Thursday, January 30, 2014

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Wishing You a Prosperous Chinese New Year

January 31st marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year celebration which actually runs for 15 days.  This is the year of the Horse.  The horse is part of a 12-year-cycle of animals that make up the Chinese zodiac.

 Chinese New Year 2014 Gallery

People born in the year of the horse have ingenious communicating techniques, are clever, kind to others, and like to join in a venture career. Although they sometimes talk too much, they are cheerful, perceptive, talented, earthy but stubborn.

The Year of the Wood Horse


In Chinese culture, the Horse is a symbol of nobility, class, speed and perseverance. The Year of Wooden Horse, which deals with fire, wood and energy follows the Year of the Water Snake.  Wood is related to tree or green. Therefore, 2014 is also called Year of Green Horse.

In looking through our images, we found this wooden horse which you can pose with on the Allure of the Seas.

2014 Chinese Astrology of Year of the Green Horse

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Explorer OTS Undergoes Deap Clean

Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas
Current Sailing Cut Short
Norovirus Outbreak

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has terminated the current 10-night voyage of the Explorer of the Seas two days early to allow the ship to undergo a "barrrier" cleaning at its homeport of Cape Liberty.  This follows several previous attempts to clean the ship in hopes of stopping the spreading of Norovirus, a gastrointestinal illness, that start affecting passengers and crew last week.  More than 500 people became ill.

Cruise Ships & Norovirus ...
Tis the Season

Norovirus is a very contagious virus that can infect anyone. You can get it from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed. This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and to throw up. 

Despite what the news media may lead you to believe, this isn't just a cruise ship issue.  We encourage you to read this entire article and refer to the links to be well informed.

CDC Featured Podcast
Dr. Aron Hall discusses six tips to help prevent the spread of norovirus. Listen To This Podcast (4:09)

Travel Pulse published a very informative article: 

Who is to Blame

The first inclination when you hear about an outbreak would be to blame the cruise line. Clearly, they have let you down - you expected a healthy cruise, and you got sick.  .

The cruise line is responsible - right?

The cruise line IS responsible  for cleaning the ship and providing the facilities for passengers and crew to maintain proper hygiene onboard the ship.   They do that - you'll notice signs posted in all the rest rooms and crew members pointing out sanitation machines, such as the one in the picture above posted outside the restaurant entrance.  

But, ladies and gentleman - I suspect that YOU share some BLAME.   Did you stop to wash your hands after using the bathroom?   Did you sanitize your hands every time you entered a restaurant onboard the ship.   Did you do so all but one time?   That one time would be enough to kick off this sort of outbreak.

On two recent cruises onboard Disney Dream and Carnival Sensation, we noticed the sanitizing materials and signs.  We also noticed many passengers disregarding the signs and avoiding the sanitizing of their hands before entering the restaurant.

Working together, the cruise lines and passengers could Prevent Norovirus!


Facts About Noroviruses on Cruise Ships  gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses can be prevented

Wash hands often. Wash hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.  Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer along with hand washing.

Norovirus outbreaks, when they occur on a cruise ship, always make the news.  The truth is these outbreaks can occur anywhere there are groups of people in a small area such as nursing homes, restaurants, catered events, hotels, and cruise ships.

Vessel Sanitation Program - prevention and control of spread of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses on cruise ships

Passengers to be Compensated

All Explorer of the Seas passengers will receive a 50 percent refund of their cruise fare, as well as an additional 50 percent future cruise credit. Passengers who were confined to their cabins by the illness also will receive a credit of one future cruise day for each day of confinement.

Royal Caribbean also will reimburse airline change fees and accommodations for passengers whose travel home was impacted by the ship's early return to port.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

O'Sheehan's Pub Perfect for Big Game

Where Will You Watch The Big Game Next Sunday?

Home?  Bar?
Friend's House?
Cruise Ship?

Norwegian Cruise Line introduced O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill on Norwegian Epic, about three years ago, and also included it on the new Breakaway-class ships as well.

Coming Soon to Entire Fleet

This central point gathering spot has become so successful that the line will be expanding the option fleet-wide.

