Carnival creates boutique cruises that include a ‘Throwback Seaday’

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Carnival Cruise Lines is redoubling its push for more interesting itineraries, creating a new cruise collection that has novel onboard features in addition to longer voyages.

Called “Carnival Journeys,” the cruises will feature more local food and entertainment options, fun “Carnival style” enrichment classes, more crew interaction and a “Throwback Seaday” in which the clock will be turned back to 1987.

“We want to create something really different in terms of the experience,” said Terry Thornton, senior vice president of itinerary planning.

So far, 26 cruises have been designated Carnival Journeys. They are all longer than the typical Carnival cruise and include some smaller, less visited ports. Thornton cited Bonaire; Martinique; Grenada; Dominica; and Ixtapa, Mexico, as examples. Cruises will run between 9 and 15 days.

Well under 1% of Carnival cruises will be in the program. Part of the idea is to give experienced cruisers and Carnival’s past guests something new to aspire to. “This will be a natural for people who have cruised before to come back to cruising and find something original and unique,” Thornton said.

For travel agents, Carnival Journeys offer the prospect of higher commissions than are typical for Carnival.

There are five components to the new onboard program. In “Authentic Eats,” Carnival will partner with local restaurants in ports of call to do onboard cooking demonstrations. There will be excursions to the restaurants and market tours with the chef.

“Local-tainment” will feature local bands either on or off the ship; “Academy of Fun,” will offer enrichment, but in a non-stuffy, entertaining way; and a “Throwback Seaday” will bring back the Baked Alaska dessert, the midnight buffet and white gloves on officers, as Carnival featured in 1987.

The fifth component is a heightened opportunity for interaction with the staff at all levels, and more chances to learn about shipboard life.

The first Carnival Journeys cruise is scheduled for Oct. 4 from New Orleans.
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Correction: The first Carnival Journeys cruise will depart New Orleans, not Galveston as previously reported.

New Carnival CEO says she can ‘relate to the brand’

With the appointment of Christine Duffy, Carnival Cruise Line becomes one of the few and certainly the largest cruise brand to be headed by a former travel agent.

That bodes well for Carnival, which over the years has sometimes struggled to manage tensions between its commitment to agents and the preference of some customers to buy direct.

Duffy, 53, started her career as an agent with McGettigan Partners, a specialist in incentive travel, where she rose through the ranks to become president.

On Dec. 17, Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald chose her to become the fourth president of the 24-ship Carnival brand, succeeding Gerry Cahill, who retired in November.

Duffy said her background as an agent was one of the things that prepared her to move into her new role, with its high visibility and responsibility.

“Certainly when I was a travel agent I sold a lot of Carnival cruises, and I certainly can relate to the brand and our guests,” she said.

Since 2010, Duffy has been president and CEO of CLIA, the industry’s trade association. Before that, she spent a decade at St. Louis-based Maritz Travel, which acquired McGettigan in 2001.

In searching for Cahill’s successor, Donald said that the ideal candidate would be someone who resonates with Carnival’s sociable and fun-loving brand.

“We did talk a lot about the brand and about my admiration for Carnival Cruise Line,” Duffy said about her discussions with Donald regarding the job. “I do like people. I’m definitely a people person. I’m very social, and I like to be busy and engaged and interact. Everything I know about the Carnival brand is that it’s all about fun, and I think that’s what vacations should be.”

Duffy will begin her new duties on Feb. 1, the same day that Carnival Corp. rolls out its first-ever Super Bowl ad. Although the ad covers all of Carnival’s brands and is meant to reinforce cruising as a vacation option, it serves as the culmination of a comeback for the Carnival brand in particular.

Duffy steps into the president’s chair as the line has rebounded from a collapse in demand following the Carnival Triumph engine room fire in February 2013 and a roasting in the consumer media over Carnival’s handling of the disabled ship.

Shortly after the fire, Carnival said its consultants expected the brand’s full recovery to take three years. Earlier this year, the company cited YouGov’s BrandIndex survey, which found Carnival the most improved U.S. brand in consumer perception for the first half of 2014.

As part of its recovery bid, the line launched its Carnival Conversations initiative to solicit feedback from travel agents and make changes to boost its standing with the trade.

Duffy said she very much appreciates the importance of agents.

