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, August 27, 2007

Carnival Victory to Launch Year-Round Seven-Day Cruises from San Juan in 2008

Carnival Cruise Lines will deploy the 2,758-passenger Carnival Victory on year-round seven-day southern Caribbean departures from San Juan beginning in November 2008.

Carnival Victory replaces the Carnival Destiny on this popular itinerary and provides a newer, slightly larger ship, as well as a fresh new choice for consumers.

The Carnival Victory’s new five-port, seven-day schedule from San Juan kicks off Sunday, Nov. 2, 2008, and includes an overnight call in the elegant resort area of La Romana/Casa De Campo, along with extended visits to the tropical destinations of St. Kitts, Barbados, Dominica and St. Thomas.

Casa de Campo is one of the Caribbean’s premier resorts and features extensive resort amenities including Altos de Chavon, a 16th century Mediterranean village replica; world-class golf and a wide variety of beach and watersports, to name just a few. In addition to breathtaking beaches ranging in color from black to golden, St. Kitts offers a landscape of rugged mountains and dense rainforest. Barbados is a friendly British isle boasting beautiful aqua-blue waters and white-sand beaches, along with numerous shopping, dining and watersports opportunities. A 289-square-mile island dominated by hot springs and volcanoes, Dominica offers gorgeous white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters teeming with tropical fish, while St. Thomas is one of the Caribbean’s most popular islands, with excellent duty-free shopping bargains and world-famous beaches.

Carnival is currently accepting reservations for the Carnival Victory’s seven-day cruises from San Juan. For additional information and reservations, call 1-800-788-2545 or visit

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hurricane Knocks Out Costa Maya for at Least Six Months

News is starting to trickle out of Costa Maya, the fast-growing Mexican cruise port walloped Tuesday by Hurricane Dean, and it's not good. After surveying the damage, officials say the port could be out of action for at least six months, maybe more.

Cesar Lizarraga, the area's director of sales and marketing, says in a statement that about half of the port's infrastructure, including the cruise ship pier, was damaged. Lizarraga didn't elaborate on the nature of the damage, but says that "an early estimate indicates the port will remain closed for six to eight months" for repairs. The cost, he added, will be in the millions.

Lizarraga says Costa Maya officials are currrently meeting with cruise lines that use the port to discuss the future. But it could be some time before ships return. In a hint of just how bad the damage is, Lizarraga mentioned "mid-2008" as a timetable for when ships might be back to the sunny locale.

Carved out of the jungle along the Yucatan coast just six years ago, Costa Maya has grown from nothing to become of the most visited ports in the Western Caribbean. The man-made beach area offers bars, restaurants, shops and entertainment, as well as excursions to nearby Mayan ruins.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Royal Caribbean International And Celebrity Cruises Vacationers Gain Uncommon Birds-Eye View Of Alaskan Wilderness

Vacationers usually exploring Alaska at bear-level height with Royal Caribbean International or Celebrity Cruises, now can soar over the majestic wilderness from the perspective of an eagle on North America's longest and highest zip-line - the ZipRider. Traveling a distance of 5,330 feet from a mountaintop 1,330 feet in elevation to the beach below, guests can experience the exhilarating shore excursion at Icy Strait Point during their Alaskan cruise or cruisetour adventure.

The ZipRider features six individual cables allowing six riders to launch simultaneously or independently while buckled in and seated in a secure harness. Guests can enjoy magnificent vistas of the awe-inspiring mountains and ocean, reaching speeds up to 60 miles per hour. Riders begin and end their ride on a launch tower and landing platform, respectively, never having to touch the ground and therefore, minimally impacting the pristine surroundings of Icy Strait Point.

For travelers seeking a more in-depth Alaska experience, Royal Caribbean International cruisetours and Celebrity Cruises cruisetours extend guests' vacations with 20 pre- or post-cruise land-based adventures into the pristine Alaskan interior. Guests are escorted by knowledgeable "Adventure Specialists" as they explore historical inland frontier-towns, like Fairbanks or Talkeetna, and venture deep into the wilderness of Denali National Park. On most cruisetours, guests also take in awe-inspiring scenery aboard the cruise lines' exclusive Wilderness Express glass-domed traincars and enjoy 360 degree views as they wind through the lush landscape of Alaska.

For more information about Royal Caribbean International cruisetours or Celebrity Cruises cruisetours to some of the world's most spectacular places, please visit or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Monday, August 20, 2007

NCL Gets Major Boost With New Shareholder

NCL Corporation, Ltd. -- parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line and NCL America, and one of the industry's most dynamic innovators -- announced that, in a major new boost, Apollo Management has agreed to invest $1 billion in the company.

NCL has been fully owned by Malaysia/Hong Kong-based Star Cruises since 2000.

Apollo, as a result of this investment, will become half-owner of NCL and will name a majority of the cruise line's board of directors (though Star has retained some consent rights). The investment, in the form of common stock, aims to strengthen NCL's balance sheet and pave the way for additional expansion. NCL, which operates one of the youngest fleets in cruising, has on order a "next generation" series of ships, which it's calling the F3 concept. As well, Norwegian Gem, its latest new-build, will be delivered in October of this year.

