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, March 25, 2008

Ruby Princess Will Debut a Week Ahead of Schedule

The next Princess ship will debut on Nov. 8, a week earlier than originally planned.

Princess says construction of the 3,080-passenger Ruby Princess is running ahead of schedule, resulting in the addition of an extra seven-night Western Caribbean sailing in the ship's schedule.
The Ruby Princess' new inaugural voyage departing on Nov. 8 will follow the same itinerary as the old inaugural voyage that was scheduled to depart on Nov. 15. Stops include Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Princess Cays, the line's private island retreat.

Ruby Princess is a sister ship to the line's Emerald Princess and Crown Princess. Like the earlier vessels, it will feature a piazza-style atrium with small-bite eateries and street entertainers, Princess' signature adults-only retreat called The Sanctuary, an Italian trattoria, a seafood and steak house, a "Movies Under the Stars" giant outdoor movie screen and 900 cabins with private balconies.

The 113,000-ton vessel will spend its inaugural season sailing to the Western Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale. It'll head to the Mediterranean next summer. Fares for the maiden season start at $699.

New Holland America Ship Will Break the Mold on Dining

Holland America has been making some big changes to its dining scene the last two years, but nothing it has done so far has been as notable as what it plans for its next ship, the 2,104-passenger Eurodam.

Debuting in Europe in July, the line's biggest vessel to date will offer an unprecedented-for-Holland America array of restaurants so that passengers can go most of a week without dining in the same place twice.

In addition to a main dining room and the Pacific Northwest–themed Pinnacle Grill found on other Holland America ships, the Eurodam will boast restaurants serving Asian and Italian cuisine, as well as a French-themed terrace grill.

Over the past two years Holland America has been rolling out what it calls "As You Wish" dining across its fleet, allowing passengers to choose between traditional pre-set assigned seating or a flexible dining schedule in its main dining rooms -- something that will be offered on the Eurodam, too.

To be christened July 1 in Rotterdam, the Eurodam will spend its maiden season in Europe before crossing the Atlantic for a series of Canada and New England sailings this fall. It'll spend next winter in the Caribbean.

Forget About Those American Idol Cruises on Royal Caribbean

Remember those American Idol cruises we read about last month in the New York Times? Doesn't look like they're going to happen. Royal Caribbean and the people who produce the hit TV show have dumped the idea for good.

The Times story, which ran Feb. 10, said Royal Caribbean was planning five American Idol cruises in November and December on the soon-to-launch Independence of the Seas -- trips that would feature live Idol performances and Idol-themed parties.

But the announcement was premature. Almost as soon as Royal Caribbean had spilled the beans to the Times, which prints its travel section in advance and thus often is given an early heads up on industry news, the deal fell through. The Times ran a retraction earlier this week.

Royal Caribbean Unveils Big Plans for Europe in 2009

In the latest sign of the boom in European cruising, Royal Caribbean says it will send a record eight ships to the region in 2009.

Building on its record-setting schedule in Europe this summer -- the line is sending seven ships to the region -- Royal Caribbean says it will offer 70 different itineraries around the continent in 2009 that range from four- to 14 nights.

The 2009 deployment, announced late Wednesday, includes several of Royal Caribbean's largest, most innovative ships such as the soon-to-launch Independence of the Seas and two Voyager-class ships (Navigator of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas). The other vessels heading to Europe: Brilliance of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Legend of the Seas, Splendour of the Seas, and Vision of the Seas.

For more information on Royal Caribbean's European sailings, visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Who's Next With Flexible Dining?

First, Princess offered guests a choice between traditional, assigned-seating dining and more flexible, "anytime" dining. Then Holland America jumped on the bandwagon, and began rolling out its "As You Wish" dining last year. With NCL already firmly entrenched in its Freestyle Dining program, we've been wondering: Who's next with flexible dining?

Word on the street, er, seas is that it's Celebrity. A spokesperson for the line told says "we haven't announced anything about how we plan to handle seating in The Grand Epernay, Celebrity Solstice's main dining room."

Even though Celebrity won't confirm whether these rumors are true or not, we do know for sure that Royal Caribbean, Celebrity's sister line, is testing a Princess-like dining program on three of its ships right now. Adam Goldstein, company president, says that a cruiser's relationship with waiters is the single most positive theme of complimentary letters the line receives. Because of that, Goldstein tells us the line is working on "superior" ways to communicate customer preferences and tastes no matter where they sit and which waiter they have.

Antigua Targeted for RCI Genesis Port Calls

Antigua is the latest Caribbean island to emerge as a potential port of call for Royal Caribbean's much-anticipated Genesis-class ship. The first of two vessels, which will, by a large margin, be the world's biggest cruise ships, launches next year. It will sail alternating seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries.

The government of Antigua and Barbuda and Antigua's port organization have teamed up to create a plan to accommodate the massive 222,000-ton, 5,400-passenger, as-yet-unnamed vessel. The plan, which includes options to dredge the harbor, build new pier facilities and enhance road networks is very much a work in progress and has not been finalized.

