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July 29, 2011

Norwegian Cruise Line Enhances Pre-Cruise Shore Excursions and Dining Reservations

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MIAMI - July 28, 2011 - Norwegian Cruise Line today announced that it has enhanced its reservation system adding the convenience of pre-purchasing shore excursions fleet-wide and the flexibility of pre-purchasing specialty dining on Norwegian Epic. The company also plans to add the ability to make Freestyle Dining reservations for specialty restaurants fleet-wide in the coming months. This enhanced system gives booked guests the opportunity to plan their cruise vacation prior to boarding the ship.

"Freestyle Cruising is about freedom and flexibility, and therefore we wanted to provide our guests with the choice and convenience of purchasing their shore excursions prior to their cruise, as well as making their specialty dining choices in advance, especially if they are celebrating a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary," said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line's chief executive officer. "Of course, they also have the option of waiting until they are on board to book shore excursions and reserve specialty dining choices."

The more robust reservation system gives guests the option to pre-purchase a large variety of shore excursions in all the destinations Norwegian's ships visit around the world. Whether it's dogsledding in Alaska, surfing in Hawaii, or wine tasting in Italy, guests can secure their spot on the excursion that works best for their vacation.

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Among the 20 dining options that Norwegian Epic offers, guests can make reservations and pay for specialty dining cover charges which range from $10 to $25 per person in all of the ship's specialty restaurants including Moderno Churrascaria and Shanghai's, among others. Norwegian Epic guests also have the ability to purchase tickets to Cirque Dreams and Dinner, as well as The Second City's Presumed Murdered interactive experience. Once the reservation system is available fleet-wide, guests will be able to pre-book and pay for all specialty restaurants such as guest favorites like Teppanyaki, Cagney's Steakhouse and Le Bistro. Reservations are not required at the many complimentary dining venues on each ship.

Guests also have the option of booking shore excursions and making specialty restaurant reservations once they are on board. The ability to purchase activities in advance is only applicable to cruise bookings made in US dollars. All shore excursion and dining purchases can be adjusted up to one day prior to sailing.

Guests with cruise reservations can log on to www.ncl.com/myncl to view shore excursions and dining (on Norwegian Epic) available for pre-purchase. To book, guests can contact a Freestyle Certified Agent at Cruising2Europe.com #1-800-738-8837.

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Posted by Denise at 10:51 AM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2011

Princess Cruises Announces Special Speakers to Appear During World Cruise

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Screen Idol Tab Hunter, a Space Shuttle Astronaut and "Leave it to Beaver" Star Among Those Joining Pacific Princess 2012 Global Voyage

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (July 25, 2011) -- Globetrotting Princess Cruises passengers will be joined by a variety of intriguing special guests aboard Pacific Princess during its 107-day World Cruise departing January 13, 2012. Whether they want to hear about the golden age of Hollywood, get the scoop on modern-day filmmaking, or find out what it's really like in outer space, world cruise travelers can get first-hand stories throughout the sailing.

Among the celebrated speakers scheduled to appear onboard are screen idol Tab Hunter; "Leave it to Beaver" star Jerry Mathers; "The Love Boat's" Gavin MacLeod; legendary Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump; Suzanne Lloyd, granddaughter of silent film star Harold Lloyd; Oscar-nominated Filmmaker Leslie Iwerks and Space Shuttle Astronaut Robert C. Springer. In addition, a variety of expert lecturers will join the cruise to inform passengers on topics such as World War II history and computer forensics.

The special guest appearances are part of an enrichment program designed especially for the Ft. Lauderdale to Venice cruise, which will visit 38 destinations in 28 countries, with calls on six continents as it sails through Latin America, the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, Asia, the Middle East and Egypt, finally ending in the Mediterranean.

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Special guests scheduled to appear aboard Pacific Princess include:

Rolly Crump -- Disney Imagineer (January 13-28: Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego)
One of the original Disney Imagineers, Crump joined Disney in 1952, first in animation, contributing to legendary films such as "Lady and the Tramp," but soon moved to the new group of designers who were creating Disneyland's groundbreaking latest attractions. Crump worked alongside Walt Disney himself to create the Haunted Mansion, Enchanted Tiki Room and other attractions, and later designed projects for Disney's EPCOT Center. Crump will talk about Walt Disney the man and the early days of designing iconic Disneyland rides.