Speaking at a news conference onboard the line's newest ship, Norwegian Getaway, in Southampton, U.K., Kevin Sheehan said:

"O'Sheehan's has proved to be such a center point of the ship, for people to gather and socialize, that we have decided to put it on all the ships." 

Big Game Meet Big Screen

With it's two story big screen TV, it is the perfect spot on the ship to gather for the Big Game or any other broadcast entertainment throughout the cruise. No doubt it will be filled to over flowing this coming Sunday as the Broncos and Seahawks meet on the football turf to do battle.

Food and drink will be flowing as fans cheer on their favorite team.  After the game there's plenty of entertainment so no need to head off to another venue if you don't want to.  Of course, since this is centrally located on the ship, you can easily get around.

Comfort Food & Beverages

Select from a menu of comfort food options along with your favorite beverage for the perfect meal any time during your cruise.   Shown here was our selection of Fish 'n Chips and Chicken Pot Pie which were both very good.  The menu might change from time to time, so be sure to find your own favorites and let us know what you ate.


We've included images from both Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Breakaway here.   Common to both are billiards and bowling as well as various video arcade games.   There are tables spread around along with additional TV screens so that you can enjoy some entertainment and not miss the action of your favorite sports team.

The addition of O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill on the entire fleet will be a fantastic improvement.  In addition, the line plans to relocate Moderno Churrascaria,the popular Brazilian Steakhouse, adjacent to Cagney's, the lines popular steakhouse.

Two additional Breakaway Class ships – Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss will be delivered in 2015 and 2017.  They will be similar to the already sailing ships, with some unique features. We will share details once they are unveiled in the months ahead, along with their home ports and itineraries.  Learn more about these new ships on our micro-site:

Norwegian Breakaway
Click for Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Getaway
Click for Norwegian Getaway

Friday, January 24, 2014

Russian Federation Travel Alert

Sochi 2014
Courtesy Sochi 2014
 Information for Travelers 

The U.S. Department of State updated a Travel Alert today for U.S. citizens planning to attend the 2014 Olympic Games in Russia that they should remain attentive regarding their personal security at all times.

Issued:              24 January 2014
Replaced:         10 January 2014
Expires:            24 March 2014

The alert replaces the previous one and provides updated information on reported threats against the Games.

Full information about the Olympic and Paralympic games for U.S. citizen visitors is available on the Sochi Fact Sheet and the Country Specific Information for the Russian Federation on their website,  The Department strongly recommends that all U.S. citizens residing or traveling abroad enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive pertinent safety and security information.  

The alert covers several areas including the following:

  • first large-scale event
  • medical capacity is untested
  • treatment differs substantially from Western standards
  • recommend purchasing private medical evacuation and/or repatriation insurance
  • attractive target for terrorist  
  • U.S. Government monitoring threats
  • bombings & hostage events have occurred
  • no indication of a specific threat to U.S. institutions or citizens
  • be aware of personal surroundings and follow good security practices
  • remain alert regarding personal security at all times
  • Criminal activity in Sochi is similar to other cities of comparable size
  • avoid carrying large amounts of money or other valuables 
  • avoid large crowds in areas that lack enhanced security measures
  • use caution if protests, demonstrations, or other public disturbances are taking place
  • May be shortages of lodging
  • Book well in advance
Russian Federation Travel Alert
Last Updated: January 24, 2014

U.S. Embassy Moscow

Bolshoy Deviatinsky Pereulok No. 8
(Consular Section located at Novinskiy Bulvar 21)
Moscow 121099, Russian Federation

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter Weather Hampering Travel

Anyone Else Thinking About Escaping to the Warmth of Alaska?

Wave Season is in full swing now and thoughts turn to warmer climates and those where it isn't snowing.   Usually one would exclude Alaska from the list of candidates, but ironically when we checked the weather tonight, we found that Ketchikan was in the mid-40s at 9:30 PM while our temperatures had fallen below zero.

Accidents, Flight Delays, Cancellations, Stranded Travelers

Tonight's newscast featured arctic temperatures in our region, up to 2 feet of snow for those unlucky enough to be near the lake front, more cold, and more snow still on the way.   This weather isn't limited to the Chicago / Indiana area, but also extending to the East Coast where a new snow storm cancelled flights and caused nightmares for those trying to travel across the country.

