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, March 29, 2009

Royal Caribbean Past-Passenger Program Changes Angers Many

In a quietly posted change on Friday, Royal Caribbean has announced that it is paring back perks earned for membership in the Crown & Anchor Society (C&A), the line's past-passenger loyalty program.

The modifications to the program -- which, depending on level, rewards past cruisers with benefits like cruise discounts, priority embarkation, coupon booklets and use of the concierge lounge with free drinks -- have sparked a firestorm with past guests. Without a doubt, the most controversial of the changes, which are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2009, has been the line's decision to limit "Concierge Lounge" access to only those in the highest echelon of the C&A Society, the so-called Diamond-Plus members (25 or more RCI cruises). The change is as follows:

With the exception of the line's newest ships -- Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Independence of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas -- Diamond members (10 - 24 cruises with RCI) will no longer have special access to the concierge lounge, from which passengers can arrange shore excursions, spa treatments and specialty dining reservations, among other things. The lounge was also the setting for a nightly happy hour with free alcohol.

Instead, a special party will be held once per cruise for Diamond members featuring complimentary wine, champagne and hors d'oeuvres. Diamond-Plus members (25-plus cruises) will continue to have access to the concierge lounges on all ships. In the e-mail sent to C&A members, the line cited capacity issues -- the lounges were becoming unsustainably crowded -- as the reason for the change.

Cruise Lines Offer Special Rates For Police And Firefighters

Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises (joining Holland America who already offers the discount) are introducing new, special rates exclusively for police officers and firefighters on cruise vacations with the respective lines. Even in tough economic times, everyone deserves a vacation, but these folks probably deserve it even more as they are constantly watching over us to keep us safe, and able to live our lives they way we want.

Active employees of local, state or federal law enforcement agencies or fire departments in the U.S. now can book a Celebrity, Azamara or Royal Caribbean cruise vacation at fares up to 20 percent off the best prevailing rate on select sailings with each brand. Guests traveling in the same stateroom also are eligible to receive the special rate.

Police officers and firefighters interested in booking a cruise vacation at the new special rates will be asked to provide valid proof of employment (badge or police officer/firefighter ID card) when booking and upon boarding the ship.

Holland America Line Announces New Alaska Commemorative Dinner Night

Holland America Line is celebrating Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood with a new commemorative dinner menu offering the best of Alaska cuisine. The new menu will be featured on all Holland America 7 day Alaska cruises one night during each cruise this summer. The project is a result of both the anniversary and the new Signature of Excellence upgrades that are sweeping the ships. Holland America is famous for delicious and innovative menus laced throughout their dining options, and Executive chefs inducted into the prestigious Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, an international food and wine society.

Master Chef Rudi Sodamin researched Alaska’s culinary heritage and combined traditional foods with his own Signature of Excellence flair to create the cruise line’s commemorative menu. In addition, “Salmon 50 Ways” returns to the ships’ menu offering fresh, wild Alaska salmon in 50 different recipes over the week long cruise.

Served in the main dining room one evening, the menu incorporates Chef Sodamin’s own twist on traditional Alaska cuisine. For example, as an appetizer, he spikes a berry melange with a splash of whiskey. A Fairbanks Seafood Platter combines Alaskan prawns, salmon jerky, clams, smoked salmon and smoked halibut. For an Alaskan inspired salad, he adds smoked salmon to frissee lettuce, pear and fennel. Soup choices include Ketchikan Fisherman’s Chowder, Reindeer Sausage and Vegetable Chowder and Chilled Yukon Gold Vichyssoise.

Guests have a choice of nine different entrees including Razor Clams, Bay Scallops and Manila Clams over Noodles; Grilled Salmon with Endive and Caramelized Orange Zests; Grilled Venison with Wild Mushrooms and Alaskan King Crab Cobb Salad.

Appropriate for a celebration dinner, decadent desserts adorn the menu. Highlights include an Alaska Dessert Sampler of chocolate mousse in a chocolate shell, maple cheesecake and apple buckle with sugared berries. A cruise favorite, Gold Rush Baked Alaska is a decadent combination of chocolate ice cream surrounded with vanilla sponge cake and coated in meringue dusted with edible gold. It comes with a choice of topping: Peppermint Hot Fudge, Raspberry Chocolate Swirl or Praline Crunch.

