwalk at Blue Spring Park

The Boardwalk at Blue Spring Park

The Picnic area at Blue Spring Park

The Picnic area at Blue Spring Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Hiking

2-3 hours

As soon as lunch was over, we decided to walk some calories off on one of the park’s nature trails. We began our voyage at Pine Island Trail, a lesser-known, less-used terrain. Immediately upon entering the trailhead, hikers are welcomed by a sign warning them that this is a one-way path. 4.5 miles each way, the trail offers dense forests, shady resting areas, casual scrub-jay sightings, and plenty of photo opps. Nature’s magic is truly felt as you make your way through massive live oaks, leaving the sounds of humans behind. During our hike, we were lucky enough to spot scrub-jays, cardinals, deer, turtles, and a variety of insects. Love bugs are prevalent in this area, so don’t be surprised if a couple of intertwined honeymoon flies land on you. Overall, the long walk was well worth it. Since nearly a mile of the trail is fully exposed to the sun in each direction, I highly recommend that anyone taking this journey apply lots of sunscreen. Also, make sure to bring some H2O with you as well a bug spray. You’ll thank me later.

Entering the Pine Island Hiking Trail

Entering the Pine Island Hiking Trail

Hiking Pine Island at Blue Spring State Park

Hiking Pine Island at Blue Spring State Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Lagniappe
1-2 hours

If you’re all park’d out and still have time to spare, I highly suggest taking a drive 7 miles west to the near-by city, Deland. Located smack in the middle of Deland’s downtown strip is Santorini Greek Cuisine, a yelper’s dream come true. This little hole-in-the-wall offers great service, an array of Greek food options, and a relaxing vibe. For some of the best Greek food that will ever grace your palette, order the restaurant’s Athenian Chicken with a side of their lemon roasted potatoes. It’s enough for two and probably the best $13 you’ll ever spend.

Sweet tooth nudging you? Walk on over to Pat & Toni’s Chocolate and Sweet Things for your choice of creamy ice cream and chocolate-covered-anything. If chocolate covered bacon doesn’t entice you, try one of their dark mint truffles or imported licorice. It won’t disappoint.

Santorini Greek Cuisine, in Deland, Florida!

Santorini Greek Cuisine, in Deland, Florida!

Santorini Greek Cuisine's Athenian Chicken

The Athenian Chicken!

Pat & Toni's Chocolate and Sweet Things in Deland!

Pat & Toni’s Chocolate and Sweet Things in Deland!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those with time to kill after getting off a ship at Port Canaveral should not think twice about making it out to this magnificent, pristine land. In less than 10 hours, visitors can enjoy a day full of activities, unforgettable adventures, and great food. Although at first glance this area doesn’t seem like it has much to offer, it proves that venturing away from your typical tourist stomping grounds can pay off. Remember, true adventure seekers don’t have to stand in 3-hour lines wearing Mickey ears!

Red Frog Pub

Red Frog Pub

Ice Cream Parlor

Ice Cream Parlor

Seafood Shack

Seafood Shack

Family Harbor example

Family Harbor example

Vista Atrium

Vista Atrium

Carnival Vista

Carnival Vista

SkyRide

SkyRide

Bullet points from today’s Carnival event:

Upon launch in May 2016, Vista will sail a variety of 8 and 10-day sailings from Athens and Barcelona

 

She will also sail a 12-day voyage out of Barcelona

 

After the Euro-summer season, Vista will sail a 13-day voyage into New York City

 

After NYC sailing, she will settle into her new home port, announcement coming later

 

Features to include:
-The first IMAX at sea
-Red Frog Brewery now brewing on board
-Expanded Havana Bar area (now with pool and Havana Cabanas)
-New cabin class called “Family Harbor”, accommodating up to five
-Serenity Deck to have a chopped salad station
-A full ice cream parlor
-Dining on Deck 5 to have indoor and outdoor seating
-The atrium will have a center feature, with LED lighting, that changes colors throughout the day
-The largest Waterworks in the fleet and the largest waterslide at sea (455-feet long)
-A Skyride that goes around Lido Deck

NCL Jewel

NCL Begins Port Houston Service

Norwegian Cruise Line returned to the Port of Houston for the first time in more than seven years with the arrival of Norwegian Jewel on Saturday, October 11 at the Bayport Cruise Terminal. This inaugural call marked the beginning of the 2014 fall cruise season for Houston. The Norwegian Jewel will sail 27 Western Caribbean cruises through April 11, 2015.

