Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Leap Year Treat

Mother Nature's Light Show
February 29, 2016

Nearly every four years is a leap year which has 366 days, as opposed to a common year, which has 365 in the Gregorian Calendar. We add a Leap Day on February 29, almost every four years. The leap day is an extra, or intercalary, day and we add it to the shortest month of the year, February. An extra day is not added if the year is divisible by 100 or 400.

During our Hurtigruten coastal voyage, February 29th was not only an extra day, but an extra special day. It would be our first Northern Lights sighting of our voyage. The reason for cruising Norway in winter was so that we'd have the opportunity to experience Northern Lights.  On day 5, somewhere north of Tromsø, our dreams came true.

After Dinner Treat

Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) is a natural phenomenon that is caused by electrically charged particles, hurled from the sun, colliding with gases in the Earth's atmosphere. The Earth's magnetic field directs the particles towards openings near the North (and South) Poles.

 The Northern Lights can be many different colors (red, yellow-green, blue - purple, and sometimes white). You've probably seen spectacular photos of the lights on the web. Note that when you see them in real time, you might only see wispy activity in the sky and not the full spectrum of color. 

You'll need to photograph them, with proper manual settings and a tripod, to actually see them in their glory. The sunspots and solar storms that cause the most magnificent displays of the northern lights occur roughly every 11 years. The solar cycle peaked in 2013.

TIP: How to Photograph Northern Lights
Additional photos can be found on our Norway Shutterfly page

Northern Lights 02/29

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Celebrity 2018 Europe Deployment


Europe Grand Mediterranean Tour reintroduced with TWO options 

  • Constellation in summer of 2018, three 7-night back-to-back sailings create a round-trip vacation from Venice, Rome, or Barcelona, with only 1 repeat port (Rome) 16 cities, 6 countries, 2 overnight stays (Ibiza & Barcelona), 21 days 

  • Reflection in summer of 2018, two back-to-back sailings (10-night Eastern Mediterranean and 11-night Western Mediterranean) round-trip from Rome with 1 repeat port (Rome) 15 cities, 6 countries, 1 overnight stay (Barcelona), 21 days 

Celebrity Silhouette will move to Southampton (replacing Eclipse)

  • NEW TO BRAND World Cup Signature Event Sailing to Russia 
    • Double overnight stay in St. Petersburg with VIP treatment and tickets to 3rd place match in St. Petersburg and final match in Moscow 
  • Norwegian Fjords sailings 
  • Scandinavian /Russia sailings 
  • Western Mediterranean /Canaries & Azores sailings

On this St. Patrick's Day, we thought we'd feature the Dublin sailings here.  For additional details about European sailings this year or next, visit our website.

Celebrity Eclipse will move to Amsterdam (replacing Solstice)
after several round-trip cruises from Dublin, Ireland

  • NEW TO BRAND, first major cruise line to call Dublin a homeport with round- trip sailings, including MORE Iceland sailings,including stops in Belfast, N. Ireland; Reykjavik and Akureyri, Iceland; Lerwick, Scotland; and Cork, Ireland. 
  • NEW TO BRAND, Dublin City Stay including: • 3 nights in a 4-star, luxury hotel, including breakfasts • Full day, fully-guided City Highlights Tour, including lunch • Half day, fully-guided Evening City Tour, including a farewell dinner • Celebrity Cruises Hospitality Desk in your hotel • All transfers
  • Shore Excursions – NEW TO BRAND, [info to come]
We think the following itineraries will be very popular, so we suggest booking early.

15 Nights Azores & Ireland Transatlantic 2018: Apr 15 Miami, Florida; Ponta Delgada, Azores (Overnight); Cork (Cobh), Ireland; Waterford (Dunmore East), Ireland; Dublin, Ireland (Overnight) 

click images to enlarge
10 Nights Ireland & Iceland 2018: Apr 30; May 10 Dublin, Ireland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Reykjavik, Iceland (Overnight); Akureyri, Iceland; Lerwick/Shetland, Scotland; Cork (Cobh), Ireland; Dublin, Ireland 

8 Nights Norwegian Fjords 2018: May 20 Dublin, Ireland; Bergen, Norway; Flam, Norway; Geiranger, Norway; Alesund, Norway; Lerwick/Shetland, Scotland; Dublin, Ireland 

10 Nights Ireland & Iceland 2018: May 28 Dublin, Ireland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Reykjavik, Iceland (Overnight); Akureyri, Iceland; Lerwick/Shetland, Scotland; Cork (Cobh), Ireland; Dublin, Ireland 

12 Nights British Isles & French Open 2018: Jun 7 Dublin, Ireland; Paris (Le Havre), France (Overnight); Liverpool, England; Glasgow (Greenock), Scotland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Waterford (Dunmore East), Ireland; Cork (Cobh), Ireland; St. Peter Port, Channel Isl; Amsterdam, Netherlands


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Happy St Patrick's Day 2017

                              Happy Saint Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17, his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over a thousand years.

On St. Patrick's Day, which falls in the middle of the Christian Lenten season, Irish families would go to church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. The Irish would dance, drink and feast on the traditional Irish Bacon and Cabbage. Lenten regulations about not eating meat were waived if necessary so that the traditional meal could be eaten.  They are waived again this year in Chicago.

Here in the United States, St. Patrick's Day has become a celebration for not only the Irish, but for all. There are parades and celebrations which include green beer. The Chicago River is dyed green each year in honor of the event.

