Thursday, May 15, 2008

Let the Government pay for your next cruise!

What are you Spending Your Stimulus Check on?

It's May 2008 and you know what that means, it's tax stimulus time. This gift from the government is being provided to get consumers spending. A recent Goldman Sacks report showed that stocks like Royal Caribbean are sure to benefit from these dollars as consumers seek out their next vacation or upgrade from an ocean view stateroom to a private balcony with their new found monies.

There are a lot of places to spend the stimulus monies like on a new sofa, paying down some credit card bills, doing some home repairs or getting away on an exciting cruise vacation. But how about spending it on all or at least some of those things? We have some amazing getaways that won't deplete your whole stimulus check.

Getaway with the whole family this summer for as little as $32 a person, a day (for a family of four). Norwegian Cruise Line just announced they are moving a ship to the Caribbean this summer that will sail 3- and 4-night cruises from Miami and for a limited time, Kids Sail Free. There are a number of other ships and itineraries to choose from for under $50 per person, per day. Sail a 4-night Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Imagination from Miami or sail a 5-night Bahamas cruise on the Carnival Fascination from Jacksonville. For under $60 per day you can sail a 4-night Baja Mexico cruise on the Carnival Paradise from Los Angeles, a 4-night Bahamas cruise on the Carnival Sensation from Port Canaveral, a 4- or 5-night Western Caribbean on the Carnival Holiday from Mobile, a 5-night Baja Mexico cruise on the Carnival Elation from San Diego, a 5-night Western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Fantasy from New Orleans, or a 7-night Florida & Bahamas cruise on the Norwegian Majesty from Charleston. How about sailing in a Balcony stateroom for under $100 per person, per day? You can on a number of 7-night Caribbean cruises on the Carnival Triumph, Liberty or Valor, on Carnival Spirit's 8-night Mexican Riviera cruises or on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas 12-night transatlantic cruise.

There are a ton of deals out there and I am just the person to find them for you. So when your stimulus check arrives, go ahead and use some of it to pay down your mortgage, or make a car payment, but be sure to keep just a little to spend on a holiday for yourself and your family. This might be the only time the government pays for your vacation.

Try something new!

Baltic Cruising: The Land of Enchantment

Enjoy the multitude of enchanting fascinations that encompass the Baltic region of Europe. Whether you are looking for majestic landscapes,, the contrasts of ancient and modern culture, world-class gastronomy, outdoor activities, or simply want to experience life in another part of the world, you will find it all on a Northern European cruise.
The beautiful Baltic Sea extends from the British Isles to St. Petersburg, Russia and offers a number of distinct ports in England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Lithuania, Russia, Estonia, Finland, Amsterdam, Holland, Germany and Sweden.
Discover an unseen variety of destinations, sights and adventures. The region’s exciting history, rich traditions and spectacular nature invites an extraordinary experience.
Explore the medieval as well as modern cities with vibrant nightlife. Encounter the amazing culture of the Vikings in an area rich in folklore and fairy tales. Let yourself be transported back in time to the land of the original oceangoing explorers.
Shore excursions typically visit fascinating museums, palaces, castles and cathedrals. The close proximity of the Baltic landmarks makes it easy to see a lot in a small amount of time. Be one of the few to transit the Kiel Canal or discover the majestic beauty of the Norwegian Fjords. Sail to the polar ice cap, get back to nature with a hike in the mountains, delve into Celtic history or discover a grand winter palace filled with Masterpieces. The options are endless on a Baltic cruise.
Several cruise lines will sail the Baltic this summer. The season typically runs from May through August and you will find a variety of cruise ships in the area. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jade and the Norwegian Jewel will be sailing on 12- and 13- night voyages from Southampton and Dover. Carnival will introduce the brand new Carnival Splendor to the Baltic region along with the Carnival Liberty, both sailing 12- night voyages from Dover. Royal Caribbean takes to the seas with 12- night sailings from Harwich on the Jewel of the Seas and MSC Cruises will sail seven, 10- and 11- night voyages on the MSC Opera, MSC Lirica and MSC Armonia from Copenhagen and Dover. Princess Cruises’ offer Crown Princess from Copenhagen and Southampton, and the Sea Princess and the Grand Princess from Southampton.
A number of premium lines will sail Northern Europe this summer. Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Century will sail from Amsterdam and Celebrity Constellation from Harwich. Holland America will have three ships in the region including the brand new ms Eurodam along with the ms Prinsendam and the ms Rotterdam. Sailings on these lines range from 5 nights to 16 nights.
If you are looking for a deluxe or luxury ship sailing in the Baltic look no further than the Azamara Journey, sailing 12- and 14- night voyages from Copenhagen. Oceania will sail Regatta all season long alternating between Stockholm and London on 14- night voyages while Cunard sails the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria from Southampton on voyages ranging from 7- to 14- nights. Regent Seven Seas will sail the luxurious Seven Seas Voyager on 7- to 15- night voyages from Dover, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Southampton and Reykjavik.
Like brilliant pearls on a string lie the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea. In every port and in every city, there are countless precious gems just waiting for you to enjoy. Set sail on a Baltic cruise and begin a journey to the land of enchantment.

