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Holland America Wins Culinary Award



Holland America’s team of world-class celebrity chefs – called their Culinary Council – was named “Best Culinary Initiative” in Porthole Cruise Magazine’s 2016 Editor-in-Chief Awards.

The annual awards are chosen by Bill Panoff, the magazine’s editor-in-chief and publisher, who honors his favorite travel experience that left a favorable impression on him.  The winners were announced in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue, which hit newsstands on January 10 – and online at

The Culinary Council is a collaboration of some of the world’s best chefs, chaired by Holland America’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin, who is a past recipient of Panoff’s “Best Cruise Line Chef” award.  He leads other esteemed chefs in providing guidance and advice for onboard menus and culinary programs.  The chefs also are able to showcase signature dishes onboard, adding their own flair to the line’s menus.

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The bimonthly Porthole Cruise Magazine was created in 1993, and covers every aspect of cruise travel.  It serves as a consumer cruise magazine for both experienced voyagers, and first-timers alike.  Inside the pages can be found cruise information, ship review, news, popular ports, and travel tips.

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Cruise News

MSC Cruises to Launch Voice-Enabled Virtual Assistant



MSC Cruises has announced that they will be launching a digital cruise personal assistant as a new feature of MSC for Me. The new guest service, developed in partnership with HARMAN International, will debut on MSC Bellissima, which is currently under construction at the STX France shipyard.

The line also announced that Bellissima – their next flagship – will be christened in Southampton, England. The two announcements were made today in London.

Virtual Assistant

The virtual personal assistant for guests is a conversational Artificial Intelligence innovation that can communicate, learn, and intelligently predict guests’ needs to make relevant suggestions. The unique offering will provide tailored information to help enhance guests’ experiences onboard, by providing quick answers to questions from the comfort of their cabin.

Unlike other home systems that rely on cloud-based programs with internet-connected devices, this digital offering will be designed around a ship-based solution, customized just for MSC’s guests’ needs. Travelers will be able to community with the device in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Brazilian Portuguese, and Mandarin. It will launch on MSC Bellissima, but will be available on all future new ships, and plans are being finalized to introduce the feature on the rest of the fleet.

This service is the latest feature for MSC for Me, an experience that includes a mobile app, in-cabin connected television, and interactive information screens around the ship, among other features. MSC for Me was first launched aboard MSC Meraviglia. 

photo: MSC Cruises

MSC Bellissima in Southampton

Bellissima will become MSC Cruises’ fourth mega ship to enter into service in less than three years since 2017, and is part of a ten-year investment program that will introduce a total of 12 new ships. She is a further evolution of Meraviglia, which entered into service in June 2017.

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Launching as the line’s next flagship, she will be christened in Southampton on March 2, 2019 at an event that will be attended by VIP guests from around the world.

Ship Highlights

Some highlights that await guests aboard MSC Bellissima include:

  • Two new Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows that can only be seen onboard this ship. Currently under development, the productions are the result of a long-term partnership with Cirque du Soleil, which includes a total of eight original productions for the four Meraviglia-generation ships.
  • West-End style entertainment will be offered every evening in the theater, and the iconic LED Sky Screen will delight guests with a series of animations and shows.
  • Onboard dining has been further enhanced with the introduction of two new venues: L’Atelier Bistrot with terrace seating on the Promenade, and the modern, street food inspired Market Street, serving an array of tasty bites throughout the day and evening.
  • Features for families include a Grand Canyon-themed aqua park, a DOREMI studio lounge on the family deck, a DOREMI Tech Lab for kids who love technology, and facilities designed with LEGO and Chicco.

MSC Bellissima will spend her inaugural season in the western Mediterranean before moving to spend the winter in the United Arab Emirates.

Click here for details on MSC’s partnership with Cirque du Soleil.

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Cruise News

MSC Cruises Teams Up With Renowned Spanish Chef



MSC Cruises has announced a new partnership with award-winning Spanish chef Ramón Freixa, beginning this April.

The announcement was made at an exclusive MSC event, hosted at Freixa’s eponymous two Michelin Star restaurant in Madrid at Hotel Unico. The collaboration will introduce exceptional main dishes and tapas developed with Chef Freixa across the fleet, as well as a selection of dishes designed just for the Christmas and New Year menus. Plans are also underway to launch a gastronomy cruise for foodies in search of the ultimate food and travel experience.

