Princess Cruises Veterans Day Spirit Starts At The Top

At Princess Cruises, a deep respect for veterans starts at the top. Princess President and CEO Alan Buckelew, himself a Vietnam veteran, has shared his story with fans of Princess Cruises on the line’s engaging “50 Essential Experiences: The Travel Bucket List” blog. Princess Cruises offers a year-round Special Military Onboard Credit Program for veterans sailing with the line and has discount prices in honor of Veterans Day.

Now, Princess Cruises is marking Veterans Day by announcing an unprecedented cruise to support U.S. veterans, expected to raise $1 million for two highly regarded U.S. veteran non-profit organizations.

To support the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) and Operation Homefront, Buckelew will be on board Caribbean Princess as host from November 5-9, 2013, sailing from Galveston to the Western Caribbean.”We all know someone – a family member, a neighbor, a friend, perhaps ourselves – who has served,” said Buckelew in a statement. “As a veteran myself, I know that America’s warriors face immeasurable challenges both during active duty and when they return home. I look forward to meeting many of our passengers on board to help us raise much-needed funds to assist our veterans.”

The four-day cruise, calling in Progreso, Mexico, is designed to raise $1 million for the organizations. $500,000 will be raised via a portion of each passenger’s cruise fare, and $500,000 will be matched by Princess Cruises.

Onboard programming
and activities, designed to honor those who have and are serving our country include guest lecturers, special topic panels, a Stars and Stripes Sailaway, service branch get-togethers, a film festival and more.

Perhaps even more significant, the cruise launches a new “Cruising for a Cause” initiative where Princess will dedicate entire sailings to support select charitable causes, providing the line’s passengers a way to make a difference even as they vacation.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user John M Cooper]

Cruise Lines And Vegas: Once Foes, Now Friends

In the past, cruise lines would recoil at being compared to a floating ’70s Las Vegas, even with their ships complemented with neon lights and production shows that featured plumed fan dancers. That belly-up-to-the-buffet stereotype was a bad rap that cruise lines tried to shake for decades.

But that was before both the world of Vegas and the world of cruise vacations survived the worst economic period since the Great Depression, grew up and figured out that they could help each other. Formerly seen as foes, competing for the same polyester-clad vacationer, the two popular travel options are now working together.

Royal Caribbean International and MGM Resorts International have announced an unprecedented strategic relationship that will allow members of both companies loyalty programs to share benefits. Beginning in January 2013, members of Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society and MGM’s M life will receive top-shelf offers and benefits, growing as they prove loyalty by giving either company more business.”Whether on land or at sea, Crown & Anchor Society and M life members will enjoy unprecedented recognition for their dedication to our brands,” said Lisa Bauer, executive vice president of Global Sales and Marketing for Royal Caribbean International in a Miami Herald report. “We are delighted to be an M life preferred partner and welcome M life members aboard to experience our world-renowned Gold Anchor Service, innovative cruise ships, unexpected onboard amenities, and unforgettable itineraries to exciting destinations.”

MGM’s M life members will receive offers with a range of benefits when sailing with Royal Caribbean. As members advance to the next M life Tier Level, their cruise offers and benefits will grow. International and domestic cruises will be awarded during special MGM Resorts’ promotions and slot tournaments.

Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society members will receive M life offers and benefits including pre-sale access to tickets for A-list concerts and championship boxing matches, priority reservations, priority hotel check-in, room upgrades, VIP services and more, based on their Royal Caribbean loyalty level.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user disneybrent]

Enter To Win A Culinary Voyage On The ‘Top Chef’ Cruise!

Have you ever wondered what the dishes on Bravo’s “Top Chef” actually taste like? Here’s your chance to give them a try. Gadling is giving away a chance go out to sea with some of the show’s favorite judges and contestants on a five-day, four-night cruise through Key West, Florida and Cozumel, Mexico, aboard the Celebrity Constellation from April 11-15.

Cruises will be able to come face to face with “Top Chef” judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons, plus Hubert Keller and Tim Love from “Top Chef Masters.” A panel of a dozen celebrity chef’testants will compete in quickfire cooking demonstrations and challenges, including:

