Cool Vacations

 

Royal Caribbean to Sail Short Caribbean Getaways for 2024/25

By NewsdeskFeb 23, 2023 11:29am

Royal Caribbean InternationalCruise InformationCaribbeanAllure of the Seas

 

Aerial of a cruise ship docked at Labadee, Haiti

Allure of the Seas at Labadee, Haiti (Photo by Royal Caribbean International)

Royal Caribbean International has revealed the lineup of short Caribbean cruises aboard eight ships in 2024/25. Of note, Allure of the Seas, the first Oasis-class ship to sail three- to four-night cruises, will extend its short Caribbean season homeporting from Port Canaveral (Orlando), FL, while Mariner of the Seas will set sail from the cruise line’s new net-zero terminal in GalvestonTX, for the first time. Ports of call in the Eastern and Western Caribbean include CocoCayPuerto PlataRoatanPuerto Vallarta and more.

Highlights of the year-round 2024/25 short getaways are as follows:

  • Allure of the Seas will offer three- and four-night cruises to the Bahamas and CocoCay from Orlando until July 2023 and then will settle in Miami for the remainder of the year.
  • Sailing from Miami, Independence of the Seas will offer five-night Western Caribbean and CocoCay cruises, and four-night Eastern Caribbean sailings that visit Labadee.
  • Mariner of the Seas will offer four- and five-night escapes to destinations including Costa Maya and Cozumel.
  • Sailing from Los AngelesNavigator of the Seas will offer three-, four- or seven-night cruises to Catalina Island, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San LucasEnsenada and Mazatlan.

Highlights of the seasonal 2024/25 short cruises are as follows:

  • Vacationers looking for winter getaways can choose four- or five-night cruises aboard Enchantment of the Seas to visit Cozumel and Costa Maya. In summer, travelers can opt for seven-night adventures that head to Roatan, Belize City, Cozumel, Costa Maya and CocoCay.
  • Grandeur of the Seas will continue sailing from Tampa through the summer and set sail on four- and five-night escapes to the Bahamas, including destinations such as CocoCay and Mexico’s Cozumel. In winter, they can choose from five-night vacations to Labadee and Puerto Plata.
  • Following a summer in the "Big Apple," Liberty of the Seas will return to Fort Lauderdale for the winter season to sail alternating three- and four-night getaways to the Bahamas, including CocoCay and Nassau featured on every cruise.
  • Voyager of the Seas will sail four- and five-night winter getaways on a varied lineup of Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises to the Bahamas, including CocoCay, Nassau, Cozumel, Puerto Plata and Labadee.
 
 

What to Do in Alaska in the Winter

Feb 11, 2023

Alaska  

 

What to Do in Alaska in the Winter

Chena Lake is a perfect spot for aurora viewings.
Credit: 2023 Sherman Hogue/Explore Fairbanks

About 40 years ago, I spent a week in a cabin in Interior Alaska, waiting out a temperature of minus 68. While I was there, I entertained myself by tossing a cup of water into the air and seeing it freeze before it hit the ground.

As attractive as this may be for some, over the next few decades I began favoring March as the best time of year to enjoy Alaska’s many wintertime attractions and outdoor opportunities. 

The reason is obvious: “March offers warmer daytime temperatures, plus the days are getting longer, which allows for more daytime activities,” said Jerry Evans, public relations manager for Explore Fairbanks.

Below are March activities guaranteed to put smiles on your clients’ faces — without causing them to freeze.

World Ice Art Championships

The foundation of any winter visit is the World Ice Art Championships, which start in mid-February and run through late March. Colored lights illuminate the towering sculptures and impart a festive, carnival feel to the ice park. Clients will delight in numerous ice festival events, locally sculpted ice slides, mazes, ice houses and attractions for all ages.

Mushing and Sleighing

Paws for Adventure offers a mushing school where a passing grade is given for handling a dog team by day’s end. Clients can also opt to recline in a dog sled and ride through snowy forests, leaving the “gee!” and “haw!” commands to the dog mushers.

