PRINCESS OFFERING TWO SHIPS TO MEXICO THIS WINTER

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Enjoy memorable sunsets on a Princess cruise to Mexico

Princess Cruises will offer no less than sixteen seven and eight night Mexican Riviera cruises from Los Angeles over the coming winter season.

Beginning on November 21st, both Crown Princess and Ruby Princess will be making round trip right through until April 9th next year, and again from October 2016 onwards.

The far more numerous seven night sailings follow the traditional, three port round trip circuit, with calls at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. Two eight night seasonal sailings, departing on December 19th and 27th respectively, will also add on the port of Manzanillo.

All round trip itineraries allow for a minimum of three sea days.

The Princess commitment to the resurgent Mexico run matches recent redeployments to the area by ships from Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line. Holland America Line is also offering a series of similar sailings, departing from the port of San Diego.

Whether Royal Caribbean will return to the Mexican run remains to be seen; as of now, no sailings for the area are listed on the current UK website.

Of course, Princess are no strangers to the Mexican Riviera; back in the ‘Love Boat’ days of old, the weekly television series revolved around the fun and frolics happening aboard a Princess ship as she sailed these self same waters. The show became a television staple and, indeed, many people still credit it today for starting the great, ongoing cruise boom of the last three decades.

These current Princess ships sailing to Mexico are a lot more sassy, stylish and amenity laden than their dainty Seventies forebears, and the allure of the Mexican Riviera seems to have finally rebounded positively after a few years becalmed by rising crime rates. As a voyage, it provides a welcome, less frenetic option for winter sun seekers that might be jaded with the Caribbean.

Worth considering, especially with a few pre or post cruise hotel days at one of those sun splashed beach cities of LA.

DOWN MEXICO WAY- THE NORWEGIAN SUN

Slowly, like a patient coming out of a long term coma, the market for cruises to the Mexican Riviera is beginning to revive. And, in the opinion of many, that’s not before time.

As winter sun destinations go, the seven day ‘Riviera Runs’ that sail round trip from Los Angeles are a pretty compelling alternative to the overcrowded winter hugger mugger of the Caribbean, though the latter certainly has better guaranteed weather. Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas form a pretty compelling troika of ‘greatest hits’ ports of call, ranged against the smoky blue sprawl of the Sierra Madre mountains, that offer a very different experience to their vibrant Caribbean counterparts.

Yes, the beaches are wonderful, and the Margaritas are fantastic, frosty confections found almost everywhere. But the pace is less frenetic- a consequence of it being much, much, less crowded. And, of course, the truly star struck have the pre- cruise option of venturing out on star spotting safaris in La-La Land. Pretty good, eh?

But for something a bit more, well, inclusive, I’m really taken by some of the Mexican Riviera cruise being run by Norwegian Cruise Line this fall. They combine departures from my favourite California city- San Diego- with eleven nights’ aboard my favourite ship in the Norwegian fleet- the always excellent, hugely under rated Norwegian Sun.

The company never promotes this wonderful ship to anything like the same degree as her newer siblings, but she has always been something of a trailblazer. And that reputation is freshly enhanced with these new cruises that really do give you more of Mexico than simply the banner ports of call.

For many years, Acapulco was the gem of the Riviera. In the so called ‘Swinging Sixties’ it was perceived as one of the most glamorous resort cities in the world. Time and tide chipped away at that carefully applied make up, and the city became almost a no go zone by the late nineties.

Now, freshly powdered, tidied up and inherently more appealing than it has been in many a long decade, Acapulco is back on the menu- at least for the Norwegian Sun and her passengers. I suspect this might be the first of many returning vessels over the next few years, as Pacific Mexico begins to aggressively assert itself to the cruise industry once more.

Also on the menu is a call at the beach resort of Ixtapa, and a full, two day call at fun filled, bohemian Cabo San Lucas, a place that feels in parts like a Pacific version of Key West. Also on the menu are both Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, those other two members of the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Mexican coastal ports.

Combined with an option to spend a few days getting reacquainted with cool, classy San Diego, these longer, more in depth cruises on the always excellent Norwegian Sun could well be the perfect cure for your looming winter blues.

I know fine well that they may very well be the cure for mine. Anyone else in?

The Norwegian Sun in the Caribbean

The Norwegian Sun in the Caribbean

FLYING HIGH; THOMAS COOK ADDS BOSTON AND LOS ANGELES FLIGHTS FROM MANCHESTER

Having started flights from Manchester to both New York and Miami during 2015, Thomas Cook has now announced a brace of new American landfalls for 2016.