“I’m very supportive of the channel,” she said. “And I believe that with so many cruise options out there, using a travel professional … is the best way to ensure that you get on the right cruise for you.”

At the same time, she said, Carnival will continue to offers customers a choice for those who want to book direct.

“Any business has to pay attention and work with customers the way customers want to work with you,” she said.

Duffy said she first met Donald through Maritz Travel CEO Steve Maritz. Maritz, who said he’s talked to Donald about Duffy “any number of times,” said she combines a good strategic perspective with the ability to execute.

“On top of that she’s been through some crises in the travel business and she’s shown a cool head and leadership ability,” he said.

Duffy’s impending departure from CLIA leaves a hole at the trade group just as it is in the process of consolidating its operations in a new office in Washington.

A transition plan is underway and will be announced shortly, said Adam Goldstein, chairman-elect of CLIA and president and COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

“While Christine will certainly be missed at CLIA, she has a strong team at CLIA who will continue to support our membership and the many activities we have underway around the world,” Goldstein said.

With the job change, Duffy stands to get a big pay increase. While Carnival has not yet disclosed her salary, as president and CEO of CLIA Duffy earned $872,569, according to a filing nonprofits are required to make with the Internal Revenue Service.

The retiring Cahill earned total compensation of more than $2.9 million last year, according to Carnival’s proxy statement for the 2014 annual shareholders meeting.

Duffy’s appointment gives the cruise industry its fourth female brand president in a little over a year, following the appointments of Edie Rodriguez at Crystal, Jan Swartz at Princess and most recently Lisa Lutoff-Perlo at Celebrity.

Rodriguez said that if the top of the cruise industry was once a boys club, women now have a boardroom of their own.

“I think it’s a wonderful girls club to be in, and more power to the girls club,” Rodriguez said.

In naming Duffy president, Donald didn’t mention gender but rather cited her dynamic leadership and wealth of experience as qualifications for the job.

Brad Tolkin, co-chairman and CEO of World Travel Holdings, called Duffy “a respected industry leader,” while Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners, of Coral Springs, Fla., predicted, “She will resonate with travel agents and be front and center in the industry.”

Duffy said that when she started her career as an agent in 1982, she never imagined she would end up as president of a cruise line, much less of the world’s largest line.

“But, boy, it just shows that with a lot of hard work and passion, a girl from Philadelphia can work her way through the ranks to become president of the largest cruise company,” Duffy said. “I’m honored and thrilled to be taking on the challenge.”

21 Foods You’ll Probably Only Ever Try on a Cruise!

If you ask seasoned cruisers, many will tell you that the available dining options when onboard are a major selling point when they come to book their stint on the sea.

After all, as the saying goes, the way to a man’s heart is through his belly – and ladies do love to lunch!

 

When you’re at sea, with as much food as you can eat thrown in, you can afford to be adventurous with your plate choices and if you don’t like something, just send it back and try something else instead!

If you are in the mood for some daring dining, there are plenty of things on cruise line menus that you may not have tried before.

 

Some are nice, some are naughty and some are just plain peculiar but there’s no excuse not to try them all!

 

1 – Bison Burgers

It’s not really something that we see in the UK but American liners, such as Disney, offer bison burgers as standard.

Did you know a bison burger is healthier than a beef burger?

So not only are you tucking into the rear end of a buffalo for the first time but it’ll be kinder to your waistline – something many of us could really do with when most of the food on a cruise is included in the price!

 

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2 – Escargot

AKA snails.

Don’t eat the shell though, just the inside bit!

If you’re sailing with Azamara, book yourself into the Aqualina restaurant to try a plateful of these French culinary favourites, in a different way.

There’s no classic garlic butter with these snails – just aubergine caviar for some earthy tones or dine in the Qsine restaurant onboard Celebrity and you can enjoy a lobster and escargot fritter, bringing together two shells of the sea and the soil – interesting!

Kinda gross, but interesting.

Do you think they’d allow you to take away any of the snail slime in a doggy bag?

It’s good for your skin, apparently!

 

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3 – A Pizza the Action

Everybody loves pizza, right?

Well the good news is that most cruise lines serve up a decent slice.

On Carnival Cruises, Pizzeria del Capitano boasts a brick oven and is open 24/7, so you can get a pizza the action whenever you get the craving.

