Azamara To Feature Rocky Mountaineer Tour Train Excursions

March 14, 2018.

Azamara Club Cruises has joined forces with Rocky Mountaineer, the largest privately-owned luxury tourist train company in the world, to develop special offerings of inclusive pre- & post-land programs for select Azamara Alaska voyages in 2019.

These land programs allow Azamara to bring their Destination Immersion® programming to guests in a whole new way thanks to the unique and authentic perspectives that train travel provides.

When travelers combine a Rocky Mountaineer pre- & post-land program with one of Azamara’s Alaskan itineraries, guests will be able to explore the region through the following:

  • Authentic experiences in marquee ports like Homer and Sitka
  • Bike rides alongside the Pacific Ocean and picturesque scenery with the exclusive Azamara Cruise Global, Bike Local program
  • Stays in premium hotels
  • Travel on a luxury train through unique, historical routes throughout the Canadian Rockies and gourmet cuisine with unparalleled on-board service

Alaskan voyages like the 10-day Alaska Intensive Voyage setting sail May 2019, the eight-day Alaska Adventure Voyage in June 2019 and the 10-day Alaska Showcase Voyage in July 2019 are all applicable for the Rocky Mountaineer package.

Important Note

While the pre & post land tours are not available online, guests can learn more at AzamaraClubCruises.com/RockyMountaineer, and can book through a travel professional or by calling 1.855.AZAMARA.

First Look at the New Rapunzel’s Royal Table on the Disney Magic

March 14, 2018.

Exclusive to the Disney Magic, Rapunzel’s Royal Table is an all-new dining experience inspired by the beloved story of Disney’s “Tangled.” The festivities include live musical performances from Rapunzel and the Snuggly Duckling Thugs. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Rapunzel’s Royal Table is now open aboard the Disney Magic with an all-new dining experience inspired by the story of Disney’s “Tangled.” The first table service restaurant themed to “Tangled” that features characters and live entertainment transports Disney Magic guests to the kingdom of Corona for an evening of music and interactive fun featuring Rapunzel and the mischievous Snuggly Duckling Thugs.

(Matt Stroshane, photographer)

The new restaurant, along with other enhancements to the Disney Magic, debuted March 9, 2018, on sailings from Miami.

Here’s a couple of food photos:

Exclusive to the Disney Magic at Rapunzel’s Royal Table is the Tangled Pasta entrée. Angel hair pasta tossed in basil pesto with caramelized sea scallops, roasted vine tomatoes and a sun-dried tomato tapenade, served with roasted Meyer lemon. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)
Exclusive to the Disney Magic at Rapunzel’s Royal Table is the Flynn Rider Platter entrée. Grilled, smoked pork loin served with roasted smoked pork belly, bockwurst, braised red cabbage, fried potato dumpling and a Spätburgunder wine jus. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Royal Caribbean’s New Website Rollout Hasn’t Gone Well

March 13, 2018.

Commentary, and admittedly a rant


Last week Royal Caribbean International rolled out their new website and to be polite, it’s been a less than stellar debut.

Various experiences have occurred, ranging from previous user login IDs and passwords being denied but not redirecting to set up a new (required) ID and password, to a message to ‘try again later’, to some lucky users being redirected to setup the new user ID and password.

After doing the usual things like clearing my browser cookies and trying different web browsers, but still being told to try later, I finally clicked on the ‘forget your password?’ link and it kicked me into the ‘create new login’ screens.  Only then could I experience the pain of the new website’s myriad problems.

The new layout is stark, with very little information.  I am one of the fortunate ones in that my currently booked cruises are still listed, my Crown & Anchor (C&A) points are correct, and my cruise history is mostly intact with only my first two Royal Caribbean cruises missing from the list.  Many people have not been as fortunate, with several saying they are listed as “Pre-Gold” C&A members.  (There is no such thing as a Pre-Gold member level.)  Some report that their bookings are missing, and some of those with upcoming cruises are not able to print their boarding passes.  There is no link to access the C&A webpage, so nobody can update their onboard preferences or loyalty gift selections.  You currently have to call them to do those things.   The link for the Cruise Planner -where you order excursions, drink and dining packages and so forth – requires you to re-enter your booking number, ship, and sailing date even though the Cruise Planner link is part of the existing booking information on your personal dashboard in the wondrous new website.  Or again, you need to call Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean’s social media and call center teams have been overwhelmed with requests for assistance, many of them from customers who are not especially gracious with their language.  I truly feel sorry for these employees and they’ve been doing a remarkable job in trying to handle the onslaught of complaints while taking needless abuse.  No doubt they have the following statement set up as a timesaving message template for their Facebook and Twitter feeds: “We are sorry.  The new website has many issues our IT Team is working hard to address.  Please send me a private message with your booking number and contact info and I’ll see what I can do.”

