Carnival Sensation To Feature Cuba Cruises From Miami In 2019

February 27, 2018.

The Carnival Paradise arrives in Havana Harbor in Havana, Cuba. (Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line)

Who said the Trump administration’s restrictions on the travel policy for Cuba would end cruises to the island nation?  You wouldn’t know it by looking at Carnival’s cruise schedule.

Carnival Cruise Line will add another ship and embarkation port to the mix in 2019, offering 17 new sailings to Cuba aboard Carnival Sensation in 2019.  The five-day Cuba voyages will be the line’s first to operate round-trip from Miami and feature a day-long call in Havana as well as stops at popular Caribbean and Bahamian ports,  including Grand Turk, Grand Cayman, Nassau, and the private destinations of Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays.

The voyages complement a series of voyages to Cuba departing from Tampa aboard Carnival Paradise taking place in 2018-19.  I was aboard the inaugural visit to Havana on the Paradise last summer.

A Cuban taxi driver, piloting a vintage car, pulls up to the El Morro Castle while the Carnival Paradise cruise ship is docked in Havana, Cuba. (Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival Sensation’s Cuba schedule includes:

  • four five-day sailings to Havana and Grand Turk departing May 20, Sept. 9, Nov. 18 and Dec. 16, 2019
  • five five-day voyages featuring Havana, Nassau and Half Moon Cay departing June 17, July 15, Aug. 12, Sept. 23, and Nov. 4, 2019
  • a five-day cruise to Havana, Nassau and Princess Cays departing April 22, 2019
  • seven five-day cruises to Havana and Grand Cayman departing May 6, June 3, July 1 and 29, Aug. 26, Oct. 7 and Dec. 2, 2019

Carnival Sensation underwent an extensive multi-million-dollar dry dock last year that added what I call “the full treatment”, including Guy’s Burger Joint , RedFrog Rum Bar, BlueIguana Tequila Bar,  BlueIguana Cantina, Alchemy Bar, and the Cherry on Top sweets shop.

Guests sailing on Carnival’s Cuba cruises can select from nearly 20 different shore excursion experiences.  Also, a variety of Cuban-themed activities and entertainment will be featured aboard, including the sizzling Amor Cubano:  A Caribbean Dance Romance Playlist Productions show, Havana-inspired deck parties, trivia contests and salsa lessons.  There’s also a lecturer on board who discusses the country’s history and culture.

The visits to Havana comply with regulations of the U.S. Department of Treasury that permit travel operators to transport approved travelers to Cuba to engage in activities as defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Carnival Paradise Renovation Details Announced

February 22, 2018.

Vintage cars pass the Carnival Paradise while the cruise ship is docked in Havana, Cuba. (Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival is continuing the upgrading of the Fantasy-class ships in quick fashion.  Just a few days ago the news about Carnival Fascination finishing it’s overhaul was announced, and now it’s Carnival Paradise’s turn.

The ship is undergoing an extensive, multi-million-dollar refurbishment that will add a water park, 38 new cabins, 98 balconies to existing staterooms, and many of the popular food and beverage venues.  While favorites such as Guy’s Burgers and BlueIguana are being added, the upgrades apparently do not include Alchemy Bar.

Following the month-long dry dock Carnival Paradise will resume its year-round schedule of four- to eight-day cruises from Tampa, Fla., March 26, 2018.

The new features include:
· Guy’s Burger Joint 

· RedFrog Rum Bar

· BlueIguana Cantina

· Camp Ocean: a play area designed for kids ages 2-11.

· New Cabins, Stateroom Enhancements: Thirty-eight cabins will be added – two Grand Vista suites offering floor-to-ceiling windows, 22 junior suites, two scenic ocean view cabins and 12 interior accommodations. Additionally, private verandahs have been added to 98 existing staterooms, creating new 230-square-foot balcony staterooms. All staterooms will offer new island-inspired interiors with bright colors and soothing pastels inspired by Carnival Paradise’s tropical itineraries.