Gavin MacLeod -- TV and Film Actor (January 28-February 10: San Diego to Pago Pago)
Perhaps best known as "Captain Merrill Stubing" from the long-running television show The Love Boat, MacLeod also earned acclaim for his role in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, as well as numerous film roles. A long-time fan of cruising, MacLeod has served as an ambassador for Princess Cruises since 1986. He will present a selection of his favorite episodes from these classic series for passengers, and will reminisce about his career and famous co-stars.

Colonel Robert C. Springer -- Space Shuttle Astronaut (February 10-18: Pago Pago to Auckland)
A two-time space shuttle astronaut, Springer has spent more than 237 hours in space. After joining NASA in 1981, Springer served as a mission specialist on shuttle flights in 1989 and 1990. Now retired from NASA and the U.S. Marine Corps, Springer currently works for The Boeing Company as director of quality systems, Integrated Defense Systems. Springer will talk about the shuttle program, his adventures in space, and the future of NASA.

Jerry Mathers -- Former Child Star (February 18-26: Auckland to Sydney) Although best known for his role as "Beaver" Cleaver in the television sitcom series Leave It to Beaver, Mathers also had roles in films such as Hitchcock's "The Trouble with Harry" and "The Seven Little Foys" with Bob Hope. More recently, he made his Broadway debut with a starring role in the Tony Award winning play "Hairspray." Mathers will screen favorite episodes from his TV series, plus several of his films, and will talk about working with legends such as Alfred Hitchcock, Bob Hope and Shirley MacLaine.

Suzanne Lloyd -- Granddaughter of Harold Lloyd (March 12-20: Tokyo to Hong Kong)
The granddaughter of one of Hollywood's founding fathers and silent film legend Harold Lloyd, Suzanne Lloyd will screen a mini film festival of her grandfather's silent comedy classics and talk about growing up on her grandfather's legendary Bel Air estate: Green Acres.

Leslie Iwerks -- Oscar Nominated Filmmaker (March 29-April 12: Singapore to Dubai)
A noted documentary filmmaker, Iwerks is also the daughter and granddaughter of Disney legends. Her first feature documentary, "The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story," chronicled the life of her grandfather, Ub Iwerks, the animator who designed Mickey Mouse. Her 2006 Academy Award-nominated film, "Recycled Life," documents the lives of Guatemalans who live and work on a landfill. In addition, her 2007 film, "The Pixar Story," was nominated for a Primetime Emmy. Onboard, Iwerks will introduce a showing of "Recycled Life," and discuss her work with George Lucas' special effects company, and the computer animation work of Pixar Entertainment.

Tab Hunter -- Actor, Screen Idol (April 12-30: Dubai to Venice)
A screen idol from Hollywood's golden age, Tab Hunter starred in more than 50 major films, including the Academy Award-nominated "Damn Yankees." Hunter also reached the top of the music charts with the hit song Young Love, and starred in his own television series. In the 1980s and '90s, Hunter starred in several John Waters films as well as the comedy Western "Lust in the Dust." The ship will screen several of Hunter's films, and he will talk about his career, his famous co-stars, and his autobiography.

In addition, World Cruise passengers will also have the benefit of a variety of expert lecturers who will share their knowledge on diverse topics, including:

Concorde Pilot -- A former British Airways Concorde pilot will speak about the glamour and technology of the Concorde. (January 13-28: Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego)

World War II Historian -- Bruce Petty, the author of several books about World War II in the Pacific, will talk about topics such as Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Iwo Jima, and aircraft carriers in the Pacific. (January 28-February 18: San Diego to Auckland)

South Pacific Naturalist -- Ann Burgess, an expert on the natural history of the South Pacific region, will talk about a variety of related topics including Polynesian explorers and indigenous wildlife in the area. She will also host animal spotting sessions on the top deck to help passengers catch a glimpse of sea life such as dolphins and whales. (February 18-March 12: Auckland to Tokyo)

Ambassador/Diplomat -- Douglas Hartwick, a former ambassador to Laos and State Department diplomat, will talk about the life of a diplomat living abroad. (March 12-29: Tokyo to Singapore)

Computer Forensics Expert -- Mark Harrington, computer forensic company executive, will lecture on how computer footprints can find terrorists and criminals. (March 20-29: Hong Kong to Singapore)

Astronomer -- An astronomer will join the ship to teach passengers about the night sky, the solar system and the latest space exploration from NASA, plus will host stargazing sessions on deck. (March 29-April12: Singapore to Dubai)

United Nations Official -- John Renninger, a UN official and adjunct professor at NYU, will talk about the UN's peacekeeping role and Middle East topics. (April 12-30: Dubai to Venice)

"World cruise passengers will not only get to experience amazingly diverse parts of the globe, they'll also have access to a wide range of knowledgeable special lecturers," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. "Our goal is to enrich and entertain passengers throughout their entire time onboard with us."

