MSC Announces Four 7,000 Passenger Cruise Ships!

Looking to be a leading the industry, MSC has announced they have an order for two cruise ships that will hold 7,000 guests and the option to extend that order to 4. MSC Cruises World Class More than any other cruise ship in the world, the mega cruiseliners will feature 2,760 staterooms and a maximum occupancy of 6,850 guests. For those of you keeping score, that’s 70 more passengers than the current record-holder, Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. The vessels, which will be delivered in 2022 and 2024, will have a length of 1,083 ft. and 154 ft. of beam. MSC will have the option to entend the order further in 2025 and 2026. Some of the innovations the ships will be fitted with are a completely new generation of LNG-powered engines as well as a new generation waste water treatment system. They will also feature a futuristic ‘Y’ shape structure to enable sweeping panoramic sea views, and many more balcony cabins. Guests will also love the family-friendly villages, a panoramic aft, and a glass pool lounge. The world’s ‘most modern and technologically advanced cruise ships’, their bows have been designed to further improve stability and hydrodynamics. The announcement comes as MSC debuts their new flagship – Meraviglia. Christened by Hollywood icon Sophia Loren, the 5,714-passenger ship features two exclusive shows by Cirque du Soleil as well as 12 dining options, plus an 80-metre LED ceiling above the ships promenade. SOURCE

Universal Orlando Debuts Volcano Bay!

Universal Orlando’s new South Pacific themed water park Volcano Bay opened to the public this week with a ceremony featuring special performances by an array of authentic Maori entertainment, ranging from water dancers to “Haka” war dancers. Universal Orlando's new South Pacific themed water park Volcano Bay A moment that was finished off with an eruption from the mighty 200 ft. Krakatau volcano – the park’s stunning icon. Universal Orlando's new South Pacific themed water park Volcano Bay - Waturi Beach Universal Orlando’s third theme park, Volcano Bay is ‘a next-level water theme park – combining spectacular storytelling and incredibly immersive guest experiences with innovative technology exclusively designed for Universal to give visitors a fun-filled, hassle-free experience with their friends and family. ‘ Universal Orlando's new South Pacific themed water park Volcano Bay “Universal’s Volcano Bay sets a new standard on every level – from the attractions to how our guests experience them,” said Tom Williams, Chairman & CEO – Universal Parks & Resorts. “Our new water theme park is the perfect complement to the rest of our incredible destination.  It provides our guests with spectacular entertainment experiences and innovative technology that helps them enjoy more of what matters most – connecting with each other and having an amazing time together.” Universal Orlando's new South Pacific themed water park Volcano Bay - Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides Spanning 25 acres, Volcano Bay is unlike any other water park in world.  It offers more than 30 experiences including 18 attractions such as a multi-directional wave pool with sandy beaches, a peaceful winding river, twisting multi-rider raft rides, speeding body slides that drop from the top of the volcano into the waters below and more. Universal Orlando's new South Pacific themed water park Volcano Bay - Taniwha Tubes Guests visiting the park with use Universal’s new technology; the TapuTapu wearable. Universal Orlando's new South Pacific themed water park Volcano Bay - tapu tapu Included with guest admission and specifically designed for use within Universal’s Volcano Bay, features of TapuTapu include:
  • Virtual Line Access: TapuTapu allows guests to virtually wait in line for rides while enjoying other areas of the park. Their wearable will simply alert them when it’s time for their ride.
  • TapTu Play: Guests can enjoy many TapTu Play experiences throughout the park – like controlling streams of water spurting from whales in Tot Tiki Reef, shooting water cannons at guests snaking down Kopiko Wai Winding River, illuminating images in the volcano’s hidden caves and more.
  • TapTu Pay: Guests can make purchases throughout the entire park with their TapuTapu wearable, eliminating the need to carry cash, credit cards or a wallet throughout the park.
  • TapTu Snap/My Universal Photo Access:  Guests can take advantage of special interactive photo opportunities and selfie-spots throughout the park as well as photo opportunities on Volcano Bay’s attractions.  Their wearable will automatically link those photos to their account so that guests can view, share and purchase them at their convenience.
  • Locker Access: After renting their lockers, guests will be able to access them with a touch of their TapuTapu wearable.
Guests looking to fuel up will have lots of unique choices.  The park includes themed dining locations that feature more than 60 delicious, South Pacific-inspired dishes – ranging from jerk mahi sandwiches to fresh island chicken salad to decadent chocolate pineapple upside down cake.

