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Crown Cruise Vacations | May 23, 2015

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Cruise Vacations

MSC Divina offers two mini bowling alleys for sportsters

April 28, 2015 | Heidi

A bowling alley on a cruise ship? Why not? The mini-bowling alley on the MSC Divina certainly has its happy competitors.

The small twin alleys are located in the ship’s Sports Bar, an American-themed spot where passengers can watch pro sports on big-screen TVs while they munch on American food and quaff drinks.

The bar has two lanes with mini-pins and balls. Scoring is done electronically on a big screen. Every aspect of the ten-pin bowling has been carefully designed for fun and easy use on a cruise ship. That includes a traditional-looking bowling surface that is actually made of a tough phenol compound which allows passengers to join in the play without changing shoes.

The more compact size is also a plus for youngsters. But don’t fool yourself. It is still a bowling alley and someone has to be the winner.

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Monkey and Mice

April 22, 2015 | Heidi

When ships stop in Heidelberg, Germany, passengers can see an unusual sight down by the Old Bridge. The unusual sculptures are of a monkey and two mice.

I wasn’t with a tour guide when I saw the sculptures so didn’t know the story of the strange critters. But I was lucky enough to be on the edge of a tour group where the leader was explaining in English.

The story she told is that the monkey holding a mirror in his left hand is meant to remind people not to get too full of themselves. No one is better than anyone else, the guide said, and no one is safe from making themselves a monkey’s rear if they aren’t careful. The monkey actually has his behind turned toward the river and the bridge, all the better to moon approaching visitors.

The bronze sculpture was installed in 1979 by Professor Gernot Rumpf. But there had been a bridge monkey in Heidelberg as far back as the 15th century, according to historic records.

A plaque next to the statue read, the guide said, something along the lines of “As you look at me, don’t laugh because if you were to look at other human beings or even into a mirror, you might just see something equally funny.” Good lesson.

The sculpture was created with a big empty space in the monkey’s head. That way people can stick their heads inside the monkey’s head, making it quite a popular photo spot.

According to legend, if you touch the fingers of the Bridge Monkey, it will ensure your return to Heidelberg. If you touch the mirror, you will have money in your future. If you touch the mice, that is a guarantee of fertility. I think I touched all of them so who knows what my future holds. Returning to Heidelberg would be my hope.


Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Crown Cruise Vacations Offers Great Deals on Holland American Line’s 55-Day Grand Mediterranean Voyage

March 31, 2015 | Heidi





Crown Cruise Vacations President Ross Spalding says Holland America Line’s 55-Day Grand Mediterranean Voyage is just that – a grand voyage.

Departing March 11, 2016, round trip Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the 55-day voyage on the ms Prinsendam will spend numerous days at sea as well as these many interesting ports:

  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
  • Funchal (Madeira), Portugal
  • Malaga, Spain
  • Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
  • Trapani, Italy
  • Valletta, Malta
  • Pylos, Greece
  • Thira (Santorini), Greece
  • Piraeus (Athens), Greece
  • Kavala (Neapolis), Greece
  • Cruising The Dardanelles
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Mytilene, Nisos Lesbos, Greece
  • Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey
  • Katakolon (Olympia), Greece
  • Kerkira, Nisos Kerkira (Corfu), Greece
  • Durres, Albania
  • Kotor, Montenegro
  • Venice, Italy
  • Venice, Italy
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Cruising Strait of Messina
  • Scenic cruising Stromboli
  • Naples (Pompeii), Italy
  • Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
  • Livorno (Florence/Pisa), Italy
  • Monte Carlo, Monaco
  • Sete, France
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Gibraltar, British Territory
  • Huelva (Seville), Spain
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal
  • Horta, Azores, Portugal

Prices for this grand voyage start at US$7,999 per person, double occupancy, for Interior; $9,999 Oceanview; $16,999 Vista Suite; $23,999 Signature Suite; $41,999 Neptune Suite.

Throughout the ship there are restaurants to suit every mood, from a casual lunch by the pool to authentic Italian cuisine to a legendary experience at Le Cirque to a perfectly grilled porterhouse steak. Savor the many diverse restaurants and delicious menus inspired by the latest trends.

If you prefer a private dining experience, 24-hour In-Room Dining is complimentary and simply a phone call away.

As You Wish®

As You Wish dining is all about flexibility and freedom.

  • Pinnacle Grill
  • An Evening at Le Cirque
  • La Fontaine Dining Room
  • Lido Restaurant

Facilities vary by ship.

