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, August 27, 2008

Carnival Fun Ship Elation To Do New Cruise Itinerary

Carnival Cruise Lines is offering a new itinerary for the Carnival Elation, doing a new three- and four-day cruise schedule from San Diego beginning Feb. 12, 2009. This is a change from the current itinerary, but the Elation will continue to operate four- and five-day cruises from San Diego and will continue that program through the departure of Feb. 7, 2009.

On its new route, Carnival Elation will depart Thursdays on three-day cruises to Ensenada, providing a value-packed long weekend getaway. Four-day cruises will depart Sundays and visit two ports, Ensenada and Catalina Island.

Carnival has offered a similar, highly successful program from Southern California for a number of years, currently on the Carnival Paradise based in Long Beach, with those departures occurring on Fridays and Mondays.

“Between the two ships, consumers will have a choice of two very popular departure points, Long Beach and San Diego, as well as four different departure days each week to select from,” said Terry Thornton, Carnival’s senior vice president of marketing planning. “These will be the only ships in the Southern California market offering three and four-day cruises starting in 2009, and with short getaways currently a trend among North American consumers, combined with the inherent value of a cruise, these voyages represent an extremely desirable vacation choice,” he added.

Carnival, which is the West Coast’s largest, most popular cruise line, also offers longer length voyages from Southern California. The Carnival Pride operates seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach year-round (to be replaced by the new Carnival Splendor in March 2009) and the Carnival Spirit offers seasonal eight-day Mexican Riviera voyages from San Diego.

Princess Cruises "Heart of Alaska" Video Wins "Best Cinematography" Award at New York Independent Film Festival

In addition to the widespread praise already received from the film and travel communities, Princess Cruises' "The Heart of Alaska" video has earned a special level of recognition by winning the "Best Cinematography" award at the New York Independent Film & Video Festival, one of the largest independent film festivals in the world. "The Heart of Alaska" beat out nearly 100 Best Film entries for the prestigious award at the festival's recent Los Angeles competition.

"The Heart of Alaska" is a unique high-definition documentary that showcases the Princess cruisetour experience by beautifully depicting the land, wildlife and people of Alaska with dramatic visuals and music. The 26-minute film, photographed and directed by Princess video producer Scott Martin, features fascinating interviews with some of the people who make the state unique, as they tell their stories of life in the untamed wilderness of Alaska's interior.

"We're delighted that the judges at the New York Independent Film & Video Festival recognized how superbly this film was photographed," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises senior vice president. "'The Heart of Alaska' may well be the most unique cruise destination video in the industry because it uses a documentary style to tell its story through local voices. With stunning photography and music, it's just like something you'd find on a nature channel...or in a theater."

Viewers meet rangers from both Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks, Alaska natives, homesteaders and dog mushers who share an insiders' perspective of life in the 49th state. Other voices include a bush pilot, a captain from Fairbanks' iconic riverboat and a mountain climber.

The film also brings the audience up close to the wildlife of Denali National Park, including bears, moose, dall sheep, and caribou. Soaring photography takes viewers high above the world's tallest peaks, including "The Great One," Mt. McKinley.

Princess is a leader in Alaska vacations, giving travelers the opportunity to combine a cruise with rail and wilderness lodge options to experience the top highlights of this majestic state. For more information on Alaska vacations, visit or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Carnival Moves Triumph to New Orleans

New Orleans' still-recovering tourism industry got an economic shot in the arm today when Carnival Cruise Lines announced it is moving a newer, larger ship - the 2,758 passenger Carnival Triumph - to the Big Easy next fall.

The Triumph replaces the 2,056-passenger Fantasy, which Carnival announced yesterday is shifting from New Orleans to Mobile permanently next fall after being based there since a tanker-barge collision temporarily closed the Mississippi River in July. During a drydock this September, Fantasy will get an Evolutions of Fun upgrade, including a new WaterWorks aqua park with a 300-foot-long corkscrew slide, an adults-only sun deck and expanded family and spa facilities.

The substitution of the larger Triumph for the Fantasy could mean 50,000 more cruise tourists for New Orleans each year, notes the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Starting in November, 2009, four-day Triumph cruises will depart New Orleans on Thursdays to Cozumel, five-day cruises will leave Mondays and Saturdays to Cozumel and Progreso, Mexico, and seven-day cruises will depart Saturdays for either Belize City, Roatan, and Cozumel or Key West, Freeport and Nassau.

