17th Annual Florida Caribbean Cruise Association Conference opens in Santo Domingo

Dominican Republic's Director of Tourism, Francisco Javier Garcia Fernandez cuts ribbon to open ceremonies at FCCA Conference and Trade Show while NCL President Kevin Sheehan looks on.
Photo by Thomas Routzong

The 17th Annual Florida Caribbean Cruise Association Conference and Trade Show opened in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on Monday, Oct. 25, 2010 with cruise line CEO’s and representatives, Caribbean tourism representatives, travel agents, tour operators, port agents, vendors and press from all around the world.

Leonel Fernandez, President of the Dominican Republic, attended the opening ceremonies on Tuesday evening at the Jaragua Hotel and Casino.

“The FCCA’s mandate is to foster a better understanding of the cruise industry and to develop cooperative relationships with our destination partners,” said FCCA President Michele Paige.

The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism is offering event tours highlighting local attractions and cruise facilities including the San Souci Terminal which has undergone major upgrades as part of a $1 billion planned tourist-friendly hotel and shopping district.

The Dominican Republic is often referred to as “the cradle of American civilization” or “the Athens of the Americas” because it is thought to be Christopher Columbus’ first discovery of the New World.

Article by Steven Skelley and Thomas Routzong of FloridaCruiseAndTravelersMagazine.com.

The Magic of Carnival cruise ship construction

The 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic will debut in May 2011. Carnival has created a fascinating interactive website detailing the step-by-step “How It’s Made’’ construction process for its largest-ever super liner. Image courtesy Carnival Cruise Lines

By Michael Coleman

Have you ever wondered how – even with the most-amazing of latest technologies – a modern-day cruise ship is constructed?

It’s an enormous undertaking even for the world’s most popular cruise line.

With less than seven months until its maiden voyage, the new Carnival Magic reached another construction milestone when it was “floated out” earlier this week from her outfitting quay at the Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.

The initial stages of a cruise ship’s construction take place in a dry dock facility. Once exterior outfitting is completed, the dry dock is flooded with water and the ship is “floated out” and moved to a wet dock facility where construction continues.

Carnival has removed the veil on the entire construction process by providing both exclusive images and video of the Carnival Magic’s construction at an amazing interactive website. Just click the “How It’s Made” icon at the top of the page for a rare look into the fascinating process of cruise ship construction.

The ship’s next major milestone — sea trials in the Adriatic Sea — is slated for early next year in anticipation of Magic’s May 1, 2011 European debut.

The most innovative “Fun Ship” in Carnival’s fleet to date, Magic will offer a host of new facilities and features including the RedFrog Pub, a Caribbean-inspired watering hole with its own private label beer; Cucina del Capitano, an Italian family-style restaurant that brings the heritage of Carnival’s captains to the table; and SportsSquare, an expansive sports complex featuring the first-ever ropes course and outdoor fitness area at sea.

Other innovations include Carnival WaterWorks aqua park, a Serenity adults-only retreat, The Lanai, a wrap-around promenade with whirlpools that extend out over the ship’s sides and what the line bills as a “stunning’’ indoor/outdoor café and live entertainment venue called Ocean Plaza.

The ship is slated to debut with a nine-day cruise from Venice to Barcelona May 1-10, 2011, followed by a series of seven-to 12-day Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona, Carnival’s first-ever departures from the Spanish port. Following a 16-day trans-Atlantic crossing, Magic will launch seven-day Caribbean service from Galveston Nov. 14, 2011, becoming the largest cruise ship ever based in Texas year-round.

On the web: carnival.com

Cunard launches Queen Elizabeth

Cruise travel brand icon Cunard launched the 2,068-guest Queen Elizabeth this week in London. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth officiated at the naming ceremony. The Queen christened Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2 in 1984 and was on hand in 1967 for the naming of Queen Elizabeth 2. Image courtesy Cunard Line

By Michael Coleman

Cruise travel’s most famous brand name paired with the world’s most famous monarch this week.

Her Majesty The Queen officially named Cunard Line’s newest ocean liner, the 2,068-guest Queen Elizabeth during ceremonies in London. The new vessel — estimates peg the total cost at $634 million – features 1,046 staterooms, 71 per cent of which have balconies.

