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January 29, 2012

Not All Ships or Cruise Lines Are Alike

I read this letter below by Dan Hanrahan the President of Celebrity Cruises. I thought it was important to share it with you . . .

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"To Our Valued Guests,

Like you, all of us at Celebrity Cruises, both shipboard and shoreside, are deeply saddened by the events surrounding the tragic Costa Concordia accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the incident.

I debated about writing to you, as I wanted to be respectful of the investigation process and avoid adding to the speculation as to the cause or related failures. However, the concerns that have been raised about the safety of cruise ships compelled me to take the opportunity to share what an intense focus we have always placed on safety, and how rigorously we put that focus into practice every day.

Since Celebrity Cruises' founding more than 20 years ago, the safety of our guests and crew has always been our highest priority. The measures we take in the interest of safety are many, often exceeding regulatory requirements. It's a critical part of our ongoing commitment to innovation and continuous improvement in every aspect of our business.

Our guests see just a portion of our safety practices through the mandatory muster drills we conduct at the outset of every sailing. But our safety practices encompass so much more. In light of the Costa Concordia accident, we chose to post a summary of our safety practices on our web site. Simply go to, www.CelebrityCruises.com/Safety, and click on the tab labeled "Safety and Security". I encourage you to take a look, and to share the information with your family and friends.

Above and beyond what we've communicated there, you also may be interested to know that the leader of Celebrity Cruises' Captains is a highly experienced former officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, Greg Purdy. As the head of our Marine Operations Department, Greg's highest priority is to guide and monitor the safety of our fleet. His own experience at sea, including serving as Captain of a Coast Guard vessel, combined with his depth of knowledge of cruise ship safety, ensures that he and the entire Celebrity Marine team continue to build on our strong safety culture.

Our Captains across the Celebrity fleet hold degrees from some of the world's finest maritime institutions. You also may be surprised to know that, along with the Captain, every one of our ships has at least two other officers who hold the level of license required to serve as Captain of a cruise ship. Essentially, we have three people onboard every Celebrity ship who qualify as a Captain.

On average, each of Celebrity Cruises' Captains has 25 years of seagoing experience. Besides the training and drills we conduct onboard, our Captains and their bridge teams also participate in navigation simulator courses and other training. One of the cornerstones of our training is that everyone is expected to speak up if they detect something wrong, regardless of their rank. Our shipboard officers and our shoreside team spend a considerable amount of time focused on how we can continually improve our safety procedures.

Along with our vast in-house expertise, we also rely on a group of experts known as our Maritime Safety Advisory Board. The group was established in 2006 to help guide our safety program and provide critical thinking from the world's leading marine safety experts. The group includes former senior officials from the US and UK Coast Guards, as well as leadership from the academic world.

Our Chairman Richard Fain has said there's no such thing as perfect safety, but there is such a thing as perfect dedication to safety. And that?s what we strive for daily.

Whether you're a longtime cruiser, or have yet to sail with Celebrity, I hope you'll help us reinforce the fact that cruising continues to maintain the best safety record of any industry in the travel business.

Our highly skilled and dedicated crew members look forward to welcoming you onboard soon to provide you with an outstanding vacation experience. Meanwhile, I thank you for your continued support of our brand and our business.

Sincerely,

Dan Hanrahan President & CEO"

Posted by Denise at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2012

Celebrity Cruises Starts Contest

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Earlier this month Celebrity Cruises announced a series of physical and virtual experiences that were designed to invite consumers to express their opinions. They are asking you, the public, how you like to express your "exit strategy" from real life to vacation life.

Maybe you want to leave the rat race to unwind on a Caribbean island with a rum punch and white sand in your toes. Maybe you want to explore the breathtaking vistas of Alaska from your private veranda on a Celebrity cruise. Whatever your vacation life entails Celebrity Cruises wants to hear about it.

Lisa Kauffman, Vice President of Marketing for Celebrity Cruises says "At Celebrity, we recognize that consumers' vacation time is precisou, and we're committed to offering a modern luxury experience that makes the most of that time. We believe no other cruise brand - and for that matter, very few land-based hotels or resorts - deliver on the concept of modern luxury; and by that, we mean the modernity of our ships' design, the anticipatory and engaging service of our crew, the spectacular quality of our food, the wide variety of dining options, and the inviting ambiance of every restaurant, bar, boutique, spa, stateroom and suite onboard. Modern luxury very succinctly and genuinely sums up the Celebrity brand."

You can express how you'd like to exit real life and enter Celebrity's modern luxury on Celebrity's Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/celebritycruises by creating a complimentary e-card by March 30th, 2012. The grand prize for Celebrity Cruises "Exit to Enter" sweepstakes is a Celebrity cruise vacation for two of the winner's choice; a retail value of $10,000 US, complete with airfare for the winner and a guest.