Carnival's announcement is a sign spending is up among cruise ship passengers in New Orleans, which was home port to four cruise ships from three lines when Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005, notes the Associated Press. In addition to the 2,974-passenger Carnival Conquest and the 2,052-passenger Sensation, Norwegian Cruise Lines had the 1,754-passenger Norwegian Dream and Royal Caribbean had the 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the Seas in port as well.

St. Croix Itineraries on the Rise

Expect St. Croix to show up on more ship itineraries next year. The largest of the US Virgin Islands announced that 48 ships will dock there in 2009, a substantial increase over this year when only three ships dropped anchor.

Among the lines set to dock at St. Croix in 2009: Royal Caribbean (Explorer, Adventure of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas), Disney (Magic), Celebrity (The World, Summit, Mercury), Holland America (Maasdam, Eurodam), Crystal (Symphony), Azamara (Journey), Regent (Seven Seas Navigator) and Seabourn (Seabourn Legend). Most will originate in FL and Puerto Rico, according to a spokesperson for the US Virgin Island tourism board.

The island credits the surge to better marketing and outreach between island government leaders, tourism officials and cruise line representatives.

According to the Virgin Islands Daily News earlier this year, cruise ship visits to St. Croix fell off in 2002, after Carnival and Royal Caribbean pulled out because of rising crime on the island, as well as lack of passenger interest. The paper estimated the loss of revenue cost the island $45 million annually. Subsequent attempts to attract regular port calls to Frederiksted, one of two main towns on the island, were also unsuccessful.

Regent Cruise Ships to Get Major Upgrade

Regent Seven Seas Cruises already is one snazzy cruise line. But it's going to be even better in a few months, say executives, thanks to a major overhaul of its two largest ships.

Industry watcher Travel Weekly today reports that its two 700-passenger ships, the Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner, will go into drydock later this year for a massive, $40 million makeover that will include a complete refurbishment of public areas.

The upgrade to the celebrated luxury line comes in the wake of its buyout last year by Apollo Management, a private equity firm that also has bought controlling stakes in Oceania Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line. Apollo has combined the management of Regent and Oceania under an entity called Prestige Cruise Holdings.

"We will be raising the bar on Regent," Prestige CEO Frank del Rio tells Travel Weekly. "It's a very successful brand, but under Prestige Cruise Holdings you will see significant improvements."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Disney Cruise Line Recognized as a Top Cruise Experience by Readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine

Disney Cruise Line continues to receive top honors in the cruise industry, most recently being recognized in Travel + Leisure magazine’s “2008 World’s Best” awards.

The “World’s Best” list, which is compiled annually, recognizes the best in travel for cities, hotels, islands, airlines, cruise lines, tour operators, safari outfitters and car-rental agencies each year. This year, Disney Cruise Line ranked No. 3 in the “Large-Ship” cruise line category. The ranking was determined by readers asked to rate cruise lines on cabins, food, service, itineraries, destinations, activities and value.

Disney Cruise Line has moved up on the Travel + Leisure World’s Best awards list each year, besting all other “mass market” cruise lines and further confirming a niche position as the ultimate family cruise vacation – a concept it pioneered and continues to refine with specifically designed areas and activities for each member of the family allowing for both quality time together and wonderful individual experiences.

“We are delighted to be recognized in the Travel + Leisure magazine “2008 World’s Best” awards as one of the top three large-ship cruise lines and the highest ranked cruise line catering to the family market,” said Tom McAlpin, President of Disney Cruise Line. “This recognition further enhances our position as the best cruise line for an unparalleled family vacation and motivates us to continue to elevate the Disney Cruise Line experience even higher.”

Disney Cruise Line has received nearly 50 distinguished awards and honors since first setting sail in 1998. These awards have included all aspects of the operation from dining and entertainment to youth activities and spa facilities.

The Disney Cruise Line family focus allows families to reconnect, adults to recharge their batteries and kids to immerse themselves in worlds of fantasy only Disney can create. From a theater featuring live musical spectaculars to a luxurious spa for adults and nearly an entire deck dedicated to children’s activities, the Disney ships offer a unique vacation experience that every member of the family feels was created exclusively for them. Disney Cruise Line continues to grow by attracting passengers who say they would not have cruised if it had not been for the Disney brand.

Carnival Sensation to Get 'Extreme Makeover'

It's upgrade time for the Carnival Sensation, one of the line's oldest ships.

Carnival says the popular vessel, which sails to the Bahamas out of Port Canaveral, will go into dry dock in January for a multi-million dollar "extreme makeover" that includes a new deck top water park.