"To have an investment on this scale by one of the very top names in the private equity world is a huge vote of confidence in the new NCL we have created since Star Cruises became the owner in 2000," said NCL Corporation's President and CEO Colin Veitch in a press release.

If Apollo Management's name sounds familiar in the cruise milieu that's because it is: The New York-based private equity and capital markets investor invested in Oceania Cruises earlier this year. However, Oceania is a separate investment and will not be merged into NCL.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Carnival Fascination Will Call Jacksonville Home

Carnival Cruise Lines announced that its 70,367-ton, 2,052-passenger Carnival Fascination will be calling the city home as of September 20, 2008. The newly refurbished ship will replace the port's only and much smaller ship, Celebration, on four- and five-night Bahamas cruises. The port expects this move to bring in 170,000 guests annually, compared to 130,000 that Celebration brought in 2006.

Celebration (alongside Celebrity Zenith) gave Jacksonville its big break when it began sailing from the city in October 2004. As of now, Carnival has not yet announced future plans for the ship -- such as its next homeport and new itineraries -- once Fascination takes its place.

Because the city is located in northern Florida, its weather is seasonal (like Georgia's) compared to year-round-humid homeports Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. It's also less busy, and convenient to 20 miles of beaches; outdoor attractions like golf, hiking and biking; a vibrant cultural scene; and loads to do for the entire family, which all amount to a great pre- or post-cruise stay. According to a Jacksonville spokeswoman, the port is currently housed at a temporary terminal, which doesn't allow it to attract larger ships -- yet. There are plans in the works for a new, larger terminal, but where and when are still in question.

Interested in cruising onboard Carnival Fascination from its new homeport next year? The ship will sail a five-day itinerary on Saturdays to Key West, Nassau and Half Moon Cay, which is Holland America's private island. The four-day Bahamas itinerary will depart on Thursdays and call at Freeport and Nassau.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

JazzFest at Sea Again Sets Sail With World Class Musicians

Until now, guests had to travel from festival to festival to catch all of the performers who will appear at one time for the October 28, 2007 JazzFest at Sea Ultimate Jazz Cruise. In addition to eighteen nighttime performances, there will be afternoon sessions giving the guests the chance to be “up close and personal” with the musicians. “We feel that this presents an exciting opportunity for those guests that may not have otherwise been able to see our internationally known jazz performers,” said a spokesman for JazzFest at Sea.

Our cruise will feature the amazing vocals of Banu Gibson and Terry Blaine. And with the addition of Tom Saunders Midwest All Stars with Tom Saunders, Chuck Hedges, Terry Myers, Russ Phillips, Johnny Varro, Paul Keller and Vince Bartels, the JazzFest at Sea All Stars with Allan Vaché, David Jones, Bob Leary, Phil Flanigan, Mark Shane, Ed Metz Jr. and John Cocuzzi and special guests The Mighty Aphrodite Jazz Band, it truly places this event in the category of “not to be missed” performances of the year.

Today, Banu Gibson of New Orleans stands virtually at the top of her field. A superior and swinging jazz singer, Banu is one of the few vocalists of her generation to maintain exclusive loyalty to songs of the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. Rather than mimic singers of the past, she mixes fresh renditions of Tin Pan Alley standards and jazz classics by Gershwin, Ellington, Berlin, Carmichael, Waller, Porter, et al. A powerful force on stage as well as on her CDs on the Swing Out label, her enthusiasm and showmanship are highlighted by her wide range and versatility. Banu and her band appeared on Garrison Keillor's award-winning NPR series, A Prairie Home Companion, and brought in the millennium as the only guest artist of the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall. They headline nationwide at concerts, jazz festivals, clubs and jazz parties, on television's Entertainment Tonight; PBS's Jazz From New Orleans; Joan Lunden's Everyday, four times as American Public Radio's featured vocalist on Riverwalk, Live From The Landing, and at the 2001 Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl.

Allan Vaché of Orlando has appeared in several "World Series of Jazz" concerts in San Antonio. These concerts featured the band alongside such jazz luminaries as Benny Goodman, Pete Fountain, Joe Venuti, Teddy Wilson, Scott Hamilton, Bob Wilber, and many others. Allan appeared with Jim Cullum at Carnegie Hall at the "Tribute to Turk Murphy" concert in January 1987. He has also performed on the CBS Morning News, and PBS television show "Austin City Limits." He also performed on NPR’s "A Prairie Home Companion" with Garrison Keillor, and was a regular performer on PRI’s "Riverwalk – Live from the Landing," from 1987-1992. This program aired on over 200 public radio stations in the U.S. and abroad. Many of these shows are still rebroadcast today. Since that time he has appeared as a solo performer at numerous jazz festivals and parties around the country and abroad. He has appeared with pop performers Bonnie Rait and Leon Redbone and can be heard on the soundtrack of the film “The Newton Boys”.

