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Crown Cruise Vacations | July 28, 2015

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Cruise Vacations

  Cruise Destination Trivia: Identify the sleeping stone puppy

July 12, 2015 | Heidi

Recognize this adorable puppy? He is small, made of marble and more than 500 years old. He is napping in a place that many other listeners might have been tempted to fall asleep themselves.

This is without a doubt the toughest trivia question I have asked so far. If you know the answer, you must be a very well-traveled person with a keen eye for detail.

A hint: The puppy sleeps in a worshipful place.

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 plan a trip, preferably a cruise, to Europe.






(Answer)  The cute dog is in the Cathedral in Strasbourg, France. A guide told me that the small dog sculpture is in honor of Jean Geiler de Kaysersberg who would preach in Strasbourg accompanied by his dog who traveled everywhere with him.

Geiler was known to preach long earnest sermons that would put his dog to sleep. When Hans Hammer carved the pulpit in 1485, he crafted the small dog sculpture snoozing below the pulpit. Although the cathedral is one of the greatest masterpieces of Gothic architecture, it is wonderful to see such an unusual tiny touch in the midst of all this grandeur.  

Petting the puppy is supposed to bring good luck. I’ve heard that said about many statues. If true, I must be one of the luckiest people in the world.

Story and photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Shore Excursion: Black Forest, plus recipe for Black Forest Cake

July 2, 2015 | Heidi

A young boy on my Black Forest tour said he was a bit afraid of what might lurk in the dark woods. His sister expected to see fairy tale princesses. His father hoped to buy a handmade cuckoo clock. And his mother was seeking a recipe for the famed Black Forest Cake.

It’s strange what the words “Black Forest” can conjure up for first-time visitors. Some of those preconceptions are correct. Some aren’t.

First, guide Margritta told us, the popular site in Germany got its mysterious name not from the fact that it is dark and scary. “It’s because the conifer trees are so thick and leafy that they block out most of the light,” she said. “It is really a beautiful place.”

Margritta was right.

A popular stop on Rhine River cruises, the Black Forest is a wooded mountain range in Southwestern Germany. The forest mostly consists of pines and firs. “Those trees never lose their leaves so the forest is always shaded but it is not black,” Margritta said.

The forest and villages look as though they have stopped the hands of time, giving visitors a glimpse into what ancient Germany might have been like. The Black Forest does have a rich mythological tradition filled with werewolves, witches, fairies and dwarves.

“Legend says that the Brothers Grimm were inspired by the Black Forest when they wrote their stories,” Margritta said, referring to the authors of Snow White, Cinderella,  Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel and many more.

The Black Forest also has inspired fine craftsmen who create the cuckoo clocks. It is not clear who built the first cuckoo clock in the Black Forest or why but the handcrafted clocks with the teeny cuckoo bird and wooden gears were being built in the Black Forest as early as 1740.

As for that Black Forest Cake, I had a delicious piece of the cake in a Black Forest bakery where I watched a baker create one of the delights. On the way out, I got a postcard with the Black Forest Cake recipe.

What makes it special, Margritta says, “besides all the good cream and cherries is the wonderful Black Forest cherry brandy Kirsch. So you have to buy some of the Kirschwasser to take home and make your cake.”

I did see several travelers buying the Kirsch. Maybe to make cake. Maybe to drink. Kirschwasser also can be ordered online.

Before we left, Margritta shared another bit of interesting trivia. Supposedly, she said, the colors of the Black Forest Cake follow what the Brothers Grimm described in Sleeping Beauty – the girl was born with skin as white as snow, lips as red as cherries and hair as black as ebony.

“Those are the colors in the cake and in the traditional dress worn by women of the Black Forest,” Margritta say. “The blouse they wear is as white as the cream. The bollenhut (hat with big puffy red balls on top) is as red as the cherries. And their dress is as black as the chocolate shavings.”


