COOL NEW SHIP ON THE HORIZON

17 Jun

There are several innovative and exciting new ships debuting during 2015. Here is a preview of one we find pretty exciting – Norwegian Escape from Norwegian Cruise Line. This 164,000-ton, 4,200-passenger ship will begin 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruises November 14.

Sailing roundtrip from from its home port of Miami she will call on St Thomas; Tortola; and Nassau. You won’t have a hard time identifying her thanks to the colorful hull artwork designed by marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey.

Norwegian Escape will offer the first Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant at sea and the 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, a music venue and outdoor bar on The Waterfront. The Waterfront is an entire deck area with waterfront dining and entertainment venues.

Other great dining options include Iron Chef Jose Garces, Pincho Tapas Bar; Food Republic, a fusion of foods and cultures from around the globe from The Pubbelly Restaurant Group who reinvented the South Beach dining scene. The District Brew House – a hip, urban craft bar venue featuring 24 draft beers and more than 50 different bottled beers. The Cellars – a Michael Mondavi Family Wine Bar will feature an immersive wine experience focusing on tastings, the wine life and small plates of tapas, available a la carte. And Tobacco Road has relocated its legendary bar from Miami to the Norwegian Escape.

The award-winning After Midnight, smash-hit musical features the music of Duke Ellington and hot dancers. Another Tony Winner, Million Dollar Quartet showcases the historic tunes from Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley. And finally, a unique 360-degree post-modern cabaret  brings the movies of John Hughes to life with their original soundtracks.  Twist and Shout, Try a Little Tenderness, Sixteen Candles, and many others are featured.

So there you have it. a preview of what is going to be a very hip, innovative ship sailing the Caribbean year round from Miami with a very South Florida, Caribbean vibe. Norwegian Escape dates are already for sale. For pricing, availability and details please contact one of cruise vacation experts at ULTIMATE CRUISE & VACATION.

CARNIVAL TO LIMIT BOTTLES BROUGHT ONBOARD

10 Jun

Carnival Cruise Line announced that effective July 9, 2015 they will limit the type and quantity of beverages guests can bring onboard. As Carnival explained, due to excessive smuggling of alcohol, including the time it takes to examine cases of bottled water, that often contain liquor, they will curtail this activity by severely limiting what and how much you may bring on board.

The Carnival Breeze - taken in Grand Turk

The Carnival Breeze – taken in Grand Turk

Carnival will allow on embarkation day, guests ages 21 and above to bring one bottle of fine wine or champagne per guest under 750 ml. This bottle may be consumed in cabin at no cost, or in a dining room, steakhouse or bar for a corkage fee of $15. Cartons of water will no longer be permitted. Instead, beverages packaged in cans or cartons, including waters, sodas and juices will be permitted but limited to 12 unsealed unopened, each 12 ounces or less to be brought in carry-on luggage.

Concurrent with this policy change, Carnival will lower the price of bottled water on its ships to $2.99 per 12-pack if pre-ordered, or $4,99 once the cruise begins. Pre-ordered 122-packs will be delivered to the guests stateroom.

Subsequently Carnival will restrict the size of coolers that can be brought onboard to 12 X 12 X 12 inches.

For more information on booking a Carnival Cruise contact ULTIMATE CRUISE & VACATION.

 

HAWAII’S TOP RESORT KIDS’ CLUBS

9 Jun

Hawaii is a long flight for most of us home-based on the mainland, especially for kids. But, boy is it worth it. The natural attractions experienced in Hawaii are incomparable for kids, but in case you feel the need for a super kids club at the resort, here are  few that feature programs designed to entertain and educate.

Jean-Michael Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment, Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui
Inspires kids to live a more sustainable life. Activities include a hike to a lava flow and learning how early Hawaiian’s lived.

Aunty’s Beach House, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa on Oahu
Disney puts it famed magic touches on Hawaii culture and crafts. Learn how the islands were formed, hula dances, and plenty of Disney movies.

Camp Grande, Grand Wailea on Maui
20,000 square-feet exclusively for kids in this upscale resort. Lei making, fish feeding, water slides with a Tarzan swing, savoring shaved ice and much more.

Camp Hyatt, Hyatt Hawaii on Oahu, Maui and Kauai
Camp Hyatt originated great kids programs decades ago. Paint, study the stars, make smoothies with fresh fruit, play a ukulele, and learn the local geography and cultures.

