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Holland America Line Features Robust Canada and New England Cruise Options for Summer and Fall 2015

Written by: Cruise News

January 27, 2015 — With 39 cruises throughout Canada and New England in 2015, Holland America Line offers an extensive array of cruises in the region that range from seven to 15 days. The voyages carry guests in elegant comfort aboard ms Eurodam, ms Maasdam or ms Veendam.

Whether exploring the area during the summer when the skies shine blue or in the fall when the leaves put on an incredible display of jewel-toned hues, Canada and New England is perfect for cruising in either season.

“We offer an incredible number of Canada and New England cruises because this in-demand region is rich in culture, history and stunning scenery — making it an ideal cruise destination that’s close to home,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “There’s something for everyone on these itineraries, whether it’s exploring nature, trying local cuisine, antique shopping or visiting historical locales.”

Scheduled May through October, the cruises depart from Boston, Mass.; Montréal and Québec City, Quebec, Canada; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and New York City, N.Y., and visit some of the region’s most iconic destinations.

Idyllic Summer Climate and Seven-day Cruise Options Perfect for Family Vacation
Maasdam begins the season with a 15-day northbound cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Montréal departing May 1, 2015, that includes scenic cruising in the Saguenay Fjord.
From May 16 through the Oct. 10 departure, Maasdam offers 22 seven-day sailings between Montréal and Boston, featuring scenic cruising in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the St. Lawrence River.

Maasdam concludes the season with a 13-day coastal sailing departing Oct. 17 from Montréal to Fort Lauderdale. Guests can take in the beautiful landscape at peak fall foliage time on scenic cruising along the St. Lawrence River, Saguenay Fjord and Gaspé Bay. Guests also can choose a 10-day option to sail from Montréal to New York.

Bermuda Collectors’ Voyages and between Quebec and Boston
Veendam kicks off its Canada and New England season with a 14-day Bermuda and Canada/New England Collectors’ Voyage departing Boston May 9, 2015. Highlights include three full nights at Hamilton, Bermuda, and an overnight at Quebec City. This itinerary also is offered in June and July, as well as the reverse route from Quebec City to Boston in May and June.

From May 16 through the Oct. 10 departure, Veendam sails 12 seven-day cruises between Québec City and Boston. These sailings include scenic cruising in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and an overnight at Québec City.

For seven-day Maasdam and Veendam itineraries, back-to-back sailings on the same ship can be combined for an extended 14-day roundtrip Collectors’ Voyage, allowing extra time ashore to get to know each port better with repeating calls.

Fall Foliage Cruises Bring Region to Life with Nature’s Colors
In September and October, during the height of the 2015 fall foliage season, Eurodam will sail a 10-day cruise between New York and Québec City, and a 14-day cruise from Québec City to Fort Lauderdale. Both itineraries include scenic cruising in Saguenay Fjord and an overnight at Quebec City.

Veendam kicks off Sept. with a 7-day Historic Coasts roundtrip Boston cruise departing Aug. 29. Ports feature Portland, Maine, Saint John, New Brunswick and Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia. Maasdam and Veendam also continue with seven-day fall foliage cruise options into October.

On Location Provides Engagement with Cruise Destinations
On each Canada and New England cruise, Holland America Line’s “On Location” enrichment activities brings local traditions, culinary tastes and cultural experiences to life both onboard and ashore to deepen guests’ appreciation of the region.

Guests on a Canada and New England cruise might enjoy a New England clam bake or a “Fiddlin’ Flapjack” breakfast, complete with authentic Canadian maple syrup and featuring local Cape Breton Celtic fiddlers. Other activities include regional beer and wine tastings, a Canadian Bar mixology class, cultural cooking demonstrations and a special historical and musical performance featuring the Halifax Citadel Highlander & Bagpiper.

Fares begin at $699 per person, double occupancy.

Posted: January 27th, 2015 under Hot Cruise Deals.
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Carnival Vista Will Debut in 2016 With High-Altitude SkyRide, First IMAX Theater At Sea, First Brewery At Sea, And A Whole Lot More

Written by: Cruise News

January 22, 2015 – There’s big fun and spectacular views on the horizon, as Carnival Cruise Line today announced the details of its most innovative ship ever, Carnival Vista, debuting in spring 2016. Designed to connect guests to the ocean with sweeping views and plenty to do both outdoors and in, Carnival Vista will take cruising to new heights and introduce an exciting array of groundbreaking new features including: SkyRide, a breakthrough suspended open-air cycling experience; the world’s first IMAX Theatre on a ship; an expanded water park featuring the colorful Kaleid-O-Slide, the line’s first raft-riding water tube slide; Seafood Shack, a delectable New England-inspired eatery; RedFrog Pub, including the line’s first onboard brewery, and other enhanced dining, bar and entertainment options; as well as new scenic and family-friendly accommodation types. The ship’s inaugural Mediterranean itineraries will mark the line’s return to Europe.

High-Powered Outdoor Fun
With SkyRide, the cruise industry’s first pedal-powered open-air aerial attraction, Carnival is creating some of the best and highest outdoor vistas ever offered on a cruise ship. Adventurous riders can climb aboard hanging recumbent-like bikes to cycle their way around the 800-foot suspended track with panoramic views from 150 feet above the sea. Nearby will be SkyCourse, an exhilarating suspended ropes course. Both are part of the expanded outdoor activity park that also includes a new indoor sports hangout, The Clubhouse at SportSquare¸ featuring mini-bowling, ping-pong, arcade basketball, sports video gaming and more.

In the largest WaterWorks water park in the fleet, kids and kids at heart will find a thrilling array of splash-tastic fun including Kaleid-O-Slide, the line’s first-ever water tube attraction. Riders will hop on inflatable one or two-person rafts taking them on a fun-filled 455-foot adventure of exhilarating twists and turns with stunning kaleidoscopic visual effects.

Big-Time Entertainment at the Multiplex
Carnival Vista’s views are truly spectacular inside, too. Carnival is partnering with entertainment innovator IMAX to bring the world’s most immersive cinematic experience to sea with the first-ever IMAX Theatre on a ship. Guests will take in the latest Hollywood blockbusters, IMAX classics and IMAX documentary content on a screen that’s three decks high. Next door at the Thrill Theater, moviegoers can enjoy a multi-dimensional special effects experience. Both are part of the Carnival Multiplex, a first at sea for film fans, complete with concession stand offering popcorn and movie snacks. The Warehouse, featuring a variety of video and arcade games, is located adjacent to the Carnival Multiplex.

Fresh New Dining & Bar Options
Featured on Carnival Vista and a first for the fleet will be the New England-inspired Seafood Shack, a casual indoor/outdoor dining venue near the Lido Marketplace eateries. This seafood-lovers’ paradise will feature a menu full of delicious, fresh favorites available for purchase, including lobster rolls, steamed lobster, fried shrimp, crab cakes, fried clams and more.

