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

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Costa Cruises Buon Appetito Contest Offers Free Cruise

Costa Cruises is calling upon its past guests to participate in their Buon Appetito culinary contest by asking cruisers to submit their favorite Costa dining experience from a past cruise. The prize? A free cruise! Costa, Europe’s number 1 cruise line, prides itself on its many superb dining choices, but especially their Italian offerings, from a delicious pasta dish with flavors reminiscent of a visit to a Roman trattoria, to fresh seafood that brings to mind a leisurely lunch in Portofino. It is said that dining onboard a Costa cruise transports the taste of Italy to sea wherever guests travel.

Between February 17 and April 17, 2009, guests who have sailed with Costa may enter the “Buon Appetito” culinary contest by visiting and submitting an entry detailing their favorite Costa dining experience or dish in 300 words or less. One winner will be selected by a Costa panel based on creativity and style. The winning entry will win a cruise aboard the new Costa Pacifica, complete with a complimentary dinner for two in the ship’s specialty restaurant, the Club Blue Moon. The restaurant features menus prepared by award-winning Italian chef Ettore Bocchia, heralded for his Michelin-starred cuisine at the Grand Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, Italy.

Costa Cruises is Italy and Europe’s number one cruise line. For the past 60 years its ships have sailed the world, offering the best in Italian style, hospitality and cuisine and providing dream vacations with the best in fun and relaxation. In 2007 over 1.1 million guests chose to cruise with Costa, a record for the European cruise industry. The company’s 12 fleet members, each with her own distinctive characteristics and unique style, all fly the Italian flag and sail each year to 250 destinations in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea, the Caribbean, South America, the United Arab Emirates, the Far East and the Indian Ocean.

Holland America Culinary Arts Program Features Guest Chefs And Wine Experts

Holland America Line’s Culinary Arts Center program showcases the talents of renowned chefs and wine experts for the 2009 cruise season. Holland America’s guest enrichment program offers cruise guests the opportunity to witness culinary demonstrations, tastings and hands-on cooking classes in addition to participating in question and answer sessions. Imagine sailing with a well-known executive chef from a famous restaurant or an inspiring culinary television personality, and learning from them first hand about their specialty.

In partnership with “Food and Wine” magazine, Holland America Line has scheduled approximately 60 celebrated chefs and wine experts to sail in 2009. On cruises that do not have a guest chef on board, classes and demonstrations in the show kitchen are scheduled with Holland America’s own expert chefs.

This season Holland America Line will welcome well-known personalities such as Captain Keith Colburn from Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” sailing on ms Westerdam June 7 — 14 in Alaska; George Duran of “Ham on the Street” on the Food Network sailing aboard ms Amsterdam Aug. 29 — Sept. 5 in Alaska; “Top Chef” contestant Richard Blaise sailing on ms Maasdam Oct. 23 — Nov. 6 in the Caribbean; and Christina Pirello of “Christina Cooks” on PBS sailing aboard ms Zuiderdam Aug. 8 — 15 in Alaska. In addition to world-famous chefs, the Culinary Arts Program includes cookbook authors as well as chocolatiers and tablescape experts.
Holland America Line also offers a youth Culinary Arts Center activity program to teach kids and teens how to cook. The program incorporates dishes from breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in complimentary 45-minute-long classes. Kids under eight years old learn to make theme cookies, fruit roll-ups, ice cream sandwiches, salad people art and scones. Kids eight and over make soft pretzels, granola bars, pita chips and hummus, and saltwater taffy. Teens also can attend adult culinary demonstrations.

For more information on any Holland American Line voyage, please visit or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Celebrity Cruises Bids Farewell To Galaxy

Celebrity Cruises' 77,713-ton, 1,850-passenger Celebrity Galaxy, one of the oldest and most intimate ships in the Celebrity Cruises fleet, is just a few weeks away from its final farewell.

