Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • Carnival Cruise Lines made an exciting announcement this morning regarding a new ship renovation, and my favorite cruise port — New Orleans, Louisiana.

    Growing up with the stories of Mark Twain and living on the Mississippi River, there’s nothing more beautiful than cruising down Old Man River as the sun sets and the moon rises, passing into the Gulf of Mexico with a glass of Champagne in hand. If you haven’t already taken a cruise from New Orleans, I highly suggest you add this departure port to your bucket list.

    Moonrise on Cruise down Mississippi River from Port of New Orleans

    This morning, Carnival Cruise Lines announced they will rename the Carnival Destiny to the Carnival Sunshine, after a $155 Million refit in 2013. This makeover will include all of the Fun Ship 2.0 enhancements that we love, and it will also add 182 cabins to the ship’s layout.

    From February to April 2013 the Carnival Destiny will go into drydock with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to undergo this extensive renovation and be renamed the Carnival Sunshine. The Sunshine will enjoy April through October 2013 with Mediterannean itineraries and then will reposition in her new home port of New Orleans, Louisiana in November 2013. She will replace the Carnival Conquest which is currently in New Orleans.

    The new additions include the Fun Ship 2.0 enhancements that were revealed on the Carnival Magic, the Carnival Liberty, and the soon to launch Carnival Breeze. But the fun doesn’t stop there with Carnival. Some of these newer additions caught my eye:

    Dining

    Fahrenheit 555, a classic American steakhouse offering mouth-watering steaks and gourmet appetizers, entrees and desserts, all enhanced by understated ambiance and impeccable service (venue will carry a surcharge consistent with other steakhouses in the Carnival fleet)

    A stunning new full-service Asian restaurant inspired by the line’s popular Mongolian wok casual eateries that will feature an extensive menu of delicious favorites from the Far East, along with a striking Asian-themed décor (no charge for lunch with a nominal fee for dinner)

    A new casual dining option, “The Comfort Kitchen,” located within the Lido Marketplace and offering a tempting array of American-style “comfort food” entrees and side dishes.

    Bars and Lounges

    An exciting new lounge, Havana Bar, a tropical-inspired nightspot located aft within Lido Marketplace featuring a panoramic ocean view from its floor to ceiling windows and offering a unique and memorable venue for cocktails, live Latin music and dancing

    A new cigar bar concept, with plush, comfortable surroundings, along with fine cigars and a variety of brandies, cognacs and liqueurs, ideal for pre- or post-dinner drinks and conversation

    Outdoor Fun and Relaxation

    Carnival’s first three-deck-high Serenity adults-only retreat, an oasis of tranquility offering plush chaise lounges and chairs, a whirlpool, a cascading waterfall, teak-planked decks, a pool, a complimentary dining area with freshly made salads that can be customized by guests, and, of course, magnificent sea views

    An All New Thrill Ride as part of the classic WaterWork’s area.

    Of course, this is all in addition to the already amazing Fun Ship 2.0 lineup that we know and love. I’m so excited that Carnival Cruise Lines is investing in the travel and tourism of my home state of Louisiana. This announcement is a testament to the growing number of visitors to Louisiana that have rediscovered what we have to offer as a destination.

    For additional information and reservations, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com. Be sure to check out all of our articles on TravelingMamas.com past cruise travel experiences.

     

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  • Yesterday Carnival Cruise Lines announced they  would be offering an extended program on the Carnival Legend with departures from the UK and Barcelona in 2013. The schedule will feature a variety of itineraries, including the line’s first Norwegian fjords cruise. I’m so excited about this announcement and hope to experience at least one of these new itineraries on the Carnival Legend.

    The official word from Carnival Cruise Lines:

    In total, Carnival Legend will operate 17 European cruises between April 22 and Oct. 31, 2013, visiting 34 ports across 18 countries.

    “For the Carnival Legend’s 2013 European season, we’ve assembled a truly outstanding collection of ports that offer our guests an exciting diversity of experiences, from viewing breathtaking Norwegian fjords and the lush Irish countryside to visiting centuries-old landmarks and exploring UNESCO World Heritage cities such as St. Petersburg and Tallinn,” said Gerry Cahill, Carnival president and CEO.

