Get Away With Fran

November 20, 2009

Wow what a ship! Oasis of the Seas

Filed under: Cruise — admin @ 3:31 pm

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Of course the Oasis of the Seas as the newest world’s largest ship is awesome, wild, unbelievable. But what’s most startling to me as a veteran cruise writer is how much it doesn’t feel like a ship at all.

Cruise line executives have for years been calling their latest, greatest ships “floating resorts.” But the 225,282-ton Oasis really does feel like a huge Las Vegas resort at sea – maybe even two properties put together. Royal Caribbean has outdone itself here.

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From the moment you get onboard you know you are someplace different – because the promenade-style lobby, like all the spaces on this ship, is huge. This will come in handy, since when full the ship will carry 6,200 passengers. Plus more than 2,000 crew. That’s a lot of people.

For the two-day, pre-inaugural sailing I am on (invitation-only), there are only 3,500 passengers. But you can tell this will not be a ship for people who don’t like crowds. It’s a city at sea, and a city with noise and activity and people. And a city that truly is jaw-dropping. (more…)

The giant awaits – first look at Oasis of the Seas

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 9:03 am

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My pal Michele and I got up real early to catch a JetBlue flight to Fort Lauderdale at 6 a.m.. But that’s the kind of sacrifice you make to be among the first to get on the newest world’s larges cruise ship.

Oasis of the Seas is five times the size of the Titanic, a whopping three football fields in length. And the Royal Caribbean ship will carry more than 6,200 passengers (when you include families with kids, which will no doubt be attracted by features that include an onboard amusement park).

Heck, I’m really looking forward to trying the onboard merry-go-round myself and maybe the zipline across the top deck too (if I can get up the courage).

The ship has a Central Park with grass and trees, and I expect my credit cards to start buzzing in the Royal Promenade, outfitted with a bunch of shops.

We’ll be boarding with other invitees on the pre-inagural, two-day sailing to nowhere this afternoon. So stay tuned for reports.

November 18, 2009

Godmothers are a WOW for World’s biggest Oasis of the Seas

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 7:29 pm

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OK, I know my draw will drop on Friday when I’m one of the first to see the world’s largest ship, the 5,400-passenger, 225,282-ton Oasis of the Seas on a pre-inaugural cruise from Fort Lauderdale. And it’s in fact it’s dropping already over Royal Caribbean’s just-announced list of the ship’s godmothers – yes, godmothers, as in seven, representing the seven “neighborhoods” on this mammoth, aircraft carrier-sized cruise ship. And what a seven they are!

We’re talking Gloria Estefan – the Miami-based diva herself (who was also godmother of Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas years ago); Olympic skating medalist, figure skater Michelle Kwan; Emmy-winning actress Jane Seymour (who I have actually met before at a wedding of an actor relative, but that’s another story); Olympic medalist swimmer Dara Torres; Shawn Johnson, four-time Olympic gymnastics medalist; Aaa Knight Pullman (Rudy on “The Cosby Show”); and TV personality Daisy Fuentes.

The ladies will take their posts to smash the champagne bottle (or maybe it will be bottles) during a one-night inaugural celebration/fundraiser to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation on Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, I’ll be onboard this weekend checking out the Central Park with real grass and trees, the Boardwalk with the first merry-go-round at sea, the super big interior Royal Promenade, the high-diving acrobatics at the deep-water pool and all the other WOW features of this ship. So stay tuned for reports.

November 13, 2009

Carnival Dreams Big

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 6:32 am

hardenchristening[1] Tony- and Academy Award-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden used an official Yankees bat, signed by A-Rod (Alex Rodriquez), to offically launch Carnival’s newest and biggest ship, the 130,000-ton Carnival Dream in New York.

But where was A-Rod himself? He was at the Miami Heat game according to Carnival Chairman Micky Arison, a friend of the Yankee (Arison also owns the heat).

Still, the festivities in New York were fun, fun, fun, including a troupe of blue jogging suit-clad breakdancers flipping and jumping and flying across the stage, and a saga told by Carnival’s favorite cruise director, John Heald, about his love affair with a champagne bottle, a six-foot tall champagne bottle, which he posed with in the streets of New York and which made an appearance onstage during the naming ceremony

In fact, it was Heald’s “love interest” that got the bat that godmother Harden swung, spewing confetti onto the theater crowd as real champagne spewed from a real smashing champagne bottle out on deck (yes, the real bottle was on a wire and smashed fabulously).

