Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Azamara Journey Spa and Fitness

Astral Spa Fitness

Welcome to Astral Spa, Azamara Journey's spa and fitness center.  Following lunch we took a tour of the spa, signed up for the cruise pass for the Thermal Spring and private spa deck.   The Thermal Spring features a private spa deck with Thalassotherapy Bath.   Minerals in the warm water, combined with powerful jets massage your body will you bask in the sun.

Thalassotherapy Bath
One of the best bargains for a couple on the Journey is to sign up for the full cruise use of the spa deck which includes the Thalassotherapy Bath.   The price (at time of this post) is $20 per person for a one day pass or $99 a person for the whole cruise.   A couple can purchase the same pass for $175 which is a substantial savings over single use or individual pricing.

We signed up for the entire cruise but due to rough seas, all pools were closed the first sea day.   We'll just have to go multiple times some other day to make sure we get the full benefit of the package.

As is the case ships, this spa is run by Elemis and is a full service facility.   We are looking forward to hot stones massages on Friday.   Another bargain is to schedule your massage or other service on a port day, which is why we picked Friday.   We'll be in St. Martin for the entire day, leaving at 11 PM at night which gave us plenty of time to see the port while also taking advantage of special pricing.

Check out our Facebook page for more pictures.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Greetings from Azamara Club Cruises Journey

Azamara Journey Port of Miami
After disembarking Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas pre-inaugural, we transferred from Fort Lauderdale to Miami where we spent the night at the Marriott Biscayne Bay.   From our bay view balcony, we watched the sunrise as the ships pulled into port.

Hidden behind the Celebrity Cruises building is Azamara Journey, which will be our home for a West Indies cruise.  For those that haven't heard of Azamara Club Cruises before, we'll be telling you all about the company, the cruise experience, and the ports of call we visit over the next 12 days.

Azamara Club Cruises reinvented itself in April of this year, adding new amenities and destinations.   It is part of the Royal Caribbean Ltd. family of cruise lines but it does operate as an independent business unit.  

Azamara Club Cruises is a luxury cruise line which strives to bring you a different experience than on the larger ships in her sister cruise lines.   You'll be immersed in the destinations you visit with more time spent in the destinations than on most cruise lines.  

The ship has just come across from sailing in Europe this summer so this is the first opportunity for us to experience the ship after the program changes.    Be sure to check back here and on our Facebook fan page for pictures and more details.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hot Dogs at Sea on Allure of the Seas

Boardwalk Dog House
Allure of the Seas
Most cruises we start out with lunch in the buffet, but on Allure of the Seas, we decided to try a couple of the venues in Central Park and Boardwalk.

If you have been reading coverage of the Allure of the Seas pre-inaugural cruises, you may have read a review that said the Dog House was a miss.

We come from Hot Dog country, Chicagoland, so our curiosity got the best of us, and we decided to make our first lunch stop on the Boardwalk.

"Hot Dog" Selections
Sausages & Baguettes
Custom Toppings

Select the "hot dog" of your choice from the menu and add one or more toppings to complete your meal.   The choices include mixed peppers, fried onions, sauerkraut, and sweet relish.

Dog House Menu
We enjoyed our selections:  

  • The Big Apple which is chicken and bits of apples on a sesame seed baguette.
  • The Sicilian which is pork, garlic, oregano and Italian spices on an oregano and paprika baguette.
We topped one with sauerkraut and the other with peppers and onions.   

Having cruised for years, we are well aware that everyone has their own likes and dislikes when it comes to food served on the ships.   We took an informal poll among others that were seated around us.  Everyone had the same opinion as we did, that the meal was enjoyable and that they didn't understand why it had been labeled a "miss".   

Regardless of what others say, our suggestion is that when you are on the Allure of the Seas, you  find out for yourself.


DreamWorks Sail Away Party on Allure

Sail Away Party - Aqua Theater - Allure of the Seas

DreamWorks Characters
Start the Party
Allure of the Seas
Sail Away
Following the mandatory safety assembly, it was time to get ready to sail.  To start the party in a unique fashion, we decided to join the party in the Aqua Theater.   There was another party underway on the Royal Promenade.