    For the first time, Carnival Legend will offer an extended series of voyages from Dover (London) with 12-day cruises to Norway/Western Europe, the British Isles and the Baltic, each offering a spectacular array of interesting and awe-inspiring ports of call, from quaint villages to cosmopolitan cities.

    The program includes a “Norway & Western Europe” cruise offering a unique combination of ports, as well as the unforgettable experience of sailing the Norwegian fjords. The voyage will operate Sept. 1-13, 2013, and visit Alesund, Bergen, Stavanger, and Oslo, Norway; Hamburg, Germany; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Zeebrugge (Bruges), Brussels, Belgium; and Le Havre (Paris), France.

    A “British Isles, Norway and France” voyage will depart Sept. 13, 2013, and feature stops at Stavanger, Norway; Edinburgh, Invergordon, and Glasgow (Greenock) Scotland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; and Le Havre (Paris), France.

    Six “Baltic Wonders & St. Petersburg” cruises will also be offered, visiting Copenhagen, Denmark; Berlin (Warnemunde), Germany; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia (overnight call); Tallinn, Estonia; and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Departure dates include June 21, July 3, 15 and 27, and Aug. 8 and 20, 2013.  The June 21 departure will visit Zeebrugge (Bruges), Brussels, Belgium, instead.

    12-day Mediterranean Cruises

    Several different Mediterranean cruises will also be offered, providing guests an opportunity to experience and explore some of the region’s most popular and picturesque ports of call and enjoy a wide variety of dining, shopping and sightseeing choices.

    The schedule includes 12-day cruises from Venice to Barcelona departing May 4 and 28, and Oct. 31, 2013.  On these voyages, guests can tour medieval castles, sample delicious local cuisine, and marvel at ornate churches and other historic architecture as they visit Dubrovnik, Croatia; Messina, Naples, Civitavecchia (Rome), and Livorno, Italy; and Marseilles, France.  The May 4 and Oct. 31 departures also include Athens, Greece; and Izmir, Turkey; while the May 28 voyage stops at Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

    Carnival Legend will also operate 12-day Western Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona to Dover June 9-21 and from Dover to Barcelona Sept. 25-Oct. 7, 2013.   These cruises offer guests the chance to sample all the region has to offer with extended visits to stunning seaside destinations in five countries, including Marseilles, France; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Livorno and Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy; Malaga, Spain; and Lisbon, Portugal.

    Also featured are three “Grand Mediterranean” voyages sailing from Barcelona to Venice April 22, May 16 and Oct. 19, 2013.   These voyages feature stops at Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Marseilles, France; Livorno, Naples, Civitavecchia (Rome) and Messina, Italy; and Dubrovnik, Croatia, along with an overnight call in Venice to provide guests with ample opportunities to explore this world-class city. The Oct. 19 voyage will include a stop at Olbia (Sardinia), Italy, instead of Monaco.

    Rounding out Carnival Legend’s 2013 Europe program is a 12-day voyage round-trip from Barcelona Oct. 7-19, 2013, with calls at Marseilles, France; Livorno, Civitavecchia (Rome), and Naples, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Venice (overnight call) and Messina, Italy.

    15-Day Transatlantic Crossings in April and November 2013

    Carnival Legend will operate a 15-day transatlantic crossing departing Tampa on April 7 and arriving Barcelona April 22, 2013.  Featured ports on this voyage include King’s Wharf, Bermuda; Ponta Delgada (Azores), Portugal; and Malaga and Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

    Following its European schedule, the ship will operate another 15-day transatlantic crossing from Barcelona to Tampa Nov. 12-27, 2013, calling at Palma de Mallorca and Malaga, Spain; Funchal (Madeira), Portugal; Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands; and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay.

    From Tampa, Carnival Legend will sail on a special four-day cruise before resuming seven-day Caribbean service Dec. 1, 2013. The week-long cruises call at Half Moon Cay; Nassau, The Bahamas; and Key West, Fla.; or George Town, Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico; Mahogany Bay, Roatan; and Belize City, Belize.

