Sunday, October 31, 2010

Allure of the Seas Atlantic Crossing Day 3

Captain Zini on Bridge of Allure of the Seas

It's day 3 of the Allure of the Seas crossing from Finland to Florida and Captain Zini and the crew pause to talk about their favorite things aboard the ship.   It has been smooth sailing thus far but the captain needs to speed up a bit to avoid an approaching storm.   Tomorrow the Allure will be entering the English Channel early in the morning.

Video: Worldwide Wow:First Reactions from Allure's International Crew



The largest and most revolutionary ship in the world is sure to get a WOW from all who see her and the crew of Allure of the Seas is no exception. Get their take on this impressive addition to Royal Caribbean's fleet as she makes her way across the Atlantic.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Allure of the Seas Atlantic Crossing Day 2

Allure of the Seas passes Denmark's Storebaelt Bridge

One of the first challenges for both Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas was passing under Denmark's Storebaelt Bridge.   In order to accomplish this, the smoke stacks have to be lowered, the speed adjusted to create the proper draft, and ballast adjusted to obtain the proper clearance.

Video: A Mission Accomplished: Allure Clears Denmark's Storebaelt Bridge



Allure of the Seas is one step closer to her arrival in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as she passes Denmark's Storebaelt Bridge with very little clearance to spare. Learn about the physics behind what helps the cruise ship make it under the landmark with such a tight fit.

Hurricane Tomas Threatens the Caribbean

5-Day Forecast Cone for Hurricane Tomas (Credit: NOAA NHC)

Tomas is 12th Hurricane in Atlantic
Heavy Rains are Possible Today

Not the storm you are looking for?  Click Image or Here
UPDATE:
800 AM EDT THU NOV 04 2010
...HURRICANE HUNTER DATA SHOWS TOMAS CHANGING LITTLE IN STRENGTH...
Watches and warnings are now discontinued for Hurricane Shary as she bypasses Bermuda, but a new tropical storm has become the 12th hurricane of the busy Atlantic season. Tropical storm warnings were posted for Barbados, Dominica, Trinidad & Tobago, and Grenada while Hurricane Warnings were posted for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Martinique on Saturday.

Carnival Miracle altered it's ports of call due to the storm.  We will continue to monitor the developing situation.  Currently Tomas is a Category TWO hurricane.

NHC issuing advisories on Hurricane TOMAS

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 -- 

Current Watches & Warnings
 A HURRICANE WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* HAITI
* THE SOUTHEASTERN BAHAMAS...AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* JAMAICA

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* THE SOUTHERN COAST OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC FROM THE HAITI
BORDER EASTWARD TO BARAHONA
* THE CUBAN PROVINCES OF GUANTANAMO...SANTIAGO DE CUBA...AND HOLGUIN
  
A TROPICAL STORM WARNING MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE
EXPECTED SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE WARNING AREA WITHIN 36 HOURS.

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE
POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY WITHIN 48 HOURS.

A HURRICANE WARNING MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED
SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE WARNING AREA...IN THIS CASE WITHIN 24 TO 36
HOURS.  PREPARATIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY SHOULD BE RUSHED
TO COMPLETION.

A HURRICANE WATCH MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE
WITHIN THE WATCH AREA.  A WATCH IS TYPICALLY ISSUED 48 HOURS
BEFORE THE ANTICIPATED FIRST OCCURRENCE OF TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE
WINDS...CONDITIONS THAT MAKE OUTSIDE PREPARATIONS DIFFICULT OR
DANGEROUS.
FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA IN THE UNITED
STATES...INCLUDING POSSIBLE INLAND WATCHES AND WARNINGS...PLEASE
MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
FORECAST OFFICE. FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA OUTSIDE
THE UNITED STATES...PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR NATIONAL
METEOROLOGICAL SERVICE.
 
Discussion & Outlook
 
SUMMARY OF 800 AM EDT...1200 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...15.9N 76.0W
ABOUT 305 MI...490 KM SW OF PORT AU PRINCE HAITI
ABOUT 150 MI...240 KM SSE OF KINGSTON JAMAICA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...50 MPH...85 KM/HR
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NNW OR 330 DEGREES AT 6 MPH...10 KM/HR
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...998 MB...29.47 INCHES
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 50 MPH...85 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER
GUSTS.  SOME STRENGTHENING IS FORECAST DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 115 MILES...185 KM
FROM THE CENTER.

AN AIR FORCE HURRICANE HUNTER PLANE JUST REPORTED A MINIMUM
CENTRAL PRESSURE OF 998 MB...29.47 INCHES.
  
HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND


STORM SURGE...A DANGEROUS STORM SURGE WILL RAISE WATER LEVELS BY
AS MUCH AS 1 TO 3 FEET ABOVE NORMAL TIDE LEVELS IN THE WARNING AREA
IN AREAS OF ONSHORE WINDS.  NEAR THE COAST...THE SURGE WILL BE
ACCOMPANIED BY LARGE AND DESTRUCTIVE WAVES.

WIND...TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO FIRST REACH THE
COAST WITHIN THE TROPICAL STORM WARNING AREA LATER TODAY..
MAKING OUTSIDE PREPARATIONS DIFFICULT OR DANGEROUS.  HURRICANE
CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE HURRICANE WARNING AREA
BY LATE TONIGHT OR EARLY FRIDAY.

RAINFALL...TOMAS IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS
OF 5 TO 10 INCHES OVER MUCH OF HAITI AND THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC...
WITH POSSIBLE ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 15 INCHES.  TOTAL RAINFALL
ACCUMULATIONS OF 1 TO 3 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE OVER JAMAICA.  THESE
RAINS COULD CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES OVER
MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN.  RAINFALL TOTALS OF 3 TO 6 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE
OVER THE SOUTHEASTERN BAHAMAS AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS. 
 Cruise Line Advisories

Update:  November 5th

Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess, which was scheduled to visit St. Lucia on Thursday, will no longer be able to call there.

Grand Princess' scheduled calls to the Dominican Republic on Friday, November 5 and to Grand Turk on Saturday, November 6 have both been cancelled. A visit to San Juan on Friday has been added to the ships itinerary.

Ruby Princess will no longer call in Grand Turk on Friday, November 5. Th ship will take a longer southerly route in order to avoid Tomas, but is expected to arrive in Fort Lauderdale on time.

Silversea Cruises' Silver Spirit, which was scheduled to visit St. Lucia on Friday, will call in Roseau, Dominica.

Carnival Miracle, which was scheduled to dock in St. Lucia on Saturday and St. Kitts on Sunday, instead spent the weekend at sea. To compensate, it stopped in Grand Turk on Monday and Nassau on Tuesday.

Carnival Victory, which was scheduled to stop in St. Lucia on Thursday, November 4, will now spend the day at sea.

Carnival Freedom's scheduled call to Ocho Rios on Thursday, November 4, is being replaced with a visit to Cozumel.

Freedom of the Seas replaced yesterday's sea day with a visit to CocoCay, and instead of calling in Labadee today the ship will remain at sea.

Serenade of the Seas departed from San Juan for a Southern Caribbean cruise on Sunday, and rather than calling on Curacao, Aruba and Dominica, the ship will now visit Barbados, Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Thomas.

P&O's Ventura will skip its scheduled call in St. Lucia tomorrow, and will instead call in Dominica.

Celebrity Millenium will no longer call on St. Lucia on Friday, November 5, but will instead visit Martinique.


Update:  November 2nd
Freedom of the Seas replaced yesterday's sea day with a visit to CocoCay, and instead of calling in Labadee today the ship will remain at sea.

Serenade of the Seas departed from San Juan for a Southern Caribbean cruise on Sunday, and rather than calling on Curacao, Aruba and Dominica, the ship will now visit Barbados, Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Thomas.

P&O's Ventura will skip its scheduled call in St. Lucia tomorrow, and will instead call in Dominica.

Carnival Cruise Line :    

MSC CRUISES: 

Norwegian Cruise Line:

Royal Caribbean International:  

Celebrity Cruises: 


Tropical Storm Resources (click links below)
HURRICANE TOMAS
Atlantic Tropical Weather Outlook National Weather Service
Atlantic Tropical Weather Discussion Hurricane Preparedness
Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook (ATL) Real-Time Hurricane Information
Active Storms  NOAA Satellites & Information
NASA: Latest Storm Images WMO Severe Weather Information Centre
Real-time Monitoring (Atlantic) The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
Real-time Weather Sites Real-Time Cruise Ship Tracking

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tropical Storm Shary Targets Bermuda

5-Day Forecast Cone for TS Shary (Credit: NOAA NHC)

Shary is 18th Named Storm in Atlantic
Becomes a Category ONE Hurricane 
  
UPDATE:
1100 AM AST SAT OCT 30 2010
...SHARY RACING NORTHEASTWARD...EXPECTED TO TRANSITION TO A
POST-TROPICAL STORM BY TONIGHT...

The busy Atlantic Hurricane season continues with the eighteenth named storm, Shary.  Tropical storm warnings are posted for Bermuda as the storm will be passing there later today (Friday).    Several inches of rain are forecast at this time.    So far, no cruise ship itineraries have been affected, but we will continue to monitor the situation and advise you of any changes.