Party Celebration

The cruise entertainment staff, along with the DreamWorks cast of characters,  got the party started with a flag parade and then one by one the DreamWorks characters joined them on stage.

Under the stage where the performers are standing is the pool that is used for the aerial water shows and dancing waters.

King Julien XIII
The first Madagascar character to join the party was King Julien XIII, a ring-tailed lemur who has light gray and white fur, big yellow eyes, tiny whiskers, a black nose, thin black eyebrows, fox-like ears, a long black-and-white striped raccoon-like tail and wears a crown.  

Since he loves to dance, sing, and party, he was the perfect one to get the celebration going.

Alex the Lion
Alex the Lion, the alpha lion of his heard, showed more interest in dancing than in hunting, much to the disappointment of his father who tried to teach him to hunt.

No hunting was going on poolside, but  there was lots of dancing as Alex joined the cast on stage.  By now the audience was getting into the party spirit.  

One by one the cast of Madagascar and other DreamWorks movies joined in the celebration on stage, each appearance bringing roars from the audience.   Some folks from the audience were chosen to come onstage and join in the dance.

Shrek and Fiona

All Parties Come to an End

It probably isn't a surprise to most that Shrek and Fiona were the grand finale to the sail away party.   They are shown here waving good-bye as the party comes to an end.

We have plenty more pictures and details to share with you about the party.   To see the rest of the pictures, become a fan of our Facebook Fan Page.

It's not everyday that you go on a cruise and party with the DreamWorks characters.   Royal Caribbean has entered into a partnership with them so this is only the first of many times you'll be able to see them on board Allure of the Seas.   In fact, rumor has it that they have moved in.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Greetings from Allure of the Seas

Looking Aft from our Boardwalk Balcony Cabin

We watched as Allure of the Seas crossed the Atlantic in anticipation knowing that it would soon be our chance to explore the largest ship afloat ourselves and bring you our insider look at this new ship.

Today, we wait no longer.   This is the first of many update on Allure of the Seas that we'll write both here and on our Facebook Fan Page.  You'll want to sign up for our fan page so that you won't miss any updates.

Boardwalk Balcony Aft Cabin 12719
We arrived at the Port Everglades pier around 11:00 AM.  Royal Caribbean built a new port facility specifically for the Allure of the Seas.  They claim that from the time you enter the front door, it will only take 15 minutes to get checked in.   They did hold true to their promise.

In order to make that possible, the embarkation area is divided by deck numbers.   If you have a suite you get escorted to a separate are where you even will have a private seating area.   You'll be the first to get on the ship once it is available for boarding.

The first thing you do after entering is to go thru security screening of your luggage just like you would at an airport.   After the security check, you are directed to the checkin personnel for your deck.

All you need is your Sea Pass, Passports, and credit card for onboard charges.   You'll fill out the health questionnaire while the agent processes your paperwork.  By the time you finish signing your name, the agent will be waiting to snap your first photo - this one is for your Sail 'n Sign card.    This will be the only card you need for the rest of your cruise.  It will get you in your cabin and unlock all the extra goodies that you can purchase onboard the Allure of the Seas.

Allure of the Seas Aqua Theater
Room with a View

At 11:30 AM the ship was cleared for boarding so we made our way up the winding ramps to the gangway entrance.   Along the way we had our photo taken and showed our key card a few times before the formal embarkation was over.

Many of the cabins were not available but we lucked out and our cabin steward told us we could drop off our luggage.    We were on our way to explore the ship and sample some of the dining options.

Looking Forward from our Balcony
Boardwalk Balcony Cabins

One of the unique features on Allure of the Seas  are the many different types of cabin categories. Last count I believe there were 37 different types.    Even among the types, some locations are better than others, depending on your requirements, so I strongly encourage you to seek professional assistance to select the right cabin.

As mentioned, we had a room with a view.    The cabin we had was 12719, which is one of the AFT  Boardwalk Balconies.   We had a perfect seat for the water shows right from our balcony.    The aft cabin also has a great view for sail aways.    Looking towards the forward part of the ship from our balcony you can see the various dining and entertainment options of Boardwalk.

Finally, you can watch all the action of the Zip Line and Rock Climbing Wall.   Check my Facebook Fan Page for some photos of me zip lining over Boardwalk.    What a ride !!!!

