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, April 26, 2009

Carnival Dream Is Beginning To Take Shape In Italy

With five months until the debut of what will be the largest “Fun Ship” ever constructed — the new 130,000-ton Carnival Dream is beginning to take shape at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.

The 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream, which will be based at Port Canaveral, Fla., will offer a host of innovations, including the largest spa and children’s facilities in the fleet, a new indoor/outdoor entertainment area offering magnificent ocean vistas, and the longest water slide at sea, part of the sprawling Carnival WaterWorks aqua park. A variety of accommodation categories – including a two-bathroom configuration that will be ideal for families, as well as “cove” balcony staterooms closer to the water line – will be available, as well.

Following a series of three 12-day European voyages beginning in Sept. 21, 2009, Carnival Dream will reposition to New York for a pair of eight-day cruises before launching year-round seven-day Caribbean service from Port Canaveral, Fla., Dec. 12, 2009.

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

Princess Cruises Ship Remodel To Be Followed Through Twitter

Princess Cruises has come up with a great Twitter idea to chronicle its latest ship refurbishing. In the most complete ship remodeling to date for Princess, the Golden Princess will be the subject a daily photo journal which can be followed on Twitter. The daily photo journal of the ship’s transformation is already in place, and the online posts will chronicle the dramatic changes throughout the ship during its nearly three-week drydock at Victoria Shipyards in British Columbia. Be a part of history while getting the inside scoop on how a ship can be transformed and modernized to meet the newest public demands of cruising.

The journal has launched at and will run through May 5, when the ship sets sail again with its new features, including a new piazza-style atrium, an adults-only Sanctuary, a Movies Under the Stars poolside movie screen, a new Crown Grill steak and seafood restaurant, and a variety of other enhancements.

Twitter users will receive a daily “tweet” about the latest construction progress after they follow an easy sign up process and elect to follow Princess at

Royal Caribbean To Expand Cruise Capacity In Tampa

Royal Caribbean has unveiled its plan for short cruises to the Caribbean in 2010 and 2011, and it includes more capacity in Tampa.

The line announced it will have five ships sailing voyages of five or fewer nights in the region for the 2010-2011 season and will offer 20 different short cruise itineraries.

The schedule will include:

-- An enhanced and expanded deployment in Tampa. The 2,501-passenger Radiance of the Seas will begin short cruises out of the city in the fall of 2010, taking over seasonal winter sailings from the smaller, older Grander of the Seas. Radiance of the Seas’ itineraries will include a four-night sailing calling at Cozumel, Mexico, and a five-night sailing that adds Costa Maya.

-- Alternating ships in Fort Lauderdale. The Grandeur of the Seas will reposition to Fort Lauderdale to offer short cruises during the summer and fall of 2010, after which the larger Navigator of the Seas will take over short cruises in the market.

The Grandeur of the Seas will sail four- and five-night Western Caribbean itineraries with calls at Key West, Cozumel, Costa Maya, George Town and CocoCay. The Navigator of the Seas sailings, which start in November 2010, also will be four- and five-night trips but with some different itineraries. On one of its five-night itineraries that depart Mondays, Navigator will call at the new port of Falmouth, Jamaica, and Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private beach resort on the north Haitian coast. Other ports of call will include George Town, Cozumel, Belize City, and Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

-- Continued sailings out of Miami and Port Canaveral. The line's Majesty of the Seas and Monarch of the Seas will continue their current schedule of year-round, three- and four-night sailings to the Bahamas from the ports. Calls include Nassau, CocoCay, and Costa Maya.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oasis of the Seas: Financing Secure For New Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has announced that it has commitments for $1.05 billion, or 80 percent, of the contract price for the world's largest cruise ship, the 220,000-ton, 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas. The remaining 20 percent is being paid through an arrangement between RCCL and the shipyard, STX Europe.

Royal Caribbean was negotiating with the Finnish government to secure a stronger loan agreement. And indeed, a better arrangement has been reached. Finnvera, an export credit agency owned by the Finnish government, will now guarantee 95 percent of the $1.05 billion. In the previous arrangement, only 80 percent was guaranteed.