Updates from the Islands  -- - Bermuda - -
Locals from the Islands of Bermuda are providing updates (link above) on the storm complete with pictures.
NHC issuing advisories on Hurricane TOMAS and Hurricane SHARY
Current Watches & Warnings
 
 THERE ARE NO COASTAL WATCHES OR WARNINGS IN EFFECT.
 
A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT FOR...
* BERMUDA

A HURRICANE WARNING MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED
SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE WARNING AREA...IN THIS CASE WITHIN 24 TO 36
HOURS.  PREPARATIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY SHOULD BE RUSHED
TO COMPLETION.

A HURRICANE WATCH MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE
WITHIN THE WATCH AREA.  A WATCH IS TYPICALLY ISSUED 48 HOURS
BEFORE THE ANTICIPATED FIRST OCCURRENCE OF TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE
WINDS...CONDITIONS THAT MAKE OUTSIDE PREPARATIONS DIFFICULT OR
DANGEROUS.
  
A TROPICAL STORM WARNING MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE
EXPECTED SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE WARNING AREA WITHIN 36 HOURS.

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE
POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY WITHIN 48 HOURS.

FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA IN THE UNITED
STATES...INCLUDING POSSIBLE INLAND WATCHES AND WARNINGS...PLEASE
MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
FORECAST OFFICE. FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA OUTSIDE
THE UNITED STATES...PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR NATIONAL
METEOROLOGICAL SERVICE.
 
Discussion & Outlook
 
SUMMARY OF 1100 AM AST...1500 UTC...INFORMATION (30 Oct)

LOCATION...35.9N 55.6W
ABOUT 580 MI...935 KM ENE OF BERMUDA
ABOUT 755 MI...1220 KM S OF CAPE RACE NEWFOUNDLAND
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...75 MPH...120 KM/HR
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NE OR 55 DEGREES AT 40 MPH...65 KM/HR
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...989 MB...29.21 INCHES
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS REMAIN NEAR 75 MPH...120 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER
GUSTS.  SHARY IS A CATEGORY ONE HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON
SCALE.  WEAKENING IS EXPECTED TO COMMENCE SOON...AND SHARY WILL
LIKELY LOSE TROPICAL CHARACTERISTICS BY TONIGHT.

HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 10 MILES...20 KM...FROM
THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 105
MILES...165 KM.

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE IS 989 MB...29.21 INCHES.
HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND


NONE
 
 Cruise Line Advisories

No advisories have been posted at this time - watch for updates.  Check with your cruise line directly if you are scheduled to be in Bermuda today.


Carnival Cruise Line :    

MSC CRUISES: 

Norwegian Cruise Line:

Royal Caribbean International:  

Celebrity Cruises: 


Tropical Storm Resources (click links below)
Hurricane SHARY
Atlantic Tropical Weather Outlook National Weather Service
Atlantic Tropical Weather Discussion Hurricane Preparedness
Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook (ATL) Real-Time Hurricane Information
Active Storms  NOAA Satellites & Information
NASA: Latest Storm Images WMO Severe Weather Information Centre
Real-time Monitoring (Atlantic) The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
Real-time Weather Sites Real-Time Cruise Ship Tracking

Allure of the Seas Begins Atlantic Crossing

Allure of the Seas - Photo Courtesy STX Europe

Farewell Finland
Florida Bound
Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line LTD.,  didn't get much sleep since the previous day's activities ended after midnight and the Allure of the Seas departure from Finland began at 5 AM.   The weather report showed some strong winds building in the morning so Captain Zini decided to schedule an earlier departure from the Turku, Finland shipyard.

Allure of the Seas Wheel House
Photo courtesy of STX Europe
After two years of construction, testing and outfitting, Allure of the Seas is finally ready to make the transatlantic voyage to her home port in Florida! Watch as this incredible ship bids farewell to Turku.

In this video log, Captain Zini reviews the weather and other critical information before ordering the lines to be cast off.   This is the moment everyone has been waiting for.

Just as the Oasis of the Seas did exactly a year ago, the Allure will head into the open Atlantic Ocean to make its way to Florida.   Come back periodically to watch additional videos and learn more about this incredible ship.

For us the anticipation is building as we await our chance to report live from the Allure of the Seas starting November 26th as she embarks on one of the pre-inaugural voyages out of Fort Lauderdale.  But for now, sit back and relax as we watch Captain Zini prepare for Allure's first voyage across the Atlantic.

Video:  Farewell Finland: Allure Begins a Transatlantic Voyage

Thursday, October 28, 2010

RCI Has the Keys to the Allure of the Seas

Juha Heikinheimo, President, STX Finland and Richard Fain, Chairman and
CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. at the delivery of Allure of the Seas
Photo Courtesy Royal Caribbean International
Today on 28 October 2010, the world's largest and most innovative cruise ship, the Allure of the Seas, was delivered by STX's Turku Shipyard to the American shipowners Royal Caribbean International.  Allure of the Seas is the sister ship of  Oasis of the Seas delivered a year ago. 