  • Greenhouse Spa and Salon
  • Fitness Center
  • Casino
  • Lido Pool
  • Showroom at Sea
  • Explorations Café (powered by The New York Times)

Each New Day, a Wealth of Cruise Activities and Indulgences

Every day aboard a Holland America cruise ship brings a wealth of cruise activities and indulgences, along with the freedom to partake in as many — or as few — as you please.

It’s an opportunity to try something new that surprises you, every day.

Dabble, discover, daydream — do everything, or do nothing at all.

Lounges & Entertainment

Evenings on board brim with choices. Take in a thrilling show in the lounge, try your luck in the Casino, or sing along in the piano bar. Explore the varied gathering places to suit every taste.


Care for a refreshing drink by the pool? An exotic cocktail in a late-night lounge? Choices abound.

  • Ocean Bar
  • Explorer’s Lounge
  • Atrium
  • Crow’s Nest
  • Casino
  • Showroom at Sea
  • Java Bar & Café and Oak Room

Crown Cruise Vacations guarantees the lowest rates and recommends this Holland America Line grand voyage. Call one of our agents to ask for details and specifics. Prices are as subject to availability per person, cruise only, based on double occupancy and are in U.S. dollars. Not combinable with any other rate or promotion. Offers are subject to availability can be withdrawn at any time. Airline-imposed personal charges such as baggage fees may apply. Air: Checked air bag fees could be up to $150.

Sophisticated cruise specialists at Crown Cruise Vacations provide exclusive offers, exceptional value & unparalleled service and can assist with experienced cruise information and bookings for current promotions or any time. For more information and to book a cruise call 1-877-283-1114 toll-free USA/Canada, +1-609-945-9801 direct dial or visit

AmaCerto double balconies in ship cabins make for double viewing fun

March 17, 2015 | Heidi

The balcony of my ship’s cabin on any cruise is one of my favorite places to sit and watch the water roll. But sometimes outside temperatures or a drenching rainstorm can make the balcony an unpleasant place to sit.

That’s why I was pleased to learn of AmaWaterways exclusive twin balconies. My AmaCerto stateroom had both an inside balcony and an outside balcony. I could choose to sit inside and watch the river and the sights along it. Or I could sit outside.

The double balconies also meant a whole wall of sliding glass doors for excellent water views from anywhere in my room.

Founded in 2002, the family-owned AmaWaterways gets its name from the Latin word for “love” – Ama. AmaWaterways has 19 custom-designed vessels and will add a new one in 2015, along with even more river cruises in Europe, Asia and Africa.

Resembling a luxurious long yacht, the AmaCerto can accommodate 164 passengers and sails to Austria, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Hungary and Slovakia. Debuting in 2012, AmaCerto looks big enough to be comfortable but small enough to easily dock along the rivers. The ship’s name is pronounced Ama-Cherto. The Certo part is a musical nod as in concerto. The three decks of the AmaCerto are named Piano, Violin and Cello.

Story and Photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Louis Cruises announces new Celestyal Cruises with two ships

March 9, 2015 | Heidi

 Louis Cruises has launched a new brand in 2015 that it says will reach for the stars and promises to gives travelers an authentic Greek experience.

“We will give a name to this promise: Celestyal Cruises,” said Kyriakos Anastassiadis, company CEO.

Celestyal stems from celestial, which means “pertaining to the stars” and “heavenly” or “divine,” Anastassiadis said.

“By launching Celestyal, we are expanding the Louis Cruises portfolio thereby reflecting the divine, real Greek experience that one enjoys when sailing with us,” he said.

“We’ve also chosen this name to honor our ancestors, the Ancient Greeks, who were among the first peoples to use celestial navigation,” Anastassiadis said. “By the third century BC, Greek mariners were using the Little Bear to navigate their ships.”

Two ships in the Louis Cruises fleet will be sailing under the colors of this subsidiary brand – Celestyal Crystal and Celestyal Olympia. The two ships sailing out of the Piraeus and Lavrion cruise ports in Athens are now branded Celestyal Cruises.

Louis Cruises said the change is being made because today’s travelers want an authentic experience when they travel. They want unique destinations and a true taste of the culture, gastronomy and history of a place. And, as modern life becomes more hectic, travelers want a travel experience that dissolves their cares from the moment they depart. They want a temporary home in the stars. Thus, the name and the change.

Since 2013, Louis Cruises has kept this idea at the forefront of its efforts, particularly with the inauguration of its “Kalimera!” experience. The word “Kalimera” doesn’t  just mean “good morning” to Louis Cruises. It means “good” in every sense of the word – quality, satisfaction and happiness – and that is what the company has used as its motto.

