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Carnival Breeze fun day at sea

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 20 - 2012

It’s a much needed sea day after four hectic days in port (Marseille, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Salerno) time to enjoy some old and new ‘Fun Ship’ festivities on the new Carnival Breeze.

First the new. This morning I had the opportunity to check out the new 24-seat Thrill Theater onboard. What a neat concept this is. There are four movies/experiences to choose from: Planet Earth Shallow Seas; Sponge Bob, Mumble’s Wild Ride; Bamboo Express. The cost is $8 per movie or you can buy a pass for $15 for unlimited movies throughout the cruise. Needless to say the unlimited package is the way to go. Upon entering guests are given special 3-D glasses that work with the high-definition projection system. There are additional fun elements such as squirting water and bubbles, ‘thingys’ that tickle legs, air blowing on your neck, and a creepy ‘finger’ that pokes you in your seat. Seats also shift back and forth, move from side to side and also vibrate, creating an exciting and exhilarating experience. It’s a lot of fun and you will leave a bit wet.

comedybrunchbreezeFrom one laugh it was on to another as I checked out the new Punchliner Comedy Brunch in the Sapphire Dining Room. The brunch is only offered on sea days from 10-1 and is worth going to not just for laughs, but for a really good brunch menu. Each hour the comedians do a 10-minute routine while you eat. It’s definitely a belly of laughs!

hairychestbreezeIn the afternoon it was time for some old ‘Fun Ship’ entertainment — the infamous Carnival “Hairy Chest Contest”. It came down to two wild and crazy guys one from New Jersey the other from New Zealand. It’s hard to describe the antics these two went through. Suffice it to say it was insane and the dude from NJ ended up taking home the. Lots of laughs and one heck of a conga line followed the festivities.

Carnival certainly does live up to its “Fun Ship” reputation. There’s a lot more onboard so stay tuned for more live blogs from Carnival Breeze.

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

Filled Under Blog, Tripblog, Twitter, What's New?

A fresh Breeze transforms Carnival

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 16 - 2012

When Carnival Cruise Lines unveiled Fun Ship 2.0 it was the beginning of a huge transformation for the fleet and the perception of the cruise line itself. Fun Ship 2.0 builds on the popular features launched on Carnival Magic in 2011 from the massive waterpark to new partnerships in dining and entertainment. Since the launch of Magic, Carnival has announced breakthrough partnerships with some of today’s biggest talents and has created its own new branded experiences and onboard destinations.

BreezePlaza3Carnival Breeze is the first ship to feature all of the new entertainment offerings that are part of the Fun Ship 2.0 enhancements so let’s take a look at what’s new.

Easy on the eyes

BreezeStateroom5Long known for its over-the-top interior decor by resident architect Joseph Farcus, Carnival has recently been toning down its signature glitzy look with a more contemporary, elegant style. From the moment you step onboard it’s clear Breeze isn’t a neon shrine of past Carnival ships. BreezeHallwaysThe ship offers a distinctive island-inspired design theme offering a dramatic combination of bright colors and soothing pastel hues, with iconic images of palm trees and other tropical elements adorning hallway corridors. Contemporary furnishings and light fixtures enhance the stylish atmosphere.

High-tech Entertainment

Breeze offers Carnival’s first Thrill Theater, with interactive special effects that make viewers feel as if they are part of the featured movie. The theater combines a high-definition projection system with elements such as squirting water and bubbles, and original special effects that tickle guests’ legs, blow air on their necks and poke them in their seats. Seats within the theater shift back and forth, move from side to side and also vibrate, creating an exciting and exhilarating experience. Guests receive special glasses that deliver a truly immersive movie-going experience.

Breeze is also the first ship to offer Hasbro, The Game Show, a new family-oriented entertainment option that features larger-than-life adaptations of the brand’s iconic games and activities. Six main games are offered: SORRY! SLIDERS, which involves a giant shuffleboard court; SIMON FLASH, where two teams of four guests wear giant light-up color boxes and must shuffle themselves quickly to repeat a color sequence; YAHTZEE BOWLING, with a giant ball and larger-than-life-sized bowling pins; OPERATION SAM DUNK, which is set up like a skee-ball board where contestants try to get the balls into different slots on the “patient’s” body, and CONNECT 4 BASKETBALL, which uses a basketball setup rather than the traditional checkers to play.

