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Crown Cruise Vacations | August 31, 2015

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Cruise Vacations

Turn back the clock on Flower Power Cruise

August 31, 2015 | Heidi

Remember bell-bottom pants, flower power and smiley faces popping up everywhere? John Wayne and Doris Day ruled the silver screen. And shows like Gilligan’s Island, Get Smart, Lassie and Gunsmoke were beamed into homes on small TV sets.

It was the ‘60s, of course. For everyone who was a part of the love generation – or for those who always wished they were – the 2016 Flower Power Cruise aboard the Celebrity Constellation will be revisiting those memorable years.

For five sun-soaked days and nights of peace and music aboard the Celebrity Constellation, the Flower Power Cruise will come alive with the spirit, the music and the memories of the 1960s.

“There is no generation that is as closely tied to an era than the children of the ‘60s,” said Executive Producer Alan Rubens.

“Their connection to the culture, the music and each other runs deep – bringing them together to revel in the greatest moments of the decade will create a whole new bond for everyone there,” Rubens said.

Headlining the cruise will be some of the most popular singers and musicians who played the soundtrack of the ‘60s – Blood, Sweat & Tears featuring Bo Bice, Felix Cavalieres’ Rascals, Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, The Grass Roots, The Guess Who, Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, Jefferson Starship, Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie and more.

Departing Feb. 29, 2016, from Ft. Lauderdale, the Flower Power Cruise will include stops in Cozumel, Mexico and Key West before returning to port on March 5, 2016.

“What I experienced in the ‘60s still shapes the way I think and live to this day,” said Mark Volman, “Flo” from The Turtles Featuring Flo & Eddie.

“But I miss being surrounded by the people and the movement – there was nothing like it.  Bringing the music and the culture and the feel of that decade together with the people who love it most is going to be one wild ride,” Volman said.

More than 20 live performances will highlight the five-night cruise, along with special events that bring guests side by side with the superstars of the ‘60s for meet and greets, panel discussions, cooking demonstrations, wine tasting, live retro game shows, groovy trivia contests and a Make Love Not War vow renewal ceremony.  Special themed nights including a Black Light Ball, Psychedelic ‘60s Dance Party and Bell Bottom Blast.

The Flower Power Cruise is the newest charter in the StarVista LIVE fleet of cruises which includes Malt Shop Memories Cruise, Soul Train Cruise and Country Music Cruise. 

Disney Cruise Line offers frightfully fun cruises for Halloween

August 25, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

The wind is howling. Leaves are skittering to the ground. It’s that bewitching time of year and Disney Cruise Line will be treating guests to a wickedly good time. Disney ships will be transformed into a ghoulish wonderland filled with frightfully fun events and activities, special decorations, unique menu items in the restaurants and themed parties on deck.

The 2015 Halloween on the High Seas takes place on most voyages aboard all Disney Cruise Line ships from September through October. This extra-spooky celebration features Halloween-themed parties, lively entertainment and elaborate décor, including The Pumpkin Tree, which magically transforms throughout the cruise.

Other special experiences include:

  • Mickey’s Mouse-querade Party, a celebration in addition to Pirate Night with games, dancing and lots of candy! Beloved Disney characters, wearing special Halloween costumes just for the occasion, will join guests for this fun-filled costume party.
  • A Nightmare Before Christmas—Sing and Scream, an interactive movie experience where guests are part of the action, followed by a meet-and-greet with Jack Skellington and Sally.
  • Haunted Stories of the Sea, where the bravest cruisers gather under the stars to hear some true—or not so true—tales of the sea told by a mysterious sea captain storyteller.
  • Creepy Cabaret, a party in the atrium featuring favorite Halloween-themed music performed live by a band of ghostly musicians.
  • Halloween Isn’t Just For Kids: For adults, the nighttime entertainment district on each Disney ship becomes the ghoulish setting for a costume contest and a Villainous Takeoveron the dance floor.
  • Spooky Movies:To get guests into the spirit of the season, Halloween-themed movies will be shown in Buena Vista Theatre, on Funnel Vision by the family pool and in guest staterooms.
  • Ghoulish Delights: Disney Cruise Line chefs have conjured some very special treats for Halloween, including chocolate cake with pumpkin filling, spider cakes and “Spooky Juice.”
  • More spooky fun includes mask making and a ghostly takeover of ship announcements.