Welcome aboard ... there's lots to tell, so this is going to take quite some time to share everything with you.   We had an action packed day onboard the Allure of the Seas.  BTW, I'm writing this from my balcony - so far the onboard internet has been very good, but we all know  speed depends on where the ship is relative to the satellite.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010

Norwegian Epic - Main Pool
Where is Chris?

Treetops - Vancouver, Canada
It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is here already. Where did 2010 go? As has become my tradition, I'd like to share with you some of the things that I'm thankful for and highlight some of my adventures this year.

I hope that you, your family, and friends have plenty to be thankful for this holiday season. I know that I have plenty of things to be thankful for, including my health, family, and friends and the ability to share my love of cruising with all of you. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to explore new worlds with family and friends again this year.

While this has been another tough economic year, it appears that the cruise industry has weathered the storm once again. Just this month, we have been highlighting the introduction of Allure of the Seas. Just a year ago, her sister ship was added to Royal Caribbean International's fleet.  The two ships are the largest ships afloat.

The value of cruising has never been stronger. Even in these tough times, more and more families have taken to the seas.  Indications are that the record discounts offered the past two years will be coming to an end.  In the meantime those discounts have made cruising an even better value, and consequently we have seen a surge in first-time cruisers.

The photos above are from some of our cruises this year.  Cruises Inc. and Cruise One held their National Conference on the brand new Norwegian Epic and we were fortunate to be able to attend.  Just like the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, several new innovations were introduced on the Epic.   Although it isn't quite as large as the RCI ships, it is no small ship.   The entertainment and food on the Epic take center stage along with the studio suites, which allow solo travelers their own haven at a price point to match. The Epic has much to offer cruisers.

Norwegian Epic alternates between Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries.   Our conference was on the latter itinerary which included stops in Costa Maya, Roatan, and Cozumel.   The picture of me in front of the Epic was in Roatan where we hired a local cab driver to take us around the island after we did a bit of shopping near the pier.

In June this year we attended Cruise3Sixty, CLIA's annual conference.  This year it was held in Vancouver, Canada.  We extended our stay following the formal conference which allowed for touring of some of the local attractions, which despite many trips there in the past, we had not had time for.  I'm pictured here hiking through Treetops at the  Capilano Suspension Bridge.

The highlight of the year is yet to come.   We will be sailing on Allure of the Seas for one of the pre-inaugural sailings.   The final cruise of the year will be on Azamara Club Cruises Journey.   We will tour the West Indies on that cruise.

We wonder what the Pilgrims, who came to the New World in Tall Ships, would think about the Allure of the Seas.  Their ships measured 110 feet, held 150 passengers at most, and took months to cross the Atlantic.  The Allure is more than 10 times that length (1182 feet), holds almost 8000 passengers and crew, and took just a couple weeks to cross the Atlantic.

Thank you for making our blog column a part of your lives in 2010.   I hope that the information we share helps you to dream about future cruises of your own. I'd be honored to help you plan those trips. I have the best job in the world - helping make dreams come true. For that, I'm truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to All


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cunard Celebrates Royal Wedding At Sea

Three Queens to Celebrate Royal Wedding at Sea

Prince William and Kate Middleton are to be wed 
on Friday, April 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey.

After a week of speculation, the royal couple have
announced their wedding plans.

Prince William's private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton,
said the couple chose the 1,000-year-old abbey in central
London because it has a sense of intimacy.

The wedding day will be a national holiday in Britain,
known there as a bank holiday, and has been described
as a semi-state occasion. It's also the feast day of St.
Catherine of Siena, whose name Middleton shares,
though that is a coincidence.

Engaged at last

On Nov. 16, the royal family announced that Prince William and Kate Middleton were engaged. The prince had popped the question to his longtime girlfriend during an October 2010 vacation to Kenya, it was revealed. William and Kate pose for the media at St. James's Palace in London on Nov. 16, after they announced their engagement. The couple are to wed in 2011. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP) 

"The wedding of Kate and William will be a happy and momentous occasion," said Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday. "We want to mark the day as one of national celebration, a public holiday will ensure the most people possible will have a chance to celebrate on the day."