Starting in May 2016, the airline will fly recently refurbished A330s on twice weekly flights to both Boston and Los Angeles.

In addition to the normal economy seats, a special, supplemental ‘Premium Service’ offers a range of enhanced facilities and in flight goodies. Among these are:

* Advance seat registration

* Priority check in

* 32 kilogram luggage allowance

* Seats with a pitch of 35″

* James Martin created menus

* Free drinks

* Upgraded in flight entertainment, with touch screens on the back of seats

The new Los Angeles flights will be particularly welcome to northern based travellers. Hitherto, we have had to fly via Heathrow or one of the major continental hubs, or from Manchester with a change at US airports such as Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Exact dates and prices will be advised as and when they become available. As ever, stay tuned.

LA's beaches are on the inflight menu for Thomas Cook from May, 2016

LA’s beaches are on the inflight menu for Thomas Cook from May, 2016

CARNIVAL MIRACLE TO GET STRING OF SPRING UPGRADES

Carnival is making substantial enhancements to the Carnival Miracle in March

Carnival is making substantial enhancements to the Carnival Miracle in March

Carnival Cruises has announced that the Carnival Miracle will receive a string of enhancements and upgrades during a two week dry dock over late March.

One of four Vista class ships originally built for the line, Carnival Miracle will then sail year round from the Los Angeles port of Long Beach, on three different, week long Mexican Riviera itineraries. The ship will also offer some longer sailings to Hawaii and back later in the year.

The 92,000 ton ship will be upgraded as part of the continuing Funship 2.0 fleet wide roll out. From the end of March, passengers sailing on the relaunched ship can expect to find some sizzling new dining, drinking and leisure venues on board. Among them are;

Alchemy Bar

A vintage themed alcohol ‘pharmacy’ where trained mixologists can conjure up individually prepared cocktail ‘potions’ to order.

Cherry On Top

A kind of ‘olde worlde’ cave for sweet tooth lovers to indulge to the max. You’ll find bins of bulk candy to purchase, plus novelty items and branded clothing.

Hasbro; the game show

A uniquely interactive, audience participation show where guests can participate in such perennial, popular brand games as Connect 4 Basketball, Sorry Sliders, and Yahtze bowling.

New Sports Bar

A specially dedicated venue for sports fans of all disciplines, featuring live games and a full time, 24/7 screen ticker.

Playlist Productions

A quartet of sizzling, soulful new high energy theatre productions- Getaway Island, Heart and Soul, 80’s Pop To the Max, and 88 Keys. Each one promises to be a high intensity, visual treat from start to finish.

Red Frog Pub

Carnival’s signature, on board bar, serving up its very own Thirsty Frog beer, enjoyed in an ambience that combines the laid back style of the Caribbean with the free wheeling, bohemian fun lifestyle of Key West.

Seuss At Sea

Relive the whimsical world of Doctor Seuss, with such surreal treats as a Green Eggs and ham breakfast at sea with the Cat in he Hat and his friends, plus story time with Seuss-a-Poloosa, and more.

Spin U

A kind of master class academy for would be ‘teen jays’ between the ages of 15 and 17, developed in association with the renowned DJ Irie.

Carnival Miracle already has a slew of luxury lounging and dining options in place, including an adults only, outdoor Serenity Area, a Punchliners Comedy Club in association with George Lopez, a ‘Taste Bar’ that offers bite sized samples from all the menus right across the ship, an elegant, authentic American style steakhouse that serves up a whole conga line of prime cuts and succulent sea food.

As the Mexican market continues a slow but steady recovery, the substantially enhanced Carnival Miracle should prove to be a formidable, year round presence on the west coast, and a real alternative to the traditional Caribbean market.

 

CARNIVAL SPLENDOR MEXICO INAUGURAL CRUISE, 2009

In the summer of 2008, Carnival took delivery of it’s only one off ship design; the 113,000 ton Carnival Splendor. Intended for year long cruises to the Mexican Riviera, the new ship first made a few cruises in Europe. before crossing the Atlantic.

The immense ship- the largest ever built for the line up to that time- then made a series of sensational voyages that took her right around the coast of South America, before finally arriving in Los Angeles, ready to begin the season of cruises she had been intended for.

However, just before the seven night cruises began in earnest, the Carnival Splendor ran a one time, five day cruise down to Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas. It was an itinerary that has never been repeated since.

