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Princess Cruises Reveals 2018 Japan Schedule

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Princess Cruises, the top North American cruise line in Japan, has announced their longest season there yet, with a variety of cruises from Tokyo and Kobe in 2018 that circumnavigate the country.

With Japanese maiden calls to Ishinomaki, Iwakuni, Sakata, Toba, and Yokkaichi, along with visits to South Korea, Taiwan, China, Russia, Hong Kong, and Vietnam, it’s looking like a busy season.  These voyages are designed to offer guests an opportunity to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites, and participate in some of the country’s largest festivals and special events.  In addition, cruisetour itineraries will take travelers to the heart of Japanese culture in Kyoto and Tokyo, and include visits to Togendai, Lake Ashi, and Mt. Fuji.

2018 Japan program highlights include:

Festivals and Special Events

Three Spring Flowers cruises depart in April, giving guests access to Japan’s largest Tulip Fair and some of the country’s best cherry blossom viewing sites.  Travelers can also enjoy the best summer festivals on five 8 to 19-day voyages visiting the Aomori Nebuta and Akita Kanto festivals, with late night stays in both cities.  Six Fall Foliage cruises depart early October and November, bringing guests to regions of Japan that show the changing colors of the Japanese Maple and Ginkgo trees as summer turns into fall.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The 2018 season will include access to 12 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the historic temples and shrines of Kyoto and Nara, Mt. Fuji, and the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima.

More Ashore + Getaway Cruises

Diamond Princess itineraries will be visiting 12 ports with late night calls, featuring longer stays every time the ship stops in Hakodate for awe-inspiring nighttime city views – nationally known as one of the country’s top three night views.

For a shorter cruising experience, there will be five-night voyages throughout the season roundtrip from Tokyo visiting Busan, South Korea and Yokkaichi; a new port that gives access to the Ise Grand Shrine near Matsusaka, known for its exquisite beef.

Cruisetours

Princess Cruises will be offering two cruisetour options in Japan, to explore Kyoto and Tokyo.  The Highlights of Japan tour includes the main sights in Kyoto and Tokyo, sightseeing at Nijo-jo Castle, the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion), and popular Japanese gardens.  After Tokyo, guests will visit Mt. Fuji.

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The Temple & Traditions of Japan tour is an extended version of the highlights tour with two additional nights in the Creative City of Kanazawa.  Guests can roam Higashi Chaya, as well as Nomura Samurai House.  Guests will also have the chance to participate in a Japanese Washi paper-making demonstration as well as a sushi-making experience.

The Ship

Diamond Princess features the line’s signature amenities, like the Movies Under the Stars poolside screen and The Sanctuary retreat, but it also offers features designed to enhance the cultural experience of Japan, including:

  • Izumi Japanese Bath – the largest of its kind at sea and modeled after the Japanese onsen experience
  • Kai Sushi restaurant – boasting made-to-order sushi and Japanese sake
  • Noodle stations – serving a rotating choice of ramen, soba, and udon noodles
  • Tamagoyaki – a traditional Japanese omelet available daily for breakfast
  • Unique entertainment such as “rakugo” storytelling performances and origami classes
  • Extensive luxury brand shopping
  • International cuisine – dining room menus feature a wide variety of dishes, including Japanese options on all menus
  • Onboard items and stateroom information available in both English and Japanese

A total of 63 voyages are open for sale aboard the Japanese-built Diamond Princess, ranging from 4 to 23 nights with 38 destinations in 7 countries.  The 2018 season runs from April to December.

Featured photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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Carnival Cruise Line

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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Carnival Cruise Line

Everything Carnival Horizon, Part 7: Adult Stuff

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Since we figured out ways to keep the kids entertained in our last entry, it seems as if we’ve earned a little adults-only relaxation, right? So let’s wander around the Carnival Horizon and take in some of the various venues that offer grown-ups an opportunity to rest, relax, and have some fun of their own.

A Little Piece of Heaven

In our minds, there’s really only one place to start when it comes to adults-only areas, and that’s the Serenity Deck. Step away from the madness and chaos of the pool area and head up to this ship-topping oasis where no one under the age of 21 is allowed, and that rule is pretty well enforced.

There are an awful lot of comfy spaces to be found on the kid-free Serenity deck.

As a result, the Serenity area is exactly what you both want and expect it to be, complete with a bar, tons of comfy seating (including hammocks and daybeds perfect for cuddling) and, on sea days, a salad bar. There’s also, of course, a full bar of the non-salad variety which offers a variety of specialty cocktails, wines, and other adult libations.

What’s an adult’s-only zone without a menu offering specialty cocktails, like this one from the Serenity deck.

Another spot that pretty much screams “relaxation” is, of course, the Cloud 9 Spa. Be sure to swing by on the first day and take the tour, because it usually involves a raffle for some type of spa package. Yes, as on every cruise ship, you’ll probably wind up getting a hard-sell at some point, but we’ve found that if you’re up front with a polite but firm “Not interested,” they respectfully dial it back. Planning to spend a fair amount of time at the spa? Consider booking one of the Cloud 9 Spa staterooms, which give you access to the thermal suites, priority booking of treatments and a host of other perks.

What better way to bond with your significant other than by getting a couple’s massage? Photo courtesy of Andy Newman, Carnival Cruise Line

You can also purchase a week-long pass to the thermal spa, which includes dry heat chambers, a variety of steam chambers (including one called an “aromatic grotto”), a large whirlpool and two “experience showers” which help sooth you by combining the soothing waters with special aromas. And remember to check Carnival’s website under My Cruise Manager before you sail to see if by booking treatments in advance, you can save a little money!