The following headlines tell the story - no need to repeat them here (you can click on the links to read details on the various news sources):

Nearly 3000 US Flights Cancelled As Snow Hits Northeast
Thousands of flights canceled (again) by snowstorm
Thousands Of US Flights Cancelled - Business Insider 
Flights cancelled as Northeast braces for polar vortex 2 | New York ...
LIVE: Snowstorm Dumping Heavy Snow on I-95 Corridor

Live Airline Flight Cancellations Info & Statistics FlightAware

Protect Your Vacation

When our guests book their trip with us, we highly recommend they purchase travel protection insurance in the full amount of their trip.  We've heard all the reasons why that doesn't seem to be necessary - "there's no way we aren't going on this trip - we've planned for it so long" is a pretty common one.

Tell that to the people spending the night at O'Hare International or one of the other major airports across the country as this bad weather grounded or delayed flights.   Hopefully those stranded will be able to get out tomorrow and still be able to continue their journeys.   If that flight was taking them to their escape from winter weather at some Caribbean resort or cruise vacation, odds are they are now in need of assistance to somehow join that trip now in progress.   Hopefully that have a passport because they may now need to fly into a foreign port and their birth certificate and driver's license will no longer suffice (for those on closed-loop cruises, technically you don't need a passport, but we always suggest you have on).

You may never need to file a claim or call for assistance, but the intangible benefit to travel insurance is that when it counts the most, when you are in need, you have someone to turn to for assistance.  You aren't alone in a "sea" of stranded travelers anymore.  You have the ability to "phone a friend" or "use your lifeline" in the words of a popular game show.

Top Ten Reasons to travel with the LeisureCare Travel Protection Plan
  1. You have to cancel your trip due to an unexpected event such as bad weather, an illness in the family or the financial default of your airline, cruise line or tour operator.
  2. You have to return home early due to an unexpected emergency such as an illness or death in the family.
  3. Your luggage is lost or delayed, forcing you to purchase necessary essentials, or prescription medications.
  4. Your luggage or personal effects are damaged or stolen.
  5. You become ill or injured and learn that your health care plan doesn't cover you outside the U.S.
  6. You need an emergency medical evacuation due to an accident or sudden illness.
  7. You run into flight delays and miss a portion of your trip or cruise.
  8. Your trip is interrupted due to an unexpected hurricane or storm.
  9. You lose your passport, leaving you stranded abroad.
  10. You need assistance with replacing a prescription or an emergency cash transfer. 

If the weather is bad in your area and you don't need to travel, stay home - warm and safe. For those trying to get to their vacation destination, we hope that you'll be able to do so and also that you had assistance so that your vacation isn't ruined.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Add Unique Perspective to Travel Pics

Unique Perspectives

Today we joined #TRAVELPICS chat on Twitter for a fun packed hour exchanging ideas and travel photos with like-minded posters. The theme was “unique perspectives” and participants shared their own travel pics about the theme and answered per-arranged questions.

Q1: How do you define unique perspectives in travel?

How would you answer this question?

A1. When your photo is different than those in the travel brochures 

A1. Also visiting the same place multiple times but capturing different memories

We responded to the first question and also shared several images as the chat progressed.   There is no right or wrong answer here - but if you are interested in breathing new life into your travel photography, some of the ideas shared here and in the chat may be helpful.  Follow us on Twitter: @ChrisPappinMCC

Look for a Unique Vantage Point

The main subject in the two images above is the Old Castle in Corfu, Greece.  We think that you'll agree the first photo could be a typical photo showing the castle from a distance.   It does capture the main subject, but isn't a very interesting photograph.    If your purpose is simply to document one of the sights seen during your Corfu visit, it would suffice.

The second image however is much more interesting to the viewer.  Your eyes are drawn to the main subject, the castle, and you also have the feeling of being outside the castle's gates, trying to look inside.   You are suddenly back in history when the castle fortress was full of life as it stood guard over the town.

Q2: Show us a unique perspective in a travel photo using different interpretations or unusual viewpoints-no right or wrong here!