Moreover, where previously the Finnish government was simply guaranteeing the loans, it will now provide actual funding for 40 percent of the $1.05 billion. Two Swedish banks and one French bank will each provide 20 percent. Topi Vesteri, executive vice president of Finnvera, tells us that it's been over a decade since the Finnish government put direct funding in an export credit agreement. But with the current financial crisis, Finland has set up a temporary scheme for directing funding of export credit transactions.

While the agreement is subject to customary closing procedures, Vesteri notes, "Everyone is committed, banks, Finnvera, RCCL." The new arrangement, however, does not include Allure of the Seas, financing for which will be dealt with at a later date.

Oasis of the Seas will debut in December. For more information, visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Travel Firm Plans Cruise To Mark Anniversary Of Titanic Disaster

A British firm has begun taking reservations for a trans-Atlantic cruise from Southampton, England to New York that will commemorate -- and partially re-create -- the fateful sailing of the legendary ship in 1912.

A source says the agency has chartered British line Fred Olsen’s Balmoral for a voyage scheduled for April 2012 (exactly 100 years after the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage).

The sailing will follow the Titanic's original route westward and include a memorial service on the morning of April 15, 2012 in the exact location where the Titanic went down. The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912.

Seatrade notes organizers plan to sail with 1,309 paying passengers - the same number that sailed on the Titanic -- and serve food that matches the original voyage. Period entertainment also is in the works.

Complaints Prompt Royal Caribbean To Reverse Course On Cutbacks

Last month some of Royal Caribbean's most loyal customers -- Diamond members of its Crown & Anchor Loyalty Program -- took to the barricades, so to speak, after the line cut back on a beloved perk: Access to a private concierge lounge on ships. Members flooded the company with complaints, and some even called for a boycott, vowing to take their cruise business elsewhere.

Now, in no small part due to the revolutionary fervor, Royal Caribbean is at least partially reversing course. In a letter sent to Diamond members this past week, Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein acknowledged "considerable unhappiness" over the change and announced the line would restore many of the lost benefits that come with access to the concierge lounge.

"While we knew the reaction would be negative, it has been more negative then we anticipated," Goldstein noted. But "we believe one of our strengths that inspires such loyalty is our ability to learn from others and especially from our Crown & Anchor customers."

Citing the feedback gleaned from the complaints, Goldstein announced the line would restore a nightly private cocktail party for the group that includes free wine and champagne -- considered one of the top benefits of access to the Concierge Lounge. Unlike in the past, however, mixed drinks will not be free but will be discounted by 25%, he said.

The cocktail parties will take place in one of the many bars and lounges on the various Royal Caribbean ships, not in the Concierge Lounge, which as per last month's announcement will be reserved for the higher level Diamond Plus members of the Crown & Anchor Society.

"The feedback we have received from Diamond members (on the lost access to the Concierge Lounge) fall primarily into one of the three following categories: preserving the social aspect -- the ability to meet and mingle with other members; maintaining free or reduced price drinks; and, access to concierge-type services for ice show tickets and other activities."

To address the last issue, Goldstein announced the line would offer Diamond members a private continental breakfast in the morning in a room where a crew member would be on hand to provide concierge-like services such as arranging ice show tickets.

"We constantly strive to find the right balance, so our product evolves in ways that our guests, especially our most loyal guests, are comfortable with," Goldstein added. "Our ratings and most communications we receive indicate that the balancing is working. However, occasionally we stumble and when we do we try to react quickly."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oasis Of The Seas Brings Broadway Musical "Hairspray" To Cruises

The latest detail to sneak out about the 220,000-ton, 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas: The largest and most innovative cruise ship ever built will feature a production of the Tony-award-winning musical "Hairspray," the hugely popular musical comedy starring "pleasantly plump" teenager Tracy Turnblad, who takes on dual duties as local dance show star and spokesperson for racial integration.