To inquire about a Holland America Alaska cruise this summer starting at only $399 per person, visit or give us a call at 1-800-788-2545.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cruise Fans Nationwide Gear Up For Night Of Carnival-Sponsored 'House Parties'

Know any die-hard Carnival fans? Ask them what they're doing on Sunday, March 29, and see if they mention anything about going to a Carnival-themed "house party."

More than 1,000 of the parties are in the works nationwide -- all scheduled to happen around the same time on the same day -- and more than 15,000 people are expected to participate.

"We know that the core Carnival guest is very spirited, very social, (and) very outgoing," says Carnival marketing chief Jim Berra, who has spearheaded planning for the massive, Carnival-sponsored event. "We thought that (a nationwide party) was a natural fit."

Berra says more than 8,000 Carnival fans applied to host one of the parties at their homes. In the last few weeks, each of the people selected to be hosts -- dubbed Fun Directors by the line -- has been mailed a Carnival Fun Kit of Carnival-themed party supplies that includes Carnival napkins, cups, balloons and streamers; a Fun Director t-shirt and button; an official "Get the Party Started" spinner game; crazy straws and temporary tattoos; a karaoke DVD; and prize medals.

For Carnival fans, the night of 1,000 parties will, no doubt, be a chance to catch up and kick back with friends and family. For fun-focused Carnival, the parties are a new way to spread the "Fun Ship" gospel.

Carnival fans "are the best ambassadors to explain what makes the Carnival experience so special and unique," says Berra.

Berra notes the evenings aren't going to be scripted. Each host can take the party supplies and do what they want with them. "We're letting our hosts have a lot of latitude," he says. Like the line's ships, "it's not a one-size-fits-all approach to fun."

Of course, adds Berra, "obviously, we're doing this to grow awareness and raise perception about the Carnival brand."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Port Everglades Gets Ready For Oasis Of The Seas

Port Everglades unveiled plans to give its largest cruise terminal an extreme makeover as it prepares to receive the largest cruise ship in the world.

Port Everglades Director Phillip Allen announced Wednesday at the annual Cruise Shipping Miami Conference in Miami that they will triple the size of Cruise Terminal 18 in time for the arrival of Royal Caribbean International’s 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas.

“There may be bigger terminals that service two ships at the same time, but Terminal 18 is being constructed specifically to handle one giant Oasis class ship at a time. Guests will be treated to the Oasis experience as soon as they enter the terminal,” Allen says.

Terminal 18 was already the largest of Port Everglades’ 12 cruise terminals with 67,500 square feet of interior space. When construction is completed in November 2009, the terminal will have 240 thousand square feet of space on two floors.

In the new Terminal 18, guests will debark and embark through entirely different sections of the building, permitting the simultaneous debarking of guests from the ship while embarking guests are processed and seated inside the terminal waiting to board the ship. The goal is that once the ship is cleared for embarkation, the transition for guests to go from curbside to the ship can be completed in 15 minutes. For those leaving the ship, there will be 22 booths for U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel to process guests after their cruise.

The terminal will also be equipped with two new “switch-back” passenger loading bridges which will replace the current telescoping bridges. The “switch-back” bridges will provide cruise ship passengers an easy transition from the terminal to the ship.

Since welcoming its first cruise ship in 1931, Port Everglades has grown to be the third busiest cruise port in the world with more than 3 million passengers expected this year.

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NCL's Largest Freestyle Cruising Ship To Offer Range Of Accommodations

Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Cruise Line's largest Freestyle Cruising ship to date, set for delivery in May 2010, will feature the biggest ship-within-a-ship suite complex at sea, comprising 60 suites and villas on two private decks at the top of the ship. Guests staying in one of these suites will have exclusive access to the Courtyard Villa complex featuring a pool, two whirlpools, gym, saunas, sundeck, indoor/outdoor dining, bar/nightclub and concierge lounge. Always an innovator, Norwegian pioneered the ship-within-a-ship concept on its Jewel class ships and is now taking that vision to epic proportions on the 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic.