These pictures were taken on board during the course of that cruise. As you will see, the Carnival Splendor represented a total, Farcusian experience in terms of interior decor. She was, in fact, the last Carnival ship for which the legendary Joe Farcus had complete interior design responsibility; a role he had fulfilled with dazzling success ever since 1972, and the inauguration of the pioneering Mardi Gras.

Famous and distinctive funnel wing

Famous and distinctive funnel wing

The aft pool deck

The aft pool deck

The central lido deck

The central lido deck

Carnival Splendor at Ensenada

Carnival Splendor at Ensenada

Port side view of the Splendor

Port side view of the Splendor

Deck. Ship. At sea.

Deck. Ship. At sea.

Splendor perspective

Splendor perspective

My balcony stateroom

My balcony stateroom

The Atrium Bar

The Atrium Bar

Typical Farcusian whimsy

Typical Farcusian whimsy

Part of the main staircase

Part of the main staircase

Dessert, Carnival style

Dessert, Carnival style

Carnival and Cabo

Carnival and Cabo

Funnel and the far horizon

Funnel and the far horizon

Seabirds alfresco breakfast

Seabirds alfresco breakfast

Looking down to the big screen

Looking down to the big screen

The amazing indoor boulevard

The amazing indoor boulevard

Another boulevard shot

Another boulevard shot

Splendor is typically vibrant Farcus

Splendor is typically vibrant Farcus

Typical Carnival sea day

Typical Carnival sea day

Open Magrodome and funnel

Open Magrodome and funnel

Carnival Splendor buffet

Carnival Splendor lounge

Another interior lounge

Another interior lounge

Outdoor deck party

Outdoor deck party

The disco on Splendor

The disco on Splendor

Pool area with roof closed

Pool area with roof closed

The Lido Buffet

The Upper Lido

Statues outside the disco

Statues outside the disco

Promenade Bar

Promenade Bar

Entrance to one of the main restaurants

Entrance to one of the main restaurants

Serenity Deck

Serenity Deck

Beautiful terrace view...

Beautiful terrace view…

Love seats, Carnival style

Love seats, Carnival style

IT’S A MIRACLE! CARNIVAL RETURNS TO YEAR ROUND MEXICAN RIVIERA CRUISING

Carnival is going back to Mexico

Carnival is going back to Mexico

In a move that should prove hugely beneficial to the Mexican economy, Carnival has announced that it will return to year round, Mexican Riviera cruises from the port of Long Beach, in Los Angeles. The Vista class Carnival Miracle will undertake a series of three different, seven night itineraries, as well as a couple of longer swings out to the islands of Hawaii and back.

The seven day Mexican Riviera market had been in decline for several years; with on shore violence in Mazatlan especially being a reason cited for many companies withdrawing ships from what had once been a popular cruising circuit.

With the return of the 88,000 ton Carnival Miracle, the route gets it’s first year round vessel for several years. Carnival Miracle has yet to receive the series of Funship 2.0 series of dining and entertainment upgrades being gradually rolled out across the Carnival fleet; but she is scheduled for a dry docking in March, 2015 which is expected to bring her fully up to specification.

The first of the seven night offerings is a return to what was the original classic run; a seven night round trip that showcased day long stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and the famous seaside resort of Cabo San Lucas.

The second itinerary should prove really popular, combining a two day, overnight stop in the popular destination of Puerto Vallarta with another, day long stop in Cabo San Lucas.

Itinerary number three showcases a day in Puerto Vallarta with a two day, overnight stay in Cabo San Lucas. However, those contemplating sampling some of Cabo’s legendary night life are in for a disappointment. The resort is a tender port, and tenders do not run at night.

As also mentioned, the Carnival Miracle will also make a couple of exquisite, fifteen night forays from Long Beach out to the Hawaiian Islands and back the first in October 2015, and the second one a month later.

Los Arcos, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Los Arcos, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

In addition to the seven night runs, Carnival also operates two smaller sister ships, Carnival Imagination and Carnival Inspiration,  from the ports of Long Beach and San Pedro, the main port of Los Angeles, on a weekly series of three and four night cruises.

Three night cruises call in at the Mexican port of Ensenada, while the four night sailings add in the resort of Avalon, on Catalina Island.

Combined with the return of the rival Norwegian Star to seven night Mexican Riviera sailings out of San Pedro, the arrival of Carnival Miracle in Long Beach offers another, no doubt welcome sign of better days ahead for this once popular cruise circuit.

