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Crown Cruise Vacations | August 30, 2014

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Carnival Cruise Lines’ new shore excursions best price guarantee- now all you have to do is choose a tour!

June 12, 2014 | Heidi

Shore excursions are part of the fun of cruising. Going ashore and taking a tour is an exciting option on cruises. And, almost always, there are more tour options than I can do. Makes for hard choices.

But Carnival Cruise Lines has now come up with a cruise industry first to be sure passengers get the best shore excursions possible. Carnival just announced a guarantee that guests who book a Carnival shore excursion and find a comparable tour at a lower price will receive an onboard credit of 110 percent of the difference.

“Many of our repeat guests who have booked Carnival shore tours previously are already knowledgeable on the outstanding value our tours provide,” said Mico Cascais, vice president of tour operations for Carnival Cruise Lines.

“However, our research indicates that many others, particularly first-time cruisers, are interested yet concerned as to whether or not they are getting the best deal,. The best price guarantee program will assure our guests they are getting both the highest quality and the best value on all of our tours.”

I’ve long known that the shore excursions offered by a cruise company are the best way to go. The excursions have to be well organized, reasonably priced, safe and interesting or the cruise line would not keep offering them.

I once saw a couple returning to our cruise ship shaking their heads and vowing never TO take a Jamaica tour again. The problem was not Jamaica and it was not the tour, it was the tour company. The poor couple had booked it with a tour company after they got off the ship and saw a cheap tour offered in Jamaica. Never ever do that.

CHOOSE CRUISE COMPANY SHORE EXCURSIONS

Stick with the cruise company excursions. They offer the best protection and now the best price. I was very pleased with my Bob Marley tour when the Carnival Breeze docked in Jamaica. But I don’t think I would have wanted to take the tour with any company other than the one backed by the Carnival company.

Of course, with Carnival’s new excursion protection plan, cruisers are guaranteed to get the best deal from a Carnival excursion. Sounds like a great program.

Guests sailing on a Carnival cruise who book a shore excursion through the cruise line can be completely confident they are getting the best price and best value with the introduction of a new shore excursion best price guarantee.

The only guarantee of its kind in the cruise industry, the program is now available fleet wide for all Carnival Cruise Lines shore tours on ships sailing from North America.

Under the best price guarantee, guests who find the same tour offered by another operator at a lower price than their booked excursion either before or during their cruise can complete a claim form to receive 110 percent of the difference in the form of a shipboard credit.

The guarantee is available for excursions booked prior to or during a cruise. If guests pre-book an excursion, then find a comparable tour advertised online at a lower price, they can complete an online form up to seven days prior to the cruise to invoke the guarantee. Guests can also complete a form during the cruise either before or after their excursion has taken place.  Claims are typically processed within 24-48 hours.

DON’T MISS THE BOAT

Guests who book their excursion through Carnival enjoy the convenience of having shore excursion tickets delivered to their stateroom, 24/7 access to shipboard staff to answer questions and obtain assistance, and an assurance that they will receive a refund or the excursion time will be adjusted as needed based on weather or other issues affecting a ship’s scheduled port of call visit.

I heard a faint gasp during my Carnival Magic orientation meeting in December when Magic Cruise Director James Dunn told cruisers what would happen if they booked a shore excursion not offered by Carnival and didn’t return to the ship in time for its sailing.

“We will leave you,” Dunn said. “We’ve done it before and we will do it again.”

Of course, that is no problem when you book a shore excursion with Carnival. I’ve never been late getting back to the ship on a ship-arranged tour excursion. But if something were to happen with a Carnival tour, Dunn said, the ship would wait.

Ongoing communication between tour operators and shipboard staff ensures that the cruise line is aware and can make necessary changes to a ship’s departure time when a tour is running late or unexpected circumstances arise, Dunn said.

Sure worth the peace of mind to me.

The online and onboard claim forms require guests to provide the name of the competitor offering the comparable tour, excursion name, where the tour was advertised and the duration, price and any items included in the tour such as lunch, drinks, transportation or admission fees.

The best price guarantee is applicable to shore excursion matches on the same date as the tour purchased from Carnival.

Story and Photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

 

Blue Iguana, Red Frog have friendly rivalry on Carnival cruises

June 6, 2014 | Heidi

ABOARD THE CARNIVAL BREEZE - Are you a Blue Iguana or are you a Red Frog?

Seems like a strange question. But there is an interesting story behind the two critters who now make their home on Carnival Cruise Lines. The BlueIguana Tequila Bar is featured on the Breeze, Conquest, Dream, Glory, Liberty, Sunshine and Triumph.

