There are a lot of differences between ocean cruising and river cruising.
Ocean cruising usually means you're traveling with lots of people, sometimes as many as 6,000 or more on today's megaships. Your days are programmed from morning to midnight -- there's always something going on. Shore excursions are optional, and pricey. Personal service is lacking, unless you pay a premium.
But our river cruise, on Vantage Deluxe World Travel's Ms River Splendor, was just the opposite. Total passengers were less than 200, including 46 staffers. We programmed our own day. Shore tours at every stop came with our cruise. And best of all, Vantage took care of everything, from pickup at the airport to arranging the tours to getting us back home. READ MORE.
(PRESS RELEASE)_Geneva, Switzerland (December 5, 2019) — MSC Cruises today welcomed the very first guests to Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, its new private island destination in The Bahamas.
The island’s opening is a major milestone for MSC Cruises. As part of a multi-faceted restoration strategy, the Company has transformed the island from what was once an industrial sand excavation site into a stunning tropical destination, while working with environmental engineers and other experts to revitalize the surrounding ocean beds, marine life and endangered coral.
The environmentally-sound development of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve is a unique feat, taking nearly three years to complete an island destination capable of delivering the best possible guest experience as well as meeting the Company’s uniquely ambitious environmental targets. 7,500 tons of scrap metal were removed and, throughout the clean-up process, a team of expert divers and marine biologists carefully removed individual hard coral colonies from debris on the ocean bed and relocated them to an approved location outside the construction area. More than 75,000 plants and shrubs planted across the island to create a biodiverse and sustainable environment.
Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, said: “Ocean Cay is founded on a deep commitment to ecological principles – beliefs that shape everything from how venues are built, to how the island is run, to the kinds of activities featured on the island. Having the first guests arrive on the island is a moment of great pride for all of us at MSC Cruises. We wanted to create for our guests something sustainable, with a higher purpose. Ocean Cay is not just a vacation island, it is a unique marine reserve where people and nature thrive in harmony.”
Upon arrival at Ocean Cay guests will be greeted by endless sweeping vistas of crystal blue waters and some of the most pristine white sand beaches. From early morning until late evening, they will have plenty of time to soak up the spirit of The Bahamas and enjoy the day as they wish. With many shore excursions to choose from, guests can discover the marine life up close, including snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, and kayaking. Guests can treat themselves to a luxurious spa treatment or relax in a private cabana; stroll the Bahamian village with authentic Bahamian arts and crafts by local artisans; grab a bite at the complimentary Seakers Food Court or from one of six food trucks; enjoy cocktails and drinks from multiple bars around the island; and catch one of a kind evening events such as traditional Junkanoo parades, and lighthouse light shows. (check out images here and video here).
In the coming months, MSC Cruises will also introduce a Conservation Center on the island, which will serve as an active base for coral education and research. The natural, unspoiled beauty of the ocean and beaches is at the heart of the Ocean Cay experience, and the eco-friendly and sustainable practices on the island as well as designating the surrounding waters as a flourishing marine reserve are built around MSC Cruises’ commitment to protecting, restoring and conserving it.
Following today’s first call to the island, all four of MSC Cruises’ North America-based ships – MSC Armonia, MSC Divina, MSC Seaside and MSC Meraviglia – will call at Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve on different days.
For an interactive media kit on Ocean Cay and the guest experience, please visit HERE. For more information about Ocean Cay please visit www.mscoceancay.com
(PRESS RELEASE)_MIAMI, FL (December 5,2019) – Marking a major milestone ahead of its Maiden Voyage on April 1st 2020, Virgin Voyages’ first ship, the Scarlet Lady has successfully completed Sea Trials. The ship embarked on its first round of Sea Trials, sailing from Genoa to Marseille from November 15 to 18, and then back from Marseille to Genoa from November 27 to November 30.
Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson boarded the Scarlet Lady in Marseille, touring the ship with his wife Joan and children Sam and Holly, as well as Virgin Voyages’ CEO Tom McAlpin, Chief Commercial Officer Nirmal Saverimuttu, SVP of Design Dee Cooper and CEO of Virgin Atlantic, Shai Weiss. Branson ceremoniously painted the outline of the Virgin flag on the hull of the ship where the Virgin Voyages logo will appear.
