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Porthole Cruise News Blog


Ships - from stem to stern. Diversions - from captain's table to lido. Ports - from Antigua to Zanzibar.

Do We Smell a Trend? Holland America Line Adds Signature Burgers to New Terrace Grill Menu

I'm one of those people who enjoy being pampered with multiple courses served by armies of waiters in cruise ship dining rooms. But at some point on every cruise I find myself craving something simple — like a good burger. Apparently, I am not alone.

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri's big burgers are all the rage on select Carnival Cruise Lines ships, where Guy's Burger Joints serve up more than 1,200 burgers per day, per ship. Gourmet burgers – made with Black Angus or Kobe beef – are featured at Waves on Oceania Cruises ships.

Now enter Holland America Line into the burger scene. On its 15 ships, the line is rebranding its popular Terrace Grill as "Dive-In at the Terrace Grill," and introducing a new menu featuring signature burgers, plus hot dogs and fries.

The first ships to get the new gourmet grill concept are EurodamAmsterdam, and Maasdam. Other ships will have the Dive-In experience by the end of the summer.

The signature burgers are hand-formed and feature a "secret" Dive-In sauce (of course!). The beef patties are served on a roasted brioche bun.

Holland America has also gotten creative with toppings – and dive-focused names. The Gainer comes with a mound of crispy frizzled onions; The Cannonball with Gouda cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, and sweet caramelized onions; and if you want a simple topping of cheddar cheese, ask for The High-Dive.

Carnival Brings the Sea to New Kid's Program

Kids on Carnival ships will soon be making penguins out of Oreos, playing marine animal trivia, crafting their own sailboats, and designing their own aquariums in Camp Ocean, the line's new marine-themed kids' program.

Launching in May on Carnival Freedom, Camp Ocean will replace Camp Carnival on all of the line's 24 "Fun Ships" by 2016. Carnival Magic, Carnival Breeze, and Carnival Triumph will also get the program this year.

Carnival already draws some 700,000 kids a year, but is looking to raise the stakes in the family market.

“While our current children’s program consistently gets very high marks, we’ve challenged ourselves to exceed expectations with a truly dynamic and diverse program for our youngest guests,” said Mark Tamis, Carnival’s senior vice president of guest operations.

Royal Plays its China Hand

In a move that came as a shock to many, Royal Caribbean announced this week that after an initial season in the New York market the line would send its newest (and presumably greatest) ship, the 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas, to China – permanently.

The ship, which debuts in November, has been highly promoted for such first-at-sea features as bumper cars, a simulated sky diving experience and a mechanical arm that takes riders high above the ship for views, plus a whole new dining scheme.

So why send Quantum to China? Simply put, Royal Caribbean sees bigger opportunity there than in the well-established, and some would say increasingly saturated, Caribbean.

Royal does not view China as a slow-developing market, Royal officials made clear in a media briefing this week.

Crystal gets creative with Game of Thrones excursion, new bike tours

We love when the creative minds at cruise lines get going. The latest example: Crystal Cruises' new shore excursions. Passengers can find adventure on Europe cruises on a tour based on the hit HBO show Game of Thrones and on a bunch of new, get-active bike excursions.

First to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Obviously you can't visit this fictional destination – and who would want to anyway, given the violence in the Game of Thrones' current plotlines? But you can visit a production location outside of Belfast, with opportunity to try your hand at shooting arrows and to pose for photos in Westeros costumes.

The half-day excursion ($289) takes participants to Strangford Lough, in County Down, where medieval buildings and land at the Castle Ward estate – with the aid of special effects – appeared on the show as Winterfell, as the Lannister encampment, and as Robb Stark's campgrounds (where he fell in love with Talisa).

The half-day excursion, priced at $289, is available on the August 24 British Isles cruise on Crystal Symphony and the September 5 trans-Atlantic cruise on Crystal Serenity.

New Cruise Line to Sail Great Lakes, Canada, New England, and Caribbean

The Great Lakes may not immediately spring to mind when you think of cruise destinations, but a rare start-up line called Pearl Seas Cruises is hoping to change that.

Launching in June, the U.S.-flagged, small-ship line will debut 10- to 14-day itineraries that include the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, bringing cruisers to such destinations as Quebec City, Chicago, Niagara Falls, and Toronto. Bonus: Most shore excursions are included in the cruise fare.

The Connecticut-based cruise line's flagship will be the brand-new, 210-passenger Pearl Mist. The ship will feature oversized staterooms (all with private balconies and many with sliding glass doors), a spacious dining room, and intimate lounges.

But it's the itineraries that really make the product stand out.

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