Choosing the right cruise line...

Cruising Your Style…

Today’s modern cruise industry is made up of many different styles and sizes of ships, from contemporary to deluxe to luxury and everything in between. All of this terminology can be very confusing but knowing the differences will help you and your Cruise Specialist make the perfect choice to fit your unique needs for your next cruise vacation. Let’s take a look at the differences between styles of cruise lines.

What exactly is a “Contemporary” Cruise Line?:
Contemporary cruises are the most popular segment of the cruise industry and may also be referred to as mass market or First Class cruises. Cruise lines included in this category are Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Lines, MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises and Costa Cruises. These larger ships cater to thousands of guests and typically have resort-style facilities with heavy emphasis on shipboard activities. Many short three, four and five day itineraries departing from close to home U.S. cities and visiting the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Baja Mexico are offered. In the seven day contemporary market, cruise travelers can enjoy the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera and Alaska. Longer international itineraries of 10-14 days such as Europe, South America and Asia are also seasonally offered. Contemporary lines tend to have newer and larger cruise ships with lots of amenities including lavish show rooms, extensive spa facilities, large casinos, expansive children's programs, televisions and in-room movies in all cabins, double/queen beds, etc. A contemporary cruise will have something for everybody - all age groups. Best for families and kids of all ages as the award winning kids programs dedicate staff and space to entertain kids and teens of all ages.

What makes a cruise line part of a “Premium” class of lines?:
A step above contemporary, premium lines offer more service and added amenities. Holland America and Celebrity are two well known premium lines and are famous for catering to more experienced cruisers. While still offering most of the activities of a contemporary line, premium lines include more upscale offerings such as white glove service, high tea, wine tastings, cigar bars, etc. Many itineraries are for seven+ days and travel to similar destinations as the contemporary lines, but longer more extensive itineraries including Europe and Alaska in the summer months. Holland America Line even offers a full 100+ day World cruise. Premium lines are great for couples of all ages and traditionally have good children’s programs.
I have not ever heard of a “Deluxe” Cruise Line can you explain the difference?:
The newest category in cruising is deluxe – the ships are more elegant but would not be considered “all inclusive” as most of the luxury lines are. The two cruise lines that fall into this category are Azamara and Oceania Cruises. The ships are smaller and carry fewer guests, approximately 800. Stateroom amenities are more luxurious with high thread count sheets, high end toiletries, pillow menus, etc. Entertainment is more cabaret style, casinos are smaller and the libraries are extensive. Itineraries tend to be longer that seven days and to more exotic destinations. These lines are not recommended for families with young children as there traditionally are not activities or staff dedicated to children and teens.

Is “Luxury” just a fancy word for expensive?:
Actually, when it comes to a luxury cruise, the value far exceeds what is delivered by a luxury hotel or resort. Luxury or ultra luxury cruising delivers personalized service and high space to guest ratios, and are considered the highest quality of cruise experience available. With a staff to guest ratio of 1:1.5, guests’ needs are always anticipated and attention to detail waits around every beautiful corner. World-class cuisine is created and designed by leading celebrity chefs and served in an “open seating” environment where every meal is prepared to order. Some of the top Luxury cruise lines include: Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Cunard Line, The Yachts of Seabourn and SeaDream Yacht Club. These lines are rich in amenities, service and style and focus on the world’s most unique destinations. These luxury cruise lines welcome between 100-900 guests and provide each traveler with the opportunity to be treated like an individual and not part of the crowd. Some sailings tend to be significantly more formal than contemporary cruise lines. Their ships tend to carry far fewer passengers and accommodations are often more spacious with a very high percentage of oceanview staterooms and balcony suites including king-sized beds, sitting areas and private teak wood verandahs. Many of these lines are “all inclusive” where items like gratuities, wine and spirits, custom shore excursions and more are included in the base cruise fare. These cruise lines are much more itinerary oriented and often feature longer cruises, international travel and follow warm weather around the world. Many luxury guests are more experienced and more discerning travelers. These sailings are not as "entertainment-oriented" as they are "experience-oriented". Luxury lines have very limited or no programs for children and would not be the first choice for families.