Three Queens to View Royal Wedding at Sea

Guests on board Cunard's three ships - Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth - on 29 April 2011, the day of the Royal Wedding, need have no fear of missing one second of the historic union of the future King and Kate Middleton.

Each of the three ships feature Royal Court Theatres - West End in style and West End in size - where the wedding ceremony will be broadcast live. 

  • Queen Mary 2's Royal Court Theatre (capacity 1000)
  • Queen Elizabeth's Royal Court Theatre (capacity 800)
  • Queen  Victoria's Royal Court Theatre (capacity 800)
 Additional venues will be used, such as Queen Mary's Planetarium and lecture room, Illuminations, which seats a further 450 passengers, should demand exceed seating capacity in the theatres.

A Day of Celebration

The day will also be one of celebration on all ships, with that evening's dinner featuring a commemorative menu and a champagne toast.

"Cunard is a company with an enviable heritage and unparalleled links to the Royal family - our ships were named either by Her Majesty The Queen or by her apparent successor, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall," said Peter Shanks, president of Cunard. "It follows then that our passengers are likely to have an above average interest in the pageantry of a Royal wedding. We intend to cater for that and ensure they do not miss one minute.

"Royal weddings don't happen that often and with our impeccable Royal connections we intend to ensure that our red ensign ships lead the British merchant marine in marking this momentous day." 

At the time Queen Elizabeth will be at sea heading for Southampton, Queen Victoria will be at sea in the Mediterranean, and Queen Mary 2 will be on a seven-night Transatlantic Crossing.

Congratulations to the Royal couple and to Cunard Lines for quickly responding to the announcement and assuring that their guests have an opportunity to participate in this festive occasion.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Size Does Matter - They Come In Many Sizes

Grandeur of the Seas Next to Oasis of the Seas
We've taken many pictures of cruise ships over the years and perhaps none was as striking as this image we captured in Cozumel, Mexico, during our recent National Conference aboard Norwegian Epic.  Shown here are two Royal Caribbean ships:  Grandeur of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.

It should come as no surprise that the Oasis of the Seas would definitely stand out in a crowd of ships since it was (until the Allure of the Seas) the largest ship afloat.   Allure of the Seas, its sister ship, beats it out by 2 inches in length technically making the Allure larger.     Is that taking things to the extreme?  Well, maybe, but
Captains Zini and Wright had something to say about it amongst themselves.   That story was picked up by the media and has become one of the talking points about the two ships.

Watch the video of the two captains: Allure of the Seas Arrives in Fort Lauderdale

Well, back to the story about different size cruise ships.   Here are the facts about these two vessels:

Grandeur of the Seas

Passenger Capacity: 2,446
Gross Tonnage: 74,000
Length: 916'
Beam: 106'
Draft: 25'
Cruising Speed: 22 knots
Oasis of the Seas

Guest Capacity: 5,400 double occupancy
Gross Tonnage: 220,000
Length: 1,187'
Max Beam: 184.40'
Draft: 30'
Cruising Speed: 22 knots

We published this picture and details before, but it is worth repeating.   Click on the image to really get an idea of scale of both Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas.

Oasis of the Seas is 47 metres wide and 360 metres long, i.e. 40 m longer than the height of the Eiffel tower! Height over the water line is 65 m. Building the vessel has been compared to a huge 3-dimensional puzzle. 
The vessel consists of 180 grand blocks, the biggest with a size of length 22 m, width 30 m and weight 600 tons! The vessel´s weight is 12 times the weight of the Eiffel tower.  The Statue of Liberty does tower over the ship but you could put several Boeing 747s, London Double Decker buses and Mercedes Benz autos end to end and have room to spare.

Size Does Matter

Just to give you an additional sense of scale,  the first cruise ship we went on in the 80s was Carnival Celebration which  weighed in around 37,500 tons.   At the time, that was one of the largest vessels in Carnival Cruise Line's fleet.   The Oasis and Allure are almost 6 times heavier than the Celebration.

If you have been following our blog, you are well aware of all the activities on Oasis and Allure.   Size is obviously an advantage to ship builders - they have more canvas on which to create.  So with the introduction of these ships, we have some of the most amazing innovations at sea.