At the RedFrog Pub, Carnival will brew up great beer for good times in its first ever brewery. During each sailing two giant copper-topped glass kettles will create tasty ales and lagers that can be enjoyed on tap from the bar and through unique tabletop taps that allow guests to pour their own beer. The full bar will also offer an array of Caribbean-inspired cocktails, beers and rums. Indoor/outdoor seating, live music and brewing tours and tastings will also be offered in this fun venue.

Carnival is expanding the line’s popular Latin-infused Havana experience inside and out on Carnival Vista. Celebrating Cuba’s gloried past, Havana Bar serves traditional cocktails and bites during the day and transforms into a sizzling Latin dance club at night. The fun also extends outdoors with a new Havana Pool located aft and offering stunning views of the ocean, whirlpools and relaxation area, complete with colorful umbrellas, faux palm trees, thatched patio huts and comfy seating, perfect for soaking up the sun while enjoying a refreshing mojito.

More Accommodation Options
Carnival Vista will offer a wide variety of well-appointed, beautifully designed staterooms and suites including two new accommodation classes. Tropics-inspired Havana Cabanas feature accommodations with private outdoor patios – complete with lounge chairs and hammock – that face the expanded Lanai ocean-air outdoor promenade and offer magnificent sea views in addition to easy access to the Havana Bar and Pool.

Located within a new dedicated family zone on Deck 2, the new Family Harbor accommodations offer an array of deluxe ocean-view, balcony and interior staterooms that accommodate up to five family members. Parents and kids will have even more room to relax at the new, exclusive Family Harbor Lounge, a secluded space designed as the ultimate family hang out with large-screen TVs, games and complimentary breakfast and snacks. A special family concierge desk will be available here to assist families in making this their best vacation ever.

“Carnival Vista celebrates the connection to the oceans on which we sail and gives our guests amazing seascapes around every corner and more ways to enjoy every moment of sun and fun during their cruise vacation,” said Mark Tamis, Carnival’s senior vice president of guest operations. “From our exhilarating new high-altitude SkyRide to the Kaleid-O-Slide water tube slide to our IMAX anchored Carnival Multiplex to the multitude of dining and bar options, we are thrilled to share the details about our largest and most innovative ship with our guests while providing our valued travel agent partners with an exciting new option to offer to their clients.”

New Meaning to Dining Out
Thanks to an expanded Lanai on Deck 5 guests can stroll or sit and enjoy a beverage at one of the many dining and bar venues that will now feature outdoor areas.

·The line will offer its first-ever outdoor seating options at specialty eateries including Fahrenheit 555, a classic American steakhouse, and Japanese-style Bonsai Sushi restaurant where diners will enjoy sea views as delicious as their meals. Cherry on Top will be the sweetest spot at sea, with a new premium mixed-to-order custom ice cream creation bar, outdoor seating and more than 80 bulk candy options.

·The intimate Library Bar will also offer guests indoor/outdoor options, in addition to the hoppin’ RedFrog Pub and stylish Havana Bar.

Vacationers will find Fun Ship 2.0 favorite poolside eateries and bars including Guy’s Burger Joint, award-winning burgers and hand-cut fries created by chef and author Guy Fieri, and BlueIguana Cantina, featuring freshly made tacos and burritos. Poolside bars BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar will also provide innovative cocktail options, as will the mixologists at the cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar.

The ship’s main dining rooms, Reflections and Horizons, offer a tantalizing array of delicious menu items for guests who want to enjoy a full-service breakfast, lunch or dinner. The striking modern interiors created by award-winning designer BigTime Design Studios offer decidedly different décor than previous Carnival ships. The Horizons dining room will also feature a unique bar that’s the perfect spot for meeting friends and enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail or an after-meal aperitif.

The beautiful Vista Atrium will set a festive mood with its giant, multi-deck-high centerpiece that will delight guests with its LED screens and changing visuals to create the right atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to welcome guests boarding the ship, meet friends at the bar or enjoy live entertainment and dancing.

Relax and Recharge
For those looking to unwind and relax, Carnival Vista has a lot to ahhh about. The luxurious two-level Cloud 9 Spa will feature an array of chill-worthy amenities, including a thalassotherapy pool, four steam chambers, the line’s first infrared sauna and hamam, and special “experience showers” that provide a soothing fragrance element, along with a high-tech indoor cycling studio. Guests can get away from it all at the adults-only Serenity retreat, where there’s breathtaking views, tranquility and even more lounging options to relax including the line’s first outdoor massage huts.

Family Fun for All
As the family cruise leader, carrying more than 700,000 children on board each year, the company designed Carnival Vista with even more fun for families day and night.

·The indoor/outdoor Camp Ocean for children under age 12 is a dedicated undersea-themed play space with more than 200 fun and educational ocean-inspired activities.

·Carnival Vista will be the second ship in the fleet to feature Dr. Seuss Bookville, a special reading and play space inspired by the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. Here kids and their families can read beloved Dr. Seuss books, make arts and crafts and stretch their imagination with toys and games. Also part of the line’s Seuss at Sea program, Carnival Vista guests can enjoy Green Eggs and Ham with The Cat in the Hat and Friends character breakfast, the Seuss-a-palooza Story Time and Parade and more.

·Carnival Vista will also introduce four new games at the family-centric HASBRO the Game Show, as well as special family-friendly comedy performances at Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez.

Carnival’s Return to Europe
The largest ship in the fleet, Carnival Vista will measure 133,500 tons, 1,055 feet long and have a guest capacity of 3,936 (based on two per cabin). The new vessel will debut May 1, 2016, with a 13-day cruise departing from Trieste, Italy — the first European voyage for Carnival in three years. A variety of spectacular Mediterranean itineraries will be offered with port calls throughout Italy, France, Spain, Croatia and Turkey, as well as several new destinations for Carnival such as Crete (Heraklion), and Corfu, Greece; Valletta, Malta; Palermo, Sicily; Cagliari, Sardinia; and Gibraltar. On October 21, 2016, Carnival Vista will embark on a special 13-day transatlantic crossing and arrive in New York November 3, 2016, then operate a series of voyages from the Big Apple. Carnival Vista’s European cruises are currently available for reservations. Additional information on the New York departures will be available next month.

Posted: January 22nd, 2015 under Cruise Ship News.
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Land of “Frozen” Coming to Disney Cruise Line This Summer

Written by: Cruise News

January 22, 2015 – Beginning in summer 2015, Disney Cruise Line guests can immerse themselves in the animated hit “Frozen” with brand-new experiences inspired by the film, including a spectacular deck party, a three-song stage show production number, new character meet and greets, storybook adventures ashore and more.

Debuting this summer, on select Disney Magic and Disney Wonder sailings to Europe and Alaska, Disney Cruise Line guests are transported to the land of “Frozen” when the ship is transformed into a winter wonderland and a day of frozen fun culminates with an extravagant celebration with friends from the Kingdom of Arendelle.