Meanwhile, Chena Outdoor Collective’s new tour for 2023 is not going to the dogs. Friendly, domestic reindeer pull clients through forests in a handcrafted sleigh of birch and black spruce. There is a hot beverage stop, with snacks for riders and reindeer alike, and the option to spot check the reindeer for any possible red noses.

Aurora Viewing

New at Borealis Basecamp are “Aurora Cubes” made of panoramic windows that measure 10 feet high from the floor to the ceiling. The remote spacing of each cube offers privacy, while a king-size bed and rainfall shower offer delight in experiencing the aurora.

Chena Hot Springs is a longtime favorite that offers transportation to a heated yurt to view the aurora far from the city lights. Return to soak in the large outdoor hot springs, and enjoy dog-mushing and ice-fishing during the day. 

Meanwhile, Bettles Lodge enjoys the best aurora-viewing weather in Alaska, and is located directly under the Auroral Band. A fully equipped cabin, located on a remote lake 2 miles from town, offers spectacular photo opportunities. 

Jennifer Lopez to Join Richard Branson on Special Virgin Voyages Sailing

CRUISE LINE & CRUISE SHIP  VIRGIN VOYAGES  DONALD WOOD  FEBRUARY 10, 2023

 

Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez. (Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II-Flickr)

Virgin Voyages announced that international music superstar Jennifer Lopez would join Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson on a special sailing in April.

Lopez and Branson will be aboard a special-edition “Limitless Voyage” between April 14 and April 19 as part of an effort to promote women and entrepreneurship.

The five-night cruise will be curated by Lopez and her Limitless Labs organization and feature J.Lo-inspired experiences and panel sessions with female entrepreneurs. Lopez and Branson will participate in events on the first day of the journey.

“My mission has always been to entertain, empower and inspire my fans to live their lives without putting limits on what they believe they can achieve,” Lopez told Travel + Leisure. “Richard and I share this passion for partnerships and experiences that bring people joy and lift you up, which is why I am so excited to work with Virgin Voyages to bring the Limitless Voyage to the seven seas.”

Operating the Dominican Daze itinerary, passengers onboard the Scarlet Lady will depart from Miami and sail to Puerto Plata before arriving at Virgin’s private island, the Beach Club at Bimini.

Branson told Travel + Leisure that the voyage was the “perfect opportunity to take [her] energy and spirit and together create a voyage unlike any other.”

In March, Virgin Voyages announced a fleet-wide partnership with Lopez that includes being involved with experience development for Virgin Sailors, emphasizing well-being and fitness, as well as design collaborations and entertainment co-creations.

As part of the agreement, Virgin exclusively introduced JLo Beauty as part of the onboard offerings.

 

 

Holland America Line Unveils 2024 Alaska Cruisetours

By NewsdeskFeb 14, 2023 01:12pm

Holland America LineAlaska TourismCruise InformationDenali National Park

 

Denali Square

Denali Square (Holland America Line)

Holland America Line has opened bookings for its 2024 Alaska Cruisetours. New for next year, the line extends the land tour to the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush and Canada’s Yukon.

With 16 cruisetours in 2024, guests can choose whether to cruise to Alaska or go overland first, and then decide to include one, two or three nights at Denali National Park. Those who want to explore farther into Canada can add a trip to the remote landscapes of the Yukon with stops in Dawson City and Whitehorse.

Nieuw Amsterdam and Noordam will offer “Denali Cruisetours” ranging from nine to 14 days between VancouverCanada, and Anchorage or Fairbanks, AK. All “Denali Cruisetours” include a seven-day “Glacier Discovery” cruise featuring Glacier Bay and the Alaskan ports of JuneauKetchikan and Skagway, plus either College Fjord or Hubbard Glacier (depending on the direction) and Inside Passage. The land side includes up to three nights at Holland America Line’s McKinley Chalet Resort at the entrance to Denali National Park, while all Double and Triple Denali itineraries include the “Tundra Wilderness Tour,” which provides the best wildlife viewing through Denali National Park.