What's it like to sign a piece of paper authorizing the payment of One Billion USD (that's with a "B")?  Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD., Richard Fain, can tell you.

In an official closing ceremony there were only two documents signed of the hundreds that were done behind the scenes.   In his blog post, She’s Ours!, he indicated that it was both anti-climatic and an awesome responsibility:

"The closing created conflicting emotions for me. On the one hand, it was anti-climactic. After millions of man hours, years of effort, endless argumentation and consideration, and tons of sweat and tears, a simple one page document saying it was complete didn’t seem momentous enough. On the other hand, signing a one page sheet of paper transferring a billion dollars (that billion with a B) is an awesome responsibility. Actually having to sign your name brings home the implications in a very strong way. Before signing, I obviously checked with Harri Kulovaara that all the technical elements of the ship were up to snuff and checked with Adam Goldstein that all the operational aspects were ready. Nevertheless, I have to admit that my hand hesitated a bit before actually signing that paper."

Sister Ship of Oasis of the Seas

The Allure of the Seas and the Oasis of the Seas can be termed the most powerful and
sophisticated ships in the world for a reason. They also are the culmination of more than 40
years of product development cooperation between the cruise line, the shipyard and the
maritime cluster. The Oasis class vessels are 361 metres in length, and their cross tonnage is
225,000. The Allure of the Seas can accommodate 6,360 passengers at maximum. In
comparison, the Song of Norway delivered to the same customer in 1970 was 168 metres long
with a gross tonnage of 18,400; in other words, the Allure of the Seas is some 12 times as
large.

An Amazing Collaborative Effort

The building contract was signed on 2 April 2007, and production was launched on 4 February
2008. The keel laying of the Allure of the Seas started on 2 December 2008, and the vessel was
launched for the first time on 20 November 2009.

At closing time, there were only 230 comments outstanding on the Allure contrasted to 6,000 at the same time for the Oasis.   STX Finland should be quite proud of their accomplishments with both vessels.  Millions of man hours later, we have the second Oasis-class ship delivered on-time and with fewer outstanding items remaining to be corrected.

VIDEO: Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Allure Joins the Royal Fleet


Allure of the Seas is officially a part of the Royal Caribbean fleet, following months of construction and preparation this is a moment marked with celebration!

Allure of the Seas is currently sailing the Atlantic Ocean on its way to the home port of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tropical Storm Richard Forms in Caribbean

TS Richard Courtesy NHC


UPDATE: 
 700 AM CDT MON OCT 25 2010
...RICHARD CONTINUES WEAKENING INLAND OVER NORTHERN GUATEMALA...
Not the storm you are looking for?  Click Image or Here
We are keeping watch on this developing tropical storm.  It is expected to strengthen into a 
hurricane over the weekend.   There are no cruise ships impacted by the storm at this time.

As predicted, the storm strengthened into a Category ONE Hurricane but has now weakened.
NHC issuing advisories on TS  RICHARD
 

Discussion & Outlook
 
 
SUMMARY OF 700 AM CDT...1200 UTC...INFORMATION (25 Oct)
 
LOCATION...17.7N 89.9W
ABOUT 155 MI...250 KM SSE OF CAMPECHE MEXICO
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...45 MPH...75 KM/HR
PRESENT MOVEMENT...WNW OR 285 DEGREES AT 9 MPH...15 KM/HR
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...1005 MB...29.68 INCHES
WATCHES AND WARNINGS
THERE ARE NO COASTAL WATCHES OR WARNINGS IN EFFECT.
A HURRICANE WATCH MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA. A WATCH IS TYPICALLY ISSUED 48 HOURS BEFORE THE ANTICIPATED FIRST OCCURRENCE OF TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS...CONDITIONS THAT MAKE OUTSIDE PREPARATIONS DIFFICULT OR DANGEROUS. A TROPICAL STORM WARNING MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE WARNING AREA WITHIN 36 HOURS. A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY WITHIN 48 HOURS.

THE CENTER OF RICHARD WILL MOVE OVER SOUTHEASTERN
MEXICO TODAY AND INTO THE EXTREME SOUTHERN GULF OF MEXICO TONIGHT
OR EARLY TUESDAY. 
 
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS HAVE DECREASED TO NEAR 45 MPH...75
KM/HR...WITH HIGHER GUSTS.  WEAKENING IS EXPECTED...AND RICHARD
WILL LIKELY BECOME A TROPICAL DEPRESSION LATER TODAY.

TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 80 MILES...130 KM
FROM THE CENTER.

