Friday, April 17, 2015

'VIKING STAR' EMBARKS ON MAIDEN VOYAGE

Viking Star in Venice (Credit: Viking)
Viking's first ocean ship, Viking Star, has embarked on her maiden voyage from Istanbul to Venice. From Venice, she will make her way through the Mediterranean on her way to be officially christened in Bergen, Norway during a citywide celebration on May 17 – Norwegian Constitution Day. 

Viking Ocean Cruises also has two additional sister ships on order – Viking Sky and Viking Sea – which will sail itineraries in Scandinavia and the Baltic; and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean.

In contrast to the newer behemoth-sized ships, Star is smaller, with a gross tonnage of 47,800 tons. She will accommodate 930 passengers in 465 staterooms – each with its own veranda.

Engineered at a scale that allows direct access into most ports, guests have an easy and efficient embarkation and disembarkation, allowing them more time to spend enjoying each destination.

Here are more details from Viking:

TAKE A VIRTUAL CRUISE ON AZAMARA

They call it virtual reality for a reason -- it's the next best thing to being there. If you want to virtually experience a cruise on Azamara, go over to Azamara 3DI. Azamara is the first cruise line to introduce Destination Immersion 3D -- and no, you don't have to wear special glasses.

Among the experiences: Touring the onboard amenities, zip lining through a Costa Rican rainforest, taking a moonlit carriage ride in Cartagena, or sailing through the Panama Canal. Azamara partnered with digital marketing agency VERB Interactive and Total Cinema 360 to produce the Azamara 3DI virtual reality video experiential series. The new virtual reality experiences featured can be shared on social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+).

Of course, you can also read about our cruise on the Azamara Quest here. And as good as it looks on 3D, being there in person is so much better. -- Gerry



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

AMTRAK TRYING NEW DINING OPTION ON THE STAR

Amtrak is trying out a new dining option for passengers on their Silver Star service between Miami and New York. It's a route we know well: Every year we take the companion train, the Silver Meteor, to the Big Apple. Results should be interesting (but I'm pretty sure we would vote to stay with dining car service).

The details from Amtrak:

"Amtrak will offer passengers a lower-cost option for travel in our popular sleeping cars on one of our routes between New York and Miami. This offer will be available for travel between July 1 until the end of January 2016 on the Amtrak Silver Star (Trains 91 & 92), which operates daily between New York City and Orlando/Miami, via Washington, D.C., Columbia, S.C., and Tampa, Fla.

"Traditionally, Amtrak has bundled the cost of dining car meals into its charge for the sleeping car. Under this pilot program, these costs will be un-bundled to allow passengers to travel at a lower cost between the northeast, mid-Atlantic and Florida.

CARNIVAL EXPANDING AT PORT CANAVERAL

Carnival Magic (Carnival)
Carnival Cruise Line announced it is increasing its commitment to Port Canaveral, Fla., "expanding capacity on three- and four-day Bahamas cruises by 34 percent and deploying its newest class of ship on seven-day Caribbean voyages in 2016."

Among the changes: Carnival Magic will reposition to Port Canaveral in December 2016 to offer two different seven-day Caribbean itineraries. Here are all the details from Carnival:

BOSTON, HEART JOIN CARNIVAL CONCERT LINEUP

Credit: Carnival
Prior coverage: "Olivia Wows Them in Carnival Concert."

Carnival Cruise Line unveiled the roster of artists for its upcoming Carnival LIVE concert series. The Band Perry, BOSTON, Lionel Richie and Heart are all set to perform on board this summer and fall. The spring series kicked off last month and includes performances by Journey, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Smokey Robinson and Styx.

Concerts are held in the ships’ main theaters -- ranging in guest capacity from 900 to 1,300 -- and performed on Carnival vessels while they are docked in one of three ports of call: Cozumel, Nassau and St. Thomas. Here's more from Carnival:

"The Band Perry will perform July 28-29-30 on Carnival Sensation, Carnival Fascination and Carnival Magic, respectively, while those ships are docked in Nassau. During these shows, guests can enjoy up-close-and-personal performances by this award-winning trio who recently won Best Country Duo/Group Performance for Gentle on My Mind at the 57th Grammy Awards.

"Fans will get 'more than a feeling' as they enjoy four shows this summer by rock superstars BOSTON which has sold more than 31 million records worldwide, including 17 million copies of their self-titled debut. BOSTON brings their high-energy performances to four Carnival ships in Nassau – Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Sensation and Carnival Ecstasy – Aug. 19-22.

"Multiple Grammy and Oscar award-winning singer Lionel Richie will have audiences 'dancing on the ceiling' on Carnival Freedom Oct. 14 and Carnival Pride Oct. 15 while those ships are docked in Nassau. One of the most popular recording artists of all time, Richie has sold 100 million albums worldwide and is only one of two songwriters in history to have a number one record for nine consecutive years.


Credit: Carnival
"Rounding out the series is Heart, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 and have sold more than 35 million records during their accomplished musical career that spans more than 35 years. Guests can enjoy three shipboard performances in Cozumel by these rock legends: Oct. 20 aboard Carnival Paradise, Oct. 21 aboard Carnival Ecstasy and Oct. 22 aboard Carnival Breeze.