The winner can choose from a group sailings to a vast array of destinations offered by Celebrity Cruises; Alaska, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Bermuda, Europe and the Caribbean.

In addition to this consumers can save up to $300 per stateroom on vacations booking an Oceanview or above stateroom on select cruises. Book by February 5, 2012 to save.

The first 3 months of the year are the best time to book the cruise vacation you've always wanted. All the cruise lines are having early booking bonuses and sales to entice you. For more information about a cruise contact Cruising2Paradise.com at #1-800-738-8837.

Written by Denise Blackmore, MCC

Posted by Denise at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2012

An Updated Sapphire Princess

Sapphire Princess Enters Drydock

Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess entered drydock this past week in Victoria, British Columbia. The ship has begun a dramatic overhaul that will last four weeks.

The Sapphire Princess is planned to re-enter service on February 4th, 2012 with some new features. A new Piazza atrium with International Cafe, Vine's Wine Bar and Alfredo's Pizzeria. On the top deck of the ship located at the swimming pool with be a brand new Movies Under The Stars screen. This is a popular area where guests can view new released movies on a large screen while at sea. The ship will also have a Sanctuary, adults-only relaxation area.

These new features are being added to many of Princess Cruises ships so passengers on can sail on any Princess ship and have that feeling of comfort and familar. Below are more specifics on each brand new area of Sapphire Princess.

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New Piazza Atrium - The ship's atrium space will be redesigned to include this signature Princess feature -- a European-inspired social hub of the ship combining always-changing quick bites and light meals, beverages, entertainment, shopping and guest services. The Piazza will feature the International Cafe for pastries, fresh panini sandwiches, salads, fresh-baked cookies and a variety of coffee drinks. Passengers will also enjoy a new Vines wine bar offering a selection of more than 30 wines by the glass, plus a selection of tapas and sushi, and a wine shop where passengers can purchase their favorite bottle.

Alfredo's Pizzeria - Introduced last year aboard Grand Princess, Alfredo's will expand to its second location on Sapphire Princess. The sit-down pizzeria serves up an enticing menu of freshly prepared, hand-stretched, individual-size pizzas. Named for the line's master executive chef, Alfredo Marzi, the pizzeria will feature an open kitchen where passengers can watch chefs create their custom-made pies.

Movies Under the Stars - Sapphire Princess will be the final ship to introduce Movies Under the Stars on board. The giant poolside movie screen will showcase feature films, concerts, awards shows and sports events, and passengers can enjoy their viewing on padded loungers under warm, fleece blankets. Complimentary popcorn and other treats enhance the al fresco entertainment experience.

The Sanctuary - Sapphire Princess is also the final ship to receive The Sanctuary, a tranquil retreat exclusively for adults. Added prior to drydock, the new Sanctuary space has already received an enthusiastic welcome from passengers enjoying the enhanced comforts of this peaceful oasis, as Serenity Stewards attend to their every need, offering refreshing beverages, light snacks, pre-loaded MP3 players, and the cooling mist of an Evian atomizer.

I've had the pleasure of cruising on Diamond Princess (sister ship to Sapphire Princess) and touring the Sapphire Princess multiple times while it's been in Vancouver. I really enjoy these ships and the new areas Princess is adding will make them even better.

Come back in a few weeks and I'll show you pictures of the ship after the renovation!

Written by Denise Blackmore, MCC

Sapphire Princess offers Mexican Riviera Cruises in Spring & Fall

Sapphire Princess offers Alaska Cruises in the summer

Posted by Denise at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2012

New Alaska Cruisetour Packages with Norwegian Cruise Line for 2013!

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Norwegian Cruise Line Launches New Alaska Cruisetours

Guests can now book pre and post Cruisetours for an authentic Alaska experience

Miami - Jan 11, 2012 - Starting today, Norwegian Cruise Line guests can book pre- or post- Cruisetours to round out their dream Alaskan cruise vacations in 2013. Ranging in length from four to six days, guests can select the perfect Alaskan adventure from four different packages. The tours are escorted by a local Alaskan guide, giving each guest the opportunity to experience the authentic beauty of Alaska. Each Cruisetour features two nights in Denali National Park, as well as a ride on the iconic Alaska Railroad.

For guests wanting to explore the wilderness or the history of Alaska, there are two five-day options available: Denali / Alyeska Explorer and Denali / Fairbanks Explorer. The Denali / Alyeska Explorer gives guests the opportunity to hike on Winner Creek Trail, visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see animals in their natural setting or take a helicopter ride to land atop a glacier. The Denali / Fairbanks Explorer offers an up close look at the Gold Rush that swept the nation, the Alaskan Pipeline, a visit to an Athabascan Indian Village and the chance to experience the midnight sun.