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE IS 1005 MB...29.68 INCHES.  
HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND

RAINFALL...RICHARD IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE RAINFALL ACCUMULATIONS OF
3 TO 6 INCHES ACROSS NORTHERN GUATEMALA...AND THE MEXICAN
STATES OF QUINTANA ROO AND CAMPECHE...WITH MAXIMUM STORM TOTAL
AMOUNTS OF AROUND 10 INCHES.  AN ADDITIONAL 1 TO 2 INCHES OF
RAINFALL IS EXPECTED OVER BELIZE. THESE RAINS COULD PRODUCE
LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES...ESPECIALLY IN
MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN.

WIND...TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS WILL SPREAD ACROSS THE
SOUTHERN PORTIONS OF THE MEXICAN STATES OF QUINTANA ROO AND
CAMPECHE...AND PORTIONS OF NORTHERN GUATEMALA OVER THE NEXT FEW
HOURS.  THESE WINDS WILL DIMINISH LATER THIS MORNING.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Welcome Aboard Norwegian Epic



NORWEGIAN EPIC
FAMILY DELUXE
BALCONY STATEROOM
Cabin # 14036

Cabins are finally ready for occupancy...

Continuing our virtual tour of Norwegian Epic, it's time to checkout your stateroom.    


Your cabin assignment for the cruise is 14036, a deluxe family balcony cabin on deck 14, forward, port side.   The Mandara Spa & Salon is located on this deck also.   Some of the cabins on this deck have special spa access and amenities in their cabin.   

Even though 14036 is not one of those, there is an option to purchase use of the spa's thermal suite for $199 per couple or $119 for a single.   This provides unlimited use of the spa throughout the cruise.    So for $14 per person per day you enjoy similar benefits as a spa suite guest (just not the spa products in your cabin).    More about the spa in another post...
Opening the door of the cabin, you are greeted by the bathroom facilities.  This is not setup as in most other ships.   Instead of the usual one room bathroom, there is a shower area on one side, the commode on the other, and the sink and medicine cabinet beyond that.    The usual solid door is replaced by translucent panels.    You are pleased to see that you actually have a tub and shower in this type of cabin.  

If you've read our blog for awhile, this doesn't come as a shock to you since we wrote about the controversial configuration when Epic began its inaugural sailings.   You might be wondering what the designers had in mind when they introduced this innovation.   Their intent was to make it possible for different guests to use the facilities at the same time.  
For a couple, we'll assume that this sharing doesn't cause any issues.  However, for other occupancy combinations, such as families with children of any age, or friends sharing a cabin, the configuration will take some getting used to and / or planning.
We had our grown up son with us on this trip and to be honest, the bathroom layout didn't cause a problem.   There is a curtain that can be drawn to provide you with privacy.   You'll want to be sure to spin your dial to "do not disturb" and double lock your door to be sure you cabin steward doesn't surprise you from the other direction.    There are robes in the cabin, so that too is another way to ensure privacy when you get out of the shower.
Your luggage arrives and it's time to unpack.  You survey the storage facilities to decide how to divide the space for the three of you.  The closet nearest the entry way is ideal for hanging up everyone’s nice clothing.   The bank of cabinets above and below the counter provides plenty of storage for remaining clothes and other items.   There are four metal baskets in the lower cabinets which can be used for night clothes, swim suits, or any other items that don’t need to be hung up.
Next to the bed there is a night stand with three shelves which can be used for clothes or storage of cameras and other essential items you’ve brought with you.  There are a few hidden storage spaces also...  under the sofa bed, there are drawers that pull out and above the bed at least one of the cabinet doors opens.
Cabinets & closets (left) bed & sleeper (right).View from Balcony

Across from the night stand, next to the balcony door, there are two closets in this particular cabin. One thing that we discovered is that there are minute differences in the cabin configurations even for the same category.   For example, the sofa bed can be before or after the full size bed depending on the location of the cabin and direction of the waves.   The location of the curtain and the storage configuration may also be different. 
If you happen to be in a cabin that has adjoining doors, you will lose some of the storage space.  For example, the extra closet space is replaced by the door.   The night stand cabinet next to the bed is most likely narrower than the one in this cabin.
The extra space came at a price for us also.  To compensate for the extra space, we lost some of our balcony depth.    There still was plenty of room to relax on the balcony with the two chairs and small table providing the furnishings.  
It is possible to put your full size suit cases under the bed which is what you'll need to do due to the odd sized closets.    The wave design makes it impossible to put anything other than bags that are backpack size on the closet floor.    My advice is to put your suitcase under the bed and use it for your dirty clothes.
This cabin was sufficient for the three of us, however that was partly due to the sleeping schedules.   My husband and I were up early to have breakfast and attend the conference sessions while our son slept in after a long night.   Therefore, we weren’t all trying to take showers at the same time.
We took a tour of the ship during our conference cruise.   Watch for reviews of other cabin types complete with pictures in future posts.