· WaterWorks Aqua Park: Located on Verandah Deck, this expansive all-ages water park features an enclosed 300-foot-long Twister water slide, two 82-foot-long racing slides, and a splash zone for kids.

· Miniature Golf Course: A nine-hole miniature golf course has been relocated to Deck 14.

· Retail and Photo Enhancements: The ship’s retail shops are being completely reimagined with a new design and enhanced product offerings including Pandora and Guess.  Cherry on Top is also being added, while the printed photo gallery is being replaced with a digital Pixels-branded platform that allows guests to identify and purchase images via their smartphones or at a nearby kiosk.

Carnival Paradise’s Tampa-based schedule includes four-day cruises to Cozumel and five-day cruises to Cozumel or Mahogany Bay (Roatan), Grand Cayman or Key West. The ship also sails to Cuba with four-day cruises visiting Havana, five-day cruises calling at Havana and Cozumel or Key West, and eight-day voyages to Havana, Key West and Grand Cayman.

Carnival Horizon Will Feature Array Of Brand New Production Shows

February 20, 2018.

New 133,500-ton Ship Set to Debut in Europe April 2, 2018

For its newest ship, the Carnival Horizon, Carnival Cruise Line’s talented in-house entertainment team has partnered with leading creative directors from Broadway, Los Angeles and London’s West End to create three brand new shows that are designed to raise the bar on cruise ship entertainment.

Part of the line’s popular Playlist Productions revues, the new shows make maximum use of the ship’s sophisticated and interactive LED screens while showcasing the talents of the shows’ performers to deliver unforgettable evenings of high-caliber entertainment.

Three new shows – Soulbound, Celestial Strings and Vintage Pop – will debut on Carnival Horizon when it enters service in April 2018. A fourth show, Amor Cubano:  A Caribbean Dance Romance, has been brought to Carnival Horizon following an incredible debut on Carnival Vista last year.

The Playlist Productions shows on Carnival Horizon include:

 

  • Soulbound: Hosted by Carnival Horizon’s very own “soul catcher,” this fun, high-energy show offers a gothic-inspired journey through New Orleans with stops at recognizable Crescent City landmarks like a haunted paddlewheel ship, an apothecary shop and cemetery highlighted by levitating chairs and other spookily stunning illusions.  As spirits are playfully captured and brought back to life through dazzling special effects, cast members belt out R&B favorites like Superstitious, Soul Man and Born Under a Bad Sign.

  • Celestial Strings: Billed as a “breathtaking performance beyond your wildest dreams,” Celestial Strings merges the beauty of classical music with modern pop beats that takes place in an elegant and enchanted garden that seamlessly transforms from season to season, stimulating the senses with unbelievable visual imagery, 3D cast interactions and aroma-infused sets to bring the garden to life.  The first Playlist Productions show to feature a live string trio, Celestial Strings is truly a multi-sensory symphony for the soul.

  • Vintage Pop: Taking viewers back to the Great Gatsby and Cotton Club era with contemporary songs like All About that Bass, That’s What I Like and Work transformed into classic jazz interpretations, Vintage Pop features a toe-tapping six-piece live band performing in a modern-day speakeasy.  Highlighted by a show-stopping burlesque number that leaves audiences breathless, Vintage Pop ends with a rollicking after party in the atrium where guests can dance and interact with the flapper- and zoot suit-outfitted cast members.
  • Amor Cubano: A Caribbean Dance Romance: This exciting get-on-your-feet show blends classic Latin songs with today’s hits and features an authentic reproduction of Carnival Horizon’s sizzling Havana Bar.  The show is highlighted by a seven-piece Cuban-inspired band that performs songs by Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz and others amid a tropical, multi-hued backdrop of Cuba and Miami, the latter of which will be the ship’s eventual year-round homeport.

 

Carnival Horizon is set to debut April 2, 2018, with a 13-day Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona – the first of four round-trip departures from that port – then reposition to the U.S. with a 14-day trans-Atlantic crossing from Barcelona to New York May 9-23, 2018.