Oasis of the Seas Upgrades

Royal Caribbean International has announced that the Oasis of the Seas, which completed a 14-day drydock October 14th, has a new look, including “reimagined dining,” high-speed internet, new retail offerings, a new Broadway show, and new suites with exclusive suite dining and a lounge. Royal Caribbean’s Dynamic Dining offers guests more choices and flexibility by offering 20 restaurants, said to be as vast and varied as dining in the world’s most cosmopolitan cities.

Crystal ReCRYSTAL-CRUISES-LOGO1ceives Atlantic Alliance Award

The Atlantic Alliance has given Crystal Cruises its “Triple A – Award” for 2015, which it presented to Crystal in Los Angeles last week. Each year the Atlantic Alliance awards cruise companies that have made a particularly significant contribution to the region with its “Triple A – Award”.

Holland America Adds Pros to Dancing with the Stars at Sea

Holland America Line has added the professional dancers Sharna Burgess and Artem Chigvintsev to the remaining two 2014 Dancing with the Stars: At Seatheme cruises. Both currently performing on the ABC hit show Dancing with the Stars, Burgess and Chigvintsev will join the Westerdam departing Nov. 29 and the Champions Cruise that sets sail Dec. 6. Both cruises sail roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean.

C-Equinox_090731-2492_bAll Inclusive Packages Offered by Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises has announced an All-Included Europe Package beginning Monday, Oct. 13. Guests can now fly directly from New York or New Jersey where they can embark on their European vacation. The Celebrity All-Included Europe Package is available for the following prices: $2,999 Oceanview lead rate for seven-night Celebrity Equinox Mediterranean sailings; $3,499 Oceanview lead rate for 12-nights on the Silhouette to the Baltic; and $3,499 Oceanview lead rate for 10- or 11-nights on the Reflection on Mediterranean sailings.

The package is available on seven-to-12-night European cruises ocean view or higher stateroom sailing between April 27 and October 12, 2015 on the three ships with round-trip, non-stop flights from JFK or Newark to Barcelona,  Rome, Amsterdam , Venice, Istanbul, Stockholm and Athens. Onboard amenities include a Classic Beverage Package for two including beer, wine and spirits;  non-alcoholic beverage packages for third and fourth guests; all cruise gratuities;  air and cruise taxes and port fees; and round-trip ground transfers.

Carnival Vista Construction Begins

Carnival Cruise Lines’ celebrated the keel-laying of its newest ship, the 3,954-passenger Carnival Vista, in a ceremony held last week at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone. The 133,500-ton vessel – the largest “Fun Ship” ever constructed – is set to debut in spring 2016.

Chinese Ports Brace For Immense Growth

By 2020, if estimates are correct, China’s cruise market will make up 4.5 million passengers and $8 billion in local economic impact. With that potential, government-backed ports are working hard to upgrade their infrastructure in time for new tonnage and more ships.

vikingstarViking Ocean Names Captain of Viking Star

Viking Ocean Cruises has announced that Captain Gulleik Svalastog will be at the helm of its first ocean ship – the 930-passenger Viking Star – which will sail its first cruise in April 2015.

Carnival Corp May Start Entry Level Chinese Cruise Line

Carnival Corporation is making moves in China and may add another brand to its portfolio in a Chinese entry-level/mass market cruise product.

Four Home Ports and Quantum in China for Royal Caribbean

Putting the Quantum of the Seas in China will not only attract new Chinese passengers but also promote pre- and post-China visits from international guests, according to Adam Goldstein, president and COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises. Building up in China, Royal Caribbean International will sail the Mariner from Tianjin in 2015, the Quantum from Shanghai, the Legend from Xiamen and the Voyager from Hong Kong, according to Goldstein, speaking today at the China Cruise Shipping Expo hosted by the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association.

Ruby Princess Helps Set Port Saint John History

Port Saint John welcomed its 1000th cruise call on Oct. 16, while last year marked the 25th anniversary of cruising to Saint John since 1989.

The Rhapsody in Brazil: 2015-2016

Royal Caribbean International has announced that the Rhapsody of the Seas will be deployed in the Brazilian market, sailing from Santos for 2015/2016 season. The Rhapsody will arrive in Santos December 5, 2015 and will be on the South American coast until April 10, 2016.