                                                    Black Forest Cake


1 dark sponge cake

1 cup cherries

3 tablespoons cherry jam

3 cups whipped cream

3 leaves of gelatin to stiffen the cream

5 teaspoons of Black Forest Cherry Kirschwasser

¼ cup chocolate shavings from milk chocolate bar

Slice sponge cake through the middle into three even layers. Prepare the gelatin and add to whipped cream. Spread jam onto bottom layer, then cover with whipped cream and cherries. Cover with another layer of cake.  Sprinkle the cherry Kirschwasser evenly over the layer, cover with ¾ inches whipped cream and place last layer on top. Cover whole cake with remaining cream and decorate with chocolate bar shavings and cherries.

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch


Grande Caribe can nestle into shore for unexpected stop

June 8, 2015 | Heidi

Carol Schreck had never been fishing in her life. But when the Grande Caribe made an unscheduled stop at a lovely marina known for its many fish, Carol decided to give it a try.

She pulled in a whopping two fish – a smallmouth bass and a catfish. “It was beginner’s luck,” Carol said modestly. Her prize catches were released back into their watery home.

Although the Grande Caribe was due to dock and spend the night at Cuba Landing Marina in Waverly, Tennessee, the river was so high that ship captain David Sylvaria decided to tie up at Buzzard Rock Marina instead. Located in Kuttawa, Tennessee, the marina is nestled in a quiet cove on beautiful Lake Barkley.

A short canal a few miles from Buzzard Rock connects Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake for over 4,000 miles of shoreline and 220,000 acres of water surface. The river system winds around the Land Between the Lakes and connects to the intercoastal waterway reaching all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

No one knows how Buzzard Rock got its name but one tale involves an Indian princess and some bad luck. For Carol, however, the site was a lucky spot. “It was fun,” she said of reeling in her two catches. “It was a surprise, something I never expected.”

When the ship made its detour stop, cruise director Jenn McDaniel thought that passengers might enjoy some afternoon fishing from a bass boat or from the docks. Marina maintenance manager Dave Shelton was happy to oblige and provided complimentary fishing equipment and bait.

“The fishing is really good here,” Dave said. “We got a big variety of fish so it’s a prime fishing spot.”

Among the fish in Lake Barkley are largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, white bass and catfish. Lake Barkley is a favorite for bass tournaments with anglers catching bass that average four pounds each.

Although her fish didn’t approach a record size, Carol says she is proud of her catch and hopes to fish again. “It was definitely life changing.”


Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch



Carnival Cruise Guarantee

June 2, 2015 | Heidi

Carnival Cruise Lines has long promised that travelers will have a wonderful cruise on their ships or get their money back. Last year, Carnival ramped up that promise even more with its “Great Vacation Guarantee.”

Now Carnival has announced that its popular guarantee will be offered again in 2015.

The deal guarantees that passengers who are not enjoying the cruise can notify the ship’s management within the first 24 hours of the voyage and receive a 110 percent refund plus complimentary transportation home. The guarantee also adds $100 shipboard credit for a future cruise.

Carnival is proud to carry nearly 4.5 million satisfied guests each year and is very confident in the quality of the vacation experience provided on board the 24 ships of Carnival Cruise Lines, officials said

The “Great Vacation Guarantee” is designed to provide an assurance to those consumers who may be considering a cruise that the company stands behind its and, if they are dissatisfied for any reason, passengers have a simple and hassle-free means for receiving a full refund and more.

Carnival will fully handle all the necessary travel arrangements to make it a truly hassle-free experience. In the event the cruiser drove to the port of embarkation, Carnival will arrange complimentary transportation back to that port.

If other guests in the same party do not want to exercise the Carnival Great Vacation Guarantee, they can stay aboard and continue their cruise.

To make the deal even sweeter, all incidentals will be refunded as well – 100 percent of the cruise cost, plus government fees and taxes, the Vacation Protection Plan, prepaid gratuities, and unused pre-purchased services such as the spa and unused shore excursions.

Then Carnival will top that with an additional 10 percent, which will be mailed via check. Or disgruntled travelers can receive that 10 percent as cash at the Guest Services desk.

Why is Carnival taking this gamble?

As the Carnival Cruise Lines website notes, “We believe, and have so much confidence in our product, that we felt it was appropriate to make our guarantee even stronger. We’re proud of the experience we deliver to the millions of guests who cross our gangway each year.”

Story By Jackie Sheckler Finch

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