Following its summer schedule of four-day Bermuda and eight-day Caribbean departures from the Big Apple, Carnival Horizon will shift to Miami and kick off a year-round schedule of six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises beginning Sept. 22, 2018. Carnival Horizon will also offer a special two-day cruise to Nassau from Miami Sept. 20-22, 2018.

Hurtigruten Launches Exclusive Offers to Celebrate 125 Years of Exploration Travel

February 20, 2018.

Most Americans have never heard of Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten.  The pioneering company with a history of nearly 125 years, offers expedition voyages from pole to pole. In the Arctic, the company offers nature-based expedition sailings to Norway; Greenland; Iceland; Spitsbergen; Alaska; and Arctic Canada. Further south, Hurtigruten operates both coasts of the US. In the southern hemisphere, Hurtigruten offers unprecedented experiences in Antarctica; and along both coasts of South America.

Hurtigruten is celebrating 125 years of service, and travelers can join in on the fun by booking a discounted cruise to some of the world’s most unchartered territories, from April 1 – March 31, 2019. For a limited time, travelers can explore rugged natural beauty while kayaking through Antarctica’s icebergs, hiking in pristine environments in The Americas, or meeting astounding wildlife in Norway and The Arctic.

  • Applicable voyages include:
    • The Roundtrip Cruise: Bergen – Kirkenes – Bergen
      • Discover the coast of Norway and search for the Northern Lights, join more than 90 excursions, and enhance the experience with access to onboard expedition teams that expound on the hidden cultural and natural gems during this 12-day cruise. Pricing starts at $1,531 per person.
    • The Cruise North
      • For seven days, travelers can connect with their inner Norwegian and come face-to-face with the rugged coastline, featuring major coastal cities, remote communities, and the Arctic Circle. Pricing starts at $977 per person.
    • The Cruise South
      • For just $897 per person, travelers can explore the Arctic wilderness of northern Norway to the world’s most beautiful islands and fjords, featuring exciting sea- and land-based excursions. 

 These offers do not apply to cruises outside dates listed above. 

Book online at Hurtigruten.us or through a Certified Hurtigruten Specialist by March 31, 2019 for the best cabins and prices.

 

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Reaches $2.5 Million Fundraising Goal for Hope Starts Here Hurricane Relief Campaign

February 20, 2018.

Photo courtesy of All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response

Company matches $1.25 million in donations to benefit rebuilding efforts in affected Caribbean communities

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., operater of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, today announced it has met the company’s goal of raising $2.5 million for the Hope Starts Here hurricane relief program.  In less than four months, the program has received more than $1.25 million in donations from the company’s valued team members, loyal guests, travel partners and business partners, which the company has matched in order to assist All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on natural disaster relief, in rebuilding safe, resilient schools on five Caribbean islands.

The Hope Starts Here hurricane relief program launched in late September 2017 when the company partnered with All Hands and Hearts to help provide immediate relief in Key West and reconstruct schools and critical infrastructure in affected islands in the Caribbean including Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Tortola. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has a 50 year relationship with the Caribbean and is focused on providing both immediate and long-term assistance to the region.

 

 

Carnival Fascination Resumes San Juan Sailings With Upgrades To Food And Beverage Venues

 

February 19, 2018.

 

(Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines)

Seven-Day Sailings Feature Five Tropical Caribbean Ports: St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Thomas and St. Maarten 

Carnival Fascination resumed its year-round schedule of seven-day southern Caribbean departures from San Juan this past Sunday, following an extensive multi-million-dollar dry dock that added a variety of popular food and beverage concepts.  This was previously known as the Funship 2.0 upgrades, or as I now call it “the full treatment”.

On its San Juan-based program, Carnival Fascination departs every Sunday on week-long voyages visiting St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Thomas and St. Maarten

Prior to the dry dock the ship was chartered by FEMA to house relief workers in St. Croix after the hurricanes of 2017.