This was one example we shared.   The images were both captured during our National Conference on Norwegian Breakaway last fall.  The image on the right could be a typical photo taken by every cruise passenger on the ship.  

The image on the left was once again from a different vantage point.   We captured it by accident.  While waiting for the rest of our group to catch up with us, we looked up and saw how amazing the chandelier looked from this vantage point.  So, quite simply, don't forget to look up for subjects to capture in your images.

Q3: Do you have any unique perspective or advice when it comes to traveling differently? Share it!

A3. Give yourself a photo shoot assignment especially if you've been to the same location before 

Some of our more interesting images use archways and doors to frame our subject.   Some of our self-directed photo assignments have been to capture interesting doors across the globe and also lamps, such as those on castles or outside historical locations.

Visiting a Port Multiple Times

If you are like most leisure travelers, odds are that you'll visit a location multiple times in your lifetime.   For those that like a winter getaway on a cruise ship, you'll probably visit several ports in the Caribbean many times.

So what do you do when you find yourself back in a town you've visited before?   You can seek out new attractions or shops to visit, or you can view the familiar sights differently.   For example, find a different angle to view them from;  look through a doorway or hole in the wall as we have above.  If you are able to bend down low, you can view your subject from the vantage point of a child (in other words, from ground level).

Plan for your Visit

To get the most out of a visit to either a new or familiar destination, we encourage you to do some research before you travel.   You may want to check with your professional travel consultant  for ideas about popular attractions as well as those that are off the beaten path.   That was another topic we discussed during the live chat.

The internet is a wealth of information.   Once you know some attractions that are on your bucket list, search for some images that professionals and amateurs have captured.   You may want similar images in your photo journal of your trip.   We suggest that you add a few more unique perspectives as well.

We hope that this has sparked your interest in taking your photography to a new level.  Follow the weekly #travelpics chat on Twitter for more ideas on this and other travel topics.   We'd love to hear your ideas as well, or better yet, join us for the next chat.

Thank you to this week's co-hosts: @AntiTourist @TheTravelCamel @poonamparihar @Sihpromatum @StephensPhotos @melbtravel

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dining at Sea Part 5

Looks Too Good to Eat

We've already talked about how presentation is a key ingredient of  the cruise ship dining experience.  From the time you get onboard the ship and head to the buffet for the first time, to your first dinner at the main dining room, to the evening you dine at one of the specialty venues, the food you eat is on display.

Your sense of sight is delighted by the food displayed in front of you each and every time you sit down to eat while on the cruise.  The crew spends hours in preparation to make sure that everything is just right, not just the taste, but also the way it appeals to you even before you take that first bite.

Did you ever have a plate put in front of you that looked too good to eat?  Perhaps when you went to a local diner, they had a display case of desserts just inside the entry way.   If you are like me, you want to skip the main course somehow and get to those tempting treats that were on display.

Chocolate Buffet

Norwegian Cruise Line is known for their Freestyle Dining which allows you to dine any time you want (within some boundaries) and at any venue on the ship.   Some of the options are included in your cruise cost while others have a modest fee, which is an extra gratuity for the special service and quality of food that you are given.

Another thing they are known for is their Chocolate Buffet.   The image above shows some of the creative treats that the crew prepared for us on one of our recent NCL cruises.   Next time you are on Norwegian, be sure to find out when that buffet occurs and at least take some pictures.

Dessert Extravaganza

Very similar to NCL's Chocolate Buffet is Holland America Line's Dessert Extravaganza.  As the name suggests, dessert items are prepared and put on display for you to enjoy, first by taking pictures, and of course, you can eat until your heart is content.

Grand Buffet

In years gone past, cruise lines had a special midnight buffet which usually had a name like "Grand Buffet".  It was held sometime around midnight, which often became one of the jokes of the Cruise Director ("what time is the midnight buffet?").   Thirty minutes to an hour before the official start of the buffet, the main dining room doors would be open to allow for picture taking.  

With the advent of multistory dining rooms,  this was quite impressive, as you would enter from the top level, walk down the staircase which would give you a birds eye view of the entire setup.   Perhaps we'll go through our archives and share some of those past memories with you. Do you remember them?