Following Sea Trials, Virgin Voyages can confirm the Scarlet Lady is smooth, stable and quiet, gliding through the water in various weather conditions for a thoroughly enjoyable sailing experience. Upon completion, the ship has been put to the test and demonstrated that she is seaworthy. In addition to her superior performance, the ship’s interior design and experiential backdrop truly breaks the mold in the cruise industry. Designed to reflect a yacht’s sleek luxury, her interior spaces are curated by a creative collective that includes some of the top names in contemporary aesthetic, offering a chic atmosphere paired with stunning sea views throughout.
“We’re thrilled to have completed such a significant milestone with our Sea Trials and have our amazing crew to thank for their passion and tenacity in this achievement. We’re one step closer to getting our Sailors on the Scarlet Lady and are grateful for all that have chosen to join us on this adventure,” said Tom McAlpin, Virgin Voyages CEO.
On April 1, 2020 the Scarlet Lady will set sail on her inaugural Maiden Voyage. This first celebratory sailing will be packed full of celebrity-guest appearances, special events, exclusive surprises and an overall enhanced Virgin Voyages experience for sailors to revel in. Sailors who are unable to join the Maiden Voyage can book the Sneak-a-Peek sailings now on VirginVoyages.com. The first Sneak-a-Peek sailing will run from Thursday, March 26 - Sunday, March 29. The second sailing will run Sunday, March 29 - Wednesday, April 1. The three night Sneak-a-Peek Scarlet Lady sailings will feature the ship’s marquee experiences including a stunning day at the Beach Club at Bimini, a Scarlet Night Party, access to all restaurants and complete versions of entertainment offered onboard.
As Virgin Voyages first ship prepares for her Maiden Voyage, the brand announces their second ship, Valiant Lady. Debuting in May 2021, Valiant Lady will have a home port of Barcelona, Spain and will sail 7-night Mediterranean itineraries. Bookings for the three feature itineraries, that all offer overnight and late-night stops across some of the hottest destinations in France, Italy and Spain, will open December 19, 2019.
(PRESS RELEASE)_MIAMI (Dec. 3, 2019) - Expanding its commitment to making a cruise vacation more accessible for everyone, Carnival Cruise Line has become the first cruise operator to be certified “sensory inclusive” by KultureCity, a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to accessibility and inclusion for individuals with sensory needs and invisible disabilities.
The rollout of the program started in October and all of Carnival Cruise Line’s South Florida-based ships are certified, with the balance of the fleet scheduled to be completed by March 2020.
As part of a comprehensive fleetwide training program, hundreds of guest-facing team members, including guest services personnel and youth staff, have been trained to understand and help adults, youth and children with sensory related questions or needs relating to conditions such as Autism, ADHD, Down syndrome, PTSD, etc.
In addition, KultureCity sensory bags are available for check out for the duration of the cruise and contain a variety of items to help calm, relax and manage sensory overload. Items include comfortable noise cancelling headphones (provided by Puro Sound Labs), fidget toys, and a visual feeling thermometer (produced in conjunction with Boardmaker), as well as a KultureCity VIP lanyard to help staff easily identify guests.
These measures have proven to be helpful in the more than 450 landside venues like stadiums, arenas and amusement parks that have partnered with KultureCity. Since the program has been implemented aboard the first wave of Carnival’s ships, feedback from guests and their families has been overwhelmingly positive.
Once on board, guests should inquire at the Guest Services desk to inquire about borrowing a sensory bag and any other accommodations that are available.
Informational videos featuring actor Christopher Gorham, a member of the KultureCity board of directors, designed to create greater awareness among all guests, are playing on in-stateroom television on the line’s six certified ships and will expand across the fleet as the program rolls out to other ships.
“Carnival Cruise Line and KultureCity share a heartfelt commitment to acceptance and inclusivity. Working together, all of our guests can maximize their enjoyment and be the truest versions of themselves during their time on board,” said Vicky Rey, Carnival’s vice president of guest care and communications and the company’s ADA Responsibility Officer.