For the budget-conscious traveler, Norwegian also unveiled a new category of inside staterooms - The Studios. A first in design for the cruise industry, these ultra-modern staterooms maximize space and feature a large, round window that looks out into the corridor, along with customizable color changing light effects that mirror different stages of the day or the guest's mood, including a love setting for those romantic nights at sea. The Studios occupy two decks and have exclusive key-card access to the Living Room, a two-story shared private lounge. The area is a two-floor lounge which features a concierge, bar, room service, two large TV screens, and comfy seating for hanging out, reading a book or just enjoying a cocktail before dinner.

For the first time in its 43-year history, Norwegian is also introducing spa balcony, deluxe balcony staterooms and suites located within the spa with complimentary access to the ship's ultra-relaxing thermal suite and invigorating and state-of-the-art fitness center. For families traveling on Norwegian Epic, NCL has placed the majority of its family-friendly staterooms, both deluxe balcony and balcony staterooms, many that connect, on two decks within close proximity to an expanded, biggest ever Kids Crew facility for added convenience.

These specialized accommodations complement the ship's New Wave Inside, Balcony and Deluxe Balcony staterooms announced last year. These New Wave staterooms feature curved walls and lines creating a modern and chic experience. Norwegian has maximized the living space with a bathroom that is completely unique with a separate shower stall, separate water closet and a modern vanity top sink. Norwegian Epic is also a balcony-rich ship, with all of its outside staterooms featuring private balconies.

For more information on any of NCL's products, please visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Carnival Plans Switch To Seattle As Hub For Alaska Cruises

Add Seattle to the list of industry giant Carnival's home ports.

The world's biggest cruise operator today announced the northwestern city would be its new base for Alaska cruises starting in 2010. The line, which sends a single ship to Alaska each year, will in turn be dropping Vancouver and Whittier, Alaska as its hubs for the region.

Carnival says it has assigned the 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit to sail its new Alaska routings in 2010 -- the same ship it is sending to the region this year.

Carnival has been cruising in Alaska for about a decade, but until now its voyages in the state always have begun and ended in Vancouver, Whittier or Seward, Alaska. The move to Seattle is in keeping with the line's renewed focus on cruise hubs that are easy for Americans to reach by car.

The Spirit will sail 17 cruises to Alaska out of Seattle between May 10 and August 31, 2010. The ship will call in the Alaskan ports of Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan as well as at Victoria Island, British Columbia. It'll also spend a day cruising in Alaska's famed Tracy Arm Fjord.

Vancouver isn't entirely off the scheduled for 2010. Prior to the start of the new Seattle program, the Spirit will operate a single six-day Inside Passage voyage that starts in Vancouver and ends in Seattle departing May 5, 2010. It'll also sail a single seven-day Glacier Bay cruise from Seattle that ends in Vancouver on Sept. 7, 2010.

Disney Cruise Line Debuts New Cruise Ships

Always at the forefront of the travel industry, Disney Cruise Line announced the names of the company’s two new cruise ships. Staying with the magical theme that made them famous, Disney is naming the two ships the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy. As always, the ships are designed to accommodate family cruising, and ensures Disney will have the additional capacity it needs for its growing cruise business.

“Last week, steel cutting began on our next two Disney cruise ships. Today I’m pleased to announce their names,” said Robert A. Iger, Disney president and CEO. “The Disney Dream will set sail in 2011, while the Disney Fantasy will hit the high seas in 2012.”

Similar to the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, the names were chosen to celebrate Disney’s unique heritage of creating enchanting places and stories where dreams really do come true.

“The names are very telling of our brand and are part of our history,” said Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line and New Vacation Operations. “Disney is known for making dreams come true, and for creating worlds of fantasy that go beyond the imagination. The names are a natural choice for our ships.”

As noted, Disney Cruise Line began construction on the new ships with a steel cutting ceremony at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. The first piece of steel cut was part of the art deco inspired scrollwork that will grace the bow of the ships. Similar to the scrollwork on the existing Disney Cruise Line ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, the intricate pattern is reminiscent of the classic ocean liners of the 1930s, with added touches of Disney whimsy.

The new ships will be purpose built with families in mind, and specially designed areas and activities for each member of the family to allow for both quality time together and wonderful individual experiences. The focus is to provide a setting where families can reconnect, adults can recharge and kids can immerse themselves in worlds only Disney can create.

The expansion will more than double the passenger capacity for Disney Cruise Line. Each ship will have 1,250 staterooms and will each be 128,000 tons.