Adventures by Disney Introduces New Iceland Itinerary, Adds New Experiences For 2018

Disney’s premier tour company, Adventures by Disney, is expanding their 2018 destinations to include Iceland. With more than three dozen destinations in its roster, travelers will have the opportunity to navigate the diverse landscapes of Iceland, exploring the natural wonders of majestic waterfalls, massive glaciers and stunning volcanos on the new 8-day, 7-night vacation. Adventures by Disney Takes Guests to Iceland in 2018 Highlights include:
  • Experience the splendor of Icelands Golden Circle with visits to the iconic Thingvellir National Park, Goðafoss waterfall and Kerið crater.
  • Unwind, relax and indulge at the soothing Blue Lagoon and Mývatn Nature Baths.
  • Come face-to-face with magnificent glaciers on a scenic cruise, and hike on the massive icecaps themselves.
  • Trot through the scenic countryside on Icelandic horses.
  • Embark on a humpback whale-watching expedition, capturing the experience in your minds eye and your cameras lens.
  • Savor unique culinary experiences and the stories behind them, such as learning to make bread baked using geothermal heat, and discovering the secret to Icelands traditional smoking process.
  • Embark on a whitewater rafting adventure through the glacial river of Skagafjörður.
  • Hike along, and even behind, some of the regions most captivating waterfalls, including Seljalandsfoss and Goðafoss.
  • Journey to the past while being immersed in rich Icelandic Viking heritage and exploring traditional turf houses.
“Were excited to offer travelers the opportunity to explore the incredibly popular destination of Iceland in uniquely enriching ways,” said Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Adventures by Disney. “With Adventures by Disney, families can experience this beautiful country, its iconic sights and cultural destinations like never before during a completely hassle-free vacation experience. Disney storytelling, engaging, active experiences and breathtaking natural wonders combine to make this one of our most remarkable itineraries to date.” Adventures by Disney Takes Guests to Iceland in 2018 Also for 2018, Disney will be adding new experiences to some of their existing vacations for 2018. Enhancements to the Germany, Costa Rica and Ireland vacations focus on further enriching an already robust lineup of authentic experiences and local storytelling. Highlights of the reimagined Germany itinerary introduce first-ever experiences centered in Berlin, Ireland adds cultural activities such as learning the ancient sport of hurling, and Costa Rica takes travelers on explorations through the hidden gem of Caño Negro.  

Disney Cruise Line Coming To Port Of Québec in 2018

Break out the poutine. Disney is coming to Québec! Today it was announced the Port of Québec will welcome Disney Cruise Line to Québec in 2018. Disney coming to Quebec city “The fact that the Disney Magic is coming to Québec is a historic development for the Québec and eastern Canadian cruise industry. This prestigious new product will certainly be a hit with a brand new clientele of families and young adventurers. We are very proud to welcome the famous Disney Cruise Line, which will shine a spotlight on the city and the Port at the international level,” said Mario Girard, President and CEO of the Québec Port Authority (QPA). Rue De Quebec Québec City, Canada, a new port for Disney Cruise Line, will be featured on two new itineraries sailing between New York and Québec City in September 2018. Both of these sailings include two full days in the capital, giving visitors multiple days to experience the city. As part of these two sailings, the 2,713‑passenger Disney Magic will also stop at other Canadian ports new to Disney Cruise Line – Saguenay and Baie-Comeau. “At Disney Cruise Line, we take pride in creating exciting cruise itineraries filled with unforgettable places, experiences and people, and we are thrilled to bring our special brand of magic to Québec City in the fall of 2018,” said Tom Wolber, senior vice president, Disney Cruise Line operations. “I know our guests will enjoy having plenty of time to discover the city’s many attractions and offerings, from the beautiful architecture and historic landmarks, to the delightful parks, shops and restaurants.” quebec city by night “We are proud to work with Disney Cruise Line and showcase Québec as an attractive and vibrant option for their clientele. We have been looking forward to the arrival of Disney, and today it became a reality. It is a real vote of confidence from this world-class company, and we will do all we can to live up to its expectations,” said Mario Girard, President and CEO of the QPA.

Universal Orlando Resort Announces Brand-New Harry Potter Holiday Experiences!