Ebola Scare on Carnival’s Magic

Late afternoon on Wednesday, Oct. 15, CCL was made aware, by the U.S. CDC, of a guest sailing this week on board Carnival Magic who is a lab supervisor at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. This person handled specimens from the patient who died at that hospital earlier in the month. At no point in time has the individual exhibited any symptoms or signs of infection and it has been 19 days since she was in the lab with the testing samples. She was deemed by CDC to be very low risk. At the time of this posting, this hospital worker was cleared of the disease, The Magic returned home, and everyone was cleared to disembark.

Mediterranean Cruise-Land Package by MSC for Divina in 2015

MSC Cruises has announced inclusive air/land/sea vacation package deals for guests sailing on MSC Divina, the line’s largest ship specifically dedicated to North American travelers, while the ship is in the Mediterranean from May 16 through Sept. 19, 2015. Starting at $1,899, the 10-night package includes round-trip airfare to Rome or Barcelona, a seven-night cruise, a two-night post-cruise stay in a four-star hotel, and all transfers needed, including from the airport to the ship, from the ship to the hotel and from the hotel back to the airport.

(News compiled from cruise company press releases, Cruise Industry News and Tourism Boards)

Here is a brief recap of headlines from the cruise industry, for the past week:

Princess Mobile App

Regal Princess guests will have the opportunity to connect with their fellow cruisers with the debut of Princess@Sea Messenger, a free mobile messenger feature offering guests an easy way to share updates and make plans during their cruise vacation.

The Princess@Sea Messenger is integrated in the complimentary Princess@Sea mobile app, accessed via a smartphone or tablet browser. It debuts on Regal Princess in November and will be rolled out to all cruise ships in the entire fleet by the end of 2015.

Norwegian Escape Goodies

She'll be here before you know it!

She’ll be here before you know it!

Norwegian Cruise Line announced last week that Norwegian Escape will incorporate The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place.

This concept includes an oceanfront boardwalk lined with restaurants, bars and shops, combined with three expansive, flowing decks of dining, bars, entertainment, gaming and more.  The Waterfront and 678 Ocean Place have taken cruising to new heights and offer an unparalleled experience with a unique connection to the ocean.  Norwegian Escape is currently under construction and is scheduled for delivery in October 2015.

Cruise Ship Arrivals to Puerto Vallarta Increase by 43 Percent

The Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board announced that the Pacific seaport city of Puerto Vallarta will see 118 cruises call on its shores this year, 43% over 2013 when 81 cruises called the port.

Puerto Vallarta!

Puerto Vallarta!

Puerto Vallarta will welcome 52 cruises from September through December of this year, which added to the 64 already touched Vallarta waters will reach a total of 116, 81 more than the received arrivals last year.

A total of 141 cruises have already confirmed stations to Puerto Vallarta for 2015, including Carnival will call on the destination throughout the year with the Coral Princess being the first on September 26. Carnival represents 34% of arrivals; Princess 20%; Norwegian 19% and Holland American 16%.

Royal Asian Cruises, New Cruise Line, Set to Start Service from Sri Lanka

Royal Asian Cruises has signed an agreement with the Board of Investment in Sri Lanka to launch a luxury cruise line in Sri Lanka.

Royal Asian Cruises [RAC], which currently has offices in the US and in India, will invest US$200 million over the years in the Sri Lankan venture. It will also acquire and operate two vessels over the course of 2016.

Carnival Miracle to Start Year-Round Mexican Riviera Program Next Week

Carnival Miracle departed Saturday, Oct. 4 from Long Beach, Calif., on the first voyage of a new year-round cruise program to the Mexican Riviera.  The ship will be the first to call at Cabo San Lucas on October 6 following Hurricane Odile and will be loaded with relief supplies provided by Carnival for local residents.

Carnival Miracle’s new year-round Mexican Riviera program will encompass three different week-long itineraries, including a new three-port, seven-day cruise featuring Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.

Carnival Corp. Releases Results of Multi-Year Fuel Conservation Program

Carnival Corporation & plc the world’s largest cruise company, released the results of its multi-year Fleet Fuel Conservation Program that by the end of 2014 will have saved more than one billion gallons of fuel and reduced fleet carbon emissions by 12 billion kilograms over a seven year period.

By the end of 2014, Carnival Corporation’s Fleet Fuel Conservation Program will have improved the fleet’s overall fuel efficiency by 24 percent compared to 2007, while saving approximately $2.5 billion in fuel costs, the company’s single biggest expense. Carnival Corporation announced the results of its fuel conservation efforts in conjunction with a National Press Club event celebrating world tourism today in Washington, D.C.