This was not a finished product.  It’s not up to beta testing viability.  Some could argue that it is barely above alpha testing level.  Billion dollar companies aren’t supposed to do things like this, but then Royal has a dubious history with IT-related activities, and in particular their website reliability and usability.

Royal Caribbean executives have been noticeably mute during this debacle, with nary a peep from them to at least admit they hosed this up quite thoroughly.   I find that unacceptable.  To spring this new website on the public, with all the problems, is also unacceptable.

As for me, my next Royal Caribbean cruise is in July.  I’m not touching this booking for at least another month lest some errant software coding cancel the cruise when I try to do online check-in.  Hopefully they will get this ironed out and suitable for use.

Oh, and part of this internet upgrade effort involves combining the website access processes for Royal, Celebrity, and Azamara into one.  So grab your popcorn.  I’m sure that will be something to behold.

Cunard And Ancestry.com Offering “A Journey of Genealogy” Crossing

March 13, 2018

For the first time ever Cunard has collaborated with Ancestry.com to offer guests the opportunity to trace their family history on flagship liner Queen Mary 2 while sailing across the Atlantic.

As many know, Cunard played a critical role in the immigration movement to the US in the late 1800s — one in five immigrants who came through Ellis Island arrived on a Cunard liner.  This Crossing offers an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of one’s ancestors and experience sailing across the Atlantic like so many immigrants did.

The seven-night Transatlantic Crossing, November 4-11, 2018, will feature four genealogists from Ancestry to assist guests in learning who they are and where they come from.  These experts will show guests where their family originated, how to sift through census and military records, and determine their ethnic mix through AncestryDNA.

Ancestry genealogy experts include:

  • Jennifer Utley, director of research who oversees Ancestry.com research for the television shows Who Do You Think You Are? and Long Lost Family.
  • Angie Bush, genetic genealogist who uses her knowledge of traditional genealogy and genetics to solve complex questions of kinship and identity. Her areas of expertise are DNA, unknown parentage, 20th century, and the Midwestern US.
  • Crystal Beutler, part of Ancestry ProGenealogists, specializes in US Southern and Mid-Atlantic research, lineage society research, and works on episodes of the genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are?
  • Simon Pearce is also part of Ancestry ProGenealogists and specializes in researching military ancestors from the First and Second World Wars.

Cunard is also offering a two-night post-voyage tour of Ellis Island and New York’s Ancestral Trail which offers insight into the early history of New York in downtown Manhattan including historical landmarks such as Wall Street, the New York Exchange, Federal Hall and the Trinity Church. A detailed 90-minute guided tour of Ellis Island will include the immigration halls and immigrant hospital buildings.

From March 1 through August 31, 2018, guests who book the post-voyage historical tour can save up to 40% off a balcony cabin on the November 4 Ancestry Crossing.

 

Norwegian Building New Terminal At Port of Miami

March 7, 2018.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., which operates Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands, today unveiled the design of the new and dedicated Norwegian Cruise Line terminal at PortMiami.   Pending the final approval by the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners, the project will commence in May 2018, and is scheduled for completion by the fall of 2019, as Norwegian Encore, the newest ship of the Breakaway Plus class, makes her debut in Miami with seasonal cruises to the Caribbean.

Norwegian is widely recognized for introducing modern-day cruising more than 50 years ago, by transforming a common means of transportation to a new style of vacation with its first Caribbean voyages out of the port of Miami and launching the city’s status as the “cruising capital of the world.” As a result of the continued relationship, Miami-Dade County will invest $100 million to build a new terminal dedicated to Norwegian Cruise Line, with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. augmenting the county’s allocated funds with its own contribution to PortMiami, as was unveiled today at a press conference held at the 2018 Seatrade Cruise Global exhibition.