Look for the ship’s lobby to showcase her grandeur complete with links to Cunard ocean liners of the past. With its finishes of light mahogany and marble, stunning art deco chandelier from the era of the first Queen Elizabeth, cantilevered balconies and magnificent, two-deck high original artwork on the grand staircase, the Grand Lobby is the social focal point of the ship. Plaques detailing the Captains who have served on the two previous Cunard “Elizabeths” celebrate the continuation of the “Elizabeth” name, and a third plaque will record over time the names of the future masters of the newest Queen Elizabeth.

The main dining room, the Britannia Restaurant, spans two decks at the stern of the vessel and offers an art deco feel. It evokes memories of classic ocean liner restaurants with a unique sweeping staircase and marbleized backlit decorative ceiling among the focal points. Breakfast and lunch are served by open seating and guests have the option of either early or late sitting for dinner.

Both the Queens Grill and Princess Grill Restaurants are located on top of the ship (Deck 11), enclosed by graceful and gently curving panoramic glass walls on the seaboard sides, and cantilevered out over the side of the vessel above Deck 10. Both Grills offer a single seating, so guests can enter at a time of their choosing, and the restaurants themselves, although architecturally similar, are decorated distinctly to create an individual feel. Grills guests also have exclusive use of their own private bar and lounge conveniently located next to the Grills restaurants, and complete with resident Concierge.

The ship also features a number of alternative dining venues: The Garden Lounge hosts occasional evening ‘Supper Clubs’ with musical entertainment and dancing; The Lido Restaurants, up on Deck 9, offer breakfast and lunch buffet style; Café Carinthia continues the popular venue introduce on Queen Victoria – furnished in art deco touches and rich décor – offering guests sweet pastries, fine teas and coffees; Golden Lion Pub offers English pub food for lunch in a traditional British pub setting.

The ship’s three-deck Royal Court Theatre, with tiered seating for 832 guests, is the focal point for evening entertainment. Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth’s two-deck Queen’s Room ballroom, another Cunard signature feature, is designed for dancing, cocktail parties and traditional English afternoon teas complete with finger sandwiches and freshly baked scones with jam and cream.

Look for a host of bars and clubs to suit a wide variety of tastes.

The ship’s outdoor space on Deck 9 aft, meanwhile, will feature garden parties reminiscent of those held at British country houses, while the forward Games Deck, named after the same deck on the original Queen Elizabeth, offers paddle tennis and introduces croquet and bowls under a canopy to shield players from the sun.

On the web: cunard.com

Princess blog features ultimate travel wish list

Will Greece and its famed Acropolis become one of the world’s 50 essential travel experiences on a new Princess Cruises’ blog? Photo by Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

The world’s top destinations will be unveiled weekly in an inspiring new blog launched by the travel savvy employees of Princess Cruises.

The line launched “50 Essential Experiences: The Travel Bucket List” (50essentialexperiences.com) this week. A series of posts, each authored by one of Princess’ longest-serving shipboard and shoreside employees, will be added weekly.
 
The 50 selected experts — each who have been with the company for more than 15 years and traveled thousands of sea and air miles visiting hundreds of countries, cities and sites — will share one of their inspiring personal experiences chronicling their unique perspective of must-see travel spots around the globe. 
 
“Few people have seen more of the world than Princess’ own destination experts,” said Jan Swartz, executive vice president for Princess Cruises. “And because they’ve been to so many destinations, they’re often asked to recommend those ‘don’t miss’ experiences that people should be sure to put on their travel bucket list.” Swartz emphasized that the blog is not just a list of places, but instead a list of experiences Princess hopes inspires others. 
 
The experts featured in the blog will represent an array of departments and positions within Princess, including those in shoreside positions such as itinerary planning, ship operations and marketing, along with those who sail aboard its ships such as captains, hotel managers and cruise directors. Their posts will gradually be revealed through September 2011.
 
Crystal Morgan, director of market planning for Princess, authored the first blog post. She started her cruise career as an onboard shore excursion manager sailing to worldwide destinations and, after moving shoreside, now oversees itinerary planning for the line’s fleet of ships. Morgan shares one of her most memorable travel experiences, when she traced her grandmother’s footsteps to visit the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, the most celebrated monument in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a place that held a special meaning for her grandmother who had visited the site some 70 years earlier.
 