The musical will be the first version of a Broadway show staged by Royal Caribbean, as well as one of a few legitimate Broadway productions currently being offered at sea (NCL has "Smokey Joe's Cafe"). Royal Caribbean declined to comment on details of the show.

You may remember the original version of "Hairspray," a film written and directed by the provocatively pencil-moustached John Waters. The movie quickly rose to cult status, with its blend of campy humor and commentary on race relations in the early 1960's. The film was adapted into a Broadway play in 2002, before being adapted back into a film in 2007 starring John Travolta in fat-suit and drag.

Staging an actual Broadway show on a cruise ship -- rather than the "Broadway-esque revue" or "Broadway-style extravaganza" typical to cruising -- is almost unheard of. In the 1970's and 1980's, Norwegian Cruise Line brought Broadway productions to SS Norway, including versions of "Hello Dolly" and "A Chorus Line." These days, Norwegian Jade features a staging of the Tony-award-winning "Smokey Joe's Cafe." And as Broadway shows are typically much longer than the stage shows cruise passengers experience at sea, it's likely that RCI's version of "Hairspray" will be shortened. The production will take place at the Opal Theater, the ship's main entertainment venue, and with just 1,380 seats -- for a ship that carries 5,400 passengers -- tickets may be necessary.

For folks not into stories told through huge song-and-dance numbers, Oasis of the Seas boasts numerous other entertainment options, including Cirque du Soleil-style water acrobatics at the AquaTheater, an outdoor area with stadium seating surrounding an 18-feet-deep pool; a two-deck dance lounge called Dazzles; the largest casino afloat, complete with a gaming museum; a zip-line; two surf simulators; two rock-climbing walls; and a free-standing stand-up comedy joint.

NCL Offers A Seven-Hour Backstage Ship Tour

Norwegian Cruise Line has launched a shipboard backstage tour, similar to a program Princess Cruises introduced last year. The NCL version is called Behind the Scenes and is available on all NCL ships, with the exception of the Norwegian Majesty.

NCL crewmembers take passengers to the galley to see the chefs at work preparing meals; the food storage areas; the theater's backstage, with a stop in the wardrobe room (to see the glittery costumes used in stage productions); the laundry areas; and the highlight - the bridge, for a meet-and-greet with the ship's captain (you also get to meet other officers along the way). Price is $55 for two hours.

But wait, there's more: An enhanced seven-hour tour (yes, seven hours), adds a sushi-making demonstration and sake tasting, a photo of the passenger group taken in the bridge, a Lavazza coffee, pre-dinner cocktails in one of the ship's lounges, and dinner with a glass of wine in Cagney's Steakhouse specialty restaurant, all for a price tag of $150.

NCL will do the tours once per cruise on a sea day. Guests wishing to book should check with guest reception on the ship.

Celebrity Cruises Solstice Called The New Benchmark In Design

Celebrity Cruises has won another recognition as a pacesetter in the cruise industry, this time in cruise ship design. Media folks reviewing and sailing on the new Celebrity Solstice are using terms like dazzling, stunning, and in a word, wow, to describe this super work of art.
Solstice is also the talk of the town among the architecture and design community.

The prestigious International Interior Design Association (IIDA) put Celebrity Solstice front and center in an installment of its “Pioneering Design Lecture Series” in New York focusing on influential professionals in the hospitality, fashion, and theater arts design arena. Among the designers invited to participate were noted hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany, who created Celebrity Solstice’s Grand Epernay main restaurant with gleaming crystal wine tower, the inviting, casual Oceanview Café and Bar, and the Napa Valley-inspired Tuscan Grille steakhouse; Francesca Bucci and Hans Galutera of BG Studio International, who led the design of Celebrity Solstice’s elegant “Murano” specialty restaurant and four of the ship’s chic bars and lounges; and Celebrity Cruises’ AVP of Newbuilding & Design Kelly Gonzalez, whose team headed up the design of the ship’s Mediterranean-influenced “Blu” specialty restaurant. Each participated in a panel discussion about the history of ocean liner design, which evolved to how “Celebrity’s Solstice Class has become the new benchmark in the industry,” according to the IIDA New York Chapter.