For more information on the Disney products, please visit or call us 1-800-788-2545.

Monday, March 09, 2009

New Carnival Promotion Provides Cash Back Of Up To $240 Per Stateroom

Carnival Cruise Lines is launching a new promotion offering “cash back” of up to $240 per stateroom for a wide range of “Fun Ship” departures this summer.

The new promotion is available in conjunction with virtually all three- to eight-day summer departures, including voyages to the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico from 14 convenient North American homeports. Bookings must be made between March 9 – May 10, 2009, to qualify for the promotion, which is valid with the line’s “Fun Select” advance purchase discount fares.

The cash back option is provided in the form of a shipboard credit that can be redeemed once on board. Guests will receive a $100 per stateroom shipboard credit on three- and four-day cruises; $150 per stateroom shipboard credit on five-day voyages; and $240 per stateroom shipboard credit for six-, seven- and eight-day sailings.

The shipboard credit is automatically applied on guests’ Sail & Sign accounts when they board their cruise and can be redeemed toward shore excursions, spa treatments, supper club reservations, gift shop items and a variety of other shipboard purchases. Any unused funds at the end of the cruise will be returned to guests on debarkation day in the form of a check.

“A ‘Fun Ship’ cruise is already an affordable vacation option for today’s value-conscious consumers and this new promotion – which provides guests with cash back that can be used toward any shipboard purchase -- makes the value of a Carnival cruise even more outstanding,” said Lynn Torrent, Carnival’s senior vice president of sales and guest services.

The new promotion is capacity controlled and applies to new individual bookings for stateroom categories 4A to 11. Guests must request fare code OCB when making the reservation.

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

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Whales Force Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship To Abandon Port Call In Maine

Call it the revenge of the whales.

The Herald Gazette of Rockland, Maine reports Royal Caribbean has canceled a much-anticipated June call in the budding port town due to a new federal right whale regulation.

The news outlet says Royal Caribbean told officials last Friday that the 2,446-passenger Grandeur of the Seas wouldn't be visiting as planned because of a recently announced federal restriction that limits vessels to no greater than 10 knots (11.5 miles) per hour in a protective area off Cape Cod. The ship would have had to transit the area to reach the town.

The Gazette says local businesses in Rockland and Camden, Maine had been planning a big welcome for what was to be one of the largest influxes of tourists to the area ever.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the new restriction in December as a way to reduce ship strikes with right whales. Only around 350 northern right whales exist and ship strikes are one of the leading causes of death for the animals.

The restriction runs from March 1 to July 31.

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Carnival Plans 'Drainpipe' Water Slide On Next Cruise Ship

Leave it to the "Fun Ship" folks at Carnival to come up with yet another way to fly down a water slide on a cruise ship.

Dubbed the DrainPipe, the company's latest watery innovation will be comprised of a 104-foot-long enclosed water slide that ends in a giant blue funnel that will swirl you around like you are going down a drain.

The DrainPipe will be one of a record four major water slides on the top deck of the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream -- the line's new ship debuting in September. It'll be in an area called WaterWorks, pictured above, that also will feature a four-deck-high, 303-foot-long enclosed corkscrew water slide –- the longest at sea –- and twin 80-foot-long racing slides. The area also will have squirting fountains, splash zones and dump buckets.

Carnival has been rolling out similar WaterWorks waterpark areas -- sans the Drainpipe -- on its eight Fantasy class ships over the past year during extensive drydocks to overhaul the ships.

As previously announced, the 3,646-passenger Dream also will boast cantilevered whirlpools that extend out over the ship’s beam, a larger spa than previous Carnival ships and other innovations for the line.

The Dream debuts on Sept. 21 with three 12-day Mediterranean cruises round-trip from Rome (Civitavecchia) before crossing the Atlantic to New York and the Caribbean.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Norwegian Cruise Line Unveils Images Of Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Cruise Line today unveiled the first images of its new 153,000-gross ton, 4,200-passenger Norwegian Epic, the company’s largest and most innovative Freestyle Cruising ship to date. Currently under construction at STX Europe in St. Nazaire, France, the contemporary, balcony-rich, 19-deck ship will be 1,068 feet long, 133 feet wide, with a draft of 28.5 feet when completed in May 2010.