All special guests and expert lecturers are currently scheduled to appear, but modifications may be made subject to changes in speaker availability.

Additional information about Princess Cruises is available through a professional travel agent at Cruising2Paradise.com, by calling 1-800-738-8837.

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Posted by Denise at 03:18 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2011

Princess Cruises Passengers to Experience the Flavor and Culture of Hawaii on Sailings to the Islands

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Hawaiian Islands Cruises Offer Leisurely Roundtrip Voyages from Los Angeles and San Francisco

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (July 20, 2011) - The "Islands of Aloha" have a special appeal as a cruise destination, and Princess Cruises is offering a choice of more than 50 sailings to the Hawaiian Islands in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. These culture-filled cruises depart from both Los Angeles and San Francisco, offering time to relax on the open ocean combined with visits to each of the major four islands in Hawaii.

While at sea, passengers will experience a special "Aloha Spirit" program with Hawaii-themed activities, parties, menu items and learning opportunities. Whether they choose to enjoy an Aloha sailaway party, learn about local wildlife and volcanoes, or simply want to relax and enjoy the poolside Hawaiian melodies or an island-themed Movies Under the Stars selection, cruisers will find numerous ways to feel the Hawaiian spirit.

Included in the program are a number of hands-on ways for passengers to immerse themselves in all things Hawaii, such as:

  • Hawaiian language lessons
  • Lei making
  • Playing the ukulele
  • Hula dance lessons
  • Hawaii-themed culinary demonstrations
  • Kona Coffee tastings

    Special in-port artisans will demonstrate traditional Hawaiian arts, including a special Ni ihau shell lei making presentations by artists providing a unique look at the culture of the "forbidden island." While in Honolulu, passengers will also enjoy an entertaining hula show by children from one of the most-respected local hula halaus (schools). The onboard naturalist will also help cruisers identify local whales and dolphins with top-deck animal-spotting sessions.

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    Passengers will also dine on dishes inspired by Hawaii's bountiful fare -- including fresh fruits such as pineapples and mangos, unique fish and seafood, luau staples such as roast pig, and treats like coconut and macadamia nuts. Princess' special Hawaiian food and beverage selections include:

  • Appetizers: Hawaiian-Style Red Snapper Ceviche and Caramelized
  • Maui Onion Soup
  • Main dishes: Grilled Tiger Shrimp Kebabs with Mango Lime Relish, and Luau Pork with Apricot Drippings
  • Desserts: Coconut Haupia Pudding or Flourless Macadamia Nut Chocolate Cake.
  • Cocktails: Blue Hawaiian Punch and the Ultimate Mai Tai

    "Our Hawaii sailings offer a wonderful way to enjoy both the spirit of the islands and opportunity to unwind with a leisurely ocean voyage," said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises executive vice president. "And our onboard programs will give them a true taste of Hawaii even as they sail."

    Hawaiian Islands sailings begin a new season on September 28, sailing roundtrip from Los Angeles through April 25. Golden Princess and Sapphire Princess offer 14-day cruises, departing on Wednesdays and Saturdays, respectively, to the volcanic wonder of the Big Island (Hilo), the capital city of Honolulu on Oahu, the beautiful beaches of Maui (Lahaina) and the lush Garden Isle of Kauai (Nawiliwili). Departures continue in the 2012-13 season between September 26 and April 24.

    In addition, in 2012 Star Princess and Grand Princess will begin offering 15-day roundtrip voyages from San Francisco, also calling at all four islands. The ships will offer 10 departures between March 19, 2012 and April 25, 2013.