    For additional information and reservations, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com.  Carnival can also be found on:
    Twitter: www.twitter.com/
    Facebook Fan Page: 
    Flickr:  
    www.flickr.com/photos/carnivalcruiselines/

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  • Traveling alone can be fun, but it can also be nerve-wracking for some. I quite enjoy the aspect of solo travel, as it provides a reprieve from having to compromise on decisions or having to take charge of everyone in my family. I can eat where I want, order a glass of wine during my flight, stay at whatever type of lodging I choose, and I can truly relax.

    Solo travel can also have its downside, such as loneliness or issues of safety. During my recent attendance at CES 2012 in Las Vegas, I did what I always do when booking my own lodging — I waited until the last minute. Not the best decision when attending large conferences or events in a city, but there you have it.

    By the time I committed myself to attending, the hotel choices were limited and room rates were through the roof. Since a few of my friends had cancelled, I searched for a property that would be central to all the media events and close to the monorail. I’ve cut back on my speaking and consulting jobs, so I also needed a property that would fit my ever dwindling travel budget.

    I ended up booking the Imperial Palace due to its proximity to the monorail station for transport to the LVCC and it’s ease of walking to The Venetian for the press events.

    Check In

    I opted for a taxi instead of my normal shuttle due to the late hour of my arrival into LAS. The taxi delivered me to the front door and as there wasn’t a line at check in, it only took about 10 minutes. The front desk was helpful, courteous, and kind.

    The Property

    The Imperial Palace on the Las Vegas Strip is an older property that hasn’t been updated in a while. If you are searching for a kitchsy Vegas hotel, look no further. As soon as you enter the front doors the smokey stale air hits you. At the gaming tables, I noticed tired older gamblers who looked like they’ve been sitting in the same chair for over twenty years reciting a litany of “Hit me.” I have to admit, I was entertained by the atmosphere of the place.

    Onsite there is supposedly a spa, but I didn’t venture there as it reminded me of an upstairs massage shop in NYC’s Chinatown. There are a few dining options at this property, but the selling point is definitely the location.

    The Room

    I thought I had booked a Deluxe room, but when I arrived at my room it looked pretty sparse and basic to me. It was clean, just outdated and worn, but what could I expect for something that normally is less than $40 per night on the Vegas Strip? This place doesn’t even begin to compare to my luxurious girlfriend getaway at Aria. It was still a step above Circus Circus, then again, anything is a step above that place.

    My biggest concern about the room was the lack of a top door latch. It just didn’t seem a sturdy and safe room door, so at night I would stack things against the door to deter any intruders. In all the years I’ve traveled, I hadn’t had a theft or break in. Well that streak has now been broken thanks to Imperial Palace Las Vegas. The last night of my stay at around 11:30PM someone entered my room. Fortunately all the stuff piled against the door fell on them and they yelled “I’m sorry!” and then ran off. I called the front desk, but was told it was probably housekeeping so I didn’t need to speak to security. Really? At almost midnight? Needless to say, I didn’t sleep the rest of the night.

    Imperial Palace Las Vegas hotel double room

    The Location

    This hotel and casino has a shared monorail station with Harrah’s. During CES the monorail had a system in place for ease of transport for all the CES attendees. The line was pretty long and I waited about 30 minutes to board the monorail. It was still cheaper and easier than trying to get a taxi or take one of the free CES shuttles.

    The property is located across from Caesar’s Palace, and if one takes a right on the sidewalk out the IP casino, there’s a McDonald’s with free (albeit slow) wi-fi. Another five minute walk that way and you’ll be at The Venetian.

    Monorail Station at Imperial Palace during CES

    Overview

    This property is centrally located in a convenient spot on the famous Las Vegas strip. While my solo experience at Imperial Palace Las Vegas wasn’t optimal, it isn’t a bad choice for those looking for clean and affordable accommodations while in Las Vegas. I hope that when this property begins renovations, they consider installing a more secure door lock system for their guest rooms.

    I would recommend the Imperial Palace for a group of friends visiting Vegas with budget being more of a priority than a luxury stay. If you are a solo female traveling alone, just make sure you bring along your own hotel door security gear (yes, there are items on the market), or just do what I do — rig your own system.

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  • Major travel search site KAYAK.com recently announced the decision to discontinue support and maintenance for their BlackBerry travel application. The basis for the decision was the significant decline in users, making it cost prohibitive for the company.