Always read your daily paper during your cruise so that you can find out about any special treats thatthe crew has in store for you.   The culinary staff is quite talented and they love sharing their handiwork.   Several lines have cookbooks that even share some of the recipes.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Passengers Robbed Honduras


The U.S. State Department reissued their Honduras Travel Warning just before Christmas and we reported this to you in early January (link below).  Subsequent to that article, we have learned that a family of 5, husband, wife and 3 daughters, rented a car on their own and ventured off to find a beach which is less frequented by tourists.   What they found instead was trouble, as they became the victims of an armed robbery.

News of this robbery surfaced on the web as the husband shared his story on the Facebook page "Missing America's Project".

According to reports, the family was vacationing on the Carnival Conquest and were not on a ship-sponsored excursion.  Fortunately, they were not injured but the car was wrecked, as they  tried to flea the robbers. The loan masked robber made off with the family's valuables including cash, iPhone and camera.   Carnival Cruise Line provided assistance to the victims once they were back on board.  

Many crimes that involve cruise passengers are crimes of opportunity.  If you read the State Department warning, they indicate that there are significant number of people that travel to Honduras without incident.  Of course for this family, that is of little comfort.  The warning suggests that you stick to well-traveled (guarded) destinations.  That of course is no guarantee of your safety, but statistically it increases your odds. 

We live in a society where crime is everywhere.  Often we hear about some crime incident where the news media mentions their surprise about where the crime occurred.   It can happen anywhere - so the only defense is to take all the precautions you can and be aware of your surroundings.  Traveling in groups is another safe practice that is also not a guarantee.

Do take time to read warnings and other information prior to your trip.  We've shared some specific links for Honduras below.  Please consult our International Travel tab above for more links.

Honduras Travel Warning Continued 

 U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa

Avenida La Paz
Tegucigalpa M.D.C.
  • Telephone 011-504-2236-9320 or 011-504-2238-5114
  • Emergency Telephone 011-504-2236-8497 or (504) 2238-5114 or (504) 2236-9320, extension 4100.
  • Fax 011-504-2238-4357
  • U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dining at Sea Part 4

Amalegro Captain's Gala - Click for Larger Image
It is customary to have a Captain's Gala Dinner sometime during the cruise.  On ocean-going cruise ships this is usually the first formal night.  Some cruise lines, like Norwegian Cruise Line, have optional formal nights for those that don't like to dress up.

River Cruise Dining

The menu we are featuring in this article was from the Captain's Gala Dinner on AMA Waterways Amalegro during our Tulip Time cruise.   The meals were fabulous every night from the appetizers through the desserts, some of which were prepared in front of us.

Presentation & Taste

After a full day exploring the sights in port it was great to sit down to some fine dining.   Presentation is a key ingredient to the dining experience on a cruise ship or river boat.

Here is a photo of the grilled entrecote steak entree.   Doesn't it look like it would just melt in your mouth?

It  was garnished with Fried onion rings, Fresh vegetables, and Anna potatoes.  Cooked to order and complimented with sauce chasseur it was one of the best steaks we've had at sea.

Leave Room for Dessert

I think you'll agree that we don't need to say much about these desserts that were on the menu for the Captain's Gala. Once again, presentation is such a key ingredient. For a moment, you might be tempted not to eat them, but then you come to your senses.

If you can't make up your mind about what you want to eat, don't worry. You can either ask the waiter for a recommendation or simply order multiple selections. This is a great way to experiment with food you've not tasted before.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Panama Canal Expansion

Images from our Panama Canal Transit

Panama Canal
100 Years Anniversary

Developing a water passage across the Isthmus of Panama uniting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans dates to the early 16th century. 

Official Opening
August 15, 2014

We won't attempt to cover the history here. Instead, we will focus on a milestone which occurs this year, the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal and the status of expansion plans to bring the canal into its next 100 years. For information on the canal's history, please see the official Panama Canal site.


Panamax specifications have been in effect since the opening of the canal in 1914. Ships that do not fall within the Panamax-sizes are called post-Panamax.  Currently ships that are a maximum of 965 feet long and 106 feet wide (beam) can pass through the canal. That typically means the older and smaller ships in a cruise lines' fleet are the only ones that can make the transit. Ships like the Allure of the Seas or the Solstice-class ships are not among them. The new locks would open up possibilities for the larger cruise ships to complete the transit.

