Royal Caribbean is recreating the dining experience on their next two ships, the Quantum of the Seas (due in November) and the Anthem of the Seas (due in April, 2015) and calling it Dynamic Dining. Instead of a large main dining room, there will be 5 smaller and complimentary dining rooms each with its own cuisine: 1) American Icon, which will serve regional American cuisine; 2) Chic, which will place an emphasis on highly sophisticated cuisine; 3) Silk, a Pan-Asian eatery in a format that allows for sharing at the tables; 4) The Grande, which restores the classic age of European ocean liner dining, serving classic continental to diners dressed appropriately; and 5) The Coastal Kitchen, which will serve Mediterranean with a signature California touch. You will be able to dine in different restaurants at any time and a new online system will allow you to make reservations for particular meals online using smart phones and tablets before and during your cruise. The system launches May 15 and will list seat availability at every restaurant with customer ratings of each restaurant. Specialty restaurants will still be available including options from celebrity chefs such as Jaimie Oliver, Michael Schwartz and Devin Alexander. Both ships are also bringing new innovations in shipboard activities such as a sky-diving experience and the North Star, a 15-person capsule that extends 300 feet above the ocean and over the sides of the ship at the end of a crane. The SeaPlex, another innovation, is an indoor sports and entertainment complex with bumper cars, roller skating and more. For multi-generational families, there will be connected staterooms that combine staterooms in three categories to form a special layout that provides separate bedrooms and bathrooms for all.
Celebrity Cruises will introduce a new Suite Class experience on its ships in April 2015. Exclusive new benefits will include a suites-only restaurant, VIP lounge, complimentary premium beverages, a personal butler and more. The suites-only restaurant will showcase cuisine with menus inspired by the local destination, accompanied by wines selected by the “cellar master.” These dishes won’t be available anywhere else on board. Those staying in the Celebrity, Signature, Royal Penthouse and Reflection suites will have access to a private VIP lounge—Michael’s Club. Guests who are staying in the Royal, Penthouse and Reflection suites will have access to premium beverages, dining across all specialty restaurants, unlimited Internet access and a private bar with complimentary water, sodas and beer. Suite guests will also receive priority check-in and embarkation; on-hand 24-hour butler service to unpack guests’ luggage or even book destination experiences; afternoon tea service in the guest’s suite; reserved theater seating; plush robes, premium bedding and a pillow menu.
Disney Cruise Line will for the first time sail the Norwegian fjords on three cruises departing Copenhagen, Denmark, in June 2015. Bookings are now open! Experience the setting for the movie Frozen on a seven-day cruise as the Disney Magic visits Stavanger, Alesund, Geiranger and Bergen, Norway. A nine-day cruise calls at the same Norwegian ports, plus Molde and Olden. An 11-day cruise includes calls in Kristiansand and Stavanger, Norway; Akureyri and Reykjavik, Iceland; and Torshavn, Faroe Islands. The cruise ends in Dover, England. The Reykjavik call is an overnight visit. In addition to the Norwegian fjords itineraries, Disney is returning to the Baltic for all-new itineraries, including sailings from Copenhagen to St. Petersburg, Russia. Cruises to the Mediterranean, Alaska, Caribbean and Bahamas also are also in Disney’s summer 2015 lineup.
Norwegian Cruise Line has altered the way it offers a prepackaged selection of specialty dining. For one price, you will now be able to buy alternative dining at the Cagney’s steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria (a Brazilian steakhouse) and traditional French, Italian and pan-Asian restaurants. The package can be purchased in advance or shipboard during the first or second day of the cruise. Pricing varies by voyage length, starting at $59 per person for a three- to six-day cruise, $119 for a seven-day cruise; $149 per person on eight- to 10-day cruises; and higher on longer voyages. Previously, Norwegian sold a dining package that bundled three specialty restaurants for $47 per person. Some specialty restaurants continue to be excluded, including Ocean Blue, chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s seafood restaurant on Norwegian Breakaway.