Carnival to Create New ‘Spin U’ DJ Academy For Teens

Carnival Cruise Lines has teamed up with DJ IRIE – the official DJ of Carnival and the Miami HEAT – to create Spin U, a new shipboard DJ academy exclusively for teens ages 15-17.

carnival

Queen Mary 2 to Bring Home a Very Special Cargo

When Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 arrives in Southampton on Wednesday October 8, she will bring home a very special cargo item – the final sandbag to make the journey from the First World War cemeteries in Belgium, containing soil from those cemeteries to create a Flanders Field Memorial Garden.

Four Carnival Ships Earn Perfect 100 Health Inspection Scores in Past Month

Four Carnival Cruise Lines ships have earned perfect 100 scores on their most recent public health inspections this past month.

Carnival Liberty, Carnival Magic and Carnival Triumph each scored 100 on their respective United States Public Health (U.S.P.H.) inspections, while Carnival Splendor earned a perfect score during its inspection by Health Canada.  This marks the 12th time a Carnival ship has earned a perfect health inspection score this year.

Princess Delivers Relief Supplies to Cabo San Lucas

Star Princess called on Cabo San Lucas this past Saturday, Oct. 4, for the first time following Hurricane Odile and brought needed relief supplies to area residents impacted by the storm. The Princess cruise ship delivered pallets of bottled water, milk and paper products, among other supplies.

(News compiled from cruise company press releases, Cruise Industry News and Tourism Boards)

As big as the cruise industry is, I am quite surprised with the lack of local advertising, aimed at folks who live within short driving distances of home ports. I’ve lived in South Florida for over 22 years, and I would see at least a dozen commercials a week, from Disney World, promoting deals for Florida residents. Look, I realize the industry’s bread and butter is the extended holiday/vacation, and the short cruise business may be doing well enough, but there are more dollars to be made there.

All across the U.S., particularly in or near port cities, casinos and entertainment venues are popping up. In many cases, they are popping up because people want things to do before and after their cruises. I know I would purposely arrive to ports like New Orleans a day or two early just to enjoy what the city has to offer! But what about the locals? For those who enjoy a night out, like a nice dinner for two, followed by a show and maybe drinks and/or dancing afterwards…this can get pricey!

Some weekend cruises rival the cost of one night out in Miami!

Some weekend cruises rival the cost of one night out in Miami!

Well, if you live near a cruise home port, and can make weekend getaway decisions within a window of one to two weeks (give or take), a weekend cruise can cost you significantly less than ONE night on the town for two people! That’s right, call the babysitter…call the grand parents…you are going to want to get away for the weekend because we are going to do  a comparison!

We recently dined at a well-known steakhouse in Miami, followed by a show with drinks. Here is the breakdown:

  • 1 Pea Soup: $9.50
  • 1 Stone Crab: $24.00
  • 1 Lamb Chops: $46.00
  • 1 Colorado Ribs: $53.00
  • 1 Creamed Spinach: $12.50
  • 2 Glasses House Red Wine: $24.00
  • 2 Import Beers: $19.00
  • 1 German Chocolate Cake: $9.00

Then at the show, a Broadway musical, two tickets were $120 and four drinks cost us $32. The figures above, not including tax and gratuities, total $349.

Just recently, on February 10, Norwegian Cruise Line had several fares, for a 4-nighter, starting at $119 per person.

Weekend cruises were advertised as low as $134 per person. Port charges and fees are a bit extra, but prices for three and four nights certainly rivaled our night out in this case. And for those of you who may be cruise newbies, what was included with the cruise advertised for $119pp? Well, five complimentary dining options, all entertainment in the Theatre and Show Lounge and live music and dancing venues throughout the ship, fitness center/sports court/pools/hot tubs, youth programs (if needed) and of course, excellent service! Oh, and yes…two tropical destinations along the way!

The view from aboard the Allure of the Seas as she departs from Port Everglades, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

The view from aboard the Allure of the Seas as she departs from Port Everglades, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Shorter cruises offer many benefits, such as an alternative to land-based casinos (and you don’t have to drive home after drinking) and allowing new cruisers to try it out for a shorter period and a lower cost. It is also a great change from trying to find parking at local entertainment venues and beaches around the U.S. One of our Facebook fans had her own reason…she arrived for her 7-day cruise a few days early, and taking a three night cruise (before her longer cruise) was  much less expensive than staying in a hotel for two nights. Yes, hotel rates on cruise weekends, in port cities are not cheap, and, you better reserve early!