LONG HAUL CRUISING- HEADING FOR HAWAII

Sailing out to Hawaii can be amazingly relaxing

Sailing out to Hawaii can be amazingly relaxing

However you get there, few would argue that Hawaii is one of the most alluring and seductive holiday vacation places on earth.

For our American friends, the islands are a five hour flight from Los Angeles; about the same as a flight from the UK to Egypt. And, as an American state, Hawaii offers all the comforts of home, wrapped up in a spectacular montage of brilliant beaches, surf and swaying palms, and even the odd mild, volcanic eruption.

For Europeans, it is not so easy to achieve, and realistically has to be done as part of a two centre holiday, usually with Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or even San Francisco. The long haul out from Europe to the west coast of the United States alone is twelve hours. And if your journey starts at a regional airport, longer still. That’s before you add on the extra transit time, and the additional five hour haul out to Honolulu.

Any way you serve it up, it’s one hell of a hike. Add on the cost of hotels- especially on Oahu- and you’re looking at a perfect storm of long, tetchy flights and a skyrocketing holiday cost. And that’s before you even begin to think about food, drink, and fun stuff.

Bottom line? It’s a long, hard journey, and not by any means a cheap gig once you get there.

Enjoy the lido lifestyle at sea en route to Hawaii

Enjoy the lido lifestyle at sea en route to Hawaii

Or, you could think of doing Hawaii by cruise ship. From Los Angeles and sometimes San Diego, cruise ships from Carnival, Princess and Holland America make a fourteen day round trip out to Hawaii and back, usually in the spring and autumn.

For both Americans and Europeans, these come with a number of pros and cons. For a start, it is a four day sail out- there and back- to the islands of Hawaii. That’s a lot of sea days. Bliss for some, but not for everyone.

And, just because you are on the sparkling Pacific, don’t imagine that it will always be as calm as a millpond. It won’t. And, being a cruise, most of these voyages do not stop overnight at any of the islands (though one or two make an overnight stop in Honolulu) So what you’ll see of the islands is rather more in the nature of snapshots, than an in depth experience.

On the other hand, you’re travelling in a safe, sealed environment, with all of your main meals and snacks included in the cost. That in itself is a huge financial saving. And, compared to cruises in Europe, a Hawaii cruise comes out pretty good, price wise.

For a more in depth, but still relatively economical option, you can fly into Oahu, and take a week long cruise from the centre of Honolulu itself. Norwegian Cruise Line has the Pride Of America cruising year round in the islands. And, unlike other ships, she offers longer stays, plus one or two overnights in port on each cruise.

Though you are still making the long flights out to Hawaii (and, indeed, back) there is always the option to break your journey on the west coast, either on the way out, the way back or, indeed, both. You could fly out via San Francisco, for instance, and come back via Las Vegas if the fancy takes you.

Carnival usually has a couple of spring and autumn round trip cruises to Hawaii

Carnival usually has a couple of spring and autumn round trip cruises to Hawaii

Personally, I would also have a couple of days in Honolulu itself, either pre or post cruise. It seems to me that a couple of days at least is needed to slide easily into that whole dreamy, aloha kind of vibe.

On this cruise, you actually spend very little real time sailing per se. The Pride Of America is, essentially, a floating hotel that changes the scenery each night. A typical Norwegian product with a very American emphasis, she is crammed with good things and fun stuff to do for your nights on board. Good for single passengers, too, as she boasts a few of the solo occupancy studio cabins, at a fairly decent price point.

There is no getting around the sheer logistical train wreck of travelling out to Hawaii and back, however you decide to do it. But if seeing these fabled islands is on your bucket list- and it should be- then you will bite the bullet, and do it anyway. That being so, one of these cruise options might just be the thing for you. Enjoy.

CATALINA ISLAND- OUT ON IT’S OWN

Catalina's waterfront

Catalina’s waterfront

Catalina Island is not huge; some twenty two miles long and eight miles wide at the most, it is only slightly larger than Bermuda. But, unlike that famous island, it sits snugly near the shore, just twenty-two miles away from the massive urban sprawl of Los Angeles. From its waterfront, the twinkling coastal lights of California are plainly visible at night.