Antigua is only the second port of call to emerge as a Genesis-capable (at least in the future, after enhancements are made) destination. Royal Caribbean has already announced that it would add Jamaica to the first ship's itineraries; through a partnership with the government there, an entirely new port area, called Falmouth, will be developed to accommodate the ship's visits. The cruise line has also confirmed that the ship will be based in Ft. Lauderdale.

Other ports rumored to be in serious contention for Genesis-class visits include St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and Barbados.

NCL's Next Generation: Radical Or Evolutionary?

Though no significant new details were revealed, Cruise line president Colin Veitch did offer a couple of tidbits about the twin 150,000-ton, 4,200-passenger ships at the NCL press conference at Seatrade. Such as:

  • Dates for launch have been changed. The first will debut in March 2010; the second will come out a mere seven months later in October.
  • Design-wise, the F3, according to Veitch, will be "a natural, logical progression of freestyle with more flexibility and more deconstruction [of traditional cruise features]". Interestingly, he noted that while the F3 will be an evolutionary ship for NCL itself (whose ships are the most innovative in the big-ship arena) it will be of a revolutionary design when it comes to rival cruise lines.
  • Expect more of what already works on NCL's newest series of ships, like more balconies (well, it's already been announced that all outside cabins will have 'em, which is pretty revolutionary right there). There will be more restaurants and more courtyard villas.
  • And what you won't find on F3 ships is just as interesting. There will be no main dining room. No "lido" buffet. And its staterooms will be entirely unique. Veitch says, "None will be recognizable as a traditional cruise ship cabin."

The F3 ships are being built at Aker Yards' shipyard in France.

Silversea Announces New Ship's Name

Silversea, which last year announced it would build a new ship but had few details to share, came through today with some color. First up: The 36,000-ton, 540-passenger ship, which will debut in 2009, will be called the Silver Spirit. The ship's name is in line with others in the fleet (Silver Wind, Silver Cloud, Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow).

The most tantalizing tidbits? The ship's spa and fitness facility will be more than twice the size of the fleet's current largest (on Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper). Also, the ship will unveil a new specialty restaurant called Annabelle's. Meant to replicate a supper club-style experience, diners can eat and dance in the same venue; it's a broader interpretation of the line's occasional dinner dance events in its main dining venues. Owner's suites will be 20 percent larger than those on Silversea's existing ships.

In other news, the line said that it would invest -- amount not disclosed -- in fairly major refurbishments of Silver Wind and Silver Cloud, Silversea's oldest duo. These will take place in November 2008 and May 2009 respectively. Among the changes planned are new soft goods (draperies, bed linens and bath towels), upgrades to verandah furnishings, and the addition of flat screen televisions throughout. As well, the spa will be relocated from Deck 7 to Deck 9 (for better views) and new suites will be built in the spa's old locale.

Royal Caribbean Reverses Course on Fuel Surcharges

Looks like the cruise lines have blinked in the showdown over fuel surcharges.

Royal Caribbean has announced that it has reached a settlement with the Florida Attorney General's office, which is investigating the industry's recent use of fuel surcharges, and the company will refund more than $20 million to passengers.

In a move expected to be followed by other lines, Royal Caribbean and its sister line Celebrity Cruises will offer refunds to passengers who were forced to pay a $5-a-day fuel surcharge for recent and upcoming voyages even though they had booked their trips before Nov. 16, 2007, the day the surcharge was announced.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean says passengers booked before Nov. 16 who paid the fuel surcharge and have taken their cruise will receive a refund through the form of payment used to purchase their sailing. Passengers booked before Nov. 16 who paid the fuel supplement and have not taken their cruise will receive their refund as an onboard credit during their sailing.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hurtigruten Adds Port Canaveral Embarks for World Cruise Segments

Hurtigruten, the small-ship expedition line from Norway known for its cruises to the Norwegian Fjords, Greenland and Antarctica, will be opening new world cruise segments from Port Canaveral aboard its 272-passenger, 12,700-ton Fram. Though a stop in South Florida is not what one would expect in terms of expedition cruising, the move will help provide North American cruisers with a convenient point of entry to experience Hurtigruten.

There will be three new segments out of Port Canaveral for Fram's second world cruise of 2008, a 67-night Reykjavik to Ushuaia sailing scheduled to begin on September 23. All three depart on October 18.

The options set to debut include a 41-night Port Canaveral to Ushuaia with stops in the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Antarctica; a 19-night Caribbean and Panama Canal sailing from Port Canaveral to Callao; and a 27-night Port Canaveral to Valparaiso cruise that tacks on eight additional nights in South America to the 19-night option.

Passengers will now be able to embark from six different U.S. departures -- there are also three segments available out of New York -- where they can cruise various portions of the Pole to Pole world voyage.

For more information on Hurtigruten's World Voyage Segments, visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Two More MSC Ships Take to Water

It's full speed ahead for MSC Cruises: Less than one month after the float out ceremony for its upcoming largest-in-fleet MSC Fantasia, two more under-construction new-builds -- MSC Splendida (a sister ship to Fantasia) and MSC Magnifica (fourth in the Musica class) -- have taken to the water.

