Sunday, January 8, 2017

Carnival Vista Atrium

Visual Paradise
Carnival Vista 

Upon embarking the ship for our conference, the first thing that caught our attention was the beautiful Carnival Vista Atrium.   This giant, multi-deck-high centerpiece with its LED screens and changing visuals create an atmosphere of paradise.

With the addition of the Christmas tree, complete with mailbox to Santa, the atrium was quite a festive gathering point during the cruise.  One morning the Cruise Director hosted a synchronized Christmas song performance in the atrium.

These are just of few of the many images captured throughout the cruise.  We'd look forward to seeing what the atrium would be displaying on the LED screens.   View the following photo album for more images: Vista Atrium

Click on the image to the left for more Blog posts and photos from the 2016 National Conference cruise on Carnival Vista.


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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Pre-Conference Hotel

Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel 
& Executive Meeting Center

The 2016 National Conference for Cruises Inc., CruiseOne, and Dream Vacations was held on board the new Carnival Vista which sailed out of Miami, Florida to the Southern Caribbean. Prior to the cruise, agents and franchise owners assembled at Sheraton Miami Airport for a pre-conference reception.

Arriving from Chicago

We departed Chicago on a 6 AM flight to Miami.  Since the conference was in December, you never know what the weather will be like in Chicago, so that factored into our selection of the early departure flight.

After gathering our luggage from baggage claim, we waited for the hotel shuttle for the short ride to the hotel.  We checked in upon arrival, but our room wasn't quite ready so we took a seat in the lobby to wait until we could get into our room.  We waited about an hour and then headed up to our room to drop off our baggage.

Our Room

The Sheraton is undergoing renovation of their rooms, and we were one of the first to experience the new design.  Amenities included a microwave, small refrigerator, coffee pot, electrical outlets with USB ports, and a flat screen TV.

While we were only spending one night at the hotel, with the new changes, this hotel would be quite enjoyable for an extended stay.

The Rickenbacker

By now, it was time for lunch, so we headed back to the lobby and checked out the menu at The Rickenbacker.

We decided to have something light for lunch. The french onion soup was amazing as was the quesadilla.

The pre-conference cocktail reception was planned for the patio outside the Rickenbacker but unfortunately there were storms in the area that evening and the party was moved inside to the ballroom.

Following the reception several of us decided to grab some food.    We didn't really want to go out in the rain, so once again we stayed in the hotel.
We selected flatbread pizza and a chicken sandwich.

Click on the image to the left for more Blog posts and photos from the 2016 National Conference cruise on Carnival Vista.


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Coastal Kitchen Trondheim

Breakfast & Lunch Buffets

As we continue to look at 2016 in review, we are featuring our Hurtigruten Norway Coastal Voyage.  This was the main highlight of the year, seeing Northern Lights in the winter skies of Norway along with many charming villages.  Food was outstanding during our voyage so we'll also be sure to report on each day's meals as well.  Be sure to bookmark our diary page so that you can follow the entire trip.

We arrived in Trondheim at 6 AM but our excursion wasn't until 8:40 AM so we had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast.  Today's feature included pancakes and eggs with bacon among other fresh selections.

The evening's menu was always on the table at breakfast time so that you could see what regional favorites would be featured.

For lunch, we included a small salad, sandwich, and of course one of the desert choices.  These pictures are just a sampling of the many options available each day.

Almost every meal included potatoes which we loved to top off with the gravy of the day.
Additional photos can be found on our Norway Shutterfly page

Norway's Coastal Kitchen

Note:  we will be adding to this album as we continue our journey.

Click on the image to the right for more Blog posts about this trip.

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Where have you explored? 

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Stay Park and Fly

Chicago to Miami

Our 2016 National Conference was held on Carnival Vista which sailed from Miami.  The cruise actually began on Saturday December 3rd, but we had a pre-conference reception at Sheraton Miami Airport the night before.

We booked an early flight (6 AM) to Miami so that we'd take advantage of cheap airfare and also get to the hotel in time for the evening event.

That meant we'd need to get to O'Hare airport around 4:30 AM at the latest.   We booked the Hampton Inn O'Hare for the night before because they offered a hotel package which included transfers to the airport and parking for the duration of our cruise.

Friday morning, we got up early and gathered our luggage. After checking out we boarded the shuttle bus, which was waiting, for the short ride to O'Hare Airport.