  • Richard Blais, finalist on “Top Chef: Chicago” (season four) and winner of “Top Chef All Stars” (season eight)
  • Jennifer Carroll, competitor on “Top Chef: Las Vegas” (season six) and “Top Chef All Stars” (season eight)
  • Tiffany Derry, fan favorite on “Top Chef: DC” (season seven) and “Top Chef All Stars” (season eight)
  • Chris Hanmer, winner of “Top Chef: Just Desserts” (season two)
  • Mike Isabella, competitor on “Top Chef: Las Vegas” (season six) and finalist on “Top Chef All Stars” (season eight)
  • Spike Mendelsohn, finalist on “Top Chef: Chicago” (season four) and competitor on “Top Chef All Stars” (season eight)
  • Yigit Pura, winner of “Top Chef: Just Desserts” (season one)
  • Paul Qui, winner of “Top Chef: Texas” (season nine)
  • Hosea Rosenberg, winner of “Top Chef: New York” (season five)
  • Angelo Sosa, finalist on “Top Chef: DC” (season seven) and competitor on “Top Chef All Stars” (season eight)
  • Casey Thompson, competitor on “Top Chef: Miami” (season three)
  • Fabio Viviani, competitor on “Top Chef: New York” (season five) and “Top Chef All Stars” (season eight)

Several of the competitors – Richard Blais, Jennifer Carroll and Spike Mendelsohn – will also be featured on the upcoming “Life After Top Chef,” in which cameras follow beloved former competitors outside the “Top Chef” kitchen.

While aboard the ship, guests will be able to sample food from Top Chefs, take part in a Q&A with the hosts and contestants, watch cooking demonstrations and challenges, and more Top Chef-related activities. There will also be a one-hour cocktail party and all of the world-class entertainment that comes standard on Celebrity ships.

The Top Chef: The Cruise prize includes an ocean view stateroom for two people. All meals, snacks, coffee, tea and juices are included, plus complimentary 24-hour room service. Ship amenities also include two pools, a whirlpool, fitness center, casino, library and duty-free shopping. Retail value of the cruise is $2,796, which includes port taxes, fees and gratuities. Prize does not include transportation to/from Miami.

To enter, simply leave a comment below telling us your favorite “Top Chef” contestant. We’ll randomly select one winner from the entries and award him or her the prize. The contest runs through 5 p.m. ET on Friday, November 2, and is open to U.S. residents 18 and over. See the full contest rules here.

Fans of the show will also want to tune in to “Top Chef: Seattle,” the tenth season of the show that premieres Wednesday, November 7 at 10/9c.

G’day mate: Cruise lines head Down Under

Why would anyone choose to cruise Australia when there is so much to see in the interior? Two reasons: 1) Australia’s coast is spectacular, and some of the continent’s best-known cities — Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane Darwin and Perth — dot the coastline; and 2) cruise packages are designed to put passengers off the ship and into the Outback.

The latter packages feature so-called cruisetours, which are nothing more than a cruise and a tour combined. Cruise lines create these seamless excursions to allow passengers to have a full experience beyond the shoreline.

Both Celebrity Cruises and Holland America Line have developed a number of cruisetours to tie in with the deployment of their ships in the region next year.

Celebrity’s guests can select from four packages ranging from four to five nights. On the list of attractions: Ayers Rock, the world-famous giant red monolith, and the Great Barrier Reef.

Holland America Line also has Alice Springs as an alternative, the remote town in Australia’s Northern Territory. Among the experiences I had while in Alice Springs was ingesting witchetty grub, pictured above (for the delectable details, see Australian Outback Buffet: Garnish The Grubs, Pass The Maggots Please).Cruise lines are headed Down Under in record numbers. Remember, the seasons are reversed from the Northern Hemisphere, so itineraries get cranking in earnest around Christmastime.

Early next year, Silversea’s Silver Shadow departs Sydney on a 30-day circumnavigation voyage of Australia. It will be a first-ever for luxury cruise operator Silversea, which plans to visit Australia’s major cities as well as lesser-known ports.

Holland America Line will send not one, but two cruise ships to Australia in 2011. The Seattle-based cruise line will deploy its ships on itineraries that take in Australia and New Zealand.

Likewise, the two sister companies Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises plan to put more emphasis on cruises around Australia and New Zealand. Following suit with Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean will deploy two ships instead of one in the region next year. Celebrity Cruises will return to the land Down Under after a two-year absence, when the Celebrity Century begins cruising the region late next year. Century also will offer a circumnavigation of Australia, divided into two combinable 18-night sailings.

In 2012, Cunard Line’s flagship Queen Mary 2 also will circumnavigate Australia, a first for Cunard.

Arrive a day early – Cruise tip

It only takes a single episode of almost not making it to the port on time — or missing the ship altogether! — to make getting in town the day before… very much worth it.

Flight delays are more common these days with unpredictable weather and tighter security. One missed connection could be catastrophic if you’re flying the same day as cruising. Running through airports creates the kind of stress you do not want on the first day of your vacation!

Pro tip: choose a hotel that offers transfers from the airport and to the pier.

[Photo: Flickr | Buck Forester]