“We say it,” the Louis Cruises brochures note, “You live it.”

The company plans to bolster its commitment with even more outstanding Greek food and wine, and with themed programs that take passengers deeper into the archaeology, gastronomy, history and music of Greece.

In 2015 the company will continue to build on the promise of “Kalimera!” by sailing to new ports of call in the Ionian and Adriatic seas and along the Dalmatian coast. The Celestyal Crystal is offering 94 cruises in 2015; the Celestyal Olympia is offering 131.

Founded in 1935, Louis Group has over the decades evolved into a leading tourism, hospitality and travel group in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Louis Hotels owns and manages 19 four and five star hotels in all of Cyprus’ resorts, including the Hilton Park Nicosia and the Greek islands of Corfu, Zante, Crete, Mykonos and Rhodes.

Louis Cruises is the only home porting cruise operator in Greece and preeminent cruise line for the Greek Islands and Turkey.

By Jackie Scheckler Finch

Enjoy green eggs and ham with Dr. Seuss at Sea aboard Carnival ships

March 4, 2015 | Heidi

Do you like green eggs and ham? How about moose juice or goose juice?

Chances are your children like them. And youngsters know exactly where such creative food came from – Dr. Seuss.

Now children of all ages will enjoy an exciting new partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Carnival Cruise Lines.

“It is fun to have fun but you have to know how,” said the Cat in the Hat in the iconic Dr. Seuss book.

For the funnest fun of all, Carnival Cruise Lines will be offering an industry first with its Carnival Seuss at Sea Program.

Roll-out of the Seuss at Sea program began aboard Carnival Splendor in February 2014 with implementation across the full 24 “Fun Ship” fleet in 2015, as well as Carnival Vista when that ship enters service in early 2016.

The program offers a variety of exciting and immersive onboard youth, family, dining and entertainment experiences featuring the amazing world and words of Dr. Seuss.

“Dr. Seuss inspires imaginations across generations and encourages a playfulness and whimsy that is often lost in today’s ‘always on’ society,” said Susan Brandt, president of Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

“We’re excited to be working with Carnival Cruise Lines to bring some of the timeless magic of Dr. Seuss to the families that sail each year. Seuss at Sea will let kids and parents alike explore their imaginations through the memorable onboard experiences we’re building together.”

The Seuss fun on Carnival will happen for the whole cruise, starting in the main dining room during The Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with the Cat in the Hat and Friends. Attendees will have the opportunity to kick off their day dining on playful foods straight from Dr. Seuss’s imagination – green eggs and ham, moose juice and goose juice, along with colorful fruit and pancake stacks, funky French toast and more, with traditional breakfast favorites also available.

To help set the tone on the first sea day of each cruise, Carnival’s wait staff will wear Dr. Seuss-inspired uniforms. Popular Dr. Seuss characters such as the Cat in the Hat, Thing One and Thing Two, and Sam will be joining guests at their tables for fun interactions and one-of-a-kind photo opportunities.

Every ship in the Carnival fleet will have a selection of classic Dr. Seuss books, toys and themed activities for children to enjoy.  Special showings of beloved Seuss movies will be shown outdoors on the giant screen of the Seaside Theater on Lido Deck as part of the cruise line’s Dive-In Movies programming.

At other times during the voyage, children and families will have the chance to meet and interact with favorite Dr. Seuss characters and participate in special photo opportunities featuring colorful and zany Dr. Seuss-inspired artwork, as well as through events and activities such as the Seuss-a-palooza Character Parade where guests can join Dr. Seuss characters in a swirly conga line along the Promenade.

Carnival Cruise Lines estimates it carries more than 700,000 kids aboard its fleet each year — nearly half of the total number of kids carried by the entire North American cruise industry.

Story and Photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Crosby, Stills & Nash to serenade passengers on Cunard cruise

February 25, 2015 | Heidi

Remember the words to the beautiful song “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills & Nash: “So I’m sailing for tomorrow … I have my ship and all her flags are a’flyin.”

The name of the popular song is a reference to the Southern Cross constellation by which sailors in the Southern Hemisphere traditionally navigated their vessels.

Some lucky passengers are going to get the awesome experience of hearing the Grammy Award-winning trio perform that song and others on a special Transatlantic Crossing cruise aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

“We are excited to welcome Crosby, Stills & Nash onboard Queen Mary 2 during Cunard’s 175th anniversary year. Having these music legends perform will be nothing less than thrilling for our passengers,” said Richard Meadows, president of Cunard Line North America.