We can help with your cruise wants and needs. We can also answer your questions. Check out our new sister website, CruiseCX.com, and start researching your next cruise or travel escape. Happy Hump Day everybody!

IMG_0338While innovative programs, like Norwegian Cruise Line’s single traveler cabins, are popping up, some lines offer other options for solo travelers. Holland American Line is one such cruise line!

Holland America Line’s Single Partners Program provides a way for a solo guest to share a stateroom with
another same-sex single, so each pay only the per-person, double occupancy rate!

  • If a partner is not available, the guest cruises solo at the agreed-upon double-occupancy fare
  • The program applies to selected staterooms on all ships in the fleet
  • Single guests who prefer not to share a stateroom may book a double stateroom for 150 to 200 percent of the double occupancy fare, depending on the cruise and stateroom category
  • The Single Partners Program is not available on Grand Voyages (Grand World Voyage, South America & Antarctic Voyage and Mediterranean & North Africa Voyage) or Alaska Land+Sea Journeys.

The program lets singles connect with each other through special events and activities onboard and creates a camaraderie that makes it easy to meet other singles. Highlights of Holland America Line’s Single Partners Program include:

  • Solo travelers party for singles to meet each other early during their cruise, hosted on all Holland
    America ships
  • Mixers, cocktail parties and games to let singles connect with each other
  • More than 40 activities to meet other singles such as exercise classes, computer instruction, enriching lectures (select sailings), line dance class, wine tasting, cooking demonstrations, Team Trivia contests, the daily quiz and sports challenges
  • Social Hosts to welcome single women guests to dinner and provide dancing partners on select cruises 40 days or longer, excluding Collector’s Voyages
  • Dinner seating with other singles by advance request

GetawayCamera2smallYesterday during a ceremony in Bremerhaven, Norwegian Cruise Line took delivery of the 145,655 gross ton cruise ship, Norwegian Getaway, from Meyer Werft after a building period of only 15 months. This is the second of two Breakaway-class ships, and is being delivered only nine months after the launch of sister ship Norwegian Breakaway. The ship will be christened in Miami on February 7.

Before her arrival into Port of Miami, Norwegian said it had arranged a private charter of the 4,000-passenger ship in New York from January 29 to February 5. Those dates overlap with the 2014 Super Bowl, which is being played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., home of the New York Giants and New York Jets, on February 2. Her first week-long cruise (and inaugural Caribbean cruise from Miami), takes place on February 8 (Saturday to Saturday).

Here are Some Additional Highlights

  • Nestor Torres

    Nestor Torres

    Latin GRAMMY® Award winner Nestor Torres will headline Norwegian Getaway’s GRAMMY® Experience at Sea.  Torres is the first artist to join Norwegian’s newest ship as part of the line’s partnership with The Recording Academy® that named the line “Official Cruise Line Partner of the GRAMMY Awards®

  • Norwegian Getaway will feature a new lunchtime entertainment experience for guests, WINE LOVERS THE MUSICAL
  • Norwegian Getaway will feature several restaurants and bars that evoke the tropical feel of Miami and South Florida. The Tropicana Room, Flamingo Bar & Grill, Sunset Bar and Sugarcane Bar will be new and unique additions to the largest ship to homeport in Miami year-round
  • Master Baker Buddy Valastro, star of the popular TLC television series “Cake Boss” and “Next Great Baker,” will open his second Carlo’s Bake Shop at sea on the new Norwegian Getaway
  • Entrance into the Illusionarium

    Entrance into the Illusionarium

    Seven-time Tony Award nominated musical LEGALLY BLONDE will be featured on Norwegian Getaway, along with an additional Broadway show: the dance sensation BURN THE FLOOR, and an all-new stand-up comedy program in partnership with Levity Entertainment Group, the largest producer of comedians in the world.  The line also introduced all of the varied and exciting entertainment acts and venues that will debut on the ship, including Howl at the Moon at Headliners Comedy Club. These exciting entertainment experiences are in addition to Norwegian Getaway’s Illusionarium and Grammy Experience.

These are just a few of the highlights and innovations on board the Norwegian Getaway. You can experience much more at Norwegian Cruise Line’s website!