Friday, August 06, 2004

GETTING WAY OUT THERE: You don’t have to be the rockwall-climbing, stingray chasing Johnny of Royal Caribbean’s long-running ad campaign to get out there in Europe. From learning to cha-cha and meringue to creating masks for a Venetian masquerade ball, the line's European experiences also don’t stop at the gangway. Activities, amenities and entertainment bring culture and customs of Europe onboard this fall for guests sailing on Brilliance of the Seas, Splendour of the Seas and Jewel of the Seas. In the Mediterranean, options include 12-night Med / Venice and 12-night Med / Greek Isles cruises through Oct. 29, plus seven-night routes until Nov. 13. Performers from Barcelona's Las Ramblas entertain during embarkation. Once aboard, guests can explore regional languages, music and dances through complimentary Italian and Spanish classes, and dance lessons. Trivia contests reflect ports of call, and movie nights feature box-office hits such as Gladiator and The Italian Job. Departing Rome, guests can create their own costumes for toga parties. Sports bars become cozy tapas bars, with live flamenco music and Spanish fare, from flavorful chorizo, Serrano ham and saucisson to tangy cheeses, roasted garlic and breads with olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Then throw in pizza-tossing demonstrations at poolside, including sampling of final products. Greek itineraries to Santorini and Mykonos star "syrtos," or the circle dance, and Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti is piped over the ship's audio system for triumphant sailings into Venice. Staff aboard also gets into the European spirit, each day greeting passengers in the language of that day's port of call. For details, call 800-327-6700.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

NOW THAT’S ITALIAN-STYLE FLAIR: On Dec. 16, Costa Cruises' 800-passenger Costa Allegra launches 11-night Caribbean sailings from Port Everglades through March. The vessel of imagination and opulence has peach and rose hand-cut Carrara marble and decks named after famed Impressionists. A three-deck glass atrium has a dome opening up to a 360 degree view of the sky -- day or night. Fountains stream into pools that double as exquisite skylights for the public rooms below. For details, call (800) 462-6782.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

YUM-YUM FUN: From leisurely dining to casual poolside fare, Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Valor -- launching year-round seven day Caribbean sailings from the Port of Miami on Dec. 19 -- brims with palate-pleasers. The 2,974-passenger SuperLiner houses a pair of bi-level contemporary colonial décor main dining rooms, a supper club, sushi bar, wine bar, patisserie, poolside eatery, 24-hour pizzeria, plus 24-hour cabin service. On the formal side, Washington and Lincoln restaurant menus have six appetizers, two salads, six entrees and four desserts nightly. Choices include low-carb, vegetarian and Spa Carnival Fare (short on fat, sodium, cholesterol and calories). Gone With The Wind-inspired Scarlett’s provides supper club dining (with a $25 per person reservation fee) featuring hand-cut dry-aged beef, along with veal chops, lobster tail, Alaskan King Crab and Chilean sea bass. WWII-inspired Rosie’s, with Asian specialties, has a grille for hot dogs, burgers and sandwiches; pasta and meat-carving stations; a deli and rotisserie, and a rotating “Taste of the Nation.” Rosie’s specialty seafood venue serves shrimp ceviche, oyster fritters, bouillabaisse and more. The pizzeria has seven kinds of pies and calzones, plus a 35-item salad bar. Seaview Bistro serves alternative dinners. Also aboard: Jeanne’s, for wine by the bottle or glass; Java Café, with decadent confections, lattes, cappuccino and the like. Togo sushi bar has Asian delicacies. Fountain Fun Cards for adults or kids, for purchase, allow unlimited soft drinks. Each cruise has one midnight gala buffet, late-night buffets and a Chocolate Extravaganza. The ship alternates eastern and western Caribbean routes. For details, call (800) CARNIVAL.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

ANOTHER NAUTICAL S-T-R-E-T-C-H: Royal Caribbean International plans to lengthen and revamp its Vision-class Enchantment of the Seas, adding a 73-foot midsection with 151 staterooms and more public space. New frills include a specialty restaurant, Boleros Latin lounge and a Latte’tudes coffee shop serving Seattle’s Best Coffee and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Overall length increases to 990 feet and tonnage jumps from 74,140 to 80,700 for the ship, out of service next May until July. The stretch comes in wake of the line’s other upgrades. In May, a revitalized Nordic Empress debuted as Empress of the Seas at the line's new Cape Liberty Cruise Point in Bayonne, N.J., homeporting this winter out of Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades. Monarch of the Seas underwent similar refurbishment last year, and Sovereign of the Seas gets a facelift this fall.

Monday, August 02, 2004

BIG GUAVA DÉJÀ VU: Capitalizing on inaugural season success in the Tampa - St. Petersburg area, Radisson Seven SeasSeven Seas Navigator returns for seven- and 10-nighters this October through December. As the only luxury ship sailing from Florida's Port of Tampa, five departures to / from the Big Guava on the central west coast feature the southern and western Caribbean. The 490-guest, all-suite ship -- 90 percent of suites have private verandas -- features two-for-one fares and free upgrades, with three sailings spotlighting regional chefs and jazz. The Thanksgiving cruise’s Club Mariner program is geared toward ages six to 17. Fares (including shipboard gratuities, wine with dinner and an in-suite bar set-up) start at $1,998 per person, double, for Tampa - St. Petersburg seven-night round trips, and $2,848 for the 10-night Thanksgiving and Dec. 4 Great Chefs of Chicago sailings. For details, call (800) 477-7500.