“We’re proud and grateful to partner with Carnival Cruise Line, offering guests with sensory needs an opportunity to more fully enjoy their vacations and create wonderful memories with their friends, families and loved ones. We appreciate Carnival Cruise Line for taking this important step in making their vacations accessible to everyone,” said Dr. Julian Maha, co-founder, KultureCity.
In addition to the KultureCity certification, Carnival will be the first cruise operator to complete an additional special needs certification program offered by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).
The IBCCES program includes 17 continuing education units (CEUs) of training in a variety of special needs, such as Autism, Down Syndrome, mobility issues, and various other disabilities. Additionally, Carnival’s youth staff have different resources on hand to help soothe, calm and entertain children participating in our youth programs, such as weighted vests, conversation cards, sensory games and other aids. Myron Pincomb, board chairman of IBCCES: “It has been a pleasure working with the Carnival team. Their unwavering passion to go above and beyond to create the best experience possible allows guests of all abilities to 'Choose Fun'.”
“Carnival Cruise Line is to be commended for training their staff about autism and offering sensory bags that will enable individuals with autism and their families to have an enjoyable cruise,” Dr. Temple Grandin, a renowned autism advocate and author and one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to document the insights she gained from her personal experience with autism.
To obtain more information on the KultureCity program, please visit the Guests with Disabilities page on Carnival.com.
(PRESS RELEASE)_MIAMI, December 2, 2019 – Crystal River Cruises’ holiday season sailings are officially underway, bringing guests in luxury and comfort to the most remarkable Christmas Markets and destinations that Europe has to offer. Voted Best River Cruise Line for the 2019 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, Crystal continues to immerse guests in the spirit of the holidays with picturesque décor to complement the beauty of Europe’s waterways this time of year.
Each of Crystal’s all-suite and all-balcony river ships, Crystal Bach, Crystal Debussy, Crystal Mahler and Crystal Ravel are decked out with sophisticated holiday décor to welcome guests back aboard after a day of exploration. Guests feel the joy of the holiday season as they pass brightly lit and plush Christmas trees with eye-catching ornaments, frosted wreaths adorning the walls and staircases, life-size nutcrackers that greet guests as they walk about the ship and illuminated menorahs.
Crystal River Cruises journeys to towns rich in history and tradition along Europe’s rivers, which are enhanced by the spectacle of the markets, creating a magical vacation that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. These unique voyages range from seven to 10 nights, in an intimate setting with only 106 guests aboard the all-suite, all-butler and all-balcony ships, which are true enclaves of elegance.
While 2019 voyages are sold out, those wishing to get a head start on their 2020 or 2021 holiday planning can relish in an abundance of options with the company’s Best Available Suite and Book Now Savings promotions available now through January 8 on select voyages, with fares starting at $3,499 per guest.
In 2020, Crystal River Cruises will be the youngest fleet sailing in Europe, Christmas market sailings range from seven to 10 nights and journey along the Rhine and Danube for a voyage filled with enchanting merriment. On itineraries between Vienna, Budapest, Amsterdam, Regensburg and Basel — with overnights in all — guests can discover Linz, a European Capital of Culture, and Passau, home to the magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Guests can explore cities that are home to famed museums and quaint villages of storybook charm to experience the wonder of Europe’s legendary holiday celebrations.
All suites on Crystal River Cruises feature Panoramic Balcony-Windows™ and walk-in closets, with dual-vanity bathrooms featured in most categories. All suites include private butler service, king-sized beds, ETRO amenities, robes and slippers, and wall-mounted flat-screen HD TVs. Additional enticing features include farm-to-table cuisine in multiple, open-seating eateries: the elegant Waterside Restaurant, namesake Bistro cafés and the exclusive Vintage Room; and the Palm Court for entertainment, enrichment presentations and sweeping views of the countryside while hundreds of inclusive, curated experiences ashore cater to travelers’ individual tastes.