After an 11-night Southern Caribbean cruise, departing on March 2, the 11-year-old vessel will leave the Celebrity fleet for a new assignment with TUI Cruises -- a new, Germany-based cruise line that's a joint venture between Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (Celebrity's parent) and European mega-operator TUI AG.

TUI plans to make a significant investment by refurbishing Celebrity Galaxy before it becomes its flagship next year. It will spend 50 million euros (approximately $78 million) to add a whopping 428 balconies to the ship's exterior. TUI will also create spa cabins.

SS United States About To Be Sold For Scrap

The buzz is growing that the SS United States, one of the most fabled ocean liners ever built, could be sold for scrap as early as this year. The SS United States Conservancy is telling its members it has learned the 57-year-old vessel -- the fastest passenger liner in history -- will soon be listed for sale and is "in grave danger" of being sold off for the melt value of its hull and fixtures.

The Conservancy notes ownership of the majestic, red-white-and-blue vessel recently was transferred from Norwegian Cruise Line (which purchased the ship in 2003) to a holding company controlled by NCL's parent company, Hong Kong-based Star Cruises.

The United States has languished at a dock in Philadelphia for almost a decade, but its hull reportedly still is in good shape. The interior, however, is almost entirely gutted and would need millions in restoration to make the vessel usable again.

Designed to double as a transport ship during wartime and built to rigid U.S. Navy standards (the ship was partially funded by the U.S. government), the United States smashed the trans-Atlantic speed record on her maiden voyage from New York to England in 1952 -- crossing the ocean in just three days, 10 hours and 40 minutes. By comparison, Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 now makes the crossing in about six days.

Alas, within a few years of the United States' launch, the blossoming age of jet travel had made the ship's famed speed irrelevant. It last sailed in 1969.

There have been many proposals for the United States over the year, ranging from reviving it as an ocean liner to turning it into a floating hotel or museum.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Royal Caribbean Unveils New Perks For Passengers In Suites

Even as Royal Caribbean cuts back on service for passengers staying in standard cabins, it's upgrading its offerings for those staying in suites.

The mass-market line unveiled a laundry list of new perks for suite passengers that range from access to priority security lines at embarkation to complimentary laundry pressing on formal nights.

Notably, the new perks include complimentary 24-hour room service -- a once-standard amenity on Royal Caribbean ships that was recently eliminated across the fleet. While Royal Caribbean still offers complimentary room service to all cabins during the day, the line began charging a delivery fee in January for late-night room service to standard cabins -- a move that was criticized by many longtime Royal Caribbean fans.

Among other perks for passengers in suites unveiled today:

-- Priority check-in. Passengers booked in the Presidential Family, Royal, Royal Family, Owner’s and Grand suites will have access to dedicated security (where available) and check-in lines to help speed them onboard. Passengers booked in the top-tier Royal and Presidential Family suites will be personally welcomed by a senior officer at the cruise terminal and escorted onboard.

-- Elite keycards. Passengers in Grand Suites or higher category cabins will receive distinctive gold SeaPass cards that will tip off crew to their elite status.

-- Upgraded cabin amenities. Suites will come with complimentary slippers, luxury spa bathrobes, exclusive Vitality bathroom toiletries, Ghirardelli chocolates at turndown, plush duvets and a special pillow menu.

-- Extra nibbles. On the first formal evening of a cruise suite passengers will receive a pre-dinner cheese presentation, and on the second formal or final evening of the cruise, a ‘petits fours’ plate during turndown service.

-- Upgraded room service. In addition to complimentary 24-hour room service, passengers in suites will receive coffee and tea service throughout their cruise and have exclusive privilege to order from the main dining room’s full breakfast, lunch or dinner menus for in-room dining.

-- VIP access. Passengers booked in the Grand Suite and higher category cabins will receive an invitation to a private cocktail reception hosted by the Captain of their ship. They'll also be entitled to reserved VIP seating for shows in the main theater, priority bookings in the salon and spa, and priority access for tendering and shore excursion tickets.