BreezeTheaterPlaylist Productions debuts on Breeze offering high-tech production shows that combine captivating live performances with LED staging and special effects to set a new standard in seagoing entertainment. Four exhilarating revues are currently offered – “Divas,” “Latin Nights,” “Motor City,” and “The Brits!” – each featuring widely popular and memorable music encompassing a variety of styles, genres and eras.

New Cuisine

BreezeBonsaiSushiTwo new dining options debut on Breeze. Carnival’s first full-service sushi restaurant, Bonsai Sushi offers a wide variety of Asian-inspired delicacies with a contemporary decor featuring artwork by world-renowned graffiti artist Erni Vales, colorful koi kites flown during impromptu celebrations, and, of course, several Bonsai trees. Located along Promenade Deck, Bonsai Sushi includes a number of varieties of sushi, sashimi, and rolls along with bento boxes and the venue’s own interpretation of a sushi boat – in this case, a sushi “ship” – with prices ranging from $1 for appetizer-sized portions to $15 for a sushi ship for two.

Also, Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ is reminiscent of a backyard barbecue. This complimentary open-air dining venue located on Promenade Deck offers a mouth-watering array of grilled favorites, including barbecued chicken breast, kielbasa, Italian sausage, and Fat Jimmy’s signature item, pulled pork sandwiches, along with traditional sides like baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw and mini-corn muffins.

There’s a lot more onboard so stay tuned for more live blogs from Carnival Breeze.

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

Carnival’s social Magic

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On June - 2 - 2011

Nobody does fun better than Carnival Cruise Lines from the young in age to the young at heart. Founded in 1972 with just one ship, Carnival is now the world’s largest cruise line, boasting a fleet of 23 ships, with one more on order, and a corporate philosophy that focuses on value, quality, and of course, fun. “We have a clear idea of who and what we are and we offer fun and memorable vacations,” says Carnival Cruise Lines’ CEO Gerry Cahill.

The new 130,000-ton Carnival Magic is the culmination of the best of the line’s 40-years on the high seas. At 3,646 passengers (maximum 4,631 passenger capacity including upper berths) Magic is Carnival’s biggest ship to date and introduces a number of exciting new features for the line.

The social network

Magic-11As the second of three Dream-class ships (Carnival Breeze is scheduled to launch in spring 2012), Carnival Magic offers the same popular areas as its sister ship Carnival Dream. Carnival ships are known to have an outlandish décor, but thankfully Magic like its sister ship Dream has been toned down to a more subdued fun level that passengers seem to prefer. A ‘classier’ Carnival? Maybe. Still, it is a “Fun Ship” and there’s no escaping the fact that everything onboard is geared towards extroverted passenger pursuits.

“We attract a very social type of person on our ships,” adds Cahill. Indeed, the Dream-class ships were designed for seagoing social butterflies. The heart of Carnival Magic is the Ocean Plaza, an indoor/outdoor area that is open day and night and is lined with coffee shops, bars, Internet cafes, shops and other meet-up locations. The Lanai area features a wrap-around promenade and four cantilevered whirlpools suspended over the ship’s side. There’s also a “FunHub” area, the line’s social network area at sea. Guests can use one of 36 onboard computers to post requests looking for like-minded guests wanting to share shore excursions, play backgammon, cards, or simply get together over a beer at the new RedFrog Pub.

The addition of the Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub with its own lager proved to be a huge hit right from the first day. So popular is the pub that the entire stockpile of its signature “ThirstyFrog Red” beer was guzzled with gusto by guests on embarkation day. Thankfully, Carnival came to the rescue and had kegs delivered to the ship a few days later in Sicily. Beer clearly has no boundaries.

