MARDI GRAS GRAND CENTRAL ATRIUM: FORM MEETS FUNCTION ABOARD CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE’S MOST INNOVATIVE SHIP @CarnivalCruise

Line’s Newest Ship Set to Debut from Port Canaveral in February 2021

 Atriums have been an important part of cruise ship design for decades, but leave it to Carnival Cruise Line to break the mold with Grand Central, a transformational three-deck-high space that is one of six themed zones on Mardi Gras, set to debut in February.

A unique twist on the traditional atrium, Grand Central spans Decks 6, 7 and 8 with massive 3,000-square-foot glass panels built into the starboard side of the ship providing guests with impressive views of the ocean and ports of call as they relax in comfortable seating or stroll throughout the space.

According to Glenn Aprile, Carnival’s director of new build product development and part of the design team that developed the groundbreaking venue, the idea was to create a space that was as functional as it was eye-catching, while providing guests with that “take your breath away” moment when they first board the vessel.

“Building an atrium into the side of a cruise ship is no easy task and it was a total team effort between our new build management team, engineers, designers, and hotel and entertainment teams to create a space that is as beautiful as it is functional,” Aprile said.

During the day, Grand Central serves as a relaxing spot for guests to enjoy a coffee, drink or light fare, people watch, listen to live music, or partake in trivia contests and other leisurely pursuits.  At night, Grand Central transforms into an intimate and immersive venue with a rotation of spectacular, soon-to-be-revealed experiences created just for Mardi Gras.  Talented performers will interact with 16 individually controlled six- by 14-foot LED screens displaying video and special effects, as well as lasers and aerial feats to create a truly unforgettable entertainment experience.

Aprile noted that “with a ship as innovative as Mardi Gras we wanted to create a multi-functional dining and entertainment space that guests can enjoy day and night, while at the same time providing an intuitive way to get around the ship and creating  a dramatic centerpiece that is worthy of our most innovative ship.   Grand Central provides all that and more.  We are extremely pleased with the results thus far.”

Overlooking Grand Central is the multi-level Grand View Bar which like its name implies offers guests a chance to enjoy floor-to-ceiling sea views as they sip custom-cocktails and other libations, amidst awe-inspiring design touches like a virtual waterfall on translucent panels.    There’s also the Center Stage Bar on the main level.  Both venues will feature specialty cocktails inspired by the theme of that evening’s entertainment.

Steps away is Java Blue, which in addition to serving coffees, cappuccinos and lattes like other Carnival ships, offers a menu of fresh bakery items, wraps, salads and other light fare throughout the day.   The Cherry on Top sweets shop is also nearby for those who want to enjoy a decadent treat, as are the retail shops and casino, providing a variety of fun options for guests to enjoy.

Connecting all of these spaces are a series of spacious and airy promenades and bridges that serve as convenient thoroughfares to other areas of the ship while allowing guests to see all the other happenings on board, adding to the excitement.

Noted Aprile, “We put the engineers and designers to the test here and our teams have taken everything we’ve learned about shipbuilding and interior design to create a stunning, comfortable and functional environment that truly sets Grand Central apart from other shipboard venues. With its transformation from daytime relaxation to nighttime entertainment, Grand Central is unlike anything that’s ever been done on a cruise ship before and our guests are going to love it.”

The first North American cruise ship powered by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Mardi Gras is set to debut from Port Canaveral, Fla., Feb. 6, 2021, operating week-long itineraries from the Space Coast.

For additional information and reservations, contact any travel agent, call 1-800-CARNIVAL or visit carnival.com.

6 ways to build funds for your next family vacation

When you lead a busy, hectic life – let’s face it, who doesn’t? It’s always nice to have something to look forward to. Weekends come and go, but it’s often the annual family vacation that most families count down to every year. Arranging a vacation requires a lot of financial planning.  One way that families reduce the financial burden of organizing a family vacation is by booking it well in advance and paying in smaller instalments so they can spread out the cost. 

Wondering how else you can build up your funds for your next family vacation? Check out 6 ideas below.