Watch as the world turns green ...
Other Related Blog Posts on Ireland:
Blarney Castle was built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland's greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy, and has been attracting attention beyond Munster ever since. Over the last few hundred years, millions have flocked to Blarney, making it a world landmark and one of Ireland's greatest treasures.

Blarney Castle (64 photos)
We've cruised to Ireland several times.  The collage above is made up of several images from a visit to Blarney Castle.   This is one of the favorite stops of visitors to the Cobh, Ireland area. Why not plan a cruise that includes Ireland, and kiss the Blarney stone for good luck?  We leave you with this Irish Blessing on this St. Patrick's Day.

 May you always have...
Walls for the winds
A roof for the rain
Tea beside the fire
Laughter to cheer you
Those you love near you
And all your heart might desire.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Celebrity Edge Revealed

Courtesy Celebrity Cruises - Artist Rendering Celebrity Edge  Magic Carpet 

Celebrity Edge

"A Ship Designed to Depart from the Expected". 

Sailing Fall 2018

Travel partners got a glimpse at Celebrity Edge today.  The new class of ships, the first introduced to the Celebrity fleet since 2007,  is the industry's first ship to be designed in 3D.  Celebrity has teamed up with top designers, including internationally renowned interior designer Kelly Hoppen MBE of Kelly Hoppen Interiors and visionary architect Tom Wright of WKK. American designer Nate Berkus serves as Celebrity Edge's design ambassador, to bring this ship to life.

Magic Carpet

Pictured above, the Magic Carpet is designed with comfortable seating, a full bar, and space for live music performances, so it truly is a destination itself. This spectacular space opens to several decks and transforms into a new and exciting venue depending on which deck it’s positioned. Yes that's right - Magic Carpet travels 13 stories high and rests on decks 2, 5, 14, 16

 “Celebrity Edge is one of the most exciting, innovative and transformational ships I have ever been involved with,” said Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO of Celebrity’s parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “The new features and refined design will establish a new baseline for ships from here on out.”


The most transformational aspect of our stateroom design is the introduction of the Edge Stateroom with Infinite VerandaSM. These incredible rooms take our standard veranda stateroom and, with the touch of a button, blur—even erase—the boundaries between inside and outside living space. Your entire living space becomes the veranda, letting you walk right out to the water’s edge. This brilliant innovation gives you luxurious open air access to the sea, whenever you wish.

Built at the STX shipyards in Saint-Nazaire, France, Celebrity Edge will be the first in a four-ship order that will enter service between Fall, 2018 and 2022. Celebrity Edge will receive her first sister-ship, Celebrity Beyond, in the spring of 2020. The names of the remaining two cruise ships have not been announced yet.

"Our guests don't want to just skim the world like a magazine – they want to feel a human connection with it," said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO, Celebrity Cruises. "Every element of Celebrity Edge is meant to make that connection intense and unforgettable. Our new class of ship will allow guests to experience their journeys with the uniqueness and sophistication that marks the rest of their lives."

Celebrity's Modern Luxury is taken to a new level with Celebrity Edge.  It will be the standard for all cruise lines to follow going forward.   "Edge" is an appropriate name in our opinion.    Celebrity Cruises has taken cruising "Over the Edge" with this design.   More will be revealed over the year, but view this video for an inside look into the future of cruising.  

Experience the interactive Multimedia News Release here: 

Celebrity Cruises Reveals Celebrity Edge, A Ship Designed to Transform Expectations


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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Husky Sledding in Tromso

click images to enlarge
Dog Sledding in Tromsø   Hurtigruten Land Excursion

Prior to our voyage we studied the optional excursions for each port. One excursion on our must do list was Dog Sledding which was offered twice during our voyage.

The first option was in Tromsø and the second was in Kirkenes. We also wanted to see the Russian Border, which made our choice simple. We'd couldn't do both excursions in Kirkenes, so we picked the first option in Tromsø.

An unforgettable ride through the Arctic wilderness

Meet the Dogs

We arrived at the base camp for our husky adventure, where we were greeted by playful Alaskan Huskies.  Some were inside their houses while others were outside and even on top of them.  They were barking and doing anything they could to get our attention.

Next we were divided into two groups.  Those that needed warmer clothes or boots were led to a changing facility.   Proper attire for the sledding adventure includes layers of warm clothing, boots, hat and gloves.  Coming from Chicago, we didn't lack warm winter gear, so we were led off to the dog sleds as part of the first group to ride.

Let the Adventure Begin

Our musher greeted us and had us sit down in the sled.  I sat in back with my husband in front.  The team of ten huskies were ready and anxious to get started.  The lead musher started her sled with us right behind.   The remaining teams of huskies fell in line behind us as we started over the snow packed trail.    We were about to embark on one of the most remarkable hours of our lives as our sled glided over the winter terrain.  Instead of trying to put it into words, just watch this video.

The weather was chilly, but the blanket kept us warm. Towards the end of the ride, there was a gentle snow falling.  This video was captured using an iPhone.  Additional images can be found on our Shutterfly page.   Those were taken using our Nikon digital SLR.   We protected the lens with a plastic guard which we bought shortly after booking this cruise.

We spent time with the dogs after our ride and then went into the hut for some hot drinks and dessert.

Now it's your turn:  Located 30 minutes outside Tromsø, Kvaløya you can visit more than 250 huskies and puppies, and learn more about the skills of Husky dog sledding.
Additional photos can be found on our Norway Shutterfly page

Huskies Dog Sledding

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