    For those looking for a longer tropical vacation, a new 28-day Hawaii, Tahiti & Samoa itinerary offers the opportunity to sail not only to Hawaii, but also visit the South Pacific islands of Pago Pago, Apia, Bora Bora, Moorea, and Tahiti. These cruises sail roundtrip from Los Angeles aboard Sapphire Princess on October 20, 2012 and on Star Princess on March 26, 2013.

    Hawaii is a featured destination on the Princess Cruises blog, "50 Essential Experiences: The Travel Bucket List." Read this inspirational travel story here.

    Additional information about Princess Cruises' Hawaii programs is available through a professional travel agent at Cruising2Tahiti.com by calling 1-800-738-8837.

    Tahiti & Hawaii Cruise Specials with Princess Cruises!

    Posted by Denise at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)
  • July 20, 2011

    Bora Bora, French Polynesia

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    InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa #37 of World's Top 100 Hotels

    The Travel + Leisure 2011 World's Best Awards have been published, and we are thrilled (okay, we're ecstatic) that InterContinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa has been voted #37 of the Top 100 Hotels in the World. With a total score of 93.56, the resort comes in at #2 in the Australia / New Zealand / South Pacific Region.

    Readers of Travel + Leisure were given an opportunity to vote for their favorite properties over a four-month period beginning in December, 2010. The short list of 100 hotels is culled from a selection of thousands worldwide and represents the hotels that offer, "...special access, noteworthy amenities, above-and-beyond service, and authenticity of place."

    This coveted award comes on the heels of Thalasso's World's Best Service Award from Travel + Leisure in June. Readers gave the resort an impressive score of 93.33 this year; we were also honored with a Best Service award in 2010 with a score of 90.63.

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    More Good News: Weddings for Visitors Now Legal in Tahiti

    The June 2011 issue of TravelAge West carries the news destination wedding specialists been waiting for: visitors to Tahiti can now be legally married there. Gone are the days when couples have to establish a 30-day residency in Tahiti before they can tie the knot. Look closely at the cover... that happy married couple is shown leaving the Blue Lagoon Chapel at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa. (The article is well worth a read as it outlines the requirements for legal weddings and is full of information about becoming a Tahiti wedding specialist.)

    View Air & Hotel Packages to Tahiti, Bora Bora & More!

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    Posted by Denise at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

    July 19, 2011

    Athens, Greece

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    Athens, Greece

    Athens was my first travel love. You could even say I yearned for it.

    Growing up in Romania under communism, sunny Athens seemed like a dream to me. Although Athens is less than 500 miles from the Romanian capital of Bucharest, it might as well have been 5,000 miles away. It seemed impossible that I, an ordinary girl without connections to the long-running regime of Nicolae Ceausescu, would ever see Athens or leave the country at all, for that matter.

    So I consoled myself by seeing the world through books. Reading Greek mythology allowed me to enter a universe governed by the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus. I was completely fascinated. My favorite god/goddess was Artemis, twin sister to Apollo and the fearless goddess of the hunt. She was as strong and commanding as I wanted to be.

    Just after I turned 18, finally, the Ceausescu regime crumbled. Romania was the last of the Eastern Bloc countries to fall. My family did not have the means to immediately travel, but the world came to us, in the form of outside companies setting up businesses in our new, open society.

    I got a job at a Greek-owned import/export company, owned by an extremely kind Greek man. I worked very hard and was as aggressive as Artemis about doing a good job. Before long, I was promoted from doing invoices and inventories to processing important bank documents. Chocolates, fine liquor, coffee, oranges and bananas passed through the company. All the luxuries of the West came to Romania via Greece, increasing my curiosity about the country even more.

    My day came when my boss, recognizing my ambition, rewarded me with a trip to Greece with him and the other executives over Easter. We?d go for 10 days, first to Athens then on to Porto Hydra, to stay at his family villa.

    Imagine the good fortune?my first trip outside of Romania was to be to Athens, my dream destination. I?d grown up in a conservative religious family and had a sheltered childhood, but I was not afraid­­­­ and I couldn?t wait to go.

    Taking my first flight, I suffered not a second of anxiety. Finally arriving, I felt that Greece was more than another country, it was another planet. It was disorienting in the sense that their culture was similar to my own (sharing a region, like we did), but at the same time it was completely different.

    People seemed livelier, brighter and happier. I reminded myself that they had grown up with microwave ovens, unlimited access to tropical fruits, and TVs that got 20 channels?no wonder they were different.