Photo by Disney Cruise Line

Holland America’s  ‘Dancing with the Stars: At Sea’ cruises into final season

August 17, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

Bring along your dancing shoes for a special chance to dance at sea with “Dancing with the Stars” Mirrorball Trophy winners and America’s favorite TV mom Florence Henderson on Holland America Line.

The voyages mark the final chance to experience “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” before the partnership concludes. Tony Dovolani and Kym Johnson, along with celebrity personality Carson Kressley and Florence Henderson will be on the cruise departing Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 3 and the Champions Cruise on Jan. 10, 2016.

When ms Nieuw Amsterdam sets sail for the Caribbean on two seven-day voyages, guests will be able to watch these four fan favorites take the stage to perform routines from the ABC hit television show as well as exciting new choreographed dances.

Additional events on these cruises include dance lessons with the ship’s professional dancers; a special fashion show featuring glamorous show costumes from the TV show; and a chance to meet the stars, ask questions and take photos with them. 

“We are thrilled to have the talents of Tony, Kym, Carson and Florence entertaining and mingling with our guests on these last two special theme cruises,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line.

 “And the Champions Cruise on the Jan. 10 sailing features the exciting grand finale dance-off following a year of guest competitions, and we look forward to crowning a new Mirrorball Trophy winner with the help of these fabulous stars.”

The partnership between Holland America Line and “Dancing with the Stars” the last few years has been popular with passengers, Ashford said. “The program added an engaging element to our cruises that many guests embraced with passion and dedication.  We are thankful to ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and BBC Worldwide for an amazing run.”

For a recap about the sea competition, every cruise that departed on or after Sept 21, 2014, and continuing with cruises that end by Nov. 24, 2015, every sailing on all 15 ships in the Holland America Line fleet features exclusive “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea.”

Included are complimentary dance lessons with the ship’s dance pros and a dance competition that gives guests an opportunity to compete for a change to represent their ship on the Champions Cruise. Winners of the guest competitions with the highest scores from each of Holland America Line’s ships receive a free ocean-view stateroom for two on the Champions Cruise. And maybe they will bring home the coveted Mirrorball Trophy and title of Holland America Line’s “Dancing with the Stars: At Sea” Champion. There will be one winner from each ship on the Jan. 10, 2016, Champions Cruise.

Fans of the TV show probably already know the names. Tony Dovolani is a 19-season veteran of the show – the longest running dance pro – who took home the top prize during the all-star season. Kym Johnson has been on the show for 17 seasons and is a two-time Mirrorball Trophy winner. Carson Kressley was a season 13 participate and is also an Emmy-winning television star, celebrity stylist, author and fashion designer. Florence Henderson kicked up her heels on the TV dance show during season 11 but she is best known as matriarch Carol Brady on the classic TV series “The Brady Bunch.”

Story by Jackie Sheckler Finch. Photo courtesy of Holland America Line


Carnival Cruise Line celebrates new Dr. Seuss book on ships

August 13, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

To celebrate the new Dr. Seuss book What Pet Should I Get? Tampa Bay Rays all-star Evan Longoria and Carnival Cruise Line have teamed up to help animal shelters. Longoria will be donating $100 to Pet Pal Animal Shelter for every home run he hits during the 2015 season. Carnival will be matching that donation.

Carnival also sponsored special readings of the book by Longoria aboard the Carnival Paradise in Tampa and broadcaster Angela Hill aboard Carnival Dream in New Orleans. In addition, Carnival is donating money to the Tampa Bay and Louisiana Chapters of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“Carnival is the No. 1 cruise line for families and we’re delighted to team up with Dr. Seuss Enterprises to bring the joy of reading to kids with these special presentations in Tampa and New Orleans while supporting local animal rescue organizations,” said Carnival’s president Christine Duffy.

“The kids were absolutely thrilled to have been treated to a reading of the first new Dr. Seuss book in 25 years and our most sincere thanks to Evan and Angela, as well as the SPCA, for the valuable work they do each and every day,” she added.