On one special morning, guests will awake to discover a magical freeze has overtaken the atrium lobby with sparkling icicles adorning the grand staircase, resembling the majestic mountain-top ice palace of Queen Elsa.

Icy adventures and fun for the entire family throughout the day include all-new meet and greets and themed experiences:

  • Memorable moments with Anna, Elsa, and for the first time in forever, Kristoff and Olaf.
  • “Anna’s Chase for the Chocolate” scavenger hunt for those who share Anna’s sense of adventure, with a special surprise for finishing the game.
  • “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” activity where kids take on Elsa’s magical powers to make snow and ice.
  • “The Maypole Swirl and Twirl” for families to learn a traditional Scandinavian dance spinning and braiding giant ribbons.
  • “Frozen” themed dining experience, including a menu inspired by traditional Nordic fare and special dishes inspired by the film.


  • The evening fun kicks off with “Freezing the Night Away with Anna, Elsa and Friends,” a family-friendly interactive deck party featuring the famous royal sisters of Arendelle and their fun-loving Nordic companions. By now, the freeze has spread to the upper decks of the ship, with giant snowflakes, icicles and snow-covered rocks.

    The celebration begins with a high-energy line dance, set to the movie’s ice cutting scene, featuring the arrival of Kristoff, impressively twirling his ice picks, and Princess Anna.

    Anna and Kristoff’s beloved companions, Sven, the trolls and Olaf, make virtual appearances at the party. Sven engages the crowd in reindeer games like “Sven Says” and the “Troll Stroll,” and Olaf leads a sing along to his signature song, “In Summer.”

    Elsa arrives with a snowy gust of wind, calling on guests to sing “Let it Go” with her as she conjures up a wintry spectacle to cool things down for Olaf. In true Disney fashion, Elsa unleashes her magic, sending a chill through everyone as the powerful Academy Award-winning song echoes from the ship.

    The evening concludes with more family dancing on the pool deck, followed by fun just for adults in the nightclub featuring dance performances and frozen specialty drinks.

    New Production Number in “Disney Dreams”

    This summer, friends from “Frozen” are making their stage show debut at sea in the Walt Disney Theatre aboard the Disney Magic. In the Disney Cruise Line original production, “Disney Dreams … An Enchanted Classic,” Anna, Elsa and Olaf join the line up of beloved Disney characters who together teach a young girl the power of her dreams.

    Brand-new scenes featuring “Frozen” characters include renditions of three popular songs: “Let it Go,” “For the First Time in Forever” and “In Summer.” The new show segment is a heartfelt, humorous and memorable tribute to the “Frozen” film, preserving its endearing and playful tones with an inspiring message. Special effects are magical, with a snowfall throughout the theatre and a breathtaking transformation of the young girl’s room into her own ice palace.

    Magical Meet and Greets

    Olaf will be giving warm hugs when he joins Anna and Elsa on their royal tour of the Disney Cruise Line ships, beginning this summer. Children and families will have the opportunity to meet and take photographs with their favorite “Frozen” friends on the Disney Fantasy, Disney Dream, Disney Wonder and Disney Magic.

    Adventures Ashore in Norway

    Disney Cruise Line guests who travel aboard the Disney Magic to Norway, the land that inspired Arendelle from “Frozen,” will have the opportunity to join exciting new Port Adventures that bring this fairytale setting to life. One signature adventure ashore in Ålesund, Norway, created exclusively for Disney Cruise Line, will immerse guests in the splendor and charm of Norway, with the help of Anna and Elsa, in an enchanting storybook village.

    Other shore excursions take Disney Cruise Line guests to discover the breathtaking natural wonders, stunning architecture and rich Scandinavian culture depicted in the film. Seven and nine-night voyages begin June 6, 2015, sailing through Norwegian fjords and calling on ports including Stavanger, Ålesund, Geiranger, Molde, Olden and Bergen, Norway.

    Olaf’s Summertime Freeze on Castaway Cay

    With the help of everyone’s favorite snowman, Disney Cruise Line is cooling down Castaway Cay with the addition of Olaf’s Summertime Freeze bar. Serving non-alcoholic specialty frozen drinks in souvenir cups, the creative menu features refreshing beverages such as “Olaf’s Flurry Freeze,” “Sven’s Carrot Delight” and “Warm Hugs.” Olaf’s Summertime Freeze opens summer 2015 near the Pelican Point tram stop by Castaway Cay Family Beach.

    Posted: January 22nd, 2015 under Cruise Ship News.
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    MSC Cruises Launches New, Free, Interactive Mobile App

    Written by: Cruise News

    January 22, 2015 – MSC Cruises has launched a new, interactive, mobile app for iOS and Android devices that allows vacationers to easily explore the fleet’s 12 ultramodern ships and the multiple destinations visited around the world.

    The official MSC Cruises app, which is free to download from the App Store and Google Play, is packed with easy to use functions, tips and information, from finding the perfect itinerary and shore excursions to 360 degree virtual ship tours in which users can view actual staterooms, restaurants, lounges, pool decks, the theatre and spa.

    “As MSC continues to grow in the North American market, it’s critical that vacationers can quickly and easily get a sense of the overall MSC Cruises’ experience across our 12 ship fleet,” said Ken Muskat, executive vice president of sales, PR and guest services for MSC Cruises USA. “The new app is the perfect tool to help potential guests discover MSC Cruises and our huge range of cruise offerings.”

    Key functions of the MSC Cruises’ app include:

    ·View hundreds of MSC Cruises’ worldwide itineraries and info about the destinations and ports visited.
    ·Find all the latest cruise deals and news from MSC Cruises.
    ·Take virtual tours of the 12 ships in the fleet including staterooms, restaurants, public lounges and sun decks.
    ·Watch live onboard web cam feeds from each ship (including the view from the bridge).
    ·Save “favorite” cruises of interest so that they can easily be viewed later.
    ·Track the fleet in real time through a global positioning feature.

    The launch of the MSC Cruises’ App is the first phase of a strategic effort by MSC to enhance the overall user experience. Throughout the year, MSC will introduce improved consumer and travel agent platforms, ultimately resulting in more consumers engaging with MSC and exploring the line’s diverse cruise offerings and travel agents having the tools to better sell and promote MSC.

    For more information on MSC Cruises’ App, visit http://www.msccruisesusa.com/us_en/Multimedia/New-MSC-Cruises-App.aspx

    Download iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/msc-cruises/id860597243?mt=8
    Download Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.msccruises

    Posted: January 22nd, 2015 under Cruise Ship News.
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    Carnival Foundation Donates $5 Million to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami to Create Carnival Center for Excellence

    Written by: Cruise News

    January 21, 2015 — Carnival Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Carnival Corporation & plc, is donating $5 million to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami to create the Carnival Center for Excellence. The donation — timed to celebrate National Mentoring Month — marks the largest gift ever received by the organization’s Miami chapter.

    The Carnival Center for Excellence building at 550 Le Jeune Road in Miami will serve as the headquarters for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami and will provide facilities to support ongoing mentoring and educational activities for Big Brothers Big Sisters’ participants, often referred to as “Littles.”

