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7 Holiday Cruising Highlights

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Summer is quickly coming to an end, and that means autumn and winter cruises are on the horizon.  This also means that Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s voyages are coming up! Cruise Lines International Association has put together seven highlights of winter travel, and why now is the best time to book.

1. Celebrate in the Sunshine

In December, Paul Gauguin is offering a 7-night Tahiti & Society Islands Voyage where guests can explore the best of the South Pacific – stopping in Huahine, Bora Bora, and Moorea.  Travelers will spend a relaxing day on Motu Mahana, the line’s private islet with white-sand beaches, a barbecue lunch, drinks served in coconuts, and a floating lagoon bar.

Travelers aboard Crystal Cruises can celebrate the holidays in a variety of destinations, including the West Indies, Vienna, Bora Bora, and more – complete with multi-faith celebrations onboard.  The line’s 16-day South African Holidays cruise sails roundtrip from Cape Town, marking the line’s first holiday cruise in Africa.  Guests can enjoy safaris in South Africa and Mozambique, while authentic village feasts and visits highlight the rich culture in the region.

MSC Cruises’ upcoming ship MSC Seaside will be christened in Miami in December, and will offer unique Caribbean winter cruises.  The vessel was designed with a beach condo in mind, and will connect guests to the sea with a 360 degree outdoor promenade, two glass-floor catwalks, and glass elevators with beautiful ocean views.

2. Seaside Celebrations

Over the holiday season, Uniworld river cruises will offer a variety of festive journeys.  The line’s special Holiday Season Cruises allow guests to visit multiple countries and cities during the most magical time of year.  Beginning late November, Uniworld offers seven holiday-themed cruises that travel through Germany, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, and France.  Of course, visits to different Christmas markets are on the agenda.

Disney Cruise Line celebrates the Christmas season each year with their Very Merrytime Cruises, which begin in early November aboard all four ships.  During these voyages, events include “Mickey’s Tree-Lighting Magic” in the atrium, “Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball” featuring Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Anna and Elsa from “Frozen,” as well as themed activities, carolers, holiday crafts, and a special “Deck the Deck Holiday Party.”  There is a three-deck tall Christmas tree i the atrium, “snow” flurries, Christmas island music, and even a decked-out tree on Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.

Azamara Club Cruises brings guests to the other side of the world for the holidays with a sailing from western to southern Australia aboard Azamara Quest.  Guests enjoy a Christmas feast at sea, followed by a New Year’s Eve air show and Harbour of Light Parade in Sydney Harbour.  When the clock strikes midnight, fireworks explode over the bridge and Sydney Opera House for a once-in-a-lifetime memory.

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3. Christmas Market Magic

Guests aboard Tauck’s Christmas Markets Along the Rhine cruise will experience the season’s magic from Cologne, Germany to Basel, Switzerland in an intimate setting.  Enjoy guided visits to traditional Christmas markets, walking tours of market towns, visits to Old Town Heidelberg and Heidelberg Castle, a traditional German lunch in Heidelberg, and traditional storytelling in Strasbourg.

Travelers looking for a shorter trip to the markets can hop on Cunard’s Bruges Short Break Getaway aboard Queen Elizabeth for a three-day holiday.  Guests can explore Bruges and its famous Christmas market filled with traditional gifts, chocolates, and the scent of waffles wafting through the air.  Cruisers can also take advantage of the wooden chalets that surround an ice rink on the cobbles of Grote Market for a unique experience.

4. Special Guests

Seabourn offers a variety of special guests and speakers aboard their ships with the Seabourn Conversations series.  For example, Steve Wozniak – designer of the hardware, circuit board designs, and operating system for the Apple I personal computer – will be hosting a conversation aboard Seabourn Quest in December for tech-loving travelers.  Fashion-minded cruisers will enjoy a December evening with celebrity stylist and TV personality Brad Goreski on Seabourn Sojourn, and those looking to learn a bit of etiquette can listen in on a conversation with Grant Harold, Britain’s Official Etiquette Expert.

