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Archive for December, 2010

Carnival asks “Didja Ever?”

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On December - 27 - 2010

By Anita Dunham-Potter (editor@www.expertcruiser.com)

“Didja Ever” zip line across a rain forest? Catch air on a wave runner? Jump into an impromptu performance of Thriller between courses at dinner? Well, mark your new calendar for more fun and firsts! Carnival Cruise Lines unveiled its “Hey America, Didja Ever” campaign that inspires people to try new things to add more fun – and ultimately, happiness and satisfaction – to their lives. Carnival will help consumers share, fulfill and celebrate first-time experiences throughout the year, driven by the “Didja Ever” campaign headquarters on Carnival’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/carnival) and promoted through exciting and interactive broadcast, online, social media and local marketing efforts.

Carnival Pride calls on Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

Carnival Pride calls on Half Moon Cay, Bahamas Carnival is collecting the Top 100 Firsts from its more than 420,000 (and growing) Facebook fans and all of America. The company is encouraging people to check things off their lists, share experiences through photos and video, and create once-in-a-lifetime events and memories. Of course, the Fun Ship company will also help to fulfill many firsts for participants that will include everything from giving away monthly cruise vacations for four to offering once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like appearing on-stage as the opening act for a favorite band, and many other fun activities online and in major markets.

“As a company that is built upon fun and memorable vacation experiences, we thought that it was time to help Americans put fun on the front burner,” said Jim Berra, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Carnival Cruise Lines. “The ‘Didja Ever’ campaign reminds people it’s time to make their list and start living that list to the fullest. And we’ll provide a little help along the way to fulfill some of these wishes in surprising and unexpected ways throughout the year.”

According to a consumer survey commissioned by Carnival earlier this month, nine out of 10 adults have a list of things they wish to accomplish in their lifetime. Robert Mack, author of the bestselling book, “Happiness From the Inside Out: The Art and Science of Fulfillment,” and celebrity life coach explains, “If you want to live your best life, start by setting a goal that deeply inspires and excites you on a personal level so you’ll stick to it. If you can stay engaged and keep it fun, you’ll be more committed.”

Mack added that another important element of success is sharing your goal with other people who will support you and cheer you on. Studies have shown people are up to 10 times more likely to accomplish a goal when they write it down.

“The ‘Didja Ever’ campaign is all about sharing and fulfilling firsts, so Carnival’s page on Facebook made perfect sense to be our home base for people to share, track and cheer others on,” said Roger Baldacci, EVP, executive creative director of Arnold Worldwide, the advertising agency that developed the campaign with Carnival. “We’re bringing elements of the participatory fun experienced by guests on Carnival’s vessels to anyone who wants to build a list of things they’ve always wished to do and maybe get a little help to make it happen.”

To promote the new “Didja Ever” campaign, Carnival today debuted the first of its newest television spots that continue the popular “Fun For All. All For Fun.” theme. The ads utilize stunning slow-motion to capture Carnival cruise fans enthralled in first-time moments. The first in the series features a mom who awes her young boys when she catches air on a wave runner. The spots feature the familiar voice of actor John Krasinski who notes “Now, there’s a first,” and the rock anthem “Bang the Drum” by Todd Rundgren.

The new TV spots will air on major networks and top-rated daytime and primetime shows.

© www.expertcruiser.comYour online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

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Royal Caribbean silences skeptics with Allure of the Seas

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On December - 14 - 2010

By Anita Dunham-Potter (editor@www.expertcruiser.com)

Last December, Royal Caribbean International introduced Oasis of the Seas, at the time the world’s largest cruise ship spanning 16 decks, encompassing 220,000 gross registered tons and, with all berths filled holds 6,200 passengers. Back then the massive size of the ship was the focus of every media story. Will it float? Will it fit into ports? Will it take half a day to get on and off?