"Carnival LIVE tickets for 2015 range from $35 to $75 for general admission, significantly less than land-based venues. VIP tickets are available for $125 to $250 and offer seating in the first four rows, a photo opportunity with the artist and a commemorative concert pass.

"A full listing of the 2015 Carnival LIVE concert series is available by visiting www.carnival.com/CarnivalLIVE."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

NORWEGIAN ASIAN DINING NOW COMPLIMENTARY

Food news from Norwegian:

"Norwegian Cruise Line announced that many of the line’s popular Asian dining venues can now be enjoyed on a complimentary basis across the fleet.

"Guests cruising aboard Norwegian’s Freestyle Cruising ships can indulge in favorites like fried rice, spicy seafood udon noodles, steamed pork dumplings and more free of charge at the following venues:

• Orchid Garden, Norwegian Gem • East Meets West, Pride of America
• Lotus Garden, Norwegian Pearl • Shogun, Norwegian Spirit
• Chin Chin, Norwegian Jewel • Bamboo, Norwegian Dawn
• Jasmine Garden, Norwegian Jade • Ginza, Norwegian Star
• Shanghai’s, Norwegian Epic • Shangai’s Noodle Bar, Norwegian Epic
• Shanghai’s Noodle Bar, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway

"Norwegian’s popular Teppanyaki restaurants will continue to provide guests with the showmanship and culinary delights of Japanese iron-griddle cooking for a per guest cover charge, and Sushi venues across the fleet will retain nominal à la carte pricing."

MIXING IT UP WITH ROBOT BARTENDERS

Yes, those robot bartenders "manning" Royal Caribbean's Bionic Bar are amazing, but can they empathize with a sad story? That's probably coming next.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

MEET GIGI THE GIRAFFE

Gigi is a four-ton giraffe that calls Deck 15 on Anthem of the Seas home. What else do you want to know? Glad you asked ...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

GRAND FUNK AT KEY WEST MUSIC FEST

They're still an American Band, and they are coming to the Keys. Grand Funk Railroad, whose concerts I reviewed for a newspaper in another lifetime) will be the headliner at Key West's Truman Waterfront Saturday, May 2, at the annual Keystock Music Festival.

Here's more from the release:

"Formed in 1969, the band was at the forefront of rock history. During its early years Grand Funk played renowned venues including the Atlanta Pop Festival, Madison Square Garden, London's Royal Albert Hall and Shea Stadium, and ultimately earned 13 gold and 10 platinum records.
Cruising Squared
blogger sporting
Grand Funk shirt
in his rock music
reviewer role
(Circa: A while ago)

"The band's current incarnation features two of the three founding members as well as veterans of classic rock bands KISS, 38 Special and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.

"Opening acts include Liza Jane Catana & the Unknowns and 'trop rockers' Howard Livingston and the Mile Marker 24 Band. Local favorite Livingston and his band are best known for Blame It On the Margaritas and Livin' On Key West Time -- and for the Johnson outboard motor 'blender' they use to mix margaritas onstage during performances.

"Keystock is presented by Lazy Lakes RV Resort, Howard Livingston, Homes for Veterans Inc. and the Rotary Club of Key West. Gates are to open at 4:30 p.m. with the first act scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m.

"Tickets are $25 per person for general admission and $100 per person for VIP admission. General admission is free for active military members and veterans as well as their spouses. General admission also is free for children under age 17. For VIP and general admission tickets, call Lazy Lakes at 305-745-1079. For general admission tickets only, visit www.keystix.comConcert profits benefit Homes for Veterans Inc."

Friday, April 3, 2015

12 WEIRD AND QUIRKY HOTELS

Sun Cruise Resort - South Korea (TripAdvisor)
A cruise ship on a mountaintop? Sleep capsules in Japan? Suspended in a forest? These are just a few of TripAdvisor's "12 fantastically weird hotels." And did we mention hotel rooms in what looks like a construction crane in the Netherlands? They say the view is to die for. We'll take their word for it! -- Gerry

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

VIKING TAKES DELIVERY OF OCEAN SHIP

Rivers run to the ocean, and one cruise company will be in both places as Viking Ocean Cruises has taken delivery of Viking Star, marking the company’s official arrival into the ocean cruise industry. The delivery ceremony took place March 28 when the ship was presented at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard outside of Venice, Italy. On April 11, Viking Star will set sail from Istanbul on her way to be officially christened on May 17 in Bergen, Norway.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

PRINCESS, 'SOUND OF MUSIC' CELEBRATE 50 YEARS

Question: What do Princess Cruises and the movie, The Sound of Music, have in common? 

Answer: They are both celebrating a 50th anniversary.

Here's the release:

"Beginning mid-April, Princess Cruises will partner with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment to screen the biggest movie musical of all time, The Sound of Music, onboard all 18 of its cruise ships and feature sing-a-longs, trivia games, and other movie-themed experiences throughout the year. The offerings celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the cruise line and the musical and are part of a year-long campaign to honor the classic film.