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.

 

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.

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.