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

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Son of Founder Hopes to Revive Windjammer

Can Joey Burke save Windjammer Barefoot Cruises?

The sailing line has all but collapsed in recent months, and many customers already have given it up for dead. But the youngest of founder Mike Burke's six children says he can revive it.

Burke posted several notes on cruise fan websites this week to say he had taken over the much-beloved business and hoped to relaunch voyages on a single ship, the Legacy, as early as Nov. 3.
Burke blamed the company's recent managers for the financial unraveling of the past few months, which ended with the sudden shutdown of the line nearly a month ago. None of Windjammer's four ships have sailed since September.

"Recent management did not stick to my father's idea of what Windjammer should be. That was a mistake. It has almost cost us our business," he wrote. "Well, mistakes stop now!"

Burke says he's streamlining the company, but he admits a comeback won't be easy.

"Assets were frozen, credit cards were charged back. Windjammer woke up (after the recent crisis) with nothing," he says. "My first priority is to see that our special and loved crew get their jobs back, and then I would like to pay back the passengers (to whom) we owe money."

Still, in a sign of the difficulties that lay ahead, Burke notes that it would be better if the line could give customers who had recent cruises canceled a future cruise instead of a cash refund. "We are going to need all the cash we can get," he says.

Burke says he only has plans to return one ship to operation for now. If things go well, the others will be phased back into service "after a few months."

These Cruise Cabins Come with Butlers

Five-month-old Azamara Cruises welcomed its second ship this week and, like its predecessor, the new vessel comes chock full of upscale amenities.

Cabins on the 694-passenger Azamara Quest, which debuted in Miami, come with plush European bedding, plasma TVs and Elemis toiletries, as well as extra touches such as fresh-cut flowers, fresh fruit and, yes, a private butler on call at all times.

The new line, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean, is targeting cruisers looking for something more intimate and exclusive than what's offered on the so-called "premium" lines such as Celebrity and Princess but less fancy (and expensive) than the super-pricey luxury ships of Silversea and Seabourn. It's even unveiled a name for the concept: Deluxe cruising.

In addition to more personal service in cabins, the Quest offers a more elegant dining experience than what's normally found on mass-market and premium ships and more intimate, immersive shore experiences. Like its sister ship, the Azamara Journey, the vessel is about a quarter the size of bigger mass-market ships. Both ships once belonged to now-defunct Renaissance Cruises.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Costa Orders Two New Ships

Italy's largest cruise line is continuing its rapid growth. Costa Cruises has announced the order of two more new ships -- one to be delivered in 2011, the other in 2012. The 114,200-ton, 3,012-passenger vessels will be sister ships to Costa Concordia, Costa Serena and Costa Pacifica (launching in the summer of 2009), and will be constructed at shipbuilder Fincantieri's Marghera shipyard. Currently, Costa has two additional ships on order beyond the Pacifica; the 92,700-ton, 2,600-passenger Costa Luminosa and an as-yet-unnamed sister ship will launch in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

At this early stage, the new orders' names and itineraries have not yet been determined. The construction of the two new vessels will cost approximately 1 billion euros, or 510 million per ship (that's around $1.5 billion U.S. dollars, or $728 million per ship). In 2012, when the last of the new orders has been completed, Costa's fleet will total 17.

Weather Forecast: Snowing on Princess Ships this Holiday Season

A white Christmas in the Caribbean ... Mexico...Hawaii ... or even Brazil? It may seem unlikely, but this holiday season passengers on most Princess ships will find themselves in a winter wonderland as snow magically falls in the ships' atriums on December cruises. This daily snow flurry is one of several new onboard holiday activities added to celebrate the spirit of the season.

Also new this year, passengers can participate in a "gingerbread challenge" housebuilding competition, test their craft skills by creating a personalized photo ornament, or just relax in front of a traditional burning Yule log ... on their stateroom television! And for those who can't get enough of Christmas carols, the ships' Princess Pop Star talent show will feature a holiday edition where competitors can croon their favorite seasonal songs.

Even when the snow isn't coming down, Princess ships will feature a merry atmosphere. Trimmed from stem to stern in holiday décor - even including a Christmas tree on the vessels' masts -- the ships reflect the season in a variety of ways. Special events also include a reading of "The Night Before Christmas" by either the captain or cruise director, and strolling carolers fill the air with the sounds of the season. Passengers will additionally enjoy a holiday card from the captain, a stocking turndown gift, and classic holiday films.

Christmas activities include a spectacular display from the ship's culinary team to delight the senses, and a holiday variety show adds a seasonal element to the ship's entertainment offerings. Religious services are held as well, and passengers can attend midnight mass or an inter-denominational church service performed by onboard clergy.