There is no denying that theme parks pull out all the stops during the holidays. This year, the most wonderful time of the year will include one of the most immersive theme park experiences ever created. Universal Orlando Resort announced today that a new Christmas experience is coming to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as part of its destination-wide Holiday celebration. The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter Christmas Christmas is a special time in the Harry Potter series, and fans from around the world have long wanted to enjoy that part of J.K. Rowling’s compelling story for themselves. This November, the new Christmas experience in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will give guests a special opportunity to see, feel and even taste what it’s like to celebrate the magic of Christmas in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. As night falls, a magical holiday transformation of Hogwarts castle will take place right before guests’ eyes.  Incredible state-of-the-art projection mapping and special effects will wrap the iconic castle – bringing holiday spirit and memorable Christmas moments from the Harry Potter series to life like never before. Festive décor like ornate garlands will line the streets of both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.  Each storefront will be decked out with uniquely-themed decorations, and guests will enjoy special holiday themed food, drink and entertainment. Also look for Universal’s Holiday Parade with incredibly-detailed floats and balloons, and beloved characters like the mischievous Minions from Despicable Me, popular DreamWorks characters from Madagascar and Shrek – and even Santa Claus himself.  Universal is partnering with Macy’s, the global leader in balloon entertainment, to bring this new parade experience to life. Universal Orlando’s resort-wide Holidays celebration – including Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s – will run daily from November 18, 2017 to January 6, 2018. Access to the festivities is included in regular admission to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

REVIEW! Port Orleans Riverside Standard Room

Located adjacent to Epcot at Walt Disney World, Orlando Port Orleans Riverside transforms guests to the South with its beautiful plantation style building and charming walkways and bridges.  We recently stayed at the resort for 4 nights – 2 nights in the Royal Room and 2 nights in the standard room.  Here is that tour! Our room was on the main floor of the Magnolia building. Walt Disney World Port Orleans Riverside Magnolia block Staying in one the Royal Rooms for the first half of the trip was good because it gave us a bit of contrast between the room categories.  The Royal room was definitely over the top with the fireworks headboards and princess additions throughout.  The standard room had a cleaner, more traditional feel which my boys liked. Walt Disney World Port Orleans Riverside standard roomAcross from the entrance is a small sitting table with two seats for quick meals. Walt Disney World Port Orleans Riverside standard room - sitting areaThe window in the front of the room has a box in front of it that houses the air conditioning unit.  To dress it up a bit Disney has added a quartz topper that worked perfectly as a place to dock my luggage.  Because we were on the ground floor we could hear families walking by early in the morning but it wasn’t too distracting. The room itself had 2 queen beds with scenes from around the resort painted on the headboards. Walt Disney World Port Orleans Riverside standard room The hutch in the middle of the room holds the flat screen TV, a single serve coffee maker, ice bucket, fridge, and 3 drawers to store your clothes. Walt Disney World Port Orleans Riverside standard room - TV hutch Beside that is a bench to hold a second suitcase and a rack to hang your jackets. I love the bright and airy bathroom with its double vanity and mirrors.  This was perfect for us because my husband could shave while I did my hair in the morning. Walt Disney World Port Orleans Riverside standard room - double vanity The toilet and bathtub are in the room next to the vanity – which was nice because it means 2 people can get ready while the third showers. Walt Disney World Port Orleans Riverside standard room - bathtub The bathroom also has a curtain that can be drawn if you’re getting ready early and don’t want to wake up the whole room. In the corner of the room there is also a safe, hairdryer, iron and ironing board. Walt Disney World Port Orleans Riverside standard room - iron and safeThere is also enough space in that corner to allow you to iron in the vanity area so you don’t have to drag the whole unit out into the middle of the room. We loved the layout of Port Orleans Riverside and the charm of the property.  At just under $200/night it fit our budget and was located close to all the parks.    