Holland America Line owns its motorcoaches, railcars and hotels, so schedules are preferential. Each cruisetour offers a scenic ride on the luxury-domed McKinley Explorer, including select itineraries that offer direct-to-Denali service, taking guests from their ship to their Denali hotel room on the same day.

Yukon & Denali Cruisetours” range from nine to 18 days and include either a three- or four-day Inside Passage cruise on Koningsdam or Zaandam, or a seven-day “Glacier Discovery” cruise on Nieuw Amsterdam or Noordam; a two-or three-night stay at Denali; and a journey into the Yukon. Every “Yukon & Denali Cruisetour” includes the services of a tour director, who makes time on land easy, convenient and insightful. All “Yukon & Denali Cruisetours” include a ride on the McKinley Explorer full-dome railcars, and select itineraries add on the historic White Pass and Yukon Route railroad from Skagway.

 

Fairbanks Gold Rush tour, Alaska

Fairbanks Gold Rush tour, Alaska (Andy Newman/Holland America Line)

The “Yukon & Denali Cruisetours” itinerary include up to two nights in Dawson City, affording guests more time to relive Gold Rush history. Additional overnight experiences vary depending on the cruisetour. Nearly all “Yukon & Denali Cruisetours” include a “Gold Dredge 8” tour and many include a tour on the Klondike Spirit paddlewheeler that takes guests along the Yukon River past tall pines, historic towns and wildlife. Every “Yukon & Denali Cruisetour” includes the “Tundra Wilderness Tour” at Denali National Park.

Alaska Cruisetours include a stay at the McKinley Chalet Resort at the entrance to Denali National Park. The property is Holland America Line’s 68-acre hotel on the Nenana River. The resort offers dining facilities and guestrooms, including a 99-room complex with Denali Suites, each with balconies and larger living areas. Centrally located between the McKinley Chalet Resort and riverfront guestrooms, Denali Square is a gathering area with restaurants, an amphitheater, fire pits, outdoor seating, retail shops offering local goods, and an artist-in-residence cabin where local artists display and discuss their works.

The line’s “Alaska Up Close” program immerses guests in the local culture with onboard programming, cruise activities and shore excursions. The exclusive experiences are delivered through workshops and, EXC Talks exploring the stories of real Alaskans, tours highlighting the best of each destination, and fine dining events showcasing the culinary traditions of the region.

Tip: For a limited time, when guests book 2024 Alaska Cruisetours with the “Have It All” package, the standard package amenities of shore excursions, specialty dining, a “Signature Beverage Package” and “Surf Wi-Fi” are included, besides the added perk of free prepaid crew appreciation, along with free upgrades to the “Elite Beverage Package” and “Premium Wi-Fi."

 

 

Carnival Unveils 31-Day Cruise Spanning Three Continents

By NewsdeskFeb 13, 2023 02:54pm

Carnival Cruise LineCarnival LuminosaAustraliaJapan

 

Carnival Luminosa

Carnival Luminosa (Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival Cruise Line has announced that it is introducing a 31-day cruise on Carnival Luminosa that will take guests to three continents, sailing from Australia’s Brisbane to Japan and then across the Pacific Ocean to Alaska, ending in Seattle. Reservations for the sailing are now open. This latest addition to the “Carnival Journeys” program of longer sailings is one of the longest and most varied itineraries in Carnival’s 50-year history.

Said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, in a press statement: “As we continue to grow our fleet and our offerings, our team is taking every opportunity to create exceptional new experiences for our guests. This sailing is a perfect testament to that.”

The 30-day itinerary departs Brisbane on April 1, 2024 and includes the following ports of call: GuamOkinawaHiroshimaYokohamaAomori and KushiroSewardJuneau and Ketchikan, and a cruise through the Hubbard Glacier; and ending in Seattle, WA on May 1, 2024. The sailing’s stop in Okinawa will mark the line’s first-ever visit there.