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For those with an adventurous spirit, the Authentic Alaska Cruisetour is the best option, offering diverse activities in a six-day tour. Guests can take a trip to an Iditarod Sled Dog Musher's house to learn about the "Last Great Race" and meet some of the dogs (also included in both Explorer Cruisetours). In Homer, guests can learn more about the fishing history as well as take in the scenic view of Katchermark Ba''s glaciers and mountains. The tour concludes with a visit to Alaska's largest city, Anchorage, where guests can enjoy hiking trails, local restaurants and the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

Guests who have limited time to explore the state can take advantage of the Denali Express package to explore Alaska in four days. Two days in Denali can be spent visiting the Denali National Park to view wildlife or go rafting, fly fishing, golfing and hiking before taking a ride on the world famous Alaska Railroad.

"We want to offer our guests a chance to have an authentic Alaskan experience before or after their cruise as this is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation," said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian's chief executive officer. "Our new Cruisetours give guests an up close look at the culture, wildlife and natural beauty of this destination and are all guided by a knowledgeable Alaskan local."

On sale today, pre- or post-cruise land packages can be purchased as part of Norwegian Sun's 2013 cruises from Whittier, Alaska. Beginning May 20, 2013, Norwegian Sun's northbound itinerary departs Vancouver, British Columbia on Mondays, and will cruise the Inside Passage, Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier and make stops in the Alaskan favorites of Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau. On her southbound itineraries from Whittier, Alaska, the ship will cruise the Inside Passage, Sawyer Glacier and Hubbard Glacier, as well as making stops in Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau and Icy Strait Point. Further information can be found by visiting Norwegian's Alaskan's Cruisetours website. Guests wanting to book an Alaska cruise with a Cruisetour on Norwegian, should contact an Alaska Specialist at Cruising2Alaska.com, call 1-800-738-8837.

View Alaska Cruise Specials!

Posted by Denise at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2012

First Cruise Vacations Offered to St. Vincent

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Today is the first day you can book a cruise vacation to St. Vincent! Thank Royal Caribbean for adding St. Vincent to select Caribbean cruises available today for booking.

Vision of the Seas, a 2,000 passenger cruise ship, will offer an 11 night South Caribbean cruise vacation sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida that includes St. Vincent. The schedule departure dates are December 3, 2012, December 24, 2012 and February 4, 2013.

This is the first time a cruise ship will make St. Vincent a port of call.

The full cruise itinerary is:

Day 1 - Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Day 2 - Cruising

Day 3 - Cruising

Day 4 - St. John's, Antigua 8:00AM to 5:00PM

Day 5 - Castries, St. Lucia 8:00AM to 5:00PM

Day 6 - Bridgetown, Barbados 8:00AM to 5:00PM

Day 7 - Kingstown, St. Vincent 7:00AM to 2:00PM

Day 8 - Kralendijk, Bonaire 1:00PM to 7:00PM

Day 9 - Oranjestad, Aruba 7:00AM to 5:00PM

Day 10 - Cruising

Day 11 - Cruising

Day 12 - Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The Vision of the Seas isn't the newest ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. It has been fully redone and offers a Vitality Spa, Solarium Pool, Rock Climbing Wall, Casino Royale, eight bars and lounges, and much more.

For more information or to book a cruise click here!

Written by Denise Blackmore, MCC

Posted by Denise at 05:06 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2012

Norwegian Cruise Line

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Norwegian Cruise Line made two announcements over the past two days. The first annoucement was regarding their newest ship build, Norwegian Breakaway.

Norwegian Breakaway is planned to sail year-round from New York City. The 4,000 passenger ship will offer the following cruise vacations:

  • April 2013 - 8 Day Trans-Atlantic from London to New York City
  • May 12 to October 6 - 7 Day Bermuda Cruises Roundtrip New York City to King's Wharf
  • October 13 to April 13 - 7 Day Bahamas & Florida Cruises roundtrip New York City to Port Canaveral/Orlando, Nassau, and Great Stirrup Cay/Bahamas

    The second annoucement is the introduction of a new Youth Program. Norwegian Cruise Line has a large number of families that cruise with them; in fact 150,000 children sailed with NCL in 2010.

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    Here are the changes:

  • There will be new age groups for the program: 3 to 5 years; 6 to 8 years; 9 to 12 years; along with two teen groups: 13 to 14 and 15 to 17 years
  • There will also be programming for babies and toddlers ages six months to two years.

  • The new fully developed and enhanced curriculum tailored to each age group is being produced in conjunction with The King's Foundation and Camps, a United Kingdom-based organization that provides high quality sport and activity programs designed to make a positive impact on children. More focus will be placed on sporting activities, arts and crafts, theater and technology. Activities will change every 30 to 60 minutes depending on the age group and will be set within blocks of programming time in the morning, afternoon and evening.