Expansion Plans

There are four major parts to the expansion plans.  The purpose of the expansion is to enable post-Panamax vessel transit of the canal.
  • construction of two new sets of locks - one on the Pacific and one on the Atlantic side of the Canal
  • widening and deepening of existing navigational channels in Gatun Lake
  • deepening of Culebra Cut
  • new 6.1 km-long access channel to connect the Pacific locks and the Culebra Cut

Each lock will have three chambers and each chamber will have three water re-utilization basins.
For complete details about the plans, see PANAMA CANAL EXPANSION PROGRAM MARCH 2013 (PDF).

Overall, the Expansion Program is 72% complete and at this time, is expected to be open to commercial transits in the second half of 2015.  

The contractor for the new locks, Grupo Unidos por El Canal S.A. (GUPC), is currently threatening a work stoppage due to $1.6 Billion in cost overruns.  The ACP, the autonomous agency of the Government of Panama in charge of managing, operating and maintaining the Panama Canal, has proposed advancing $100 million to GUPC  to allow the contractor to tend to its pending obligations. The contractor must guarantee these funds through a letter of credit. In addition, ACP is willing to extend for a period of two months the moratorium for the repayment of $83 million in advances by GUPC. These would give an additional $83 million for GUPC.

Full story: Panama Canal Proposal to Jointly Contribute $283 Million to New Locks Project
Here is a video published by the ACP describing the Panama Canal Expansion project.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Costa Concordia Two Years Later

Latest Image from Parbuckling Project Site
  Tomorrow marks the two year anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster in which 32 people lost their lives, many more were injured, family and friends were devastated, the world watched and the cruise industry was impacted forever.  The image above is a live feed from the salvage site.  It shows the Costa Concordia, now righted, awaiting the next phase of the salvage operations.  Tanks must be put in place so that they can be filled with air to raise the ship off the sea bed.  The ship has been winterized and nothing will be done until April.

Costa Concordia wreck 2nd anniversary marked by survivors

Watch the vigil live at 3:45 p.m. ET

Salvage Operations

View these amazing images of Costa Concordia today.
The parbuckling phase of the salvage operations has been successful, with the Concordia now upright.   The next phase will be to re-float the ship so that it can be removed.  This is expected to be completed in June this year barring any unforeseen weather or other delays.

Eight ports are bidding for to be the site of the dismantling of the ship.  In addition 12 companies are bidding for the job of breaking up, scrapping and recycling the vessel.  Total cost of the operations is expected to be €600m (£496m).

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dining at Sea Part 3

Enjoy a Quick Meal
Comfort Food
Old Favorites

Our series began with a look at your first meals onboard the ship.  That typically is at the ship's buffet.  Later in the week, while soaking up some rays on deck, or in between shore excursions, you'll find yourself wanting a quick meal without having to go to a dining room and possibly not even to the buffet.  Fear not, the cruise lines have you covered.

Burgers & Pizza

On the majority of ships, you'll find one of more locations near the pool where you'll be able to grab a quick meal.  Typically you'll find made to order items like burgers, hotdogs, chicken, and pizza.  On some ships, like the Allure of the Seas, you'll find some upscale fast food places on the promenade or elsewhere on the ship for your dining pleasures.  You can get your favorite shake and burger from Johnny Rockets on Allure of the Seas for example.   There may be cover charges (which are extra gratuities) in some dining venues.

Comfort Foods

In the mood for some comfort food like mac 'n cheese, chicken pot pie, fish 'n chips?  You may find those on the buffet or there may be another dining venue,such as O'Sheehans Bar & Grill on several Norwegian Cruise Line ships, which serves a selection of items to satisfy your cravings.