The new spaces include:

Guy’s burger “Straight Up”

  • Guy’s Burger Joint: my favorite burger at sea, Guy’s is a free-of-charge poolside venue developed in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri serving hand-crafted burgers and fresh-cut fries .
  • RedFrog Rum Bar: a poolside bar offering rum-based frozen drinks, cocktails, and beer including Carnival’s own private label draught brew, ThirstyFrog Red.
  • BlueIguana Cantina: a complimentary poolside Mexican style walk-up stand where guests can enjoy freshly made burritos and tacos on homemade tortillas, as well as an elaborate toppings and salsa bar.
  • BlueIguana Tequila Bar: the other pool bar across from the RedFrog Rum Bar, but with tequila-based frozen drinks and beers.
  • Cherry on Top: the candy and novelty shop with bins of bulk candy, fun-and-fanciful gifts, just-because novelties, colorful custom apparel and more.
  • Alchemy Bar: a vintage-themed cocktail “pharmacy” that’s the go-to spot for guests seeking a unique experience with mixologists who “prescribe” concoctions from different elixirs and ingredients or guests’ own custom-created cocktails.  My personal favorite is the “Youthful and Bold Beritini”.
  • Bonsai Sushi Express: the success of the full-service Bonsai Sushi restaurants has spawned this casual, convenient yet equally tasty offshoot featuring a mouth-watering array of sushi, sashimi, rolls and more.

Princess Completes Renovations and Enhancements to Princess Cays

 

February 15, 2018.

 

 

C:\Users\pc09847\Downloads\PRINCESS_CAY_DETAILS_6255.jpg  C:\Users\pc09847\Downloads\PRINCESS_CAY_DETAILS_6295.jpg

 

The private island resort of Princess Cays  has received several enhancements and renovated areas, which include the new MedallionNet™ Wi-Fi, the only cruise industry private island to offer connectivity ashore.  So now you can post photos and videos live from the beach to your Facebook or Instagram page, just like you are on the ship.

Located on the southern tip of the island of Eleuthera in the outer Bahamas, Princess Cays has offered a beachside hideaway to guests since 1992. The beach is situated on approximately 40 acres, including more than a mile and a half of some really pristine, white-sand shoreline.  This is a featured call on Princess’ Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries.

Additional Princess Cays enhancements include new shore excursions, refurbished retail and bar areas, shopping, landscape and infrastructure:

  • Shore Excursions – On February 17, the new Lagoon Clear-Bottom Kayaking Adventure, a guided paddle through the Island’s lagoon that allows guests to explore the flora and fauna of this unique habitat debuts. In addition, Island Bicycle Adventure offers guests Princess Cays’ scenery and history with a leisurely bike ride to some of the town’s popular sites. Construction of a new “Davy Jones” water sports rental equipment provides snorkeling and water gear. And new Stingray Beach Encounter allows guests to feed, touch and hold live stingrays. Animal trainers teach guests interesting facts about the behavior of these animals as they reach out to touch their soft wings.
  • Princess Cays Shopping – Princess guests will enjoy adding meaningful mementos to their journey by visiting the new nautical-themed and “pick-a-pearl” jewelry section within the Bahama Treasure store.
  • New Marina – Completion of the marina expansion, including new channel and turning basin depth which can accommodate larger tenders and offers smoother disembarkation and embarkation of guests, including a shaded security pre-clearance area.
  • Guest Experience Improvements – Guests also will enjoy a new information booth with shaded waiting lounge area and a new public announcement and music system; newly painted structures both inside and out with tropical pastel colors; guest services station for towel and water distributions at the Welcome Center; extensive landscaping of all guest areas, including additional planters and newly planted palm trees; and refitted beach bungalows.

 

Holland America Introduces Culinary-themed EXC Tours In Partnership with FOOD & WINE 

February 14, 2018.

Sampling of Finnish delicacies in Helsinki

The long-time partnership between Holland America Line and FOOD & WINE has delivered immersive culinary experiences for more than twelve years. The collaboration is expanding with a collection of culinary-themed EXC Tours (shore excursions), that explore food, wine and culture in some of the world’s hottest gastronomic locales.