The face-lift for the 15-year-old ship also will bring an adults-only pool area, among other upgrades to the top decks.

The 2,052-passenger Sensation is a workhorse of the Carnival fleet that sails short three- and four-day cruises to Nassau and Freeport. It's a favorite of Southerners who can drive to Port Canaveral to pick it up.

The ship will become the fourth of Carnival's eight Fantasy Class vessels to get such a makeover as the line spends $250 million to revamp its oldest ships. The Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Imagination underwent a similar overhaul late last year and the Carnival Fantasy is scheduled for a re-do this fall.

For more information on the Carnival Sensation or any Carnival product, please visit or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Ruby Princess Completes Successful Sea Trials

Ruby Princess has completed another major milestone in preparation for her November 8 debut, with the completion of her sea trials. The new ship set out to sea from her construction dock at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy, and was put through her paces with a series of maneuvers to test her propulsion, steering and navigational equipment. After a successful four days of trials, the ship is now back in the shipyard for further exterior and interior finishing. Ruby Princess will be ready for her maiden voyage from Ft. Lauderdale, a seven-day Western Caribbean sailing taking passengers to Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Princess Cays.

Ruby Princess is a sister ship to Emerald Princess and Crown Princess, and will feature the same dramatic piazza-style atrium that have become so popular on those ships. Other ship highlights include 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.

HAL's "Grand Dame" Returns Home At Last

Buzz may be building as Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 nears her final sail date (November 11), but another beloved old ship was the focus of attention this week in Rotterdam. Holland America's Rotterdam V, its one-time flagship, pulled into Rotterdam for good; there, after years of planning, the ship will be permanently docked and serve as a floating hotel.

SS Rotterdam sailed for Holland America for 39 years. The 38,645-ton ship, christened nearly 50 years ago by the Netherlands' Queen Juliana, was a trans-Atlantic liner and carried 400 first-class passengers -- and 1,055 in tourist class. Moving at brisk speed of 23.5 knots, Rotterdam V cruised around the world, many times.

In 1969, the vessel was massively refurbished as a cruise ship -- since by then, due to the advent of jet travel, ocean liners had fallen out of favor. Now carrying 1,114 passengers, Rotterdam remained Holland America's flagship until 1997, when it was sold to the now-defunct, budget-oriented Premier Cruises. There the ship was renamed SS Rembrandt. Rotterdam V has, since that line's collapse in 2000, been basically idle.

Rotterdam V was replaced at Holland America by Rotterdam VI (now known simply as Rotterdam); measuring 62,000 tons and carrying 1,316, the ship is nearly twice the size of its predecessor.

This week's coming home at Rotterdam was a major victory for Rotterdam V aficionados. Throughout this decade, rumors ran rampant about efforts to save the ship by transforming it into a floating hotel -- rather than consigning it to the cruise ship version of a scrap heap.

U.S. Senator Plans Legislation to Save Delta Queen

Efforts to save the historic Delta Queen steamboat are getting a boost from Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who plans to introduce legislation that would keep the famed vessel operating.

The legislation, which Voinovich plans to introduce later this month or in early September, would extend the Delta Queen’s long-standing exemption from fire safety rules. A bi-partisan group of Congressmen already has introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House.

Without the exemption the Delta Queen will have to stop sailing in November.

Mississippi River Oil Spill Continues to Thwart Carnival

Remember the movie Groundhog Day, where the character played by Bill Murray keeps experiencing the same day over and over again?

That, in a nutshell, is what's been happening to the poor crew of the Carnival Fantasy the past three weeks as the New Orleans-based ship grapples with an oil spill on the Mississippi River.

Every week it looks like the oil spill has been contained and the 2,056-passenger vessel will be able to get back into its berth in New Orleans. And every week something goes wrong at the last minute that keeps the vessel away.

Such was the case, again, this week as the Fantasy, returning from a five-night cruise to Mexico, was forced to disembark passengers in Mobile, Ala., instead of New Orleans for the third time in three weeks.

The diversion leaves the thousands of passengers on board nearly 150 miles away from where they expected to arrive (and where many have left their cars or scheduled flights for home). Carnival bussed the passengers back to the port of New Orleans.

The diversion also caused headaches for the thousands of passengers who expected to depart from New Orleans for the ship's next cruise to Mexico. Carnival will have buses on hand to take them to Mobile.

The oil spill occurred on July 23 after a collision between a tanker and a barge near New Orleans.

Carnival says that next week, for sure, the Fantasy will be back to operating out of the city.