Norwegian Epic O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill

Norwegian Epic - Port of Miami

CruiseOne & Cruises Inc. 2010 National Conference was held during the October 16th 7-Night Western Caribbean Cruise on Norwegian Epic.   Epic sails from Miami, Florida.

Smiling already - just after boarding
Join me on a virtual tour of Norwegian Epic starting from our first meal following embarkation.   Since the cabins weren't available for occupancy, we dropped off our carry-on luggage at Headliners and set off to have something to eat and explore the ship.  



It is very common for the cabin stewards to still be preparing the ship for occupancy if you board the ship around lunch time.   Cabins are usually available around 2 PM, but that shouldn't stop you from starting to enjoy the ship.


Norwegian Cruise line boasts Freestyle Dining which provides you with several choices for lunch.  Instead of having a buffet in the Garden Cafe, we opted for something different.

O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill

Dine on American classics as well as your favorite comfort foods, served 24 hours a day.

Embarkation of the Epic was on Deck 6 near the Epic Casino.   There are no cabins located on this public deck.  Instead you'll find several entertainment venues and dining spots on Deck 6.

O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill is located mid-ship.   It was the first dining spot that we discovered after we dropped off our luggage.   Checking out the menu, we decided to eat there.   The hostess directed us to a counter across from the main dining area.   She said that a server would be with us shortly.

The chicken pot pie sounded good to my husband, so that was what he ordered.    He said that it was very good.   It must have been freshly made because it was steaming hot.

My choice was fish 'n chips which is served with tartar sauce.   I prefer malt vinegar with fish 'n chips, so I was happy that they had some available.    It might not be as good as I've had in London, but it was an enjoyable lunch.

Shortly after we finished our lunch an announcement was made that the cabins were not available for occupancy.   We were one of the first to claim our bags and head off to our cabin.
Our virtual tour of the Epic continues in our next post.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Greetings from Port of Miami

View from our hotel balcony - Carnival & NCL ship about to leave
It is a beautiful day here in Miami, Florida where we have just arrived for our 2010 National Conference which begins tomorrow.    We flew in a day early to avoid the cruise day mad rush to the pier.  Arriving in Miami we collected our bags from baggage claim and headed outside to arrange a ride to our hotel.  We shared a ride with another couple that were staying at the Holiday Inn Port of Miami.

Our hotel is the Courtyard Marriott Downtown Miami.    Both of these hotels are great pre-cruise hotels since they are just minutes away from the port.

After checking in at the hotel, we met fellow agents who were also staying there and headed out for some lunch.  We found Polo Tropical, a Caribbean chicken and pork  restaurant, just a few blocks away.   This was the perfect spot to kick off our Caribbean cruise vacation.

Following lunch, some of our group went shopping in nearby stores while we decided to return to our room to relax.   When we got back to the hotel, we spent some time watching the tropical fish in the gigantic fish tank in the hotel lobby.

The rest of our group returned after a hour or so of shopping and we met at the 7th floor pool.   Lounging by the pool was a great way to continue transforming into the cruise lifestyle we would be enjoying for the next 7 days.    The sun was starting to set as we lounged by the pool.    Shadows and various colors were cast on the tall buildings surrounding us.   Three or four hawks were circling overhead as we laid by the pool.

Following our relaxation by the pool, it was time for dinner.  We decided to stay in and try the newly remodeled Bistro at the Courtyard.    It was actually very good.   The service was friendly and the food was very good.   We hung out in the Bistro after dinner until more of our group arrived.  We finally parted company around 10:30 PM and headed up to our room.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hurricane Paula Forms in Atlantic

5-Day Forecast Cone for Hurricane Paula (Credit: NOAA NHC)

Not the storm you are looking for?  Click Image or Here
UPDATE: 1100 AM EDT FRI OCT 15 2010
...PAULA WEAKENS TO A REMNANT LOW...
THIS IS THE LAST ADVISORY...

NHC issuing advisories on Hurricane PAULA

The active Atlantic hurricane season continues with the formation of another hurricane off the Yucatan Peninsula. Paula is currently a Category ONE storm but weakening is expected in the next 48 hours.

Hurricane Paula has altered several Cruise ship itineraries on Carnival, Holland America, and Celebrity Cruises.    Other lines are monitoring the situation.   Click here for changes.

PAULA WILL CONTINUE TO MOVE ALONG THE NORTH COAST 
OR OVER WESTERN CUBA TODAY (Thursday Oct. 14).


Discussion & Outlook

WATCHES AND WARNINGS 
 
CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY...
THERE ARE NO COASTAL WATCHES OR WARNINGS IN EFFECT.