Twenty-three new shore excursions are now available for booking on select 2018 cruises to the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. FOOD & WINE EXC Tours on Mediterranean cruises are offered in Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kerkira, Nisos Kerkira (Corfu), and Thira (Santorini), Greece; Livorno (Florence), Naples and Venice, Italy; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Kotor, Montenegro; and Cádiz (Seville), Barcelona and Málaga (Granada), Spain.

Guests on Northern Europe cruises will find FOOD & WINE EXC Tours in Copenhagen, Denmark; Tallinn, Estonia; Helsinki, Finland; Kiel (Hamburg), Germany; Reykjavik, Iceland; Bergen, Norway; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Stockholm, Sweden.

Guests have the opportunity to take hands-on cooking classes, go on culinary walking tours, visit wineries, sample street food, explore local hideaways and more.

Hötorgshallen Food Market in Stockholm

Noteworthy FOOD & WINE EXC Tours include:

-“La Boqueria Market Cooking Experience” in Barcelona that includes a hands-on culinary workshop led by chef Txema Aroca

-“Ino & the Uffizi Gallery” in Livorno, combining the finest art with the best local street food

-“Smorrebrod: The Art of Sandwich Making” in Copenhagen, where participants learn everything including how to bake bread and create authentic toppings

-“Nordic Food Walk” in Stockholm that is a delicious gastronomic journey through the old Haymarket — now the Hötorgshallen Food Market

-A hands-on cooking class in the kitchen of the renowned Selene restaurant in Santorini.

Over the next year, FOOD & WINE EXC Tours will be available in an expanding array of destinations, including additional European ports, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Canada/New England, Caribbean, Mexico, South America and more.

For more information, contact a travel professional, call 1-877-SAIL-HAL or visit the FOOD & WINE EXC Tours webpage here.  All of the FOOD & WINE EXC Tours are noted with “in partnership with FOOD & WINE” in the tour name so they are clearly identifiable.

Norwegian Announces New Cruises To Cuba & Caribbean From Miami

February 13, 2018.

Norwegian Cruise Line has opened brand-new cruises to Cuba and the Caribbean aboard Norwegian Sun round trip from Miami.  For a limited season this fall, Norwegian Sun will offer cruisers a chance to discover the rich history of Cuba and explore some of the brand’s most popular tropical destinations in just one journey on 7, 9, and 13-day cruises.

Norwegian Sun will sail six 7-day cruises from Miami departing on Sundays from September 9 through October 14. The ship will cruise to ports including Havana, Cuba, Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island in the Bahamas; Costa Maya, Mexico and Harvest Caye, Belize. The ship’s nine-day Cuba and the Caribbean cruises will expand upon the 7-day sailings and also include additional visits to Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras and Cozumel, Mexico.

Those wishing to visit the Panama Canal can do so aboard Norwegian Sun’s new 13-day Cuba, Caribbean and the Panama Canal cruise departing from Miami on October 30. This bucket-list cruise will visit eight destinations including Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; Cartagena and Santa Marta, Colombia and Oranjestad, Aruba, among others.

Norwegian Cruise Line has also added a new 5-day cruise to Cuba and the Bahamas from Port Canaveral on September 3. The new cruise will round out the ship’s season sailing from the Space Coast with an afternoon visit to the southernmost city of Key West, Florida then head to Havana for an overnight stay in the historical city, followed by a beach day at the private-island paradise of Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas.

All of Norwegian Sun’s recently released cruises will visit the popular destinations of Havana, Cuba and Harvest Caye, Belize. While in Cuba, Norwegian Sun sails into the very heart of Havana, providing guests with the opportunity to visit historical sites such as Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; view incredible art and visit Cuba’s warm and friendly residents through people-to-people exchanges – all just steps away from the comfort of the ship. Norwegian offers a selection of 13 half and full-day OFAC-compliant shore excursions, where guests have the chance to have a farm-to-table dining experience or explore modern Havana in an American classic car and discover the arts, culture, dance and cinematic masterpieces of Fabrica de Arte Cubano on an exclusive private tour.