“The most popular cruise activity is eating,” said cruise director Butch Begovich.  “The second most popular cruise activity is drinking.”

And the Carnival ships have plenty of places to do both.

For starters, there is the RedFrog. The story goes that he used to live in the forest, soaking up the rain. Now he lives on Carnival, basking in the sun.

In fact, the little tree frog has made himself so at home on the cruise ship that he has his own private label draught beer, custom-brewed specially for Carnival – ThirstyFrog Red.

Then there’s the Blue Iguana and, of course, he has a tale to tell. What makes him blue? Some think he was born that way. But legend has it that he spent too much time in the blue agave fields soaking up the spirit of tequila.

You also might be asking how an iguana finds a pair of purple sunglasses … that fit. Let’s just say it boils down to one memorable trip to Cozumel, Mexico. The rest of the story, it is said, can be heard if you treat Blue to a tall tequila drink.

According to bartender Boyan, margaritas are the most popular drink at the BlueIguana. But then you have to decide which margarita – the classic, the guava, the spicy, the mango or the chipotle pineapple passion margarita.

To keep it fun, the BlueIguana and the RedFrog have devout followers who engage in friendly competition. “We think it started when Blue stole Red’s drink and put it on his menu,” a bartender says. “We think that’s where the rivalry started.”

As RedFrog himself might say – “Chill out. Live life to the fullest.”

By Jackie Sheckler Finch

Courtesy photo

Carnival Cruises: Captain Giovanni Cutugno celebrates 35 years with cruise line

May 22, 2014 | Heidi

Giovanni Cutugno is living his dream as captain of the Carnival Magic.

“My goal always was to be captain of a cruise ship and I love my job,” he said. “I have been with the Magic since she started. She is my baby.”

The man from Italy has been with Carnival Cruise Lines an amazing 35 years. “I have been a captain for 23 years,” Cutugno said. “I am Carnival’s most senior captain.”

It started on Nov. 15, 1978, when Cutugno boarded the Carnival Festivale as a third mate. “I come from a family of seamen which meant it was in my blood,” he said. “But my experience was in cargo and tanker vessels.”

Working his way up in the ranks, Cutugno served on a long roster of Carnival ships – Mardi Gras, Carnivale, Tropicale, Holiday, Jubilee, Celebration, Fantasy, Ecstasy, Sensation, Fascination, Imagination, Inspiration, Paradise, Destiny, Fiesta Marina, Spirit, Pride, Legend and Conquest.

He moved from assistant navigator to third officer, then second officer, then first, safety officer and staff caption. In 1991, he became captain of the Tropicale. The Magic is the fourth new vessel he has commanded.

“Every time it feels like the first time,” he said. “You always learn something new.”

When he was introduced at the Welcome Board Show on the Magic, Cutugno came on stage to the sounds of Maroon Five. That is always his intro music, he said, because that is the GRAMMY-Award winning band that performed for a standing-room-only crowd on the Galveston pier when the Magic arrived in her new year round homeport of Galveston.

As ship captain, Cutugno gave Adam Levine and Maroon Five a tour of the ships’ wheelhouse. I was at the same kick-off concert and the weeklong cruise that departed Nov. 14, 2011, for the Magic’s inaugural cruise.

Small world!

By Jackie Scheckler Finch- Courtesy photo

Holland America announces finalists for ‘Dancing With Stars: At Sea’

April 11, 2014 | Heidi

Shine up your dancing shoes. Holland America cruise line has announced it is extending its partnership with “Dancing with the Stars” for another season.

Through the 2014 sailing season, passengers on Holland America ships can try their skills in the “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” program.  The competition will culminate with a Champions Cruise guest dance-off competition for the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy on Dec. 6, 2014, on the ms Nieuw Westerdam.

“Our ‘Dancing with the Stars: At Sea’ programming has been wildly popular and a highlight of our cruises,” said  Richard Meadows, Holland America Line’s executive vice president, sales, marketing and guest programs.

One winning dancer from each of the 15 ships in the Holland America fleet will compete for the top title on the Dec. 6 cruise. Finalists will be selected as the winning guest with the highest overall score from the onboard “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea.”

In addition, Holland America also will feature six special “Dancing with the Stars” theme cruises featuring the television show’s professional dancers and celebrities.

Currently scheduled to sail on all six theme cruises in 2014 are professional dancers Tristan MacManus and Kym Johnson and television personality Carson Kressley and actress Sabrina Bryan.

By Jackie Sheckler Finch