Check you’re getting what you’re entitled to

The cost of living is increasing but sadly our salaries don’t often reflect that rise. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check that you’re receiving the benefits that you’re entitled to. Whether you’re on a lower income, a single parent or even a veteran who’s recently left the military – check out disabledvets.com to find out more about your veteran benefits – you could be entitled to more money than you think, that will not only help towards the day to day life of raising a family but also relieve some of the financial pressure you’re under. 

Try to earn a little more

You probably already have a job, and when you have small children at home it might be difficult to dedicate more time to earn more money. However, there are ways you can earn a little more without leaving your children in expensive day care centres or with babysitters. For example, you can declutter your home and sell any items you no longer want online. Start a small side hustle from your living room, such as sewing services, freelance writing, or even selling baked goods. 

Cancel your gym membership

Are you one of the thousands of people who took out a gym membership with the best intentions yet haven’t been for months? If you’re not making the most of your gym membership then simply cancel it as soon as possible. Even if you enjoy using the gym, opt to work out at home instead with some basic equipment or follow workouts online. 

Get rid of your landline

If you have a landline, ask yourself why? Does anyone actually call you on it? Apart from telemarketers of course! Have it removed and save the money into your vacation fund instead. Most people communicate via their smartphones these days! 

Pay with cash

We all know that paying with card or contactless is quicker and more convenient than cash. However, it can often lead to overspending. Take out however much cash you think you might need at the beginning of the week and simply try not to spend it all. You’ll be amazed how much you resist spending when you have the money physically in your hand. 

Buy second hand

Kids need a new t-shirt? Or maybe you need a new handbag? Head to your local charity shop and see what you can find. You’ll be amazed at the quality of items you’ll find.

Coconut Bay Resort, St. Lucia

No matter what kind of vacation you are looking for- family trip, a romantic couples retreat, girlfriends getaway- you can find what you are looking for on the diverse island of St. Lucia. Coconut Bay is located near the airport (in fact, just five minutes away), so you won’t have a long trek to your room once you arrive. That’s never a welcome surprise, is it? Once there, you are greeted by friendly staff with cool towels and cold drinks of your choice- water, rum punch, or champagne.

Coconut Bay

As you refresh and cool off, you and your entourage check into your room.  You can take your bags or have them taken to your room for your, and your vacation really begins. A recently renovated resort on 85 acres, the all inclusive Coconut Bay offers plenty to see, do, (eat!) and explore.  There are nine restaurants, seven bars, five pools, a fully functional and not all all lacking fitness center (lets face it, often “gyms” while vacationing are weak sauce) the largest waterpark on the island, and more. Did I mention it was all inclusive? Because that makes things so. much. easier. Also, the beach is just past the pools- no long hike to and fro.

best family vacation

We took my daughter for a long weekend, and there was definitely not enough time to see all that we wanted to on the resort, let along the island. So it’s a great spot for a quick getaway, but for sure even better for those who like a more immersive experience. If you are traveling as an adults only getaway, you will likely prefer to stay o the “Harmony” wing of the resort, which does not allow children. When you get a moment to get away from it all- your routine, the kids, the noise-  the last thing you want to hear is someone else’s kids screaming, and that’s totally fair and understandable- and other adults get that. It can be hard to find time to reconnect as a couple, and Coconut Bay makes sure you can have those quiet moments you are looking for, complete with hammocks and lounge chairs everywhere you look.

St Lucia Resort

Brining the kids? Totally cool. I usually do as well. The “Splash” wing is for families, and where you will find the waterpark, the only resort petting zoo on the island (and the only one I can remember seeing ever in my own experience), the Kidz Club, and even a paintball course.  It is for sure the louder side of the resort, and there are plenty of family friendly activities to keep everyone busy. Also, a note for those looking to keep active while traveling- they have really good fitness classes offered. Actual quality, that are both fun and challenging. You will be working up a sweat but enjoying yourself at the same time. Again, not something I see all the time. Places might have gyms and classes, but they are not usually anywhere near this intensity, and we were super impressed.

If you are getting away for a couples retreat for a girlfriends getaway, there are plenty of places that are kid free. Sometimes, you just need some quiet time. With separate pools, cabana area, and bar, the “Harmony” area has adults only peace and quiet in mind.  The rooms are luxurious and have evening turn down service, and there are quite a few options when it comes to views. Pool, ocean, or garden, they are all beautiful (and what tropical view would you turn down right now, really?)