    “Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami makes a huge impact in the lives of so many kids in our community, and for years it’s been Carnival Corporation’s goal to take our longstanding relationship and make an even greater difference,” said Linda Coll, Carnival Foundation’s director. “The Carnival Center for Excellence will enable us to greatly expand the services both the Carnival Scholarship and Mentoring Program and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami can provide to students and families in South Florida.”

    “We are a proud supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami, and it is an honor to help them secure a permanent home at the Carnival Center for Excellence,” said Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest travel and leisure company with its headquarters based in Miami. “Through this facility and the contributions of our volunteer mentors, we will continue to work together to make a real difference in the lives of deserving South Florida students for many years to come.”

    Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami closed on the purchase of the building Tuesday, Jan. 20, and is scheduled to relocate there in the first quarter of 2016. The building will provide office space for more than 50 agency staff members, as well as house a digital learning center, library, meeting and tutoring facilities, and more. Various additional services will be rolled out in phases, with the digital learning center and library slated to be operational by the time the building opens. Other services and facilities such as tutoring and family classes will be introduced during the first year.

    “We are honored to be selected by the Carnival Foundation for this very generous investment in shaping the lives of Miami’s kids,” said Lydia Muniz, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami. “Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami’s purpose is to provide a personal hero to every child in need. The new Carnival Center for Excellence at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami will enable us to awaken new possibilities for more of Miami’s kids, and to ultimately make this city one where kids can build a brighter future.”

    The building was selected because it is conveniently located on a major thoroughfare with access to public transportation and free ground-level parking. BB&T Bank is serving as the financing bank for the acquisition from Keystone Property Management.

    Carnival Foundation’s signature initiative, the Carnival Scholarship and Mentoring Program, pairs a Carnival employee with a South Florida high school student matched by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami. Currently, 95 Carnival management team members mentor 95 Miami-Dade County high school students through the in-the-workplace program sponsored by Carnival in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami.

    The program also awards four-year college scholarships to 15 participating students every year. For the past 12 years, Carnival Foundation has purchased STARS scholarships representing a collective value of more than $2.1 million. Since 2010, 75 scholarships have been awarded, and in 2014 several students from the first group of recipients graduated college.

    Posted: January 21st, 2015 under Uncategorized.
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    Holland America Line Reveals Summer 2016 European Itineraries for Newbuild ms Koningsdam

    Written by: Cruise News

    January 20, 2015 – In summer 2016, Holland America Line’s newest ship, ms Koningsdam, will debut a series of northern Europe and Baltic cruises as part of the premium line’s robust Europe season that features seven ships sailing throughout the region. Koningsdam’s summer itineraries — and all of Holland America Line’s 2016 summer Europe sailings — will be available for booking in early February.

    Following a series of previously announced seven- and 12-day Premiere Sailings from Feb. 20 through April in the Mediterranean, the ship will reposition from Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, to its summer homeport of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Koningsdam will then go on to sail roundtrip Amsterdam itineraries to Norway, the Baltic and Iceland, where breathtaking vistas and grand fjords await.

    Koningsdam’s 13-day repositioning cruise from the Med departs May 9 and explores 10 ports in Spain, Gibraltar, Portugal, France, Belgium and the Netherlands before ending with an overnight at Amsterdam.
     Holland America Line Reveals Summer 2016 European Itineraries for Newbuild ms Koningsdam
    Koningsdam Showcases Norway in Summer 2016
    Once at Amsterdam, the ship will begin exciting seven- and 14-day cruises to Norway that showcase the country’s majestic scenery and quaint landscapes. A seven-day itinerary in May, July and August calls at Flam, Stavanger, Kristiansand and Oslo, with scenic cruising in Sognefjord and Oslofjord. Another seven-day itinerary in June and July calls at Eidfjord, Ålesund, Geiranger and Bergen, with scenic cruising in Hardangerfjord and Geirangerfjord. A seven-day voyage in August calls at Bergen, Hellesylt, Geiranger, Ålesund and Eidfjord, with Hardangerfjord and Geirangerfjord scenic cruising.

    A longer 14-day Norwegian exploration departs May 29 and July 17, and crosses the Arctic Circle while calling at eight ports in Norway. Guests also will enjoy memorable scenic cruising in Hardangerfjord, Geirangerfjord, Trondheimsfjord, the North Cape and Sognefjord.

    British Isles and Baltic Round Out Koningsdam Europe Highlights
    Travelers looking to visit the British Isles and Iceland can embark Koningsdam Aug. 14 for a cruise to Newcastle upon Tyne, England; South Queensferry (Edinburgh) and Invergordon (Inverness), Scotland; Reykjavik (overnight), Isafjordur and Akuruyri, Iceland; and Ålesund and Bergen, Norway.

    The Baltic awaits Koningsdam’s guests on two 14-day itineraries in June and September, also sailing roundtrip from Amsterdam. The ship calls at the most sought-after ports in the region, with visits to Copenhagen, Denmark; Warnemunde (Berlin) and Kiel (Hamburg), Germany; Tallinn, Estonia; St. Petersburg (overnight), Russia; Helsinki, Finland; and Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden.

    At the end on the season, Koningsdam sails from Amsterdam to Civitavecchia on a 12-day journey that visits England, Gibraltar, Portugal and four ports in Spain. On Oct. 24 the ship repositions to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on a 14-day voyage that crosses the Atlantic following calls at Alicante, Malaga (Granada) and Huelva (Seville), Spain; and Funchal, Madeira.

    Koningsdam’s Premiere Voyage and Sailings
    As previously announced, Koningsdam’s seven-day Premier Voyage sails roundtrip from Civitavecchia departing Feb. 20 to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kérkira (Corfu) and Katakolon (Olympia), Greece; and Naples, Italy. The 12-day Premiere Sailings that follow are two alternating itineraries roundtrip from Civitavecchia. The “Greek & Turkish Treasures” itinerary calls at Katakolon, Piraeus (Athens), Rhodes and Crete, Greece; Istanbul (overnight) and Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey; and Naples, Italy. This itinerary also will be offered Sept. 30, in addition to the Premiere spring departures.

    The “Mediterranean Mosaic” itinerary spends 12 days visiting Naples, Italy; Palermo, Sicily; Cagliari, Sardinia; Gibraltar, British Territory; and Cádiz, Málaga, Cartagena and Barcelona (overnight), Spain, sailing roundtrip from Civitavecchia. In addition to the Premiere spring departures, this itinerary also will depart Oct 12.

    About ms Koningsdam
    Koningsdam represents a new Pinnacle Class of ship for Holland America Line. The vessel will debut several innovative concepts and new public spaces and venues, while still featuring popular amenities guests associate with Holland America Line.