Camp Penguin & Club Keiki, Hilton Hawaii on Oahu and Hawaii Island
In addition to daily on-resort activities this club takes kids off property to the likes of Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, Bishop Museum and Children’s Discovery Center and others.

Kahala Keiki Club, Kahala Hotel & Resorts on Oahu
Learn about turtles, rays and tropical fish that swim in the hotel’s lagoons. Other activities include pole fishing, beach Olympics, and a dolphin encounter.

Keiki Lani and Keiki Aloha, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts on Maui and Hawaii Island
Kids take to the stage and kitchen at Fairmont resorts. Every day brings a new menu of choices – culture, hiking, lava caves and more.

Kids for All Seasons, Four Seasons on Maui, Hawaii Island and Lanai
Snorkel, play croquet, outrigger canoe lessons, eagle-ray feeding, sand castle building and more.

Westin Kid’s Club, Westin Hawaii on Maui and Kauai
Photo safari’s, evening toad hunts, hand-stamp your own pillowcase, and themes like Tie-Dye Tuesday and Wacky Water Wednesday.

Young Voyagers Club, St Regis Princeville on Kauai
While kids learn about fish, algae and reefs they will shoot their own video’s and photos’ for lifetime keepsakes. And this is such a beautiful location.

Norwegian Cruise Line
While not a land resort, Norwegian has a floating resort that has the only concession to offer 7-nights roundtrip cruises from Honolulu year-round visiting Maui, Big Island and Kauai for two days each. And of course the kids are well entertained onboard.

For more information, pricing, availability and suggestions contact the expert vacation planners at ULTIMATE CRUISE & VACATION. We know Hawaii very well.

CRAFT BEERS – BIG TIME BREWING ON CRUISE SHIPS

30 May

In an era where cruise ships have become a commodity and struggle to differentiate, who would have guessed that beer could be the differential. It’s true, and Carnival, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines are all battling for craft beer lovers affection and dollars.

For alphabetical sake let’s begin with Carnival, who will be the first North American cruise line to brew its own beer at sea when it debuts the #Carnival Vista in 2016. They will brew three house-made beers in copper tanks behind a glass wall in the RedFrog Pub.

Carnival has already been sourcing craft beer for their ships from home ports like Florida (Cigar City Brewing in Tampa), New Orleans (Abita), and Galveston (Shiner Rock). If this helps attract regional passengers to their line, then Carnival has a leg up on competitors.

Norwegian Cruise Line loves to create an identity with the local market, especially in New York and South Florida. Later this year Norwegian will debut the Norwegian Escape out of Florida and introduce a venue called District Brew House – a craft brew hall, which will house a keg room with 24 beers on tap.

One of those brews will be created exclusively for Norwegian by Wynwood Brewing Co., Miami’s first craft brewer. Other Wynwood products will include their signature brew, La Rubia Blonde Ale, designed for the Caribbean climate.

Princess leaped into the craft beer frenzy last year when they introduced Seawitch West Coast IPA, brewed by San Francisco’s Strike Brewing Co. This hoppy India pale ale is available on the Regal Princess. Princess now intends to offer more Seawitch craft beers in partnership with other regional brewers.

And with the debut of a Michael’s Genuine Pub on the Quantum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean began serving the restaurant’s signature brew. Chef Michael Schwartz produces Michael’s Genuine Home Brew for his restaurant in Miami. This brew is an ale, golden and light bodied with a citrusy sweetness, a bit of floral hops and a dry finish. It is brewed by Back Forty Beer co. of Alabama.

And so, let the craft beer battle at sea begin. For those of us who enjoy a quality beer beyond the generic name brands, we say … Cheers.

THE NICKELODEON ALL-INCLUSIVE VACATION

1 Apr

As of July 2015 your young fans of Nickelodeon characters can buddy up with their favorites. Imagine a vacation with Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles where your youngsters can meet, play, eat and get slimmed with them. Now they can – all while the grownups enjoy Gourmet-Inclusive quality accommodations, cuisine and drink brands.

Thanks to an exclusive partnership with Viacom International Media Network, Azul Hotels have brought the Nickelodeon Experience to life a their Azul Hotels in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Beach and family play area   Azulitos Kids Club

Families routinely ask our staff about activities for kids at all-inclusive resorts. Most family focused all-inclusive resorts do a commendable job in this area. Some like Azul Hotels, by Karisma exceed expectations. Accommodations routinely allow five in a room (rare at all-inclusive resorts), offer amenities for the youngest guests like strollers, bottle warmers, cribs, connecting rooms, 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom suites with large living rooms, foldout sofas, kids treats in the stocked refrigerators, teen clubs, and kids clubs designed for specific ages, and much, much more. Azul even has Sky Suites with your own private rooftop area complete with Jacuzzi, bathroom, bar, grill, lounge chairs, and ocean views. Great for family gatherings or room service. Literally fell like you are on top of the world!