Located one mile off the coast of Southern Belize, Harvest Caye, is a resort-style destination where guests can lounge along the expansive beach or at the 15,000 square-foot pool with a swim-up bar, enjoy a nature center with wildlife and reptiles or opt for an adrenalin rush zip line adventure at the 130 ft. tall Flighthouse, among many other on-island attractions. Those who want to explore mainland Belize have several convenient options from Harvest Caye including the island ferry, rainforest tubing or private boat excursions.

Carnival Bringing Brand New Ship To Revitalized Long Beach Cruise Terminal

February 10, 2018.

 

Carnival Cruise Line today announced several initiatives designed to bolster its leadership position on the West Coast: the deployment of Carnival Panorama to Long Beach in 2019 – the first new Carnival ship based in Southern California in 20 years; the grand re-opening of its 146,000-square-foot state-of-the-art Long Beach Cruise Terminal, and a multi-million-dollar port development project in Ensenada, Mexico, that will provide guests with one-of-a-kind experiences ashore.

Carnival Panorama to the West Coast
In 2019, Carnival will make history when it deploys its third Vista-class ship, the 3,960-passenger Carnival Panorama, on seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach, providing an exciting new seagoing vacation option to this vital and fast-growing market.

Like its name implies, Carnival Panorama will include venues offering both indoor and al fresco experiences, including the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Library Bar, and Bonsai Sushi, along with open-air attractions like the groundbreaking bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction SkyRide, a massive WaterWorks aqua park, and the SportSquare recreation area.

Also featured will be a vibrant Havana section with tropics-inspired staterooms and its own Cuban-themed bar and pool, Family Harbor featuring extra-roomy accommodations, the Family Harbor Lounge, and Ocean Plaza, a spacious dining and entertainment venue with indoor and outdoor seating. Other innovations unique to Carnival Panorama will be announced in the near future.

Reservations for Carnival Panorama are expected to open in late March 2018. Additional information on Carnival Panorama is available at www.carnival.com/carnivalpanorama.

Expanded and Redesigned New Long Beach Cruise Terminal
Carnival’s Long Beach Cruise Terminal – the busiest in North America with ships docking five days a week representing a 70% utilization rate – has been operated by Carnival since 2003 and encompasses the world’s largest, free-span geodesic dome originally built to house also Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose plane and served as the location for many famous Hollywood movies.

With the expansion, Carnival is now utilizing 100% of the dome, up from a portion, for its operations. The renovation of the Long Beach Cruise Terminal more than doubles the size of the facility’s space while dramatically enhancing the overall passenger experience and operational flow. It also includes the expansion of portside shore power to enable larger ships to plug into the local electric grid, reducing exhaust emissions while docked.

The terminal’s striking design features California’s recognizable landmarks, bringing indoors the state’s iconic natural elements, including a backdrop of the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range. In a nod to the dome’s former tenant, a replica of the Spruce Goose hangs from above, as well as the original model of the plane used in the 2004 movie, “The Aviator.” The dome also includes the cruise industry’s first 1980s-style arcade which is available for families to enjoy.

Arrival of Carnival Splendor to Long Beach
The grand re-opening of the terminal coincides with the arrival of Carnival Splendor to Long Beach, which operates seven-day cruises to Mexico and longer-length voyages to Alaska and Hawaii, representing a 40 percent capacity increase on this route.

The 113,300-ton Carnival Splendor is currently the largest ship based year-round in Southern California and offers a variety of onboard amenities, including a 22,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa, a reservations-only steakhouse serving prime dry-aged beef and other gourmet fare, a sliding magrodome covering the main pool area, and nearly 600 balcony staterooms.

Carnival Splendor joins Carnival Imagination and Carnival Inspiration which sail three- and four-day cruises to Ensenada and Catalina Island. Together, these three ships carry approximately 600,000 guests annually from Southern California on more than 250 three- to 14-day cruises.

Exciting Port Development Project in Ensenada

Carnival officials also announced a major port development project in Ensenada, Mexico, currently featured on the line’s three- and four-day cruises from Long Beach. The project will provide guests visiting the destination with an unparalleled, one-of-a-kind dining and retail experiences ashore, along with unique attractions for guests of all ages to enjoy. Details about the development will be announced at a later date.