AllurepoolsLast month with the launch of Oasis’ slightly larger sister ship, Allure of the Seas, the size factor isn’t even a consideration. The skeptics have been proven wrong and the big story is how these mammoth vessels are attracting a wide-ranging group of passengers. “There are no more questions that the Oasis-class ships are working,” says Royal Caribbean president Adam Goldstein.

Indeed, both Allure and Oasis are expected to carry 600,000 passengers in 2011 with some 30 percent of those customers coming from non-North American markets. The clear attraction is that there are no ships at sea remotely like them and with the launch of Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean upped the ante and added more unique offerings earning it the nickname “the entertainment ship”.

Parks, pools and more

AllureSolariumLike her sister ship, Allure has the wow amenities such as a zip-line and a carousel. It features the Rising Tide bar that ascends and descends from the ship’s Promenade area—with indoor stores and cafés—to its Central Park, an open-air “park” with pathways, flower gardens and canopy trees that spans the length of a football field.

The Aqua Theater situated at the very back of the ship of has the deepest pool at sea (18 feet) is by night an outdoor amphitheater, hosting synchronized swimming and diving shows featuring athletes jumping from as high as 72 feet up, and like the famed Bellagio in Las Vegas’ a fountain show set to music, laser lights, and videos. During the day guests can watch movies, football games or choose to relax on chairs located on the surrounding tiered platforms.

AllureCaroselAllure has four pools: Two are made to feel like a beach, with sloped entries you can walk into just as if you were walking into the ocean. Staterooms come in all shapes and sizes with revolutionary cruise ship accommodations in 37 different categories and unique offerings such as duplex “loft suites” that have 18-foot windows looking out to the ocean. Other staterooms have views of the line’s seven “neighborhoods,” such as Central Park, the Boardwalk, home to the Carousel, and other venues.

The Youth Zone features 28,700 square feet just for kids and teens, with Kids Avenue, a central boulevard connecting various themed play areas; a nursery for infants and toddlers; and a theater for children. This gives parents time to enjoy the adults-only retreat, the open air Solarium. Adults have their own swimming pool and six whirlpools—four of them cantilevered 136 feet above the ocean. At night, the Solarium transitions into an adults-only setting for specialty dining and outdoor dancing.

AllureParadeNew fairy tales

Eight distinct features give the Allure a personality different than its sister ship. Allure boasts a number of new venues including the first Starbucks at Sea; new restaurants such as Brazilian steakhouse Samba Grill and Mexican eatery Rita’s Cantina; a 3-D movie theater and more.

Allure also is the first cruise ship with DreamWorks characters onboard including Shrek and Fiona, which is due to a new partnership between Royal Caribbean and DreamWorks Animation. Dubbed “The DreamWorks Experience” the onboard offerings will include a “How To Train Your Dragon” ice show; “Madagascar” aqua show; character breakfasts, character meet-and-greets and other movie-themed events will take place on each sailing.

Big production shows are different on Allure as well. While Oasis has “Hairspray,” Allure brings another Tony Award-winning musical to the seas, “Chicago”. Additionally, the “Blue Planet” show on the Allure is a whirling acrobatic wonder set to Beatle tunes.

And more ‘fare-y’ tales
Last year with the launch of Oasis of the Seas fares were at a premium since there was no other ship at sea like it. What a difference a year makes as Allure enters the market.

AllureWaterShowStewart Chiron, a cruise industry expert who is nationally recognized as The Cruise Guy, notes the fares during Oasis’ launch late last year and into the first quarter this year averaged $1,471 per person based on double occupancy for an inside stateroom – at the time double the fare for similar digs on other top notch cruise ships. With Allure’s entrance into the Caribbean scene thus doubling capacity fares have gone down – a lot. Chiron notes that Allure’s fares are 31 percent less than Oasis’ fares a year ago averaging $1069 per person. Fares for both vessels going into 2011 are very similar with Oasis averaging a slightly higher premium at $1104 per person. This of course is good news for families wanting to try out Oasis and Allure, but were turned off by last year’s higher price tag.