Essence Suite living dining area     One of the many pools throughout Azul Fives

Nickelodeon at Azul Hotels

The fun begins at check-in. While parents are greeted with Champagne and a cool towel kids slurp on a Slime Smoothie. From there leave it to the kids to choose the activities. You will be pampered with pool and beach butlers (there are even adult-only pools) while the kiddo’s decide between dining experiences with characters, pool time,  playing with the characters in the Azulitos Playhouse by Nickelodeon, or digging their toes in the white sand beach.

Nicke Concierge

At Azul Hotels everything is included – all meals, snacks, drinks (yes, from Smoothies to Margarita’s), non-motorized water sports – everything. To make sure yo don’t miss out on a moments fun contact your Nicke Concierge to sign the family up for a character Breakfast, schedule a visit from their favorite character, like Dora the Explorer.

The FULL Nickelodeon Experience

Character Meet & Greets: SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles walk around the resort ready to engage with your kids. Want a little more time with them? Arrange private time for high-fives that you capture with your ever ready cameras.

Nick Knack Pack: Make sure to get your kids one of the exclusive backpacks featuring a blanket, a coloring cup, and a Nickelodeon toy in the standard pack. or upgrade to the Ultimate Pack that includes an exclusive bathrobe and unlimited access to the character breakfast.

Character Breakfast: This is no ordinary breakfast, not with the Nickelodeon Characters on hand to meet, greet and take photos with your little ones in this exclusive dining experience. And don’t think for a moment this will be regular breakfast foods. No sir. The Gourmet-Inclusive chefs at Azul Hotels will be taking their creativity to the next level.

Themed Restaurants: Imagine your children sharing ice cream scoops with SpongeBob or laughing it up over pizza with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in one of the themed restaurants.

Nicke Concierge: You have a concierge at Azul Hotels. Visit them to sign your kids up for a character breakfast, a spa appointment for you, or any other activity you can think of.

Azulitos Playhouse by Nickelodeon: Your kiddo’s will have unlimited access to this incredible playhouse with daily schedules of themed activities led by trained professionals. Kids will enjoy specially created cuisine, creative kid-friendly cocktails and tons of fun at the beach.

Toy Lending Library: Kids can check out toys form the library and keep them for their entire stay at the resort.

Azul Parties Featuring a Nickelodeon Character of Your Choice: Make a birthday celebration even greater at Azul Hotels by scheduling an appearance from their favorite Nickelodeon character and play the best party games n Riviera Maya.

Weddings, Groups & Private Events: Nickelodeon characters are not reserved exclusively for kids. They can appear at your wedding or anniversary event to add to the festivities.

Sliming: Bestow the ultimate Nickelodeon honor on your loved ones. Slime them with gallons of the green goo right next to the beautiful blue waters of the Mexican Caribbean Sea.

The Nickelodeon / Azul partnership is going to be a wonderful thing for families. ULTIMATE CRUISE & VACATION is a worldwide leader and top producer with Karisma Resorts including Azul Hotels. That means we have access to the best rates, promotions and specials. Not to mention we provide the best knowledge of these resorts so clients are prepared and maximize their enjoyment and experience. Plus we typically upgrade guests complimentary to a higher room category.  Needless to say, contact ULTIMATE CRUISE & VACATION for all the details.

Royal Caribbean Revitalization Program

13 Mar

With a fleet of 20 ships and counting one could suspect that Royal Caribbean’s older ships probably suffer some slippage. Credit to them, that is not the case. Royal Caribbean is in the midst of implementing massive revitalization to each and every ship. And we’re not qualifying a change of soft goods and a good coat of pain as revitalization.

We have access to the complete list of transformations ongoing. For the sake of time and space we will cover just the two most recently completed delivered projects.

OASIS OF THE SEAS, Caribbean itinerary –  Completed October 2014
Entertainment: CATS The Musical. Dining / Beverage: American Icon Grill, Silk, The Grande. Izumi Hibachi & Sushi. Sabor Modern Mexican. Coastal Kitchen (Suite guests). Cups & Scoops. Boardwalk Dog House. Technology: High-speed internet at sea. Royal iQ. Stateroom: New staterooms. 10 new suites. Other: kate spade new york; Michael Kors; BRITTO; VIP room inside Casino Royale; Boardwalk Arcade; Suite Lounge and Sun Deck.

