The Cruise Cafe

Welcome to Cruise Cafe. The great new place to find out the latest in the cruise business. Whether it be the latest specials, great new itineraries or information on cruise ships or cruise lines. Feel free to add comments on your experiences too. You can always find out more at or by calling us at 1-800-788-2545. For the latest specials, follow us on Twitter at

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Seabourn Unveils Newest Ship - The Odyssey

In a choice that establishes Seabourn's penchant for the unique, the line announces today that will call its now-under-construction new-build the Seabourn Odyssey. The 450-passenger ship debuts in mid-2009.

The word Odyssey -- relatively unused as a cruise ship moniker -- is a blessed relief in an era in which many cruise lines adopt the same (or way too similar) names. The overused include Freedom, Liberty, Splendor, Spirit, Jewel, Majesty, Navigator and Voyager, among others.

To generate the excitement about the name choice, Seabourn invited members of the line's Seabourn Club (its veteran past passengers) to submit guesses -- and offered a free cruise to the winner. Seabourn's statement today noted that the "contest drew thousands of entries from around the world" and of those 50 actually "divined the correct name." Out of those participants, Seabourn staffers drew a name for the prize; the free cruise went to Monaco-based John and Hazel Coleman.

Seabourn Odyssey is the first of two new 32,500-ton, 450-passenger ships ordered by Seabourn. Among its features include expanded dining options and stateroom designs along with a plentiful verandah ratio, enhanced spa and recreational facilities, and more entertainment venues.

Itineraries for Seabourn Odyssey's maiden season will be announced by the end of 2007.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Popular ‘Rusty Wallace Cruise’ Continues in 2007

Carnival Cruise Lines’ and NASCAR racing legend Rusty Wallace have teamed up again for another “Rusty Wallace Cruise” -- this time with a seven-day voyage aboard the 2,758-passenger Carnival Triumph in December 2007.

The weeklong cruise – the seventh installment of the popular “Rusty Wallace Cruise” series -- will operate round-trip from Miami, Dec. 1-8, 2007. Featured ports include Half Moon Cay, St. Thomas, San Juan and Grand Turk.

Carnival’s “Rusty Wallace Cruises” began in 2001 and, over the years, more than 7,000 racing fans have enjoyed opportunities to meet and interact with the stock car racing legend.

“Carnival’s ‘Rusty Wallace Cruises’ are among the most popular sports themed voyages in cruising and we’re delighted that Rusty has again agreed to continue the series, this year aboard the Carnival Triumph,” said Bob Dickinson, Carnival president and CEO.

Commented Rusty Wallace, “My affiliation with Carnival has been a huge success and also a lot of fun. I’m very excited to be on board with them again this year. One of the biggest benefits of our partnership is that it gives me the opportunity to interact with our fans. The upcoming cruise on the Carnival Triumph will allow me to give back some of the appreciation they have shown me throughout my career, as well as expose them to a lot of the new and exciting things I have going on right now.”

The “Rusty Wallace Cruise” aboard the Carnival Triumph will feature a number of invitation-only events, including a private cocktail reception, as well as exclusive question-and-answer and photo sessions.

A variety of prizes and memorabilia, including complimentary race passes and authentic racing shirts autographed by Wallace, will also be available. Several racing-themed contests and giveaways will be held throughout the voyage, as well.

Reservations are currently being accepted for the “Rusty Wallace Cruise” aboard Carnival Triumph. Prices begin at $599 per person based on double occupancy. Special rates for third and fourth guests sailing in the same stateroom, along with round-trip air transportation from numerous North American gateways, are also available. Fare code CPRW must be referenced when making a reservation to be eligible for the invitation-only events taking place on this voyage.

For additional information and reservations, call 1-800-788-2545.

Celebrity Releases Details on Solstice

In honor of the first day of summer -- also known as summer solstice -- Celebrity's revealing the most significant details to date about its new prototype Celebrity Solstice.

The 122,000-ton, 2,850-passenger ship, intended to be the first in a class of four, is Celebrity's largest ever -- by a long shot. It officially debuts on December 14, 2008 (so it's still a year and a half away), with a series of seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruises out of its winter homeport in Ft. Lauderdale.

The ship's design is intriguing and here are some highlights:
  • Cabin decor gives a hint about overall design of all spaces, including public rooms and recreation areas, onboard. In this case staterooms are very sleek, contemporary, minimalist ... the very antithesis of fussy or busy.

  • Brand-new to Celebrity is a category of AquaClass cabins. These 192-square-ft. staterooms, with 53-square-ft. balconies, are aimed at passengers who want a spa-oriented cruise. Folks who reside in these cabins located on the Penthouse Deck, which we can only presume is in the AquaSpa neighborhood, get unlimited access to the AquaSpa relaxation room, the Persian Garden and Blu.

  • Speaking of Blu, it's the only restaurant mentioned today and since it's paired with the ship's spa staterooms it's safe to say that it will feature healthful cuisine. Incidentally, timed with the departure of Michel Roux, the Michelin-starred chef who was a long time celebrity chef and consultant with Celebrity, the line has hired a new "Michel," so to speak. It's developed a relationship with Elizabeth Blau, who operates a Las Vegas-based restaurant consultancy. Blau's known for creating upscale eateries for high-end hotels; she's been involved in projects including Vegas' Bellagio (which has restaurants operated by Le Cirque's Sirio Maccioni and Prime's Jean-Georges Vongerichten), Miami's Setai and Cabo San Lucas' One & Only Palmilla.