The airport was decorated for the holiday season.  As you can see in this picture, the airport is pretty deserted at this time of morning.   It didn't take long to get checked in and through security.  

One thing to keep in mind if you have an early flight like we did is that most concession stands at the airport don't open until 5:30 or 6:00 AM.  Therefore, we had brought some food for breakfast from home.

Staying at a hotel close to the airport prior to departure is a good way to avoid the stress of rushing to the airport early in the morning.

Love That New Ship Smell - Meet Carnival Vista

CARNIVAL VISTA - DEC. 3-11, 2016

This year's National Conference was held onbord the first revenue sailing of Carnival Vista from its homeport of Miami, Florida. Ports visited were Aruba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, and Turks & Caicos. There were more than 900 people in our group.

This post serves as an anchor for our mini-series of posts about the conference and the new ship. Please come back often for updates.

The images above highlights our first 24 hours in Miami. We flew from Chicago to Miami, where we had a pre-cruise conference reception at Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel. The next morning we transferred by shuttle bus to the pier, where we got our first glimpse of Carnival Vista.

View Itineraries          Click to Learn More about Carnival Vista

Topic Blog Posts Photo Albums
1 Conference Pre-Conference Hotel Sheraton Miami
Port Miami
2 Ship Carnival Vista Atrium Vista Atrium
Cabin 6331
Cloud9 Spa
3 Dining

4 Ports

5 Entertainment

6 Travel Stay Park and Fly

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in Review

As the year draws to a close, we'll take a look at some of the headlines from the past year.  2016 was a relatively quiet year in the news media, at least for the major cruise lines.  There were some bumps and incidents aboard ships, but nothing compared to some of the recent years.

The cruise lines added capacity, but at the same time explored new markets, like China, which helped to stabilize pricing, which was a goal for the industry.   Now more than ever it is important for passengers to plan ahead so that they can take advantage of lead-in pricing.   The lines have vowed not to do "fire sale" pricing close in to the sailing date.  

Anthem of the Seas
Learn More about ms Koningsdam (Click Image)
 "First New Cruise Ship
for 2016"

Honors went to Holland America Line as it took delivery of ms Koningsdam, on March 31, 2016, officially making it the first Pinnacle-Class ship in the fleet. The signing ceremony took place at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy. Following the signing, the Dutch flag was raised on the ship for the first time.

ms Koningsdam features a mix of time-tested Holland America favorites with some new features including the following.  The World Stage features a 270 degree LED screen surrounded by plenty of stadium style seating.  There's BLEND for the wine lovers where they can experience the art of wine-making. In the Culinary Arts Center, passengers can gather for cooking demonstrations, wine tasting and more throughout the voyage.

There are plenty of stateroom options to suit your needs.  Standard staterooms include USB ports, plenty of electrical outlets, inventive storage space and more.  Balcony cabins are double the depth of most major cruise lines providing plenty of space to enjoy on those sea days.

"Most Anticipated New Ship for 2016"

Carnival Corporation Granted U.S. Approval for Travel to Cuba (July, 2015)

World’s largest travel and leisure company granted U.S. licenses to operate direct U.S.-to-Cuba travel for the purpose of providing cultural exchange. Company intends for fathom, its new purpose-travel brand, to begin full-week sailings to Cuba, beginning in May 2016, in addition to fathom’s full-week sailings to the Dominican Republic.
Travel With a Purpose 
“We know there is strong demand from travelers who want to immerse themselves in Cuban culture, so this is a historic opportunity for us to enable more people to experience Cuban society. It is also an important opportunity for our new fathom brand to expand its positive influence in the world with this potential to add full-week immersion sailings to Cuba to its already planned full-week social-impact itineraries to the Dominican Republic beginning in the spring of 2016.” said Arnold Donald, President and CEO of Carnival Corporation.

Seven Days from Fathom Travel on Vimeo.

Introducing  Fathom™  Impact Travel 

Pioneered by Fathom™, impact travel is a whole new category of travel: it’s travel with purpose. It combines your love of cruising with your desire to make a difference. During every Fathom™ journey passengers become immersed in another culture, and work alongside its people to create enduring social impact.