    To bring a fresh vision to ms Koningsdam, Holland America Line tapped Adam D. Tihany, one of the world’s pre-eminent hospitality designers. Tihany joins distinguished maritime designer and architect Bjørn Storbraaten who worked with Holland America Line on ms Eurodam and ms Nieuw Amsterdam. The two firms will create an interior that blends a fresh, contemporary styling in perfect harmony with the line’s renowned classic elegance.

    The line recently unveiled the first series of interior renderings for ms Koningsdam on their website, and additional details will continue to be revealed over the coming months, including plans for the ship’s official christening.

    Posted: January 20th, 2015 under Cruise Ship News.
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    Norwegian Escape Will “Steal The Show” With Stunning New Dining Choices, Innovative Bars, & New Entertainment

    Written by: Cruise News

    January 16, 2015.

    Norwegian Cruise Line today unveiled more of the features that we will see when Norwegian Escape enters service later this year.

    The impressive list includes:

    James Beard Award winner and Iron Chef Jose Garces – Chef Garces will bring his fascinating cuisine to Norwegian Escape with two dining venues: Bayamo, a Latin style restaurant with a Cuban touch, and Pincho Tapas Bar.

    Food Republic – this venue is by Miami-based Pubbelly and will have world cuisine in small servings ala carte. Guests will use iPads at the tables to place orders.

    The District Brewhouse – this gastropub will feature 24 beers on tap, a huge menu of 50 various bottled beers, as well as various pub-style foods and specialty cocktails. This venue is in association with Wynwood Brewing of Miami.

    The Cellars, A Michael Mondavi Family Bar - this bar will be on the ship’s Waterfront and will be an immersive wine experience featuring wine education classes, food and wine pairings, seminars, and meet-and-greet events with the vintners.

    After Midnight - this Tony Award winning show showcases the songs of Duke Ellington with stunning choreography.

    Million Dollar Quartet – an engaging tale featuring the music of Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins.

    For The Record – Dear John Hughes – a supper club with a retrospective of music magic from John Hughes’ coming of age teen movies.

    Headliners Comedy Club – an intimate club with standup comedians and improv.

    See more in this video: Norwegian Escape Video

    Posted: January 16th, 2015 under Cruise Ship News.
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    Windstar Unveils Plans to Introduce Star Breeze and Star Legend

    Written by: Cruise News

    January 15, 2014 – Windstar Cruises, recently named as World’s Best Small Ship Cruise Line by Condé Nast Traveler, expands their fleet from four ships to six in May 2015 with the addition of two small luxury ships from Seabourn. Today, Windstar unveils the changes planned to transform these yachts to Windstar’s signature style. Take the tour here.

    Windstar takes possession of the first Seabourn ship on April 15, 2015, when it undergoes an $8.5 million, three-week renovation in Genoa, Italy. It will debut as Star Breeze during a christening ceremony on May 6, 2015 in Nice, France. The second ship follows suit, joining the fleet on May 4, 2015, and completing a similar $8.5 million renovation. The yacht will be christened Star Legend on May 25, 2015 in Rome, Italy.

    Star Breeze and Star Legend join sister-ship, Star Pride, marking the completion of the acquisition announced in February of 2013. The expansion doubles the size of Windstar’s fleet of three luxury sailing yachts, making the company a market leader in small ship cruising with 300 or fewer passengers, with a total of 1,242 berths and six ships.

    “Star Breeze and Star Legend will receive a full stem-to-stern transformation, more than doubling the investment that was spent on Star Pride’s original enhancements,” says Hans Birkholz, Windstar Cruises’ chief executive officer. “We learned a lot about our guests’ preferences with the debut of Star Pride last year. We are taking their feedback and giving them what they want with the launch of these two all suite yachts.”

    Key changes on Star Breeze and Star Legend that differ from Star Pride include:

    Lounge: The entertainment lounge completely transforms with new flooring, and furniture. The added elegance creates an ambiance that makes the show lounge an amenable space for entertainment, meetings or small gatherings.

    Veranda: the restaurant in the aft of the yacht will have expanded outdoor seating, complete with a garden wall.

    Star Deck: the outdoor deck will expand by four feet on each side, giving additional space for guests to relax on lounge chairs

    Star Screening Room: The space completely transforms from a card room to an intimate screening room where guests can watch current movies and play video games.

    Both yachts, each holding 212 passengers at double occupancy, will also receive upgrades to the suites, public areas, and dining venues. The transformation will include the following overhauls and upgrades:

    Public Spaces: Public areas receive updated décor, complete with new, more modern upholstery, lighting, wall coverings, carpeting, ceiling finishes, window treatments, and floors. The contemporary color palette combines sand and marine shades to contrast with the warmth of wood finishes, thereby creating an upscale, nautical feel, signature to Windstar.

    Some public space renovation highlights include:

    Yacht Club: The observation lounge on the top deck was one of the most well- received spaces on Star Pride. The space becomes a chic coffee bar and lounge where guests can enjoy espresso and light bites. The lounge receives a complete overhaul, including new flooring, lounge furniture, and an open layout that embraces the view of the shoreline.

    Reception: The carpeting receives an upgrade to Windstar’s signature blue, while new accent lighting and art give the reception area the quintessential Windstar welcoming look.

    Compass Rose: The club space will turn into Windstar’s popular Compass Rose, redesigned with all new contemporary furnishings, including rich new flooring finishes, plantation shutters, and comfortable chairs and bar stools designed for socializing. Live music can be found here nightly.

    Star Bar: The Star Bar will offer casual drinks during the day and a venue for star-gazing by night. The bar area will be expanded with teak decking, new stools, new awning, and lighting.
    Dining Venues: All restaurants will be transformed to embrace Windstar’s casual elegance, where guests are free to eat when, where, and with whom they please (no jackets or ties required). All dining experiences are complimentary.

    AmphorA: Windstar’s formal dining experience will be introduced as AmphorA Restaurant. The main dining room will be redesigned, featuring mirror panels with Murano glass, new soft lighting, wall coverings, and art work. The room will feature a new seating layout; setting the stage for Windstar’s signature dining experience featuring contemporary, international menus and fresh, local dishes.

    Candles: At night Veranda will transform to Candles, a favorite Windstar romantic experience where guests can dine with table service under the stars. The added elegance enhances the guest experience with culinary offerings to match.

    Suites: Every guest suite (a total of 106 suites) undergoes upgrades to reflect a more luxurious and stylish experience. Changes include new carpets, linens, couches, chairs, mattresses, curtains, and headboards, as well as a modern color palette including vibrant blue hues, rich brown tones, and opulent greys.

    Destination Suites: the Owner’s Suites will now showcase different, unique Windstar destinations, such as the Bora Bora Suite. Guests can get a taste of one of the hidden harbors that Windstar sails to, all in the comfort of their suite.
    Coming in 2016: Star Pride Renovation.
     Windstar Unveils Plans to Introduce Star Breeze and Star Legend
    Windstar is planning a $3 million additional renovation of Star Pride in April 2016. The Star Pride joined Windstar’s fleet from Seabourn in May of 2014, after a moderate facelift and updated furnishings with some remodeling. The continuation of the transformation includes the completion of the AmphorA dining room remodel and a total renovation of the Lounge, Veranda, Screening Room, and more.