On Christmas Eve, passengers will sit down to a dinner of traditional holiday fare, and on Christmas Day passengers can enjoy a cup of eggnog, plus a sumptuous brunch including roast turkey and all the trimmings. This year's holiday feast will begin with a special Christmas cocktail, and continues with a bang, as each place setting will include a traditional English Christmas cracker. Freshly prepared stolen and Christmas cookies with milk (even some for Santa) round out the seasonal treats.

Passengers celebrating the Festival of Lights, which runs from December 4-12, will also have the opportunity to celebrate and participate in onboard religious services conducted by a rabbi who sails during the holiday period. A special area of the ship is reserved for those participating in these events and ships display menorahs and fresh flower arrangements decorated in the Hanukkah colors of blue, silver and white. Children will enjoy themed arts and crafts pertinent to the holiday.

For more information on Princess Holiday Cruises, visit us at or call 1-800-788-2545.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Eurodam News Web Site is Primary Portal for News and Information

The Eurodam News Web Site serves as the primary portal for all news and information, images and video, gossip and discussion about Eurodam. Visitors to Eurodam News will learn about milestones in construction of Eurodam, get the latest news about the interior design and new facilities and rooms, find out what makes Eurodam go — literally — with information on propulsion systems, and meet the people who are building and those who will sail Holland America’s largest, most technically advanced cruise ship.

With more than 130 years of experience, Holland America Line is recognized as the undisputed leader in the cruise industry’s premium segment. With the introduction of the 1,918-passenger ms Noordam in early 2006, Holland America Line’s fleet grew to 13 ships, offering nearly 500 cruises from more than 25 home ports. Itineraries range from two to 108 days and visit all seven continents, including new Australia/New Zealand and Asia sailings, a world cruise and popular sailings to several ports in the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico and Europe.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New Jamaican Port Will Accommodate Genesis-Class Vessels

Jamaica is in the late planning stages to construct a new port-of-call in Falmouth, located between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. It will be the fourth cruise destination on the Caribbean island and will initially have a pier able to handle Royal Caribbean's enormous Genesis-class vessels. When the initial Project Genesis ship is introduced in October 2009, the new Jamaican port -- Falmouth -- will be ready to accommodate not just one but two of the 220,000-ton 5,400-passenger mega-liners simultaneously.

According to William Tatham of the Jamaica Port Authority, the island would rather create a new port-of-call than expand the present ones. This approach will provide a better passenger experience than having a multiple number of megaships call simultaneously at the same port.

Royal Caribbean's Vice President of Revenue Management and Deployment Diana Block, says that when Genesis enters service in late fall 2009, there will be at least six ports-of-call ready to accommodate her in the Eastern and Western Caribbean.

For more information on the Genesis-class ships, visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Disney Cruise Line Introduces Flight Check-In

Imagine the convenience of arriving at the airport after a Caribbean cruise already checked in for your flight, bags en route. Enter Disney Cruise Line with a new program in which departing guests can drop off luggage -- and obtain flight boarding passes -- before they step off their ship.

While Disney is usually the innovator in most endeavors, its decision to offer cruise passengers the option to check luggage before disembarkation follows in the footsteps of other cruise lines, most notably Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian Cruise Line. Still, Disney's program offers a welcome twist: Disney has arranged to have actual airline check-in also take place while at sea. Because the ships visit the Caribbean and Bahamas -- which require special logistics and coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection -- the satellite technology and software involved is extensive. Therefore, the full program will not be completely implemented until some time in 2008 when most of the airlines that fly out of Orlando International Airport are able to participate. (All Disney ships end their domestic voyages in nearby Port Canaveral.) Details on exactly how the program will work onboard are also forthcoming.

So far, seven major airlines -- including Delta, AirTran and American -- have signed up, according to media reports. Both JetBlue and USAirways plan to join the program before the end of the year. Southwest, the airline with the most Orlando International Airport flights, has committed to joining the Magical Express program, which offers similar service to guests at Disney's land-based resorts in the Orlando area, in early 2008 but has not said whether it will join the cruise program.

Disney will offer service for free. (Cruise lines that offer the baggage check-in service to domestic passengers typically charge between $10 and $20 for the convenience.) Carnival Cruise Lines is testing a similar program for its Port Canaveral sailings but will charge a fee.

Sovereign Next Ship to Leave Royal Caribbean Fleet

Royal Caribbean has announced that its Sovereign of the Seas, once quite a revolutionary "big ship" back when it was built in 1988, will be transferred out of the fleet. The 73,192-ton, 2,276-passenger ship, lauded this summer by USA Today as a top 25 travel milestone for its role as the world's first mega-ship, will head to Pullmantur in October 2008.