In her post she writes, “I didn’t hear about my grandmother’s visit to this famous statue until I told her that I was being deployed to South America aboard Pacific Princess. It dawned on me that I would have the opportunity to trace her footsteps to this world-renowned landmark so many decades after her visit. Our circumstances could hardly be more different.  She was barely a teenager on her journey up the mountain, traveling with her family, including several younger siblings for whom she cared. I would have charges of my own, but not children.”
 
Blog visitors will be encouraged to share their own personal travel experiences, some of which will be showcased on the site each week.
 
All of the destinations described in the blog will be ones that passengers can travel to aboard a Princess ship, and links will help readers discover how they, too, can embark on similar adventures.
 
Arguably one of cruise travel’s greatest brand names, Princess operates a fleet of 17 modern ships known for their innovative design and array of choices in dining, entertainment and amenities. The line offers global voyages from seven to 107 days in length.

On the web: princesscruises.com

Video: A look at what’s new on Disney’s private Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas, has received a number of enhancements this year. They’ve added more water-based family-fun and additional conveniences such as another dining location in anticipation of the larger Disney Dream launching next year.

Here’s a video outlining all the enhancements.

Alluring restaurants to debut at sea

Allure of the Seas, presently under construction, will debut in December. An architectural marvel, the 225,282 ton ship will span 16 decks, carry 5,400 passengers at double occupancy in some 2,700 staterooms. She will also feature 24 onboard dining opportunities morning, noon and night. The vessel will offer Caribbean sailings from her home port in Fort Lauderdale. Image courtesy Royal Caribbean

By Michael Coleman

Royal Caribbean’s latest ship — Allure of the Seas — will debut in December complete with 24 onboard dining venues to cater to any craving.

A sister ship to Oasis of the Seas, both vessels tip the scales as the largest and perhaps most innovative cruise ships afloat. And while each ship has a host of similarities, even in the dining arena, Allure is poised to roll out some added culinary options.

From a Brazilian steakhouse and a Mexican beach bar to a hot dog stand, the choices abound.
The Brazilian steakhouse will be a destination restaurant that comes to life for dinner service in the Solarium, featuring authentic Brazilian-style meats and seafood dishes, from Picanha cut sirloin steak to Atlantic salmon marinated with sea salt and garlic, served table-side and sliced straight off the skewer.

“As churrascaria concept restaurants gain popularity on land, Royal Caribbean is taking advantage of having a new ship to introduce a Brazilian steakhouse and bring a new dynamic and colorful nightlife ambiance for adults in the Solarium,” said Lisa Bauer, senior vice president, Hotel Operations, Royal Caribbean International.

“Guests onboard Allure of the Seas will have a new arrangement of dining experiences throughout the ship, from the Adagio Main Dining Room to new venues on the Boardwalk and Royal Promenade.”

Combining the best of classic Mexican beach bars and Southern California’s famed taquerias, Rita’s Cantina will be a vibrant new restaurant in the Boardwalk neighborhood. Adults and kids alike will enjoy some of their favorite Mexican fare, such as shrimp ceviche tostadas, warm tortilla chips with salsa and fiesta guacamole, as well as entrées such as fajitas, fish tacos and Chipotle-style flautas. The more casual setting will likely be a favorite lunch, snack or dinner spot for passengers seeking a flavorful fiesta onboard.

Rita’s also will boast some of the widest selection of margaritas at sea, offering both authentic and signature concoctions mixed with a choice from the extensive list of quality tequilas, served on the rocks or frozen in a variety of fruit-flavor combinations. In addition, the restaurant will introduce new nightlife to Boardwalk with live guitar music, drinks and dancing. 

Also new to Boardwalk’s engaging scene aboard Allure of the Seas will be The Boardwalk Dog House, an outdoor hot-dog specialty counter located where passengers can choose from traditional hot dogs, wieners, brats and sausages.

Like its sister, Allure will feature Johnny Rockets, a ‘50’s-style diner with server-entertainers; 150 Central Park, a trendy, upscale and intimate restaurant with a tasting menu and customized wine pairings; Giovanni’s Table, an Italian trattoria with both indoor and alfresco seating featuring Italian classics served family-style; Park Café, an indoor/outdoor gourmet market featuring salads, sandwiches, soups, pastries and fudge; Vintages, a wine bar with pre-dinner tapas and cheeses along with a robust selection of fine wines and, among a host of other palate pleasing onboard locales, Chops Grille, Royal Caribbean’s signature steakhouse.

On the web: royalcaribbean.com