After Dark, the Real Fun Starts!

There are all kinds of fun activities scheduled throughout the day that are perfect for families… but it’s after dark, when the kiddies are tucked away and (hopefully) asleep, that the Carnival Horizon really comes alive. We spoke about some of our favorite bars and hot spots earlier, so you already know to grab pre- or post-dinner cocktails at the Alchemy Bar, and that you can dance the night away at the Havana club.

Let the bartenders at the Alchemy Bar whip you up a cocktail that will have you ready to tackle the evening!

But if you wanna just kick back and relax for a while before things rev into high gear, why not head to the Punchliner Comedy Club, which on most nights offers an 18-and-over show later in the evening. Don’t bring the kids, and leave your prudish Aunt Gertrude in the stateroom because things can get a little raunchy during these shows!

Speaking of activities Aunt Gertrude probably isn’t going to want to take part in (unless you think maybe it’ll help her loosen up), there’s the infamous Quest Game Show. Think of it as a very, very adult scavenger hunt… and more fun than should probably be legal. Heck, maybe that’s why it only takes place at sea… because international maritime laws are looser! Keep your eyes on the Fun Times, because this is one game you definitely do not want to miss!

Shop ‘Til You Drop

As you know, your Sign & Sail card basically acts like a credit card while you’re on the ship… and as fate would have it, there happen to be some pretty nice shops on board! (It’s as if someone at Carnival thought, “You know, we’ve got them here… and they’ve had a few drinks… “) Maybe after having some luck in the casino (which we’ll talk about soon!), you want to buy something a little special, making Front Street Jewelers a great place to stop. And maybe in order to get lucky in a completely different way, you want to pick up something from Victoria’s Secret! Of course, the Carnival Store sells… you guessed it, lots of Carnival branded items (including those awesome miniature ships which would look so good somewhere in your house, right?)

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Carnival Horizon has added new shops to the promenade, including the Wearable Tech store.

Of all the shops on board — and there’s some great, high-end stuff available — perhaps our favorite is the Wearable Tech store, specializing in a variety of fitness-tracking watches (and a staff who knows how to help you get started), perfect for those who need a little help making sure that they take enough steps each day to work off at least some of what they’re eating at the endless restaurants!

Smile For The Camera!

While people love posing with their families for the photographers found around the ship, why not book a special Dreams Studio photo shoot? Whether for you and your significant other or a group of friends traveling together, this is a fun way to commemorate the trip. And what the heck, after getting some pics snapped of just the adults, let the kids in for some shots. It is their vacation too, after all. At the end of the day, could there be a more perfect souvenir of your vacation than gorgeous photographs that will capture it forever?

Finally, how’s this for an amazing way to cap off your vacation: A vow-renewal ceremony with the captain himself presiding. Check the Fun Times newsletter for more on whether this is available on your sailing, and how to set it up, or contact Carnival in advance to make preparations for a day neither of you will ever forget!

Next up? If baby needs a new pair of shoes, we’re heading for the right place… the casino!

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BEFORE YOU GO

How Cruise Lines Boost The Price Of Your Vacation

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When it comes to budgeting for a vacation, we all try to get the most bang for our buck. But over the past few years, the cruise lines have gotten incredibly good at figuring out ways to get a little extra money out of passengers… and most people willingly fall into the trap!

Why We’re Willing To Pay Extra

When is a hidden fee not so hidden? When it’s promoted openly and accepted without question! Increasingly, cruise lines have found that people are more than happy to shell out a little extra money — above and beyond the initial cost of their cruise — months before even setting foot on a ship! And there’s more than a little bit of psychology at play when it comes to how and why the cruise lines market these extras!

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley shared how pre-cruise spending helps boost the bottom line. “What we found,” he explained, “is that, if you spend $100 before you sail, that’s spent and gone. You don’t even put it in your budget for when you’re on vacation. So every pre-cruise revenue dollar that we generate will often generate 50% more on-board revenue for that customer.”

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If you pay for your night at Royal Caribbean’s Chops Grille in advance, you’re more likely to spend more on other things.

As Norwegian Cruise Line’s President and CEO Frank Del Rio explained during a conference call last year, “When folks have money to spend on board, they spend it in restaurants and in shops and, primarily, shore excursions. We’ve seen this wide-spread move away from buying things to enjoying experiences.” And this, he said, had led to a pretty significant uptick in on-board spending in 2017.

Shore excursions — such as the Sentry Hill Zipline on St. Marteen — are a big source of revenue for cruise lines.

How To Avoid Breaking The Bank

If you’re looking to stay within a budget, it’s important to make sure that you’re keeping track of all the expenses associated with your cruise. While it’s all well and good to get a great price on your stateroom, make sure you know exactly what’s included… and just as important, what isn’t! What additional expenses will you incur along the way? Will you be staying on the ship during all or some of the port visits, or is doing shore excursions a major part of the experience for you? Is it worth purchasing a drink package, or would you be better off simply paying as you go? Will there be pre- and post-cruise expenses such as airline tickets and hotel stays involved? Are the daily gratuities included, or do you need to factor them in separately? While trip insurance isn’t required, it’s highly recommended and could ultimately wind up saving you a whole lot of money!

READ MORE: 17 Extra Costs To Factor Into Your Cruise Budget 

While cruise vacations are a fantastic bargain, they are also a bit of an investment and should be treated as such. Just as you wouldn’t simply blindly purchase a stock in which to invest (we hope!), it’s worth taking a little bit of time to make sure you know how much you’re spending and what you can expect in return!

Do you find that you spend more on the ship if you’ve already paid for your other expenses? What are some of your best money-saving tips? 

 

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