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

Monday, July 30, 2007

Carnival Extends Contract with Port of New Orleans

Carnival Cruise Lines and the Port of New Orleans announced a new two-year contract retroactive to October 2006, with the option to renew the deal for an additional two years period, which could keep the Carnival sailing regularly from the Crescent City through 2010.

"This shows Carnival's commitment to the rebuilding of New Orleans and their confidence in the return of the city's tourism industry," said Gary LaGrange, president and CEO of the Port of New Orleans. "Carnival is a trusted partner with the port in our combined efforts to continue to revive New Orleans' tourism industry." Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Carnival, said the line is "seeing some improvement in demand for our New Orleans cruises and a steady expansion of the geographic source markets for passengers. It indicates that interest is definitely building among consumers from well beyond the local area for cruises from New Orleans."

Under the terms of the contract, the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy will make a minimum of 70 calls per year to the Erato Street Cruise Terminal and Parking Garage. The ship sails four- and five-day cruises to the Western Caribbean year-round, with port calls in Cozumel and Costa Maya.

Carnival also plans to hold its quarterly meeting of national sales managers in New Orleans Sept. 24-25 to highlight the city's rebounding tourism industry to its leading sales personnel. More than 100 of Carnival's sales managers will attend the event, which will be held at Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter.

Monday, July 23, 2007

New Smoking Policy Onboard Royal Caribbean Ships Mirrors Growing Trend Toward Smoke-Free Environment

In time to help guests set their New Year’s resolutions for a healthier lifestyle, Royal Caribbean International announces a new smoking policy onboard its ships, effective January 2008. To bolster the cruise line’s new Vitality wellness program, recently debuted on Liberty of the Seas – the newest vessel to share the title of the world’s largest cruise ship with sister-ship, Freedom of the Seas – Royal Caribbean is increasing smoke-free zones by designating all staterooms and one lounge on each ship in its fleet as non-smoking areas. The new policy will go into effect aboard 18 of the line’s 21 ships initially, with Legend of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas and Splendour of the Seas following suit with the 2008 summer season.

“Feedback from our guests was a driving force behind the new Vitality program and our focus on wellness,” said Alice Norsworthy, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Royal Caribbean International®. “Results from online polls as well as input from all of our international offices worldwide, show very strong support of the new smoking policy. These changes reflect a more contemporary approach to healthier lifestyles and will significantly improve the cruise vacation experience for our guests.”

Currently, smoking is prohibited in guest hallways and corridors, restaurants, entertainment venues and most of the ship’s interior public spaces except for designated areas in bars and lounges. The new policy will add all guest staterooms and suites, and one bar or lounge on every Royal Caribbean ship onto the roster of smoke-free spaces. Guests wishing to smoke may still do so from starboard outer decks, in designated areas in bars and lounges, and on stateroom and suite balconies. Ashtrays are available in designated smoking areas or by request through stateroom attendants. Violations of the smoking policy will result in cleaning charges to the guest’s onboard account and may also be addressed through the line’s Guest Conduct Policy, details of which are available both online and in all staterooms.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Holland America Introduces Flexible Dining Fleetwide

Holland America has announced that by this time next year, all of its ships will feature its own version of anytime dining, a concept made popular in the mainstream cruise arena by lines like Norwegian Cruise Line, with its Freestyle Dining program, and Princess.

According to a company press release, "As You Wish" dining was pre-launched (piloted, if you will) onboard the line's newest ship, the 85,000-ton, 1,918-passenger Noordam -- and due to positive feedback will be rolled out fleetwide over the next year.

Here's how As You Wish works: At the time of booking, guests can choose between set-time, set-seating dining and a completely flexible schedule. One level of the two-tiered restaurant will offer the open dining service from 5:15 until 9 p.m. daily; the other will host a traditional early seating and later seating. Guests who have chosen As You Wish dining can make reservations daily during their cruise up to 4 p.m. -- or simply walk up anytime tummies start rumbling. The only downside? It's not possible to switch dining plans once the cruise is in progress.

As You Wish is now fully operation onboard Noordam and will be introduced on Holland America's remaining ships on the following schedule:
  • 10/11/07 - Ryndam
  • 11/13/07 - Volendam
  • 12/18/07 - Statendam
  • 01/05/08 - Oosterdam
  • 01/27/08 - Rotterdam
  • 02/03/08 - Zaandam
  • 02/24/08 - Westerdam
  • 03/15/08 - Zuiderdam
  • 04/06/08 - Veendam
  • 04/24/08 - Maasdam
  • 05/16/08 - Amsterdam
  • 05/23/08 - Prinsendam
  • 07/05/08 - Eurodam (upon delivery)

Another line eyeing anytime eating is Royal Caribbean; a spokesman for that line tells us that a similar program will be test-piloted on Freedom of the Seas between October and December of this year. There are no long term plans at this point, but we expect to hear something definitive in the new year (once the line has time to gauge the success of the test run).

Princess Cruises Showcases Panama Canal with Variety of Itineraries in 2008-09

The awe-inspiring Panama Canal never fails to be a "must see" wonder for cruisers, and Princess continues to lead the way with three ships transiting this engineering marvel for the 2008-09 season. With more departures and the most modern fleet in the region, the line offers passengers a full range of itineraries to one of the greatest achievements of the 20th Century.

Sister ships Coral Princess and Island Princess, both purpose-built for Canal cruising, will offer full Canal transit voyages as well as convenient roundtrip partial transits. In addition, the intimate 670-passenger Pacific Princess will sail on one 20-day Grand Canal adventure. Together, these ships will offer a choice of 40 departures, on six Panama Canal itineraries. Princess ships offer the highest percentage of balcony staterooms of all vessels in this destination, so passengers have the perfect vantage point for watching the Canal's locks as they lift and lower the ship a dramatic 170 feet.