Princess Announces Caribbean Princess Renovation

Next week the Caribbean Princess will undergo an extensive two-week drydock in Freeport, Bahamas.  Debuted in 2004, this will be the third refurbishment the ship has undergone in 13 years.  New for 2017, Princess Cruise Lines will add Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Center, upgraded Movies Under the Stars, Princess Luxury Bed and interconnecting staterooms, just in time for the upcoming Europe summer and fall Caribbean seasons. The cruise ship will also be wired for the Ocean Medallion launch that will be available for the 2018 summer Caribbean season. “With new amenities catering to families, Caribbean Princess not only provides comfort and technology to stay connected but enriching experiences that can be shared together as a family or in our new Camp Discovery Youth & Teen Center – all renovated with the goal of helping our guests create lifelong memories,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. New Caribbean Princess family-friendly features include: Camp Discovery on Caribbean Princess Caribbean Princess will now offer a reimagined youth center – Camp Discovery – created in partnership with Discovery Consumer Products as part of the cruise line’s Discovery at Sea program. Catering to specific age groups, there are three center themes where kids and teens can make new friends and participate in activities specially designed to help them Discover, Play, Create and Huddle, including:
  • The Treehouse, ages 3-7 (formerly Pelicans): A bright, whimsical forest and animal-themed center including captivating creatures and hands-on activities for kids to focus on play time, creativity and the world around them.
  • The Lodge, ages 8-12 (formerly Shockwaves): Inspired by the great outdoors, this cozy center is filled with sports activities and fun places for kids to explore, hang out and lounge.
  • The Beach House, for ages 13-17 (formerly Remix) offers a contemporary surf-themed lounge, featuring a cool place for teens to hang out and socialize.
New youth and teen center programming includes MythBusters science activities with new hands-on challenges, featuring show star, Tory Belleci. In addition, new Camp Discovery destination-themed programs focus on Europe and the Caribbean to immerse young cruisers into the culture, nature, and customs of this region. Families traveling together will love the addition of 87 new interconnecting staterooms, offering more room and comfort for everyone to enjoy. A new HD Movies Under the Stars outdoor movie screen will offer a higher resolution picture with double the image quality of previous systems. Guests will also be able to enjoy lively concerts and hit blockbuster movies with more sound power, truer color, extreme wide angle viewing and smart contrast/brightness for optimal viewing any time of day. After all of the island excitement, a good night sleep is a must!.  The Caribbean Princess will be outfitted with 3,200 Princess Luxury Beds and luxurious linens. Developed in collaboration with board-certified sleep expert, Dr. Michael Breus and renowned HGTV designer Candice Olson, the bed combines the science of sleep with the pinnacle of design. In addition, Caribbean Princess offers Club Class Mini-Suites, the new premium stateroom category featuring VIP amenities and exclusive dining. This elevated mini-suite category features select perks including new Club Class Dining, a reserved dining area with expedited seating and expanded menu options as well as priority embarkation and disembarkation.

Disney Vacation Club Announces Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Disney fans looking for a new place to hang their hat while visiting Walt Disney World, Orlando will be excited to hear Disney’s Vacation club has announced that sales for Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, will begin on March 8 for current Disney Vacation Club Members with general sales following on April 5. Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge rooms Copper Creek Villas & Cabins offers guests a new frontier for magical vacations where the comforts of home and the wonders of the wilderness are deeply rooted in the magic of Disney. Inspired by the mining and railroad history of the Pacific Northwest, the new resort will offer rustic elegance with a mix of modern designs to create a tranquil retreat. Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge rooms “We’re excited to introduce Copper Creek Villas & Cabins to our Members and guests,” said Ken Potrock, senior vice president and general manager of Disney Vacation Club. “Whether it’s a quiet night spent in a cabin unwinding by the living room fireplace or venturing out into the endless action of nearby Magic Kingdom Park, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins is the perfect place for families to embrace the simple joys of nature and reconnect with each other for a lifetime of memories.” Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge Copper Creek Villas & Cabins features 184 modern, nature-inspired vacation homes, including Deluxe Studios, one- and two-bedroom Villas, and three-bedroom Grand Villas, which sleep up to 12. Each unit adds the conveniences and comforts of home, such as well-appointed kitchen areas, expanded storage space for belongings and private patios or balconies with scenic views. Natural finishing touches throughout add a sense of nature to each room. Copper Creek Villas & Cabins will also include 26 all-new luxurious waterfront cabins. Sleeping up to eight and featuring two bedrooms, two baths and large dining and living room spaces, the cabins’ floor-to-ceiling windows, exposed wooden beams and interior-exterior stone-hearth fireplace bring the beauty of the outdoors in, offering plenty of room for families. After an exciting day at the nearby theme parks, guests can return to their porch to take in the fresh air and relax in the built-in hot tub, and for some, enjoy the Electrical Water Pageant on Bay Lake and firework views from the Magic Kingdom. Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge The resort is still under construction with a scheduled opening date of July 17. Guests will love that it is just a water-taxi ride away from Magic Kingdom Park. Save

8 Tips For Taking Better Vacation Photos

I will fully admit I am a picture addict. It’s not uncommon for me to take a couple thousand photos while away on a week long vacation. I love putting photo albums together of our trips and create a yearbook for my family that includes hundreds of pictures from our adventures. Over the years the way I take pictures has evolved.  I have also added a variety of cameras to my arsenal to ensure I’m always prepared.  Go-pro, drone, SLR, camcorder…  We bring a lot of gear, but we also bring home a lot of very cool memories. 8 Tips For taking better vacation photos Here are 8 tips I use to take better vacation photos.

Take the picture when you see it.