  • Suites onboard -- in this case in traditional Celebrity categories such as Penthouse, Royal, Celebrity and Sky -- naturally feature enhanced amenities and services. They'll all have a long list of butler-style extras, such as packing and unpacking; full menu meal service for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and free espresso and cappuccino.

  • The Family Veranda stateroom is another "new" twist that will debut on Celebrity Solstice, measuring a pretty generous 753 square ft. (balconies range in size, from 53 to 105 square ft.). The bedroom is separate from the living room, which will be equipped with fold-out couches; there's also an extra alcove, just big enough for twin bunks. Conceivably, six people could manage easily here. However, what's a puzzle to us considering the current industry trend in family accommodations is that they're designing bathrooms with showers only. Younger kids especially prefer bathtubs. As well (and as Disney has discovered), a half bath is a particularly good idea in a family scenario. There's no half bath here.

One of the boasts Celebrity had made when it originally announced the design of its Solstice-class ships was the fact that cabins would be larger than usual. Well, they definitely are a bit larger than those on Celebrity's Millennium class when comparing standard balcony staterooms (which at 170 square ft. are frankly pretty teeny-tiny for a cruise line at this level). But anyone expecting something bigger than industry standard will be disappointed; these standard staterooms are no bigger than those offered on new ships in fleets for Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and Carnival.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cunard Sells QE2

Cunard Line has sold QE2, cruising's most storied vessel, to Dubai World. The ship, which will be delivered to its new owners in November 2008, will be transformed into a luxury hotel, retail and entertainment complex at Dubai's The Palm Jumeirah, the world's largest man-made island.

Cost? A cool $100 million.

QE2's future has been somewhat in doubt as we approach the year 2010. That's because it's then that stringent new Safety of Life at Sea rules and requirements go into effect and it's been no secret that the 38-year-old ship would require a fairly massive infusion of cash to bring it up to speed. Still, the beloved QE2 was thought to have been such an icon that any investment would potentially be worthwhile.

Since QE2 was christened by Her Majesty The Queen in September 1967, the ocean liner has sailed 25 world cruises, crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times, and carried more than 2.5 million passengers.

The ship's actual purchaser is Istithmar, the investment arm of Dubai World, which is a wholly owned company of the Government of Dubai. The company says that it will refurbish QE2 to mirror its original decor and fittings and that one feature onboard will be a museum.

South America & Antarctica Gain Popularity for 2008 and 2009

South America and Antarctica have long been "hot" spots for more adventurous travelers in search of rugged beauty and indigenous cultures. But now these two continents -- both lying in the Southern Hemisphere, which means they're experiencing summer when we're shivering in winter -- are starting to be real players as cruise lines are expanding sailings and itineraries.

In addition, some of cruising's newest big ships are heading south for winter (including, for the first time ever -- Carnival), which means that cruise travelers interested in a "lighter" version of a South American experience can dip in the proverbial toe, without getting wet. As well, the increased influx of bigger ships -- many with state-of-the-art contemporary amenities -- means that pricing is more competitive than ever.

Also interesting is that smaller-ship lines offering rugged immersion (albeit with luxurious touches like five-star cuisine and 700-count linens) are also ramping up, offering more cruises and more off-the-track itineraries. For more information on these exciting destinations, visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas Heads West

In a huge boost for West Coast cruising, Royal Caribbean will deploy Mariner of the Seas in the Pacific beginning February 2009. The ship will be based in Los Angeles and sail seven-night Mexican Riviera itineraries. Ports of call include the region's mainstays: Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

This is the first time Royal Caribbean has stationed a ship as big as the 137,308-ton, 3,114-passenger, Voyager-class vessel on the West Coast.

Prior to beginning its season in the Mexican Riviera, Mariner of the Seas will cruise from the East Coast around South America though details about specifics -- dates, itineraries -- have not been released. As well, plans for Mariner of the Seas after it winds up its cruises to Mexico's west coast have not been announced.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

NCL Announces Farewell Season of Marco Polo

NCL announced the sale of Marco Polo, from its Orient Lines brand effective March 23, 2008.

Marco Polo is presently owned by Star Cruises along with two other mid-sized vessels also operated on charter by NCL, Norwegian Dream and Norwegian Majesty.

"Marco Polo has an extremely loyal following and the Orient Lines brand is unique in what it offers," said Colin Veitch, president and CEO of NCL Corporation. "It has been an important part of our business during the transition from the old NCL to the new NCL with the youngest fleet in the industry by the end of this year.

"We have said for the past two years that all of our older ships would progressively leave the fleet as our new, purpose-built Freestyle Cruising ships arrived. The timing of Marco Polo's departure always revolved around finding a good next owner, and I am pleased to say we have found one. This unique ship will, from the summer of 2008, have a new lease of life serving a new market under an established brand. The new owner will be announcing the acquisition very soon."

Marco Polo's famously friendly and family-like Filipino crew will continue to delight Orient Lines guests through to the delivery of the ship to her new owner. After that, they will be welcomed into new opportunities within the rest of the NCL fleet.

NCL will shortly announce details of a comprehensive on-board program for the farewell season of the Marco Polo. Marco Polo's final cruise will be the March 2, 2008 repositioning cruise from Rio de Janeiro to Lisbon, Portugal.

In the coming weeks, the hundreds of thousands of loyal Polo Club members who have sailed on Marco Polo over the years will be invited and enticed to come and enjoy her warm home-away-from-home atmosphere one last time.

For information on how you can be one of the last adventurers onboard the Marco Polo, check out or call us at 1-800-788-2545.