A HURRICANE WARNING MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED
SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE WARNING AREA...IN THIS CASE WITHIN 24 TO 36
HOURS.  PREPARATIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY SHOULD BE RUSHED
TO COMPLETION.

A HURRICANE WATCH MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE
WITHIN THE WATCH AREA.  A WATCH IS TYPICALLY ISSUED 48 HOURS
BEFORE THE ANTICIPATED FIRST OCCURRENCE OF TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE
WINDS...CONDITIONS THAT MAKE OUTSIDE PREPARATIONS DIFFICULT OR
DANGEROUS.
  
A TROPICAL STORM WARNING MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE
EXPECTED SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE WARNING AREA WITHIN 36 HOURS.

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE
POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY WITHIN 48 HOURS.


SUMMARY OF 700 AM CDT...1200 UTC...INFORMATION (14 Oct) 
 
LOCATION...22.7N 84.5W
ABOUT 45 MI...70 KM...W OF PUERTO ESPERANZA 
ABOUT 135 MI...215 KM W OF HAVANA CUBA
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...75 MPH...120 KM/HR
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NE OR 50 DEGREES AT 5 MPH...7 KM/HR
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...999 MB...29.50 INCHES
 
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS REMAIN NEAR 75 MPH...120 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER
GUSTS. THESE WINDS ARE CONFINED TO A VERY SMALL AREA NEAR THE
CENTER. PAULA IS A CATEGORY ONE HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON
HURRICANE WIND SCALE.  PAULA IS FORECAST TO WEAKEN TO  A TROPICAL
STORM LATER TODAY.

PAULA REMAINS A SMALL HURRICANE.  HURRICANE FORCE WINDS EXTEND
OUTWARD UP TO 10 MILES...20 KM...FROM THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL
STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 50 MILES...85 KM. THE WEATHER
STATION LOCATED IN THE WESTERN TIP OF CUBA RECENTLY REPORTED A 60
MPH...97 KM/HR WIND GUST.

THE MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE ESTIMATED FROM AN AIR FORCE RESERVE
HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT IS 999 MB...29.50 INCHES.


HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND



RAINFALL...THE LOW COULD STILL PRODUCE ADDITIONAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS

OF 1 TO 2 INCHES OVER CENTRAL CUBA AND CENTRAL BAHAMAS THROUGH

SATURDAY.





 Cruise Line Advisories



Carnival Valor revised itinerary includes stops in Ocho Rios (Wednesday) and Nassau (Friday). The original voyage called for stops in Roatan, Belize and Cozumel.

Carnival Legend
,  will no longer visit Cozumel (Wednesday), Roatan (Thursday) and Belize (Friday). The ship will now call in Ocho Rios in Jamaica on Thursday (a three-for-one trade).

Carnival Ecstasy
will no longer call in Progreso and Cozumel as originally planned. The ship is swapping two ports for one and will call in Veracruz on Wednesday instead.

Carnival Triumph is also swapping two ports for one to avoid Paula. Instead of stopping in Progreso and Cozumel, the ship will visit Key West on Wednesday.

Carnival Conquest
revised itinerary features calls in Montego Bay (Wednesday) and Key West (Friday) instead of Montego Bay, Grand Cayman and Cozumel as originally planned.


Because some cruises have been dramatically altered, Carnival is offering compensation to some impacted passengers.  Carnival will continue to monitor the situation and make additional changes if needed.

Holland America Ryndam will no longer call at Belize City, Roatan or Costa Maya as originally planned. The revised itinerary includes Half Moon Cay (HAL's private resort island) on Wednesday and Grand Turk on Thursday.
Celebrity Solstice will call in Grand Cayman, Montego Bay, Labadee (sister line Royal Caribbean's private beach resort in Haiti) and Nassau instead of visiting Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Costa Maya and Roatan as originally planned.

NCL Weather Update

NCL indicates that all ships are currently operating as scheduled.  They will continue to monitor Hurricane Paula and make changes if needed.   Click on the link above for current update.

Tropical Storm Resources (click links below)
HURRICANE PAULA
Atlantic Tropical Weather OutlookNational Weather Service
Atlantic Tropical Weather DiscussionHurricane Preparedness
Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook (ATL) Real-Time Hurricane Information
Active Storms  NOAA Satellites & Information
NASA: Latest Storm ImagesWMO Severe Weather Information Centre
Real-time Monitoring (Atlantic)The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale
Real-time Weather SitesReal-Time Cruise Ship Tracking
 


WLCN is Here - October 13, 2010

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We're joining with member travel agencies from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) across the US and Canada to host the online World's Largest Cruise Night an opportunity for travelers like you to learn more about one of the most popular vacations: cruising!