Sail onboard the Europa 2 with Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and children ages 11 and under travel for free. In addition, child care services are available for kids ages 2 and up. This luxury ship began sailing last May and this year will debut new cruises in Vietnam and Thailand. Its 13-day Vietnam — Between Red River and Mekong cruise travels from Hong Kong to Singapore, featuring a variety of family onshore excursions, such as trips to Vinpearl Land Water Park in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and Kinbalu National Park in Kota Kinbalu, Malaysia. The cruise’s many onboard and onshore activities, including canoeing and cooking classes, are fun for all ages, but children and teens can also participate in specially designed activities on their own. Children ages 4-10 and 11-15 can explore the destinations on guided excursions without their parents, including zodiac trips, snorkeling and more. In addition, the spa offers special treatments for ages 8 and up.
Royal Caribbean is the first cruise line to be certified as “Autism Friendly” by Autism on the Seas, an organization catering to vacationers with autism and other developmental disabilities. In order to receive the certification, Royal Caribbean had to meet a variety of requirements put forth in the newly released Autism Friendly Certification Standard and Training Program. The certification program has four levels, each requiring increased levels of staff training. A bronze level certification indicates a ship is ready to accommodate passengers with autism and other developmental disabilities through equal access to onboard services and amenities. Some of the services that must be provided to passengers are sensory related toys, autism friendly modifications to youth activities and autism friendly movies, as well as priority boarding. The silver, gold and diamond levels focus on increased staff training. Silver level ensures that all youth staff have received basic awareness training in autism. Gold level requires advance training for youth staff and basic training for other shipboard crew. To reach diamond level, all youth staff must go through a hands-on training program. Royal Caribbean enters the program at the bronze level, but is expected to reach silver level certification by year’s end.
Holland America Line will continue its Dancing With the Stars: At Sea program in 2014. The line debuted the extremely popular offering earlier this year. Over the course of each sailing, free classes will teach you the dance that will be judged by the cruise director, entertainment staff and/or ship’s officers members for technical ability, dance flair and entertainment value. The top six dancers will then be paired with a professional dancer for the final round of judging. For each ship, the winner with the highest overall score will be given a free cruise — a Westerdam sailing to the Caribbean in December of next year — to compete in a championship dance-off for the prestigious Mirror Ball Trophy.
Did you know that 2015 cruises are already available for booking on many cruise lines? Disney Cruise Line let us know that all four of their ships will be sailing from Florida ports in the early part of 2015. Disney’s private island Castaway Cay is being featured prominently on the sailings. Every cruise departing from January to April includes a stop at Castaway Cay, a tropical island reserved exclusively for Disney Cruise Line guests where your family can enjoy a fun beach day with plenty of watersports, kids activities, spa services, beach BBQ and more. Did you know that Disney also hosts a 5K race on the island for each sailing? It’s a great way to get in your workout in paradise. The line will be offering 3-, 4-, 5- and 7-night itineraries out of Florida.
Book now for 25-35 percent off many models of houseboat rentals from the Lake Powell Marina for your next summer vacation. Choose from 46-75 foot boats that sleep up to 20 with pick-up on either the Utah or Arizona side of the lake. This promotion is available for travel between June 19 and September 5. Rates range from $2,899-$10,125 (plus taxes, fuel and fees) with a seven night minimum required. Travel before June 18 and get up to 50 percent off! Houseboating allows you to explore beautiful canyons, rock formations and grottos while also enjoying great fishing and watersports. Lake Powell starts in northern Arizona and extends into southern Utah and is part of the Colorado River in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The lake is 186 miles long and has almost 2,000 miles of shoreline – longer than the entire west coast of the US!
Disney is offering a combined cruise on Disney Cruise Line and a Disney World Resort stay this winter starting at only $789/person (plus cruise taxes and fees of $63/person) based on two adults and two children ages 3-9. The package includes a 3-night cruise to the Bahamas on the freshly renovated Disney Magic in an inside stateroom. Choose from sailings between January 17 and February 7. Then enjoy a 3-night stay at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort or Disney’s Pop Century Resort in a standard room with a 3-day Park Hopper Theme Park ticket. Transfers between Orlando International Airport, Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Cruise Line terminal are also included. The Disney Magic recently added a super cool water slide, newly renovated kids club and nursery areas, upgraded restaurants and more. Your package must be booked by December 31 and inventory is limited.