Working with MSC Cruises’ own team of chefs, Ramón Freixa will complete in-depth, interactive training, passing on his skill to enable all MSC chefs to recreate his signature dishes to the highest standards.

Chef Freixa is known for his ability to balance tradition and avantgarde, taking inspiration from his Mediterranean roots. In addition to two Michelin Stars and three Sol Repsol for his restaurant in Madrid, he’s also been recognized with awards for culinary excellence as best chef and best restaurant. Having two restaurants in Madrid and one in Columbia, making appearances on Spanish Celebrity Masterchef, and authoring four books, Freixa holds international appeal.

“My cuisine is based on three elements: produce technique, feeling and a search for magic, in which each dish is conceived to tell a story in sequences of flavor, texture and color,” he said. “I have incorporated this approach into the recipes that I have created exclusively for MSC Cruises, reflecting our shared passion for the Mediterranean.”

Accessible Gastronomy

All of the ship offer fine dining in the main restaurants, and a different menu is offered each night featuring the best of Mediterranean and International specialties. As part of the Elegant Night celebrations, guests in the main dining rooms will be able to enjoy Freixa’s signature dish, a mouth-watering Duck Royal with cream of foie gras and onions.

MSC Yacht Club

Guests staying in the MSC Yacht Club will be treated to Glazed Pluma of Iberian pork with sautéed vegetables, or for a lighter bite a tempting choice of tapas. The private restaurant offers a host of unique food options.

For more information about MSC Cruises’ dining choices, click here.

Photos: MSC Cruises

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Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line Opens Panorama Bookings



If you’re the type of cruiser who looks forward to being among the first to board a new ship, this is your lucky day: Carnival Cruise Line is now accepting bookings for their newest ship, the Carnival Panorama.

What We Know About The New Ship

Although the ship won’t begin sailing until the end of 2019, people are already getting excited…especially since this will be the first new Carnival cruise ship to be based on the West Coast in over two decades! Better still, the Panorama be sailing out of a re-opened and expanded terminal in Long Beach, California. “The West Coast is an important market with vast growth potential,” said the line’s President, Christine Duffy, at an event back in February, adding that they were “very much looking forward to having Carnival Panorama homeported” on the West Coast.

Panorama will be the third Vista-class ship — joining sisters Vista and Horizon — and will continue to expand on the idea of allowing passengers to get as close to the sea as possible. Like her sister ships, Panorama will feature the innovate SkyRide (think of it as riding a bicycle through the clouds) and many restaurants which will offer both indoor and outdoor seating. It will also feature the wildly popular Havana section. And while Carnival promises that Panorama will also feature “innovations unique to” the ship, details about those will be released at a later date.

Where is Carnival Panorama Going? 


But for many cruisers, those details aren’t necessarily important… they want to know two things: Where is the ship sailing, and when can I take her for a spin? And this week, that information finally became available as Carnival released the initial itineraries Panorama will be sailing… even as she’s in the very early stages of construction!

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Carnival Panorama

Carnival Panorama, currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard in Marghera, Italy. Photo via Carnival.

Once the ship arrives in Long Beach, her first voyage will be a one-time-only three-day cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada from December 11 to the 14th (keep in mind, this is in 2019). After that, Panorama will be doing a three-port, seven-day itinerary departing every Saturday. Her first stop will be Cabo San Lucas, followed by Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

As of now, the Mexican Riviera itinerary is the only one listed for the ship, although the possibility of her eventually doing other runs out of Los Angeles are wide open. She could even do an Alaska run, such as the 14-day Carnival Journeys trip offered out of Long Beach on the Carnival Splendor.  Interestingly, Carnival Panorama will go straight from the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy to Long Beach, making this the first time the cruise line has not offered a transatlantic voyage in years.

The New Long Beach Cruise Terminal 

Long Beach

The newly refurbished Long Beach Cruise Terminal, which the Carnival Panorama will sail out of year-round. Photo via Carnival.

The state-of-the-art terminal was completed in just 10 months and now allows for 100% utilization of the site’s massive geodesic dome. Thanks to the renovations nearly doubling the space to 146,000 square feet, it also now boasts 34 check-in counters and a seating for 1,584 guests. Most importantly, Long Beach is now a two-way terminal, meaning it can operate both embarkation and debarkation at the same time.

“Carnival Panorama promises to be a spectacular addition to our fleet and we’re delighted to provide our guests with an opportunity to be among the first to sail” on her, Duffy said.

Bookings for Carnival Panorama are now open by contacting your travel agent or heading over to


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