The modern terminal draws its inspiration from a nautilus, with its spiraled and multi-level façade, opening up to grand ocean views.  Once complete it will be the new “pearl” of Miami, redefining the landscape of the city’s skyline.  Innovative lighting, inviting indoor and outdoor waiting areas and other guest-centric elements will enhance the overall passenger experience.  At nearly 166,500 square feet, the debuting Norwegian terminal will accommodate ships of up to 5,000 passengers, and feature new technology to support faster and more efficient embarkation and disembarkation processes, as well as expedited security screening and luggage check-in.  A dedicated lounge and service area will facilitate a warm and welcoming sense of arrival for large groups and charters, and a new parking garage, and valet parking area with direct access to the terminal and lounge are also scheduled to be completed.

 

Bookings Open For MSC Grandiosa, Launching In November 2019

March 5, 2018.

MSC Grandiosa

MSC Cruises announced today that MSC Grandiosa is now open for bookings. For her inaugural season, the first Meraviglia-Plus class ship will set sail in the Western Mediterranean. Bookings open today for an initial two-week period exclusively for members of the MSC Voyagers Club — MSC Cruises’ guest loyalty rewards program — and bookings for all other guests will open on March 19, 2018.

The new ship will offer guests, among other features, two brand new shows from Cirque du Soleil at Sea, created exclusively for MSC Grandiosa guests.

MSC Grandiosa will showcase an even larger Mediterranean-style promenade. Serving as the social hub of the ship, the promenade features an array of shops and specialty restaurants as well as a new bar and lounge, L’Atelier Bistrot, which will offer lounge seating with a stage and a dance floor. Impressionist art will also be on display in this space and have “terrace” seating with Parisian Bistrot tables and chairs along the promenade. Throughout the day and the evening, the promenade will host surprise performances, including flash mobs and themed parties as well as  projections on a 323 ft. LED Sky screen.

The industry-leading shipboard digital innovation program, MSC for Me, will allow guests to customize their vacation and enhance their cruise experience. As the Company continues to evolve and innovate the digital offering, guests can expect new features, offering a connected cruise experience to meet their individual needs.

Additional MSC Grandiosa highlights include:

  • Seven nights in the Western Mediterranean: calling at six Mediterranean ports including Genoa, Civitavecchia, Palermo, Valletta, Barcelona and Marseille.
  • New family activities and entertainment: The DOREMI Lab will offer new themes each day, while the DOREMI Studio Lounge focuses on allowing children to have fun through the magic of music, with the chance to record songs and star in their own music videos. This multitude of concepts ensure that children of every age will have an unforgettable vacation at sea.
  • A choice of at least 12 different dining venues on board — ranging from specialty restaurants to the buffet.  In addition a new restaurant concept exclusively for MSC Aurea Experience guests (a booking category) will be introduced in the Promenade of the ship.
  • The MSC Yacht Club, which will continue to offer the more discerning cruise guest a luxurious stay in the ship-within-a-ship concept with private areas and key features such as the Top Sail lounge, One Pool Deck, private restaurant and butler service.

When booking MSC Grandiosa over the initial, exclusive two-week booking period — in addition to benefitting from being able to have the first selection of staterooms — MSC Voyagers Club members will receive a special 5% early booking discount in addition to their current MSC Voyagers Club 5% loyalty discount. All other guests will enjoy a 5% early booking discount until September 4, 2018. MSC Grandiosa will commence sailing from Genoa, Italy on November 16, 2019.

Queen Latifah Named Godmother Of Carnival Horizon

March 1, 2018.

 

Queen Latifah – Grammy award-winning musical artist, acclaimed television and film actress, label president, author and entrepreneur – has been named the godmother to Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Horizon.

Latifah will participate in the ship’s official naming ceremony as well as a special “Lip Sync Battle: Horizon” showcase that is part of the line’s authentic shipboard reproduction of the hit Paramount Network series. The event will be held during an invitation-only overnight gala onboard Carnival Horizon in New York City on May 23, 2018.

Currently starring in the FOX series “STAR,” Latifah earned an Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe nomination and a SAG Award nomination for her portrayal as Mama Morton in the hit show ‘Chicago’. She also received an Emmy nomination, a Golden Globe win and a SAG Award win for performances in both “Life Support” and “Bessie,” an HBO biopic on the legendary jazz artist Bessie Smith as well as accolades for her performance as the title character in NBC’s The Wiz Live!

She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, has earned six Grammy nominations and a Grammy Award for Best Solo Rap Performance. Her production company, Flavor Unit Entertainment, has quickly grown to prominence, producing award-winning television shows, blockbuster hits and independent films for a variety of Hollywood studios.