(PRESS RELEASE)_MIAMI (Dec. 2, 2019) – Carnival Cruise Line, the world’s largest cruise operator, returned to the Port of San Diego this weekend to launch a winter schedule of three- to 15-day voyages aboard Carnival Miracle, marking the line’s first departure from the port in seven years.
The cruise schedule began yesterday with a seven-day sailing to the Mexican Riviera, and features a wide range of durations and destinations, including:
· three-day weekend getaways visiting Ensenada Dec. 27, 2019 and Jan. 3, 2020.
· five-day voyages departing Dec. 22, 2019, and Jan. 12, 2020, that spend two days in Cabo San Lucas.
· a four-day New Year's Baja Mexico cruise featuring Catalina Island and Ensenada departing Dec. 30, 2019.
· A six-day cruise featuring two days in Cabo San Lucas and a day-long visit to Ensenada departing Jan. 6, 2020.
· Three longer-length Carnival Journeys adventures, including 14- and 15-day Hawaii cruises visiting popular destinations throughout the Aloha State departing Dec. 8, 2019 and Jan. 17, 2020, respectively, along with a 13-day Panama Canal sailing from San Diego to Miami Feb. 1-14, 2020 offering a unique opportunity to transit through the Panama Canal in addition to visiting exotic destinations in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Colombia.
Carnival Miracle features many of the line’s signature dining, entertainment and accommodations options, including guest favorites such as the Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub and cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar, a water park, specialty dining options, a comedy club, and a 14,500-square-foot spa.
“We’re delighted to return to the Port of San Diego to offer this diverse schedule of convenient and attractive voyages for our guests,” said Fred Stein, Carnival’s vice president of revenue, deployment and itinerary planning. “The West Coast is an important and fast-growing market for Carnival and these departures from San Diego provide guests a wide array of exciting cruise choices with stops along Baja Mexico, the Mexican Riviera and Hawaii.”
“The Port of San Diego is excited for the return of Carnival Cruise Line as part of our homeported cruise business,” said Garry Bonelli, chairman of the board of port commissioners. “We are proud to once again partner with Carnival and we welcome Carnival Miracle to our cruise lineup.”
Carnival Miracle will return to San Diego to operate another winter schedule in 2020-21.
Carnival Miracle’s San Diego-based schedules are part of the line’s West Coast expansion that also includes its first-ever program from San Francisco to Alaska, Hawaii and Baja Mexico as well as the arrival of Carnival Panorama which kicks off a year-round schedule from Long Beach Dec. 11 – the company’s first new cruise ship in Southern California in 20 years.
San Diego is an integral component of Carnival’s ship deployment strategy in which the line positions ships near large U.S. population bases along the East and West Coasts and the Gulf of Mexico. Including San Diego, Carnival sails from 19 North American homeports providing a cost-effective means for guests to get to and from their cruise. It’s estimated that roughly half of the U.S. population is within a day’s drive of a Carnival homeport.
(PRESS RELEASE)_MIAMI, November 27, 2019 – Crystal Cruises has unveiled 10 brand-new voyages added to its collection of Crystal Getaways – shortened versions of longer itineraries – ranging from four to 10 nights. With 29 Getaways in total for the remainder of this year and next, guests can indulge in the award-winning Crystal Experience across the globe.
Featuring an abundance of all-inclusive enrichment and wellness options, globally inspired dining experiences, shoreside discoveries of UNESCO treasures and other highlights for which Crystal is known into calendar-friendly itineraries, the new Getaways include:
Haute Caribbean Holiday, December 22, 2019 eight-nights from Miami to Turks & Caicos, Antigua, Barbados and St. Maarten; December 30, 2019 seven-nights from Barbados to Tortola, Key West and Miami;
Timeless Treasures & Ancient Cultures, March 20, 2020 eight-nights from Singapore to Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka; March 28, 2020 six-nights from Sri Lanka to Cochin and Mumbai, India;
Empires of Past & Present, April 3, 2020 eight-nights from Mumbai to Oman, the gulfs of Aden and Aqaba and Jordan; April 11, 2020 10-nights from Aqaba to Israel, Cyprus, Crete and Italy;
Icons of the Mediterranean, July 10, 2020 four-nights from Monte Carlo to Florence, Rome and Sorrento, Italy; July 14, 2020 five-nights from Sorrento to Dubrovnik and Venice;
Beyond the Acropolis & Aqaba, October 23, 2020 six-nights from Athens to Rhodes, Greece, Israel and Aqaba; October 29, 2020 10-nights from Aqaba to the gulfs of Aden and Aqaba, Oman and Dubai.
