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, May 31, 2009

Princess Cruises Trying To Attract More Movie Buffs

Princess Cruises Movies Under The Stars is getting a new twist with the introduction of celebrated film critic and historian Leonard Maltin bringing passengers yet another new way to experience movies onboard with an exclusive Leonard Maltin Movie Club. Debuting fleetwide, the new club gives passengers the opportunity to join fellow film buffs to discuss specially selected motion pictures during their cruise.

With this program, Princess will showcase a new film chosen by Mr. Maltin each month. Passengers will not only be able to enjoy the open-air poolside Movies Under the Stars viewing experience, but will also be able to gather for a thought-provoking discussion to gain greater perspective on the film.

In addition, passengers can catch up on many popular and classic films with a new Leonard Maltin Movie Channel available in staterooms.

The new partnership celebrates the fifth anniversary of Movies Under the Stars, which first debuted on Caribbean Princess. The giant Times Square-style movie screens are now available on eight ships, and will be added to most other ships in the Princess fleet by 2011.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

New Passport Rules For Cruisers Start June 1st

Just when you thought you finally understood which travel documents you need for which vacation destinations, the U.S. State Department is implementing the third and final phase of its Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). On June 1, 2009, passport rules for travel to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and Caribbean nations will change one last time.

Will the new rules impact your cruise plans? Here's the low-down on the new rules:

Beginning June 1, 2009, all U.S. citizens will need to carry a U.S. passport -- or equivalent -- for any travel by land, sea or air, anywhere outside of the United States. A driver's license or birth certificate will no longer be valid. If you don't have a passport, valid "equivalents" are U.S. Passport Cards and Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST). Passport Cards are Department of Homeland Security-issued limited use passports reduced down to wallet card size, valid for land and sea travel only between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

But wait -- some cruise travelers still have a loophole! Passengers on any "closed-loop sailing" -- an itinerary that begins and ends at the same U.S. port -- are not required to carry a passport or other WHTI-compliant document in order to re-enter the U.S. They will, however, still need to present a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver's license) and proof of citizenship (a birth certificate, certificate of naturalization or similar documentation). So if you're sailing to the Caribbean, roundtrip from Miami, a driver's license and birth certificate will suffice, but if your Panama Canal cruise departs from Miami and returns to Los Angeles, you'll need a passport.

To recap: Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and Caribbean nations now require the same documentation as other foreign countries, and you'll need a passport for one-way cruise itineraries or roundtrip travel from non-U.S. ports. And don't forget -- if you're cruising to the U.S. state of Alaska, but the ship departs from or arrives in Vancouver, you'll need a passport. However, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are U.S. territories, so you don't need a passport for your roundtrip San Juan sailing.

Even though many cruisers may be exempt from carrying a passport, we strongly encourage everyone to register for one. Why? You'll need this kind of documentation should your travel plans go awry, such as you miss the ship and have to fly to your first port of call, or there's a problem that requires you to debark the cruise and fly home mid-trip. You don't want to be stranded in Mexico, Barbados, Jamaica or any other foreign port without the appropriate documentation. Nor do you want to give up your entire vacation because a flight delay caused you to miss the ship, and you can't legally fly to the next port.

And if you don't have travel plans yet, it's still not a bad idea to apply for your passport now. The process can take up to six weeks, so a passport in hand will let you take advantage of all the fabulous last minute cruise deals out there -- to Europe, for example, or Alaska from Vancouver -- without having to pay more for expedited passport delivery.

Celebrity Millennium Gets A Big Makeover

Celebrity Cruises’ Millennium returned to the seas last week after getting a $10 million makeover. The vessel completed a 12-day drydock at British Columbia’s Victoria Shipyards. The updates include new carpeting, new upholstery in every stateroom and refreshments to the Lido Deck and public rooms.

Marble and stone floors and counter areas are being refinished, and outdoor woods varnished. Bolidt deck coverings are being installed across the pool area, outdoor stage, dance floor and jogging track.

Suites will gain 32-inch LED flat-panel TVs, and ConciergeClass staterooms will get 26-inch versions. New drapes, bed skirts and bed throws in warm, natural hues will be added to all accommodations.

By October, new upholstery also will update furnishings in the retail areas, the Grand Foyer and every lounge, including the Martini Bar, and all staterooms will be equipped with 26-inch LED flat-panel TVs.