VOYAGER OF THE SEAS, Australia & Asia itinerary – Completed November 2014
Entertainment: Outdoor movie screen. Dining / Beverage: R Bar. Starbucks (in Cafe Promenade); Chops Grille; Giovanni’s Table; Izumi Japanese Cuisine; The Tavern (upscale Sport Bar). Technology (all beginning April 2015): Interactive wayfinders; Pervasive Wi-Fi; Interactive TV’s. Stateroom: New staterooms; Additional 3rd and 4th berths; Virtual Balcony; Panoramic Ocean View. Other: FlowRider surf simulator; Concierge Club; Diamond Club; VIP room inside Casino Royale; Focus Photo Gallery; Art gallery.

On tap for 2015 are enhancement for both the Freedom of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. Royal Caribbean remains one of the most innovative cruise lines in the world. And our cruise clients love Royal.

For more information on Royal Caribbean or cruising contact ULTIMATE CRUISE & VACATION.

Sandals in the Caribbean – Always Innovating

10 Mar

You already know that Sandals Resorts offers adult-only all-inclusive resorts throughout the Caribbean. Did you know that Sandals is still innovating? Did you know that Sandals is still expanding? Did you know Sandals has loads of included activities? Did you know that Sandals lists the premium brands of liquor they serve? And did you know Sandals offers some of the most unique romantic accommodations anywhere? The answers are Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes again.

StLucSandGBch    Traditional Fish & Chips with newspaper wrapping

Innovating? Sandals includes gourmet dining at up to 15 exceptional restaurants per resort. And when you stay in a locale that houses more than one Sandals you can share, as in two resorts in Montego Bay, and even three in romantic St Lucia. Along with that you will find up to 9 bars per resort. Sandals has resorts with private islands and Sandals Resorts are typically located on the most beautiful beach on island, as in Sandals Grande St Lucian or Sandals Whitehouse. Innovative is also serving Guinness and Newcastle Brown in British Pubs, or Asian beers in Asian restaurants. That’s not only innovative, but authentic – the way it should be.

Sandals Expansion. Last year Sandals opened what is perhaps their premier property, Sandals LeSource Grenada. This year Sandals is readying Sandals Barbados, which will be their newest addition to the family.

Sandals Resorts include a wealth of activities – all included. Golf, tennis, racquetball, rock climbing, beach volleyball, basketball on land; and snorkeling, scuba diving, paddle boats, hobie cat sailing, windsurfing, kneeboarding, kayaking, aquatics, glass bottom boats, wake boarding, water skiing, tubing, and much more. Divers will love Sandals top-of-the-line equipment, professional gear, custom 49′ Newton dive boats, and twice daily diving for certified divers.

Everybody in the All-Inclusive market boasts “premium” drink brands. But really? The weird tasting stuff in the mysterious unlabeled purple bottle is really NOT a “premium” brand. Our critique of their premium brands is their love affair with Appleton, a Jamaica pride thing. Appleton is hardly a world-class rum. Sandals needs to expand on their exclusive agreement with Appleton for the sake of their clients. Aside from the mandatory Appleton rum, Sandals serves Johnnie Walker Red & Black Label, Jim Beam, Crown Royal, Seagrams VO, Remy Martin VSOP, Absolut, Stolichnaya, Skyy, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Jose Cuervo (you can tell they don’t have resorts in Mexico), and Jack Daniels. For the most part – premium brands indeed.

Let’s talk about romantic accommodations. Here are a sampling of Sandals Love Nests: Sunset Bluff Oceanfront 2-Story 1 Bedroom Butler Villa suite w/Private Pool at Sandals L Toc; Italian Swim-up Bi-Level 1-Bedroom Butler Suite w/ Patio Tranquility Soaking Tub at Sandals LaSource Grenada; Exotic Beachfront Rondovals (suites in the round) at Sandals Grande Antigua and Sandals Grande St Lucian; Swim-up Suites at Sandals La Source Grenada, Sandals Negril, Sandals Royal Caribbean, Sandals Royal Bahamian, and Sandals Barbados; the Bay Rock Beachfront Suites at Sandals Montego Bay; and of course the ultimate in privacy – the Romeo & Juliet Villa Suites at Sandals Grande Riviera.