5. Holiday Family Fun

Carnival Cruise Line ships are decked out during the holiday season, and feature Santa Claus with gifts for the kids, Midnight Mass, and a special Christmas Day menu with roasted turkey and pecan pie.  Kids will love special guest the Grinch, who, as part of the Seuss at Sea program, will make special appearances for photos, participate in the Christmas show, and join kids doing fun themed activities.

6. Experts at the Helm

In January 2018, cruisers on Windstar Cruises’ President’s Cruise to the Best of the Philippines and Borneo with Windstar President John Delaney, will enjoy a bit of a homecoming for much of the ship’s Philippines-born crew.  Guests will be able to explore the country alongside those who love and know it best, while also getting a chance to spend time with Windstar’s president.  Travelers will visit islands and beaches like Palawan and Boracay, as well as Hundred Islands National Park.  A visit to Brunei will take guests inside one of the richest countries in the world, affording a look at some of the largest and most beautiful mosques in Asia.

7. Deals and Discounts

To help guests experience the holiday season for less, AmaWaterways is currently offering up to $1,500 off per stateroom now through September 30 for select Christmas Markets departure dates.  These discounted voyages include trips to the Christmas markets on the Rhine or Danube, cruises from Budapest to Amsterdam, and more.

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Cruise Ships Diverted By Tropical Storm

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If there’s one thing cruisers have learned over the past couple years, it’s that Mother Nature gets an almost perverse thrill out of throwing a wrench into the best laid vacation plans. So it should come as no surprise that Tropical Storm Alberto is causing several cruise lines to make itinerary changes in order to avoid unpleasant weather as best they can.

Two Carnival Ships Impacted So Far

As of Saturday morning, the National Weather Service’s Twitter feed reported that Alberto was “moving northward toward the Southeastern Gulf of Mexico.” Meanwhile, Carnival announced that two of their ships would slightly alter their itineraries in order to avoid the storm’s path.

Carnival Fantasy

Carnival Fantasy was one of two of the line’s ships to alter itineraries as a result of Tropical Storm Alberto. Photo, as well as featured photo, courtesy Carnival Cruise Line. 

Although scheduled to visit Cozumel on Saturday, the Carnival Valor instead went to Progreso. From there, it will, as previously planned, spend a Fun Day at Sea on Sunday before returning on Monday to Galveston, Texas. Meanwhile, the Carnival Fantasy made the same change to its own itinerary — swapping Cozumel for Progreso — followed by a sea day on Sunday before returning to Mobile, Alabama on Monday.

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Royal Caribbean Itinerary Changed

Meanwhile, according to the Royal Caribbean Blog, that line’s Majesty of the Seas also skipped its scheduled Cozumel stop in order to avoid the storm, instead spending the night in Havana, Cuba. And in news unrelated to the storm, Royal’s Vision of the Seas apparently experienced a ship-wide blackout for about 15 minutes earlier this week. According to announcements made by the captain, the power loss was caused by “a technical malfunction” which was later resolved, allowing the ship to resume her 12-night Mediterranean cruise out of Barcelona.

Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the seas spent the night in Havana, Cuba.

With the storm continuing its approach, and Governor Rick Scott having Saturday morning declared a State of Emergency across Florida in anticipation of its arrival, there is every likelihood that the cruise lines could announce more itinerary changes in the hours and days to come. Cruise Radio will update this story as it learns of any such developments.

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Inside The Party For Carnival Horizon [PHOTOS]

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Given that Queen Latifah is the Godmother of Carnival’s newest ship, you had to know a good time was going to be had by all at the Carnival Horizon’s official naming ceremony. Held in New York City on a picture-perfect afternoon, the event featured plenty of food, lots of drink, singing, dancing and even a pretty substantial charitable donation.

Welcome To Flavortown

Things got under way with a ribbon-cutting ceremony as celebrity chef Guy Fieri welcomed guests to the latest outpost of Flavortown, the Pig & Anchor Smokehouse/Brewhouse. With live music playing, servers dished out hearty helpings of the venue’s signature foods, including trashcan nachos, dragon chili cheese fries and a pecan pie that was, according to the genuine Southern belle at our table, “to die for.”

Guy Fieri and brewmeister Colin Presby, doing the honors.

