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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Would You Cruise in Europe During the Winter?

Cruising in Europe used to be strictly a summer affair. The major North American brands would dispatch ships to the region just before Memorial Day and pull them out in early fall.

But the season for European cruises has widened markedly in recent years as demand for cruises in the region has grown, with lines sending ships across the Atlantic as early as March and keeping them in Europe as late as December. And now a few North American brands are launching year-round cruising in Europe -- something that was once unthinkable in the industry.

This year Royal Caribbean has begun year-round Mediterranean voyages aboard the Brilliance of the Seas, which will remain in Barcelona throughout the winter. And just Thursday Royal Caribbean announced it would continue the year-round sailing in Europe into 2010 with Brilliance sailing out of Malaga, Spain.

Norwegian Cruise Line, meanwhile, has announced that one of its ships, the 2,400-passenger Norwegian Jade, will remain in Europe year-round through 2010 -- a first in the line's 41-year history.

Executives at the lines say they expect much of the demand for the winter voyages on the ships to come from Europeans, who are discovering cruising in growing numbers. But they're also marketing them to Americans looking for a lower-cost way to visit Europe.

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

Celebrity Solstice to Enter Service Three Weeks Early

Surprise, Celebrity fans: The much-awaited Celebrity Solstice is arriving three weeks early.

The line announced that construction of the 2,850-passenger ship -- the first of a new series -- is running ahead of schedule and the vessel will debut on Nov. 23 instead of in December.

As a result of the change Celebrity now has three additional cruises to sell. The week-long voyages, departing on Nov. 23, Nov. 30 and Dec. 7, all will follow the same itinerary out of Fort Lauderdale to San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philipsburg, St. Maarten, and Basseterre, St. Kitts.

The change also means that the maiden voyage of the ship, long planned for Dec. 14, will now occur on Nov. 23. The line says passengers who booked the Dec. 14 sailing so they could be on the maiden voyage can switch to the new maiden voyage without penalty. The line has established a two-week rebooking window for such passengers through June 12, and it says they will be able to reserve the same cabin that they originally booked, at the original fare. The line adds that passengers encountering air-change fees as a result of opting to switch will be reimbursed up to $100 per person (proof of the change fees must be submitted).

The Solstice is the first of five Solstice class ships that the line plans, and it will boast several first-in-the-industry features including a half-acre Lawn Club with real grass and a glassblowing studio developed with The Corning Museum of Glass. Also of note: The ship's cabins will be 15% larger, on average, than those on previous Celebrity ships, and 85% of all cabins will have verandas.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Royal Caribbean's Next Ships Will Be Oasis and Allure

The largest cruise ships ever built will be called Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean announced that George Weiser, 53, of Livonia, Mich., has won its four-month-long Name That Ship Contest to title the next two Royal Caribbean vessels. The automotive designer for Ford Motor Company was the first to submit the pair of names during the contest.

The contest marks the first time that a cruise line has invited the public to name a vessel. “I don’t think we would have come up with Oasis and Allure on our own,” says Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein. “They were great names.”

Goldstein notes that the names are related phonetically, both beginning with a vowel. They also both tie into the concept of attraction — an oasis being something to which one is attracted, while allure is another way of saying attraction. “They both relate to attractions, and there are going to be a lot of attractions on this ship,” he says.

The names of ships traditionally are chosen by top executives in consultation with marketing and sales experts, and Goldstein says opening the process to the public was a risk. The only requirement was that entries end in “of the Seas,” a tradition at the 21-ship line.

“There was an element of trepidation on our part, I have to confess,” he says. “But at the same time there has been too much sameness in naming (ships) of late. It helped us get out of the box.”

Royal Caribbean is betting its future on the two vessels, which will cost more than $1 billion a piece and debut in late 2009 and 2010. At 220,000 tons, they’ll be more than 40% larger than the largest cruise ships afloat, and Royal Caribbean already has said they’ll include such innovative features as a massive “Central Park” with live trees and outdoor restaurant seating. The ships will hold 5,400 passengers at double occupancy — a number once thought unthinkable in the cruise business.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Carnival Makes Change in Dress Code Policy

You know those annoying shoes with retractable wheels that we hate (mainly because we can't wear them) and kids love? Well, Carnival announced today they are no longer welcome on their ships.

Quoting a "Flash Communication" from Carnival, "We suggest you wear rubber-soled, low heeled or flat shoes for extra traction while onboard. The use of any footwear with wheels, including but not limited, to Heelys© shoes, is prohibited on board our ships." The new policy will be enforced beginning with May 19th sailings.