Of course, size costs more. The price tag of these state of the art vessels means someone has to pay for the ship.   The good news is there are more cabins on a large ship which means more passengers to share the weekly costs.    It does however mean that, at least for the foreseeable future, guests will pay a premium over smaller ships owned by the same companies.

More passengers can mean more wait time, but Royal Caribbean has taken that to heart in planning these ships, and you might not experience long wait times.   There are so many different attractions onboard, passengers will be scattered over the entire vessel, so it shouldn't appear crowded most of the time.  Loading and unloading the ship will be one time where you'll see most of your fellow passengers, but Royal Caribbean has taken steps to make that run smoothly.

We have focused on Royal Caribbean in this article, but there are other examples within the remaining cruise lines.   One important take away is that size is just one factor when planning your cruise vacation, but it is an important one.   Take advantage of the expertise among cruise specialists in deciding the right ship for you and your traveling partners.   The last thing you'd want would be to be expecting a ship the size of Grandeur of the Seas and step out of your cab to find Oasis of the Seas in front of you at the pier.

No matter what size you are looking for, you'll find a ship in one of the cruise line's fleets that meets your needs.   They come in many sizes, shapes, and with many different attractions.   Personally, the fun is in selecting the ship you want to try next and enjoying everything it has to offer once you start your cruise vacation.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Introducing Royal Advantage

Royal Caribbean International® has announced new enhancements to their fleet for 2011. They  call it the Royal AdvantageSM- the drive to provide the best, most innovative ships, features, destinations and personalized service to guests. In 2011, the Royal Advantage will be more apparent than ever. That's when Royal Caribbean will begin enhancements to expand their most popular innovations to select ships, giving more to see, more to do, and more to love, to more guests than ever before.

Schedule of Ship Enhancements 

Liberty of the Seas ........... January 30, 2011
Oasis of the Seas .............. February 26, 2011
Freedom of the Seas ......... March 27, 201
Radiance of the Seas ........ Summer 2011
Splendour of the Seas ....... Fall 2011

Oasis of the Seas
More memorable moments are in store when DreamWorks® Experience and 3D movies  come onboard. Sails 7-night Western and Eastern Caribbean itineraries from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

Liberty of the Seas
Even more imagination comes onboard with the DreamWorks® Experience, Broadway hit Saturday Night Fever: The Musical, and other amazing features. Sails 4 to 7-night Caribbean itineraries, and the Western Mediterranean.

Freedom of the Seas
The matriarch of the Freedom class will be enhanced with the BRITTO Gallery, ImagineOcean! Puppet Show, a nursery and more. Sails 7-night itineraries from Port Canaveral, Florida, to vibrant Caribbean destinations.

Radiance of the  Seas
Parents will love the addition of the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery, and everyone will enjoy more dining options. Sails from Seward to other adventurous Alaskan cities, including Juneau and Skagway.

Splendour of the Seas
Balcony staterooms and refreshed public areas are in store, along with more dining options, lounges and the Royal Babies and Tots Nursery. Sails South America's most amazing and diverse ports.

Our Facebook Fans can learn more about these new enhancements in the near future.  Be sure to  Like Us so that you will be in the know. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Carnival Splendor Repair Status

Carnival Splendor Being Towed to San Diego
Photo courtesy John Heald, Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Splendor Repairs Underway

Carnival Splendor to Leave San Francisco and Return to Service


Carnival Splendor Cruise Cancellations Extended

UPDATE:  JANUARY 19, 2011 (click following link)

Carnival Splendor Heads North for More Repairs

After Carnival Splendor arrived back in San Diego and the passengers headed for home, the long process of determining what happened and returning the ship to service began.   A joint task force made up of Carnival technicians, NTSB, Panama Government representatives, USGC and others descended on the vessel and started the process.

After an initial assessment, it was decided that cruises needed to be cancelled until January 16.  This left passengers and their agents, including yours truly, scrambling to reschedule stranded passengers who had planned holiday sailings on the Splendor.

You might recall that during the incident, Captain Cupisti had to order the release of CO2 in the engine room to distinguish the cables.  The fire crews had also used water to cool down the engine room.

Thus, the engine room must be cleaned up from the CO2 and water before the actual damage can be repaired.   As you might expect, this is a huge job.  We will bring you updates as we learn more about the cleanup and repairs.