CarnivalSeaDay10Entertainment is everywhere onboard. Laughs are always assured with the talented onboard comedians who offer nightly shows at the Punchliner in the Spotlight Lounge. The lounge also serves as a karaoke spot where guests can croon with the accompaniment of a live band and backup singer. The Showtime Theater offers great passenger participation shows with cruise director extraordinaire John Heald and at night the theater hosts three new elaborate Vegas-style shows. Poolside the Seaside Theater shows movies day and night on the huge Jumbotron. It’s also home to the infamous “Hairy Chest Contest” and “Cruise Queen Coronation”. The Ocean Plaza atrium area offers excellent musical entertainment throughout the day and night. In the evenings the Vibe Nightclub and Play It Again Piano Bar are always packed with energetic revelers. Those wanting to gamble will have no problem finding their game of chance in the Hat Trick Casino.

Guests wishing to relax have many options among the abundant quiet deck space along the Lanai, and the many outdoor nooks that offer plush wicker furniture and umbrellas. Another escape is the massive Cloud 9 Spa that spans over two decks in the front of the ship and offers an Asian-inspired ambiance. You can relax in the huge thalassotherapy pool or the thermal suite based on a Turkish bath experience. Before and after treatments, guests are encouraged to relax with a cup of tea in a relaxation area with comfy loungers and canopied beds with sea views and soothing music. Additionally after a treatment guests can go al fresco just above the spa to the 11,250-square-foot adults-only Serenity area with plush loungers, beds, and hammocks. Fitness buffs will appreciate the spa’s large fitness center with state-of-the-art Lifecycle machinery along with daily fitness classes with personal trainers. There are also 65 spa staterooms that offer direct access to the spa through a private elevator. Each stateroom has special décor and amenities that make for the ultimate seagoing spa and wellness vacation that’s only steps away from the stateroom.

Family friendly amenities

In addition to the spa staterooms, accommodations include 1,823 well-appointed staterooms, including 12 penthouse suites, 58 suites and the 65 aforementioned spa cabins. The “cove” balcony cabins located close to the waterline are proving to be very popular as are the deluxe ocean view staterooms that feature a configuration with two bathrooms and five berths. Of the ship’s 1,823 staterooms, over 250 will be interconnecting with more than 400 accommodating up to three, four, and four guests – perfect for families.

Indeed it’s the focus on families that Carnival excels at. The line is expected to carry an estimated 670,000 children this year, roughly half the total number of kids carried by the entire North American cruise industry. So, it’s no surprise that Magic offers 19,000 total square feet of space catering to kids of all ages. Magic’s youth activities areas are expansive, the largest is the 5,000-square-foot Camp Carnival (ages 2-11) located on Deck 11 that is divided into age-appropriate areas. Located on Deck 4, is the 1,075-square-foot Circle C (ages 12-14) and adjacent is the 2,740-square-foot Club O2 (ages 15-17) that boasts a dance floor, soda bar, game area and more.

For parents who like to party Carnival is rolling out a new fee-based, late-night children’s program on Magic that will debut fleetwide in June. Dubbed Camp Carnival NightOwls the program will offer supervised activities from 10 p.m. up until 3 a.m. for various age groups. For children ages 2-11, the program will operate until midnight and cost $13 per child, plus a 15 percent gratuity. The program will also operate until 1 a.m. for those age 6 to 8 years and cost $20 with a 15 percent gratuity. Additionally, for children ages 9- 11 years old, the program will end at 3 a.m., when children will be delivered back to their staterooms. That program will cost $33 plus the 15 percent gratuity.

CarnivalSeaDayGALLERYLocated on Deck 12 is the largest water park at sea, WaterWorks, with various water-spray apparatus, an industry-first 300-gallon dump bucket, and the 303-foot-long, four decks high “Twister Waterslide”, the longest at sea. The water park complements Magic’s three swimming pools and seven whirlpools. On Deck 12 Aft is the SportSquare outdoor recreation area with the first-ever ropes course at sea, Sky Fitness outdoor fitness area, and two-level mini-golf course. The SkyCourse lets passengers take a walk on the wild side with the assistance of a safety harness. There are two 230-foot courses that offer beginner and intermediate options each course has rope bridges, swinging steps and beams suspended above the ship’s top deck. A Sports Court within the SportsSquare complex offers basketball, volleyball and soccer. Additionally, there are six-station Vita exercise course and ping pong and foosball tables.