    “With the addition of these two newly renovated yachts, we can meet our consumer demand, enhance the feel of luxury, and continue to rank at the top of the small cruise line industry,” concludes Birkholz.

    Posted: January 15th, 2015 under Cruise Ship News.
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    Carnival Launches New Shipboard Mobile App

    Written by: Cruise News

    January 15, 2015 – Carnival Cruise Line has launched a new free mobile app that provides vacationers aboard Carnival Breeze with a variety of useful information to maximize the fun on their next Carnival cruise. The app includes an innovative “chat” feature that allows guests to exchange messages with their traveling companions using their mobile devices throughout the voyage for a low flat fee of $5 for the entire cruise.

    The line is also piloting enhanced Internet access aboard Carnival Freedom, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Sunshine that dramatically increases bandwidth and speed and also includes a first-ever social media package providing unlimited access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other popular sites for a fee of just $5 per day or $25 per voyage during the testing period.

    “Consumers expect a high level of connectivity even while on vacation and these new enhancements provide our guests not only with helpful tools for getting the most out of their cruise but also a convenient and cost-effective way for keeping in touch with their family and friends while on board,” said Gus Antorcha, Carnival’s senior vice president of guest commerce. “We recognize the increasingly important role that technology plays in people’s daily lives and the launch of this application and new Internet packages provides us with a strong platform for introducing additional innovations and ways to use technology to enhance our guest experience even further.”

    New Mobile Smartphone App Pilot on Carnival Breeze
    Currently being piloted on Carnival Breeze, the new free Carnival Hub app is designed to provide guests with a convenient, at-a-glance view of the ship’s many shipboard facilities and features along with updates on events and happenings taking place on board.

    Also available is a “chat” feature where guests can communicate with anyone on board from their mobile devices. The price for the chat feature, which includes a group chat option, is $5 per voyage during the testing period.

    The app also includes:

    ·A day-by-day schedule of hundreds of on-board events, from nightly show times at the Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez and Playlist Production shows to movies and sporting events on the big screen at Seaside Theatre and Seuss at Sea events

    ·A “favorites” feature that allows guests to see what events and activities their sailing companions are participating in

    ·Information on casual dining options such as Guy’s Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina and The Taste Bar, along with details on the RedFrog Pub and other popular watering holes

    ·Searchable deck plans with key areas highlighted, providing a comprehensive layout of the ship’s various on-board offerings

    ·Itinerary details, including current ship time and arrival/departure times for upcoming port calls

    ·Real-time information on guests’ current Sail & Sign shipboard account balance

    The app is currently available for the Carnival Breeze for iPhone and Android users via their respective app stores with fleetwide rollout planned within the next 18 to 24 months.  During this time, the line will continue to add more fun and functional features to help guests have an even more personalized and memorable cruise vacation, such as the ability to purchase shore excursions, view photos taken by the ship’s professional photographers on board, and more.

    Enhanced Internet Beta-Testing on Carnival Freedom, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Sunshine
    Carnival is also piloting new Internet access and plans on Carnival Freedom, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Sunshine – including the cruise industry’s first social media package. With these new choices, consumers are offered a wide range of convenient options as well as increased bandwidth, providing enhanced service and connectivity, all at prices that are significantly lower than previous plans.

    With the new social media package, guests can use popular apps or sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Pinterest for a flat fee of $5 per day or $25 per voyage during the initial testing period. Unlike other Internet packages, the social media package is unique in that it allows guests a convenient, flexible and highly affordable option for updating their favorite social media pages during their cruise at one low price.

    Guests can also upgrade to a “value” package that includes unlimited access to the Web for checking email, sports scores, weather updates and a wide range of other applications.

    There’s also a “premium” package that provides the fastest available connection speed allowing guests to access video calling sites like Skype.

    The mobile app and enhanced Internet packages will roll out to additional ships following successful completion of the initial pilot programs.  Additional features and functionality are also in development and will be phased in over time.

    “In creating both the Internet plans and the app, we spent a lot of time listening to our guests to understand their needs and develop these products accordingly,” said Gabriela Gonzalez, Carnival’s vice president of guest technology and photo. “While we trusted the plans and the app would be well received, we are stunned by how quickly and widely they have been embraced during the pilot period. We’re excited to bring these innovations to more ships over the coming months while we continue to work to make them even better,” she added.

    Posted: January 15th, 2015 under Cruise Ship News.
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    Quantum Of The Seas – A Ship In Transition

    Written by: Cruise News

    January 14, 2015.

    By Dave Beers, Editor Of CruiseReviews.com

    I just returned from an 8-night cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s sparkling new Quantum Of The Seas, which the cruise line calls the world’s first “smart ship”.  I had been aboard for a complimentary 2-night travel agent/travel media sailing when the ship arrived at Bayonne in November, but earlier in 2014 I booked the 8-night cruise in anticipation of better experiencing the ship since two nights aboard any ship simply doesn’t provide enough time to assess it.

    My January 3-11 cruise had but two ports-of-call with most of the cruise spent at sea on the long transit from Bayonne to San Juan, to nearby Labadee on the north coast of Haiti, and then back to New Jersey.  Generally it was a good cruise and I personally like the Royal Caribbean brand (full disclosure – I am a Diamond Plus member of the Crown & Anchor Society), but there are some challenges still to be ironed out on Quantum as the ship moves forward in its operational life.  Here are my thoughts about various things I experienced on the cruise.

    Embarkation At Cape Liberty Cruise Port

    Part of the “smart ship” mantra is the “smart check-in” process used for Quantum.  This allows guests to do most of what is normally done at the pier – including entering credit card information for the onboard account and providing a photo image for security – at home when completing the online check-in process.  The idea being that when you arrive at Cape Liberty the agents in the terminal would just scan your SetSail barcode with their tablet computer, verify the information is in the system, and you are on your way to the ship almost instantly.  That’s how it is supposed to work.

    I was traveling with another cruise journalist – Paul Motter, the editor of Cruisemates – and when we arrived at the terminal it was fairly chaotic.  We gave our luggage to the porters and they put RFID tags on the bags and gave us a tag stub for each one.  This is so guests can track their luggage from pier to cabin door using the “Royal iQ” smartphone app.  We then waded through the crowd outside the terminal and entered.

    Passengers gathered around the roving agents who are stationed immediately inside the terminal door.   A worker directed us to go through security after she issued a boarding number tag to us, but said no more.  Once past security we wandered around for a few moments before noticing check-in desks along the far wall and got in a line, so we were pretty much checking in the ‘old way’ and not the ‘smart way’, at least entirely.  By the way, our SetSail passes had boarding group assignments on them so I never understood the reason for another one to be issued to us at the door.  We also had an appointment time to check-in listed on the SetSail passes, which appeared to be entirely meaningless.