There are many choices onboard each ship to satisfy lunch, dinner, afternoon or evening snacks.   Consult the daily paper for details about what options you have.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Norwegian Getaway Delivered

Norwegian Getaway
Norwegian Getaway Courtesy MEYER WERFT

 "First New Cruise Ship 
for 2014" 

Honors goes to Norwegian Cruise Line as it took delivery of Norwegian Getaway from MEYER WERFT in Bremerhaven, Germany today.  The 145,655 gross ton cruise ship, second in the Breakaway Class ships, took only 15 months to be built by the German shipbuilder.

Norwegian Getaway Delivery  Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Getaway is now sailing to Rotterdam for the start of inaugural festivities which will continue in Southampton before the ship departs for her transatlantic cruise to New York, where she will meet her sister for the first time. The ship will be christened in Miami, her home port, on February 7.

Dimension 146.600 BRZ
Length overall 325,70 m
Moulded breadth39,7 m
Number of decks18
Draught8,30 m
Engine output 62.400 kW in total
Propulsion power 35.000 kW
Speed 21,5 kn
Number of passengers 4,028
Number of passenger cabins2,014
Number of outside cabins (including suites) 1,506
Number of inside cabins 508
Crew ca. 1.640
Number of theatre seats 815
Number of dining options27
Total weight of applied paint ca. 300 t
Total length of laid cables 2.154 km
Total length of laid pipes ca. 400 km
Flag Bahamas

In a joint press release, Norwegian Cruise Line and MEYER WERFT commented on the achievements of this new ship build:

 “The team at MEYER WERFT, along with our new build team, has done an amazing job on Norwegian Getaway and we are thrilled with how spectacular the ship looks,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “Norwegian Breakaway revolutionized cruising with its Waterfront and strong connection to New York. Norwegian Getaway will do the same as Miami’s ultimate ship, offering the only way to cruise the Caribbean from Miami with a plethora of incredible features.” 

“We are more than thrilled to deliver the second Breakaway class vessel to Norwegian Cruise Line ahead of her original schedule,” said Bernard Meyer, managing partner with MEYER WERFT. “Norwegian Getaway is the newest and most advanced cruise vessel on the seas and we are proud of the team that worked diligently to design and build her.” 

Congratulations Norwegian Cruise Line and MEYER WERFT on an amazing new vessel.  Having sailed on Norwegian Breakaway last year, we are certain this will be an excellent addition to the fleet.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Honduras Travel Warning Continued

Roatan, Honduras
State Department
Travel Warnings

The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high.

Crime remains high and the warning indicates that the government of Honduras lacks the resources to control the problem.  Honduras has the highest murder rate in the entire world.   See full text of warning ...

UPDATE:  Subsequent to this article, a family of five - passengers on Carnival Conquest, were robbed at gunpoint.  See Passengers Robbed Honduras for complete details.

Tourist Areas  Have Fewer Incidents

Tourism is a large portion of Honduras economy, with cruise lines continuing to stop there even in light of the State Department warnings.   The Honduras government has increased police presence and established special police forces in areas frequented by tourists, such as the Copan Mayan ruins and Roatan.


The travel warning suggests that tourists be vigilant and travel in groups of two or more.  That is practical advice for any destination, even here in the states.  The warning states "It is also advisable to avoid wearing jewelry and carrying large sums of money or displaying cash, ATM/credit cards, or other valuables. U.S. citizens should avoid walking at night in most areas of Honduras or walking alone on beaches, historic ruins, and trails."

Know Before You Go

For more detailed information regarding personal security, please see the State Department's Country Specific Information for Honduras. For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Web site, where the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. 

Consult our International Travel page for more links that are useful when traveling abroad.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Duty Free Texas Style

Sailing From Galveston?
Know Before You Go

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has begun collecting personal importation taxes on alcohol and cigarettes from passengers returning from cruises in Galveston as of this month.

If you purchase liquor or cigarettes during your cruise, you may have to pay importation taxes when you return to port in Galveston.
It doesn't matter if you purchased the items on board the ship or while in one of the ports of call.

According to the press release issued by the TABC, Section 107.07 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code, in effect for over 40 years, requires that each adult (21 years old and over) importing alcoholic beverages into the state for personal consumption pay the state tax and an administrative fee of $3.00. The law limits personal importation by an adult to once every 30 days with limits of: 1 gallon of distilled spirits, 3 gallons of wine, and 288 ounces of malt beverages (24 12-ounce containers). Persons importing alcoholic beverages must personally accompany the product as it enters the state. View the detailed list of the taxes for both cigarettes and alcoholic beverages.