Carnival cuisine

Carnival offers by far the best dining value at sea with a vast array of menu options. The majority of meals are served in the ship’s two main dining rooms, Northern Lights and Southern Lights, which offer dinners in the traditional manner, with assigned times and assigned tables (breakfasts and lunches are open seating), along with the line’s “Your Choice” open seat dining that allows guests to eat when they want.

CarnivalSeaDay6Main restaurants aside, Magic offers abundant round-the-clock dining options. The Marketplace on Lido Deck, is the ship’s casual buffet restaurant, is arranged into several serving stations. Two areas that are particularly popular leading to long lines are the burrito Bar and pasta bar. Both areas allow guests to pick what’s in their burrito or choice of pastas, sauces, and meats. Also available is Indian Tandoori, Mongolian wok, a 24-hour pizzeria, deli, hamburger and hot dog grill, and ice-cream machines. The Plaza Café offers breakfast and lunch options as well and for a small fee pub grub is available in the RedFrog Pub. Another dining option is the Sushi Bar on Deck 5 and of course there’s always 24-hour room service.

The Prime Steakhouse is Magic’s supper club restaurant, where for $30 per person you’ll get a magnificent six course gourmet meal. However, it’s the new Cucina Del Capitano restaurant that is getting the highest praise onboard. At lunchtime it’s free and offers a pasta bar; however, at night it turns into an unforgettable trattoria experience. For $10 guests can dine family style from a menu inspired by the favorite family recipes of Carnival’s captains.

It’s clear: Carnival Magic is one big “Fun Ship” full of innovations that can make for a great family vacation.

If you go:

Carnival Magic is sailing a schedule of seven- to 12-day Mediterranean voyages through October 16. Ports of call include Monte Carlo, Rome, Naples, Messina, Palma, Marseilles, Venice and Dubrovnik. Carnival Magic will then sail on a 16-day transatlantic crossing then launch seven-day Caribbean service from Galveston, Texas, becoming the port’s largest year-round ship. Prices for Mediterranean voyages start at $699; Caribbean cruises from $589. Visit Carnival’s Website for more details.

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

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

Carnival Magic visits la dolce vita

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On May - 11 - 2011

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

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

Titanic-sized medical bill surprises cruising couple

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On April - 18 - 2011

Susan and Larry Smith were looking forward to their first-ever Cunard cruise across the Atlantic onboard the fabulous Queen Mary 2. But the fun stopped for the New York City couple the moment Larry had chest pains along with gastrointestinal malaise.

The Smiths immediately sought treatment at the ship’s infirmary, where the ship’s doctor ran an EKG and some tests. Fortunately Larry’s heart checked out okay, but he was dehydrated and was given intravenous fluids and was kept in the infirmary for an hour of observation. Larry’s tests ruled out any infection, but the doctor couldn’t figure out why Larry had become so dehydrated. Therefore, no definitive diagnosis was reached. The next morning Larry felt much better and the cruise continued. A few days after the visit to the infirmary, the Smiths got another unpleasant surprise: a bill for medical services totaling $1,200. The amount was immediately charged to their shipboard account.

The Smiths were shocked. “It didn’t seem like a lot of treatment for $1,200. It was as much as my cruise fare,” said Susan Smith. Even worse the couple foolishly believed that their health insurance would be accepted onboard the ship. It wasn’t. Fortunately they did have travel insurance (purchased through the cruise line) that covered medical issues.

Insurance doesn’t travel well
What many people don’t realize is that all cruise ships of foreign registry are considered to be entities operating outside the United States. And, as the Smiths discovered, domestic medical insurance coverage doesn’t travel the same way aboard ship as it does within the United States. Sometimes, coverage doesn’t extend to foreign travel at all; other times it just works differently. For example, co-payments may be higher than usual or your reimbursement may be limited.

Even with complete medical coverage, you can’t just hand the cruise line your insurance card. You will usually have to pay your treatment costs up front and file for reimbursement after you return home. That’s what the Smiths did. Their insurer accepted the claim but explained it could take up to three months to receive reimbursement. The Smiths were relieved to be covered at all.

Could the Smiths have avoided the $1,200 out-of-pocket expense? Maybe. If they had purchased third-party travel insurance, they could have received upfront financial assistance and they might have gotten their money back more quickly.