Celebrity Cruises offers comfortably sophisticated, upscale cruise experiences with highly personalized service, exceptional dining, and extraordinary attention to detail. Celebrity sails in Alaska, California, Canada/New England, the Caribbean, Europe, Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, the Pacific Coast, Panama Canal and South America. The line also offers unique cruisetour vacations in Alaska, Canada, Europe and South America. Noted for four of the top 10 “Top Cruise Ships in the World” in the large-ship category, as voted by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler (February 2009 readers’ poll), Celebrity’s fleet – including the new Celebrity Solstice – will be joined by Celebrity Equinox this year, Celebrity Eclipse in 2010, a fourth Solstice-class ship in 2011, and a fifth in 2012.

For more information on the Celebrity fleet, visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Holland America Introduces Adventurer Cruises In Alaska

Holland America Line has introduced a new twist to cruising in Alaska, 14-day Alaskan Adventurer cruises on its flagship ms Amsterdam. The Amsterdam will cruise roundtrip from Seattle and include a call at Anchorage for the first time by any major cruise line. The cruise itinerary will provide guests with a full day and evening in Alaska’s major city. The Amsterdam will also call at Homer and Kodiak, two new and less frequented ports for guests to discover on a roundtrip cruise.

The new itinerary reduces the cruise line’s overall 2010 Alaska deployment by 10 sailings or about 11,000 guests. The 10 new 14-day sailings replace 20 7-day sailings between Vancouver and Seward, Alaska.

“The new Alaskan Adventurer itinerary is a great new offering in Holland America’s Alaska cruise schedule,” said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales, and guest programs. “It provides a longer itinerary choice - one that lets guests experience far more of Alaska’s grandeur while enjoying the ease of a roundtrip cruise. We anticipate many guests will opt for a longer cruise that includes more glacier viewing and ports of call.”

The 14-day Alaskan Adventurer cruises depart roundtrip from Seattle May 17 through September 6, 2010. The Amsterdam sails the scenic Inside Passage, highlighted by cruising Tracy Arm fjord with its magnificent twin Sawyer Glaciers. The ship also cruises by Alaska’s mighty Hubbard Glacier in Yakutat Bay - the largest glacier in North America. Historic ports of call include Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka, Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak, Juneau and Victoria, BC.

Cruise-only fares start at US$1,899 per person, double occupancy for the Amsterdam’s 14-day Alaskan Adventurer sailings. Alaska cruises will be open for booking beginning April 10.

For more information on Holland America Line cruises, please visit us at or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Carnival To Finally Roll Out 'Flexible Dining' Fleetwide

It wasn't long ago that Carnival executives would scoff at the idea of eat-when-you-want dining programs on ships. Fixed dinner seatings were at the core of the cruise ship experience, they would argue.

But now even Carnival is rolling out "flexible dining" across its fleet, belatedly following in the footsteps of Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess, Holland America and Royal Caribbean.

Carnival announced late Wednesday that the Your Choice Dining program that it has been testing on the Carnival Legend and Carnival Liberty since last year will be expanded fleetwide by 2010.

Under the program, which the line says was a big hit during the tests, Carnival passengers have the choice of either traditional dining at a fixed seating or flexible dining.

Carnival says it will have the new program up by the end of April on eight ships: the Carnival Legend, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Sensation, Carnival Paradise, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Elation and Carnival Pride. The program then will roll out on the Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Spirit by mid-June before debuting on the Carnival Dream (late September), Carnival Ecstasy (mid-October) and Carnival Glory (mid-December).

The remaining nine Carnival ships -- Carnival Fascination, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Destiny, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Valor, Carnival Splendor, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Victory -- will be configured for flexible dining by the summer 2010.

The line says the slow roll out is necessary to give it time to make modifications to dining room table configurations on the ships.