Cruises are scheduled to go on sale to the public this spring. NCL plans to unveil additional details about Norwegian Epic, including the line’s signature hull artwork, in the coming months. To view renderings and register for news, visit

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is the innovator in cruise travel with a 42-year history of breaking the boundaries of traditional cruising, most notably with the introduction of Freestyle Cruising which has revolutionized the industry by allowing guests more freedom and flexibility.

Today, NCL has the youngest fleet in the industry with 11 purpose-built Freestyle Cruising ships, providing guests the opportunity to enjoy a relaxed cruise vacation on the newest, most contemporary ships at sea.

For more information on booking the Norwegian Epic or any NCL products, please visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Royal Caribbean: 'No Assurance' We'll Be Able To Finance Oasis Of The Seas

With just nine months to go until Royal Caribbean is scheduled to take delivery of the world's largest cruise ship, the much-ballyhooed Oasis of the Seas, financing to pay for the $1.2 billion vessel remains in doubt, the company said Tuesday in a regulatory filing.

"Although we believe that we will be able to (finance the ship), there can be no assurance that we will be able to do so or that we will be able to do so on acceptable terms," the company warned in its annual 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The 5,400-passenger vessel, which has been under construction in Finland for several years, is scheduled to be delivered to Royal Caribbean in November.

Royal Caribbean noted it has commitments for government financing guarantees from Finnvera, the export credit agency of Finland, for 80% of the financed amount of Oasis and a sister ship also under construction, Allure of the Seas. But it has yet to line up actual financing for the vessels.

"The disruption in the credit markets has resulted in a lack of liquidity worldwide (that) may affect our ability to successfully raise capital or to do so on acceptable terms," the company warned.

Royal Caribbean noted credit rating agencies Standard & Poors and Moody's both have lowered its credit rating over the past year, and cash flow at the company is under pressure due to the decrease in consumer cruise spending as a result of the current economic climate.

"These factors may prevent us from having sufficient available capital or financing to meet our needs or to do so on acceptable terms," the company said. "There is no assurance that our credit ratings will not be lowered further. The lowering of our credit ratings may increase our cost of financing and can make it more difficult for us to access the financial markets."

Windstar Cruises Brings Concierge Shore Excursions To Europe

As if Windstar Cruises yachting was luxurious enough already, the now have an exclusive Concierge Collection of Shore Excursions designed to appeal to guests who are looking for extraordinary experiences in Europe. It takes a special type of cruise guest to embark on a sailing ship adventure, and these new excursions are made to satisfy their needs for something different once they go shore side in Windstar’s fabulous collection of ports.

“We designed Windstar’s Concierge Collection to appeal to our discerning guests who are looking for exclusive, unique excursions that celebrate the destinations we visit in a special way,” said Diane Moore, president, Windstar Cruises.

Windstar offers 28 Concierge Collection excursions in Corsica, Croatia, Greece, France, Italy, Monaco, Slovenia and Spain and are limited to small groups of 6 to 25 guests. The excursions are priced from $109 to $2,299 per person and invovle everything from helicopter tours to cave trekking to cooking classes.

For more information on Windstar Cruises or these unique concierge shore excursions, visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Princess Cruises Teams With Crafts Publisher Klutz For Kids Program

Princess Cruises is strengthening its onboard youth programs by teaming with Klutz®, an innovative publisher of award-winning activity books for children. The joint effort will enable families to engage in high-quality arts and crafts projects for younger cruisers while sailing with their families. The entire fleet is taking advantage of the Klutz collaboration to develop custom-built kits designed to engage young cruisers in fun and creative activities. Princess also partners with the California Science Center to deliver entertaining interactive science activities for children aboard Princess ships, as well as Pete’s Pals Program helping kids learn about endangered species..

Children sailing aboard Princess ships will have the opportunity to participate in up to seven Klutz activities during their cruise. Kids will be able to build their own storybooks; create lanyard bracelets; make “picture tags” for charm bracelets, luggage tags, or pet I.D.s; create fuzzy masterpieces with Velvet Art; craft paper flowers, weave friendship bracelets; or make Thumb Doodle thumbprint art.

The new Klutz activities are offered for young passengers of all ages, and are scheduled during the youth center’s regular activities or during the ship’s family fun fair in the atrium, where all family members can join in the creative fun.