Private Romeo & Juliet Suite pool

Private pool in Romeo & Juliet Suite

If luxury is what you seek in your All-Inclusive experience – we suggest you take a close look at Sandals Butler Level Service, and Sandals Weddings, including a Free Wedding.

When you are ready to explore a Sandals Vacation, Honeymoon, or Destination Wedding – do yourself a favor. Consult with a travel professional who visits, stays at, and has personal knowledge with Sandals Resorts from top to bottom. Contact ULTIMATE CRUISE & VACATION for guidance, experience and the best deals.

Viking River Cruises Enters the U.S Market

5 Mar

Legendary upscale European river cruise line Viking River Cruises has made an official announcement that they will launch six modern river cruise vessels on the Mississippi River beginning in 2017.

Viking promised (not surprisingly) that new built vessels will be more modern than the traditional Mississippi paddlewheelers. In order to accomplish this, Viking had to agree to the terms of the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886, a cabotage law that was updated with the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 stating no foreign vessel may transport passengers directly between ports or places in the U.S. unless the vessel was built in the U.S.

The six vessels will be built in a U.S. shipyard at a cost of $90 to $100 million per vessel, and they will be crewed by U.S. citizens. The vessels, which are expected to accommodate up to 300 passengers, will be launched beginning in 2017 with two, followed by two in each of the following two years.

Viking’s new itineraries will sail up the Mississippi River form New Orleans.

Kids Stay FREE at Palace Resorts This Summer

26 Feb

Looking for a great value for a family all-inclusive vacation this summer and don’t want to sacrifice quality? Try Palace Resorts. Just stay three (3) nights or more at Beach Palace, Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort, Moon Palace Jamaica (brand new – opening in April), Playacar Palace or Cozumel Palace.

Flow Rider
Flow Rider @ Moon Palace

KIDS 12 YEARS & UNDER STAY FREE
With all the amenities Palace Resorts has for kids of all ages, including a dynamite Teen Club, your kiddo’s will have a blast. Not to mention they will enjoy all they can eat and drink – included.

More games for Teens      Inside the Teens Lounge
Teens Club                                                                Think your kiddo’s can have fun here?

UP TO $1,500 IN RESORT CREDITS!
Want even more value in your Palace Resort Vacation? With a Palace Resort stay you are entitle to a Resort Credit of up to $1,500 per room depending on the length of stay. This Credit can be applied toward tours, golf, spa, wine upgrades, weddings and more. A 16% service tax applies to the activities actually used.

The collection of Palace Resorts are 4 1/2 and 5-star all-inclusive resort with a load of amenities. Rooms include Jacuzzi, well stocked mini-fridges, liquor dispensers for mom and dad, free WiFi, unlimited long distance calling back to the U.S. from the room, and a patio or balcony. Reservations are not required for dinner and you have complete unlimited access to a la carte dining.

The staff of ULTIMATE CRUISE & VACATION has stayed at and inspected all of the Palace Resorts. We give you expertise as well as the best wholesale rates available. We know where the sales are. Contact us to take advantage of the Kids Stay Free Deal.

Cheers

ReTie the Knot @ Sandals

25 Feb

Not everyone had the honeymoon or destination wedding of their dreams the first time around. For those who succeeded in marriage with their first choice in partner for years or decades – you deserve to retie the knot in style. Here is an outstanding romantic option in a beautiful tropical setting. The cost is a mere $300 but you can have it for free by taking family and friends with you to share your next big moment.

StLucSandGWedding

Stay at a Sandals, adult-only all-inclusive resort in Antigua, the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica or St Lucia and you can enjoy the benefits of this package:

  • Personal pre-travel ReTie The Knot planner and dedicated ReTie The Knot resort team
  • Prerecorded music for ceremony
  • Celebration cake, bouquet, and boutonniere
  • 30-minute Reception with sparkling wine and cold hors d’oeuvres, for the couple and up to six guests (applicable for less than 5 room)
  • Commemorative Certificate
  • 35-Minute Massage for the husband
  • Manicure for the wife
  • Keepsake Gift
  • One (1) 5 X 7 Honeymoon photograph
  • Honeymoon dinner for the couple at a resort specialty restaurant with white glove service and a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine
  • Decorated Honeymoon room
  • Mimosa breakfast-in-bed any morning of choice

Bringing friends? The more the merrier. The more guests you bring the greater the party and more perks you and your group receive, including private check-in, room upgrade, longer and more inclusive dinners and receptions.

For more information about Sandals Resorts, honeymoons, destination weddings, or vow renewal options contact the experts – ULTIMATE CRUISE & VACATION.

 

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