And this is an example of just two of our great performers. All of our musicians are internationally known as some of the best in the field of Traditional and Dixieland Jazz. For further information, please visit our website at or call us at 1-800-654-8090.

Royal Caribbean Begins Cruises From Panama

Moving away from the Caribbean homeporting concept, Royal Caribbean plans to become the first cruise line to base a ship in Panama. The cruise line has announced that its 80,700-ton, 2,252-passenger Enchantment of the Seas will offer 17 weeklong sailings from Colon between December 2008 and April 2009.

What's notable here is the effort to provide fresh new itineraries in the Caribbean. It's challenging, particularly in the Western Caribbean, where the last launch of an "exotic" itinerary included places like Belize and Costa Rica's east coast; these are now so ubiquitous they're on most lines' offerings. Colon itself is interesting because it is an ideal gateway for visits to the nearby Canal locks -- and less than two hours away from Panama City (you'd likely fly in here).

This isn't the only interesting move that Royal Caribbean's made. Beginning in December of this year the line will base Legend of the Seas in the Dominican Republic's Santo Domingo, a country largely ignored by cruise lines despite its proximity to Puerto Rico -- save for some that call at the upscale resort village of Casa de Campo. Also starting in December 2007, Splendour of the Seas will operate a series of South America voyages (its first since 2002) from Sao Paulo, Brazil, with a heavy emphasis on Brazilian ports.

Enchantment of the Seas' trips from Colon in 2008/2009 will call at Cartegena and Santa Marta in Colombia, and the Southern Caribbean's "ABC" islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. As an added benefit, particularly for Dutch Antilles and Colombian residents, passengers can also embark in Aruba or Cartegena for these cruises -- but they must sail roundtrip (disembarking in the same port they joined the cruise). However, all cruises are also available to North Americans.

NCL Dining Rooms Officially Adopt "Jeans Allowed" Policy

In a move sure to raise hackles among those who prefer cruising's more traditional ambience, Norwegian Cruise Line is the first cruise line to adopt a dining room dress policy that's truly informal -- jeans are actually allowed if not also encouraged. It says so. In a press release distributed this week , the line outlines its dress restrictions: "At night, it's relaxed. Casual shirts and pants, even nice jeans (that’s new) for guys. For women, it’s slacks or jeans (also new), dresses, shirts and tops. Shirts and nice shorts are fine for kids under 12."

For those who feel dinner to be a formal affair, one restaurant -- typically the aft-facing main dining room (but it might vary by ship) -- will always be designated jeans-free. But on a ship like Norwegian Jewel, with 10 venues for eating -- including a sushi joint, an Italian restaurant, a steakhouse and a French restaurant -- that amounts to the majority of options being all casual, all the time.

A closer look at the written policies of other mainstream lines indicates a hesitation to formally outlaw jean wearing at dinnertime. Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Celebrity have avoided explicitly forbidding denim-at-dinner, merely indicating what should be worn: sport shirts and slacks for men; sundresses or pants for women. These guidelines, of course, apply to casual nights onboard; the same rules for formal evenings still apply.

Only Princess has made a solid commitment, officially prohibiting jeans from the dining room.

Carnival Reveals New Fantasy Class Upgrade Details

Carnival Cruise Lines -- which is in the midst of a massive, $250 million revamp of its middle-aged hardware, its eight Fantasy-class vessels -- has trickled out a few more details on upcoming upgrades. Focusing on the transformation of each of the ships' pool decks, the line will introduce new pools and whimsical aqua parks.

For instance, "Carnival WaterWorks" will feature a four-deck-high, 300-ft.-long spiraling tube water slide, stamped proudly by its status of lengthiest slide in cruising. A separate 82-ft. triple-lane water slide will also be added, and a large portion of the remaining deck area will be feature a spray park, complete with various water-spouting sculptures. From the details of design, it brings to mind the H20 Zone concept pioneered by Royal Caribbean's Freedom and Liberty of the Seas.

Thatched umbrellas, faux palm trees, and a blue and yellow tiled "beach" will enhance the main pool area. The two bars adjacent will also get the thatch work-up, as will the roofs of the outdoor food service area just behind the performance stage.

Carnival Imagination and Carnival Inspiration will be the first two ships to receive the latest innovations later this year, though the other six will get the sun deck revamp during their regularly scheduled dry-dock periods, to be completed by the end of 2009.

The upgrades, part of an "Evolutions of Fun" initiative that began in 2005, focus on other areas of the ships as well. Future improvements will include makeovers of the ships' 12,000-square-ft. spa facilities, custom-designed clubs for the 12- to 14-year-old age group under the Camp Carnival children's program, inter-connecting staterooms on some ships, and new sound and lighting systems in the ships' main show lounges. Firm dates on these additions have not yet been released.

Other "Evolutions of Fun" program additions have already been added on several ships, including remodeled staterooms, suites and bathrooms; flat-screen TV's in staterooms and select public areas; coffee bars; and nine-hole miniature golf courses.

Additional information about Carnival Cruise Lines is available at or by calling 1-800-788-2545.