Carnival has over 150 longer itineraries open for sale, including more than 70 “Carnival Journeys” cruises. The line operates 24 ships and is in an exciting period of growth, with Carnival Celebration and Carnival Luminosa, which began guest operations last November, and three more ships set to join the fleet by 2024.

 

 
 

Review: An Alaska Cruise Tour With Princess Cruises

Dec 26, 2022

Adventure Travel  Alaska  Cruise  Tours  

 

alaskacruisetourprincess

Guests of Princess Cruises’ Alaska Cruise Tour watching the northern lights at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge
Credit: 2022 Dana Rebmann

“If you’re cold, you’re not working hard enough,“ said Ron Zwahlen, a commercial fishing captain.

He had come onboard Princess Cruises’Royal Princess to talk about fishing and crabbing in some of the most dangerous waters in the world — the Bering Sea. His visit was part of the Discovery at Sea program (a Princess partnership with Discovery and Animal Planet), and his enthusiasm about our stop in Ketchikan was contagious. 

 

alaskacruisetour

The author, Dana Rebmann, with her snow crab during the Discovery at Sea program
Credit: 2022 Dana Rebmann

Less than 24 hours later, as I confidently grabbed hold of a leggy snow crab while onboard the Aleutian Ballad — a ship made famous by the television series "Deadliest Catch” — I realized just how well his stories had captured the thrill of visiting Alaska.

Royal Princess’ Itinerary and Onboard Highlights

Departing from Vancouver, my week-long cruise included stops in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, along with scenic sailings in Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve and College Fjord, before disembarking in Whittier. For guests sailing for the first time since the pandemic, consistently masked crew members were a notable change, but otherwise our cruise along Alaska’s Inside Passage was reminiscent of life prior to COVID-19.

Staff speak with more conviction when asking guests entering the Horizon Court buffet area to wash their hands, but buffet service is back to normal. Only very observant clients will likely notice that silverware and napkins, once placed on tables, must now be picked up along the buffet line.

Often sporting a whale-patterned necktie, Rob Raincock, the ship's naturalist, was arguably one of the ship’s most recognizable and appreciated crew members during our sailing. 

 

alaskacruisetoursealife

The ship's naturalist helped passengers spot wildlife.
Credit: 2022 Dana Rebmann

Positioned at the back of deck 16 almost every night from 6 p.m. to sunset, he helped guests spot and identify everything from humpback and fin whales to orcas, otters, seals and calving glaciers. After dark, he turned his attention to the skies, scanning for the northern lights. During aurora season (late August onward), he maintains a cabin call list to alert guests hoping to catch a glimpse.

MedallionClass Perks and Prizes

The line’s exclusive MedallionClass experience continues to expand and improve the overall Alaska cruising experience onboard Royal Princess. The wearable, quarter-sized device does everything from unlocking stateroom doors to finding friends and family anywhere on the ship.

But now, it also gives adult clients the chance to win prizes — including shipboard credits, wine tastings and even free cruises — every time they enter their stateroom using their Medallion. Princess Prizes is part of the recently launched Princess Premier cruise package option; guests who don’t purchase a package can pay $20 per cabin per day to participate.

Once limited to purchases made onboard the ship, MedallionPay can now also be used at select retail locations in Ketchikan. (More Alaska ports are anticipated next season.) Guests who shop with participating merchants receive a 7% shipboard credit on purchases, which can be used on their current cruise or carried over to future sailings. Push notifications, reminders of upcoming events and an overall faster MedallionClass App experience are a few enhancements still in the works.

The Alaska Cruise Tour Experience 

After seven days filled with glaciers, bear spotting and helicopter tours, when our Alaska sailing ended in Whittier, nearly 300 of the 2,600 guests continued on a Princess Cruise Tour, road tripping through interior Alaska by motorcoach and train.