After that, the traditional naming ceremony kicked off with Brand Ambassador John Heald offering up a tip of the hat to “the one man to blame” for the fact that “I now have X’s in the back of everything I’m wearing,” Fieri.

Next up was the traditional prayer of blessing, followed by Carnival president Christine Duffy welcoming everyone aboard before discussing the very special bond between the cruise line and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Speaking proudly of the $16 million dollars raised by Carnival since the partnership first began in 2010, Duffy then presented the hospital with a check for another $100,000 and directed everyone’s eyes to the 24-foot Dreamscape, which anchors the atrium and now features among it’s displays 33 pieces of art created by St. Jude patients.

Artwork done by St. Jude patients lit up the Dreamscape.

Next up was the ship’s Godmother, Queen Latifah, who also happens to be a major supporter of St. Jude. After thanking the crowd “for looking so good,” Latifah asked everyone to take another look at the artwork-adorned Dreamscape. “My mom was an art teacher,” she said of her recently-deceased parent, “so I appreciate what the kids do. I know what it does for a child’s heart to create like that.”

Of being Godmother to a cruise ship, Latifah admitted it was “one of the coolest things I’ve ever been asked to be a part of in my life!” She was then joined on stage by Captain Luigi De Angelis and, together, they poured an oversized bottle of champagne (“This is the only time the captain will hold a bottle of champagne like this,” quipped Heald) over the ship’s inaugural season bell.

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“Only at Carnival Cruise Line,” quipped Heald of the ceremony, “do we water the plants with Moet.”

With the official business of the day out of the way, it was time for the fun to start in the Liquid Lounge, where Latifah battled Philadelphia Eagles player Jake Elliot in an epic Lip Sync Battle hosted by popular Carnival cruise director Matt Mitcham. But before the main event could begin, the crowd was in for an unexpected treat when Duffy was joined on stage by Carnival Corp’s President and CEO, Arnold Donald, for a lip synched performance of The Black Eyed Peas’ party anthem “I Gotta Feeling.”

Duffy and Donald proved they definitely choose fun.

With Duffy cheering on Elliot, and Donald firmly in the Queen’s corner, the main event began. And while footballer Elliott took the pumped-up crowd back to the days of MTV’s Headbangers Ball by donning a massive wig to perform Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” this was Latifah’s battle to lose. And if you know anything about the singer/actor/businesswoman — who also happens to be a past Lip Sync Battle champion — it’s that she does not come to lose. The moment she and the Playlist Productions performers took to the stage to perform “It’s Raining Men,” it was all over but the cheering. Of the stripping background dancers, Mitcham joked that Latifah’s performance was “like Baywatch and Magic Mike went wild,” while Donald said that the dancers “inspired me to keep my shirt on!”  

Elliott put up a good fight, but he couldn’t dethrone the Queen.

Before being crowned the winner, Latifah admitted there was one thing about her new role which she’d found disappointing. “Shouldn’t Godmother’s have a wand?” she asked… only to promptly be presented one, with which she sprinkled “love dust over the crowd, even my sworn enemy Jake.”

The evening ended with a bang… or, more precisely, a whole lot of bangs.

With the scheduled events of the evening over, invited guests dispersed to enjoy the live entertainment taking place all around the ship, as well as movies in the Imax and Thriller Theaters, a party on the Lido deck, a midnight buffet and an impressive fireworks display that was, appropriately enough, set in part to the tune “New York, New York.” 

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June Special: Kids Sail Free to the Bahamas

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With summer around the corner, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has a special deal for families traveling with kids. Valid for all June cruises, those 16 and under will sail free if they’re staying in the same stateroom with two paying parents.

With the school year wrapping up and Father’s Day on June 17, it’s the perfect time for a quick escape to the Bahamas. Both of the line’s ships, Grand Classica and Grand Celebration offer a number of activities for guests on their way to the island. There are youth clubs divided by age, swimming pools, multiple dining options, a mini movie theater, mini rock climbing wall, a ball pit, and more.

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There’s also a number of shore excursions that families can take part in once they arrive, including snorkeling, a beach day, cruising the beach in an open-top Jeep, swimming with dolphins, parasailing, kayaking, glass-bottom boat tours, and more.

For more information, visit bahamasparadisecruiseline.com.

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