The May 23 gala will recognize long-time Carnival partner St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with a check presentation from funds raised via various activities and events, both on board and ashore, leading up to the event. Additionally, Carnival will unveil special custom-designed artwork created by more than 30 St. Jude patients that will appear on the Carnival Horizon’s “Dreamscape,” a stunning three-deck-high LED sculpture that takes center stage in the ship’s atrium.

Following the event, Carnival Horizon begins her summer schedule from New York that runs through September followed by the launch year-round Caribbean cruises from Miami later that month.

 

Norwegian 5-day Promotion With $1 Deposits and March ‘Free At Sea’ Offers

March 1, 2018.

Norwegian Cruise Line is offering guests a hot deal with $1 deposits, but you need to act fast since it ends March 5.  This limited time offer is available fleet wide and can also be combined with other promotions available throughout the month of March.

  • Norwegian’s popular Free at Sea promotion will be extended through March 19. This value-added offer provides guests who book a new three-day or longer sailing in an oceanview, balcony or mini-suite category stateroom with the opportunity to select their preference of two free choices from five onboard amenity offers, including free unlimited open bar, $50 towards shore excursions in each port per stateroom, a free specialty dining package, 250 minutes of free WiFi, or Norwegian’s Friends & Family Sail Free offer that allows the third and fourth guests to sail for free on many 2018 sail dates. Inside staterooms, as well as Norwegian’s Studio staterooms for solo travelers, can choose one free offer. Those who want to enjoy more luxurious amenities, can book a cruise in a suite or The Haven by Norwegian® and enjoy all five free amenities†, providing up to $2,700 in overall value to their cruise.
  • Now through March 19, guests can book a new three, four or five-day Bahamas or Cuba cruise aboard Norwegian Sun or Norwegian Sky with free unlimited open bar and Norwegian’s Free at Sea All-Inclusive*. With this  offer, guests will choose from five onboard amenities including a $50 specialty dining credit, $50 towards shore excursions in each port, 100 minutes of complimentary Wi-Fi, a photo package with 10 free images, or Norwegian’s Friends & Family Sail Free offer that allows the third and fourth guests to sail for free on select sailings.
  • Hawaii sailings aboard Pride of America also have a promotion. Guests can take advantage of Norwegian’s Free at Sea Hawaii offer, which has also been extended through March 19.  Guests who book a new cruise vacation aboard Pride of America, have the freedom to choose from five offers†*, including a free one-night pre-cruise hotel stay with an option to select reduced airfare starting at $399 from select gateways, a free specialty dining package, free pre-paid service charges for the first and second guest in the stateroom, free $50 per port shore excursion credit per stateroom, or Norwegian’s Friends & Family Sail Free, allowing the third and fourth guests in each stateroom to sail for free on many 2018 sail dates. Guests who book a suite aboard Pride of America can enjoy all five offers.

Here’s what all of those superscript characters in the above blurb mean:

*Offer not applicable to Sail Away Categories (categories IX, OX, BX or MX).

All sailings 3 nights or longer. Offer is not applicable to categories IX, OX, BX, MX (Sail Away Categories). Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Joy, Pride of America, and Norwegian Sun’s all-inclusive sailings from Port Canaveral are not eligible for this offer. Friends & Family sail free applicable only on select sail dates.  Guests are responsible for a 20% gratuity for retail value for Specialty Dining Package, Unlimited Beverage Package, and/ or the Soda Package, with pricing based on number of cruise nights. Number of meals for specialty dining package based on length of itinerary. $50 USD per port shore excursion credit is per stateroom and is applicable for each port; it is not transferable to other ports. Overnight stays count as one port, except Bermuda sailings which can receive up to 3 individual days of shore excursion credit. Wifi package offers one login per stateroom. On Norwegian Breakaway, stateroom receives an internet package of 250 minutes or 1000 MB of data.

†*Pride of America offer available for bookings for cruises through April 27, 2019. Offer is not applicable to categories IX, OX, BX (Sail Away Categories). Cruises must be booked more than 30 days prior sailing, when selecting hotel option; if choosing hotel option with air option cruises must be made more than 60 days prior to sailing. Offer valid for Waikiki Marriott Resort-city view room. In the event that the hotel scheduled to be used in package is unavailable, for any reason, Norwegian Cruise Line reserves the right to substitute the hotel included in package. One night pre-hotel offer is available on reservations with 4 guests or less.