Yet beyond that mutual proximity, mainland and island seem to have very little in common. For Catalina Island feels a million miles removed from Los Angeles in terms of tone, style and substance. The island’s capital, Avalon, hosts around ninety per cent of Catalina Island’s total of around 4,100 inhabitants. With its stout, brightly coloured trawlers chugging gamely out into the Pacific each day and it’s squadrons of wheeling, screeching sea birds, it feels more like a part of New England than Surf City.

For sure, it also has a kind of smiley, slightly soporific vibe. The island is chocolate box pretty, with Avalon itself clustered around the fringes of a sultry, sinuous bay backed up by tracts of lush, languid greenery. A long promenade, studded with beautiful, tile framed benches, meanders down to the big, circular theatre cum casino that was built here in the thirties, and which is still the island’s most outstanding architectural highlight to this day.

Pier at Avalon, Catalina Island

Pier at Avalon, Catalina Island

Houses in winding lines are framed by tracts of oleander as they tumble down towards a slim, dusky sliver of a beach, and a series of rickety piers thronged by clapboard bars, shops and restaurants, with huge, louvered shutters that allow marvellous views of the matchless Pacific sunsets. As you’d expect, the local seafood is sublime. Washed down with a cold beer, it is reason enough to head out there on it’s own.

At night, the cocktail bars are low key, with piano players and martinis at sunset, just as it has been here for decades. For Avalon is a bit like a Californian Brigadoon, frozen in time and legend. Here, the lines between past and present seem to be blurred in a way I have never seen anywhere else. It is twenty two miles from shore, and a million more from contemporary California reality.

The harbour is studded with fleets of yachts, especially in the summertime. Just off the northern coast of Catalina, the actress Natalie Wood fell overboard from a yacht while staying with her partner, Robert Wagner, in hugely controversial circumstances that have never been fully explained. Sadly, this remains Catalina Island’s sole true claim to fame.

Catalina is a wonderful, enchanting place to visit for two or three days, to savour and appreciate the almost total disconnect from the hustle and bustle of modern living. But those two or three days will probably be enough for most non residents. After that, I suspect many will be fighting the urge to swim back to the mainland.

Tiled benches on the Avalon waterfront

Tiled benches on the Avalon waterfront

Especially if you are going to be in Los Angeles for any amount of time, then a couple of days spent on Catalina would make for a nice change of pace with the pretension, pollution and hideously overcrowded highways of the City Of Angels. For, while Catalina itself may not be quite Heaven, there is certainly something compelling, charming and surreal about it.

Definitely worth a visit.

PANAMA AT 100; SOME CRUISE OPTIONS FOR 2014

Legend Of The Seas is offering Panama Canal cruises in 2014

Legend Of The Seas is offering Panama Canal cruises in 2014

2014 is a big year for anniversary travel, especially bearing in mind the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and, from a land based side, the centenary of the Great War, But it is also the centenary of the opening of the Panama Canal, the waterway that cut the journey time between Atlantic and Pacific from weeks to hours.

Panama was a waterway that literally changed history. One of the most desperate. last ditch Japanese plans for changing the course of the Second World War centered around a submarine launched bombing raid on it that never came to pass. When the passage hewn at such ghastly human cost opened in 1914, the long, perilous voyage around the tip of South America became a thing of the past, and the tempo of east-west trade changed forever.

Literally tens of thousands of lives were lost to malaria and yellow fever in the jungle shrouded killing fields of Panama, but finally the forty eight mile long canal- the brainchild of a French engineer named Ferdinand De Lesseps- was completed by the Americans, and officially opened on August 15th, 1914, by which date Europe was already at war,

There are plenty of indolent sea days en route

There are plenty of indolent sea days en route

Today, the legacy of Panama’s genesis is one of the most amazing travel experiences on offer anywhere today, an astonishing, eight hour passage through a panoply of dense, rolling tracts of jungle that tumbles down to the waters’ edge on both sides. As your ship gradually rises and falls more than eighty feet as it is threaded gingerly through a series of gigantic locks, the air all around you is a live with the sound of chattering, humming and screeching local birds and wildlife; it really is an all out visual and vocal assault on the senses.

Essentially, most Panama transits take place as part of relocating cruises. In spring, many cruise ships relocate from Miami to Los Angeles, from their winter Caribbean cruise grounds to the popular Alaska summer runs. In the autumn, they relocate the other way. Either way, these cruises- which always of necessity involve a full transit of Panama- take between thirteen and fourteen days.