Related Blog Posts:

Carnival Splendor Fire Investigation 
Assisting Carnival Splendor 
Carnival Splendor Without Power After Engine Fire
Carnival Splendor Cruises Cancelled until January 16

The Pictures Tell The Story

TODAY Samples Alluring Food and Beverages

TODAY Show Hosts Sample Allure of the Seas Food
What Do You Feed 
5000 Hungry People?

18,000 lbs. Watermelon
14,000 lbs. Pineapple
10,000 lbs. Fish
4,000 lbs. Vegetables

Allure's executive chef  takes you behind the scenes to show you how much food is needed each week and how the staff prepares it.

All We Do is Eat & Drink

Cruise vacations are well known for fabulous food and beverages served 'round the clock.  While some people may gain weight during their cruise, that doesn't have to be the case as we'll learn in this video clip.

One thing for certain, Allure of the Seas does have some "alluring" food for you to chose from.   Kathie Lee and Hoda Kotb were able to sample selections from the various venues including Samba Grill and Cupcake Cupboard.   Watch this video to get an idea about the mouth watering foods available on the Allure of the Seas.

Video: Royal Caribbean's 'alluring' fare

Video: Cruising for Cocktails

Kathie Lee and Hoda sampled some of the signature libations that can be found on the Allure of the Seas. Whether you are poolside or at one of the specialty dining venues, there is a colorful and tasty drink awaiting for you. Just ask one of the friendly bartenders to pour one of their specialties and enjoy.

Related Blog Posts:

TODAY Ship Shape Swimsuits on Allure

Today Show Broadcasts Live from Allure of the Seas



TODAY Ship Shape Swimsuits on Allure

TODAY Show Visits Allure of the Seas - Watch Videos

Also see Related Blog post (click this link): 

Today Show Broadcasts Live from Allure of the Seas

Swimsuit Fashion from the Allure of the Seas

We continue our coverage of Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb broadcasting the TODAY show live on the Allure of the Seas. In this segment, they take a look at what to wear on a cruise. Also, we'll look at great products to take on weekend getaways (which of course could be on a cruise ship).

The hosts were onboard Allure of the Seas November 19, 2010.   For the full story, see MSNBC's website.. The cruise portion started at 10 AM Eastern time.

Video:  Look Hot in These Cool Bathing Suits

TODAY style editor Bobbie Thomas sought out the greatest in swimsuits for when warm weather calls. Watch what happens when this red bikini gets wet ...

Video: Bobbie's Buzz on Weekend Getaway Goods

For products featured in the following video, check out Bobbie's buzz: Top tools for trips on MSNBC's TODAY Show website.

Coming Soon:  Our behind the scenes report from Allure of the Seas

Friday, November 19, 2010

Today Show Broadcasts Live from Allure of the Seas

Tune in to NBC's TODAY on Friday, November 19th between 10:00 am and 11:00 am Eastern, when hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb will broadcast live onboard Allure of the Seas. 

The TV personalities will lift the curtain on the distinguished line-up of entertainment and innovative onboard amenities that differentiate Allure from Oasis of the Seas®. Don't miss it!


Just as they did when Oasis of the Seas arrived in Flordia, the crew of the TODAY show will broadcast live from Allure of the Seas.   This will be your first opportunity to see the Allure of the Seas as final preparations are made for the first revenue guests to arrive in December.

We will update this post later today with highlights from their visit.

Don't forget ....  We will be on the Allure of the Seas for one of the pre-inaugural cruises and will bring you our pictures and videos from the latest entry in Royal Caribbean's fleet.

Meanwhile, you can check out our other posts about Allure of the Seas by searching this blog for "Allure".

As promised, here are three video clips from the TODAY Shows visit on the Allure of the Seas today.   You'll get to watch them experiencing the ship, including a quick zip from one end of the Boardwalk to the other.

Related Blog Post (click link):  TODAY Ship Shape Swimsuits on Allure

Video:  Kathie Lee, Hoda Go Cruising

Video: 'Alluring' Activities are Fourth-hour Fun

From taking a ride on the zip line to getting a 14-karat-gold facial, Kathie Lee and Hoda check out all the activities aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.   Watch this video to check out the activities.