Our guess? One accident too many on deck ...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Princess Drops Ocho Rios from Caribbean Itineraries

The port town of Ocho Rios, Jamaica will disappear from itineraries at Princess Cruises in 2009, nudged out by the increasing popular port of Roatan, Honduras.

Princess says Roatan will take the place of Ocho Rios on all of its seven-night Western Caribbean cruises starting on Nov. 7, 2009. The other traditional stops on Princess' Western Caribbean cruises -- Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Princess Cays, the line's private island -- will remain the same.

The line, which announced its plans for the 2009-2010 season last week, says the two-year-old, 3,080-passenger Crown Princess will sail the new Western Caribbean itinerary out of Ft. Lauderdale.

Princess says it will have five other ships in the Caribbean for the 2009-2010 winter season offering a very similar line-up of itineraries as the line is sailing this year.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Celebrity Schedules First Antarctica Cruises

The mean summer temperature is below zero and there's nary a diamond store in sight, yet Antarctica is a cruise destination growing in popularity. Case in point: Celebrity has just announced its first ever cruises to the White Continent, scheduled for early 2010.

Next year marks Celebrity's 10th season in South America, and in honor of that milestone, the cruise line is branching out with two new 14-night Antarctica cruises on January 31 and February 14, 2010. Celebrity Infinity will depart Buenos Aires for Antarctica, visiting Port Stanley, Falkland Islands; Ushuaia and Puerto Madryn, Argentina; and Montevideo, Uruguay, along the way.

But don't cancel your expedition cruise just yet. Celebrity's Antarctic voyages will be drive-by's only. Infinity will spend three days per cruise sailing past Elephant Island, Paradise Bay and Gerlache Strait, but, like most other big ship lines' Antarctica "itineraries," won't actually give passengers a chance to set foot on ice. Indeed, this voyage style is in keeping with other regular cruise lines -- such as Holland America, Princess and Crystal -- that offer scenic cruising off the coast of Antarctica as part of longer South America itineraries.

The only way to really explore Antarctica up close is to book a cruise on an expedition ship, typically a vessel with a strengthened hull able to navigate icy waters. Lines like Hurtigruten and Lindblad offer such trips -- Regent Seven Seas Cruises charters an expedition ship for Antarctic cruises a few times per year and Silversea is currently refurbishing an expedition ship that will join its fleet in June.

Royal Caribbean Plans More Cruises in South America

One of Royal Caribbean's biggest forays into South America hasn't even begun yet and already the line is saying it'll be back for more.

The line announced late Thursday that the 2,100-passenger Radiance of the Seas, which already is scheduled to spend this coming winter in South America, will return for a second winter in the region in late 2009.

The line says the Radiance will sail nine cruises in South America during the winter of 2009-2010, ranging from 11- to 15-night itineraries.

The voyages include several 12- to 14-night trips between Valparaiso, Chile, and Buenos Aires, Argentina that feature the glacier-filled Chilean fjords and a call at Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world. On three of the sailings, passengers will spend the night in Buenos Aires.

The newly announced voyages for the winter of 2009 also include an 11-night itinerary beginning on Feb. 10, 2010 that features three days in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during the city’s annual Carnival festivities.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fodor’s Complete Guide to European Cruising Designates Carnival Cruise Lines as ‘Best Cruising’ in Nine Categories

Carnival Cruise Lines – a relative newcomer in European cruising, entering the market just three years ago – is well represented in the recently published Fodor’s Complete Guide to European Cruises, garnering nine “Best of Cruising” designations, more than double the number of any other cruise line.

Fodor’s Complete Guide to European Cruises is an annual publication providing comprehensive overviews of all major cruise lines operating within the region, along with travel tips, detailed port-of-call information and other helpful content aimed at experienced and first-time cruisers alike.

Carnival’s nine “Best of Cruising” awards include:
Best Regular Dining Room Cuisine
Best Specialty Restaurants
Best Cruise Line For Families
Best Regular Cabins
Best Beds
Best Entertainment At Sea
Best Sports and Fitness Centers
Best Shops on Board
Best Fun & Funky Activities

According to Carnival’s Executive Vice President of Marketing and Guest Experience Ruben Rodriguez, Carnival’s nine awards reflect many of the signature elements of a “Fun Ship” cruise – outstanding dining, spacious and comfortable accommodations, modern spa and children’s facilities, and fun-filled activities for guests of all ages, all of which add up to memorable vacations.