    We finally got checked in after the security photos were redone (the agent didn’t like the ones we had each uploaded), and then the security photos were checked yet again when we ‘boarded’ the ship while still in the terminal, this done by scanning our SetSail passes at the security checkpoint at the base of the escalator to the ship.

    We did manage to go from luggage drop-off to walking aboard the ship in about 25 minutes, but it was not as “smart” as it was when I checked in for my two-night cruise.  I’m still not sure what is wrong with the “old” method of checking in.  It works, is familiar to people, and is more organized.  My advice is to arrive after 1pm if you can.  You’ll be glad you did.

    Aboard the Quantum

    When you board Quantum Of The Seas you enter by the Royal Esplanade.  This is an open area with shops, bars, and snack venues located on either side.  There were crew standing around but not saying anything unless asked, and nobody said anything about when cabins would be available, but since we knew our way around the ship we immediately went to the cabin anyway, just to see if it was prepared and ready, and indeed it was.  With Quantum, your Seapasses (cruise card) are not issued in the terminal but instead the card for the lead name on the booking is in a sealed envelope at the cabin door.  You use this card to enter the cabin and the other cruise cards, and nifty RFID wristbands for everyone, are in the cabin in a special cradle on the beds.

    We had a category D8 balcony cabin near the bow – cabin 6128.  It was comfortable and had the most storage area I’ve ever had in a standard balcony cabin.  The balcony was also larger than is typical on recent new ships from other cruise lines.  A 50” flat screen TV faces the beds and is also hinged so it can swing towards the sofa for viewing.  The bathroom is the usual size (small) and has very little shelf space for placing personal items.  However, in the big picture the balcony cabins on Quantum are excellent and since they are the most plentiful category of cabin, you’ll likely find yourself in one should you cruise on this class of ship.

    The consensus among the cruise media and experienced cruisers is that Quantum has a lot in common with the Solstice class ships of Celebrity Cruises.  Royal Caribbean’s executives eschew this comparison, but with my apologies to them I also get the strong sense of being aboard Celebrity Solstice when roaming the interior of the Quantum Of The Seas.  The décor, colors, elegant feel, it’s unlike any other Royal Caribbean ship.

    There are a lot of spacious high-end stores on Quantum, selling watches, cosmetics, handbags, and jewelry from such famous brands as Cartier, Kiehl’s Cosmetics, Tag Heuer, Michael Kor’s, Hublot, and Bvlgari.  By comparison, the logo shop shares space with the liquor store and is cramped, with limited choices.   However there was a seemingly never-ending sales bazaar going on in the middle of the Esplanade, with periodic buying frenzies with guests standing three deep vying for position at the “Everything Is $10” sale and other similar events.   It blocked off easy passage through the area, so if you see this happening head to deck 5 if you are heading forward or aft.

    The WOW

    North Star, iFly, SeaPlex, Two70.  Those who’ve been aboard Quantum or have just read about it know those names.  They are the venues that provide the famous Royal Caribbean “WOW” factor.

    We went up in North Star as the ship approached Labadee.  It was a fun experience and of course everyone was taking ‘selfies’ once the pod achieved maximum height and we were towering over the water by 300 feet, but when the approximately 10 minute long ride was over I felt no compulsion to do it again.  I suspect this is true for most passengers, which is good because North Star was first come, first served, and the line stretched for up to a 90 minute wait (they had signs at various points along the line telling how long the wait would be from that point).  Do it once, take your selfies and video, and move on to the other neat things to do on Quantum.

    SeaPlex is the place for bumper cars, roller-skating, or just playing basketball and other games.  Bumper cars are by far the most popular thing, and so rides are limited to just 3 to 5 minutes before they stop you so others can participate.  You can do it over and over though, as long as you wait your turn.

    I didn’t try iFly but the ‘free’ ride is only one minute long after you are briefed on the process and weighed (look here for the weight and age limit).  People who did partake looked to be thrilled by it.

    Two70 was my favorite place on the ship.  The multi-use space was a daily morning hangout for me, watching the sea go by.  It seemed underutilized though, especially at night.  They presented the Starwater show a few times over the course of the cruise, and there was an excellent cooking demonstration on one morning, and people would watch and applaud as the acrobats practiced every day, but not much else was going on other than living room conversations between guests and families seated on the chairs and sofas.

    For a never fully explained reason, Royal Caribbean gave everyone on our cruise free internet, which is a major thing on Quantum because the ship touts the broadband O3b internet service.  For most of the 8 days we had 24-hour access to true high speed internet at sea.  I say most, because there were some periodic down times or sudden disconnects while the person next to you still had a good signal.  However I did a couple speed tests and normally had a download speed comparable to a land-based DSL line, uploads were slower but I was still able to post numerous videos to my Facebook page mere moments after recording them.  That was a lot of fun.  Of course, along with free internet comes the lure of using it often, and thus on this cruise you couldn’t walk three feet without seeing someone with a smartphone stuck in front of their face.

    There seemed to be a lot of down time on this cruise, where nothing was going on that interested me or many of the other guests.  It was more pronounced at night but also evident during the day.  So it was that people were often just sitting around surfing the internet, looking at Facebook, reading e-mails, and not much else.  Earlier in the cruise Paul and I interviewed the ship’s IT Manager and he claimed the free internet was just to ‘test the system’ along with a couple of other vague reasons.  Towards the end of the cruise I started to wonder if it was done just to give people something to do.

    Entertainment

    Mamma Mia is the Broadway show and it lived up to it in every way. Excellent full-scale production of 2.5 hours with a 15 minute intermission. Starwater is sort of surreal and while I liked it, some didn’t seem to ‘get it’.  Please do see Starwater though, because I think it is wonderful.

    We had one tribute band aboard – “Wanted” – which did a Bon Jovi tribute to a very high standard. They left the cruise in San Juan and the remaining nights of the cruise were fairly quiet in the Music Hall, although the band Horizon did play again after a two day hiatus for live music. This carries along with the comments about the ship not having a lot going on in the evening.

    There were no solo guitarists playing in the pub or other musical acts aboard other than the reggae band that played the pool deck and I think one time in the evening, and the high energy latin music group that played nightly in Bolero’s. But if you didn’t like latin music, you were pretty much left listening to the background songs playing on the ship’s music system.

    Food

    Of course the big deal on Quantum Of The Seas, first announced with great fanfare last March, is Dynamic Dining.  This has become a lightning rod for many Royal Caribbean loyalists who decry the lack of a traditional main dining room on Quantum and are horrified that the company plans to roll the concept out to other ships in the fleet.

    I became an early champion of Dynamic Dining because I like to see new things happen in the cruise industry, which I think in many ways is still clinging to the vestiges of the classic days of ocean voyages.  On my media tour of the ship in November I got the 50 cent tour of all the Dynamic Dining venues, their kitchens (galleys), accompanied by the glowing commentary of Royal Caribbean’s Vice President of Food & Beverage.  However I didn’t get to experience the full Dynamic Dining process on that cruise since we were assigned to specific dining venues for both nights.  Well, I am now a Dynamic Dining veteran and while it worked okay most of the time for us, there were nights when I wished we were going to the old-fashioned main dining room.