With those words above, a new vision was revealed along with the birth of a new cruise line,
Carnival Corporation sailed into Havana the morning of May 2, 2016, completing the first leg of its historic inaugural voyage to Cuba that began on May 1, 2016, from Miami, the company said in a statement. It marked the first time in over 50 years that a U.S. cruise line has sailed from the U.S. to Cuba. It is also the first time in decades that Cuban-born individuals have been able to travel by sea to or from Cuba.

Introducing Carnival Vista

Carnival Cruise Line introduced a new class of ships to their fleet with the introduction of Carnival Vista.  Carnival is known for their fun innovationa and the new Carnival Vista, which debuted in May is no exception. 

Vista features the cruise industry's first IMAX theater, which shows first-run movies, as well as recent hits and short films. Other wow-worthy features include a water tube slide that's more than 450 feet long (the longest for the line) and SkyRide, a suspended ride along an open-air track atop the ship.

The first cruise ship brewery also debuted on Vista at the ship's RedFrog Pub, where passengers can drink indoors or out, sipping on mass-market beers, craft-style beverages or one of three beers brewed right onboard. Carnival staples, including Guy's Burger Joint along with Pig & Anchor BBQ (in partnership with celebrity chef Guy Fieri) and the BlueIguana Cantina Mexican restaurant, are joined by a New England-inspired eatery, dubbed Seafood Shack.n open-air track atop the ship.

Our 2016 National Conference took place on Carnival Vista's December 2nd sailing from Miami.  We stopped in the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Curacao, and Turks & Caicos.   We'll feature the ship and ports in upcoming articles on our blog.

If you have specific questions about the ship, the itinerary, or cruising in general, we'd love to hear from you.

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Industry Changes

Probably the biggest news is in response to passenger demand for improved communications at sea.   Carnival Corporation introduced new flat-fee offerings and improved bandwidth fleet-wide to meet passenger desires to stay connected to social media while at sea.   Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean were among other lines increasing speed and bandwidth.   These changes have been well received by passengers and will continue into the future as all lines upgrade their offerings.

As cruise prices stabilized, many lines have been looking to onboard expenditures as a means to increase revenue.   Items that had once been included, like room service, have started to see additional charges for example.   Some passengers aren't happy with the new trend to "nickle-and-dime" them and may look to cruise lines that have less optional charges.   Luxury lines are becoming an even better value since you know your cost of the entire trip up front.

It will be interesting to see how new players, such as Viking Oceans, impacts the industry as they grow their fleets.  They are bucking the tide to go big and instead opting for smaller ships and more emphasis on the destinations.  Of course, the river cruise industry is booming as the demand soars for this method of exploring the globe. Crystal is entering the market as well, with steel being cut for four river cruise ships during 2016.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas

Holidays are about families, and what better example of a happy family then spending time together on a Carnival Fun Ship.

One highlight for us this year was sailing on the brand new Carnival Vista for our National Conference.   The cruise began December 3rd in Miami, Florida.   Carnival Vista was decorated for the holiday season.

The first thing we noticed when boarding the ship was the beautiful atrium decorated with garland, a Christmas tree and a mailbox for letters to Santa.  Throughout the ship there were more decorations to enjoy.   

Holiday time is a great time to sail on a cruise ship.  You do need to plan in advance if you want to sail on the holiday itself as those cabins sell out quickly.

Carnival has a partnership with Dr. Seuss.  Shown here is one of the youth program rooms decorated for Christmas.  The age appropriate programs have something for each of your children and best of all, it's included in your cruise price.

They'll have fun playing with other children of the same age if you decide to have them included in the program.  We toured the facility during "family time".

Most importantly, spend some time together as a family enjoying all the entertainment that the cruise staff has in store for you from the time you arrive on board the ship.

We'll post some more details about the children programs in future articles.

We hope that your Christmas tree is filled with many special gifts this year.   Perhaps one of them contains a gift certificate for a cruise or resort stay on Carnival Cruise Line or any of our other travel partners.

Even if you didn't have a cruise vacation wrapped up in a box under your tree, there's still plenty of opportunity for you to surprise your family in the New Year with a trip that they will remember for years to come.

Make some memories in 2017 with your family and friends.

Thank you for letting us be a part of your lives this holiday season and throughout the yea.  We hope that you've enjoyed our gift of stories and photos from our cruise and land trips.

We would be happy to help you plan for your next vacation.