The Spain-based Pullmantur, of course, was recently acquired by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. The line is benefiting from the transfer of older ships from the Celebrity and Royal Caribbean fleets. Already, Celebrity Zenith and Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas have been re-assigned to Pullmantur.

Sovereign of the Seas, which sails three- and four-night Bahamas cruises from Port Canaveral, will depart for its last voyage on October 31 -- remember, that's 2008. Cruises beyond that date that are already scheduled, such as the November 3 and November 7 departures, have been canceled; passengers booked on those voyages will get a full refund, and an onboard credit for rebooking on an earlier Sovereign of the Seas sailing. When travelers rebook, they will receive $200 onboard credit for Junior Suites and above and $100 for staterooms below Junior Suites.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, currently cruising out of Los Angeles, will head east to assume the three- and four-night Bahamas assignment. The 73,941-ton, 2,350-passenger Monarch of the Seas, which currently sails short Mexican Riviera itineraries, will cruise its last L.A.-based voyage in October; on October 17 the ship will head east via a 16-night Panama Canal repositioning.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cunard to Build "Queen Elizabeth"

Cunard Line announces that it has ordered a new 92,000-ton liner, to be named "Queen Elizabeth," scheduled to enter service in the autumn of 2010. Cunard signed an agreement with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri for the construction of the new 2092-passenger ocean liner, which will be built at Fincantieri's Monfalcone yard at an all-in cost of approximately $700 million. The vessel will be the second largest Cunarder the company has ever built.

"Cunard already owns and operates the two most famous ocean liners in the world, Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2, and a third - Queen Victoria - is due to be named by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales, in December of this year," said Carol Marlow, president of Cunard Line. "The decision to order another ship for Cunard Line has been taken as a result of the strong booking response to the new Queen Victoria, and we are extremely pleased that Cunard will once again become a three-ship fleet so soon after the departure of the much-celebrated Queen Elizabeth 2 in November next year. Furthermore, we are delighted that Her Majesty The Queen has given her blessing to our calling this new Cunarder 'Queen Elizabeth', after our first vessel of that name."

Queen Elizabeth will offer the very best of Cunard's values and traditions, blended with every conceivable modern luxury that today's discerning travellers expect. Through her opulent public rooms and impeccable service, the new ship will reflect the grandeur which has been associated with Cunard ships since the introduction of the Mauretania in 1907; and from the outside, her black hull, gleaming white superstructure and distinctive red funnel will echo the classic characteristics of the company's distinctive liner heritage.

For more information on Cunard or their ships, visit or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Norwegian Gem's Godmother Could Be ... You

If you thought past-passenger programs were only good for a free cocktail party, think again. Norwegian Cruise Line is giving its repeat guests the opportunity to vie for the title of Norwegian Gem's godmother via an online video contest.

Starting Monday, October 8, female members of NCL's past-passenger program, Latitudes, will be able to submit a video on explaining why they should be named the godmother of Norwegian Gem. The marketing bonanza that has surrounded the 93,000-ton, 2,384-passenger ship has been pegged to its position as the "It" Girl of the fleet -- hot and hip -- so it is no surprise those are some of the qualities the line is looking for in its godmother.

Additionally, applicants must possess the "'free spirit' of NCL's Freestyle Cruising," including:

  • Sophistication, independence and confidence
  • Eagerness to explore new destinations and learn new things
  • Glamour, style and culture
  • Youthful and adventurous spirit -- regardless of age

Entrants are also encouraged to include how many times they've cruised with NCL and exhibit their own unique talent (if they have one) that exemplifies the line's "freestyle" spirit. Entries may be submitted until November 12, and will be judged on creativity and originality. The top five will be announced on November 15, and the grand prize winner will be selected with the help of a public vote open through December 7. All five finalists will be flown to New York to attend the christening ceremony on December 18 and set sail on the ship's two-night inaugural cruise.

But only the grand prize winner, once announced, will get to christen the ship. She will also receive a seven-day cruise in the luxurious Garden Villa on Norwegian Gem for her and five of her "entourage" (friends). If you haven't cruised with NCL before, you can't win the grand prize -- but a video submission will enter you to win a seven-day Bahamas and Florida cruise for two aboard Norwegian Gem in 2008.

Further details, including the contest terms and conditions, can be found online at starting on Monday, October 8, 2007.

Norwegian Starts Work on Monster Cruise Ship

Good news, Norwegian Cruise Line fans: The Big Boy is underway.

Norwegian executive Andy Stuart pushed a button Monday at France's Aker shipyard to start work on the line's much-awaited next ship, which will dwarf the company's current vessels.
The 150,000-ton goliath, still unnamed, will offer 60% more guest space than the line's biggest ships today and hold an eye-popping 4,200 passengers. It'll measure just a hair smaller than Royal Caribbean's much-ballyhooed Freedom of the Seas, the current record holder among the world's biggest ships.