So now that you know the differences between a contemporary cruise line and a premium, deluxe and luxury cruise line you can make an educated decision on what type of ship you would like to sail on. Your Cruise Specialist is here to help you choose the right ship and the right itinerary to create your dream cruise vacation. Call me now and start planning your getaway today!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Time for a Luxury Cruise!

Climb aboard a luxury vessel and you’ll immediately understand what sets the experience apart from life on a mass-market or contemporary cruise ship. Lavish attention to every detail. Ultimate convenience. A level of personal attention and pampering that leaves guests delighted and amazed. When you make the leap to luxury cruising, you’ll enjoy the best of everything – the finest available accommodations, cutting-edge amenities, gourmet dining from the world’s most celebrated culinary artists, an elegant array of enrichment programs and activities, and service that prides itself on knowing exactly what you need (and when you’ll need it). Today’s luxury cruise ships offer passengers every posh perk imaginable – from Evian spritzes by the pool to course-by-course in-suite dining – as well as a number of offerings that may never have crossed your mind.
Accommodations & AmenitiesAll-suite accommodations. Spacious marble baths and generously-sized walk-in closets. Expansive views of the sea from the comfort of large and private teak verandahs. Frette linens, feather pillows, and complimentary champagne. Depending on your stateroom of choice, you can expect to enjoy well over 1,000 square feet of personal space. And a sophisticated selection of room amenities is the standard. Watch first-run films on a 42” flat-screen plasma television with Bose® surround sound. Order from a pillow menu designed to cater to the wishes of a discerning clientele, and expect nightly turndown service (and delicious surprises) when retiring to your cabin each evening.
DiningLuxury dining equals imaginative gourmet creations prepared under the watchful eyes of award-winning chefs, a selection of vintage wines that even the most discerning sommelier would admire, innovative venues, and so much more. Open-seating policies are the rule, allowing guests the flexibility to dine as they choose, and mealtime options abound. Think tuxedo-clad waitstaff, multiple courses of truly inspired cuisine, and elegantly appointed tables set with fine China and European crystal. Casually elegant choices are also on the menu – sumptuous buffets served along teak-lined pool decks, as well as opportunities to enjoy course-by-course dining experiences in the comfort of your suite (complimentary butler service caters to every whim).
Entertainment / Enrichment ProgramsThe freedom to do anything. Or nothing at all. Aboard a luxury cruise, you’ll encounter the same simple pleasures you’d expect to find aboard any traditional cruise – sunbathing poolside, for example, or the chance to enjoy an invigorating workout. But a luxury cruise augments these activities with exclusive programming and special offerings that are unique to your voyage. Choice is paramount. Succumb to the tranquility (and the exotic treatments) that can only be found in the most elegant spa and wellness facilities at sea. Or treat yourself to the ultimate souvenir – exclusive partnerships with premier brands afford passengers some very luxurious shopping opportunities. Then, when night falls, attend a live orchestral performance conducted by starlight.
A luxury cruise will take you places you’ve only dreamed about. And onboard enrichment programs, a signature feature of the luxury cruise experience, help bring those places to life. World-renowned experts and celebrities set sail alongside passengers, sharing anecdotes, insights, and a wealth of behind-the-scenes information with guests. Stimulating lectures and hands-on demonstrations illuminate and enhance your journey. Study Renaissance art with a leading museum curator, or acting with performers from London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Discuss a bestselling book with its author, or a destination included in your itinerary with a distinguished foreign ambassador. Head ashore to prepare a gourmet meal under the tutelage of chefs from the prestigious Relais & Châteux.
Exceptional Personalized ServiceHighly personalized service is the hallmark of the luxury cruise experience. Favorable staff-to-guest ratios mean that there’s always someone at your disposal, and you’ll reap the benefits instantly. Carefully selected professionals greet you warmly by name, take pride in anticipating your needs, and fulfill every whim. Personal butlers are also available (their services, in some instances, are already included in your fare) to attend to every detail of your stay, from special shipboard requests to shoreside arrangements. Luxury’s service is simply unrivaled, and the examples are legendary – uniform clad stewards that wade into the surf to serve caviar and champagne while you’re ashore, complimentary massages delivered on deck, and much more.
It's time for a Luxury Cruise; you deserve it!