The newly refreshed Celebrity Millennium will sail in Alaska until mid-September.

Norwegian Epic To Feature Blue Man Group

Norwegian Cruise Line’s next ship will feature performances by the Blue Man Group, as well as a cirque-style show performed during dinner, the cruise line said today, revealing the final details about the Norwegian Epic.

NCL has already said that the 4,200-passenger Epic, slated for a May 2010 debut, would introduce cruise industry firsts like cabins with curved walls and a water slide for tubing.

NCL executives said that the ship would also introduce new concepts in entertainment.

The Epic will not have one main theater, as is the industry standard, but will have multiple, specially designed venues such as the “Spiegel Tent”, which looks like a big top, where the Cirque Dreams and Dinner show will take place.

Billed as interactive dinner theater, performances will be staged throughout the meal by troupe members who will also serve dinner plates and fill water glasses from the air. If you drop a napkin at the Cirque show, a performer will literally bend over backward to pick it up.

The Blue Man Group, whose interactive shows combine music, comedy and theatrics, will perform in the 685-seat Epic Theater.
This is an excellent time to consider booking a cruise aboard the Norwegian Epic. For more information, please visit or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Royal Caribbean Might Make Pacific Northwest Itinerary Permanent

The Mariner of the Seas' itinerary switch from Mexico to the Pacific Northwest has been such a big hit, Royal Caribbean might put it on the books in 2010.

Royal Caribbean changed the ship’s itinerary earlier this month, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Mexico travel warning due to the H1N1 flu outbreak.

The ship’s new route goes north from its Los Angeles base, visiting Seattle and Victoria, B.C., and either San Francisco or Astoria, Ore.

Royal Caribbean said it is considering alternating the Pacific Northwest itinerary with its traditional three-port Mexican Riviera cruise next summer.

"The response we are receiving is terrific," Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a letter to travel agents about the new itinerary.

"In fact, many of our guest comment cards have suggested we consider adding this itinerary to Mariner's schedule throughout the peak summer months -- alternating between the Mexican Riviera and these Pacific coastal ports."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Holland America Makes Anchorage A Port Of Call

Holland America Line will make a regular cruise ship stop in Anchorage, Alaska in 2010.

The Amsterdam, which carries 1,380 passengers and a crew of 615, will be the first ship of a major line to call regularly in Anchorage. The port call will be part of a 14-day cruise.

Some Alaska tourism officials prefer seven-day cruise ship tours because it means twice as many passengers are carried on a vessel over a two-week period.

Many passengers on seven-day cruises continue tours away from the coast to destinations such as Denali National Park and Fairbanks.

Two companies, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International, have announced they will operate vessels elsewhere in 2010, blaming a $50 head tax and other issues tied to a 2006 citizens initiative.

Sail With Popular Disney Channel Stars This Summer

You can sail with popular Disney Channel stars this summer aboard the Disney Wonder® Cruise Ship during the first-ever "Disney Channel Summer at Sea," presented by Kodak.

Popular stars from Disney Channel shows like "Hannah Montana," "Sonny With a Chance," "JONAS," "The Suite Life on Deck, " "Camp Rock," "High School Musical" and "Hatching Pete" and more will join Guests on 3- and 4-night cruises beginning July 9 through Aug. 2, 2009.

Special sailings feature onboard deck parties, autograph sessions, preview screenings, live musical performances and ship-to-shore fun for the entire family — all included in the prevailing cruise rate!

For sail dates and stars, call us at 1-800-788-2545 or visit

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Holland America Line Introduces Cruise With Purpose

Holland America Line is introducing a new twist to cruising by offering cruise guests an opportunity to mesh with local community volunteer work and scientific data collection on specially designed tours. Beginning in Alaska this summer, Holland America is beginning an innovative pilot program, Cruise With Purpose(SM)in conjunction with select tour operators, partnered with local non-profit organizations, allowing guests the chance to contribute some of their time to assisting with projects. Kind of a cool concept when you think about it. A vacation that enables you to enjoy yourself, and give back at the same time. Kind of a global “pay it forward” if you will.

These unique excursions build traditional tour content around volunteer and ‘citizen science’ opportunities provided by association with the non-profit partners. The first Cruise with Purpose(SM) tour will be offered in Juneau, Alaska from May through September 2009.