    The site will still be available for browsing on a BlackBerry, but there will be no new features, updates or fixes to problems that are on the KAYAK BlackBerry app. KAYAK will continue to support their free travel app on iPhone, Google, Android, Windows Phone 7 and Nokia devices. For the official announcement, visit KAYAK.com’s news area.

    This news follows RIM’s CES 2012 announcement of the BlackBerry Travel app and the BlackBerry Travel Portal, but is this too little too late? The company’s marketing verbiage is that the app allows users to book travel and connect with LinkedIn contacts that are in the same location. Isn’t the BlackBerry Travel app just a RIM version of TripIt, which has been around a while?

    Shannon Hurst Lane and Gary Vaynerchuk (taken with a BlackBerry)

    Image taken using RIM Blackberry

    I had a BlackBerry for a few years and used the heck out of it until the roller ball fell off. Then I went to Apple’s dark side with an iPhone 4. I’ll admit, there was a bit of a learning curve going from RIM’s BlackBerry to the Apple iPhone 4, but the ease of use when traveling with the iPhone, coupled with better photo capability blew the BlackBerry out the water in my book.

    The Apple iPhone is not the end all be all for travelers (especially those who work from the road), but it’s much better than my experience with RIM’s BlackBerry. I completely understand why KAYAK has discontinued support for their BlackBerry travel application and this is a sign that smartphone users are migrating away from RIM devices. I also wonder how many other independent application developers will discontinue support of BlackBerry apps.

    2012 Volkswagen Beetle aka RedBugg II taken with Apple iPhone 4

    Image taken using Apple iPhone 4

    What will be the next big player in the smartphone game? I’m placing my bet on Nokia and plan on snagging a Lumia 900 as soon as it’s available at AT&T. After using the Nokia N8 with Carl Zeiss optics during CES 2011 I fell in love with Nokia and was crushed that I couldn’t use it on my current network. Now that AT&T is bringing Nokia back to the US market with Windows Phone 7.5 (with a very affordable price tag), I can’t wait to take it on the road to capture all of my travel adventures.

    Cajun Converse image by Tracey Clark of http://ShutterSisters.com taken on Nokia N8 with Carl Zeiss Optics

    Image taken using Nokia N8 w/ Carl Zeiss optics (image by Tracey Clark of ShutterSisters.com)

    I’m on a quest for the ultimate smartphone that allows me to ditch all my other equipment when I’m working on travel stories. What is your smartphone of choice and which travel apps work for your adventures?

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  • Georgetown, Grand Cayman is one of those cruise ports and destinations that offers a number of excursions for the adventurous. A few years ago I went on a 4×4 Adventure around Grand Cayman which ended up turning into a race against the Go Galavanting Gals.

    During the recent Fun Ship 2.0 introductory cruise on the Carnival Liberty, I opted to stay onboard the ship so that I could sleep in and enjoy one of the port day spa specials. Little did I know that later in the day I would end up in Hell.

    Hell, Grand Cayman

    It all began with lunch at Hammerhead’s restaurant, when a colleague took all of our phones and wouldn’t allow any of us to tweet or update our Facebook status during the meal. A few drinks later and I was talked into exploring Grand Cayman with Nancy Schretter and Doug Parker. We hailed a taxi and asked for a quote to Hell. Getting to Hell is relatively cheap, with a beach stop on the way for only $15 per person.

    Beach at Grand Cayman

    We arrived in Hell and took the obligatory photos.

    Hell Grand Cayman photo opp

    And don’t worry about keeping in touch with family and friends in Hell, because there is a post office.

    Post Office in Hell

    Hell is similar to Hawaii. If you take any rocks, you’ll be damned.

    Hell Rocks SignFortunately, by the end of our day we were able to quench our thirsts and redeem ourselves in Paradise, within walking distance of the tender boats. I never knew Hell could be so much fun, but glad to end my Grand Cayman adventure in Paradise.

    Caybrew at Paradise in Grand Cayman cruise port stop

    Special thanks to Carnival Cruise Lines for providing this trip to Hell. This was part of the Fun Ship 2.0 media introductory cruise. It was tons of fun and if you plan on a cruise with Grand Cayman on your itinerary, a trip to Hell is a must. At least once.

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