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Crown Cruise Vacations | May 4, 2015

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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

Cruise Destination Trivia: Identify the landmark stone structure

April 16, 2015 | Heidi

Travelers may recognize this place. Or they may think they recognize it. See if you know what and where it is.

A hint: It is not the famous prehistoric site in England although it was patterned after it. This stone structure is on an American river.

Don’t look at the answer below until you’ve formulated your own response. Congratulations if you are correct. If not, you sure are not alone. Might be time to explore the beautiful areas along the Columbia River.

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(Answer)   Famed road builder Sam Hill constructed this memorial in 1918. He intended for it to be a landmark to honor the dead of World War I and to be a reminder that war is hell and that world powers should never again engage in such terrible folly.

Residents of this quiet place along the Columbia River in the state of Washington went off to fight for their county. And some never returned.

A Quaker and dedicated pacifist, Hill hoped that “The Great War” would be the war to end all wars. Wonder what he would think if he returned to the world today and saw that wars and rumors of wars still plague his beloved America and other countries?

Hill chose to model his war memorial after Stonehenge, the famous prehistoric site in England. One of the wonders of the world, the original Stonehenge is a ring of standing stones set within earthworks.

However, Hill chose to replicate Stonehenge based on a mistaken legend about the original in England.

“At the time Sam Hill built his Stonehenge, people believed that the place in England had been used for human sacrifice,” said Ryan Downs, heritage leader for Un-Cruise Adventures.

Hill’s message at his Stonehenge was that humanity is still being sacrificed to the god of war. Using slabs of reinforced concrete, Hill built his Stonehenge the way he thought the Druids would have built theirs if they had access to 20th century technology. The altar stone for Hill’s Stonehenge is aligned with sunrise on the summer solstice.

The dedication plaque on the Washington state Stonehenge is inscribed:

“In memory of the soldiers of Klickitat County who gave their lives in defense of their country. This monument is erected in the hope that others inspired by the example of their valor and their heroism may share in that love of liberty and burn with that fire of patriotism which death can alone quench.”

Located off U.S. Highway 97 about two miles from where it enters Washington from Oregon, Stonehenge was dedicated on July 4, 1918. Joining Hill’s original war memorial are nearby monuments that were later added to honor soldiers of Klickitat County who died in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

“Stonehenge did what Sam Hill wanted it to do,” Downs said. “It makes people contemplate the high cost of war.”

If you visit, look down the hill in the direction of picturesque Mount Hood. At the base of the bluff overlooking the Columbia River is Hill’s final resting place, a concrete crypt.

“The man loved concrete,” Downs said. “Seems appropriate for his grave.”

There is no easy path down the hill to the burial site. Some say Sam Hill intended it that way because he wished to be left alone in the countryside he loved so much.

Story and photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

 

Longtime ‘Riverlorian’ happy to be back on American Queen

April 6, 2015 | Heidi

When the three sister steamboats – the Delta Queen, the Mississippi Queen and the American Queen – stopped cruising, Karen “Toots” Maloy not only lost her beloved job, she also lost a piece of her heart.

“I didn’t quit the Delta Queen and she didn’t quit me,” Toots said. “I thought the Delta Queen would outlast me, I really did.”

As “Riverlorian” – a historian specializing in the nation’s rivers and riverboats – Toots had worked the queens for 33 years. She knew every nook and cranny of the boats, the rivers and the towns along them. It was her life.

She had no idea her river journey was about to come to an end. “I really didn’t expect it,” she said. “We had heard rumors but I really didn’t think it would happen.”

When the ships’ owners ran into financial problems, the three popular boats were grounded. In 2008, the Delta Queen lost her exemption from the Safety at Sea Act, a 1966 law prohibiting wooden vessels from carrying more than 50 overnight passengers. Congress needed to provide an exemption for the boat, but that never materialized. The Delta Queen is now a riverfront hotel in Chattanooga.

The magnificent Mississippi Queen was scrapped for junk in 2011. And the youngest sister, the American Queen, was pulled from the rivers. “For the first time since 1811,” Toots said, “there were no overnight steamships on America’s rivers.”