"Float out" is the shipyard term for an important milestone in the construction of a vessel. The outside or hull of a ship is constructed in a dry dock; once that work is done, the dry dock is slowly filled with water -- which allows the ship to float for the first time. Then, the final leg of work (mostly interior) can begin. MSC Splendida and MSC Magnifica -- under construction at Aker Yards in St. Nazaire, France, and due out in 2009 and 2010 respectively -- completed their technical float outs successfully early in the morning on March 1.

MSC Cruises currently has four ships under construction. MSC Poesia is the next ship to debut in the fleet, scheduled for launch in early April; Fantasia will follow in late 2008. Both ships will sail itineraries in the Mediterranean -- not just in spring, summer and fall, but winter too.

Celebrity Galaxy to Get $4 Million in Upgrades

Cruise ships generally enter dry dock about every two years, but when Celebrity Galaxy has its next appointment on April 18, 2008, it won't be just a routine checkup. The 11-year-old ship will undergo a $4 million makeover during its two-week stay in Freeport.

While many cruise lines are making structural changes in dry dock these days, Celebrity's enhancements mostly affect carpets and upholstery to give the ship a fresher and more modern look, according to Celebrity. Keep a look out for the following changes:

  • The main dining room will be completely refurbished with new carpeting, waiter stations, and floor-to-ceiling columns, as well as reupholstered and newly varnished chairs.
  • The Rendezvous Lounge, Stratosphere Lounge and the Martini Bar will receive new upholstery. The Stratosphere Lounge will also get new carpets.
  • The Celebrity Theater will get a total makeover, with new carpeting and upholstery throughout.
  • Casual dining and buffet areas will be upgraded with new chairs, carpeting, upholstery and lighting.
  • The pool deck will receive new teak decking and glass tiling around the pool.
  • The retail area will be enhanced with refurbished jewelry boutiques and brighter, more contemporary product-display areas.
  • The remaining 250 staterooms yet to be upgraded will receive new carpet, sinks and upholstery to match the rest of the cabins.

Galaxy will emerge from dry dock on May 2, just in time to pick up guests in Miami on May 3 for a cruise across the Atlantic. The ship will show off its new look in Europe, as it sails Eastern Mediterranean cruises through November.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Holland America Plans First Round-Trip Cruise from Hong Kong

Holland America will offer a round-trip cruise out of Hong Kong in 2009 -- a first for the line.

The 14-day voyage to China and Vietnam, on the Holland America Volendam, will include an overnight stay in Shanghai and the line's first call at Sanya, Hainan, a popular resort area in China. The trip will begin on Oct. 26, 2009.

The Hong Kong voyage is one of nine the line plans in Asia in 2009 as it joins other lines in expanding in the region.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Looking for an Intimate Way to See Europe? Consider Azamara Cruises...

Large ships have been all the rage in recent years. But there are times when it pays to be on a small ship. Particularly in Europe.

Want to sail up the Thames River into the heart of London? Or dock in a port close to Paris? You won't be able to do it on the 3,000-passenger mega-liners of Royal Caribbean and Carnival, which are too big to get close to the famed cities. But on the much smaller, 710-passenger ships of Azamara Cruises, such stopovers are a breeze.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, Azamara is playing up its advantage with new itineraries for 2009 that include lots of stops in ports that big ships can't reach. The line says it will offer a 14-night Western Europe itinerary that includes a sail up the Thames River to the center of London (anchoring overnight within view of the Tower of London) and a new call on Antwerp, Belgium, with a downtown berth position. The itinerary also includes sailing along the scenic River Scheldt before a sunset departure for the North Sea.

Other new, harder-to-access port calls in Europe for 2009 include a docking in Zadar, Croatia (where larger ships have to anchor), and a stop in Rouen, France, just one hour from Paris (as opposed to Le Havre, where larger ships dock, which is two-and-a-half hours from the city). Azamara ships also will stop in Volos, Greece, where the line will offer excursions to the Meteora Monasteries, high atop massive granite rocks (made famous in the film For Your Eyes Only), and Amalfi, Italy, near the postcard-perfect Sorrento, Positano and Isle of Capri.

Dockings in La Spezia, Italy, where larger ships have to anchor, and Dartmouth, United Kingdom, inaccessible to larger ships, also are planned.

In all, Azamara plans stops in 20 new European ports in 2009. Both of the line's two ships, Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey, will sail in the region, offering a range of seven- to 15-night Europe itineraries from five different home ports: Athens, Greece; Barcelona, Spain; Copenhagen, Denmark; Rome and Venice, Italy. The voyages will include overnight stays in Barcelona; Edinburgh, Scotland; Florence and Ravenna, Italy; Istanbul, Turkey; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Stockholm, Sweden.

The line also plans a series of four consecutive 7-night Mediterranean cruises, which, for travelers interested in pairing itineraries back-to-back, will present no repeat ports of call.

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