Never think you’re going to come back. If you see it take the picture to ensure you have it. Often you come back a different route, the lighting may have changed or you get distracted.  Many times, my favorite pictures are ones I’ve taken on the first day of a trip when I’m fresh and excited.  I appreciate this when I get home and look back on the vacation.

Look back!

When you visit a new destination you can go into ‘what’s next’ mode – anxiously looking around the next corner to see what vista or sight is ahead.  But, some of the best photos I have taken have been of what’s behind me because it’s an accumulation of everything you’ve seen so far but from a different perspective.  This hit me a couple of years ago while we were visiting Watkins Glen.  As we walked around each corner, the view was more and more majestic, but when I looked back I was equally impressed. Watkins Glen State Park, NY

Find a new angle

Don’t be afraid to get on the ground, hold your camera over your head or shoot through objects to get the shot.  I love the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas and I have many photos of it from the front.  It wasn’t until I was visiting on my own this past Fall that I realized you could actually take photos of it from behind as well.  This was exciting because I was able to get the Paris tower and the fountain together! Bellagio Fountain with Paris hotel in background I have also found that dropping the camera down can get a different perspective of a shot, as does holding it over my head.  I have also shot beautiful houses through a gate or window and like capturing spaces from a side view.

Forget the filters

In this day in age, filters are way overused and often ruin a beautiful photo. If the lighting is off do a fine adjustment to bring out the details you want to feature.

Go back at night

Often when we travel we retire for the night and don’t think about capturing a location at night.  This can be the best time because often you can get a string of buildings lit up or the reflection of a city in the water. Years ago when we went camping at Letchworth State park, I headed down to the main Falls just after the kids went to bed and was excited to see them lit up.  It was literally me and one other couple standing there taking pictures, which was a dream because during the day it’s hard to get a picture without a pile of people crowding your shot.  Plus, the way they lit the falls at night really brought out every break point in the water’s course. Letchworth State Park at night

Set time aside to navigate just for the intention of taking pictures

Often when I visit a resort I will wake up around 6am just to wander around the property to capture it without the kids or crowds distracting me.  I also prefer photos and video of a resort without crowds of people all over the place.  It looks nicer for articles and I like those photos for my photo albums and to frame. Disney's beach club pier

Make a list

If you are visiting a destination and you’ve seen a picture online that you would like to replicate write it down. Make a list of the photos you would like to get so you have a point of reference to keep you on track when you are in the excitement of a trip.

Get a tripod

Even if it’s just a small one, keep one in your bag for times when you want to get a group picture and there isn’t someone around or just want to ensure the shot you get is stable. Often if you are zooming right in on something it’s hard I get a stable shot. Having a tripod reduces these issues.

Asheville North Carolina Named the #1 destination in the US to visit in 2017

Asheville, North Carolina has been on my list of places to visit for years. The mountains, charm of the city and local attractions all make it a great location to visit and explore. It appears it will only more popular now that Lonely Planet has named it the #1 destination to travel to in 2017. Asheville NC Nature seekers will love the short hike to the top of Craggy Pinnacle along the Blue Ridge Parkway for mountain views or enjoying a picnic near the top of Mt. Mitchell. Those looking for more adventure can ride down the chilly waters of Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest, ride the rapids on the Nantahala River or canoe down the French Broad River. And if you’re looking to get away from it all you can rent a cabin or pick your own produce at a local farm. The big draw for me, however, is the famous Biltmore Estate. Biltmore Estate Asheville NC Created by George Vanderbilt in 1895 as a retreat reminiscent of the grand castles and estates of France and Britain, the Biltmore is America’s largest home with four acres of floor space and a total of 250 rooms in the house including 33 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens. Beyond Biltmore House and grounds is The Biltmore Legacy, a permanent exhibit hall displaying personal artifacts and stories of the Vanderbilt family. Asheville is also well known for being an arts and crafts mecca. If you are looking for something unique, it’s likely there! The area boasts 4 areas where visitors can find art, quilts, blown glass and handcrafted ceramics. No trip is complete without a good home cooked meal. Asheville is home to a large variety of restaurants that run the gamut from Mediterranean to vegetarian, four-star cuisine to down-home cooking. I personally would love to try the Lobster Trap. Since opening in 2005 it has been the seafood destination for locals and visitors who are looking for favorites like the Maine Lobster Roll, crab cakes or their signature lobster trap feast that includes 24 Oysters, 2 Crab Cakes, Maple Bacon Scallops, 1 lb. Shrimp, 2 Lobsters, 1 lb. Alaskan King Crab Legs, 24 Mussels, 12 Clams, Corn and potatoes and Whole Baguette. Whew! Bring the family! The Lobster Trap Asheville NC