Carnival’s entry into Europe began in 2005 with a series of cruises aboard Carnival Liberty and, over the past three years, the line has tripled its number of voyages within the region.

This year, Carnival will deploy two ships in Europe for the first time, including its newest and largest ship, the 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor, which will launch the line’s first-ever 12-day Northern Europe program. Joining the Carnival Splendor will be the Carnival Freedom, which will operate Carnival’s popular Mediterranean, Greece and Turkey cruises. Carnival will deploy two ships to Europe in 2009, as well.

For additional information and reservations on the “Fun Ship” vacation experience, call us at 1-800-788-2545 or visit

Royal Caribbean Quietly Changes Its Infant Policy

Royal Caribbean has quietly adjusted its infant policy from having no minimum age restriction to requiring babies to be either 6 or 12 months old in order to sail, depending on the itinerary. Although the new policy is currently on the line's Web site, it won't be strictly enforced until October 2008.

According to the new policy, infants on most cruises must be 6 months old by the first day of the sailing in order to board. However, babies on trans-Atlantic, trans-Pacific, Hawaii, select South America cruises and cruisetours, and other select cruises and cruisetours must be 12 months old to sail.

Passengers who try to bring a child onboard who does not meet minimum age requirements will be denied boarding for the child and possibly for one of the parents as well. In such cases, the cruise line will not reimburse the family for the missed sailing.

Royal Caribbean spokesman Michael Sheehan says the change in the policy comes from the cruise line's recognition that infants have special needs and at times may require medical attention that can only be provided for at shore-based hospitals. Though Sheehan tells us the timing is coincidental, a recent incident on Majesty of the Seas aptly illustrates his point: This past April, a 7-month-old child became sick onboard and had to be put off the ship with her family to seek medical treatment. The family complained to the media they had been mistreated, but Royal Caribbean was simply following procedures to ensure the health of the child.

MSC Introduces Pre-Paid Onboard Credit Cards for Teens

Want to give your teen a little more responsibility, but don't want him to rack up a high onboard bill with Internet time and mocktails? MSC Cruises has a solution: a new pre-paid credit card for use onboard. It's available on all MSC ships for use by 12 to 17-year-olds.

"My Teen Card" functions like the typical onboard credit card/stateroom key used on most ships, but with a catch: The card comes with a prepaid spending limit. Once a teen has spent the prepaid amount, no more purchases will be allowed on the card. Parents will have to purchase a new card if they want their child to continue to have spending privileges. Cards cannot be reloaded.

On Caribbean cruises, parents can choose from a $35 card (pay $30 and get a $5 bonus) or a $60 card (pay $50 and get a $10 bonus). On Mediterranean and Northern Europe cruises, choose from a 35-euro card (pay 30 euros, get a 5-euro bonus) or a 60-euro card (pay 50 euros, get a 10-euro bonus). Not only will parents be able to limit teen spending while letting the kids take responsibility for their purchases, but they'll get free money to boot.

Passengers under the age of 17 will not have spending privileges onboard MSC ships without a Teen Card.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Royal Caribbean Plans Largest Ship Ever for West Coast

Big news, West Coasters: You're about to get one of the most popular ships at sea.

Royal Caribbean announced plans this week to send the 137,000-ton Mariner of the Seas -- one of the line's much-ballyhooed Voyager class vessels -- to Los Angeles in 2009.

The 3,114-passenger ship, which will sail seven-night cruises to the Mexican Riviera through at least 2010, is more than 50% larger than the largest vessels currently based on the West Coast.

The announcement, which is sure to get West Coast cruisers excited, marks the first time one of the next-generation Voyager class ships has been based west of Texas. The deployment brings such Voyager class innovations as an ice skating rink and an interior Royal Promenade to the West for the first time.

Royal Caribbean also announced that the 90,000-ton Radiance of the Seas will sail four- and five-night Mexican Riviera voyages from the West Coast in the fall of 2009, becoming the newest and largest ship to sail short cruises from the region.

Mariner's itinerary includes stops in Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Radiance will call at Cabo and (on five-night itineraries) Ensenada.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

NCL Confirms Pride of Aloha to Become Norwegian Sky

NCL today announced that the ship, to revert back to Norwegian Sky, its original name, will head to Miami where it will sail three- and four-night Bahamas cruises.

The former Norwegian Sky was transferred to NCL's Hawaii spin-off as a last-minute fill-in for Pride of America, which had been damaged while under construction at its German shipyard. Renamed and redecorated, the "new" Pride of Aloha has been sailing all-Hawaii cruises since.