Video: Kathy Lee, Hoda's Fantasy Cruise

The TODAY hosts tour the Allure of the Seas cruise ship and imagine all their favorite actives aboard the ship.

We hope you have enjoyed these clips from the TODAY show. Allure of the Seas is an amazing ship, just like her sister, the Oasis of the Seas. One of the myths about cruising is "there is nothing to do". We'd be amazed if you could still say that after watching these videos.

See you soon from onboard the Allure of the Seas.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Creating Central Park on Allure of the Seas

Construction of Allure of the Seas Central Park

How Do You Plant a Garden on a Cruise Ship?

That may sound like a silly question, but for Royal Caribbean International, that was just one of the final preparation processes that had to be solved while the Allure of the Seas is in its homeport of Port Everglades. The answer of course, is by crane.

Oasis of the Seas - Central Park
Creating  Central Park

Pictured here is the Oasis of the Seas finished version of Central Park.  The Allure will once again benefit from the experience of its sister ship as Central Park is recreated one more time onboard a cruise ship.

Just like one would plan their own garden in the back yard, Royal Caribbean's designers drew up plans for the finished garden, ordered the various trees, flowers, and shrubs, and waited for the assembly day to arrive.    On the assembly day, the plants and trees were organized and "airlifted" by crane from the pier to the ship.   Crews quickly  unloaded the crates and the planting began.   It didn't take long before Central Park took shape.

In this video, you'll see first-hand hour Central Park was assembled by a talented team of gardeners.

Video: Creating an Ocean Garden: Planting Allure’s Central Park

Thousands of plants, flower gardens and green thumbs go into making Allure of the Seas' expansive Central Park come to life! Watch as crews finish the final details on this luscious, serene and vibrant neighborhood onboard.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Travel Alert fo St. Lucia After Tomas

Hurricane Tomas Caused Extensive Damage

In the wake of Hurricane Tomas, this normally picturesque Caribbean paradise is without much of its infrastructure, prompting a recent Travel Alert by the U.S. State Department.  St. Lucia's Prime Minister declared a state of emergency, and reports indicate that St. Lucia’s transportation and communication infrastructure was seriously affected.  This Travel Alert expires on December 1, 2010. 

According to the travel alert, "There are no reports of U.S. citizens killed or seriously injured in the storm or its aftermath.  However, major roads and bridges on the islands are closed due to landslides and flooding, making transportation around the island extremely difficult or impossible.  Cell phone towers are down, resulting in limited communication, and some areas do not have electricity or water.  St. Lucia authorities are working to restore services as soon as possible.  Both airports on St. Lucia are open, but operating at limited capacity."

St. Lucia wasn't the only country impacted by Tomas in the region. St. Vincent and the Grenadines also experienced significant damage due to Hurricane Tomas in the northern part of the country, but areas generally frequented by travelers were not severely impacted. 

What does this mean for tourists?

Cruise lines are monitoring the situation and may substitute a different port of call for St. Lucia.   The travel alert indicated  "U.S. citizens should contact their tour operator, airline, or hotel for further information on the situation before traveling."      

U.S. citizens who choose to travel to St. Lucia despite the Travel Alert are urged to enroll with the State Department's travel registration website.  Please continue to monitor the Embassy’s website for updated information at https://www.usembassy.gov/barbados/.  

Updates from the Islands

Latest local updates from the special hurricane correspondents on the islands (with pictures):

  Barbados  --  Dominica  -- Grenada -- Trinidad & Tobago

Martinique -- St.Lucia  -- St.Vincent & Grenadines -- 

We wish the people of St. Lucia well, and hope that they will be able to quickly restore the infrastructure so that their lives can return to normal and tourists can once again visit this beautiful country.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Carnival Splendor Cruises Cancelled until January 16

The Mexican navy vessel P110 holds position off the
port bow of the Carnival cruise ship C/V Splendor
(Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy)
Carnival Splendor Out of Service

Miami - November 16, 2010 – 11am

Carnival Cruise Lines has cancelled voyages of the Carnival Splendor through the departure of January 9, 2011, to allow time for repairs following an engine room fire last week. The ship is scheduled to re-enter service on January 16, 2011.