  • The new curriculum will also include creative themes, such as circus day, theater/technology/sports and port of call day. The company has engaged Cirque Du Jour, a New York-based company that specializes in teaching children real circus skills such as scarf juggling, ball juggling, plate spinning, clowning and acrobatics. Circus workshops and shows will also be offered for the entire family.

  • In addition, the youth programs will be expanded to utilize other areas of the ships, including the sports courts, rock walls, theaters, lounges and public spaces and will feature more family events such as parades and scavenger hunts.

  • The company is also investing in its youth staff, by increasing the ratio of staff to children and establishing new criteria for the hiring of counselors, including the requirement of a college degree in recreation or child care (or the equivalent experience).

    Over the last 5 years Norwegian Cruise Line has made many changes; both at their head office updating their reservation system for travel agents and making improvements on their cruise ships. I'm happy to report that I have been truly impressed with their efforts and changes. The Norwegian Epic is a fabulous ship with so many great improvements, which they learned from and have incorporated on all their other ships. If you haven't taken a Norwegian cruise for a few years try it again and you too will be impressed!

    Written By Denise Blackmore, MCC

    Posted by Denise at 02:29 PM | Comments (0)
  • January 05, 2012

    Travel Tip #1

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    Travel Tip #1 - Pack Light

    With airlines lowering baggage allowances it is more important than ever to pack light! When you depart home for a trip weigh your bag and leave 5 to 10 pounds (if possible) for souvenirs.

    For trips 14 days and less I recommend packing for half of the total duration of your trip. If you have booked a 14 day vacation, pack for 7 days.

    Think of taking a neutral pair of pants and/or shorts that will go with multiple tops; this works for day or night. Pack a small bottle of delicate detergent; this will allow you to wash items by hand in your bathroom sink while travelling and then hang the items to dry in your shower/bathtub. Use laundry facilities in your hotel or cruise ship to get a second use out of the clothing items you have taken.

    These few tips will make your bag lighter for flying!

    Written by Denise Blackmore, MCC

    Denise is certified Master Cruise Counsellor working with Cruising2Alaska.com. Denise has over 16 years experience in the travel industry. She specializes in cruise vacations and focuses on the destinations of Alaska, Europe and Tahiti due to her numerous certifications and travel to these areas.

    Posted by Denise at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

    January 04, 2012

    Celebrity Infinity

    Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Infinity - Redone and looking fabulous!

    The Celebrity Infinity cruise ship has just entered service after a massive facelift. Celebrity Cruises spent $30 million to update her!

    I have sailed on the Celebrity Infinity and it's sister ships numerous times. I am quite familar with how the ship used to look and now seeing these pictures of the facelift it makes me want to cruise again!

    The Conservatory at the top of the ship has been transformed into QSine - a new specialty restaurant. I had the pleasure of enjoy this restaurant on Celebrity Eclipse and highly recommend it!

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    The Cova Cafe just off the atrium has been transformed into Cafe al Bacio - the place for coffee, tea and more. A hot spot in the mornings and mid-afternoon!

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    The Internet Lounge has been completely redone and is now the Martini Bar and Crush - get your shake on! A new Celebrity iLounge with apple computers has also been added to the ship.

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    The Champagne Bar was given a facelift and is now the popular Bistro On Five - one of my personal favourites . . . gotta love breakfast all day!

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    37 Deluxe Oceanview with Veranda Staterooms on Deck 11 have been transformed into Aqua Class Staterooms. These staterooms receive Concierge Class amenities plus unlimited use of the Persian Gardens at the Aqua Spa. Relaxation taken to a new level, thanks Celebrity Cruises!

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    Michael's Club has been refreshed and now includes a selection of 50 different bottled beers. This is a great place to catch a sports game!

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    The Solarium, glass enclosed swimming pool area, has also received an update!

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    The Celebrity Infinity ship offers Panama Canal Cruises in the spring and fall, Alaska Cruises in the summer, and South America Cruises in the winter! Take a vacation this summer to Alaska on Celebrity Infinity.

    Written by Denise Blackmore, MCC

    Posted by Denise at 08:32 AM | Comments (0)

    January 02, 2012

    Capture The Beauty Of Greece!

    Over time I have seen many pictures of the Mediterranean and wondered 'where is that?' Chances are, after doing some research I would find that picturesque place to be in Greece.

    Thanks to Greece Tourism I can share with you the top photographed spots in Greece! Take a look . . .

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    SANTORINI

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    MOUNT ATHOS

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    BALOS, CRETE

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    ACROPOLIS, ATHENS

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    SOUNIO, ATHENS

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    THE SHIPWRECK BEACH, ZAKYNTHOS

    Posted by Denise at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)