Fares for Crystal’s 2019 and 2020 Ocean Getaways begin at just $1,049 per guest, double occupancy. Travelers still have time to save on all-inclusive journeys, as the company’s Book Now Savings January 8 deadline nears, those who book before then can save up to $3,200 per stateroom or suite.
(PRESS RELEASE)_MIAMI (Nov. 25, 2019) – Leave it to Carnival Cruise Line to spice up the fun this holiday season!
In partnership with Atlanta culinary artist and baker Karen Portaleo, the world’s most popular cruise line has created a massive 23-foot-long gingerbread replica of Carnival’s new Mardi Gras, set to debut next year.
Weighing 1,500 pounds, the ship-shaped confection is “docked” at Atlanta’s Lenox Square Mall and was officially named by Portaleo who served as godmother this past Saturday. In keeping with maritime tradition, the Food Network star smashed a ceremonial bottle across the vessel’s bow. Carnival also made a $10,000 donation to the Immune Deficiency Foundation, Portaleo’s charity of choice which is dedicated to improving the diagnosis, treatment and quality of life of those with primary immunodeficiencies.
“I’ve created hundreds of cakes during my career but a 1,500-pound gingerbread cruise ship is certainly a first for me,” said Portaleo. “As a baker, I’m always looking for a challenge and creating a gingerbread replica of Mardi Gras was an amazing experience as it serves as a fun conversation piece for thousands of holiday shoppers. I can’t wait to see the real Mardi Gras when it debuts next year.”
“Carnival is all about bringing fun and memorable vacations to more than five million guests who sail with us every year,” said Hugo Castillo, Carnival’s creative director. “And what better way to ring in the season and bring fun to holiday shoppers than with the world’s largest gingerbread ship! If they like this version of Mardi Gras, they’ll be blown away when the real deal arrives next year.”
Comprised of 130 pounds of flour, 10 pounds of cinnamon, and 50 gallons of icing, the gingerbread Mardi Gras is an creative representation of Carnival’s most innovative ship complete with a water park and even a working replica of BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea.
The real Mardi Gras is set to debut in Europe in August 2020 and, after several sailings in New York, will reposition to Port Canaveral for year-round Caribbean departures beginning in October 2020.
The gingerbread cruise ship will be on display at the Lenox Square Mall through Dec. 24, providing a unique and memorable attraction for shoppers during the holidays.
Shoppers can also interact with the ship through a fun custom Snapchat geofilter, special Snapchat AR lenses that provide a peek into Mardi Gras’ many on board innovations, and a GIF booth for shoppers to capture how they’re Choosing Fun with Carnival.
(PRESS RELEASE)_Coral Gables, FL, November 22, 2019 – Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, The NCL Encore, launches November 2019, with designs from South Florida-based, boutique interior design firm Studio DADO. Studio DADO is responsible for the design of two brand-new concepts on board Encore; Q, a Texas Roadhouse-style barbeque joint and Onda by Scarpetta, which brings the iconic New York City restaurant to the high seas through an adaptation of their brand. Other new designs include The Social Comedy Club, Teppanyaki and the Galaxy Pavilion.
Leading the project are two of Studio DADO’s founding partners, Yohandel Ruiz and Javier Calle. The award-winning firm, which recently debuted on Interior Design magazine’s ‘100 Rising Giants’ list for 2019, brings their uncomplicated and collaborative design approach to Encore to create these transformative spaces. Having worked with NCL on several previous vessels, DADO understood that as the last ship in the class, Encore needed to provide guests with an unparalleled experience.