-- VIP poolside seating. On Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, suite passengers will have reserved VIP seating poolside as well as at the ice shows in the Studio B venue.

-- Concierge Club access. On Radiance-, Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, suite passengers will receive a personal key to the private Concierge Club (staffed by a concierge who can make reservations for specialty restaurants, shore excursiosn, spa treatments and more).

-- Priority disembarkation and luggage service. Passengers will be able to leave the ship quickly through a priority departure and will receive complimentary valet luggage service (where their bags are automatically transferred to the airport).

As part of the new suites program, Royal Caribbean also is upgrading furnishings in all suites. The installation of new plush sofa-beds, deckchairs and tables, and state-of-the-art entertainment systems with flat-panel televisions and CD/DVD players will be completed by 2010.

Carnival Conquest Resumes Service With New Amenities And Theater

Carnival Cruise Line is taking all the right steps to add universal appeal to more of its cruise ships, and entice more families to cruise this year and beyond. Carnival added the 2,974-passenger Carnival Conquest to its list of cruise ships upgraded with new amenities following an extensive, multi-million-dollar renovation that included the addition of a new Circle “C” club for 12- to 14-year-olds and a massive LED screen on Lido Deck. Eighteen balconies were also added to existing ocean view staterooms. The Camp Carnival and Club O2 facilities for children and teens, respectively, were also updated.

Additionally, dozens of individual pieces of exercise equipment were replaced in the ship’s 14,500-square-foot Spa Carnival facility. Carnival Conquest is also the latest “Fun Ship” to offer bow-to-stern Wi-Fi access, enabling guests to use their laptop computers from any location on the ship, including their staterooms.

The 110,000-ton Carnival Conquest operates year-round seven-day Caribbean cruises departing Galveston every Sunday. In addition to seven-day western Caribbean cruises to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, the ship begins a new weeklong eastern Caribbean option Feb. 15, with calls at Key West, Freeport and Nassau. The Feb. 15 departure will be the first of 11 eastern Caribbean cruises this year.

Holland America Plans Italian Eateries On Four More Cruise Ships

Holland America is preparing to roll out Italian eateries on four more ships -- the Oosterdam, Veendam, Noordam and Amsterdam.

The line says it plans to duplicate the casual, family style Canaletto restaurant that it unveiled last summer on its newest ship, the Eurodam -- an eatery it says has been a big hit.

The new Italian restaurants, also to be called Canaletto, will be added during dry docks to the four ships over the next four months. As on the Eurodam, they will be located in a corner of the bigger Lido restaurant. Reservations will be encouraged but not required, and there will be no extra charge.

The eateries will serve pastas such as penne alla vodka and linguine frutti di marre and classical Italian meat dishes such as veal Milanese and osso bucco as well as Italian antipasti and desserts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

NCL To Sail From Port Canaveral To The Caribbean In 2010-2011

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) today announced that for the first time in more than 11 years, the company will homeport a ship seasonally at Port Canaveral, Florida beginning October 2010. The 1,936-passenger Norwegian Sun, purpose-built for Freestyle Cruising, will sail alternating seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral, departing every Saturday from October 9, 2010 through April 16, 2011.

“As part of our homeland cruising initiative, we are always looking for attractive ports in which to base our ships,” said Kevin Sheehan, NCL’s president and CEO. “By bringing Norwegian Sun to Port Canaveral, we are offering cruisers in Central Florida and to those vacationing in Orlando quick and easy access to Freestyle Cruising. In addition, Port Canaveral offers our guests a wide range of pre- and post-cruise packages with the ability to visit a number of family attractions.”

Norwegian Sun’s seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise will stop in Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; and Philipsburg, St. Maarten. The ship’s seven-day Western Caribbean will call in Cozumel, Mexico; Santo Tomás de Castilla, Guatemala; Belize City, Belize and Key West, Florida. Since there is no port repetition between the two itineraries, they can be easily combined to create a port-rich 14-day Caribbean tour.