Not only did the three Queens have loyal cruisers who would return again and again, the boats were a major economic boost for riverboat stops and were an important home-away-from-home for its many crew members. “Do you realize how many of us met our spouses on the boats?” Toots asked. “I met my husband (banjo player Mike Gentry) on the boat.”

With the loss of her cruise job, Toots retreated to her cabin outside of Everton, Arkansas. To occupy her time and earn a living, Toots turned to a hobby she had started on the boats.  “I made cards and decided to take my handcrafted designs to the local farmers market.”

Soon she branched out and began creating her own jewelry, which proved to be even more successful. Called “Out of Sync Designs,” each piece of her jewelry tells its own story through the use of natural gemstones, vintage buttons, crystals, pearls and other elements of nature.

Then – out of the blue – Toots got a phone call that made her soul sing. “I couldn’t believe it. I was thrilled,” she said. “I was so happy that I can’t even put it into words.”

The American Queen had been bought by a new company and was going to begin cruising again in April 2012. Toots was asked if she wanted to be a guest lecturer on the cruises. Silly question. With her wealth of information, Toots is a popular speaker

Toots’s handcrafted jewelry is carried in the ship’s gift shop as is her book “The River: More Your Friend and Less of a Stranger.”

“My jewelry has been selling so much that I can’t keep up with making it,” she said with a happy smile.

Seeing the American Queen once again cruising is a dream come true. “We have to thank those people with vision for doing this,” Toots said. “It’s like my heart has been given an extra beat. I can’t thank them enough.”

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 http://www.crowncruisevacations.com/

Shore Excursion: Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee

March 24, 2015 | Heidi

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When 18-year-old Elvis Presley walked into Sun Studio for the first time, he was asked who he sounded like. His reply, “I don’t sound like nobody.”

When he sang, “That’s all right, momma,” listeners agreed. Sun Studio became known as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.

“It was phenomenal,” said studio tour guide Mic Walker. “You’re walking on hallowed ground when you come in here.”

On July 5, 1954, Presley recorded his first single, “That’s All Right,” at Sun Studio in his hometown of Memphis. A popular shore excursion for riverboats, Sun Studio has changed little through the years. It has the same acoustic ceiling, the original lights and the old floor that so many legends once trod — Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison, among others.

Radio engineer Sam Phillips started the Sun Label in 1952 and shared his tiny office with his secretary Marion Keisker. Legend has it that Keisker is the one who was working when a young Presley plopped down $4 to make his first recording.

On a hot summer day in 1953, a shy Presley stopped by the studio to make a recording of “My Happiness.” Local lore says the recording was intended as a birthday present for his mother. More likely, Walker said, the teen was hoping to be discovered. He was yearning for stardom.

And that’s exactly what he found — more than anyone could ever dream.

So impressed was Keisker that she kept a back-up tape of Presley’s singing. In the studio log, Keisker noted Presley was a “good ballad singer.” The story goes that Keisker pestered Phillips until he gave a listen to the unpolished Presley tape. The rest was history.

In the small studio, you can peek into the control room and stand behind the same microphone Presley used. Playing in the background on an old Ampex tape deck are bits of songs recorded at Sun. Old instruments are scattered around the room. A guitar with a dollar bill stuffed between the strings is how Cash produced the “chuffing” sound to imitate trains on his recordings.

Ringo Starr has been quoted as saying, “If it hadn’t been for what happened at Sun Studio, there wouldn’t have been a Beatles.”

There also might not have been an Elvis.

At the time, Presley was delivering electrical appliances for Crown Electric. “He probably stopped by here while he was out delivering or maybe after work,” Walker said. “Crown Electric was less than a mile from here so it was easy for Elvis to come by.”

Without Sun Studio, would Presley have made that first recording? Would someone have noticed his talent and given him a chance?

“That’s something we’ll never know,” Walker concludes. “What happened at Sun Studio was history.”

For more information: Contact Sun Studio at www.sunstudio.com or the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.memphistravel.com.

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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