"We carry more passengers through the Panama Canal than any other cruise line, and we're delighted so many travelers have chosen us over the past 40 years as the best way to escape and enjoy this 'once-in-a-lifetime' experience," said Jan Swartz, Princess' senior vice president of customer service and sales. "What better view from your Princess balcony than an up-close look at these amazing locks in action."

Early booking fares for Princess' Panama Canal 10-day sailings begin at $1,199 per person, based on double occupancy.

Additional information about Princess' Panama Canal cruises and cruisetours is available at or by calling 1-800-788-2545.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Regent Launches Destination Wedding Program

For the most part, luxury cruise lines have not placed much emphasis on at-sea weddings -- until now. Regent Seven Seas Cruises has recently expanded its existing Regent Travel Concierge program, which organizes shores excursions and pre- and post-cruise stays, to include destination wedding planning services.

Here's how it works: Regent guests looking to get married or renew their vows in port (or onboard, if they wish) can plan their ceremony directly with a wedding consultant. But what's interesting to us, and unique to the industry, is that pre-arranged wedding packages for Regent's guests do not exist! The bride- and groom-to-be, or couple renewing their vows, get to create their own day. The traditional wedding staples (the officiant, marriage certificate, wedding cake and Champagne) will be there -- but you get to pick everything else, with your consultant's help.

So, think outside the box for a minute. If you could tie the knot or renew your vows any way you wanted, how would you do it? Some of Regent's suggestions include a kilted ceremony in an ancient Scottish castle (with bagpipers!), a hot air balloon ride over a tropical pineapple plantation and a sunset wedding in the South Pacific.

Regent Travel Concierge's wedding program is offered worldwide to all of Regent's guests, regardless of ship or destination. The program is operated in conjunction with cruise destination wedding experts Royal Ocean Events, who have worked with mainstream lines such as Holland America, Carnival and Celebrity.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Carnival's Bob Dickinson Announces Retirement

Bob Dickinson, the president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, has announced that he's decided to retire at the end of 2007 after 35 years with the company. Gerry Cahill, who's currently the vice president and chief financial officer for parent company Carnival Corp., will be assuming Dickinson's duties.

"I have been blessed to have had a long, fun-filled career helping to build Carnival and the cruise industry," Bob Dickinson is quoted as saying in a company statement. "I'm still having fun, so giving all of that up has been a very difficult decision, but I'll be 65 next month and have been pondering this with my family for some time."

Dickinson joined Carnival as executive vice president in 1972. In 1979, he became senior vice president of sales and marketing. He was promoted to president in 1993, with CEO added to his title in 2005.

He has also served as a chairman of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the Travel Industry Association (TIA) and the Miami Beach Visitors and Convention Authority, in additional to a position as vice-chair for the United States National Tourism Organization.

Dickinson will remain on Carnival's board of directors.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Carnival Releases Details on South America Itineraries

Carnival's recent announcement that it would sail its first-ever series of South American itineraries (plan ahead: we're talking about 2009) created quite a bit of excitement. And there's more as Carnival's now announced specifics on the itineraries that will be undertaken as its new Carnival Splendor makes its way from the Caribbean to its Los Angeles homeport.

Carnival Splendor will be offering just three special sailings:
  • January 31 - February 17, 2009: 17-night cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Buenos Aires, with calls in Dominica, Barbados, Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro.
  • February 17 - March 3, 2009: 14-night cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago, with calls in Montevideo, Puerto Madryn, Ushuaia, Punta Arenas and scenic cruising of Cape Horn and Cape Horn/Beagle Island.
  • March 3 - 21, 2009: 18-night cruise from Santiago to San Francisco, with calls in Arica, Lima, Manta, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Long Beach.

South America is becoming the new hot destination for cruise lines. And while we'd love to think that's the reason Carnival will be venturing to the Southern Hemisphere -- the line has become more creative with their itineraries, such as mixing up its traditional Caribbean/Canada/New England/Alaska voyages with more itineraries in Europe -- the line's motivation for testing new terrain is purely because of Splendor's size. The post-Panamax ship will cross the Atlantic to settle in its winter home in Los Angeles, but, since the ship is too big to pass through the Panama Canal, it must travel all the way around South America.

To find out more about Carnival's intineraries, visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Is Royal Caribbean Abandoning the Bahamas?

When Voyager, Explorer and Navigator of the Seas made their final trips to the Bahamas' Nassau last week the rumor mills began buzzing that Royal Caribbean was abandoning the Bahamas. The real truth is of course -- no. The line, which had already announced new deployments for its Voyager class ships that called at Nassau, still maintains a Bahamian presence via its smaller Majesty and Sovereign of the Seas.

Still, the loss of three of the world's biggest ships does have an impact, not only for passengers who want more choices but also for the destination itself.

Interestingly, Freedom and Liberty of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's new biggest-ever ships, are deployed in the region. But they will not include calls at Nassau on their itineraries and that's because of size restrictions, Royal Caribbean's Harrison Liu tells us. Indeed, according to the Bahama Journal, Bahamian ports are not able to accommodate those larger ships because they require more inner harbor space for safe maneuvering.

The Bahama Journal noted that the line reached out to the tourism ministry in 2004 about their impending fleet upgrades, but no action has been taken to improve the harbor -- yet. The tourism ministry does expect to expand the harbor to accommodate the larger vessels, though no timeline has been set.

Other cruise lines that visit Nassau regularly include Disney, Holland America, Costa, Celebrity and Carnival.

Royal Caribbean does not currently include Freeport, another Bahamas stop, on its itineraries.