Third-party insurers usually provide primary coverage, i.e., the insurance company pays the traveler directly for any medical claim. Most cruise lines also sell insurance policies, but these usually provide secondary coverage, which means that you must file your claims through your regular medical insurance carrier, then seek reimbursement from the cruise line’s insurance company.

Cover the gaps
Medicare beneficiaries should always purchase travel insurance when they cruise, because they do not have Medicare coverage outside the country. Another very big gap is medical evacuation and transportation services, which are seldom covered by medical insurance policies. According to Medjet Assist, an Alabama-based evacuation operation, domestic air medical evacuation services average $10,000 to $20,000, while international transports can exceed $75,000. If you travel more than once a year, consider buying an annual policy; both MedjetAssist and Travel Guard offer this kind of policy, which can be purchased for as little as $185 a year.

Cruising is exciting, but it can turn into more of an adventure than you planned if you discover that you aren’t covered for the unexpected. So check your insurance policies and fill in the gaps with supplemental coverage.

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

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

Disney Dream’s Believe show bestows magical life lesson

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On January - 21 - 2011

Just as designing the Disney Dream was an intensive project so too is the entertainment that goes onboard. Last October, I was one of a handful of journalists to attend an exclusive preview of Disney Believe, the ship’s new Broadway-style show in Toronto. Disney Cruise Line maintains facilities there to workshop new entertainment, train actors, and recruit talent.

Believe1The Disney Believe show has been more than two years in the making. The line partnered with renowned Broadway director Gordon Greenberg, along with choreographer Patti Columbo and writer Kirsten Childs, to create an original production that is unlike any other show at sea. A master illusionist was brought in to help with thrilling character moments and to create stage magic the producers worked with 3D modeling, design, and animation to create the sets, costumes, and even the special effects that will be used. “We had to up the ante with Dream,” said David Duffy, the line’s Creative Director, Entertainment and Port Adventures. Indeed they have. Duffy states that the show will play in the state of the art theater on Dream that rivals those on Broadway and London’s West End. Greenberg added that the technology used in the show will be ground breaking with things that have never been used on Broadway like front and rear projection.

With the story, design, and casting all in place the 24-member cast spent 10 weeks rehearsing in Toronto and six weeks onboard the Dream while under construction in Germany. As I watched the rehearsal of several high-energy scenes it’s very clear the performers are the cream of the crop from around the globe. There’s no lip-syncing at Disney its live vocal performances at their best.

Disney Believe tells the story of a workaholic father who, through the power of Disney magic, reconnects with his daughter and learns a valuable lesson about what is important in life. The show takes guests to the garden of Dr. Cornelius Greenaway, a brilliant botanist obsessed with cultivating his precious plants. Dr. Greenaway is so preoccupied with his garden that he overlooks the birthday of his daughter, Sophia. Saddened, Sophia makes a special birthday wish and the impossible happens: Genie from Disney’s “Aladdin” appears to make her wish come true. Joined by a host of characters, Genie takes Dr. Greenaway on a journey where he learns that magic is real and is embodied in his beloved daughter. More than 20 of Disney’s most beloved characters take the stage during Disney Believe, including Cinderella, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, Belle (“Beauty and The Beast”), Rafiki (“The Lion King”) and Princess Tiana (“The Princess and the Frog”).

I couldn’t wait to so see the show when I boarded the Disney Dream for its christening on January 19. David Duffy was right; the Walt Disney Theater where the show is held is impressive. Spanning three decks with orchestra and balcony seating, the 1,340-seat theater is resplendent with art deco styling recalling luxurious show places of a bygone time, best of all there are no obstructed views. At the same time, it is equipped with theatrical technology that Gordon Greenberg noted making it one of the most advanced venues on land or sea thus allowing stories to be experienced in a whole new way.

Disney Believe turned out to be better and more colorful that I had imagined. John Massey, the Disney performer who plays Genie, stole the show with his silly wise cracks and dancing. The music and costumes were spectacular; however, it was the story line that made the most impact. I noted a lot of teary eyes and smiles leaving the theater. But the best sight was seeing all the fathers holding their precious children a little bit tighter.

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

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

Filled Under Blog, gallery, Reviews, Tripblog