Allure of the Seas like Oasis sails from Port Everglades and the world’s largest cruise ship terminal. Amazingly with this state-of-the-art facility Royal Caribbean is able to get passengers from curbside to the vessel in just 15 minutes – a feat other large ship cruise operators are envious of.

Royal Caribbean’s “Nation of Why Not?” campaign defines its fleet as the ideal destination to declare independence from ordinary cruise vacations. Clearly, Allure and Oasis are anything but ordinary and the growing number of passengers flocking to these ships has other cruise lines wondering what they can do to top it.

© www.expertcruiser.comYour online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

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Disney Cruise Line gets its Dream boat

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On December - 11 - 2010

Disney Cruise Line took delivery of the Disney Dream in Germany today, the first new ship for the line since 1999. Next week the ship will head to its homeport in Port Canaveral, Florida where it will arrive on January 4. The line will do several press events and christening ceremony prior to its maiden voyage on January 26, 2011. DisneyDreamDeliveryDisney Dream has been under construction by Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg for nearly two years. It’s the first of two new ships to join the Disney fleet, with the Disney Fantasy set to debut in April 2012.

The highly anticipated ship will have many notable features never before seen aboard a cruise ship including the AquaDuck water coaster, a slide that literally sends riders over the open ocean. The interactive features aboard Dream will offer touches of Disney whimsy including virtual portholes, restaurants that change their look at different times of the day and massive children’s only facilities.

© www.expertcruiser.comYour online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

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Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection to offer new Solstice-class options

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On December - 8 - 2010

By Anita Dunham-Potter (editor@www.expertcruiser.com)

Lawn Club offerings, new relaxation areas, and changes to Michael’s Club. “We have focused on continuing to break the rules from the hardware and software standpoint for cruise ships,” said Celebrity Cruises President & CEO Dan Hanrahan. By continuing to tweak an already successful class of cruise ship, Celebrity is staying well-ahead in the premium cruise market. Hanrahan added, “We recognize that consumers’ vacation time is precious, and that’s what drives us to continually create new and unique experiences that enhance their rare time away.”

Celebrity Cruises announced today some big changes and upgrades to their popular Solstice-class vessels. The changes will debut on the new Celebrity Silhouette (sailing in August 2011) and Celebrity Reflection (sailing in November 2012). The line announced new AquaClass suites, expanded Celebrity EclipseHere’s what Celebrity customers can look forward to:

Driven by high demand for Celebrity’s industry-first AquaClass category of spa-inspired accommodations, and by way of an additional deck being added to Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity will introduce on that ship the line’s first AquaClass Suites, each offering 251 square feet of luxurious interior space and spacious 57-square-foot verandas, and all the amenities associated with Celebrity’s AquaClass accommodations, including exclusive and complimentary access to the highly-rated specialty restaurant, “Blu,” noted for inviting, modern design and flavorful, healthy, clean cuisine. The new suites also will offer the luxurious 24/7 butler service that is a hallmark of every suite across the Celebrity fleet.

In addition to the 34 new AquaClass Suites, Celebrity Reflection also will present an additional eight luxurious new Sky Suites, 19 additional plush ConciergeClass staterooms, and 11 additional inside staterooms, bringing the stateroom/suite total to 1,515.
“We gave a great deal of thought about how to ideally accommodate everything we’re adding,” said Hanrahan. “We’re widening the ship slightly, enabling us to introduce each of these exceptional new venues without compromising the Celebrity’s premium space ratio and lauded traffic flow.
Additionally, Celebrity Reflection will offer 245 more loungers on its expanded pool deck to suit the increased overall guest capacity, as well as 45 additional seats in the Celebrity Theater, 118 in Oceanview Cafe, 24 additional seats each in Blu and in Tuscan Grille, four more in Qsine, and 40 additional seats in the main dining room, where Celebrity also offers Celebrity Select Dining, the industry’s first flexible dining option allowing guests to choose when they wish to dine on a flexible, day-by-day basis.