These cruises go on sale Feb. 12, 2009. To book one of these new itineraries, visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Carnival Dream A True Family Cruise Ship

Carnival Cruise Line is marketing the Carnival Dream as a true family cruise ship, complete with more than 19,000 total square feet of space catering to children, tweens and teens. The Carnival Dream is equipped with expansive indoor and outdoor play areas and an enormous aqua park housing the cruise industry’s longest water slide, all meant to entertain the young ones while the parents get their own free cruise time.

In addition to modern facilities and the most dedicated space to families in the “Fun Ship” fleet, Carnival Dream’s kid-friendly amenities will include supervised programs for three age groups – Camp Carnival (ages 2-11), Circle “C” (12-14) and Club O2 (15-17) – offering a full schedule of morning-til-night activities organized by highly trained staff.

Slated to debut Sept. 21, 2009, Carnival Dream will further bolster Carnival’s distinction as the family cruise leader, carrying an estimated 625,000 children aboard its 22-vessel “Fun Ship” fleet – roughly half of the total number of kids carried by the entire North American cruise industry.

For more information on family cruising and Carnival Cruise Line, visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

AirTran Offers Chance To Cruise With John Mayer

This week is the last chance for you to enter the AirTran Airways John Mayer Sweepstakes promotion where the winner and a guest will be sent on the ultimate getaway, a cruise for two. The prize is a four-day, four-night Carnival cruise vacation to Mexico with musical artists John Mayer, Guster, O.A.R. and more, from March 27 - 31, 2009.

AirTran Airways will provide airfare to and from Los Angeles International Airport, near Port San Pedro in Los Angeles, where the Carnival cruise ship is leaving for its destination, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Participants must be members of AirTran Airways’ frequent flyer program, A+ Rewards, in order to be eligible for the sweepstakes.

“John Mayer is one of the hottest rock musicians in the nation, and AirTran Airways is proud to be a part of this exclusive concert experience,” said Tad Hutcheson, vice president of marketing and sales for AirTran Airways. “Our customers are important to us, and we are happy to help make their dreams come true with a trip of a lifetime aboard a luxury cruise ship.”

This is the second annual fan cruise hosted by John Mayer and will include two days at sea with nonstop music, contests, karaoke, theme nights and much more. Guests will spend their days at sea aboard Carnival’s newest and biggest ship, The Splendor, which includes four pools, a spa, full-service casino, 24-hour room service and 22 lounges and bars.

For more details about the John Mayer cruise, log onto from now until February 13 and register for your chance to win.

Adventure of the Seas Will Sail From Malaga In 2010

Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas, which has sailed year-round from San Juan since it launched in 2001, will reposition to Malaga, Spain, for five months in 2010. According to a Spanish-language press release put out jointly by Royal Caribbean and the City of Malaga, the Voyager-class ship will offer 25 five- and seven-night Mediterranean itineraries between June and November next year. The news was revealed at the International Tourism Show (FITUR) held in Madrid in early 2009.

Adventure of the Seas will sail out of Malaga from June 26 to November 28, 2010. From June 26 to October 9, it will offer 15 seven-night itineraries calling at Cagliari (Sardinia), Rome, Ajaccio (Corsica) and Palma de Mallorca. From October 9 to November 28, it will offer 10 five-night cruises, split between two itineraries -- one calling in Tenerife and Funchal, the other calling in Ajaccio and Villefranche.

Malaga is not a new homeport for Royal Caribbean. In fact, in fall 2009, sister ship Navigator of the Seas will offer six short Mediterranean cruises from the Spanish port. Royal Caribbean spokesperson Harrison Liu tells us that 2010 Caribbean deployments will not be finalized until mid-March. Until that time, there's no word on which ship, if any, will replace Adventure of the Seas in San Juan, or even whether the ship will spend the rest of 2010 in its usual Caribbean homeport.