“The band’s presence onboard demonstrates Cunard’s continued commitment to providing unique access to some of the world’s most legendary artists, resulting in a truly unforgettable ocean travel experience for our guests.”

Crosby, Stills & Nash will perform three exclusive concerts for passengers on board Queen May 2 during the seven-night cruise from New York to Southampton on Sept. 4-11.

“This will be a unique experience for us,” said Graham Nash. “We’re really looking forward to making music, bringing back memories and creating new ones—and this journey from New York to Southampton, on this beautiful vessel, will do just that.”

The Grammy Award winning trio, who first performed together at the now legendary Woodstock Festival over four decades ago, burst onto the music scene in 1969 with their self-titled debut LP, now one of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”

The band members are among the few to have been inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, once with Crosby Stills & Nash, and a second time with The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Hollies.

They have also been inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of fame, with the honor recognizing both CS&N as a group and each member as individual solo artists.

During the Queen Mary 2 Crossing from New York , the trio will perform some of their greatest hits including “Teach Your Children,” “Southern Cross” and “Wooden Ships” in the Royal Court Theatre. They will also participate in a Q&A session and special autograph opportunity for passengers on board.

By Jackie Sheckler Finch

Martina McBride to headline Carnival cruise concert for military families

February 16, 2015 | Heidi

The Carnival Freedom will live up to its name on Valentine’s Day by hosting a concert featuring Martina McBride to honor U.S. military families. The event also will welcome the Freedom to its new year-round homeport of Galveston.

“The arrival of Carnival Freedom to its new Galveston homeport is historic as it marks the first time a cruise line has based three year-round ships in Texas,” said Jim Berra, chief marketing officer for Carnival Cruise Line.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate this occasion by giving back to the great state of Texas and welcoming aboard military families who make our freedom possible.”

The event is being organized through a partnership between Carnival Cruise Line and Operation Homefront, a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial and other assistance to military families.  Carnival will provide a day of onboard fun and exciting activities for service members and their families. Among the day’s festivities will be a special outdoor Carnival LIVE performance by country superstar Martina McBride.

As part of the festivities, country superstar Martina McBride will perform outdoors that afternoon on one of the ship’s top decks.

“I am incredibly excited to have the opportunity to perform again on a Carnival ship and am thrilled that I was chosen to be part of this wonderful event that honors U.S. service members and their families,” said Martina McBride.

“I’ve played for many audiences in my career, but it will truly be a privilege to salute these incredible families and partner with Carnival to bring them an extra special Valentine’s Day.”

Military families who have registered through Operation Homefront will enjoy a full day and evening of fun aboard the 110,000-ton Carnival Freedom while it is in port, including overnight accommodations, meals, entertainment and activities, all compliments of Carnival Cruise Line.

Prior to the concert, Carnival will conduct a special check presentation to Operation Homefront providing $100,000 to the organization.

“We are very excited to be partnering with Carnival to honor military families and celebrate the cruise line’s expansion in Texas,” said Tim Farrell, chief operating officer of Operation Homefront. “While we serve military families across the nation, we’re grateful for a partner like Carnival who wants to give back right here in our home state of Texas where we have the second largest active duty and veteran population in the country.”

Carnival Freedom recently underwent a $70 million makeover which added an array of Fun Ship 2.0 product enhancements. Event attendees will have access to the ship’s new family entertainment programming including Seuss at Sea, as well as the new Camp Ocean kids facilities.

The latest updates also incorporated a number of bar, dining and entertainment innovations including complimentary eateries such as BlueIguana Cantina and Guy’s Burger Joint, developed in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, poolside bars serving up delicious frozen drinks and cocktails including BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar, as well as the pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar and the line’s Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Pub.

Carnival Freedom kicks off year-round sailings from Galveston Feb. with a special six-day voyage to Mexico followed by the launch of four- to seven-day cruises that visit beautiful ports throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, Bahamas and Florida.  Together with Carnival Triumph and Carnival Magic, the line will carry more than 600,000 passengers annually from Texas – more than any other cruise line.

By Jackie Scheckler Finch




Learning about ‘Mr. Alaska’ Chuck West

February 9, 2015 | Heidi

The book on my cabin desk got me curious. Then I saw the display in a ship corridor with a fur-fringed jacket and some photos and thought I had better look into this man Chuck West, known as “Mr. Alaska.”

“He is a legend in Alaska tourism,” said Ryan Downs, heritage leader for Un-Cruise Adventures.