Norwgian's new ship will become part of an exclusive club of giants that roam the seas (only Royal Caribbean and Cunard have vessels as big). But perhaps more significantly, it'll be by far the biggest ship ever to sail with a "freestyle" format -- the groundbreaking flexible dining formula for which Norwegian is known.

Will the eat anywhere, anytime formula work on a ship so big? It'll be a bit before we find out. The new vessel isn't scheduled to launch until January, 2010.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Carnival Expands 'Concierge Club' Program to Include Shipboard Credits for Milestone Cruises

Carnival Cruise Lines has expanded its “Concierge Club” guest recognition program to provide members with shipboard credits when they achieve a “milestone” cruise with the line.

With the new shipboard credit benefit, “Concierge Club” members who sail on their 25th, 50th and 75th “Fun Ship” cruise will receive a shipboard credit representing 25, 50 or 75 percent of their cruise fare, respectively, for that particular voyage. Those sailing on their 100th “Fun Ship” cruise earn a complimentary Caribbean, Mexican Riviera or Alaska voyage of up to eight days in length. This new milestone cruise benefit is in addition to the wide range of amenities and privileges that “Platinum” cardholders already receive.

Carnival’s “Concierge Club,” which was created exclusively for “Platinum” cardholders who have sailed with the line 10 or more times, provides a variety of amenities and privileges to recognize longtime guests for their loyalty and support.

In addition to the rewards for significant milestone cruises, all Platinum cardholders are entitled to the following shipboard benefits and features:
  • Petit fours and/or canapés delivered to cabin one evening
  • Personalized stationery
  • A special Carnival logo item
  • Guaranteed dining times and supper club reservations
  • Complimentary entry fee into blackjack or slot tournament
  • Spa Carnival priority reservations and complimentary treatment upgrade
  • Complimentary wash and fold laundry service
  • Complimentary arcade tokens for members under age 18
  • Priority tender boarding
  • Priority embarkation and debarkation

Additionally, an exclusive concierge desk for Platinum cardholders has been established at the pursers information desk aboard every Carnival ship. A dedicated phone line is available fleetwide, as well.

“Carnival Concierge Club” members also receive a special Welcome Aboard letter from the President of Carnival, Gerry Cahill, in their stateroom detailing the exclusive amenities and privileges available during their cruise.

Shipboard credits and free cruises received for milestone cruises are non-transferable and non-refundable. Certain other restrictions apply.

MSC Cruises is the Latest Line to Ban Smoking

The Great Snuff Out of 2007 continues. The latest line to ban smoking is MSC Cruises, the fast-growing Italian ship operator that caters mostly to Europeans.

Like Oceania and Regent Seven Seas, MSC is taking the hardest line against smoking, banning it not only in cabins but on cabin balconies. The only places smoking will be allowed on MSC ships is in the casino, one lounge, one side of the sun deck and the cigar room (hard to argue with that one).

The decision is effective immediately.

Smoking bans are a growing trend -- but not without controversy. Non-smokers are thrilled about tighter smoking rules, but smokers have been lashing out at lines that implement such bans. Regent Sevens Seas CEO Mark Conroy says the line lost $3 million in bookings after it announced a ban in July. That ban takes effect in December.

Other lines that have tightened smoking rules in recent months include Royal Caribbean, which is banning smoking in all cabins (but not balconies) by next summer.

The move from MSC Cruises comes as a bit of a surprise given the line's heavy European clientele. Europeans smoke in far greater numbers than Americans. A recent National Bureau of Economic Research study noted that 34% of German adults smoke vs. 19% of U.S. adults.

Cozumel Welcomes Re-Routed Cruise Ships

Several cruise lines including Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and Regent Seven Seas Cruises have announced changes to their Western Caribbean itineraries to include the popular port of Cozumel. The new itineraries are the result of the temporary closure of the nearby Costa Maya pier.

With several ships being rerouted from Costa Maya to Cozumel, the number of cruise ships setting sail to Cozumel stands to increase significantly. More than a dozen additional ships are now scheduled to stop in Cozumel periodically throughout the remainder of the year. Some of the ships that are currently planning to replace Costa Maya calls with stops in Cozumel include: Carnival Freedom, Carnival Glory, Carnival Liberty (Western Caribbean), Carnival Valor, Carnival Victory, Holland America Veendam (Winter Western Caribbean), Holland America Westerdam (Winter Western Caribbean), Holland America Amsterdam (Christmas cruise), Norwegian Sun and Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas.