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GerryBarker

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  1. MIAMI (July 18, 2019) -- Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Panorama, successfully completed its sea trials in the Adriatic Sea earlier this week in anticipation of its inaugural cruise from Long Beach, Calif., Dec. 11, 2019, becoming the line’s first new ship on the West Coast in 20 years. Currently in the final stages of construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, Carnival Panorama had a full contingent of officers, technicians and engineers on board who thoroughly tested the ship’s sophisticated technical, mechanical and navigation systems. “Carnival Panorama is a wonderful addition to the fleet and she passed all of her maneuvers and tests with flying colors. We can’t wait to welcome guests aboard this beautiful ship,” said Carnival Panorama Captain Carlo Queirolo. As the newest ship in the fleet, Carnival Panorama will offer innovations such as the first Sky Zone trampoline park at sea and a new ChooseFun WaterWorks aqua park inspired by the line’s Chief Fun Officer, NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, as well as popular onboard venues like Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse Brewhouse, featuring BBQ favorites created by Food Network star and longtime partner Guy Fieri and craft beers brewed on board. Carnival Panorama will also offer a variety of accommodation choices, including the tropics-inspired Havana area with colorful staterooms and its own Cuban-themed bar and pool; Family Harbor with extra-roomy staterooms and the Family Harbor Lounge; and luxurious Cloud 9 Spa staterooms with special amenities and privileges. Following an inaugural three-day voyage to Ensenada, Carnival Panorama will launch year-round seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach Dec. 14. The week-long adventures will visit spectacular seaside resort towns including Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com)
  2. MIAMI (July 18, 2019) -- Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship, Carnival Panorama, successfully completed its sea trials in the Adriatic Sea earlier this week in anticipation of its inaugural cruise from Long Beach, Calif., Dec. 11, 2019, becoming the line’s first new ship on the West Coast in 20 years. Currently in the final stages of construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy, Carnival Panorama had a full contingent of officers, technicians and engineers on board who thoroughly tested the ship’s sophisticated technical, mechanical and navigation systems. “Carnival Panorama is a wonderful addition to the fleet and she passed all of her maneuvers and tests with flying colors. We can’t wait to welcome guests aboard this beautiful ship,” said Carnival Panorama Captain Carlo Queirolo. As the newest ship in the fleet, Carnival Panorama will offer innovations such as the first Sky Zone trampoline park at sea and a new ChooseFun WaterWorks aqua park inspired by the line’s Chief Fun Officer, NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, as well as popular onboard venues like Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse Brewhouse, featuring BBQ favorites created by Food Network star and longtime partner Guy Fieri and craft beers brewed on board. Carnival Panorama will also offer a variety of accommodation choices, including the tropics-inspired Havana area with colorful staterooms and its own Cuban-themed bar and pool; Family Harbor with extra-roomy staterooms and the Family Harbor Lounge; and luxurious Cloud 9 Spa staterooms with special amenities and privileges. Following an inaugural three-day voyage to Ensenada, Carnival Panorama will launch year-round seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach Dec. 14. The week-long adventures will visit spectacular seaside resort towns including Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com) View full article
  3. SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (July 16, 2019) – Cruise guests ready to travel through time and space need to look no further than Princess Cruises newest ships – Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess – to experience Phantom Bridge, a world’s first game combining digital and physical elements for the ultimate immersive escape room. “Phantom Bridge, our newest Discovery at SEA interactive attraction, will offer our guests the exclusive opportunity to live a real-world, gamified experience with more than 700 different outcomes for the ultimate adventure,” said Denise Saviss, Princess Cruises vice president of entertainment experience. “Partnering with Farbound to deliver this unprecedented technology and world’s first interactive Mediascape Room further solidifies our commitment to share innovative and distinctive offerings to our guests.” On the Phantom Bridge, Princess Cruises guests will face immersive environments and show moments as they race to solve puzzles and travel to endangered time periods. The entire ship will transform and respond to guest actions, enveloping them in the story. Developed exclusively for Princess Cruises by Farbound, the leader in gamified real-life experiences, the debut of Phantom Bridge will feature the first MediascapeTM Room, the proprietary gaming and show-control system that runs the entire game play. “As Princess Cruises is committed to delivering a completely different and memorable experience for its guests, we are so honored to be working with them as Farbound’s partner. This new class of entertainment offerings will strengthen and hold Princess Cruises position as the leader in the travel industry.” said Tim Rheault & Steve Trowbridge, Co-Founders of Farbound. Phantom Bridge offers a range of activities including: Uncover the clues to solve the mystery – projection mapping, touch screen surfaces and hidden physical elements bring the environment to life as players race to uncover new clues and solve puzzles that will transport them to the next endangered time period. Blends the physical with the digital with immersive effects – players captain the ship and turn the physical wheel to navigate the vessel and watch as the simulation view changes. Lighting, sound and digital features disguised as physical ones are combined to create an immersive, realistic experience, every step of the way. But, players beware as they’ll never know when a new item could mysteriously appear and be the key to the next puzzle. Families can play together! – Phantom Bridge tailors the experience to players of all ages, heights and physical abilities so parents, kids and grandparents can all play together. Plus, with so many levels, time periods and puzzles more than 700 different outcomes are possible, which means players can come back and engage in Phantom Bridge time and time again since it’s never the same adventure. Phantom Bridge will also debut onboard the cruise line’s next ship, Enchanted Princess, summer 2020. Guests can try Phantom Bridge in the new Experience Center located on deck 18. The event lasts 23 minutes and can accommodate up to six people. For families looking for immersive, enriching and fun experiences while traveling, Princess Cruises has partnered with Discovery Inc. to create Discovery at SEA onboard programming that brings to life destinations and fan-favorite Discovery and Animal Planet shows. Guests can choose from exclusive, family friendly shore excursions and onboard activities like Stargazing at Sea. Younger cruisers, 17 and under, will also enjoy the recently renovated Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Centers. More details about the robust onboard features and itineraries of Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess can be found at www.princess.com. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com)
  4. SANTA CLARITA, Calif. (July 16, 2019) – Cruise guests ready to travel through time and space need to look no further than Princess Cruises newest ships – Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess – to experience Phantom Bridge, a world’s first game combining digital and physical elements for the ultimate immersive escape room. “Phantom Bridge, our newest Discovery at SEA interactive attraction, will offer our guests the exclusive opportunity to live a real-world, gamified experience with more than 700 different outcomes for the ultimate adventure,” said Denise Saviss, Princess Cruises vice president of entertainment experience. “Partnering with Farbound to deliver this unprecedented technology and world’s first interactive Mediascape Room further solidifies our commitment to share innovative and distinctive offerings to our guests.” On the Phantom Bridge, Princess Cruises guests will face immersive environments and show moments as they race to solve puzzles and travel to endangered time periods. The entire ship will transform and respond to guest actions, enveloping them in the story. Developed exclusively for Princess Cruises by Farbound, the leader in gamified real-life experiences, the debut of Phantom Bridge will feature the first MediascapeTM Room, the proprietary gaming and show-control system that runs the entire game play. “As Princess Cruises is committed to delivering a completely different and memorable experience for its guests, we are so honored to be working with them as Farbound’s partner. This new class of entertainment offerings will strengthen and hold Princess Cruises position as the leader in the travel industry.” said Tim Rheault & Steve Trowbridge, Co-Founders of Farbound. Phantom Bridge offers a range of activities including: Uncover the clues to solve the mystery – projection mapping, touch screen surfaces and hidden physical elements bring the environment to life as players race to uncover new clues and solve puzzles that will transport them to the next endangered time period. Blends the physical with the digital with immersive effects – players captain the ship and turn the physical wheel to navigate the vessel and watch as the simulation view changes. Lighting, sound and digital features disguised as physical ones are combined to create an immersive, realistic experience, every step of the way. But, players beware as they’ll never know when a new item could mysteriously appear and be the key to the next puzzle. Families can play together! – Phantom Bridge tailors the experience to players of all ages, heights and physical abilities so parents, kids and grandparents can all play together. Plus, with so many levels, time periods and puzzles more than 700 different outcomes are possible, which means players can come back and engage in Phantom Bridge time and time again since it’s never the same adventure. Phantom Bridge will also debut onboard the cruise line’s next ship, Enchanted Princess, summer 2020. Guests can try Phantom Bridge in the new Experience Center located on deck 18. The event lasts 23 minutes and can accommodate up to six people. For families looking for immersive, enriching and fun experiences while traveling, Princess Cruises has partnered with Discovery Inc. to create Discovery at SEA onboard programming that brings to life destinations and fan-favorite Discovery and Animal Planet shows. Guests can choose from exclusive, family friendly shore excursions and onboard activities like Stargazing at Sea. Younger cruisers, 17 and under, will also enjoy the recently renovated Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Centers. More details about the robust onboard features and itineraries of Sky Princess and Enchanted Princess can be found at www.princess.com. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com) View full article
  5. CALABASAS, CA – (July 11, 2019) – AmaWaterways today christened its revolutionary new ship, AmaMagna, in Grein, Austria. The festive ceremony saw guests on board joining AmaWaterways co-founders Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst along with Godmother Samantha Brown, respected travel expert and Emmy Award-winning television host, as she officially christened the 23rd ship in the fleet. “With AmaMagna’s double width design allowing for more personal space, amenities and dining venues, I have had this unique ship on my mind for years and today we are thrilled to officially welcome her to the AmaWaterways family,” said Schreiner. “We are grateful to have so many of our friends and travel partners here with us as we celebrate this exciting time for our company.” Honoring the long-standing tradition associated with ship christenings that originates more than 4,000 years ago, a priest blessed the ship and crew while Godmother Brown broke a champagne bottle against AmaMagna’s hull, signifying good luck on the journeys ahead. “Through the years, we have celebrated each new ship the Ama way – with lots of love! Samantha shares many values with our company – most notable through her PBS series “Places to Love”, where she discovers the emotional heart of travel through the people who are changing, challenging and strengthening a destination,” said Karst. “She is a perfect fit as Godmother for this very special ship that is also challenging ideas of what river cruising can offer people in search of personalized travel experiences.” The striking new ship was welcomed by Grein Mayor Rainer Barth and a distinguished group of regional government and tourism representatives. Afternoon festivities included speeches by Schreiner, Karst and Brown, along with lively local entertainment celebrating the Blue Danube Waltz, Sound of Music and Austrian singer Falco. Following regionally-inspired cocktails and a gala dinner, guests were also treated to a sun deck show featuring dazzling LED performers and fireworks to cap off the festivities. “I am proud to be Godmother to this incredibly innovative ship,” said Brown. “I have always been impressed by the warmth and attentive care that the crew have shown to me and my family during our previous AmaWaterways cruise, but while traveling on board AmaMagna this week, the ship and the service have exceeded all my expectations of what a cruise experience can be.” AmaMagna is twice the width of traditional river cruise ships, yet welcomes only 20 percent more guests, allowing generous personal space – with more than half of the 98 staterooms designated as suites measuring between 355 and 710 sq. ft. All staterooms and suites are appointed with stylish décor and natural wood accents. The suites feature full outside balconies, open seating areas and luxurious bathrooms, complete with double sinks and walk-in showers. Six Grand Suites (474 sq. ft.) and an Owner’s Suite (710 sq. ft.) provide even more amenities with separate seating areas and sizable bathrooms complete with spa-like bathtubs. With four restaurants to choose from, the ship delivers award-winning cuisine and service along with enhanced guest amenities such as an onboard cinema; a large boutique; an expansive Zen Wellness Studio, complete with a large exercise area offering group classes in stretching, cardio and core strengthening and spin classes led by a professionally trained Wellness Host. A juice bar and two massage rooms, along with manicure, pedicure and hair services; and a sun deck with a large heated pool, relaxing whirlpool and sky bar add to the enjoyment on board. All sun deck facilities are easily accessible via an innovative pop-up elevator serving all four decks. Exclusive to AmaMagna, guests may take advantage of a Concierge Golf Program, providing the opportunity to experience four top-level golf courses in Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany while enjoying the magic of river cruising. AmaMagna’s itineraries include Romantic Danube, Melodies of the Danube and Christmas Markets on the Danube. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com)
  6. CALABASAS, CA – (July 11, 2019) – AmaWaterways today christened its revolutionary new ship, AmaMagna, in Grein, Austria. The festive ceremony saw guests on board joining AmaWaterways co-founders Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst along with Godmother Samantha Brown, respected travel expert and Emmy Award-winning television host, as she officially christened the 23rd ship in the fleet. “With AmaMagna’s double width design allowing for more personal space, amenities and dining venues, I have had this unique ship on my mind for years and today we are thrilled to officially welcome her to the AmaWaterways family,” said Schreiner. “We are grateful to have so many of our friends and travel partners here with us as we celebrate this exciting time for our company.” Honoring the long-standing tradition associated with ship christenings that originates more than 4,000 years ago, a priest blessed the ship and crew while Godmother Brown broke a champagne bottle against AmaMagna’s hull, signifying good luck on the journeys ahead. “Through the years, we have celebrated each new ship the Ama way – with lots of love! Samantha shares many values with our company – most notable through her PBS series “Places to Love”, where she discovers the emotional heart of travel through the people who are changing, challenging and strengthening a destination,” said Karst. “She is a perfect fit as Godmother for this very special ship that is also challenging ideas of what river cruising can offer people in search of personalized travel experiences.” The striking new ship was welcomed by Grein Mayor Rainer Barth and a distinguished group of regional government and tourism representatives. Afternoon festivities included speeches by Schreiner, Karst and Brown, along with lively local entertainment celebrating the Blue Danube Waltz, Sound of Music and Austrian singer Falco. Following regionally-inspired cocktails and a gala dinner, guests were also treated to a sun deck show featuring dazzling LED performers and fireworks to cap off the festivities. “I am proud to be Godmother to this incredibly innovative ship,” said Brown. “I have always been impressed by the warmth and attentive care that the crew have shown to me and my family during our previous AmaWaterways cruise, but while traveling on board AmaMagna this week, the ship and the service have exceeded all my expectations of what a cruise experience can be.” AmaMagna is twice the width of traditional river cruise ships, yet welcomes only 20 percent more guests, allowing generous personal space – with more than half of the 98 staterooms designated as suites measuring between 355 and 710 sq. ft. All staterooms and suites are appointed with stylish décor and natural wood accents. The suites feature full outside balconies, open seating areas and luxurious bathrooms, complete with double sinks and walk-in showers. Six Grand Suites (474 sq. ft.) and an Owner’s Suite (710 sq. ft.) provide even more amenities with separate seating areas and sizable bathrooms complete with spa-like bathtubs. With four restaurants to choose from, the ship delivers award-winning cuisine and service along with enhanced guest amenities such as an onboard cinema; a large boutique; an expansive Zen Wellness Studio, complete with a large exercise area offering group classes in stretching, cardio and core strengthening and spin classes led by a professionally trained Wellness Host. A juice bar and two massage rooms, along with manicure, pedicure and hair services; and a sun deck with a large heated pool, relaxing whirlpool and sky bar add to the enjoyment on board. All sun deck facilities are easily accessible via an innovative pop-up elevator serving all four decks. Exclusive to AmaMagna, guests may take advantage of a Concierge Golf Program, providing the opportunity to experience four top-level golf courses in Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany while enjoying the magic of river cruising. AmaMagna’s itineraries include Romantic Danube, Melodies of the Danube and Christmas Markets on the Danube. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com) View full article
  7. RELATED: Carnival Sunrise in Bermuda MIAMI (July 11, 2019) -- Carnival Cruise Line will operate its largest Bermuda season ever in 2019-2020, with more than 40 voyages visiting the nation, including eight week-long cruises departing from Baltimore and Charleston next year. In total, six different Carnival ships – Carnival Breeze, Magic, Pride, Radiance, Sunshine and Sunrise – will offer four- to nine-day Bermuda cruises from five homeports along the eastern seaboard between now and next year. Carnival is the only cruise operator to offer round-trip Bermuda cruises from Charleston, Port Canaveral and Fort Lauderdale. Nine-day Bermuda departures have also been added to the New York-based schedules of the totally transformed Carnival Sunrise and Carnival Radiance that include four-day cruises to the island as well. Carnival’s diverse Bermuda schedule not only encompasses a wide range of cruise durations and homeports but also a variety of ship sizes and amenities, providing consumers with unprecedented opportunities to visit the popular destination. “Guest feedback on our Bermuda program has been nothing short of sensational and we’re delighted to expand our offerings to provide even more guests an opportunity to experience all this tropical island paradise has to offer,” said Fred Stein, Carnival’s vice president of revenue planning and deployment. The seven week-long cruises to Bermuda from Baltimore will be offered aboard Carnival Pride and spend three days in Bermuda, while a seven-day cruise from Charleston aboard Carnival Sunshine will feature two days on the island along with a visit to the private Bahamian destination of Princess Cays. Baltimore departure dates include May 31, Aug. 2 and 23, Sept. 6 and 20, and Oct. 4 and 18, 2020. The cruise from Charleston departs Oct. 17, 2020. While in Bermuda, guests can relax on the island’s legendary pink beaches, enjoy snorkeling, kayaking and other water sports, and visit historical landmarks such as Royal Naval Dockyard and Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse, the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere. Numerous shopping, dining and golfing experiences are also available. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com)
  8. RELATED: Carnival Sunrise in Bermuda MIAMI (July 11, 2019) -- Carnival Cruise Line will operate its largest Bermuda season ever in 2019-2020, with more than 40 voyages visiting the nation, including eight week-long cruises departing from Baltimore and Charleston next year. In total, six different Carnival ships – Carnival Breeze, Magic, Pride, Radiance, Sunshine and Sunrise – will offer four- to nine-day Bermuda cruises from five homeports along the eastern seaboard between now and next year. Carnival is the only cruise operator to offer round-trip Bermuda cruises from Charleston, Port Canaveral and Fort Lauderdale. Nine-day Bermuda departures have also been added to the New York-based schedules of the totally transformed Carnival Sunrise and Carnival Radiance that include four-day cruises to the island as well. Carnival’s diverse Bermuda schedule not only encompasses a wide range of cruise durations and homeports but also a variety of ship sizes and amenities, providing consumers with unprecedented opportunities to visit the popular destination. “Guest feedback on our Bermuda program has been nothing short of sensational and we’re delighted to expand our offerings to provide even more guests an opportunity to experience all this tropical island paradise has to offer,” said Fred Stein, Carnival’s vice president of revenue planning and deployment. The seven week-long cruises to Bermuda from Baltimore will be offered aboard Carnival Pride and spend three days in Bermuda, while a seven-day cruise from Charleston aboard Carnival Sunshine will feature two days on the island along with a visit to the private Bahamian destination of Princess Cays. Baltimore departure dates include May 31, Aug. 2 and 23, Sept. 6 and 20, and Oct. 4 and 18, 2020. The cruise from Charleston departs Oct. 17, 2020. While in Bermuda, guests can relax on the island’s legendary pink beaches, enjoy snorkeling, kayaking and other water sports, and visit historical landmarks such as Royal Naval Dockyard and Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse, the oldest cast iron lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere. Numerous shopping, dining and golfing experiences are also available. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com) View full article
  9. MIAMI, July 10, 2019 – Royal Caribbean International will sail year-round from New Orleans when Majesty of the Seas arrives to her new homeport in January 2020, offering more itineraries from the Big Easy than ever before. Embarking on 7-night adventures, vacationers will visit bucket list-worthy beaches in The Bahamas and catch big thrills at Perfect Day at CocoCay – Royal Caribbean’s newly reimagined private island that features a combination of first-of-their-kind thrills and one-of-a-kind ways to chill. Cruises from New Orleans on board Majesty are now open to book for itineraries departing through April 2020. Sailings departing from May 2020 through April 2021 will be open to book the week of July 22, 2019. Empress of the Seas will continue to depart from Miami, adding Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands as a new destination for the global cruise line. Famed for hidden grottos and giant boulders, the idyllic island offers sun-soaked discovery for adventure seekers of all types. Empress’ 6- to 8-night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings will also visit Mexico, Belize and The Bahamas, as well as Perfect Day at CocoCay on select itineraries. Cruises on Empress departing from January through April 2020 are now available to book. Details for the ship’s 2020-21 deployment will be announced and available to book in the upcoming weeks. Royal Caribbean’s private island destination in The Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay, was unveiled in May 2019 following a $250 million transformation. Exclusive to Royal Caribbean guests, Perfect Day at CocoCay forever changes what is possible in a vacation destination with an iconic lineup of action-packed adventures and relaxing island amenities, including Thrill Waterpark with 13 jaw-dropping waterslides, like Daredevil’s Peak – the tallest waterslide in North America; Oasis Lagoon, the Caribbean’s largest freshwater pool; the largest wave pool in the Caribbean; Up, Up & Away, the helium balloon that can soar up to 450 feet in the air; and Chill Island for some beach R&R. Photo: Perfect Day at CocoCay (Royal Caribbean) (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com)
  10. MIAMI, July 10, 2019 – Royal Caribbean International will sail year-round from New Orleans when Majesty of the Seas arrives to her new homeport in January 2020, offering more itineraries from the Big Easy than ever before. Embarking on 7-night adventures, vacationers will visit bucket list-worthy beaches in The Bahamas and catch big thrills at Perfect Day at CocoCay – Royal Caribbean’s newly reimagined private island that features a combination of first-of-their-kind thrills and one-of-a-kind ways to chill. Cruises from New Orleans on board Majesty are now open to book for itineraries departing through April 2020. Sailings departing from May 2020 through April 2021 will be open to book the week of July 22, 2019. Empress of the Seas will continue to depart from Miami, adding Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands as a new destination for the global cruise line. Famed for hidden grottos and giant boulders, the idyllic island offers sun-soaked discovery for adventure seekers of all types. Empress’ 6- to 8-night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings will also visit Mexico, Belize and The Bahamas, as well as Perfect Day at CocoCay on select itineraries. Cruises on Empress departing from January through April 2020 are now available to book. Details for the ship’s 2020-21 deployment will be announced and available to book in the upcoming weeks. Royal Caribbean’s private island destination in The Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay, was unveiled in May 2019 following a $250 million transformation. Exclusive to Royal Caribbean guests, Perfect Day at CocoCay forever changes what is possible in a vacation destination with an iconic lineup of action-packed adventures and relaxing island amenities, including Thrill Waterpark with 13 jaw-dropping waterslides, like Daredevil’s Peak – the tallest waterslide in North America; Oasis Lagoon, the Caribbean’s largest freshwater pool; the largest wave pool in the Caribbean; Up, Up & Away, the helium balloon that can soar up to 450 feet in the air; and Chill Island for some beach R&R. Photo: Perfect Day at CocoCay (Royal Caribbean) (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com) View full article
  11. By Gerry Barker As anyone knows who has taken a cruise recently, technology is front and center when it comes to the guest experience. On MSC Seaside, we reserved shows and restaurants on large digital touch screens, and were amazed by how easy disembarkation was at Customs thanks to biometric facial recognition. On Carnival, the Carnival HUB app is like having a concierge in your hand. Princess goes a step farther with their OceanMedallion, a wearable that opens your stateroom, pays for your purchases and knows almost as much about you as you do. Think that's astounding? You haven't seen anything yet, according to Jorge Agnese, VP of Consulting at the Travel and Hospitality division of OZ. Headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, OZ serves a number of business sectors. Their mission: "Help our clients be magic in customer experience through Digital Wizardry." They just concluded their first annual CXDX Summit. Held at the W Hotel in Miami, it showcased the latest advances in digital services and solutions, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and radio frequency identification (RFID) for Florida travel and hospitality leaders. Agnese has been at the forefront of developing customer experience solutions since the early 1990s, working with companies who even then were developing facial recognition products and laying the groundwork for many of the technologies cruise ships use today. In his role at OZ, Agnese meets with industry leaders on how they can advance the all-important customer experience, and just as important, the employee experience (EX). "The employee experience is truly what enhances the customer experience," said Agnese in a recent interview. "If you don't have the right systems to serve your customers, there's going to be friction at the interaction." He sees a day -- coming soon -- when the technology will be available to turn every employee on a cruise into a concierge. "If you can make every employee a concierge, regardless of whether they are a maintenance worker or manager, the guest experience will be phenomenal. For example, you walk out of your stateroom and see somebody working. You ask when the restaurant opens. They not only tell you when it opens, but also make your reservation." He admits that's a lofty goal, but one that is definitely within reach. At the end of the day, Agnese said it's all about improving the "car to bar" experience, to quote a cruise industry executive. How efficiently can the cruise line move a guest from their car to the bar on the ship? 'We would like to make it minutes, not hours." Why all the focus on making us feel good about our travel choices? Agnese cited this: "Almost 90 percent of the companies in the travel and hospitality sector believe they will compete solely on the customer experience." That's a pretty good reason. While facial recognition has done wonders for speeding up getting on and off the ship, Agnese talked about an even newer technology to improve the customer experience: Mood recognition. What if you could scan a room and detect the emotions of the people there? They're working on that, too. Potentially, Agnese said, "You could map out emotions, such as people leaving a movie. Are they upset, complaining? We can do that. Or, I go somewhere where the music is too loud. They can detect people aren't happy and turn it down." Working with their conference partner, Medallia, all these customer interactions are detected and fed into the Medallia Experience Cloud, a platform that captures customer feedback and processes it in real-time. It all sounds like something out of the movie, "Minority Report." Are there any concerns with privacy? "No," said Agnese, "as long as the experience is valid and doesn't interfere with the customer's privacy." While virtual reality is great for creating immersive experiences, Agnese sees a wider range of uses for augmented reality -- an additive experience. "You can use augmented reality to power your employees to know your personal preferences," he said. "It makes you feel like a VIP." The challenge with both AR and VR is the size of the devices and the power required to run them, he noted. But "it's going to get there soon." Even though he's not at liberty to discuss what's in the works with their cruise and travel customers, you can bet the ideas being tested in their Innovation Lab will one day be game-changers for those of us who love to cruise. "Customers judge you on every touch point in planning a trip," he said, from the first notion of taking the cruise and online booking to leaving home and getting back. "Every aspect has to be looked at." The digital wizards at OZ are hard at work doing the looking. Photo: Experiencing virtual reality at the recent OZ CXDX Summit in Miami, which will be an annual event. (Photos courtesy of OZ) (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com) View full article
  12. By Gerry Barker As anyone knows who has taken a cruise recently, technology is front and center when it comes to the guest experience. On MSC Seaside, we reserved shows and restaurants on large digital touch screens, and were amazed by how easy disembarkation was at Customs thanks to biometric facial recognition. On Carnival, the Carnival HUB app is like having a concierge in your hand. Princess goes a step farther with their OceanMedallion, a wearable that opens your stateroom, pays for your purchases and knows almost as much about you as you do. Think that's astounding? You haven't seen anything yet, according to Jorge Agnese, VP of Consulting at the Travel and Hospitality division of OZ. Headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, OZ serves a number of business sectors. Their mission: "Help our clients be magic in customer experience through Digital Wizardry." They just concluded their first annual CXDX Summit. Held at the W Hotel in Miami, it showcased the latest advances in digital services and solutions, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and radio frequency identification (RFID) for Florida travel and hospitality leaders. Agnese has been at the forefront of developing customer experience solutions since the early 1990s, working with companies who even then were developing facial recognition products and laying the groundwork for many of the technologies cruise ships use today. In his role at OZ, Agnese meets with industry leaders on how they can advance the all-important customer experience, and just as important, the employee experience (EX). "The employee experience is truly what enhances the customer experience," said Agnese in a recent interview. "If you don't have the right systems to serve your customers, there's going to be friction at the interaction." He sees a day -- coming soon -- when the technology will be available to turn every employee on a cruise into a concierge. "If you can make every employee a concierge, regardless of whether they are a maintenance worker or manager, the guest experience will be phenomenal. For example, you walk out of your stateroom and see somebody working. You ask when the restaurant opens. They not only tell you when it opens, but also make your reservation." He admits that's a lofty goal, but one that is definitely within reach. At the end of the day, Agnese said it's all about improving the "car to bar" experience, to quote a cruise industry executive. How efficiently can the cruise line move a guest from their car to the bar on the ship? 'We would like to make it minutes, not hours." Why all the focus on making us feel good about our travel choices? Agnese cited this: "Almost 90 percent of the companies in the travel and hospitality sector believe they will compete solely on the customer experience." That's a pretty good reason. While facial recognition has done wonders for speeding up getting on and off the ship, Agnese talked about an even newer technology to improve the customer experience: Mood recognition. What if you could scan a room and detect the emotions of the people there? They're working on that, too. Potentially, Agnese said, "You could map out emotions, such as people leaving a movie. Are they upset, complaining? We can do that. Or, I go somewhere where the music is too loud. They can detect people aren't happy and turn it down." Working with their conference partner, Medallia, all these customer interactions are detected and fed into the Medallia Experience Cloud, a platform that captures customer feedback and processes it in real-time. It all sounds like something out of the movie, "Minority Report." Are there any concerns with privacy? "No," said Agnese, "as long as the experience is valid and doesn't interfere with the customer's privacy." While virtual reality is great for creating immersive experiences, Agnese sees a wider range of uses for augmented reality -- an additive experience. "You can use augmented reality to power your employees to know your personal preferences," he said. "It makes you feel like a VIP." The challenge with both AR and VR is the size of the devices and the power required to run them, he noted. But "it's going to get there soon." Even though he's not at liberty to discuss what's in the works with their cruise and travel customers, you can bet the ideas being tested in their Innovation Lab will one day be game-changers for those of us who love to cruise. "Customers judge you on every touch point in planning a trip," he said, from the first notion of taking the cruise and online booking to leaving home and getting back. "Every aspect has to be looked at." The digital wizards at OZ are hard at work doing the looking. Photo: Experiencing virtual reality at the recent OZ CXDX Summit in Miami, which will be an annual event. (Photos courtesy of OZ) (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com)
  13. By Gerry Barker ABOARD CARNIVAL SUNRISE_After investing nearly $200 millon in shiny new upgrades for Carnival Triumph, it's no wonder Carnival opted to give the refurished ship a new name as well. Meet Carnival Sunrise. Newly launched this spring after two months in drydock, Pam and I are checking out all the changes on a 5-day cruise to Bermuda. Getting here was something of an adventure in itself. When we can, we shun airline travel in favor of taking the train. So we opted for a sleeper on Amtrak, normally a 25-hour trip from West Palm Beach to Penn Station, a journey we have made on several occasions. This time however, we had an extra four hours of travel time due to unexpected delays. Not a problem -- we booked to arrive the day before our cruise started, just to cover such eventualities. Embarkation was smooth sailing (we love priority boarding) and our bags actually beat us to our stateroom -- that's a first. Speaking of staterooms, Carnival upgraded those as well. We have a standard balcony on Deck 6, with more than ample cabinets to store our clothes and essentials. Despite rain coming in waves, passengers crowded the top decks to bid adieu to New York. There's really nothing like moving past the massive skyline of the city and sailing by Lady Liberty, one of the most iconic and meaningful monuments in the world. Inside, we're impressed by how engaged Carnival personnel, stationed outside elevators and dining areas, are in answering questions and directing guests. It really helps first-timers, as well as veteran cruisers making their first visit to this ship. We have chosen Anytime Dining, which means we can request a table anytime between 5:15 and 9:15. Carnival has made that easy, too, through the Carnival HUB app, which helps you organize just about all aspects of your cruise. As New York fades in the distance, the sun has returned in all its glory. Tomorrow is a sea day, and we'll take that time to look over all the changes $200 million will buy. Go Here to See Full Coverage of Carnival Sunrise to Bermuda.
  14. By Gerry Barker ABOARD CARNIVAL SUNRISE_After investing nearly $200 millon in shiny new upgrades for Carnival Triumph, it's no wonder Carnival opted to give the refurished ship a new name as well. Meet Carnival Sunrise. Newly launched this spring after two months in drydock, Pam and I are checking out all the changes on a 5-day cruise to Bermuda. Getting here was something of an adventure in itself. When we can, we shun airline travel in favor of taking the train. So we opted for a sleeper on Amtrak, normally a 25-hour trip from West Palm Beach to Penn Station, a journey we have made on several occasions. This time however, we had an extra four hours of travel time due to unexpected delays. Not a problem -- we booked to arrive the day before our cruise started, just to cover such eventualities. Embarkation was smooth sailing (we love priority boarding) and our bags actually beat us to our stateroom -- that's a first. Speaking of staterooms, Carnival upgraded those as well. We have a standard balcony on Deck 6, with more than ample cabinets to store our clothes and essentials. Despite rain coming in waves, passengers crowded the top decks to bid adieu to New York. There's really nothing like moving past the massive skyline of the city and sailing by Lady Liberty, one of the most iconic and meaningful monuments in the world. Inside, we're impressed by how engaged Carnival personnel, stationed outside elevators and dining areas, are in answering questions and directing guests. It really helps first-timers, as well as veteran cruisers making their first visit to this ship. We have chosen Anytime Dining, which means we can request a table anytime between 5:15 and 9:15. Carnival has made that easy, too, through the Carnival HUB app, which helps you organize just about all aspects of your cruise. As New York fades in the distance, the sun has returned in all its glory. Tomorrow is a sea day, and we'll take that time to look over all the changes $200 million will buy. Go Here to See Full Coverage of Carnival Sunrise to Bermuda. View full article
  15. By Gerry Barker ONBOARD CARNIVAL SUNRISE_It's called "The Chef's Table," and if you're a true foodie, and you're on a Carnival cruise, it's something you don't want to miss. Now offered on all Carnival ships, we were fortunate enough to get an invitation to experience what it's like. Hey, you don't have to ask us twice. Limited to the first 14 people who sign up -- and we hear reservations go fast -- there were four us who participated in this special media event. Normally hosted by the ship's master executive chef, our host was his assistant, Plato Fernandes, from Goa, india. For starters, Sunrise had a private room set aside just for The Chef's Table. Elegantly appointed, it immediately conveys a sense of what's to come and raises your level of anticipation. Normally an eight-course meal, accompanied with champagne and a selection of wines, it typically lasts three hours or more. We were getting an abbreviated version in advance of Sunrise's sailing to Bermuda. You can see the full menu on the right, which is personalized with your name. Nice touch. While the food is the main event, there is also a "behind-the-scenes" and theatrical elements as well (we understand the full experience incorporates a magician). After a round of "amuse bouche" to whet our appetites, we followed Plato into the ship's kitchen to learn about our next course: A selection of mushroom-inspired dishes. Go Here for Photos and Video of the Chef's Table.
  16. By Gerry Barker ONBOARD CARNIVAL SUNRISE_It's called "The Chef's Table," and if you're a true foodie, and you're on a Carnival cruise, it's something you don't want to miss. Now offered on all Carnival ships, we were fortunate enough to get an invitation to experience what it's like. Hey, you don't have to ask us twice. Limited to the first 14 people who sign up -- and we hear reservations go fast -- there were four us who participated in this special media event. Normally hosted by the ship's master executive chef, our host was his assistant, Plato Fernandes, from Goa, india. For starters, Sunrise had a private room set aside just for The Chef's Table. Elegantly appointed, it immediately conveys a sense of what's to come and raises your level of anticipation. Normally an eight-course meal, accompanied with champagne and a selection of wines, it typically lasts three hours or more. We were getting an abbreviated version in advance of Sunrise's sailing to Bermuda. You can see the full menu on the right, which is personalized with your name. Nice touch. While the food is the main event, there is also a "behind-the-scenes" and theatrical elements as well (we understand the full experience incorporates a magician). After a round of "amuse bouche" to whet our appetites, we followed Plato into the ship's kitchen to learn about our next course: A selection of mushroom-inspired dishes. Go Here for Photos and Video of the Chef's Table. View full article
  17. Posted by Gerry Barker Geneva, Switzerland (July 1, 2019) — MSC Cruises — the Swiss-based world’s largest privately-owned cruise line — celebrated this past weekend a key global milestone in the company’s history, welcoming its 20 millionth cruiser on board the Miami-based MSC Seaside. This significant achievement is a testament to MSC Cruises’ expansion since its establishment only in 2003, quickly becoming a global player with one of the highest growth rates in the industry and the introduction of 16 cruise ships over the span of 16 years. In 2019 alone, the company will have launched two new ships — MSC Bellissima in March and MSC Grandiosa in November — and will introduce its new island destination, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, debuting in November. “Reaching our 20 millionth cruiser is truly a milestone achievement for MSC Cruises, and a representation of how far we’ve come while building a global brand that serves guests from over 170 nationalities across five continents,” said Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises. “With our capacity set to triple by 2027, we will continue to raise the bar in two main areas, on board and ashore, offering our guests a unique experience each time they sail with us. MSC Seaside is the perfect example of this: she is one of the most innovative ships at sea in terms of design as well as onboard experience. She also features the latest and some of the most innovative environmental technology at sea.” MSC Seaside not only complies with the highest international standards, she also received from international classification society RINA – in addition to the main class notations – its “Green Star 3 Design” certificate. RINA’s Green Star 3 – the latest and most comprehensive edition of the RINA’s Green STAR class notations – specifically recognizes that MSC Seaside reaches the greatest levels of eco-compatibility thanks to the relevance of the various innovative measures put in place which help reducing the environmental footprint during operations. These include, amongst others, the exhaust gas cleaning system, the advanced waste water treatment, systems for the prevention of oil discharge from machinery spaces, the ballast water treatment system, and the ship’s Environmental Management Plan. Fleet wide, MSC Cruises’ offers guests an enriching cruise vacation inspired by the Company’s European heritage. On board, guests are able to meet people from all over the world, while enjoying fine dining options from world-renowned chefs, exclusive world-class entertainment, award-winning activities and facilities for families and children of all ages, luxurious wellness and comfortable accommodations to meet every need. On land, MSC Cruises’ guests are then able to discover the hidden treasures of each destination they visit through specially curated tours and one-of-a-kind, immersive experiences designed for each itinerary. MSC Cruises maintains a foothold as the world’s fastest growing cruise line with an ambitious €13.6 billion EUR (≈15.6 billion USD) investment plan in place, which will introduce a total of 17 ships between 2017 and 2027, bringing the fleet total to 29 cruise ships. In addition to continued global expansion, MSC Cruises has placed a priority on increasing its presence in North America. To this end, by the close of 2019 MSC Cruises will have, for the first time, four ships sailing from Miami — MSC Seaside, MSC Meraviglia (arriving to North America for the first time in October 2019), MSC Divina and MSC Armonia. “As MSC Cruises expands its presence in the North American market, the support of and collaboration with our travel advisors is paramount to our success,” said Ken Muskat, EVP and Chief Operating Officer of MSC Cruises USA. “We were extremely pleased to learn that Mr. Bonachea and his family were booked by one of the largest travel agency networks in the U.S., Dream Vacations, a long time dedicated partner of MSC Cruises. We look forward to celebrating this occasion with them.” Raul Bonachea, MSC Cruises’ 20 millionth cruiser, his wife and daughter, from Winter Haven, Fla., are currently sailing on board MSC Seaside for a 7-night cruise that departed from Miami on June 29, booked by Dream Vacations. To honor Raul and celebrate this exciting milestone, MSC Cruises upgraded the family to a luxurious MSC Yacht Club suite, offering the family an elevated ship-within-a-ship experience complete with a private restaurant, pool and lounge as well as 24-hour butler and concierge service. And, to toast the occasion with all of the guests on board, MSC Seaside hosted a 20 Millionth Guest Party on Sunday, June 30 in the ship’s atrium, the social hub of the ship. The celebration was bubbling with complimentary champagne for all guests, a special officers’ parade, an artisan cake and a special performance from one of the ship’s most popular shows. The Captain joined the celebrations and toast, offering congratulations and a special gift for MSC Cruises’ 20 millionth cruiser. “MSC Cruises is one of our valued partners and we couldn’t be more pleased to learn that our Dream Vacations Travel Agent Myrna Reyes was the booking agent who sold the 20 millionth MSC Cruises customer,” said Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager of Dream Vacations. “We are excited to be part of the celebrations of this historic milestone.” “We are thrilled to have sold the cruise voyage to MSC Cruises’ 20 millionth customer,” said Myrna Reyes, travel agent with Dream Vacations – Santisteban and Associates in Miami. “Our agency has long been a believer in the MSC Cruises’ product. We remain convinced that the MSC Cruises’ brand is a spectacular vacation product which offers consumers the most modern and beautiful ships at sea. Our Dream Vacations travel advisors are delighted to be part of this celebration. We remain loyal to the MSC Cruises’ brand and look forward to being part of the MSC Cruises’ story for the next 20 million consumers and beyond.” To learn more about MSC Cruises and to book a cruise, travelers can contact their preferred travel advisor or visit www.msccruises.com. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com)
  18. Posted by Gerry Barker Geneva, Switzerland (July 1, 2019) — MSC Cruises — the Swiss-based world’s largest privately-owned cruise line — celebrated this past weekend a key global milestone in the company’s history, welcoming its 20 millionth cruiser on board the Miami-based MSC Seaside. This significant achievement is a testament to MSC Cruises’ expansion since its establishment only in 2003, quickly becoming a global player with one of the highest growth rates in the industry and the introduction of 16 cruise ships over the span of 16 years. In 2019 alone, the company will have launched two new ships — MSC Bellissima in March and MSC Grandiosa in November — and will introduce its new island destination, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, debuting in November. “Reaching our 20 millionth cruiser is truly a milestone achievement for MSC Cruises, and a representation of how far we’ve come while building a global brand that serves guests from over 170 nationalities across five continents,” said Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises. “With our capacity set to triple by 2027, we will continue to raise the bar in two main areas, on board and ashore, offering our guests a unique experience each time they sail with us. MSC Seaside is the perfect example of this: she is one of the most innovative ships at sea in terms of design as well as onboard experience. She also features the latest and some of the most innovative environmental technology at sea.” MSC Seaside not only complies with the highest international standards, she also received from international classification society RINA – in addition to the main class notations – its “Green Star 3 Design” certificate. RINA’s Green Star 3 – the latest and most comprehensive edition of the RINA’s Green STAR class notations – specifically recognizes that MSC Seaside reaches the greatest levels of eco-compatibility thanks to the relevance of the various innovative measures put in place which help reducing the environmental footprint during operations. These include, amongst others, the exhaust gas cleaning system, the advanced waste water treatment, systems for the prevention of oil discharge from machinery spaces, the ballast water treatment system, and the ship’s Environmental Management Plan. Fleet wide, MSC Cruises’ offers guests an enriching cruise vacation inspired by the Company’s European heritage. On board, guests are able to meet people from all over the world, while enjoying fine dining options from world-renowned chefs, exclusive world-class entertainment, award-winning activities and facilities for families and children of all ages, luxurious wellness and comfortable accommodations to meet every need. On land, MSC Cruises’ guests are then able to discover the hidden treasures of each destination they visit through specially curated tours and one-of-a-kind, immersive experiences designed for each itinerary. MSC Cruises maintains a foothold as the world’s fastest growing cruise line with an ambitious €13.6 billion EUR (≈15.6 billion USD) investment plan in place, which will introduce a total of 17 ships between 2017 and 2027, bringing the fleet total to 29 cruise ships. In addition to continued global expansion, MSC Cruises has placed a priority on increasing its presence in North America. To this end, by the close of 2019 MSC Cruises will have, for the first time, four ships sailing from Miami — MSC Seaside, MSC Meraviglia (arriving to North America for the first time in October 2019), MSC Divina and MSC Armonia. “As MSC Cruises expands its presence in the North American market, the support of and collaboration with our travel advisors is paramount to our success,” said Ken Muskat, EVP and Chief Operating Officer of MSC Cruises USA. “We were extremely pleased to learn that Mr. Bonachea and his family were booked by one of the largest travel agency networks in the U.S., Dream Vacations, a long time dedicated partner of MSC Cruises. We look forward to celebrating this occasion with them.” Raul Bonachea, MSC Cruises’ 20 millionth cruiser, his wife and daughter, from Winter Haven, Fla., are currently sailing on board MSC Seaside for a 7-night cruise that departed from Miami on June 29, booked by Dream Vacations. To honor Raul and celebrate this exciting milestone, MSC Cruises upgraded the family to a luxurious MSC Yacht Club suite, offering the family an elevated ship-within-a-ship experience complete with a private restaurant, pool and lounge as well as 24-hour butler and concierge service. And, to toast the occasion with all of the guests on board, MSC Seaside hosted a 20 Millionth Guest Party on Sunday, June 30 in the ship’s atrium, the social hub of the ship. The celebration was bubbling with complimentary champagne for all guests, a special officers’ parade, an artisan cake and a special performance from one of the ship’s most popular shows. The Captain joined the celebrations and toast, offering congratulations and a special gift for MSC Cruises’ 20 millionth cruiser. “MSC Cruises is one of our valued partners and we couldn’t be more pleased to learn that our Dream Vacations Travel Agent Myrna Reyes was the booking agent who sold the 20 millionth MSC Cruises customer,” said Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager of Dream Vacations. “We are excited to be part of the celebrations of this historic milestone.” “We are thrilled to have sold the cruise voyage to MSC Cruises’ 20 millionth customer,” said Myrna Reyes, travel agent with Dream Vacations – Santisteban and Associates in Miami. “Our agency has long been a believer in the MSC Cruises’ product. We remain convinced that the MSC Cruises’ brand is a spectacular vacation product which offers consumers the most modern and beautiful ships at sea. Our Dream Vacations travel advisors are delighted to be part of this celebration. We remain loyal to the MSC Cruises’ brand and look forward to being part of the MSC Cruises’ story for the next 20 million consumers and beyond.” To learn more about MSC Cruises and to book a cruise, travelers can contact their preferred travel advisor or visit www.msccruises.com. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com) View full article
  19. By Gerry Barker DORAL, FL._In May, Regent Seven Seas Cruises announced a new, plant-based menu that would be offered across its fleet of ships beginning in October. Last night, Pam and I were among a small group invited to get a sneak preview of both the new menu and the culinary experience guests can expect on their newest ship, Seven Seas Splendor, debuting next February. As you might expect from the luxury cruise line leader known for "an unrivaled experience," the event was first rate in every way. Hosted at the state-of-the-art Eric Barale Culinary Center, named for the Apollo Group's Senior Culinary Director and Executive Chef, Eric Barale, we were greeted by Randall Soy, Regent's executive vice president for sales and marketing, Joe Chabus, director of public relations and Bernhard Klotz, Regent's executive chef and vice president of food & beverage. Barale and his staff were also there to assist throughout. Anticipation is building for the launch of Regent's fifth and ultra-luxurious ship, Splendor. Judging by the photos and renderings on display, it promises to take a Regent's motto of an "unrivaled experience" to a new level. The first order of business was getting a glass of Pam's favorite champagne, Veuve Cliquot. No question that got the evening off to the right start. Our assignment, which we happily accepted, would be to sample a variety of dishes prepared by Chef Klotz and the Culinary Center team. Did I say dishes? More to the point, works of culinary art. Our table was elegantly appointed, just as it might be aboard one of Regent's ships, but the vibe was casual and friendly, which was appreciated. For starters, they brought out a tray of amuse bouche selections (those French, single-bite hors d'oeuvres). To sample the new plant-based offerings, we were served Sweet Potato and Oat Tart, consisting of roasted cauliflower, broccoli, pine nut-basil pesto, cashew cheese and fried capers. In a word, divine. It was followed with Siberian Osetra Caviar, a creamy concoction of smoked haddock mousse and lemon cream. So good. Accompanied by the Clicquot and a selection of red and white wines, we moved on to the "Starters." While all the presentations were outstanding, the serving of the assorted sashimi drew the most "ahhs." It was plated over dry ice, producing a waterfall of cascading smoke that flowed around the table. Next was the Seared Dover Scallop, with pork belly confit and orange pomegranate sauce, followed up with another presentation "wow" -- Applewood Smoked Salmon Steak. Each serving was plated under a clear cover to capture the smoke, and -- voila! -- all were opened at the same time. The taste was every bit as good as the theatrics. But wait -- there's more. The main course, in fact. This was an interesting moment for us. When we got the invitation, it asked about any dietary restrictions. Pam and I only have one -- no red meat. Before the main course arrived, which was Veal Rack Loin, Chef Klotz discreetly came over and informed us he had prepared a special dish just for us: Chicken with the most amazing sauce we have ever tasted. We were so impressed, on all counts. Finally, it was time for dessert. Could we eat anything else? When you hear it's the rarely-served classic, Floating Island of French Meringue, you bet. Unbelievable, and so beautifully done. Afterwards, Klotz talked about the 200-plus new plant-based menu offerings guests on Splendor and other Regent ships will soon experience. “Plant-based cuisine is an emerging trend," he said. "There are a number of options guests can choose for breakfast, lunch and dinner." Added Soy: "You don't have to be vegan to enjoy them." Pam and I are proof of that. One final word to the lucky passengers who'll be the first to sail on Splendor: Pace yourself. Your next port of call is food nirvana. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com)
  20. By Gerry Barker DORAL, FL._In May, Regent Seven Seas Cruises announced a new, plant-based menu that would be offered across its fleet of ships beginning in October. Last night, Pam and I were among a small group invited to get a sneak preview of both the new menu and the culinary experience guests can expect on their newest ship, Seven Seas Splendor, debuting next February. As you might expect from the luxury cruise line leader known for "an unrivaled experience," the event was first rate in every way. Hosted at the state-of-the-art Eric Barale Culinary Center, named for the Apollo Group's Senior Culinary Director and Executive Chef, Eric Barale, we were greeted by Randall Soy, Regent's executive vice president for sales and marketing, Joe Chabus, director of public relations and Bernhard Klotz, Regent's executive chef and vice president of food & beverage. Barale and his staff were also there to assist throughout. Anticipation is building for the launch of Regent's fifth and ultra-luxurious ship, Splendor. Judging by the photos and renderings on display, it promises to take a Regent's motto of an "unrivaled experience" to a new level. The first order of business was getting a glass of Pam's favorite champagne, Veuve Cliquot. No question that got the evening off to the right start. Our assignment, which we happily accepted, would be to sample a variety of dishes prepared by Chef Klotz and the Culinary Center team. Did I say dishes? More to the point, works of culinary art. Our table was elegantly appointed, just as it might be aboard one of Regent's ships, but the vibe was casual and friendly, which was appreciated. For starters, they brought out a tray of amuse bouche selections (those French, single-bite hors d'oeuvres). To sample the new plant-based offerings, we were served Sweet Potato and Oat Tart, consisting of roasted cauliflower, broccoli, pine nut-basil pesto, cashew cheese and fried capers. In a word, divine. It was followed with Siberian Osetra Caviar, a creamy concoction of smoked haddock mousse and lemon cream. So good. Accompanied by the Clicquot and a selection of red and white wines, we moved on to the "Starters." While all the presentations were outstanding, the serving of the assorted sashimi drew the most "ahhs." It was plated over dry ice, producing a waterfall of cascading smoke that flowed around the table. Next was the Seared Dover Scallop, with pork belly confit and orange pomegranate sauce, followed up with another presentation "wow" -- Applewood Smoked Salmon Steak. Each serving was plated under a clear cover to capture the smoke, and -- voila! -- all were opened at the same time. The taste was every bit as good as the theatrics. But wait -- there's more. The main course, in fact. This was an interesting moment for us. When we got the invitation, it asked about any dietary restrictions. Pam and I only have one -- no red meat. Before the main course arrived, which was Veal Rack Loin, Chef Klotz discreetly came over and informed us he had prepared a special dish just for us: Chicken with the most amazing sauce we have ever tasted. We were so impressed, on all counts. Finally, it was time for dessert. Could we eat anything else? When you hear it's the rarely-served classic, Floating Island of French Meringue, you bet. Unbelievable, and so beautifully done. Afterwards, Klotz talked about the 200-plus new plant-based menu offerings guests on Splendor and other Regent ships will soon experience. “Plant-based cuisine is an emerging trend," he said. "There are a number of options guests can choose for breakfast, lunch and dinner." Added Soy: "You don't have to be vegan to enjoy them." Pam and I are proof of that. One final word to the lucky passengers who'll be the first to sail on Splendor: Pace yourself. Your next port of call is food nirvana. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com) View full article
  21. By Gerry Barker ABOARD CARIBBEAN PRINCESS_"There she blows!" There was much anticipation as invited media, guests and Princess personnel stood in front of the big blue whale on Deck 17 of Caribbean Princess, docked at Port Everglades. We were all there for the debut of The Reef Family Splash Zone, a major new feature added after the ship completed a recent drydock. Of course, we couldn't attend without bringing along an expert in the field to offer her own assessment, and no one is better qualified than our six-year-old granddaughter, Catherine. So as we all stood and they began the countdown, Cate and the other children present cheered as the first spout of water erupted from the whate's head. The whale and surrounding splashpad offer a number of water features, including a slide in the shape of the whale's tongue, water cannons and sprays. Cate wasted little time trying it all out. Princess didn't forget the adults, either. Adjacent to the splash area are loungers, couches and chairs, including shaded sections for those who want to escape the sun. It's just the ticket for sipping a beverage while the kids play. Speaking of beverages, there's a bar where you get order up a cocktail, or the kids can get a lookalike "mocktail," complete with chocolate sprinkles on the rim and chocolate "straws." There's also the Game Zone – where kids and their parents can try their hand at Connect Four, Jenga or Cornhole. We've found we are better at sipping beverages than playing games. While she was sad to leave the Splash Zone, the fun wasn't over yet. One deck down is the Camp Discovery area. Through a partnership with Discovery Consumer Brands, Princess offers a wide array of activities that are both fun and educational through their Discovery at Sea program. At Camp Discovery -- an area set aside for their young guests -- they have added an outdoor interactive water table, themed around world landmarks, such as the Gold Gate Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the Panama Canal. Needless to say, by the end of the event, Cate had given both the Splash Zone and Camp Discovery the Catherine Barker Seal of Approval. For families looking at a vacation that offers something for everyone, it's hard to beat what you'll find on Caribbean Princess. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com)
  22. By Gerry Barker ABOARD CARIBBEAN PRINCESS_"There she blows!" There was much anticipation as invited media, guests and Princess personnel stood in front of the big blue whale on Deck 17 of Caribbean Princess, docked at Port Everglades. We were all there for the debut of The Reef Family Splash Zone, a major new feature added after the ship completed a recent drydock. Of course, we couldn't attend without bringing along an expert in the field to offer her own assessment, and no one is better qualified than our six-year-old granddaughter, Catherine. So as we all stood and they began the countdown, Cate and the other children present cheered as the first spout of water erupted from the whate's head. The whale and surrounding splashpad offer a number of water features, including a slide in the shape of the whale's tongue, water cannons and sprays. Cate wasted little time trying it all out. Princess didn't forget the adults, either. Adjacent to the splash area are loungers, couches and chairs, including shaded sections for those who want to escape the sun. It's just the ticket for sipping a beverage while the kids play. Speaking of beverages, there's a bar where you get order up a cocktail, or the kids can get a lookalike "mocktail," complete with chocolate sprinkles on the rim and chocolate "straws." There's also the Game Zone – where kids and their parents can try their hand at Connect Four, Jenga or Cornhole. We've found we are better at sipping beverages than playing games. While she was sad to leave the Splash Zone, the fun wasn't over yet. One deck down is the Camp Discovery area. Through a partnership with Discovery Consumer Brands, Princess offers a wide array of activities that are both fun and educational through their Discovery at Sea program. At Camp Discovery -- an area set aside for their young guests -- they have added an outdoor interactive water table, themed around world landmarks, such as the Gold Gate Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the Panama Canal. Needless to say, by the end of the event, Cate had given both the Splash Zone and Camp Discovery the Catherine Barker Seal of Approval. For families looking at a vacation that offers something for everyone, it's hard to beat what you'll find on Caribbean Princess. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com) View full article
  23. TORONTO- June 11, 2019 – Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages President and CEO Tom McAlpin announced the appointment of Captain Wendy Williams as Master of Scarlet Lady. When Captain Williams takes the helm of Scarlet Lady in spring 2020, she will become the first Canadian woman to be captain of a ship for a major cruise brand. The company also announced a brand-new lineup of itineraries for their premier 2020 season. “Captain Wendy’s extensive maritime background makes her an excellent choice to lead the Scarlet Lady, but it is her spirit and drive to approach life at sea differently that make her the perfect fit to join the Virgin Voyages family,” said Tom McAlpin, president and chief executive officer for Virgin Voyages. Originally from the coastal city of Sept-Îles, Quebec on the Northeastern coast of Canada, Captain Williams now resides on her hobby farm on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Captain Williams has more than 28 years of experience working on ships at sea. Her extensive background includes more than a decade as a deckhand in commercial fishing off the western coast of Canada as well as working as a ferryboat captain. Although she has spent more than 15 years working on the bridge of mega cruise ships, her role with Virgin Voyages will be her first promotion to Master of a cruise ship. “I have salt water in my veins and nothing brings me more joy than being at sea,” said Captain Wendy Williams. “It’s a dream come true to be working with Virgin Voyages, a company that is focused on creating an incredible experience not only for our Sailors but for our Crew as well; while also taking action to minimize our footprint on our oceans.” Just last year, Virgin Voyages announced its Scarlet Squad program, an initiative dedicated to bridging the gender gap in leadership roles across the maritime industry, where women represent less than three percent of the workforce. The program aims to recruit, support and mentor female shipboard talent, and to grow opportunities for leadership roles in marine, technical and hotel management positions on board. While Virgin Voyages is still in the early stages of the crew for Scarlet Lady, the company has already recruited Captain Williams as well as nearly a dozen other female officers, including Jill Anderson as hotel director, Christin Wenge as safety officer, Lindsay Kerber as environmental officer, among other incredibly talented female engineers as well as second and third officers. Virgin Voyages’ intention is to create an onboard environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential. New Voyage Offerings In response to the U.S. government’s new restrictions on travel to Cuba from the United States, Virgin Voyages has also developed an exciting lineup of new itineraries featuring destinations that its Sailors expressed interest in exploring while on a voyage aboard Scarlet Lady. Continuing the company’s mission to provide its Sailors with epic day and nighttime experiences, the all new itineraries will feature multiple late-night sail aways, including a midnight departure on all new sailings. Virgin Voyages will now offer five-night Riviera Maya sailings to Cozumel/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Cozumel and Playa del Carmen offer opportunities for Sailors to experience some of the world’s best diving, as the area is home to 26 coral species. Sailors will also have the opportunity to explore ecological and archeological treasures, including Mayan ruins, or even opt to explore neighboring Tulum, the elevated Bohemian sanctuary with picturesque beaches and diverse nightlife. For those who just want a quick getaway, Virgin Voyages’ four-night sailings will now become Fire and Sunset Soirées including a sunset departure from Key West and a midnight departure from Bimini. Sailors will experience the cultural and boating paradise of Key West, paired with a day of rejuvenation in Bimini, Bahamas that’s topped off by an exclusive late-night beach bonfire soiree. This celebration under the stars is exclusive to these sailings, and the artistic fire installations draw inspiration from the fireball sculptures on Branson’s Necker Island and the alluring communal nature of a traditional beachside bonfire. In response to Sailor demand for longer voyages aboard Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages has developed special seven-night sailings for the 2020 festive holiday season. Those looking to get a jump start on their holiday planning can opt for the all-new Holidaze and Nights and New Year’s Ahoy voyages, which fall over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays respectively, and feature stops in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and late-night sail aways in both Bimini, Bahamas and San Juan, Puerto Rico. All voyages will feature a stop in Bimini, Bahamas, home to The Beach Club, a private club for Virgin Voyages Sailors while Scarlet Lady is on the island. For more information on Scarlet Lady, future Sailors and First Mates (travel partners) are invited to check out Virgin Voyages by visiting www.virginvoyages.com. Photo: Richard Branson and Wendy Williams (Virgin Voyages) (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com) 0 Comments
  24. TORONTO- June 11, 2019 – Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Voyages President and CEO Tom McAlpin announced the appointment of Captain Wendy Williams as Master of Scarlet Lady. When Captain Williams takes the helm of Scarlet Lady in spring 2020, she will become the first Canadian woman to be captain of a ship for a major cruise brand. The company also announced a brand-new lineup of itineraries for their premier 2020 season. “Captain Wendy’s extensive maritime background makes her an excellent choice to lead the Scarlet Lady, but it is her spirit and drive to approach life at sea differently that make her the perfect fit to join the Virgin Voyages family,” said Tom McAlpin, president and chief executive officer for Virgin Voyages. Originally from the coastal city of Sept-Îles, Quebec on the Northeastern coast of Canada, Captain Williams now resides on her hobby farm on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Captain Williams has more than 28 years of experience working on ships at sea. Her extensive background includes more than a decade as a deckhand in commercial fishing off the western coast of Canada as well as working as a ferryboat captain. Although she has spent more than 15 years working on the bridge of mega cruise ships, her role with Virgin Voyages will be her first promotion to Master of a cruise ship. “I have salt water in my veins and nothing brings me more joy than being at sea,” said Captain Wendy Williams. “It’s a dream come true to be working with Virgin Voyages, a company that is focused on creating an incredible experience not only for our Sailors but for our Crew as well; while also taking action to minimize our footprint on our oceans.” Just last year, Virgin Voyages announced its Scarlet Squad program, an initiative dedicated to bridging the gender gap in leadership roles across the maritime industry, where women represent less than three percent of the workforce. The program aims to recruit, support and mentor female shipboard talent, and to grow opportunities for leadership roles in marine, technical and hotel management positions on board. While Virgin Voyages is still in the early stages of the crew for Scarlet Lady, the company has already recruited Captain Williams as well as nearly a dozen other female officers, including Jill Anderson as hotel director, Christin Wenge as safety officer, Lindsay Kerber as environmental officer, among other incredibly talented female engineers as well as second and third officers. Virgin Voyages’ intention is to create an onboard environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential. New Voyage Offerings In response to the U.S. government’s new restrictions on travel to Cuba from the United States, Virgin Voyages has also developed an exciting lineup of new itineraries featuring destinations that its Sailors expressed interest in exploring while on a voyage aboard Scarlet Lady. Continuing the company’s mission to provide its Sailors with epic day and nighttime experiences, the all new itineraries will feature multiple late-night sail aways, including a midnight departure on all new sailings. Virgin Voyages will now offer five-night Riviera Maya sailings to Cozumel/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Cozumel and Playa del Carmen offer opportunities for Sailors to experience some of the world’s best diving, as the area is home to 26 coral species. Sailors will also have the opportunity to explore ecological and archeological treasures, including Mayan ruins, or even opt to explore neighboring Tulum, the elevated Bohemian sanctuary with picturesque beaches and diverse nightlife. For those who just want a quick getaway, Virgin Voyages’ four-night sailings will now become Fire and Sunset Soirées including a sunset departure from Key West and a midnight departure from Bimini. Sailors will experience the cultural and boating paradise of Key West, paired with a day of rejuvenation in Bimini, Bahamas that’s topped off by an exclusive late-night beach bonfire soiree. This celebration under the stars is exclusive to these sailings, and the artistic fire installations draw inspiration from the fireball sculptures on Branson’s Necker Island and the alluring communal nature of a traditional beachside bonfire. In response to Sailor demand for longer voyages aboard Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages has developed special seven-night sailings for the 2020 festive holiday season. Those looking to get a jump start on their holiday planning can opt for the all-new Holidaze and Nights and New Year’s Ahoy voyages, which fall over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays respectively, and feature stops in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and late-night sail aways in both Bimini, Bahamas and San Juan, Puerto Rico. All voyages will feature a stop in Bimini, Bahamas, home to The Beach Club, a private club for Virgin Voyages Sailors while Scarlet Lady is on the island. For more information on Scarlet Lady, future Sailors and First Mates (travel partners) are invited to check out Virgin Voyages by visiting www.virginvoyages.com. Photo: Richard Branson and Wendy Williams (Virgin Voyages) (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com) 0 Comments View full article
  25. MIAMI (June 10, 2019)—Carnival Cruise Line and Thrillist have teamed up to launch “Island Hoppers,” a first-of-its-kind comedy competition show at sea, aiming to find the cruise line’s next comedy star to perform at its shipboard Punchliner Comedy Clubs. The mobile-first series is hosted by award-winning actor James Van Der Beek and was filmed during a recent Caribbean cruise aboard Carnival Horizon. Over the course of seven episodes, Van Der Beek takes viewers on a journey as three up-and-coming comedians compete in entertaining challenges, judged by longtime Punchliner Comedy Club veterans Billy D. Washington, Jodi White and William Lee Martin. “Island Hoppers” will air June 11, on Thrillist’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter channels. Hilarity ensues as the challengers demonstrate their creative cocktail-making skills at Carnival Horizon’s Alchemy Bar while having to perform a comedic act and offer their best one-liners as they traverse the heart-racing Mystic Mountain Jamaican bobsled ride during a call in Ocho Rios. “I’m not really a host, and I’m definitely not a standup,” said Van Der Beek. “But this show is so unique I feel like that worked in our favor. As a writer and actor, I have a huge appreciation for what it takes to get up in front of a room full of strangers and make people laugh, so it was a joy to jump in and play with a group this talented and hilarious. Plus, we all got to be on the Carnival Horizon, which just made everything fun.” “Entertaining 5 million guests across 26 ships is not an easy job. We’re always looking for top talent to add to our roster, so finding the perfect comedian is quite the task,” said Chris Nelson, Carnival’s vice president of entertainment. “That’s why we’re really excited to partner with Thrillist on this new and creative way to bring new comedians to our comedy club roster. Our guests love fun – comedy is part of our DNA – so we’re particularly thrilled that we are able to showcase incredible talent on every sailing.” “Travel and fun is at the heart of what we cover every single day at Thrillist and ‘Island Hoppers’ is a perfect extension of that. We’re excited to bring this new series to our audience and offer them an entertaining and unique view of all of the fun that can be had aboard a Carnival ship,” said Thrillist President Ocean MacAdams. Carnival’s Punchliner Comedy Clubs are the largest purveyors of comedy in the world with 27,000 shows annually across the line’s 26-ship fleet. Boasting more comedy performances than any land-based comedy club in the world, the Punchliner Comedy Clubs feature a lineup of top-notch talent who perform 30-minute shows, including family-friendly and adults-only sets, multiple times each voyage. All performances are offered on a complimentary basis. (Gerry Barker is a freelance travel writer who has covered the cruise industry for 10 years, formerly with The Palm Beach Post. He and his wife Pam maintain a Cruise Blog on NorthPalmBeachLife.com)
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