    Early in the cruise there were lines every night at the four complimentary restaurants – Silk, Grande, American Icon, and Chic.  There were several reasons for this:  guests with no reservations just doing a walk-up for a table, guests already seated were finished and lingering at their tables, and a shortage of staff meant tables were not being served quick enough and used tables not being bussed in a timely manner.

    We interviewed the Food & Beverage Manager for Quantum and when I asked if Dynamic Dining had “had a lot of challenges to overcome” he quickly agreed that it had not been as easy as they’d thought it would be to implement.  He told us they had undershot the number of tables needed for peak dining times, and the number of crew needed to turn over the dining room quickly enough.  To that end he said the ship was going to have a “significant” increase in service staff “quickly” and when pressed he finally said that staffing would be boosted by around 30%, which indeed is drastic.  I also want to note that Royal Caribbean has delayed starting Dynamic Dining on the Oasis and Allure Of The Seas, clearly because of the issues they’ve encountered on Quantum.

    We were also told that Devinly Decadence would be changed to a complimentary dining venue, which has already happened.  This will add more tables to the dinnertime inventory and hopefully alleviate the lines and other issues.  The jury is obviously still out on whether this will work.

    Food quality varied, sometimes greatly.  We had an amazing dinner in the formal Grande restaurant, with delicious food and outstanding service.  Silk was good but nothing extraordinary and the food was quite bland for Asian cuisine.  American Icon and Chic were disappointing, with Chic coming up dead last by serving me an entrée of beef tenderloin that looked like a cut of prime rib but was devoid of taste and had the texture of a slab of bologna.   The menu in American Icon was not very exciting and the Food & Beverage Manager told us they had been tweaking it based on feedback.  I think it needs more tweaking.  Service in American Icon was quick and the waiter was very pleasant.  Our Chic waiter was neither.

    For extra-fee dining we ate at Jamie’s Italian, Wonderland, Devinly Decadence (it was still a $25 surcharge on this cruise), and Chops.  Jamie’s was outrageously good.  One of the best meals I’ve ever had on a ship, or really, anywhere.  Wonderland was also excellent, and just really cool in the presentation of the various courses.  Chops is, well, Chops – an upscale steakhouse at sea with a sterling reputation for excellent food and service.  They serve a great steak and side items, and a killer huckleberry cheesecake for dessert. Service in Chops was indeed high end.  Devinly Decadance was excellent at dinner, not so great at lunch.  I had chicken enchiladas for dinner there that were wonderful, but when Paul tried to order them for lunch they were out of them, and the burger they recommended took forever to prepare and was then pretty mundane.  Our dinner server in Devinly was charming and knew the menu inside and out.

    The Windjammer buffet is very nicely laid out with lots of seating and of course a wide variety of foods.  I think the food quality was similar to the Windjammer offerings on the other ships.  When you enter the Windjammer you should walk all the way around it first, front to back.  That’s because there is more to it in the back that many people never see, such as empty tables, more serving lines, and a pleasant outdoor seating area.  The big deal though, is the freshly baked cookies they constantly put out.  They are REALLY good, still warm from the oven.  Windjammer has a full service coffee bar and also bar service.

    Sorrento’s pizza is on deck 4 and all they serve is pizza.  However you can custom order one from the ingredients they have displayed.  I felt it was very good pizza.

    Cafe Two70 has the famous roast beef sandwiches served on kimmelweck rolls.  These are devine and people order hundreds of them daily.  Great salads and breakfast items are also served.

    Cafe Promenade is small on the Quantum, but has basic coffee and little pastries and finger sandwiches.  The Patisserie across from it is the large coffee lounge, with high end coffees, teas, candies and pastries – with prices on them.

    Beverage

    A lack of staff also impacts the bars and lounges on Quantum.  The only venue that was properly staffed was Michael’s Genuine Pub, where service was always quick and excellent.  The other bars were pretty much just covered by the bartenders with bar waiters far and few between.  I think I saw one waiter working the pool bar a few times, never more than that.  Same for the landmark Schooner Bar, which was often exasperating in a quest to be served.

    Those working the bars tried very hard to keep up, but generally if you wanted a drink you had to go to the bar and get it, or else sit at the bar.  Thus the bartenders were often overwhelmed.  Given that Quantum is headed for China in a few months, and the Chinese do not spend a lot of time in bars, to me it seems Royal Caribbean has already decided to staff the bars and lounges for the Chinese crowd and that staffing plan is currently in effect aboard Quantum, much to the detriment of the guests sailing from Bayonne.

    Despite the above, the cocktails were always excellent, service was with a smile, and I was happy in the end.

    Final Thoughts

    I don’t understand why, and perhaps the logistics are more problematic than I realize, but there were a lot of things unavailable on the Quantum Of The Seas. American Icon features an “American Classic” sazarac cocktail on the menu, but they were out of the special ‘buttered popcorn infused syrup’ needed to make the drink.  Jamie’s Italian has a Moretti Italian beer as one of two featured beers on their menu, but it was out of stock.  The ship had no souvenir Coke cups to use with the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines until mid-way of the cruise when they received them in San Juan, so the machines were out of service for 4 days.  There were at least six other examples we noted.  Why?  The ship sails from Bayonne, New Jersey, with New York City right there.  Anything in the world can be sourced in New York.  It was baffling.

    In the end I liked Quantum Of The Seas but I didn’t love it.  It didn’t leave me wishing my cruise wasn’t over, which is the feeling I get when aboard the other ships of Royal Caribbean.  It’s strange to feel that way, but I was not disappointed to leave the ship on the last morning of the cruise.   Quantum is marketed at the millennial generation, not me and the other baby boomers.   I guess they hit the mark.  But hey, when they get the O3b internet on the other ships in the fleet I’m going to be a very happy Crown & Anchor member!

    There were two primary complaints I heard on this cruise – “There’s nothing to do” and “You have to schedule everything”. So on a ship with all the ‘stuff’ that Quantum offers, people were bored. And if you want to eat or see a show, your path to success is to make sure you have a reservation. I can’t say that I disagree with either one of these. The question Royal Caribbean has to answer is, why are people saying this? As they say, perception is reality.  But none of this was to the level of making it a bad cruise, just a cruise where you wondered if you were missing something.

    In the meantime, I look forward to seeing the lessons learned from Quantum applied to the next ship in the class, Anthem Of The Seas, and then to Ovation Of The Seas.  Royal Caribbean is a well-managed cruise line and they are quick to learn from their errors, and to remedy them effectively and quickly.  I do feel confident that when Anthem Of The Seas arrives this coming spring, it will begin its operational life in much smoother waters. I hope to check out Anthem Of The Seas later this year and see.

    Posted: January 14th, 2015 under Cruise Ship News.
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