“Understanding client expectations and their desire for the traveler experience, is key to successful design. This is especially so when we have nuanced projects that require a great deal of thought as to not only how guests will use the space, but how they feel in the space,” says Yohandel Ruiz. “When design is done right, the guests are transported into another time and place.”
Studio DADO’s philosophy is exemplified by their interpretation of a Texas roadhouse-style barbeque joint, Q--an authentic experience, with its time-worn, textured look. The use of raw, distressed materials purposefully create a space that feels as if it just came together over time. While DADO’s work on The Social Comedy Club takes guests on a journey through the evolution of comedy with a black and white palette evoking an old Hollywood feel to whimsical touches that pay homage to iconic sitcoms for the 50’s and 60’s.
For the Onda by Scarpetta reinterpretation, lead by Javier Calle, has created an onboard aesthetic that combines elegant old-world charm with the sophistication of a Manhattan eatery. Utilizing their specific, customized approach, Studio DADO captured the ideal balance of high energy and effortless elegance while preserving a communal and comfortable atmosphere. DADO applied natural materials such as walnut and calacatta gold marble to a contemporary, minimalist Italian aesthetic. The result not only provides a memorable experience for guests, but represents the pinnacle of chic and effortless modern design while staying true to the aura that is ‘Scarpetta’.
“Working with Studio DADO has been one of the most efficient design processes I’ve ever been a part of. We had instant chemistry and spoke the same language,” says John Meadow, founder and president of LDV Hospitality. “Our visual aesthetics were in line since day one. They listened and executed immaculately.”
(PRESS RELEASE)_MIAMI – (Nov. 22, 2019) – Norwegian Cruise Line, the innovator in global cruise travel with a nearly 53-year history of breaking boundaries, hosted a christening ceremony in Miami for its newest innovative ship, Norwegian Encore.
Over 3,500 guests consisting of travel partners, investors, government officials, media, and family and friends of Norwegian Cruise Line were invited to the pier-side ceremony and celebration at Port Miami. An interactive arrival experience indicative of the brand’s commitment to world-class entertainment and innovative and meaningful experiences, encouraged attendees to share the moment and to make lasting memories.
During the ceremony, guests enjoyed a showcase of the Company’s onboard entertainment, which included “Choir of Man” and the Tony Award®-winning “Kinky Boots.” Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings; Andy Stuart, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line; and Harry Sommer, incoming president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line welcomed attendees and spoke to the Company’s history and commitment to Miami, the beauty of the new ship, her industry-leading amenities, and their gratitude for all those who ensure a memorable guest experience aboard Norwegian Encore.
“Norwegian Cruise Line has been sailing from Miami for over 50 years,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. “We were the first to offer weekly cruises to the Caribbean from Miami, which shaped the city’s reputation as the ‘Cruise Capital of the World.’ Five years ago, we launched our history-making Breakaway Plus class and today, we are proud to christen Norwegian Encore, the final ship of this class and a true representation of the evolution of the brand, right here in our hometown of Miami.”
After the traditional blessings, honorary godmother and GRAMMY Award-winning artist, Kelly Clarkson, officially christened Norwegian Encore with the champagne bottle break across the ship’s hull. Guests were then treated to a live performance of Clarkson’s “Miss Independent,” “Stronger,” “Since U Been Gone,” and other chart-topping hits.
This milestone marks the closing of the Company’s most successful class of ships, the Breakaway Plus class, which first debuted in Miami with the introduction of Norwegian Escape in 2015. Norwegian Escape, Joy, Bliss and now Encore, have revolutionized the cruising industry with elevated experiences that include the world’s only racetracks and open-air laser tag arenas; the most sophisticated gaming and virtual reality complexes; world-class entertainment that rivals anything on land; and new, creative culinary offerings.
Norwegian Encore will offer seven-day voyages to the Eastern Caribbean from Miami beginning Nov. 24, 2019; Bermuda, and Canada and New England itineraries from New York City beginning Apr. 22, 2020; and voyages to the Western Caribbean from Miami beginning Dec. 12, 2020. In the spring of 2021, she will make her West Coast debut and sail to Alaska from Seattle.
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