The author, whose real name was Theodor “Ted” Seuss Geisel, died in 1991 at the age of 87. When his widow, Audrey Geisel, was remodeling the home after her husband’s death, she found a box of text and sketches. She set it aside and 22 years later – in the fall of 2013- the box was rediscovered.

Audrey Geisel said she was not surprised to find an unpublished book since her husband always worked on multiple projects at the same time. The book What Pet Should I Get? was likely written between 1958 and 1962. It features the same brother and sister seen in Dr. Seuss’ 1960 classic One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

Wearing Dr. Seuss’s signature striped hat and surrounded by SPCA rescue dogs, Longoria and Hill read What Pet Should I Get? to happy children. Following the reading, children and adults joined The Cat in the Hat, Sam I Am, and Thing 1 and Thing 2 for Carnival’s popular Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with The Cat in the Hat and Friends, part of Carnival’s exclusive Seuss at Sea program.

Launched in 2014, Seuss at Sea is a fleet wide program featuring youth, family, dining and entertainment experiences inspired by the world and words of Dr. Seuss. The program includes such fun activities as the Seuss-a-palooza Parade and Story Time, as well as character interactions, Dr. Seuss toys and games and popular movies.

Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

Kathie Lee Gifford announces new Pinot Noir Rosé wine for Carnival Cruise Lines

August 4, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

Relax aboard a Carnival cruise ship and sip GIFFT Pinot Noir Rosé wine as you watch the ocean roll. The new wine was officially launched this week by “Today” show host Kathie Lee Gifford as part of her GIFFT wine collection.

“I love that I’m launching our Pinot Noir Rosé aboard Carnival with whom I’ve had such a fantastic partnership for so many years now,” Gifford said in a news release. “The fact that we can expand on that relationship through a love of wine is just all the better. I can’t imagine a better spot for folks to enjoy a glass of GIFFT wine than while relaxing out on the ocean aboard a Carnival ship.”

The new brand joins the GIFFT Red Blend and Chardonnay that were introduced fleet wide aboard Carnival ships earlier this year. The limited-edition Pinot Noir Rosé  is 100 percent estate-grown and features ripe strawberry, raspberry and red apple aromas to exhibit bright fruit flavors framed by a crisp juicy acidity.

The wine was created with California-based Scheid Relax on a Carnival cruise and Family Wines, one of the largest vineyard owners in Monterey County known for having the longest growing season in California.

Carnival is the only cruise line featuring GIFFT wines. In its tasting ratings, Wine Enthusiast magazine rated the GIFFT red with a 91 of a possible 100 points while giving the chardonnay 88 points.

“Our guests have really embraced GIFFT wines to make them among the most popular offerings on our wine list,” said Eddie Allen, Carnival’s vice president of beverage operations. “The aromas and flavors of this rosé are very food friendly and complement so much of Carnival’s vast shipboard culinary offerings.”

Gifford originally became associated with the “Fun Ship” brand in the 1980s when Carnival launched the cruise industry’s first national television campaign. She appeared in the “If You Could See Me Now” and “Ain’t We Got Fun?” ads.

Story by Jackie Sheckler Finch. Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines



Seeing menu items helps passengers make dining choices

July 30, 2015 | Heidi

Ever peruse a cruise ship menu and have a difficult time choosing what to order? Do you look around at other diners to see what they may be eating?

Iceland ProCruises has a helpful way to make choosing a bit easier on its cruise ship, the Ocean Diamond. Several of the evening’s menu offerings are placed on a decorative front table as passengers enter the ship’s dining room. Seeing the beautifully presented dishes can sometimes make or break a menu choice.

Often in a restaurant, I have looked at a companion’s dinner and thought it looked better than mine. But by then, of course, it was too late. The Ocean Diamond lets diners see what some of the specialties on the night’s menu are before they place an order.

The first Icelandic-owned expedition cruise line set sail in June 2015. The new company offers round-trip cruises on the Ocean Diamond from Reykjavik during Iceland’s summer months of June through August.


Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

  Cruise Destination Trivia: Identify the sleeping stone puppy

July 12, 2015 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

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 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

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 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

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 | Jackie Sheckler Finch

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