Inspired by the popularity of its iconic, industry-first Lawn Club, Celebrity will leverage its brand pillars of outstanding dining experiences, enriching activities, relaxation and pampering, and modern design to offer vacationers on Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection significantly expanded opportunities to eat and drink, relax and lounge, and participate and socialize within the inviting space.

The Lawn Club Grill
Both Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection will present “The Lawn Club Grill,” the industry’s first outdoor, interactive grill venue. A new, exceptionally social specialty dining option overlooking the lush lawn and soothing sea, The Lawn Club Grill will boast a design likely to be the envy of novice and experienced chefs alike, with gleaming stainless steel grills and other appliances, custom pizza-making tables and large ovens. By day, in addition to a casual lunch menu highlighted by a variety of high-end burgers, the venue will present interactive demonstrations and classes focused on pizza-making – including the art of dough-tossing – grilling secrets, mouth-watering marinades and more, led by Celebrity’s own chefs, as well as guest chefs participating in Celebrity’s “Savor Your Destination” program. By night, in a particularly unique twist, guests will have their choice from an array of top-quality meats to either grill themselves, side-by-side with Celebrity’s chefs, or have grilled to order. A nominal surcharge will apply. Complementing the dinner experience will be libations ranging from wines, beer and sangria, all consistent with the casual nature of the 56-seat restaurant.

The Porch
With its chic, Hamptons-style design, modern furnishings, and creative use of natural light, all complemented by the enticing aroma of fresh-baked breads and pastries, The Porch will be the idyllic spot for quick, simple, casual and complimentary breakfasts and lunches. Offering breathtaking views of the lawn and sea courtesy of its prime location on the starboard side of the ship at the entrance to Lawn Club, the intimate, 48-seat venue will be the perfect place to enjoy complimentary fresh pastries, salads, paninis and other sandwiches, in addition to specialty coffees, beer and wine.

The Art Studio
With one of the world’s largest corporate collections of contemporary art exhibited across its fleet, and given the enthusiasm guests expressed when the line introduced the industry’s first art tours to be offered on an iPad®, Celebrity will further appeal to its guests’ love of art in “The Art Studio” within the area of The Lawn Club. There, experienced and novice artists alike can participate in intimate, hands-on instruction from experts in drawing, painting and beading, as well as the art of food, with plating, tastings, mixology and other culinary-themed classes. The Art Studio also will present exclusive, intimate pairing dinners hosted by guest chefs participating in Celebrity’s Savor Your Destination program.

The Alcoves
For a private retreat overlooking the lawn, ocean and coastlines, Celebrity also will present within The Lawn Club “The Alcoves,” eight exclusive, cabana-style settings, each designed for two to four guests. Each of The Alcoves on Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection will offer WiFi for guests who want to stay connected while relaxing, themed picnic baskets and an a la carte beverage menu. The Alcoves will be available as partial or all-day rentals. Adjacent to The Alcoves, guests will find eight inviting hammocks and two whimsical, oversized Adirondack chairs, each offering complimentary, additional opportunities to relax amidst the atmosphere of the lawn and sea.

Celebrity’s history and future will converge in Michael’s Club – a venue found on every Celebrity ship – where the line will present on Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection a restyled, casually elegant bar where vacationers can sit back and enjoy the comfortably sophisticated atmosphere while watching the World Cup games and sipping a Chimay Blue. Across the Celebrity fleet, Michael’s Club offers an impressive selection of rare malts, whiskies and scotches. Building on that tradition, the “new” Michael’s Club on Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection will add an equally impressive selection of more than 50 beers, including flavorful craft beers, and will allow guests to participate in engaging experiences such as ideal food and beer pairings, how to pour the perfect draft, or how to select the proper beer glass, all while snacking on homemade, gourmet potato chips and bread sticks, and fresh, lightly-spiced caramel popcorn, amidst a vibe of live music and cool playlists, or major international sporting events airing on the venue’s large, 46″ TV screens.