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Simply click on the cruise line of your choice and see what special deals they have to offer!
CONTEMPORARY

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What's for Dinner

Do you eat dinner at home at the same time every night?    Do you eat early or late?   

When you go out for dinner do you like fast food, buffets, or fine dining? Perhaps you like all three?

When booking your cruise, you'll be able to make some of the same choices that you do at home.  The choices vary by cruise line and ship.    Let's take a look at some of the choices.

Traditional Dining

At the time of booking, you select early or late dining and the table size that suits your style.   Every night you have a table waiting for you in the main dining room with the same dining staff waiting there to serve you.  The meal consists of several courses with a menu that typically changes each night.   Often there is a theme to the menu.  Select one or more appetizer, soup or salad, your main course, and your dessert.   Can't make up your mind?  No problem, select as many as you want.

With this form of dining, your wait staff gets to know you, your likes, and dislikes.  Imagine sitting down for dinner and not even having to ask for the glass of ice tea that you like to have with your meal.   You may also make some new friends with passengers if you select a larger table size.

Open Seating

A variation of traditional dining is open seating which has different names depending on the cruise line.   With this arrangement, you don't select a dining time in advance and are not assigned a table.    A portion of the main dining room, or perhaps the entire dining room is devoted to this option. The menu is the same as with the traditional dining consisting of several courses. You arrive at the dining room during specified times, and tell the&maître d’ about your dining preferences, such as table size.

The main difference between this and traditional dining is that you won't have the same wait staff and most likely will be dining with different passengers if you select a larger table size than your party.  If you find wait staff that you really like, you can request to be seated in their section, so this can be a hybrid of traditional dining if you request it.

Buffet

For those that want a more casual dinner experience, you can select cafeteria style dining in the ship's buffet.  Here you can select from several different serving stations and return as many times as you like for more food.  Arrive any time you want during specified dining hours and stay as long as you like.

On some ships, there may also be an alternative dining option in the buffet where you still make reservations. This can be a great option if you return to the ship late from a shore excursion and just want to quickly dine before starting your evening entertainment.


Specialty Dining

Some ships have dining venues that require reservations and offer an upscale dining experience much like fine dining back home.    There is an additional gratuity charged to your onboard account for the special service provided.    On some ships, there may only be on specialty restaurant while on others, there may be several specialty options.   The specialty cuisine might include steaks, chops, seafood, Italian, Asian, Japanese and other cultural dishes.

Often the dinner is served with a flair, such as flaming entrées and desserts made table side with the food be presented at once to the entire table.   Expect to be dining for several hours in most specialty restaurants.   This is an optional dining experience that you may want to incorporate into your cruise, especially if you are celebrating a special occasion during the cruise.

Room Service

Don't feel like leaving your cabin tonight?   Pick up the phone and phone in your order.   You can select from the same dinner options that you would have in the main dining room.  Imagine a romantic dinner on your balcony as you sail to your next port of call.   On most ships, room service is included in the price of your cruise and available 24 hours a day.   Some ships have recently added a surcharge for late night dining due to the unfortunate waste of food they have been experiencing from guests that probably need coffee instead of food.

Pizza, Burgers, and Other Treats

You return to the ship from a fun day in port and you just don't feel like a sit down meal.  Instead, you have a taste for your favorite comfort food like pizza or burgers.    Many ships offer pizza all day long and some have even added specialty burger restaurants, such as Johnny Rockets, where you can get a burger and fries complete with your favorite flavor milk shake.

Don't forget some soft-serve ice cream to put the finishing touches on your comfort meal. You'll typically find these dining options near the main pool area or the promenade on ships that have them.  In some cases, there may be an extra charge, but many are included in your cruise price.

Dine Where You Want / When You Want

Regardless of the dining option you select at the time of booking, you'll find several dining options available once you are onboard.   Just like you might at home, there are nights when you want a fancy meal and others where you are quite content to have a slice of pizza and your favorite beverage.

In recent years, the cruise lines have begun to add more and more options to their dining repertoire.   Guests have told the cruise lines that while on vacation they don't want to be told what to wear, when to eat, and where to eat.   The cruise lines have listened.

Norwegian Cruise Line introduced "Freestyle Dining" over 10 years ago and have continued to refine the program.   One thing you need to realize is that you will be paying the surcharges we mentioned for specialty restaurants for the freedom of choice.   The fees won't break the bank, but you need to include them in your vacation budget.    We've written about Freestyle Dining many times before - just do a search to read more.

You don't need to eat at the same restaurant every night of your cruise, unless you want to.   Try some of the alternative dining options on your next cruise - you may find a new favorite.  Also, this is a good place to try new foods.   The waiter will be glad to bring you something else if you don't like your first choice.

Bon Appétit