“Every day is a new opportunity to learn,” said Carlos Gomez, tour director for Princess, as guests settled into their coach seats for the approximately two-hour drive from Whittier to Kenai. “I always try to remember, for the majority of our travelers, this [is] a bucket-list trip."

From suggesting how to dress for daily activities to streaming daily, custom playlists during our time onboard the bus, Gomez took care of every detail as we racked up miles traveling to Kenai, Denali National Park and, finally, Fairbanks.

Princess’ Alaska Lodges

All but one of the five Princess Lodges in Alaska reopened for the 2022 season. (Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge opened briefly, but was forced to close in June due to staffing shortages. It is expected to reopen for the 2023 season.) Princess also operates Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge and Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge.

 

alaskacruisestour

Seeing bears during the tour portion of an Alaska Cruise Tour with Princess
Credit: 2022 Dana Rebmann

More than 50 guests made their way to the back deck of the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge at 3:30 a.m. after receiving a call that the northern lights were dancing across the sky. The next morning, both staff and guests seemed equally awestruck by the rare, unobstructed view of Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley). At 20,310 feet, it’s the tallest peak in North America. 

Tundra Wilderness Tours are operating smoothly again in Denali National Park & Preserve, though with a shortened route due to the Pretty Rocks Landslide at Mile 45 of Denali Park Road. (There’s no firm timeframe yet on when the road will be passable again.) Pick-ups take place steps from the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge lobby, allowing guests to practically roll out of bed and go.

Every trip into the park is so unique, so different,” said Scott Richardson, a guide for Tundra Wilderness Tour, as he encouraged us to enjoy our time in the park without expectations. 

It was good advice. But after a handful of grizzly bear sightings — a season record for Richardson — it was clear to us all we had hit the Denali jackpot. 

Everything You Need to Know About Carnival Venezia

Dec 23, 2022

Cruise  

 

CarnivalVenezia_Atrium

Carnival Venezia will sport signature Carnival favorites with Italian flourishes.
Credit: 2022 Carnival Cruise Line

Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, and Glenn Aprile, the brand’s director of new builds product development, hosted a press conference to share what clients can expect onboard Carnival Venezia when it sets sail year-round from New York beginning in June 2023.

Duffy indicated the new series of vessels — which will also include sister ship Carnival Firenze from Long Beach, Calif., in 2024 — will be dubbed the Venice class. And Aprile added they will feature the same general arrangement as the line’s existing Vista class, but with “unique Italian styling.” Both will be operated by Carnival crew and feature the brand’s signature fun elements.

Accommodations

Staterooms and suites will feel familiar to those in the Vista class, but with Venetian flourishes and glass shower doors in the bathrooms. Local customers will also appreciate U.S.-style electrical outlets and USB charging ports.

Instead of Havana cabins, however, Terrazza staterooms will be Italian-themed with exclusive access to the aft-located Carnevale Lounge for continental breakfast, visits during the day and a special sail-away party with live music at the alfresco Terrazza Carnevale. Unlike on the Vista class, though, there is no pool here — but Carnival will be adding two whirlpools. At night, the space will be open to all passengers.

Activities

The hub of activities onboard will be the triple-decker atrium inspired by Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy. The space and its cocktail bar and stage will host a Captain’s Venetian Toast, as well as live music from Carnival’s Celestial Strings show. Guests will have the opportunity to purchase or bring their own decorative masks for the occasion.

The Gondola Lounge will host other activities and live music in the space where Ocean Plaza is located on Carnival’s other ships. And for families with children, the line’s kids’ clubs will be reprised, as will WaterWorks with water slides and SportSquare and its ropes course.

 

The lido deck will feature a pool.

The lido deck will feature a pool.
Credit: 2022 Carnival Cruise Line

The lido deck is “maybe my favorite spot onboard,” said Duffy, which on Venezia is a two-level, fully themed space with columns, fountains, a pool and eateries under a retractable magrodome cover. Events here will include an Italian sail-away event amid a street party atmosphere that will extend into the evening after dinner. Customers can also anticipate bocce, ping pong, foosball and even gelato- and pasta-eating contests.