    That first day, my colleagues made sure to take me to the Acropolis, the ancient site on a hill overlooking greater Athens. As it was spring, the hillside was ablaze with a breathtaking abundance of wildflowers.

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    Visiting the Acropolis was like a flashback to my mythology days?so many buildings and temples dedicated to the gods, who were like old friends to me. There was a connection between the books I loved and this place?all the intrigues and politics of ancient mythology reverberated 25 centuries later.

    The Acropolis, particularly the Parthenon, with its parade of Doric columns, still towers over greater Athens. Although the Acropolis dates back many centuries before the 5th Century BCE, most of the buildings that survive in this mythical compound date from that time. That was the Golden Age of Athens, the age of the ruler Pericles, who rebuilt the major temples, including the Parthenon, after invading Persians had sacked it.

    Going to Athens can only bring to mind the great contributions of the ancient Greeks. During the era of Pericles alone, great strides were made in architecture, art, literature and democracy. These ideas and art forms still shape the world today. The Acropolis and adjoining ancient Athens Agora, a market or meeting place, made evident how dynamic and sophisticated the ancient Greeks were.

    I was just as amazed by the vibrant street life of modern Athens.

    My boss took me to a bouzouki restaurant and it was truly overwhelming. I couldn?t believe that you were supposed to buy plates and crash them on the ground. I was quite shy at the time and wanted to be on my best behavior, so I had a hard time doing that. The bouzouki is a stringed instrument, so there was music, singing and dancing and, of course, very good food. The atmosphere was fun and vibrant.

    At the bouzouki place, I saw something gorgeous: my first gardenia. It?s one of the flowers of Greece and the audience threw gardenias on the stage for the singers. What a joyful and glorious gesture.

    The food in Greece is delicious. The fish, chicken and vegetables are simply prepared with olive oil, fresh herbs and lemon making it some of the healthiest food on earth. The sweets were beautiful to look at and taste, with their use of nuts and honey, very different from what I was used to. I also remember the alcohol. I wasn?t drinking any, but my hosts made me try ouzo? much too strong!

    While in Athens, I visited the Plaka area in central Athens, an old part of town with walking streets, cafes, shops and more. We passed by Hadrian?s Arch, erected to honor the Roman emperor around 131 CE, an important historical site and just one of so many that pop up and remind you that a walk in Athens is a walk through early civilization.

    We also walked along a boulevard with all the expensive, modern-day shops: Gucci, Chanel and Valentino. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, seeing all these extraordinary goods, but I was not as adventurous as her. I was too hesitant to actually enter the stores, but I did admire them nonetheless.

    The thing that impressed me the most was how the people on the street were smiling, relaxed and laughing. The street life felt like a big party or carnival, and that was very strange to me. The Greeks seemed to treat each other with such lightness and nonchalance.

    While I was there, Athens was preparing for Easter, which meant the streets were decorated for the holiday in a way that reminded me of Romania. There were brightly colored eggs in the stores and ceremonial candles and baked goods?of hard-boiled eggs and bread?all similar to what I knew from home. Another similarity was the level of hospitality. If you are a guest of a Greek or a Romanian, they?ll treat you like a king and give you the very best they have to offer.

    I stayed at a hotel in Athens, but after a few days, we took a quick ferry to Porto Hydra, the seaside area outside of Athens. I spent the next eight days as a guest at my boss?s villa on the beach enjoying the crystalline blue waters, unlike anything in Romania. The Black Sea of home is a deep, dark navy blue, due to the dense amount of seaweed. The Mediterranean sparkled with light and levity by contrast.

    I went back to Romania a different person. I had a motivation to want more of life. It definitely led me toward a career in tourism. After growing up in a communist country, Greece showed me the wonders of life outside the so-called Iron Curtain. I saw that life could be a celebration. But I have to say, I would never trade my Romanian roots because I think I appreciate this facet of life more than most because of where I grew up.

    In the years since, I have been back to Athens many times for work and also as a tourist. Every time, I discover something new and experience new feelings of fascination and wonder. Athens was my first travel love and it?s one that has definitely endured.

    Written by Dana Ionescu, Customer Services Director on Crown Princess
    July 19, 2011

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    Posted by Denise at 04:53 PM | Comments (0)