TABC operates several collection points along the Texas / Mexico border but Galveston is the first seaport to set up shop for collecting the taxes.   Plans call for the port of Houston-Bayport later in the fall of this year as well.

Once passengers clear U.S. Customs, they can pay the tax to TABC personnel via cash or credit card.  The agency says they have worked with port officials to make sure the process doesn't disrupt port operations.

Note that these taxes are in addition to any tax imposed due U.S. Customs.  For more information about allowances, see the U.S. State Department website (Customs Duty Information).

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Winter Weather Delayed Queen Mary 2

The Queen Mary 2  Credit: Robert Neal Marshall

Winter Storm Hercules Dumps Snow on Midwest, Northeast 

When the weather at home is cold and snowy, travelers take to the seas to get out of town and head to somewhere warm. Imagine the surprise to Cunard Line Queen Mary 2 passengers as they embarked their ship in New York on January 3rd and found the scene above. 

Queen Mary 2 arrived in New York ahead of schedule in order to avoid the worst part of the storm.  She didn't sail until after midnight to allow sufficient time for passengers to embark the vessel.  According to the line, the ship is still expected to arrive in Southampton, England on time January 10th.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year 2014

10 ... 9... 8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1...

 Happy New Year 2014!!

A warm greeting to all my faithful readers and to those of you joining for the first time. I wish you many happy, healthy and prosperous days in this brand new year. May the year be filled with many sunny days, warm ocean breezes, visits to cruise ports, and relaxing days aboard a cruise ship or at your favorite resort.

 New Ships in 2014

January, 2014
Norwegian Getaway

May, 2014
Regal Princess

November, 2014
Quantum of the Seas
New Ship Guide

In the upcoming months, several cruise lines will be introducing new ships. Norwegian Getaway, sister ship of Norwegian Breakaway, will launch this month and sail out of Miami.  Regal Princess, sister ship of Royal Princess, will debut in May.  Royal Caribbean's first in a new class, Quantum of the Seas will launch in November.  All of these ships will introduce new dining and entertainment options for cruise passengers.

Selecting the Right Ship

These new ships add capacity to these cruise lines and give you additional options.  Besides new ships, existing ships are getting face-lifts with new features being added, primarily based on passenger feedback and acceptance of the features on recent ship builds on the same or other cruise lines.The Carnival Sunshine is just one example of the changes being made to enhance passenger experiences.

Just like picking a hotel room for a land-based trip, you can also apply your preferences to the cruise ship, which will serve as your floating hotel.   Some people prefer small ships, while others only sail on the newest and largest vessels.  With the increasing number of ship modifications and additions, we are confident that your want list can be satisfied.  We can help you narrow the field to those ships that meet your needs.  On the Allure and Oasis of the Seas, there are over 37 different cabin categories to chose from - we will help simplify your selection.

Where Do YOU Want to Go

What is on your bucket list of destinations or cruise ships?  

Is 2014 the year you plan to complete a trip from that list?  Whether it's a far away exotic destination like Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific or something close-by like Bahamas and the Caribbean, you'll find a cruise ship sailing to your ports of call of choice.

Land or Sea ...Choice is Yours

We still feel strongly that cruising is the best vacation value, but we realize there are times when you want  more time in the destination or some other reason compels you to select land-based travel.   Resorts & Tours Overview

New Year Resolutions
  It's that time of year to make New Year resolutions. Some of you will decide to make changes in your lifestyle which will improve your health - such as healthy eating or exercising.  For those that haven't been on a cruise before, that doesn't mean you have to forgo your trip.

There are full-service spas and fitness centers on most cruise ships and healthy menu choices available throughout the day.  Cruise lines will be happy to accommodate any special dietary requirements - just be sure to tell your cruise specialist at the time of booking so that notes can be put on your reservation.

We hope that you add a resolution to take some time for yourself to regenerate.   Plan some vacation time on a cruise ship or at one of the many resort destinations.   Sign up for our newsletter to be notified of special offers in the upcoming months.