NCL had announced in February that the ship would be transferred out of the fleet entirely -- and returned back to Star Cruises, the cruise line's then sole owner. It had been planned that Pride of Aloha would depart NCL's fleet on May 11.

The ship will still leave Hawaii -- only now it'll go to drydock, where a casino will be re-introduced and, presumably, the Kumu Cultural Center will be removed. The "new" Norwegian Sky will also receive the Freestyle 2.0 upgrades being rolled out fleetwide; the enhancements include new menus, upgraded staterooms, innovative onboard activities and service initiatives.

While the concept of NCL starting short Bahamas cruises is intriguing, what's most interesting about this recent move is that Andy Stuart, NCL's marketing chief, said in February that the ship didn't merit the investment of upgraded amenities.

Norwegian Sky will begin its Bahamas sailings on July 14. The ship will depart Miami on Mondays for the four-night trip -- with calls at Grand Bahama Island, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's private island. The three-night cruise, leaving on Fridays, will visit Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay. The schedule will be in effect at least through mid-April 2009.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

‘Carnival Salutes Our Troops’ Promotion Offers Cruises Starting at $219 Per Person

In honor of Memorial Day, Carnival Cruise Lines is offering active and retired military personnel an opportunity to book up to three “Fun Ship” staterooms for themselves and their friends and family members at special discounted rates.

The new “Carnival Salutes Our Troops” promotion is available in conjunction with a wide variety of three- to 12-day “Fun Ship” voyages to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii and Europe, departing between now and Dec. 31, 2009, from 20 different departure points. Reservations must be made between May 1-31, 2008, to qualify.

Military personnel and their friends and families can take advantage of the following special rates: $219 per person for three-day cruises to the Bahamas and Baja Mexico; $229 per person for four-day cruises to the Bahamas, Caribbean and Mexico; $279 per person for five-day cruises to the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Mexico; $479 per person for seven-day cruises to the Caribbean and Alaska; and $829 per person for 12-day cruises to Hawaii and Europe.

“The new ‘Carnival Salutes Our Troops’ promotion is our way of recognizing the tremendous efforts of the brave men and women who serve in our armed forces,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO.

The promotion is valid for individual bookings only, capacity controlled and not applicable with any other discount offer. Military personnel must provide proof of service during the reservations process to be eligible for the special rates. Certain other restrictions apply.

Holland America Line Gives Back

Oprah Winfrey isn't the only one who can make claims to "The Big Give". Holland America Line, in a move that serves ecological, economical and charitable interests at the same time, has come up with an ingenious community program – the first of its kind in the nation: Operation Ship to Shelter.

Along with co-sponsors The Port of Seattle, United States Customs and Border Protection, Cruise Terminals of America and Northwest Harvest, Holland America Line will donate reusable goods from its ships sailing from Seattle this summer to Washington state charities in need. Weekly donations will consist of individual-sized toiletries along with other goods as well, including televisions, towels, bedding, cookware, silverware and mattresses.

The program kicked off yesterday with Oosterdam donating hundreds of items to Northwest Harvest. A Holland America ship will be in port at Pier 30 each week with a donation for Northwest Harvest, the only statewide hunger relief agency in Washington. As a non-profit organization receiving no city, state or federal monies, Northwest Harvest relies solely on donations and contributions from the public, businesses and foundations.

“There is an incredible need for basic toiletry items in the homeless community, especially in our women's shelters,” said Shelley Rotondo, executive director of Northwest Harvest. “We often take the availability of these items on a daily basis for granted. The Ship to Shelter program will help fulfill this need for many.”

Holland America Line's Amsterdam will be in port on May 16; along with the toiletries, contributions will include dishes, knives and cake pans.

The program will operate continuously from May through September.

New 130,000-Ton Carnival Dream to be Based at Port Canaveral

Carnival Cruise Lines has announced that the new 130,000-ton Carnival Dream – the largest “Fun Ship” ever constructed – will be based at Port Canaveral, Fla., beginning in fall 2009. Details on the ship’s itinerary will be provided at a later date.

Currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, the 3,652-passenger Carnival Dream is the first in a new class of ship for the line with a unique interior design, sleek hull and distinctive profile, along with a host of innovative facilities and features which will be released in the coming months.

In addition to the Carnival Dream, the line has two other “Fun Ships” scheduled to enter service – the 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor, set to debut in Europe July 2, 2008, and the 130,000-ton Carnival Magic, slated for delivery in June 2011.

For additional information on the “Fun Ship” vacation experience, visit or call 1-800-788-2545.