Guests seeking a particularly quiet spot to get away from it all can do so in a new venue inspired precisely by that interest. “The Hideaway” on Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection will provide a high-tech escape for vacationers relaxing with their iPads or perhaps trying out a new Apple product from the Celebrity iLounge, or a low-tech retreat for reading a good book. Inspired by the live trees suspended within the Grand Foyer of every Solstice Class ship, the design of The Hideaway reflects that of an upscale, avant-garde tree house, with cozy, intimate lounging “nests,” or niches.

© www.expertcruiser.comYour online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

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Will this ship make me fat?

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On December - 6 - 2010

By Anita Dunham-Potter  (editor@www.expertcruiser.com)

As we were standing in the morning breakfast buffet line, a fellow passenger aboard Holland America’s Zuiderdam remarked to me, “You could easily start the day with three breakfasts on this ship: one delivered by room service, another at the sit-down restaurant and another at the buffet.”ms_Oosterdam___Fitnes-8671

From his girth, I figured the gentleman knew this from personal experience. Certainly, cruising and food seem to go hand in hand. Most cruises are one long buffet meal, and if you’re not careful, you’ll disembark with excess baggage on your behind.

According to Holland America, the average weekly grocery list for the 1,848 passengers aboard the Zuiderdam includes:

* Meat: 11,830 lbs

* Poultry: 3,814 lbs

* Fish: 1,875 lbs

* Seafood: 2,575 lbs

* Butter and margarine: 1,674 lbs

* Fresh vegetables: 137,500 lbs

* Potatoes: 7,750 lbs

* Watermelon: 2,300 lbs

* Dairy: 5,500 qts

* Ice cream: 300 gals

* Eggs: 23,040

* Sugar: 950 lbs

* Flour: 3,150 lbs

* Soda: 362 cases

* Beer: 332 cases

* Champagnes: 450 bottles

* Wine: 1,636 bottles

* Water: 280 cases

Or, roughly, 20 gazillion calories per person. And it’s not just the Zuiderdam. No matter what ship you are on, and no matter where you are going, your kitchen crew will offer you an overwhelming array of food, food, food and more food.

Almost everyone I spoke with on the Zuiderdam worried about gaining weight on the cruise, and the majority expected to put on a few pounds over the seven days at sea. I was worried, too; I’ve been on the “Curse the Cruise” diet many times myself. The key to healthful cruising this time, I decided, would be balance. Of course I would enjoy the wonderful multicourse dinners — and all the crème brûlée that Holland America could whip up for me, but the price would be a serious exploration of the onboard fitness programs.

FitnessGalleryThere were plenty to choose from: everything from morning mile walks and yoga to “New Body” aerobics, “New Body” Pilates and “New Body” hydro-Pilates. The “New Body” theme had taken over the Greenhouse Spa, and small wonder: With all that food on board, I suspect most passengers would end the cruise with some sort of “new body.” But that’s not what the exercise gurus had in mind. According to the spa literature, the New Body program would “energize and burn calories while focusing on balance, concentration and inner strength.”

Ah, yes. Inner strength. If I was going to get this “New Body” right, I’d need all the inner strength I could muster, especially around the glazed doughnuts in the Lido Restaurant. But I was committed. Rather than risk being mistaken for Shamu in my black swimsuit, I decided to take action. It would be “New Body and Me” for the next six days.

The walk-a-mile at 7 a.m. on the Promenade Deck was my first foray in the fight against flab. It was great for toning my legs and working up a little pre-breakfast sweat. Walking is normally a simple action: You put one foot in front of the other and off you go. But at sea, you may find it far from simple. With the ship pitching and rolling, and the wind gusting, you might find yourself missing a few steps. Me, I looked like I was doing an Irish jig.

The next morning, I tried the “New Body” hydro-Pilates class. The British instructor emphasized the importance of a clear mind-body focus. Amazing! We hadn’t even started the class, yet my body was clearly telling my mind that it wanted a glazed doughnut. (Focus, focus! Think “New Body.”)

