Brandon South Rotarians Marie Gilmore and Tammy Holmberg find the Rotary Wheel on the Welcome sign in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

For true relaxation and vacation getaways, I have often said there is no better way to travel than a cruise line. From the unlimited 24-hour complimentary food and dining, to the Broadway style entertainment, music, educational opportunities, or the freedom to do nothing, there is no easier vacation than planning a cruise, unpacking and letting the waves take your worries away!

And, with today’s options in cruising, Norwegian Cruise Line and its Freestyle method of cruising has quickly become a favorite way to travel on the high seas. And now, for the first time NCL is offering an itinerary from the Port of Tampa, making for a very immediate vacation opportunity for area residents.

With Freestyle cruising, unlike a traditional reservation-style seating for dinner with formal nights, Norwegian passengers enjoy the freedom and flexibility to eat where they want, when they want and how they want.

Our most recent cruise was on the Norwegian Dawn out of Miami, this 10-year old ship was recently renovated and offers an easy-to-navigate ship with full amenities, excellent work out room and plenty to do all day.

This cruise itinerary travelled to Samana, Dominican Republic; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St. John’s, Antigua; Bridgetown, Barbados; and Basseterre, St. Kitts; along with three full days at sea.

The recent multi-million dollar refurbishment on the 2,224-passenger ship included the addition of 28 suites and flat screen televisions in all guest and crew staterooms, along with many other exciting updates.

“Norwegian Dawn’s refurbishment is very similar to those enhancements made to Norwegian Star last year,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “We have found Norwegian Star’s updates very well received and we expect our guests will appreciate the changes made to Norwegian Dawn as well.”

In addition to the renovations to the Dawn, Norwegian also brought a new ship to the Port of Tampa making cruise embarkation much more convenient for local residents. Guests cruising from Tampa on Norwegian Star will sail a seven-day Western Caribbean itinerary through April 8, 2012.

Norwegian Star’s seven-day Western Caribbean cruises from Tampa will depart on Sundays and include stops in Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; along with two days at sea. Norwegian Sun will return to Orlando (Port Canaveral), through April 7, 2012 offering alternating seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.

To book one or more of these new sailings, please visit; call 866-234-7350 or contact a travel professional. Also, visit Norwegian’s Facebook page at to become a fan.

Today, Norwegian has the youngest fleet in the industry with 10 purpose-built Freestyle Cruising ships, providing guests the opportunity to enjoy a relaxed cruise vacation on the newest, most contemporary ships at sea.

Norwegian launched the Norwegian Epic, the company’s largest and most innovative Freestyle Cruising ship in June 2010. Norwegian Cruise Line is the official cruise line of Blue Man Group, debuting for the first time at sea on Norwegian Epic.

On our cruise aboard the Norwegian Dawn we enjoyed the ship, the restaurants, the state-of-the-art workout room and Broadway style theatre.

On the stops, we recommend researching the islands prior to arrival to determine excursions, from shopping, to diving, snorkeling, swimming and beach days to historic tours, visits to volcanoes and more adventurous tours including 4×4 treks, hikes, zip-lining and more, are all available at different ports. Excursion staff are happy to assist with trips and recommendations based on ability or relaxation.

For this trip, we enjoyed beach excursions in both Dominican Republic and Antigua with both destinations offering crystal clear waters and pristine sandy beaches. In Barbados, we opted for the Atlantis Submarine excursion. Each guest gets their own personal porthole within the submarine to view a shipwreck and a one-mile long coral reef teaming with sea life. A highly recommended tour for families.

And, finally, in St. Kitts, we enjoyed the St. Kitts Scenic Railway tour. This 3-hour round trip tour around the island is an educational, fun-filled 30-mile rail tour that offers a guided tour through the history of the St. Kitts sugar cane industry.

Having two sea days returning home gave us an opportunity to relax before returning to reality and now we are dreaming of our next cruise adventure!

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Marie Gilmore
Marie is the Managing Editor at the Osprey Observer. She covers news, transportation, education and likes to make a positive impact on the community and be 'in the know'!