Either way, it’s a pretty exhilarating adventure, swapping the indolent playgrounds of the Caribbean for the sparkling, sun splashed waters of the Pacific, where the sunsets defy belief. Whichever direction you sail in, you’ll stop off at such places as beautiful Huatulco on the Mexican side, as well as famously feisty and fun Cabo San Lucas, with the soaring Los Arcos rock formations, and its internationally famous freewheeling, fun vibe.

On the other side, after that spectacular, stand out transit of Panama proper, you might stop in at breezy, Spanish accented Cartagena, before heading north to either Miami or Fort Lauderdale. In between, reckon on quite a few relaxing sea days to just kick back and soak up that delightful tropical sun.

Parrots of Panama

Parrots of Panama

Typically, Florida to California (westbound) Panama cruises sail in the spring, with eastbound trips running from September onward. With that in mind, here’s my pick of some of the best cruises, running in both directions, over the course of 2014.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN has four transits of Panama announced, all of them on the 70,000 ton, recently revitalised Legend Of The Seas. Eastbound dates: April 1 and November 30.  The two westbound departures are on March 17 and November 15.

More upscale? Sassy CELEBRITY CRUISES has no less than seven Panama transits on its roster. The classically styled Celebrity Century sails westbound on both January 5 and March 6, and eastbound on January 20.

Her larger, more contemporary fleet mate, Celebrity Infinity, also offers a tempting quartet of options. She sails westbound on March 30 and again on November 4, and has eastbound crossings available on April 14 and November 19.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE is the pioneer of Freestyle Cruising, and the line has no less than four ships making Panama transits next year. Here’s how the four ships line up;

Norwegian Pearl: westbound on April 18; eastbound on October 3.

Norwegian Star: westbound on October 20 and November 17. Eastbound on April 20 and November 3.

Norwegian Sun: westbound on April 28; eastbound on November 4.

Norwegian Jewel: westbound (from New Orleans) on April 20. Eastbound (to Houston) on September 25.

Any of these options will provide you with a good, solid cruise experience. The one essential recommendation I would make is that, if you are going to go to all the trouble of embarking on a Panama Canal adventure, then it is definitely worth booking a balcony cabin.

Enjoy!

HEY BIG SPLENDOR- CARNIVAL BIDS ADIOS TO NEW YORK

It's goodbye to New York for Carnival Splendor

It’s goodbye to New York for Carnival Splendor

Carnival Cruise Lines has announced that their dedicated, year round New York based ship, Carnival Splendor, will be leaving the city to be redeployed from Miami, effective November 9th 2014.

The 113,000 ton, 3,006 passenger Splendor has spent a few seasons in year round sailings from New York, mainly to the Bahamas. There is usually at least one Bermuda cruise per season, pencilled in for June next year.

As of yet, no replacement vessel has been announced, but it is unlikely that Carnival will leave the lucrative, year round north east trade solely to rivals Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.

Carnival Splendor was built by Fincantieri in Italy, and made her debut in 2008 as a one off, stand alone ship, the only one of her kind in the Carnival fleet. She spent her first months cruising in Europe, before making a headline grabbing cruise around South America, prior to an eventual arrival in her home port of Los Angeles.

From there, the ship made an inaugural, five day run down to Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas (I was aboard) before settling in to the week long circuit down to Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

It was in this role that she suffered a highly publicized engine room fire that left her disabled and adrift for several days. The ship had to be towed back to San Diego for costly repairs that lasted several weeks.

After a couple of more seasons on the LA run, Carnival Splendor repositioned to New York via South America- the ship is too big to transit the Panama Canal- and she has remained a popular staple on the year round Bahamas run ever since. Unlike the slightly smaller Conquest class, Carnival Splendor has a sliding glass roof over her central, twin level pool area, making her the ideal ship for winter sailings to the Bahamas.

And hello to sultry Miami

And hello to sultry Miami

Her redeployment to Florida ups the number of Carnival ships sailing from Miami/Port Everglades to seven. Offering everything from three to eight day itineraries, the Carnival septet is expected to carry something like 1.2 million passengers between them per annum.

The Carnival Splendor will reposition to Miami via two eight day cruises, the first from New York to San Juan, and then a second leg from San Juan to Miami. Once in the Florida port, she will begin alternating, seven night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, sailing every Sunday.

Eastern Caribbean cruises will take in Nassau, San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk. The Western Caribbean runs will showcase Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Roatan and Belize.

Details of a replacement ship out of New York will be listed here when available. Stay tuned.