The instructor then explained that the routine would move along “like a gentle wave.” The fact that some sizeable waves were rolling all around us in the pool made the going a little tougher, but we all persevered. When my stomach let out a loud growl, I was horrified.

The woman next to me whispered in a heavy Southern drawl, “Didn’t ya’ll eat yet?”

“No,” I whispered back, “and I want a glazed doughnut really bad.”

We started giggling. Clearly, we’d broken our “New Body” focus, but it looked like the start of a nice friendship. At the end of the class, we made formal introductions. Her name was Charlotte and her hometown was (no kidding) Charlotte, North Carolina.

Now, Charlotte from Charlotte is extremely physically fit — “slammin’,” as the teenagers say. I had literally run into her the day before, during my morning walk around the Promenade Deck; she was jogging, I was jigging. In fact, Charlotte is one of those people who spends little time resting, and this cruise was her personal fitness quest. Besides jogging and Pilates, she swam laps every morning in the pool. All in all, Charlotte is something of a cruise fitness expert. In her opinion, shipboard fitness programs have come a long way since she began cruising 20 years ago.

She’s right. In fact, cruise ships now offer fitness and spa options that rival, and sometimes surpass, anything vacationers can find on land. According to the Cruise Lines International Association, cruise lines dedicate thousands of square feet to health, fitness and spa facilities — as much as 28,000 square feet per vessel. Many cruise lines also offer fitness-themed cruises. For example, Crystal Cruises offeres “Health & Fitness” cruises dedicated to overall wellness. Nutrition and fitness experts from the Cleveland Clinic were on board, as were professionals from the Tai Chi Cultural Center and Debbie Rocker with her “Walk-on-Water” (WOW) program. All programs worked out in the Crystal Spa, the only feng shui-inspired fitness center and spa at sea.

But back to the Zuiderdam, where I was valiantly exercising, feng shui or no. After the morning hydro-Pilates class, our ship tendered off Holland America’s private Bahamian island Half Moon Cay. Late in the afternoon, while taking a stroll along the beach with my family, I heard a distinctive voice hailing me. It was Charlotte, eager to have me meet her husband, Buck. I was dumbfounded. Buck turned out to be the portly gentleman I had met the first day in the breakfast buffet line. Charlotte, he explained, had been obsessed with exercise ever since the kids had gone off to college. It is her way of dealing with her empty nest.

HALvolleyballSeveral days passed. Zuiderdam was taking us on a seven-day “Eastern Caribbean” itinerary, with calls at Half Moon Cay, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau. For many on board, the itinerary didn’t seem to matter. Like that old joke, they were on the “See-food diet”: They see food, they eat it. But I was sticking to my healthful plan. I even found myself skipping the doughnuts — much to the amusement of my kids. Every breakfast they taunted me with their glazed doughnuts, but I did not succumb.

On Day 5, Charlotte said she needed a buddy for the “New Body” step aerobics class. Like a dimwit, I said, “Sure.”

I found myself thrust into a high-energy session — lots of kicking, marching, jumping and stretching. After 30 minutes of this bump and grind, my Steelers T-shirt was drenched in sweat. By the end of the session, my buttocks felt like they were on fire. I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I headed for the hydrotherapy pool and strategically placed my bottom along the water jets to ease the pain.

Only two passengers showed up for the last “New Body” hydro-Pilates class: Charlotte and me. To tell you the truth, I was almost a no-show myself. I was so sore from the step class that it took several aspirins to get me moving that morning. In the end, I have to confess, my favorite onboard activity had become lounging by the pool and gazing out to sea. In this, I was in the majority.

Here’s the good news: Despite eating the multicourse dinners and indulging in many decadent desserts, I ended the trip feeling fitter and weighing less than when I boarded. Cruising, it seems, can be good for you.

Check out these other articles by www.expertcruiser.com:

Ships that keep you fit

© www.expertcruiser.comYour online consumer guide for cruise travel and information.

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