November 12, 2009

Dream a little Dream

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 10:54 am

It’s cloudy yucky in New York today, but from my friend’s 26th floor apartment I can see a bright spot, the Carnival Dream. I’ll be onboard the newest and largest Carnival ship later today for the official naming ceremony – featuring the ship’s godmother, actress Marcia Gay Harden, and some sort of mysterious “exhilarating dance” performance (not by the Tony- and Academy Award-winning actress I don’t think). But then again, this ship features a Pink Floyd -accompanied laser light show at night, so who knows.

The 130,000-ton, 3,646-passenger ship leaves tomorrow for a sampler two-night sailing, and I’ll be onboardfor that too (the ship earlier debuted with a series of cruises in Europe).

BTW, you can see the champagne smashing and other naming ceremony festivities live around 4 p.m.

November 11, 2009

Disney Cruise Line and Mickey on the streets of New York

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 4:44 pm

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Sailor Mickey will hit the streets of New York this Thanksgiving, or more precisely, fly above, during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. His appearance is a promotion for Disney Cruise Line - making its debut in the parade this year – just as it opens bookings for its new ship, Disney Dream (which debuts in January 2011, and boasts the first water coaster at sea).

Mickey will be some 61 feet tall, 33 feet wide and 48 feet long, and dressed in red shorts, a nautical blazer and yellow shoes. He’ll also sport a sailor’s cap above his prominent ears. Mickey will be perched on a giant ship anchor, and some 70 volunteer handlers will guide him down the parade route.

This year’s parade can be seen on TV on Nov. 26 (unless you happen to be in the Big Apple to see it live).

Of course, Disney being Disney, you can also buy a plush version of Sailor Mickey at Macy’s stores and online. If you miss the parade this year, Sailor Mickey will also be back in 200 and 2011.

And BTW, Mickey last appeared in the parade as Bandleader Mickey back in 2000.

November 10, 2009

Searching for (chile) heat in Albuquerque

Filed under: Food,U.S. — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 11:17 am

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I am just back from five days in Albuquerque where I went to challenge my palette with chile, and to explore the general culinary scene (eating lots of things like tamales, above). As a bit of a novice to that scene, I assumed I would be raving about experiencing the kind of fiery moment where the cartoon character takes a bite of something and smoke comes out the back of his head.

But no, I did not once look like Yosemite Sam – though keep in mind I do like spicy food and probably can tolerate it more than the average gal (it’s a biological fact, BTW, that men can tolerate hot spice better than women). Chile, I learned, can be as multi-layered as fine wine, and does not necessarily have to be spicy.

Chile in New Mexico should not be confused with the Texas chili (a stew with meat and beans). Here chile is an ingredient or a sauce, and comes in red and green varieties (the green generally more subtle than the red).

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But my favorite foodie find was not a sauce or tamales (surprisingly since I love them), but green chile bread at the Golden Crown Panaderia (above), a neighborhood bakery with the most enthusiastic father/son baking team I’ve ever come across. (more…)

November 9, 2009

Remembering the fall of the Berlin Wall

Filed under: International,Travel Advice — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 10:06 am

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Back in 1961, the leaders of East Germany probably didn’t imagine that the foreboding wall they were putting up around Berlin – to keep East Germans in – would someday be a big tourist attraction.

But visit Berlin in 2009, as I did a couple of months ago, and you’ll find remnants of the concrete barrier – and the culture of GDR (German Democratic Republic) – are very much part of the tourist scene in Berlin.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall, and through the end of the year there are special exhibits highlighting the Wall years and peaceful revolution that led to the fall of the wall and end of the GDR (including at Alexanderplatz, the square in the heart of the city).

The wall that divided the city was really two walls, separated by a “death strip.” Border crossings allowed those from the West to enter the East, but East Germans were not allowed to leave. Hundreds died trying to flee.

In the euphoria that followed the breach of the wall in 1989, much of the concrete was dismantled (pieces of the Berlin Wall now reside not only in Berlin but around the world including in New York). But there is still plenty in Berlin to remind travelers and locals alike of this chapter in world history. (more…)

November 2, 2009

Cruise ships and norovirus and dirty bathrooms

Filed under: Cruise — admin @ 7:59 am

I have been a defender of cruise lines when they get blamed for norovirus outbreaks, because it’s a bit unfair they have to report such outbreaks when shopping malls, and apartment buildings and other places where lots of people may get contagious stomach viruses do not.

But a new study out today has me saying yuck, yucky, yuck.

A team of researchers from Boston University School (BUSM), Carney Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance and Tufts University School of Medicine, have found “widespread poor compliance” with regular cleaning of public restrooms on cruise ships. The study appears in the November 1st issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, and is the first study of environmental hygiene on cruise ships.

The health care professionals set out to evaluate the thoroughness of disinfection cleaning of six (more…)

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