There are great packages at the Kai Mer Spa, which you can receive indoors or outside, in your own private cabana, beachside. Nothing like a warm ocean breeze, is there? That’s like a double shot of relaxation. There are quite a few massage options to choose from, as well as other beauty options, like nail salon services and more. You can go on your own, or with your girlfriend, partner, daughter- whatever works for your party.

St Lucia vacation

There are also plenty of touring options, should you want to venture outside the resort. Head to the front desk and choose from a great variety of options. While most resorts offer some kind of tours, Coconut Bay has a really large variety to choose from. St. Lucia is a tiny island, but it has a lot to offer. Not many islands have active volcanoes, mountains, award winning scuba locations, several kinds of sandy beaches (including black sand), amazing vegetation and flora and fauna- it’s a one of a kind island.

amazing views

The watersports are plentiful, from water skiing to sailing to kite surfing and more. Snorkeling is amazing, the waters are beautiful and there are many kids of marine life to find. There is also a beautiful botanical garden with waterfall and thermal pools, ziplines, rainforest sky rides (a unique attraction) and more. There is also an active volcano, aforementioned, that creates a thermal bath and spring. Those willing can climb into the sulfuric smelling waters and coat themselves with the gray mud that is created by the ash. Wash it off in the warm waters below, and your skin glows for days. Really, your skin will look and feel amazing. Wear a bathing suit you don’t love or is dark, the mud will stain. Sulphur Springs is also the world’s only “drive in volcano”, where you can really drive right up and see steam rising, bubbling, and feel the heat. You can’t get too-too close, and you will be accompanied by a ranger who will make sure safety rules are followed and tell you about the volcano. DO NOT MISS THIS!

volcanic bath

 

For hikers and climbers, you will want to save a day for St. Lucia’s iconic Pitons, which technically can both be climbed, although only one is legally sanctioned. Gros Piton, the legal mountain, is steep and challenging. Taking you up roughly 2000 feet in an average of two hours (and two more hours to get back down), there are benches and areas to rest. Bring plenty of water, you will be glad you did.

tours in st lucia

 

A Unesco World Heritage site, nature lovers and hikers will not want to miss Gros Piton. You will  register at the base of the mountain, pay the fee of $50 per person (in US dollars), and hike with a guide. Guides are at the base of the mountain, and reservations are not required. As the hike is not a short one, tours are available from 7am until 2pm daily- last tour ends at 2. It is recommended to go early.

horse riding on beach

After your day out, head back to the hotel, relax, and grab something to eat before choosing which pool to lounge next to.

Relaxation AND adventure- sounds too good to be true? Visit https://cbayresort.com to choose a package that works for your next vacation.

5 Fun Educational Vacation Destinations for Kids

Late spring and early summer are the times of year when families making preparations to take vacations together. And while it can be great to go to cities that have amusement parks or to take a cross-country road trip in an RV, when you have children that are elementary school age, it can also be a good idea to take them on a vacation that can be as educational as it is entertaining.

educational travelIf you’re in the midst of planning your next trip and you’d like a few ideas on some educational vacation destinations to visit, we have five that both you and your kids will enjoy going to this year:

Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum (Seattle, Washington). If you live around the West Coast, then you might want to take a trip to a place that has become all the rage among museum lovers. The Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum is great for children who are already showing signs of being a future artist or musician. There are artifacts from artists like the Beatles and Nirvana, kids are able to play instruments at the Spin Kids Station and in the Sound Lab, they can even record their own mini-CD. Plus the Science Fiction Museum that’s located on the second floor offers all kinds of interesting exhibits too.

Hyatt Regency Tamaya (Bernalillo, New Mexico). One place [Read more…]

The Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center

One of the nicest resorts we have been to in a long time, the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center was a vacation all in itself. With lovely rooms, several restaurants and dining options right on site, as well as shopping available, and it’s own pool and water park, you won’t need to leave the campus to have a great time. Beautiful gardens with running rivers and waterfalls, fish (including mangrove snappers, redfish, snook, stingrays and tarpon) and koi fish, alligators, turtles, and other aquatica abound in over 360,000 gallons of water, you may forget you are indoors as you [Read more…]