“He fell in love with Alaska as a bush pilot in the 1940s and wanted to share what he found with others … A lot of us on Un-Cruise Adventures probably wouldn’t be here if not for Chuck West.”

Born Nov. 27, 1914, in Des Moines, Iowa, Charles “Chuck” B. West was the son of Louis West (a shoe salesman) and May Bigham West. The family moved to Los Angeles when Chuck was two years old. After graduating from Hollywood High School in 1932, Chuck started as a messenger boy in a bank and worked his way up to teller. Taking night courses at college for two and a half years, Chuck went to work for United Airlines.

And that, as he often said, is when his life began.

Although West started out as a ticket salesman for United Airlines, he quickly became enamored with travel and flight. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, West signed up to take pilot training. Before he got his Air Force commission, however, West was asked to work instead as a pilot in the Air Transport Command, flying planes and supplies to Alaska.

“For those who’ve taken a small plane into Alaska’s back country, where gravel beds left behind by surging rivers and frozen mountain lakes surrounded by icy and unforgiving peaks are the actual ‘landing strips,’ the term bush pilot conjures visions of the exceptional,” a sign on the ship exhibit explains.

“Exceptional risk. Exceptional skill,” the sign reads. “Chuck West, in so many ways, was exceptional.”


As West flew over some of the most spectacular terrain on earth, his dream was born. His goal was to share these Alaskan wonders with the world.

West’s love for Alaska became even more solid when he met and married Marguerite Lee, an Alaskan gal who was once Miss Alaska. For decades, West created ways to show the magnificence of Alaska to visitors by air, land and finally, by sea.

However, most of the facilities and services of Alaskan tourism were still primitive or nonexistent when West arrived in 1945. To remedy that, West rolled up his sleeves and did what needed to be done. He founded Arctic Alaska Travel Service and began offering local sightseeing tours. He started the first air tours above the Arctic Circle, had the first hotel chain in Alaska, the first motor coach line and the first modern small-ship cruises.

At one time, West was the largest operator of U.S. flagged cruise vessels with nine known for their Alaska Cruises.

“The unknown quality made Alaska a hard sell,” West told The Associated Press in 1997. “It caught on, but we’re still fighting that ignorance about what Alaska is.”

In 1973, West sold controlling interest in his company Westours to Holland American cruise line. Then, at 58, after having undergone two heart surgeries, West founded another Alaska travel company that grew to become Cruise West, headquartered in Seattle.

West envisioned something more personal, something that could get travelers up close to really experience beautiful places and to meet the people who live there. His Cruise West vessels were shallow draft, which allowed them to nose into secluded coves and visit places that larger vessels could not.

During his time, Alaska went from being a territory, virtually unknown to tourists, to the 50th state. Alaska now sees an annual influx of mega-sized cruise ships arriving each summer filled with thousands of passengers. Alaskan cruises, such as Un-Cruise Adventures small ships, offer a different way to cruise – harkening back to West’s less intrusive vessels.

Chuck West died in 2005 at the age of 90. But his legacy certainly lives on. “We owe a lot to Chuck West,” Downs said.

After reading the “Mr. Alaska” book, I must agree. Chuck West opened up the world for many travelers, including me.

Photo and Story by Jackie Sheckler Finch


AmaWaterways shares popular recipe for Jägertee

February 5, 2015 | Heidi

River cruises through Central Europe are a great way to visit the cities and towns along the waterways. And returning from shore excursions on those cruises is such a welcome treat.

In the winter, crewmembers are waiting at the ship’s entryway with warm moist hand towels to wash away the grime of the real world. Then a hot drink handed by another crewmember is a soothing way to beat the bitter cold.

One of the popular drinks is called Jägertee. In English, this translates to “hunter tea,” a specialty beverage that originated in the 19th century and was enjoyed during the cold winter days by hunters and foresters.

Made with spices, wine, rum and tea – and served hot – this drink is packed with  flavor and warmth. If you’re looking for something unique to serve this winter, use this great recipe for traditional Jägertee shared by AmaWaterways Cruise Line.


European Jägertee

1 cup red wine

1 cup black tea

1 cup spiced rum

1 cup orange juice

1 cup plum brandy or Schnapps

2-3 whole cloves

2 lemon slices

¼ cinnamon stick

Pinch of sugar

Place tea, wine, rum, brandy, orange juice, spices and lemons in large pot. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes – do not boil. Remove from heat. Use ladle to fill mugs. Sprinkle with sugar to taste.  Serves 6-8.

By Jackie Sheckler Finch