Guests who were scheduled to sail on these voyages will receive a full refund of their cruise fare and air transportation costs, along with a 25 percent discount on a future cruise.

Carnival Splendor was towed to San Diego following the fire which occurred off the Mexican coast on November 8. A team from the U.S. Coast Guard, NTSB and flag authorities, along with Carnival's engineers and technicians, is currently on board investigating the cause of the fire. Carnival personnel are being assisted by representatives of the shipyard that built the vessel and other manufacturers of engine room components in assessing damage and necessary repairs.

"We realize how much guests look forward to their vacations and know that they are very disappointed by this news. We too are disheartened that we are not able to fulfill the dreams of those who have entrusted us with their important vacation plans. We sincerely apologize to everyone who was scheduled to sail on these cancelled voyages and look forward to welcoming them aboard in the future. Now that we have a full technical team engaged in the assessment, we wanted to provide this information as quickly as possible," said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO.

Carnival is contacting travel agents and guests on the affected sailings and providing assistance in finding alternate cruises. Travel agent commissions on the cancelled sailings will be protected.

Please continue to check back here for updates

If you are affected by this, please click here for an important notice detailing your options.

Related Blog Posts:

Carnival Splendor Fire Investigation 
Assisting Carnival Splendor 
Carnival Splendor Without Power After Engine Fire 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cruise Itinerary Changes Following St. Kitts Robbery

Photo courtesy of Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

In the wake of Sunday's brazen robbery at gunpoint of a bus full of Celebrity Mercury passengers on a St. Kitts shore excursion, at least two cruise lines have canceled calls on the island.   Carnival Miracle, scheduled to visit St. Kitts  headed to Antigua, and Princess Cruises' Grand Princess will make a similar detour on Wednesday.

Two masked gunmen on St. Kitts held up 17 passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Mercury who were on a ship-sponsored tour, called "Essential St. Kitts", that includes a sight-seeing drive of the city of Basseterre.  The tour was headed to Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a popular tourist spot.

According to police reports, the gunmen blocked the road with a fallen tree which prompted the bus driver to exit the vehicle to clear the road.   When this was done, the band of robbers emerged from the  bushes and robbed the tourists at gunpoint before disappearing back into the woodlands.  The passengers' cash, jewelry, cameras and other valuables were taken and fortunately noone was injured in the incident.

Celebrity Cruises has cancelled the tour indefinitely and indicated that it will closely monitor the safety situation in St. Kitts, but has yet to cancel any calls at the island.  They released the following statement:

"We are thankful that none of our guests were injured in this unfortunate event, and will continue to provide them any support they may need.  A vacation is supposed to be filled with fun, rejuvenation and relaxation. An act of crime should not be part of any vacation, and we regret our guests had to experience those events."

St. Kitts-Nevis Observer was told by a police spokesperson, "this tour bus robbery is an unprecedented incident in St. Kitts, where visitor safety is of the highest priority. Last year, over (500,000) cruise passengers safely disembarked in St. Kitts...we deeply regret any type of incident that might tarnish our visitors' experience."

It is believed that the recent surge in violence in the Caribbean is linked to an increase in drug traffic. Much of the cocaine headed for the U.S. and European markets from South America transits the Caribbean.

Watch here for updates from the cruise lines in reaction to this incident.  

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oasis of the Seas Meet Allure of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas Meets Allure of the Seas for First Time
Photo Courtesy Royal Caribbean

It is common for two cruise ships to pass each other while at sea.   On Saturday, November 13th, a historic first occurred.   The two largest ships afloat met for the first time.   The Allure of the Seas just arrived from Finland to its home port of  Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Florida this week.

Allure's Captain Zini produced another video log capturing the moment.  He is very grateful for all the information that was shared with him from Oasis of the Seas first year in operation. 

Words can't express the scene, so I encourage you to view the video yourself.

Video:  The World's Largest Sister Ships Meet: OASIS and ALLURE together for the first time

The world's two largest and most revolutionary cruise ships, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas are together for the first time just two days after Allure of the Seas completes a 13-day trans-Atlantic journey from Turku, Finland. More than 8,000 guests and crew on Oasis welcome Royal Caribbean's newest ship in a unique moment at sea!