 

 

4 – Carpaccio

If you like the sound of steak so raw it’s pretty much mooing, topped with a raw egg, carpaccio might just be your thing!

You can find it at the Prime C restaurant onboard the Azamara ships.

You don’t get a choice of how it’s cooked though because it doesn’t even see a grill!

However, it melts in the mouth and despite all the rawness is highly rated among hard-core food fans.

 

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5 – Calamari

Salt and pepper squid, anybody?

Don’t worry – you won’t be inked

Perhaps some octopus sashimi, onboard Crystal Cruises, may be more your thing?

With Nobu Matsuhisa at the handle of the ceramic knife in the Silk Road kitchen, you can guarantee it’ll be the best quality and perfectly prepared.

There’s nothing like a lovely bowl of tentacles to get the evening off to a great start – and you’re a sucker if you think otherwise!

 

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6 – Sushi Lollipops

And speaking of suckers…

These aren’t as weird as they sound but if you like the idea of sushi rolls being served to you on a stick, then the Qsine restaurant onboard some of the Celebrity fleet is the place to go.

Licking them may not be as effective as using chopsticks or a fork, though.

 

 

7 – Ham and Cheese Croissant-wich

These tasty morsels are a legend in their own time on Royal Caribbean, with repeat cruisers knowing to head to the 24/7 Café Promenade for their fix.

A savoury croissant filled with ham and cheese and topped with lettuce, tomato, mustard and mayo, the croissant-wich looks innocent enough but just one can be enough to form a cruise-long addiction.

 

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8 – Chocolate Buffet

It’s not weird but it is wonderful and wicked, all at the same time.

Imagine – a whole buffet cart, dedicated to chocolate and you don’t even need a golden ticket to try it.

Need we say more?

You can find this magical trolley on the Jewel and Sun class NCL ships – just get there early before the chocolaty sculptures are devoured and grab a snapshot before you tuck in.

Be careful though!

Go too crazy and you’ll be looking like Bruce Bogtrotter and saying goodbye to your closet of fitted pantsuits!

 

 

 

9 – Milk and Cookies

Not just any old milk and cookies – the ice cold milk and fresh-baked soft cookies that will be served to you poolside on Princess Cruises.

This little treat will save your liver from yet another cocktail and make you feel like a cosseted child again.

 

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10 – Fresh Donuts

We don’t care what anyone says, donuts are a holiday essential, whether you’re at the seaside or cruising the Caribbean.

On the pier-style Boardwalk on RCI Oasis class ships you’ll find a sweet little donut shop where the sugary treats are gratis and you can forget getting bored with plain old jam, ring or custard donuts – the rotating flavours here include Passion Fruit Glazed, Key Lime and Nutty Nougat.

Try to resist taking a box full at a time.

 

 

11 – A Guy Burger

Fine dining’s all well and good but sometimes what you really fancy is a big, meaty, juicy burger.

Let US celebrity chef Guy Fieri satisfy your cravings in a BIG way at Guy’s Burger Joint on Carnival. With extras including donkey sauce, brown sugar BBQ sauce, super melty cheese and a Rojo ring, it’s a burger experience that you won’t find at your local drive-through.

 

 Video of Guy's Burger Joint

Video: Guy’s Burger on Royal Caribbean Cruise

 

12 – Sashimi

You’re sailing on the ocean – the least you should do is try some of the stuff that swims in it!

With sashimi, you don’t even have to worry about waiting for it to be cooked either!

Raw fish, such as salmon, yellowfin tuna and amberjack can be found on many of the sushi restaurant menus and is a great thing to try if you can get your head around the idea of eating a piece of fish that hasn’t even seen a searing pan.

NCL offers a decent sashimi selection on its sushi and sashimi menu but the king of sashimi can be found on Crystal Cruises at Silk Road.

 

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13 – Eel

No, not jellied like you’d find in an East End market.

Freshwater eel is one of the weirder things found on the Bonsai Sushi menu, onboard the Carnival liners.

It comes in a roll, alongside some BBQ eggplant (aubergine, to us Brits), tamago (Japanese egg omelette) and panko breadcrumbs.