The Caribbean Princess Gets A Makeover

Princess Cruises has just completed a major makeover of the Caribbean Princess -- a ship launched just four years ago.

In a three-week-long dry dock in the Bahamas, the line retro-fitted the 3,080-passenger Grand Class vessel with, among other things, a massive piazza-style atrium -- a feature that has been hugely popular on the line's three most recent ships (Crown Princess, Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess).

As on the newer vessels, the atrium has the air of a cafe-lined European square with plenty of "outdoor" seating. On one side is the International Cafe area, serving specialty coffees, fresh baked cookies and pastries, panini and tapas. Across the way is Vines, a wine bar offering wines by the glass, seafood, artisan meats and cheeses.

Princess also gave the Caribbean Princess one of the signature, adults-only Sanctuary deck-top areas found on its newer ships, as well as seven new suites and a more centrally located casino. Work also is nearly complete on a new Crown Grill steak and seafood restaurant.

Princess will be rolling out the popular amenities to several more of its older Grand Class ships, including the Golden Princess in May. The line also has added them to two older Grand Class ships, the Star Princess and Grand Princess.

Other changes to the Caribbean Princess during the dry dock include a new location for the sports court, a new Limelight boutique, new shore excursions and Captain's Circle desks, new Internet café and library, and the addition of flat-screen televisions in all cabins.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Cruise Ship Passengers Cut Back On Gambling

It isn't easy for someone who likes to gamble to walk away from a casino. But that's exactly what thousands of gambling-loving cruisers have been doing over the past few months, and it's having a material impact on the bottom line of some big cruise companies.

Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein told Wall Street analysts Thursday that onboard spending on the line's 21 ships is "meaningfully down," and about half of the decline is the result of less gambling in shipboard casinos.

By comparison, revenue from other traditional cruise ship profit centers such as shore excursion sales and onboard cell phone usage remains relatively strong, says Goldstein.

Also reporting a decline in gambling on ships Thursday was Dan Hanrahan, CEO of Celebrity Cruises. Both executives cite the economic downturn for the cutbacks by cruisers.

"Onboard revenue was a mixed bag in the fourth quarter," noted Hanrahan, who joined Goldstein in a conference call to discuss parent company Royal Caribbean's fourth quarter earnings. Spending on "beverage, shore excursion, spa and communication services held up well. Onboard shopping and gambling were off."

Gambling, it seems, is one of the first things vacationers are cutting as they try to slash their spending during the current economic downturn.

Disney Cruise Line Offers Special Attention To Infants And Toddlers

Disney Cruise Line is changing the way families cruise with their younger children. While most other cruise lines don’t want the younger cruisers on board, Disney is taking steps to ensure your youngest travelers are well taken care of. Families who want to travel with infants and toddlers on Disney Cruise Line will find it easier than ever thanks to a cruise industry-first service that delivers baby supplies directly to guest staterooms and a host of child-friendly offerings onboard the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder.

Beginning March 15, families preparing to sail on Disney Cruise Line with little ones will have access to an online service that allows them to order baby supplies in advance of their cruise and have them delivered to their stateroom. The new service is exclusive for Disney Cruise Line guests and provided by Babies Travel Lite, an online retailer offering more than 1,000 brand-name baby products including diapers, baby food, infant formula and specialty travel items.

By visiting, guests will be able to access a special section of the Babies Travel Lite Web site where they can create orders for familiar brands in quantities customized to the duration of their cruise.

“Disney Cruise Line prides itself on delivering a vacation experience that caters to every member of the family including our youngest cruisers,” said Tom Wolber, senior vice president of operations for Disney Cruise Line. “The new delivery service eliminates the challenges of packing for infant travel, while onboard conveniences simplify family travel for parents looking to relax during their cruise vacation.”

Departing from Port Canaveral, Fla., Disney Cruise Line offers three-, four- and seven-night itineraries to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Land/sea vacation packages that include a stay at Walt Disney World Resort are also available.