Dining

The Italian Riviera-style lido will also serve the first of the ship’s updated dining. At Rococo, for instance, “Baroque Goes Pop” and frozen drinks will be available from a playful setting with art and drinks to match — everything from margaritas and daiquiris to limoncello and bellinis. And opposite the bar will be JavaBlue Cafe, which will have coffee and  gelato this time around.

Poolside, the ship will feature a Guy’s Burger Joint and its menu classics, plus a pepperoni pizza burger and the Big Mozz, topped with mozzarella cheese. But instead of a BlueIguana Cantina, Tomodoro will offer “Mexitalian” fusion. Think the usual tacos and burritos, but also meatballs and Sicilian chicken.

 

The Canal Grande dining room

The Canal Grande dining room
Credit: 2022 Carnival Cruise Line

Elsewhere, La Strada Grill will prepare Italian street food and sandwiches, and Frizzante will pour beverages with bubbles such as prosecco and Italian beer, as well as coffees. Meanwhile, taking the place of an Alchemy Bar will be the equally interactive Amari, serving favorites from Alchemy in addition to cocktails such as the negroni, americano, Amalfi martini and sbagliato.

The  ship’s main dining rooms are Canal Grande and Marco Polo. Canal Grande will don Italian motifs and a full-scale gondola, which will also host The Chef’s Table experience. Both will feature dishes from Carnival’s classic Cucina del Capitano, while a new, yet-to-be-detailed specialty Italian restaurant will be showcased as an extra venue for sea day brunches and dinners. Duffy teased an oven that will specially bake focaccia bread.

Entertainment

Teatro Rosso will feature staged productions including “Color My World” from the line’s latest ship, Carnival Celebration,  complete with a live artist and assistant propelling the narrative. Other Playlist Productions coming to Venezia will include “Broadway Beats,” “Epic Rock” and “Vintage Pop,” as well as the Family Feud Live game show.

All of this is in addition to Carnival favorites that will also appear onboard, such as Heroes Tribute Bar & Lounge, Piano Bar 88, Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, Bonsai Sushi, Seafood Shack and a Cloud 9 Salon & Spa.

Starting June 15, 2023, Carnival Venezia will sail on a wide variety of itineraries (22 in total) across 10 different durations to 25 ports of call in 14 countries. And then later, on the West Coast in 2024, Carnival Firenze will depart year-round from Long Beach, Calif.

 

Holland America Line increases Canada/New England departures

By Andrea Zelinski 

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Jan 25, 2023

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Holland America Line's Nieuw Statendam in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Holland America Line's Nieuw Statendam in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Photo Credit: Paul McKinnon/Shutterstock

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Holland America Line will add four more sailings to its Canada/New England itineraries in 2024 by staying later in October to take advantage of the leaf-peeping season.

HAL will do 29 sailings between the Volendam and the Zuiderdam in the region in 2024, up from 25 sailings in 2023.

The longest sailing is a 24-day cruise that circumnavigates Iceland that sails from Boston. The itinerary includes six calls around Iceland along with 10 calls between Greenland, Maine, Nova Scotia, Labrador and Newfoundland. 

The line will also offer "Newfoundland & New England Discovery" sailings between Boston and Montreal. Ports on the 10-day voyage include Quebec City, Baie-Comeau and Havre-Stain-Pierre, Quebec; Corner Brook, St. Anthony and St. John's in Newfoundland; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Portland, Maine. An 11-day sailing calls at Portland, St. John, Corner Brook, Charlottetown and Quebec's Saguenay. 

Other offerings include seven-day cruises on the Volendam between Boston, Montreal and Quebec in both the summer and fall. Those sailings will calls at Bar Harbor, Maine; Quebec City; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; and Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The Zuiderdam will also sail seven-day itineraries between Boston and Quebec City with weekend departures and overnight calls at Quebec City. Calls include Bar Harbor, Charlottetown, Sydney and Halifax.