The Celebrity Silk Harvest restaurant serves a similar freshwater eel (Unagi) roll. Chopsticks are optional but be safe in the knowledge that the eel won’t slither away if you do need to ask for a fork.

 

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14 – Crème Brulee

Ok, on the surface, this sounds pretty normal, so what makes it a must-try?

The fact that it’s served in an eggshell, hidden in a basket made of grass, that’s what!

Book into the ‘fun food’ Qsine restaurant on one of the several Celebrity ships that host it (including the Eclipse, Silhouette and Reflection) and you can enjoy this weird and wonderful spin on a classic French dessert.

You could do with some shortbread soldiers to dunk in it though… chef!!

 

 

15 – Modern Indian

We Brits love a good curry and being a great British cruise line, P&O know this.

They’ve brought Michelin-starred master of the madras Atul Kochhar onboard as one of their five Food Heroes and you can expect more than your usual massala, rice and naan at his Sindhu restaurants.

Mains on the menu (found on Azura and Britannia) include Goan Style pan roasted Lobster and Trio of Duck…………………. as well as a Lamb Rogan Josh for traditionalists.

 

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16 – Caviar

Mmmmmm… raw fish eggs, yum!

Caviar is said to be a rich man’s delicacy and can be tried on Celebrity cruises at the Murano restaurant (found onboard the Eclipse, Solstice and Equinox).

You even get a choice of caviar – Golden Osetra or Sevruga – aren’t you the lucky cruiser?

Even luckier are those booked onto a Seabourn Caribbean cruise that can enjoy champagne and caviar served in the surf, from a surfboard. Yep, really!

 

 

17 – Foie Gras

The Prime 7 restaurant onboard the Regent Seven Seas cruises serves foie gras with rhubarb chutney – what better way to bring out the flavour of plump goose liver than with a fruit that dinner ladies used to force you to eat?

Don’t worry though, this rhubarb will be ripe and mouth-wateringly tasty.

Can you bring yourself to try this controversial delicacy?

 

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18 – A Breakfast Burrito

Forget bacon and eggs or a bowl of soggy cornflakes.

Spice up your breakfast onboard with a breakfast burrito!

Carnival do a really good one at Seaday Brunch, as well as Fat Stack Pancakes, the Funniest French Toast and Loaded Mac n Cheese.

That little lot should keep you going until lunch – Lunch the next day!

 

 

19 – Liquid Lobster

Disappear down the rabbit hole in Wonderland on RCI’s Quantum of the Seas and this is just one of the magical treats waiting to be tasted.

As well as ‘Drink Me’ fish courses, you’ll also find truffled egg still in its shell, spearmint cotton candy, olive ice cream and espresso air.

Don’t be late!

 

 Video: Royal Caribbean's New Wonderland Dining

Video: Royal Caribbean’s New Wonderland Dining

 

20 – Best Shake at Sea

When is a milkshake not just a milkshake?

When it’s from the Carnival Shake Spot!

Choose between the ‘Black and White’, the ‘Strawberry Creamsicle’, the ‘Island Delight’ and more shakes, floats and spiked shakes than you can shake an extra wide straw at.

 

 

21 – Something Michelin-Starred

Ok so you won’t find Michelin-starred restaurants at sea but you will find Michelin-starred chefs, whether they’re in residence or have developed the menu.

Disney has French wonder chef Arnaud Lallement, P&O has Marco Pierre White and Atul Kochhar, RCI has Michael Schwartz and Cunard has Jean-Marie Zimmermann – all of which have struck fear into many a Michelin-starred kitchen.

Chances to dine on menus created and executed by the finest chefs in the world are rare – and expensive – so make the most of the opportunity to dine like a real foodie on your cruise, usually for a small supplement or for free!

 

 

So go on…be brave!

Be adventurous!

Be greedy!

How many times will you have the opportunity to eat and experience so many different tastes (unless you’re a frequent cruiser with an appetite for something other than the typical British meat and two veg diet, anyway!)?

The onboard chefs are among the best in the world, including household names like Marco Pierre White on P&O, Jamie Oliver and Michael Schwartz on Royal Caribbean and Nobu Matsuhisa on Crystal, so if anyone can get you to enjoy escargot, eel and fish eggs, they can!

Or you could just stick with the pizza and donuts.

Your cruise, your choice!