“By combining a tour experience with a volunteer opportunity, guests are experiencing the destination in a different, rewarding way,” said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs.

For more information on Cruising with a Purpose, please call us at 1-800-788-2545 or

Celebrity Cruises Solstice Sailing Caribbean In 2010

Celebrity Cruises’ will be moving the new Celebrity Solstice to the Caribbean for 2010-2011 on a year round basis. This should go a long way in modernizing the Celebrity efforts in the Caribbean, and increase onboard revenues in an area that will definitely be price challenged in the next few years with all the inventory in the three Caribbean regions. It also eliminates a high number of empty berths in the European market week in and week out.

“The extraordinary response from our guests to Celebrity Solstice has created a corresponding demand for the ship to sail year-round in the Caribbean, and we’re thrilled to meet that demand,” said Celebrity’s President & CEO Dan Hanrahan. “This move offers guests in North America a phenomenal closer-to-home vacation option whenever they’re ready to get away, and similarly, our international guests now will have year-round Caribbean vacation options with Celebrity that are second-to-none.”

The dazzling Celebrity Solstice will sail alternating seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in summer months, and seven-night Eastern Caribbean itineraries from the same port in the winter, marking the first time since 2004 that Celebrity has offered a year-round seven-night sailing in the Caribbean. Celebrity Solstice will be one of two Celebrity vessels sailing continuously in the region; Celebrity Century, as previously announced, will present short getaways, with its popular four- and five-night sailings from the Port of Miami.

Windjammer Adventures 'Keeping The Dream Alive' With Weekly Cruises

Arrrr ye ready for some rum swizzles? Starting next month, Johnny Depp and Jimmy Buffett wannabes who mourn the demise of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises have another high-seas option. New York-based Windjammer Adventures, led by former Windjammer captain Neil Carmichael, has purchased the S/V Diamante, a 12-passenger, 101-foot Brigantine schooner that had been based in Ecuador's Galapagos Islands. The ship is currently repositioning to Grenada, where it will launch weekly six-night cruises starting June 28.

"Our motto is 'keeping the dream alive,'" says operations manager Toni Ulmer, a former sales rep for the now-defunct Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. Ulmer says would-be "jammers" can expect a similar rollicking atmosphere, albeit on a smaller scale, from nightly rum punches to "PPP" (pirates, pimps and prostitutes) costume parties plus free kayaks and snorkeling gear. Rates start at $1,300 per person during the low season, June 1-Dec.1; the ship moves from the Grenadines and starts St. Maarten cruises on Dec. 13.

For more information on these new adventures, visit or call us at 1-800-788-2545.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Carnival Starts Year-Round Cruise Schedule From Baltimore

The Carnival Pride recently launched the first year-round cruise schedule from Baltimore when the 2,124-passenger vessel set sail on its inaugural cruise from the South Locust Point Cruise Terminal on April 27.

Carnival Pride is showcased in a special two-minute video featuring Carnival’s Chief Marketing Officer Jim Berra who provides an insight into the facilities and features available on the 88,500-ton “Fun Ship,” as well as what year-round cruising means for the city of Baltimore.

The Carnival Pride currently will offer six-, seven- and eight-day cruises through Sept. 6, 2009 then begins a year-round seven-day cruises departing every Sunday, alternating between an Exotic Eastern Caribbean itinerary and a Bahamas/Florida route.

Carnival Pride will operate 50 sailings a year from Baltimore, carrying an estimated 115,000 passengers annually.

Royal Caribbean Expands Cruise Ship Flexible Dining Fleetwide

Royal Caribbean is the latest flexible dining to go fleetwide. After testing its "My Time Dining" program on five ships beginning in early 2008, the line has announced that it will roll out the anytime, anywhere option fleetwide, effective immediately.

RCI's long-expected announcement is nothing novel in itself. Following in NCL's footsteps, just about every other line in the industry already features an open-seating choice or has announced that it will (Celebrity Cruises is basically the last remaining holdout).

In addition to the traditional early and late seating options, RCI passengers can now select My Time Dining and be able to make daily reservations for specific seating times or simply walk in when they're hungry. Passengers can be seated with the party they arrive with, request to be seated with other guests or dine alone. No additional guests will be seated at a table once dinner service has begun.